Shut up or pay up at the U.N. GAO study: U.S. refusal to pay dues creates a crisis of dwindling influence at world body.

July 12, 1998

KOFI ANNAN, the United Nations secretary-general, recently forecast that the United States would lose its vote during the next U.N. General Assembly session that starts this fall.

A country loses its General Assembly vote when the amount it owes in dues and assessments exceeds its contributions for the previous two years. The United States' deadbeat status has already cost it a seat on a committee that considers reforms and efficiencies.

The United States is expected to lose its vote in January. Diplomats are scornful of this country's refusal to pay its dues in full, especially in light of constant U.S. lectures on the United Nation's need to put its own house in order.

By U.N. accounts, the United States owes nearly $1.5 billion. The United States, disputing some assessments and expenditures, calls it a little more than $1 billion. Congress and the Clinton administration agreed on a plan to pay more than $900 million in phases. The deal fell apart over an amendment killing foreign aid to organizations advocating abortion rights. Congress has appropriated nothing for the United Nations.

Now a General Accounting Office study says the United Nations is engaging in imprudent financial measures to keep itself afloat because it lacks U.S. dues. The study also says that the United States will lose its vote in the General Assembly unless it raises its payments $211 million to $241 million above what Congress had appeared willing to pay.

Although the United States would still be a veto-wielding, permanent member of the Security Council, to throw away influence within the United Nations would be lunacy. The United Nations is the vehicle by which the United States requires Iraq to relinquish weapons of mass destruction, brings war criminals of Bosnia to justice and polices peace lines on Israel's border with Syria.

The United States owes the money, has it and should pay up. Once having done so, it should exercise its muscle for reform.

Pub Date: 7/12/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.