Committee on International Relations
U.S. House of Representatives
Henry J. Hyde, Chairman

CONTACT: Sam Stratman, (202) 226-7875, May 25, 2005

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For IMMEDIATE Release

Hyde Introduces UN Reform Legislation
Links U.S. Dues Payments to Measurable Reform;
Legislative Markup Scheduled Wednesday in Committee
 

(WASHINGTON) - U.S. Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-IL) on Tuesday formally introduced the U.N. Reform Act of 2005 and announced that the House International Relations Committee will begin consideration of the bill on Wednesday.

“No observer, be they passionate supporter or dismissive critic, can pretend that the current structure and operations of the UN represent an acceptable standard,” said Hyde, chairman of the committee. “Even the UN itself has acknowledged the need for reform and, to its credit, has put forward a number of useful proposals for consideration.  But it cannot be expected to shoulder this burden alone.  And none who care about the UN would want it to.”

 “All of us are supportive of the UN’s role in facilitating diplomacy, mediating disputes, monitoring the peace and feeding the hungry.  But we are opposed to legendary bureaucratization, to political grandstanding, to billions of dollars spent on multitudes of programs with meager results, to the outright misappropriation of funds represented by the emerging scandal regarding the Oil-for-Food program.  And we rightly bristle at the gratuitous anti-Americanism that has become ingrained over decades,” Hyde said.

            “Republican and Democratic administrations alike have long called for a more focused and accountable UN budget, one that reflects what should be the true priorities of the organization, shorn of duplicative, ineffective, and outdated programs.  Members on both sides of the aisle in Congress agree that the time has come for far-reaching reforms,” Hyde added.   

Highlights of the United Nations Reform Act of 2005:

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The UN Reform Act of 2005 focuses on the budget, streamlining and prioritizing of programs, oversight and accountability, peacekeeping and human rights.

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The Hyde bill uses various methods of leverage to enact reforms, including (1) withholding of 50 percent of U.S. assessed dues if certifications are not made in the key areas; (2) mandating cuts in specific programs; (3) redirecting funds to priority areas; and (4) withholding U.S. support for expanded and new peacekeeping missions until certifications are made that reforms have been enacted.

Budget

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The Hyde bill urges the shifting of 18 programs from the regular assessed budget to voluntarily funded programs.  By shifting programs off the regular assessed budget, every country’s assessed budget would decrease and it would give all countries more control over how to best invest their contributions.  Voluntarily funded programs such as UNICEF, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Food Programme, and the UN Development Programme are, by their very nature more accountable, efficient and results-oriented.  If programs are not shifted, the U.S. would redirect funds from the targeted 18 programs to priority areas, which include internal oversight, human rights, and humanitarian assistance, while also preserving a degree of flexibility for the Secretary of State to fund those targeted programs that the U.S. wants to continue to support, such as international drug control.

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The Hyde bill mandates the streamlining of the UN’s Public Information Office and “General Assembly Affairs and Conferences Services.”  General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services accounts for approximately 20 percent of the assessed regular budget. Some conferences cost upwards of $7,000 - $8,000 per hour.  Calls for streamlining and scaling back conferences have been heard throughout the years, but have seen little action.  The Hyde bill calls for an initial cut of 10 percent in these programs in 2007, followed by a 20 percent across-the-board cut in 2008.

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The legislation requires that all new programs have sunset provisions.  Previously, sunsetting of programs was not required, thus leading to the continuation of out-dated, obsolete, and ineffective programs.

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It also mandates that once the UN biennium budget is adopted, it cannot increase without consensus agreement, and it cannot increase beyond 10 percent.  In 2005, the UN assessed budget increased by $400 million from $1.483 billion in 2004 to $1.828 billion in 2005.  Of that $1.8 billion, the U.S. portion was assessed at $438 million.

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The legislation also requires that the Department of State submit an itemized UN budget justification for Congressional funding of assessed dues.    

Accountability

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The Hyde legislation mandates the creation of an Independent Oversight Board (IOB) with broad investigative authority through the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). The OIOS will have the authority to initiate investigations into mismanagement and wrongdoing, establish procedures to protect UN employees or contractors who report allegations of misconduct, and establish policies to end single-bid contracts.  Scandals involving the UN Oil for Food Program, peacekeeping operations, the World Meteorological Society, the World Intellectual Property Organization, as well as alleged wrongdoing by high-level staff have illustrated the systemic weaknesses in the UN’s current oversight efforts.

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The legislation also requires the creation of an Ethics Office which is tasked with, among other things, oversight of financial disclosure forms with the goal of thwarting abuses and conflicts of interest.  Scandals have erupted in the past decade tying UN officials to alleged business deals in their areas of responsibility. Public disclosure of financial interest by senior UN officials is a vital step in addressing conflicts of interest issues.

Human Rights

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The Hyde legislation mandates that the UN adopt criteria for membership on any human rights body.  Under these criteria, countries that fail to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights would be ineligible for membership.  Likewise, countries that are subject to sanction by the Security Council or countries that are the subject of country-specific human rights resolutions would be ineligible for membership.  In addition to other criteria, the legislation mandates that no human rights body have a standing agenda item that relates only to one country or region.  This provision addresses the deplorable state of the current Commission on Human Rights and prevents countries such as Cuba and Sudan to act as arbiters of human rights.  It also addresses a current injustice in the Commission that singles out Israel as the only country in the UN with an agenda item devoted solely to it. 

International Atomic Energy Agency

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The Hyde act strengthens the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) by calling for the establishment an Office of Compliance and a Special Committee on Safeguards and Verification.  It also directs that U.S. voluntary contributions may only be used to fund activities relating to Nuclear Safety and Security or activities relating to Nuclear Verification.  In addition, it directs the U.S. Permanent Representative to the IAEA to pursue membership reform of the Board of Governors that would bar countries that have not signed and ratified the Additional Protocol, or that are under investigation for a breach or noncompliance with its IAEA obligations, or that are in violation of its IAEA obligations.

Peacekeeping

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The Hyde legislation mandates that the UN adopt a single, enforceable, uniform Code of Conduct for all personnel serving in peacekeeping missions, that the peacekeepers are trained on the requirements of the Code of Conduct and that the Code is translated into the native language of the peacekeeping troops. Additionally, the legislation requires the creation of a centralized database to track cases of misconduct to ensure that those engaged in misconduct are barred from future peacekeeping missions.  It also mandates that peacekeepers who engage in misconduct are held accountable for their actions, and that an independent investigative and audit function be established within the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Office of Internal Oversight Services to monitor peacekeeping operations.  These mandates are crucial in light of the revelations of sexual exploitation and abuse of civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Haiti and Liberia.

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The legislation also calls for a global audit of all peacekeeping operations, with a view towards “right-sizing” operations, ensuring that operations are cost-effective and, where appropriate, closing missions. 

Other Provisions

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The Hyde act directs the U.S. Permanent Representative to aggressively pursue a definition of terrorism.

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The legislation withholds funds from treaty monitoring bodies in which the U.S. is not a signatory of either the underlying Convention or Protocol.

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The legislation directs the U.S. Permanent Representative to pursue expansion of the Western Europe and Others Group to permanently include Israel.  Currently, Israel is the only country excluded from a permanent regional grouping, thus denying it the rights and privileges of membership afforded to every other country in the UN.

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