Bolton Encourages Congress To Tie Funds to U.N. Reform

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The New York Sun

UNITED NATIONS – The American ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, said yesterday that Congress would be justified in withholding funds from the United Nations if the world body failed to make substantial reforms. The challenge to legislators to take the initiative in demanding U.N. reform came though the Bush administration wants Congress to pay America’s part of the dues owed to Turtle Bay.

Both Congress and the U.N. General Assembly are debating issues related to the world body’s funding. Some legislators said yesterday that they would follow Mr. Bolton and oppose further funding unless reform is clearly demonstrated.

Mr. Bolton conceded that an American-inspired cap on spending by Turtle Bay that was scheduled to take effect at the end of June would certainly be lifted tomorrow by the General Assembly. America failed to persuade its partners in the General Assembly to lift the spending cap only if certain reform measures were enacted, he said.

Mr. Bolton said, however, that America would continue to press for change at the United Nations at least until the end of the year, when his recess appointment as ambassador runs out and when Secretary-General Annan is scheduled to leave office.

As they prepare for the fall elections, some legislators said they are aware that funding the United Nations despite its failure to reform is not popular with American voters. Senators, especially on the Republican side, are more inclined to pick a fight with the world body, they said.

“Every dollar that the U.N. wastes is a dollar that is not available to assist vulnerable populations overseas,” John Hart, the communications director for Senator Coburn, a Republican of Oklahoma, told The New York Sun.

The Bush administration’s position “has always been to pay the assessed contribution,” Mr. Bolton told reporters. “The question will be whether Congress shares that perspective. And the measure, we think, for Congress will be the extent of real reform,” he said.

“If asked, as I was before the Senate subcommittee last week, how much reform has taken place, I will answer honestly: not much,” Mr. Bolton said. He also discussed a hearing conducted under Mr. Coburn’s leadership about America’s share of the funds needed to refurbish the U.N. headquarters.

Mr. Coburn “agrees with the ambassador” that congressional funding for all U.N. activities should be tied to real reform, Mr. Hart said. The senator, he added, is not out to bash Turtle Bay. “Those who view financial stewardship as being anti-U.N. are wrong,” he said.

Mr. Bolton noted that Congress held up U.N. funding in the 1980s; it later was reinstated by the administration of President George H.W. Bush. Congress again withheld funds in the 1990s, and the Clinton administration later reinstated them only after a reassessment that lowered the American share of U.N. funding to 22% from 25% of the annual budget.

“Now there is pressure building again in Congress to withhold contributions,” Mr. Bolton said.

In a joint statement last week, two congressional veterans of the U.N. funding battles – Lee Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman of Indiana, and Warren Rudman, a former Republican senator of New Hampshire – urged Congress to resist withholding funds. “While the U.N. is in need of serious reform, cutting funding at this critical time would impede important changes that have already started to take place,” Mr. Hamilton said in the statement.

Mr. Bolton, however, said little has changed in three key areas: the way Turtle Bay is managed, the lack of transparency and accountability, and the need to cut some outdated mandates of redundant U.N. bodies. Along with the Japanese and Australian ambassadors, Kenzo Oshima and Robert Hill, Mr. Bolton last week introduced a General Assembly resolution that he defined as a “road map” for future reform measures.

“While the expenditure cap is going to come off this week one way or the other,” Mr. Bolton said, “it will not be right to conclude from that, necessarily, that we made any progress” on reform. But he said, “The struggle will continue.”

The New York Sun

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