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United Nations is running low on dough; asks members to pay up

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned members this week that the organization was running low on cash because some members haven't paid their dues. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres issued a warning this week that the organization is running out of money because of member states who haven't paid their dues.

What's going on?

In a letter to staff, Guterres said that he had notified members of the "troubling financial situation facing the United Nations."

"Our cash flow has never been this low so early in the calendar year, and the broader trend is also concerning; we are running out of cash sooner and staying in the red longer," he said.

Blaming the financial woes on countries whose payments to the international body were either partially made or delinquent, Guterres wrote that he has "appealed to Member States to pay their assessments on time and in full."

"An organization such as ours should not have to suffer repeated brushes with bankruptcy," he added. But surely, the greater pain is felt by those we serve when we cannot, for want of modest funds, answer their call for help."

So far this year, 112 of the U.N.'s 193 members have paid their obligations to the organization. This time last year, 116 had paid, and only 98 countries paid their annual dues by July of 2016, according to the U.N.

Because the U.S. government's fiscal year starts in the fall, the U.S. typically pays the U.N. later in the year. The U.S. is responsible for 22 percent of the organization's budget.

The Trump administration has been vocal in criticizing the U.N.'s management of funds. After U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley negotiated a $285 million reduction in America's contribution to the U.N. last year, she said, "The inefficiency and overspending of the United Nations are well known. We will no longer let the generosity of the American people be taken advantage of or remain unchecked."

Now what?

Guterres told staffers that he's reached out to the U.N.'s management department, and asked them to find ways to cut costs without compromising their mission. The secretary-general also said he planned to work with member nations on ways to bolster the U.N.'s financial stability.

When a member country falls behind in its payments to the U.N. for two years, it can lose its vote in the General Assembly. Currently, the only country without a vote is Libya.

 

One last thing…
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