UNA-GB is excited to announce the formation of a new volunteer Advocacy Committee! Nathaniel Watson and Heather Cochran, who are co-chairing the committee along with Alma Morrison, are looking forward to working with UNA-GB and it’s global network and dedicated members.
Over the coming months we will be working to help keep you abreast of all the important issues that you need to be aware of and that need our support. It is important that we remain vigilant and work with other organizations, both public and private, to promote the goals of the United Nations.
With so many worthy causes, we need your help. The more involvement and support we garner from you the more we can get done. Whether it be reaching out to your local town officials, writing a letter to your Governor or simply joining the conversation and helping us find ways to make our world a better place, we’re counting on you! Over the coming months we will be highlighting different issues that need your support.
Currently, the future of America’s relationship with the UN is at stake. H.R. 2829 is a bill offered by Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) that would change the United States funding of the UN from a percentage of GDP to a voluntary basis. This would not only diminish the United States representation in the UN but it would set a precedent that could compromise the overall effectiveness of the UN as a whole. On Thursday, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced a companion bill that would allow the U.S. to fund only those UN programs that is supports. This could severely undermine the equitability of the UN and put the interests of smaller Nations in jeopardy that would strain multi-national relations outside of the UN.
Please take the time to let your opinion be heard and contact your congressmen and women.
Want to read more about this bill and its consequences? Click here!
Meet our Leaders:
Nathaniel (you may call him Nat) studied Political Science at Boston University and now works in the financial industry downtown. He has only been a member of UNAGB for just 6 months but has a passion for international relations and is a strong believer in the importance of the UN’s role both globally and locally.
Heather studied International Human Rights and has a Master’s degree
in Social Work. She currently works in the nonprofit industry. She has
a strong passion for human rights and women’s rights. She would like
to continue to work towards helping to advocate for the UN’s
“At a time when the U.S. and United Nations are working together to address the world’s most pressing challenges — from humanitarian needs in the Horn of Africa and Haiti, to political crises and violence in Iraq, Libya, Sudan, and Afghanistan — it’s more important than ever that America maintain its longstanding commitment to global leadership and engagement.” This quote comes from The Better World Campaign’s “Let US Lead” petition. The petition is a place where individuals can go to show their support for the United Nations and their feelings on a new bill (H.R. 2829), recently introduced in Congress, that threatens to cut U.S. funding of the UN.
The bill, introduced by the head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and 57 co-sponsors, is being called a “Bad bill for everyone,” by the Economist, while CNN has referred to it as a “temper tantrum,”. To put it simply, the bill threatens to make substantial cuts to UN funding as well as all funding to agencies such as UNICEF and the World Food Programme.
The piece of legislation, or “United Nations Transparency, Accountability and Reform Act,” puts much of the good that the UN does throughout the world – such as feeding children impacted by famine and disease, and taking care of refugees – in serious jeopardy. Likewise, the bill would devastate US leadership within the UN, damage critical US national interests, alienate US allies, and put heavier costs on US taxpayers. If passed this new legislation wouldn’t just be harmful to US interests, but it would cause serious detriment within the UN. Such damage would mostly be due to the fact that since its founding the UN’s biggest contributor has been the US. Currently, the US funds 22% of the UN’s regular budget and more than 27% of its peacekeeping budget. Of the UN’s $22.3 billion budget, the US paid $6.4 billion. Because of the US’s continued high involvement and investment into the UN, its withdrawal of support would severely inhibit the organization’s ability to follow through on its commitments.
So why was this bill even introduced if it has the ability to be so harmful to the UN? First, Ros-Lentinen has been a critic of the UN for a long time. She believes the UN has been continuously plagued by scandal, mismanagement and inaction. Thus, her legislation, if passed, would withhold US funds to the UN if the organization does not change its funding systems so that dues are paid on a voluntary basis rather than an assessed one as it stands now. Specifically, as proposed by the bill the UN would have two years to phase in funding reform before the US withholds funds. After those two years the US would begin by withholding half of its contributions to the UN regular budget if less than 80% of the UN’s budget is not funded voluntarily at that time.
The second issue that Ros-Lehtinen has with the UN is its potential to support a Palestinian statehood proposal. She explained to her colleagues that the purpose of her bill is to also avoid a Palestinian self-declared state which she believes would “short-circuit the negotiating process, and would severely undermine opportunities for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.” As a result her bill includes funding cuts to UNRWA, the agency that administers Palestinian refugee camps in the occupied territories and neighboring Arab countries. UNRWA’s budget for the fiscal year 2011 is currently set at $230 million. In this portion of the bill there is currently no condition attached to the cuts, Ros-Lehtinen simply wants to cut off funding to UNRWA.
As the Economist reported, the reality of the situation is that threats of funding cuts will most likely not be a deciding factor as to whether or not Palestinian statehood will be recognized. Rather, a Palestinian statehood proposal will be voted on in the UN’s General Assembly where, as it stands now, the 2/3rds vote in favor of recognition is likely to be met. However, Ghana, India, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Eritrea, France and the Dominican Republic are likely to not change their votes because of the US’s threat to cut off funding to UNICEF – a huge supporter of their states.
In an interview with The Cable on Wednesday, September 7th Representative Howard Berman (D-CA) said that Ros-Lehtinen’s bill was “ill-advised” and “probably dead on arrival.” Berman said he can never see this bill becoming an actual law.
“I think there are some radical proposals here,” Berman said. “I understand the frustration with a number of the U.N.’s actions and I share her frustration and anger at many of them. But the U.N. does tremendous amounts of good work. If you wipe out the funding base of the U.N., as her proposal does, you get the bad stuff but you will eviscerate the good things they are doing.”
Likewise, the White House has openly spoken negatively about the bill, saying that President Obama and his administration opposes the legislation, and although it is believed within the administration that the UN does need reform, this is not the correct way to go about it. Instead the White House suggests that the U.S. work with the UN to continue to make it stronger and more flexible.
Now more than ever is a grassroots movement supporting the good work of the UN important! Visit Let US Lead today and tell Congress to oppose H.R. 2829 by signing the petition. Encourage your friends and family to do the same. You can also schedule an in-person meeting with your member of Congress during the Columbus Day recess (Oct. 13-30). To receive more information on these issues, contact Roger Nokes at UNA-USA for talking points and meeting materials. This is a great way to really ensure that your voice is being heard during this crucial time for the both the UN and America.
If you want to get more involved on advocacy in the Boston area, UNA-GB invites you to join us at our Annual Meeting (September 28) where our programs and priorities for the year will be discussed in depth. It is a fantastic opportunity to get connected on these issues and network with other like minded global citizens in the area – register here today!
This past Wednesday, February 9th, U.S. House Republicans lost a floor vote over a plan to demand repayments from the United Nations.
The bill, entitled United Nations Tax Equalization Refund Act of 2011, was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs and introduced to secure the return to the United States the $179 million overpaid into the United Nations Tax Equalization Fund as of December 31, 2009. The measure is the latest effort by the GOP to demonstrate just how serious they are about cutting back U.S. funding for the United Nations.
The bill failed in the House of Representatives by a margin of 26 votes, falling well short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass the measure. 236 Republicans and 23 Democrats voted in favor of the bill (259 total yes votes), and 167 Democrats and 2 Republicans voted against it (169 total no votes). 6 members abstained from voting.
According to the bill, approximately $180 million in U.S. taxpayer funds overpaid to the United Nations remain in the hands of the United Nations because the U.S. has not requested the return of those funds. The funds were paid into the United Nations Tax Equalization Fund (TEF), which is used to reimburse United Nations staff members subject to U.S. income taxes for the cost of those taxes. The bill sought the return of these U.S. over-payments into the UN Tax Equalization Fund.
House Republicans believe that allowing the United Nations to regularly overcharge the U.S. and to retain those over-payments is a disservice to American taxpayers and a subversion of the Congressional budget process. However, according to the opposition, the bill would have prevented vital and much needed security upgrades around the United Nations building in New York. When asked about the money being spent on security upgrades at the United Nations, the UN Spokesperson for the Secretary General, Martin Nesirky, reiterated that the money in the Tax Equalization Fund is U.S. money, and the U.S. Government decides where it goes, in consultation with the United Nations.
In addition to being indispensable to the U.S.’s security, the United Nations also offers U.S. taxpayers beneficial economic and financial values. United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice made the case for this by mentioning that out of every tax dollar an American pays, 34 cents goes to Social Security and Medicare, 22 cents to national security and the U.S. military, and a nickel to paying interest on the national debt. Just one-tenth of a single penny goes to pay United Nations dues. “Main Street America needs the United Nations, and so do you and I, especially in these tough economic times,” Rice said. “America can’t police every conflict, end every crisis, and shelter every refugee.” Therefore, sustained U.S. support for the United Nations is absolutely necessary.
Watch the video of Peter Yeo’s (Better World Campaign Executive Director) testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and learn how a strong U.S.-UN relationship supports American interests.
What do you think about the work of the UN and the US’s support? Where are we hitting the mark and where can we strengthen our work? The UN is most effective when we all participate in the dialogue and action, so we look forward to hearing your thoughts!