The Heritage Foundation

Backgrounder Update #81

July 29, 1988

July 29, 1988 | Backgrounder Update on

U.N. Reform Is Still a Charade

(Archived document, may contain errors)

7/29/88 81

U.N. REFORM IS STILL A CHARADE

(Updating Backgmunder-No. 624,'The Charade of United Nations Reform, December 21, 1987.) The United Nations spends about $4 billion annually on all of 'its agencies and operations. Of this, the United States- is expected to pay approximately 25 percent. Since its founding in 1945, the U.N. has received at least $16 billion from U.S. taxpayers. Yet, the U.S. has no more in- finence in determining the level or composition of the U.N. budget than does Burkina Faso, an Aftrican nation that this year will contribute. a minuscule $310,000 to the U.N. In fact, the ruling majority of some 123 nations together contribute less than 10 percent of the U.N. budget but control its size and make-up. This, predictably, has led to the profligate waste for which the U.N. has become famous.

Congress at last addressed the problem of runaway U.N. budgets and a bloated and politicized U.N. bureaucracy in 1985 with the Kassebaum-Solomon Amendment. This mandated that the U.S. pay no more than 20 percent of the U.N. budget, rather t1han its assessment of 25 percent, until the U.N. adopted a system of weighted voting by which a nation's influence over U.N. budget decisions would be roughly equivalent to its financial contributions. In response, the U.N. in December of 1985 named a group of experts, the so-called Group of 18, to propose reforms. The Group of 18 delivcred its report to the 41st U.N. General Assembly in September of 1986.

Unfulfilled Promises. Since then, U.N. actions on the Group of 18's recommendations have been nothing more than a charade. The budget problems remain. The U.S. voice onbudget matters is no stronger than it was. And the Soviets continue to take advantage of the U.N. system. Because tht; U.N. -ignored Congress, the lawmakers last December passed a U.N. reform provision in the Foreign Relations Authorization Act demanding very specific reforms. 'n.ese too have remained unfulfilled. Yet it seems that some State Department careerists are pressing Ronald Reagan to certify that enough progress is being made on U.N. reforms to justify releasing a $44 milfien installment of the 1987 assessment. The President should not do so. And if he dees bow to pro-U.N. pressure from the State Department,, then Congress should continue to withhold funding as leverage for U.N. reform. Specifically, the 1987 U.N. reform law imposes what is known as the 40-40-20 formula. By this, the U.S. automatically pays 40 per cent of its assessed contribution to the U.N. after October 1, the beginning of the fiscal year. Another instalknent. of 40 percent may be paid only upon receipt by Congress of a report from the President certifying substantial progress in three areas of U.N. reform: personnel reductions; consensus voting on the budget; and the abuse of

the international civil service. Within 30 days of the receipt of this report, Congress can enact a joint resolution to hold up the remaining 20 percent installment if it is dissatisfied with the U.N. reform effort.

Eliminating Few Posts. In issue after issue, the U.N. merely has pretended to reform. For example, unabated is the Soviet practice of using short-term contracts for its nationals employed by the U.N. Secretariat in violation of Article 100 of the U.N. Charter, which calls for an independent international civil service. This practice is known as secondment. An official statement made by Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister V. Petrovsky said that"we have taken a decision concerning recognition, side by side with short-term contracts, of the system of permanent contracts." Secondment not only persists, but there is no intention on the part of the Soviets to eliminate this practice.

Personnel reductions totalling 15 percent over three years were to have been achieved through a hiring freeze within the U.N. Secretariat ordered in April 1986 by Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar. This hiring freeze has been riddled with exceptions. To make matters worse, few posts actually have been eliminated. Thus, though the U.N. boasts a 10 percent job "vacancy"rate, these vacant posts ultimately could be refilled. Moreover, of the 156 proposed exceptions to the freeze, 104 were for Soviet and Soviet-bloc nationals.

The crux of congressional concern about the U.N. is America's tiny voice in determining the U.N. budget. To address this concern, the Group of 18 proposed that budget decisions be made by consensus voting. A consensus vote, of course, would give the U.S. an effective veto over the budget. So far, however, the consensus voting procedure has broken down. 'ne U.N. thus continues to vote on its budget as it always has - by majority rule. The result is a budget procedure no different from the one that Congress in the 1987 U.N. reform law sought to change.

Diluting U.S. Influence. Some U.N. boosters urge the U.S. to pay the $44 million remainder of its 1987 appropriated U.N. contribution as an incentive for the U.N. to continue its attempts at reform. History teaches us that this would be folly. After the U.S. resumed payments of its 1987 assessment with checks for $ 10 million on November 12, 1987, and $90 million on December 3, 1987, the General Assembly last December 17 voted to expand the Committee for Program and Coordination (CPQ from 21 to 34 members. This committee is key to the entire U.N. reform process. Adding so many new members, most of whom are hostile to U.S. interests, dramatically dilutes U.S. influence in the CPC and reduces severely any chance that the Committee will effect substantial reform.

As the recent record demonstrates, any relaxation of U.S. financial pressure before substantial reforms are made in the U.N. structure will undermine U.S. leverage and end U.N. reform. Until U.N. Secretary-General Perez de Cuellar can produce evidence of genuine reform rather than the mere intention of doing so, the Reagan Administration should continue refusing to certify progress on U.N. reforms. If the President is misled by the State Department on this matter, Congress should reject the certification and insist that the conditions of the U.N. reform law be fulfilled before more U.S. funds are sent to the U.N.

Mark A. Franz Policy Analyst

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