]The United Nations may not have enough money for staff salaries next month if member states don’t pay what they owe, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned.
He told the 193-member UN General Assembly budget committee if he had not worked since January to cut spending then “we would not have had the liquidity to support” last month’s annual gathering of world leaders.
“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 United States is the largest contributor – responsible for 22% of the more than $3.3 billion regular budget for 2019, which pays for work including political, humanitarian, disarmament, economic and social affairs and communications.
Washington owes $381 million for prior regular budgets and $674 million for the 2019 regular budget. The US mission to the UN confirmed the figures.
A US mission official said the US “will provide the vast majority of what we owe to the regular budget this fall, as we have in past years.”
“Overall the US, as the largest contributor to the UN, contributes roughly $10 billion annually in assessed and voluntary contributions across the UN system,” the official said.
US President Donald Trump said Washington is shouldering an unfair burden of the cost of the UN and pushed for reforms at the world body. Guterres is working to improve UN operations and cut costs.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said 129 countries paid their dues for 2019 to date, almost $2 billion.
Guterres introduced extraordinary measures to cope with the shortfall – vacant posts cannot be filled, only essential travel is allowed and some meetings may be cancelled 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 $6.7 billion for the year to June 30, 2019, and $6.51 billion for the year to June 30, 2020.
The US is responsible for nearly 28% of the peacekeeping budget and pledged to pay 25 percent – as required by US law. Washington currently owes $2.4 billion for peacekeeping missions.
The top troop contributing countries are Ethiopia, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Rwanda. They pay troops according to 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 a percent of world military expenditure.