- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 4, 2000

NEW YORK U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke yesterday urged U.N. member states to revamp the method for dividing up peacekeeping expenses as the United Nations began its first attempt to examine its budget policy for overseas troop deployments since 1973.

Calling it "the most important task for the rest of the year," Mr. Holbrooke told the General Assembly Budget Committee to "fundamentally revamp and institutionalize the way we finance peacekeeping."

There is widespread agreement among member states that the current system put in place for a peacekeeping mission in the Sinai nearly 30 years ago is overdue for a change.

"The scale has changed very little since [1973]" said French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte.

"It has taken account only very partially, imperfectly and belatedly of the changes affecting the member states' prosperity and hence their capacity to pay," he said.

Under the current system, the 188 U.N. members are supposed to pay roughly the same percentage of the peacekeeping budget as they do the operating budget.

The poorest nations receive discounts of up to 90 percent of that figure, while the richer nations, including the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, are supposed to pay a premium that makes up the difference.

But those discounts have not been assessed in more than two decades, and the fortunes of nations have ebbed and flowed dramatically since then.

For example, oil-rich states in the Middle East, which were poor back in 1973, still receive discounts.

This year, 30 nations are paying 98 percent of the peacekeeping tab, Mr. Holbrooke said, with the remaining 159 contributing "token amounts."

He promised yesterday that no nation with low per-capita income would be forced to pay more for peacekeeping.

Currently, the United States is assessed roughly 31 percent of the peacekeeping budget but has been paying only 25 percent since a 1994 U.S. law capped the payments.

With costly new or expanded missions in Sierra Leone, the Ethiopian-Eritrean border and southern Lebanon, the peacekeeping budget is expected to top $2.5 billion this year.

The Clinton administration has until the end of the year to win a permanent 25 percent ceiling in the U.N. scale of assessments, or it will be barred by Congress from paying $582 million in arrears to the peacekeeping department.

The United Nations claims the United States owes a total of $1.7 billion.

In New York, delegations are reluctant to make concessions to the United States, the only U.N. member that has attached conditions to its U.N. payments.

Apart from peacekeeping, the United States is seeking to reduce its regular budget obligation to 22 percent from the current 25 percent.

U.S. diplomats around the world have been lobbying foreign governments to consider imposing a ceiling on the maximum payment from any country to the United Nations.

But rich and poor nations alike disagree, saying that U.N. funding should be apportioned by a nation's capacity to pay.

South African envoy Theodore Albrecht, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, agreed in principle to re-examine the peacekeeping scale but insisted that developing nations continue to receive a discount.

Another 18 nations, including many in Latin America and Central Europe, have volunteered to pay more.

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