359. Special Report Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1

SC 00680/65A


The financial and peacekeeping problems which have hamstrung the 19th session of the UN General Assembly are still far from resolution. The resulting paralysis of the assembly in a year of deepening international crises has caused many members to fear for the future of the United Nations as an effective world organization.

As the date 1 September for reconvening the assembly approaches, the members are increasingly anxious that its work proceed normally, and there is no longer majority support for any attempt to deprive financially delinquent members of their assembly vote by enforcing Article 19. However, even if the Article 19 issue is papered over and the UN’s solvency restored by voluntary contributions, the basic constitutional question of the General Assembly’s right to initiate peacekeeping operations will remain to plague the UN long after the 19th General Assembly is ended.


The drafters of the UN Charter intended that the Security Council should have pre-eminence in peacekeeping matters and that its permanent members should have the special responsibility for maintaining the peace. The falling out of the Allied powers after World War II, the excessive use of the veto by the Soviet Union, and the flood of new members from the Afro-Asian bloc all served to bring the General Assembly to the fore as the only effective alternative when the Council was deadlocked. The Uniting for Peace resolution, voted in 1950 by the General Assembly, authorized it to undertake the peacekeeping role in certain circumstances and provided the sanction for such later assembly-sponsored operations as the UN Emergency Force in Palestine (UNEF) in 1956 and the UN Congo Operation (ONUC) in 1960.

France has refused to pay for ONUC and the Soviet Union refuses to pay for both ONUC and UNEF on the ground that they were illegally authorized. They have persisted in this refusal despite the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice in 1962 that the expenses for these operations fell within the regular assessments of UN members, and despite the fact that the UN has been brought close to bankruptcy.

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Both France and the USSR are now two years in arrears and must, according to the letter of Article 19, either pay or lose their voting rights in the General Assembly. When the 19th assembly met last December, however, it evaded the issue of voting rights by taking no votes on issues of substance. When the assembly finally adjourned in February, a last-minute attempt by Albania to break the no-voting moratorium and provoke a showdown was defeated only by US agreement to consider the vote to adjourn a “procedural” one.

Since then, the whole question has rested with the 33 members of a Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations established by the assembly. After numerous meetings, however, matters stand about as they did when the committee was set up. The meetings served as another vehicle for Soviet propaganda attacks on US policies in Vietnam. Few if any new ideas emerged from either the open sessions or the informal private consultations.

In order to meet its 15 June deadline for a report to the General Assembly, the Committee of 33 merely drew up a report calling for “normalization” of the assembly’s work and restoration of the UN’s solvency through voluntary contributions. It also asked for more time in which to devise a formula for future peacekeeping. The committee has now adjourned until August, evidently hoping that one of the big powers will come up with something which would break the impasse and create a better atmosphere for tackling the long-range problem.

Article 19

In the present situation it is the prevailing view of the UN membership that the most urgent tasks are to pay off past debts and to avoid any new confrontation. The majority of members has not more stomach now than last fall for threats to deprive the USSR and France of their votes if they do not pay up. Many genuinely fear that if the Soviets are in fact so treated they will pull out and perhaps bring about the demise of the UN.

The Afro-Asians in particular have diligently sought to avoid a confrontation. Last December they proposed a plan whereby past debts would be settled by voluntary contributions and Article 19 would not be invoked. This plan was approved by the Soviets who have since urged that this is the only possible solution. An Ethiopian resolution presented to the Committee of 33 is in essence the Afro-Asian plan. Although this resolution has not been voted on in the committee, it remains the most popular solution proposed to date.

Many members feel that if voluntary contributions are sufficient, the question of the applicability of Article 19 can be bypassed. This view and the US opposition to the Ethiopian plan led the British and the [Page 780] Scandinavians to open their campaign last month for donations by pledging almost $18 million over and above regular annual assessments. They hope that other developed countries will soon follow suit in whittling away at the UN’s deficit of over $108 million.

This resort to “passing the tincup,” however, may not suffice. The response has come mainly from members of the Atlantic community—excepting, of course, France. Some nations such as Italy are reluctant to make a contribution until confident the Soviet and French contributions will be sizable ones. The Soviets, who are very much interested in the amount of the donation the United States will make, say that they will make a significant contribution only when assured that Article 19 will not be invoked. It is doubtful that the French will contribute at all as long as no formula for the future has been worked out.

If the Soviets refuse to make a voluntary contribution until the US gives in on Article 19, then the US is likely to face increasing pressures in September to do just that. Canada, for example, is one of the members that feels Article 19 is “dead,” and President Quaison-Sackey of the 19th General Assembly claims that, if the US would only agree to remove the Article 19 question, the Soviets would contribute a significant amount.

Future Peacekeeping Operations

Even if the problem of past debts were alleviated by voluntary contributions, there would be still other issues to settle. The constitutional relationship between the General Assembly and the Security Council with regard to peacekeeping matters would need to be clearly defined, with agreement reached on the crucial question of ultimate authority for the initiation of peacekeeping operations, and decisions taken on how these operations are to be financed.

The Committee of 33 has scarcely dealt with these problems, feeling that they might be left in limbo for a while. The only significant effort toward working out an acceptable formula was a plan offered by Secretary General Thant which in effect only served to point up the wide divergence of views.

Thant’s proposals, based on ideas of the Norwegian delegate Nielson and of Quaison-Sackey, center on the so-called “shuttle procedure.” If Security Council is unable to act on a matter of international peace and security, the General Assembly could take it up as provided for in the Uniting for Peace resolution. If a two-thirds majority of the assembly favored a peacekeeping operation and the Security Council still failed to act, then the assembly could itself authorize the operation.

The proponents of the plan believe that recommendations supported by a large majority of the UN’s members would tend to be of sufficient [Page 781] weight to push the Security Council into taking action. It is questionable, however, to say the least, that France and the Soviet Union, for example, would in fact change their votes on questions of vital national interest because of pressure from the General Assembly.

On less important questions, however, the plan does have a feature that might incline such countries to less rigid postures. This feature would permit a permanent member of the Security Council to opt out of paying any share of the expense. Members thus assured exemption from financial liability could choose abstention as an attractive alternative to paralysis of the Security Council by outright veto of an important peacekeeping matter.

Despite the opting-out privileges of permanent Security Council members, every effort would be made to maintain the principle of collective UN responsibility in future financing. However, a scale of assessments would be worked out with those states which have requested a peacekeeping action or have a special interest in the operation.

Reactions and Other Proposals

Recriminations over events in Vietnam and the Dominican Republic blocked serious consideration of Thant’s plan when it was presented, but support for it in any case was not strong. Soviet Ambassador Fedorenko charged that the proposals represented only the views of the West and reiterated that the Security Council should have sole responsibility in the field of peacekeeping. He did add, however, that if the Security Council failed to act on a peacekeeping issue then “nothing can prevent the General Assembly from considering the whole question anew.” Soviet officials at the UN subsequently made it clear that this represented no change in the standard Soviet position that the power of the General Assembly for peacekeeping is limited to recommendations.

Although the Soviets have concentrated their discussions on past debts they have come forth with one proposal for the future-to strengthen Article 43 of the Charter. This article calls on members to make military forces and facilities available to the Security Council for the purpose of maintaining peace and security under the enforcement measures of Chapter 7. By introducing this idea, the Soviets strengthen not only their argument that the Security Council should have exclusive jurisdiction, but also their claim that “socialist” contingents should be included in future peacekeeping forces. The Soviets ruled out participation by permanent members of the Security Council.

The French, who have endorsed the Soviet proposal on Article 43, also rigidly maintain that the Security Council should have exclusive power to authorize and finance a peacekeeping operation. They would [Page 782] permit the assembly to make recommendations only before the Security Council had discussed a question or after it had failed to reach a decision. This position seems motivated primarily by fear of the numerical strength of the Afro-Asians in the General Assembly, which the French would restrict to a forum for the expression of international public opinion. Paris concedes, however, that the General Assembly should have a voice in assessing peacekeeping funds and suggests that a special financing committee in that body be set up. The French expect that voluntary and compulsory assessments by a special scale would be used.

Many West European countries favor some sort of plan that would allow the General Assembly the right to authorize peacekeeping operations after going through the shuttle procedure. They also favor automatic opting-out for a permanent member, a special scale of assessments, and the earmarking of troops for Security Council use as implied in the Soviet suggestion.

The Afro-Asians naturally contend that the General Assembly should retain an important role in peacekeeping operations. These countries are anxious to exert the power and influence their increased membership in the United Nations gives them in the international arena. Even though Charter amendments will soon give the Afro-Asians increased representation in the Security Council itself, they still have reservations about a body which will be dominated by the big five. They accordingly favor some sort of a plan which includes the shuttle procedure, but they oppose any proposals for opting-out by permanent members of the council. Such a privilege for the major powers would mean a larger financial burden for the smaller nations and would be contrary to the principle of collective responsibility, according to the Afro-Asians.

Other proposals which have been advanced go so far as to suggest that the Charter be amended and adapted to the “political realities of this age.” The Brazilian delegate, for example, has suggested the need for a clearer distinction between “enforcement measures” which are the exclusive jurisdiction of the Security Council under Chapter 7 and “peacekeeping operations” of Chapter 6 in which the General Assembly now has the powers of discussion and recommendation. To achieve this, Brazil has suggested in the Committee of 33 that a new chapter entitled “peacekeeping operations” be inserted in the Charter. It would provide for peacekeeping operations by military contingents designated in advance by medium and small powers and undertaken in response to and within the states which request them.

In lieu of revising the Charter, Ireland suggested recently that the Uniting for Peace resolution be modified. It proposes that the resolution not be implemented unless supported by two thirds of the members [Page 783] including at least two of the permanent council members. Financing would be by special scale: 5 percent for less developed nations, 25 percent for developed nations other than permanent members, and 70 percent for those permanent members who vote for the operations.


There is widespread apprehension among the membership of the UN that if the upcoming General Assembly session is like the last one, it could be disastrous for the organization. The appeal for voluntary contributions will ease the financial situation, but it is uncertain whether the USSR and France will contribute. If they do, it is doubtful that they will contribute enough so that the applicability of Article 19 would not be raised. Majority sentiment in the General Assembly is for nonenforcement of this article of the Charter for the sake of averting the sort of showdown that could damage the UN beyond durable repair.

On the deeper constitutional question of authority over peacekeeping operations, it appears likely that the General Assembly will have to give up some of the muscle it acquired under the Uniting for Peace resolution. Unless the big nations agree to some form of shuttle procedure to pacify the small nations, then exclusive jurisdiction over peacekeeping operations will probably revert to the Security Council. Unless the members can agree on a special scale of assessments, such operations may have to be financed by voluntary contributions.

The earmarking of national troops for UN use could offer some possibilities for the longer term future. Canada, the Scandinavian countries, and some of the neutrals have shown increasing interest lately in this approach to the problem of providing the UN with readily available forces, and the recent Soviet references to Article 43 may lend some encouragement to this trend. This trend would not necessarily eventuate in a “permanent peace force” since the obstacles to its creation seem as formidable as ever. The emergence of regional forces—such as that now contemplated in the Organization of American States—is a possibility, but it is a moot point that they can substitute for UN peacekeeping operations without detracting from the effectiveness of the world organization.

Should the difficult problems associated with UN peacekeeping prove intractable, there are those authorities who believe that the world organization could still play a useful role in keeping the peace by exploiting more fully the opportunities to conciliate and meditate.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, United Nations, Article 19, Vol. 2. Secret; No Foreign Dissem. Prepared in the CIA’s Office of Current Intelligence. The charts included in this report are not printed.