Covid-19 disrupts UN and threatens world institutions with potential cash crunch – a global issue

  • by Talif Dean (United Nations)
  • International News Service

Speaking to the United Nations Administrative and Budgetary Committee late last year, a spokesman for the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) said: “For any organization to be successful, it must have access to adequate financial resources to carry out its mandate. However, COVID-19 has disrupted not only the work of the United Nations, but many of our economies.”

“Understandably, countries with economies severely affected by COVID-19 may face difficulties in paying their assessed contributions (i.e. UN Unconditional payment is all the more important.”

“Otherwise, the UN faces a real risk of not having the resources it needs to carry out its mission,” said a spokesman for ASEAN, which comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. and Vietnam.

Last year, 11 countries defaulted on the terms of the UN Charter, including Antigua and Barbuda, Comoros, Republic of Congo, Guinea, Iran, Papua New Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia, Sudan, Vanuatu and Venezuela.

Article 19 of the Charter of the United Nations states: “A Member of the United Nations is in arrears with the Organization if the amount in arrears equals or exceeds the amount due for the preceding two years. The General Assembly may allow the member to vote.”

When asked about the defaulting member states, UN General Assembly spokeswoman Paulina Kubiak told reporters on Jan. 12 that there were 11 members on the list, similar to previous years’ numbers.

She said those member states could not vote in the General Assembly until the minimum payment was paid. But there are some exceptions.

In A/Res/76/2, the General Assembly decided to allow the Comoros, Sao Tome and Principe and Somalia to vote in the General Assembly before the end of the 76th session, with eight countries still absent.

Exceptions are made by the Assembly at the beginning of the session on the recommendation of the Committee on Contributions. These exceptions are largely based on a country’s faltering economic conditions.

On December 24, the 193-member United Nations General Assembly approved a regular budget of $3.12 billion for 2022, while the annual peacekeeping budget is about $6.5 billion.

Since March 2020, the UN’s on-and-off lockdown – with the vast majority of its 9,900 staff working from home – has begun to have an impact on the world body’s business services.

The lockdown, which was partially lifted last month, has been reinstated twice. In a Jan. 10 message to UN staff in New York, chair of the UN Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, Gilles Michaud said that after consultation with senior UN leadership, it has been decided that staff will continue to work from home (WFH) and will not return Office of the Office (RTO) – until January 28 “The situation will be reviewed again at that time.”

The decision to extend WFH was largely driven by the fast-spreading variant of Omicron, which overwhelmed New York City hospitals with an average of about 37,000 cases a day last week. However, there is no official breakdown of the number of virus cases among UN staff.

Guinea’s ambassador, Boubacar Diallo, the outgoing chairman of the Group of 77 plus China, the United Nations’ largest single alliance of developing countries, warned late last year that the group continued to be disappointed by security concerns and that the executive and the Budget Committee were deprived of interpretation services (six official languages ​​of the United Nations) during informal consultations.

This is mainly due to the lack of staff on United Nations premises.

“We look forward to the day when multilingualism is fully restored and we can enjoy interpretation as we are here today. We are committed to thoroughly reviewing the agenda items assigned to the Committee and in this regard note with disappointment that several reports remain unresolved. Done,” he added.

He noted that the epidemic had seriously affected the work of the committee.

“The global challenges we face today have become more complex and interconnected, and solutions require a collective global response. As we have heard from many of our leaders (during the UN General Assembly in September), now is our time in multilateralism It is time to redouble our efforts and reaffirm our commitment to a rules-based multilateral system,” Ambassador Diallo said.

In a resolution adopted by consensus that included the 134 members of the Group of 77, he said, “it is impossible to turn a blind eye to the General Assembly resolution and to turn a deaf ear to the two-thirds majority of the general membership.”

Speaking on behalf of the 27-member European Union (EU), Thibaut Camelli, Counsellor at the EU Mission to the United Nations, said: “We call on all Member States to pay their dues in full and on time. We remain sceptical that the UN’s liquidity situation continues to undermine the mandate. Implementation is deeply concerned.”

He warned that the temporary solutions introduced so far have only mitigated the consequences of the crisis, which has plunged the organization into systemic low performance. EU member states have called on the Commission to meet this challenge. We will continue to advocate for a sustainable solution to this crisis,” he declared.

Joseph Chamie, an international demographer and former head of the UN Population Division, told IPS that the current crisis should not come as a surprise to Member States, as the coronavirus pandemic has significantly affected the work of the UN.

In addition to the vast majority of UN staff working from home, the day-to-day operations of the organization have also been significantly reduced and restricted, he said.

“Many Member States are understandably disappointed by the lack of interpretation services. However, with the technology available, it should be possible to provide interpretation services in United Nations languages ​​without difficulty”.

Chamie said it was no surprise that many Member States, especially poorer less developed countries, were calling on richer more developed countries to increase their financial contributions to the United Nations.

“However, I find it somewhat ironic that many Member States, including less developed countries, have expressed difficulty in paying UN assessments, but have little difficulty in paying military expenditures.”

The UN’s 2021 budget is just $3 billion, a relatively small cost for international agencies. By comparison, the annual UN budget is equivalent to:

— a fraction of military spending in many countries, including China, India, Russia, the U.S., and the European Union; 4 percent of the global pet food market; 3 percent of annual U.S. spending on soft drinks; and 100 percent of the wealth of the two richest Americans one part.

Regarding possible reductions in the number, salaries and benefits of UN staff, this is pointless and appears to be mostly for domestic political consumption. It is hoped that Member States and the General Assembly will focus on key global issues facing the world’s nearly 8 billion inhabitants. The relatively small budget of the United Nations is a real deal for Member States and the world. The price of peace, in terms of cost, casualties and casualties, is far lower than the cost of war, Chami declared.

Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, senior adviser on United Nations governance and reform, told delegates that the United States urged budget discipline across the United Nations system and would closely monitor the growing demand for assessed contributions.

This includes ensuring that only necessary construction takes place and that major projects avoid cost overruns. The UN should also seek to rein in increased spending by eliminating obsolete mandates, consolidating duplicate areas of work and repurposing existing resources to deal with new and expanded mandates.

Staff rights and conditions of service account for nearly two-thirds of the UN’s costs, he said. Re-establishing a unified pay scale remains a priority for the United States, including addressing disparate decisions by different administrative tribunals within the UN common system, increasing transparency on pay costs, including the use of commercially available data, and reaffirming the authority of the International Civil Service Commission, while improving its method.

Speaking on behalf of the African Group, Ambassador Harold Adlai Ajman of Ghana said: “We insist that all face-to-face meetings be provided with interpretation services as far as possible as required by the rules of procedure of the General Assembly, and agreed that the resolution on multilingualism is the the core of the organization”.

He said that members of the African Group use four of the six official languages ​​of the United Nations as working languages. Therefore, the Group believes that it is crucial that Member States be able to contribute to the deliberations of the Committee in their most effective official language.

The six official languages ​​of the United Nations are: Arabic; Chinese; English; French; Russian; and Spanish.

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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service