Eight Billion Dollars for the U.N. -- The Other Budget Scandal

For the past few weeks, we here in the U.S. have been obsessed with the debt ceiling increase and our massive budget deficit. At the same time another budget that we spend an inordinate amount of money on has flown under the radar during this vociferous and contentious debate.

While we are in an unprecedented age of austerity and the U.S. has been flirting with default, the United Nations has continued its unchecked and profligate spending.

Last week it was announced that our share of the United Nations’ budget in 2010 had increased to nearly $8 billion, a shocking 21% increase from the year prior.

Think about that for a moment.

During this time of world economic crisis, one would think that the bureaucrats at the U.N. would have pushed, if not for a cut, then to at least hold the budget stable. Even if their only reason for doing so would be to avoid the ire of the American public, which shoulders a quarter of its gravity-defying budget.

But a 21% increase?  The U.N. budget has outpaced even our own U.S spending spree, eclipsing the growth in the U.S. budget over the past few years even though we have engaged in two wars and a massive spending binge to supposedly stimulate the economy.

In fact, since I began production of my movie "U.N. Me" in 2006, the U.N. budget has increased nearly 88%, even outpacing the growth in movie prices!

Most galling is that this growth in the U.N. budget has been coupled with increasing budget opaqueness and a complete lack of budgetary accountability or reform.  Transparency and better management in the system was supposed to be one of the legacies of Kofi Annan, the dapper former Secretary General of the United Nations.

Yet the U.N.’s obstinacy to cut waste, prevent mismanagement and fight corruption is a sickness that eats at the very heart of the United Nations. It’s almost as if the quality of management has an inverse relationship with the amount of U.N. spending.

What is the United States getting from the U.N. at this exorbitant price?  It certainly is not getting an organization that shares and promotes its values.  It is still an organization made up, in large part, of countries directly hostile to the U.S and its interests.

At times it seems as if the U.S. and the U.N. are at cross purposes.  For instance, we get the privilege of funding bodies that are outwardly hostile to U.S interests. We are funding nearly 30% of UNRWA, the Palestinian refugee agency, that employs terrorists and teaches its children to be maliciously anti-Israel, anti-Semitic and anti-American.

We also get to fund U.N. bodies such as, the United Nations Economic Commission, which was founded in 1947, to coordinate reconstruction of post-war Europe.  It is still alive and kicking with a staff of 220 and a budget of $50mm per year (it now duplicates what some European regulatory bodies do).

In fact, in 2005 a mandate registry was created to provide and review a list of all 9,000 individual mandates that the U.N. has world-wide.  It concluded that a large percentage of these mandates were no longer “current and relevant.”  What did the U.N. do with this seemingly vital information?  Not only were a tiny percentage of these irrelevant mandates eliminated, they essentially eliminated the review process itself.

By drastically cutting into defense, education and other services, Americans are in the process of making major sacrifices to right our fiscal ship. Yet this insane increase in the U.N budget just feels like a slap in the face.  With the United Nations’ self-vaunted reform process moribund, if not dead, we need to lead the U.N. and not wait for its tone deaf and in many instances corrupt technocrats to reform their house.  The U.S. needs to identify the reforms and cuts necessary in the United Nations and threaten to withhold serious funding if our remedies are not implemented.

Ami Horowitz is a filmmaker. You can follow the release of his movie "UN Me" at: http://www.facebook.com/unmemovie or by visiting the website: theunmovie.com.