Crisis in U.N. Financing Emerges Over Peacekeeping Expenses Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

U.N. peacekeeping budgets fell victim to the Cold War as the Soviet Union and other countries refused to pay their share of peacekeeping costs, leading to controversy and eventually to the temporary expedient of treating such expenses as ad hoc and voluntary in nature.

Summary of Event

Under the terms of Article 17 of the Charter of the United Nations, the regular expenses of the organization are to be “borne by the members as apportioned by the General Assembly.” General Assembly, U.N. Because collective security and peacekeeping are the central purposes for the existence of the United Nations, one might assume logically that expenses concerning them would be part of the assessed dues of all the members, as determined by the General Assembly. At its first session in 1946, the General Assembly adopted Rules of Procedure, including a provision under Rule 158 for the creation of a Committee on Contributions, which in turn under Rule 160 advises the General Assembly about the apportionment of the expenses of the United Nations based on the ability of each member state to pay, offering a specific set of criteria for the establishment of a scale of budgetary assessments for each country. All regular expenses, including those approved in advance by the General Assembly, and those incurred by the secretary-general in responding to unforeseen crises and situations, are assessed upon the member states, who are obliged to pay their dues. Under Article 19 of the U.N. Charter, any state falling in arrears on its assessment for two years may be denied its vote in the General Assembly. United Nations;peacekeeping United Nations;financing Cold War;United Nations [kw]Crisis in U.N. Financing Emerges Over Peacekeeping Expenses (1963-1965) [kw]U.N. Financing Emerges Over Peacekeeping Expenses, Crisis in (1963-1965) [kw]Financing Emerges Over Peacekeeping Expenses, Crisis in U.N. (1963-1965) [kw]Peacekeeping Expenses, Crisis in U.N. Financing Emerges Over (1963-1965) United Nations;peacekeeping United Nations;financing Cold War;United Nations [g]North America;1963-1965: Crisis in U.N. Financing Emerges Over Peacekeeping Expenses[07490] [g]United States;1963-1965: Crisis in U.N. Financing Emerges Over Peacekeeping Expenses[07490] [c]United Nations;1963-1965: Crisis in U.N. Financing Emerges Over Peacekeeping Expenses[07490] [c]Cold War;1963-1965: Crisis in U.N. Financing Emerges Over Peacekeeping Expenses[07490] [c]Diplomacy and international relations;1963-1965: Crisis in U.N. Financing Emerges Over Peacekeeping Expenses[07490] Khrushchev, Nikita S. [p]Khrushchev, Nikita S.;United Nations Gromyko, Andrei Andreyevich Hammarskjöld, Dag Thant, U [p]Thant, U;peacekeeping

In the early 1960’s, a political crisis emerged over U.N. financing of peacekeeping operations that had not been fully approved by the Security Council, Security Council, U.N. the organ under the Charter with primary responsibility for collective security. This crisis was a result of Cold War stalemate: The Council’s ability to field peacemaking or peacekeeping missions depended on consensus among the five veto-bearing permanent members of the Council, including the Soviet Union, China, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States; the Soviet Union often blocked this consensus. In the early 1950’s, during the Korean War, Korean War (1950-1953);United Nations the U.N. Security Council had been able to authorize deployment of U.N. forces only because the Soviet Union was boycotting Security Council meetings in protest over the United Nations’ refusal to seat the People’s Republic of China (communist China) instead of the Republic of China (Taiwan). The General Assembly passed the famous Uniting for Peace Resolution on November 3, 1950, which provided that in cases where the Security Council was blocked from taking action because of a veto, the General Assembly could make recommendations to members in regular or emergency session to deal with collective security matters.

On two important occasions, Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld actively pursued peacekeeping missions authorized or expanded by the General Assembly instead of the Security Council. The first concerned the Suez crisis (1956), Suez Canal crisis (1956);United Nations in which the United Kingdom and France vetoed Security Council action. The second concerned the Congo crisis, Congo crisis (1960-1963) in which the Soviet Union Soviet Union;in United Nations[United Nations] objected to expansion of an earlier peacemaking deployment it had approved, because the expanded activity worked against its interests. This threw the matter into the General Assembly. France refused to pay any expenses associated with the Suez matter, and the Soviet Union refused to pay for expenses involving either the Suez or Congo situation. Egypt refused to pay for Suez expenses, considering itself the victim of aggression. Other member states—including Bulgaria, Byelorussia, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and the Ukraine—also refused to pay expenses.

In 1961, the Committee on Contributions reported to the General Assembly that a number of countries were coming perilously close to being two years in arrears on their assessments for the large, additional peacekeeping expenses. This report triggered a flurry of activity, even as Hammarskjöld’s death in the same year laid the difficulties at the feet of U Thant, who assumed the duties of secretary-general.

First, the General Assembly sought for and received from the International Court of Justice International Court of Justice (ICJ) an advisory opinion in which the ICJ held that the peacekeeping expenses incurred under General Assembly resolutions concerning both the Suez and the Congo situations were “expenses of the Organization” within the meaning of Article 17. The General Assembly decided to accept the ICJ opinion in 1962, but it also established a working group to examine these new budgetary concerns; the General Assembly called its fourth special session to deliberate the issues surrounding the growing crisis. The session met from May 14 to June 17, 1963, and produced a series of resolutions, all of which were opposed by the Soviet Union and the Communist bloc countries. France also opposed several of the resolutions. Although controversial, the resolutions provided for ad hoc approaches to the financing of peacekeeping operations, allowing for both regular assessments and various voluntary contributions to be used for U.N. collective security missions. During its eighteenth regular session of 1963, the General Assembly continued an ad hoc approach to financing ongoing U.N. missions in the Middle East and the Congo, but by the following year’s session several countries, including the Soviet Union, had fallen into delinquency under Article 19, and France was to do so during that session.

The Soviet Union, governed at the time by Nikita S. Khrushchev and his able foreign minister, Andrei Andreyevich Gromyko, threatened to leave the United Nations if Article 19 were invoked. To avoid confrontation, the General Assembly decided for the first and only time in its history, during its nineteenth session of 1964, to avoid votes and to do business solely by consensus. This procedural device avoided confrontation during that session, and during the twentieth session of the General Assembly in 1965, the United States withdrew its insistence that countries in arrears be denied their vote, ending the active phase of the crisis but not resolving decisively the matter of how to pay for peacekeeping expenses.


Even during the course of the financial crisis, the ad hoc approach to financing U.N. peacekeeping missions permitted the member states to work out arrangements to deploy three missions. In 1962, the Netherlands and Indonesia agreed to share the cost of a General Assembly authorized mission to West Irian; in 1963, Saudi Arabia and Egypt agreed to pay for the costs of a mission to Yemen authorized by the Security Council; and in March, 1964, the Security Council deployed a mission to Cyprus on condition that all costs would be borne by Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and any other countries wishing to provide troops or make voluntary contributions. This pattern of ad hoc financing continued when the Security Council deployed a U.N. force following the 1973 Yom Kippur War and again during the 1978 Lebanese civil war. By this time, the Security Council had reclaimed peacekeeping initiatives from the General Assembly, somewhat defusing one aspect of the controversy.

With the collapse of communism in the late 1980’s and the end of the Cold War, the United Nations was once again able to treat financing of its collective security activities as a matter of the regular budget. Thus, about two dozen peacekeeping and peacemaking missions initiated by the Security Council were deployed in the early 1990’s: in Africa, Asia, Central America, Europe, and the Middle East. Financial and political issues often limited the size and scope of such missions, but many were quite large and ambitious, and even though ad hoc or voluntary contributions were necessary (as in the Persian Gulf War of 1991) to cover the expenses fully, most of the operations were funded by regular contributions. The variable success of these initiatives led to greater circumspection and more regional responses in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.

In the meantime, with collective security budgets rising, other financial controversies emerged at the United Nations. Major donors began to call for budgetary and administrative reform throughout the organization in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and once again the United Nations found itself facing the need to cut budgets and staff when major contributors, including the United States, often deliberately withheld and delayed annual assessments to pressure the United Nations to undertake administrative reforms. Even in the early 2000’s, the United Nations realized a need to pursue ongoing reforms. United Nations;peacekeeping United Nations;financing Cold War;United Nations

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gorman, Robert F. Great Debates at the United Nations: An Encyclopedia of Fifty Key Issues, 1945-2000. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001. Contains a chapter on the U.N. financing crisis with a history of the debate and discussion of its outcome.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">McDermott, Anthony. The New Politics of Financing the U.N. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999. A useful work detailing the financial difficulties facing the United Nations in a post-Cold War era of globalization.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Stoessinger, John G., ed. Financing the United Nations. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1964. A collection of articles written during the height of the U.N. financial crisis.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">United Nations. Yearbook of the United Nations. New York: United Nations Publications, 1963-1965. The U.N. yearbooks for the years 1963, 1964, and 1965 provide a summary of the organization’s activities, including those dealing with U.N. special sessions and reports by the General Assembly Fifth Committee on Budget and Administration.

Hammarskjöld Is Elected U.N. Secretary-General

United Nations Admits Sixteen New Members

Foreign Aid Is Withdrawn from Egypt’s Aswan High Dam Project

Egypt Attempts to Nationalize the Suez Canal

Katanga Province Secedes from Congo and Riots Ensue

United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld Dies in a Plane Crash

United Nations Peace Force Is Deployed in Cyprus

Categories: History