October 5, 2011
By Nile Gardiner, Ph.D.
Yet the U.N. remains a massive disappointment, a bloated unaccountable bureaucracy rife with mismanagement, corruption and inefficiency. Indeed, if it were a business, it would have been forced to close its doors decades ago.
The U.N. continues to be a playground for despots and dictators, deep-seated anti-Americanism and a forum for anti-Semitic hatred. At the U.N. Human Rights Council, no less than 49 percent of the 78 country-specific resolutions adopted in its first 16 sessions were targeted against Israel. The recent U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York descended into farce when Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad railed against the “imperialistic” United States and its supposed “slave masters and colonial masters,” prompting a walkout by the U.S. delegation.
U.N. peacekeeping operations, funded by the United States to the tune of roughly $2 billion a year (27 percent of the budget), also remain mired in controversy. Most recently, U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal are being blamed for a cholera epidemic in Haiti that claimed more than 5,000 lives. Following the Congo debacle of 2004 and 2005 when peacekeepers raped and abused hundreds of refugees, this scandal was yet another damning blow to the U.N.s image.
And while the United States and key allies such as Great Britain are implementing spending cuts and austerity measures at home to tackle budget deficits, the U.N. is actively increasing its already vast budget.
Last week, Ambassador Joseph Torsella, the U.S. representative for management and reform to the United Nations, confronted the organization over the fact that the U.N. regular budget “has grown dramatically, relentlessly, and exponentially from $2.6 billion in 2001-2002, to $5.4 billion in 2010-2011,” significantly outpacing growth in most member states. Incredibly, the average total compensation for a U.N. staffer is now $238,000 biannually. To add insult to injury, the U.N. is reportedly planning to build a second skyscraper in Manhattan at a cost of at least $400 million, a figure that could easily rise to three or four times that amount.
This state of affairs is simply unacceptable, and Congress has called for widespread U.N. reforms and budget cuts. Rep. Ileanna Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican, recently unveiled the most comprehensive reform legislation in more than a decade, outlining a series of measures to enhance accountability. Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has been instrumental in driving the U.N. reform agenda on Capitol Hill, as well as pressuring the Obama administration to wake up from its slumber over the issue and demand greater action by the U.N.s leadership in Turtle Bay.
Reform of the international body is likely to become a priority foreign affairs issue for Congress in the coming months, and will undoubtedly feature in next years presidential race as well. For far too long, the United Nations has been able to act with impunity, thumbing its nose at the American taxpayer, in spite of a series of major scandals.
Congress must threaten to withhold a large portion of U.S. funding unless the United Nations implements key reforms, including significant budget cuts and reductions in staffing, far greater transparency and oversight of its programs and accounts, a shift from mandatory to voluntary funding, and dramatic improvements in holding peacekeepers to account for misconduct and criminality. Both the executive and legislative branches should adopt a zero tolerance approach toward the myriad failures of the U.N., and demand that its officials are held to account for both their actions and their budgets.
Nile Gardiner is the director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).
First appeared in the Washington Times
American Leadership Initiative of the Leadership for America Campaign
Nile Gardiner, Ph.D.
Director, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom
Read More >>
Request an interview >>
Please complete the following form to request an interview with a Heritage expert.
Please note that all fields must be completed.
Heritage's daily Morning Bell e-mail keeps you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.
The subscription is free and delivers you the latest conservative policy perspectives on the news each weekday--straight from Heritage experts.
The Morning Bell is your daily wake-up call offering a fresh, conservative analysis of the news.
More than 200,000 Americans rely on Heritage's Morning Bell to stay up to date on the policy battles that affect them.
Rush Limbaugh says "The Heritage Foundation's Morning Bell is just terrific!"
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) says it's "a great way to start the day for any conservative who wants to get America back on track."
Sign up to start your free subscription today!
The Heritage Foundation is the nation’s most broadly supported public policy research institute, with hundreds of thousands of individual, foundation and corporate donors. Heritage, founded in February 1973, has a staff of 275 and an annual expense budget of $82.4 million.
Our mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Read More
© 2013, The Heritage Foundation Conservative policy research since 1973