New York, USA- The United Nations is facing its worst cash crisis in nearly a decade because almost one-third of its member states have not paid their annual dues, according to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Guterres says the situation is so desperate that last month’s General Assembly in New York was only possible because of emergency spending cuts made earlier in the year. The UN says while 129 member states have paid their dues for the organization’s 2019 budget 64 others are still required to pay “urgently and in full.” It says there is an outstanding amount of $1.3 billion for the year.
As always, it is not that hard to guess which member state is the real reason why the UN runs the risk of depleting its liquidity reserves by the end of the month and defaulting on payments to staff and vendors. The US currently owes the organization more than $1 billion. To be clear, Washington owes the UN $381 million in back payments and $674 million this year.
Meaning, the only way to avoid a default that could risk disrupting operations globally is for Washington to pay its dues. Moreover, Guterres has requested additional steps be taken immediately, including further reductions in official travel; postponing spending on goods and services; and discontinuing events scheduled outside official meeting hours at headquarters duty stations. Conferences and meetings may have to be postponed or services be adjusted too. He is reviewing further options.
Mind you, this is just one of the ways through which the US has managed to weaken the very foundation of the world body. The Trump administration has a track record of bashing global cooperation and promoting sizeable cuts in US funding for the UN along with the organization’s programs and peacekeeping activities.
On July 13, after more than a year of negotiations, UN member governments agreed on a plan to tackle the nightmare of uncontrolled global migration in an organized and humane way. It wasn’t easy to bring everyone on board, but, in the end, 192 nations concurred: There had to be concerted action. The UN, however, has 193 member countries. While the rest of the world moved toward formalizing and implementing the plan, the US laid claim to a position as a UN outlier.
Trump’s refusal to join in a global attempt to deal with a global problem was not a great surprise; the administration had not been part of negotiations since late last year. Instead, as the other nations met in a spirit of compromise on July 13, the Trump administration was busy trying to locate the 3,000 children it had snatched from their desperate families in an immigration enforcement along the Mexican border.
The message for the UN should be clear by now: The world should go ahead as best it can without the United States. And there are indications that this is becoming an international trend. In June, UN member nations began to respond to the Trump administration’s disengagement and criticisms. The US has held a seat on the UN Human Rights Committee since 1995. With the four-year term of the current representative set to expire at the 2018, the Trump administration nominated another one. The committee rejected the US nominee. Five days later, the US withdrew from the Human Rights Council.
In reality, it is the Trump team that has almost methodically withdrawn US membership and money from several UN components and treaties, with severe financial costs to those organizations. The US is also withdrawing from UNESCO, walking out on more than $500 million in unpaid dues!
Trump has barred official US support for the UN Population Fund as well, which would mean a loss of over $30 million in the coming budget year. On a larger scale, the Trump administration has unilaterally limited American contributions to UN peacekeeping to 25 percent of its total budget.
However, Trump’s domestic politics have a global effect. His unilateral decision to pull out of the Iranian nuclear accord has led the other signatories of the agreement to scramble for ways to keep it alive. He has pulled out of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, leaving remaining parties to move ahead with deals that exclude the US. And Trump is now floating a withdrawal from the World Trade Organization and seems intent on sabotaging of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
In light of all these mounting if unpredictable attacks on global cooperation and multilateralism, the UN has no choice but to regroup and fight back. The world body should make it clear that Washington can no longer be seen as an impartial mediator of Middle East peace or the warden of world order and security. The UN has no other choice but to fight back for its peace-keeping and global cooperation institutions, as the Trump administration has every intention to weaken them institutionally and financially.