After Israel Land-Theft Vote, will Trump & GOP Congress try to defund the UN?

By Thalif Deen | (Inter Press Service) | – –

UNITED NATIONS (IPS) – The United States has had a longstanding love-hate relationship with the United Nations ever since 1952 when the world body began operations in New York city on an 18-acre piece of land which housed an abattoir where cattle was being trucked daily for slaughter.

The late Republican Senator Jesse Helms, a fulltime chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a part-time UN basher, once said “providing funds to the UN was like pouring money into a rat hole.”


Former New York city Mayor Ed Koch used a five-letter word to describe the UN: a “sewer”. And one of his successors, Rudolph Giuliani, said he will not miss the UN if it decides to pack up and leave New York.

When the 193-member UN General Assembly voted some of the world’s “repressive regimes” as members of the Human Rights Commission (now the Human Rights Council), Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (Republican of California) hollered: “The inmates have taken over the asylum. And I don’t plan to give the lunatics any more American tax dollars to play with.”

And now, US President-elect Donald Trump, peeved over a Security Council resolution last week chastising Israel over its continued settlements in the occupied territories, has signaled an implicit warning he will review his relationship with the United Nations.

Having been rebuffed by outgoing President Barack Obama who refused to accede to Trump’s appeal to veto the resolution, the incoming President, who will take office on January 20, challenged the effectiveness of the world body and dismissed it as “a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.”

Immediately after the resolution was adopted by a vote of 14–nil, with the US abstaining, he held out a warning: “As to the UN, things will be different after January 20.”

Currently, the US is the biggest single contributor accounting for 22 percent of the UN’s regular biennium budget, followed by Japan (9.7 percent), China (7.9 percent), Germany (6.7 percent) and France (4.8 percent) – all based on a country’s “capacity to pay”.

The UN’s 2016-2017 regular biennium budget amounts to about $5.4 billion, excluding its peacekeeping budget and voluntary contributions to UN Funds and Programmes.

Following the Security Council vote on Friday, Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina) said he plans to form a bipartisan coalition to either suspend or reduce US funding for the UN.

And Senator Tom Cotton (Republican-Arkansas) warned that the UN and “nations supporting the resolution (against Israel) have now imperiled all forms of US assistance.”

While the US withheld its veto and abstained on the vote, the other four veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council, namely, the UK, France, China and Russia, voted for the resolution, along with the 10 non-permanent members, namely, Angola, Egypt, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal, Spain, Ukraine, Uruguay and Venezuela.

A defiant Israel was livid, and in retaliation, threatened to build another 5,600 settlements in occupied Jerusalem thereby isolating itself further from the international community.

Jim Paul, former Executive Director of the New York-based Global Policy Forum, and who closely monitored the politics of the world body for over 19 years, told IPS the US threat of withholding its dues to the UN has been around for a long time – since the 1980s when it was first proposed by the Washington-based Heritage Foundation.

“This threat is effective only if it is believed and acted on by frightened UN officials or member states, who rush to adopt the latest requirements by the bully-state,” he noted.

“It actually might be healthy if the US dues were reduced and the UN were not so dependent on US financing, he added.

Paul pointed out that Swedish Prime Minister the late Olaf Palme once suggested that the UN’s dues structure should be changed so that no single country would pay more than 10 percent of the total budget(s).

“The cost to other states would not be very burdensome and the change might produce some real policy benefits,” said Paul, a well-known speaker and writer on the UN and global policy issues.

Over the years, successive US administrations have manipulated the UN to its own advantage as an extension of US foreign policy.

Paul pointed out that some delegates from governments who are out-of-favour in Washington are constrained to live within a specified distance from the city and some cannot travel beyond that distance in the US without special permission.

Every once in a while, he said, a head of state or other high official will be denied entry and thus an opportunity to speak at the UN.

“How important is this harassment and what does it tell us?”, he asked. It is short of horrendous and well past acceptable.

“We can conclude that Washington likes to remind the other states – and the UN as an institution – that it can do what it pleases and impose its will whether others like it or not.”

In Washington, they like to call this behavior “leadership” but “bully” might be the most appropriate term, said Paul, who frequently served as Chair or Vice Chair of the NGO Working Group on the Security Council.

Despite the 1947 Headquarters Agreement between the US and the UN, which calls on Washington to facilitate the functioning of the UN, the US has denied visas to several heads of governments planning to visit the UN to address the General Assembly or accredited as diplomats.

Palitha Kohona, a former Chief of the UN Treaty Section, told IPS the US was a key player in the creation of the UN and the organisation has served US interests well over the years.

“One might even say that the US has manipulated the UN to serve its global interests,” he argued.

Against this background, to return to the confrontational attitudes of the early 90s, when the US withheld its dues, would be self-defeating, said Kohona, a former Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN.

He said the US is no longer the only country with overwhelming financial clout.

“To threaten the UN with financial sanctions would only result in the further waning of US influence in the UN and globally. All countries, especially countries like the US, must continue to work together to make the world a better place,” he declared.

Although complaints against the UN have been never ending – including unpaid parking tickets, and tax–free and duty-free privileges for high-ranking UN-based diplomats – US politicians have rarely admitted the political and economic advantages of the presence of the UN on American soil.

And a new report released recently by the Office of the New York city Mayor points out that the UN generates $3.69 billion in total economic output to New York city’s economy.

The 15,890 individuals directly employed by the UN Community took home household earnings of approximately $1.64 billion. These household earnings and the operating expenses of the UN Community helped create and sustain 7,940 jobs for New Yorkers.

Titled “The United Nations Impact Report 2016”, it was released by the Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs Penny Abeywardena

In 1946, New York City competed with cities from London to San Francisco to host the official headquarters of the UN.

Unlike past Mayors, the current Mayor of New York city Bill de Blasio has been a strong supporter of the UN. “New York City is not only an economic and cultural capital, but a diplomatic one. We are proud to be the host city to the United Nations headquarters and the largest diplomatic community in the world,” he said following the release of the new report.

“The impact of the United Nations stretches far beyond New York City and this study reflects the city’s enduring commitment to supporting this critical institution,” he added

Still the political benefits of the UN to the United States have not been as clearly highlighted.

Kohona told IPS the US, with its vast economic and political influence, has without reluctance, manipulated the UN to justify its actions, including military interventions.

One recalls (former US Secretary of State) Colin Powell’s efforts, with videos and photographs, to convince the Security Council of the existence of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq or the intense phone calls to diplomats whose countries were members of the Human Rights Council when a US sponsored resolution on Sri Lanka was being taken up for vote at the Council.

He said evidence is also now emerging of the blatant US manipulation of the global media, including with manufactured news, with the objective of influencing diplomatic outcomes.

The current Secretary-General, whose interventions, have generally been on the side of the US, also tends to be influenced by the US and the New York media.

His home being in New York is a factor in this outcome. Perhaps the Secretary-General should rotate his residence around the capitals of the P-5, including in the UK, France, China and Russia.

The writer can be contacted at

Licensed from Inter Press Service

6 Responses

  1. If the United States drops funding the United Nations the latter should:

    A) Terminate US Security Council membership. It would have no future veto power and its voice would be the same as South Georgia Island, i.e., nil.

    B) Arrange to move to a non-US location. While there are numerous arguments favoring Switzerland it might be more appropriate to select a place like Dubai.

    C) Just as the United Nations created Israel it could simply vote that Israel ceases to exist. Israeli passports are invalid, its currency worthless, its civil aviation no longer has landing rights, etc. It becomes a modern Atlantis, sinking beneath the sea.

    Now I am not so naive as to believe these would happen but in effect sanctioning the United States for conduct unbecoming a civilized country would be quite appropriate. Leaving New York for an international compound in Dubai would be expensive but well within a joint effort led by Arab states and countries such as Russia and Singapore. And in effect revoking its 1948 creation of Israel would in effect bestow on Israelis what they have pressed on Palestinians for seven decades…….statelessness.

    • Given how much infrastructure is already in Geneva and that Geneva was the HQ of the League of Nations… Geneva. Move back from NY to Geneva.

      The US not funding the UN isn’t a good enough reason to kick the US out. If the US shows enough hysterical behavior to actually leave the UN, however, then it should automatically get kicked off the Security Council for being a non-member-state….

  2. More USA foot shooting.

    The more the USA separates itself from the rest of the world, the less power the USA will have.

    If the USA wants to heavily influence the globe, the USA will have to fully fund and participate in the UN. If the USA defunds the UN or decreases participation, then some other country will become the defacto world leader (probably China).

    If the USA wants to influence the globe, it will have to do the heavy lifting of fair and balanced diplomacy because other countries will react very negatively to any attempts by the USA to lead by bullying or threats.

    Trump is going to discover real quickly that the techniques he used to run his business do not work between nations. Attempting to bully other nations will get trump ignored at best and could lead to very costly retaliation against USA businesses and individuals.

    While USA companies make some very nice products at decent prices, the USA companies do NOT have any monopoly and competitive products can be obtained from multiple sources around the globe. I can (and do) source technology from all over the globe based on quality, price and delivery times. And just like me, every other person on earth has that ability, especially now that most suppliers have web sites and will take orders from most of the globe.

    Other than persuasion, the USA has no other tools to get the world to do what the USA wants.

    Sure the USA could threaten force, but other than a few very weak nations, any USA force would be met with equal force because the USA no longer has a lead in weapons technology. Any use of force by the USA would just cause massive USA deaths and loss of wealth.

    As for economic threats, the USA no longer has any leverage there either. China and the rest of the world are rapidly building a parallel financial system to the USA controlled financial system. Soon the world will be able to totally ignore economic threats from the USA. This new system will totally negate USA attempts to punish countries economically and is one reason why Obama hurried to get the Iran agreement. Once the system is fully functional, every nation but the USA will be able to freely trade with Iran or any other country the USA dislikes at any particular moment.

    While the USA can easily withdraw from the UN and the UN can even be forced by the USA to move its operations to another city (most cities in Europe, and Asia would be thrilled to host the UN), all the USA will achieve is willingly giving up the power it still currently has.

    • Pulling out of the United Nations would be counter-productive and lead to a power vacuum that another superpower such as Russia or Red China would only be more than happy to fill.

      Remember when the Belgian government was trying to utilize “universal jurisdiction” as a legal theory to charge Ariel Sharon with war crimes arising out of the 1982 massacre of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut? The U.S. threatened to use its influence to move the NATO headquarters out of Brussels. Belgium backed down due to the loss of revenues created by the NATO presence in that city.

      The International Criminal Court has no U.S. funding or membership and has the Japanese government as its single biggest donor (22% of all funding sources). The advantage of this is that American allies – such as Israel – get far less of a free pass for misconduct. Israel currently finds itself under war crimes investigation by the I.C.C. and realizes it has more to fear where no U.S. influence exists to protect it.

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