Amid Criticism Over Unpaid Dues, United States Delegate Asserts Strong Commitment to United Nations, as Fifth Committee Reviews Organization’s Financial Situation

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) debated the financial situation of the United Nations today, with the representative of the United States � responding to criticism from developing countries � asserting that her country remains committed to the Organization and is fully meeting its financial commitments, albeit later in the year than other Member States.

Emphasizing that her Government takes its international obligations very seriously, she said the amount reflected by the United Nations as owed by the United States is distorted because of differences in the United States and United Nations fiscal years as well as other factors. To suggest that we are not meeting our obligations is patently false, she said. To date this year, the United States has contributed $1.4 billion to peacekeeping operations and $151 million to the regular budget, she said, adding that it will provide another $200 million later this month.

Overall, the United States � the biggest single contributor to the regular and peacekeeping budgets � accounts for $10 billion a year in assessed and voluntary contributions across the United Nations system, she said, emphasizing that her country remains committed to the Organization and its vital role in the world.

Today’s discussion came a week after Jan Beagle, Under Secretary General for Management, informed the Committee that the Organization’s cash position remains precarious, with deficits becoming larger and arising earlier in the year. (For background, see press release GA/AB/4293.)

Providing an update today, she said that since she last spoke, payments had come in from the United States, among other Member States, for the regular budget as well as for peacekeeping and international tribunals. Overall, she said 145 Member States have now paid their regular budgets in full, while 55 have met all their financial obligations for peacekeeping.

Egypt’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said non payment of assessed contributions and, indeed, wilful and unilateral withholding of contributions, has led us to this sorry state. More than half of all monies owed to the United Nations can be attributed to one Member State. Those who claim special responsibilities must also live up to those responsibilities. The loudest and most insistent voices for reform must also enable the Secretary General to implement reform by paying their assessed contributions in full, on time and without conditions, he added.

The representative of Singapore, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said it is clear that the United Nations financial uncertainty stems from the non payment of assessed contributions and, in some cases, the wilful, deliberate and unilateral withholding of contributions. She also observed that over half of all monies owed to the United Nations was owed by one Member State, adding that special responsibilities for peace and security come with financial responsibilities that must be honoured by all Member States in full, on time and without conditions.

Cuba’s delegate, asserting that the United Nations is facing one of the most complex moments in its 73 year history, said: We know full well who is responsible for the current critical financial situation of the Organization. It is alarming that the largest debts to the United Nations are concentrated in the hands of one country, the United States, which insists on reminding other Member States of its status as the main contributor when it in fact owes more than $1.625 billion, or 58 per cent of total assessments, including more than $800 million to the peacekeeping budget. The United States’ main purpose for withholding payments � and in particular for paying into the regular budget at the end of the year � is to subject the Organization to financial blackmail, she said.

India’s delegate said his country � cumulatively the largest troop contributor to United Nations peacekeeping operations � is among 76 Member States owed significant sums for active peacekeeping missions. Apart from $221 million in outstanding payments to Member States, there are reimbursements of $164 million related to Letters of Assist and $8 million for death and disability claims outstanding. He suggested that a deadline be set by which India and other developing countries can expect the United Nations to make these reimbursements in full, including those from closed peacekeeping missions.

The European Union’s representative said the United Nations must continue to strive to spend more wisely, more accountably and in line with agreed budget levels, he said. He expressed hope that management reform will lead to more transparency and better accountability. The member States of the European Union are committed to providing the United Nations with the necessary resources to carry out its work while believing firmly that there is substantial room to improve the Organization’s operations with approaches aimed at greater savings and efficiencies, he said.

The representative of Japan, in the same vein, said the Organization’s financial situation can and should also be improved through the Secretariat’s efforts to operate more efficiently and take appropriate cost saving measures, including the judicious use of travel resources. When the General Assembly deliberates on a resource requirement detailed by the Secretariat, he added, the common objective should be to determine a realistic level of resources that is necessary and sufficient to carry out the given mandates.

Also speaking today were representatives of New Zealand (also on behalf of Canada and Australia), Pakistan, Zambia, China and the Russian Federation.

The Fifth Committee will meet again on Friday, 26 October at 10 a.m. to resume its consideration of the programme budget for the biennium 2018 2019, in particular the question of the request for a subvention to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

Financial Situation of the United Nations

JAN BEAGLE, Under Secretary General for Management, updated the Committee on developments since her briefing on 16 October (see Press Release GA/AB/4293 and document A/73/443). For the regular budget, Oman has paid in full, bringing to 145 the total number of Member States that have done so. For peacekeeping operations, Denmark, Malaysia and Spain have paid their assessments in full, bringing that number to 55. Denmark and Malaysia are also now fully paid for all categories, bringing the number of countries in that situation to 45.

In addition, she said, payments have been received from Oman and the United States, for the regular budget; Albania, Andorra, China, Denmark, Malaysia, Mali, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey and the United States, for peacekeeping operations; and Ghana and the United States, for the international tribunals. Thanking those Member States for their payments, she said detailed information about the exact amounts owed for peacekeeping troops and formed police units as well as contingent owned equipment has been posted on the Committee’s website.

MOHAMED FOUAD AHMED (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said it is very concerned with the precarious cash situation of the Organization and noted that deficits have become larger and emerged earlier in the year. The cash shortfall has been covered by borrowing from the accounts of closed peacekeeping missions. This is not good budgetary practice, nor is this sustainable, he said. The Group also is concerned with the persistence of outstanding payments to troop and police contributing countries. It is unacceptable that the Organization continues to owe payments to 76 Member States, most of which are developing countries, he said. While expressing its appreciation to all Member States who have made real efforts to reduce their outstanding contributions, the Group notes that the United Nations faces greater uncertainty this year than in previous years.

The Group firmly believes the non payment of assessed contributions and, indeed, wilful and unilateral withholding of contributions, has led us to this sorry state, he said. More than half of all monies owed to the United Nations can be attributed to one Member State. Those who claim special responsibilities must also live up to those responsibilities, in full, on time, and without conditions. The Group repeats the need for ensuring financial stability so the Organization can function effectively and fully carry out all its mandates. The loudest and most insistent voices for reform must also enable the Secretary General to implement reform by paying their assessed contributions in full, on time and without conditions, he said.

DIANA MINYI LEE (Singapore), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and associating herself with the Group of 77, said ASEAN is encouraged that more Member States are paying their regular budget and peacekeeping assessments in full this year. However, ASEAN is disappointed that the Organization remains in a precarious financial situation, with uncertainty over cash flow growing. Deficits have become larger and occur earlier in the year. This year, reserves from the Working Capital Fund and the Special Account have been depleted, forcing the Secretariat to borrow from closed peacekeeping operations. This is neither good budgetary practice nor sustainable, she said.

It is clear that the United Nations’ financial uncertainty stems from the non payment of assessed contributions and, in some cases, the wilful, deliberate and unilateral withholding of contributions, pushing the Organization into its current predicament, she said. Over half of all monies owed to the United Nations was owed by one Member State, she added. As of the 30 September cut off date, three permanent members of the Security Council had outstanding payments for peacekeeping assessments, including for missions where these same permanent members are penholders. Special responsibilities for peace and security come with financial responsibilities, she said, and it is the responsibility of all Member States to honour their financial commitments in full, on time and without conditions. Noting that the share of assessed contributions borne by the 10 ASEAN members has grown in recent years, she said they remain committed to fulfilling their financial obligations.

JAN DE PRETER, European Union delegation, said that while the number of Member States having paid their regular budget contributions in full remains stable, the level of unpaid assessments is higher than at the same time last year. The Under Secretary General has been clear in her assessment of the impact: severe cash problems in the final months of 2018 unless sufficient contributions are received. Regarding peacekeeping operations, the European Union is concerned with the increase in unpaid assessments and the decrease of total cash available for peacekeeping. Regarding the international tribunals, he noted that while the current cash position is positive, the outcome of 2018 will very much depend on Member States honouring their obligations.

The United Nations must continue to strive to spend more wisely, more accountably and in line with agreed budget levels, he said. He expressed hope that management reform will lead to more transparency and better accountability. The member States of the European Union are committed to providing the United Nations with the necessary resources to carry out its work while believing firmly that there is substantial room to improve the Organization’s operations with approaches aimed at greater savings and efficiencies.

FINNIAN CHESHIRE (New Zealand), speaking also on behalf of Canada and Australia, expressed concern about the flow on effects of unpaid assessed contributions. This Organization cannot function as intended when it faces severe cash flow problems, he said, joining the Under Secretary General in urging all Member States with outstanding contributions to pay as soon as practicable. Acknowledging that some Member States’ national structures and financial calendars make their ability to do so complex, he urged them to use mechanisms put in place by the Organization to help with repayments. He went on to assert that Canada, Australia and New Zealand remain committed to paying their assessed contributions on time, in full and without conditions, in line with their obligations.

WATARU OTSUKA (Japan) said the Organization would not function without assessed contributions from the Member States and it is the responsibility of all Member States to pay their assessments in full and on time. For its part, Japan has faithfully fulfilled its obligations and paid all its assessments to date in full despite its many domestic priorities. The financial situation of the United Nations can and should also be improved through the Secretariat’s efforts. The Secretariat should operate more efficiently and take appropriate cost saving measures, including the judicious use of travel resources. When the General Assembly deliberates on a resource requirement detailed by the Secretariat, the common objective should be to determine a realistic level of resources that is necessary and sufficient to carry out the given mandates. The Fifth Committee’s most important role is to scrutinize potential additional requirements of the current budget by strictly adhering to budgetary discipline during deliberations.

ANAYANSI RODRA�GUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba), asserting that the United Nations is facing one of the most complex moments in its 73 year history, said: We know full well who is responsible for the current critical financial situation of the Organization. It is alarming that the largest debts to the United Nations are concentrated in the hands of one country, the United States, which insists on reminding other Member States of its status as the main contributor when it actually owes more than $1.625 billion, or 58 per cent of total assessments, including more than $800 million to the peacekeeping budget. It is no secret that the United States’ main purpose for withholding payments, and in particular for paying into the regular budget at the end of the year, is to subject the Organization to financial blackmail. Coincidentally, the same Member State benefits from a distorted methodology for calculating the scale of assessments, paying a maximum of 22 per cent of the regular budget compared to 39.89 per cent in 1946. It is also alarming that the same country talks about getting better returns on its investment in the Organization. This shows that it considers international peace, development and human rights a business, she said. She went on to say that Cuba is proud to be among those countries that have fulfilled their financial obligations, despite an economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States for 56 years that sometimes impedes Cuba’s payments.

HASEEB GOHAR (Pakistan), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the rising tide of populism and nationalism around the world means the United Nations is needed more than ever. The Organization must be able to use its tools to deliver on its mandates set forth in the United Nations Charter. The depleting resources and cash reserves offer a bleak financial picture for the Organization. It faces a cash shortfall in the regular budget which is being covered from peacekeeping operations. Pakistan also is a strong proponent of multilateralism and has consistently contributed troops to peacekeeping missions. It is very concerned about the amount of money owed to peacekeeping troop- and police contributing countries. This shortfall exacerbates the operating capabilities of the troops on the ground. He urged all Member States to pay their contributions and the United Nations to reimburse troop and police contributing countries, especially for monies owed for closed missions.

MAHESH KUMAR (India) said that over the years the Organization’s mandates have been growing yet the regular and peacekeeping budgets have been shrinking in real and nominal terms. Making it even more difficult for the Organization, arrears have also grown. This situation has placed Member States that would have benefited from the efficient implementation of mandates, and the Member States that would have paid their assessments on time, at a serious disadvantage. India is among the 76 Member States whom are owed significant sums for troop and contingency owned equipment reimbursements from the active peacekeeping missions. Yet India continues to support the United Nations and is cumulatively the largest troop contributor. As of 16 October 2018, India is among the 43 Member States that have paid their assessments in full. It has paid its full regular budget assessment for 2019 in advance. Apart from the $221 million in outstanding payments to Member States, there are reimbursements of $164 million related to Letters of Assist and $8 million for death and disability claims outstanding. There must be a deadline by which India and other developing countries can expect the United Nations to make these reimbursements in full, including those from closed peacekeeping missions, he stressed.

CHRISTINE KALAMWINA (Zambia), associating herself with the Group of 77, said developing countries are facing growing economic and political challenges that impede their ability to meet their financial obligations in full and on time. Zambia, in the wake of an economic downturn in 2016 and 2017, is no exception, she said, adding that her country supports the view of many Member States that no adjustments should be made to the current payment methodology. Given the slow pace of global economic growth, increasing Member States’ contributions will only further inhibit their capacity to honour their financial obligations to the Organization, she said, emphasizing the importance of Member States meeting their respective obligations in full and in a timely manner.

FU DAOPENG (China) said expressed worries that total unpaid contributions to the regular budget and peacekeeping assessments are still as high as $1.088 billion and $2.53 billion, respectively. With a serious cash shortage in the regular budget, money in the Working Capital Fund and Special Accounts has been used up and $12 million has been borrowed from the closed peacekeeping missions. This is the first time in recent years, said China’s representative. China is highly concerned about this and hopes the financial situation of the United Nations will be improved. A sound financial situation is not only the foundation for the performance of the Organization’s duties and functions; it guarantees the reform of the United Nations system. As a developing country and a major contributor, China has paid in full and on time its annual contributions and various assessments for 2018. Efforts to strengthen budgetary management, with innovative approaches, and enforce strict financial discipline in the United Nations should never cease. The Secretariat should move to scale up overall performance management, carry out financial discipline and use its financial resources more effectively so financial accountability is ensured and every penny of our taxpayers’ money is well spent and accounted for, he added.

DMITRY S. ALYAKIN (Russian Federation), would like the Secretariat to inform Member States of its outstanding payments to suppliers and the efforts the Secretariat is making to reduce these outstanding payments. The delegation emphasizes that the failure of Member States to meet its financial obligations has a negative impact on the operations of the Organization and reduces the outcome of its work. Many Member States are making their full payments on time and the Russian Federation asks other States to follow this example. The Russian Federation consciously pays its contributions into the regular budget and peacekeeping budget on time. Member States must make their payments within the prescribed deadlines and without any conditions.

CHERITH NORMAN-CHALET (United States), emphasizing that her Government takes its international obligations very seriously, said the amount reflected by the United Nations as owed by the United States is distorted because of differences in the United States and United Nations fiscal years and other factors. To suggest that we are not meeting our obligations is patently false, she said. To date this year, the United States has contributed $1.4 billion to peacekeeping operations and $151 million to the regular budget. It will be providing an additional $200 million later this month. Overall, the United States contributes $10 billion a year in assessed and voluntary contributions across the United Nations system, she said, emphasizing that her country remains committed to the Organization and its vital role in the world. She went on to say, for those Member States using today’s briefing to make political points, that the actions of the Cuban regime are what is truly having an impact on the Cuban people and their country’s ability to fulfil its financial obligations. Recent actions in the Conference Building at Headquarters also do not comport to a responsible contributor that takes care of the resources entrusted to all Member States and respects the use of United Nations premises for constructive dialogue, she said.

YAIMA DE ARMAS BONCHANG (Cuba) said her delegation regretted taking the floor again, but the words just spoken by the representative of the United States could not go without a response. Emphasizing that Cuba met its obligations to the Organization from scarce resources, she said her country rejected the use of blackmail, such as the withholding of contributions. Differences and disagreements are part of the diversity of the United Nations, as well as multilateralism, and that cannot lead to the withholding of urgently needed funds. Cuba is honoured that one issue that all Member States can agree upon is the denunciation, by the General Assembly every year, of the commercial, economic and financial blockade of Cuba. The United States constantly treads on the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, she said, adding that its failure to meet its moral and legal obligations only shows the world that the United States only wants to spend money where Washington can control it.

Ms. BEAGLE thanked Member States for their statements, saying the Secretariat takes note of their comments. She expressed special appreciation to those Member States which have paid their contributions in full and acknowledged the difficulty that some faced in doing so. She stressed that the Secretariat will continue to exercise strict budgetary discipline through the cost effective, efficient and transparent use of funds.

Source: United Nations