U.S. Should Reduce Funding of U.N., Watchdogs Say

On Monday, South Korea's Ban Ki-moon threw his hat into the ring to serve a second five-year term as head of the United Nations. While he is very likely to keep his post, and has the backing of the White House, he continues to face criticism he hasn't done enough to reform the UN's dysfunctional budget operations.

Congress is moving to do it for him. For the first time in years, Congress has moved to aggressively to cut the U.S.'s share of the UN's budget due to chronic waste, fraud and abuse, a time when the U.S. is facing record deficit shortfalls.

President Barack Obama today issued a statement on Ban Ki-moon's bid for a second term, in which the president noted that while the UN "is an imperfect, but indispensible institution," the U.S. "strongly supports further efforts for reform to improve effectiveness, streamline bureaucracy, reduce costs, and update business practices to improve the United Nation's ability to meet its mandate," including peace-keeping worldwide.

America has been the largest contributor to the UNs budget ever since its founding in 1945. The U.S. is currently funding 22% of the regular UN budget and more than 27% of its peacekeeping budget. The U.S. paid in about $6.4 billion out of the UNs $22.3 billion budget. In fiscal 2001, the U.S. gave $3.2 billion.

In that same time span, the UNs regular budget has more than doubled and its peacekeeping budget has more than tripled. Those growth rates are faster than the growth rates of the economies of its 192 member nations, including the U.S., says Citizens Against Government Waste.The U.S. budget grew by 97% between 2000 and 2010 in nominal terms because of an enormous increase in expenditures, including costs associated with the war on terrorism, two major military operations, and the unprecedented government expenditures to address the financial crisis and stimulate the economy, say experts at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

Reducing the U.S. contribution to the UN by 25% would save taxpayers $7.9 billion over five years, according to estimates from Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW).

As the U.S. attempts to grapple with mounting deficits and debt, organizations like the UN should not be spared the knife when it comes to trimming budget fat, said CAGW President Tom Schatz in a statement. The United States is still the worlds largest economy, but its share of UN funding is entirely out of proportion. The ramping up of other members contributions is long overdue.

Schatz added: After all, former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali once estimated that perhaps half of the UN work force does nothing useful.

For the first time in years, Congress moved aggressively to cut the U.S.s funding of the U.N. by $377 million in the continuing resolution that funded the government for the remainder of fiscal 2011. But thats just about a 6% cut in overall U.S. funding.

Because the UN has ramped up its spending so dramatically, it makes sense to enact larger cuts, Schatz adds.

The U.S. voted against the U.N. 2008-2009 budget in December 2007 because of out of control costs, non- transparency, and apathetic reforms to stop waste, mismanagement and corruption. But over a U.S. objection, for the first time the other U.N. member states broke with a 20-year consensus tradition and voted to approve the budget.

That the U.N.s budget has veered out of control over this past decade has been easy to see compared to its growth in prior years. It had relatively flat budgets from the mid-1980s until 2000, says Heritage. For instance, the U.N. regular budget grew only 45% in nominal terms--less than 5% in real terms measured in constant 2000 U.S. dollars--from the 1986-1987 biennium through the 2000-2001 biennium.