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U.S. Department of State 
96/02/07: David Birenbaum on UN Reform 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
 
 
 
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                 USUN PRESS RELEASE #15-(96) 
                                                 FEBRUARY 7, 1996 
 
 
STATEMENT BY AMBASSADOR DAVID E. BIRENBAUM, UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE 
FOR UNITED NATIONS REFORM AND MANAGEMENT, BEFORE THE OPEN-ENDED HIGH-
LEVEL WORKING GROUP ON THE FINANCIAL SITUATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS, 
FEBRUARY 7, 1996. 
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In a statement made yesterday by Ambassador Fulci, the European Union 
expressed its concern that the United States has withheld its assessment 
"as a matter of policy".  That gives an incorrect impression, and I 
would like to use this opportunity to provide accurate information 
regarding the shortfall in United States payments over the last several 
months.   
 
Our Constitution requires that both the Congress and the President agree 
on appropriations.  If such agreement is not reached before the end of 
the previous budget period, further expenditures legally cannot be made.  
Typically, such agreement is reached in late September or early October 
each year, and the U.S. makes the bulk of its payments to the United 
Nations in October, November and December, the first three months of our 
fiscal year.   
 
This fiscal year, however, as is well known to delegates, the Congress 
and the President are at an impasse over the U.S. government budget.  
The President's request for 672 million dollars to meet 1995 
peacekeeping costs was not acted upon.  Today, moreover, more than four 
months into the 1996 fiscal year, we do not yet have appropriations for 
the State Department, from which our current UN assessments would be 
paid.  As many of you are aware, the President vetoed the appropriation 
legislation which passed the Congress, in part because the proposed 
level of funding for United Nations accounts was too low. 
 
While the impasse continues, the President and Congress have agreed on a 
series of short-term, stopgap funding measures to keep U.S. government 
operations going.  Five such measures--known as continuing resolutions--
have been agreed since October 1st, the most recent of which provides 
authority to spend until March 15th.  Under these and other measures, 
the United States has made payments to the UN aggregating some 266 
million dollars between October 1, 1995 and last week.   
 
We are hopeful that action on the budget will be completed soon in 
Washington, thereby allowing us to make more substantial payments toward 
UN assessments.  If that does not occur, we will most likely have 
another continuing resolution, which hopefully will permit us to make 
another partial payment to the UN.  Either way, delegations should 
understand that during this period the United States government 
continues to make payments toward assessments as fully and as quickly as 
our laws permit.   
 
Let me also address the question of penalties, which also was raised by 
the European Union.  As I said in my statement to this Working Group on 
January 25th, the United States opposes penalties and believes that they 
raise serious legal questions.  Beyond that, imposing penalties will 
harm support for the United Nations.  Specifically, punitive measures 
will undermine efforts within my government to secure the funds to pay 
our arrears.  The United States believes that the scales of assessments 
do not apportion the burden of financing the UN in a transparent manner 
reflective of current economic realities, that we are assessed too much 
for peacekeeping costs and that the UN system must be reformed 
comprehensively.  But we have not ignored the fundamental importance of 
the payment of our obligations as one of the steps to resolve the 
current financial situation.  So let me repeat: imposing punitive 
measures will undermine efforts within our government to secure the 
funds to pay our arrears.  That would be counter-productive to the 
objective we are all working toward here--finding short-term and long-
term solutions to restore the organization to financial health. 
 
Finally, we join others in expressing our appreciation to the Secretary-
General and Under-Secretary-General Connor for the presentations they 
have made this week.  We applaud them for taking steps to begin 
implementation of the General Assembly's resolution on the no-growth 
1996-97 budget, such as the review by department heads of their 
operations and the projected ten percent reduction of staff.  These 
measures are crucial.  But as the Secretary-General said yesterday, we 
the membership must also take decisive action to overcome the 
organization's current problems.  It is our task to forge a consensus 
for genuine, sustained reform.  Towards that end, we have made important 
progress, but we have far to go before the challenges cited by the 
Secretary-General are fully met.  
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