updated 5/20/2005 4:57:52 PM ET 2005-05-20T20:57:52

The United Nations on Friday criticized a proposed congressional bill to withhold tens of millions of dollars in U.S. dues unless the world body reforms, calling it “unproductive” to efforts now under way.

  1. Other political news of note
    1. Animated Boehner: 'There's nothing complex about the Keystone Pipeline!'

      House Speaker John Boehner became animated Tuesday over the proposed Keystone Pipeline, castigating the Obama administration for not having approved the project yet.

    2. Budget deficits shrinking but set to grow after 2015
    3. Senate readies another volley on unemployment aid
    4. Obama faces Syria standstill
    5. Fluke files to run in California

On Thursday, Illinois Republican Henry Hyde’s House International Relations Committee distributed an early version of the “United Nations Reform Act of 2005.” It seeks to cut funding for programs seen as useless and bar human rights violators from serving on U.N. human rights bodies.

The United States is the largest contributor to the U.N. budget.

One of its most controversial proposals is linking dues to the changes it spells out. The document stipulates that if those reforms are not carried out, Congress will withhold 50 percent of U.S. dues to the U.N. general budget, taking the money from programs it deems inefficient and wasteful.

Democrats likely to oppose part of plan
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the United Nations did not believe that withholding dues was the solution, particularly as U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan pushes his own vision for reform, unveiled earlier this year.

“The secretary-general’s position on the use of withholding as a tool for reform is pretty clear,” Dujarric said. “He feels it’s counterproductive, particularly at a time when reform is such a primary agenda item. I think the best way for member states to undertake reform is to engage in discussion among themselves.”

The 80-page bill has only recently been distributed to Democrats, who are likely to oppose several elements.

At a Thursday hearing on U.N. reform, Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., also cautioned against using dues to push for reform. As the ranking Democrat on Hyde’s committee, Lantos’ support would be crucial for getting bipartisan support for the bill.

“It will be very important for us to resist the powerful temptation to withhold the payment of our dues in an attempt to leverage needed changes at the United Nations,” Lantos said.

U.S. biggest contributor
The proposed changes would shake the U.N. system at its foundations. The United States, the biggest financial contributor to the United Nations, pays almost 25 percent of the world body’s annual $2 billion general budget.

However, that does not include money for peacekeeping, international tribunals or programs like the U.N. Development Program and UNICEF, which are funded separately.

For many, the move could be reminiscent of the 1990s, when the United States fell millions of dollars behind in its dues, throwing the United Nations into financial crisis, because several U.S. lawmakers argued the payments were excessive and the bureaucracy was too bloated.

That earlier crisis also strained ties with other countries. In 1998, the United States almost lost its voting rights in the General Assembly over unpaid contributions.

Japan expresses interest in U.S. plan
Yet while some missions still oppose the U.S. strategy, others remain open to the idea. They include Japan, which pays more U.N. dues than any other nation besides the United States.

“I think we, of course, will be very much interested in how the United States would want to do it,” said Jun Yamazaki, the Japanese U.N. mission’s minister for budgets.

The lynchpin of the proposed bill is the requirement that several U.N. programs now funded under the general budget instead raise their money through voluntary contributions from governments and individual donors.

The idea is that by requiring these programs to seek funding on their own, they would have to become more efficient and transparent or shut down if they cannot compete. Advocates point to programs that are funded that way and now run smoothly, including the U.N. Development Program, the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments