CONTRIBUTIONS TO INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS: $1.799 BILLION
The CIO account finances U.S. assessments for the UN regular budget, UN specialized agencies, and several dozen non-UN international organizations, including NATO and the Organization of American States. Overall, the UN and UN-affiliated entities receive approximately 75 percent of the funds appropriated for this account.
Funding for CIO has ebbed and flowed over the years, but during its time in office, the Trump Administration made several significant changes (some relying on legal authorities granted by Congress, others unilaterally) to the level and pace of disbursements from this account.
- To start, the administration withheld assessed contributions to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Council that are channeled through the UN regular budget, totaling $90 million from FY’17-FY’20.
- Even more problematically, the administration repeatedly slow-walked the disbursement of funds for those portions of the regular budget that it was willing to pay. By the end of September 2020, for example, Member States owed the UN $1.5 billion in unpaid regular budget assessments. This U.S. was responsible for $1.1 billion—or 73 percent—of the total, despite the fact that it is only assessed 22 percent of the regular budget.
These budgetary actions have eroded the financial health of the UN system. In terms of the UN itself, the late or outright non-payment of regular budget dues has touched off repeated liquidity crises that threaten the ability of the organization to pay staff and vendors, as well as carry out key programs. In order to prevent insolvency, the Secretary-General has been forced to institute a hiring freeze and other undesirable austerity measures. With regards to WHO, the Trump Administration’s financial withholdings have undermined the organization at what is perhaps the worst possible time: in the midst of a global pandemic that the world’s premier international public health body is playing a central role in addressing.
These actions complicate the delivery of multilateral initiatives that advance fundamental U.S. national interests. They also erode U.S. influence in favor of China, which is expanding its own role within international organizations, and abrogate the will of Congress, which has appropriated funds under CIO expressly for the purpose of meeting U.S. financial obligations to the UN and its specialized agencies.
Our recommendation of $1.799 billion for CIO would help repair the damage caused by these decisions by fully meeting our current commitments under the account—$1.505 billion—and paying back the $203 million in arrears we owe to WHO and $90 million we owe to UN human rights mechanisms. In addition to appropriating these funds in final FY’22 SFOPS legislation, we also urge Congress to include language in the bill specifying that CIO funds “shall be made available” to pay the full amount of the U.S. assessment for the UN regular budget and other international organizations financed by the account. This will prevent future administrations from ignoring Congress and unilaterally withholding funds to particular agencies.
CONTRIBUTIONS FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACEKEEPING ACTIVITIES: $2.701 BILLION
The CIPA account funds U.S. assessments for 11 UN peacekeeping missions, including critical operations in Mali, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Lebanon, and the Golan Heights. All of these missions were approved by the UN Security Council—of which the U.S. is a permanent member with veto power—and play a central role in promoting stability, protecting civilians, and mitigating conflict in key regions. UN peacekeeping operations are extremely cost-effective and do not require the U.S. to put boots on the ground.
Assessment rates for UN peacekeeping are determined by each country’s ability to pay, with permanent members of the Security Council paying slightly more than they do for the regular budget in recognition of their unique responsibility for greenlighting peacekeeping missions. Under this formula, the U.S. is currently assessed at a rate of 27.89 percent. Unfortunately, since the mid-1990s, U.S. law has arbitrarily capped U.S. contributions to UN peacekeeping at 25 percent. While Congress has frequently waived this requirement on an ad hoc basis, since FY’17 it has not done so, causing the U.S. to accrue approximately $1.019 billion in cap-related arrears.
In part because of these underpayments, UN peacekeeping faces a growing cash crunch, and the UN is unable to sufficiently reimburse countries who participate in peacekeeping for their contributions of personnel and equipment. To date, the UN has amassed hundreds of millions of dollars in outstanding reimbursement payments to Ethiopia, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Tanzania, Senegal, and other Member States. This creates significant challenges for troop-contributors, most of whom are lower-income countries that rely on reimbursements to help sustain complex longer-term peacekeeping deployments. Continued U.S. underpayments also threaten to:
- Erode U.S. influence at the UN and cede the floor to countries that do not share our values. China, which like the U.S. is also a permanent member of the Security Council, has significantly increased its participation in UN peacekeeping in recent years. Currently, it is the tenth largest troop-contributor (providing more than the U.S., UK, France, and Russia combined), and the second largest financial contributor. China is seeking to use this expanded profile to more aggressively articulate its agenda at the UN, including by challenging the human rights and civilian protection related aspects of UN peacekeeping mandates; and
- Undermine our ability to push for critical reforms at the UN, sapping the good will and cross-regional support necessary to make progress on our priorities. During the Obama Administration, the U.S. and UN worked together to adopt several critical reforms and efficiencies, cutting the cost per peacekeeper by 18 percent and reducing the number of support staff on missions to lower administrative costs. The UN also undertook important efforts to combat sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel, including an unprecedented policy calling for the repatriation of entire units whose members engaged in widespread instances of abuse. This was all done at a time when the U.S. was not enforcing the 25 percent cap. Failing to pay our dues in full alienates like-minded countries, sends the message that we are more interested in punishing the organization than improving it, and makes it less likely that future U.S. entreaties around cost, efficiency, and accountability will be taken seriously.
Our FY’22 recommendation for CIPA includes sufficient funds to pay our estimated FY’22 peacekeeping assessments at the full assessed rate—$1.682 billion—plus an additional $1.019 billion to pay back arrears. In order to make these payments, language will need to be included in the FY’22 legislation waiving the statutory cap.
PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS (PKO): $548 MILLION
The PKO account supports several non-UN regional peacekeeping operations and bilateral security initiatives, including an international observer force in the Sinai Peninsula that monitors security provisions of the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty. PKO also finances U.S. assessments for the UN Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS), which provides critical equipment and logistical support to the African Union Mission in Somalia. By working to help local forces defeat Al-Shabaab, an Al-Qaeda linked terrorist group that has carried out numerous attacks in Somalia and the wider region, both entities play an essential role in advancing U.S. counterterrorism objectives in East Africa.
Our FY’22 recommendation would allow the U.S. to fulfill its current financial obligations to UNSOS, as well as pay back an estimated $92.7 million in arrears accrued due to application of the aforementioned peacekeeping cap.