Nations That Benefit Most From U.S. Foreign Aid Often Oppose U.S. Positions at U.N.

Patrick Goodenough | July 26, 2011 | 4:39am EDT
Font Size

Flags of member nations flying at United Nations headquarters in New York City. (U.N. Photo by Eskinder Debebe)

( – A Republican amendment to authorization legislation would bar funding for any government that opposes the U.S. position at the United Nations more often than not. Although unlikely to make it into law, the amendment draws fresh attention to the fact that a majority of countries, including most leading recipients of U.S. foreign aid, would fall into that category.

Among multiple amendments inserted into the State Department and foreign operations authorization bill during a House Foreign Affairs Committee markup last week was one by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) prohibiting any foreign assistance to governments that vote against the U.S. position at the U.N. more than 50 percent of the time.

Grades would be obtained from annual State Department reports on voting practices at the U.N., which have been required under U.S. law for decades, and would relate to votes in the General Assembly during its most recent session, or in the case of members of the Security Council, to their votes in both the council and assembly.

In order to waive the prohibition, the president would, on a case-by-case basis, have to issue Congress with a determination that invoking the waiver was “important to the national interests of the United States.”

Duncan’s amendment passed by a party-line vote of 22-18, and was among those incorporated into the final version of the bill that passed out of the full committee by a 23-20 vote late last Thursday night.

“We’re $14.3 trillion in debt,” the tea party-backed Republican freshman said in a statement Monday. “Why should we pay countries to hate us when they’ve shown they’re willing to do it for free?”

“The United States has no business giving money away to countries and groups who seek to do us harm.”

Among other amendments passed by the committee were several placing terrorism-related conditions on security assistance to Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Pakistan; one restoring the “Mexico City policy,” which prohibits aid to organizations that promote or perform abortions; one – non-waivable – requiring the U.S. to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem; one barring funding for programs in left-leaning Latin American countries including Venezuela and Nicaragua; and one defunding the Organization of American States.

With so many provisions at odds with Obama administration foreign policy priorities, the legislation in its current form has little chance of getting through the Democratic-led Senate, let alone past a presidential veto.

Still, the State Department report on voting practices at the U.N. last year shows just how many countries would fall foul of the provision, if it were enacted.

On the total 71 occasions where the U.S. voted either “yes” or “no” in a recorded General Assembly vote, only 53 countries out of a total of 191 (27.7 percent) voted the same way as the U.S. did 50 percent of the time or more (full list below). That is slightly lower than the 2009 figure (54 countries), but significantly higher than the 2008 one (10 countries).

Of the 53 countries, none are in the Latin American regional group, only one is in Africa (Seychelles), and six are in Asia (Japan, South Korea, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau). The rest are either in the Western group or the Eastern European group.

In some cases, countries’ voting decisions are no surprise. North Korea’s voting only coincided with that of the U.S. 11.7 percent of the time, for instance, while the scores for Iran and Syria were 15 and 15.8 percent respectively.

But when it comes to countries that are among the biggest beneficiaries of U.S. foreign aid, the picture is little better.

Of the 10 top recipients of aid in fiscal year 2010, only one voted the same way as did the U.S. more than 50 percent of the time. That country was Israel, whose voting matched that of the U.S. 91.8 percent of the time – more than any other country except for the tiny Pacific island nations of Palau (96.5 percent) and Micronesia (94 percent).

The other nine FY 2010 top aid recipients, listed in order of their voting coincidence with the U.S., were Mexico (37.5 percent), Afghanistan (34.3 percent), South Africa (33.8 percent), Jordan (33.8 percent), Nigeria (33.3 percent), Ethiopia (32.8 percent), Kenya (31.7 percent), Egypt (31.4 percent) and Pakistan (21.3 percent).

One year earlier, the figures told a similar story, with the scores in most cases even lower than in 2010:  Israel (97 percent), Mexico (36.8 percent), Pakistan (30 percent), Nigeria (30 percent), Afghanistan (29.9 percent), South Africa (29.4 percent), Kenya (28.1 percent), Jordan (21.3 percent), Egypt (17.7 percent) and Ethiopia (8.6 percent).

Priority issues for the U.S.

The State Department’s annual report also records the way countries voted on key General Assembly resolutions – those identified by the administration as “issues which directly affected United States interests and on which the United States lobbied extensively.”

The 2010 report included 15 such priority votes, relating to the embargo on Cuba, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, nuclear and missile proliferation, the death penalty, the Durban racism process, “religious defamation” and human rights abuses in North Korea, Iran and Burma.

In those 15 votes, 89 out of 191 countries voted the same way as the U.S. did more than 50 percent of the time.

Of the ten top U.S. aid recipients, however, only three exceeded the 50 percent mark in voting coincidence with the U.S. – Israel (91.7 percent), Mexico (54.4 percent) and Kenya (57.1 percent).

The rest scored as follows: Afghanistan (46.2 percent), Ethiopia (44.4 percent), Nigeria (40 percent), Jordan (40 percent), South Africa (30 percent), Egypt (25 percent) and Pakistan (22.2 percent).

Of the other 191 members of the U.N., only 53 countries voted with the U.S. more than 50 percent of the time in the U.N. General Assembly in 2010. They were:

Albania, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and United Kingdom.

mrc merch