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

137514. Subject: Twenty-five Percent Assessment Ceiling.

Draft aide-mémoire misfaxed Bender to Hennes July 24 approved with minor amendments (text follows in para. 6).
We agree consideration should be given to addition of summary of U.S. resolution (or full text) after Congress acts on 25 percent ceiling.
We will provide Spanish and French translations of aide-mémoire.
We are using “pre-General Assembly program in support of a 25 percent assessment ceiling” misfaxed Southworth to Stottlemyer July 11 as basic outline for our activities. Believe “twenty-five action plan” sent Hennes by Stottlemyer July 19 memo can be helpful as implementation guide.
Instructions to field concerning an initial approach to foreign governments and presentation of aide-mémoire, along with background information, now being drafted and will be discussed with Mission ASAP.
Aide-mémoire text follows.

The United States Government will seek the establishment by the General Assembly at its twenty-seventh session of a new ceiling on the rate of contribution of the member state bearing the highest assessment to the regular budget of the United Nations, namely, the United States.

The establishment of such a ceiling is consistent with United Nations practice. As early as 1948 the General Assembly, which then consisted of 58 member states, recognized “that in normal times no one member state should contribute more than one-third of the ordinary expenses of the United Nations for any one year.” The one-third ceiling was reflected in the scale of assessments in 1954. The ceiling was reduced to 30 percent by the General Assembly in 1957, when the membership of the organization had increased to 82 states.

Since the first scale of assessments was established in 1946, the primary though not the sole criterion in determining the scale has been that it should be based broadly on member states’ relative “capacity to pay.” However, as indicated above, it has been recognized that adjustments must be made to accommodate a changing United Nations. Moreover, from the beginning it has been considered undesirable for any single member state to assume a financial responsibility which is overly disproportionate in relation to other members. Thus, in the first scale of assessments the rate of assessment of the highest contributor, the United States, was established in 1946 at 39.89 percent, although this percentage was below the estimated relative capacity to pay of the United States. The United States, which argued that the maximum contributor should be assessed no more than 25 percent, indicated its dissatisfaction with the 39.89 percent assessment but accepted it as a temporary measure because of the economic dislocations resulting from the Second World War. The United States made it clear that in an organization of sovereign equals, factors other than capacity to pay would have to be considered in determining assessments for the administrative budget and, further, that excessive reliance on the contribution of one member did not serve the interests of the organization.

Subsequently, as the temporary economic dislocations resulting from the war disappeared and a far more broadly based organization evolved, further adjustments were made in the scale of assessments so that eventually the United States assessment percentage was reduced to its present level of 31.52 percent, or 1.52 percentage points above the ceiling established by the General Assembly in 1957.

In view of the fact that an additional 50 states have become members of the United Nations since 1957 and significant additions to the [Page 338]membership are anticipated, the United States believes that a further adjustment in the maximum percentage assessed against any one member state in the United Nations is both necessary and desirable. The position maintained by the United States and a number of other member states in 1946, that it is unhealthy for a world-wide organization to be excessively dependent upon the financial contribution of any one member state, continues to be reflected strongly in American public opinion. The view is widely held in the United States that in a virtually universal organization of sovereign equal states, the total membership must share its financial responsibilities more equitably.

It should be noted that since the founding of the United Nations, as witnessed by its financial and other support, the United States has consistently met its obligations as a member state and participated actively in the evolution and growth of the organization. In 1971 alone the contributions of the United States to all United Nations activities approached one-half billion dollars, including humanitarian relief, or almost 38 percent of total resources made available by all contributors. The United States to date has contributed more than four billion dollars to the United Nations system, with 1.2 billion dollars of this amount going to pay assessments for the regular budgets of organizations in the United Nations system. This record demonstrates continued United States support for a more effective and strengthened United Nations, including its intention to maintain United States voluntary contributions at a high level.

Accordingly, it is the position of the United States, which was announced by the United States Delegation to the General Assembly at the twenty-sixth session last year, that the United States assessment percentage should be reduced to no more than 25 percent. If, as the United States hopes, the reduction can be accomplished in the context of the admission of new members, necessary revisions in the assessments of a few members reflecting their comparative economic growth, and without altering the minimum rate of assessment, it will not be necessary to raise the assessment of any present member as a result of establishing the maximum rate at 25 percent. The United States Government urges all member states to support a resolution to this effect.2

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 10–4. Unclassified. Drafted by Southworth; cleared by Bailey, Hennes, Kerley, and Armitage; and approved by Assistant Secretary De Palma.
  2. Bush replied on July 31 that he concurred in substance with the aide-mémoire and he intended to present it to Waldheim on August 2. (Telegram 2679 from USUN, July 31; ibid.) The Department replied on August 1 that Bush might remind Waldheim that in 1946, Secretary-General Trygve Lie had supported a U.S. proposal that there be an upper limit for major contributors, since it was not in the UN’s interest to be dependent on the contribution of any one member. At that time, the U.S. proposal had been for a 25 percent ceiling. (Telegram 139266 to USUN, August 1; ibid.)