HENRY J. HYDE UNITED NATIONS REFORM ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - June 17, 2005)
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Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Chairman, I regret that I cannot vote for this bill.
I am not opposed to the ostensible purpose of the bill--in fact, I share the view that the United Nations needs to be improved so it can better carry out its indispensable role.
The U.N. is a critically important body that has taken on many of the world's problems and solved them--problems such as poverty, disease, and international disputes. And the U.S. has benefited from U.N. actions. Just recently, the U.N. helped with elections in Afghanistan and Iraq and helped negotiate the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon.
But it has serious problems, as exemplified by the oil-for-food scandal and offenses committed by U.N. peacekeeping forces.
So, I support U.N. reform--but I cannot support the approach the bill takes toward achieving that objective.
The bill would require the Secretary of State to push for reforms at the U.N. in the areas of budgeting, oversight and accountability, peacekeeping, and human rights. That is something that needs to be done. But if the Secretary of State cannot certify that the reforms have been achieved, starting in 2007, the Secretary would be required to withhold 50 percent of the U.S. assessed contributions to the U.N.'s regular budget. The assessed U.S. contributions are estimated at $362 million for 2005, and $439 million for 2006.
I think such a punitive and unilateral approach to reform will not work. I think its primary result would be to further isolate the United States while at the same time actually undermining ongoing efforts at reform and potentially jeopardizing the U.N.'s ability to focus on global threats and work toward greater global stability.
The substitute proposed by Representatives LANTOS and SHAYS would have been a better approach, and I regret that it was not adopted.
As it stands, the bill is problematic on a number of fronts. First, it would mandate withholding of dues from programs that do not get moved from the U.N.'s assessed budget to a system of voluntary contribution, a goal unlikely to be achieved.
Also, it would require the United States to veto Security Council resolutions establishing any new U.N. peacekeeping missions--including involvement in a crisis like the one taking place in Darfur--until the peacekeeping reforms called for by the bill have been completed. This is like forbidding firemen to respond to a blaze because we are unhappy about the way the department is organized and financed. I cannot support that.
The bill would cut U.S. contributions to U.N. conferences and public information programs by 20 percent unless the overall budgets for these programs are cut by 20 percent, and if the 20 percent target is not
met by 2008, the bill would mandate the withholding of 50 percent of U.S. contributions. It also would require that 50 percent of annual dues be withheld even if just one of 14 mandatory benchmarks were not met. These go beyond stern--they are petulant. Their predictable result is not reform, but failure.
In short, the bill as it stands would simultaneously demand reform and make it impossible to achieve.
The substitute offered by Representatives Lantos and Shays would have used carrots as well as sticks and would have given much greater flexibility to the Secretary of State.
The substitute included benchmarks very much like those in the base bill, but it gave flexibility to the Secretary of State to mandate the 50 percent cuts to our U.N. dues. Similarly, the substitute did not link the change from ``assessed'' to ``voluntary'' contributions to withholding a portion of our dues, and it would have allowed the Secretary of State to waive the peacekeeping reform requirements if it is determined that a new mission is in the U.S. national interest.
The substitute also included incentives by supporting an effort to pay our dues on time, an increased U.N. budget for the large number of new offices that will be needed to implement the reforms, a well structured buyout of unneeded U.N. personnel, and a contribution to the U.N. Democracy Fund.
The difference between the bill now before us and the Lantos-Shays substitute is that while the substitute was realistic in the way it set out a path toward reform, the majority's bill if fully implemented would effectively destroy the chances of achieving an effective and improved U.N.
Instead of adopting such an approach, the United States should engage the U.N. member countries in the process of reform and provide the U.N. with the resources necessary to accomplish reforms, rather than alienate the global community by threatening to withhold dues.
The Bush Administration itself is opposed to this legislation as it stands. I do not often agree with them, but I do in this instance and I therefore must vote against the bill.
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