Magazine article UN Chronicle

Resumed 40th General Assembly Agrees to Economy Measures for 1986

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Resumed 40th General Assembly Agrees to Economy Measures for 1986

Article excerpt

Resumed 40th General Assembly agrees to economy measures for 1986

Facing what Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar has called the "most serious financial crisis' in United Nations history, the fortieth General Assembly at a resumed session (28 April-9 May) agreed to economy measures proposed by the Secretary-General that would result in substantial savings for the Organization in 1986.

While the present crisis was one of "insufficient funds', Mr. Perez de Cuellar told the Assembly on 28 April, it was "above all a political crisis', arising "principally, though not exclusively, from disregard for obligations flowing from the Charter and from lack of agreement among Member States on the purposes for which the United Nations should be used, and on the support to be rendered by each Member State to ensure its effectiveness'.

It would, he added, "be a tragic repudiation of all the efforts and hopes invested these 40 years in the United Nations if . . . the Organization were allowed to founder for lack of funds'.

The 159-member plenary, in adopting resolution 40/472 on 9 May without a vote, decided that Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar should proceed with proposals made in his report (A/40/1102) on the Organization's current financial crisis. These included cuts already instituted regarding travel, overtime, personnel and salary, and proposed reductions for the immediate future involving capital expenditures, publications, documents and meeting services.

The steps being taken--which were "absolutely essential to maintaining solvency of the Organization in 1986'--would inevitably affect implementation of programmes, services available to Member States, and employment conditions and welfare of Secretariat staff, the Secretary-General stated. However, if taken as a whole, they would result in a "reasonable apportionment among programmes and activities of the retrenchments which in the present emergency are not avoidable'.

The proposals emanated from a review of the 1986 portion of the 1986-1987 biennium budget made "in the light of the ominous situation' confronting the Organization, Mr. Perez de Cuellar said.

As of 1 January 1986, total arrears in assessed contributions amounted to $242.4 million; that figure could be expected to grow to as much as $275 million by the end of 1986, he said.

While financial difficulties related to both peace-keeping operations and the regular budget, the crisis had "built up over the years' as the result primarily of the withholding by 18 Member States of assessed contributions from the regular budget, Mr. Perez de Cuellar stated. Peace-keeping liabilities represented mostly debts to troop-contributing countries, who were reimbursed "far below the level' due to them, and who thus "bear the brunt of the deficit'.

At the beginning of 1986, the United States--the largest contributor --had indicated that it would pay from $90.5 to $102.5 million less than its assessed contributions for 1985 and 1986, he went on.

Even using all available reserves, a shortfall of $106 million--$76 million plus an additional projected $30 million because of the depreciation of the United States dollar--was expected. The cash shortfall could be even larger if assumptions regarding payments of assessed contributions were not realized or if the United States dollar should continue to depreciate, the Secretary-General said.

The Secretary-General on 30 April told the Assembly that the package of economy measures constituted "a fragile balance' and that he had sought to apportion the curtailments "as reasonably as possible' among programmes and activities. It would be "extremely difficult to achieve the requisite savings if the balance is upset', he said. All Member States should be guided by the "overriding importance of preserving and strengthening the capacity of the United Nations'.

The Assembly's Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), in its report (A/40/1106), stated it fully shared the Secretary-General's views concerning the severity of the financial crisis, adding his estimates might be "optimistic'. …

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