House Republicans Move to Slash United Nations Funding

Posted by courage On January - 24 - 2011

A key House Republican is quickly pressing forward with her goals to scale back U.S. funding for the United Nations.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told The Hill that oversight would be a
key function of the panel, particularly funding to the U.N.
Human Rights Council (HRC) that is “a waste of taxpayer dollars.”

“I’d like to make sure that we once and for all kill all U.S.
funding for that beast,” she said last month. “Because I don’t think that it
advances U.S. interests, I don’t think that that’s a pro-democracy
group, it’s a rogue’s gallery, pariah states, they belong there because
they don’t want to be sanctioned.”

Supporters of continued U.S. support of and participation on the HRC say that it’s essential that Washington have leverage on the panel, renowned for including countries that have their own records of human-rights violations.

On Tuesday, Ros-Lehtinen will host a panel of U.N. critics and
advocates that was originally scheduled for the week that the House
suspended most activity in the wake of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle
Giffords (D-Ariz.).

The 10 a.m. briefing
before the full committee is titled, “The United Nations: Urgent Problems that
Need Congressional Action.”

One of those scheduled to testify, Peter Yeo, represents the United Nations Foundation/Better World Campaign, which at the start of President Obama’s term urged the commander in chief to “mount a campaign” to secure a place on the HRC, which the Bush administration had boycotted.

U.N. critics set to appear include Claudia Rosett, who
unveiled the oil-for-food scandal in 2004 and 2005 in The Wall Street
Journal
; Brett Schaefer, who regularly takes on the U.N. at the
conservative Heritage Foundation; and Hillel Neuer, executive director
of Geneva-based UN Watch, which monitors the controversial HRC.

Neuer told The Hill that UN Watch is going to release new data at
the briefing on how the HRC has been run since then-U.N.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan dissolved the Human Rights Commission in 2006. Annan called the commission “politicized” at the time, but the
commission’s replacement, the HRC, has attracted many critics as well.

“We will commend the efforts of the U.S. delegation here in Geneva,
including [Ambassador] Eileen Donohoe” in briefing the Foreign Affairs
Committee, Neuer said, saying the team is “working hard to minimize
the damage of the council,” but is often in the minority to powerful,
controversial members such as Libya, Cuba, China, Pakistan, Russia and
Saudi Arabia.

“They’re the ones who run the shop,” he said, adding of Obama’s initiative to place a U.S. representative on the council with
the intention of reforming from within that it was “naive for anyone to
have thought it would change significantly.”

Ros-Lehtinen, one of many lawmakers critical of Obama for that 2009
decision, led the charge against the United Nations in the 111th Congress,
introducing bills urging transparency and accountability as well as the
withholding of funding.

But the first bill in this Congress taking on the U.N., introduced on
the first day the House was in session, came from a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, not from Ros-Lehtinen’s panel.

Rep.
Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) introduced a measure to ensure that no federal
funds may be used for the “design, renovation, construction, or rental
of any headquarters for the United Nations in any location in the
United States” unless Obama “transmits to Congress a certification that
the United Nations has adopted internationally recognized best
practices in contracting and procurement.”

“During the Bush administration, it was learned from internal U.N.
auditors that 43 percent of $1.4 billion in procurement contracts
investigated involved fraud,” Stearns said in a statement to The Hill.

“In
addition, U.N. peacekeeping operations are plagued with numerous cases of
abuse and sexual exploitation,” he added. “The U.N. is in desperate need
of reform from top to bottom, and my bill is designed to have the world
body take the simple step of adopting internationally recognized best
practices in contracting and procurement, which includes taking the bid
representing the best value.”

The U.N. is also included in a broad-reaching budget-slashing bill by Ways and Means Committee member Kevin Brady (R-Texas).

The
Cut Unsustainable and Top-Heavy Spending Act of 2011, introduced Jan.
7, calls for a 10 percent reduction in voluntary contributions to the
United Nations — monies the U.S. is not required to give by law — for
fiscal year 2011.

Total U.S. contributions to the U.N. system were more than $6.347
billion in FY 2009, an all-time high. Brady said his bill targets $3.5 billion in voluntary funds, slashing that in line with
the recommendation of the president’s deficit-reduction commission.

“There are constituencies for every spending item in the federal
budget, but I believe there can be no sacred cows if Congress is to
prove itself to be serious about reducing our deficit,” Brady told The Hill,
adding he thinks the proposals should attract bipartisan support.

“America can fulfill its generous financial obligations to the
U.N., but will set priorities within the voluntary funding areas,” he
said. “A financially and economically sound United States is in the
U.N.’s best interest.”

Ros-Lehtinen sounded another warning shot at the U.N. on Friday,
criticizing the “irony” of the director of the investigations division
of the U.N.’s internal oversight office, Michael Dudley, being
investigated for retaliating against whistleblowers.

“The fact that the U.S. continues to contribute billions of
taxpayer dollars every year to an unaccountable, unreformed U.N. is no
laughing matter,” she said in a statement. “These allegations reinforce
the need for expanded and effective oversight of the U.N. Next week, our
committee will lead the way by holding the first of several briefings
and hearings on UN reform.”

Also addressing the committee at the briefing will be former
federal prosecutor Robert Appleton, who headed the U.N.’s Procurement
Task Force and whose nomination to the position currently held by
Dudley in an acting capacity was blocked by the U.N. Secretariat.

Neuer said he’ll be advocating at the briefing that the U.S. use
its position on the U.N. Human Rights Council to take advantage of the
tools at its disposal to call out offenders.

Over the past five
years, the council has produced about 45 resolutions, he said, 35 which
are “one-sided measures against Israel.”

“One of the most significant tools has been used to wallop Israel
over the head and not to promote peace,” Neuer said, lamenting that the
U.S. and allied nations haven’t pulled together to trigger emergency
sessions on crises such as the crackdown on democracy demonstrators in
Iran or abuses against Tibetans or Uighurs by China.

As to why the U.S. hasn’t acted in that capacity at the council, “I
know there’s political answers to that but I don’t know the human
rights answers to that,” he said.

Personally I would like to see the United States cut all funding to the United Nations, an organization which is fraught with greed, fraud and subjects our sovereign  country to regulations by unelected foreign bureaucrats.   Movement starts with small actions and this is a good start.

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