Pl Sc 3180 The United Nations #1
- When we consider contemporary International Organizations, it is quite likely that the United Nations will be one of the first that comes to mind. Certainly, the office of UN SECGEN is a highly visible figure, called upon to serve as the representative of the international community and to mediate disputes, and to generally illustrate that the attention of the world is directed toward a particular matter.
- The UN is perhaps the most famous international governmental organization, as such an examination of its background, history, workings and evolution will be undertaken over the next several classes.
- Obviously, the idea for the United Nations sprang from the failure of the League of Nations and was bandied about throughout the Second World War. Now, it is important to realize that the League of Nations was not an overly optimistic (or welcomed) term in the late 1930s and the early 1940s, yet, the notion of an international community working together to ensure that another such war did not develop took on increased relevance as the war drew on.
- In essence, what existed were two divergent patterns of thought – one being that the League had failed in its mandate to prevent the coming of another “World” War, but the particular carnage of that event demonstrated the necessity of such an organization's existence. Meaning that while the events of WWII inspired a search for some sort of international collective security organ (above simple alliances), the experience of the League of Nations did not auger well for the success of such an organization. Never the less, despite the problems of the League, and the rise of realists ideas following the war, the UN was launched in 1945, why? How would it differ from the League? These are questions we will address shortly.
- First of all, as to the why. Well, the League was not entirely without its supporters in the member states. You had Lord Cecil in Britain (one of the original architects of the League) heading a society in that country, and others who did not see the League as being an example of why this could not work, but rather how the members had failed to allow it to work. Now, the League itself had essentially been discredited, but the concept remained vital and alive.
- Perhaps more important to the why was the changed political attitude in the United States. Various groups in this country were also championing the cause of the league and the political environment was substantially different from 1919. Not only did this idea have the support of the executive branch (Roosevelt, certainly, and Truman to a lesser extent), but this support was also bi-partisan, with Republican leaders in Congress also supporting American participation. The view across the political spectrum seemed to be that America did not have the luxury of sitting on the side-lines following the Second World War (both UK and Fr decimated by the war and in rather poor positions to provide leadership in a post-war Europe without active American involvement). The United States was not only willing to join but it was willing to play an active part in the leadership of the organization.
- Throughout the Second World War, the allied nations had been invoking such concepts, but at the 1st Washington conference of 1941-42 (Dec. 14 to Jan. 20), the 26 allied nations first began to refer to themselves as the United Nations. Note: at this conference, the allied nations agreed that none would conclude a separate peace with Germany.
- The Moscow conference of 1943 advocated the formation of an “international organization to safeguard peace and security”, this process continued through Dumbarton Oaks (1944), Yalta (Feb 1945) where the permanent members of the security council had their rights of veto established), and finally at San Francisco in April-June of 1945. The question of permanent veto was one that vexed the allies (who were the genesis of the United Nations). This was something that the Soviets insisted upon as a precondition for their entry (mention how different the world was in 1945 and how de-colonization had yet to occur and the relevance of same). The Russians clearly saw themselves as being in a minority position on the Security Council (remember the status of China), and did not wish to be outvoted on every major question. The others were not thrilled with this (though they might have changed their tune in about 20 yrs), but saw this as the price for Soviet acceptance of the agreement. Of course, this became the single most controversial aspect of the UN, and continues to come under scorn at the present time.
- Another question that emerged was the status of the Soviet Union, and its constituent republics (15, unless he is including Inner Mongolia). Again, the numbers did not bode for the Soviet Union from the beginning (we will show a table of veto’s later to illustrate how this changed over the years), and they formally claimed to be a Union of distinct republics – not exactly born out in reality. Compromise was reached, where two of the Republics received their own seats – Ukraine and Byelorussia (Belarus).
- The United Nations Congress in San Francisco in 1945 had representatives from 50 countries, this conference drew up both the Charter of the United Nations and the statutes of the International Court of Justice. Of the 50, all of the 46 states who had declared war on the axis powers were represented, also included were the two Soviet Republics, Denmark and Argentina.
- The basic purpose of the United Nations was to maintain international peace and security and to provide a forum for contact to achieve international cooperation. Within the UN all members, as sovereign nations, were to be considered equal (problem - security council & permanent members).
- The Question of where to locate the United Nations was another thorny issue – US won largely as a result of $. Rockefeller donated a large chunk of land in Manhatten (had not inconsiderable benefits for neighboring property that he also owned) and the US gov’t provided an interest free loan for the construction of the buildings. Naturally, this has ramifications for the UN. At one point, you refused to extend Arafat a visa to speak before the GA, this meant that the meetings had to be held in Switzerland. At the time, there was discussion that the UN should move there permanently (Switz is not presently a member of this, or any other international organization, would violate their neutrality and ability to shelter $ and treasonous democrats). Mention the experiences of Castro as well. Also, leads US critics t argue that this should be considered to be part of your contribution to the UN and others to conclude that you are benefiting financially from the presence of so many diplomats (who irk the NYPD and others). Another issue of squabble, though it pales in comparison to some of the ones that we will discuss shortly.
C, Purposes of the United Nations
- As identified in Article 1, the purpose of the United Nations are: “Safeguarding of world peace, protection of human rights, equal rights for all peoples (mention how pissed the Japanese were that this was left out of the Treaty of Versailles), improvement of the general living standards in the world.” Of course, they have not entirely succeeded in these goals, but that is why they are called goals. Also, the issue of sovereignty tends to weigh in against activism.
- The Sovereign members of the United Nations also agreed to the following four main principles: (long quote from Anchor p. 223)
(1) To actively safeguard peace by non-violent means (recommendations, investigations, mediation, arbitration – Art. 35), by political or economic sanctions (Art. 45), or by the use of armed forces (Art. 42) which were to be delegated by the members (art. 43; military agreements governing the UN forces, the military staff committee, and world-wide disarmament have not so far been concluded).
(2) To acknowledge the right of national self-defense (Art. 51), also with the aid of regional security treaties (Art. 53).
(3) To non-interference in domestic affairs (which meant abandonment of the protection of human rights in authoritarian states and totalitarian states; the proclamation of the General Declaration of Human Rights in December 1948 remains unbinding).
(4) Loyal fulfillment of the UN obligations “in good faith” (Art. 2), esp. the pledge not to threaten or use force (for all practical purposes ineffective). As a matter of principle, all states recognizing the Charter of the UN and willing to abide by its charter were eligible to become members of the organization.
- Objectives were written with agreement in mind (result of much haggling). As such they are rather vague, and at times, contradictory. Remember that this is an organization of sovereign states, with vastly differing perspectives and cultures. In Article 2, the “domestic jurisdiction” clause is presented. This precludes the UN to “intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of the state.” By necessity, these matters are defined on an ad hoc basis. (Therefore the political matters of disagreement are never too far from the surface.
- For example, the US and the Soviet Union had perspectives that differed dramatically when it came to the idea of human rights (mention the Marxist notion of economic rights), so the wording had to be rather vague.
D. Six Basic Organs to the United Nations
1. The General Assembly
- Consists of representative of all member states within the United Nations. As of 2000, there were 189 members in the UN. All have an equal vote in General Assembly meetings. Of course this creates somewhat of a controversy, mention the budget. However, this does represent one of the founding principles of the UN, the equality of its members. This is the only one of the six organs in which all nations are represented.
- The GA approves the budget of the UN (mention the problem there), acts along with the Security Council to select the General Secretary, also passes resolutions on a multitude of issues ranging from security to social and economic issues. However, these recommendations have little force other than moral. The GA may also discuss security issues not presently being discussed by the security council.
- Remember that in the League assembly decisions had to be unanimous, within the UN, this is a little more flexible. Article 18 of the Charter states that decisions on “important questions” must be reached by a majority of 2/3 of those nations who are present and who voted (do not know if there is a minimum for quorum). All of the other issues under consideration require a simple majority. As far as what is meant by the term “important questions”, well this includes such issues as – peace and security recommendations, elections to the three UN Councils (Security, ECOSOC, Trusteeship), admission, suspension and expulsion of members, trusteeship decisions, budgetary matters, and those that the assembly decides (by a majority vote) to deem as such.
- Within the body there is something called the Group of 77, which is actually up to over 130, and this is a caucus of Third World members that seeks to present a unified front on emerging issues. This has met with limited success.
- In general, the UN has tried to decide issues by consensus, rather than by rushing something through with a majority. There are some exceptions (resolution condemning Zionism), but generally the effort is made to accommodate main points of view. Result is that resolutions are usually watered down. Purpose is to ensure that they do not see an exodus from the UN, ala the League.
- Regular sessions of the GA are held each year, beginning on the third Tuesday in September and lasting to about mid-December. The opening of the UN is a rather big deal and frequently heads of state (or heads of government) will participate. Remember the standing ovation that Clinton received in the middle of the Monica mess.
- The General Assembly, can also call a special session and did so 20 times between 1947 and 1998. This can be called by the Security Council, or by a majority of the member nations within the GA. May be requested during the regular session and then reconvened following a break. Past session have dealt with security matters (Palestine, Namibia, Lebanon, disarmament), political questions (Apartheid), economic development (NIEO, International Economic co-operation, Raw materials), common problems (drugs, environment, etc.)
- GA (majority) or SC (9members) may also call an emergency sessions of the GA if they believe the SC to be deadlocked. These sessions may be convened in 24 hours. Ten have been called between 1947 and 1998: Middle East (Suez Crisis of 1956), Hungary (rising of 1956), Middle East (1958), Congo (1960), Middle East (1967), Afghanistan (1980), Palestine (1980-82), Namibia (1981), Occupied Arab Territories (1982) and East Jerusalem (1997). They can make recommendations (1950 Uniting for Peace resolution) for economic sanctions or military action when the SC is deadlocked. Happened during the Suez Crisis (Brits and Frogs were part of the problem and UNEF (United Nations Emergency Force) was created to deal with the peacekeeping in the Sinai and Canal Zone.
- Assembly largely serves as a debating society, not useless (remember the Churchill dictum about Jaw, Jaw?), but the size makes it rather unwieldy.
- Assembly is also entrusted with the budget (mention problems as they related the US and its non-payment of dues.
- Finally, the GA has two elective functions, new members and to the other organs. Application for a new membership goes to the SG, who transmits to the SC, where it can be vetoed by any of the permanent members, discuss the log jam of the 1950s as it related to the admission of bloc states and US allies. Also selects member to the SC (10 non-perms for 2 yr terms) and to ECOSOC.. Finally (swear), in concurrence with the SC, it elects an SG and names judges to the International Court of Justice.
2. The Security Council
- Consists of 5 permanent members (the US, China, France, UK, & Russia) and 10 other members elected by the GA for 2 year terms. Each of the 5 permanent members can veto any important action brought before the security council. Procedural votes need a majority, substantive measures need a majority, plus the assent of the permanent members. The reason for the veto was a lesson drawn from the League of Nations, that in order for an organization to be effective, the Great Powers must agree to support its actions. Paralysis through the Cold War - Show the chart of Vetoes From p. 73 of Papp
- Discuss the controversy concerning the permanent memberships (how they were created, who became PMs, others who seek such a position). Who do they think the likely candidates are? Why? Go into the pros and cons of each mentioned.
- In terms of the non-permanent members. There were originally 6, but an amendment to the charter (ratified in 1965 – amendments need 2/3 of GA and assent of permanent members & 2/3 of SC), expanded the number to ten. Came largely as a result of the continuing dispute over who could be elected to the SC. Originally, as the result of a “Gentleman’s Agreement” in 1946, two elected seats were assigned to LA, and one each to the Commonwealth, WE, EE, and ME. Essentially assured a Western majority. However, the explosion in League membership that took place in the 1950s (de-colonization) led to demands for increased representation from Africa and Asia. Led to the amendment of 1965 (originally proposed in 1963). Current assignment of seats reads as follows: five to Asia and Africa, one to EE, two to LA, and two to WE and other states. Highly coveted honour. Non-perms at present are: Norway, Ireland, Singapore, Colombia, Mauritius, Ukraine, Tunisia, Bangladesh, Jamaica, Mali.
- Two main purposes of the body are to settle disputes peacefully and to meet threats to peace with concerted action of the organization. Obviously, has not been entirely successful at these tasks – paralyzed by veto and the cold war. Korea and Kuwait were two exceptions, but these were indeed exceptional circumstances.
- The Security Council has as its primary responsibility the maintenance of peace and security. It may investigate any situation they see as posing a threat to international peace. They then recommend a method to solve the problem. 3 Possibilities
i. Pass a non-binding Resolution
ii. Recommend that the international community use measure short of force (economic sanctions, cutting of contact, etc). May require parties in dispute to appear before and have their dispute adjudicated by the international Court of Justice.
iii. Use Force - Originally intended to be a UN army (did not occur), now based on ad hoc arrangements. Usually Nord, Canadians & 3rd Worlders for peacekeeping.
- Also, in concert with GA, selects GS, members of ICJ, and admits new members.
- Body is in permanent session (unlike GA). Members, if matter under discussion is deemed to affect their interests, may participate in the debate but not vote on the matter. Also, states whether they are UN members or not, must be invited to participate if they are party to dispute under consideration. Again, they do not have a vote.
- One final aspect of SC before we move along, and that is the distinction between procedural and substantive issues. For either to pass, need the support of nine members of the council. Yet, latter can be killed by a veto from one of the permanent members. Charter does not specify how to distinguish and the deal was reached at SF that motion must occur to make a matter procedural, and such a motion will be treated as non-procedural. Meaning that one of the permanent members can kill it as this stage, by vetoing motion to declare it to be procedural. In essence, the big five have the ability to kill just about anything, even if it affects them. However, as we have seen, if body is determined to be deadlocked, the matter can be submitted to the GA.
- The post cold war euphoria has declined a little bit, this did not guarantee the end of the vetos, issues of national interest still exist (mention NK and the PRC’s interest in that area, also reason for NATO to be involved in Kosovo).
E. The United Nations #2
Six Main Organs (Cont.)
3. Economic and Social Council
- 54 members, each elected for a 3 year term. Initially the body had 18 members, but this was expanded to 27 in 1965 and 54 in 1973. Members are elected by a 2/3 vote in the GA. Generally has had the large economically developed countries as members, this caused the expansions of the body, as developing countries sought to increase their presence and impact on Social and Economic policymaking.
- Primary function is to bring economic and social issues to the attention of the UN. ECOSOC can hold meetings, do research, produce studies and reports, and draft resolutions for consideration by the United Nations. For example, this is the body that produced the 1948 Declaration on Human Rights. However, this body has no legislative power of its own, can only make recommendations to the GA and exists at its behest. The body meets twice a year, Spring in NY, and in the summer in Geneva. It is the body of the UN with the greatest connection to INGOs, they are often asked to appear at hearings, etc in a consultative role.
- Functional Commissions that deal with: human rights; population; social development; status of women; economic issues; narcotic drugs.
4. International Court of Justice
- 15 Judges elected to 9 year staggered terms. Elected by the GA and the Security Council. Similar to the SG, the security council offers a recommendation which is voted on by the general assembly. Ostensibly, its main role is to determine whether or not a state has contravened the charter of the UN. In actuality, it hears few cases and its decisions are frequently rejected by the losing party.
- Ex. Iran and Hostages, US and Contras
- Decisions are taken on a majority basis with nine judges being necessary for quorum.
5. Trusteeship Council
- Established to prepare the territories of the losers of WWII for independence. Of the 11 states initially under its direction, the last one - Palau.-( Which was in trust to the United States) received its independence in 1994. This body is virtually moribund, and has suspended meetings, and only awaits a Charter Resolution to see it disbanded. Initially, the members of the body were: (1) those states who administered trust territories; (2) permanent members of the SC who did not have Trusts; and (3) elected members. The first category has been abolished, and the other two (as mentioned are not overly relevant at the present time.
6. The Secretariat
- Responsible for the day to day operations of the United Nations. Headed by the Secretary General – Kofi Annan - personal symbol of the UN. Secretariat has a staff of about 5,000 provides info about the UN and publishes its reports and statistics.
The General Secretary
- Personal symbol of the UN, appointed by the GA on the recommendation of the Security Council. Gaining this recommendation is the tricky part, as it has been fraught with squabbles and politics. Three truly notable fights.
- In the first, when Trygve Lie’s term (5yr) was about to expire, the Soviets vetoed the nominations of Lester Pearson (bastards!) and Paul-Henri Spaak of Belgium, and the US responded by saying that it would not accept any candidate other than Lie. UN saved itself from embarrassment by extending Lie’s term for an additional 3 yrs by a GA resolution.
- In the second, in 1981, through 16 ballots, China vetoed Kurt Waldheim’s bid for a third term. The Chinese asserted that it was nothing personal, they just wanted someone from the developing world. The US blocked China’s first choice Salim A. Salim of Tanzania. Eventually a compromise was reached on Javier Perez de Cuellar.
- In the third, The United State objected strongly to a second term for Boutros Boutros-Ghali, but the African countries insisted that the next choice also come from that continent, believing they had been robbed by having the first African denied a chance at two terms. Result was Kofi Annan.
- This process has always been heavily politicized, as a result the Gas have either come from non-aligned European countries (exception was Lie, but Norway did not join NATO until well into his term) or developing world.
- Seven SG’s
i. Trygve Lie (Norway) 1946-53
ii. Dag Hammarskjold Sweden 1953-61
iii. U Thant Burma (61-71)
iv. Kurt Waldheim Austria (72-81)
v. Javier Perez de Cuellar Peru (82-91)
vi. Boutros Boutros Ghali Egypt (92-97)
vii. Kofi Annan (97-)
- The Secretaries have assumed the role of spokepersons for the international community and therefore have normally not been reluctant to take positions on its behalf, though this does not always have a strong impact.
Formal Powers of the SG
i. Article 99 empowers SG to “bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which, in his opinion, may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security. Waldheim and Iran.
ii. Article 98 entrusts him/her to perform such functions as are entrusted to him by other organs. Hammarskjold used this as a mandate to do whatever was necessary to implement directives from GA and SC relating to the Middle East, Congo, and others.
iii. Hammarskjold asserted that the SG has the role of filling any of the gaps left in operations by the SC and GA.
- The SG has become more than an administrator. Serves as personification of the UN and wields a certain amount of moral authority. This is not to suggest that he/she has unlimited influence, requires the co-operation of key states to accomplish anything of substance. However, he/she does have the prestige to bring issues to the attention of the General Public.
- The powers of the SG have evolved over the years. The expansion of these powers from being a formal administrator to an international symbol has come from a liberal interpretation of Article 98.Evolution of the role has also been the result of the perception of the need for a visible mediator and helmsman. This role has expanded since the inception of the body, as has the politicization of the selection process.
Review of SGs.
i. Trygve Lie (1946-53)
- First dispute to come before the UN was the 1946 Iranian dispute, when the US insisted that the failure of the Soviet Union to withdraw troops by deadline time be placed on the agenda of the SC. The Soviets walked out in protest (first of several occasions). Lie claimed the right to intervene in Security Counsel debate on Iran (based on article 99), with an oral or written statement. The SC resisted this, but Lie was able to maintain this right with respect tot he GA.
- In general, he cheesed off both the US and the Soviets (probably meant he was doing his job).
- He also endorsed UN action in Korea, which outraged the Soviets.
- Served 8 years, an expedient due to circumstances discussed earlier, but was of dubious constitutionality.
ii. Dag Hammarskjold (1953-61)
- He contributed more to the notion of active leadership than any of the other SGs. One of his early actions was to intervene to get the Chinese to release (some of) the pilots downed in the Korean War.
- He also was involved in the Suez Crisis (1956), which provided a golden opportunity for the exercise of SG leadership. Remember that the SC was deadlocked by French and British vetos, so Hammar submitted a report to the GA concerning the possibility of raising and dispatching UNEF troops to the canal region. He strongly influenced the direction of operations. The GA asked him to prepare a plan for the creation of an International (UN) emergency force. The result was 6,000 troops from 10 countries, who were on Egyptian territory from 56 to 67, and who began to arrive 11 days after the adoption of the resolution. This was the first use of the term “Peacekeeping”, and would set the precedent for future operations.
- In Lebanon (1958), Hammar responded to Lebanese concerns about Syrian infiltration of their border region. He sought to get around the Soviet veto, and declared that he had the ability to fill vacuum and take appropriate measures, which involved sending a small force (571 people) to the border region and getting the Arab countries to introduce a pledge of non-interference.
- Finally, for Hammar, was the Congo Crisis (60-64 formally, but really continues to the present day), which would mark the biggest UN operation (some 20,000 troops were there at the peak of the four year crisis. In 1960, the Congo had gained independence from Belgium (Belgium?), with rioting, tribalism and mutinees to follow. Katanga province (rich in minerals) seceded, and the Belgians intervened to protect their nations and for less altruistic goals (access to Katanga). Lumumba appealed to Hammar. He had initial support from the SC who authorized him prepare a plan for military and technical aid. Soviets later balked at the cost ($400 m over four years) and the accusations of favoritism by the troops (initially on behalf of the Europeans, later suppressed the Belgians and their mercs). Lumumba eventually toppled and executed, and Hammar himself died in a plane crash while visiting the Congo. Order restored (after a fashion) by 1964, with Mobutu in charge, country would turn into a kleptocracy, not that the Belgians were ideal administrators.
iii. U Thant (1961-71)
- Yemen, West Irian, and Cyprus were all scenes of UN action. The first two were on the initiative of the SG, though they were approved by the SC. He also attempted to mediate in the Cuban Missile Crisis, and was an outspoken if ineffective opponent of the Vietnam War.
- This period also saw the end of UN forces in Egypt ( in 1967, though they were brought back in 1973) and Congo (1964). Another element of the Congo Crisis that has some relevance for the present day is that objections of the Soviet Union and their failure to pay their share of the peacekeeping costs, out of protest for the operation. Under Article 19 of the Charter, the US sought to deprive them of their GA vote as a result. The Sovs threatened to leave the UN and the issue did not pass.
iv. Kurt Waldheim (72-81)
- During his tenure the developing world became much more assertive in their demands for economic change. This factored into his failure to secure a third term (remember the Chinese veto).
- Was able to place peacekeeping forces in Egypt (1973) and Lebanon, but efforts to mediate in Cambodia, Afghanistan and Iran were less successful.
- Perhaps best remembered for the scandal that emerged after he left office (nazi, tell Gilbert Gottfried joke).
v. Javier Perez de Cuellar (81-91)
- Compromise candidate after US trashed redundant Tanzanian.
- His second term was much more successful than the first, where efforts to mediate in the Falklands, Lebanon, Grenada, and Iran-Iraq proved to be fruitless. However, the changing world circumstances during his second term (collapse of USSR), and the general dissatisfaction with the war in both Iran and Iraq, allowed breakthroughs in the Persian Gulf Conflict (round 1), Central America, Cambodia, and Afghanistan.
- Was brought in to a changing world, but did play a role in the Gulf.
vi. BBG (92-97)
- First African, had been a UN troubleshooter in Africa as well as participant in the Camp David talks (1979, not Chelsea). Peacekeeping forces were sent in to Bosnia, Mozambique and Somalia (latter an unmitigated disaster) Mention antipathy of US..
vii. Kofi Annan
- Macalester College grad.
- Had served as undersecretary for Peacekeeping in earlier days.
- Trip to Iraq in 1998, where he sought to gain iraqi agreement for the admission of UN inspectors to blocked sights, with the threat of US military action looming in the distance. They end up concurring, also included a respect for Iraqi sovereignty in the deal. Naturally, this was not seen as an absolute victory and he took some criticism.
- This has been a problematical area for the United Nations since its inception and has been the cause of near constant concern. Of course, the delinquency of the United States is one of the first things that comes to mind when one examines the monetary issues of the UN, but there are some others: profligacy of the body, distribution of financing responsibilities among the member nations, how the budget is determined, etc. We will examine each of these issues in this, the last section dealing with the United Nations.
- Determining what each nation should contribute has been a rather thorny process. The initial principle established was that this should be based on the ability of the member nation to pay, rather than a flat assessment for each – “progressive” tax.
- Initially, there were four variables utilized in determining the assessment for each country: total national income, per capita income, foreign exchange earnings, and the economic dislocation suffered during WWII. The latter has been removed.
- Within these assessments would be floors and ceilings to the amount each state could contribute. The United States, which remains the single largest contributor (actually, the single largest assessee, a difference we will explore in a moment) initially had a ceiling of 40% of the total UN budget set for its contributions. Understandable given the circumstances of the time. However, given the changes to the World Economy, the US has consistently called for this amount to be reduced – which it has been on three occasions, initially down to 33% (do not know year), then to 25% in 1973 and recently down to 20% (within the last three months, weasels at CNN did not provide a date, probably too busy prepping resumes for Fox).
- On the other hand, the poorest 30 countries each pay 0.001% of the total UN budget, based on the reforms of 1998, this is down from previous floors of .04, .02, and .01%. More than 50 others pay .01%, this comes close to a majority within the UN, and all told accounts for less than 1% of the annual budget. Mention the dictum of Cardigan Naturally, this discrepancy is cause for serious squabbles between the wealthier and poorer countries. The US has recently held up its payments to the United Nations (more on this in a few moments) to seek to have its contributions lowered to 20% of the total budget.
- The United States is not alone in shouldering a large amount of the financing burden of the UN, until this year, it, along with Japan and Germany (the three largest contributors, were assessed at more than half of the total budget. In fact, the 8 single largest contributors to the body (in order – US, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, UK, Russia and Canada) together account for roughly 75% of the total assessments. Conversely, the other 181 countries pay less than a quarter of the operating costs. Of course, since the GA is the body which decides on the budget (prepped by GS), this creates all kinds of difficulties. The wealthier countries generally want the UN to cut expenditures while the poorer countries seek to expand UN programs. The results are not always pretty.
- Of course, the general budget is only part of the total cost for the United States, or of any wealthy countries contribution to the United Nations. While troops for the peacekeeping missions are determined on an ad hoc basis, paying for them is not. Countries are again assessed contribution amounts, and again the Unite States pays the Lions share. Originally this was set at 33% of the total amount, but has come down to 31.5%, with a reduction to 27.5% this year and 25% in 2004. Given the increased role that the UN has played in this regard, this is becoming an increasingly relevant issue.
C. Issues of Delinquency
- From earlier in the semester we remember that the Soviets went substantially into arrears over the Congo crisis, and the US sought to deprive them of their General Assembly vote under Article 19 of the UN charter. This did not work, as the Soviets threatened to leave the UN if this happened, and the US could not gain adequate support to stand up in this game of chicken,
- Recently, it has been the United States who has garnered most of the attention for lagging behind in terms of payments. Presently, the United States owes the UN somewhere in the range of $1 billion, and is arrears in both general and peacekeeping contributions. Naturally, this creates problems with the US, the UN and the other wealthy countries.
- This debt is more a question of will than of capabilities The US is not behind in contributions to either NATO or the OECD, but is consistently (for the last decade, at least) in arrears to the UN. Elements in Congress (mostly Republican, but there are a few Democrat stalwarts) argue that with the skewed (read democratic) system of voting in the General Assembly, this is the only way in which the US can get its point across – to hold off payment until reforms occur within the system. Now, whatever they think privately, the US has not lobbied for a change in the voting system, within the GA, that would not play well in the rest of the world, but has attempted an end run around this process by withholding its contributions and essentially attempting to blackmail the UN into lowering its assessment and instituting financial reforms. Of course, there are also some moral considerations (abortion, etc), but the single largest complaint has been with the budgeting process and the amount that the US has to pony up. Difficult for US reps as they routinely get beaten up over this issue.
- However, the United States is not the only country that has been in arrears, it has been estimated that in the recent past, 25 different countries have withheld portions of their assessments for political reasons. The reason that the US garners most of the attention is that it usually owes more than half of all monies in arrears.
- The experience of the congo Crisis and the Soviet Union, has convinced American lawmakers (of both stripes, this squabble began when the Democrats controlled both houses) that Article 19 of the Charter was toothless. This article, which states that
A member of the United Nations which is in arrears in the payment of its financial contributions to the Organization shall have no vote in the General Assembly if the amount equals or exceeds the amount of contributions due from it for the preceding two full years. The General Assembly may, nevertheless, permit such a member to vote if it is satisfied that the failure to pay is due to circumstances beyond the control of the member.
- When the Soviets were able to successfully flaunt this article for two successive
years (the GA went through the entire session of 1964 without taking a formal
vote as it did not want to deal with this problem), this was interpreted by
reform minded congresspersons that a precedent had been set. However, the rest
of the world has not quite seen it that way. During the standoff in the mid-1990s,
the US pledged that it would meet its obligations once its overall contribution
ceiling had been reduced, however, the UN, led by the other rich countries,
stated that they would not even consider the issue until the debt had been discharged.
In fact, late last year US ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke argued that
the US was on the verge of being stripped of its GA vote and its place on the
budget committee. An agreement was eventually reached, and the US promised to
make good in exchange for the reduction.
- In terms of overall budget, the UN now operates with a budget less than it enjoyed (in real terms) in the early part of the 1990s. Staff has been cut from about 12,000 to 9,000 in that decade, largely at the insistence of the US and some other rich countries. Still the debate continues, there are also issues of money owed to nations participating in peacekeeping operations and those that simply lack the ability to pay.
- Interesting in that the body is now being asked to take on a much greater role while witnessing the amount of $ remitted to it dwindle.
- Their thoughts on potential ways to meet this shortfall between goals and capabilities?
- What of the American position?