United States should not restrict U.N. dues

The compromise reached by the White House and Congressional Republicans yesterday regarding U.N. dues should never have been an issue. The United States has a responsibility and commitment to pay dues to the United Nations, regardless of whether legislators stand fully behind every single program those funds might sponsor.
Over the last 51 years, the United States has gained an immense amount from its membership in the United Nations. Not only has the United States been privy to a forum that allows access to the voices of almost every country in the world, but the United States’ seat on the Security Council has provided a huge amount of influence over global-security issues. The United Nations itself has accomplished a number of impressive feats by establishing international agencies that foster peace, understanding and human rights.
In exchange for those benefits, the United States has to pay dues to the United Nations. Currently, the United States pays almost a quarter of total U.N. dues. This is because the formula used to derive dues takes into account the relative wealth of each country — since the United States is the wealthiest country in the world, the United States pays the largest amount in dues. The United States has not been paying those dues, though, and U.N. officials say the United States owes $1.6 billion.
Most of the unpaid dues stem from attempts by Congressional Republicans to restrict where the monies can go. Republicans have tried to eliminate funding for family-planning organizations that perform abortions or lobby for abortion rights, refusing to approve any funding for the United Nations at all until restrictions were put in place.
This tactic is severely misguided. Individuals who purport to be extremely concerned with human life should not withhold funds from an organization that attempts to improve the quality of life for all people. The family-planning organizations sponsored by the United Nations attempt to limit population growth in areas where children must struggle for survival. The United Nations also sponsors immunization and food programs that help thousands of children live. Regardless of how deeply congressional Republicans might believe in their ultimate goals, they must also consider the effects of the means they use to achieve those goals.
Withholding money from the United Nations will not stop the pressure for legalization of abortion in other countries, but it will cause children to starve to death or catch fatal diseases because immunization programs cannot afford to purchase medicine.
The tentative compromise allows the United States to pay most of its debt to the United Nations in return for a ban on U.S. funds for organizations that promote abortion rights. Under the deal, President Clinton is able to waive the ban, but the waiver subtracts $12.5 million from the total money available to family-planning groups.
While choosing to compromise might well have been the best decision for Clinton and Congressional Democrats, the issue should never have come to this point. Congressional Republicans must begin to understand that it is counterproductive to keep money from an institution that does worlds of good simply because, out of the thousands of beneficial acts, there is one that is viewed as unfavorable.