United Nations:

Status of U.S. Contributions and Arrears

NSIAD-99-187: Published: Jul 28, 1999. Publicly Released: Jul 28, 1999.

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Benjamin F. Nelson
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO updated its previous report on United Nations (U.N.) financial issues and U.S. arrears, focusing on: (1) the amount the United States will need to pay before the end of 1999 to avoid losing its right to vote in the U.N. General Assembly; (2) the trend in U.S. assessed contributions and arrears that has led to the current situation; (3) U.S. arrears and the amounts withheld for legislative and policy reasons; and (4) the status of member states that lost their right to vote in the General Assembly at the beginning of 1999.

GAO noted that: (1) the United States will need to pay about $153 million in addition to the $508 million that the Department of State anticipates paying before the end of 1999 to reduce its arrears sufficiently to avoid losing its right to vote in the General Assembly on January 1, 2000; (2) GAO's estimate reflects the difference between projected U.S. arrears on that date of $1,435 million and projected assessed contributions for 1998 and 1999 of $1,282 million; (3) anticipated U.S. payments during 1999 consist of $3 million from fiscal year (FY) 1998 funds, $301 million from FY 1999 funds, and $204 million from FY 2000 funds; (4) State has requested congressional authorization to reprogram $66 million of FY 1999 funds to pay expected additional assessments for the U.N. peacekeeping operations in Kosovo and East Timor recently authorized by the U.N. Security Council; (5) payment of this amount would reduce GAO's estimates of the needed additional U.S payment to $87 million; (6) changes in these assumptions or U.N. financial needs during the remainder of 1999, particularly changes in the amount of peacekeeping assessments that the United States pays, would affect GAO's estimate; (7) the United States faces the loss of its vote in the General Assembly in January 2000 because the sum of its assessed contributions for the prior 2 years has declined each year since 1996; (8) this decline largely reflects a decrease in assessments for U.N. peacekeeping operations since 1995; (9) in essence, the United States now faces the loss of its right to vote in the General Assembly because its assessed contributions are substantially less than in 1996 while its arrears have remained about the same; (10) this explains why, with basically the same level of arrears as in past years, the United States narrowly avoided losing its right to vote on January 1, 1999, and will lose its right to vote on January 1, 2000, unless it reduces its arrears; (11) in February 1999, the United Nations reported that 44 of 185 U.N. members had arrears equaling or exceeding their assessed contributions for the preceding 2 full years as of January 1, 1999; (12) as of mid-May, six of these members had paid enough to regain their right to vote in the U.N. General Assembly, and eight others were permitted to vote temporarily, because their failure to pay was judged be due to conditions beyond their control; and (13) the remaining 30 members lost the right to vote in the General Assembly.

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