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Home > Media Reiews > News Review Last Updated: 14:52 03/09/2007
News Review #98: January 23, 2003

Japan to Cut Contribution to the Budget of the U.N.

Reviewed By Hitoshi URABE

"Japan to Cut Contribution to the Budget of the U.N."
(By James Brooke) New York Times


Since its accession to the UN, Japan's contribution to the organization had kept increasing, in terms of real money and in proportion to the whole budget of the UN. It was perhaps a reflection of miraculous recovery and growth of Japan's economy during the period, and to that extent the increase was probably something to be celebrated. Then Japan's economy began to dwindle, but the share of contribution kept rising, until it reached over 20% of UN budget in 2000. At that point Japan's government raised its voices a bit saying that it is not fair, for a country producing 15% of total GDP of the world and experiencing prolonged recession, to bear more than 20% of the UN budget. After going through extensive negotiation, it was finally agreed that the share would be lowered to below 20%. As the share of UN budget was to be set for 3 years, Japan's share was fixed at 19.629%, 19.669%, and 19.516% respectively for the years of 2001, 2002, and 2003.

Three years thence, this is the year again to negotiate new apportionments for the coming three years, and according to the article, Japanese officials have begun to test the waters, of Japanese people as well as of other governments, for further lowering its contribution share.

The article cites two causes of Japan's frustration toward the UN. One is so-called "the former enemy clauses" in the Charter of the United Nations, and the other is the notion that Japan is treated too lightly in comparison to its share of contribution.

Many consider the issue of "the former enemy clauses" to be only a matter of formality, technical and academic but have no practical meaning. It is defined in the UN Charter, in article 53. It says, "The term enemy state ... applies to any state which during the Second World War has been an enemy of any signatory of the present Charter." Then the term is referred to in articles 53 and 107, which are very legalese and difficult to comprehend, but in essence says that while the UN charter generally prohibits discretional use of force by its members, actions against the "enemy state" is allowed under certain circumstances without Security Council resolution. It may not have any practical significance now, but it still does exist in the very basic law of the organization, which makes it a flaw in the Charter under the present circumstances, and annoys some people.

The other issue the news article points out is Japan's desire to become a permanent member of the UN's Security Council. The reason is explained as because Japan's contribution to the UN budget is more than the combined payments of four of five of the permanent members of the Security Council, namely, Britain, France, Russia, and China. To throw in some numbers, the shares of those countries in the UN budget are 5.1%, 6.4%, 1.2%, and 1.5% respectively, making a total of little over 13%, truly enough, significantly lower than Japan's 20%.

The fact that Japan pays a lot of money obviously does not by itself entitle it to become a major player in the UN. In fact, some developing countries even argue that poor nations should have more say in the Security Council. When the UN was conceived, the power of influence was of direct proportion to the power of military capability. The world has changed since. While military power is still considered by many to be necessary as the last resort, what affects daily lives and welfares of people is economy, hence there is a very good reason for large economies to be represented in the UN in a proper manner.

Too obvious is that it is in Japan's interest to support the United Nations, for one reason Japan is not allowed by its constitution to use "force as means of settling international disputes." (Article 9 of the Constitution) It is, therefore, inconceivable for Japan to confront, or threat, the UN in negotiating for lower contribution share or winning a major role. But is should be recognized that Japan, while its economy has been in distress for a while, is still the second largest economy in the world next only to the U.S. As such, Japan's strongest bargaining chip is money itself. It is only natural for Japan to use it to have its voice be heard in the international arena. Japan shall utilize the influence based on its wealth wisely to serve the interest of the country, and carefully to preserve it as a valuable source of power.

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