(CNSNews.com) – When U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power testifies before a House Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday, the panel will consider a budget request for international organizations that is 33 percent bigger than last year’s, including a 43 percent hike in U.S. contributions to peacekeeping missions.
The administration’s fiscal year 2015 budget request for the U.N. and other organizations is $4.036 billion, up from $3.031 billion in FY2014. For contributions to peacekeeping missions, it is asking for $2.518 billion, up from $1.765 last year.
The $2.518 billion for peacekeeping amounts to 28.36 percent of the U.N.’s total peacekeeping budget. The U.S. also provides 22 percent of the separate U.N. operating budget. The U.N. has 193 member states.
According to Heritage Foundation scholar Brett Schaefer, President Clinton in 1994 signed a law setting a 25 percent cap on U.S. contributions for U.N. peacekeeping, which at the time were running at around 30 percent.
In 2000 the U.N. committed to reducing the U.S. peacekeeping assessment to 25 percent of the total and through the following decade it was gradually reduced, from 30.28 percent in 2000 to 25.96 percent in 2009. But then in 2010 it began picking up again as the administration and Congress amended U.S. law to raise the cap for specific periods.
“The U.S. should resume pressure on the U.N. to lower the U.S. peacekeeping assessment to 25 percent by refusing to pay more than this amount and tying payment of any resulting arrears to adoption by the U.N. of a maximum peacekeeping assessment of 25 percent,” Schaefer wrote in a recent brief.
The U.N. currently has 15 peacekeeping missions underway around the world, involving around 98,000 military and police personnel and some 17,000 civilians.
The largest amounts requested by the administration under the peacekeeping account are for missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo ($438 million), Darfur in Sudan ($410 million), Mali ($390 million), South Sudan ($340 million) and Haiti ($170 million).
The request also includes a new account, $150 million for a “peacekeeping response mechanism” that will allow the U.S. to respond to “unanticipated and urgent” cases without disrupting other missions or programs.
“Unanticipated peacekeeping requirements in Africa over the past several years demonstrate the need for such a mechanism, which would enable the United States to respond to future missions in Africa, Syria, or other needs around the world,” it says in the FY2015 budget justification.
Schaefer said Congress should reject the “peacekeeping response mechanism” proposal.
“Generally, such [peacekeeping] missions take weeks or months to stand up and should be funded through transfer of existing resources, the normal budgetary process, or, if necessary, emergency supplemental appropriations,” he argued.
The Obama administration has made engagement with the U.N. a high priority in its foreign policy, and the budget justification underscores this.
“The administration is committed to robust multilateral engagement and to promoting U.S. leadership in international organizations as a means of advancing U.S. national security interests and values,” it says.
As it has done for the past two years, the administration is asking Congress to waive legislative provisions making it unlawful for the U.S. to fund U.N. agencies that admit “Palestine.”
When the U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization in 2011 became the first U.N. body to do so, the administration reluctantly cut the funding and UNESCO lost 22 percent of its operating budget.
In its FY2013 and FY2014 budget requests, the administration asked Congress for $79 million and $77.7 million respectively for UNESCO.
Lawmakers each year resisted the request for to waive the restrictions, however, saying that doing so would remove an effective deterrent to other U.N. agencies that may consider granting membership to the Palestinians.
This time, the administration has not included a funding request for UNESCO, but the FY2015 request includes “conditional transfer authority should the waiver be enacted.”
“The ability to make such contributions is essential to advancing U.S. interests worldwide and strengthening U.S. global leadership, influence, and credibility,” it says.
“The administration remains committed to heading off any new efforts by the Palestinians to seek such membership in organizations across the U.N. system.”
That pledge looks set to be tested very soon: As the latest U.S.-sponsored Mideast peace effort faltered Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday announced that the P.A. will apply immediately to join 15 more international agencies.