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Home » Home, UN NEWS » UN Financial Crisis – Every Year The Same Drama

UN Financial Crisis – Every Year The Same Drama

Antonio Guterres UN Secretary General (Photo by Erol Avdovic Webpublicapress)

Antonio Guterres UN Secretary General (Photo by Erol Avdovic Webpublicapress)

By Erol Avdović (Webpublica – UNITED NATIONS – New York) — How to take something as a serious warning if it happens in almost the same scenario year after year. Such is the case with the United Nations: Drama is constantly present, but for real, not without reason. As of first working day of the new 2020, the deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq announced UN has closed out previous year with 146 member states paid their regular budget dues in full for 2019. “And we are off to the races on the budget,” said Haq. He added, UN is grateful for most recent payments to Armenia, Portugal and Ukraine.

In October, 2019 the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that the World body had been suffering the worst money shortage in in the past decade. He said the UN may not have enough cash to pay its staff in November. While no UN staff salary came in question – in last two months of the year financial crisis has not eased at all. It looked it even became more severe.

At the UN Headquarters in New York they had to come with drastic measures of cutting all travel expenditure and energy savings. It has also included the shortening of working hours of the several UN’s cafeterias, so they have been able to cut the heating and air-conditioning costs. Thus, it came to the most unpopular step taken – halting the escalator from first to forth at the 37 floors high UN tower at the East River. But, many argue all those savings are “cosmetic” and not at all enough to be considered as a real austerity measures.

For UN cash is the King

And UN end of the year financial crisis was not a surprise. At the very beginning of 2019, the UN member states owed nearly $2 billion in peacekeeping funds, when, at the time – UN chief also informed the world about it. Then and now Antonio Guterres is expressing his frustration with the fact, that the UN is at risk of “exhausting the closed peacekeeping cash reserves.” The annual UN peacekeeping budget is $ 7,3 billion USD, which is less then 0.5 percent of global military expenditures.

The United States was and is still responsible for more than a third of that gap in the UN peacekeeping budget. Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia and South Korea were also among biggest debtors.

Asked frequently about it, the UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric was making daily “honor roll” public announcements who – out of 193’s UN members had paid their regular contributions in full for 2019. In October even war-torn Syria had their mandatory payment completed: While some big fishes did not at the time, some small and not rich countries like those from Balkans did pay their dues in full.

The US is still the number 1. contributor to UN budget that accounts for 22 per cent of the Organization’s regular budget. China comes second (12.4 percent), followed by Japan (8 percent). Washington still owes $674 million for the 2019 regular budget and around $381 million for the previous budget.

By the end of September (2019) during the 74th General debate in New York, member states only

UN peacekeeping (UN photo for education only)

UN peacekeeping (UN photo for education only)

paid 70 percent of the needed amount to fund the UN operations all over the world. According to the UN there are more than 100.000 peacekeepers from 120 troops contributor countries; peacekeeping operations are spread in 13 active UN missions across 3 continents (Africa, Europe, and Asia).

Top financial contributors, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) face regular criticism for delaying payment, which hampers the UN peacekeeping business worldwide. The big countries are also rear or no peacekeeping contributors, while most of the peacekeepers are coming from developing nations. Those who were some time ago themselves peacekeeping receivers are now giving those services to other nations. Yet some of those new UN Blue Helmut soldiers are still not best-equipped for long-term missions and other peace-keeping challenges.

In a meantime, cash is the King at the UN head-office in New York. “We are continuing our contacts with all member states that are in arrears, to try to get the cash, to put it bluntly and in crude terms,” Mr. Dujarric told reporters in New York. At the same time UN say it is not going to cut any highly paid salaries posts neither stop hiring new employees.

What Guterres can do in delicate situation?

According to the Secretary-General annual report on the composition of the Secretariat there are 6,389 staff members in New York, 3,223 in Geneva, and 1,711 in Nairobi. In addition more than 5.000 UN employees work in Vienna of which one third are Austrians. The liquidity problem does not affect specialized agencies like the International Labor Organization (ILO) or UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the press-conference with his chief spokesman Stephane Dujarric, September 2018 UN HQ New York (Photo Erol Avdovic - Webpublica)

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the press-conference with his chief spokesman Stephane Dujarric, September 2018 UN HQ New York (Photo Erol Avdovic – Webpublica)

“The lack of liquidity can have an impact on our ability to implement our mandates,” UN Spokesperson confessed and emphasized at the same time in New York. When asked by Webpublicapress (WPP) reporter if he would have to use a single word to describe the current UN financial situation – and weather he would use words like “catastrophic” or, “destructive,” Mr. Dujarric said: “Delicate.”

With escalators still not running (that saves UN some $ 14.000 USD annually), one would argue the good maintenance of the elevators that have become too busy in the meantime has become crucial for more than 5,000 employees, diplomats from 193 member states and guests that are daily doing business with UN at the old Secretariat building in New York. But what else can be done to safe some serious mane – there is still not the serious answer from the UN Headquarters.

Asked in rather humorous way what measures are left to the Secretary General, and weather he was planning in near future to pick up the phone and call some member-states, like collection agency do, Dujarric responded in a same fashion, although being very clear that the Secretary General “cannot go around and act like a collection agency”, since that is “not within his mandate.”

”Collections agencies work because they have a stick, and they have leverage,” he said, while the Secretary General, Dujarric stressed, “has his good offices and his charm.”  But he reminded “member states have Charter responsibilities to pay their assessed contributions.  It’s in the Charter when they sign up to the Charter.”

Dujarric did not say what effective measures are left to the UN if member states extend without paying debts. Asked by Brazilian reporter is there any discussion of having Brazil vote at the General Assembly withdrawn, considering they haven’t paid more than two years of the contribution, the spokesperson reminded Article 19 of the UN Charter is very clear on that.

”Decisions having to do with voting rights, suspension of voting rights or the derogations that are given to certain countries that are under Article 19 are decisions taken by member states themselves and not by the Secretariat,” Dujarric said. He insisted the decisions having to do with Article 19 “are dealt with through the Committee on Contributions, which is a General Assembly committee.”

With UN member states not responsive policy – most are playing deaf at least for a while, Guterres has a serios problem in his hands. Indeed he can only appeal or strongly urge member countries to pay their dues, but by the end of 2019. the escalators at the UN Headquarters in New York were still not working.

Confidence lost in UN – Now and Then

At the same time the fact that the payments are delayed every year may reflect some UN member

Secretary-General António Guterres meets with Donald Trump, President, United States (UN photo)

Secretary-General António Guterres meets with Donald Trump, President, United States (UN photo)

states has lack of faith in the role of the World’s body. As a matter of fact – the financial crisis of 2020 is hardly new for the UN.

“The UN faces collapse because many member states have not paid their full dues assessments, owed as a treaty obligation. On December 31, 1995, these debts totaled $2.3 billion. The organization will be completely out of cash in just a few months and may then be forced to close its doors. This would be a terrible setback in efforts towards peace, human rights and social well-being for all peoples,” reads one UN statement issued January 16, 1996.

More than twenty plus years latter some UN diplomats from developing countries argue it is the lack of the UN reforms that produce no consistent action in favor of UN. “In particularly a frozen state in the UN Security Council, with all power only vested in the hands of only permanent five (P-5 — US, Britain, France, Russia, and China) for the last 75 years,” a diplomat from Eastern Europe told WPPP. “United Nations without reforms is not something that you can continue to believe in,” he added. “It is not a part of new global reality.”

And many World leaders say so; Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeatedly said UN Security Council reform “is now a necessity rather than a need.” He said UN as such “is no longer relevant in a rapid-changing world.” He is not the only one complaining.

At the same time US president Donald Trump was strongly arguing for cutting funds to international organizations especially UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) that helps Palestinians. President Trump did scrutinize the same the UNFPA and UNESCO in 2017.

US president claimed Washington endures an unfair burden of the total UN cost while the World body lack to reform creates no obligation for United States to continue paying the bureaucratic status quo at the East River. Other also argue UN does not have a great future without reforms and budget transparency, and it may lose its relevance.

Meanwhile UN continue to kindly begging and appeal for the money; big money. But witnessing that it has little new to offer from what has already been seen – with more than several colossal historical failures, such are those in Rwanda, 1994. and Srebrenica, 1995. while still with the poor record of human rights protection – the Organization looks more like a beggar, rather than an institution worth investing in.

 

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