Seventy-eighth Session,
38th Meeting (AM)

Despite Better-than-Expected Collections in First Quarter, Several Speakers Point to Top Contributor’s Large Outstanding Arrears

Increasingly alarmed by the Organization’s ongoing liquidity crisis and its impact on United Nations operations around the globe, delegates at the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today ardently insisted Member States fulfil their financial obligations by paying their assessed contributions in full and on time.

“It is our legal obligation and moral responsibility to ensure that the UN has the resources to carry out the mandates that we ourselves have given it,” said the representative of Singapore, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).  The Organization is now operating under stringent liquidity measures that impact mandate delivery and undermine the Organization’s effectiveness.  While the collection of arrears helped produce better-than-expected collections in the first quarter of this year, Member States cannot become complacent, he said.  “We are still in a bad position for 2024 if Member States, particularly the top contributor, do not pay their dues in a timely fashion,” he added.

Speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, the representative of Uganda emphasized that Member States with the highest arrears have aggravated the Organization’s financial situation.  “It is extremely concerning that one Member State currently owes more than a half of all outstanding assessments to the UN regular budget and peacekeeping operations budget respectively, despite having the capacity to pay.  This is especially concerning in the current circumstances,” he said.  “Despite already benefiting from a fundamental distortion in the determination of how the Organization is financed, this Member State continues to unilaterally withhold its contributions for political reasons, while still clinging on to its special privileges in the Security Council.”

The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, expressed alarm that the persistent liquidity shortages mean activities and outputs are postponed or even cancelled.  “As a result, mandate delivery is not simply hampered:  the accumulation of delays and under-execution create a downward spiral that gravely affects the performance and undermine the relevance of the Organization,” he said. 

Noting that solving the liquidity crisis is a shared responsibility between the Secretariat and Member States, he commended the work of the Secretary-General, the UN Controller and programme managers, who have strived to deliver on mandates despite cash shortages.  “Bearing in mind that the root cause of the problem can only be solved by full and timely payment of Member States’ contributions, we reiterate our call that all Member States make every effort to pay their assessed contributions in full, and on time,” he said, urging those unable to make timely payments to work with the Secretariat to provide as much predictability as possible.

The structural root causes behind the cash liquidity’s “downward spiral” must be addressed and the European Union supports a review of the UN Financial Regulations and Rules, particularly seeing merit in preventing the return of unspent appropriations to Member States in arrears.  He called for comprehensive cash-pooling to best use the liquidity already available across UN accounts and reiterated the importance of liquidity-bridging mechanisms.

The need for a sustainable, long-term solution to the liquidity crisis was echoed by the representative of Singapore, speaking in his national capacity.  “The future of the United Nations and the prospects and success of our work here and at the United Nations cannot be held hostage by the liquidity crisis,” he said, adding:  “And the future of multilateralism cannot be held hostage especially if it is cost by the non-payment of assessed contributions, which is a legally binding obligation under the Charter.” 

In an effort to stabilize the Organization’s financial situation, the United Kingdom’s representative said his delegation worked on its internal financial processes and revised its payment patterns to align with the Organization’s financial calendar.  He urged other Member States to consider the same steps.  “In this period of geopolitical uncertainty, the Secretariat must have sufficient resources and sufficiently flexible rule and regulations to allow for essential mandate implementation,” he said, encouraging the Secretariat to consider amendments to its Financial Regulations and Rules.

The representative of Saudi Arabia said her Government must modify certain procedures to finance peacekeeping missions, but its contributions will be paid by the end of this year.  Saudi Arabia remains dedicated to making its assessed financial contributions to the United Nations and will continue to fulfil its obligations, she stressed. 

The representative of the Russian Federation — recalling the previous remarks by Catherine Pollard, Under Secretary-General, Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance that his country’s contribution to the UN regular budget was not credited to the Secretariat’s account and was instead returned to the sender — said that a United States bank declined the payment transfer due to unlawful unilateral restrictive measures. 

“Thus, the responsibility for the non-receipt of the Russian payment lies fully with the United States,” he said, stressing that his country “is being hindered from financing the UN by those who do not pay their assessments in full while financing military hostilities around the world”.  This topic deserves a separate discussion in the Fifth Committee and the Committee on Contributions.  Moscow will make every effort to fulfil its financial obligations to the Organization in full and as soon as possible.

He expressed regret that the Secretariat periodically submits various proposals on granting the Secretary-General flexibility on administrative, budgetary and human resources matters to enable transfer of existing funds from one budget line to another and from the account of one Mission to another.  Additionally, cost-saving measures, such as hiring freezes and denial of conference services, are being introduced without consulting Member States, negatively impacting the UN’s work.  He urged the Secretariat to develop proposals on ways to exert pressure on States with significant arrears, including on hiring their nationals and payments to their suppliers.

Ms. Pollard opened the meeting by presenting the Secretary-General’s report “Financial situation of the United Nations” (document A/78/524/Add.1).  She said that since her 10 May briefing, Brazil and Mongolia have paid their contributions to the regular budget in full, bringing the total to 111.  Turning to peacekeeping operations, she said Benin, Cyprus and the Republic of Moldova have fully paid their peacekeeping assessments, bringing the total in this category to 58.  Regarding the international tribunals, 90 Member States have paid in full, with the recent payments of Belgium and the Republic of Moldova.  Fifty-one Member States are now fully paid for all assessments due for all categories.

In addition, Cameroon and Chile made payments to the regular budget; Cameroon, Cuba, India, Maldives, Mali, Saint Lucia, San Marino and the United States made payments to the peacekeeping budget; and Cameroon to the international tribunals.

“On behalf of the Secretary-General, I would like to thank these Member States for their positive action since last week’s briefing on the UN financial situation,” she said.  The report provides a review of the Organization’s financial situation as at 31 December 2022 and 2023 and as at 30 April 2023 and 2024.

For information media. Not an official record.