Global Policy Forum

A Call for Action on the UN Financial Crisis


We, citizens from around the globe, call for urgent action to solve the deepening financial crisis of our United Nations.

The UN faces collapse because many member states have not paid their full dues assessments, owed as a treaty obligation. On December 31, 1995, these debts totaled $2.3 billion. The organization will be completely out of cash in just a few months and may then be forced to close its doors. This would be a terrible setback in efforts towards peace, human rights and social well-being for all peoples.

Already the financial crisis is crippling the UN and keeping it from carrying out essential tasks. Major governments have slashed contributions to key development and humanitarian funds. Diplomatic initiatives for peace cannot proceed, human rights monitors cannot deploy, emergency humanitarian efforts are blocked. To keep the lights turned on, UN leaders are increasingly involved in desperate fund-raising efforts. The UN has very small financial reserves and it has not been permitted to borrow externally, even for one month.

We will not accept the ruin of the organization that embodies our hope for the common future of humanity. At a time of rapid globalization, individual national governments cannot solve the great problems of today and tomorrow. We need the United Nations and advocate reforms that will make it more effective and democratic. We will not excuse those who now seek the UN's destruction.

Several major countries facing deep economic difficulties--notably Russia and Ukraine--have not paid their full dues, though they have taken steps to catch up. But the largest debtor--the United States of America--has withheld UN assessments as a matter of policy and now owes over a billion dollars. The world's richest country, host to UN headquarters, is pushing the UN to the brink of disaster.

The UN's operating costs are surprisingly small. The current US share of the regular UN budget--$321 million--is only a fiftieth of 1% of federal spending and less than 1% of New York City's annual outlays. The cost of the total UN system, including peace- keeping, health care, human rights, programs for children and women, food and humanitarian relief, comes to less than $10 billion per year--just $2 for each person on earth. By contrast, countries spent $36 billion in 1994 on the global arms trade and $850 billion on military forces.

We must assume responsibility for the rapid worsening of the UN's financial condition. Countries that are strong UN supporters must take a lead in finding solutions. Citizen organizations must rally their members to action. Individuals of good will must speak out. We cannot just assume that the UN will survive. Further delay gambles dangerously with our future.

We therefore urge the President of the General Assembly to take the lead in organizing an Emergency Special Session to address the crisis. We further:

  • Call on spiritual and political leaders, members of citizen organizations, journalists, parliamentarians, intellectuals and citizens of goodwill to pressure their governments to solve the crisis.

  • Call on member states to pay promptly their full assessments, without condition or delay.

  • Call on states with strong economies to accept higher assessments, and to make emergency payments, to eliminate the existing debt and deficit.

  • Call for effective, long-term financing of the UN by additional means, including environment-protecting fees or other global financial levies.

    Without a strong, effective UN, the world we bequeath to our children will suffer ever-greater violence and misery. We must act immediately, lest we lose this precious source of hope and opportunity!

    Statement issued January 16, 1996

  • List of 200 Signatories
  • Further list of Signatories


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