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80 NGOs tell Congress: Honor Our Financial Commitments to the UN

April 16, 2008

80 Leading Humanitarian and Advocacy Groups tell Congress to Pay off U.S. Debt to the United Nations and Improve America’s Image in the World

Washington, DC – The Better World Campaign delivered today to the U.S. Congress a letter signed by 80 organizations calling for payment of U.S. debt to the United Nations, which at the beginning of this year amounted to more than $2.8 billion to the UN’s regular budget and peacekeeping accounts. The debt makes up 25 percent of the UN’s annual budget, and is ten times the amount owed by any other nation.

This letter clearly shows that the American public wants the U.S. to keep its word at the UN and stop going it alone,” said Better World Campaign Executive Director Deborah Derrick.  “This Congress can begin the process of repairing U.S. financial standing at the UN when it takes up the President’s FY 2008 Supplemental Funding Request in the coming days,” she added.

The President’s FY 2008 supplemental request, expected to be taken up by the Congress the week of April 21st, includes $334 million for the UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, Sudan, and $53 million for the UN’s political missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. has called on the UN to take a greater role in these missions, but has not fully funded them.

In their open letter, the 80 signatory groups representing leading human rights, humanitarian operations, and faith-based groups wrote: “Public opinion research clearly demonstrates that Americans are concerned about the U.S.’s reputation in the world and want to improve our image by working with allies and through international organizations rather than by going it alone.  We write to urge you to strengthen America’s international standing by honoring our treaty commitments and paying our past debt and present obligations to the United Nations and other international organizations.” 

Among the 80 organizations signing the letter are: American Jewish World Service, Amnesty International; CARE; Citizens for Global Solutions; ENOUGH: The Project to Abolish Genocide + Mass Atrocities; The Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights of the American Jewish Committee; Mercy Corps; NAACP; National Council of Churches; the Open Society Policy Center; Partnership for a Secure America; Refugees International; United Methodist Church; and the United Nations Association of the USA.

The letter continues, “Failing to honor our commitments to the UN frustrates the ability of peacekeepers to carry out their mandates in often complex environments, such as the newly deployed UN-AU mission to Darfur (UNAMID). It impedes the UN’s ability to prepare for potential demands for peace operations in countries like Somalia where peace remains tenuous, and inhibits countries from putting their own troops forward for peacekeeping missions.” 

U.S. debt to the UN includes $1.2 billion in unpaid bills that remain unaddressed by the Administration’s FY 2008 supplemental and FY 2009 regular budget requests.  This permanent debt will increase by another $600 million unless the Congress includes UN funding beyond the amount requested in the Administration’s FY 2009 budget.  The remaining $1 billion in debt results from the regular U.S. practice of paying virtually every international organization a year or more late, by which time new bills have already come in.

Note to the editor: The full text of the open letter and the list of organizational signers can also be found by clicking here.  In addition to the letter to Congress, the Better World Campaign has launched an advertising campaign called “Don’t Go It Alone.”  The multifaceted campaign will educate Washington audiences about the substantial U.S. debt at the UN and to encourage U.S. leadership to honor our commitments in the international community.  The advertisements urge payment of U.S. debts to the UN to help restore our international reputation, support our national security interests, and share the financial and human burden of confronting global challenges.

For more information about U.S. debt at the UN, click here

About the Better World Campaign
The Better World Campaign (BWC), an initiative of the Better World Fund, works to strengthen the relationship between the United States and the United Nations through outreach, communications, and advocacy.  It encourages U.S. leadership to enhance the UN’s ability to carry out its invaluable international work on behalf of peace, progress, freedom, and justice.  In these efforts, BWC engages policy makers, the media, and the American public to increase awareness of and support for the United Nations.  For more information, visit www.betterworldcampaign.org.

Press contact:
Adele Waugaman
United Nations Foundation
o: 202.887.9040
e: awaugaman at unfoundation.org