Global Policy Forum

House Passes FY 2008 State Department and

June 25, 2007

Late last week, the House of Representatives passed its version of the FY 2008 State Department and Foreign Operations spending bill, increasing the President's budget request for both US contributions to UN peacekeeping operations and voluntary contributions to international organizations, including UN bodies. Passed by a vote of 241 to 178, the $34.2 billion bill also provides the President's full budget request for US dues to 48 international organizations, including the United Nations and UN specialized agencies. The Bush administration has indicated its strong opposition to the bill, H.R. 2764, due to provisions that it considers inconsistent with its international family planning policy, including one concerning the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). The President has threatened to veto the bill if these abortion-related provisions remain in the final version of the bill. The Senate is scheduled to begin consideration of its State Department-Foreign Operations spending bill on Thursday, June 28.

UN Peacekeeping Funds Increased by $195 Million

The House-passed bill maintained a $195 million funding increase for US contributions to UN peacekeeping activities that was adopted by the Appropriations Committee earlier this month. The bill provides a total of $1.3 billion for US financial obligations to UN peacekeeping; the President requested $1.1 billion for this account. The Committee increased funding for UN peacekeeping because it considered the President's request to be insufficient to meet anticipated assessments. While the $195 million in additional funding is expected to help the United States meet its financial obligations to UN peacekeeping for FY 2008, it will not reduce the $622 million which the United States owes in outstanding peacekeeping dues, according to the State Department.

Committee Troubled by Inadequate Peacekeeping Funding Request

In its report on the bill (110-197), the Appropriations Committee acknowledges that the number of UN peacekeeping missions around the world continues to increase, with approximately 100,000 peacekeeping personnel currently deployed. Given this situation, the Committee expresses concern "that the Administration has not adequately planned for funding" these UN peacekeeping operations, noting that the Administration's FY 2008 budget request "is a cut of 3 percent below the fiscal year 2007 level and that all missions except UNMIS [the UN mission in Sudan] are taking a reduction in the President's request." The Committee also states that it is "distressed that the Administration.has requested an inadequate amount" for UN peacekeeping efforts in Darfur, Sudan, and is "gravely concerned that.inadequate funding.for a future UN peacekeeping force, is indicative of a lack of commitment on the part of the Administration to the vital needs of a strong and robust peacekeeping mission to protect civilians in Darfur."

Concern that US Arrears May Affect Peacekeeping Missions

The Committee expresses further concern in its report "that peacekeeping missions could be adversely affected" if the President's requested funding level is enacted, and observed that within the past year, the "Administration has voted for: a seven-fold expansion of the UN's peacekeeping mission in Lebanon; the expansion of the UN's peacekeeping mission in Darfur; reauthorization of the UN's peacekeeping mission in Haiti; and a renewed peacekeeping mission in East Timor." The Committee's report points out that some non-governmental organizations and outside experts have estimated that US arrears to UN peacekeeping could grow to approximately $1 billion if all proposed UN missions are deployed. The report states that the "Committee is concerned that these debts are preventing the UN from paying the countries that provide troops for UN peacekeeping missions and will likely significantly impact India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh."

Adjusts Peacekeeping Cap for 2008

Included in the bill is a provision that would adjust a statutory cap on US contributions to UN peacekeeping to enable the United States to pay in full its 2008 dues assessments. The cap, initially instituted in 1995, prohibits the United States from paying more than 25 percent of UN peacekeeping costs, causing the accumulation of debt to the United Nations since the actual US assessment level is currently 26 percent, after having been reduced in recent years. The Bush administration supports the lifting of the cap and had request that it be adjusted for calendar years 2005 through 2008. The Committee expresses regret in its report that it was only able to adjust the cap for peacekeeping assessments made during calendar year 2008. Nevertheless, in explaining its decision, the Committee emphasizes that "UN peacekeeping is a cost-effective and important force multiplier and that the use of multilateral organizations saves the lives of our men and women in the Armed Forces and wear and tear as well as substantial cost to equipment."

"Significant Reform" Undertaken to Address Sexual Abuse Allegations

In its report, the Appropriations Committee expresses continued concern about "disturbing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by UN peacekeepers and civilian personnel." The Committee commends the State Department for pressing the UN to take preventive measures against sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeeping personnel, and notes that "these efforts have led to significant reform in the planning and conduct of peacekeeping missions." The Committee also expresses its continued support for the "efforts of the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) to identify waste, fraud and abuse, including sexual abuse in peacekeeping operations, and to recommend specific reforms to ensure that such practices are brought to an end." The report calls on the State Department to support OIOS in these efforts.

Request Met for International Organization Dues, Committee Notes Existing Arrears

The bill fully funds the President's $1.35 billion budget request for assessed contributions to 48 international organizations, including the United Nations, UN specialized agencies, UN war crimes tribunals, NATO, and the World Trade Organization, among others. However, the Appropriations Committee acknowledges past funding shortfalls in this account, and notes that it is currently $80 million in arrears. In highlighting this budgetary shortfall, the Committee in its report specifically expresses support for the statement made by UN Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad during his confirmation hearing that the "United States should pay its dues in full and on time." The Committee recommended a total of $442.7 million for the UN regular budget.

In its report, the Committee also commends the efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to ensure that civilian nuclear programs are not misused for weapons purposes or diverted to terrorists. The Committee recommended the Administration's full request for the IAEA, including $86.8 million for assessed contributions and $50 million in voluntary funding. The Committee also "applauds WHO [the World Health Organization] for its leadership in managing pandemic influenza preparation" and recommends the full request of $101.4 million for the organization. Lastly, the Committee observes that the Administration and the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) "are making good progress.on areas of joint priority, including education and literacy, teacher training particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, clean water, natural disaster preparedness, including tsunami warning systems, civic education particularly in the Broader Middle East and North African countries, and press freedom." The Committee recommended "sufficient resources" for the US assessment for UNESCO.

Amendments to Cut UN, International Organization Dues Fail

During floor debate, two amendments were defeated that would have cut US dues payments to the United Nations and other international organizations. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) offered an amendment to decrease funding for US financial obligations to the UN regular budget by $20 million because of what he called the UN's ineffective counter-terrorism efforts. The amendment was defeated by a vote of 192 to 232 (roll no. 530).

A separate amendment, proposed by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), to cut $203 million from the account that funds US membership dues in 48 international organizations, including the United Nations, was also defeated. In offering her amendment, Foxx explained that it was intended to "help bring accountability to organizations that have demonstrated limited effectiveness" and to help control the excessive federal budget deficit. Singling out the United Nations, Foxx said the organization should "reexamine its spending habits so it can be more effective at fulfilling its mission" of promoting global peace and security, which she said it has failed to achieve because it has not stopped Iran's nuclear program or the genocide in Sudan. She also criticized the membership of the Human Rights Council and said the UN "is more interested in condemning Israel and the United States than it is in horrendous human rights abusers throughout the world."

Speaking in opposition to the amendment, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), Chair of the State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, pointed out that the Administration and Congress have underfunded this account in recent years, forcing the State Department to pay US dues late or to incur arrears for virtually every organization in the account. "At a time when the United States is increasingly relying on international organizations to further our security interests around the world, shortchanging our treaty-obligated contributions to these organizations undercuts our foreign policy goals and undermines our reputation around the world," Lowey stated. She noted that the US has chosen to belong to each of the organizations concerned, and observed that they "leverage US taxpayer dollars and advance a wide range of US foreign policy objectives, including monitoring nuclear proliferation through the IAEA, creating norms for international telecommunications through the ITU [International Telecommunications Union], and fending off global pandemics through the WHO."

Concluding her remarks, Foxx called the UN "an ineffective and corrupt organization" and stated, "If we put this to a vote of the American people, they would say, fund nothing of the United Nations." The amendment was defeated by a vote of 137-287 (roll no. 531).

Amendments to Ban Funding of Human Rights Council, ISA Adopted

Two amendments that prohibit US funding of the Human Rights Council and the International Seabed Authority were agreed to by voice vote during floor consideration of H.R. 2764.

International Relations Committee Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) offered an amendment to prevent US dues payments to the UN regular budget from being used to support what she termed the "travesty" of the Human Rights Council. Ros-Lehtinen and several other legislators criticized the Council's poor record and anti-Israel bias. Ros-Lehtinen said the Council has been "fatally-flawed" since its creation last year, and "has proven even more problematic" than its predecessor, the Human Rights Commission. "We were right to refuse to dignify this poisonous talk-shop with our membership, and we must refuse to support it with our tax dollars," Ros-Lehtinen stated. Although she reiterated her support for the United Nations, Rep. Lowey said the UN "is by no means perfect" and remarked that the Human Rights Council is "a perfect example" of the organization's problems.

Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) submitted the amendment prohibiting US funding of the International Seabed Authority, a body created by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, a treaty to which the US is not a party. Blunt explained that he was offering the amendment because the treaty represents a threat to US sovereignty. However, President Bush last month called on the Senate to ratify the treaty, arguing that it "will secure US sovereign rights over extensive marine areas" and serves US national security interests.

Voluntary Funding of International Organizations Increased

The House-passed bill provides a total of $333.4 million for voluntary contributions to international organizations, $44 million more than was requested by the President. In its report accompanying the bill, the Appropriations Committee recommended the following funding levels within this account for UN bodies: $900 million for the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), $50 million below the request; $5.3 million for the International Climate Change Panel of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the same as the request; $10.5 million for the UN Environment Program (UNEP), $1 million more than the request; $1.5 million for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), $500,000 below the request; $5.2 million for the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, $450,000 more than the request; and $1.9 million for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the same as the request.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) was recognized by the Appropriations Committee as an essential partner in improving child survival and health, particularly in the areas of immunization, HIV/AIDS, and early childhood development. The Committee recommended not less than $128 million for a US contribution to UNICEF, $5 million more than the request. The UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) was also singled out for praise by the Committee, which commended the organization as a key partner in global efforts to improve economic, social and political opportunities for women. The Committee substantially increased the President's $950,000 request for UNIFEM, recommending a total of $3.6 million. In addition, the Committee recommended $1.8 million for the UNIFEM Trust Fund; the Administration did not request funding for the Fund.

Amendment Cuts UNDP Funding, Adds to UN Democracy, Entrepreneur Funds

During floor debate on H.R. 2764, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen successfully offered an amendment to redirect funding from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) due to concerns about its operations in North Korea (see UN press release). The amendment, which was adopted by voice vote, reduces funding for UNDP by $20 million and apportions it among two UN initiatives--$14 million for the UN Democracy Fund (UNDEF) and $6 million for the UN Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative. The Appropriations Committee did not recommend funding for either initiative, despite Administration requests for $14 million for UNDEF and $10 million for the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative. The Committee had recommended $110 million for UNDP, well above the request level of $75.3 million.

Concerns about UNDP's North Korea Program, Response to Allegations

In its report, the Appropriations Committee lauded UNDP as "an essential and effective" US partner in fighting HIV/AIDS and promoting democratic governance, conflict prevention and recovery, and poverty reduction. However, in introducing her amendment on the floor, Ros-Lehtinen pointed to "a series of very serious revelations and questions about UNDP activities in North Korea.a rogue regime under sanctions by the UN Security Council." She expressed appreciation that UNDP had terminated its North Korea program, but lamented what she termed a lack of "sufficient investigation and cooperation" from the UN agency in answering concerns about the program. Ros-Lehtinen said the funding cut was intended to "send a clear signal about our demands and expectations for greater transparency and accountability.."

Rep. Lowey responded by voicing support for the work of UNDP, which, she pointed out, is often done "under very difficult circumstances." Lowey said the concerns were serious and needed to be addressed, but she also noted that UNDP "has reacted swiftly" by closing its office in North Korea and is working to strengthen its accountability and transparency measures. However, she explained that "congressional concerns that have been raised on both sides of the aisle" led her to help negotiate and support the Ros-Lehtinen amendment.

Funding Provided for UNFPA, Reporting Requirement Spurs Veto Threat

A total of $40 million was provided in the bill for a US contribution to UNFPA, though it is unlikely that this funding will be released to the UN population agency. In each of the last five years, the Administration has withheld congressionally-appropriated funds for UNFPA due to concerns about the agency's operations in China. In a reference to the Administration's rationale for withholding funding from UNFPA, the Appropriations Committee stated in its report accompanying H.R. 2764 that it finds "no provisions in this bill that shall be construed to deny funding to any organization.solely because the organization operates in a country where the government.engages in coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization."

Observing that UNFPA "provides critically needed assistance to women" in more than 140 countries around the world, the Committee expresses concern about the Administration's withholding decision, which it called unjustified. The Committee also expressed concern "that there is a lack of methodology, consistent criteria, and transparency in formulating the decision." It noted that the Administration "continues to ignore the recommendations of its own hand-selected investigation and assessment team," which in 2002 recommended that the US Government provide funding to UNFPA. A new reporting provision included in the bill requires the Administration to provide a comprehensive explanation for any future withholding decision. This was one of the provisions cited by the Administration in threatening to veto the bill.

Committee Recognizes "Significant" Reforms, Calls for Greater Accountability

In its report, the Appropriations Committee notes "with approval" progress by the United Nations on "a number of significant institutional and management reforms," including establishment of an ethics office, a new financial disclosure policy, a stronger whistleblower protection policy, the new Peacebuilding Commission, and the new Central Emergency Response Fund, which allows for more rapid humanitarian and disaster response. The Committee states in its report that it considers comprehensive reform of the United Nations to be "a very important issue" and insists that it "must be a top priority" for the State Department as well. Specifically, the Committee encourages the Administration to focus on promoting management and personnel reform, budget and program prioritization, improved accountability and oversight, and more efficient allocation of resources.

Funding Provided for International Financial Institutions

The bill provides the following funding for international financial institutions: $106.7 million for the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the same as the request; $115.3 million for the Asian Development Fund, $18.6 million below the request; $2 million for the African Development Bank, the same as the request; $135.6 million for the African Development Fun, $4.9 million below the request; and $18 million for the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the same as the request. The bill also provides $950 million for the International Development Association (IDA), the concessionary loan arm of the World Bank. This funding level is $110 million below the request, providing none of the money to pay for arrears that had been requested by the Administration. The bill does not provide any of the funding requested for the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, the Inter-American Investment Corporation, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

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