Each year, Congress must pass legislation to fund the activities and obligations of the U.S. government, including our nation’s assessed and voluntary contributions to the UN.
Provided below is a summary of funding for several UN-related appropriations accounts in recent years, and recommended funding levels for Fiscal Year 2018.
Contributions for International Peacekeeping Activities (CIPA)
There are currently nearly 113,000 UN peacekeepers serving on 15 missions across four continents, constituting the largest deployed multinational military force in the world. The last two decades have witnessed strong bipartisan support for peacekeeping; the reasons for this are manifold. UN peacekeepers can help avert the collapse of fragile states, prevent civil wars from metastasizing into regional conflagrations, reduce forced displacement and refugee outflows, and decrease the likelihood that conflicts will flare-up again. While the United States does pay a significant share of UN peacekeeping costs, other countries still cover over 70% of the dues and studies have documented that UN missions are eight times cheaper than the U.S. going it alone. As the RAND Corporation recently summarized, “UN peacekeeping operations are generally successful and much more cost effective than using U.S. forces.” In addition, UN peacekeeping is an exercise in international burden-sharing at its core. For example, the U.S. contributes few uniformed personnel to UN missions, currently providing less than 100 troops out of the total force. Meanwhile, a range of other countries, including China, Bangladesh, Rwanda and Jordan pick up the slack, providing tens of thousands of uniformed personnel.
Despite the weighty demands they typically face and increasingly hazardous environments they operate in, UN peacekeepers have been able to claim some noteworthy achievements in recent years. For example, long-running UN missions in Liberia (UNMIL) and Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) have played a crucial role in fostering stability, facilitating free and fair elections, and creating conditions on the ground that have allowed hundreds of thousands of civilians displaced by conflict to return home. As a result, both missions are currently in the process of drawing down: UNOCI is set to close at the end of June, and UNMIL could withdraw as early as March 2018. The UN is also in the process of drawing down peacekeeping activities in Haiti. At the same time, however, UN peacekeepers are confronting serious challenges in other theaters of operation. In South Sudan, UN forces are protecting more than 200,000 civilians who have fled a devastating three-year civil war and sought refuge at UN bases. In Mali, peacekeepers working to secure the country’s vast northern region have increasingly come under threat from armed extremist groups, including a regional affiliate of al-Qaeda, with more than 70 UN personnel killed in militant attacks since July 2013. UN peacekeepers are also working to restore order in the Central African Republic and have, according to Amnesty International, “saved many lives and prevented much bloodshed.”
U.S. peacekeeping dues are paid out of the State Department’s Contributions for International Peacekeeping Activities (CIPA) account, and BWC is recommending $2.687 billion for CIPA in FY’18. This figure is higher than the previous Administration’s FY’17 request, because the FY’17 Omnibus Appropriations bill capped U.S. contributions to UN peacekeeping operations at 25%, causing a shortfall of as much as $289 million. If additional funds are not appropriated to cover this gap, the U.S. will go much farther into arrears on its peacekeeping dues. Therefore, BWC’s FY’18 recommendation consists of: (1) an estimate of total CIPA requirements at the full assessed rate (28.46%) for FY’18; (2) additional funds to cover the estimated FY’17 cap-related shortfall. BWC also requests Congress include language in FY’18 SFOPS legislation lifting the arbitrary 25% cap and allowing the U.S. to pay its dues at 28.46%.
BWC recognizes that we are operating in a resource constrained environment. Nevertheless, failing to pay our peacekeeping assessments denies critical resources to missions that support longstanding U.S. policy objectives and withholds financial reimbursement from countries who contribute the bulk of troops. Unilaterally reducing U.S. funding for peacekeeping would also seriously undermine the negotiating position of our diplomats in New York, who, under the direction of Ambassador Haley, are currently working closely with the office of the UN Secretary-General to set a course for ambitious new reforms and cost-efficiencies in UN peacekeeping.
Peacekeeping Operations (PKO)
Funds requested for the State Department’s PKO account support a number of regional peacekeeping activities and bilateral security initiatives. In recent years, Congress has used PKO to fund assessed contributions for the UN Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS), which, due to the capacity constraints of African Union forces, provides equipment and logistical support to the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). AMISOM continues to work to stabilize Somalia and help Somali security forces defeat Al-Shabaab, a terrorist organization that has pledged fealty to Al-Qaeda.
Contributions to International Organizations (CIO)
BWC recommends full funding for the State Department’s CIO account, which includes U.S. dues payments to the UN Regular Budget and 40 other UN and non-UN international organizations, including NATO. BWC’s current estimate of $1.378 billion for CIO is flat-lined from the previous Administration’s FY’17 budget request.
The UN Regular Budget is particularly important to the overall functioning of the UN, as it provides a reliable source of funding for many of the organization’s core activities outside of peacekeeping. These include special political missions operating in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, and other key fragile countries, where they work to facilitate democratic elections, coordinate the distribution of critical humanitarian and development assistance, and support the development of strong, effective, and more accountable governing institutions. The Regular Budget also finances efforts to ensure international implementation and compliance with sanctions adopted by the Security Council against terrorist organizations like ISIS and Al-Qaeda and rogue states like North Korea. These types of activities are manifestly in the national security interest of the United States and, much like peacekeeping, are an excellent example of international burden-sharing: other UN member states pay 78% of their costs.
Besides the Regular Budget, CIO funds U.S. assessments for a range of UN specialized agencies. These include the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is currently playing a central role in efforts to verify Iranian compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal and the World Health Organization, responsible for coordinating the global response to public health emergencies, including the Ebola epidemic and ongoing Zika outbreak.