2013 UN Participation Report

Bureau of International Organization Affairs

This summary report on United States Participation in the United Nations is submitted pursuant to the "United Nations Participation Act of 1945" (Public Law 79-264). Section 4 of this law provides in part that:

"The President shall from time to time as occasion may require, but not less than once each year, make reports to the Congress of the activities of the United Nations and of the participation of the United States therein."

This report describes in brief the activities of the U.S. government in the United Nations and its agencies during 2013. It illustrates examples of UN achievements, the effectiveness of U.S. participation in the United Nations, and whether U.S. goals were advanced. This report (as well as for previous years) is available online at //2009-2017.state.gov/p/io/rls/rpt/index.htm

In 2013 the United States continued to strengthen its leadership in a host of UN agencies and organizations in support of U.S. national interests, and to advance shared objectives. U.S. leadership in these venues is often instrumental in driving important initiatives, highlighting the need for assertive action, and blocking counterproductive measures from undemocratic member states. In the absence of active U.S. presence across the international system, including at the United Nations, there is little reason to believe that U.S. national interests would or could be as energetically or successfully protected and promoted.

U.S. leadership was evident in the widest range of UN organizations and other bodies, including the Security Council, which applied its focus to the complex situations in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Syria. U.S. leadership was important in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which continued to monitor and verify Iran’s nuclear program. And U.S. leadership made its mark in the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), which in 2013 passed four resolutions condemning human rights abuses and violations in Syria, and established the Commission of Inquiry on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The HRC also renewed important thematic mandates, including that of the Special Rapporteur on the freedoms of peaceful assembly and of association – a U.S. initiative. Additionally, the HRC adopted its second U.S.-led resolution on Sri Lanka and a U.S.-led resolution on the freedom of expression and women’s empowerment, and renewed significant country-specific mandates, including ones concerning Belarus, Burma, Eritrea, and Iran.

Another crucial priority for the United States at the United Nations is the ongoing effort to foster a more effective, efficient, transparent, and credible UN system. During 2013, the United States managed to hold down the level of the UN regular budget. This included a one-year freeze on post adjustments and a two-year freeze on increases to allowances. The freezes affected almost 30,000 professionals in the UN Secretariat, and in the 23 other UN common system organizations. In addition, the United States made progress in controlling budget growth, such as in the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, which adopted a zero nominal growth budget in 2013.

The report's discussion of initiatives to advance U.S. interests in the UN system are organized under section headings for political and security affairs, economic and social affairs, specialized agencies, legal developments, and budget and administration.

Political and Security Affairs

The United States engages vigorously on a host of political and security issues throughout the UN system, often most visibly through U.S. leadership on the Security Council. However, U.S. actions and initiatives in the UN General Assembly, the HRC, and other bodies such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also advance important U.S. priorities.

With U.S. leadership, the Security Council engaged robustly in efforts to resolve conflicts and to give strengthened direction to UN peacekeeping missions, with significant attention focused on Africa and the Middle East. The Security Council adopted a landmark resolution that led to the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria, adopted six resolutions on Sudan and South Sudan, and adopted three resolutions expanding the UN presence in the Central African Republic (CAR).

Following the outbreak of violence in South Sudan in December, the United States led the Security Council in authorizing a 5,500-troop increase in emergency surge support for the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). In November 2013, in the wake of the brutal three-day siege on the Westgate Mall in Kenya that killed 70 people, the Security Council passed Resolution 2124, authorizing a 4,000-plus troop increase for the African Union (AU) Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), to enable it to renew its offensive against the terrorist organization, al-Shabaab. In April, the Security Council authorized the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) to support stabilization, combat extremist threats, and re-establish state authority following the 2012 coup. The United States authored a resolution that provided a legal framework to combat sexual violence in conflict, a key tool in advancing the agenda of Women, Peace, and Security.

The United States was a key contributor to the Security Council resolution that provided a framework for the elimination of Syria’s deadly chemical weapons program. The General Assembly adopted one resolution on Syria that, among other things, called for an immediate end to violence, and denounced the Syrian regime and its affiliated militias for widespread and systematic gross violations of human rights. The resolution further denounced Syria’s regime for failing to protect its populations, and for the indiscriminate use of heavy weapons in population centers. The United States also worked closely with the French on three separate resolutions on the situation in CAR, enhancing the political mission and commending accords reached among regional and Central African leaders, transitioning the sub-regional peacekeeping force to an AU mission, and establishing a UN sanctions regime against political spoilers. The United States led the Security Council’s efforts to end impunity for sexual violence against women, girls, men, and boys in conflict by authoring Resolution 2106 and supporting Resolution 2122.

In the HRC, U.S. efforts supported the passage of four resolutions condemning human rights abuses and violations in Syria. UN agencies including the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the World Food Program (WFP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) also played critical roles in coordinating and delivering humanitarian assistance to those affected by the crisis, inside Syria and across the region.

The IAEA continued its efforts to verify the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program, and to resolve all outstanding issues regarding that program. The IAEA also maintained a dedicated focus on North Korea’s nuclear file, and continued to maintain readiness to establish its monitoring and verification presence in the DPRK, despite its absence from the country since April 2009.

The United States devoted a significant amount of attention to Israeli and Palestinian issues at the United Nations. These efforts corresponded with U.S. support for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian final status negotiations. In monthly UNSC meetings on the situation in the Middle East, U.S. representatives consistently called for the international community to support ongoing negotiations, urged Arab states in particular to take clear, unambiguous steps toward normalization of relations with Israel, and appealed to donors globally to increase support for the Palestinian Authority. The United States continued to support UN peacekeeping operations on Israel’s borders with Syria and Lebanon.

When necessary, the United States cast the only “no” vote on unfair anti-Israel resolutions in UN fora, including 18 biased UN General Assembly resolutions that contained explicit and implicit criticism of Israel. The United States likewise consistently opposed any texts or actions that criticize Israel unfairly in the HRC.

The UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan nearly collapsed as three of five troop-contributing counties departed, due to spillover violence from the Syrian civil war. The United States co-authored with Russia two resolutions which called for increased reporting, more troops, and better equipment for the UNDOF observers in conjunction with a strong U.S. diplomatic effort to bring in three new troop-contributing countries and to introduce heavy weapons and mine-resistant, armored-protected vehicles for the mission. The United States successfully kept suggested language by Russia out of UNDOF resolutions that condemned Israel for retaliating against Syrian army positions following deliberate attacks.

Economic Development and Human Rights

In 2013, the United States continued its robust and sustained engagement at the UN General Assembly and in the HRC to promote and protect universal human rights. Action included U.S.-led initiatives at the HRC addressing freedom of peaceful assembly and association and the links between freedom of expression and women’s empowerment. The United States also co-sponsored HRC resolutions on eliminating violence against women and girls; child, early, and forced marriage; trafficking in persons; and the elimination of discrimination against women, as well as a decision on female genital mutilation. U.S. engagement also advanced other priorities, including championing freedom of religion, atrocities prevention, the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons, and those of human rights defenders.

The United States also played a leading role in the HRC's action concerning critical country-specific issues. For example, the HRC passed four resolutions condemning human rights abuses and violations in Syria. In addition, the United States co-sponsored a landmark resolution on the DPRK, establishing a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the grave and systematic violations of human rights in the DPRK. The HRC also adopted its second U.S.-led resolution calling on the Government of Sri Lanka to fulfill its public commitments to its own people on longstanding issues of reconciliation and accountability. The HRC also renewed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, as well as the mandates on Belarus, Burma, and Eritrea, among other significant country mandates.

In the UN General Assembly, the United States again supported resolutions on the human rights situation in Iran and Syria. Resolutions on the DPRK and Burma were adopted by consensus.

The United States was actively engaged in shaping the Post-2015 Development Agenda, the successor goals of the current Millennium Development Goals, which set targets for 2015. The United States was a member of the Sustainable Development Goals Open Working Group, which was called for in the June 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development ("Rio + 20") and tasked with integrating the social, economic, and environmental pillars of sustainable development, as well as ensuring that the post-2015 development agenda and sustainable development goals were relevant, ambitious, and evidence-driven.

Promoting reform and transparency and accountability in the UN’s technical and development agencies remained a top U.S. priority. The United States pressed to ensure that key UN agencies, such as the UN Development Program (UNDP) and UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which carry out the bulk of the UN’s development activities in the field, and key technical agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), could deliver on their missions and put in place management, governance, and financing reforms. Building on the success achieved in making public their internal audits, the United States continued to work in 2013 to institute greater performance accountability systems: to strengthen monitoring and evaluation functions to track and measure program results better, and to establish a management culture to use evaluation feedback to improve programs over time. The United States also worked with agencies toward establishing greater results-based resource allocation systems and integrated budgets and financing measures.

U.S. funding for and membership in the executive boards and committees of key UN humanitarian agencies once again played an essential role in the lives and well-being of tens of millions of people around the world. The United Nations played a critical role in coordinating and delivering humanitarian assistance to those affected by the crisis in Syria, both inside Syria and across the region. In 2013 the WFP gave food assistance to approximately 81 million people in 75countries, including such high-profile disasters as CAR, the Philippines, South Sudan, and Syria, and received nearly $4.4 billion in funding in 2013. As the largest donor, the United States provided more than a third of that total — about $1.121 billion — to the WFP. The United States was also the largest bilateral donor to both the UNRWA ($276 million), and the Office of the UNHCR ($907 million, out of over $1 billion obligated). U.S. contributions helped to enable UNHCR to assist about 34 million of the world's most vulnerable people: refugees, internally displaced persons, stateless persons, and other populations of concern.

Specialized Agencies and Other Bodies

Active U.S. leadership in the full range of UN specialized agencies and other bodies continued to be crucial, constructive, and sustained. These organizations are vitally important for the international system and to U.S. national interests. For example, the IAEA monitors and reports on nuclear programs in Iran, Syria, and the DPRK. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) develops and promotes standards and recommended practices for the safety, security, and environmental sustainability of international civil aviation.

The UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) fosters and defends the free flow of ideas and information, open access to education, democratic principles and practice, scientific knowledge, and invaluable cultural and natural heritage. The WHO protects global health, including through measures to reduce infectious disease, and in 2013 it stepped up measures toward the eradication of polio in the remaining endemic countries.

In view of Palestinian membership in UNESCO and existing U.S. legislation, the United States has not made further voluntary or assessed contributions to UNESCO since October 2011. On November 8, 2013, the United States lost its vote in the UNESCO General Conference due to nonpayment of dues. The United States remains a full member of the Organization, and retains its voting seat on the 58-member UNESCO Executive Board through Fall 2015.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) protects intellectual property rights worth billions to U.S. patent- and copyright-holders. And the International Maritime Organization (IMO) promotes maritime safety, security, and clean environmental practices for the huge and growing commercial shipping fleets.

Legal Developments

U.S. support remained especially important in supporting the work of the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia, the Cambodia Khmer Rouge Tribunal, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and the newly established International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, which will assume functions of the criminal tribunals for Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia as they close out their activities.

Budget and Administration

Due to strenuous efforts by the United States and other major contributors, the initial level of the 2014-2015 regular budget was lower than the final appropriation for 2012-2013, including the elimination of over 200 Security Council secretariat posts. In response to pressure from the United States and other major contributors, the General Assembly also approved freezes on New York staff salaries and benefits.

On peacekeeping, the General Assembly adopted two sets of reforms championed by the United States. Both aimed at improving the effectiveness of peacekeeping missions, through measures intended to enhance performance and readiness of peacekeepers, as well as measures to incentivize the deployment of critical enabling capabilities. Additionally, the Office of Peacekeeping Strategic Partnership was established to identify and address systemic issues related to troops and police deployed in peacekeeping missions.

Also, General Assembly Resolution 67/261 approved a series of recommendations by the Senior Advisory Group on rates of reimbursement to troop-contributing countries and related issues that agreed on measures to review the rates of reimbursement, save rotation costs, and review contingent-owned equipment for operability.

Total U.S. payments to the United Nations during calendar year 2013 were $2.303 billion. About 72 percent of the payments, approximately $1.667 billion, funded peacekeeping missions. Approximately one-fourth of the payments, $568 million, were for the UN regular budget. The remainder of the payments, approximately $67.6 million, was for the criminal tribunals.