U.S. Taxpayers Will Continue to Pay More Than One-Fifth of U.N. Budget

Patrick Goodenough | December 28, 2012 | 5:06am EST
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Joseph Torsella, deputy ambassador for U.N. management and reform, speaks at U.N. headquarters in New York City in this September 2011 file photo. (UN Photo by Evan Schneider)

(CNSNews.com) – In one of its last actions of the year, the United Nations General Assembly on Christmas Eve agreed to extend for another three years the formula that has U.S. taxpayers contributing more than one-fifth of the world body’s regular budget.

No member-state called for a recorded vote, and the resolution confirming the contributions that each country will make for the 2013-2015 period was summarily adopted. The assembly also approved a two-year U.N. budget of $5.4 billion.

The U.S. has accounted for 22 percent of the total regular budget every year since 2000, and will now continue to do so for the next three years.

The U.S. representative for U.N. management and reform, Joseph Torsella, expressed satisfaction that the U.S. contribution had not been raised above that level.

“The United States is very pleased to have maintained the critical 22 percent ceiling for U.S. contributions to the U.N. regular budget, protecting U.S. taxpayers from the additional bills – estimated to be at least $300 million annually in both the regular and peacekeeping budgets – that would have resulted from an increase in the U.S. ceiling level,” he said.

Two months ago, when the General Assembly’s budget committee was meeting on the issue, Torsella noted that since the last time the budget contribution formula was reviewed, “developing countries have continued their impressive economic growth.”

“Countries whose economies have grown should welcome the opportunity to become a larger stakeholder in the work of the organization,” he said.

Torsella also reminded that meeting that since the creation of the U.N., a fundamental principle that has governed the budget contribution process has been “the avoidance of overreliance upon any one contributor.”

What constitutes “overreliance” is not defined, however. Between them the U.S. and Japan contribute one-third of the total budget – and roughly the same as the next seven countries combined.

The 193 U.N. member-states’ contributions are assessed according to their relative “capacity to pay,” based on population size and gross national income (converted to U.S. dollars at market exchange rates). The ceiling is 22 percent while the bottom level is 0.001 percent, which over the next three years will apply to more than 30 of the world’s poorest countries.

Whether a country contributes less than $25,000 a year towards the budget or more than $500 million – as the U.S. does – it has the same voting privileges in the General Assembly.

Moreover, as Heritage Foundation scholar Brett Schaefer has pointed out, countries that together pay less than 1.3 percent of the total are able, under U.N. voting rules, to pass the budget over the objections of countries that contribute a combined 98 percent.

According to the resolution adopted on Monday, the biggest contributors after the U.S. for the 2013-2015 period are Japan (10.83 percent), Germany (7.14 percent), France (5.59 percent), Britain (5.18 percent) and China (5.15 percent).

The next tier includes Italy (4.45 percent), Canada (2.98 percent), Spain (2.97 percent), Brazil (2.93 percent), Russia (2.44 percent) and Australia (2.07 percent). No other country pays as much as two percent, and most pay below one percent.

Some developing countries have seen relatively significant increases in their assessments: China, the world’s second-largest economy, will pay 5.15 percent, up from 3.12 last time; the Russian contribution has risen to 2.44 percent from 1.60 percent; Brazil’s 2.93 percent is an increase from 1.61.

China’s year-on-year GDP growth rate last year was 9.2 percent, Russia’s was 4.3 percent and Brazil’s 2.7 percent, according to CIA World Factbook data.

India’s increase in U.N. contributions is more modest – from 0.53 to 0.66 percent – while Japan, Canada and European countries including Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain will contribute a smaller percentage over the next three years than they have over the past three.

Before 2000, the U.S. contributed 25 percent of the U.N. regular budget, but it was reduced to 22 percent in line with legislation passed by the U.S. Congress in 1999. The U.S. still pays 25 percent of the separate peacekeeping budget.

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