The financial situation of the United Nations had improved this year but remained "delicate," as many countries still were not meeting their obligations in full, the top UN management official said today.
Catherine Bertini, the Under-Secretary-General for Management, told a press briefing that large amounts were still outstanding for UN peacekeeping operations, the financial position of the international tribunals remained precarious and the amount available for "cross-borrowing" may not be adequate.
"The only way to secure a strong financial future for the United Nations is for Member States to meet their financial obligations in a full and timely manner," she stressed.
Ms. Bertini noted that as of 29 October, 114 countries had paid their regular budget assessments in full, compared to the recent high of 141 by the end of 2000. Of the total $706 million outstanding from the regular budget, the United States owed $530 million, Brazil owed $76 million, Argentina owed $18 million and Iraq owed $13 million. Saudi Arabia and Mexico owed $10 million apiece, and 71 other Member States together owed $49 million.
The cash-on-hand available at the end of the year was estimated at $113 million, which would be an improvement from the "very precarious" $23 million in cash-on-hand for the regular budget at the end of last year, she said. That projected positive balance was partly based on fact that the United States had said it would pay approximately $300 million of their assessment for the regular budget in near future.
As for the level of unpaid peacekeeping assessments, Ms. Bertini said, it should be seen in the context of the "very significant increase" in overall assessments for peacekeeping operations, which totalled $4.5 billion as of 29 October, compared to $2.3 billion in 2003.
Ms. Bertini also stressed that the ongoing financial problems faced by the UN tribunals for Rwanda and for the former Yugoslavia continued to be "a cause for great concern."
Only 79 countries had fully paid their Tribunal assessments by 29 October. The persistent arrears potentially had very severe implications for the ability of the Tribunals to operate, she warned. "If the process gets slowed down, it means the Tribunals have to go on longer, which means that Member States will be assessed for longer periods of time," she said. "So it's counter-intuitive not to pay and get it finished."
The United Nations had had to borrow funds from closed peacekeeping missions to keep the Tribunals operating, a practice known as "cross-borrowing." The amount available in closed peacekeeping missions, which was "the only pot" for cross-borrowing, was estimated to be $27 million at the end of 2004. That was not a large cushion and could potentially pose a very serious problem for the Organization, Ms. Bertini said.