Legal Remedies and the United Nations’ À La Carte Problem

This article reexamines recent U.S. withholdings of its assessed regular contributions to the UN, as well as the premises and assumptions underlying the theory that a UN member may legally and unilaterally withhold payments for ultra vires acts by the organization. The issue is of considerable consequence since, despite recent rhetoric, the number of members financially supporting the UN through timely payments of regular contributions number only about half the membership, payments. These practices undermine the basic doctrine of “collective financial responsibility” and threaten the survival of international organizations. Reexamination is timely since the lessening of ideological divisions at the UN may facilitate adoption of legal remedies to the à la carte payment problem.