(CNSNews.com) – U.S. aid should not go to countries that oppose American positions at the United Nations more often than not, according to one of the hundreds of proposed budget-cutting amendments currently being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives.
Whether successful or not, the measure put forward by Texan Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert draws attention to the issue of how many countries, including most major recipients of U.S. foreign assistance, regularly take positions at the U.N. at odds with those of the U.S.
According to the amendment, a U.N. member state would be ineligible for U.S. aid if it voted contrary to the U.S. stance more than 50 percent of the time during the most recent session of the U.N. General Assembly.
In 2009 – the latest figures available – 14 of the 15 biggest recipients of U.S. aid took opposing positions to those taken by the U.S. in U.N. votes more often than not. Israel was the exception, with a world-beating 97 percent voting coincidence with the U.S.
Gohmert’s amendment to the Republicans’ continuing resolution to fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year mirrors legislation he has introduced unsuccessfully in the House several times in previous years, most recently in February 2010, when it attracted 13 co-sponsors, all Republicans.
His United Nations Voting Accountability Act made provision for exemptions in two cases: If the president determined that an exemption was in the U.S. national interest, and if the secretary of state certified that a “fundamental change in the leadership and policies” of a particular government meant it would no longer oppose U.S. positions.
Although the U.S. pays 22 percent of the regular U.N. operating budget, and more than 25 percent of its peacekeeping budget (together amounting to $2.5 billion last year), its vote holds no more weight in the General Assembly than those of any of the other 191 members – even those that contribute less than 0.1 percent of the budget.
The Foreign Relations Authorization Act requires the State Department to deliver to Congress each year a report on how other U.N. member-states voted in comparison to the U.S.
The most recent report, submitted last March and dealing with General Assembly votes in 2009, shows that on average, all member states’ positions on resolutions that came to a vote coincided with those of the U.S. just 39 percent of the time.
Africa, Latin America had lowest voting coincidence with US
Of the 53 nations in Africa, only one – the Seychelles – voted the same way as the U.S. did more than half of the time (57.1 percent), and in the 33-member Latin America and Caribbean group only one – Panama – did so (51.6).
In the Asia group, of the 53 countries stretching between the Middle East and the Pacific islands, six exceeded the 50 percent-plus threshold: Nauru (96 percent), Marshall Islands (89.7), Micronesia (96.2), Palau (94.2), South Korea (58.2) and Japan (58.2).
In the 23-member Eastern European group, 18 countries’ votes coincided with those of the U.S. more than 50 percent of the time. The five exceptions were Belarus (27.7 percent), Azerbaijan (31), Russia (32.2) Armenia (39) and Serbia (48.2).
And in the 28-member Western European and Others Group (WEOG), every nation except one – Malta (35.7 percent) – voted the same way as did the U.S. more than half of the time. (The “others” in the WEOG group are the U.S., Canada, Israel, Australia and New Zealand.)
Among other group breakdowns provided in the report, Arab nations voted with the U.S. positions least often (19.7 percent of the time), followed by Organization of the Islamic Conference members (25.9). At the other end of the scale, European Union members voted the same way as the U.S. 63.9 percent of the time, and NATO allies 64.5 percent of the time.
Major aid recipients
Of the 15 countries that received more than $300 million each in U.S. aid during the fiscal year coinciding with the period under review in the State Department report, Israel alone voted the same way as did the U.S. more than half of the time.
The others were Ethiopia (8.6 percent), Sudan (16.4), Egypt (17.7), Jordan (21.3), Uganda (22.4), Kenya (28.1), Zambia (28.8), South Africa (29.4), Afghanistan (29.9), Nigeria (30), Pakistan (30), Tanzania (32.3), Colombia (33.3) and Mexico (36.8).
The report also records the way countries voted on 12 key “issues which directly affected United States interests and on which the United States lobbied extensively.”
These priority resolutions related to issues including human rights abuses in Iran, Burma and North Korea, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Cuba, the elimination of nuclear weapons, and the Islamic bloc’s campaign against “religious defamation.”
In those 12 votes, three of the 15 leading aid recipients voted with the U.S. more than half of the time – Israel (100 percent), Mexico (63.6) and Colombia (60).
The scores for the others were: Sudan (10 percent), Pakistan (12.5), Ethiopia (16.7), Egypt (18.2), South Africa (33.3), Afghanistan (36.4), Nigeria (36.4), Uganda (37.5), Kenya (37.5), Zambia (37.5), Jordan (40) and Tanzania (50).
‘Real return on our tax dollars’
Gohmert’s amendment to continuing resolution H.R.1 is one of several relating to the United Nations.
One, proposed by Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), would prohibit funds from being used to pay any dues to the U.N., while Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) sought to prohibit funds for a massive renovation project currently underway at U.N. headquarters in New York.
Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) proposed the reduction by $100.5 million of funding for International Organizations and Programs, which deals with issues like health, the environment and economic development.
Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) put forward an amendment to eliminate $440 million in funding available for Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs for international population control, family planning, and reproductive health.
U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice recently launched a series of speeches arguing against a campaign by House Republicans to target U.N. funding.
“America can't police every conflict, end every crisis, and shelter every refugee,” she said in an address in Portland, Ore., last week.
“The U.N. provides a real return on our tax dollars by bringing 192 countries together to share the cost of providing stability, vital aid, and hope in the world’s most broken places.”
While Rice acknowledged “shortcomings” at the U.N., she described as “shortsighted” arguments that the U.S. should withhold U.N. dues to try to force reforms, or only fund programs of which it most approves.
When this was tried in the past, she said, “the result was that we were more isolated and less potent.”
“When we shirk our responsibilities, our influence wanes, and our standing is diminished.”
Rice’s speech prompted criticism from Brett Schaefer, Heritage Foundation fellow in international regulatory affairs.
“Why, when the U.N. has its own Department of Public Information funded to the tune of $43 million courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer, is Ambassador Rice barnstorming the U.S. to defend the U.N. from congressional cuts?” he wrote on the Heritage blog on Tuesday.
“Her job is to convince the U.N. to adopt America’s agenda, not convince Americans to adopt the U.N.’s agenda.”