The United Nations in the President’s Budget

The White House released its much anticipated budget today. For those of us who care about diplomacy, development and the US role in the world there is a lot to like about President Obama’s proposal.

The United Nations’ regular budget and peacekeeping operations budget is fully funded under the White House proposal. The US is assessed UN membership dues that amount to about 22% of the UN’s regular budget and 28% of the UN’s peacekeeping budget. This makes sense because the USA is the wealthiest country in the world, is the UN’s host country, and as a member of the Security Council has final say over whether or not to deploy peacekeepers. One issue that will come up in budget negotiations, though, is that Congress has imposed an arbitrary 27% cap to what the USA can contribute to UN Peacekeeping operations. But in negotiations at UN headquarters last year the administration has agreed to be assessed at a level of 28%. That one percent discrepancy could result in the accumulation of some arrears unless Congress lifts its cap.

The White House budget reflects a commitment to  the 28% funding level for UN Peacekeeping. The Better World Campaign’s Peter Yeo asked its members and supporters for $15 billion over three years to fully fund the international fight against these three scourges. (There’s been much progress made on this front over the past few years, so at the very least maintaining this level of funding is key to keep these diseases on the retreat–which they are.) The budget also makes good on the USA’s pledge to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations, which is the key mechanism through which the international community supports things like polio and measles eradication.

All in all, the budget is good reflection of the importance to which the White House holds America’s global obligations, roles, and responsibilities. If budgets are a reflection of a country’s values, at least where it comes to the United Nations and international development, this is a very decent document.