VITAL TO CONTINUE U.S. FUNDING TO THE U.N.Congress recently returned from summer recess, and with it came a renewed effort from Republicans to slash United States funding to the United Nations.
Republican Congresswoman Illeana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, led the charge by introducing legislation that would have the U.N. operate under a voluntary budget. Member states would decide which U.N. agencies to fund. Moreover, the legislation has the U.S. withholding contributions unless 80 percent of the budget was voluntary.
This is not only a wrong-headed approach, but it runs counter to our national interests.
It would behoove congressional representatives to listen to their constituencies. In a poll released in May of this year by the U.N. Foundation and the Better World Campaign, 85 percent of Americans expressed strong support for the work of the U.N. Furthermore, 60 percent of the American people let it known that they wish for the U.S. to continue to pay its dues to the U.N.
The U.N. Foundation and Better World Campaign polling also revealed a plurality of Americans feel the work of the U.N. continues to be vital, and believe the international organization's role today remains extremely important.
IMPORTANCE OF MULTILATERALISMMany of the issues confronting the world require solving through a multilateral approach- a role the U.N. was created specifically to handle.
For example, global health pandemics do not respect borders. Nations must act in concert by sharing crucial information as to the nature and source of the particular health scare. The World Health Organization, a U.N. entity, plays a key role in this regard; proper funding assists them in doing their work in a more timely and efficient manner, especially when lives are at stake.
Terrorism is another challenge that each of us knows all too well. Member states, working together in the U.N., have the ability to thwart potential attacks and protect innocent civilians worldwide from the evil designs of a fanatical few.
U.S. leadership, as it relates to terrorist activities, is crucial. Representative Lehtinen's legislation diminishes U.S. standing and credibility in the U.N. Critical problems need solving; this bill makes it more difficult to solve them.
MORE BANG FOR THE BUCKOur U.N. contributions are relatively modest- under $3 billion per year- compared to what we are spending on the war in Afghanistan- $100 billion per year.
According to Representative Gerry Connolly, a Democrat of Virginia and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, writing in the newspaper The Hill, our relationship with the U.N. actually generates revenue for us. The congressional representative states that for each dollar we give the U.N., we make back $1.50 in the form of contracts awarded- like the renovation of the U.N. Headquarters in New York. These contracts create jobs.
Given the state of our economy, and the global economy as a whole, I believe Congresswoman Lehtinen and her supporters would think this is a good deal. On the other hand, would they?
If this legislation passed, our relationship with the U.N. would certainly sour and these job-creating contracts would be awarded to other countries. Is this what the Chairwoman wishes to occur? I should hope not.
A simple cost-benefit analysis would show critics of U.S. funding that the benefits gained clearly outweigh the associated costs involved.
THE STAKES ARE HIGH
The power and prestige of U.S. leadership is at stake. By turning our backs on our obligations to the global body, what message do you think that would send to the rest of the world? A very negative one indeed!
Since its founding in 1945, the U.N. achieved a number of successes that contributed to peace, security, and the promotion of democracy in many corners of the globe. Many people are enfranchised now in regions of the world once thought unimaginable solely due to the work of the U.N.
The U.N. will continue to have its critics and detractors. However, make no mistake about it, the U.N. continues to perform critical work serving those who cannot provide for themselves. We must not let a few individuals win this fight.