Great nations should pay their bills. But in the last two weeks, House Republicans on two important panels voted on party lines to sharply decrease funding for international organizations, peacekeeping missions, and human rights, putting the United States back on the world community's "dead beat" list. In a climate of an increased national debt and a laundry list of transnational problems facing our nation, it is irresponsible to play politics and gamble with our foreign policy.
It's important to put costs into perspective. These members who voted to hold U.N. funding hostage say that we need to reduce spending across the board. Don't let their rhetoric fool you -- we aren't dramatically cutting spending by reducing our U.N. contributions and funds for peacekeeping missions. The foreign aid budget consists of 1 percent of the overall federal budget, and the U.N. budget is a small sliver of this amount. These cuts make as much sense as cutting my daughter's allowance to pay down my mortgage.
In fact, working through the U.N. is quite a bargain for the U.S. According to Representative Gerry Connolly (D_VA), "For every dollar we give to the U.N. secretariat, we get $1.50 back. The United States won all but two contracts for the renovation of U.N. headquarters, as well as obtaining the second-most contracts of all bidding nations for goods and services rendered in peacekeeping operations." By withholding its dues, the United States may get overlooked for additional contract bids.
While reaping huge savings by cutting funds from the U.N. is a fairytale, let me outline the harsh realities of what will happen if these dollar amounts aren't increased:
• International organization funds will be cut by $300 million, which will affect the U.N., NATO, and the IAEA, where we have used our influence and leadership to pass tough sanctions on Iran's nuclear program, freeze Qaddafi's assets, and stop the spread of pandemics like SARS and swine flu.
• U.N. missions in Afghanistan and Iraq will be in jeopardy. These missions organize elections, create civil society programs, and oversee development projects, which helps speed the return of our troops.
• Peacekeeping missions in Sudan, Haiti, and elsewhere will be cut by $450 million. We should pay our fair share, which supports 110 other nations' troop contributions to maintain security and protect civilians in these conflict zones .
• The United Nations Populations Fund, which works to decrease maternal mortality, reduce incidences of HIV/AIDS, and eradicate female genital mutilation, will receive no funding.
• The Human Rights Council, where we have been a leading member for two years, will receive no funding. At the Council, we have used our influence to defend Israel, bring attention to human rights violations in Burma, and brought about world recognition of human rights abuses faced in the gay, lesbian, and transgender community.
These House Republicans are tying our treaty-obligated contributions to unilateral conditions for paying what we owe. Everyone agrees that the U.N. should continue its reform efforts. Like many complex and large organizations, the U.N. requires a constant need for vigilance and oversight to ensure that funds are spent efficiently and effectively, and that it successfully fulfills its mandated tasks. But blackmail doesn't accomplish our goals of achieving real reform. Experience has taught us that it is brought about through leadership, stewardship, and partnership.
These representatives are taking an ill-advised gamble by slashing funds for the U.N. and peacekeeping missions. Our leadership, influence, and standing in the international community all hang in the balance. With a weakened foreign policy and less bargaining chips at our disposal, they will be at fault for the highest stake loss: the United States' position in the world.
Fortunately, this bad policy is not a done deal. Although it will most likely be approved by the Republican majority in the House, the Senate has not yet weighed in. My organization, Citizens for Global Solutions, is calling on Americans to let their lawmakers know that investing international cooperation is essential to resolve global challenges, building a safer, more secure world.