19 October 2001


NEW YORK, 18 October (UN Headquarters) -- The means to ensure full, timely and unconditional payment of Member States’ dues and the calculation of debt under Article 19 of the Charter were once again the focus of attention in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning, as it concluded its consideration of matters related to the scale of assessments. (For previous discussion, see Press Releases GA/AB/3459 and GA/AB/3462 of 15 and 16 October.)

[Under Article 19, a Member State in arrears in the payment of its dues, in an amount that equals or exceeds the contributions due for two preceding years, can lose its vote in the General Assembly.]

In his concluding remarks, the Chairman of the Committee on Contributions, Ugo Sessi, said that most statements in the debate had focused on the possible changes in procedures for the application of Article 19 -– specifically, the proposals to move to a net to net comparison and biannual calculations. Several speakers had said that those matters were political in nature, and the decision on them was up to the General Assembly. Depending on the nature of possible decisions, the Assembly might wish to seek further technical advice from the Committee.

Regarding measures to encourage timely, full and unconditional payment of assessments, he said that the Committee on Contributions had decided not to consider further several proposals, including issuance of peacekeeping redeemable certificates; ineligibility of States in arrears for election; and restricting their access to opportunities for recruitment and procurement. At its next session, the Committee would continue its consideration of possible indexation of arrears or application of interest on them. Based on future guidance from the Assembly, it would also address early reimbursement to troop-contributing countries; incentive payments to Member States; and crediting surplus only to Members current in their payments. The Assembly may also wish to request a report on multi-year payment plans.

In order to ensure accuracy in future scales of assessments, he also encouraged all Member States to respond fully and promptly to the annual national accounts questionnaire. In that connection, responding to the concern expressed by the representative of the United Arab Emirates, he said that by 2003, when the new scale of assessment was to be considered, that country should provide the most up-to-date and accurate information.

Turning to the question previously raised by the representative of Iraq, he described how the Committee on Contributions considered that country’s 1995, 1996 and 1998 requests for an exemption under Article 19. Members of the Committee had been unable to reach agreement on the requests in 1995 and 1996. Later, they had concluded that the issue had certain political aspects, which went beyond the Committee’s advisory role. Also, some members at the Committee’s special session in 1999 had supported exploring the possibility of meeting that country’s outstanding assessments from the sale of Iraqi oil. No subsequent action had been taken by the Assembly on the three requests.

In conclusion, he informed the delegates that Kiribati had paid in full the outstanding amount from the time it had been charged as a non-Member State. The payment by that country did not affect the number of Member States falling under Article 19.

In their statements this morning, the representatives of three countries -- United Arab Emirates, Colombia and Uruguay -– opposed the proposed changes in the calculation of arrears under Article 19.

The delegate from the United Arab Emirates stressed that the Organization’s financial instability and budget deficits resulted from the failure by some States to pay their assessments in full, on time and without conditions. He was dissatisfied with last year’s amendment of the scale of assessments, which had unjustifiably increased the contributions of developing countries. He also expressed concern over the practice of cross-borrowing from the peacekeeping budget to cover the regular budget deficit, which had a negative effect on peacekeeping operations and the implementation of development programmes.

The representative of Colombia said that the revision of the scales had been undertaken to guarantee a more reliable financial structure for the Organization. That decision reflected the developing countries’ profound commitment to the United Nations, for the assessments of "middle-level" developing States had increased. Those countries’ needs deserved greater consideration. The current methodology for calculating the application of Article 19 was fully consistent with the rules of the Organization, and the proposed changes were neither fair, nor equitable. In fact, they would be detrimental to the financial health of the Organization.

The representative of Uruguay said the idea of changing the application of Article 19 was divorced from reality and ignored the political impact it would have on the Organization. Changing the application of Article 19 would not improve the Organization’s financial situation, but would have an adverse affect on its practices as a greater number of countries would be unable to vote. The changes might also lead to a division within the Organization. Calling for an in-depth review of the subject, he said there were neither technical nor legal elements to support a revision of the methodology.

The Committee will meet at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 19 October, to continue its consideration of the proposed budget for 2002-2003.

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