Global Policy Forum

UN Chief Seeks More Peacekeeping Money


By Seth Wenig

Associated Press
June 20, 2007

The U.N. secretary-general came to Washington on Wednesday to seek support for reducing the U.S. deficit in peacekeeping dues. Advocacy groups contend the shortfall could surpass $1 billion at current U.S. payment levels. The visit was the third of the year with U.S. lawmakers for Ban Ki-moon, former South Korean foreign minister who became secretary-general on New Year's Day. "He's meeting with congressional leaders, mostly talking about peacekeeping funding," said Deborah DeYoung, information officer for the United Nations Information Centre in Washington. "He's been here twice before this year, and probably be coming back and forth a good bit. It's a new era, and he's keen to get to know people and keen to let them know his priorities."

While officially called courtesy visits, the timing of Wednesday's trip was significant. On Tuesday, the Better World Campaign, which advocates a strong U.S. relationship with the United Nations, gave the House of Representatives a petition it said was signed by 32,000 people from all 50 states. It urged Congress to pay off $569 million in arrears.

On Wednesday, the House began debate on its bill to pay for foreign operations that includes $1.3 billion for international peacekeeping. That is $195 million more than the Bush administration sought. Even if passed , the vote probably will be Thursday , it would push the indebtedness past $1 billion, according to the Better World Campaign and its related organization, the United Nations Foundation.

Ban picked up strong support for his message at one important stop on his tour. Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., is chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee responsible for setting the level of payments in the budget year beginning Oct. 1. "The secretary-general made a strong case for sustained U.S. leadership at the United Nations," Leahy said. "We discussed the need for U.S. support for U.N. peacekeeping missions around the world, including in Darfur, as well as the worsening refugee crisis in the Middle East."

He said Congress must "recognize that the U.N. serves our interests and the interests of our allies, and to give it the support it needs." Leahy said. The interests of the United States and the United Nations intersect in peacekeeping, care for refugees and other fields, Leahy said. "For some in Congress, bashing the U.N. is sport, But the U.N. is responsible for maintaining peace and stability in many places that might otherwise require the deployment of U.S. troops."

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