Personal tools
 
Views

Debate: United Nations No Growth Budgets

From Debatepedia

Jump to: navigation, search
[Digg]
[reddit]
[Delicious]
[Facebook]

Is the US policy of No Growth Budgets in the United Nations justified?

Background and context

While the United Nations is the closest Earth has to a world governing body, its budget is proportionally small when compared to the budgets of many of the earth’s nations. Because it is an international body, incapable of raising its own taxes or obtaining revenue through by selling goods and services, the UN is dependent on its member nations to sustain its budget. It is also dependent on these nations keeping their commitments and paying the bills in a timely manner. This is often, however, not the case. In 2004, the United States was at the top of the assessed contribution scale, with nearly 25% of the UN budget due to come from it. The US pays an even higher percentage in specific areas, such as the peacekeeping budget. The US was followed in the overall contribution category by Japan, Germany, the UK, France, Italy and Canada. Critics in the United States have asserted both that the proportion of US contributions is too high and that the UN needs to contain costs so that the real dollar amount the US will need to contribute remains steady. The “No-Growth” concept arose from American legislation that essentially holds the UN to an even budget, in case the USA withhold funds. America’s leverage is, of course, rooted in the sheer size of its contribution. Yet students of the UN are well aware that the USA has had an inconsistent history of actually making its payments on time. The Bush administration has made paying US arrears of its UN dues a higher priority and has lifted a previously existing cap on payments to peacekeeping operations. Nonetheless, legislative hurdles make complete payments difficult. Aside from the no-growth policy, some proposed legislation has suggested that funds be withheld altogether until certain reforms are passed.[1]

[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]

Flexibility: Does a "no-growth" policy threaten to undermine budgetary flexibility in the UN?

[Add New]

Yes

A no-growth budget for the UN lacks flexibility: Circumstances can change rapidly. In one year there might be a significant need for peacekeeping, while in another, the need might be less pronounced.[2]

Inflation pressures reduce the real "purchasing power" of a no-growth budget: Pressures like inflation affect the UN as much as they impact the consumer in the streets of New York. Inflation has meant a real-terms decrease in the UN budget—not a level budget. It is not realistic to assume that the same level of funding as six or more years ago is truly adequate for today or tomorrow.[3]

[Add New]

No

Too much US flexibility encourages budgetary abuse by other nations in the UN: The phrase “give them an inch and they’ll take a mile” is appropriate here. It is noteworthy that China provides a little over 1% of the UN budget. Russia has a Security Council veto, but does not even appear in the top 15 nations contributing to the budget. The UN has become dependent on the USA and other industrialized nations to foot an enormous amount of the bill for UN operations. While the proportions of other states’ economies are markedly smaller, other nations sometimes reap far more of the rewards of UN existence than they contribute. Should the US remain a consistent donor and allow itself to be asked for more and more as the UN budget becomes more bloated, or should it assert itself and say that, in real dollars, a line must be drawn?[4]

[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

US role: Is it unfair for the United States to assert its interests and will in pushing for a no-growth policy?

[Add New]

Yes

An international institution should not be held hostage to the "no-growth" politics of a single member nation: While it is true that the United States pays a substantial portion of the UN’s budget, it does so for historical and pragmatic reasons. Its economy and budget are significantly larger than other member states. It holds a veto over actions taken in the UN Security Council. It benefits from its size and position. As much as the US is an influential player, that influence should not extend to holding the institution at fiscal gunpoint. To do so dismisses the notion that each state has an equal voice in the UN.[5]

US inflexibility on "no-growth" UN budgets diminishes its leadership role in the world body: The potential exists for the United States to appear as a bully to the other UN member states by demanding the institution bend to its will or lose support. An appropriate analogy can be found in a country’s taxation policy. Individuals cannot simply withhold their taxes because they disagree with a government’s policies. That usually lands them in jail. The US faces no such threat for non-compliance and thus makes a show of its leverage over the UN. Such an attitude potentially undermines the desire of other nations to be receptive to serious US needs, resolutions and reforms.[6]

[Add New]

No

US leverage over the UN budgetary process gives it more power to influence the course of UN policies: UN reform has been a major objective of the United States, and government leaders assert that six years of no-growth budgets and pressure from the United States have resulted in reforms of the General Assembly, budget preparation procedures, the creation of sunset provisions for UN programs and improvements in staff security. It is argued that these reforms could not have been accomplished without the carrot and stick approach of the no-growth policy.[7]

The UN's strength and direction are enhanced when the United States asserts itself in the UN: America has the potential to shape developments in the world for good through its involvement in the UN. However, the UN is a representative body, and at times in its history smaller non-aligned states (with notably minimal contributions to the UN budgetary pie) have been able to trample on policies the United States feels are in its and the world’s best interests. A passive approach by the United States to issues of reform would not serve the interests of either party.[8]

[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

UN Budget issues: Is the UN in a fiscal crisis that demands that the "no growth" policy be relaxed or eliminated?

[Add New]

Yes

The UN is in a fiscal (budget) crisis that can only be alleviated by eliminating the "no growth" policy and allowing increasing budgetary contributions from the US: The supply of funding has not met the demand for growth in programs—including demands placed on the UN by the US and its allies. During the Cold War, the UN was a largely impotent institution. With the Cold War over, and faith in multilateralism growing, the need to recruit and organize vast organisations to run many new programs has proven to be far more costly than the UN budget is able to handle.[9]

[Add New]

No

The UN already has adequate financing to fulfill its objectives: Budget discipline will provide room to cover needs as they arise. There is no fiscal crisis. Even the wealthy sometimes complain that they do not have enough money to buy what they want. The UN has a budget in the billions of dollars which it can spend more efficiently if it sets goals and priorities, evaluates outcomes and eliminates waste and corruption. The fact that the US has succeeded in keeping the UN to a no-growth budget for the past six fiscal years is indicative of the workability of the approach.[10]

[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

Fiscal accountability: Does a "no-growth" policy undermine the notion of fiscal accountability in the UN and member countries?

[Add New]

Yes

No-growth budgets actually undermine fiscal accountability and discipline: While the USA has held the line on growth, it and other nations have simultaneously asked for the UN to do more in areas such as peacekeeping and nation-building. As the demands on the UN grow, and the budget does not grow with it, UN administrators are forced to move money around the budget to pay for basic overhead (even electric bills) and cover shortfalls in one program or another. Thus the basic goal-setting and accountability the US strives for is undermined.[11]

[Add New]

No

The US has a right and fiscal obligation to expect that its taxpayers’ money is spent responsibly and within reason: The United States has made a significant investment in the institution. Not only was it a founder, but it plays host to the body in New York and makes the largest contribution of any nation each year. American taxpayers recognize that their society faces a great many problems that could be addressed with the dollars that are annually spent on the UN. While Americans are generally supportive of the institution, they have a right to know that their investment is used appropriately and pays dividends in good policy.[12]

[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section up]

International law and realities: Is the US policy here an infringement of international law that should be fought?

[Add New]

Yes

Non-payment of dues is an infringement of international law: Members of the UN are obligated by treaty to contribute. In fact, ten nations (all in Africa, Central Asia or the Caribbean) are being threatened with the loss of their General Assembly votes for arrears this year. These states are required to make far smaller contributions in total than the gaps often left unfilled by the USA. While the US does eventually contribute its dues, and the UN voluntarily complies with its demand to keep a level budget, the threat they hold over the UN is essentially a breach of treaty.[13]

[Add New]

No

The United Nations depends on the United States, and should therefore not create circumstances that might threaten the disrupt relations with it: The United Nations is a voluntary body and reflects global realities, including the role of the USA as the dominant superpower. Without the consent of the USA, the UN can achieve nothing, and active US opposition to the UN could destroy the organisation along with all its potential for good. It is better for the UN to accept US demands for budgetary restraint and reform than to provoke the USA by unrealistic demands into withdrawing from its councils.[14]

See also

External links and resources

Books

Problem with the site? 

Tweet a bug on bugtwits
.