U.S. Debt to the U.N.

by Jared Feldman

For more than 51 years the United Nations has served as a focal point for the study and debate of myriad issues that cross natural borders and demand the attention of a global community. In a world of inequalities the UN’s agenda is to right wrongs in the area of the environment, fighting diseases, human rights, saving children from starvation, providing relief assistance to refugees and disaster victims, countering global crime, drugs and improving health worldwide.

Under the terms of its 1945 charter, the United Nations assesses each member state an annual contribution calculated on the basis of its share of the world economy and its ability to pay (the United States’ share is pegged at 25%). The current financial crisis is unlike any other in UN history, putting the organization’s very survival in doubt. As of September 1996 more than 100 of the UN’s 185 Member States owed the organization a total of over $2.9 billion. The United States’ share is a substantial part of that amount.

Holding dues payments hostage to specific issues is not new. In the 1960’s the “Goldberg reservation” established that a member state must have a specific and compelling reason to withhold payments. In the late 1980s, the United States declared that it would withhold payment of UN dues contingent on serious administrative and structural reform and a reduction of cronyism. The UN responded by enacting just such reforms, appointing an American, Joseph E. Connor, as the Under Secretary-General for Administration and Management. Today’s $2.6 billion two-year budget reflects over $250 million in savings. We urge our elected officials to recognize publicly that the UN has undergone substantial financial reform and — while continued reform is needed — that this important world body deserves US support.

While our commitment to the United Nations is strong, the body has given the world Jewish community cause for concern and sometimes alarm by its treatment of the state of Israel. We are pleased to acknowledge that the Middle East peace process has brought a diminution of many of the traditional attacks, although we remain concerned that the world body reverts to old form when the process seems stalled. In addition, we remain very troubled by the fact that Israel has yet to be admitted into one of the UN’s “regional groups.” Barred from the Asian Region, Israel has attempted unsuccessfully to join the Western European and other groups. Since without such membership Israel cannot stand on equal footing with the other nations of the world, the UN must be encouraged to make this change.

While not perfect, the United Nations continues to offer the best forum for discussing global issues. The American Jewish community needs to recognize the importance of the United Nations and its various institutions. The NJCRAC is committed to working with the Administration and the Congress in order to assure that our commitments to the United Nations, both in current dues and past arrears, be paid.


About the Author


Jared Feldman