U.S. group urges payments with no strings

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 7 (G-77) - A U.S. organisation promoting the interests of the United Nations has launched a nationwide campaign to force the United States Congress to sanction payment of U.S. dues -- with no strings attached. ''We have urged the U.S. President (Bill Clinton) to take this issue to the country at large,'' says John Whitehead, chairman of the U.N. Association of USA. The Association is lobbying Senators and Congressmen through its network of more than 30,000 members in 175 U.S. cities. The U.S. owes about 1.3 billion dollars in arrears to the United Nations. Last month a bipartisan group in Congress, however, agreed to pay about 819 million dollars -- but only if the world body meets 38 conditions imposed by lawmakers. ''We have urged President Clinton to insist that the Senate's 38 conditions precluding payment of U.S. dues to the U.N. be stripped from the foreign affairs authorisation bill in the upcoming House- Senate Conference Committee,'' Whitehead said. Backing the Whitehead appeal was Elliot Richardson, co-chair of the Association's National Council and a former U.S. Defence Secretary. The Senate bill, sponsored by Republican Senator Jesse Helms and Democratic Senator Joseph Biden authorises payment of 819 million dollars in arrears over the next two years, but stipulates that the world body must first meet dozens of conditions. Whitehead said the proposed legislation in its current form does not serve U.S. interests. ''Rather, it asserts Congress' right to dictate terms to the U.N.'s 184 other member countries, bypasses Presidential authority, and submits the world body to micromanagement by a single nation's legislators,'' he added. Whitehead and Richardson say that some of the ideas in the legislation are useful -- ''if negotiated rather than dictated'' -- while others are ''ill-conceived.''

The Association has strongly objected to the unilateral demand for reductions in the U.S. rate of assessment, which would force the other member states to add a fifth of the U.S. share to their own U.N. assessments. The U.S. share of the U.N.'s regular budget is about 312 million dollars a year -- the equivalent of about 1.11 dollars per U.S. citizen. Currently, Washington pays 25 percent of the U.N.'s regular budget and 31 percent of the peacekeeping budget. But Congress wants this reduced to 20 percent and 25 percent respectively. However, instead of requesting the 185-member General Assembly to change this assessment rate, Congress wants to usurp the powers of the U.N.'s highest policy making body. Both the 15-member European Union and the 132-member Group of 77 developing nations say this is totally unacceptable. The U.S. so far remains isolated on the issue of conditional payments to the world body. At a press conference in Geneva last week, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Washington has offered to pay about two-thirds of the debt it owes to the United Nations. ''But that also comes with conditions and benchmarks, which I am told by my American friends, is going to be a challenge for U.S. diplomacy in trying to sell it to the other 184 member states.'' Annan said what will actually happen at the end of the day is difficult to predict. ''Will the benchmarks or conditions, as announced, be retained? Will they be modified? ''If they do stand, can President Clinton, who has the certification right, give these benchmarks and conditions practical and functional interpretation in such a manner that it will not maintain the tension with the Organisation... I do not know.'' The Association, meanwhile, is also objecting to a demand that all U.N. accounts be supervised by a Congressional agency and that future U.N. conferences be held in only just four cities worldwide: New York, Vienna, Geneva and Rome. Whitehead is also unhappy that Congress wants about 5.0 percent of U.N. professional staff positions left vacant as part of an effort to downsize the world body. Last year the U.N. bureaucracy stood at about 10,000 employees worldwide. But this has been downsized to about 9,000, mostly through attrition. Of this, about 4,800 are based in the Secretariat in New York. Among the other conditions are a requirement to cut foreign aid to nations whose U.N. diplomats owe unpaid parking fines and full notification and consultation with Congress on all U.N. peacekeeping operations. The U.S. Congress also wants an Inspector-General appointed to probe waste and mismanagement in three U.N. specialised agencies: the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Geneva. Congress is also demanding that the U.S. have a seat on the U.N.'s budgetary committee from which it was ousted in a free and fair voting last year. It also wants budgetary cuts not only in the Secretariat but also in all of the U.N.'s 16 specialised agencies. The conditions laid down by Congress, the Association said, ''will cast a long shadow over our conduct of multilateral diplomacy as well as undercut our leadership at the United Nations and America's image as champion of the rule of law.''
In a related development, last July the Chairmen/Coordinators of the Chapters of the Group of 77 met in Geneva on the occasion of thier annual meeting and strongly reaffirmed the G-77 position regarding the UN crisis of payments which is caused mainly by the non-payment of assessed contributions by major contributors. In their final communique the Chairmen/Coordinators expressed their strong opposition to any type of conditinalities or benchmarks imposed upon the UN for the payment of assessed contributions by Member States.

The Chapters also considered the possibility of tabling a draft resolution during the 52nd session of the General Assembly seeking penalties on those Member States that withold their dues.

Earlier this year the U.S. Senate proposed a series of benchmarks and conditionalities for settling the U.S. payments of arrears and dues to the U.N. as follows:

• Requires the U.N. to implement a negative growth budget for the 1998-99 budgetary cycle.
• Requires a strong & independent U.N. inspector general.
• Prohibits any global U.N. conferences outside of New York, Geneva, Rome and Vienna.
• Prohibits the U.N. from using U.S. assessments to fund other orgnaizations.
• Requires full notification and consultaiton with Congress on U.N. peacekeeping operations.
• Requires a cap of 20 per cent on assessments for the regular budget of the United Natoins and all specialized agencies.
• Requires substantial cuts in U.N. staff.
• Imposes genreal accounting and financial regulatiosn on the U.N., and its specialized agencies.
• Requires a reduction in the overall budgets of all specialized agencies.
• Requires the U.S. to have a seat on the UN Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).