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Jonathan Karl: Congress votes to punish UN

Jonathan Karl
Jonathan Karl  

May 10, 2001
Web posted at: 3:25 p.m. EDT (1925 GMT)

Jonathan Karl is CNN's congressional correspondent. The House voted Thursday to hold up U.N. dues because the U.S. lost seats on the world body's human rights and anti-drug committees last week.

Q: Why does the U.S. believe it should still be on the U.N. human-rights and anti-drug committees?

Karl: There are two separate issues here. One is the International Narcotics Control Board which the U.S. was thrown off, and the second is the U.N. Human Rights Commission. Of much greater concern here is the Human Rights Commission. The U.S. position on this is that this was a commission that was founded more than 50 years ago by none other than Eleanor Roosevelt. It's a commission that is supposed to fight for very issues the United States stands for, and it's one the U.S. has always sat on. In fact, the U.S. has always been, in the view of the United States, perhaps the most aggressive and active member of this commission. The U.S. just in the past year or so has used its position on the commission to condemn human rights abuses in China and in Cuba. The China resolution did not pass, the Cuban resolution did, but the U.S. views its position on this commission as critical.

U.N. Human Rights Commission members criticized by the U.S.

Q: Is it fair to punish the entire U.N. body for the votes of some specific committee members?

Karl: The view of those in the U.S. Congress who are in favor of just that, of holding back U.N. dues money to protest this vote removing the U.S. from the human rights commission, is that this sends a very strong message to those member countries, and in fact it is not so much a punishment of the entire U.N., but it is a message to those that have voted to remove the United States from this commission.

What is significant about this is that the dues money will not be withheld until next year, after another vote, so what Congress is doing is leaving a little bit of wiggle room here. They are saying that if next year the U.S. is once again not voted onto the Human Rights Commission, then we will withhold dues money. So this is meant to be something of a shot across the bow, something of a message that next year, they'd better put the U.S. on the Human Rights Commission, or we will withhold our dues money.

Q: Do we know which countries supported the U.S. and which didn't?

Karl: This was a secret ballot of the 54-nation U.N. Economic and Security Council, and as such we don't know who voted which way. The United States supposedly had written promises from more than enough countries to get voted on the commission, and apparently a number of those who had promised to vote for the United States, when it came to casting that secret ballot, did not. One thing the White House has said is they don't want to have a witch hunt of sorts, trying to find out which countries supported the United States and which didn't. They want to look towards this next vote.

Q: Do Congress and the White House agree on the proposal to withhold dues?

Karl: This is an important point. The White House has strenuously complained about the removal of the U.S. from the Human Rights Commission, but at the same time, the White House is opposed to this effort in Congress to withhold U.S. dues as a way to protest the removal. The position of the White House and State Department is that our position on the Human Rights Commission should not be tied to the paying of U.S. dues to the U.N. The White House is watching cautiously as this moves forward. It is something that the overwhelming majority of Republicans, and a large number of Democrats support in Congress, but it is not something that this president supports.

Annan urges Congress not to punish U.N. for rights vote (May 9, 2001)

The United Nations

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