Broke UN risks collapse, says Boutros-Ghali


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
house + home
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Life and Style
Bats detect and react to wind speed and direction through sensors on their wings
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living