Broke UN risks collapse, says Boutros-Ghali

DAVID USBORNE

New York

The United Nations is "trapped in a downward spiral" of financial crises that threatens its very survival, the Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros- Ghali, said yesterday, promising to pursue a rescue plan that will include deep staff cuts.

But at the same time he urged member-states to acknowledge the seriousness of the predicament and act to avert it. The implied target of his appeal was the United States, which accounts for a large part of unpaid dues.

"Time is running out," he told a General Assembly committee. "I regard the financial crisis as my top priority ... I will do all that I can to avoid financial collapse." Urging an emergency Assembly meeting, he said the UN was owed $3.3bn (pounds 2.2bn) in membership fees; Washington owed $1.2bn. Officials say that without action, the UN will run out of money before the end of the year.

In an attempt to win back US support, Mr Boutros-Ghali unexpectedly proposed setting a ceiling of "20 per cent or 15 per cent" on the amount any single member-state should pay.At present, the US is called on to provide a quarter of the UN's regular budget.

Mr Boutros-Ghali was speaking a day after Joseph Connor, Under-Secretary- General in charge of finances, proposed that 1,000 jobs be cut from the UN bureaucracy over two years, equivalent to 10 per cent of its payroll, as the only means to make ends meet. The reductions would come mainly at the New York headquarters and at five offices abroad. Agencies such as Unicef and the High Commission for Refugees would not be affected.

Last year, the UN's 50th anniversary, it kept the lights burning only by topping up its regular budget with funds from the separate peace-keeping budget. As a result, it owes $1bn to members involved in peace-keeping, including Britain, and cannot repeat the trick.

Mr Boutros-Ghali said he would appeal personally to each head of government for help; he would ask countries in arrears at least to present him with a payment schedule.

While pledging to protect staff morale, the Secretary-General said necessary budget cuts would make job losses inevitable. He recently proposed a 1996-97 budget that will be the first zero-growth budget in the UN's history. From that, however, the General Assembly trimmed another $256m. "It is evident ... budget reductions are of such magnitude they can be realised only through a combination of staff reductions and non-staff reductions," he said.

By moving to prune its bureaucracy, the UN will be hoping to soften some of the criticism in Washington and especially on Capitol Hill. So far, however, critical members of Congress, who are holding up payment of US contributions, appear less than overwhelmed.

"We're not impressed by 1,000 lay-offs. This is a cynical public-relations attempt to shame Congress," said Marc Thiessen, spokesman of Jesse Helms, arch-conservative chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Mr Helms has asked for a 50-per-cent cut in the UN bureaucracy.

The UN is, however, pursuing reform from several angles, including a broader restructuring of the administration and an enlargement of membership of the Security Council.

Of special interest to the US are recently unveiled Franco-British proposals for a review of the formula whereby contributions of member states are calculated. Most notably, the new system would dramatically reduce the burden on Washington and require much higher contributions from the "tiger nations" of South-East Asia.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
people
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - London - up to £44,000

£38000 - £44000 per annum + bonus and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manag...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Application Support Analyst

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Recruitment Genius: Quality Control Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing company is a ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultants - Liverpool

£27300 - £36400 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Self-employed B2B Sales Consult...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn