Congress should make direct contact with and travel to U.N. headquarters in New York as much of a priority as it does travel to foreign destinations. House members, for example, took approximately 125 official foreign trips in the last three quarters of 2006. This figure does not include congressional staff. In addition, since 2001, congresspersons and their staff have taken more than 27,000 privately funded trips—valued at almost $50 million—with Taiwan, Germany, and Israel being the most popular destinations. Only 150 of these trips have been to the U.N. headquarters.
While congressional trips to other countries are certainly an established and important aspect of U.S. foreign relations, the breakdown of trips abroad as compared to trips to nearby U.N. headquarters does not reflect the importance Congress should place on developing stronger ties with the world body. Congress should begin to take greater advantage of the fact that the United Nations is on U.S. soil and a short journey from Capitol Hill in order to better understand how the institution works. In addition, congressional members and staff should regularly visit U.N. peacekeeping missions and other programs in the field when traveling abroad.
Forging closer ties will help Congress better understand the fears of the “American agenda” at the United Nations and provide an opportunity to begin to alleviate those concerns. It will also
help Congress develop relationships with U.N. decision-makers whose actions can ultimately help or hurt America’s interests.
For more information on the Center’s policies on the United Nations, please see: