On March 28, 2017, fifty Members of Congress co-signed a letter addressed to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs in support of fully funding the United Nations in FY18.
Dear Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Lowey:
We write today to express our strong support for fully funding our nation’s financial obligations to the United Nations in FY18 State/Foreign Operations Appropriations legislation. As you know, the President’s budget calls for deep, disproportionate, and destabilizing cuts to the State Department and USAID, including critical UN accounts. The overall Administration’s proposal would slash funding for development and diplomacy to levels not seen since 2001 at a time when global challenges are clearly on the rise. Specifically, for the UN, the request seeks “to reduce or end direct funding for international organizations,” cut U.S. contributions to the UN regular budget, and arbitrarily cap funding for UN peacekeeping operations at 25%. If enacted, these cuts would put us back into financial arrears at the UN and have devastating ramifications for a range of activities that serve critical U.S. national security interests. They would be tantamount to retreat from our alliances and decades of strategic bipartisan diplomatic efforts. We therefore urge you to oppose such misguided policies and support UN peacekeeping and regular budget funding.
The last two decades have witnessed increased demand for UN peace operations, with strong support from both Republican and Democratic Administrations. The reasons for this are manifold. Countries undergoing conflict provide fertile ground for the growth of extremist groups and organized crime. By undertaking a range of stabilization and civilian protection activities, UN peacekeepers can help avert the collapse of fragile states, stop crises before they start, reduce forced displacement and refugee outflows, and decrease the likelihood that conflicts will flare-up again. The fact is the conflicts that we do not help resolve will grow into the wars we need to fight, so funding peacekeeping is demonstrably in our interest. In addition, peacekeeping missions are also extremely cost-effective, having been found by the Government Accountability Office to be eight times less expensive than deploying U.S. forces.
While we understand concerns about the high level of U.S. financial support for UN peacekeeping, we firmly believe that U.S. contributions need to be placed in the larger context of the range of different ways that countries support these missions. For example, while it is true that the U.S. is assessed to provide 28% of the UN’s total peacekeeping budget, it currently provides less than 100 uniformed personnel out of a total UN force of 100,000. A range of countries – including Bangladesh, Nepal, Ghana, Italy, and Jordan, just to name a few – pick up most of the slack, collectively providing tens of thousands of troops and police. In this way, peacekeeping is an excellent example of international burden-sharing, reducing the likelihood that the United States will need to send its own soldiers into harm’s way.
Over the decades, UN peacekeeping has racked up an impressive list of accomplishments. Most recently, missions in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire have played a crucial role in fostering stability, facilitating free and fair elections, and creating conditions on the ground allowing hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians to return home. As a result, the UN is in the process of drawing down from both countries. At the same time, UN forces are facing unprecedented challenges in other theaters of operation. In South Sudan, for example, the UN is protecting more than 200,000 civilians who have fled a devastating three-year civil war and sought refuge at UN bases. In the Central African Republic, amid ongoing rebel activity in and around the key city of Bambari, the United Nations mission has tenaciously fought to protect civilians and ensure the city does not fall to armed groups. Given the magnitude of these challenges, and the central role played by UN peacekeepers in addressing them, paying our peacekeeping dues in-full is more vital than ever. Thus, we hope you will support paying at the full assessed rate and at $2.39 billion for the State Department’s Contributions for International Peacekeeping Activities (CIPA) account. This level is flat-lined from last year’s Administration request.
At the same time, we understand the pressing need for peacekeeping reform, particularly in light of recent serious allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) by peacekeepers. We would note, however, that the UN is working to address this issue, having announced a number of measures to help combat these appalling crimes, including expanding vetting systems for personnel; shortening timelines for the completion of investigations into SEA cases; repatriating entire units to their home countries; and establishing a trust fund to provide psychosocial assistance, medical care, and legal aid to SEA victims. There is still much more work to be done, and the U.S. should continue to press the UN for results. But Secretary-General Guterres is a committed and passionate advocate for reform, and we are best-positioned to make progress on SEA other issues when we engage him and other stakeholders in an open, frank, and constructive dialogue.
In addition to fully funding UN peacekeeping in FY18, we request that you support $1.387 billion for the State Department’s Contributions to International Organizations (CIO) account – unchanged from last year’s Presidential request – which funds U.S. dues payments to the UN Regular Budget and more than 40 other international organizations like the World Health Organization. The Regular Budget covers political missions administered by the UN Department of Political Affairs in key fragile states, and also finances efforts by UN panels of experts to ensure international implementation and compliance with sanctions regimes adopted by the Security Council against terrorist organizations like ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and Boko Haram. These types of activities support core U.S. national security priorities and, much like peacekeeping, are an excellent example of international burden-sharing, as other UN member states pay 78% of their costs.
For all its wealth and military might, the United States cannot afford to address the plethora of serious challenges currently facing the world without international partners. By working under the auspices of the UN, the U.S. can advance its own goals and interests at a fraction of the cost of going it alone. That means keeping our seat at the table, including by paying our dues. As a result, we urge you to continue to ensure that these critical accounts receive the resources they need in FY18.
Thank you for your consideration.