2012 UN Participation Report

Bureau of International Organization Affairs
October 7, 2013

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 2012. 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 previous years) is available online at http://www.state.gov/p/io/rls/rpt/index.htm.

In 2012 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 initiatives 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, from the UNSC, which applied its focus to the complex situations in Syria, Sudan, and Somalia, to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which sustained international attention on Iran's failure to comply with its international nuclear obligations related to its nuclear program, to the UN Human Rights Council l (HRC), which in 2012 passed five resolutions condemning human rights abuses and violations in Syria, adopted an important resolution on freedom of association and assembly, renewed the mandate of the Iran Special Rapporteur, and established new mandates for a Special Rapporteur on Belarus and a Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, among other accomplishments.

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 2012, the United States managed to hold down the level of the UN regular budget, including freezing salaries of UN employees in New York for six months, and pass a consensus resolution requiring strong fiscal and management reforms from the 37 UN agencies that do development work. 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 Human Rights Council, and other bodies such as the International Atomic Energy Agency 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 Council passed five resolutions concerning Syria, six on Sudan and South Sudan, plus six on Somalia.

The United States actively contributed to Security Council resolutions on Syria, including two that supported Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan's cease-fire plan for Syria and established the UN Supervision Mission in Syria. The General Assembly adopted two resolutions on Syria that, among other things, called for an immediate end to violence. They denounced the Syrian regime and its affiliated militias for widespread and systematic gross violations of human rights, for failing to protect its populations, and for the indiscriminate use of heavy weapons in population centers. In the Human Rights Council, U.S. efforts supported the passage of five resolutions condemning human rights abuses and violations in Syria. UN agencies including the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the World Food Program (WFP), 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.

In September 2012, the IAEA Board of Governors- of which the United States is a member- adopted by an overwhelming majority its most recent resolution on Iran's nuclear program, further underlining the international community's serious concerns regarding Iran's noncompliance with its international nuclear obligations.

The United States devoted a significant amount of attention to Arab-Israeli issues at the United Nations during 2012, including by reinforcing the need to create the conditions for the resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The United States was deeply engaged in UNSC discussions during the November conflict between Gaza and Israel. The United States strongly condemned the rocket fire from Gaza and supported Israel's right to self-defense. In an effort to de-escalate the situation, the United States worked to get a fair and balanced UNSC press statement, which acknowledged Israel's legitimate security needs, in support of the November 21 ceasefire. The United States also successfully organized UNSC opposition to a resolution biased against Israel, which was then withdrawn.

In November and December, the United States countered efforts toward one-sided actions that would have condemned renewed Israeli settlement activity. The Security Council, with U.S. leadership, twice unanimously condemned terrorist attacks against Israelis and Israeli diplomatic missions. The United States continued to support UN peacekeeping operations between Israel and Syria, and between Israel and Lebanon.

Despite extensive U.S. diplomatic efforts in opposition, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution "to accord to Palestine non-member observer state status in the United Nations." Afterward, the United States reiterated that there are no shortcuts to Palestinian statehood, and confirmed its continued opposition to all unilateral actions in international bodies or treaties that seek to delegitimize Israel or circumvent or prejudge the very outcomes that can only be negotiated, including Palestinian statehood. Following the vote, the United States worked closely with the Israelis to address Palestinian initiatives to obtain enhanced status in international conferences, organizations, and international treaty bodies.

Economic Development and Human Rights

In 2012, the United States continued its robust and sustained engagement at the UN General Assembly and in the Human Rights Council (where it won re-election) to promote and protect universal human rights. Action included initiatives addressing trafficking in persons and violence against women and girls. The United States also joined consensus on a UN General Assembly resolution concerning follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women, co-sponsored HRC resolutions on trafficking in persons, the elimination of discrimination against women, maternal mortality, and the elimination of violence against women, and led a resolution on the equal right of women and children to a nationality, among other important efforts.

U.S. engagement also advanced other priorities, including championing religious freedom and the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons, highlighting the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association through a U.S.-led HRC resolution, and affirming that the same human rights apply in cyberspace by co-sponsoring an HRC resolution on Internet freedom.

The United States also played a leading role in the HRC's action concerning critical country-specific issues. For example, the HRC passed five resolutions condemning human rights abuses and violations in Syria. In addition, the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, an independent body created by the HRC, produced several substantive reports on the mounting violence and atrocities being committed against Syrian civilians. The HRC also renewed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran.

In the UN General Assembly, the United States again supported resolutions on the human rights situation in Iran and Syria. Resolutions on North Korea and Burma were adopted by consensus. The United States also supported efforts to include language on "sexual orientation and gender identity" in a UN resolution on extrajudicial killings.

At the Rio+20 conference and in other venues, the United States pressed to enhance integration among the social, economic, and environmental pillars of sustainable development, and to ensure that the post-2015 development agenda and sustainable development goals are relevant, ambitious, and evidence-driven.

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. The WFP gave food assistance to approximately 90 million people in 70 countries, and received nearly $4 billion from governments in 2012. As the largest donor, the United States provided more than a third of that total- about $1.3 billion (FY 2012) -to the WFP. The United States was also the largest bilateral donor to both the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East ($254 million), and the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees ($697 million). 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 weapons programs in Iran, Syria, and North Korea. 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. WIPO protects intellectual property rights worth billions to U.S. patent- and copyright-holders. And the 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 revised level of the 2012-2013 regular budget remained lower than the final appropriation for 2010-2011, despite increased funding for new and expanded special political missions and other mandates that the United States supported, including those resulting from HRC resolutions. In the UN General Assembly, the United States also led the successful effort to adopt a budget planning figure for 2014-2015 which was $100 million below the Secretary-General's request. In a move initiated and led by the United States, the UN General Assembly also approved the first-ever UN pay freeze on New York staff salaries. In June, the United States also succeeded in reducing the overall financial requirements for peacekeeping operations without impacting the ability of individual peacekeeping missions to achieve their mandates. These reductions were made possible through measures such as the Global Field Support Strategy, a multi-year effort to modernize how the United Nations supports its field missions, and improvements in asset management.

Total U.S. payments to the United Nations during calendar year 2012 were $2.863 billion. About 73 percent of the payments, approximately $2.082 billion, funded peacekeeping missions. More than one-fifth of the payments, approximately $638 million, were for the UN regular budget. The remainder of the payments, approximately $143 million, was for the criminal tribunals and the balance of the U.S. assessment for the UN Capital Master Plan.