Global Policy Forum

Developing Countries Defend Principle in U.N. Peacekeeping Financing


By Gu Zhenqiu

Xinhua General News Service
May 17, 2000

Many developing countries have called for efforts to uphold the "capacity to pay" principle in financing the U.N. peacekeeping operations, saying that any unilateral attempt to challenge the principle and revise the scale of assessment is unacceptable.

They also demanded that major contributor, the United States, honor their obligations by paying their back dues, and due considerations be given to the specific economic conditions in the developing countries, particularly the small and least developed ones.

The unequivocal statements came as the General Assembly Tuesday kicked off a debate on the cost and future of the U.N. peacekeeping operations, the core responsibility of the 188-member world body under the U.N. Charter. The debate opened at a critical time when the United Nations suffered a setback in the current hostage crisis in Sierra Leone and is considering the military deployment in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, the Nigerian permanent representative to the United Nations, Arthur Mbanefo, said that it was significant that peacekeeping financing was under discussion while events in Sierra Leone had drawn world attention to the U.N. peacekeeping operations.

Since the start of May, some 500 U.N. peacekeepers were taken hostage by the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) while the United Nations was deploying its blue-helmet soldiers in rebel strongholds.

"Peacekeeping operations are an important function of the United Nations and, therefore, should be provided with adequate resources," he said. "The financial problems of the Organization are not linked to the peacekeeping scale and can be solved if Member States, in particular the major contributor, take concrete action to settle their arrears and honor their obligations."

The total amount of peacekeeping expenditures is expected to jump from some 800 million U.S. dollars in the last fiscal year to 1.9 billion U.S. dollars this year. However, arrears totalled some 2 billion U.S. dollars at the end of March, of which about half was owed by the United States.

All U.N. Member States pay their portion of the total peacekeeping costs. The U.S. lengthy reluctance to pay the arrears in full, on time and without any condition has plunged the world body into grave financial difficulties, including poor financing for its peacekeeping operations.

The United States is lobbying hard to get the unilateral cut on its share of the U.N. regular budget and peacekeeping budget, two main components of the U.N. assessments.

The Group of 77 developing countries and China rejected "any attempt to modify the scale for peacekeeping through the imposition of unilateral conditions," Mbanefo said.

Meanwhile, Dumisani Kumalo, representative of South Africa, said that efforts must be made to take into consideration the economic conditions of developing countries as they, particularly the least developed ones, have limited capacity to pay their dues.

"Any unilateral attempt to modify the scale through conditionalities is unacceptable, and any significant modification will be considered only if it spread the burden of payment, in accordance with capacity to pay," he said.

Sotirios Zackheos, representative of Cyprus, said, "The financing of peacekeeping operations must be based on the capacity to pay and should be reviewed periodically. It should take due consideration of the special needs of small states, as well as those of the least developed countries."

The principle of capacity to pay means that any Member States pay its assessment in accordance with its share of the Gross National Product (GNP) in the total of the world's GNP.

"The principle of capacity to pay is essential," he said. " That principle applies to most countries."

Shamshad Ahmad, representative of Pakistan, "It is regrettable that, at such a time, the United Nations finds itself in an uncertain and precarious financial situation, which threatened the solvency and stability of peacekeeping operations."

The statements from the developing world was also echoed by some allies of the United States.

Speaking on behalf of Canada and Australia, Michael Powles of New Zealand, said, "The scale should continue to be based on the regular budget scale and capacity to pay."

"Some countries have been presenting the problems associated with peacekeeping financing as if they were solely the making of the United Nations and attribute to the fact that the peacekeeping scale has not been revised since it was created in 1973," he said. "This is not the whole story."

Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, Tuesday called for a sweeping overhaul of the United Nations peacekeeping operations and for more money from member nations to make the operations effective.

However, Powles said, "Difficulties have been mainly caused by Member States, in particular the United States, not paying their assessments on time, in full and without conditions."


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