YOUR BILL IS PAST DUE...
March 11, 1998
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has urged the U.S. to repay billions of dollars in unpaid dues. But many Congressional Republicans continue to greet the subject with skepticism, questioning the role of the international organization. Should the U.S. pay its dues? After a background report, a Republican and Democrat debate the issue.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And we get two views from Capitol Hill: Republican Senator Rod Grams of Minnesota is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations International Operations Subcommittee. And Democratic Representative Lee Hamilton of Indiana is the ranking member on the House International Relations Committee. Welcome to you both.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
March 4, 1998
A background report on the U.S. unpaid U.N. dues.
March 4, 1998
A Newsmaker interview with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.
February 26, 1998
Debating the role of the United Nations.
July 28, 1997
U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson discusses America's U.N. dues.
February 13, 1997:
The U.S.' delinquent dues to the U.N.
December 16, 1997:
Kofi Annan is elected secretary-general of the U.N.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of Congress and the United Nations.
The United Nations
U.S. House of Representatives
Sen. Grams, Sec.-General Kofi Annan was meeting with some senators today, including you, I believe. Could you update us on that.SEN. ROD GRAMS: Well, we had a brief meeting after he left the White House, and the meeting with the President, and we met with him in Chairman Helms' office, and we talked a little bit about the Iraq settlement, the agreement that he was able to reach with Saddam Hussein after close consultation with the Security Council and members. And then also we talked about the U.N. package, the repayment of arrears, the reforms, et cetera. And I think it was just a good meeting to kind of clear the air and let everybody know where everybody stood, what our intentions were, and I think everybody wants to move forward. But it has to be, I believe, that the dollars for the arrears have got to match the reforms that we're asking for. So I think we were able to, again, re-establish that and so all in all, I think it was a good opportunity for him to come to the Hill and for us to have a chance to talk with him about Iraq and about the U.N. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So Sen. Grams, you support authorizing and appropriating money for paying back the U.N., but only if certain conditions are attached. Could you just tell us briefly what a couple of those conditions would be.
What are the conditions attached to paying back the U.N.?
SEN. ROD GRAMS: Well, of course, we're looking at, you know, the budget, the transparency of the budget, the number of personnel, the reforms about sun setting, some of the programs that are no longer needed, such as the committee on colonization, which still holds conferences at a cost of about $7,000 per member. So these are things that don't need to be. And if we want to make the U.N. the best that it can be, we need to put into effect just some basic reforms. We're not trying to micro-manage those reforms. They're very broad outlines. And the Security Council will determine exactly what they will be. But we're saying these areas should be reviewed and new policies and practices should be put into place. And we tied those directly with the repayment of the arrears. This was kind of the stick and the carrot. You know, we're saying that if these reforms are met, we are going to pay up these dues and, of course, this goes back 10, 12 years that this was passed in Congress called the Kassebaum-Solomon Bill, so this isn't something that started two years ago. We're trying to take care of a situation that is over a decade long. And this is really the first time that we had a bill out with agreement with the Democratic leadership, with the administration, Republicans, and members of the U.N. to pay this package, and it was only vetoed by the President over the language dealing with what you had mentioned in your report, Mexico City. So this could have been taken care of last fall. Instead, it's still sitting on the table. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. I'm going to come back to Mexico City to the abortion issue in just one minute. But, Rep. Hamilton, what do you think about paying the arrears, and should there be conditions attached?
What's the best way to achieve reforms? Insistence or negotiation?
REP. LEE HAMILTON: I think the United States should pay what it owes in full, on time, and without trying to impose conditions. This is a financial, a legal obligation that we have. We cannot be a full player in the United Nations unless we pay our dues. You can't have a meeting with anybody in the United Nations today before they remind you that the United States is not paying its full share. We're setting a very bad precedent. Other nations will not pay their dues if we do not. Now, I agree with Sen. Grams that we must push hard for reforms, and it's a question of how you do it. Do you insist on it? Do you try to dictate those reforms? Or do you try to negotiate them? And no matter what the past history of this has been, I think it is now counterproductive to try to insist on conditions. And some of these conditions in these package, incidentally, simply cannot be achieved. We will not be able to get our share of the U.N. budget down to 20 percent by the year 2000. I don't think we will be able to get our share of peacekeeping assessments down to 25 percent next year. So we are asking for conditions here that simply cannot be achieved in the United Nations context. Far better off, I believe, now to achieve our goals by saying we're going to pay, we're going to pay what we legally owe, we're going to do it on time, and we're prepared to negotiate these reforms. The Senator is right. The U.N. does need substantial reforms. Some steps have been taken but not enough. The question is how you best do it. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Senator, how do you respond to that? What's wrong with paying and then pushing for reforms? SEN. ROD GRAMS: Well, for one thing, the 25 percent on the peacekeeping, that was an act of Congress they put into law here in Congress so we wouldn't pay the 31 percent assessment but the 25. So that's a decision Congress made several years ago. The 20 percent on the dues was something that then U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright suggested and proposed on behalf of the administration. So we picked up where they said that they could go with this, and then we even tailored it down to say, all right, let's go from 25 to 22, and then from 22 to 20 in the out years. So we're only doing what the administration asked to do. And then the other things are very simple, like the budget. We need to be able to take a look at the budget to see where they're spending money and not just the United States, but the entire world, all 185 members, should have an opportunity to be able to examine the books to see what's on there and where the money is being spent. So these aren't reforms that are hard to meet but only the political opposition is standing in the way. And I know Secretary.-General Annan has got a tough job, but I think that we need to get him the support to walk into those rooms and negotiate the reforms that we really have outlined. REP. LEE HAMILTON: This package that is being considered now calls for $819 million. By our account, that is, by the U.S. account, we owe about $1.012 billion. By the U.N. account it's $1.4 billion. So even if this package that is now being considered as adopted in full, we're falling further behind in our arrears to the United Nations. We're worse off, not better, with this package. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Rep. Hamilton, this is--this situation is changing pretty rapidly just as we speak, or during the day it did today. What is the current status of the Mexico City language, language on conditioning this on some sort of decision to not allow funds to organizations that either perform abortions or lobby for abortions? REP. LEE HAMILTON: We will be voting in the House tomorrow on a State Department conference report, which includes many things, including the U.N. package. But it also includes the Mexico City policy. It's my information that because of that but not just because of that, there are other things in the bill; the administration will veto the bill. I don't know whether it'll get through the Senate or not. I expect it probably will pass the House, but, in any event, it's not going to become law. The President will veto it. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And do you oppose the law on that basis and also on the basis that it has these conditions? REP. LEE HAMILTON: I oppose this conference report-- ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The bill. REP. LEE HAMILTON: --for a lot of reasons. It micro-manages all over the place in the State Department. It intrudes on the president's ability to conduct foreign policy, it doesn't pay our bills that we owe to the United Nations. It has many, many provisions in it that I think are intrusive in the foreign policy process. It's a bad bill and I think would substantially hurt the President in his ability to carry out American foreign policy. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And, Sen. Grams, where do you come down on the abortion issue? SEN. ROD GRAMS: Well, I have supported Rep. Smith on this. I disagreed with him on attaching it to this package, but, nonetheless, it is on the package. It went to the President last year. He vetoed it. And the one line, Elizabeth, it says "to allow U.S.-funded organizations to lobby to change abortion laws in other countries." That's all that's said. Now, Rep. Smith moved a long ways in the negotiation towards the President. The President refused to move even an inch and decided that U.N. arrears, U.N. reforms, State Department reorganization, and IMF funding was not as important as that one line in the bill and decided to veto it. He's threatening to do it again. So all that we do might be for not. But if the President decides that all of those are not as important as allowing our country to or funding for lobbying on the abortion issue, I think this is something the President should really look at because the ball is in his court. We've done our job on the Hill. Now the President has to make that last decision. And about the funding, Elizabeth, really we're only 54 million dollars behind on dues, and that's only because of the calendar years. We're not in arrearage on that. The bulk of the money is peacekeeping not owed to the U.N. but to other members of the U.N., such as Britain, France, Fiji, et cetera. So these are funds that are not holding up the activities of the U.N.. We might be making some of our friends a little anxious in getting their money, but it's not stopping any of that, but basically it says if you want the dollars, you're going to have to have the reforms. And it's very basic, very simple. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Congressman Hamilton, do you think these moneys are holding up the activities of the U.N., the lack of these moneys?
Other member nations: outright mad at us?
REP. LEE HAMILTON: Well, they certainly are. It's not that our friends are anxious; they're just outright mad at us. What we're doing is asking the world to take over all these burdens of peacekeeping. We're not going to pay our share. We want them to pay the bill. And they don't like that. And I don't blame them for not liking it. We ought to pay our bills on time in full. With regard to Mexico City, my view is that's a very important issue. Members feel very strongly about it, but linking it to the question of the U.N. and to the other big question, international question, International Monetary Fund, I just don't think makes good sense for American foreign policy. These issues of payment of dues to the United Nations and payment of the quota for the International Monetary Fund go right to the heart of the ability of this nation to conduct its foreign policy. They are tough enough issues in and of themselves, as the differences here have made very clear. But to link it to another very difficult issue, no matter whose fault it is, is just putting a great obstacle in the way of the conduct of American foreign policy. SEN. ROD GRAMS: Elizabeth-- ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Well, gentlemen, I'm sorry. SEN. ROD GRAMS: Elizabeth, could I put something-- ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Very, very briefly, yes. SEN. ROD GRAMS: We paid over $2.97 billion last year alone in peacekeeping fees, U.S. taxpayers, $700 million already with the Saddam Hussein issue with Iraq. So we pay more than our fair share. So being a little bit behind on these arrears has nothing to do with our obligation and what we do to help keep peace around the world. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Thank you both very much.