JUBA, 19 January 2021 – South Sudan and nine other countries owe more than two years of membership arrears to the United Nations, the world body’s financial reocrds show.
As of 13 January 2021, all but one of the ten Member States in arrears – Iran – are African countries.
Listed in alphabetical order on the website of the United Nations, the ten are the Central African Republic, Comoros, Congo, Iran, Libya, Niger, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia, South Sudan and Zimbabwe.
Last week, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres flagged the matter in a letter to the President of the United Nations General Assembly.
Under Article 19 of the Charter of the United Nations, “a Member State in arrears in… an amount that equals or exceeds the contributions due for two preceding years can lose its vote in the General Assembly”.
South Sudan’s deputy foreign minister, Deng Dau Deng, told the Juba-based Eye Radio that sanctions imposed against South Sudan make it near impossible for dues to be paid.
“The money was wired on the 14th December 2020. You know we have sanctions problems,” Deng said on Eye Radio.
“The corresponding bank returned the money to the Bank [of South Sudan],” Deng added.
It is possible that several of the African countries in arrears face the same difficulty as South Sudan.
The United Nations has a chronic problem raising funds for its operations and receiving on-time payments of dues and contributions to the budget from its Member States.
As of 15 January 2021, only three United Nations Member States (Canada, Latvia and Ukraine) had paid their regular budget assessment in full.
Member States are also in arrears in contributions to peacekeeping missions.
In January 2019, Member States owed $2 billion in debt for peacekeeping, with the United States owing$776 million or a third of the outstanding arrears.
While the United States paid down about 50 percent of the arrears it owed in January 2019, the world’s richest and most powerful country was still owing $1 billion in arrears half-way through 2020.
In May 2020, China’s Xi Jinping publicly called out America’s Donald Trump for not making good on the payments as of May 2020.
The UN General Assembly can vote in support of Member States in arrears retaining voting rights under certain conditions.
On 13 October 2020, the General Assembly “decided that Comoros, Sao Tome and Principe and Somalia shall be permitted to vote in the Assembly until the end of its 75th session”.