Index of "UN Voting Practices"
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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
1994 VOTING PRACTICES IN THE UNITED NATIONS
BUREAU OF INTERNATIONAL ORGANAIZATION AFFAIRS
Voting Practices in the United Nations, 1994
Report to Congress
Submitted Pursuant to Public Law, 101-167
March 31, 1995
I - INTRODUCTION
The twelfth annual report to Congress on voting practices in the UN General Assembly and the Security Council in 1994 is submitted in compliance with Public Law 101-167. The report statistically measures voting records of UN member states individually, by geographical regions, and by selected bloc groupings, in comparison with the U.S. voting record. It also lists and describes important General Assembly resolutions and decisions adopted by the 49th General Assembly in the fall of 1994, as well as all Security Council resolutions for the entire year.
Palau was admitted as a new member in 1994, raising total UN membership to 185.
Like the three previous years following the end of the Cold War, 1994 was active and productive in both the General Assembly and the Security Council. The changes in Eastern Europe in 1991 continued to translate at the United Nations into close cooperation between the United States and the countries of this region. These changes also continued to affect positively long-standing voting blocs and groupings which had built up during the Cold War. The result was a reconsideration by many UN members of their national and multilateral interests at the United Nations. U.S. working relations with developing country members were increasingly constructive.
The increased pragmatism and reduction of divisive rhetoric during 1991-1993 continued in 1994 and contributed to a continued improvement in UN atmospherics. Discussions, resolution texts, and debates on many issues were less strident and more balanced than before. The "name calling" against the United States, which was so prevalent in earlier years, no longer exists.
This new environment increased the effectiveness and usefulness of the Security Council in fulfilling its primary responsibility for maintenance of international peace and security. The United States strongly supports unanimous action by the Security Council whenever feasible. It was particularly successful in this regard again in 1994: 64 of the 77 resolutions (83%) were adopted unanimously. There was only one veto (by Russia), on a resolution regarding Bosnia and Herzegovina (see description in the Yugoslavia part of the Security Council section). Besides the Russian veto, there were only 3 negative votes and 16 abstentions out of the 1,155 votes cast on the 77 resolutions.
In the General Assembly, a new high level of 77.4 percent of the resolutions were adopted by consensus.
The 49th session of the General Assembly opened on September 20 and held 95 plenary sessions before recessing on December 23. It adopted 297 resolutions, slightly more than during each of the past two years, but significantly below the 332 resolutions of 1990. Thus the welcome reduction in the number of resolutions ÷ by combining some issues, considering others only every two or three years, and dropping some entirely ÷ has reached a plateau beyond which further reduction may prove difficult. Until there is more rationalization of arms control issues in the First Committee and additional significant progress is made in the Middle East peace process, meaningful further decline does not appear likely.
Of the 297 resolutions, 77.4 percent (230) were adopted by consensus, a modest increase over 77.2 percent in 1993 and 73.2 percent in 1992. It is a new high in consensus agreement.
On non-consensus issues, the average overall voting coincidence of all UN members with the United States has increased steadily and dramatically in the General Assembly in the past several years. Standing at 16.9% in 1989, it increased to 21.3% in 1990, and to 27.8% in 1991, then jumped to 31.0% in 1992 and to 36.8% in 1993. It jumped to 48.6% in 1994, the largest one-year increase since 1977. This is the highest voting coincidence registered since these reports were first compiled in 1983 for the 38th UNGA, and is more than three times the low point of 15.4% in 1988. When consensus decisions are factored in as votes identical to those of the United States, an even higher measure of agreement with U.S. positions is reached (88.8%), up from 88.3% in 1993.
The coincidence figure on votes considered important to U.S. interests (67.9%) is once again much higher than the percentage registered on overall votes (48.6%). A side-by-side comparison of important and overall votes for each UN member is at the end of Section III.
The increase in voting coincidence in recent years has occurred in all the major issue categories. The figure on arms control issues has risen from 17.1% in 1990 to 52.8% in 1994. On human rights issues, voting coincidence has risen from 37% in 1990 to 75.9% in 1994. On Middle East issues, where considerable differences remain, the voting coincidence figure nevertheless has risen from 20.1% in 1990 to 38.5% in 1994. Contributing to the overall rise in voting coincidence has been the decrease in U.S. isolation (voting alone or with only 1-3 other countries). Finally, an active U.S. role in the UN has increased the rate of voting coincidence. Resolutions we have introduced in the past few years on human rights, electoral assistance, entrepreneurship, privatization, improved management and oversight of the UN, more efficient UN peacekeeping operations, and the Middle East peace process have garnered much support, raising coincidence levels above what would have been the case if we only reacted to the resolutions introduced by others.
As in past years, Israel (95.2%) and the United Kingdom (84.4%) were among the highest in voting coincidence with the United States. Most members of the Western European and Others group (WEOG) continued to score high (the average was 73.3%). The Eastern European group also scored high again (average 72.2%), continuing to gain on the Western European group following the liberation of these countries from communist domination. Most geographic and political groups increased their voting coincidence with the United States in 1994 by 10 to 12 percentage points over the previous year.
The lowest scoring countries were China, Cuba, DPR of Korea, Iran, Iraq, Laos, Syria, and Vietnam.
At the 49th General Assembly, we achieved substantial success on our key objectives, adopting by consensus or by large majorities U.S. initiatives relating to the Middle East peace process, disarmament, the environment, human rights, and peacekeeping reform. Among our successes, often achieved only after extensive lobbying efforts, were:
÷ Adoption of three U.S. proposals to strengthen peacekeeping capacity. They included creation of a pilot program in peacekeeping training, enhancement of in-theater public affairs with emphasis on the use of print and electronic media, and increasing resources for the civilian police function. Also, the General Assembly adopted a resolution endorsing, and opening for signature, a new international convention on the safety and security of UN and associated personnel.
÷ Creation of a high-level working group to address the UN's financial situation, including a reevaluation of the current scale of assessments for peacekeeping. In this group, we will work for acceptance of the reduction of the U.S. assessment from 31.7% to 25%.
÷ Election of U.S. citizens to three important UN bodies that play key roles in administration and management of the United Nations: the Joint Inspection Unit, the Committee on Contributions, and the UN Staff Pension Committee. These are important positions for continuing to press for UN management reform, efficiency, and accountability.
÷ Progress toward strengthening existing UN human rights mechanisms. We initiated a far-reaching resolution on electoral assistance and democratization to expand the UN's post-electoral activities and institution-building for democracy. We also won agreement to provide the High Commissioner for Human Rights with sufficient resources and personnel, and to provide appropriate additional resources for the Center for Human Rights.
÷ Adoption of U.S.-initiated resolutions on the human rights situations in Cuba, the former Yugoslavia, and Sudan, with broad support.
÷ Adoption of the resolution on the Middle East peace process sponsored by the United States, Russia, and Norway. This resolution welcomes the series of accords adopted since the agreement in Madrid. While we did not succeed in keeping out of General Assembly resolutions statements on how Arab-Israeli issues should be settled, we did manage to moderate the rhetoric in the traditional Palestinian- and Arab Group-sponsored resolutions on the Middle East. Also, criticism of Israel was less inflammatory, and Israeli credentials were once again accepted without challenge.
÷ Incorporation of language encouraging promotion of democratic principles and calling for efficient use of relief assistance in the 16 resolutions on granting humanitarian assistance to specific countries.
÷ Adoption of a resolution on strengthening coordination of humanitarian assistance that will improve significantly the functioning of the Central Emergency Revolving Fund and enhance the ability of the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs to respond rapidly and effectively.
÷ Adoption of the U.S.-initiated resolution endorsing the findings and plans of the UN International Symposium on Trade Efficiency in Columbus, Ohio, regarding computerized "paperless trade," putting the UN a step closer to the information superhighway.
÷ Modification of economic resolutions to focus on common objectives and to move beyond North-South rhetoric sufficiently to permit us to join consensus, including on the resolution on external debt, on which we had been isolated in prior years. The debt resolution contained balanced language, respecting the rights of creditors as well as the concerns of debtors.
÷ Adoption of Vice President Gore's GLOBE initiative on environmental education.
÷ Adoption of three U.S.-initiated resolutions reinforcing fishing restrictions and protecting marine resources.
÷ Adoption of a U.S.-drafted resolution establishing a moratorium on the export of anti-personnel land mines. The resolution also endorses the goal of the eventual elimination of anti-personnel land mines, a goal announced by President Clinton in his address to the General Assembly.
÷ Adoption of a resolution praising the progress toward a comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty and a resolution on transparency in armaments dealing with the conventional arms transfer register.
÷ Achieving consensus on a UN budget outline for 1996-1997 that maintains our policy of zero real growth, while identifying priorities consistent with U.S. policy objectives: enhanced capacity for human rights and humanitarian affairs, reinforced backstopping for peacekeeping operations, and strengthened internal oversight functions.
While the United States made considerable progress in the 49th General Assembly in achieving U.S. policy goals, we still have a long way to go to revise the peacekeeping scale of assessments, and we must continue whittling down lingering opposition to our approach on the Middle East and disarmament. Resolutions on Palestine, Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and Israeli nuclear armament all pitted the United States and Israel against large majorities. Our progress on these issues will continue to depend more on progress in Arab-Israeli negotiations than on diplomacy at the UN in New York.
Several outdated and contentious disarmament resolutions remained on the agenda of the First Committee despite U.S. efforts to focus the Committee's work on more relevant issues. Many delegations used the Committee as a forum to point out what they see as bad faith on the part of the nuclear-weapon states in implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. On the U.S. embargo of Cuba, a bad situation has simply grown worse. There is a growing feeling in the General Assembly that with the end of the Cold War there ought to be an end to the U.S.-Cuban war of resolutions. Combined with the view that the Cuban Democracy Act has extraterritorial provisions against the spirit if not the letter of international law, we were unable to make progress on this contentious issue.
A major focus of U.S. attention in the United Nations in 1994 continued to be the Security Council. The continuing tendency toward consensus among its members facilitated the Council's adoption of 77 resolutions during the year, fewer than the 93 in 1993, but more than in previous years. This number reflects the continuing reliance of member countries on Security Council action to assist in resolving threats to peace and security following the end of the Cold War.
The Security Council was again heavily involved in giving direction to UN peacekeeping and mediation efforts throughout the world in 1994. Acting on its determination to become more selective in its application of UN peacekeeping resources, the Council voted to terminate three missions, including two of the largest ÷ in Somalia and Mozambique. The only wholly new operations approved in 1994 were a small observer mission in Tajikistan and a mission in Chad that was successfully completed in six weeks.
Voting coincidence percentages for Security Council members were again high. Most resolutions were adopted unanimously. For the fourth consecutive year, there was no U.S. veto of a Security Council resolution. The only veto was that of Russia, on a resolution that would have reconfirmed an aspect of the sanctions regime in the former Yugoslavia. The only other negative votes were by Djibouti and Pakistan on a resolution suspending some sanctions on the former Yugoslavia, and by Rwanda on a resolution establishing a war crimes tribunal for that country. Abstentions were rare again in 1994: China and Brazil, 5 times each; Russia and Nigeria, twice each; and New Zealand and Pakistan, once each. The United States abstained on one resolution on Somalia. Rwanda abstained once and was absent 4 times. Abstentions were on resolutions concerning Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and Haiti.
FORMAT AND METHODOLOGY
The 1994 voting report continues the new feature added in 1993: an additional column in the tables in Section II (overall votes) presents the percentage of voting coincidence with the United States after including consensus resolutions as additional identical votes. Since not all states are equally active at the UN, we have credited to each country a portion of the 230 consensus resolutions based on its participation in the 92 recorded plenary votes. Each country's participation rate was calculated by dividing the number of Yes/No/Abstain votes it cast in plenary (i.e., the number of times it was not absent) by the total of plenary votes. This is the same methodology used in Section III (important votes) for the past five years. This column provides another perspective on UN activity. We believe it reflects more accurately the extent of cooperation and agreement at the General Assembly.
Other columns in the report remain the same. The presentation is consistent with provisions of PL 101-167, and the methodology employed is the same since the report's inception.
The tables in this report provide a measurement of UN member country performance. However, readers are cautioned about interpreting voting coincidence percentages. The percentages in the last column, using the older methodology, are calculated using only votes on which both the United States and the other country in question voted Yes or No; not included are those instances when either abstained or was absent. Abstentions and absences are often difficult to interpret, but they make a mathematical difference, sometimes major, in the percentage results. Inclusion of the number of abstentions and absences in the tables of this report enables readers to include them in calculating voting coincidence percentages if they wish to do so. The percentages in the second column from the right reflect more fully the activity of the General Assembly. However, this calculation assumes, for want of an attendance record, that all countries were present or absent for consensus resolutions in the same ratio as for recorded votes. Moreover, the content of resolutions should be considered in interpreting the figures in either column. There may be overwhelming agreement with the U.S. position on a matter of less importance to us and less support on a resolution we consider more important. These differences are difficult to quantify and to present in one or two coincidence figures.
A country's voting record in the United Nations is only one dimension of its relations with the United States. Bilateral economic, strategic, and political issues are often more directly important to U.S. interests. Nevertheless, a country's behavior at the UN is always relevant to its bilateral relationship with the United States, a point the Secretary of State routinely makes in his letters of instruction to new U.S. ambassadors. This is also why copies of this report are presented to UN member foreign ministries throughout the world, to member state missions to the UN in New York, and to members' embassies in Washington. The Security Council and the General Assembly are arguably the most important international bodies in the world, dealing as they do with such vital issues as threats to peace and security, disarmament, development, humanitarian relief, human rights, the environment, and narcotics÷all of which can and do directly affect major U.S. interests.
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