174. Telegram From the Department of State to the Mission to the United Nations 1

217350. Subject: UN Budgetary Position. Ref: USUN 4640.2 For Congressman Derwinski.

We can assure you there is no lack of coordination here on items mentioned reftel. On other hand, we are quite aware of some inconsistency [Page 323]between general instruction to press for austerity in Fifth Committee and certain specific instructions for other committees that do entail new or higher costs. We should however seek to minimize any inconsistency between positions taken by U.S. Dels on specific agenda items throughout the various GA Committees.
Between our initiative on Disaster Relief coordination and our general posture of budgetary stringency, any inconsistency is more apparent than real. Because UN has had no organized focal point for disaster relief activities, reaction to each emergency has up to now been improvised; result has been wasted motion, higher start-up and phase-out costs, and above all lack of control over relief-need data so that considerable sums voluntarily contributed by governments (including U.S..) were wasted. Need for Coordinator has been increasingly evident (glaringly so in dealing with early phase East Pakistan situation) and we took initiative not only to meet the need but also to head off probable initiatives from other quarters which to our certain knowledge would have been coupled with establishment of a substantial relief fund which we think unwise. In short, we believe Disaster Relief Coordinator should save money in long run, particularly if set up with minimal staff to be augmented as we proposed by short-term personnel on detail for each major emergency.
As for Human Rights Commissioner, hope you will consult Mrs. Hauser on background and significance this proposal. We consider Secretariat cost estimate very considerably inflated and would not support it.
Our interest in commission to review role of International Court of Justice derives from effort to revitalize ICJ which has never achieved role envisaged in its statute. We have not felt we could support pay raise for 15 judges but are prepared to consider your views on this.
We fully agree with your point that it is difficult to reduce the UN budget to tolerable levels and at the same time advance initiatives like those you have cited in paragraphs 2 and 3 of your telegram. We would agree that such initiatives should be pared to those clearly and demonstrably serving United States interests. In our view, the programs we ourselves have proposed do just that.
Although restraining our initiatives to their absolute budgetary minimum is sound policy, we do not believe that the United States, as the major contributor paying more than 30% of the UN budget, should totally stifle its interest in programs it favors. By the same token the United States as the major contributor should do its best to oppose those initiatives put forward by others with which the U.S. does not agree, but for which it would have to pay its very substantial share. Our over-all posture is zero net program increase which means we wish to add those programs we consider important to the United States and [Page 324]offset such additions by attempting to defeat those programs of which we do not approve. Moreover, if austerity measures are voted, we would expect them to apply in some measure to our initiatives as well.
Realistically, of course, we recognize we do not have the votes to defeat many budgetary expenditures of which we disapprove. This does not lead us to conclude, however, that we should refrain from vigorously opposing and voting against such expenditures. If the UN membership and the UN Secretariat are politically realistic they will recognize a negative vote by the major contributor on a major item as a signal to be disregarded by the Organization at its peril. It is very likely that, for the first time, the United States this year will vote against the UN budget as a whole. We will want to discuss this with US Del. Such a negative vote might appear unwarrantedly capricious if it were not predicated upon a solid record of U.S. preferences and positions established in the deliberations of the Fifth Committee.
A U.S. posture of austerity in the Fifth Committee is all the more important at a time when the UN liquidity crisis is about to break. The UN would look very foolish to U.S. public opinion if it continued to vote expansionary budgets while threatened with insufficient cash to meet its payroll. Moreover, a UN policy of budget-levels-as-usual will not win the degree of world concern with the UN’s financial plight that could pressure the Soviet bloc to make payments sufficient to restore the UN’s fiscal viability.
For the above reasons we are very interested that the U.S. Delegation continue to give the kind of signals in the Fifth Committee that will tell the UN Secretariat and the UN membership exactly how the United States Government views the 1972 UN budget. We are especially interested in forwarding the austerity measures proposed in State 1731253 and in pressing the savings on the Office of Public Information, on documentation, and on currency movements alluded to in State 183457.4 Above all, we would wish a maximum effort to redistribute Part VI and move technical assistance out of the assessed budget (State 183457, State 2051275). We doubt if we can tolerate indefinitely a situation in which U.S. aid can be involuntarily allocated and increased by the votes of the recipients. We prefer to allocate our aid through UNDP, Congress willing.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 10. Limited Official Use. Drafted by Hennes and Assistant Secretary De Palma; cleared by Southworth, Kathleen Bell, Nielson, Kathryn N. Folger, and von Peterffy; and approved by De Palma.
  2. Document 173.
  3. Document 169.
  4. Dated October 3. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 10)
  5. Dated November 14. (Ibid.)