194. Paper Prepared in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs1


In two weeks we expect the UN debate to begin on the U.S. proposal to reduce its assessment rate to 25 percent. Although we have lobbied in New York, in capitals and in Washington over the past two and one-half months, we still do not have a clear picture of how the voting will go. The last count from our Mission in New York showed a favorable ratio of about 4–3 as against the better than 2–1 ratio we require for safety. A large number of members are still uncommitted and it is apparent that they are finding the decision difficult and wish to delay it as long as possible.

Certain objections to our proposal have been raised rather frequently: 1) the U.S. attempt to lower the level of its assessed contributions is simply the first step toward a lowering of the over-all level of U.S. support for the UN system, including the voluntary contributions to the UN Development Program; 2) the U.S. has been paying well below its relative capacity to pay and a further reduction would be economically unfair; 3) the U.S. proposal is an ill-considered act of retaliation against the UN actions of which it disapproved; and 4) the U.S. already profits substantially in its net balance of payments from the presence of the United Nations in New York, even after its contributions to the United Nations have been included in the balance. There has also been some question about the actual intensity of top-level U.S. interest in the success of the U.S. proposal. Some countries have expressed disbelief in the U.S. position that a reduction of the U.S. assessment rate would not cause the rates of others to rise and many members have charged that the U.S. proposal would unfavorably affect the UN deficit or lower the UN budget level.

On our part, we have stressed the political argument that it is inherently inequitable in a nearly universal organization of sovereign states, each having one vote, for the assessed contribution of one state to be grossly disproportionate to that of others. We have pointed out that the Congress is convinced of the validity of this argument and has legislated to that effect. We have warned that the United States will [Page 357]have to go into arrears in its payments beginning in 1974 if the U.S. proposal for a reduction does not become effective by that time.

Surprisingly, we have done somewhat better than expected with the Western European states, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Although these are major contributors, who will in many cases be denied reductions in their own contributions as a result of the U.S. proposal, we are reasonably sure of the support of most, with the notable and damaging exception of the United Kingdom. We have also done reasonably well with the American Republics and the Asian members but have done no better than break even with African and Middle Eastern countries. As of October 30, 42 out of 66 African and Middle Eastern countries were still uncommitted. The Eastern European bloc is at present solidly opposed to our proposal; we are continuing to work on the Soviet Union as the sole key to that group.

In conclusion, although the results thus far show a favorable trend, only about a dozen countries are firmly committed to our proposal and more than 60 have reserved their position. Accordingly, the Mission and our geographical bureaus are intensifying efforts to assure a favorable outcome.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 10–4. Limited Official Use. The drafters of the paper are not identified. A covering memorandum from Executive Secretary Eliot to Kissinger is dated November 2.