A report released Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office found that US contributions to United Nations peacekeeping efforts offer significant savings when compared to the cost of similar, unilateral operations conducted by the United States alone.
The findings follow a year of threats by the Trump administration to slash US contributions to the United Nations, and could embolden those in Congress who have resisted the cuts.
“There are places we can cut,” US Ambassador the UN Nikki Haley told a crowd at the Council on Foreign Relations last March. “Everybody knows there’s fat at the UN. Everybody knows there’s fat in the peacekeeping missions.”
The UN cut its peacekeeping budget by $600 million over the summer in response to such criticisms and internal calls for reform.
Haley welcomed the move, tweeting: “Just 5 months into our time here, we’ve cut over half a billion $$$ from the UN peacekeeping budget & we’re only getting started.”
The US currently provides more than one-quarter of the total funding for UN peacekeeping missions – more than any other country.
The UN peacekeeping program has critics outside the Trump administration as well, many of whom point to cases of alleged abuse by peacekeepers, as well as corruption and mismanagement by authorities.
The new GAO report compares the actual cost of a UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic to an estimated hypothetical cost of a comparable US military mission, arriving at the latter figure through consultations with the UN and US departments of state and defense.
The agency found that US contributions to the actual mission were $700 million – about 30% of the total $2.4 billion mission cost at that point, while the hypothetical unilateral mission would have cost US taxpayers nearly $5.7 billion.
The difference is due to a number of factors, including salary costs, and “some higher standards for facilities, intelligence and medical services” on the US side, the report states.
“The study is further evidence that continued engagement with the United Nations is not only in our national security interests but also very much in our economic interests,” says Peter Yeo, president of the Better World Campaign, a group that promotes US-UN cooperation. “By supporting UN Peacekeeping efforts, the U.S. saves money and doesn’t have to put its own boots on the ground – it’s a win-win.”
The report, ordered by Congress as part of a State Department authorization passed in late 2016, presents the findings without offering any specific recommendations to lawmakers.