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UN Chief: Budget Shortfalls Impacting Work

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 24, 2019.

The U.N. Secretary-General warned Tuesday that the organization is facing its "deepest deficit of the decade" and might not be able to pay all its staff in November.

"Our work and our reforms are at risk," António Guterres told a meeting of the U.N. budget committee.

Guterres said the cash-flow problem is so steep that without spending cuts he put in place in January, the organization would not have been able to pay for last month's meeting of the General Assembly for its annual debate, which was attended by world leaders.

By the end of September, member states had paid only 70% of the total assessment for the regular budget, compared to 78% at the same time last year, a U.N. spokesperson said.

Of the organization's 193 member states, 129 have paid in full, totaling $1.99 billion toward the regular budget of just over $3 billion. Approximately $1.3 billion is outstanding for 2019.

U.S. payments

The United States is among the 64 countries that has yet to pay its dues in full. It is also the largest contributor to the U.N.'s regular budget. Washington owes more than $674 million for 2019 and has an additional $381 million outstanding from 2018 and earlier, according to a U.N. official.

It is not uncommon for Washington to pay late, the official said, noting that in past years, a large amount is usually paid in October, after the U.S. government's fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

Late-payment list

Also on the late-payment list is South Korea, which is assessed at $69 million a year; Mexico at $39 million; and Israel, which was assessed at $15 million for the year. Iran ($12 million) and Venezuela ($22 million) are also behind.

Three countries — Comoros, Somalia, and Sao Tome and Principe — are at risk of losing their vote in the General Assembly if they do not make a minimum payment. That happens when the amount a country owes equals or exceeds the amount of its assessment from the preceding two full years.

"I reiterate my call on you to recommit to paying your financial obligations on time and in full," Guterres told the committee. "The full and efficient implementation of our program of work depends on the financial support of member states through the adoption of realistic budget levels and the provision of timely contributions to ensure a stable financial situation throughout the year."