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Funding for Agencies That Promote the Rule of Law


One of the ABA's primary goals is to advance the rule of law in the world. In furtherance of that goal, the ABA strongly supports adequate funding for international organizations that promote democratization and the development of the rule of law - in particular, the ABA supports the prompt payment of the United States' obligations to the United Nations for its general assessments and peacekeeping expenses.


A number of continuing budget practices have once again placed the U.S. in a position of incurring continuing arrearages to the United Nations and UN specialized agencies.

  1. Insufficient Funding for Contributions to International Organizations (CIO) and Contributions to International Peacekeeping Activities (CIPA). These accounts provide funding to pay US assessed dues to 45 treaty-based agencies, including the UN, the World Health Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency and NATO, as well as for peacekeeping costs. The Administration should request, and Congress should appropriate, sufficient funding to allow the U.S. to is assessed dues in full.
  2. Late Payment of Dues. In addition to the insufficient funding provided for CIO and CIPA, the U.S. fails to pay its assessments to many of the agencies until nearly a year after they are due. Without the U.S. dues - nearly 1/4 of the operating budget - the UN must borrow internally from its peacekeeping accounts, which means that countries that contribute to peacekeeping missions aren't reimbursed on a timely basis. Other countries have also begun to follow the U.S.'s example, and not pay their dues at the time of assessment. To put our payment schedule back on track, the U.S. could either make a lump payment through an advance appropriation, or incrementally increase each year's payments over several years.
  3. 25% Cap on Peacekeeping Dues. Legislation enacted in the mid-1990’s caps the amount of funding for US contributions to UN peacekeeping expenses at 25%. However, under a scale of assessments agreed to by UN member states in 2000, the U.S. is assessed approximately 26% of peacekeeping expenses. While the cap has been temporarily adjusted in some years, in others it has not, resulting in an annual gap of approximately $150-200 million between US assessed and paid expenses. Congress needs to enact legislation to permanently repeal the 25% cap.

Fiscal Year 2009 Funding

President Obama requested $53.9 billion in FY10 funding for the International Affairs account. On July 13, 2009 the House of Representatives approved H.R. 3081, the FY10 State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations bill with funding of $48.8 billion. On the same day, the Senate Appropriations Committee reported its version of the bill with a funding level of $48.7 billion. The full Senate has not acted on the bill as of this date. These amounts are nearly $1.2 billion below funds enacted for FY09. The ABA has urged Congress to provide no less than the funding level requested by the Administration.

On June 10, 2009, the House passed H.R. 2410, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for FY2010 and FY2011. This legislation authorizes appropriations as may be necessary to pay all U.S. arrearages to the UN, lifts the statutory cap on U.S. payment of assessed dues for peacekeeping expenses for 3 years, and requires the President to submit a plan implement previous legislation that calls for the U.S. to resume paying its assessments to the UN at the beginning of each calendar year. The ABA supports these provisions.

The ABA supports funding the international affairs amount at or above the level requested by the President, and supports increased funding for democratization and rule of law programs. On March 18, 2009, then-ABA President H. Thomas Wells submitted a statement (PDF) to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs. On March 25, 2009, former ABA President Michael Greco testified before the Subcommittee on behalf of the ABA. Greco noted that programs that promote the rule of law abroad are a sound investment of U.S. dollars that enhance the national security and economic prosperity of the U.S., as well as of the emerging democracies themselves. He urged the subcommittee to increase the overall amount of funding available for agencies and programs that support international rule of law initiatives and, specifically, for the ABA’s international technical legal assistance projects.

Key Points

  • Payment of U.N. Assessments

    Payment of assessed contributions to the UN is a legal obligation owed by all member states under Article 17 of the UN Charter. It is inconsistent with that legal obligation to condition payment of U.S. assessments on either reform or reorganization at the United Nations, or to link payment to restrictions on funding for specific programs.

    Failure to pay our financial obligations damages U.S. political credibility and marginalizes U.S. influence on the very reforms it seeks to implement at the U.N. If we fail to pay our assessed contributions, we do grave damage to our ability to insist that other countries abide by their international agreements, undermine our leadership role in strengthening human rights and erode the nation's commitment to expanding the rule of law in the world.

  • United Nations Development Program

    UNDP delivers high-quality, high-impact assistance to developing countries to strengthen legal institutions, promote sustainable democratic development and provide an environment conducive to the adoption of a free market economy.

    U.S. security interests are served by UNDP governance programs. Countries with effective governance structures are less likely to experience internal conflicts that create pressure for international intervention. In addition, U.S. economic interests benefit when developing countries improve their institutions of governance. UNDP assists countries in establishing stable and transparent legal systems needed to encourage private sector investment and promote trade in goods and services.

ABA Policy

The ABA supports Congressional appropriation of funds for the full and prompt payment of arrears owed by the U.S. to the United Nations for general and peacekeeping assessments, and opposes linking the payment of arrears to any actions by the UN or its bodies. In addition, the ABA supports funding for organizations and programs that assist in the establishment of rule of law abroad, including the United Nations Development Program, and International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group.

Additional Resources & Links


Kristi Gaines
Senior Legislative Counsel 

Governmental Affairs Office
American Bar Association
1050 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Direct: (202) 662-1763
FAX: (202) 662-1762
[email protected]