Observer on Saturday - - News - By Bodwa Mbingo

The United States (US) has threat­ened to cut fund­ing to coun­tries which do not vote along­side it at the United Na­tions (UN) Gen­eral Assem­bly – coun­tries that in­clude Eswatini.

In a re­port ti­tled ‘Vot­ing prac­tices in the United Na­tions in 2017’‚ Swazi­land was named as one of the coun­tries that voted with the US at the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly the least.

The coun­try is a re­cip­i­ent of fund­ing from the US, es­pe­cially in the fight against HIV/AIDS through US Pres­i­dent's Emer­gency Plan for AIDS Re­lief (PEPFAR) and USAID‚ to men­tion but a few.

In De­cem­ber Gen­eral Assemby last year‚ US Am­bas­sador Nikki Ha­ley warned that the US would be tak­ing the names of states which did not vote along­side it.

The re­sult ap­pears to have been a sig­nif­i­cant drop in votes that are aligned with the US – be­fore the threat 37 per cent of the UN would vote along US lines‚but as of 2017 it is 31 per­cent.

Ac­cord­ing to FP‚ a blog ded­i­cated to for­eign pol­icy‚ this is the low­est de­gree of cooperation Amer­ica has had since 2008‚ when only 25 per cent of na­tions voted along­side Ge­orge W Bush’s ad­min­is­tra­tion.

In her first day on the job, Nikki Ha­ley is­sued a stern warn­ing to her UN col­leagues from the lobby of UN head­quar­ters: back Amer­i­can ini­tia­tives at Tur­tle Bay or face un­spec­i­fied con­se­quences. There was a new sher­iff in town, Ha­ley made clear, and she “would be tak­ing names” of those who crossed the United States.

The com­bat­ive phrase, which Ha­ley has used time and again to un­der­score Wash­ing­ton’s ex­pec­ta­tion of loy­alty, re­flects a deeply held view by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and his UN en­voy that the United States is not shown the re­spect it de­serves as the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s big­gest fi­nan­cial backer.

But Ha­ley’s strat­egy has failed to broaden sup­port for Amer­i­can po­si­tions at the UN. In her first year as US am­bas­sador, the US has lost sup­port in the United Na­tions, with only 31 per cent of States vot­ing along­side the United States on con­tro­ver­sial res­o­lu­tions be­fore the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly, the low­est num­ber since 2008, when states voted 25 per cent of the time along­side Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s ad­min­is­tra­tion. Dur­ing the fi­nal year of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s states voted with the United States 41 per cent of the time, ac­cord­ing to a re­cently pub­lished State De­part­ment re­port on UN vot­ing prac­tices.


The vot­ing out­come raises ques­tions about the ef­fec­tive­ness of Wash­ing­ton’s use of threats to se­cure in­ter­na­tional back­ing for its poli­cies. But Ha­ley has not cho­sen to hide from that record. On the con­trary, Ha­ley has em­braced it, high­light­ing the gap to jus­tify the need for more pun­ish­ment.

“We care more about be­ing right than pop­u­lar,” Ha­ley said in a state­ment is­sued last week. “Pres­i­dent Trump wants to en­sure that our for­eign as­sis­tance dol­lars – the most gen­er­ous in the world – al­ways serve Amer­i­can in­ter­ests, and we look for­ward to help­ing him see that the Amer­i­can peo­ple are no longer taken for granted.”

As part of that ef­fort, Ha­ley’s of­fice re­cently pro­duced an in­ter­nal pa­per, made public by For­eign Pol­icy, propos­ing a sweep­ing re­assess­ment of US for­eign as­sis­tance with a view to pun­ish­ing dozens of poor coun­tries that vote against US poli­cies at the UN.

The move fol­lowed a US de­ci­sion, ac­tively cham­pi­oned by Ha­ley, to cut tens of mil­lions of dol­lars in as­sis­tance to Pales­tinian refugees in re­tal­i­a­tion for their gov­ern­ment’s op­po­si­tion to Pres­i­dent Trump’s recog­ni­tion of Jerusalem as Is­rael’s cap­i­tal. Some con­ser­va­tives have ad­vo­cated con­di­tion­ing for­eign eco­nomic as­sis­tance to coun­tries’ vot­ing records at the United Na­tions since the early 1980s, when the idea was first cham­pi­oned by the then US am­bas­sador, Jeane Kirkpatrick.

Their ar­gu­ment was that US devel­op­ment as­sis­tance had a “du­bi­ous” im­pact on im­prov­ing con­di­tions in poor coun­tries, so with­hold­ing such as­sis­tance would have lit­tle im­pact on a coun­try’s well-be­ing. The get-tough ap­proach ob­scures a re­al­ity that Ha­ley and the State De­part­ment have ac­tively min­imised. The vast ma­jor­ity of UN mem­ber states act over­whelm­ing along­side the United States on most res­o­lu­tions adopted by the 193-mem­ber UN. Gen­eral Assem­bly. Last year, 230 of the 323 res­o­lu­tions adopted in the Gen­eral Assem­bly were adopted by con­sen­sus, mean­ing the US joined forces with the en­tire mem­ber­ship. The re­main­ing 93 res­o­lu­tions — typ­i­cally more con­tro­ver­sial mea­sures deal­ing with is­sue from the Cuban em­bargo to a raft of res­o­lu­tions de­nounc­ing Is­raeli prac­tices — were forced to a vote.

If you com­bine all res­o­lu­tions adopted by con­sen­sus with those out to a vote you would see the US act­ing in line with the rest of the mem­ber­ship about 80 per cent of the time. In 2015, the US acted along­side the rest of the UN mem­ber­ship 84.1 per cent of the time.

“The stark num­bers con­tained in the re­port don’t re­flect the fact that coun­tries agree with the United States the vast ma­jor­ity of times,” says Peter Yeo, pres­i­dent of the Bet­ter World Cam­paign, a UN-ad­vo­cacy group.


But Ha­ley, who didn’t men­tion con­sen­sus-based res­o­lu­tions in her state­ment on vot­ing prac­tices, and the State De­part­ment, have high­lighted the dif­fer­ences rather than sim­i­lar­i­ties. In its an­nual re­port on vot­ing records, Trump’s State De­part­ment in­tro­duced a new vot­ing method­ol­ogy that widened the gap be­tween the US vot­ing record.

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