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Better World Campaign’s Peter Yeo Testifies Before Congress Amid Possible Funding Cuts to UN & Peacekeeping



March 14, 2013

Testimony by Peter Yeo, March 14, 2013
Vice President for Public Policy, United Nations Foundation
Executive Director, Better World Campaign
Support for CIO, CIPA, PKO, and Global Health UN Accounts
House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs

Mr. Yeo: Thank you, Chairwoman Granger and Ranking Member Lowey, for giving me the opportunity to testify before you today, and for your strong and consistent support for full funding of the United Nations. Today, I will briefly address the importance of the International Organizations and Peacekeeping accounts within the State Department budget.

UN Peacekeeping Operations

To begin today, let me touch on our treaty obligation to pay the U.S. share of UN peacekeeping activities. The UN oversees the second largest deployed military in the world, with more than 110,000 personnel deployed on 14 missions on four continents. Their activities are a boon to U.S. interests and are also extremely cost-effective, as other UN member states bear nearly three-quarters of their costs, and as the GAO noted, UN missions are eight times cheaper than U.S. forces acting alone.

Moreover, under UN peacekeeping, it is the soldiers of other countries that assume great personal risk, as evidenced by the recent kidnapping of 21 Filipino peacekeepers in the Golan and the deaths of four peacekeepers in Congo several days ago. Despite these significant occupational hazards, however, UN peacekeepers remain central to efforts to consolidate recent democratic gains in Liberia and strengthen government capacity and prevent conflict in South Sudan. It is therefore crucial that our nation fully fund our peacekeeping dues.

Paying Our Peacekeeping Contributions at their Full Assessed Rate

We also request that language be included in FY’14 appropriations legislation that would enable the U.S. to pay its assessed peacekeeping contributions at their full assessed rate of 28 percent.

The Importance of the UN Regular Budget

Moving on to other critical aspects of the U.S.-UN relationship, the UN Regular Budget funds core UN activities that serve American interests, with other UN member states picking up nearly 80% of the total costs. For instance, UN personnel continue to serve in Iraq after the departure of American soldiers in 2011, and will be in Afghanistan for years to come after U.S. troops have left, securing the hard-fought gains made by brave Americans in stabilizing and rebuilding both countries. It is also worth noting that for every $1 we send to the UN Secretariat, $1.60 comes back to U.S. companies. As a result, the UN Regular Budget necessitates continued American support.

Allowing the U.S. to Continue Funding Critical UN Specialized Agencies

As the Subcommittee is aware, the U.S. has been forced to defund UNESCO. This has jeopardized a number of UNESCO activities—including literacy training of police in Afghanistan and Holocaust education worldwide—that serve core U.S. foreign policy interests and promote American values around the world. In light of the possibility that existing law could affect future U.S. involvement in other critical UN agencies like the World Health Organization, we request that Congressional support for Presidential waiver authority for UNESCO and other specialized agencies.

Possibility of FY’13 Arrears

Finally, today, I would like to briefly address the real possibility that the US could go into arrears at the UN due to shortfalls from sequestration, which total over $100 million, and potential shortfalls in the FY 13 State/Foreign Operations budget.   While we very much appreciate the hard work of the both the House and Senate Appropriations Committee in crafting the Continuing Resolution, it appears - particularly as it relates to peacekeeping - that both the House and Senate versions of the spending bill currently do not provide the amount necessary to support the missions approved by both Democratic and Republican Administrations.

Staying current on our dues payments allows us to use the UN to advance many of our nation’s core values and strategic interests. Over the past several years—because of your leadership in ensuring full UN funding—the U.S. has racked up a number of accomplishments at the Security Council on an array of important issues, from enacting the toughest-ever multilateral sanctions against Iran and, most recently, North Korea; to authorizing a no-fly zone over Libya; to establishing a new peacekeeping force to help stabilize South Sudan. When we fail to pay our dues and accumulate debt at the UN, not only do we undermine the effectiveness of these and other critical UN programs—we also undercut our own credibility and influence at the world body, in effect harming our chances of winning new diplomatic and strategic victories in the future.

Once again, thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify today. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.