Update on the impact of US cuts to the UN budget

February 21, 2019

Here is what you need to know about how the budget deal between President Trump and Congress will impact the United Nations.

UN Peacekeeping is underfunded.

The budget deal includes$1.551 billion for the “Contributions to International Peacekeeping Activities” account. This is the budget line that funds most of America’s contributions to United Nations peacekeeping operations, including key missions in Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lebanon and more.  The $1.551 billion appropriated by Congress falls short of this rate by nearly 3%. At issue is an arbitrary “cap” of 25% that Congress imposes on US dues to UN peacekeeping, despite the fact that at the UN, the US had agreed to pay 27.9%. The gap between what is assessed and what is paid by the United States results in an underfunding of UN peacekeeping operations and the accumulation of arrears by the United States, now to the tune of $750 million.

This underfunding of UN peacekeeping is contributing to a major cash crisis for UN Peacekeeping operations. Last month, the UN Secretary General sent a letter to every UN ambassador, warning them that a $2 billion shortfall means the UN only has a few months of cash on hand to sustain its peacekeeping operations.  This budget passed by congress only adds to the these uncertainties facing UN Peacekeeping.

The UN regular budget is properly funded

The “Contributions to International Organizations” account funds the regular budget of the United Nations and also the core budgets of some UN agencies, like the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Health Organization. The Congressional deal includes over $1.3 billion for this account, which represents a funding level commensurate with the rates the United States is assessed as a dues paying member of the UN. In other words, it is the proper funding level.

The caveat here is that the Trump administration may still try to withhold, or slow walk, the disbursement of these funds in an attempt to punish the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Last year, the White House sought to withhold $27 million in payments to the UN, which it calculated was roughly the amount that the UN would spend to fund the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and also the UN Human Rights Council. ..

The Budget Deal Thwarts the Trump Administration’s Attempt to Kill UNICEF

In its budget request last year, the White House sought to completely eliminate an account known as “International Organizations and Programs.”  (UNICEF is also funded through this account)…

Congress did not agree to these gratuitous cuts, and maintained a funding level for this account consistent with previous budgets, to the tune of $340 million. The budget also includes consistent funding levels for global health programs like the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Additionally, the budget includes consistent levels of funding for refugee related programs, including the UN Refugee Agency and the UN Relief and Works Agency, which supports Palestinian refugees. (Alas, it is likely that the administration will nonetheless withhold the disbursement for UNRWA for political reasons.)

In sum, with the exception of UN Peacekeeping, American commitments to the United Nations remained consistent with America’s traditional role as the indispensable member state of the UN.

For more detailed analysis (and the original data upon which this post was written) see this memo from the Better World Campaign.

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/01/without-more-extra-budgetary-funding-human-rights-work-in-the-un-is-in-trouble/

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