Archive for Wednesday, October 19, 2011

U.S. funding cuts would only hurt U.N.

October 19, 2011


When I interviewed U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently, I was curious to hear what he would say about U.S. congressional criticism that the United Nations has become hijacked by totalitarian regimes.

On Thursday, Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved a measure sponsored by its chairman, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., that would, among other things, make U.S. contributions to the United Nations voluntary.

Among the examples of outrageous U.N. practices cited by the bill’s sponsors:

• Earlier this year, North Korea, which consistently violates U.N. Security Council resolutions on its secret nuclear weapons program, was appointed head of the U.N. Conference on Disarmament.

• In November 2010, Saudi Arabia, where women are forbidden to drive, was elected as a board member of U.N. Women, the agency in charge of ending discrimination against women.

• In June 2010, Cuba, where there are no free elections and peaceful oppositionists are jailed for circulating the Human Rights Declaration, was named vice chair of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

• In April 2010, Iran, where women — but not men — who commit adultery are sentenced to death by stoning, was elected to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women.

• Almost half of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s resolutions last year were condemnations of Israel’s rights abuses, without any similar condemnations of the Palestinian terrorist rockets, bombings and other abuses that triggered Israel’s actions.

• In the past decade, three U.N. Conferences on Racism, known as “Durban” conferences, have turned into “anti-American, anti-Semitic hate fests,” a statement by the bill’s sponsors says.

The proposed legislation would prohibit U.S. contributions to the U.N. Human Rights Council, as well as to the Durban conferences. The Obama administration has threatened to veto it.

“I am deeply concerned by all these actions by some members of Congress to cut funding to the United Nations,” Ban told me. “We are promoting peace, security and development. We need the strong support from the United States.”

The United States is the biggest single U.N. donor, accounting for 22 percent of the U.N. regular budget, and 27 percent of the U.N. peace-keeping budget.

But aren’t the bill’s sponsors right when they point out that it’s ridiculous to have Cuba in the Human Rights Council, or Saudi Arabia in the U.N. women’s rights body? I asked Ban.

He said that “while there has been some criticism” of the Human Rights Council, it has recently made “a great contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights” with its actions on Libya, Syria and other countries.

Some key independent human rights groups agree with that assessment. Human Rights Watch, an independent advocacy group, concluded in a recent report that, over the past year, the U.N. rights monitoring group has made “notable progress.” While it “continued to focus disproportionately” on Israel, the council started investigations into abuses by Libya, Syria and Cote d’Ivoire, and appointed an expert to investigate human rights in Iran, it said.

Asked about the proposed U.S. legislation, Human Rights Watch global advocacy director Peggy Hicks told me, “It’s dangerous and counterproductive. There is a strong track record showing that when the United States is at the table, we can get better results than boycotting, or leaving things to others.”

My opinion: I agree with the diagnosis that the United Nations often acts as a mutual protection society by the world’s worst human rights abusers. Dictatorships like Cuba, North Korea or Iran routinely help other countries get elected to U.N. economic or social committees, in exchange for their support to get elected at U.N. human rights-related panels, where they can stop investigations against them.

But the cure offered by the House Republicans’ bill would make things even worse. Other ways to press the United Nations to adhere to its own human rights principles, including diplomatic efforts to push emerging powers such as Brazil, South Africa and India to embrace a pro-human rights agenda instead of supporting tyrants, would make more sense than U.S. measures that would give rights abusers a free ride at the United Nations, and make Washington look like the outcast.

Andres Oppenheimer is a Latin America correspondent for the Miami Herald. His email address is


Paul R Getto 6 years, 8 months ago

It’s dangerous and counterproductive. === Good point. The UN is frustrating, but necessary. There are lots of opinions in the world and just because we don't want to hear some of them is no excuse for cutting the funding. We do live on one globe and no amount of ideology or bloviating by the House can change that.

Maddy Griffin 6 years, 8 months ago

How about"Where's the money going to come from?" Why does the U.S. have to carry 22% of the load?Or 27%?

jaywalker 6 years, 8 months ago

I'm all for hearing opinions from credible sources, but I don't believe it's ideology that's driving this bill. Why don't they just appoint a Grand Kleagle to their council on racism, or a serial rapist to the council on women? Seems like common sense to cut funding to an organization that consistently does NOT act on the world's or people's best behalf.
I definitely agree the UN is necessary and it should be the most vital political force in the world. But if they're trading nominations to arrive at this make-up it seems their effectiveness and importance has already been compromised.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 8 months ago

"Almost half of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s resolutions last year were condemnations of Israel’s rights abuses, without any similar condemnations of the Palestinian terrorist rockets, bombings and other abuses that triggered Israel’s actions."

Perhaps that's because Israel is able to act with 100% impunity towards Palestinians because of US military aid and UN Security Council veto power.

These congressmen can't have it both ways. They can't protest Iran or Cuba or other countries of being the foxes guarding the chicken house when the US does the very same thing.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 8 months ago

Again, one side of the story. Yes, Israel has the security of knowing that the U.S. will use it's veto power in the Security Council. The opposite is true in the General Assembly, where there are 22 Arab counties and 55 Muslim countries, along with many others that are dependent upon middle eastern oil that will vote as a bloc and overwhelm the one Jewish state. Israel has the advantage in the Security Council, the Palestinians in the General Assembly. So, what's your point? It reminds me of a situation that arose, oh, about 5 years ago. The Palestinians introduced a resolution in the General Assembly condemning Israel for the killing of Palestinian children. Israel introduced a resolution condemning the Palestinians for killing Israeli children. Whatever one thinks of the conflict, we should all be opposed to the killing of children. But the General Assembly voted in favor of the Palestinian resolution and voted down the Israeli resolution.
And yes, the U.S. will veto unilateral statehood for the Palestinians should it come before the Security Council. The U.N. has become an ineffectual debating society. And the U.S. has every right to question whether or not we are getting our money's worth for our continued support.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 8 months ago

But, but, but.......When Israel 'sins' it's in the name of the right god.

bendover61 6 years, 8 months ago

The U.N. is full of dictators and gangsters. De-fund it and kick it out of the U.S.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 8 months ago

Totally defund it, yes. But don't kick it out of the U.S., because NYC could sure use the incredibly high property taxes that the U.N. would have to pay for the use of the present building.

But it doesn't matter anyway, it's no stronger than the League of Nations was, and I'm sure it's headed for the same end. But I'm quite sure that a few of the posters here don't even know what that was, because based upon a couple of the comments above, it's quite obvious that they either read almost nothing at all, or else read only propaganda that presents only an incredibly lopsided view of the situation by leaving out almost all of the facts.

kansanbygrace 6 years, 8 months ago

One result of the success of this action would be that we, the US of A would have to multiply the size of our military and the budget to support it. We have a lot of help maintaining an uneasy peace in dozens of parts of the world where the US has enormous military money dedicated, in the form of bases and infrastructure and airplanes and ships, and enormous embassies and their staffs, where we would find ourselves on our own and even more vulnerable than we are now.

I don't think the current state of the economy could sustain that.

Nor do I think we could politically win the argument of a draft to provide the military to man those posts left empty by the withdrawal of UN contributors (our allies') forces.

That said, a good case can be made for allowing Ms. Ros-Lehtenin to speak her piece in her turn and then get on to serious issues. She is an extremist who routinely violates the policies of our nation, violates the Logan act, violates good sense and defies reality.

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