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Africa: U.S. & International Programs
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Africa: U.S. & International Programs
Date distributed (ymd): 960426
Washington Office on Africa
U.S. Delinquency Undermines International Programs
Congressional cuts in U.S. funding for international agencies are
having crippling effects on institutions of particular importance
to Africa. Unless the United States pays its backlog in overdue
assessments, the United Nations may be forced to shut down many of
its operations within months. Key U.N. agencies involved in
supporting African development, such as the U.N. Development
Program, are facing drastic budget cuts. The U.N. peacekeeping
budget is also in trouble, with unpaid bills of some $1 billion to
countries providing peacekeeping troops, including France, India,
Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.
In addition, Washington owes almost $1 billion to the World Bank's
program of concessional development loans, a principal source of
development funds for Africa.
The crisis is so great, and the U.S. responsibility for creating it
so clear, that even key U.S. allies such as Britain have suggested
a policy of no representation without taxation. Others have
suggested that the U.N. headquarters, which generates an estimated
$3 billion in economic activity for the U.S. economy, should be
removed to a country with a more mature sense of international
Many members of Congress strongly oppose adequate funding for these
institutions. Some are seeking even deeper cuts, and a few openly
advocate U.S. withdrawal. The Clinton Administration has proposed
funding that would make up part of the arrears and support current
programs at modest levels, but it is also pushing for drastic
downsizing in many key international programs.
The amounts for these international institutions sound large in
comparison to household budgets. But they are tiny compared to U.S.
expenditures on other federal budget items. The regular United
Nations budget plus the World Bank's soft-loan disbursements to
Sub-Saharan Africa (at roughly $1.3 billion and $2.5 billion per
year respectively) add up to little more than half of the extra $7
billion Congress tacked on to the $220 billion U.S. military budget
The entire United Nations system employs fewer people worldwide
than the number of Wyoming state employees. There is wide agreement
that multilateral institutions do need reform. But given the number
of world problems they are being called upon to deal with, they
need more resources, not fewer.
African countries are particularly reliant on these international
agencies. While African nongovernmental organizations are critical
of many international programs, particularly World Bank structural
adjustment policies, they have spoken out in favor of continued
funding. Multilateral support is essential not only to humanitarian
relief and peacekeeping in Africa, but also to investments in
education and health, and to building the capacity of African
governmental and nongovernmental institutions to address the
continent's long-term problems.
Budgeting for the U.S. share of the costs for international
organizations falls into several distinct categories. Contributions
to the United Nations regular budget, peacekeeping budget, and
selected U.N. agencies are assessed at rates agreed upon in
international treaties. Contributions to other U.N. agencies, as
well as to multilateral development banks, are based on voluntary
pledges approved by Congress. Almost all these accounts suffered
major cutbacks in last year's battles over the fiscal 1996 budget,
and they are at risk of still deeper cuts in the 1997 budget
currently being debated.
U.N. Regular Budget
The U.N.'s regular budget supports the operations of the
Secretariat, General Assembly, Security Council and other core
agencies, such as the U.N. High Commission for Refugees and the
U.N. Environment Program. It includes funds for publication of
Africa Recovery magazine and other information on African economic
development. The Economic Commission for Africa is financed from
this budget, as are special U.N.-wide initiatives to support
The U.N. has already trimmed almost 6% from its projected regular
budget for 1996-1997. But U.N. undersecretary Joseph Connor said
early this month that the U.N. would have to juggle funds by
dipping into the peacekeeping budget as early as June. Even so,
without new U.S. payments after the U.S. fiscal year begins in
October, funds will be totally exhausted by the end of 1996.
U.S. arrears on the regular budget as of mid-April were at least
$371 million. We are the only developed country in arrears. In 1994
the United States paid a total of $311 million towards the regular
budget. In 1995 and 1996 to date, it has paid only $187 million. By
contrast, 41 of the U.N.'s 185 members have already paid their 1996
assessments in full. Countries fully paid up include developed
nations such as Italy, Canada, France, and the Netherlands, as well
as African countries such as Lesotho, South Africa, Ethiopia, and
The Administration's 1997 request to Congress for the U.N. regular
budget is $314 million, $7 million short of what the U.S. owes for
calendar year 1996, with nothing for arrears or for the nine months
of 1997 before the next fiscal year begins. The budget request also
includes $379 million to meet U.S. assessed obligations to agencies
such as the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture
Organization, to which the U.S. owes $130 million.
In the post-Cold War period, the U.N. has been called to deal with
an unprecedented number of regional conflicts around the globe.
Twenty new peacekeeping operations were approved by the Security
Council between 1988 and 1993, compared to only 13 during the
previous 40 years. At the end of 1995 there were 16 operations
under way, with the largest commitments of troops in Angola, Haiti,
and Lebanon. The United States provided just over 6% of the troops.
The total annual budget grew from less than $200 million in 1986 to
nearly $3 billion by 1993.
The assessment rates for U.N. peacekeeping were agreed in 1973.
They are pegged to a country's ability to pay, with an extra 20%
for permanent members of the Security Council who have veto power
over any peacekeeping operation. The United States has been
responsible for 30.8% of total peacekeeping assessments. As of
mid-April 1996, Washington was $764 million in arrears.
The U.S. share is equivalent to slightly over 1% of the U.S.
military budget. But the payments come not from the cash-flush
defense budget but through accounts handled by the State
Department, which are among the primary targets of budget cutters.
So even the Administration proposal provides only $425 million for
peacekeeping in fiscal 1997, including $142 million for arrears.
There are a few other countries with large arrears, notably Russia
and the Ukraine. But only the United States, comments Erskine
Childers, an expert on the U.N. system, "is delinquent to this
massive extent, in violation of international treaty law, not for
reasons of economic difficulty, but because it is withholding its
due contributions until every other member country accepts its
unilateral demands about U.N. policies, decision-making and
The resultant cash crisis in peacekeeping creates enormous
management problems for existing missions, and virtually eliminates
the U.N.'s capacity to respond to new crises as they emerge.
Critics have strongly faulted the World Bank for imposing rigid
structural adjustment policies on developing countries. These
programs have all too often had devastating impacts on living
standards, with only mixed macroeconomic results. Observers are
hoping for somewhat greater responsiveness under new World Bank
president James Wolfensohn, who has promised a wider dialogue with
nongovernmental organizations and stressed the importance of
investment in social development.
While this debate continues, many critics, particularly in Africa,
affirm the importance of continued funding at least for the
International Development Association (IDA). This branch of the
World Bank provides loans for the poorest countries, currently
those with per capita income of less than $835 a year. Almost all
countries in Sub-Saharan Africa fall into this category. Of $2.4
billion in World Bank lending to Africa in 1995, more than 96% was
as IDA loans rather than as standard commercially-backed loans. IDA
loans, typically for 35 to 40 years, carry no interest, but only a
small service charge.
Roughly half of IDA's funds to Africa support economic reform plans
agreed with the World Bank; the rest go to investments in physical
infrastructure, government capacity-building, education,
population, health, nutrition and water supply. The conditions on
which these loans are given, as well as the implementation of
specific projects, need ongoing reevaluation. But simply
eliminating the funds would cripple many programs essential to
IDA is funded in three-year periods. The United States pledged a
total of $3.75 billion for IDA-10 (July 1993-June 1996), of which
$934.5 million is still unpaid. The Administration is proposing
that the U.S. pay off its obligation to IDA-10 in fiscal 1997 and
contribute $800 million a year for the final two years of IDA-11,
a 36% reduction from previous levels. Even these limited amounts
will be contested in Congress, however. Other developed countries
have put up monies for an emergency fund for the first year of
IDA-11, in which the U.S. will not participate. U.S. companies will
not be eligible to bid on IDA contracts financed by other nations
until the arrears are paid.
Voluntary Contributions to U.N.
The United States makes voluntary contributions to the U.N.
Development Program (UNDP), UNICEF, and several other U.N.
programs. The Administration requested $425 million for these
accounts in 1996, but Congress cut this back to only $285 million.
The Administration is requesting $325 million for fiscal 1997. UNDP
is the U.N.'s lead agency in promoting and coordinating
development. With its annual human development reports, UNDP has
led a creative rethinking of development in the post-Cold War
period. Its offices in many developing countries play a key role in
helping to coordinate international efforts. Some $180 million of
its approximately $1 billion field program budget goes to African
The U.S. contribution to UNDP for fiscal 1996 was slashed by 56%,
to only $52 million. The Administration's 1997 budget proposes
restoring the allocation to $78.7 million. This is still
significantly less than the amounts provided by Japan, the
Netherlands, Denmark, or Germany.
No Significant Savings
Polls show that U.S. public opinion is generally favorable to U.S.
contributions to the United Nations and other international
institutions. But opponents are able to exploit the fact that most
people think the sums involved are far larger than they are.
Cutting U.S. aid to the United Nations achieves no significant
savings in the federal budget. Yet if Congress follows the pattern
set last year, U.S. international obligations will be under assault
as extravagant expenditures. A strong public outcry is essential:
the United States should pay what it owes and work to strengthen,
not undermine, the international bodies that provide crucial
support for peace and development in Africa.
What You Can Do
With the drumbeat of attacks against international
institutions setting the tone for debate in Congress, it is
essential that Congress and the Administration hear the
message that the majority of the American people do not agree
with such shortsighted views. You may wish to use the
following talking points:
* Payment of U.S. assessments to the United Nations is a legal
obligation under treaties this country has signed. U.S.
failure to pay is offensive even to many of our closest
allies, and will result in loss of U.S. influence and
prestige. The U.S. should also pay its fair share of other
* The amounts spent by international institutions--including
the United Nations and the World Bank's IDA--are all
relatively small. And the amount the United States is expected
to contribute is minuscule in comparison to the U.S. military
* Polls show the U.S. public gives a significantly higher
rating (67% favorable) to the United Nations than it does to
the U.S. Congress (53% favorable). The majority of the U.S.
public does not favor cuts in U.S. support for the U.N.
* International programs for peacekeeping, development and
other areas of international cooperation are absolutely
essential for survival and sustainable progress in poor
countries around the world, including many on the African
continent. Starving these programs is irresponsible,
shortsighted, and immoral.
Send your letter to your two Senators and your Representative.
You can also send a copy to Sen. Mitch McConnell, chair of the
foreign operations subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations
Committee, and to Rep. Sonny Callahan, chair of the foreign
operations subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.
The Honorable [ ], U.S. Senate, Washington, DC 20510 or U.S.
House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515.
Also send copies to Mr. Anthony Lake, National Security
Council, Washington, DC 20500 and to Mr. Warren Christopher,
U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC 20520.
[Note to non-U.S. readers: This posting is provided both
for your background information and for possible forwarding
to those of your U.S. contacts you think would be interested.]
For more information on the UN budget crisis, contact the
Global Policy Forum, Box 20022, New York, NY 10025. Tel:
(212) 501-7435; Fax: (212) 595-8134; E-mail:
On the peacekeeping budget, contact the Council for a Livable
World Education Fund, 110 Maryland Ave. NE, Washington, DC
20002. Tel: (202) 543-4100; Fax: (202) 543-6297; E-mail:
email@example.com; Web: http://www.clw.org/
This material is produced and distributed by the Washington
Office on Africa (WOA), a not-for-profit church, trade union
and civil rights group supported organization that works with
Congress on Africa-related legislation. WOA's educational
affiliate is the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC).