The United States’ failure to pay money it owes to the United Nations has seriously hampered the Clinton administration’s efforts to make international peacekeeping operations better able to defuse regional conflicts such as those in Bosnia and parts of Africa, according to a draft State Department study.
The still-confidential study, which is subject to revision, concludes that the U.S. debt - about $1.5 billion - has two major adverse effects on the American campaign to induce the United Nations to reshape multinational peacekeeping in ways that Washington believes are better suited to the post-Cold War world:
First, the United Nations is left so strapped for funds that it must borrow heavily from its peacekeeping budgets to meet day-to-day expenses, leaving nothing to finance reforms in the peacekeeping area.
Second, Washington’s influence with other U.N. members has eroded and made them increasingly reluctant to support U.S. ideas about reform.
“The financial crisis has undermined the ability of the United States and the United Nations to carry out some (peacekeeping) reforms,” the study says. “Furthermore, given its role in the financial crisis, the United States is not a credible advocate for some financial reforms. …”
These are the principal findings of a review being conducted by the State Department to assess progress in implementing the policy goals outlined by the administration two years ago. The findings are contained in a draft report prepared recently by the Inspector General’s office and could be changed before the report is approved in its final form. The Washington Post has obtained a copy of the report.
Under U.N. contribution formulas, which are based on national wealth, the United States is supposed to pay more than any other country for both the U.N. general budget (25 percent annually) and peacekeeping (31 percent).
Since 1990, the world body has had to borrow heavily from its peacekeeping budget to meet other expenses, at a time when the number and size of peacekeeping missions increased greatly. As a result, the report notes, U.N. member countries increasingly are reluctant to contribute troops because the United Nations is unable to reimburse them.
According to U.S. diplomats interviewed for the report, officials of other countries are increasingly critical of “U.S. failure to meet its obligations” and resistant to U.S. calls for reforming the management of peacekeeping and reducing the officially set U.S. share for peacekeeping costs to 25 percent.