The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump shrugs as U.N. warns it’s about to run out of money

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned that the U.N. may soon run out of money.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned that the U.N. may soon run out of money. (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump on Wednesday dismissed concerns that the United Nations is on the verge of going broke because members have not paid their dues, with the United States leading the pack.

“So make all Member Countries pay, not just the United States!” Trump tweeted after U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned that the organization won’t be able to pay its bills and salaries if debtor nations fail to cough up their unpaid dues.

In remarks outlining a budget of $2.87 billion next year, Guterres told the U.N. budget committee on Tuesday that the organization is facing a “severe financial crisis.”

The outstanding balance of unpaid dues is $1.3 billion, he said, though a large portion presumably will be paid up before the end of the year.

“The situation continues to deteriorate,” he added, calling it the deepest deficit in a decade. “We risk exhausting peacekeeping cash reserves and will enter November without enough cash to pay payrolls.”

Thanks to war-torn Syria paying what it owes, 129 of the 193 U.N. member nations are up to date on their dues, which are assessed by a complicated formula that takes into account the size of each country’s economy and its debt. The United States is simultaneously the largest donor and the largest debtor.

The United States owes $381 million from prior budgets and $674 million for the regular budget, according to figures provided by the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. It also owes more than $2.6 billion for active peacekeeping missions.

The amount of U.S. debt is to some degree a result of the fact the U.N. runs its budget on a calendar year while the U.S. fiscal year begins in October. A U.S. official said the “vast majority” of the U.S. debt should be paid up by the end of November.

Traditionally, the United States has paid 22 percent of the U.N.’s operating budget and 28 percent of its peacekeeping budget. A 1999 law limits peacekeeping dues to 25 percent, but the cap has frequently been lifted by Congress.

Trump has been critical of the United Nations, however, frequently complaining about how much the United States pays.

Over the past three years, the United States has accrued about $750 million in arrears for peacekeeping costs, a figure that is expected to approach $1 billion by the middle of next year. The U.S. arrears have led to cash shortages in U.N. peacekeeping missions, and some contractors have been paid late.

Cherith Norman Chalet, the U.S. representative for U.N. management and reform, said in a statement posted on the U.S. Mission to the United Nations’ website that the United States will make its payments “according to our fiscal year timing and availability of funds.”