By John Christen
The United States House of Representatives should not pass H.R. 193, the “American Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2017,” which would require the United States to completely dissociate itself from the United Nations. This action would set off a negative geopolitical chain-reaction, affirming many allies’ newfound belief that the United States now wishes to pursue nationalistic goals and telegraphing to the world that the United States would rather withdraw from its position of global human rights advocacy leadership than help formulate palliative policy measures to correct the U.N.’s operational issues.
Imagine, for a moment, that the world has just endured one of the most devastating conflicts of all time. At the cost of millions of soldiers’ and civilians’ lives, 17 countries have just worked together to extinguish the roaring flames of a very “particular” breed of murderous nationalism, one that threatened the sovereignty of all countries, save for one. In the wake of this victory, these allied powers (hint, hint) seek to create an international coalition of nations to prevent such a threat from arising again. The purpose of this institution’s existence—let’s call it the “United Nations”—would be to preserve international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations and promote social progress, better living standards and human rights.
Let me flesh out this hypothetical. I am speaking, of course, of the United Nations, an international coalition of 51 countries formed in 1945, following the end of the Second World War. The U.N., based in New York City since 1952, has served a variety of purposes since its conception. It serves as the forum of many diplomatic resolutions, fosters cooperation between U.N.-affiliated countries that wish to use military intervention to quell threats to human rights (peacekeeper missions) and allows economically and militarily underdeveloped countries to enjoy the protection of larger, richer nations.
At times, politics and stale bureaucracy have caused the U.N. to fall short of fulfilling its original goals. Had the U.N. been operating at peak performance during periods like the Rwandan Genocide or the Srebrenica Massacre, its operations could have saved thousands, if not millions of lives.
The United States, though not always the U.N.’s largest supporter, has always had a major role in dictating how the U.N. should function. The United States, along with the five other countries seen as the victors of WWII (China, France, Russia and the UK), make up the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, a group that has steady veto power over all decisive U.N. matters. The responsibility of upholding the original goals of the U.N. fall heavily into these country’s arms.
Unfortunately, this responsibility often translates to unfair budgetary burdens. The United States, on average, contributes a total of eight billion dollars to U.N. annually, a number equaling roughly 22 percent of the U.N.’s total yearly budget. Since there are now 193 U.N. members, one would hope that the financial burden of supporting the institution’s efforts would be distributed more equally.
This point has been raised by numerous politicians, most poignantly by Donald Trump on Twitter: “It is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!” Brilliant insight.
More recently, Alabama Republican Mike D. Rogers proposed H.R. 193, a bill coined the “American Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2017.” To summarize, if this bill became law, the United States would stop contributing money, troops and leadership to the U.N. The bill requires that the United States completely dissociate itself from the most successful international humanitarian coalition of all time.
I understand that the United States contributes far more than its fair share of funds to the U.N. The American taxpayer should not be forced to shoulder this disproportionate financial burden. However, abruptly pulling out of the United Nations means that its humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts would lose 22 percent of their annual funding.
22 percent of the funding needed to provide food and assistance to 80 million people in 80 countries, supply vaccines for 40 percent of the world’s children, assist 59.5 million people fleeing war, famine and persecution, fight extreme poverty, provide electoral assistance to 67 countries and coordinate appeals for humanitarian aid would be lost. This short list hardly scratches the surface of what the U.N. does for the world. Moreover, the United States’ absence would set a dangerous precedent, encouraging other major world powers to leave to U.N., leaving the institution without leadership and money to finance its operations.
The U.S. House of Representatives should not legalize H.R. 193. U.S. lawmakers’ efforts would be better utilized in drafting a proposal to refine the U.N.’s diplomatic channels to prevent tragedies like Rwanda, prevent the politicizing of humanitarian efforts and restructure the budget contributions for each U.N. member according to each country’s respective GDP and military strength.
Unfortunately, it seems as though our government is steering the ship towards nationalism and away from the United States’ traditional role as the global leader of promoting humanitarian aid, political progress that favors the espousal of human rights and maintaining international peace to avoid global conflicts like World War II.
John Christen FRCH ’19 is an international political economy major from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.