(CNSNews.com) – The United States, whose taxpayers account for some $10 billion a year in contributions to the United Nations system, was criticized at a meeting in New York on Tuesday for being late with its payments, with Cuba leading the charge – and suggesting it should be paying more.
“We know full well who is responsible for the current critical financial situation of the organization,” Cuban Ambassador Anayansi Rodriguez told the General Assembly’s budget committee. It was “alarming,” she said, that the biggest debts to the U.N. were the responsibility of one country – the United States.
Rodriguez – who recently led her delegation in disrupting a U.S.-sponsored event on Cuban political prisoners, reportedly damaging U.N. equipment in the process – declared that the country which insists on reminding other member-states that it’s the biggest contributor also owes the most.
It was “no secret,” she said, that the U.S. was withholding payments, for the main part, in order to subject the U.N. to “financial blackmail.”
U.S. taxpayers contribute 22 percent of the U.N.’s regular budget, and almost 28.5 percent of the separate U.N. peacekeeping budget.
Apart from those “assessed contributions,” the U.S. also provide billions of dollars more each year in “voluntary contributions,” funding agencies and programs like the World Food Program.
The “assessed contributions” are based on the member-states’ relative “capacity to pay,” based on factors including population size and gross national income.
The ceiling for the scale of assessments is 22 percent while the bottom level is 0.001 percent, which the 31 poorest countries are expected to pay this year.
After the U.S. contribution of 22 percent, the next biggest contributions come from Japan (9.6 percent), China (7.9 percent), Germany (6.3 percent), France (4.8 percent) and Britain (4.4 percent).
Cuba is assessed at 0.06 percent.
Rodriguez suggested the U.S. should be paying more than 22 percent of the regular budget, complaining that it had pressed for a reduction of the ceiling to 22 percent, down from 39.89 percent in 1946.
(In 1946 there were 55 member-states, compared to 193 today. The ceiling – that is, the amount paid by the U.S. – stood at 39.89 percent until 1971 when it dropped to 31.52 percent, then to 25 percent in 1974, and to the current 22 percent in 2001.)
“It is also alarming that this same country talks about getting better returns on its investment in the United Nations,” she said. “This shows that it considers international peace and security, development and human rights, as a business.”
Rodriguez ended her statement by saying that Cuba pays its dues to the U.N. in full, despite the hardships it faces as a result of the U.S. economic embargo, first implemented 56 years ago.
Cherith Norman Chalet, the newly sworn-in U.S. ambassador for U.N. management and reform, pushed back at the criticism, saying the amount of money which the U.N. says is owed by the U.S. “is distorted because of the differences in U.S. and U.N. fiscal years and other factors.”
“To suggest we are not meeting our obligations is patently false,” she said, saying the U.S. has so far this year contributed $1.4 billion to the U.N. peacekeeping budget and $151 million to the U.N. regular budget, with a further $200 million coming later this month.
“Overall the United States, as the largest contributor to the U.N., contributes $10 billion annually in assessed and voluntary contributions across the United Nations system,” she pointed out.
Turning to Cuba’s other criticism, Chalet said it was the communist regime’s policies that are “truly having an impact on the Cuban people and its ability to fulfill its financial obligations.”
“Recent actions in this building also do not comport to a responsible contributor that takes care of the resources entrusted to all member-states and respects the use of this space for constructive dialogue,” Chalet continued, in reference to the Cuban delegation’s disruption of the U.S.-organized political prisoner event and ensuing damage to property.
“It further highlights the Cuban regime's efforts to distract the international community from the treatment of its own people and the underlying reason for the blockade and embargo in the first place, which is the Cuban government’s continued repression of its people and failure to meet the requirements of a free and just society,” Chalet said.
Cuba wasn’t alone in taking the U.S. to task over dues payments.
Both Egypt (speaking on behalf of the G77 group of developing states) and Singapore (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) noted that more than half of the unpaid U.N. dues could be attributed to a single member-state, although they did not name it.
“It is unacceptable that year after year we see member-states who cling to their special privileges call for limits to what they pay but still do not honor their financial commitments to the organization,” said Egyptian delegate Mohamed Fouad Ahmed, whose country is assessed 0.152 percent for the U.N. regular budget.
“It is clear that the U.N.’s financial uncertainty emanates from the non-payment of assessed contributions, and in some cases the willful, deliberate and unilateral withholding of contributions, which has pushed the United Nations into its current predicament,” said Singapore’s Diana Minyi Lee, whose country contributes 0.447 percent to the U.N. regular budget.