The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK—There is a great discussion going on in Congress at present as to whether we shall accept our obligation to buy $100,000,000 of the United Nations bond issue. Our delegation at the U.N. is in favor of this solution to the U.N.'s financial troubles.

The bond issue was authorized by the General Assembly, and Secretary General U Thant was asked to issue $200,000,000 worth of bonds which are payable in 25 years with two percent interest per year. The bonds are being offered only to states that are members of the U.N. or of the specialized agencies or of the Atomic Energy Agency. The Secretary General, however, with the concurrence of the appropriate committees, may offer them to nonprofit associations or institutions.

Some of our Senators who have usually supported the U.N. want our government, instead of buying the bonds, to loan the U.N. the money over a period of three years.

This, I think, would be a great mistake, because one of the important factors of the bond issue is that it is a way of making the delinquent nations pay for the emergency expenses. The resolution of the General Assembly says that these bonds should be repaid out of the regular budget of the U.N.—and no nation can escape without a penalty from these regular obligations to the world organization. If a nation is in arrears on the regular budget for an amount that equals or exceeds its assessment for two full years, it loses its vote in the General Assembly, unless that body makes an exception in its favor.

Why is it in our national interest to buy these bonds? President Kennedy put it very clearly, I think, in his State of the Union message in January. He said: "This (the bond issue) is clearly in our interest. It will not only keep the U.N. solvent, but also require all voting members to pay their fair share of its activities. Our share of the special operations has long been much higher than our share of the annual assessment, and the bond issue will, in effect, reduce our disproportionate obligation. And for these reasons, I am urging Congress to approve our participation."

By having the bond issue repaid out of the regular U.N. budget the United States contribution for the peace-keeping operations is reduced from its present share of about 47.5 percent to 32 percent.

People very often think how fearfully expensive what we put into the U.N. is. So I would like to repeat here a little fact that I think the people of the country should remember because most of us know that when we want something—and we do want peace—we usually have to pay for what we want. At the present time the U.S. pays toward the regular U.N. budget (and the U.N. is the only machinery that we have constantly working for a peaceful world) for the specialized agencies, for our voluntary contributions to the Congo, and for the forces on the Israeli-Arab border altogether the amount of $1.06 per capita per year. The military budget of the U.S. is about $300 per capita per year.

We have to have military defense as long as we do not have advances toward a peaceful world, and if the old saying is true that we pay for what we really want we had better keep in mind that most of us really want peace.

When people ask, "What good has the U.N. done for the U.S.?" I think it would be interesting if they would stop and think what would have happened if the U.N. had not intervened in the Congo. Almost surely, a part of the Congo would have asked for help from the Soviet Union. We would not have felt that we could allow such intervention and we would have gone to the help of the people who asked our aid—and that might have been the beginning of the holocaust of an atomic war.

The Soviet Union has not wanted the U.N. to take military responsibility, and that is why it has refused to pay its debts. The Russian people cannot speak out as ours can, and I think our people would have agreed with Henry Cabot Lodge in his estimate of the Congo situation when he said "it might have turned into a second Korea." Our people would have spoken out forcefully against this sacrifice of men as well as of money.

The U.N. is of vital interest to the good of our nation, and we want it strong. The late Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjold, in his last report to the 16th General Assembly, said there were two groups of nations—those that wanted the organization to be simply a conference mechanism to secure coexistence between two ideological blocs and those that wanted an independent U.N. capable of meeting the problems of the world.

Anyone of us who really hopes for ultimate disarmament knows that it cannot happen unless we have a strong U.N.

If you are interested in studying questions about the United Nations, there is a publication by Arthur Larson, a successful businessman, called "Questions and Answers on the U.N. Crisis." It can be obtained, along with a number of short fact-sheet publications issued by the American Association for the United Nations, by writing to the AAUN, 345 East 46th Street, New York, N.Y.

There is also available an interesting booklet, called "Ten Minutes For Peace," published by the Institute for International Order, which may be obtained from that organization at 11 West 42nd Street, New York, N.Y.


(Copyright, 1962, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, March 21, 1962

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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