Citing support from 30,000 petition signers, UN Foundation President
calls UN peacekeeping a bargain and opportunity

WASHINGTON, D.C.  Sen. Timothy E. Wirth, President of the United Nations Foundation and the Better World Fund, warned Congress today that the U.S. is in danger of eclipsing $1 billion in unpaid bills for UN peacekeeping operations that it authorized. As part of his testimony, Wirth, a former U.S. Senator from Colorado, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on International Organizations that the Congress should increase fiscal 2008 funding for the UN and work to pay all back debts.

The United States currently owes $569 million in permanent arrears to the United Nations for UN peacekeeping. In addition, there is an estimated $500 million shortfall in the Administration’s FY 2008 budget request.

Sen. Wirth noted that UN peacekeeping is a smart investment for the United States because it helps to share the burden of maintaining international peace and security among nations. At the hearing, Wirth announced that more than 30,000 people from all 50 states have signed a petition in support of fully funding UN peacekeeping. The campaign, online at www.PriceOfPeace.org, is an initiative of the Better World Campaign.

“The UN has always been a key element of U.S. foreign policy, and when the U.S. pays attention and pays its bills, the UN is both a bargain and an opportunity – of special note is peacekeeping, which is a great success story for the UN, and could and should be seen as one for the U.S. as well,” Wirth testified.

The U.S. uses its permanent seat on the UN Security Council to call and vote for UN peacekeeping missions, recently including those in Somalia, Lebanon, Sudan, Haiti, and East Timor. Currently, U.S. debt to UN peacekeeping is being absorbed by allies that are providing troops for these U.S.-endorsed missions – notably, India, Kenya, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. For example, India and Pakistan, close friends of the U.S. and two of the most reliable providers of UN peacekeeping help, are together owed more than $109 million.

Wirth’s testimony concludes: “Paying what [the U.S. owes to UN peacekeeping] will make a significant contribution to U.S. re-engagement in the world, reinforce the basic support of the American people, and provide additional leverage for continuing reform at the UN.”

Note to the editor: Click here to download a copy of Wirth’s testimony, which includes charts and graphs illustrating U.S. arrears to UN peacekeeping. Chairman William Delahunt (D-MA) is hosting the hearing and Wirth will be joined on the panel by: Joseph A. Christoff, Director of the Government Accountability Office’s International Affairs and Trade Team; Steven Groves, Fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom; and the Honorable James Dobbins, Director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation’s National Security Research Division.