The United Nations (UN) was created in 1945 as a replacement for the ineffectual League of Nations. Membership was originally comprised of 51 nations – today there are 193 member nations. The UN has five primary organizational branches: the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Secretariat and the International Court of Justice (a sixth branch – the Trusteeship Council – has been inactive since 1994). These five branches comprise the “core” United Nations. The UN also has numerous agencies that are often autonomous or semi-autonomous. These agencies include the World Bank, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Program, the Education, Scientific and Cultural Foundation (UNESCO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The “core” UN has two operating budgets: the Regular Budget and the Peacekeeping Budget, The Regular Budget funds the normal activities of the UN and is a two-year budget adjusted mid-period to account for new activities undertaken by the UN. The 2016-2017 Regular Budget was $5.4 billion. The budget fluctuations intra-period can be significant. The original 2014-2015 budget was $5.5 billion but was raised twice during that period with ultimate appropriations of $5.8 billion. The Peacekeeping Budget funds the peacekeeping missions of the Security Council and is an annual budget. The Peacekeeping Budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year was set at $7.9 billion down $400 million from the prior year. However, this is somewhat misleading as the Peacekeeping Budget fluctuates more than the Regular Budget – invariably upwards.
The United Nations is ostensibly funded by all its member nations but the actual funding percentages are widely disparate. The United States pays 22% of the UN’s Regular Budget and 28.4% of the Peacekeeping Budget. The other four permanent members of the Security Council – France, the United Kingdom, China and Russia – pay a combined total of 18.3% of the Regular Budget and 23.5% of the Peacekeeping Budget (amounts paid for each budget by France, UK and China are roughly equal – Russia pays the smallest portion – typically about half of what the UK pays). The other notable budget contributors are Japan (10% of each budget), Germany (7% of each budget), Italy (4.5% of each budget), Canada (3% of each budget), Australia (2% of each budget) and Brazil (3% of the Regular Budget and 0.6% of the Peacekeeping Budget). The top 11-contributing nations pay a combined total of 70.6% of the Regular Budget and 80% of the Peacekeeping Budget.
Budget assessments for small and/or poor nations have steadily moved downwards. The minimum assessment for the Regular Budget has fallen from 0.04% to 0.001% and 0.0001% for the Peacekeeping Budget. The 35 countries charged the minimum assessment for the Regular Budget in 2015 paid only $28,269 each. The 20 countries charged the minimum assessment for the Peacekeeping Budget in 2015 paid only $8,470 each.
This disparity in payments creates a very real budgetary problem. The vast majority of nations have every incentive to inflate and/or expand the UN’s budgets as they receive the benefits while effectively paying almost none of the costs.
Especially problematic is the cost of personnel which amount to more than 70% of UN spending. UN employees enjoy extremely generous salaries and benefits – 32.2% higher than their next highest paid counter-parts in Washington (this figure comes from the UN itself). U.N. employees also enjoy broad protections and immunities – they cannot be sued in national courts, arrested, or prosecuted for actions related to their official duties unless those immunities are waived.
Not surprisingly, fraud, corruption and waste have long been endemic problems with the UN.
A 2016 audit of the United Nations Refugee Commission by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) found the UN turned over literally hundreds of millions of dollars to various partners with literally no oversight of fund usage. The OIOS issued a damning report with ratings of unsatisfactory across the board. A downloadable pdf of the report can be found here.
Another devastating 2016 report – 133 pages in length – by the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) on “Fraud Detection, Prevention and Response” found the UN in a “near state of denial” over corruption and fraud within its system. The full report can be found here.
The Iraqi Oil-for-Food program famously allowed Saddam Hussein to siphon off almost $2 billion in kickbacks. UN officials were found complicit although almost no officials were punished and investigations were stalled.
In 2006, a task force headed by former federal prosecutor Robert Appleton “identified multiple instances of fraud, corruption, waste and mismanagement at U.N. headquarters and peacekeeping missions, including ten significant instances of fraud and corruption with aggregate value in excess of $610 million“.
Corruption, fraud and mismanagement in U.N. procurement have been ongoing since the organization’s creation. The listings and allegations are almost endless – as are the toothless reports issued by one UN agency or another. In almost all instances investigations are stonewalled and delayed. Rarely, if ever, is anyone actually held accountable.
Sexual abuse committed by U.N. peacekeepers has been an ongoing issue and one that goes back decades – including a pedophile trafficking ring in the Congo. Fresh allegations resurfaced in late 2015 and into 2016. Despite the long history of sexual misconduct by UN employees it was not until March 2016 that the first resolution addressing sexual misconduct by UN employees was passed. Recall that UN employees have immunity as part of their international “civil service” and are almost never prosecuted for these crimes.
Turning to the issue of UN Peacekeeping, we face a literal litany of failures. A UN study in 2014 found that UN peacekeeping missions routinely avoid using force to protect civilians who are under attack, intervening in only 20 per cent of cases despite authorization to do so from the UN Security Council. There are some truly infamous UN failures – Rwanda, being perhaps the worst, where more than 1 million people died as UN peacekeepers ignored evidence of the planned genocide and then did nothing to stop it once it had started; Somalia – site of the famous Black Hawk down incident – and subsequent UN withdrawal; Srebrenica – where Serbian forces massacred 8,000 men and boys while UN forces stood by; and finally Darfur (Western Sudan) – where fighting began in 2003 and did not end until 2010 – an estimated 300,000 civilians died . In another example of political idiocy, the United Nations continued to recognize the Khmer Rouge as the true government of Cambodia until 1994 despite the fact that the Khmer Rouge effectively collapsed in 1979. Pol Pot, as the leader of the Khmer Rouge, killed 2.5 million Cambodians, amounting to 33% of the country’s total population.
Like the fraud and corruption issues, examples of UN Peacekeeping failures continue for as long as one cares to look for them. Rarely does one uncover examples of true UN peacekeeping success.
Human rights should be an area where one could logically expect the UN to excel. Sadly, logic is tragically overwhelmed by the failure of UN politics. The UN created the Human Rights Council in 2006 as a means to promote and protect human rights around the world. Unfortunately, it was also a replacement for the already failed UN Commission on Human Rights. As then-U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan acknowledged, “We have reached a point at which the commission’s (UN Commission on Human Rights) declining credibility has cast a shadow on the reputation of the United Nations system as a whole, and where piecemeal reforms will not be enough.”
The U.S. had pushed for serious reforms in the creation of the new Human Rights Council – asking for a smaller, more focused body of member nations, the requirement of a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly to ratify membership on the Human Rights Council and a prohibition on any nations that were under sanction from the UN Security Council for…human rights abuses. The U.S. lost on all three of these requirements. Membership was set at 47 nations versus 53 nations under the old council. A simple majority vote was all that was required for election to the Council. Most importantly, human rights violators were not banned from sitting on the council. As a result, the U.S. voted against the creation of the Human Rights Council – and lost. Unsurprisingly, consistent human rights abusers like Burma, China, Cuba, Ethiopia, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, and Zimbabwe all voted in favor of the new council.
Among countries the General Assembly elected to the initial council were Algeria, China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russia, and Saudi Arabia – all known and significant violators of human rights. The election process has been further skewed by a secret ballot voting process that shields governments from accountability for their votes and encourages nations to engage in secret vote-trading and vote-negotiations.
On October 28, 2016, the UN elected 14 new members to the Human Rights Council. Of the 17 candidates for the 14 available seats, the independent UN Watch’s Human Rights Foundation found that 8 nations were unqualified (China, Cuba, Egypt, Iraq, Malaysia, Russia, Rwanda and Saudi Arabia), 3 were questionable (Guatemala, South Africa and Tunisia) and only 6 (Brazil, Croatia, Hungary, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States) were actually qualified to sit on the council.
Russia, Malaysia and Guatemala were the countries ultimately rejected for council seats.
Now, let’s take a quick look at some of the work and focus of the UN’s Human Rights Council. Since the new council’s creation in 2006 there have been 121 condemnations of nations for human rights violations. Of these, 62 condemnations were of Israel. Condemnations for the rest of the world’s nations combined equaled 59. Syria has received 17 condemnations, Myanmar 12, North Korea 8, Belarus 5, Iran 5, Eritrea 4, Sri Lanka 3, Libya 2, Sudan 2 and Honduras 1. The chart from UN Watch can be found here.
Think about these UN selections for condemnation in light of the numerous examples of international human rights violations and outright genocide. Sudan with its 300,000 dead from genocidal acts in Darfur by Arab Muslims has just 2 condemnations. Ongoing human rights violators China, Egypt, Iraq, Malaysia, Pakistan, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Turkey and Uganda all have zero condemnations. Yet the UN found it necessary to condemn democratic Israel 62 times.
Let’s look at things from the perspective of UN Resolutions. In 2016, the U.N. General Assembly adopted 20 anti-Israel resolutions, and just four for the rest of the world – one for North Korea, one for Syria, one for Iran and one for Russia. The disparity and misplaced focus on Israel sums up the operating dysfunctionality of the UN perfectly.
The United Nations has probably done the most harm to the citizens of the world through its inaction on peacekeeping missions. But it is the actions of the Human Rights Council that so uniquely illustrate the hypocrisy and utter futility of the UN. This is not an organization that is dedicated to – or even works for – peace.
The United States is the strongest, richest, most powerful nation on earth. We have no need for the United Nations in order to help us pursue a policy of peace. Quite the contrary, the UN has a long history of hindering U.S. interests – and peaceful resolutions. It’s time to recognize the UN for what it really is – a purely political organization – a corrupt and wasteful one – that serves as a support mechanism for fading (and resurgent) communist regimes, self-enriching diplomats, dictatorships and Muslim ideologues.
It is time to not only de-fund the United Nations – it is time to leave it.
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