UN warns of 'severe' cash shortage as agency nears deepest deficit of the decade

The United Nations is facing what it is calling a “severe cash crisis” as it warns it is at risk of depleting its liquidity reserves by month’s end.

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UN Secretary-General António Guterres wrote to member states this weekend regarding the “worst cash crisis” facing the international body in nearly 10 years, according to a statement issued by his spokesperson.

“The organization is facing a severe financial crisis,” Guterres said before the budget-setting Fifth Committee of the General Assembly on Tuesday. “To be more specific, a severe liquidity crisis. The equation is simple: without cash, the budget cannot be properly implemented.”

By the end of September, member states had paid just 70 percent of the total assessment for the regular budget – 129 out of 193 have paid their regular annual dues. There is about $1.4 billion outstanding. The U.S. is one of the countries that has not yet paid its full dues.

The U.S. pays 22 percent of the United Nations’ annual budget. According to Reuters, the U.S. government still owes $381 million for prior budgets and $674 million for the 2019 regular budget.

President Trump has been critical of the amount that the U.S. pays to the United Nations.

Guterres noted that, as a result of the shortfall, budget implementation is not being driven by program planning, but rather by the availability of cash at hand.

Unless actions are taken, the body risks a default that could disrupt operations globally, the spokesperson said, including reduced travel, conferences and purchases of goods. It also may not be able to pay vendors and staffers.

Had Guterres not taken steps to cut spending this year, the annual meeting in New York would not have been able to take place last month, he said.