The UN Secretariat could default salaries and payments by the end of November, prompting the secretary-general to request immediate measures including reductions in official travel and delayed spending on goods and services.

Flags of members states fly outside United Nations headquarters in New York.
Flags of members states fly outside United Nations headquarters in New York. (AP Archive)

Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned on Tuesday that the UN is facing its "worst cash crisis" in nearly a decade because 64 of its 193 members have not paid their annual dues — including the US, its largest contributor.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the secretary general has written to all members saying "the organization runs the risk of depleting its liquidity reserves by the end of the month and defaulting on payments to staff and vendors."

By the end of September, Dujarric said, member states had paid only 70 percent of the total assessment for the regular budget, compared with 78 percent at the same time last year.

According to the UN, 129 countries had paid $1.99 billion in dues for the UN's 2019 operating budget by Tuesday. It said $1.386 billion is owed for this year.

US debts

In addition to the US, other countries that haven't paid their dues are Brazil, Iran, Israel, Mexico, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay.

Because of the US government's budget calendar, Washington usually pays its dues in October.

According to the UN, the US owes $674 million for the 2019 regular budget and $381 million for previous regular budgets.

The US is also in arrears in payments for the separate budget for the UN's far-flung peacekeeping operations. 

It owes $255 million for peacekeeping missions that have been closed and $2 billion for active peacekeeping missions, according to the UN.

Default in salaries, payments

Dujarric said measures the UN Secretariat put in place early in the year to align expenditures with cash inflows have averted "major disruptions" but "are no longer enough."

Since the UN Secretariat could face default on salaries and payments by the end of November, Dujarric said the secretary general has requested immediate steps including further reductions in official travel and postponing spending for goods and services.

In addition, Dujarric said, events scheduled outside official meeting hours are being discontinued and conferences and meetings may have to be postponed or their services adjusted.

The secretary-general stressed that cash flow is a recurrent problem and the UN is now driven to prioritise work based on cash availability, thus undermining its mandates and obligations "to the people we serve," Dujarric said.

"The secretary-general, therefore, looks to member states to resolve the structural issues that underlie this annual crisis without further delay," Dujarric said.

Source: AFP