Time to Increase U.N. Peacekeeping Contributions from Neighboring States

The formula for assigning general contributions to the U.N. for each country is ridiculous.  While the U.N. Committee on Contributions does provide "an explanation of its methodology for calculating the scale, it does not provide explicit examples of how it is applied to all the member states. Nor does it share the raw data used in its calculations."  The Heritage Foundation is on record as being unable to reproduce the assessments for Bulgaria, China, and Vietnam, suggesting some political motivations in how the opaque contribution process occurs.

Since the U.N. was established, the USA has been its largest financial supporter.  American contributions constitute 22% of the U.N. regular budget and over 27% of the peacekeeping budget.  According to Brett Schaefer at Heritage, "[t]he combined assessment of the 128 least-assessed countries under the regular budget -- two-thirds of the 192 member states assessed under the 2010-2012 scale -- for 2012 is a paltry 1.271 percent of the regular budget and a minuscule 0.4678 percent of the peacekeeping budget."

Despite only having 2.5% of the 2010 global gross national income (GNI) in current U.S. dollars and 1.7% of global GNI in purchasing power parity (PPP) equivalent currency, Canada contributes 3.2% of the U.N.'s total regular budget.  By comparison, China has 9.5% of the global GNI in current U.S. dollars and 13.4% in PPP currency, but also pays 3.2% of the U.N.'s total regular budget.  These types of comparative figures calculated by Schaefer for all member-states clearly illustrate three key findings:

  • PPP currencies should be employed for (or at least considered in) calculating U.N. member-state contributions
  • a number of countries are not paying their fair share of U.N. expenses, notablyRussia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, and Iran
  • a number of countries are being overcharged for their share of U.N. expenses -- notably the USA, Canada, Japan, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, and France

Consistent with Schaefer's analysis, my review of the "Assessment of Member States' contributions to the United Nations regular budget for the year 2011" illustrates a variety of absurdities among the "least-assessed countries."  Antigua and Barbuda paid only $47,000 in net contributions to the U.N. regular budget during 2011, yet this nation had a 2010 GNI of $1.2 billion.  The 2010 per capita GNI for Antigua and Barbuda was a respectable $13,300 (greater than that of Poland at $12,400).  By comparison, the USA paid $583 million in net contributions towards the 2011 U.N. regular budget.  Similarly, Vanuatu paid only $23,500 towards the 2011 U.N. regular budget, in comparison to its 2010 GNI of $680 million.  The Maldives also paid only $23,500 in U.N. regular budget dues for 2011, compared to a 2010 GNI of $1.8 billion.

The funding comparisons are even more nonsensical with regard to peacekeeping operations.  For example, the "Assessment of Member States' contributions for the financing of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (U.N.IFIL) from 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011" demonstrates that between 1 July 2010 and 31 August 2010 (this document breaks down UNIFIL spending by various time periods), $90 million was spent on UNIFIL, of which the USA paid $24.9 million and Canada paid $2.9 million.  What did Lebanon's neighbors and nearby states contribute?  Israel, $343,000; Syria, $4,500; Jordan, $2,500; Saudi Arabia, $445,000; Egypt, $16,800; and Turkey, $110,000.  Thus, Lebanon's neighbors contributed only about $922,000 toward this phase of UNIFIL, whereas the USA and Canada alone contributed almost $28 million.  For comparison, the 2010 GNIs of Lebanon's neighbors were as follows: Israel, $211 billion; Syria, $57 billion; Jordan, $26 billion; Saudi Arabia, $458 billion; Egypt, $218 billion; and Turkey, $724 billion.  A total neighboring economy of $1.7 trillion per year can only find $922,000 for U.N. operations in Lebanon?

We can also consider the "Assessment of Member States' contributions for the financing of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) from 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009."  Between 1 July 2008 and 31 December 2008, $611 million was spent, of which the USA paid $161 million, Canada spent $18 million, France spent $45 million, and the United Kingdom contributed $48 million.  How much did the immediate neighboring states of the Democratic Republic of the Congo contribute?  Angola, $1,800; Zambia, $600; Rwanda, $600; Burundi, $600; Uganda, $1,800; Sudan, $6,100; Central African Republic, $600; and Congo, $1,200.  This adds up to about $13,000.  The 2010 GNIs of these nations?  Angola, $75 billion; Zambia, $14 billion; Rwanda, $6 billion; Burundi, $1.6 billion; Uganda, $17 billion; Sudan, $56 billion; Central African Republic, $2 billion; and Congo, $9 billion.  This sum?  Over $180 billion.

While Western democracies expect to carry the majority of costs on such peacekeeping missions, it is entirely reasonable for neighboring states during such conflicts to share a much higher portion of the financial load -- particularly since it is these neighbors that generally accrue the greatest benefits from reducing conflict levels (although we accept that in a number of cases, some neighboring countries promote the ongoing conflict and benefit from it).  Regardless, U.N. peacekeeping contributions on the order of hundreds of dollars from neighboring state annual economies valued in the tens of billions is simply not justifiable.

It is also important to note that annual increases in the U.N. budget are getting out of control.  Between 2000/2001 and 2010/2011, the U.N. regular budget increased by an astounding 72% in constant-dollar terms.  Compare this to a constant-dollar increase of only 7.1% (i.e., an order of magnitude lower) between 1980/1981 and 1990/1991, and a decrease of 3.0% between 1990/1991 and 2000/2001.  Serious and significant pressure must be exerted by member-states such as the USA on the U.N. to curb, and ultimately reverse, this unsustainable spending trend.

Dr. Sierra Rayne writes regularly on environment, energy, and national security topics.  He can be found on Twitter at @rayne_sierra.