Edith M. LedererWashington Post
May 22, 2007
Senator Joseph Biden said Monday he expects the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which he chairs, to adopt a resolution this week calling for full funding of the United Nations and payment of U.S. arrears. The U.S. has the largest outstanding debt to the world organization, and U.N. management chief Alicia Barcena said in a Friday presentation that the U.N.'s "financial health" depends on member states _ especially major contributors _ paying in full and on time. According to figures presented on Friday by Barcena, the U.S. on Jan. 1 owed $291 million to the U.N.'s regular operating budget, $677 million to the peacekeeping budget, and $37 million for U.N. tribunals. As of May 16, the U.S. arrears to the regular budget had increased to $785 million.
Biden, a democratic presidential hopeful, came to U.N. headquarters leading a bipartisan delegation to talk about Darfur and other world hotspots with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, but the U.N. chief also raised the problem of U.S. arrears. "The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is going to be taking up a resolution providing for full funding of the United Nations to deal with what our arrearages are," Biden told reporters afterward. "I expect to pass that out of the committee this week, and hopefully in the intervening period of the budget process, we'll be able to deal with that issue." In January, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon went to Washington to lobby the U.S. Congress to lift a spending cap on U.N. peacekeeping, which he said is leaving the organization with an annual shortfall of $150 million to $200 million.
Under a scale of assessments agreed upon by U.N. member states in 2000, the U.S. is required to pay approximately 27 percent of peacekeeping costs, but the cap imposed by Congress limits U.S. contributions to 25 percent. According to the United Nations Association of the United States, the peacekeeping cap imposed in the 1994-95 fiscal year was temporarily adjusted in recent years, allowing the U.S. to pay its peacekeeping dues in full. But the cap reverted to the 25 percent level in fiscal year 2005-2006, it said, generating millions of dollars in arrears. Biden said he will attempt to raise the spending cap on peacekeeping operation from 25 percent to 27 percent and to have all U.S. arrears paid this fiscal year.
Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, who was part of the delegation, said he wants to see the legislation before deciding whether to support it. "I haven't seen his legislation yet. I don't want to be standing here and necessarily associate myself with that effort but we will see very soon," Corker said. In January, Ban told the Security Council that the United Nations was "going through one of the busiest periods in our history" with 18 peacekeeping missions and 100,000 personnel currently in the field "and climbing." The current peacekeeping budget is about $4.75 billion.
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