U.N. Facing Cash Crisis Because Member States Behind on Payments, Could Run Out of Money Before End of Year

The United Nations is running low on liquid assets and may not have enough money to cover staffers' salaries next month, according to Reuters.

"This month, we will reach the deepest deficit of the decade," said U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to the U.N.'s General Assembly Budget Committee on October 8. "Our work and our reforms are at risk."

Member states have not been paying the organization owed monies, and it has affected the UN's bottom line. Without that influx of funds, Guterres said the U.N. is at risk of "entering November without enough cash to cover payrolls."

Guterres has been working on spending cuts since January. Right now, vacant positions remain empty, travel expenses have been cut to the essentials and some meetings may have to be canceled or rescheduled.

In a statement, Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, said member states who have not paid the amount owed are urged to do so quickly.

"This is the only way to avoid a default that could risk disrupting operations globally," read the statement. "The Secretary-General further asked governments to address the underlying reasons for the crisis and agree on measures to put the United Nations on a sound financial footing."

There are 193 member states in the U.N. As of this writing, only 129 have paid their regular contributions to the regular budget. At the end of May 2019, Guterres said the organization was in arrears for $492 million.

"We are at a tipping point," Guterres said, "and what we do next will matter for years to come."

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the status of U.N. member contributions as of October 8, 2019.

Unites Nations member contributions Statista
Status of U.N. member contributions as of October 8, 2019. Statista

According to the Council for Foreign Relations, the U.S. contributed over $10 billion to the U.N. in 2017. That accounts for approximately one-fifth of the U.N.'s budget. Agencies that received the greatest amount of money were the World Food Program, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

The U.S. is responsible for 22 percent of the budget, which this year equals more than $3.3 billion. That means the U.S. owes $674 million for the 2019 budget alone. It still owes around $381 million for past budgets.

Peacekeeping missions are financed by a different budget. The U.S. owes around $2.4 million for those missions; though the U.S. is responsible for 28 percent of that budget, the country has promised to pay 25 percent, the minimum amount required by law.

President Donald Trump had been considering massive cuts in foreign aid but Reuters reported that he decided against those moves after Congressional backlash in August 2019.

In the meantime, the U.N. says their ability to carry out its responsibilities is hampered by the lack of funds.

"We are now driven to prioritize our work on the basis of the availability of cash, thus undermining the implementation of mandates decided by inter-governmental bodies," said Dujarric's statement. "The Secretary-General therefore looks to Member States to resolve the structural issues that underlie this annual crisis without further delay."

United Nations, New York City
The United Nations could run out of money as soon as the end of November 2019. Getty

This article was updated to include an infographic.

U.N. Facing Cash Crisis Because Member States Behind on Payments, Could Run Out of Money Before End of Year | World