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U.S. Makes Token Dues Payment To Stay In UN

by Thalif Deen

on U.S. refusal to pay UN dues
(IPS) UNITED NATIONS -- The United States, threatened with the loss of its voting rights in the UN General Assembly for non-payment of dues, has escaped the penalty clause in the UN charter by advancing a token sum of $197 million to cover some of its arrears.

Under-Secretary-General Joseph Connor, head of the Department of Administration and Management, told reporters November 4 that the payment would prevent the United States from being penalized in the UN's highest policy-making body.

Despite the $197 million payment, Washington still owed the United Nations a hefty $1.3 billion in dues -- held back for political reasons by the Republican dominated U.S. Congress. Since 1991, the U.S. arrears accumulated to a point where Washington risked automatic forfeiture of its vote in the 185-member General Assembly by January next year.

Article 19 of the UN Charter 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 of its arrears equals or exceeds the amount of the contributions due from it for the preceding two full years."

Record number of other nations have paid dues
British delegate Nick Thorne told delegates yesterday that while he welcomed news of the U.S. payment, he was disappointed that no progress had been made on paying off the outstanding arrears. He hoped the United States could tell member states when the United Nations could expect the remainder of the payments, and whether any conditions would be attached.

U.S. Ambassador Richard Sklar said that the Clinton administration was still working to address the problem of arrears that stemmed largely from the years 1991 to 1995.

In the State Department's Authorization Bill last July, the U.S. Congress laid down 38 conditions for repayment of the arrears. The conditions include drastic staff cuts, elimination of some UN programs, a reduction of the U.S. share of the UN budget and Congressional oversight of UN spending.

John Whithead, chairman of the UN Association of USA (UNA-USA), said Congress' failure to allocate money for U.S. arrears to the United Nations has hampered the operation of the world body, harmed American allies to whom money is owed for UN-sanctioned peacekeeping operations and damaged U.S. diplomacy.

"Ultimately, UNA-USA believes that any credible plan for payment of the U.S. debt must be accompanied by a commitment to reverse, once and for all, a pattern of delinquent behavior that has brought the United Nations to the very brink of financial insolvency and programmatic paralysis," he added.

Whithead said his Organization has long maintained that the United States must pay its dues "in full, on time, and without conditions."

Meanwhile Connor said that the U.S. payment made this week would help reduce the projected year-end UN budget deficit, from a negative $247 million to a negative $50 million.

"It was a piece of good news," Connor said, pointing out that the money will be used to pay UN staff salaries and day-to-day expenses through the months of November and December. "It will help us to get through our operations until the end of the year," he said.

As a result of U.S. arrears, the Organization's year-end budget deficit rose from $27 million in 1994 to $196 million in 1995. In 1996, the deficit stood at $195 million and in 1997 about $122 million.

Connor said that a total of 107 member states have so far paid their regular budget assessments in full, a record high.

Pakistan and Fiji loaning UN money because of U.S. debt
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has warned that the United Nations was "for all practical purposes, in a state of bankruptcy. Our doors are kept open only because other countries in essence provide interest-free loans to cover largely American- created shortfalls."

The assistance came not only from rich countries such as Britain, France, Italy and Canada but also from developing nations such as Pakistan and Fiji, he said.

Annan said that in response to U.S. Congressional demands, the United Nations has eliminated nearly 1,000 posts bringing the staff size to below 9,000, and has also cut administrative expenditures to 25 percent of the $2.5 billion budget, down from 38 percent.

"There is an American saying that all politics is local. But increasingly, all local politics has global consequences. And those global consequences, in turn, affect the quality of local life everywhere," he noted.

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Albion Monitor November 16, 1998 (

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