SVG’s UN voting rights snafu

SVG UN Ambassador I. Rhonda King addressing SVG Ex-Teachers Association of New York gala luncheon on the Sunday before MLK Day.
Photo by Nelson A. King

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ambassador to the United Nations, I. Rhonda King, has attributed her country’s inability to vote in the UN General Assembly to a case of clerical error.

“It was merely an error,” said King in a Caribbean Life interview Monday night, responding to last Friday’s decision by the General Assembly to suspend the nation’s voting rights in its current 70th Session because of what it said were arrears in paying its dues.

“I am unclear about how the error came about, but I do know it was an error,” the envoy stressed.

King said, when the “error” was discovered, her Mission immediately notified the UN and her country’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, and that Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nathaniel Williams, also “immediately set about” to address the issue.

The UN General Assembly identified St. Vincent and the Grenadines among nine countries that are not allowed to vote because of what it claimed were arrears in paying their dues.

The General Assembly said that, as of last Friday, the Dominican Republic is the other Caribbean country that is not permitted to vote.

The others are: Bahrain, Burundi, Libya, Mali, Marshall Islands, Vanuatu and Venezuela.

“Under Article 19 of the Charter, a Member State in arrears in the payment of its dues in an amount that equals or exceeds the contributions due for two preceding years can lose its vote in the General Assembly,” said the UN General Assembly in a statement.

“An exception is allowed if the Member State can show that conditions beyond its control contributed to this inability to pay,” it added.

The UN’s Committee on Contributions said that it “advises the General Assembly on the apportionment, under Article 17, of the expenses of the organization among members broadly according to capacity to pay.”

The committee also said it “advises” the General Assembly on the assessments to be fixed for new members, and on appeals by members for a change of assessments.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week informed the General Assembly that 15 countries, including oil producer Venezuela, are in arrears in paying their annual contribution to the UN regular budget, “which means they can’t vote in the 193-member world body unless there are exceptional circumstances,” according to the Associated Press (AP).

The AP said that Ban’s letter, which was dated last week Monday and circulated on Friday, also included Iran, another major oil producer, which was under UN sanctions over its nuclear program until two Saturdays ago, when they were lifted.

But, according to the AP, UN General Assembly spokesman Daniel Thomas said Friday that Iran “just paid,” which means that its voting rights have been restored.

The UN General Assembly said that, on Oct. 12 last year, five countries in arrears to vote in the General Assembly were allowed to vote until the end of the current 70th session.

They are: Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia and Yemen.

Ban’s letter gives “the minimum payment” that the nine other countries must make in order to have their voting right restored, according to the AP.

It said the amounts range from just under US$3 million for Venezuela and US$2.1 million for the Dominical Republic to US$2,155 for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and US$1,360 for Burundi.

King said St. Vincent and the Grenadines had paid US39, 313.00, instead of the US$41,557.00 owed to the UN.

She said the balance of US$2, 287.00 will be paid shortly.

“Once paid, St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ voting rights will be restored,” the envoy assured.

“And I expect that to be done within 48 hours, but certainly before the end of this week,” she added, stating that the entire issue was “much ado about nothing.”

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