Brazil could lose its UN vote due to debt

Published December 5, 2019, 7:07 AM

by Gabriela Baron & Minka Klaudia Tiangco

By Reuters

UNITED NATIONS/BRASILIA– Brazil is in danger of losing its vote at the cash-strapped United Nations if it does not pay some of the $400 million it owes by the end of the year, UN and Brazilian officials said.

Of Brazil’s $415.8 million bill, $143 million is owed for 2019, they said.

The United Nations logo is seen at the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 23, 2019. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo/MANILA BULLETIN)
The United Nations logo is seen at the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit at UN headquarters in New York, US, September 23, 2019. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo/MANILA BULLETIN)

Under UN rules, if a country is in arrears in an amount that equals or exceeds the contributions due for the previous two years, it can lose its General Assembly vote unless the country can show its inability to pay is beyond its control.

“There is considerable risk that Brazil, for the first time ever, will lose its right to vote at the UN as of January 1, 2020,” the Economy Ministry’s secretary for international relations Erivaldo Gomes said in a report seen by Reuters.

Brazil is the second-largest UN debtor after the United States and must pay at least $126.6 million by the end of the year to avoid losing its vote, Gomes wrote in the report.

The Economy Ministry said in an email to Reuters that it asked Congress on Tuesday to approve 549 million reais ($130 million) in supplementary funding to cover Brazil’s UN dues.

Currently Comoros, Sao Tome and Principe, and Somalia are subject to this rule but the 193-member General Assembly voted in October to allow them to continue to vote.

The United Nations said in October that total arrears were $1.385 billion, of which $860 million is for the $2.85 billion regular budget for 2019, which pays for work including political, humanitarian, disarmament, economic and social affairs and communications.

UN officials said then that seven countries made up 97% of $1.385 billion owed – the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Iran, Israel and Venezuela – while 58 states made up the rest.

Washington is responsible for 22% of the regular budget and in October owed some $381 million for prior regular budgets and $674 million for the 2019 regular budget.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Tuesday that the United States had since paid some $500 million to the world body and now owed about $491 million.

Dujarric said 138 of the 193 UN member states had now paid their regular budget dues, but that some $772 million was still owed for 2019.