If the US did not pay the UN they would lose their GA vote, under article 19:

A Member of the United Nations which is in arrears in the payment of its financial contributions to the Organization shall have no vote in the General Assembly if the amount of its arrears equals or exceeds the amount of the contributions due from it for the preceding two full years. The General Assembly may, nevertheless, permit such a Member to vote if it is satisfied that the failure to pay is due to conditions beyond the control of the Member.

However, I saw nothing about that for a security council vote. This is not purely a hypothetical question because the US has complained about how much they pay to the UN (source https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2019/10/09/donald-trump-dismisses-united-nations-deficits-says-others-should-pay/3917554002/), and a GA vote isn’t really all that important, at least to the US. Would they also lose their security council vote, or suffer any other repercussions? Also, would other types of financial contributions to the UN have a different effect than causing the US to lose their GA vote?

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    Since it doesn't say anything about fees in the Security Council chapter, I think it's reasonable to assume that it's not a requirement.
    – Barmar
    Mar 29, 2021 at 21:12
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    I don't know the consequence, but seems while the US pays the most, but chronically owes a lot to UN too. See this article, foreignpolicy.com/2021/03/29/…
    – r13
    Mar 29, 2021 at 22:29
  • @r13 interesting, so according to that article it would seem the US wouldn’t lose anything other than it’s GA vote on paper (according to the article, the US still hasn’t lost its GA vote interestingly enough), but in practice it would possibly lose influence in the UN. Mar 30, 2021 at 14:08
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    @Yay Remember sometime ago the UN was considering move out of NY, and at the same time, the sentiment in the US was quite negative against housing the UN. The disputes between the two was so tangled. Maybe one day, in the future, the US will be scrutinized more by other members, if the UN ultimately decides to move to China, or Russia ;) But it's still unlikely, unless the US has fallen way down on the economic and military ladder compared to the other power players.
    – r13
    Mar 30, 2021 at 16:35

1 Answer 1


The loss of voting rights in the General Assembly is the only tangible repercussion which would be imposed. Note that the loss of voting rights is automatic - it doesn't rely on a resolution passing the General Assembly or Security Council to take effect.

The question of the loss of UNSC voting rights in particular was raised in 1998, when the US was significantly in arrears. Although negotiations between the UN and the US eventually led to a significant amount of the debt being paid, in exchange for a reduction of the assessment ceiling rate (the maximum proportion of the UN's budget which a single country can be required to pay) from 25% to 22%, there was a long period of uncertainty as to whether the US would pass the two-year arrears cap and lose their GA vote.

In a press conference in September, Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, was asked whether the United States would lose its right to vote in the Security Council when it lost the right to vote in the Assembly for non-payment of arrears:

No, Mr. Eckhard answered, article 19 would apply only to the General Assembly. "And I might mention that it is not an action that Member States would take to remove the right to vote from the United States. It is an automatic result of a calculation made at the end of the year of the arrears, and all Member States who are more than two years behind by the calculation automatically lose their vote." Action would have to be taken by the Assembly to grant an exception, Mr. Eckhard added. "That is not to suggest it would happen, but that is possible."

As far as non-tangible repercussions, then Secretary General Kofi Annan gave a speech a few weeks later, where he echoed the words of Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black:

But the news for United Nations funding is grim indeed. It appears that the United States will squeak by, paying just enough to avoid losing its vote in the General Assembly, which happens to nations who fall two years behind in their contributions. I wish to stress that this is something that happens automatically, under Article 19 of the United Nations Charter; it is not something that other Member States do to others.

So while the United States will avoid this fate for this year, on the larger question -- its legal commitment and moral obligation to the United Nations and the 184 other Member States -- the United States will have failed.


Great nations keep their word. They do not inflict wounds on their own prestige or undermine their claim to leadership at crucial moments in world affairs. I can only hope that when Congress reconvenes, we can get this issue behind us. The United States needs an effective United Nations; the United Nations needs an engaged United States.

At least in Annan's view, then, the failure of the United States to meet its budget obligations would harm the authority of not just the United States, but also the United Nations.

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