International Order & Conflict

U.S. Financial Leadership in Multilateral Organizations

Mapping Diplomatic Strategies for 2021
Realigning U.S. policy and funding to meet international commitments and deliver results from UN operations.
Project Info

U.S. leadership in the world is needed to address conflict and manage challenges that cross borders, together with allies and international organizations. America has also benefited from its influence as the major financial contributor to multinational organizations such as the UN, guiding and leveraging decisions aligned with U.S. interests and values. Increasingly, however, the U.S. has withheld or delayed its UN dues, impacting programs, policies and problem-solving. Some actions are tied to declared policies, such as concern about the WHO—others are not explained, such as for peacekeeping which the U.S. supports. Today the U.S. arrears are in excess of $1 billion. The implications for American foreign policy interests and objectives are wide, including giving states, like China, more space to promote their interests.

Fortunately, the U.S. has an historic opportunity to lead a realignment of funding and results in 2021. With negotiations over UN funding slated for later that year, for example, there is a chance to bolster peace operations, end arrears, support reforms, realign our national financial strategy, and demonstrate a way forward. Stimson will analyze where financial and diplomatic efforts could realign to further U.S. multinational interests and values.

A Diplomatic Strategy for U.S. Financial Leadership in Revitalizing UN Capabilities for Peace

The United States benefits from a strong United Nations that can deliver results. Steady and predictable financial resources from its member states are essential to the UN playing that role. Today, those resources are threatened by the deteriorating global economic climate resulting from COVID-19, and delayed and withheld payments from member states—especially the United States, which owes more than $1 billion. That funding gap is undermining UN operations and effectiveness at a time of great strategic challenges and uncertainty. 

The U.S. now has an historic leadership opportunity in 2021 to bolster missions, support reforms, realign the national financial strategy and demonstrate a way forward. Both Congress and other UN member states want to find a solution to this funding crisis and are eager to offer support. Congress has pressed the Administration to fund missions and to negotiate a lower rate for peacekeeping, for example; other governments want to see a UN able to deliver results and no longer hobbled by deficits.

As the U.S. prepares for negotiations over funding rates for UN peace operations in late 2021, what could it do to address the $1 billion in arrears to the United Nations, restructure the UN formula and win over other nations to reduce the U.S. peacekeeping rate? Stimson will develop a diplomatic strategy for achieving these goals. This project will consider the current financial situation facing UN peacekeeping, interview U.S. and international policymakers, review past efforts, and identify the steps needed to develop a strategy in advance of the 2021 negotiations. The project will aim to generate discussion in advance of those negotiations and lay out a U.S. diplomatic strategy, and demonstrate why success is useful and necessary to our national interests.

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