Great news: Donald Trump’s ambassador nominee is determined to overhaul the U.N.

UN Ambassador-designate, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley listens while testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Transitioning from being the governor of a medium-sized state to representing the United States at the United Nations, the largest organization that the world has ever known, would be a big step for anyone. For South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, it might be an even steeper climb — not because she’s incapable or unintelligent, but because the United Nations at the present time is in dire need of reform.

When Haley wrote in her opening statement that “any honest assessment also finds an institution that is often at odds with American national interests and American taxpayers,” she was largely correct. Its very structure all but guarantees that the U.N. is bloated, unaccountable, overstretched, underfunded and resistant to change.

The American taxpayer underwrites 22 percent of the U.N.’s total operating budget (for perspective, the second-largest contributor, Japan, comes in at just over 9 percent) and in most cases it’s hard to assess whether those donations are doing any good. Can the U.S. government really claim, for instance, that taxpayer money is being allocated wisely to U.N. peacekeeping operations ($2.04 billion in FY2014) when some of the very same peacekeepers that are using that money are found to have sexually assaulted the people they’re supposed to be protecting? And when other member nations fail to meet their voluntary donations to the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the U.N. Refugee Agency, or U.N.-directed relief operations, is it fair that the U.S. is often the country called upon by U.N. bureaucrats to replenish the funds?

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Nikki Haley forcefully made the case during her confirmation hearing that, no, it isn’t fair that the U.S. is being asked to do so much, particularly when the U.N. General Assembly and the Human Rights Council provide representation to countries that have terrible human rights records. There’s just something wrong when a country like Saudi Arabia, which has one of the highest execution rates in the world and literally beheads people in the street, is allowed to run for a seat on the Human Rights Council. It’s also incredibly distressing that it usually takes a public scandal for the U.N. to reprimand peacekeepers for their abuses.

And yet, despite all of these flaws, the U.S. is far better served being a member of the U.N. and defending its interests within the bureaucracy rather than being on the outside looking in. It was heartening to hear Haley advocate for continued U.S. participation in the U.N. rather than embracing some of the ridiculous proposals introduced by members of Congress that would completely withhold U.S. dues or withdraw the U.S. as a U.N. member state. The United Nations may be unwieldy, but imagine how ineffective it would be without the United States using its financial weight to push through reforms.

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There was plenty of moralizing from the former governor of South Carolina about the U.S. speaking truth to power and the values of universal human rights and democracy — far more than I would have liked. It’s more realistic to deal with the world as it is than to alienate countries by pushing democratic governance on them (we should have learned that by now after Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya). Hopefully Haley will recognize that representing American interests at the United Nations doesn’t mean taking on the role of a pro-democracy lecturer. But in the end, there was more good than bad during her confirmation hearing. The Senate should make quick work of her nomination in the days to come.

What do you think?

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