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Hearing of the House Foreign Relations Committee - "The United Nations: Urgent Problems that Need Congressional Action"


Location: Unknown

This briefing of the Committee on Foreign Affairs will come to order.
Unfortunately, Chairman Ros-Lehtinen was unable to be in Washington this week. She is at her family's side due to her mother's failing health from complications of Alzheimer's disease. She and her family are in our thoughts and prayers.

The Chairman has asked me to chair this briefing in her stead, and I was happy to accept. I will now recognize myself for 7 minutes to read the Chairman's opening statement, which should be considered attributable to her.


"As I said at this Committee's last hearing on United Nations reform, "With significant leadership by the United States, the United Nations was founded on high ideals. The pursuit of international peace and development, and the promotion of basic human rights are core, historic concerns of the American people. At its best, the U.N. can play an important role in promoting
U.S. interests and international security, but reality hasn't matched the ideals.'

"Accordingly, U.S. policy on the United Nations should be based on three fundamental questions: Are we advancing American interests? Are we upholding American values? and are we being responsible stewards of American taxpayer dollars? "Unfortunately, right now, the answer to all three questions is "No.'

"Here's some simple math: With no strings attached, we pay all contributions that the U.N. assesses to us--20 percent of their annual budget--plus billions more every year. According to the OMB, in Fiscal Year 2009, the U.S. contributed well over 6 billion dollars to the U.N.--at a time of high unemployment, skyrocketing deficits, crushing debt, and other great economic and fiscal challenges to our nation.

"What have we gotten in return from the U.N.? Here are a few examples.
"The U.N. Development Program fired a whistle-blower who revealed that UNDP's office in North Korea was not being managed properly, and was being exploited by Kim Jong Il's regime.

"In 2008, a Senate subcommittee found that: UNDP's local staff was selected by the regime, and UNDP paid staff salaries directly to the regime--in foreign currency--with no way to know the funds weren't being diverted to enrich the regime; UNDP prevented proper oversight and undermined whistleblower protections by limiting access to its audits and refusing to submit to the U.N. Ethics Office's jurisdiction; the regime used its relationship with UNDP to move money outside North Korea; and UNDP transferred funds to a company tied to an entity designated bythe U.S. as North Korea's financial agent for weapons sales.

"The UNDP briefly pulled out of North Korea, but now they're back, and this time they canselect staff from a list of three candidates hand-picked by the regime, not just one candidate.

"That's what passes for reform at the U.N.

"U.S. taxpayers are also paying one-fifth of the bills for the U.N.'s anti-Israel activities, including the U.N. Human Rights Council, a rogues' gallery dominated by human rights violators who use it to ignore real abuses and instead attack democratic Israel relentlessly. The Council was also the fountainhead for the infamous Durban Two conference and the Goldstone

"One more example: an independent Procurement Task Force uncovered cases of corruption tainting hundreds of millions of dollars in U.N. contracts. In response, the U.N. shut down the Task Force. When the head of the U.N.'s oversight office tried to hire the chairman of the task force, former U.S. prosecutor Robert Appleton, as the top investigator, the U.N. Secretary-
General blocked it.

"Well, the U.N. may not want him, but we're pleased to have Mr. Appleton here today.

"Ironically, the U.N.'s current chief investigator--who has reportedly failed to pursue cases--is now under investigation himself for retaliating against whistle-blowers!

"Ambassador Susan Rice says that the U.S. approach to the U.N. is, "We pay our bills. We push for real reform.' Instead, we should be conditioning our contributions on "reform first, pay later.'

"In the past, Congress has gone along by willingly paying what successive Administrations asked for--without enough oversight. This is one of the first true U.N. reform hearings held by this Committee in almost 4 years, but it won't be the last.

"Right now, the vast majority of countries at the U.N. General Assembly pay next to nothing in assessed contributions, creating a perverse incentive because those who make decisions don't have to pay the bills. So I am going to reintroduce legislation that conditions our contributions--our strongest leverage--on real, sweeping reform, including moving the U.N. regular budget to a voluntary funding basis. That way, U.S. taxpayers can pay for the U.N. programs and activities that advance our interests and values, and if other countries want different things to be funded, they can pay for it themselves.

"This will encourage competition, competence, and effectiveness.

"The voluntary model works for UNICEF and many other U.N. agencies, and it can work for the U.N. as a whole.

"One more point: some of the U.N.'s defenders like to cite some good U.N. activities to gain support for funding bad ones. However, we're not here to play "Let's Make a Deal' with hardearned U.S. taxpayer dollars. Each U.N. office, activity, program, and sub-program, country by country and function by function, must be justified on its own merits.

"UNICEF programs to help starving children cannot excuse the United Nations Relief and Works Agency's having members of Hamas on its payroll. The World Health Organization's vaccination programs cannot excuse the Human Rights Council's biased actions.

"My colleagues, reforming the U.N. should not be a Republican or Democrat issue. It is in the interest of all Americans. And so I hope and trust that U.N. reform efforts will be strongly bipartisan."


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