The Donald Trump administration has drafted an executive order that would cut U.S. payments to the United Nations by as much as 40 percent. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, highlighted the substantial role the United States plays in funding the U.N. during the confirmation hearing for U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.
"When all of our taxpayers are paying roughly 22 percent of the budget, I think they do expect to see a more efficient and an organization that's more objective and more in keeping with our values," Portman said on Jan. 18, 2017. "How do you intend to support U.S. national security interests, but also ensure that the U.N. is a more effective body toward promoting a more peaceful and less volatile world?"
The U.N. and U.S. budget documents show Portman’s number is correct, and if peacekeeping is included, the percentage gets even higher.
The current U.N. regular budget calls for $5.4 billion over two years. By a formula based on the size of a country’s economy and other factors, America’s assessment is set at 22 percent, or about $1.2 billion.
Based on the last Obama administration budget, the United States provided $1.2 billion to the U.N. over two years, and Portman is correct.
But that’s just for the U.N.’s regular budget. There are over a dozen other U.N. agencies and operations that American dollars also support. The single largest is peacekeeping with a price tag of about $7.8 billion this year alone. The U.S. share of that cost is over 28 percent, or $2.2 billion.
The next three U.N. agencies -- all roughly in the $100 million per year range -- are the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
All told, the United States provides about $3.3 billion a year to finance U.N. activities. A 40 percent cut would save taxpayers about $1.3 billion out of the current $4.1 trillion U.S. federal budget. The impact on the U.N. would be substantial, although the precise effect would depend on how the cuts are spread around.
Portman said American taxpayers cover 22 percent of the U.N. budget. Budget documents from the U.N. and the United States confirm that. The percentage for peacekeeping operations is even higher.
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C-SPAN, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Confirmation Hearing, Jan. 18, 2017
United Nations, Fifth Committee Recommends $5.4 Billion Budget for 2016-2017 Biennium, Dec. 23, 2015
United Nations, Scale of assessments for the apportionment of the expenses of the United Nations, Dec. 23, 2015
United Nations, Proposed programme budget for the biennium 2016-2017, Dec. 23, 2015
U.S. State Department, FY 2017 State Department budget request, accessed Feb. 1, 2017
United Nations, Financing peacekeeping, accessed Jan. 19, 2017
United Nations, Contributors to U.N. peacekeeping operations, Dec. 31, 2016
New York Times, Trump Administration Holds Off on Issuing U.N. Funding Order, Jan. 28, 2017
PolitiFact, Most people clueless on U.S. foreign aid spending, Nov. 9, 2016
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