Wednesday, 13 April 2011

$6,347,415,000 and What It Bought

by Claudia Rosett

That’s the amount of money America gave to the United Nations in fiscal 2009, according to President Barack Obama’s White House budget office. What did it help pay for?

Why, lots of things. Among them, the General Assembly that elected Libya’s envoy as its 2009-2010 president, and molded the “reformed” Human Rights Council that brought us the now famous — make that infamous — Goldstone report on Gaza, hosted Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the Durban Review conference in Geneva, and gave seats to Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Cameroon and Libya (before suspending Libya but now entertaining the candidacy of Syria).

Those American dollars helped maintain and service the grand General Assembly Hall which in September 2009 provided a global stage for Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, Iran’s Ahmadinejad, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and their despotic brethren — and was pressed into service more recently as a theatrical venue for the celebrity-studded U.S. premiere of an Israel-trashing commercial movie. They helped provide tax-exempt “post-adjusted” take-home lucre topping U.S. congressional take-home pay for hundreds of UN senior officials who worked on such projects as jetting around the globe preparing for the December, 2009 climate bacchanal in Copenhagen. And they helped bankroll the activities of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who has been bragging up a UN financial “disclosure program” in which senior UN officials are not required to disclose anything, and who made a trip to Washington in the spring of 2009, during which he referred to America — by far the UN’s biggest donor – as “deadbeat.”

With reason, Congress is now looking at ways to try — yet again — to reform the UN, and require accountability and maybe even decency in how American tax dollars get spent there. This starts with getting a handle on how much money the U.S. actually provides and where the money goes. To that end, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing this past Thursday, April 7, at which the sole witness was the person one might assume would know more than anyone else about U.S. dealings with the UN — Obama’s ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice. During that hearing, against the backdrop of America’s runaway budget and soaring debt, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher tried to get some straight answers about how much money the administration is now proposing to pour into the UN.

Somehow, in the course of answering that question, Rice came up not with a total, but with a subtotal that sounds oddly short — by a couple of billion — of what the U.S. has actually been spending. Has there been some dramatic cut in funding that neither the UN nor the U.S. has noticed? Or was there a disclosure malfunction of majestic proportions?… more in my column on “Magic With U.S. Money for the United Nations.

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