Venezuela, Bahrain among 15 countries stripped of voting rights at UN due to debts

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro © Miraflores Palace
The United Nations has deprived a number of countries of voting rights following their failure to pay the membership charge. The list of non-payer states includes Venezuela, which is set to take over the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council in February.

The General Assembly has been informed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that due to an inability to pay the required sum, the countries on the list will be able to take part in voting only on extraordinary occasions, AP reported.

The countries affected by the decision, apart from Venezuela, include the Dominican Republic, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Burundi, Bahrain, Libya, Mali, the Marshall Islands and Vanuatu.

The secretary-general has noted that an exception can be made for a state “if it is satisfied that the failure to pay is due to conditions beyond the control of the member.”

Thus five poor and war-torn countries – Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia and Yemen – will still have a vote until the end of the current UN session which comes in September, a resolution passed in the UN stated.
Ban’s letter initially also featured Iran which until very recently has been under UN sanctions over its nuclear program. However, Iran has been excluded from the list since it “just paid”, restoring its ability to vote, assembly spokesman Daniel Thomas said.
The letter also provides information on the sum of money that a country has to pay to recover its voting rights. The sizes of debts tend to differ from a bit less than $3 million for Venezuela to $1,360 for Burundi.

The loss of voting rights might be most painful for Venezuela, a major oil producer, which is set to preside over the UN Security Council after Uruguay is relieved from the duties. Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry hasn’t responded to the news so far.

Venezuela has suffered a significant blow due to the recent collapse in the price of oil with its economy shrinking 10 percent and inflation hitting 159 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Unlike Venezuela, Bahrain’s economy is more diversified, but still almost 70 percent of it depends on oil sales revenue. Last week the government raised gas prices for the first time in 33 years – from 27 cents per liter to 42, according to The Gulf News. The Bahraini Foreign Ministry hasn’t commented on the UN’s decision as well.

One of the main criterion that determines the size of the UN membership charge for a particular country is its financial capacity. The rates are reconsidered every three years in accordance with the latest data on the countries’ revenues.

The annual charge must not exceed 22 percent of a country’s budget, the General Assembly stated in 2000. Thus, the US, the largest UN donor, accounts for 22 percent of the UN, Germany – for 7.1 percent while France goes with 5.6 percent. Russia contributes around 2.4-2.5 percent to the UN regular budget as of 2014.