Thursday, 23 February 1995
Dáil Éireann Debate
5. Mr. R. Burke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make representations to the US Administration and to members of the Congress, regarding the impact on the UN ability to conduct peacekeeping operations in the event of of cuts in US budgetary contributions to the UN as contained in a Bill currently before Congress. [4155/95]
29. Mr. Clohessy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs his assessment of the likely effect on UN peacekeeping missions of the expressed desire of the United States Congress to reduce its financial support of such missions.[4150/95]
44. Mr. M. Kitt asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the discussions, if any, his Department will have following the reduction of the United States of America's contribution to the United Nations. [4126/95]
I take it these questions refer to the National Security Revitalisation Bill recently passed by the United States House of Representatives. It requires the US Administration to deduct from its annual United Nations contribution any sums which it has spent on voluntary actions associated with peacekeeping.In addition, it would reduce the United States contribution towards United Nations peacekeeping to 20 per cent for all future United Nations missions unless the President requested the permission of Congress to increase it to 25 per cent. The Bill will now go before the Senate where a related measure is under discussion.
The American Administration has made clear its opposition to the draft legislation. The United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Mrs. Madeleine Albright, summed up the effect of the proposed legislation on peacekeeping as likely to lead to “budgetary anarchy and a progressive inability on the part of the UN to plan, initiate or sustain peace operations”.
Given that the US is currently assessed for 31.7 per cent of UN peacekeeping operations, it would be difficult to exaggerate the impact of the current proposals were they to become law. They would undermine the ability of the United Nations to mount peacekeeping operations and accordingly, would seriously affect the ability of the organisation to discharge its responsibilities to international peace and security. The proposals, which would amount to a unilateral derogation from the obligations of UN membership, have very serious implications.
I will take the opportunity in future contacts with the United States Administration and with members of the United States Congress to express the Government's concern regarding the likely impact of the current proposals.
Ireland, along with our European  Union partners, is also concerned at the effect of measures adopted last year by the United States which will, as of October 1994, unilaterally reduce the US contribution to UN peacekeeping operations to 25 per cent. This issue has been raised repeatedly in contacts between the EU and the US, most recently on 1 February.
The United Nations is already severely handicapped by financial problems. On 31 January 1995, the UN was owed a total of $3.6 billion by member states; $2.2 billion of this related to peacekeeping operations.
A high level working group on the financial situation of the United Nations is meeting in New York at present. Along with our EU partners, we are participating actively in the work of the group which is considering the problems of arrears, late payments and the scale of assessment for UN contributions.
Mr. R. Burke: While thanking the Tánaiste for his very comprehensive reply and acknowledging his grasp of the importance of this matter to us and our friends in the United States of America, and they are our friends, would he agree that the cutbacks would send a very negative message about United States support for international peacekeeping? Given our strong commitment to peacekeeping, in addition to the diplomatic efforts already undertaken, would the Tánaiste engage in a further, active diplomatic effort to get our views across? In addition, would he say how much the United States owes in back payments to the United Nations and whether that accounts for the arrears of payments to us? Would he say what is the amount of the arrears outstanding to us?
Mr. Spring: I accept what the Deputy says on the very serious implications of this reduction, if it becomes law, for United Nations peacekeeping. I think  the United States Secretary of State, Mr. Warren Christopher, said that the ultimate effect of the legislation is that United Nations peacekeeping simply would come to an end. That would be catastrophic, something that must not be allowed to happen and, certainly in terms of any contacts we may have with the United States, we will take this matter up forcefully with them. We have raised it with them in the past, in particular at previous meetings I had with Secretary of State, Mr. Warren Christopher, when I raised with him the question of moneys owed to the United Nations. We were in a strong position to do so because over the years we have always paid our annual contributions early bearing in mind the difficulties the United Nations was facing. The United States continues to be by far the largest debtor of the United Nations, at present owing $1.087 billion, $527 million of which is for the regular budget and $560 million for peacekeeping. To balance the equation, the United States made substantial arrears payments in 1994, totalling some $900 million. I raised this matter with President Clinton at one of our meetings when he said he was committed to the United Nations, which is clear from his statement on the actions of Congress. I hope they can rectify this position because we are all very conscious that the peacekeeping role of the United Nations is becoming even more important as time goes past.
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