via @saftergood & fas.org
Since the United Nations (U.N.) was established in 1945, the U.S. government, including many Members of Congress, has maintained an ongoing interest in the criteria and process for membership in the United Nations and its specialized agencies. The United Nations currently has
193 member states and two observer non-member states—the Holy See (Vatican) and “Palestine.”
Criteria and Process
The decision to admit a state into the United Nations is made by the U.N. General Assembly on the recommendation of the U.N. Security Council,
including all five permanent members (P-5): the United States, China, France, United Kingdom, and Russia. Membership is open to all
“peace-loving states” that accept the obligations contained in the U.N. Charter and, in the judgment of the organization, are able and willing to carry out such obligations. Given the imprecise nature of such criteria, many member states have broadly interpreted the conditions for
U.N. membership. Consequently, global and domestic politics play a primary role in many membership decisions.
Each of the United Nations’ 16 specialized agencies has its own constitution, rules, membership, governance, and financial resources. As such, the process and criteria for admitting new members vary depending on the organization. In 11 specialized agencies, U.N. membership gives a state access to membership in the agency without requiring its admission to be approved by the current membership.
U.S. Role and Policy
Congress often does not play a large role in determining U.N. membership, Members have sought to influence U.S. policy on the issue through legislation advocating or opposing the membership of various countries and entities—including Israel, Montenegro, Kosovo, South Africa, China/Taiwan, and the Palestine Libera tion Organization (PLO). Notably, in the mid-1990s, Congress enacted two separate laws that prohibit funding to U.N. entities that (1) admit the PLO as a member, and (2) grant full membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood (see Section 410 of P.L. 103- 236 and Section 414 of P.L. 101-246). The United States currently withholds its assessed and voluntary contributions to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which admitted Palestine as a member in 2011…