No More Gravy Train for the United Nations

Bureaucrats and diplomats at the United Nations are scrambling to adjust to the new Trump administration. One thing seems certain. The Obama days of wine and roses for the UN are over. The Trump administration is reportedly laying the groundwork for cuts of at least 50% to U.S. funding for United Nations programs. U.S. diplomats warned key UN member states  to “expect a big financial restraint” on American spending at the UN at a meeting earlier this month in New York City, according to sources cited by Foreign Policy.

The United States spent nearly $10 billion in total on the United Nations in 2015 alone, based on available data. This includes U.S. payment of 22 % of the UN’s regular budget and about 28.5% of its peacekeeping budget, which together add up to over $3 billion annually. The U.S. has contributed billions of dollars more in voluntary donations to various UN agencies, programs and flash humanitarian appeals. Based on available 2015 data, cutting just the U.S. voluntary contributions by 40 % would save about $2.7 billion a year.

It has been estimated that the U.S.’s mandatory assessment for funding of the UN’s regular budget is more than that of 176 other UN member states combined. The 56 member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation are estimated to have constituted approximately 8.6% of global production in 2015. However, they only paid 5.6% of the UN’s regular budget and 2.4% of the UN’s peacekeeping budget.

United Nations mandatory assessed budget funding is based on the socialist formula of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” The starting point is to calculate each member state’s mandatory budget assessments based on the proportion of each member state’s gross national product in comparison to the global gross national product. However, that is only the starting point. Many “less developed” nations’ assessments are then adjusted downward through manipulative concessions such as a debt burden discount and a low per capita income discount. Wealthier nations find themselves having to make up the shortfalls.

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Viewpoint: The upside-down moral universe of BDS supporters and the UN

IT’S WIDELY known that Israel is often singled out for criticism and held to an unfair double standard. Nowhere is this more evident than in the relentless Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns seeking to vilify Israel and in the annual adoption of numerous one-sided anti-Israel UN resolutions.

Now, when compared to the worsening atrocities in Syria, the assault on the Jewish state may have surpassed all previous levels of hypocrisy and absurdity.

In December, in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, for example, local pro-BDS groups were actively mobilizing. They were galvanized by what they consider to be the most serious human rights issue in the world, comprising, they say, the destruction of communities, homes and lives.

You’re probably thinking this urgent problem must be the humanitarian crisis in Syria and that this was a call to action against a despotic genocidal regime. You would be wrong, however.

This campaign wasn’t about Syrian President Bashar Assad or his Russian and Iranian enablers. Rather, it was a call to action targeting the American corporation Caterpillar Inc. and, by extension, Israel, which uses Caterpillar bulldozers for military purposes.

At the precise time when a wholesale slaughter of civilians was being carried out in what remained of the Syrian city of Aleppo, these self-proclaimed champions of human rights were preoccupied with other matters: a last-ditch effort to get the Portland city council to divest from Caterpillar due to its “complicity” in alleged Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights. (In the end, the council put off making a decision for another several months.) Try suggesting to BDS backers that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict pales in comparison to the appalling bloodbath in Syria, and the response you’re likely to get is that although Syria is “undeniably tragic” (no kidding), it shouldn’t be a pretext for ignoring the plight of the Palestinians. And yet, that’s exactly what they’re doing: ignoring the plight of the Palestinians ‒ in Syria.

Since the beginning of the grisly six-year civil war, 3,400 Palestinians have been killed in Syria as a result of bombings, artillery strikes, torture in prison, disease and starvation. Approximately 150,000 Palestinians once lived in the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus; today, fewer than 18,000 remain, trapped amid the internecine violence. Out of desperation, people there have resorted to foraging for leaves, cats and dogs, frequently trying to survive without electricity and water.

But since Israel can’t be blamed for these atrocities, they hold little interest for the BDS movement, thus exposing the blatant hypocrisy of those whose true aim in singling out Israel is to delegitimize the Jewish state.

While Israel advocates were dealing with BDS in Portland, there were also troubling developments at the UN, where an automatic majority routinely censures Israel.

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The UN Is Beyond Reform

Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center

President-elect Donald Trump has promised to get tough with the UN, a corrupt, bloated bureaucracy that for seven decades has existed to provide cushy jobs for international deadbeats, and to promote the interests of tyrannical regimes and anti-American pygmy states. Recognizing the UN’s failures and corruption, some commentators are calling for targeted reductions of the estimated $8-10 billion a year we spend on the UN and its 15 affiliated organizations, thus prodding Turtle Bay to reform. But the better argument is to withdraw completely. Changing the shade of lipstick on this multinational pig is not going to keep it from acting like a pig.

Indeed, “reforming” the UN is a mantra politicians periodically repeat in order to avoid doing what’s necessary to make significant changes. Remember the old UN Human Rights Commission? It was completely ineffective because it regularly seated some of the world’s worst human rights violators, including China, Zimbabwe, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Algeria, Syria, Libya, Uganda and Vietnam. At the same time, as stalwart UN critic Ann Bayefsky wrote in 2002, “Commission members seek to avoid directly criticizing states with human rights problems, frequently by focusing on Israel, a state that, according to analysis of summary records, has for over 30 years occupied 15 percent of commission time and has been the subject of a third of country-specific resolutions.” To add insult to the injury, that same year the Commission passed a resolution giving the Palestinian Arabs the de facto “legitimate right” to use terrorism against Israel.

The serial ignoring of Sudan’s responsibility for the human rights disaster unfolding in Darfur, and the election of Sudan to the Commission finally put an end to the UNHRC, which was replaced in 2006 with the “reformed” UN Human Rights Council. After ten years it’s obvious that the change was cosmetic, as the Council has repeated the same sins of its predecessor. It continues to seat members from nations like current members China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela, all notorious for violating human rights. And it continues its chronic demonization of Israel, which it has condemned five times more than any other country. Nor is this vicious bigotry confined to the Council: last March, the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) condemned only one nation, Israel, for violating women’s rights.

So much for “reform.”

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High Anxiety Continues Over Obama in the UN Until January 20

Anxiety continues to roil through the pro-Israel world over a possible last-minute political move by the Obama administration that could permanently alter the Israeli-Palestinian geo-political landscape.

Forty-eight hours after the November 8 election, I flew to South Florida for a series of lectures and briefings organized by StandWithUs, NOVA Southeast University and other organizations as part of the State Department’s International Education Week, this to analyze the prospects regarding relations with Israel in the last weeks of the Obama administration. Everywhere, audiences were on the edge of their seats asking whether President Obama would take extraordinary passive or active steps in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to recognize a Palestinian state or impose a peace settlement, including a territorial mandate following the lines of the 1948 truce. Unlike General Assembly resolutions, which are not binding, the UNSC generally creates lasting pillars of international law.

As we approach Noon, January 20, 2017, uncertainty continues to abound among even the most astute of political insiders.

President Barack Obama remains personally silent. Administration assurances in recent days proffer comfort to those hanging on every word to discern a course of action. But embedded ambiguities in each of those assurances only increases the speculation.

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Obama: Don’t Destroy the Peace Process by Turning it Over to the U.N.

The Obama Administration is sending strong signals that once the election is over it may make a major push to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the United Nations. Despite repeated invitations by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Palestinian Authority President Abbas to meet without preconditions, the stalemate persists. Some blame it on Palestinian unwillingness to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish People and to compromise to the so-called “right of return.” Others — including the current U.S. Administration — lay the blame largely at the feet of the Netanyahu government for continuing to build in the West Bank, most recently approval of between 98 and 300 new homes in Shiloh. Whatever the reasons – and they are complex and multifaceted — President Obama should resist any temptation, during his final weeks in office, to change longstanding American policy — that only direct negotiations between the parties will achieve a lasting peace.

In particular, Obama should veto an expected French resolution in the Security Council establishing an international peace conference under the auspices of the U.N. The general parameters of the French resolution would likely call for:

“Borders based on the 1967 Lines with agreed equivalent land swaps; security arrangements preserving the sovereignty of the Palestinian State and guaranteeing the security of Israel; a fair, equitable, and negotiated solution to the refugee problem; an arrangement making Jerusalem the capital of both states.”

These guidelines may sound reasonable. Indeed, they are strikingly similar to the offers made to and reject by the Palestinian leadership in 2000-2001 from former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and former U.S. President Bill Clinton, and in 2008 by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The U.N., however, has disqualified itself from playing any constructive role in the peace process. Recent attempts by the U.N. to intervene in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have produced unmitigated disasters. The so-called Goldstone Report, which sought to investigate allegations of war crimes committed during the 2009 Israeli intervention in Gaza, was so blatantly biased against Israel that Richard Goldstone himself had to retract some of its key findings in 2011.

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