Each year, countries see their right to vote in the United Nations suspended because of unpaid dues. Six African countries are concerned. But the underlying reasons are more complex.
A note signed by António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, announces that “eleven Member States are in arrears” with the payment of their debts to the UN. Gold, according to article 19 of the United Nations Charter, States that are not up to date with their dues automatically lose their right to vote in the UN General Assembly.
The article states that "a Member of the United Nations in arrears in the payment of its contribution to the expenses of the Organization may not vote in the General Assembly if the amount of its arrears is equal to or greater than the contribution due by him for the past two full years".
Among the eleven States concerned, six are African, namely Somalia, Sudan, Congo, Comoros, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Guinea.
Exemptions for certain countries
Already last year, the UN had threatened to deprive some of these countries, and other African countries which have since paid their dues, of their right to vote in the Assembly. In January 2021, Niger, South Sudan, Zimbabwe, Central African Republic and Libya were on the list, but are now up to date with their contributions.
Three countries — Comoros, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Somalia — had managed to obtain a reprieve. According to UN rules, if the default is due to “circumstances beyond the control” of the States, the latter retain their right to vote for one year.
But the financial aspect is not the only one to take into account. In reality, the amounts in question are not very high on a state scale. Often, these measures indeed affect countries unloved by the West. The real concern lies in the procedure, altered by sanctions and UN bureaucracy.
For example, Iran and Venezuela, whose funds were blocked by the US Treasury in early 2021, had to negotiate alternative payment terms for a combined amount of $58 million.
The six African countries concerned at the start of 2022 are debtors of amounts which vary between 130 dollars and 000 million dollars each.
Blackmail from the UN
What Guterres' memo and the rules of the body he heads don't explain, however, is the real reason these countries are unable to pay their dues. In the case of Somalia, for example, UN sanctions prevent the UN from collecting funds from the country's national banks. This is also the case for Guinea, which is in its second year of unpaid contributions, while the country is in the midst of transition following the coup which led to sanctions.
For the Congo, it is the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which are currently at a standstill, which put a brake on the issuance of funds to the United Nations.
Thinly veiled blackmail, therefore, in which the UN plays the role of victim, while the threat to the African states concerned is clear.
The loss of the UN vote is a blow, diplomatically speaking, which can alter the reputation of certain countries which depend on their diplomacy for the promotion of major economic and geopolitical issues.
For some analysts, it is above all American and Western pressure in general, on countries that diversify their diplomatic partnerships and risk voting against Western motions in the UN General Assembly. The United States is trying to block Chinese and Russian expansion on the continent.