The U.N. chief said in a letter to the 193 U.N. member nations obtained Thursday by The Associated Press that unmet payments for regular budget operations have reached $2.27 billion “and we have no clear indication of when these payments might be received.”
The United States reportedly owes $486.7 million.
Guterres said that “unpredictable cash inflows, exacerbated by the global crisis posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, seriously threaten” the U.N.’s ability to do its work.
He announced a temporary hiring freeze and urged all countries to pay their past and present dues and adopt measures to enable the U.N. to better cope with a cash crisis.
Guterres said the United Nations ended 2019 with arrears of $711 million, “the highest level for a decade and a 34 percent increase on 2018.”
“This high level of arrears is now compounded by a sharp decline in the payment of assessments by member states, which currently stands at 42 percent compared to 50 percent by this time in earlier years,” the secretary-general said.
The U.N.’s annual operating budget for 2020 is nearly $3.1 billion, and Guterres said the gap between its planned and actual collections is already more than $220 million. He thanked countries that have paid their 2020 assessments, now numbering 77.
Guterres said the separate U.N. peacekeeping budget is also “facing increasing liquidity pressure, with arrears of some $3.16 billion.”
The peacekeeping budget, which runs from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020, is $6.6 billion.
“The current cash reserves of about $1.4 billion are barely sufficient to maintain field operations through the end of June, and do not allow for nearly $1.1 billion in payments to troop and police-contributing countries for the March and June quarterly cycles,” Guterres said.