Global Policy Forum

Senate Appropriations Committee Approves

July 23, 2008

Late last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $36.6 billion bill providing FY 2009 funding for State Department operations and foreign aid programs, including US mandatory dues and voluntary contributions to the UN system. The bill, S. 3288, provides the Bush administration's full $1.53 billion budget request for assessed contributions to international organizations and increased the Administration's request for voluntary contributions to multilateral organizations from $276.9 million to $364 million and UN peacekeeping assessments from $1.49 billion to $1.65 billion.

House Subcommittee Marks Up Bill, Final Approval Expected Next Year

The House Appropriations Subcommittee for State Department and foreign aid funding also last week approved its own version of the bill. Like the Senate's committee-approved bill, the House version provides a total of $36.6 billion, which is $1.59 billion below the Administration's request. The House bill has not yet been made available. In the face of a threat from President Bush to veto any appropriations measure that surpasses his request level, Congress is expected to delay finalizing most FY 2009 spending bills, including the State Department-foreign aid bill, until early next year when a new administration is in office. Until then, Congress is expected to pass a continuing resolution that maintains spending at FY 2008 levels.

Senate Bill Recommends Full Request Level for International Organization Dues

In its bill, the Senate Appropriations recommends a total of $1.53 billion for US assessed membership dues to 47 international organizations, including the United Nations, UN specialized agencies, the IAEA, and NATO. This level is the same as the President's budget request and is in addition to $75 million provided for this account in the emergency FY 2009 supplemental spending bill enacted earlier this year.

Committee Boosts UN Peacekeeping Funding, Says Additional Increases Needed

The Committee recommends a total of $1.65 billion for the US assessed share of UN peacekeeping operations, an increase of $153 million above the Administration's request. Even with this recommended funding increase, and in addition to the $150.5 million already provided in an FY09 emergency supplemental spending bill enacted earlier this year, the Committee warns that the United States is projected to owe an additional $177 million in UN peacekeeping dues in FY09.

Faults Administration for Inadequate Peacekeeping Funding Requests

In its report accompanying S. 3288, the Committee criticizes the Administration's "practice of under-funding peacekeeping activities and relying on limited supplemental funds to support only a few missions." In the report (110-425), the Committee acknowledges the "significant contribution to international peace and stability provided by UN peacekeeping activities, without the participation of US troops." However, it notes that the President's budget request assumed a funding cut for every UN peacekeeping mission, despite the fact that the Administration "voted in the UN Security Council to expand the mandate of peacekeeping missions." In a July 17th press release, the Committee said the Administration's "downsizing is unrealistic" and stated in its report that it "does not support" the practice of under-funding UN peacekeeping. As of March 2008, the United States owed more than $2.4 billion to the United Nations for outstanding dues payments.

Recommends Lifting of Peacekeeping Cap

The Committee included language in its version of the bill to temporarily adjust a longstanding statutory cap on UN peacekeeping payments that prevents the US from paying its peacekeeping dues in full. The provision would lift the cap, which has caused the accumulation of new UN arrears, for calendar years 2005 through 2009 so the United States can pay in full its peacekeeping assessments during this period. The Administration has requested such an adjustment of the cap.

Seeks Training for Peacekeepers to Prevent Violence against Women

The Committee's report also includes language instructing the State Department to ensure that all personnel serving in UN peacekeeping operations receive appropriate training to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls. The Committee also calls on the Secretary of State to "work aggressively with the United Nations to ensure that individuals who are found to have engaged in exploitation or violence against women are held accountable, including prosecution in their home countries."

Increases Funding for UN Voluntary Contributions

The Committee provided a total of $364 million for US voluntary contributions to international organizations, including UN programs and funds. This recommended funding level is $84.1 million above the President's request.

Among the funding recommended for this account is the following: $9 million for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change ($3.7 million above the request); $129 million for the UN Children's Fund - UNICEF ($4.5 million above the request); $5 million for the UN Development Fund for Women - UNIFEM ($4 million above the request); $97.5 million for the UN Development Program - UNDP ($22.2 million above the request); $10.5 million for the UN Environment Program ($976,000 above the request); $3 million for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs ($1 million above the request); $9 million for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (no funding was requested); $7.1 million for the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture ($2.1 million above the request); and $45 million for the UN Population Fund - UNFPA (no funding was requested). A voluntary contribution of $66 million for the International Atomic Energy Agency - IAEA ($16 million above the request) was provided in a different section of the bill.

No funding was recommended by the Committee for the UN Democracy Fund (UNDF) despite an Administration request for $14 million. The Committee called on the Administration to "explain how a contribution to the UNDF fits into its overall strategy to promote democracy abroad." The Committee did recommend $2 million to help fund the continuation of an independent procurement task force at the UN to investigate allegations of fraud and corruption.

Prohibits Funding of Human Rights Council

Repeating language enacted as part of the FY 2008 bill, the Appropriations Committee included a provision prohibiting US funding of the UN Human Rights Council unless the administration certifies that doing so is in the US national interest or if the US is a member of the Council. If enacted, the provision could require the withholding of a portion of the US assessed contribution to the UN regular budget. The Bush administration voted against the creation of the Human Rights Council in 2006 and has not sought a seat on the Council.

Includes Withholding Provisions for UNDP, World Bank

The Committee included language in the bill requiring the withholding of ten percent of the funds provided for UNDP and the International Development Association (IDA), the concessionary loan arm of the World Bank, until Congress receives certain certifications from the administration concerning oversight and transparency within these organizations.

Ten percent of the bill's funding for UNDP is to be withheld until the Secretary of State reports to the House and Senate appropriations committees that UNDP is providing adequate access to information requested by the United States, conducting internal oversight of its activities, and is implementing a whistleblower protection policy as recommended by the UN Secretary General.

Similarly, ten percent of the bill's funding for IDA would be withheld until the Secretary of the Treasury certifies to both appropriations committees that the World Bank has made publicly available the financial disclosure forms of certain personnel, is scheduling regular and independent audits and making the findings available to the public, and is providing adequate resources to its Department of Institutional Integrity.

Cuts Budget Request for International Financial Institutions

The Appropriations Committee recommended a total of $1.55 billion for US contributions to international financial institutions, a cut of $504 million from the President's request level. Within this account, the Committee recommends $100 million for the Global Environment Facility ($20 million more than the request) and $1.18 billion for the International Development Association ($100 million below the request).

Also within this account, the Committee recommends $200 million for a US contribution to an international clean technology fund at the World Bank, pending certification by the Administration that such a fund will operate according to the objectives of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and will only finance "zero-carbon renewable technologies and energy efficient end-use technologies." The Administration requested $400 million for such a fund. In its report, the Committee notes that "a dramatic increase in private sector investment is necessary to address global warming, and that Government financing can serve as a catalyst for such investment."

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