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United Nations: Under Secretary-General For Management Briefs Fifth Committee On Financial Situation; Says Regular Budget Position Weaker Now Compared To Last Year


Although United Nations financial indicators for 2006 had been generally positive, the position of its regular budget was weaker now compared to last year, with seven countries owing close to $1.3 billion in unpaid contributions and two countries -- the United States and Japan -- owing 78 per cent of that total, said Under-Secretary-General for Management Alicia Bárcena Ibarra in her briefing today to the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) on the Organization’s financial situation.

“The final outcome for 2007 will depend in large measure on action to be taken by these particular Member States,” said Ms. Bárcena, whose analysis of the United Nations’ financial situation centred on four main indicators: assessments issued on Member States, unpaid assessments, cash on hand and debt to Member States.

She said that, as of 16 May, 20 countries -- Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Botswana, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Mozambique, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand and the United Kingdom -- had paid all their assessments in full, which included assessments for the United Nations regular budget, the International Tribunals, peacekeeping operations and the Capital Master Plan.

Turning first to the United Nations regular budget, Ms. Bárcena said that assessments issued stood at $1.75 billion in 2006, compared to $1.82 billion in 2005. By the end of 2006, some $1.72 billion had been received from 139 Member States, leaving $361 million in total accumulated unpaid contributions on the part of 53 States. By May 2007, unpaid assessments had risen to $1.31 billion, partly attributable to an increase in the regular budget assessment for 2007, with 7 countries accounting for 96 per cent of the total. More than three quarters of the current unpaid contributions were owed by the United States and Japan, amounting to $785 million and $246 million, respectively.

On a positive note, the Organization’s cash resources for the regular budget had increased from $474 million in December 2006 to $812 million to date, which she said was due to the net increase in payments over expenditure in the first quarter of 2007. Current cash at hand amounted to $100 million more than that of 2006. The Organization, did, however, dip into its reserves in November 2006, and documents circulated by the Under-Secretary-General indicated that it was predicted to do so again in November 2007.

Turning to peacekeeping, Ms. Bárcena said that, at the end of 2006, cash available for peacekeeping operations amounted to over $1.7 billion, and was divided between active missions ($1.15 billion), closed missions ($484 million) and the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund ($122 million). Yet, outstanding unpaid assessments for peacekeeping operations in the same period stood at over $1.8 billion, where over two thirds were owed by the United States and Japan. The remainder was owed by Ukraine, Republic of Korea, Spain and China.

Additional assessments of $444 million had been issued in April 2007, she said, raising the level of new assessments to over $2.5 billion to date. As of 16 May 2007, 24 Member States had paid all peacekeeping assessments in full -- Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Botswana, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Madagascar, Monaco, Mozambique, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand and the United Kingdom. Contributions of over $2.8 million had so far been received, reducing the level of unpaid assessments from $1.8 billion in 2006 to $1.6 billion to date.

Ms. Bárcena estimated that the total cash available in peacekeeping accounts would amount to $1.4 billion at the end of 2007, but noted that restrictions on the use of that cash prevented the financing of peacekeeping missions from funds slotted for other active peacekeeping missions. Similar restrictions on the use of funds from the Peacekeeping Reserve meant that funding could only be used by new operations or the expansion of existing operations. However, of the $453 million expected to be available from closed peacekeeping operations at the end of 2007, $118 million could possibly be used for cross-borrowing for other accounts -- such as the regular budget, the budget of international tribunals and active peacekeeping operations -- since troop and equipment payments, and credits to Member States, was estimated to reach only $335 million. Such cross-borrowing had been required in 2006 and 2007 for the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) and the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).

Meanwhile, debt to Member States for peacekeeping purposes stood at $1 billion at the end of 2006, she added, due to the deployment of troops and police formed units in the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) and the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC). Funds had also been used for the expansion of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT). That debt was projected to go down to $598 million by the end of 2007, provided that memorandums of understanding relating to 62 peacekeeping missions were finalized. The level of payment would also depend on Member States meeting their financial obligations.

Turning to the financial accounts of the international tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, she said outstanding assessments had increased from $25 million in 2005 to $51 million in 2006. While more Member States had paid their assessed contributions for those tribunals in 2007 than 2006, resulting in $193 million in total payments received, much depended on five Member States who were responsible for 86 per cent of unpaid assessments -- the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates.

On the Capital Master Plan, she said $331 million had been received to date, but $174 million was still outstanding. [A budget of $1.88 billion had been approved by the General Assembly in 2006.] Some 59 countries had paid their assessments in full, 109 countries had made partial payments and 24 countries had not made any payments. A further $32 million had been paid by countries towards the $45 million working capital reserve.

Also today, Vivian Lewis, Chief and Secretary of the Inter-Agency Meeting on Language Arrangements, Documentation and Publications of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, addressed a query from the representative of Syria on the availability of a document containing the budget for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), for the period from 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008 (document A/61/870). Ms. Lewis said a technical glitch had postponed its release on the Official Document System (ODS) from 7 May to 15 May, and the Department was reviewing its guidelines on the uploading of documents on ODS, in conjunction with the Information and Technology Services Division in the process. Member States were encouraged to contact the Department’s Document Control Section in the case of future problems.

The Committee will meet again to hold a general discussion on the United Nations financial situation on Friday, 25 May.


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