UN May Not Have Enough Money to Pay Staff, Secretary-General Says

By Reuters 9 October 2019

UNITED NATIONS—The UN may not have enough money for staff salaries next month if member states don’t pay what they owe, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Tuesday.

He told the 193-member UN General Assembly’s budget committee that if he had not worked since January to cut spending then “we would not have had the liquidity to support” the annual gathering of world leaders last month.

“This month, we will reach the deepest deficit of the decade. We risk … entering November without enough cash to cover payrolls,” said Guterres. “Our work and our reforms are at risk.”

The US is the largest contributor—responsible for 22 percent of the more than US$3.3-billion (5.03-trillion-kyat) regular budget for 2019, which pays for work including political, humanitarian, disarmament, economic and social affairs and communications.

Washington owes some US$381 million for prior regular budgets and US$674 million for the 2019 regular budget. The US mission to the UN confirmed the figures.

An official from the US mission said the US “will be providing the vast majority of what we owe to the regular budget this fall, as we have in past years.”

“Overall the United States, as the largest contributor to the UN, contributes roughly US$10 billion annually in assessed and voluntary contributions across the United Nations system,” the official said.

US President Donald Trump has said Washington is shouldering an unfair burden of the cost of the UN and has pushed for reforms of the world body. Guterres has been working to improve UN operations and cut costs.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said 129 countries had paid their dues for 2019 so far, which amounted to almost US$2 billion.

Guterres said he introduced extraordinary measures last month to cope with the shortfall—vacant posts cannot be filled, only essential travel is allowed, and some meetings may have to be canceled or deferred. UN operations in New York, Geneva, Vienna and Nairobi and at regional commissions will be affected.

UN peacekeeping missions are funded by a separate budget, which was US$6.7 billion for the year to June 30, 2019, and US$6.51 billion for the year to June 30, 2020.

The US is responsible for nearly 28 percent of the peacekeeping budget but has pledged to pay only 25 percent—as required by US law. Washington currently owes some US$2.4 billion for peacekeeping missions.

The top contributing countries are Ethiopia, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Rwanda. They pay their troops according to their national salary scales and are reimbursed by the UN. As of July 2019, the UN paid $1,428 a month per soldier.

The UN says its peacekeeping operations cost less than half of 1 percent of world military expenditures.

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