It has been revealed that the United Nations is facing a dire funding shortage brought about by nations failing to pay their annual dues. And if those dues are not paid soon, some of the basic functions of the United Nations will soon be crippled. But how and why has this come about?
The bad state of the United Nations is in part borne from design faults that have never been corrected. Perhaps the biggest failure in that respect is not keeping up with the changing distribution of geopolitical power on the United Nations Security Council. Designed in an era when the United States and Russia were the only two super powers, it has failed to reflect the growth of nations such as New Zealand, Canada and Australia; Brazil and Chile in Latin America or Singapore.
Perhaps the biggest failing though is the abuse of the veto by the Permanent 5 members. At some time or another all of them have used it to block a resolution condemning them or requiring them to carry out one sort of act or another. France last used it in 1989 along with Britain and the U.S. to block condemnation of the U.S. invasion of Panama; the United States blocks resolutions condemning Israel; China and Russia have blocked resolutions condemning Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad for atrocities and the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Syria. But getting rid of it might be the one thing that unites all five of them in blocking.
As international distrust has grown, so has the inability of the United Nations to address festering wounds such as Syria; to ping countries like China committing grave human rights abuses in Xinjiang or act as the intermediary in African conflicts. And as the distrust has grown, criticism of the United Nations by the very powers owing the monies that make its work possible in the first place has likewise grown.
The matter of who and how the United Nations is funded causes great division in the U.S. Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power said that the world supplies 78% of the funding for the United Nations, and nearly 100% of the 100,000 soldiers and police being used to maintain law and order in the most dysfunctional places around the world. Some in the U.S. believe that it is an act contrary to the U.S. Constitution for the U.S. to be a United Nations member and that it should be asked to vacate its New York premises. Others believe it is a globalist body with an anti-American agenda that is being made worse by American taxpayer dollars being spent on it
But the United States is not the only nation that has short changed in the United Nations in terms of dues currently owed. 59 other nations have also failed to pay in full – New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Sweden plus 30 others paid on time in the 30 day allowance period up to 31 January 2019. Another 100 nations followed, but late (i.e. after 31 January). And some of the nations that have not paid in full are some of the bigger contributors including Brazil
For a country like New Zealand which relies on a rules based international community, this trend is disturbing. Without a functional United Nations we cannot so easily advocate our view of the world, stand up for the Pacific Island nations or push for conflict resolution. Next month if the other nations do not pay up by then, United Nations staff are going to start going unpaid – specialist staff such as interpreters might have their hours cut short; non-essential travel will be stopped; some posts will not have staff.
It also hurts our small island neighbours who otherwise do not have a voice on the global stage. It was this lack of a voice for small nations that was one of the driving factors behind the original United Nations in 1945. A loss of their voice on the world stage is likely to harm New Zealand as well.