Congress has some tough budget decisions to make in the weeks ahead. But there are some things the U.S. simply cannot afford to cut – like our commitment to the United Nations, its peacekeeping operations and global health initiatives.
Today I testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations. I was honored to share with Chairwoman Granger and Ranking Member Lowey the importance of funding the International Organizations and Peacekeeping accounts within the State Department budget.
As I told the Subcommittee, the UN oversees the second largest deployed force in the world, with more than 110,000 personnel deployed on 14 missions on four continents. Their activities are a boon to U.S. interests and are also extremely cost-effective, as other UN member states bear nearly three-quarters of their costs, and as the GAO noted, UN missions are eight times cheaper than U.S. forces acting alone.
Under UN peacekeeping, it is individuals from other countries who assume great personal risk, as evidenced by the recent kidnapping of 21 Filipino peacekeepers in the Golan and the deaths of four Russian peacekeepers in Congo. Despite these significant occupational hazards, UN peacekeepers remain central to efforts like those that advance democracy in places like Liberia and strengthen government capacity and prevent conflict in South Sudan. It is therefore crucial that our nation fully fund our peacekeeping dues.
And as for other critical aspects of the U.S.-UN relationship, the UN Regular Budget funds core UN activities that serve American interests, with other UN member states picking up nearly 80% of the total costs. For instance, UN personnel continue to serve in Iraq after the departure of American soldiers in 2011, and will be in Afghanistan for years to come after U.S. troops have left, securing the hard-fought gains made by brave Americans in stabilizing and rebuilding both countries. It is also worth noting that for every $1 we send to the UN Secretariat, $1.60 comes back to U.S. companies. As a result, the UN Regular Budget necessitates continued American support.
The Subcommittee also asked me about U.S. participation in the Human Rights Council. I shared that the 2012 reelection of the United States to the UN Human Rights Council was quite important. In just the last three years, the United States has already worked collaboratively with other Council members to address human rights crises in Libya and Syria; established a special rapporteur to assess human rights violations in Iran; passed resolutions on the need to protect the rights of women and girls; and broke new ground concerning the need to protect the freedom of expression on the Internet, among many other accomplishments. In addition, the U.S. has stood by and worked to limit actions directed at Israel, allowing for expanded time and resources for the HRC to address other pertinent challenges. With another three year term, the U.S. can build on these gains and continue to make the institution more effective.
Staying current on our dues payments allows us to use the UN to advance many of our nation’s core values and strategic interests. You can read my full testimony to the Subcommittee here, or visit the Better World Campaign’s website to learn more about how you can share these messages directly with your member of Congress.