P.L.98-164: The U.N. Under Scrutiny

Report Global Politics

P.L.98-164: The U.N. Under Scrutiny

January 17, 1984 7 min read Download Report
Juliana Geran Pilon
Policy Analyst

(Archived document, may contain errors)


January 17, 1984

P.L. 98-164



At last, Washington is paying attention to what has been going on at the United Nations. Scrutiny has been mounting dramatically of what U.N. agencies and officials have been saying and doing and how they have been spending the nearly $1 billion per year that the U.S. provides the U.N. And federal lawmakers and officials apparently do not like what they see. Many of these offidials, indeed, are appalled by what has happened to the U.N. since its founding, in a burst of well-intended American idealism, nearly four decades ago.

The fundamental reappraisal of the U.S. role in the U.N. already has had results. The President, for example, has noti- fied the U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that the U.S. intends to withdraw from participation in that body. The withdrawal will become effective on December 31, 1984, unless UNESCO gives "indications of significant improve- ment"--a development improbable at best.

Perhaps more important than the UNESCO action was the demand by Congress, in the State Department Authorization Act for FY 1984-1985, P.L. 98-164, that there be an immediate review of U.S. participation in the U.N. Section 116 of the Act states that "it is the sense of the Congress that (1) a review of U.S. participa- tion in the U.N. is urgently needed to examine (A) the extent and levels of U.S. financial contributions to the U.N.; (B) the im- portance of the U.N., as presently constituted, to fulfilling the policies and objectives of the U.S.; and (C) the benefits derived by the U.S. from participation in the U.N." The Act also calls on the President to review and make recommendations to the Congress on these matters by June 30, 1984.

The discussion leading to the adoption of this provision reveals the bipartisan congressional concern that, if the U.S. is to remain active in the U.N., the organization must show respect for its own Charter. As such, the review of U.N. behavior must identify the areas where the spirit or the letter of the Charter has been violated. Such a review is long overdue. It must be thorough and respect no sacred cows. It must probe and ask the tough questions about every aspect of how the U.N. affects the United States.



To start, the review mandated by Congress should subject U.N. finances to intense scrutiny. Then the resulting detailed picture of U.N. expenditures should be complemented by data re- garding (a) the inability of the U.S. to control cost increases in the U.N. system, and (b) the inadequacy of accounting and financial information in the U.N. system. Stated a House Interim Report on Selected Organizations and Programs of the U.N. on April 23, 1982: "It has become too easy for the developing nation majority (in the U.N.] to make unreasonable demands for funds when they contribute very little."



Article 1, par. 3, calls for international cooperation in economic, social, cultural, and humanitarian matters "without distinction as to race, sex, language and religion." Article 2, par. 1, states that the U.N. "is based on the principle of sov- ereign equality of all its members." These Articles are defied by the Economic Commission of Western Asia (ECWA), which is com- posed entirely of Arab states and deliberately excludes Israel. ECWA was the first U.N. regional economic commission to exclude a member state from its region; yet Israel is obliged to contribute to the ECWA budget.

Article 5 requires that expulsion of a member state be made only on recommendation of the Security Council. Article 9 pro- vides that the General Assembly should consist of all U.N. members. These Articles were violated when South Africa was denied parti- cipation in the General Assembly in 1974. Though the U.N. Legal Counsel had declared such a move illegal on November 11, 1970 (A/8160), South Africa still is barred from participating in the General Assembly.

Article 19 requires that a member state who is in arrears by more than two years of its assessed contribution to the U.N. be denied a vote in the General Assembly (unless payment is pre- vented by "conditions beyond its control"). Yet the Soviet Union is allowed to continue participating in all U.N: activities while over $200 million in default ever since 1962. The U.S. might revive an earlier determination to press this matter before the U.N. Article 71 of the U.N. Charter allows the Economic and Social Council to make arrangements for consultation with genuinely non- governmental organizations. This has been abused and arguably even violated, as thinly disguised quasi-governmental groups financed by communist-bloc nations, particularly the World Peace Council, have been allowed to cooperate extensively with the U.N.

Article 100 orders that U.N. Secretariat personnel be inde- pendent of governmental pressure and forbids employees from seeking or receiving instructions from any government. This consistently has been violated on a massive scale by employees who are nationals of Soviet-bloc countries, one third of whom have been identified by the FBI as members of secret police organizations.

Article 2, par. 4, requires that all U.N. members refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state. This is defied through the 1975 decision to accept as a permanent observer at the U.N. the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)--a group dedicated to the elimination of Israel, a member of the U.N.--and according the same privilege to the Southwest African People's Organization (SWAPO), which seeks the military overthrow of South Africa.


The review should study in detail the operations of the Security Council, which has been passing resolutions that are increasingly irrelevant. The process of debate in the Council, moreover, may be causing increased polarization among Western nations.

The General Assembly's machinery, too, should be studied by the review. The composition of the six General Assembly com- mittees should be examined, including all the possible reasons why it is difficult, if not impossible, to discuss issues fairly and free of Soviet pressure. "Conference diplomacy" tactics used by the Soviet Union should be investigated in detail.

The role of the permanent missions to the U.N., headquartered in New York City, should be examined, including their sizes. Such disproportionately large missions as the Cuban and the Soviet-- comprising Byelorussia, Ukraine, and the USSR--should be scruti- nized and the numbers of their diplomats possibly reduced. Improper use of diplomats should be studied, as well as various aspects of espionage.

The role of nongovernmental organizations should be examined, including the possibility of their lobbying in the U.S. in viola- tion of U.S. law. The composition of these organizations, as well as their activities, should be taken into consideration.

The various blocs that have proliferated around the U.N.--the Organization of African Unity, the "Group of 7711 underdeveloped states, the nonaligned movement, the Islamic Conference--should be studied to explore their subversive effect on the U.N.

Most important among the U.N. agencies to be examined is the Department of Public Information, the U.N.'s public relations arm. There is evidence that this sprawling bureaucracy, with its world- wide network of staffers, has been consistently biased in its out- put--favoring socialist and Soviet measures while being hostile to American, Western, and free enterprise concepts.


Improper activities at such U.N. agencies and U.N.-related bodies, such as the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) could include the following which should be closely reviewed:

a) diversion of funds for political purposes;

b) corruption and waste;

c) attacks on free enterprise;

d) providing propaganda platforms for groups orches- trated by governments hostile to the U.S.


The review should explore whether the U.S. can increase its influence in the U.N. Among the important tools for U.S. leverage is selective targeting: locating specific trouble areas and with- holding the U.S. proportion of U.N. contribution--typically 25 percent. Section 114 of P.L. 98-164, for example, already re- stricts the U.S. contribution to the U.N. for activities bene- fiting the PLO and SWAPO. Similar contingencies could be applied to other U.N. activities which violate the spirit or the letter of the U.N. Charter.

The U.S. could also consider moves to renegotiate the U.S. share of the assessed U.N. budget to a lower level.

Finally, the U.S. should consider plans to relocate the U.N. Far from being an advantage to the U.S., the U.N. headquarters in New York has proved an ideal location for the extensive propaganda and espionage activities of the Soviet Union and the communist bloc. Indeed, the travel privileges of U.N. employees, which allow them total freedom of movement in the U.S., make hosting the U.N. a liability for the U.S. CONCLUSION

The provision of the State Department Authorization Act that mandates a review of U.S. participation in the U.N. in light of U.S. national interests is an important signal from Congress that it no longer will tolerate business as usual at the U.N. The review must investigate rigorously U.N. Charter violations and abuses. Congress should hold hearings on the subject to permit a broad range of experts to be heard and to draw public attention to U.N. affairs at every level. A presidential review, possibly conducted by the White House itself, should certainly consider the possi- bility that U.S. participation in the U.N., as currently consti- tuted, may well not be in its own interests or in the best interests of freedom and security throughout the world.

Juliana Geran Pilon, Ph.D. Senior Policy Analyst in U.N. Studies


Juliana Geran Pilon

Policy Analyst