Hyde's vision for the UN
By Paul M. Weyrich
The House International Relations Committee voted last week to slash our country's dues payments to the United Nations unless "Big Blue" starts making real reform. Bravo. It's long overdue. We have sent too many blank checks without strings attached to the UN only to see our money squandered. Consider that it is Uncle Sam who pays over one-fifth of the UN's annual $2 billion budget which does not include the bill for UN's peacekeeping and education and development programs.
Conservatives have good reason to cheer the statement made by House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-IL). "If you're going to reform something, reform it." The cause of reform is not certain, however. The Washington Times reported that "Despite widespread anger in Congress at the United Nations, the bill faces an uncertain fate, and no companion bill has been introduced in the Senate."
Let's hope there are Senators who will have the courage to draw a similar line in the sand and demand that the UN begin to reform itself. As far as I am concerned, it is time the UN either clean house or we should consider withdrawing altogether. We do not need to waste our money only to see Third World dictatorships spit in our face by denouncing our country for our alleged lack of generosity and for oppressiveness. Enter the General Assembly of the UN and you've entered the Twilight Zone of international relations.
The Hyde bill has many particularly noteworthy provisions. The Hyde bill would force the UN to adopt criteria that countries seeking membership on the UN Human Rights Council or another UN human rights body must themselves have proven records of human rights. "Under these criteria, countries that fail to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights would be ineligible for membership."
Many Americans would be surprised to learn that countries, such as Sudan and Cuba, that have despicable records on human rights are current members of the United Nation Commission on Human Rights, which helps to determine the human rights policies of the UN. It's as if the convicted murderers in your state penitentiary were seated on a jury with your state's finest citizens. Hyde's bill specifically mandates countries that would be subject to country-specific human rights resolutions would be ineligible for membership. The fact sheet issued by the House International Relations Committee specifically states, "This provision addresses the deplorable state of the current Commission on Human rights and prevents countries such as Cuba and Sudan to act as arbiters of human rights."
The UN has a record of blindness when it comes to administering programs, such as Oil for Food, in which there has been substantial wrongdoing. Hyde blames the mismanagement on extremely poor oversight by the UN. A measure supported by former Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) and current Senator Joseph P. Biden (D-DE) created an Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). However, that office must be asked by the UN Security Council or the Office of the UN Secretary General to conduct an investigation before it receives funds to investigate. That presents a conflict of interest. The Hyde bill calls for creation of an Independent Oversight Board ("IOB") which would have the investigative independence that we expect from the Inspectors General of American federal agencies and the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The UN itself must fund the proposed IOB, which "shall not be subject to budget authority or organizational authority of any entity within the United Nations." Creation of the IOB would represent a significant step toward ensuring that the OIOS has real investigative bite rather than being the toothless tiger that it is now.
Also required by Hyde's bill would be the creation of a UN Ethics Office to reduce the many conflicts of interest that have embarrassed the UN. The proposed UN Ethics Office would be "tasked with, among other things, oversight of financial disclosure forms with the goal of thwarting abuses and conflicts of interest. . . Public disclosure of financial interest by senior UN officials is a vital step in addressing conflicts of interest . . ." the Committee explained.
It is one thing for the UN to hold a conference to address important world issues. It should not be an excuse to enjoy the high life. Hyde's International Relations Committee staff discovered that nearly 20 per cent of the assessed regular budget (paid annually by member states, including the United States) is gobbled up by UN conferences. Some conferences have a price tag of $7,000 to $8,000 an hour. That's money that could improve medical services or fund education but a good part of it is going to fancy hotels and lavish buffets and cocktail parties. Hyde wants a 10 per cent cut in these conferences in 2007 followed by a 20 per cent cut in 2008.
There are numerous provisions in the Hyde bill to address issues, such as budget, accountability, human rights and peacekeeping; it is a comprehensive piece of reform legislation. Credit Hyde for taking decisive action and spurring debate on whether our country should see corruption and mismanagement and even evil committed (UN peacekeeping troops have committed atrocities) and continue to subsidize those evils or take decisive action to force the UN to clean up its act. If our country is going to continue membership in the UN – and I certainly never have been a supporter of membership – then we should make sure that our country and the world gets its money's worth.
Paul M. Weyrich is the Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
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