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U.N. plan for Africa office stirs anger
NEW YORK — Developing nations are in revolt against a plan by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to merge his African advisory office with one that coordinates policy for all poor nations, saying that he is trying once again to save money at Africa’s expense.
Mr. Ban confirmed Monday that he would not appoint a new high-ranking special adviser for Africa, but instead roll those responsibilities into the post overseeing the least-developed countries, which also works with small island states and landlocked nations around the globe.
Mr. Ban told reporters that Africa is “the highest priority on my agenda” and that he wants to “reconfigure” the various organizations and advisers and envoys working on African issues.
“I think … there may be a better way to use limited resources and limited posts for overall African issues,” he said.
On July 6, he appointed former Malian Ambassador Cheick Sidi Diarra to run the office concerned with least- developed nations. Mr. Diarra will also be the U.N. “focal point” for African trade and development issues, as well as its liaison to the New Partnership for African Development.
But several diplomats complained yesterday that his plan would override the General Assembly’s will that the senior adviser work exclusively on the interlocking issues of African poverty, stability, human rights and development.
“We don’t support the fusion of that office with the office of the [least-developed countries],” said one ambassador from a small African nation. “That is not coordinating. He is making economies at the expense of Africans.”
The cause has been taken up by the 132-nation coalition of developing states. On Tuesday evening, Pakistani Ambassador Munir Akram sent an angry letter to Mr. Ban on behalf of the so-called Group of 77 to protest what is widely seen as a downgrading of African affairs.
“It is the prerogative of the General Assembly to modify or terminate its legislative mandates,” Mr. Akram wrote in a letter first published by Inter Press Service. “Africa’s development is an established priority of the United Nations. Given the serious challenges faced by the African continent in poverty eradication and in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, the continent should continue to receive special attention and resources from the United Nations.”
Mr. Ban’s office tartly noted yesterday that the letter was given to the press before it arrived upstairs.
Despite his earliest intentions, Mr. Ban has maintained a fractious relationship with the African bloc, a group that declared its support for an Asian secretary-general a year before any other group.
Shortly after taking office, he proposed cleaving the U.N. peacekeeping department into two, separating the operational and political side from the logistical and support services. That proposal, too, was made without proper consultation with the African nations, which both provide significant numbers of troops and host the most conflicts.
At the time, the suggestion was seen as a usurpation of the power of the General Assembly, where poor countries have an equal vote with the richest.
Many developing nations worry that Mr. Ban’s focus on climate change could be undertaken at the expense of the Millennium Development Goals, a global effort to reduce by half extreme poverty, illiteracy and hunger in the next decade.
When Mr. Ban visited Washington on Tuesday, he raised the climate issue with the World Bank. Officials there told him that poor nations are alarmed that environmentalism is being subsidized by money meant for the millennium goals.
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