Ros-Lehtinen Proposal Keeps Pressure on UN

House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Photo by: U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs

An influential Republican lawmaker is again pushing to strong-arm the United Nations into a series of funding and policy reforms or risk losing U.S. support.

The proposal, by House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), comes as a special joint congressional committee is working to identify savings in the U.S. federal budget as part of the the debt ceiling law signed Aug. 2 by U.S. President Barack Obama.

The Ros-Lehtinen proposal would require the United States to withhold 50 percent of its nonvoluntary regular budget contributions to the United Nations if, after two years, less than 80 percent of the U.N. regular budget is funded on a voluntary basis.

“This creates a sliding incentive scale, not an ‘all-or-nothing’ sanction; the more the UN makes its regular budget voluntary, the less the U.S. would withhold,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement on Aug. 30, the day she unveiled her proposal. “This legislation ends the era of no-strings-attached contributions, and gives us leverage to pressure the U.N. to finally make concrete reforms.”

Currently, U.N. specialized agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization, UNESCO and World Health Organization receive both donations and a portion of the overall U.N. budget, whereas U.N. programs such as the U.N. Development Program, World Food Program and UNICEF are funded by voluntary contributions from members.

Members of the U.S. development community caution that the reform proposal is ill-timed and would undermine progress toward reforming the United Nations. The Better World Campaign, a group affiliated with the U.N. Foundation that is working to strengthen the relationship between the U.N. and the United States, said the reform proposal “would also return the U.S. to an era of debt and ineffective leadership.”

The group said it will launch a grassroots movement to rally against the “wrongheaded legislation” as well as tap its sister organization, the U.N. Association of the USA, to lobby members of Congress to vote against the bill.

Ros-Lehtinen has long been pushing for reforms at the United Nations and on U.S. contributions to the multilateral organization. The reform proposal she recently introduced mirrors a legislation she introduced in 2009 which pushed for a “reform first, pay later” scheme on U.S. funding to the U.N.

>> Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: US Should Only Back UN Programs Advancing US Interests

Among other provisions, Ros-Lehtinen’s latest reform proposal seeks to:

  • Cut U.S. funding for the U.N. Human Rights Council and U.N. agencies or entities that would support the Palestinian Authority’s quest for statehood through U.N. recognition. 

  • Withhold U.S. contributions to the U.N. Fact Finding Mission of the Gaza Conflict.

  • Oppose the expansion or creation of new U.N. peacekeeping missions until the United Nations adopts a universal code of conduct and similar reforms, among other provisions.

The reform proposal, however, is not expected to become law any time soon, as it needs approval of Lehtinen’s committee and the full House of Representatives as well as the Senate, which is controlled by a Democratic Party that is unlikely to support significant U.S. retrenchment from the United Nations.

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About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.