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 2019.
Contributions for International Peacekeeping Activities (CIPA)
UN peacekeepers have been able to claim some noteworthy achievements in recent years. Long-running 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, UNOCI closed at the end of June 2017, and UNMIL withdrew at the end of March 2018.
At the same time, the UN is confronting serious challenges in a number of other contexts. In South Sudan, peacekeepers are protecting more than 200,000 civilians who have fled a devastating civil war and sought refuge at UN bases. In Mali, UN forces 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 nearly 100 personnel killed in militant attacks since July 2013. UN peacekeepers are also working to neutralize armed groups that target civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country that is witnessing renewed political upheaval and where nearly 13 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. Given the magnitude of these and other challenges, continued U.S. financial support for UN peacekeeping is essential.
By undertaking in an array of stabilization and civilian protection activities, UN peacekeeping operations can help calm conflict zones, avert the complete collapse of fragile states, and prevent civil wars from spilling into neighboring countries and causing wider regional conflicts, while at the same time reducing the need for unilateral U.S. military intervention. UN peacekeeping is also highly cost-effective: a 2018 GAO report has made this clear, finding that it is eight times cheaper for the U.S. to financially support a UN Peacekeeping mission than to go it alone. Similarly, the RAND Corporation has done several studies comparing UN peacekeeping, including a report last year that found UN operations are “an effective means of terminating conflicts, insuring against their reoccurrence, and promoting democracy…and much more cost effective than using U.S. forces.”
UN peacekeeping operations are financed through mandatory annual assessments on UN member states. Each member state’s share of the peacekeeping budget is calculated in part by a complex formula taking into account their capacity to pay: specifically, Gross National Income (GNI), GNI per capita, and several other economic indicators. This criteria is also used to determine assessment rates for the UN Regular Budget. However, the five permanent members of the Security Council (the U.S., UK, France, China, and Russia) pay a higher share of the peacekeeping budget than they do for the Regular Budget, owing to their unique responsibility for authorizing peacekeeping missions. Assessment rates are approved by the UN General Assembly and renegotiated every three years. The U.S. is currently assessed at a rate of 28.4%, but that rate will change in January 2019, when a new three-year tranche of assessment rates are set to take effect.
Since the mid-1990s, U.S. law has capped U.S. contributions to peacekeeping at 25%: the State Department can only pay above this arbitrary limit if Congress provides a waiver and appropriates sufficient funds to do so. The issue must be revisited every year by Congress during the appropriations process, and while it has decided to lift the cap on a number of occasions over the years, the last two budgetary cycles have been an exception: final appropriations legislation for both Fiscal Year 2017 and Fiscal Year 2018 kept the cap in place. As a result, the U.S. could accrue as much as $505 million in peacekeeping arrears for these two years alone.
BWC recognizes that we are operating in a resource constrained environment. Nevertheless, it is critical that policymakers in Washington refrain from enacting funding levels or policies that cause the U.S. to fall further behind on its financial obligations to UN peacekeeping. Unilaterally withholding our peacekeeping assessments denies critical resources to missions that support longstanding U.S. policy objectives; reduces financial reimbursement for countries who contribute the bulk of troops to UN peacekeeping operations, including U.S. allies and partners like Morocco, Jordan, Bangladesh, Ghana, and Indonesia; and undermines our ability to push for new reforms at the UN, a stated priority of the Trump Administration.
U.S. peacekeeping assessments are funded under the State Department’s Contributions for International Peacekeeping Activities (CIPA) account, a mechanism that finances U.S. dues for 13 UN peacekeeping missions and a portion of the U.S. share of costs for the UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, the successor entity to now-closed ad hoc war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. For FY’19, BWC estimates that CIPA will require $2.38 billion, which reflects payment at our current full assessment rate plus additional funds to pay back peacekeeping related arrears arising from underpayments in FY’17 and FY ’18 (this number may shift somewhat, however, depending on the outcome of peacekeeping assessment rate negotiations currently taking place in New York). BWC is also requesting that Congress include language in final FY ’19 appropriations legislation lifting the cap.
Peacekeeping Operations (PKO)
The State Department’s Peacekeeping Operations (PKO) account is separate from CIPA, supporting a number of regional peacekeeping (non-UN) 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, which has carried out a number of deadly attacks against civilians in the region. PKO also includes funding for the State Department’s Global Peace Operations Initiative, a peacekeeper training and equipping program that has facilitated the deployment of more than 197,000 personnel from 38 countries to 29 peace operations around the world. For FY’19, we estimate that PKO will need $655.4 million. This figure is based on the final FY’18 appropriation for the account ($537.9 million) plus an additional $100 million for the African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership (APRRP), an Obama era program to help build the rapid peacekeeping response capacities of six African countries (Ethiopia, Ghana, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda) to help them more quickly deploy in crisis situations. Congress funded APRRP at $100 million in FY’17, but did not include funding for this important initiative in the FY’18 Omnibus. The $655.4 million figure also assumes full funding of the U.S. assessment for UNSOS.
Contributions to International Organizations (CIO)
Another critical State Department appropriations account for the U.S.-UN relationship is Contributions to International Organizations (CIO). The CIO account covers U.S. assessments for the UN Regular Budget and more than 40 other UN and non-UN international organizations, including NATO. BWC estimates level funding- $1.467 billion -for the account in FY’19.
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 countries, where they work to facilitate democratic elections, coordinate the distribution of humanitarian and development assistance, and support the development of strong, effective, and 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; the International Civil Aviation Organization, which helps enable safe air travel by promulgating global standards for navigation, communication, and airline safety; and the World Health Organization, responsible for coordinating the global response to public health emergencies.