The United Nations has an overall annual operating budget of several billion dollars, covering everything from humanitarian work to disarmament, but right now, it’s just trying to make sure its employees get paid next month.
How did the world body end up more than US$200 million in the red?
The answer: Member states who have not paid their expected contributions, including the United States, China Daily reported.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Tuesday that the agency may not have enough money for staff salaries in November if member states don’t pay what they owe.
He told the budget committee of the 193-member UN General Assembly 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, the report said.
“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% of the more than US$3.3 billion regular budget for 2019, which pays for work including political, humanitarian, disarmament, economic and social affairs and communications.
Washington owes nearly US$381 million for prior regular budgets and US$674 million for the 2019 regular budget.
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 $10 billion annually in assessed and voluntary contributions across the United Nations system,” the official said.
US President Donald Trump’s administration has taken a hard line on UN funding, cutting contributions and pushing for cost-saving reforms.
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 postponed. 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 ending June 30, 2019, and US$6.51 billion for the year running to June 30, 2020.
The US is responsible for nearly 28% of the peacekeeping budget but has pledged to pay only 25% — as required by US law. Washington currently owes nearly US$2.4 billion for peacekeeping missions.
The top contributors of troops are Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, 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 US$1,428 a month per soldier.