The Spectacle Blog

Contesting Corruption at the United Nations

By on 8.30.11 | 3:15PM

House Republicans have announced plans to introduce legislation that would allow individual member states to choose which activities at the United Nations they want to fund.

House Foreign Affairs Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is leading the charge for the voluntary budget measure that would also cut funding for Palestinian refugees, channel US fund to UN projects directly outlined by Congress, and cut contributions to peacekeeping missions until certain management changes are made.

In a compelling plea for free-market administration, Republican lawmakers are proposing adoption of a voluntary funding system that would promote competition for funds and compel UN agencies to perform better.

Ideally, the UN allows nations to share the burdens of promoting international peace and stability -- thus bolstering American interests from Africa to the Western Hemisphere. This is a noble goal, but the reality is we're picking the international community tab to the tune of 22 percent of the UN's annual operating budget. For the record, that rings in at $516 million in fiscal 2011. Of course that's not all. The American taxpayer is also on the hook for 27 percent of the UN's peacekeeping budget, which comes to $2.7 billion this year, and spans 16 different missions from South Sudan to Haiti.

At present, the Obama administration is leaning on a foreign policy directive buttressed by multilateral institutions. Fair enough. I'm all for an alliance-based approach. However, the United Nations has devolved into an unwieldy muddle of corruption and negligence, lacking any legitimate oversight. We've been privy to a sickening litany of ineptitude and ineffectiveness that should not be eclipsed by a hollow victory in Libya -- one that ultimately belongs to NATO members and air-power advocates.   

Arguments that the legislation would severely erode America's leadership role at the UN and undermine national security are hollow. Until we surrender our seat at the Security Council, our interests remain secure. Moreover, this legislation does not signal a desire to remove ourselves from the international community. Most Americans support UN funding, and American firms receive UN contract sums that, most likely, compensate US taxpayer contributions. 

However, the waste, fraud and abuse witnessed at every level of the UN mission are intolerable. Consider the recent 3 percent pay raise given New York employees of the United Nations. In the midst of the global austerity movement, this already distended office has ruled against restriction and upped the ante of bureaucratic bloat. Run-of-the-mill accountants and computer analysts at the United Nations routinely earn more than twice their private sector peers. That an assistant secretary-general earns more than the mayor of New York -- billionaire that he may be -- is similarly staggering. 

Did I mention these salaries are tax-free?

Enough already. It's time to exercise our leverage and instill some semblance of accountability. 

Send to Kindle

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article