Issue 42: Forty-five countries lose their right to vote at the General Assembly

Recently, the UN listed 45 states that have temporarily lost their right to vote in the General Assembly because they owe more than two years’ worth of dues. Another seven states, equally overdue with their payments, were allowed to retain their vote.

Analysis: It is popular to portray the United States as a UN deadbeat. And to be sure, the US should pay its past dues. But astonishingly, fully one out of four UN Member States either can’t or won’t pay their assessments. This is a problem that won’t be solved by bashing the US.

The UN Charter states that countries with over two years’ accumulated debt lose their vote at the General Assembly. It is reinstated once the debt level dips below the two year mark. Of the 52 states that owe more than two years’ worth of dues, 24 are African, 11 are Asian, 11 are Latin American or Caribbean, and 6 are Eastern European. The US, it should be noted, is not among them.

The UN regular budget is divided between Member States according to their capacity to pay, of which the US is assessed 25%. This is one point of contention between Congress and the UN, since Congress would have that amount reduced to 22%.

But the fact that 27% of UN Member States have accumulated such steep debts, either implies an inadequate respect for the UN, or a problem with the UN’s budgeting methods.

That so many are in arrears suggests that Member States, while willing to participate in the UN, are not taking their obligations seriously. They seem to want to benefit from the world forum while contributing little in resources to sustain it.

Most of the states with two years’ arrears are assessed at the minimum rate of 0.01% of the UN regular budget. Yet, even this figure seems too onerous for some to pay.

Perhaps the fact that states that have lost their General Assembly vote still enjoy the right to vote in other bodies – including the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Commission on Human Rights, and so on – minimizes the penalty they face. It may also embolden some of them to criticize others.

UN Watch