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560 I sc 1 1 1 L January 22, 1987 ASSESSING THE UNITED NATIONS
41s~ GENERAL INTRODUCTION The United Nations General Assembly is
now about halfway through its 41st year. The regular session, which
convened in early September, ended on December
19. That session is notable, from an American perspective, for
how poorly it has treated the U.S. and U.S. interests. It reversed
in some respects the pattern of the past couple of years in which
United Nations delegates a nd bureaucrats had seemed increasingly
aware that the U.S. public and Congress were disillusioned with the
U.N. As such, the U.N. had seemed to begin to deal a bit more
evenhandedly with the U.S. and with issues in which Washington has
In the 41st regular session, however, the U.N. has suffered a
relapse. It again passed a steady stream of anti-Western and, in
particular, anti4J.S. resolutions. This has triggered widespread
dismay among Americans. Senator Paul S. Trible, Jr., the Virginia
Republican, who has been a U.S. delegate to the 41st General
Assembly for example, complains that the U.N. lldevotes a large
part of its energies to attacking the United States.I1 Adds a
Ambassador to the U.N In many respects, the 41st has been the
worst General Assembly yetoll strong condemnation of the U.S. for
its raid on Libya, with not a word about Libyan terrorist attacks
prompting the American retaliation.
Another was the passage of a set of 51 recommendations promoting
the new world inf ormation order1#--the blueprint for censorship
that undermined the credibility of the U.N. Educational,
Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Also, for the first
time in U.N Among the General Assemblyls most worrisome actions has
been thehistory , the 41st session passed two resolutions promoting
the transfer of resources from developed to developing nations.
so-called right to development--a discredited scheme to force the
Equally troubling has been the 41st General Assembly's double
standard. Th o ugh not citing the Soviet Union for its invasion of
Afghanistan or for its well-documented human rights violations, the
General Assembly did manage topcondemn the4J.S.t by name-for its
trade embargo against Nicaragua. Chile was condemned for human
rights violations but not one word was said to condemn Cuba, one of
the globe's worst human rights violators.
Regarding the Middle East, the U.N. once again condemned Israel
as a "non-peaceloving state," the only U.N. member ever to be so
called. Meanwhile the As sembly praised the "constructive
statements of the Palestine Liberation Organization, a group
dedicated to destroying Israel.
On budgetary issues, the Assembly ignored the U.S. request for
weighted voting procedures, which would bring some measure of
accountability and responsibility to the out-of-control U.N.
This has been of extreme concern to the U.S. Congress, which in.
recent years has been asked to appropriate more than $1 billion
annually for U.N. activities, one-quarter of the U.N.'s total
The record of the General Assembly's 41st session is a clear
indication that the U.N. has decided to ignore congressional
concerns is a long way from reform. In effect, the Assembly is
telling the U.S. Congress to take the U.N. as it is. Congress and
the Reagan Administration apparently once again must make it clear
to the U.N that U.S. participation in the body increasingly becomes
conditional on U.N. reform The message of the 41st General Assembly
is that the U.N.
CONDEMNING THE U.S FOR ITS RAID ON LIBYA On December 4, 1986,
the General Assembly passed Resolution 41/38, which condemned the
April 15, 1986, U.S. raid on Libya, calling it "a serious threat to
peace and ~ecurity It also criticized the U.S. for exercisi n g its
legitimate right of veto in the Security Council in connection with
a similar resolution, then proceeded to accuse the U.S of engaging
in Wiolation of the Charter of the U.N and of international law The
resolution even "affirms the right of Libya] t o receive
appropriate compensation for the material and human losses
inflicted upon it The resolution requests the U.N. Secretariat to
report on the matter at the 42nd General Assembly. The vote on the
resolution was 79 for, 28.opposed 33 abstentions, 18 a b sences 2
230 to THE The Permanent U.S. Representative to the U.N., Vernon A.
Walters responded to the U.N. resolution by asserting that the U.S.
had exercised its inherent right of self-defense recognized in
Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. He condemned th e U.N. for failing
to take into consideration the Libyan attacks against the U.S.,
notably the bombing in West Berlin on April 5, 1986, which caused
death and injury to over For the U.N. to pass this resolution,
Fharged Walters, is people equate the answer ton tekrorism with
terrordmu. II GENERAL ASSEMBLY REJECTS WEIGHTED VOTING On
administrative and budgetary matters, the General Assembly adopted
several reform measures. It agreed that the 21-member Committee on
Programme and Co-ordination, of which the Un i ted States is
routinely elected as a member, should decide budgetary questions by
consensus. This effectively would give the U.S. veto-power
leverage. The main shortcoming of this, however, is that the
consensus procedure is not binding; should it break d o wn on any
particular issue, which is almost a Fertainty, the matter then
is.turned over to the General Assembly. There, of course, the U.S.
has only one vote. In effect therefore, nothing will have changed.
The General Assembly will be able to approve hug e U.N.
Consensus is very important. According to Walters, consensus is
llfundamental,Sindeed absolutely essential, for the long term
viability of the U.N.'I consensus, says Walters, we will "find
ourselves back where we started, in a situatio n unacceptable to
all of us Whether the U.N will be able to discipline itself on its
budget is very much in doubt. The revised 1986-1987 budget, for
example, is 4.5 percent or 61 million larger than the budget level
approved at the 40th General Assembly. M ichael Michalski, U.S.
Representative to the Fifth Committee, which has responsibility for
budgetary matters, noted that Ithe cost of runnin? the organization
continues to increase at an If decisions on budgetary matters will
not be made by unacceptable r a te. I1 I 1 1. Press Release, USUN
29-(86 April 15, 1986 2. U.N. Department of Public Information
memorandum to Non-Governmental Organizations January 2, 1987 3.
Press Release USUN 186-(86), December 19, 1986 4. Press Release
USUN 1982-(86 3PROMOTING THE N E W WORLD INFORMATION ORDER
Resolutions 41/68A and 41/68B passed on December 3, 1986, the first
by a vote of 148 for, four abstentions, only the U.S. against the
second by a vote of 143 for, seven abstentions, only the U.S. and
Britain against. Both resolut i ons endorsed the !!new world
information and communication order known as NWICO), promoted by
UNESCO. It noted that the .Wights land. f-reedoms of- the -press
may in"%o case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles
of the.United Nations This s trongly implies that the U.N. could
curtail such freedoms if its
'purposes according to a meaning determined by the General
Assembly) were not fulfilled. The NWICO is defined, moreover as an
evolving and continuous process in accordance with the relevant
GENE'RAL ASSEMBLY TREATMENT OF ISRAEL Once again General
Assembly resolutions on the Middle East seemed no more than
exercises in propaganda. One of the resolutions 41/63 addressed
Israeli Practices in the Occupied Territories. Ambassa dor Hugh
Montgomery, Alternate U.S. Representative, described the resolution
as !!one-sided and polemical, which can only inflame an already
embittered situation and widen rather than narrow the differences
between the parties I6 ill-treatment and torture of Arab children.
This prompted Montgomery to object vigorously special committee
investigating Israeli practices especially at a time of budgetary
priorities requiring the most carefully thought-out setting of
priorities to ensure that scarce resources a r e not wasted on
pointless exercisest1 such as that committee In the same resolution
there were new, unsubstantiated charges of He also objected to the
expenses imposed by the In another resolution 41/162, the General
Assembly condemned Israel once again a s a !Inon-peaceloving member
state," a practice started by the Assembly in 19
82. Israel is in fact the only U.N member thus singled out
llpeace-lovingva states, this language would make it'easy.for U.N
members to expel Israel at some future date And since U.N.
membership is restricted to 5. Press Release USUN 163-(86
4CONDEMNING THE U.S. EMBARGO AGAINST NICARAGUA On December 3, 1986,
the General Assembly passed Resolution 41/164, condemning the U.S.
for imposing a trade embargo against Nicaragua, stating that the
U.S. Ithas a duty immediately to cease and to refrain fromnn its
action. The vote was 88 for, with only Israel joining the Vis. in
opposAng..the Resolution 44 .states ,abstained.
Ambassador Walters declgred that the resolution
Irepresents the wo rst tendencies in the U.NO1l In the first
place, it is hypocritical: for Nicaragua itself maintains a trade
embargo as an instrument of its current political policy, as do
co-sponsors of that resolution Algeria and Democratic Yemen. The
resolution also re flects a double standard, as trade embargoes are
common throughout the world yet the U.S. is singled out for
What is worse, the Second Committee where this resolution was
debated denied the U.S. the right to be heard. The U.S. also was
denied the right to table a series of resolutions representative
Chester Norris walked out of the Committee room.
In response, U.S.
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY ATTACKS FREE ENTERPRISE The 41st General
Assembly passed a significant number of resolutions endorsing
redistr ibutionist economic schemes and attacking free enterprise.
A Yugoslav-sponsored resolution, for example, adopted on November
28, 1986, condemns the net transfer of resources from developing to
developed countries resolution, 10 against, and 10 abstaining.
The General Assembly also passed a Ildeclaration on the right to
development,Il which, according to the U.N., requires sustained
action to promote more rapid development of developing countries
specifically requires action, for example, to "increase conce
ssional assistance to developing countries.1n Gennadi Lebakin told
the Third Committee, which deals with human rights issues, 'Ithe
right to d~velopmentll is a right of nlpeoplesll as against
neocolonialist states a right exists passed on December 4, 1986 ,
by a Vote of 133 for to one against--the United States-and 9
abstentions The vote was 125 for the It As Ukrainian representative
The resolution declaring that such 6. Press Release USUN 1981-(86
7. GA/EF/2273, November 21, 1986 8. Press Release GA/SHC/28 01,
November 20, 1986.
Another resolution, sponsored principally by Cuba, deals with
the progressive development of the principles and norms of
international law relating to the New International Economic Order
(NIEO endorsing a study on the subject by the U.N. Secretariat
(A/41/536 The study consists of a compilation of Views and
Comments" submitted by the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic,
Cuba, Rwanda, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, the Union of
Soviet Socialist Republics and Great Britai n . Essentially
disregarding"-the"views of Great Britain, the U.N. resolution
states the ''need for the codification and progressive development
of the principles and norms of international law relating to the
new international economic order.11 The new int ernational economic
order, however is a tev that applies to a discredited,
redistributionist economic scheme. To the extent that the U.N.
endorses and seeks to implement this scheme, it can only harm the
economic progress of developing nations.
Finally, on December 8, 1986, the Assembly passed a resolution
on Products Harmful to Health and Environment, by a vote of 146 to
one-the United States--and one abstention. The U.S. vigorously
opposed this resolution because it endorses the preparation.of a
list inv o lving commercial data that discriminates against
manufacturers in the Western industrialized countries At the same
time, the list protects manufacturers in socialist and developing
countries who do not make information freely available about
manufacturers and regulatory actions. Argues Chester Norris,
Special Adviser to the U.S. for the 41st Assembly, the resolution
involves adopting "highly specious and misleading information"
about Western companies particularly the discriminatory commercial
data produce d by the Center forl,,Transnational Corporations,"
which unfairly hams those companies.
Commenting on the 41st General Assembly's record on economic
regulation, a State Department officer notes cautiously that, while
he sees "no permanent shift in attitudes or voting patterns," he
feels that "if anything the U.S. has lost ground" this past y e ar.
As for the Soviet Union, which enthusiastically supported the
resolutions that the U.S. opposed, the official notes: "Given the
staying power of the Soviet delegation and supporting staff working
on U.N. issues, I suspect they will in the long run ben e fit the
most I 9. Roger A. Brooks The U.N.3 Economic Credo: The Way the
World Doesn't Work Heritage Foundation Backnrounder No. 384,
October 3, 1984 10. See Press Release USUN 183-(86), December 8,
1986 6PROMOTING A DOUBLE STANDARD ON HUMAN RIGHTS The U.N .
continued its campaign against Chile, ignoring the report of the
Special Rapporteur on Chile.
Chile's steps to alleviate and curtail human rights abuses, the
General Assemblyls resolution mentioned none of them. Nor did the
resolution acknowledge the att empt byThiledn te'rrorists to murder
Chilean President August0 Pinochet or that these terrorists
received 10 million worth of arms from Cuba. Alternate U.S.
Representative Patricia Byrne charged that the resolution Velies on
rhetoric, not reality I While t his report noted Resolution 41/158
on the Question of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in
Afghanistan adopted on December 4, 1986, by a vote of 89 to 24,
with 36 abstentions, did express Ilconcern and anxiety at the
continuing presence of foreign for c esll in Afghanistan of this
resolution was curiously vague. The resolution failed to name the
Soviet Union as the "foreign forcell invading Afghanistan; And at
no time in preceding years, in fact, has the USSR been named by the
U.N. as the invader of Afgh a nistan. The U.N. resolution is so
ambiguously worded, in fact, that it allows Gennadi Lebakin of the
Ukrainian Socialist Republic to claim that the "foreign forcesll in
Afghanistan are really only "armed groups of mercenary bandits and
While the U.N. neve r dares criticize the Soviet Union by name, it
has no hesitation in denouncing the U.S But the wording In an
unprecedented move, the U.S. introduced a draft resolution in the
Third Committee of the Assembly condemning human rights violations
in Cuba (A/C.3 / 41/Lm93 Ambassador Walters told the Committee that
what is aoinu on in Cuba is !lone of the worst cases of massive
violations of hhan-rights in the world, yet it has received little
scrutinx in general and almost none from this organization Cuba
retaliate d by introducing its own resolution condemning violations
of the human. rights of Indians and blacks in the U.S
A/C.3/41/L.98/Rev.l The resolution states that the U.N. is
Ildismayed by persistent confirmed information on the practice of
racism and racial d i scrimination in the U.S.Iw against Indians.
The Cuban resolution demanded.that the U.S. government Itput an end
to the racist activities carried' out by racist groups and
organizations and by the police forces against the black
population," demanding that a report be prepared by the U.N. on the
issue of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the U.S 1
1. Press Release GA/SHC/280 1 November 20, 1986 12. Press
Release USUN 169-(86).
Rather than risk the passage of the resolution introduced by
Cuba, the U ..S. voted for an Indian resolution not. to. consider
either the American or the Cuba-introduced resolution. In effect,
this allowed the continued silence of the U.N. on the human.rights
violations taking place in Cuba.
There no reason lwhyamthe U shouldg .have feared-a 'U-.N
investigation of human rights in the U.S. Such an investigation, if
honest, would confirm that the U.S is the world's most free
multiracial society. If the U.N. report were not honest and fair
then it would have been clear to Congress and all Americans how
biased and anti-American the U.N. is.
CONCLUSION The 4lst'General Assembly demonstrated that the worst
characteristics of the U.N. once again are dominant. The General
Assembly advanced the double standard by which the U.S. is condem
ned by name for its trade embargo against Nicaragua while the
Soviet Union has never been so condemned for invading Afghanistan
vigorously condemned by name for its raid against Libya, while that
country's responsibility for terrorist attacks is not even
The U.N.Is is a double standard that brands Israel, Chile, and
South Africa as pariahs, but praises the terrorist Palestine
Liberation Organization and African National Congress The 41st
General Assembly also passed a host of resolutions undermi ning
free enterprise and Western multinational corporations promoting
the so-called new international economic order and the right to
development This advances the Soviet agenda as well, for it
undermines the Western principles of rights by adopting that t
erminology to redistributionist schemes and also by placing the
blame for underdevelopment on the Western developed countries. The
U.N. even endorsed the "new world information and communications
order"--the UNESCO-promoted attack on press freedom The U.S is also
And concerning a matter of great importance to the U.S. Congress
the General Assembly refused to take the steps needed to bring the
U.N. budget under control. Specifically, the U.N. ignored the terms
of the Kassebaum amendment (Section 143, P.L. 9 9 -93 enacted by
the U.S. Congress in 1985, which calls for weighted voting at the
U.N. on budgetary measures. Refusal to adopt weighted voting
assures funding of the U.N. political agenda, whether or not the
U.S. agrees. It also assures that it will cost t h e American
taxpayer more than $1 billion this year What can the U.S. do to
temper the General Assembly's spendthrift and anti-American actions
the U.S. are Among the actions available to a- Continuing to
"defund" U.N. programs that are contrary to the spi r it of the
Charter. For example, Section 114 of P.L. 98-164 (known as the
Xemp-Moynihan amendment enacted by Congress in 1983, denies U.S.
contributions to the U.N. that go to support the PLO and the South
West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO Section 1 51 of P.L 99-93
(known as the Sundquist amendment enacted by Congress in 1985 calls
f0s.a reduction in UrS contributions to thezUiN by the amount of
salaries being returned to respective governments by U.N.
Secretariat employees. This applies, in particula r, to Soviet
bloc employees Applying Section 116 of P.L. 98-164 (known as the
Xasten Amendment), enacted by Congress in 1983, which urges the
Administration to take into consideration a countryls U.N. voting
record before giving that country U.S. economic or military
assistance For example, countries that vote with the U.S. in the
General Assembly less than 14 percent of the time (approximately
the Soviet Union's record in 1985) should be denied U.S. assistance
altogether. This would deny U.S. aid.to Zimba b we, Mali,
Mozambique Madagascar, Ghana, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia,
Tanzania Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Seychelles, Benin, Congo,
Comoros, Guyana Tunisia, Oman, Yemen, Lebanon, Cyprus, the
Maldives, Afghanistan Yugoslavia, Algeria Continuing to introd u ce
resolutions in the Third Committee of the General Assembly
condemning such human rights violators as Cuba The U.S. should not
withdraw its resolutions simply because Cuba or other countries
will condemn the U.S. The U.S. has nothing to fear from a U.N.
investigation proper chance to register its opinion in accordance
with U.N. rules Walking out of U.N. discussions where the U.S. is
not given a Considering dramatically reducing its level of
participation in General Assembly voting as a protest to the dou
ble standard prevalent in that forum. The U.S. could even boycott
General Assembly votes altogether Enforcing rigorously the
provisions of the Kassebaum-Solomon Amendment, enacted by Congress
85. This Amendment states that no payment may be made for an
assessed contribution to the United Nations or its specialized
agencies in excess of 20 percent of the total annual budget of the
United Nations or its specialized agencies respectively) for the
U.S. fiscal year 1987 and following years consequence tha t are
'Iproportionate to the contribution of each such member state to
the budget of the U.N. and its specialized:agencies.Il That is to
say, the U.S. should not pay more than 20 percent of the U.N.
assessed budget. unless the U.N. grants voting rights on matters of
budgetary 9I If these actions by the U.S. fail to prompt U.N.
reforms, the U.S. must be candid with the United Nations. American
officials must advise the U.N. that U.S. patience with the
organization is nearing its limit.
General Assembly: IITh e patience and goodwill of the American
people are exhausted. They are increasingly unwilling to underwrite
one-fourth of the cost of an organization that seems to defy
accountability even awdt devotes a large. part *of Inits energies
to attacking the Uni t ed States It is clear that the
disappointment anger and d5smay expressed about the United Nations
are not misplaced Wrote Senator Trible after serving as delegate to
the When the 41st General Assembly convened, there were hopes that
the U.N. was about to begin the long-overdue process of fundamental
reform. These hopes were unfulfilled.
Juliana Geran Pilon, Ph.D.
Senior Policy Analyst 8 13. The New York Times December 15, 1986