- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 3, 2000

NEW YORK U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke yesterday told skeptical diplomats that they must reduce the United Nations' "over-dependence" on a single nation to pay its bills.

By reducing the maximum amount of money a government pays to the U.N. regular and peacekeeping budgets, the U.S. share of expenses will go down as well. Pressure from Congress has made the assessment issue a key U.S. goal at the United Nations this year.

"As it moves into the 21st century, the U.N. must leave behind the unhealthy practice of placing excessive reliance on a single contributor," Mr. Holbrooke told members of the Fifth Committee of the U.N. General Assembly yesterday morning.

"The principle of avoiding over-dependence on any one member state was embedded in the U.N.'s methodology from the outset, but has fallen victim to politics, inertia and actions on all sides."

If the organization does not reduce Washington's share of the budgets by a total of 8 percent, Congress will not release some $600 million of the $1.7 billion the organization says the United States is in arrears. The deadline for this money is December.

The arrears issue has crippled the U.S. leadership at the United Nations in an era of increased peacekeeping responsibility and ossified management.

Currently, the United States is assessed 31 percent and 25 percent of the peacekeeping and regular budgets, respectively. However, it has been paying the 25 percent and less than 22 percent, respectively, since 1994, accruing considerable debt, according to U.N. ledgers.

The United States accounts for roughly 28 percent of the world's gross national product, which is the organization's bedrock definition of a country's capacity to pay U.N. assessments.

However, other nations, including the wealthy European Union and poor Group of 77 developing nations, yesterday rebuffed the U.S. call to lower the ceiling. They said the members must pay according to their abilities, without regard to political objectives.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union, French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte noted that EU nations accounted for 29.5 percent of the world's GNP, yet paid 36.6 percent of the U.N. regular budget.

This shows "in stark terms that … on schedule and without conditions, each of the EU's 15 member states pays a surcharge of one-quarter of its share of world GNP," said Mr. Levitte, adding "that is why the European Union would like the ceiling to remain at its current level of 25 percent."

The 132-nation Group of 77 developing nations, which includes China, also advocated keeping the 25 percent ceiling but only for developing nations.

"Any modification of the current ceiling would be considered only if it spreads the burden of payment among the major contributors without affecting the G-77 and China," Nigeria's Arthur C.I. Mbanefo said on behalf the group.

Shortly after it was founded, the United Nations had a scale ceiling at 39 percent, even though the United States accounted for almost half of global GNP. In 1973, the ceiling was reduced to 25 percent and, as Mr. Holbrooke pointed out, the organization has 56 new members.

The United States is expected to pay some $3 billion to U.N. activities this year, including $830 million for assessed contributions to the regular budget and peacekeeping. The remainder, Mr. Holbrooke noted, are voluntary contributions to U.N. development, health, disarmament, humanitarian aid, human rights and environmental activities.

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