The United Nations Is Not Exempt from Budget Belt Tightening

Report Budget and Spending

The United Nations Is Not Exempt from Budget Belt Tightening

March 3, 1986 12 min read Download Report

Authors: Roger Brooks and Juliana Geran

(Archived document, may contain errors)

492 February 28, 1986 THE UNITED NATIONS IS NOT EXEMPT FROM BUDGET BELT TIGHTENING ltThey're asking the wrong people to tighten their belts. It's time we reduced the federal budget and left the fa mily budget alone 1 President Ronald Reagan, State of the Union Address, February 4 1986 INTRODUCTION Under pressure from the Gramm-Rudman budget legislation and popular pressure to balance the federal budget, U.S. government agencies have been trying to tighten their belts as perhaps never before. Operations are being scaled back or eliminated; staffs are being trimmed vulnerable to the budget cutter's scalpel.

Almost nothing is sacred; just about every program is This includes the United States's hefty c ontribution to the United Nations As the U.N.'s most generous backer, providing more than 25 percent of its outlays, the U.S. this year will be turning over more than $1.1 billion to that international organization.

Nothing the U.N. has done in its 40-yea r history earns it the right to be exempted from U.S. budget cuts. Yet U.N. officials and bureaucrats already have mounted a campaign to convince the White House and Congress not to cut the U.S. contribution to the U.N. They want U.N salaries, expense acc o unts, and programs to be spared the belt tighzsnkng-that Reagan is asking of food stamp, Medicare, and student loan recipients. Indeed, U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar is seeking an appointment with Reagan to appeal personally for U.N. exem p tion from cuts in the U.S. contributions. Such an appeal I, would be inappr'opriate and selfish generosity to the U.N., the U.S is entitled to impose the same kind of budgetary discjyzfne on its U.N. contributions as it does on funding its domestic progra m s After decades of exceptional There surely are as many inefficient and useless programs within when President Reagan is asking the federal government to tighten its belt rather than asking the U.S. taxpayer to hand over a larger share of his income as ta x to feed a bloated bureaucracy, it does not seem unreasonable to ask the U.N. to tighten its belt as well, The U.N should accept the projected 79 million to $100 million cutback in this year's U.S. contribution to the U,N U.N. agencies as there are in any U.S. government agency At a time I U.S. CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE U.N.

The United Nations now spends more than $4 billion annually on its far-flung agencies and operations. Exactly how much the U.N spends no one seems to know, for it does not have a consolidat ed budget. Indeed, the U.N. budget is unlike that of any nation, for there is no link between the burden of payment and influence on policies. Six nations (the U.S., USSR, Japan, Federal Republic of Germany, France, and the United Kingdom) contribute over 65 percent of the budget, while the ruling majority, the more than 100 nations in the so-called Group of 77, contribute less than 9 percent. There is no limit to the spending capability of the U.N. When a majority approves a program, it is incorporated in to the budget-and the U.S. must pay at least 25 percent.

In 1984, for example, according to U.S. Department of State figures, the U.S. contributed around $420 million to the U.N. regular assessed budget and around 660 million to the voluntary programs see Tables 1 and 2, below).

The Soviet Union in 1984 contributed only 10.5 percent of the total assessed U.N. budget ($146.7 million), and the entire Soviet bloc provided only one percent of the voluntary contributions 19.3 million) to the U.N. system. Despit e its meager contributions to U.N voluntary programs, the Soviet bloc has drawn heavtly on U.N. funds Itin direct competition with developing countries.l' In 1983, for example, the Soviet bloc countries drew $216.4 million from the U.N aid system--or 3.6 p ercent of the total assistance available tCat year. In the same year, the amount taken out by the Soviet bloc was 1. Address by Ambassador Jose Sorzano to the 1985 summer session of the U.N. Economic and Social Council in Geneva, Switzerland, July 1985, q u oted in U.N. Observer, Volume 7 Number 8, p. 2 2- Table I United States Assessed Contributions to the United Nations 1984 Asencv Amount in U.S. dollars United Nations Secretariat and Headquarters operations, and programs carried out by the Secretariat Int e rnational Labor Organization Food and Agriculture Organization U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural World Health Organization International Civil Aviation Organization Universal Postal Union International Telecommunication Union World Meteorological O rganization International Maritime Organization World Intellectual Property Organization International Atomic Energy Agency United Nations Emergency Force and U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon Organization 187,034,000 32,393,000 49 973 000 0 61 146 000 6,773 0 00 458 000 2 977,000 4, 596, 000 524 000 408 000 18,098,000 55,400,000 TOTAL ASSESSED CONTRIBUTION 419,810,000 Source: 33rd Annual Report, U.S. Contributions to International Orqanizations, December 1985, published by U.S. Department of State 3- Table I1 U nited States Voluntarv Contxibutions to the United Nations, 1984 Aaency Amount in U.S. dollars United Nations Force in Cyprus 9,000,000 U N. Children I s Fund 52,253,000 United Nations Development Program 155,000,000 U.N. Educational and Training Program U nited Nations Environment Program 9,806,000 United Nations Institute for Namibia 490 000 U.N. Institute for Training and Research 422,000 2,000,000 World Food Program 112,300,000 U.N. Fund for Drug Abuse Control 2 980,000 U.N. Fund for Population Activiti e s 38,200,000 U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Program 110,927,000 U.N. Relief and Works Agency 67,000,000 U.N. Trust Fund for South Africa 343 000 United Nations Volunteers Program 150 000 World Health Organization Special Programs 6,000 000 United Nat i ons Trust Fund 17,472,500 International Labor Organization 46 900 Food and Agriculture Organization 139 000 U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization 1 384 600 World Health Organization 2 793 600 World. Meteorologial Organization 342 800 Inte r national Atomic Energy Agency 15,689,000 United Nations Industrial Development Organization 372 900 2 600, 000 50,000,000 500 000 for Southern Africa 1,000,000 United Nations Capital Development Fund United Nations Development Program Trust Fund Internati o nal Fund for Agricultural Development United Nations Decade for Women World Intellectual Property Organization 100 000 TOTAL VOLUNTARY CONTRIBUTION 659,312,300 voluntary in addition to assessed contribution in Table I Total Assessed Contribution: $419,810 , 000 Total Voluntarv Contribution 659,312,300 4 20 times what it voluntarily put into the system. What is worse, the Soviet Union has withheld almost $250 million from the regular budget of the U.N., most of which represents its assessed contrihtion to U.N . peacekeeping operations. In fact, if Moscow simply paid the U.N the amount it owes, it would offset the entire potential U.S reduction in contributions several times over. Perhaps the Secretary-General should visit Mikhail Gorbachev instead of Ronald Rea gan.

Many of the newly industrialized countries ItNICsl1) also contribute less to the U.N. than they are capable of paying for example, Saudi Arabia, with a per capita income of $10,800 (the U.S. has $12,483) contributed only 0.58 percent of the U.N. budge t 25 million altogether for both the regular and the voluntary budgets Kuwait, with a per capita income of $13,000 contributed a mere 0.2 percent of the U.N. budget ($8.64 million In comparison the United Kingdom (1984 per capita income: $7,158) provided 4 .4 percent of the U.N. budget and Spain ($3,661) 1.7 percent I In 1984 A reduction in the U.S. contribution to the U.N. might spur other large contributors, particularly in Western Europe, to review and reduce their contributions. This would force a numbe r of wealthy nations to increase their share or force the U.N. to reduce the budget the Smithsonian Institution's Wilson Center, former U.N. Under Secretary-General Brian Urquhart admitted 1 have long believed that no member-state of the U.N. should be ask e d to pay more than ten per cent of the costs of the organization.Im2 Secretary-General Perez de Cuellar also endorsed this opinion in an interview with Washinaton Times on February 20, 1986 In remarks earlier this month to foreign policy experts at REDUCI N G THE U.S CONTRIBUTION The present bloated U.N. budget is the result of years of excessive budget growth. The retrenchment necessitated by cuts in U.S. financial support simply will force the U.N. system to take the steps that the U.S. has been advocating for years. U.S. contribution cuts to the U.N. this year range from approximately $20 million to 210 million, depending on how the U.N. responds toevarious new U.S laws. The aggregate U.S. cuts will be determined by percent be cut from U.S. spending in fis c al 1986 1) The Gramm-Rudman Balanced Budget Act, which requires that 4.3 4 2. Comments at Smithsonian Institution's Wilson Center, February 17, 1986 52) The Kassebaum Amendment (Section 143, Public Law 99-93), which requires that the U.S. contribution to t he U.N. and its specialized agencies be reduced from 25 percent to 20 percent, unless the U.N adopts basic reforms of its one-nation, one-vote voting system 3) The Sundquist Amendment (Section 151, Public Law 99-93), which requires that the U.S. withhold its proportionate share of the salaries of those U.N. employees who, in violation of the U.N.

Charter, turn over part of their salaries to their national government This includes just about all Soviet bloc Secretariat employees 4) Legislation (Section 114, Public Law 98-164) forbidding the U.S. to contribute to U.N. support of such terrorist groups as the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Southwest Africa People I s Organization (SWAPO United Nations operations in New York and six U.N. specia lized agencies invokes the Kassebaum Amendment to trim outlays $79.1 million.

An additional $14 to $17 million in cuts for the U.N operations in New York is required by various pieces of congressional legislation and by presidential decree. Total reduction s for FY87 are around $96 million from the U.S. assessed contribution to the U.N. and its specialized agencies The new Reagan budget proposal for the U.S. contribution to the The United Nations can swallow these cuts with ease by eliminating needless acti v ities and reducing bloated programs and agencies. Just last year, for example, the U.N. voted to'spend $73.5 million to erect a luxurious conference center in famine-plagued Ethiopia. A random sample of U.N. outlays for 1984-1985 reveals candidates for be lt tightening. Among them Item Amount Paper supplies for the Secretary-General including invitations stationery, menu cards 81,400 Official gifts presented by the Secretary-General.

U.N. Environment Prosram Procurement of paper and ink Trust Fund for the C onvention on International Trade in 70,100 57,300 6Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora U.N Industrial Develomnent Oraanizat ion Consultant to prepare monograph entitled So you want to make use of that waste straw 606,100 15 100 U.N. Commission on t h e Status of Women New York meeting to prepare for the U.N. Decade for Women, Conference in Nairobi, Kenya Travel costs for delegates 142,500 Depository functions of the Secretary-General and registration and publication of treaties Gardeners to be engaged at Headquarters during the growing season Gardening equipment 3,533,300 81,700 11,000 Rental of limousine and chauffeur for the President of the General Assembly and for local transportation related to obtaining certain visas for official travel $115,000 P hotocopy paper and supplies $537,200 Other areas of the U.N. budget that deserve further scrutiny include U. N. Conference on Trade and Develoment (UNCTAD UNCTAD was founded to help dc:.?r i ing nations grow through trade instead of the charity of foreign aid. Yet since its creation in 1964, UNCTAD has done little to spur either trade or development.

Indeed, it has compiled a record for flawed proposals, irresponsible actions, and abuses of power that is probably unparalleled in the U.N system. United States annual financial backing for UNCTAD is around 7 14 million for each two-year budget period; si n ce UNCTADIs founding U.S. support has totaled almost $100 million. For the 1984-1985 bi.siiiium, UNCTADIs budget within the general U.N. budget was $54.5 million. The entire UNCTAD budget could be eliminated witp little or no damage to the prospects of Th ird World economic growth U.N. Center on Transnational Cornorations (UNCTCI The UNCTC was created in 1975 by the U.N. Economic and Social Council to

Idevelop a comprehensive information system on the activities of transnational corporations, to organize a nd co-ordinate technical cooperation programs and to conduct research It* In fact the UNCTC provides detailed information on Western multinational corporations to Soviet bloc governments and consistently distorts the valuable role played by Western multin ational corporations in developing countries. The 1984-1985 UNCTC budget was $11.4 million of which the U.S. contributed 2.8 million.

U.N. DeDartment of Public Information fDPII The U.N. Department of Public Information (DPI) has the responsibility Itto pr omote to the greatest possible extent an informed understanding of the work and purposes of the United Nations among the peoples of the world.Il misrepresenting world events, however, DPI ignores fundamentai flaws and problems at the U.N. and misrepresent s what occurs there contributed $17 million. Items in the budget included: Iltravel on film assignment,I 209,800; %ravel of staff to meetings,I 186,300 and editors! round tables, $77,1

00. The U.N. could slash the DPI budget dramatically, and the agency still could fulfill its mandate By frequently distorting and often The total 1984-1985 DPI budget was 70 million, of which the U.S.

Palestine Liberation Orcyanization (PLOI Almost the entire United Nations system has become a valuable PLO ally. The PLO has official observer status throughout the system 3. For further information on UNCTAD, see series of studies by Professor Stanley Michalak published by the Heritage Foundation, including Backprounder No. 348, "Cheating the Poor April 30, 1984; Backnrounder, No. 394, "The Truths UNCTAD Will Not Face,"

November 26, 1984; Backprounder No. 438, "The Bias Impeding Tnird World Growth June 4 1985; and Backerounder No. 477, "The U.S. Must Reassess Its Role December 30, 1985 4. The United Nations, Department of Publi c Information, Evervone's United Nations, New York, 1979 p. 155 5. See: Roger A. Brooks The U.N. Department of Public Information, A House of Mirrors,"

Political Communication and Persuasion, Volume 3, Number 2, 1985, pp. 141-165 8-including the specializ ed agencies. The U.N. Department of Public Information distributes pro-PLO papers and booklets reaching journalists, ae%mics, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs throughout the world and libraries of U.N. buildings in New York and across the globe.

Th is material is coordinated and sometimes written by the pro-PLO members of the U.N. Secretariat in the Division of Palestinian Rights Pro-PLO displays and posters grace the lobbies In order to withhold support for PLO and SWAP0 activities, the U.S. cuts b ack about 1 million of its contribution to the regular U.N. budget, but other departments within the U.N. system support PLO activities both directly and indirecgtly scrutinize many of these activities.

The U.S. has failed to U.N. Food and Aariculture Oruanization (FA01 The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization's five-year 1980-1984) expenditures were $853.2 million of which the U.S share was 210 million.

Instead of promoting free market agricultural policies in African countries and elsewhere, FA0 has supported projects with a I1government-centered1

bias that exclude private sector and market-oriented policies. The FA0 does this, despite the overwhelming evidence produced by economists from the World Bank and other organizations tpat economic growth is correlated with growth in the private sector.

In one sense, today's food crisis in Africa is the harvest of Soviet and socialist policies embraced by African regimes been perpetuated by U.N., or even encouragement of these policies. Many U.N. development projects, particularly the FAOIs, do not encourage private sector initiative or self-sustaining growth in low income countries. Indeed, they subsidize practices that perpetuate or even generate poverty in certain places. As'such the U .S. should consider diverting its annual $53 million funding from the FA0 to other U.N. and non-U.N. programs that promote self-sufficiency and free markets in the production of agricultural commodities But it has 6. See: Juliana Geran Pilon The PLO's Val u able Ally: The United Nations Heritage Foundation Backnrounder No 473, December 17, 1985, especially pp. 6-10 7. See Keith Marsden Why Asia Boomed and Africa Busted,"The Wall Street Journal, June 3, 1985 8. See: Roger A. Brooks Africa Is Starving and the United Nations Shares the Blame,"

Heritage Foundation Backprounder No 480, January 14, 1986 9- CONCLUSION Internal U.N. documents indicate that the U.N. already is bracing for significant reductions in the U.S. contribution to the U.N regular budget for th e Secretariat and its Headquarters operations.

U.N. estimates of these reductions range from about 20 million to 100 million out of an estimated U.S. contribution to the U.N.

Headquarters budget of around 200 million.

These estimates indicate that the U.N is preparing for long overdue budget austerity.

Administration a unique opportunity to force the U.N. system to take steps that the U.S. ha's been seeking, without success, for years million in cuts. Indeed, the U.N. may find that by trimming its budget it will become a better, leaner, more effective institution Recently enacted legislation and the I current budget-conscious mood of Congress give the Reagan i With a budget of $4 billion, the U.N. surely can find $200 The manner in which the U.N. spends its money is up to the U.N.

But sending Secretary-General Perez de Cuellar to Washington to plead with the President for U.N. exemption from the sort of budget cutting the U.S is imposing on hundreds of domestic programs is inappropriate and counterproductive people, who over the years have been by far the U.N.'s most generous contributors. It must embarrass the Secretary-General to carry such a selfish message to Washington self-motivated initiatives that many U.S. gove r nment agencies already have undertaken to bring their budgets into line with the new period of budget austerity. Or it can abrogate the important responsibility for accomplishing genuine cost control to the Department of State and the U.S. Congress and le t them impose long-sought and urgently needed in the U.S. contributions to that system I It sends the wrong message to the American I The U.N. has a choice. It can undertake the same kinds of i changes in the U.N. system through targeted and selective redu ctions I Roger A. Brooks Roe Fellow in United Nations Studies and Juliana Geran Pilon, Ph.D.

Senior Policy Analyst 10


Roger Brooks

Juliana Geran

Director, Center for Legal & Judicial Studies