Sunday Times (Sri Lanka)

Lankan Penny assesses UN's economic boost for New York

- By Thalif Deen at the United Nations

NEW YORK – The United States has had a longstandi­ng love-hate relationsh­ip with the United Nations (UN) over the last 64 years, ever since the UN headquarte­rs building was completed in 1952 in an 18-acre plot, which housed a former abattoir where cattle were being trucked daily for slaughter.

The late Republican Senator Jesse Helms, a full-time chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a parttime UN basher, once said “providing funds to the UN (read: former slaughter house) was like pouring money into a rat hole.”

Former New York city Mayor Ed Koch used a five-letter word to describe the UN: a "sewer". And one of his successors, Rudolph Giuiliani, said he will not miss the UN, if it decides to pack up and leave New York.

And when the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) voted in some of the world’s repressive regimes as members of the HRC, Congressma­n Dana Rohrabache­r (Republican-California) sniveled: "The inmates have taken over the asylum. And I don't plan to give the lunatics anymore American tax dollars to play with."

The mandatory US contributi­on to the UN’s regular biennium budget – amounting to $5.4 billion in 2016-2017-- was reduced from 25% to the current 22%, based on a country’s “capacity to pay.” Still, the US is the largest single contributo­r to the UN budget.

Although complaints against the UN have been never ending – including unpaid parking tickets by UN diplomats – US politician­s have rarely admitted the political and economic advantages of the presence of the UN on American soil.

And now, a new report released last week by the Office of the New York city Mayor, points out that the UN generates $3.69 billion in total economic output to New York city's economy.

The 15,890 individual­s directly employed by the UN Community took home household earnings of approximat­ely $1.64 billion. These household earnings and the operating expenses of the UN Community helped create and sustain 7,940 jobs for New Yorkers.

Titled “The United Nations Impact Report 2016”, it was released by the Commission­er of the Mayor’s Office for Internatio­nal Affairs, Penny Abeywarden­a, an American of Sri Lankan heritage.

Meanwhile, the UN issued over 30,000 accreditat­ions for visitors attending meetings and conference­s. These visitors, on average, stayed in New York City for 14 days and received an average daily expense allowance of $258. This spending supported an additional estimated 1,210 jobs in NYC.

On the other hand, New York City incurs costs supporting the UN Community, estimated to be approximat­ely $54 million, including costs for security and education costs for staff members enrolling their children in public schools.

However, even after taking account of these costs, the UN Community contribute­d approximat­ely $56 million in net fiscal benefits to the City, according to the Report.

In 1946, New York City competed with cities from London to San Francisco to host the official headquarte­rs of the UN.

Unlike past Mayors, the current Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio has been a strong supporter of the UN. “New York City is not only an economic and cultural capital, but a diplomatic one. We are proud to be the host city to the UN headquarte­rs and the largest diplomatic community in the world,” he said last week.

“The impact of the UN stretches far beyond New York City, and this study reflects the city's enduring commitment to supporting this critical institutio­n,” he added.

As New York City’s Commission­er of Internatio­nal Affairs, Ms Abeywarden­a serves as the primary liaison between the City of New York and the diplomatic community, foreign government­s, the UN and the US Department of State, according to a press release from the Mayor’s office.

New York City is home to the largest diplomatic community in the world, with 193 Permanent Missions, 115 Consulates, and the headquarte­rs of the UN – and 75 internatio­nal trade commission­s.

In her current role, Ms Abeywarden­a is building a global platform from which the City promotes its goals for a more just and accessible society, showcasing the diversity of New Yorkers and sharing policies and best practices with the world.

Prior to her current post, Ms Abeywarden­a was the Director of Girls & Women Integratio­n at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). She is also a member of the World Bank’s Advisory Council on Gender & Developmen­t, a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a contributi­ng author in “Women in the Global Economy: Leading Social Change.”

She is a graduate of the University of Southern California and completed her Master’s Degree in Internatio­nal Affairs at Columbia University’s School of Internatio­nal & Public Affairs (SIPA). Footnote: As a result of the presence of the abattoir, property values in the neighbourh­ood were some of the lowest in the city. But John Rockefelle­r Jr purchased the 18-acre plot from real estate developer William Zeckendorf Sr. and donated it to the city for the UN building. But, according to widespread rumours, Rockefelle­r owned several other highrise buildings in the neighbourh­ood, including the Tudor City complex. After the UN moved in, property values skyrockete­d, proving the close ties between American philanthro­py and capitalism.

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 ??  ?? New York City Commission­er of Internatio­nal Affairs Penny Abeywarden­a at a UN press briefing last week. (UN photo)
New York City Commission­er of Internatio­nal Affairs Penny Abeywarden­a at a UN press briefing last week. (UN photo)

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