UN member states owe world body about $3.5 billion

AP News
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Posted: Oct 09, 2014 7:26 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.N. member states owe the world body about $3.5 billion for its regular operating budget and far-flung peacekeeping operations, the U.N. management chief said Thursday.

Yukio Takasu told reporters after briefing the General Assembly's budget committee that "as a whole the financial situation of the United Nations is very sound and generally good except the regular budget."

The funding gap for the regular budget is just over $950 million including about $800 million owed by the United States, $77 million by Brazil and $28 million by Venezuela, he said.

The General Assembly approved a two-year budget of $5.53 billion in late December to cover the United Nations' regular operations in 2014-2015, cutting it for a second successive time.

Takasu said the U.N. only has $35 million in cash for the regular budget, which is "a bit alarming." It has two reserve funds totaling about $384 million that it can dip into, but the total of $419 million is low, he said.

"The regular budget is very tight and we have to watch very carefully," Takasu said. "We have very small reserves so (the) financial health of the organization totally depends on how quickly and how much member states can pay to us."

Member states also owe about $2.6 billion to the separate U.N. peacekeeping budget, Takasu said.

France owes the most — $356 million — followed by the United States which must pay $337 million and Italy around $250 million, he said.

An official at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations said those numbers were distorted because the U.N.'s fiscal year begins on January 1 and the American fiscal year begins on October 1. The United States pays its regular budget assessment at the end of the calendar year in which it is due, the official said.

The official said this discrepancy accounts for $621 million of the outstanding dues to the regular budget reported by the U.N.

The remaining amounts in both the regular and peacekeeping budget are attributable to arrears that date back more than a decade and a half, the official said.

French diplomats said the $337 million debt was not unusual as there is always a technical delay of a few months between the time the French government receives assessments for U.N. contributions and the time the funds are made available to pay such contributions.

The U.S. official and French diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The United Nations also owes $1.2 billion to member states that contribute troops and equipment to peacekeeping operations which Takasu said is "rather high."

But he said the U.N. is going to pay troop contributing countries $500 million in the coming days and more in November and December to hopefully bring the amount it owes down to $501 million.

Takasu said 29 countries have paid all their assessments, which also include payments for U.N. tribunals and the recent renovation of U.N. headquarters.