PORTLAND, Oregon (Reuters) - The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said the United States must keep paying its dues to the world body despite a new Republican call to withhold funding in order to spur reforms.
The rebuke from the Obama administration came a few weeks after Republicans threatened to use their new power as the majority in the House of Representatives to cut funding to a world body they consider wasteful and biased.
The Democratic-controlled Senate and President Barack Obama would have to go along with such a move for it to become law.
“Some critics argue that we should withhold our U.N. dues to try to force certain reforms, or that we should just pay for those U.N. programs we like the most,” Rice said in prepared remarks to the World Affairs Council of Oregon later on Friday.
“This is short-sighted, and it plain doesn’t work.”
The United States, the biggest donor to the United Nations, paid over $6 billion to the world body in fiscal year 2009.
The chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, said last month she would reintroduce legislation that would condition U.S. contributions to the United Nations on “real, sweeping reform.”
One of the reforms sought by Ros-Lehtinen is changing the U.N. budget so that member governments can offer to fund only the programs they like.
Rice said an “a la carte” approach would lead to more chaos and imbalance at the world body.
“If we treat our legally binding financial obligations like an a la carte menu, we invite others to do the same,” she said.
“So, instead of paying just 22 percent of the nearly half a billion dollar annual cost of crucial U.N. support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, we’d be stuck with almost the whole tab.”
The United States has a long history of criticizing U.N. dues. Critics have charged the international group has a bloated and sometimes corrupt bureaucracy.
The expanding trillion-dollar-plus federal deficit and the costs of the economic crisis have revived criticism on Capitol Hill as lawmakers seek ways to reduce spending.
Rice said it was important for the United States to be current on its payments to retain its influence. When it has not done so, it became more isolated and less potent, she said.
“Some of the criticisms of the U.N. are overdone, and some are right on the money,” she said. “Despite the U.N.’s flaws, it’s indispensable to our security in this age of tighter bonds and tighter belts.”
Writing by Mary Milliken; Editing by Peter Cooney