U.S. Takes Credit for $285 Million U.N. Budget Cut

By Patrick Goodenough | December 25, 2017 | 10:58 PM EST

Images of Christmas trees are beamed onto the screens as the U.N. General Assembly rises on Christmas Eve after decisions including approval of the world body's regular budget for 2018-2019. (Screen capture: UN Webcast)

(CNSNews.com) – The Trump administration is taking credit for cutting more than $285 million off the United Nations regular budget for the 2018-2019 biennium, an achievement that will entail a sizeable saving for a country that accounts for 22 percent of that budget.

The General Assembly (UNGA) committee responsible for administrative and budgetary affairs agreed on the budget in the early hours of Christmas Eve, and the full assembly approved it later in the day.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said afterwards that although the administration was pleased at the results of the negotiations, “you can be sure we’ll continue to look at ways to increase the U.N.’s efficiency‎ while protecting our interests.”

“The inefficiency and overspending of the United Nations are well known,” Haley said. “We will no longer let the generosity of the American people be taken advantage of or remain unchecked. This historic reduction in spending – in addition to many other moves toward a more efficient and accountable U.N. – is a big step in the right direction.”

“In addition to these significant cost savings, we reduced the U.N.’s bloated management and support functions, bolstered support for key U.S. priorities throughout the world, and instilled more discipline and accountability throughout the U.N. system,” she said.

Although not directly related to the recent tumult at the UNGA over President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the budget approval came just days after both Haley and Trump put the world body and member-states on notice, again, that anti-U.S. and anti-Israel moves could carry financial consequences.

Ahead of last week’s UNGA vote on a resolution demanding that Trump’s decision be rescinded, Haley observed that the U.S. is “always asked to do more & give more” at the U.N., and warned countries that Trump would be taking the vote “personally.”

The president himself then suggested that countries voting against the U.S. could risk losing financial assistance.

The budget negotiations began long before Trump’s Dec. 6 announcement on Jerusalem and the U.N. response, but some observers still view the cost saving as an appropriate U.S. response to the lopsided (128-9) vote for the condemnatory resolution.

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz said Monday that budget cut was “terrific.”

“It’s about time we sent a message to the U.N., which has become a place of hate when it comes to the United States and Israel,” he told Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” program.

“It’s the first of many steps I think she [Haley] will take to bring the United Nations back to where it ought to be – a neutral arbiter of peace, not a place of hatred,” Dershowitz said.

Billions

The agreed-upon regular budget for 2018-2019 is $5.396 billion, which works out $2.698 billion for 2018 and $2.698 billion for 2019.

With the United States “assessed” to contribute 22 percent of the annual regular budget, U.S. taxpayers should therefore account for around $593.5 million next year and about the same amount in 2019.

That compares to roughly $610.8 million in 2017, $602.9 million in 2016 and $654.7 in 2015.

(Apart from the “assessed contributions,” the U.S. pays considerably more in “voluntary contributions” to the U.N. system. It also funds almost 28.5 percent of the separate U.N. peacekeeping budget, although there too the Trump administration this year pushed for a $600 million cut.)

At the late night session of the UNGA fifth committee Cherith Norman Chalet, the U.S. minister counselor for U.N. management and reform, called the negotiated budget a “significant inflection point for this organization” and an important step “towards putting the United Nations on a sound and sustainable fiscal path.”

She quoted Haley as having urged the committee, at a meeting last September, to “look at ways to take bold stands with an eye towards changing business as usual”

“This unprecedented decision by the committee outlines out collective commitment to continue to find efficiencies and reprioritize, and eliminate redundancies across all parts of the budget,” Chalet said.

 


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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow