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Time to Ditch the Global Bureaucracies

Revered international institutions like the UN and WHO are costly, inefficient, and rife with the worst kinds of abuse.

It’s just a few days into the Biden administration, and the president has already rejoined the Paris climate accord and mended fences with the taxpayer-funded World Health Organization (WHO). These moves are part of a larger strategy to reengage with International Governmental Organizations (IGOs) and continue subsidizing global bureaucracies such as the United Nations (UN). Once again, these bloated, unaccountable organizations will receive full U.S. taxpayer funding despite an abysmal track record at promoting peace and helping the environment.

The reality is that IGOs stymie efforts to clean the air, avert wars, and tackle the global pandemic. President Biden should work toward a new multilateralism that actually addresses the world’s problems.

The U.S. foots the bill for a substantial share of international governance, spending more than $10 billion per year to prop up IGOs such as the UN. For that amount of money, taxpayers deserve transparent global bureaucracies that make a positive difference in the world. Unfortunately, the UN and the WHO consistently fail to deliver and tend to create more problems than they solve. The U.S. is the single largest contributor to the UN’s “peacekeeping” operations, spending more than $1 billion per year ostensibly to keep the peace in troubled regions. Yet UN peacekeepers regularly destabilize the regions they work in by preying on the vulnerable populations of host nations.

In Haiti, “peacekeepers” have brought their own pandemic of sexual abuse and scores of unwanted, out-of-wedlock pregnancies. In a 2019 survey conducted by University of Birmingham and Queen’s University researchers, 10 percent of 2,500 interviewed Haitians volunteered that pregnancies caused by “peacekeepers” were a pressing problem for poor soon-to-be mothers. Human Rights Watch senior reporter Skye Wheeler notes, “Haiti is just one of many countries where peacekeepers have raped women and girls, or sexually exploited them in exchange for food or support. My colleagues have also reported on rape by African Union forces in Somalia, French and UN peacekeepers in Central African Republic and UN troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” By funding the UN, the Biden administration is setting the stage for more abuses and greater suffering.

Even loftier programs such as the Paris climate agreement create more problems than they solve. In order for signatory countries to meet the treaty’s 2°C target, economies around the world would need to be rapidly decarbonized. This would happen at the expense of the world’s poor who rely on inexpensive fossil fuels. The rigid requirements of the accord would also result in unintended consequences to the environment. In 2019, researchers from the Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, and the Woods Hole Research Center warned that shifting to renewables “will require a larger spatial footprint to support production resulting in land-use tradeoffs…we found that the ranges of 1,574 threatened and endangered species could be impacted if renewable energy is sited without consideration of current land cover.” The problem isn’t with the steady adoption of cleaner technologies and lowering of carbon emissions, which the U.S. has been doing for 20 years. Rather, it is the coordinated international frenzy to do something dramatic that is leading to a rash of unintended consequences.

Cleaning the air and promoting international peace are worthwhile goals, but the U.S. can work toward them without squandering taxpayer dollars on corrupt, ineffective organizations. The Biden administration can and should pursue multilateralism wherever possible, including lowering the barriers to trade for technologies that can help clean the air we breathe. President Biden can also work with his counterparts in other liberal democracies to improve lives and spearhead peace talks in war-torn nations without resorting to “peacekeeping.”

IGOs have outlived their usefulness, and there’s no use doubling down on a failed approach to global governance. It’s time for President Biden to go bold and move away from failed international bureaucracies.

Ross Marchand is a senior fellow for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.



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