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United Nations may run out of funds by month-end, warns Guterres

Antonio Guterres

In a letter addressed to 37,000 employees at the United Nations, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that unspecified "additional stop-gap measures" would have to be taken to ensure salaries and entitlements are paid. He warned that "the organization runs the risk of depleting its liquidity reserves by the end of the month and defaulting on payments to staff and vendors".

The United States is by far the U.N.'s biggest financial contributor, providing 22 percent of its operating budget and funding 28 percent of peacekeeping missions, which now cost $8 billion annually.

It usually does so in October because of USA fiscal year.

"We are now driven to prioritise our work on the basis of the availability of cash, thus undermining the implementation of mandates decided by inter-governmental bodies, " Dujarric said.

Guterres has called on member states to pay all outstanding fees.

Soldiers of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) patrol a road in the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Kila along the border with Israel on August 29, 2019.

Dujarric said measures the UN Secretariat put in place early in the year to align expenditures with cash inflows have averted "major disruptions" but "are no longer enough".

One of the reasons for the shortfall is the United States, which funds 22 per cent of the UN's regular budget amounting $674 million, not having paid up in full so far.

Because of the USA government's budget calendar, Washington usually pays its dues in October.

Guterres said the plan represented a "profound reflection on the path ahead and deep commitment to our shared work", according to the spokesman.

Postponing conferences, reducing services and restricting travel to only the necessary may be needed to cut costs, Guterres said.

President Trump has been critical of the amount that the US pays to the United Nations.

United Nations spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said so far 129 countries had paid their dues for 2019, which amounted to nearly two billion dollars. Agencies that received the greatest amount of money were the World Food Program, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Though the the U.N.'s largest contributor, it now owes the organization more than $1 billion.

United Nations documents show Australia paid its 2019 fee - over $90 million ($91,581,817) - on 11 January.