We’re Only Going to Get What We Give

On page one of the Post today, Colum Lynch pens an excellent breakdown of budgetary pressures facing the United Nations. This month, reports Lynch, the United Nations secretariat asked it’s top donors, including the United States, for an additional $1.1 billion over the next two years. Why would the UN need this extra cash? Forgive the pun, but here’s the money graf from Lynch

Much of the increased spending flows from Bush administration demands for a more ambitious U.N. role around the world. During President Bush’s tenure, the United States has signed off on billions of dollars for U.N. peacekeeping operations in Sudan and elsewhere, and authorized hundreds of millions for U.N. efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, where U.N. officials helped organize elections and draft a new constitution.

There are always two important thing to keep in mind when folks rail against UN spending. 1) The UN’s budget is relatively small. It’s regular operating budget is about $5 billion; peacekeeping costs about $6 billion. 2) The United States has an effective veto over increases to both peacekeeping and the regular UN budget. If the United States does not think it is in its interest to incur a portion of the cost of a peacekeeping mission, the US always has the option to use its veto to block the mission.

On the other hand, the growth we have seen at the UN over the last few years is largely due to America directing the UN to take on more jobs. Among other things, the United States–which is the UN’s single largest patron–has turned to the UN to send peacekeepers to the Horn of Africa, set up a war crimes tribunal in Lebanon, and arrange elections in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since the United States has directed the UN to take on such roles, it only stands to reason that the United States should be expected to pay its fair share of the costs.