As United States lawmakers remain embroiled in a heated budget debate, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today stressed the need for continued support from the largest contributor to the United Nations system so that the world body can carry on with its important work.
“The continued engagement and leadership of the United States is essential for the United Nations to be able to succeed in the many tasks you look to us to do,” Mr. Ban told members of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C., adding that the US and the UN share the same goals and objectives.
He discussed with Committee members the situation in Côte d’Ivoire and Libya, as well as other trouble spots in which the UN is currently playing a significant role.
“The United Nations does on a daily basis what no country can do alone,” he told the breakfast meeting with committee members, led by Chairman US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Ranking member Representative Russ Carnahan.
Mr. Ban stated that it is important for US dollars to go as far as possible, especially in hard economic times. The record shows an outsized return on investment through the UN whether it be in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Haiti, or in reforming the UN itself.
He agreed with committee members that the UN must deliver on these responsibilities with the greatest possible commitment to accountability, transparency, and effectiveness. This is essential in the best of times and even more important in tough economic conditions, he said.
The Secretary-General also held a bilateral meeting with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, and then met with members of the committee.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mr. Ban noted that by working with the UN, no country needs to tackle big challenges alone and no country is alone in footing the bill.
“The United Nations is fully conscious of the international community going through this era of austerity. That is why I have instructed my senior advisors to come up with concrete plans to reduce our budget by 3 per cent. At the same time, we need to have a robust financial support from the United States,” Mr. Ban stated.
Last month the Secretary-General announced he is seeking a 3 per cent cut in the next UN budget below the current two-year figure of $5.16 billion, in line with the sluggish global economy as the world struggles to emerge from the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Contributions to the UN regular budget are assessed on a scale based primarily on countries’ ability to pay. In 2000, the General Assembly fixed a maximum of 22 per cent of the budget for any one contributor.
Mr. Kerry pointed to the work the UN is doing around the world in areas such as Afghanistan, Libya, Darfur and Haiti. “The events that are unfolding around the world are not ordinary by any stretch of the imagination. This is a remarkable time.
“In all of my years in the Senate, I can’t remember a time when there have been as many places where the United Nations is stepping up to play as critical a role as it is right now.”
Mr. Kerry noted that the US is facing a “difficult budget moment” and that some people in Congress are talking about reducing the country’s support for international institutions. Such a move would be “unwise and dangerous,” he stated.
While in the capital, Mr. Ban is also scheduled to meet with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.