A consistent theme from the earliest days of the Trump administration was the intent to lower the amount that America pays for United Nations peacekeeping.
During her confirmation hearing, Ambassador Nikki Haley repeatedly said that the U.S. contribution to the peacekeeping budget was too high and should be lowered to 25 percent. The current U.S. budget is at 28.5 percent. President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint also stated that “the U.S. would not contribute more than 25 percent for U.N. peacekeeping costs.”
Congress seems to have gotten the message based on the 2017 budget that enforces U.S. law, capping U.S. contributions at 25 percent of the U.N. peacekeeping budget. It also reduces appropriations by about $500 million compared to 2016.
Congress should be applauded for deciding to enforce U.S. law and policy that dates back to the 1990s. But this is only the start of the process. The tough task of changing the U.N. scale of assessments lies ahead and will require a collaborative effort in New York, in foreign capitals, and on Capitol Hill.
But first, Americans should care about reducing America’s peacekeeping dues for two reasons:
1.) The U.S. is paying far more than other states. U.S. demands for lower U.N. assessments are nothing new. Dating back to the founding of the U.N., U.S. politicians were opposed to being held excessively responsible for the expenses of the organization and used various means, including withholding, over the past 70 years to lower America’s U.N. assessment.
The issue of funding for U.N. peacekeeping became prominent in the early 1990s after an unprecedented surge in the number and size of peacekeeping operations dramatically increased U.S. payments. As President Bill Clinton stated before the U.N. General Assembly in 1993, “United Nations operations must not only be adequately funded but also fairly funded … [O]ur rate should be reduced to reflect the rise of other nations that can now bear more of the financial burden.”
In 1994, Clinton signed a law capping U.S. peacekeeping payments at 25 percent of those expenses. Because the U.N. charged the U.S. more than 30 percent at the time, this led to large arrearages. The resulting financial stress forced the U.N. and the other member states to agree to a new peacekeeping assessment formula and other reforms in return for payment of U.S. arrears as stipulated in the Helms-Biden legislation.
Although the U.S. rate did not go down to 25 percent immediately, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke testified to the Senate in 2001 that “[t]he U.S. rate will continue to progressively decline, and we expect that it will reach 25 percent by roughly 2006 or 2007.”
The U.S. paid its arrears, but that goal was never reached. By 2009, the U.S. share had fallen to less than 26 percent, but under the Obama administration the trend reversed and the U.S. assessment climbed.
Currently, the U.S. peacekeeping assessment is about 28.5 percent. This is more than 185 other U.N. member states combined and more than all of the other permanent members of the Security Council combined.