Press Conference on United Nations Financial Situation

13 May 2011

Press Conference on United Nations Financial Situation

13 May 2011
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on United Nations Financial Situation


Financial indicators for 2011 were encouraging, with 29 Member States having paid in full all assessments due, said Angela Kane, Under-Secretary-General for Management, at a headquarters press conference today.

Briefing correspondents on the United Nations financial situation and joined by Assistant Secretary-General and United Nations Controller Jun Yamazaki, Ms. Kane said that unpaid assessed contributions totalled $3.2 billion — $1.31 billion from the regular budget, $1.716 billion from the peacekeeping budget, $133 million for the tribunals and $160 million for the Capital Master Plan.  However, the projections should be seen as positive.  .

Ms. Kane said that, despite very difficult economic situations around the world, 29 Member States had paid in full all assessments due and payable as of today for the regular budget, for peacekeeping operations, for the international tribunals and for the Capital Master Plan.

As of the cut-off date of 10 May, she said that 86 Member States had paid their regular budget assessments in full, which was actually a very large increase.  She nevertheless urged the remaining 106 who had not yet paid their regular budget assessments in full to do so.

The financial position of the regular budget as of 10 May, compared to last year’s, reflected a net result of both higher assessments and lower payments received, she said.  Assessments were higher by $249 million and payments were lower by $101 million.  Unpaid assessed contributions had amounted to $1.31 billion on 10 May, higher by $366 million than the $944 million that had been outstanding at the same time last year.

The outstanding $366 million was highly concentrated, with 96 per cent of it being owed by 11 Member States.  That clearly meant that the financial picture for the regular budget depended largely on action taken by those 11 Members States in the coming months.

Turning to peacekeeping operations, she said that due to the unpredictable nature and timing of peacekeeping assessments issued throughout the year, or even a new mandate, it was therefore very difficult for Member States to plan for those assessments.  However, 32 Member States had paid their peacekeeping assessments in full.

She said the financial position of peacekeeping operations as of 10 May showed improvement.  New assignments of over $1.6 billion had been issued by that date, with contributions of over $2.4 billion, reducing the amount outstanding from over $2.46 billion to $1.70 billion.

Regarding debt to Member States, she said the projected organizational debt to Member States providing troops and equipment at end of 2011 would be some $568 million.  Obligations were projected to decrease slightly in 2011 due to the closing of the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT), reduction of personnel in the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and reduction of police personnel in the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT).  However, that would be partially offset by increased deployment of military and police personnel in the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and deployment of additional military contingents and formed police units in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

She said that payment for troop obligations was current up to February 2011 for all 11 missions, and payments for contingency-owned equipment were current to December 2010 for all except the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).  Overall, that represented a significant improvement from last year.

The financial situation with regard to the International Tribunals for Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia was largely unchanged in 2011, with a total outstanding balance of $133 million.  While that was $70 million higher than in 2010, based on current projections, she expected the Tribunals to end 2011 with positive cash balances.  The number of Member States having paid those assessments in full was 61, which matched levels attained in 2010. 

Turning to the budget for the Capital Master Plan, she said that $1.9 billion had been approved in December 2006, and that 180 Member States were under a multi-year payment system, with 12 Member States having opted for a one-time payment.  Thus far, a total of $1.7 billion has been paid, leaving $116 million currently outstanding based on payment programmes.  The number of Member States having paid their Capital Master Plan assessments in full was 92.

She said that while the level of debt was projected to increase slightly, it was important to take into consideration the fact that, while the unpaid assessments had increased slightly, the assessments had undergone a very large increase from 2010, meaning more money was actually coming in than was expected, and that was a significant improvement.

When asked how the current financial situation of the Organization would affect the future of both peacekeeping missions and the Capital Master Plan, Ms. Kane said that as for the Capital Master Plan, it had an initial cost overrun of $200 million, although that had been reduced to some $86 million.  That was due to costs that had been unforeseen in the original Capital Master Plan budget, such as the need to build a high-tech centre for information technology operations in the new building that was very expensive, a broadcasting system and more security, among others.  She stressed that, as those who had taken the so-called “dirty tour” of the Secretariat Building were aware, some of the previous systems were so old that they could not be maintained anymore.  However, that had not been seen as a renovation issue, but rather as an improvement issue.  Still, those were “associated costs” not originally contained in the budget.  The General Assembly was now saying it was necessary to absorb those costs, but that did not appear to be possible.

As for the peacekeeping budget, she said it had come down from $8.2 billion, but was still a sizable amount, at $7.3 billion.  It was difficult for Member States to plan, in large part due to not knowing when exactly the resolutions would be coming in from the Security Council, or when mandates were issued.

Asked for an assessment for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Mr. Yamazaki said that was a voluntary contribution-based tribunal and all finances were done by its secretariat, and information could be obtained by contacting them.

Asked if a list of contributing countries who were consistently late or remiss in their payments could be shared, and when late or absent payments began to “really hurt” the United Nations, Mr. Yamazaki said that a lot of Member States depended on their own domestic fiscal cycles, so the timing of payments varied from State to State.

When asked specifically about the payment behaviour of the United States, Mr. Yamazaki said that, a lot of time, the United States did pay on time; however, there was a certain pattern that had existed over the years.  However, regarding all States’ payments, he said he certainly hoped they would uphold their obligation to pay, and through that reflect the importance attached to the activities pursued through peacekeeping, tribunals and others,.  He did not foresee a cash shortfall, but certainly hoped that situation would not arise.

Adding to that thread, Ms. Kane said “we don’t have a carrot”, and the only “stick” was Article 19 of the United Nations Charter, by which a country’s vote could be withdrawn.

Another correspondent asked how about broadcasting engineer positions that had been union positions, but would no longer be so, to which Ms. Kane replied that the entire broadcasting system was being replaced.  The system was so outdated, she said, that it used old tapes that were still made by just a single company in the world, which only the United Nations was keeping alive due to its continued usage of such outdated technology.  “This is not a luxury, but an absolute necessity,” she said.

This need to modernize was true not just for broadcasting, but was necessary across the board.  A new air conditioning system would greatly lower energy costs and the profiles of positions advertised would be for people who could service the new systems.  “The whole electrical vault was so old that Con Edison asked to have it moved to their museum,” she added.

Asked about the elimination of elevator operators’ contracts, she stressed that the United Nations did not itself have “union” positions, but rather hired contractors who performed services for the Organization.  In some cases, the more attractive applicant might not be a contractor employing union workers.

Asked how much the United States owed, Mr. Yamazaki said that, as of 10 May, the total outstanding assessments for peacekeeping operations by all Member States was $1.7 billion, with the United States owing about $400 million.  He stressed that there were several countries outstanding.  For the regular budget, $1.3 billion was outstanding, with the United States about $700 million short.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.