(CNSNews.com) – The Biden administration’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2024 includes a request of $3.64 billion for the pair of accounts that fund the United Nations, other international organizations, and U.N. peacekeeping missions – a 29.2 percent increase from the level enacted in fiscal year 2023.
For the Contributions to International Organizations (CIO) account, from which funds are directed to the U.N. regular budget, U.N. agencies like the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and other bodies including NATO, the administration is requesting $1.70 billion, an 18.5 percent increase from the fiscal year 2023 enacted amount.
For the Contributions for International Peacekeeping Activities (CIPA) account, which funds U.N. peacekeeping operations, the administration is seeking $1.94 billion, a 40.4 percent increase from the fiscal year 2023 enacted amount.
The CIPA request includes $344 million to go towards paying down $1.1 billion in U.S. “arrears” that have accumulated since fiscal year 2017
The arrears are the result of the discrepancy between the amount that the U.S. is “assessed” to contribute towards U.N. peacekeeping (currently 26.9 percent of the total peacekeeping budget), and a 25 percent cap on the contribution, enacted by Congress in 1994 on the grounds that the U.S. was paying too much.
For years the federal government found ways to make up the shortfall between the 25 percent cap and the assessed amount, but in 2018, the Trump administration said the U.S. would no longer pay more than the statutory ceiling. The arrears then began to accrue.
In its budget justification for Congress, the administration said the request of $1.94 billion for CIPA “reflects the administration’s goal of fully funding ongoing U.S. peacekeeping assessments and paying down recently accumulated arrears.”
After the U.S. (assessed to contribute 26.9 percent), the next biggest contributors to the peacekeeping budget this year are China (18.6 percent), Japan (8.0 percent), Germany (6.1 percent), Britain (5.3 percent), France (5.3 percent), Italy (3.2 percent), and Russia (2.3 percent).
‘In full and on time’
In the administration’s budget request for the CIO account, bigger ticket items include $707 million for the U.N. regular budget (a 2.1 percent increase over last year’s enacted amount), $111.2 million for the IAEA, $107.6 million for the Food and Agriculture Organization, and $108.7 million for the World Health Organization.
In addition to the $707 million requested for the U.N. regular budget, the administration is asking for another $40 million to begin a process of “synchronizing” the U.S. annual payments to align them with the U.N.’s budget timeline.
The U.S. has generally made payments to the U.N. late in the calendar year, months later than most other countries.
The fact is often seized upon by rivals like China and Russia to attack the U.S. – and also raised by allies, concerned about the impact the delays have on the organization’s operations (because U.S. taxpayers account for 22 percent of the overall regular budget.)
In its budget justification, the administration said the late-in-the-year payments created “significant financial difficulty” for the U.N.
“Failure to meet financial obligations undermines U.S. credibility and leadership, and it jeopardizes the influence the country requires to push back on bad actors,” it said. “As the United States seeks to respond to a range of global challenges, U.S. credibility is directly and frequently challenged by both adversaries and allies due to payment delays.”
It said President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have both made clear their commitment that the U.S. “will pay its bills in full and on time.”
‘Return to UNESCO’
The CIO request also includes $150 million “to support a U.S. return to UNESCO,” another agency to which the U.S. owes “arrears.”
The Trump administration withdrew from the Paris-based U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2019, citing a track record of anti-Israel bias.
Seven years earlier, the Obama administration had cut funding to UNESCO after it became the first U.N. agency to admit “Palestine” as a full member.
It did so – reluctantly – in compliance with legislation enacted in the 1990s barring federal funding to the U.N. or U.N. agency that “accords the Palestine Liberation Organization the same standing as member states.”
After severing the funding the Obama administration each year urged Congress to provide waiver authority to enable it to resume, but without success. As a result of the cut, the U.S. accrued around $612 million in arrears over the years until President Trump withdrew.
An omnibus spending bill approved by Congress last December included language allowing the Biden administration to waive the statutory provisions and restore funding.
At a State Department briefing Thursday John Bass, acting Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, spoke cautiously about plans to rejoin UNESCO, but said the administration appreciated the waiver authority provided by Congress.
He linked a potential U.S. return to the agency to efforts to enhance U.S. competition with China, a major theme in the overall State and foreign operations budget proposal.
“If we do choose to rejoin [UNESCO] it will help address a critical gap in our global leadership toolkit and capacity, and it will also help us address a key opportunity cost that our absence is creating in our global competition with China,” Bass said.
He described UNESCO as “an essential element of setting and shaping standards for, among other things, STEM education around the world.”
“So if we’re really serious about the digital-age competition with China, from my perspective, in a clear-eyed set of interests we can’t afford to be absent any longer from one of the key fora in which standards around education for science and technology are set.”
Republicans in Congress have largely panned the administration’s overall trillion budget proposal, setting the scene for an uphill battle ahead.
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