CALLING FOR REFORM AT THE U.N.
June 17, 2005
When the United Nations (U.N.) was established in 1945, 50 countries signed the United Nations Charter pledging to promote international cooperation and achieve peace and security and addressing political, economic, humanitarian, social and legal issues. Today, the number of member states has nearly quadrupled and the track record of the U.N. has been tainted by significant operational failures and unacceptable acts of misconduct.
Scandal and corruption have become commonplace and the victims are often those already suffering from political, economic or humanitarian injustice. In Iraq, Saddam Hussein pocketed $10 billion from the Oil for Food program that was intended to provide humanitarian goods to the men, women and children in that country. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, U.N. peacekeepers and civilian personnel are accused of widespread sexual exploitation of refugees and in Sierra Leone, U.N. peacekeepers are accused of the systematic rape of women. Numerous cases of bribery, nepotism, embezzlement, fund mismanagement, and sexual misconduct exist in U.N. operations around the world. While the individual criminals should be brought to justice, widespread failures and scandals such as these serve as evidence that the U.N., as it stands, is in serious need of reform.
Last week, I was pleased to support a U.N. reform bill that mandates U.N. budget oversight, eliminates waste, fraud and abuse, and strengthens U.S. negotiating powers with the U.N. The United States accounts for 22 percent of the U.N.'s budget contributions, the largest percentage out of the 191 member countries. This bill is an effort to increase transparency and accountability and control how American taxpayer dollars are spent. U.S. dollars contribute significantly to the operations of the U.N. and our message is clear: the U.N. must enact reforms in its organization to continue to receive U.S. support. While the peacekeeping and humanitarian missions of the U.N. are important, Congress has an obligation to the American taxpayers to ensure good use of their tax dollars.
Throughout its existence, the U.N. has played an important role in providing aid to the hungry and sick, helping maintain peace in war-torn countries, and protecting human rights; however, the problems plaguing the U.N. threaten the organization's ability to carry out its mission. The U.N. itself has recognized the need for internal reform, but has not taken the serious steps needed. I support the U.N.'s goals of facilitating democracy, mediating disputes, and monitoring peace but do not support wasting money on ineffective practices, mismanagement and fraud, or sexual exploitation. The U.N. Reform Act streamlines and prioritizes programs and conducts oversight and accountability of the U.N. budget, peacekeeping, democracy, and human rights activities. The time for reform is now and this bill is a step in that direction.