333. Memorandum From William Buffum of the Bureau of International Organization Affairs to the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (Cleveland)1


  • Background on the Financing of UN Operations

We have recently made a new search of our early files to see if there is any additional light that can be thrown on the thinking with respect to the financing of UN operations in the peace and security field at the time the Charter was drafted.

We have found nothing that would in any way tend to invalidate the Court’s Advisory Opinion or acceptance of this opinion by the Assembly (with U.S. concurrence). Neither, however, have we found anything indicating that the “Founding Fathers” actually contemplated the financing of such operations through the budgetary powers of the Assembly. Rather, it appears, there was not any real consideration of this question. In connection with the Article 19 impasse and your interest in how we handle forthcoming Congressional consultations on the subject, the following analysis of early Charter developments relating to this question may be helpful.

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Strangely enough, at no time were the budgetary arrangements for the future organization a matter of serious controversy or lengthy consideration by the Department, by the U.S. Delegation to the San Francisco Conference, or in connection with ratification. Discussion in the Department prior to Dumbarton Oaks revolved almost entirely around whether the League precedent should be followed and all budgetary powers vested in the Assembly or whether these powers should be shared with the Council. This question was resolved by providing, in the U.S. Proposals at Dumbarton Oaks, for a system of weighted voting in the Assembly on budgetary matters. However, we did not press this proposal at Dumbarton Oaks, and the question of budgetary arrangements presented no problem there. Similarly there appears to have been practically no discussion at all of budgetary matters by the U.S. Delegation to the San Francisco Conference, despite the fact that two members of the House of Representatives (and two Senators) were on the Delegation. Nor did the question of the Assembly’s budgetary power arise in the Big Five consultations during the Conference. In the Department’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in connection with ratification, the Assembly’s powers under Article 17 are noted but not elaborated on and gave rise to no questions from the Committee members.

Budgetary discussions at the San Francisco Conference itself centered around whether the method of apportionment should be specified in the Charter, whether the method of preparing and examining the budget should be specified in the Charter, and whether a penalty should be provided for members that failed to meet their financial obligations, (which the League Covenant had not done). Given the fact that any operation involving substantial numbers of troops is bound to be costly, this general lack of concern on the part of the U.S. and others with the financing of such operations can only be explained in terms of the difference between the powers of the Assembly and of the Security Council and in the context of Article 43.

The only discussion of use by the Organization of armed force was in connection with preventive and enforcement measures undertaken by decision of the Security Council. While the Assembly was given residual powers of a recommendatory nature in the peace and security field, on which it was later possible to build the Uniting for Peace procedure, there is nothing in the early record to indicate that it was ever contemplated that the Assembly would undertake, on a recommendatory basis, actual military operations even of a peacekeeping character. Therefore, we can only conclude that the possibility was not foreseen that Assembly recommendations involving costly operations might be given a mandatory character so far as their financing involved the Assembly’s power to assess. So long as the use of armed force was thought of solely in the context of Security Council [Page 731] action, where the veto applied, the United States and the other great powers had no reason to be concerned about the financial implications for them of such action.

This safeguard was reinforced for the great powers and extended to other members by Article 43 of the Charter which made the actual provision of “armed forces, assistance, and facilities” to the Council contingent upon the subsequent conclusion of “a special agreement or agreements” between the Council and Members or groups of Members subject to ratification by the signatory states. The legislative history of this article seems to indicate that the question of the financing of any military operation by the Security Council was also deferred pending the conclusions of these agreements.

The US Proposals at Dumbarton dealing with the provision of forces stated that the Council “should be empowered to call upon the member states for economic, financial, and commercial and other assistance necessary to support and to supplement international action involving the use of armed force”, and that member states should undertake to give such assistance, “the terms to be determined in consultation between the executive council and member states.” This provision is dropped in the Proposals as agreed to at Dumbarton Oaks but the paragraph dealing with the special agreement or agreements, which in the original US proposal referred only to “forces and facilities” now refers to “forces, facilities and assistance” as it does in Article 43 of the Charter.

The original US proposals also stated that members should agree “to join in mutual efforts to afford relief and aid to states assuming undue burdens through participation in security measures involving the use of armed force instituted by the executive council.” This provision is broadened in the Dumbarton Oaks Proposals and in the Charter (Article 49) to declare the members should (shall in the Charter) “join in affording mutual assistance in carrying out measures decided upon by the Security Council”. Thus, while the principle of common responsibility for collective action was recognized, there appears to have been no effort made to spell out exactly how the burden of such action was to be shared. The only amendment offered at San Francisco was South Africa’s unsuccessful proposal to put the burden on the aggressor state.

An interpretative statement by a Canadian Delegate at San Francisco declares that in his opinion it was not possible to draft a text on the payment of the costs of [Page 732] enforcement action that could lay down definite rules for application in all types of cases that might arise. He thought Article 49 quoted above and Article 50 (providing for recourse to the Council in the event of “special economic problems arising from the carrying out of preventive or enforcement measures”) “taken together would permit arrangements to be made for sharing the costs of enforcement action among the members if this proved desirable. Otherwise an inequitable financial burden might be placed on certain members who were acting on behalf of the Organization.”

In reading this statement it must be borne in mind that when the Charter was drafted it was thought that the principal burden of any enforcement action would fall on the five permanent members of the Security Council. Moreover, under the Charter, decisions of the Security Council are to be carried out by all members or only some members as the Council may decide and carried out by the members “directly.”

The contemplated Article 43 agreements have never been concluded but the UN action in Korea, of all UN actions to date, seems most closely to approach the type of enforcement action contemplated in the drafting of the Charter. Here the United States controlled the action and paid the lion’s share of the costs. The idea of trying to assess the UN membership generally for the costs of the Korean operation was never contemplated, since members participating in the action were doing so on the basis of a recommendation of the Security Council, not a decision (in the absence of Article 43 agreements). Had the Assembly’s budgetary powers been generally recognized as clearly extending to the costs of the Korea action, it seems unlikely that the US would have willingly assumed such a large share of the costs or that John Foster Dulles, who played an active role at San Francisco, in answering criticism of the Korea action in the Foreign Relations Committee, would have said:

“... If, for instance, the expense of that could be spread over the United Nations in the same way that the budget is met, or something of that sort, some formula might be found so that if an emergency came, nations could act knowing that that would not necessarily involve them in an expense which they could not foresee, or perhaps could not bear if they did foresee it.”

From the above it seems clear (1) that, as originally contemplated, preventive or enforcement action under a Security Council decision was not to be financed through the Assembly’s power of assessment, and (2) that preventive (peacekeeping) or enforcement action under an Assembly recommendation was not contemplated at all and that therefore no thought was given to the financing of such action. On this basis, it might be argued that although the Assembly does have the power to assess under Article 17, to consider this power mandatory in the case of the costs of operations undertaken on the basis of an Assembly recommendation is within the letter but goes beyond the original intent of the Charter. This would apply in the economic and social as well as the peace and security fields.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, United Nations, Article 19, Vol. 2. Confidential. Drafted by Virginia Hartley (IO/UNP) on February 5. Handwritten annotations on the memorandum read: “Very interesting JJ [Sisco]” and “Might be useful to have this document translated into form usable for educating Hill and public. But it raises question—’How and when did we get into our extreme position?’”