Another United Nations outrage

About a year ago, I wrote a column disclosing that the United States pays a disproportionate share of the bloated, New York-based United Nations bureaucracy's budget. Ironically, the U.N. frequently bites the hand that feeds it, as it did in June when it shipped American computers to two rogue nations, Iran and North Korea.

Here's how Fox News reported the story: "The U.S. State Department is investigating the shipment of computers and other sophisticated equipment to North Korea and Iran by way of an obscure United Nations agency, despite ongoing U.N. and U.S. sanctions against both governments aimed at blocking their development of nuclear weapons."

Fox noted that this case "calls into question how much U.N. member states know about the activities of agencies they supposedly approve and supervise."

Good question.

The State Department is investigating the activities of the Geneva-based (where else?) World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which is supposed to supervise a variety of U.N.-sponsored treaties on trademarks and other intellectual property issues. Investigators discovered that WIPO shipped 20 Hewlett-Packard Compaq desktop computers to Iran and several more sophisticated computers and data-storage servers to North Korea.

A State spokesman said the U.S. "will continue to work ... to put in place policies that provide greater accountability and transparency at WIPO."

The spokesman added that the U.S. "is now working with like-minded countries" to force WIPO's director general "to conduct an independent, external fact-finding exercise into past WIPO projects" in countries under U.N. Security Council sanctions.

Well, good luck with that one because it is difficult to identify "like-minded countries" in a world organization that all too often works against the best interests of its largest contributor.

Let's translate that diplo-speak: The U.N. often pursues an anti-American agenda.

At present, the U.S. pays 22 percent of the organization's "regular" budget (our share was nearly $7 billion last year) and 27 percent of peacekeeping costs, plus hundreds of millions of dollars worth of "voluntary" contributions to U.N.-affiliated agencies like WIPO. And moreover, just five nations - the U.S., Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and France - provide more than 50 percent of the total U.N. budget. I don't see Russia on that list, nor do I see any booming "developing nations" like Brazil, China or India in the top tier of financial contributors.

Conclusion: It's time for a complete restructuring of the U.N. financial structure to make it more equitable to all nations, including the U.S. And if the majority of U.N. member nations don't like it (and they won't), I recommend moving the organization's headquarters from New York to Ouagadougou, or Tegucigalpa, and transferring its well-paid international bureaucrats out of places like Geneva and Paris. For example, the U.N. could send those Geneva-based WIPO bureaucrats to Tehran and/or Pyongyang.

And finally, a 2010 Heritage Foundation study revealed that the U.N. budget has expanded by an average of 17 percent per year since 2002 despite a continuously contracting world economy. Congress should call a halt to the U.N.'s profligate spending and demand more accountability from its overpaid leaders.

• Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, is a retired U.S. Foreign Service officer.


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