- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 16, 2003

Budget chairman gone

The longtime chairman of an obscure but powerful U.N. budget committee was replaced this month after more than a quarter-century in the post.

Conrad Mselle, the Tanzanian representative to the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), lost his bid for re-election on Nov. 7.

Mr. Mselle was one of three candidates for two African seats on the ACABQ. National delegates to the General Assembly’s budget committee gave him 54 votes, compared with 165 for Collen V. Kelapile of Botswana and 147 for Manlan Narcisse Ahounou of the Ivory Coast.

“This is definitely the end of an era,” said one ACABQ member. “He’s run this group forever.” Asked whether it was a good thing, the diplomat answered, “I couldn’t really say.”

Mr. Mselle, who did not return calls, was first elected to the budget panel in 1971 and became its chairman a few years later. He held the post — one of the few paid General Assembly positions — since that time. The ACABQ chairman makes the same salary as a U.N. undersecretary-general, a little less than $200,000 a year, including benefits.

Budget expert Vladimir V. Kuznetsov of Russia was chosen last week to head the 16-member committee, whose primary responsibility is to issue a preliminary assessment of the secretary-general’s biennial budget. ACABQ recommendations are used by the General Assembly to guide its discussions of the complex U.N. budget process.

There is not a lot of turnover on the ACABQ. Members frequently are re-elected to additional three-year terms.

The United States in 1997 demanded and appears to have won a “permanent” seat on the board in an agreement with other members of the Western European regional group. This was one of several conditions in the Helms-Biden legislation that paid close to $1 billion to the organization.

Hoax medication rife

The World Health Organization warned last week that counterfeit and substandard pharmaceuticals are increasingly widespread, creating a deadly $32 billion industry that affects rich and poor.

Researchers apparently found problems everywhere they looked. The problem drugs include homemade counterfeits, mislabeled dosages and insufficient active ingredients.

The WHO found that one dose in four consumed in the developing world was, in some way, substandard. That proportion drops to one in 10 in the developed countries.

Another difference is the nature of the fraud between rich and poor. In the former, the substandard medications are likely to be “lifestyle drugs” such as hormones, steroids, antihistamines and herbal remedies. These account for billions in annual sales, but the damage they do is rarely lethal.

In the poorest nations, the counterfeit or expired medications are more likely to be used to treat life-threatening conditions such as AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

“At best, the regular use of substandard or counterfeit medicines leads to therapeutic failure or drug resistance,” the WHO said. “In many cases, it can lead to death.”

To address the problem, the Geneva-based body called last week for strengthening national laws against the manufacture, importation and distribution of substandard drugs. It also recommended better cooperation between regulatory authorities, customs agents and law-enforcement officials.

Internet discord

With less than a month to go before the global Internet summit, the industrialized and developing worlds are still far apart on important issues, such as how to finance access and training in the poorest countries and who controls the infrastructure of the World Wide Web.

Without agreement on how to subsidize Internet access for the developing world, what limits to put on news and information, and other thorny subjects, the Dec. 10-12 World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva is likely to be rancorous and inconclusive.

Betsy Pisik can be reached by e-mail at UNear@aol.com.

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