U.S. must pay up its arrears to the UN: former UN Ambassadors

By Dennis Meng (People's Daily Online) 09:01, April 09, 2021

Photo taken on Sept. 14, 2020 shows the outside view of the United Nations headquarters in New York, the United States. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)

“The United States must pay the United Nations what it owes”: that’s the title of an article in Foreign Policy co-authored by former U.S. Ambassadors to the United Nations (UN) Madeleine Albright, John Negroponte, and Thomas Pickering, who are jointly calling for the U.S. to clear its more than $1 billion arrears to the UN.

Published on March 29, the essay pointed out that despite the Biden administration’s swift move to rejoin the World Health Organization and the Paris climate agreement, from which the Trump administration abruptly withdrew, the dues the country owes to the U.N. peacekeeping budget are still unpaid, and “have been accruing for four years and total more than $1 billion”.

The 905-word argumentative article outlined the record of U.S. struggling to pay its portion of the UN budget. In 1999, the article pointed out, America’s vote at the UN General Assembly was endangered because of “lack of payment” as the country appeared hypocritical to “advocate for robust multilateral action while also withholding the dues to support such activities”. In 2009, whilst dealing with the aftershock of the financial crisis, the Obama administration agreed to the payment of all U.S. arrears after a bipartisan debate on Congress.

Then came the year 2021. Citing such gloomy statistics as more than 2.5 million dead from the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, an estimated 3.5 percent drop in global GDP growth, and some 100 million people living under the poverty line due to the pandemic, the article concluded that “the challenges facing the world have grown in size and complexity.”

Against this backdrop of instability, this kind of practice is not helpful for those top troop-contributing nations, including India, Pakistan, and Ethiopia, which “are not being fully reimbursed for their peacekeeping personnel and equipment”. “These countries have been forced to withstand shortfalls in the tens of millions of dollars. When countries risking the most troops bear the burden of U.S. arrears, it should challenge the United States’ notion of fair play,” said the authors.

Apart from that $1 billion-plus peacekeeping budget the U.S. owes the U.N., the country has also failed to deliver more than $630 million in outstanding payments to the United Nations’ core budget, and its arrears to the World Health Organization amounts to $203 million, according to the Better World Campaign, an organization that works to strengthen the relationship between the United States and the United Nations.

A screenshot of U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield's Twitter page

On April 1, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield shared a link to the article on Twitter and commented, “I said it once and I’ll say it again: ‘We need to pay our bills to have a seat at the table’,” echoing a speech she made at her confirmation hearing.

Article 19 of the Charter of the United Nations stipulates that “a Member State in arrears in the payment of its dues in an amount that equals or exceeds the contributions due for two preceding years can lose its vote in the General Assembly”.

At the end of the article, the former ambassadors exclaimed that “paying U.S. arrears was the right thing to do in 1999 and in 2009, and it is the right thing to do now.” “There are few better ways for the United States to reclaim its credibility and moral authority on the world stage than by paying the dues it owes,” the trio remarked. 

(Web editor: Meng Bin, Bianji)


Related Stories