Rethinking the United Nations

Thomas P. Kilgannon

3/9/2011 12:01:00 AM - Thomas P. Kilgannon

Barack Obama’s already poor relationship with the British is about to get worse. David Cameron’s government seized an opportunity that cried out for American leadership – holding the United Nations accountable – but it’s an issue in which Mr. Obama has no interest. Specifically, Prime Minister Cameron is pulling British tax dollars from UN institutions deemed inept, wasteful or redundant.

At, George Russell reports that the British government issued a “sweeping and hard-nosed reorganization of priorities for its $10.6 billion multilateral foreign aid program.” He writes that Mr. Cameron “has pulled the financial plug entirely on four U.N. agencies at the end of next year, put three others…on notice…and issued pointed criticisms of all the rest.”

The UN’s failing report card was delivered by Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID). Last week, it issued a comprehensive Multilateral Aid Review of funding provided to the United Nations and other agencies. Based on the findings, the DFID placed two UN organizations – the UN Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) – in “special measures” meaning they must immediately improve or lose their funding.

The fate was worse for four other UN agencies. The DFID found “their contribution to UK development objectives is so poor that DFID will withdraw our core funding altogether.” Those agencies are: the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and the UN International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

Through the State Department, the United States provides hundreds of millions in funding for at least three of these agencies – UNESCO, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Labor Organization.

Though the British have a love affair with the United Nations that is wide and deep, even they are beginning to see the folly in funding this fraternity of frauds.

So too has Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL), who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She held hearings last month to identify areas of improvement in the United Nations. There were many. Particularly nauseating to the chairwoman is the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), which, until recently, boasted Libya as a member. Of the Council, Ros-Lehtinen said, “I’d like to make sure that we once and for all kill all U.S. funding for that beast.”

That “beast” – the HRC – is anti-American and anti-Semitic. It was refurbished in 2006 so it could replace the old Human Rights Commission which was anti-American and anti-Semitic. The larger United Nations system is a bloated bureaucracy that is wasteful and fraudulent. Some of its programs are mired in scandal, and some are simply ineffective. At a time of trillion dollar deficits, record debt, high unemployment, skyrocketing oil prices, and a sluggish economy, something has got to give, and some Republicans are eying the UN.

It has the Obama administration worried. UN Ambassador Susan Rice is aggressively promoting the UN in a series of speeches around the country and trying to convince Americans of the need for continued funding. “Main Street America needs the United Nations,” she begged at a recent event. It’s a topsy-turvy world. As Claudia Rosett points out, Rice’s job is to defend American interests at the United Nations, not defend the UN to Americans.

Even worse, Rice takes a page from Obama’s playbook and blames the United States for the ills of the UN and apologizes for supposed American injustices.

In a speech to the Oregon World Affairs Council, she claims that Americans “shirk our responsibilities” to the UN, and says our approach to the institution is “short-sighted.” She falsely asserts that the United States is “awash in unpaid bills” and that we have a habit of “skipping out on the check.” There is one thing Ms. Rice has learned well during her time in Turtle Bay – the UN’s time-honored tradition of America bashing.

Congress and the President need to learn from the British example and conduct a complete review of U.S. funding for international institutions. Only those that directly advance America’s interests should be eligible. They will find that the United Nations is a sacred cow that needs to be slaughtered.