Fact vs. Fiction on the UN

As an organization that works to connect Americans with the work of the United Nations, we get a lot of comments and questions on the UN.

Many of them are misconceptions, so we want to take a moment to clear up some of the ones we most frequently hear.

Discover the truth about the UN

Click each “fiction” item to learn the real truth.

  • FICTION: The UN doesn’t benefit the U.S.

    FACT: The UN makes America safer, stronger, and more prosperous.

    Broadly speaking, the UN promotes peace and stability in the world, which makes the U.S. safer. The UN helps families and countries move out of poverty, creating more stable communities and new customers and markets for U.S. products. The UN convenes countries to work on challenges that threaten America, but that the U.S. can’t (and shouldn’t have to) work on alone, like terrorism, climate change, and pandemics.

  • FICTION: The U.S. picks up too much of the tab.

    FACT: The UN is a bargain for Americans.

    Yes, we are the UN’s biggest donor, but the amount we give the UN makes up only 0.2% (yes, less than 1%) of our federal budget. Americans in the U.S. spend more than seven times more on Valentine’s Day than we do on our dues to the UN and UN Peacekeeping.

    An American citizen spends more on ONE date night at the movies each year than the per capita cost of U.S. funds to the UN. By paying our dues on time and in full, other countries are encouraged to do the same – picking up 78% of the tab of UN regular dues.

    That’s just looking at the economics. When it comes to work on the ground, we get even more from participating at the UN. Out of over 90,000 peacekeepers, the U.S. provides less than 100 people. And when emergencies strike, from natural disasters to famines to conflicts that force millions to flee their homes, it’s UN agencies that are on the front lines of the response, literally helping shelter, feed, and heal humans in need.

  • FICTION: The U.S. doesn’t need the UN. It’s easier if we work alone.

    FACT: The United States can’t – and shouldn’t be expected to – solve all of the world’s problems by itself.

    The UN brings countries together to share the costs, responsibilities, and people needed to address international issues.

    Challenges like violent extremism, human trafficking, climate change, and disease outbreaks affect many countries, and what happens in one part of the world can impact the United States. Global problems need global solutions; other countries can and should help the U.S. tackle them. The UN is the world’s platform to bring countries and sectors together to make progress.

  • FICTION: Most Americans don’t support the UN.

    FACT: There is broad support for the UN among Americans.

    Polling conducting by a bipartisan research team and released by the Better World Campaign in September 2020 found an overwhelming majority of U.S. voters – 85% – believe it is important for the U.S. to maintain an active role at the UN. In fact, more Americans support a strong U.S.-UN relationship than apple pie, and baseball.

  • FICTION: The UN doesn’t do much.

    FACT: The UN does a TON.

    This criticism just doesn’t hold up when you take a look at what the UN actually does. Here is just a sliver:

    Adopting and monitoring sanctions against terrorist groups like ISIS and rogue regimes like North Korea;
    Tracking and reporting human rights violations;
    Maintaining peace and security through 15 current peacekeeping operations;
    Monitoring nuclear materials to prevent their use in weapons;
    Providing humanitarian response – from shelter to medical treatment to food;
    Enabling education for children in emergencies;
    Helping girls stay safe from child marriage and FGM; and
    Coordinating the response and providing technical assistance to stop disease outbreaks like Ebola and Zika.
    While important dialogue happens at the UN as countries try to resolve problems through words instead of bombs, the UN is an institution of action.

  • FICTION: We should only focus on the challenges we have in the U.S.

    FACT: We can tackle issues at home AND abroad; in fact, to keep America safe and strong, we must.

    Our world is connected, and problems like terrorism, human trafficking, and disease outbreaks that happen in one part of the world often make their way to the United States. To keep America safe and strong, we have to address global challenges.

    The good news is that the United States has long been a leader on global issues, and we have the brainpower, the technology, and the resources to make progress on international problems while still addressing domestic needs. We don’t have to choose between addressing problems at home and around the world. It’s a false choice.

    And by working with the UN, we foster global goodwill and bring other countries and partners to the table to help us and make our collective work go further.

  • FICTION: The UN is controlled by nations that don’t share our values.

    FACT: The United States is one of the UN’s most important leaders.

    As the UN’s biggest funder, its host nation, and a permanent member of the Security Council with veto power, the U.S. is a very influential voice at the UN.

    While not every other member state shares our values, they certainly don’t control the UN, where every member state has a voice. And simply put: Our voice is stronger when we engage at the UN, including paying our dues on time and in full. If we slash funding and retreat from engaging, we will give other countries – which may not share our values – a chance to fill the vacuum.

  • FICTION: The UN encroaches on American sovereignty.

    FACT: The UN does not encroach on American sovereignty.

    According to the UN itself, “The United Nations is neither a State nor a Government.” It is “an organization of independent States.” The UN does not have a standing army, and rumors of “black helicopters” and plans for a global government aren’t true – plain and simple.

History and Facts

History & Facts

UN 101