The UN needs a sound financial foundation

We read that UNO’s  financial foundation is unsound, weakening its political will and practical capacity to undertake new and essential activities. 

Whatever decisions are taken on financing the organization, there is one inescapable necessity: Member States must pay their assessed contributions in full and on time. Failure to do so puts them in breach of their obligations under the Charter. UN should have a strong, efficient and independent international civil service whose integrity is beyond question and an assured financial basis that places the organization on a firm footing.  

Boutros-Ghali advised: 

–         Proposal one: This suggested the adoption of a set of measures to deal with the cash flow problems caused by the exceptionally high level of unpaid contributions as well as with the problem of inadequate working capital reserves, charging interest on the amounts of assessed contributions that are not paid on time;

–         Proposal two: This suggested the creation of a Humanitarian Revolving Fund in the order of $50 million, to be used in emergency humanitarian situations. The proposal has since been implemented. 

In addition to these proposals, others have been added, including a levy on arms sales that could be related to maintaining an Arms Register by the United Nations and a levy on international air travel, which depends on the maintenance of peace. 

The costs of the UN’s peacekeeping operations mounted to $8.3 billion by1992. Unpaid arrears towards them stood at over $800 million, which represented a debt owed by the organization to the troop-contributing countries. Peace-keeping operations approved were estimated to cost close to $3 billion in the current 12-month period, while patterns of payment were unacceptably slow. Against this, global defence expenditures at the end of the last decade approached $1 trillion a year, or $2 million per minute. 

U.S. debt to the UN

1995 to 2005



Regular budget



31 December 1995 $414 million (73%) $816 million (47%) $1.231 billion (56%)
31 December 1996 $376 million (74%) $926 million (57%) $1.303 billion (61%)
31 December 1997 $373 million (79%) $940 million (60%) $1.313 billion (64%)
31 December 1998 $316 million (76%) $976 million (61%) $1.294 billion (64%)
31 December 1999 $167 million (68%) $995 million (67%) $1.170 billion (67%)
31 December 2000 $165 million (74%) $1.144 billion (56%) $1.321 billion (58%)
31 December 2001 $165 million (69%) $691 million (38%) $871 million (41%)
31 December 2002 $190 million (62%) $536 million (40%) $738 million (44%)
31 December 2003 $268 million (61%) $482 million (45%) $762 million (48%)
31 December 2004 $241 million (68%) $722 million (28%) $975 million (33%)
30 September 2005 $607 million (82%) $607 million (28%) $1.246 billion (41%)

Louis Charbonneau reports that a spokeswoman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations said the 2005-2008 arrears amounted to $159 million.  

In 2009 Washington’s U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, finally announced to a U.N. Security Council meeting on peacekeeping: “The United States is now in a position to clear all peacekeeping arrears accumulated from 2005 to 2008 and to meet our obligations in full for 2009 — currently estimated at approximately $2.2 billion.” 

USA Today reported that the House of Representatives passed a war-funding bill in 2009  that included about $900 million for U.N. peacekeeping missions and related activities. That funding included $175 million in arrears accrued since fiscal year 2005, according to the United Nations Foundation, a charitable group that promotes U.N. causes. 

However, Reuter reported in October 2010 that – according to a senior U.N. official – the United States owes $1.2 billion to the United Nations, more than a quarter of the payments owed to the world body by all member states.

Sweden, Slovakia, Singapore, Netherlands, Latvia, Israel, Ireland, Denmark, Canada, and Azerbaijan are said to have paid in full.


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