With Democrats Now in Charge, UN Budget Gets a Big Boost in the U.S. House of Representatives

Elections have consequences. Last November, Democrats won majority of the United States House of Representatives which is the budget making body of Congress. Late last week, the key sub-committee that writes the budget for much of the foreign policy apparatus released its FY 2020 funding bill.

This was the first budget drafted by the State and Foreign Operations Sub-committee in which Democrats held the majority and the result was increased funding for the United Nations.

The State and Foreign Operations Sub-Committee, or SFOPS is responsible for setting much of the budget for US foreign policy. This includes funding levels for the State Department and key accounts that fund the work of the United Nations, including UN Peacekeeping, humanitarian and development work.

Overall, the bill provides $56.4 billion for the International Affairs Budget.  This is $13.7 billion above the President’s budget request. Specific to the United Nations, the bill fills some key funding holes from previous years.

The bill seeks to address a key cash crunch facing UN Peacekeeping right now. The Secretary General has been warning that UN Peacekeeping is in a liquidity crisis, mostly because key financial contributors to the UN Peacekeeping are not paying their dues in full and on time. This includes the United States, which has accumulated significant arrears to UN Peacekeeping over the last two years.  The bill corrects the underfunding of years’ past and includes a $479 million payback in FY’17 and FY’18 arrears.

In all, the bill includes $2.128 billion for the Contributions for International Peacekeeping Activities account that funds much of UN Peacekeeping operations. This is $577 million above the current level and $992 million above the White House’s budget request.

The regular UN Budget is also fully funded in this bill, which includes $160 million increase over the currently enacted levels.

Analysis from the Better World Campaign shows how this bill compares to previously passed budgets.*

UN Peacekeeping: $2.128 billion for Contributions for International Peacekeeping Activities (CIPA) – $577 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level and $992 million above the President’s budget request. The House mark also pays CIPA arrears from FY’17 and FY’18.

UN Regular Budget: $1.52 billion to fully fund our assessed Contributions to International Organizations (CIO) and the UN regular budget – $160 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level.

International Organizations & Programs (IO&P): The bill doubles the IO&P account to $646 million – ending the misguided prohibition of all funding within this account put forward in prior House and Administration bills. This funding will be channeled to a range of UN agencies engaged in critical security, humanitarian, and development assistance abroad including UNICEF, UNDP, UN Women, and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

Environment: The House mark wisely removes the prohibition on the Green Climate Fund. It also prohibits the use of funds to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

Health: The bill includes $1.56 billion for the Global Fund – $210 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level and $1.6 billion above the President’s budget request – restoring the U.S. Global Fund contribution to 33%.

Family Planning & UNFPA: The bill includes $750 million for family planning – $175 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level and $513 million above the President’s budget request and $55.5 million for UNFPA – ending a prohibition carried in prior House and Administration bills on assistance to UNFPA. The House mark also includes the Global HER Act, which would permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule, reinstated by President Trump in January 2017.

The bill from the SFOPS subcommittee kicks off the budget season in Congress. Next, it will go to the entire House Appropriations Committee, but there likely will not be too many amendments added because the same woman who leads the SFOPS subcommittee  is also in charge of the full appropriations committee.

Nita Lowey, a long serving member of Congress from New York, chairs both committees. This arguably makes her one of the most powerful women in foreign policy and her influence in this budget is evident.  Representative Lowey has a long history of supporting global development, global health, reproductive health and strong multi-lateral partnerships to advance sustainable development and global peace and security. Each of these convictions are manifested in the sub-committee’s bill.

The ultimate outcome of these funding levels will be hashed out in negotiations between the Senate and House, with the Senate expected to release its markup of the bill in June. For now, these funding levels are a good example of how elections have consequences–which in this case means the House of Representatives providing adequate funding for the United States’ global responsibilities.