Keep the Cap on U.S. Contributions to U.N. Peacekeeping


Keep the Cap on U.S. Contributions to U.N. Peacekeeping

September 6, 2007 About an hour read Download Report
Jay Kingham Senior Research Fellow in International Regulatory Affairs
Brett D. Schaefer is the Jay Kingham Fellow in International Regulatory Affairs at Heritage's Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unani­mously approved legislation (S. 392) on June 27, 2007, that would pay the United Nations more for peace­keeping than current U.S. law allows. The legislation would increase the 25 percent cap to 27.1 percent for 2005 through 2008 to enable the United States to pay the U.N. an estimated $157 million more than the U.S. would otherwise pay for its share of the U.N.'s peacekeeping budget.[1] The key sponsor of the legisla­tion, Senator Joseph R. Biden (D-DE), justifies the leg­islation with the assertion that we should not "fail to pay our bills"[2] to the United Nations.

This argument not only misrepresents the situation and misreads history, but also does a grave injustice to people who were abused by the U.N. peacekeepers that should have protected them. The cap on U.S. dues was created to spread the costs of peacekeeping more equitably among the member states and to prompt the U.N. to adopt specified reforms. This leg­islation would reward the U.N. even though it has failed to adopt critical reforms to prevent sexual abuse and other misconduct by U.N. peacekeepers and to enhance transparency, accountability, and oversight of U.N. procurement.

Raising the 25 percent cap on U.S. contributions to the U.N. peacekeeping budget is simply bad policy. It would:

  • Remove the key incentive for the U.N. to honor its promise in 2000 to lower the U.S. peacekeep­ing assessment to 25 percent.

  • Throw away an opportunity for the U.S. to use its financial leverage to pressure the U.N. to adopt rules, procedures, and practices that would prevent mismanagement and corruption, discourage peacekeeper misconduct, and require member states to punish sexual abuse and crim­inal acts by their nationals participating in U.N. peacekeeping operations.

  • Increase the cap far above the 26.0864 percent for 2007 and 25.9624 percent for 2008-2009 that the U.N. has decided to assess the U.S., thereby opening up the possibility that the U.N. would increase the U.S. assessment in the future.

  • Surrender the key principle that nations pos­sessing equal privileges in the U.N. should assume equal responsibilities, including bud­get responsibilities.

Although the Senate has a full calendar after the August recess, the Biden legislation may be consid­ered independently or as an amendment to the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act of 2008 (H.R. 2764), which covers U.S. contributions to the U.N. peacekeeping budget and already includes language to increase the peacekeeping cap for 2008.[3] Con­gress should keep the 25 percent cap, both to lever­age much-needed reform of peacekeeping rules and practices and to support efforts to assess U.N. mem­ber states more equitably for U.N. expenses.

The 25 Percent Cap

As freedom and economic vitality have spread around the world, the United States has tried to increase the financial commitment of other nations to the U.N. Since the earliest days of the United Nations, the U.S. has been concerned that the orga­nization would rely too heavily on America to fund its activities. The founding members of the U.N. wanted to assess the U.S. nearly 50 percent of the U.N. budget. The U.S. finally agreed to pay 39.84 percent of the budget in 1947.

Successive U.S. Administrations have had to fight hard to reduce the U.S. assessment for the U.N. regular (non-peacekeeping) budget because other member states have resisted increasing their own contributions.[4] Over the past 60 years, the U.S. has managed to marginally reduce its U.N. assess­ment (the percentage of the U.N. budget charged to the U.S.), but it continues to pay more than any other nation. Not until 1973 did the U.S. persuade the U.N. to reduce the U.S. regular budget assess­ment to 25 percent. Lowering the U.S. regular bud­get assessment to 22 percent took another 28 years.

Congress played a key role in this process. The U.S. Congress has adopted a number of initiatives over the past two decades to constrain the growth of U.N. expenditures and to improve accountability and transparency in the organization, including using financial leverage to press U.N. member states to agree to a consensus-based budgeting process and to create the Office of Internal Oversight Ser­vices (OIOS) to operate as a type of inspector gen­eral over U.N. activities.[5]

When the end of the Cold War resulted in a dra­matic increase in the number of missions and a cor­responding increase in the amount that the U.S. paid for U.N. peacekeeping under its assessment, Congress focused on the U.N. peacekeeping bud­get. Between 1988 and 1994, over 20 new U.N. peacekeeping operations were established. By com­parison, there were only 13 U.N. peacekeeping operations between 1948 and 1988. U.N. peace­keeping expenditures rose from $384 million in 1988 to $4.039 billion in 1994,[6] and U.S. contribu­tions rose proportionally.

The increased cost of U.N. peacekeeping brought home the uneven assessments charged by the U.N. Most U.N. member states receive substan­tial discounts in their peacekeeping assessments- up to 90 percent lower than their regular budget assessment.[7] In 1994, the U.S. paid more (31.7 per­cent) than the combined assessments of over 170 member states.[8] As President Bill Clinton noted before the U.N. General Assembly in 1993:

[T]he UN's operations must not only be adequately funded, but also fairly funded.... [O]ur rates should be reduced to reflect the rise of other nations that can now bear more of the financial burden.[9]

When the U.N. chose not to reduce the U.S. assessment, Congress passed legislation capping the U.S. contribution at 25 percent, and President Clin­ton signed it into law in 1994.[10]

The difference between the U.N. assessment and the cap led to a sharp increase in U.S. contested arrears in the 1990s. Congress passed legislation to pay or forgive $926 million of the accumulated dif­ference in return for reforms specified in the Helms- Biden United Nations Reform Act of 1999.[11] These included requiring the U.N. to reduce the U.S. regu­lar budget assessment to 22 percent and the U.S. peacekeeping assessment to 25 percent.

In 2000, the U.S. succeeded in securing a com­mitment from the U.N. to meet the Helms-Biden requirements by reducing America's portion of the regular budget to 22 percent and the peacekeeping budget to 25 percent in return for paying arrears to the U.N. In January 2001, the General Assembly agreed to cap the contribution of any individual nation to the regular budget at 22 percent.[12]

The process for reducing U.S. contributions to the peacekeeping budget has been more protracted. The U.N. has yet to lower the U.S. peacekeeping assessment to 25 percent as agreed.

U.S. Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke negoti­ated a reduction in the U.S. peacekeeping assess­ment from about 30.3 percent in 2000 to 28.1 percent in 2001 and received assurances from the U.N. and other member states that the rate would be lowered further in subsequent years.[13] In testi­mony before the Senate Foreign Relations Commit­tee in 2001, Holbrooke stated, "The U.S. rate will continue to progressively decline, and we expect that it will reach 25% by roughly 2006 or 2007."[14]

Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) clearly believed that this timeline and agreement were binding:

[T]he U.N. put in place a six-year plan to reduce what the U.N. now says the U.S. owes for peacekeeping. Here's how it will work. The U.S. share of peacekeeping costs will drop: from 31 percent to about 28 per­cent in the first six months of 2001; and then, Mr. President, to about 27 1/2 percent in the second half of 2001; and then, Mr. President, to about 26 1/2 percent in 2002; and then, Mr. President, down to approxi­mately the 25 percent benchmark specified in the Helms-Biden law….

Based on the clear prospect of U.S. peace­keeping dues moving down to 25 percent in the coming years, we propose to agree to releasing the Year 2 dues payment of $582 million [as outlined in the Helms- Biden legislation] to the United Nations immediately.[15]

Congress accepted these assurances in good faith. Even though the reduction in the U.S. assess­ment was not the 25 percent required by Helms- Biden, Congress approved payment of the arrears provided for in the Helms-Biden agreement and temporarily increased the 25 percent cap to avoid accumulating arrears while the U.N. lowered the U.S. assessment to 25 percent.[16]

Congress chose, however, to maintain the 25 percent cap as an incentive for the U.N. to follow through on its promise. As stated by Senator Helms:

I emphasize that the United States does not owe the United Nations one dime more than 25 percent of the peacekeeping bud­get. In fact, in 1994, Senator Bob Dole led a bipartisan effort to institute a cap on how much the U.S. would pay to the U.N. for peacekeeping. That year, a Democrat-con­trolled Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, a 25 percent cap on the U.S. share of the U.N. peacekeeping assessment.

I see no reason to abandon that bipartisan policy. Some may argue that, in addition to releasing the Year 2 arrears, we should remove that cap as well. I cannot and will not agree to that.... But we must not (and will not if I have anything to do with it) concede that the United States expects, in the coming years that the U.N. will ulti­mately reach the 25 percent rate mandated by Congress.[17]

Regrettably, the U.N. has not honored its side of the bargain. According to the deal struck by Hol­brooke, the U.S. assessment was supposed to be less than 26 percent by 2004.[18] Three years later, it still has not fallen below 26 percent. The U.S. peace­keeping assessment is 26.08 percent for 2007 and is scheduled to fall to 25.96 percent in 2008 and 2009-still nearly a full percentage point more than the 25 percent sought by the U.S.[19]

The percentage point difference may seem minor, but with the U.N. peacekeeping budget at $5.246 billion in the fiscal year ending in June 2007, the difference is over $50 million per year.[20] This amount is expected to rise when the recently approved U.N. mission for Darfur-estimated to cost over $2 billion in 2008-is deployed. The dis­crepancy means that the U.S. taxpayer will be charged hundreds of millions of dollars more for U.N. peacekeeping because the U.N. broke its promise to lower the U.S. assessment to 25 percent.

The peacekeeping cap is a contentious issue, but the U.N. has made it worse by inflating the amount that it claims the U.S. owes. In January, the U.N. claimed that the U.S. owed about $291 million in arrears to the regular budget and $677 million in arrears to the peacekeeping budget.[21] Some of these "arrears" are in reality costs for unexpected expenses that were not budgeted by the U.S.

The U.N. peacekeeping budget varies consider­ably during the course of the year as missions are approved, expanded, or wound down. For instance, the estimated peacekeeping budget from July 1, 2006, through June 30, 2007, was $4.75 billion in October 2006-about $500 million less than in June 2007.[22] The Administration cannot be faulted for failing to anticipate expenses that did not exist when it submitted its budget request to Congress. Traditionally, the U.S. has made up for unexpected expenses through subsequent appropriations or supplemental appropriations.

A similar situation exists in the regular budget because the U.S. pays at the end of the year rather than at the beginning. This creates "arrears" for the first nine months that are paid at the end of the year. For example, the amount that the U.N. claimed the U.S. owed in "arrears" to the regular budget increased from $291 million in the beginning of 2007 to $785 million in May 2007, with virtually all of the increase resulting from America's delayed payment practice rather than any intent to withhold payment.[23] The U.N. knows this and is deliberately overstating the situation when it fails to acknowl­edge that these shortfalls will be paid.[24]

Worse, however, are the continuing claims by the U.N. that the U.S. owes the organization hundreds of millions of dollars in arrears dating back to the 1990s. The Helms-Biden agreement specified pay­ment of $819 million in arrears owed by the U.S. and forgiveness of $107 million owed the U.S. by the U.N. in return for lowering the U.S. assess­ments. An additional requirement was the creation of a "contested arrears" account into which the dif­ference between the $1.3 billion that the U.N. claimed the U.S. owed and the amount the U.S. agreed to pay the organization under Helms-Biden would be placed. As Senator Biden noted,

[The U.S. and the U.N.] did not agree on what the arrears are. We have a figure that is lower than-is viewed by some in the United Nations as so-called contested arrears which will, I believe, never be paid by the United States.[25]

The source of these arrears is various restrictions on U.S. contributions to the U.N. that Congress has adopted over decades. The U.S. position that it does not recognize the contested arrears and will not pay them has been consistent. However, the failure of the Administration to maintain an updated public account of what it has paid the U.N., what it intends to pay, and the amount of the arrears that it does not recognize and will never pay unnecessarily muddies the issue and allows the U.N. to falsely inflate the amount it claims the U.S. owes in arrears.

Reneging on Peacekeeping Reform

Despite the U.N.'s failure to abide by its prom­ised schedule for reducing the U.S. assessment, Senator Biden has sought several times in recent years to increase the 25 percent cap to the level charged by the U.N. Most recently, the Senate For­eign Relations Committee unanimously passed leg­islation co-sponsored by Chairman Biden and Ranking Member Richard G. Lugar (R-IN) to in­crease the 25 percent cap to 27.1 percent for calen­dar years 2005 through 2008 to permit payment of arrears resulting from the cap over that period and to prevent arrears from accumulating in 2008.

This would cost American taxpayers an esti­mated $157 million[26]-more if additional opera­tions are approved and deployed. Senator Biden justified the measure by arguing that:

At a time when our government continues to seek important reforms at the United Nations, it is a mistake for us to continue to fall short on our dues at the UN. Rather than encourage reform, it may cause an adverse reaction by other nations, and undermine our reform agenda. How can we, in good faith, fail to pay our bills while at the same time [we] push the UN to get its financial house in order?[27]

This reasoning is entirely backward. The U.S. cannot in good conscience reward the United Nations with higher peacekeeping contributions when the organization and many member states doggedly refuse to adopt reforms that would address the abuse, misconduct, mismanagement, and corruption that have plagued U.N. peacekeep­ing operations with disconcerting frequency in recent years.

These weaknesses in the management and over­sight of U.N. peacekeeping and in the account­ability and discipline of U.N. peacekeepers are particularly troubling because the number, size, and cost of peacekeeping operations have increased rap­idly, making more resources vulnerable to misuse or corruption. Even more troubling are the disturbing accounts of U.N. peacekeepers abusing the very people whom they were assigned to protect and the U.N.'s inability to prevent such abuses or punish the perpetrators.

Mismanagement, Fraud, and Corruption. The U.N. Secretariat annually procures billions of dol­lars in goods and services, mostly to support peace­keeping, which has more than quadrupled in size since 1999. Without proper oversight, transpar­ency, and controls, U.N. peacekeeping procure­ment is extremely vulnerable to mismanagement and corruption. In a study of U.N. peacekeeping procurement practices, the U.S. Government Accountability Office concluded:

While the U.N. Department of Manage­ment is responsible for U.N. procurement, field procurement staff are instead super­vised by the U.N. Department of Peace­keeping Operations, which currently lacks the expertise and capacities needed to man­age field procurement activities.[28]

An OIOS audit of $1 billion in U.N. peacekeep­ing procurement contracts over a six-year period found that at least $265 million was subject to waste, fraud, or abuse.[29] This is equivalent to the entire U.S. share of that procurement.

Corruption and criminal acts are not limited to procurement, as illustrated by U.N. peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo who have been accused of smuggling gold, torturing and mur­dering prisoners, and trading arms to the rebels that they were charged with disarming.[30] An anony­mous U.N. official informed the BBC that the U.N. had planned to bury the results of the investigation into charges of gold smuggling and arms trading to avoid angering Pakistan, which is one of the largest contributors of troops to U.N. peacekeeping.[31]

In a related area, political pressure, favoritism, and cronyism still plague the U.N., resulting in institutional weaknesses and a staff that is less than ideally equipped to complete the required tasks, effectively undermining internal checks and bal­ances. For instance, Sanjay Bahel's recent conviction for fraud and corruption in steering $100 million in U.N. peacekeeping procurement contracts to an Indian firm has been lauded by the U.N. as an example of how it is "committed to actively pursu­ing any fraud and wrongdoing at the United Nations."[32] However, the U.N. is less eager to dis­cuss the circumstances that led the U.N. twice to exonerate Bahel of those same charges.[33]

Sexual Misconduct. In recent years, reports of crimes committed by U.N. peacekeepers have included rape and forced prostitution of women and young girls. The most notorious incidents involved the U.N. Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Indeed, allegations and con­firmed incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse by U.N. personnel have become depressingly routine, with allegations being reported in Bosnia, Burundi, Cambodia, Congo, Guinea, Haiti, Kosovo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Sudan.[34]

Most recently, a battalion of Moroccan peace­keepers were accused of sexually abusing minors in the Ivory Coast.[35] The alleged perpetrators include U.N. uniformed personnel from a number of U.N. member states involved in peace operations. The victims are refugees-many of them children-who have been terrorized by years of war and looked to the U.N. for safety and protection.[36]

Even with Secretary-General Kofi Annan's announced "zero tolerance" policy, the perpetrators are rarely punished. The result of 319 investigations into allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation in U.N. peacekeeping missions between January 2004 and November 2006 was 18 civilians dismissed and 17 police and 144 military personnel sent back to their home countries.[37] Very few of these individ­uals were tried or otherwise punished for these crimes. The standard memorandum of understand­ing between the U.N. and troop contributors appropriately grants troop-contributing countries jurisdiction over military personnel participating in U.N. peace operations, but little is done if these countries fail to investigate, try, and punish those who are guilty of such crimes.

Despite a bevy of embarrassing and disgraceful scandals in recent years, the U.N. is ill-equipped to discourage or demand that member states punish such abuse by U.N. peacekeepers. Worse, the U.N. seems disinclined to press the issue, as illustrated by a statement by Under-Secretary-General for Peace­keeping Operations Jean-Marie Guehenno on the U.N. investigation into allegations of gold and arms smuggling by U.N. peacekeepers in the Congo: "We have shared the report with the concerned troop contributor and I'm confident they will take the required action. This issue is closed."[38]

Sadly, only a minority of U.N. member states have sought to adopt strong reforms to address weaknesses in U.N. peacekeeping. Most member states have supported efforts to delay and weaken proposals by former Secretary-General Annan to reform oversight, management, and accountability of U.N. peacekeeping.[39] The few reforms approved by the General Assembly are unlikely to improve the situation significantly.

The United States and Prince Zeid Ra'ad Al-Hus­sein of Jordan, the Secretary-General's adviser on sexual exploitation and abuse by U.N. peacekeep­ing personnel, proposed numerous initiatives, including adding contact and discipline units to peacekeeping missions and requiring troops to undergo briefing and training on behavior and con­duct. The General Assembly adopted them in 2005, but recent incidents of abuse by U.N. peacekeepers clearly demonstrate that the initiatives are woefully insufficient.[40] As admitted by U.N. officials, the U.N.'s zero tolerance policy has been "limited" by the U.N.'s reliance on member states to follow through on investigations and evidence by trying and, if they are found guilty, punishing those who are charged with criminal activity.[41]

Similarly, separating the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations into a Department of Peace Operations and a Department of Field Sup­port will do little to address corruption in and mis­management of peacekeeping procurement. First, the Department of Management, which has had serious problems in the past, will continue to con­duct the bulk of procurement.[42] Second, field pro­curement conducted at the mission level lacks fundamental checks, transparency, and accountabil­ity, without which problems and corruption will continue to plague peacekeeping procurement.

The U.N.'s fundamental problems will not be addressed until the General Assembly increases the independence and resources of the Office of Inter­nal Oversight Services, creates a truly independent external auditing body like the Independent Audit Advisory Committee, adopts enhanced transpar­ency and checks within the procurement process, and reforms the budgetary process.

How the U.N. Assessment Undermines Reform

Efforts to improve management, oversight, and accountability of U.N. peacekeeping are hindered by a fundamental inconsistency between privileges and responsibilities among U.N. member states. The United Nations was created in 1945 as a "par­liament of nations" in which each member state has one vote in the General Assembly, despite vast dif­ferences in military power, population, geographi­cal size, and gross domestic product (GDP).

The one-country, one-vote rule is clearly estab­lished in the U.N. Charter and is based on the princi­ple of sovereign equality-not of all nations, but of freedom-loving nations that uphold the principles of the U.N. Under this principle and within the parame­ters established by the Charter, U.N. member states are granted equal standing and privileges in the orga­nization regardless of real disparities.[43] However, the Charter clearly states that nations that do not uphold fundamental human rights and the U.N.'s founding principles can be expelled from the U.N.[44]

The Charter's equality of privileges in the U.N. is not matched by equal responsibility in financial matters. The Charter states, "The expenses of the Organization shall be borne by the Members as apportioned by the General Assembly,"[45] and the General Assembly has apportioned those expenses in a decidedly unequal fashion.[46] (See Table 1. For more detailed data on all U.N. member states, see the Appendix.)

Under the current assessment scale for the U.N. regular budget:

  • The top eight contributors are assessed 71.1 per­cent of the regular budget in 2007.

  • The U.S. is assessed 22 percent of the $4.174 bil­lion 2006-2007 biennial regular budget (about $459 million per year).[47]

  • The combined assessment of the 128 countries with the lowest assessment-two-thirds of Gen­eral Assembly members-is a paltry 0.919 per­cent of the U.N. regular budget. In other words, the U.S. pays over 22 times their combinedreg­ular budget assessment, yet these 128 countries have the power to approve budget increases over the objection of the U.S.[48]

  • The 54 countries with the lowest U.N. regular budget assessment in 2007 (0.001 percent of the U.N. regular budget) pay just under $21,000 per year.

The assessment scale for the U.N. peacekeeping budget, while based on the regular budget assess­ment, is even more skewed:

  • The top eight contributors are assessed 77.6 percent of the peacekeeping budget for 2007.

  • The U.S. pays 25 percent of the $5.246 billion peacekeeping budget ($1.311 billion) and is assessed 26.0864 percent for 2007 ($1.368 billion).

  • The 128 lowest-paying countries pay a minus­cule 0.232 percent of the peacekeeping budget.

  • The 35 countries with the lowest peacekeeping assessment (0.0001 percent) pay just over $5,000 per year.[49]

Ostensibly, both the regular budget and peace­keeping budget assessments are tied to a country's ability to pay, which is based largely on its gross national income. However, these data are subject to interpretation. As U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton observed:

While the United States remains a strong supporter of a more effective, streamlined and efficient U.N., we do feel that other member states can and should contribute more.…

…One proposal we are considering is data on purchasing power parity (PPP) in our calculation of gross national income. PPP is the numbers of units of a country's currency needed to buy in the country the same amounts of goods and services in a different country. At this time, the assessment is based on Gross National Income (GNI) as determined by Gross Domestic Product. These numbers can be greatly skewed how­ever by distortions introduced into the mar­ketplace by currencies which are non-convertible and by other factors as well.[50]

Table 1 and Table 2 illustrate the disparities in U.N. assessments. Of the five permanent members of the Security Council, China and Russia pay far less than they should pay based on nominal and PPP-adjusted GDP data. The United States pays less based on nominal GDP, but overpays based on adjusted GDP numbers. France and the U.K. are overassessed in both cases. Japan is grossly overass­essed according to both methodologies.

Developing countries in general are significantly underassessed-a situation that is preserved by their numerical advantages in the General Assembly and the special discount that most earn as develop­ing countries. (See Table 2.) China and India in par­ticular are greatly underassessed. Understandably, developing nations have fewer resources than devel­oped nations, but surely even the poorest nations can afford more than $26,000 for the privilege of full membership in the U.N.

The unequal assessment system is not in the best interests of the U.N. The one-country, one-vote structure of the General Assembly, which ignores financial contributions, creates a free-rider problem in which countries that pay little drive financial decisions. This divorce between obligations and decision making is perhaps the greatest cause of the decades-long intransigence at the U.N. on real reform. Vital U.N. reforms are unlikely to be imple­mented unless budget decisions are tied more closely to financial contributions.

What Should Be Done

The horrible mistreatment of those under the protection of the U.N. undermines the credibility of U.N. peace operations and needs to be addressed through an effective plan and commitment to end abuses and ensure accountability.[51] Similarly, crim­inality, corruption, and mismanagement by U.N. staff and peacekeepers undermine the credibility and reputation of the organization.

This problem is particularly urgent given that the peacekeeping budget will increase by more than $2 billion when the Security Council approves a joint African Union and U.N. peacekeeping operation in the Darfur region of Sudan.[52] It is more imperative than ever that the U.S. press the U.N. to adopt reforms to protect the peacekeeping budget-pro­jected to exceed $7 billion in 2008-from misuse, corruption, and mismanagement. As Ambassador Bolton noted:

Without accountable, cost-effective, efficient and transparent U.N. procurement practices, the U.N. will not have its essential goods and services, billions of dollars of contributions might be ill-spent or not properly accounted and the effectiveness of U.N. peacekeeping operations would be jeopardized.[53]

The First Two Steps. Rather than adopting suc­cessive temporary increases in the cap on U.S. peacekeeping contributions, Congress should con­dition payment of any peacekeeping arrears on the taking of concrete steps, both by U.N. member states and by the U.N. Secretariat, to address the serious problems in U.N. peacekeeping.

Specifically, the U.S. should demand that the U.N.:

  • Implement mandatory, uniform standards of conduct for civilian and military personnel participating in U.N. peace operations. Mem­ber states contributing personnel to U.N. peace operations should be required to cooperate with investigations of abuses or misconduct that are conducted by the U.N. or authorities in the nation where the alleged crime occurred. This should not necessarily involve yielding jurisdic­tion over personnel to the U.N. or non-national judicial authority, but it should require member states to commit to investigate, try, and punish their personnel when credible evidence exists and to inform the U.N. and the host nation of the results of such efforts.

    Equally important, a reformed U.N. must be more willing to hold member countries to these standards. States that fail to fulfill their commit­ments to discipline their troops should be barred from providing uniformed personnel for peace operations.

  • Adopt the reforms proposed by Secretary-General Annan to enhance transparency and accountability in the U.N. The U.N. Depart­ment of Management and the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations accepted a majority of the 32 recommendations from the OIOS audit.[54] However, a number of disagreements remain, and whether these new procedures will be implemented fully or will prove sufficient to prevent a recurrence of fraud and corruption remains to be seen. While the General Assembly approved Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's pro­posal to split the U.N. Department of Peacekeep­ing into two separate operational and logistical units, this new structure alone will not resolve the weaknesses that led to corruption in and mis­management of peacekeeping procurement.

These two steps are essential to changing the U.N.'s reputation for corruption and impotence in enforcing its code of conduct and for deploying undisciplined peacekeepers that prey upon those whom they should protect.

Addressing the Inequity Between Privileges and Responsibilities. In the long term, the U.N. needs to address the inequities between the coun­tries that pay the expenses of the U.N. and those that pay little but still drive budgetary decisions. If this problem is not addressed, reform efforts will con­tinue to be stymied by nations that have little finan­cial incentive to focus the organization on priorities and to ensure that resources are used efficiently.

Specifically, the U.S. should push the U.N. to:

  • Adopt a more equitable scale of assessment for the organization. Beyond its inconsistency with the principle that equal responsibilities should accompany equal privileges, the one-country, one-vote structure of the General Assembly creates a free-rider problem in which countries that pay little drive financial decisions. Reforms are unlikely unless a stronger relation­ship between budget decisions and financial contributions can be achieved.

    The U.N. could address this problem in two ways: by giving major contributors more voting weight on budgetary issues or by assessing member states more equally.

    In the past, the U.S. has tried to persuade the U.N. to adopt weighted voting on budgetary matters, but it has succeeded only in securing an informal agreement in the 1980s to decide all budgetary matters by consensus, which gave every nation a de facto veto over the budget. This flawed system helped to restrict expansion of the budget but hindered reform efforts because any one nation could scuttle any reform pro­posal. Even this agreement broke down in 2006 when developing countries opposed to reform broke the informal rule on consensus to pass the budget and oppose and delay reforms proposed by Annan.[55]

    Prospects for weighted voting on budgetary matters are growing less likely as developing nations resist proposals to give more influence to major contributors and seek to eliminate such weighted voting arrangements within the Inter­national Monetary Fund and the World Bank.[56]

    An alternative is to assess all U.N. member states equally. This egalitarian reform would entail assessing each member state 0.5208 percent of the U.N. regular budget. Under the current adjusted 2006-2007 U.N. regular budget of $4.174 billion, each member state would pay $21.739 million for the two-year budget or $10.869 million in 2007. Such an equitable scale of assessment could be phased in to ease the pain of budget adjustments. Although this would be a significant increase for the 54 countries with the lowest assessment (0.001 percent of the budget, or just under $21,000), it should be within the resources of most sovereign nations that value the privileges of U.N. membership.[57]

    Assessing member states equally for the U.N. regular budget is consistent with the one-coun­try, one-vote tradition of the General Assembly. However, the powers and privileges of the U.N. Security Council are decidedly unequal, and the assessment for the peacekeeping budget should reflect this reality. The U.S. proposal to use PPP-adjusted GDP data to set the assessments would increase the assessments for China, Russia, and other member states and would reduce Japan's assessment. While a welcome adjustment, this change would not address the underlying free-rider problem.

    A better option would be to assess the countries with equivalent privileges in the Security Coun­cil equally. Specifically, the five permanent members of the Security Council, which each have a veto, should be assessed the same rate, albeit at a higher rate than the council's 10 non-permanent members. By the same token, the 10 elected members of the Security Council should be assessed more than countries that that are not on the council. However, to avoid the free-rider problem currently plaguing the U.N., each member state should pay enough so that it has a stake in protecting the peacekeeping budget from waste and mismanagement.

    One possible assessment scale could charge the five permanent Security Council members at a set level (e.g., 7.5 percent of the peacekeeping budget); all elected members of the Security Council at a lower level (e.g., 1 percent) during their term on the council; and all other member states of the U.N. equally at an even lower level (e.g., 0.2966 percent). Under such a system, the assessments for the July 2006 to June 2007 peacekeeping budget would have been $393.4 million for permanent Security Council mem­bers, $52.5 million for the elected members of the Security Council, and $15.6 million for all other U.N. member states.

    Adjusting the peacekeeping assessment in this fashion would significantly increase the assess­ments for China and Russia, lower the U.S. assessment, and leave assessments for France and the U.K. largely unchanged. Japan and Ger­many would see large reductions even if they sat on the Security Council as an elected member. States paying the least assessments would expe­rience a significant increase, but only relative to their paltry assessment under the current sys­tem. Regardless of the specific assessments for each category-perhaps the permanent mem­bers and elected members of the Security Coun­cil should be assessed more and the non-members less-the principle of assessing equally those with equal privileges would help to alleviate the free-rider problem in a manner that is consistent with the U.N.'s own tradition of sovereign equality of nations.

    Moreover, by increasing the cost of running for a seat on the Security Council, this reform would help to dissuade countries from seeking a seat simply for prestige. By increasing the cost of peacekeeping for most members of the U.N., this proposal should instill a stronger incentive for council members to review and assess the merit of proposed peacekeeping operations and make sure that peacekeeping expenditures are not subject to corruption and mismanagement.

  • Maintain the 25 percent cap on U.N. peace­keeping. Changing the way the U.N. assesses member states is likely to be a long, arduous pro­cess. Despite being inconsistent with the U.N. principle of one nation, one vote, too many member states benefit from the current system for it to change quickly. The cap is a necessary spur for the U.N. to meet its obligation to lower the U.S. assessment to 25 percent, as agreed in 2000, and a useful hedge against recidivism.[58]

    Keeping the cap will not put new missions like Sudan in jeopardy, because the U.S. would con­tinue to pay 25 percent of the costs. The differ­ence between what the U.S. would pay and what the U.N. charges the U.S. for that the mission would be only about $20 million based on the mission's estimated cost of $2 billion for the first year. If the U.N. spread the difference equitably across all the remaining 191 member states, their assessments would increase by only about $105,000. Moreover, this is less than the amount that the U.N. has likely squandered each year through corruption and mismanage­ment under its current rules and practices.


Insufficient oversight, accountability, and disci­pline continue to plague U.N. peacekeeping opera­tions. Without fundamental reform, these problems will likely continue or grow worse, further under­mining the U.N.'s credibility and ability to accom­plish one of its primary missions: maintaining international peace and security.

Instead of rewarding the U.N. by paying recent peacekeeping arrears and raising the cap on U.S. contributions to peacekeeping, the U.S. should refuse to pay arrears until the organization has implemented the reforms needed to correct waste in peacekeeping procurement and to ensure that peacekeepers are held accountable for abuses and criminal acts.

In addition, the U.S. should seek to address the fundamental problem in the U.N. system in which a small minority of countries pays the vast bulk of the budget while a large majority of the member states, which make minor budget contributions, drives budgetary and management decisions. This reality flies in the face of the U.N.'s claims of equality among nations. Nations enjoying equal privileges should have equal responsibilities. If all nations felt the financial consequences of their decisions, they would be more willing to support reforms that help to ensure that their contributions are used effectively.

The first, albeit insufficient, step in moving toward a more equitable assessment of U.N. mem­ber states is to keep the 25 percent cap, which main­tains pressure on the U.N. to honor its promise to lower the U.S. peacekeeping assessment.

Brett D. Schaefer is Jay Kingham Fellow in Inter­national Regulatory Affairs in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.

Click here to view Appendix

[1] Congressional Budget Office, cost estimate of S. 392, July 3, 2007, in Report 110-130, Ensuring Payment of United States Assessments for United Nations Peacekeeping Operations for the 2005 Through 2008 Time Period, Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, 110th Cong., 1st Sess., July 16, 2007, at (August 28, 2007).


[2] Press release, "Biden Introduces Legislation Allowing for Full Payment of U.S. Dues to UN Peacekeeping Operations," Office of Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr., January 25, 2007, at  (August 22, 2007).


[3] Report 110-197, State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Bill, 2008, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. House of Representatives, 110th Cong., 1st Sess., June 18, 2007, p. 141, at /static/reportimages/FB5380C264777D7879F959195B68D8CD.cgi?
(August 28, 2007).


[4] Edward C. Luck, Mixed Messages: American Politics and International Organization 1919-1999 (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 1999), p. 226, at  (May 2, 2006).


[5] Brett D. Schaefer, "A Progress Report on U.N. Reform," Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1937, May 19, 2006, at


[6] Michael Renner, "Peacekeeping Expenditures in Current vs. Real Terms 1947-2005," Global Policy Forum, at  (August 22, 2007). Amounts are in constant 2004 dollars.


[7] United Nations, "Implementation of General Assembly Resolutions 55/235 and 55/236," July 13, 2006, at  (August 20, 2007).


[8] Marjorie Ann Browne, "United Nations Peacekeeping: Issues for Congress," Congressional Research Service Issue Brief for Congress, updated June 4, 2007.


[9] William J. Clinton, remarks to the 48th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, September 27, 1993, at  (August 22, 2007).


[10] Public Law 103-236.


[11] Public Law 106-113 and Marjorie Ann Browne, "United Nations System Funding: Congressional Issues," Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, updated February 15, 2007, pp. 18-19.


[12] "Scale of Assessments for the Apportionment of the Expenses of the United Nations," A/RES/55/5 B-F, U.N. General Assembly, 55th Sess., January 22, 2001.


[13] Browne, "United Nations Peacekeeping," pp. 5-6.


[14] Richard C. Holbrooke, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, testimony before the Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, January 9, 2001.


[15] "United Nations Peacekeeping Assessment Adjustment," Congressional Record, February 7, 2001, pp. S1110-S1111.


[16 ]Public Law 107-228, Sec. 402.


[17] "United Nations Peacekeeping Assessment Adjustment."


[18] Derek Chollet and Robert Orr, "Carpe Diem: Reclaiming Success at the United Nations," The Washington Quarterly, Vol. 24, No. 4 (Autumn 2001), p. 13, at  (August 22, 2007).


[19] U.N. General Assembly, "Scale Implementation of General Assembly Resolutions 55/235 and 55/236," A/61/139/Add.1, 61st Sess., December 27, 2006.


[20] The total of approved resources for U.N. peacekeeping operations and the U.N. logistics base in Italy from July 1, 2006, to June 30, 2007, was $5.246 billion. If additional missions are approved, the peacekeeping budget could exceed $7 billion within the next few months. See U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations, "United Nations Peacekeeping Operations," Background Note, June 30, 2007, at  (July 13, 2007); press release, "United Nations Military, Police Deployment Reaches All-Time High in October," U.N. Department of Public Information, November 10, 2006, at  (July 13, 2007); and U.N. General Assembly, "Approved Resources for Peacekeeping Operations for the Period from 1 July 2006 to 30 June 2007," A/C.5/61/18, 61st Sess., January 15, 2007.


[21] Edith M. Lederer, "Biden: UN Arrears Resolution Progressing," The Washington Post, May 22, 2007, at (August 28, 2007).


[22] See U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations, "United Nations Peacekeeping Operations"; press release, "United Nations Military, Police Deployment Reaches All-Time High in October"; and U.N. General Assembly, "Approved Resources for Peacekeeping Operations for the Period from 1 July 2006 to 30 June 2007."


[23] Lederer, "Biden: UN Arrears Resolution Progressing."


[24] The U.S. adopted this practice in the early 1980s to realize a one-year budget savings but should end it because it gives unwarranted ammunition to critics of U.S. policy. For more information, see Brett D. Schaefer, "The U.S. Should Return to Paying Its U.N. Assessment in Advance," Heritage Foundation Executive Memorandum No. 782, October 4, 2001, at


[25] Hearing, A Report on the United Nations Reforms, Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, 107th Cong., 1st Sess., January 9, 2001, at  (August 28, 2007).


[26] Congressional Budget Office, cost estimate of S. 392.


[27] Press release, "Biden Introduces Legislation Allowing for Full Payment of U.S. Dues to UN Peacekeeping Operations."


[28] David M. Walker, Comptroller General of the United States, "United Nations: Internal Oversight and Procurement Controls and Processes Need Strengthening," GAO-06-701T, testimony before the Committee on International Relations, U.S. House of Representatives, April 27, 2006, at (August 22, 2007).


[29] U.N. Security Council, "Peacekeeping Procurement Audit Found Mismanagement, Risk of Financial Loss, Security Council Told in Briefing by Chief of Staff," SC/8645, U.N. Department of Public Information, February 22, 2006, at (February 1, 2007).


[30] BBC News, "UN Attacked over DR Congo Report," July 23, 2007, at  (August 22, 2007), and Evelyn Leopold, "UN Probes Torture Allegation by Congo Peacekeepers," Reuters, June 12, 2007, at  (August 22, 2007).


[31] BBC News, "Peacekeeper 'Smuggled Congo Gold,'" July 13, 2007, at  (August 22, 2007), and Martin Plaut, "UN Troops 'Traded Gold for Guns,'" BBC News, May 23, 2007, at (August 22, 2007).


[32] U.N. Department of Public Information, "Secretary-General Satisfied Justice Done with United States: Federal Court Guilty Verdict Against Sanjaya Bahel," June 7, 2007, at  (August 22, 2007).


[33] Claudia Rosett and George Russell, "Analysis: Will Fraud Conviction Help U.N. Reform Its Secretive 'Culture of Impunity'?" Fox News, June 13, 2007, at,2933,282014,00.html (August 22, 2007).


[34] See Kate Holt and Sarah Hughes, "UN Staff Accused of Raping Children in Sudan," The Daily Telegraph, January 4, 2007, at  (February 1, 2007); Kate Holt and Sarah Hughes, "Sex and the UN: When Peacemakers Become Predators," The Independent, January 11, 2005, at (February 1, 2007); and Colum Lynch, "UN Faces More Accusations of Sexual Misconduct," The Washington Post, March 13, 2005, p. A22, at  (February 1, 2007).


[35] Associated Press, "UN: Any Moroccan Peacekeepers Who Committed Sex Abuse in Ivory Coast Will Be Repatriated," International Herald Tribune, July 22, 2007, at  (August 22, 2007).


[36] For more information on U.N. peacekeeping abuses, see Nile Gardiner, Ph.D., "The U.N. Peacekeeping Scandal in the Congo: How Congress Should Respond," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 868, March 1, 2005, at


[37] Liza Porteus, "U.N. Peacekeepers Accused in Sudan Sex-Abuse Case Get Reprimand," Fox News, January 05, 2007, at,2933,241960,00.html  (February 1, 2007).


[38] BBC News, "UN Attacked over DR Congo Report."


[39] Brett D. Schaefer, "The Status of United Nations Reform," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 966, October 3, 2006, at


[40] Brett D. Schaefer "Time for a New United Nations Peacekeeping Organization," Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2006, February 13, 2007, at


[41] UN News Service, "UN Will Not Turn a 'Blind Eye' to Peacekeepers' Misconduct, Vows UN Official," July 25, 2007, at  (August 22, 2007).


[42] UN News Service, "Secretary-General Welcomes Approval of Peacekeeping Restructuring," June 29, 2007, at  (August 22, 2007).


[43] Charter of the United Nations, Chap. I, Article 2.


[44] "A Member of the United Nations which has persistently violated the Principles contained in the present Charter may be expelled from the Organization by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council." Charter of the United Nations, Chap. II, Article 6.


[45] Charter of the United Nations, Chap. IV, Article 17.


[46] U.N. General Assembly, "Scale Implementation of General Assembly Resolutions 55/235 and 55/236."


[47] The U.N. budget is adopted biennially (every two years). However, the budget is adjusted annually, generally resulting in an increase. The 2006-2007 regular budget was originally set at $3.83 billion in December 2005 but was increased to $4.174 billion in the revised budget. See "Programme Budget for the Biennium 2006-2007: Revised Budget Appropriations for the Biennium 2006-2007," U.N. General Assembly Resolution A/RES/61/253 A-C, 61st Sess., March 14, 2007. The U.S. appropriated $439 million for the regular budget in 2006-higher than the projected 22 percent of the original U.N. regular budget but less than 22 percent of the revised budget. See U.S. Department of State, International Affairs Function 150, Fiscal Year 2008 Budget Request: Summary and Highlights, p. 87, at  (August 22, 2007).


[48] Most decisions are made by a majority of member states. However, decisions on important matters such as admitting new members or approving the budget require approval by a two-thirds majority (128 of the 192 members), even if those member states contribute little to the U.N. budget.


[49] U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations, "United Nations Peacekeeping Operations"; U.N. General Assembly, "Approved Resources for Peacekeeping Operations for the Period from 1 July 2006 to 30 June 2007"; and U.N. General Assembly, "Scale Implementation of General Assembly Resolutions 55/235 and 55/236."


[50] John R. Bolton, "Moving Ahead on UN Reform," statement before the Subcommittee on Science, State, Justice and Commerce, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. House of Representatives, April 5, 2006, at  (August 22, 2007).


[51] Task Force on the United Nations, American Interests and U.N. Reform (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace, 2005), pp. 94-96, at  (August 22, 2007).


[52] Jane Holl Lute, Assistant Secretary-General, U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations, "Lute: Hybrid Peacekeeping Force in Darfur an 'Unprecedented' Operation," interview by Stephanie Hanson, Council on Foreign Relations, August 2, 2007, at  (August 22, 2007).


[53] John R. Bolton, statement in the U.N. Security Council, February 22, 2006.


[54] U.N. Security Council, "Peacekeeping Procurement Audit Found Mismanagement."


[55]  Schaefer, "The Status of United Nations Reform."


[56]  The U.N. system of one country, one vote is a marked difference from the voting system of the Bretton Woods institutions       (the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank), which were set up one year before the U.N. The Bretton Woods institutions have a system of weighted voting, based on the financial contributions of member countries to the organization.


[57]  Those few countries for which this amount would be a monumental burden, such as some small island nations with very small populations, could have their dues subsidized voluntarily by wealthier nations or enter into observer status with the right to speak but not vote. Importantly, should these nations continue as member states, they should still be required to make a significant contribution to avoid the free-rider problem. The U.N. member states could also reduce the burden on poor developing countries and improve the effectiveness of the organization by shifting funding for U.N. mandates and activities that are not central to the daily operations of the Secretariat, General Assembly, and Security Council. Non-core activities, like the U.N. Human Rights Council, should be funded through voluntary contributions so that member states could tailor their financial support to bolster U.N. activities that perform well and to reduce support for activities that perform poorly.


[58] Some have argued against the cap because the arrears that accumulate when the U.N. refuses to reduce the U.S. assessment undermine the willingness of countries to contribute to U.N. peacekeeping operations. When pressed on this issue during a recent hearing before the House Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight, witnesses acknowledged that U.S. arrears played a minimal role in such decisions for key troop contributors. For instance, Timothy E. Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation and the Better World Fund, noted difficulties in recruiting U.N. peacekeeping personnel, given the unprecedented demands with the current number and size of U.N. missions, but stated, "I am not sure that it is exacerbated now by the deficit situation [U.S. arrears]." Timothy E. Wirth, in hearing, U.N. Peacekeeping Forces: A Force Multiplier for the U.S.? Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight, Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives, 110th Cong., 1st Sess., June 13, 2007, p. 76, at /static/reportimages/1F8697730F4E2650DAA958C707563977.pdf  (August 22, 2007). The U.N. pays the governments of troop-contributing countries $1,110 per soldier per month of deployment-an amount that exceeds most countries' costs for participating in the missions. United Nations Foundation, "Season of the Blue Helmets," UNF Insights: New Ideas for International Cooperation, Issue 4, at (February 6, 2007). By contrast, the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimated that average annual compensation to active-duty U.S. personnel in 2004 was $112,000 ($9,333 per month). U.S. Government Accountability Office, Military Personnel: DOD Needs to Improve the Transparency and Reassess the Reasonableness, Appropriateness, Affordability, and Sustainability of Its Military Compensation System, GAO-05-798, July 2005, p. 5, at  (August 22, 2007). The bottom line is that most developed countries are not fully compensated when they contribute troops to U.N. peacekeeping operations-it costs them money to participate. By contrast, most developing countries that contribute personnel to U.N. peacekeeping benefit financially. They also use peacekeeping missions to give their personnel training and experience. As a result, most major participants in U.N. peacekeeping are from developing countries. Even if they receive less than anticipated, most major participants in U.N. peacekeeping realize substantial benefits and will participate if they have the capacity to do so. For estimates of personnel expenditures by member states, see U.N. Department of Disarmament Affairs, "United Nations Instrument for Reporting Military Expenditures," Web page, at  (August 22, 2007); James Hackett, ed., The Military Balance 2007, International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2007. 



Brett Schaefer

Jay Kingham Senior Research Fellow in International Regulatory Affairs