IO Files: US(P)/A/M/(Chr)/4

Minutes of the Fourth Meeting of the United States Delegation to the Third Regular Session of the General Assembly, Paris, Hotel d’Iéna, September 24, 1948


[Here follow list of persons (41) present and discussion of two prior items on the agenda.]

3. Contributions question (Mr. Hall)

Mr. Hall explained that the present scale of contributions had been established at the Second Part of the First Session. At that time the United States had accepted an allocation of 39.89% (a reduction over the earlier recommendation of the Committee on Contributions) on the understanding, however, that this allocation was on a temporary basis, as the result of war dislocation. At that time the United States had made clear its feeling that no member should pay more than 33⅓% of the total budget.

Mr. Webb, the United States Member on the Contributions Committee, had advised Mr. Hall that the Contributions Committee found it difficult to work toward the establishment of an actual ceiling principle. (The United States, for its part, had not agreed that its present 39.89% contribution was a ceiling.) Mr. Webb had confidentially advised him that the Contributions Committee had been considering whether to ask the Assembly to determine whether the present allocations, in fact, constituted ceilings.1

The recommendation of the staff was for the adoption of the 33⅓% ceiling principle. In addition, the staff recommendation favored seeking [Page 269] at least a token reduction in the United States contribution this year. (Actually if national income were to be the determining factor, the United States share would be about 56%.)

Mr. Hall noted that the Eastern European states had not furnished necessary data on national income figures, so that it was impossible for the Committee on Contributions to work out the scale of contributions on a strictly statistical basis.

The Secretary asked whether the Soviet Union had taken a strong stand on enforcing the present contribution on the United States. Mr. Hall replied that the U.S.S.R. had accepted a slight increase over the amount initially recommended by the Committee on Contributions at the time the original allocations were fixed. However, the Soviet member of the Contributions Committee had accused the United States of attempting to reduce its share of the budget at the expense of other countries.

Mr. Dulles asked if it was correct that the fair quota of the United States on a per capita basis was 56% in which case the United States would have a greater per capita income than over one-half the world. Mr. Hall said this was correct.

Mr. Thorp pointed out that it was important to remember that most contributions to the United Nations were paid in dollars and the United States was naturally in a better position to pay dollar exchange.

The Secretary asked if the Delegation favored the proposal for the acceptance of a ceiling principle. Mr. Dulles asked whether this meant the United States contribution would be reduced this year to 83⅓%. Mr. Hall replied that the actual allocation would be worked out by the Contributions Committee. Mr. Rusk noted that at the present time the Contributions Committee did not consider that the application of the ceiling principle was within its terms of reference. Mr. Hall stated that the 33⅓% would simply be a target for the Contributions Committee to work toward, as new members were admitted, and the assessments of other members were revised on the basis of new information. He felt that, if action were not taken on the ceiling principle now, the United States might expect to have a 39.89% contribution in perpetuity. He noted that the Congress was anxious to have the United States work toward some reduction, and that the Appropriations Committee in particular felt the present contributions system is unsound. Ambassador Austin indicated that, in defending the budget justifications before the Congress, he had promised that the United States would make an effort toward establishing a ceiling on contributions, though there was little hope of an actual immediate reduction in the United States assessment. He believed the Delegation had a commitment to Congress to seek such a reduction.

[Page 270]

Mr. Gross emphasized that there was no assurance at the present time that the United States contribution would not be increased beyond 39.89%. He suggested that extreme caution should be used in presenting our proposal since there were two inconsistent objectives to be harmonized: capacity to pay and the sovereign equality of states. Obviously, if a state paid a disproportionate share it was possible that it might exercise disproportionate control of the organization. He noted that it was difficult to get an equitable pro rata of contributions without fuller statistical data. After emphasizing that he was not speaking for the Committee on Foreign Relations, Mr. Wilcox said that there was a strong feeling in the Senate that it was undemocratic for one state to contribute so much to the budget of the United Nations because it might tend to lead to domination of the organization or charges of alleged domination by such a state.

Mr. Rusk pointed out that it would be possible for the United States to submit published statistics of the U.S.S.R., upon which an increase in the Soviet contribution could legitimately be based, and because of which the United States contribution could be reduced. Such a move, however, might be unwise politically. He indicated that United States information shows that Soviet capacity to pay has increased, and noted that the U.S.S.R. has been telling its own citizens of increased national wealth. He thought there was no question that the United States could get the necessary votes to raise the Soviet contribution; nevertheless, he would recommend against such action because of the broad political problem involved.

Mr. Hall pointed out that there was a related problem, as it seemed highly probable that there would be an operational budget for the United Nations Guard and for the Palestine Commission or other political commissions which may be set up. It appeared from the positions already taken by certain of the smaller states that the Five Major Powers might be required to bear a major share of such an operational budget.

Mr. Sandifer pointed out the tendency of the specialized agencies to regard the United Nations scale of contributions as the standard for their own budgets. He had met that tendency head-on in the World Health Organization Assembly, in working out the World Health Organization contributions scheme, and there had been a complete blockade against any effort to allocate to the United States a quota smaller than that which it paid to the United Nations.

Mrs. Roosevelt thought the total figures of the United States contributions to international agencies would be of considerable importance, noting that the U.S.S.R. pays a much smaller percentage share. She inquired whether this point could not be brought out. Mr. Hall [Page 271] said that the Department of State submitted a consolidated appropriation covering United States participation in international organizations. Only the contribution to the IRO had been treated separately. The total cost was approximately $128,000,000, exclusive of the International Children’s Emergency Fund, with the contribution to the IRO the largest single item. He noted that the U.S.S.R. belongs only to the WHO and to the United Nations, and in both cases pays approximately 6% of the budgets.

The Secretary asked for Delegation approval of the proposal for the establishment of a ceiling principle. It was agreed. He then asked whether the Delegation approved the proposal for 33⅓% ceiling for the United States contribution. This was also approved. Turning to the final recommendation that the United States should seek a reduction in its share of the 1949 budget, the Secretary asked whether that was advisable. Mr. Rusk said it seemed important to try for at least a token reduction.

Mr. Dulles felt that the United Nations had not adequately explored the possibility of accepting payment in currency other than dollars. He thought it would be useful if some states were permitted to pay in their own currency and thought that the United Nations could use such currency in connection with its own work. Mr. Rusk pointed out that there had already been a start made in this direction, that the Assembly last year had authorized the Secretary-General to accept a certain number of French francs, Swiss francs and Dutch guilders, but agreed that the possibilities had not been fully explored.

Mr. Hall said he had discussed this matter with the Treasury which took the view that the United States already had large credits abroad and which was, therefore, reluctant to accept others for liquidation before its own. The International Monetary Fund would grant short-term dollar credits. However, neither the Bank nor the Fund regarded long-term credit as commercially sound. Mr. Hall observed that the proposed United Nations Guard might be based in Europe, in which case the United Nations could use more European currency.

Mr. Gross stated that undoubtedly the United Kingdom would oppose the United States on this issue, and thought it was unfortunate. Mr. Hall explained that the British felt that they have been over-assessed as compared with the U.S.S.R. and the United States, this opinion stemming from the British Treasury view that the United Kingdom must conserve every dollar. Mr. Ross indicated that Canada also felt it had been over-assessed but had nevertheless indicated a willingness to help the United States a little in this situation. The Delegation approved the recommendation to work toward a reduction in the United States budget this year.

[Here follows discussion of other subjects.]

  1. Recommendations to the General Assembly for the allocation of assessments on Member States for the financing of the United Nations budget were made annually by the Committee on Contributions, a permanent standing committee of the General Assembly made up of ten members elected by the General Assembly on a personal basis for 3-year terms. For the relevant report of the Committee on Contributions (United Nations document A/628, September 7, 1948), see GA (III)/1), Plenary, Annexes, pp. 94 ff.