UN-USual Influences

Being a key player in the inner-workings of the United Nations, the United States has traditionally delegated the responsibility of communicating its interests to the United Nations Secretary General and the General Assembly by utilizing the individual in the position of American Ambassador to the United Nations.

The Trump Administration has adhered to this precedent by nominating and selecting former South Carolina senator Nikki Haley to fill the position.

Since she began on 20 January 2017, Haley has been constantly advocating for better, more beneficial Israeli-American relations for both countries, as well as openly expressing her belief that Russia should be distrusted at all times due to the evidence seen though the nation’s past international actions (annexing the Crimean Peninsula, potential influence in the 2016 United States presidential election, etc. ).

This loud voice of opposition to United Nations policies, or even past United States-United Nations policies may force the newly elected Secretary General for the United Nations, António Guterres, to make some tough decisions relating to either appeasing nations holding most of the power or those who need the support of his voice the most.

The new United States administration has often chastised the previous administration’s lack of influence within the United Nations in terms of issues concerning individual international relations with Russia and Israel.

Haley has been trying to establish herself as an advocate for United States interests by promoting good relations within the United Nations, as well as standing up for Israeli interests that she and the rest of the Trump administration believe have been cast aside in recent years, most recently with the appointment of a  former Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, to the position of United Nations envoy to Syria. Haley and the United States’ main worry is that, because of the ongoing rivalry between Israel and Palestine, the new appointee will further the separation and prejudices held by certain members of the United Nations towards Israel. United States Vice President Mike Pence recently stated on Haley’s actions and advocacy within the United Nations, “Ambassador Haley is already fighting tirelessly to end the one-sided actions of the U.N. that unfairly target Israel.”

There has also been some discontinuity between the other topic of advocacy that Haley has been pushing for and those that the current administration has expressed interest in during her short time as ambassador to the United Natinos. Haley openly continues to express her belief that the United Nations and other nations should not trust Russia, referring to the current investigation being conducted into the extent of Russian involvement with the United States presidential election, as well as Russia’s illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and their continued interference with the Ukrainian civil war.

The Trump administration has repeatedly expressed a desire to improve international relations with the Russian government; however, this is far from what the ambassador to the United Nations has been talking about.

As the United States pushes forward for a more friendly relationship with Russia, it is critical to the former’s image that its United Nations Ambassador continue to emphasize the importance of aiding nations in need. This will maintain the unofficial precedent set by previous administrations in terms of relationships with nations like Israel who have received the short end of too many United Nations bargains among its members, and who has received a substantial amount of foreign aid from its allied nations, such as the United States.

Secretary General of the United Nations, Guterres, may find that the American influence will become much stronger than before due to the looming threat of important funding cuts from the United States that had been directed toward the United Nations and Peacekeeping purposes, as was mentioned in my previous blog post. However, a key piece of this new budget in terms of foreign aid is the continuation of the billions of dollars given to Israel each year for various usages.

Haley continues to assure the Secretary General and the rest of the General Assembly that she personally believes in the power of the United Nations, its standing in the world, and the mission that encompasses the founding ideals of the international organization itself.

However, as of right now it looks like the future does in fact hold the budget cuts that will occur starting next fiscal year, ever-growing Russia-America interactions, and an escalating conflict between the United Nations and the seeming lack of attention it gives to Israel’s struggles.

Seeking UN-Involvment

Since its founding in 1945, the intentions of the United Nations has been to seek and develop peaceful relations among its members to act as a beacon of unity to shine for the rest of the world, as was depicted in the UN charter. Although through the years, there have been claims of deceit and corruption within UN activities hidden beneath the mask of goodwill and righteous propaganda that have yet to come to light in the public eye, the UN does run and participate in many humanitarian programs worldwide.

From peacekeeping to promoting gender equality, the United Nations has created hundreds of departments within its massive structure in the hopes of combating any kind of threat to human life, whether it’s physical, economical, or social.

However, the UN functions as any other club or organization does, complete with by-laws, members, and dues, with this third aspect being the most essential to conducting operations. As was discussed in my previous blog post, the UN is only supported with the expectation of financial backing provided by its members (Article 17).  

The United States provides the largest sum of money to the UN, as they had since the organization’s conception. However, recent events and a new administration have instructed the US State Department to draft a budget cut proposal that just might change the world organization game.

On 13 March, the State Department was “instructed to seek cuts in excess of 50 percent in U.S. funding for U.N. programs”The Trump administration is finalizing their 2018 budget proposal on 16 March, which is what prompted this consideration for the future of US financial involvement in the UN. The abrupt loss of funds may not occur, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has also suggested the cuts to be instituted over a period of three years.

The State Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs is the department whose budget will receive a direct hit. This is where the UN receives funding for some of its most complex and far-reaching programs such as peacekeeping, UNICEF, and the U.N. Development Programme. However, the impacts from this budget cut may cause these programs to function ineffectively due to severely lacking resources.

Each member of the UN is obligated to pay the prescribed amount of dues as determined by the General Assembly, with the five permanent members of the Security Council contributing a bit more to cover for the poorer nations who may not be able to afford membership. Each member is also given the option to provide more than their share for the overall functioning of the organization, as the US has done since the UN’s creation. If this budget proposal is approved, the other member nations will need to provide more of their own funds if the UN is to continue acting with its current amount of scope and resources.

However, the likelihood of the entirety of the UN putting forth funds to totally compensate for the amount the US has rescinded and allowing the UN to function as it had for so many years is highly improbable. The logistics of it just don’t make comply with the actual capabilities of the nations involved.  Not to mention the individual agendas of each member nation that will play a major role. The corruption that does indeed exist within the dark corners of the UN will be forced into the light when nations who support everything the organization does not stand for, and yet are active members in deciding the allocation of the UN’s resources, do not contribute enough to keep the global humanitarian operations running at a sustainable level.

That’s one of the major problems of being part of an international organization – it’s completely non-binding. The members may participate or contribute as they please, under the guise of acting for the good of humanity, meanwhile only doing  so to fulfill their own purposes that have lost touch with the real reason for forming an international alliance.

If any other nation besides the chief financial provider had decided to cut some of membership dues, the UN would still be vocal, but it would not be nearly as much as an outrage as it is because the offending nation is the US. It is not wise, nor logistically possible for an international organization of such scope and action as the UN to depend on the perpetual funding by a privileged actor who can shoulder the financial burden for a time, but eventually even the privileged actor’s resources will exhaust.

Although the mission of the UN is just and honorable, it is understandable, but extremely unfortunate, that the US feels it must cut a portion of its funding to the UN and the other nations may not be able to compensate for the lack of funds.

Deliberation Summary/Reflection

On Saturday, February 25, I attended a Deliberation entitled, “To Be or Not to Be: A Sanctuary City”.

The deliberation team conducted their deliberation on the pressing issue of illegal immigration and sanctuary cities. I felt the team provided a comprehensive overview of the topic, and effectively connected it to the Penn State community by highlighting the potential for Penn State to become a “Sanctuary Campus”.

We began the discussion by talking about the email sent by President Barron to the student body, declaring that illegal immigrants attending Penn State would still be considered students in the Penn State community, despite the negative sentiments put forth towards illegal immigrants by our current president, Donald Trump.

The team’s first approach was to address the legal aspects of sanctuary cities with respect to the past, current, and proposed future immigration policies. We all were encouraged to share thoughts the extent to which we believed federal laws could be nullified by the individual states and overruled, allowing the states to decide the particular issue of illegal immigrants themselves. There was a comprehensive discussion as to the positives and detriments to this policy. The positives, ensuring that people were able to be educated free of fear from potential deportation, seemed to be balanced by the detriments, the potential destructive effects that federal de-funding would impose on public universities such as Penn State.

Then the discussion progressed to the existence of safe spaces on college campuses, Penn State in particular. We identified potential positive and negative outcomes due to the existence of these safe spaces or lack thereof. There was a general consensus within the group that although they would be beneficial to the students, Penn State should refrain from instituting a legitimate place designated as a “safe space”.

The final way the team approached this topic was through the idea of creating an education program at Penn State. This program would include important resources for illegal immigrants, such as their rights, as well as the rights of regular Penn State students. It was not yet fully established whether this education program would be mandatory or in what form it would be administered.

I feel the deliberation was conducted very well, as I remained interested and attentive throughout the duration of the event. The way the information was presented added greatly to my current knowledge of immigration policy and offered a wide variety of opinions that were mutually respected by all in the room. My eyes were opened to just how many people are affected, directly or indirectly, by this issue in the United States.

United, We (Fiscally) Planned.

It should come as no surprise that as one of the original founders of the whole concept of the United Nations, the United States of America was and currently is one of the greatest contributors to this international organization, specifically financially.

Because of this seemingly unequal payment distribution, many people holding political office or a significant reputation in the US have argued time and time again that the US should pull out of the United Nations altogether.

To better analyze the potential effects of this precarious situation, it’s important to understand the original intentions of the UN’s structure.

The UN is made up of six main sections, but two of these that hold most of the weight in the organization are the General Assembly and the Security Council.

The General Assembly encompasses all 193 states of the UN, and its members each have a say in the policies and deliberations that take place during each meeting. Their powers are extended further in setting the yearly budget and determining the appropriate extent to which financial contributions are made by each of the member states. These members of this sub-group also act as the democracy that nominates and selects the non-permanent members of the Security Council.

The Security Council consists of five permanent members: the United States, the United Kingdom, the Russian Federation, China, and France (the original victors of WWII and founders of the UN).  It also includes ten non-permanent members, who are elected for a two-year, non-extendable term by the suggestion of the Security Council and the voting process conducted by the General Assembly. This means that once a state is on the Security Council and serves its term for two years, it cannot be re-elected until an additional term has passed. Although all countries are welcome to join in deliberations made on policy, security, economics, etc., the only states that have a vote and that can decide to take action are those members of the Security Council.

Within the UN, there are many different “operations”, as they’re called, with the forerunner being “Peacekeeping”. The purpose of this operation is relatively self-explanatory; it serves to develop and promote peace in regions of the world in which there is serious conflict that cannot be solved by other means. Members of the military and even everyday citizens can contribute the necessary actions, materials, or solutions to help enforce the idea of peace.


But this global police force cannot operate without some kind of financial backing. That’s where the US comes in.

Not just the US, but all the member states. Just as club members must supply some kind of dues to become “part of the group”, member states of the General Assembly (Article 17) must also make some kind of monetary contribution.

The top 10 providers of assessed contributions to United Nations Peacekeeping operations for 2016 are:

  1. United States (28.57%)

  2. China (10.29%)

  3. Japan (9.68%)

  4. Germany (6.39%)

  5. France (6.31%)

  6. United Kingdom (5.80%)

  7. Russian Federation (4.01%)

  8. Italy (3.75%)

  9. Canada (2.92%)

  10. Spain (2.44%)

Incredible, right? The argument critics have that claims the US should back out of the UN solely based on the massive gap between its financial contribution compared to other member states doesn’t seem completely unfounded, looking at the statistics.

But one must remember the context of the UN’s conception. It was the end of WWII, and the war-torn countries of Europe and Asia had economies that were in danger of deep recessions due to the damage expenses required to rebuild. One of the only states with land and economy left untouched by the vicious hand of war was the US. In fact, their economy couldn’t have been better. It was the war itself that swept the nation out of its own depression and into prosperity.

Naturally, because of its physically and financially abundant resources, the US agreed to take on more of a share than its affiliates. Actually, any of the member nations are able to pay more than their specified share, as appointed by the General Assembly, although in the states’ rational best interests, it does not happen often.

Individual member states that are less developed, but still required to pay the peacekeeper fee are granted special discounts that are made up for by enacting a system of fees placed on the five permanent member states to compensate for the lack of overall income.

For 2017, the fiscal budget for US defense spending is $853.6 billion. 

For June 2016 to July 2017, the fiscal budget for the entirety of operations performed by the UN is $7.87 billion.

So by doing some simple math, that would mean that for the UN’s most recent fiscal year, the United States would have provided approximately $2.25 billion to the United Nations.

Imagine the kind of detrimental impact that would occur if the US would pull out of the UN, and the UN would lose that income. UN military and police forces alone cost $3.385 billion, and the UN doesn’t even have its own military. The special forces are voluntarily provided by individual member nations for international peacekeeping purposes, and this cost helps to fund that endeavor.

The issue of whether the US should stay in or leave the UN extends much farther than just the finances. However, government spending in the US is already through the roof, and just by taking a look at the National Debt Clock, anyone can see that they are already trillions (yes, with a “t”) of dollars in debt.

As far as paying more than their fair share, the US is one of the original five members, so there is a legitimate reason built directly into the charter that states these five are held responsible for the facilitation of UN operations. This includes providing consistent financial support held to a higher standard than that of any other members. The statistics don’t necessarily reflect that, what with Japan and Germany paying a greater percentage than the UK or France, but a lot of it is also based on varying factors the General Assembly takes into account such as individual economy.

The US has one of the world’s highest economies, and is typically known for being the most willing to offer support in the form of foreign aid. Typically, but not exclusively.

There are many fears that come with the US’ potential departure from the UN, but for now, the international operations will continue to take place and the US will remain one of the greatest providers (and debtors) of the UN’s income.


“United Nations.” United Nations. United Nations, n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

UN: The Beginning…

Any action can become a cause, and every cause inevitably leads to an action. There is no greater proof of this than in the political world in which we live today. Keeping this idea in mind, the leaders of existing  nations are constantly faced with the challenge of understanding the intertwining dealings and relationships among other nations and themselves. In this blog, we will be looking at the United States and its interactions with other states through the United Nations, an international organization devised to promote positive relations between countries. However, as the world has seen countless times, the effectiveness of the UN has been questioned again and again. The United States has been an instrumental piece of the UN since its origins.

As we start to take a look at the US’s influence on UN issues, it is important to realize that the only way to understand the present and anticipate the way interactions will take place in the future is to analyze the patterns of the past.

Let’s start at the beginning for this first blog post, because I find that it’s always helpful to have a little bit of background information when trying to analyze different aspects of the topic.

Cause: World War II

Effect/Action: The Creation of the United Nations

In the summer of 1941, the governments of nine conquered European nations banded together in London, where talk of the need for future international peace first occurred and was unanimously agreed upon by all who were present. A few months later, the leaders of Great Britain and the United States met aboard the U.S.S. Augusta and developed the Atlantic Charter, an agreement acknowledging the need for some kind of organized international entity through which global peace might possibly be facilitated in a more effective way.

On January 1st, 1942, leaders from the United States, Great Britain, Soviet Union, and China all signed a document known as the United Nations Declaration, joined soon after by representatives from twenty-two other states who agreed to unite with one another until the conclusion of the war, ultimately creating a massive allied force to combat the Axis Powers.

In October of 1943, the Moscow Declaration was written and signed by representatives from the U.S., Great Britain, Soviet Union, and China, using seven main points to basically declare that although they were separate entities, they were united through their yearning for peace and security for their own states, thus establishing themselves as voluntary members of an international group whose main purpose is to promote these ideals.

Fast-forward one year to 1944. Individuals from the US, Great Britain, USSR, and Chine attended what is known as the Conference at Dumbarton Oaks to discuss the overall structure and organization of the United Nations. The representatives debated and eventually came up with a foundation that consisted of four different aspects: the General Assembly, the Security Council, the International Court of Justice, and the Secretariat. (The Economic and Social Council and the Trusteeship Council were also added later.)

In 1945, another conference was held in San Francisco, California, in the US to make the official charter of the United Nations. Fifty countries were in attendance to ratify this charter and discuss the future of supposedly peaceful international relations.

Jump ahead two years to 1947. The US developed the United States Mission to the United Nations (USUN) organization to help regulate and achieve successful US involvement in the United Nations.

In the original charter, there were naturally five permanent members who were considered to be the greatest contributors to the founding of the United Nations: Great Britain, Russia, China, France, and the United States. They still remain the permanent five members to this day, although there has recently been talk by individuals withing the United States government that this country is highly considering leaving the organization. Of course the recent statements made by contemporary government figureheads is nothing new. There have always been critics of US participation in the UN for various reasons, citing the financial burden resting on the backs of the American public or the ineffective methods the UN has chosen while attempting to preserve world peace, just to name a few.

As of today, however, the union still stands, and 193 states refuse to lose heart, tirelessly working towards that seemingly unattainable goal of world peace.

Is it worth the effort? I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.


“Calls to Leave United Nations Get Louder in the USA.” Strategic-Culture.org – Strategic Culture Foundation. N.p., 30 June 2016. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

Jason Reynolds. “Sarah Palin Calls On Donald Trump To Quit The United Nations.” The Inquisitr News. N.p., 01 Jan. 2017. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

“United Nations.” United Nations. United Nations, n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

Understanding past and potential effects concerning the involvement of the United States in the United Nations

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