Magazine article UN Chronicle , Vol. 22
United Nations-United States relations discussed during 9-11 September trip
United Nations relations with the United States were the focus of discussions during a visit to Washington, D.C., from 9 to 11 September by Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar.
Mr. Perez de Cuellar also delivered statements at a luncheon at the National Press Club, a symposium of the Woodrow Wilson Centre for Scholars, and a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) Permanent Council.
United Nations programmes contributed to better global conditions of life, which were "essential for a stable world community', he told the Press Club luncheon on 10 September. During periods of direct confrontation between major Powers, the United Nations "may provide a way out--a formula for agreement, or simply a period of debate during which the flashpoint of crisis can pass'.
Talks with several members of Congress on 10 September centred on two new laws--one by which the United States contribution to the United Nations budget may be reduced from 25 per cent to 20 per cent starting on 1 October 1986; the other limiting the travel of United Nations staff members of several nationalities to a radius of 25 miles from the centre of New York. The possible withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the international narcotics problem were also discussed.
In addition to United Nations-United States relations, the situation relating to Afghanistan and the Cyprus question were among major topics discussed with Secretary of State George Shultz on 10 September.
Four questions: At the National Press Club luncheon, the Secretary-General recalled four questions being asked with "increasing insistency' by the United States press:
How did the United Nations serve United States interests? Why had it become politicized to the point that useful operations were jeopardized? What was the cost of the United Nations to the American taxpayer? Why had not the United Nations kept the peace?
As for the first, he noted the United Nations contribution to peace and, consequently, to the security of the United States, recalling the Organization's key role in promoting solutions to the 1948-1949 Berlin crisis, the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, and the 1973 Middle East war. During conflict situations, the Organization could carry out certain functions--fact-finding, observation and peace-keeping--not easily performed by national entities, and provide for mediation which could avoid the complexities of direct involvement of the super-Powers.
Regarding the Organization's "politicization', Mr. Perez de Cuellar said that since the Security Council and the General Assembly had been set up to resolve political problems, discussion and debate in those bodies was essential. Problems arose because of the "frequent failure by the conflicting parties to utilize the political processes' afforded by the world body. "It is a problem of polemics rather than politics.' On the other hand, he said, the work of most United Nations agencies had "proceeded unprejudiced by external political controversy'.
Regarding cost, the Secretary-General noted that the regular budget of the Organization for 1985 was $806 million--two-thirds of the annual budget of the New York City police force, and just under a third of the cost of a Trident submarine. The per capita cost of the regular United Nations budget for Americans was about 86 cents per person annually. The General Assembly decided on both the United Nations budget and the percentage to be contributed by each Member State. The latter was determined by a complex formula in which national income was the major element.
By that formula, the United States would be liable for more than 28 per cent of the Organization's budget. However, in 1972, the General Assembly had agreed to the American request that its assessment not exceed 25 per cent. …