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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

United Nations Peacekeeping: Issues for Congress

Marjorie Ann Browne
Specialist in International Relations


A major issue facing the United Nations, the United States, and the 111th Congress is the extent to which the United Nations has the capacity to restore or keep the peace in the changing world environment. Associated with this issue is the expressed need for a reliable source of funding and other resources for peacekeeping and improved efficiencies of operation. 

For the United States, major congressional considerations on U.N. peacekeeping stem from executive branch commitments made in the U.N. Security Council. The concern with these commitments, made through votes in the Council, is the extent to which they bind the United States to fund and to participate in some way in an operation. This includes placing U.S. military personnel under the control of foreign commanders. 

Peacekeeping has come to constitute more than just the placement of military forces into a ceasefire situation with the consent of all the parties. Military peacekeepers may be disarming or seizing weapons, aggressively protecting humanitarian assistance, and clearing land mines. Peacekeeping operations also now involve more non-military personnel and tasks such as maintaining law and order, election monitoring, and human rights monitoring. 

Proposals for strengthening U.N. peacekeeping and other aspects of U.N. peace and security capacities have been adopted in the United Nations, by the U.S. executive branch, and by Congress. Some are being implemented. Most authorities have agreed that if the United Nations is to be responsive to 21st century world challenges, both U.N. member states and the appropriate U.N. organs will have to continue to improve U.N. structures and procedures in the peace and security area. 

This report serves as a tracking report for action by Congress on United Nations peacekeeping.



Date of Report: August 13, 2010
Number of Pages: 58
Order Number: RL33700
Price: $29.95

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United Nations System Funding: Congressional Issues

Marjorie Ann Browne
Specialist in International Relations

Kennon H. Nakamura
Analyst in Foreign Affairs

The congressional debate over United Nations funding focuses on several questions, including (1) What is the appropriate level of U.S. funding for U.N. system operations and programs? (2) What U.S. funding actions are most likely to produce a positive continuation of U.N. system reform efforts? 

The U.N. system includes the United Nations, a number of specialized or affiliated agencies, voluntary and special funds and programs, and U.N. peacekeeping operations. Participating states finance the system with assessed contributions to the budgets of the United Nations and its specialized agencies. In addition, voluntary contributions are made both to those agencies and to the special programs and funds they set up and manage. For more than 60 years, the United States has been the single largest financial contributor to the U.N. system, supplying in recent years 22% of most U.N. agency budgets. (See Appendix D for an organizational chart that illustrates the components of the U.N. system.) 

Both Congress and the executive branch have sought to promote their policy goals and reform of the United Nations and its system of organizations and programs, especially to improve management and budgeting practices. In the 1990s, Congress linked payment of U.S. financial contributions and its arrears to reform. 

This report, which will be updated, tracks the process by which Congress provides the funding for U.S. assessed contributions to the regular budgets of the United Nations, its agencies, and U.N. peacekeeping operation accounts, as well as for U.S. voluntary contributions to U.N. system programs and funds. It includes information on the President's request and the congressional response, as well as congressional initiatives during this legislative process. Basic information is provided to help the reader understand this process. 


Date of Report: August 9, 2010
Number of Pages: 59
Order Number: RL33611
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

United Nations Reform: U.S. Policy and International Perspectives

Luisa Blanchfield
Specialist in International Relations

Since its establishment in 1945, the United Nations has been in a constant state of transition as various international stakeholders seek ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the U.N. system. Recent controversies, such as corruption of the Iraq Oil-For-Food Program, allegations of sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers, and instances of waste, fraud and abuse by U.N. staff, have focused renewed attention on the need for change and improvement of the United Nations. Many in the international community, including the United States, have increased pressure on U.N. member states to implement substantive reforms. The 111th Congress will most likely continue to focus on U.N. reform as it considers appropriate levels of U.S. funding to the United Nations and monitors the progress and implementation of ongoing and previously approved reform measures. 

In September 2005, heads of U.N. member states met for the World Summit at U.N. Headquarters in New York to discuss strengthening the United Nations through institutional reform. The resulting Summit Outcome Document laid the groundwork for a series of reforms that included establishing a Peacebuilding Commission, creating a new Human Rights Council, and enlarging the U.N. Security Council. Member states also agreed to Secretariat and management reforms including improving internal U.N. oversight capacity, establishing a U.N. ethics office, enhancing U.N. whistle-blower protection, and reviewing all U.N. mandates five years or older. 

Since the World Summit, U.N. member states have worked toward implementing these reforms with varied degrees of success. Some reforms, such as the creation of the Human Rights Council and the Peacebuilding Commission, have already occurred or are ongoing. Other reforms, such as mandate review and U.N. Security Council enlargement, have stalled or not been addressed. U.N. member states disagree as to whether some proposed reforms are necessary, as well as how to most effectively implement previously agreed-to reforms. Developed countries, for example, support delegating more power to the Secretary-General to implement management reforms, whereas developing countries fear that giving the Secretary-General more authority may undermine the power of the U.N. General Assembly and therefore the influence of individual countries. 

Congress has maintained a significant interest in the overall effectiveness of the United Nations. Some Members are particularly interested in U.N. Secretariat and management reform, with a focus on enhanced accountability and internal oversight. In the past, Congress has enacted legislation that links U.S. funding of the United Nations to specific U.N. reform benchmarks. Opponents of this strategy argue that tying U.S. funding to U.N. reform may negatively impact diplomatic relations and could hinder the United States' ability to conduct foreign policy. Supporters contend that the United Nations has been slow to implement reforms and that linking payment of U.S. assessments to progress on U.N. reform is the most effective way to motivate member states to efficiently pursue comprehensive reform.


Date of Report: August 3, 2010
Number of Pages: 33
Order Number: RL33848
Price: $29.95

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Turkey: Politics of Identity and Power

Carol Migdalovitz
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs


Turkey has long been a valued U.S. NATO ally and strategic partner. Successive administrations have viewed it as a secular democracy that could serve as an inspiration or model for other Muslim majority countries. However, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has made foreign policy decisions that have led some long-time U.S. observers to question its future course. Domestic political developments may be enabling the AKP's greater assertiveness in international affairs and are, therefore, worthy of closer scrutiny. This report provides that examination via an overview of current Turkish domestic political scene. 

The main theme of the report is that the ongoing struggle for power in Turkey will determine the country's identity and that will have enormous consequences for U.S. policymakers. Turkey's secular identity has long been considered unique among majority Muslim states as secularism was a founding principle of the modern Turkish Republic. It also has been the principle that has produced the most domestic political tension. The AKP, formed in 2001, has Islamist roots but claims to be conservative and democratic. Its emergence and increasing acquisition of power has exacerbated concerns, especially in secularist circles, about whether AKP is intent on altering Turkey's identity. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AKP have governed in an increasingly confident manner since a Court refused to ban it for being "a focal point of antisecular activities" in 2008. Already in control of the executive and legislature, they are gaining influence over bastions of secularism in the judiciary and military. These developments may enable AKP to implement a domestic agenda that is consistent with its core identity. However, the AKP has failed to deal comprehensively with a significant domestic group's struggle for recognition of its ethnic identity—the Kurds in a majority Turkish state. The government initiated an unprecedented "Kurdish opening," but managed it poorly, produced unfulfilled expectations, and may have contributed to an escalation in Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorism. 

The unraveling of a series of alleged coup plots is another arena in which the struggle for power and identity between the AKP and its opponents is being played out. In the first, major alleged conspiracy, called Ergenekon, ultranationalists and secularists are said to have planned to create instability in the country in order to provide a pretext for the military to intervene and overthrow the government. Believers in the conspiracies, who include the AKP and its supporters, cite the revelations as evidence of Turkey's progress as a democracy because what is called the "deep state," or elite who have controlled the political system for 50 years, is finally being confronted. Skeptics charge that the AKP is using a fictitious affair to intimidate and weaken opponents in the military, judiciary, media, and elsewhere who are ardent secularists, and that the authorities' handling of suspects fails to meet international legal standards, thereby marring Turkey's democratic advance. They also suggest that the enigmatic and powerful Fethullah Gulen Movement, a religious group, may be driving the investigations. 

Although the AKP has appeared increasingly confident, its diminished plurality of votes in the 2009 municipal elections provided signs that it can be challenged. A possibly more viable political opposition, new leadership of the main opposition party, and the forthcoming constitutional referendum may provide additional clues as to whether AKP's ambitions to alter Turkey's identity and policies can be constrained. They also indicate that AKP functions within the parameters of a democratic political system, albeit flawed, that allows these developments. 

For in-depth information on the period prior to this report, see CRS Report RL34646, Turkey: Update on Crisis of Identity and Power, by Carol Migdalovitz
.


Date of Report: August 13, 2010
Number of Pages: 31
Order Number: R41368
Price: $29.95

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The European Union’s Response to the 2007-2009 Financial Crisis

Walter W. Eubanks
Specialist in Financial Economics


The purpose of this report is to assess the response of the European Union (EU) to the 2007-2009 financial crisis in terms of the financial regulatory changes the EU has made or is planning to make. The financial crisis began in the United States during the second half of 2006 with a sharp increase in U.S. bank losses due to subprime mortgage foreclosures. Because the U.S. and EU banks were using a similar business model, the EU banks experienced similar distressed financial conditions that U.S. banks faced. Large banks on both sides of the Atlantic found themselves severely undercapitalized and holding insufficient liquidity. However, because in the European Union financial regulations are enforced at the European level as well as the member country level, finding and implementing effective remedies for the causes of the financial crisis have been slower and different than the United States. 

Before finding remedies, EU member countries and the U.S. banks were recapitalized through government assistance. The recapitalization approaches taken by the United States were similar for all banks through the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and the Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program (TLGP). The EU took several recapitalization approaches ranging from consolidating the savings banks in Spain to the establishment of "a bad bank" in Germany. Banks were nationalized in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. In all cases, the financial services providers were recapitalized with taxpayer money. On July 21, 2010, the United States enacted the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Financial Reform and Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 111-203), which analysts consider to be a roadmap to remedies of the financial crisis. At the same time, the European Parliament remains deadlocked on a bill that the European Parliament Committee for Economic and Monetary Affairs approved in 2009 that would strengthen the regulatory authorities for banking, securities trade and insurance and pension sectors, and would give the EU the power to overrule member countries on financial issues. 

Analysts attribute the European financial crisis to European banks adopting the business model called "originate-to-distribute," as opposed to the traditional model of originate-to-hold. The model was developed by large U.S. banks. Seeing the record breaking profitability of U.S. banks prior to the crisis, large European banks adopted the model. The originate-to-distribute model allows financial institutions to expand their lending seemingly without violating the underlying capital requirements set by regulators. To exploit weaknesses in the underlying regulatory structures, the model generated financial instruments, including collateralized debt obligations and mortgage-backed and other securities. To garner profits, the model also used poor underwriting of mortgages, regulatory arbitrage among regulators, as well as little coordination among national regulatory authorities. The model contributed to the failure of the regulatory structures on both sides of the Atlantic by undermining the enforcement of capital requirements, which might have mitigated the impact of the financial crisis. Bank losses led to bank undercapitalization, which meant banks did not have enough capital to absorb the losses from housing foreclosures and other asset losses. 

This report examines the EU responses to the financial crisis through changes to the financial regulatory structure at the EU level as well as the member country level. The countries examined are Germany and the United Kingdom, which have single financial regulators; the Netherlands, which has a twin peaks regulatory structure; and Spain, which has a functional structure.



Date of Report: August 13, 2010
Number of Pages: 23
Order Number: R41367
Price: $29.95

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