|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Op Ed on U.S. Participation in the United Nations, Diario las Americas (Miami, Florida)
October 3, 1999
The vast majority of Americans believe the U.S. should maintain its international leadership role through active participation in the United Nations and its affiliated organizations and programs. Yet for several years now, the U.S. failure to pay long overdue UN bills has undermined the U.S. standing in the UN and the pursuit of our objectives in that global body.
It simply makes no sense for the U.S., with the world's largest and most prosperous economy, to continue to fail to honor the financial obligations of UN membership.
Participation in the UN and its agencies is a vital part of our foreign policy, and serves our national interest. The UN gives us a forum for dealing with the community of nations on a full spectrum of issues. Playing a central role in the UN, the U.S. works to make sure that the work of the organization in promoting peace and economic progress, alleviating human suffering, protecting human rights, and setting standards in a number of global industries is, to the maximum extent possible, in accordance with U.S. political, economic and humanitarian interests. For example, the U.S. was able to work with its allies, Poland and the Czech Republic, to secure passage of a resolution in the United nations Commission on Human Rights that condemned the Castro regime for its terrible human rights record.
The failure to pay our old UN bills thus undermines our international leadership and our ability to meet critical U.S. foreign policy objectives, and also raises costs to American taxpayers. Furthermore, these accumulated arrears have made it particularly difficult to recruit allies for the kind of structural reform that Congress demands as a condition of paying the back dues and other assessments.
Paying arrears, in addition to honoring our commitment to the UN as an institution, also will help to keep the UN on the reform path. The U.S. has pushed harder than any other country and a number of positive changes have occurred in recent
For several years we have been focused on reforming the UN and many of its agencies so that they will be better able to deliver "value for money" to member states. We have made considerable progress - in particular with increased budget discipline, the elimination of unneeded staff positions, better internal inspection capabilities, bureaucratic consolidation and a Secretary General who is dedicated to a more transparent, responsive and consultative approach to management. But now UN members' frustration over our failure to pay more than $1 billion in old bills has grown to the extent that it could well begin to undermine our UN reform agenda.
One of the highest congressional priorities regarding the UN is for a reduction in our UN assessment rate (which determines membership dues.) Congress and the Administration both want to see a revision of the UN scale of assessments to broaden the UN's base of financial support and make it less reliant on the U.S. But our ability to negotiate a reduced UN assessment rate for the U.S. will hinge almost entirely on our ability to begin paying our UN debt.
We face the possibility of losing our vote in the General Assembly on January 1, 2000 if our arrears exceed our UN dues for the previous two years (1998-99.) Loss of our vote as a result of arrears is automatic - there will not be a general assembly vote to take away our voting privileges. It is my sincere hope that this will not happen and I will continue to work with Congress to try to avoid that outcome.
Paying our UN debt would also provide a boost to our global leadership and credibility as it would demonstrate our commitment to stand by international agreements we make. No nation more than ours depends upon the sanctity of treaties and international agreements. Whether in trade, arms control, peace agreements or shared financing of cooperative endeavors, we expect others to live up to their obligations. Every treaty depends upon that principle. We are setting a dangerous example if we do not live up to ours in this case. The world looks to us for leadership and this is a place where we must provide it.
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