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

1437. Subj: Anticipated Effort by LDCs To Recommend Changes in UN Assessment Principles. Ref: USUN A/727 (1971).2

Summary: USUN anticipates new efforts by LDCs in Comite on Contributions and GA to secure larger reductions in assessment percentages for low per capita income countries. In view past history this question, USUN anticipates these efforts will significantly increase difficulty of securing reduction of US percentage to 25 per cent.

Dept will recall that during last several years many LDCs have sought change in UN assessment principles which would provide larger reduction for low per capita income countries. It was only with greatest difficulty that we were able to defeat this effort in Fifth Comite three years ago. The effort was repeated last spring in Comite on Contributors (see ref air) and was defeated there by nationals of major contributors, including Finger (US).
At its 1971 session the Comite on Contributions agreed to examine at its session in May 1972 the possible effects on scale of assessments of suggested variations in low per capita income allowance formula (see para 22 of A/8411).3 Secretary of Comite has now informed us she anticipates some LDC members of Comite at May mtg will renew efforts of last year to secure recommendation to GA that larger reductions be provided for low per capita income countries. When such efforts were defeated in Comite last year, the argument which was made by nationals of major contributors and which prevailed was that scale of assessments was delicately balanced structure and that no changes in assessment principles should be recommended. Given announced intention of US to alter ceiling assessment principle, US national on Comite cannot take same line as was taken last year. His only plausible argument would appear to be that assessment principles are matters of policy which should be dealt with only by GA and that it inappropriate for Comite on Contributions to recommend changes. However, given decision by Comite last year to consider possible variations in low per capita income allowance formula, it will be very difficult to argue successfully that Comite is not competent to make recommendations re this matter.
It probable that in Comite on Contributions and in GA this fall we are going to be faced with determined argument by LDCs that, since US is proposing change in contribution ceiling for highest contributor, they are equally entitled to propose changes for low per capita income countries. Indeed, it not unlikely that in GA effort will be made by some LDCs to extract support from US for reductions for low per capita income countries by making this price for support by them of our reduction to 25 per cent. We will then have to decide whether it is worth paying this price or whether we can produce other trade-offs which will attract LDC votes.
Should matters develop as anticipated, then we will probably be faced with situation like that of three years ago when Soviet and French reps informed us that, if US supported additional reductions for low per capita income countries or indeed if US was unable to prevent GA approval of such reductions, then USSR and France would propose removal of ceiling on US assessed contribution. At that GA session we were able persuade LDCs to drop their demand for larger reductions in their assessments by arguing that any change in assessment principles would probably make major contributors unwilling to participate through voluntary contributions in solution of UN deficit problem. If at forthcoming GA LDCs press for further reductions for low per capita income countries and we support or do not oppose, then on that basis alone and apart from other considerations USSR and France may propose removal of ceiling on US contribution, and other developed countries may well oppose any reduction in US assessment percentage.
Foregoing makes it clear that, because of our need for LDC votes to secure our reduction to 25 per cent, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to retain any kind of “united front” with other major contributors in Comite on Contributions or in Fifth Comite on matters relating to UN assessment scale; and this split between US and other developed countries is likely to carry over to other administrative and budgetary matters.
The latest development indicates clearly that our task of securing reduction in US assessment percentage is likely be even more complex and difficult than earlier anticipated, and Dept will wish take it into account in developing our overall strategy and in consulting with both LDCs and DCs.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 10–4. Confidential.
  2. Document 163.
  3. Dated March 24. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 10–4)