US, EU want cuts to UN budget

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres reads a statement reiterating the United Nation's position that peace between Israel and Palestine is dependent on a two state solution with Jerusalem as a joint capital at United Nations headquarters in New York, New York, 6 December 2017. [Justin Lane/EPA/EFE]

The United States is seeking a $250 million cut to the core budget of the United Nations for 2018-2019, on top of $200 million in savings already proposed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, diplomats said on Tuesday (12 December). The EU also asked for cuts to the tune of $170 million.

The budget is under negotiations in a General Assembly committee, which is expected to adopt it before the end of December.

Guterres has proposed capping the UN biennial budget at $5.4 billion, shaving off $200 million from the 2016-2017 budget.

Two diplomats told AFP that the United States had put forward a proposal for an additional $250 million reduction – a 5% cut that another diplomat said would be nearly impossible to achieve.

The United States is the UN’s number one financial contributor, providing 22% of the core budget.

Diplomats said the proposed US budget cuts could target political missions in Libya and Afghanistan as well as the office for Palestinian rights and communication services.

There was no immediate UN reaction and the EU mission to the United Nations declined to comment.

The European Union has also put forward a proposal to seek an additional $170 million in savings from the budget.

“This is a classic game,” said one diplomat. “There’s always two camps – the United States and the European Union – who want to reduce the budget and the rest of the countries who don’t.”

The UN’s operating budget is separate from its peacekeeping budget, which was cut by $600 million this year, under pressure from the US administration of President Donald Trump.

The push for deeper cuts comes as Guterres is trying to build support for his plans for  a reform of the UN bureaucracy.

During a meeting held on the sidelines of the annual General Assembly debate in September, Trump said the United Nations had failed to reach its “full potential due to bureaucracy and mismanagement.”

“We are not seeing the results in line with this investment,” he said then.

The United Nations employs 40,000 people recruited worldwide.

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