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Friday, May 18, 2012
STATE AND FOREIGN OPERATIONS CUTS AT ODDS WITH VOTERS WISHES
State and Foreign Operations cuts at odds with voters wishes
By Peter Yeo, vice president of public policy, United Nations Foundation - 05/17/12 11:10 AM ET
In a move that contrasts with voter sentiment, the House Committee on Appropriations is preparing to take up a fiscal year 2013 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill that fails to fully fund the United States’ commitment to the United Nations. The move is entirely at odds with majorities of Republican, Democratic and Independent voters who support the U.S. paying its dues to the UN on time and in full, according to new polling data released by the United Nations Foundation.
While the measure presents cuts that are less drastic than proposals made last year, the $48.3 billion bill nonetheless comes up more than $400 million short of where it needs to be to properly fund the Contributions to International Organizations (CIO) and Contributions to International Peacekeeping Activities (CIPA) accounts. This bill also eliminates all funding for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and UN climate change funds.
Lawmakers have undoubtedly labored to pull together a State and Foreign Operations bill that could be an effective long-term guide to strengthening the relationship between the United States and the United Nations. However, as Congressman Norman D. Dicks (D-Wash.) eloquently stated at last Wednesday’s Subcommittee markup:
“These actions would put us into arrears with the UN and sets the wrong example for other countries deciding whether to keep their commitments. Also problematic is the proposed elimination of the U.S. contribution to the UN Population Fund, a critical partner in making sure young women around the world can lead productive lives and raise healthy families. I fear that these are short-sighted decisions by my colleagues.”
While there are no easy solutions when it comes to balancing our budget, the support that the U.S. receives from the UN is vital to our national security objectives, and we cannot afford to diminish it — nor do Americans wish to do so. In fact, the aforementioned polling data shows that more than eight in 10 voters support a strong U.S.-UN relationship. However, absent strong revisions and a change of course, this bill will force our nation back into debt at the UN and consequently undermine our national security interests.
Now is the time for Americans to call their Representatives and urge them: Take a step back and be mindful of what is on the line. Consider, for example, Iraq and Afghanistan. We stand at a critical and tenuous turning point in both countries. The UN missions there—whose costs are overwhelmingly borne by other member states—work closely with the U.S., helping to build capacity in the governments so that when American troops leave, peace and stability will remain.¹ However, cuts to the CIO account would mean significant reductions to the UN missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, jeopardizing their overall effectiveness.
Further, from Haiti, to South Sudan, to the Middle East, and so on, the United States has called upon UN peacekeepers to stand on the front lines in protecting civilians, promoting development, and paving the way for democracies to flourish. We feel the results of their efforts across the globe and at home — from the invaluable protection of human life, all the way to the success of international trade, and even down to our gas prices at the pump.
UN Peacekeeping missions have long been a cornerstone of Republican and Democratic administrations alike, and in fact, it was under President George W. Bush that we saw the largest expansion of peacekeeping missions of any administration to date. Reducing and eliminating funding for such key UN programs now would inhibit development and the ability of democracies to flourish for the long term.
What’s more, Americans agree that the UN’s reproductive health programs are critical to the health and safety of women around the world. Ending funding for UNFPA flies in the face of what 79 percent of Americans think the UN should be doing. Additionally, over 80 percent of Americans think we need to remain members of UNESCO, but without paying our dues, we will soon lose our seat at this important agency.
At a time when Americans want our dollar to go farther, this bill unnecessarily targets UN agencies — the very vehicles we need to make that happen. Failure to pay our dues to the UN will erode America’s ability to further its national security interests. It contradicts what voters want, and we must speak out.
Yeo is vice president of public policy at the United Nations Foundation and executive director of the Better World Campaign. Previously he served as deputy staff director at the House Foreign Affairs Committee chaired by Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and as Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. State Department during the Clinton Administration.