US denounces wealthy-nation discounts for UN peacekeeping

Washington has been trying to convince several countries to reduce their discounts in order to cover the $220 million annually which Washington no longer wants to pay. (File/AFP)
Updated 23 December 2018
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US denounces wealthy-nation discounts for UN peacekeeping

  • Peacekeeping financing is determined by a complicated formula that takes into account a country’s wealth, its standing as a permanent Security Council member and other factors
  • UN member states failed to reach a deal to make up for a $220 million budget black hole left by Washington’s downsizing of its peacekeeping contributions

UNITED NATIONS, United States: The United States on Saturday denounced at the United Nations a system of discounts for the peacekeeping assessments of wealthy nations, and confirmed Washington will pay no more than 25 percent.
The comments came a day after UN member states failed to reach a deal to make up for a $220 million budget black hole left by Washington’s downsizing of its peacekeeping contributions.
The discounts demonstrate an “urgent need to reform,” said Cherith Norman Chalet, the US Ambassador for UN Management and Reform, referring to countries whose “per capita income is more than twice the average of the organization’s membership.”
She did not identify those countries.
Her comments came during the adoption of a resolution renewing until 2021 contributions to the UN operating budget, which is $5.4 billion for 2018-19, and to the peacekeeping budget of $6.6 billion annually.
The United States is the largest contributor, whose share is 22 percent of the operating budget and 28 percent for peacekeeping.
President Donald Trump announced in September, however, that Washington would pay no more than 25 percent for Blue Helmet operations.
Washington has been trying to convince several countries to reduce their discounts in order to cover the $220 million annually which Washington no longer wants to pay.
Peacekeeping financing is determined by a complicated formula that takes into account a country’s wealth, its standing as a permanent Security Council member and other factors.
“These discounts are without justification and have no basis in any methodology and should be eliminated,” Chalet said.
“Nearly half of member states receive an 80 percent discount to their assessments on the peacekeeping scale.”
Diplomats said that, in their quest for a better sharing of the financial burden, the US had approached Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Singapore, Brunei, Brazil, Mexico and India.
Those efforts were in vain.
Ambassador Nikki Haley, who leaves her post on December 31, could have been involved in the battle but surprisingly abandoned it, a diplomat said.
Overnight Thursday-Friday Washington finally joined a consensus to maintain the status quo on key budget issues for another three years, diplomats said, meaning the UN’s financial shortfall will continue to grow.
On Saturday the 193 member states formally confirmed the consensus.
But the financial dispute is not going away.
“The United States is going to attack mission after mission” to eliminate them or reduce the costs, the diplomat predicted.
A second diplomat said that even “without legal basis” Washington “will pay only 25 percent and accumulate the arrears.”
Chalet assured that “the United States takes its obligations to the United Nations seriously and its partnership with the organization and with other member states.”
However, she added that “lack of agreement on a 25 percent ceiling will cause the organization to continue to face a three percent shortfall in its peacekeeping budget as the United States will pay no more than 25 percent of peacekeeping expenses.”


Three dead, one missing in devastating floods across US Midwest

Horses that were being boarded in Inglewood, Neb., are moved through floodwaters to higher ground in Fremont Neb., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP)
Updated 20 min 48 sec ago
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Three dead, one missing in devastating floods across US Midwest

  • Record flooding was reported in 17 locations in the state and 10 American Red Cross shelters were operating for displaced residents

CHICAGO: At least one person was missing on Monday after devastating floods across the US Midwest that killed three others and inflicted hundreds of millions of dollars in damage in what Nebraska’s governor called a disaster of historic proportions.
As floodwaters began to recede in much of the area inundated by the aftermath of a storm dubbed a “bomb cyclone,” Nebraska officials were taking in the damage in a state where 64 of the 93 counties have declared emergencies.
“This is clearly the most widespread disaster we have had in our state’s history,” in terms of sheer size, Governor Pete Ricketts told reporters on an afternoon briefing call.
State officials said on the call that 290 people had been rescued by the Nebraska State Patrol, National Guard troops, and urban search and rescue teams.
Damage to the state’s livestock sector was estimated at about $400 million, while the full impact on the spring planting season was not yet clear, said Steve Wellman, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.
The state’s highway system suffered hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, said Kyle Schneweis, director of the state Department of Transportation, with more than 200 miles of roadways needing repair or replacement. Some 540 miles of highways remained closed, he said, down from 1,500 at the peak of flooding.
The three known fatalities included an 80-year-old woman who perished at her Columbus, Nebraska, home, despite attempts to rescue her from rising floodwaters, said Col. John Bolduc of the Nebraska State Patrol.
Bolduc said a young man from Norfolk, Nebraska, was swept away and killed after driving his car into moving water, and a Columbus man died when the tractor he was using to help free a stranded driver overturned.
One person was missing and presumed dead following the collapse of the Spencer Dam along Niobrara River in southwest Nebraska, Buldoc said.

VICE PRESIDENT TO VISIT
The Missouri River, the longest in North America, has flooded much of Nebraska between Omaha and Kansas City at the Missouri state line.
The river was expected to crest at 47.5 feet (14.48 m) on Tuesday, breaking the previous record, set in 2011, by more than a foot, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency said in the latest bulletin on its web page.
Ricketts said he had requested emergency assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and been in contact with the Trump administration.
Vice President Mike Pence would travel to Nebraska on Tuesday to survey the damage, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Twitter. Ricketts and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds have both declared states of emergency
The Missouri River’s overflowing banks cut off roads leading to the Cooper nuclear plant, near Brownville, Nebraska, forcing operators to fly in staff and supplies by helicopter. The plant continued to operate safely, its operator said.
Water also covered one-third of that state’s Offutt Air Force Base, near Bellevue, home to the US Strategic Command.
At least 30 buildings were flooded by up to eight feet of water and 30 more structures damaged on the base, the Omaha World-Herald reported, citing a base spokeswoman.
The National Weather Service reported some of the region’s larger rivers were running at record high levels, causing levee breaks. Some small towns and communities have been cut off by floods while others were short of fresh drinking water.
Streets in Lincoln, Nebraska’s capital, were barely visible as high water surrounded homes, cars and trees, according to photos released to Reuters by state authorities. Elsewhere in the state, one highway near Waterloo was submerged, and piles of debris and damaged roads were visible in Niobrara.
Floodwater climbed up the sides of buildings at Camp Ashland, an Army National Guard facility in Ashland, Nebraska.
Warmer temperatures will speed the pace of snow melt across the region and add to already swollen rivers, the NWS said, possibly forcing more evacuations in communities along the Missouri River on the Nebraska and Iowa border, as well as along the Elkhorn and Platte rivers in Nebraska.
“There could be issues across portions of Nebraska and Kansas for the next seven days,” NWS meteorologist Jim Hayes said.