- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 19, 2005

Brooklyn likes U.N.

The United Nations isn’t very popular in Washington or much of America these days. But fortunately for the world body, it has fans in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who has been on a one-man campaign to win over the world body since an internal review of its expansion plans raised the prospect that it might cross the East River, visited Manhattan Friday to do some courting.

“We’d love to have you,” Mr. Markowitz told U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan after giving him a Brooklyn lapel pin and an official model of the Brooklyn Bridge. Mr. Annan, however, remained noncommittal.

“As you know, we haven’t taken a decision,” he said.

Multicultural Brooklyn has been on a roll lately as well-heeled Manhattanites and satisfied natives snapped up historic brownstones, built offices and residential towers, and installed all the modern conveniences that people paying such rent or mortgages expect. Brooklyn boosters, and they are legion, say that if the United Nations were to move to the MetroTech complex, not far from the arts hub anchored by the Brooklyn Academy of Music, employees would find plenty to keep them happy.

Luring a Manhattan landmark would be icing on the cake for Brooklyn; although at best, the move would be temporary.

The U.N. headquarters is in desperate need of renovation, and that means thousands of its staffers and diplomats will need someplace else meanwhile to work and meet. Offices and a couple of large meeting halls could easily be arranged, U.N. officials say, but the security requirements for the annual General Debate, which lasts up to nine days each September and draws presidents and prime ministers, are mind-boggling.

The United Nations has rejected the idea of building its own office tower on U.N. property, because it would prove far more expensive than having the for-profit U.N. Development Corp. erect it on public property.

The General Assembly is expected to authorize Mr. Annan to accept a $1.2 billion loan from the United States — to be repaid over 30 years at 5.54 percent interest — but diplomats hope to secure a cheaper loan from commercial sources.

A global tax?

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan seems to support the long-dormant idea of a global tax to fund development in the poorest countries — as long as it is voluntary.

After meeting with French President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the Elysee Palace last week to discuss U.N. reform, the Global Compact and development issues, the U.N. secretary-general was asked whether he supports a global tax to fund the Millennium Development Goals.

“It is something I cannot be but in favor of, as I have been totally supportive of the idea of a solidarity development fund,” he replied, according to a U.N. translation to English from French. “And I think that the people who want to see this fund up and running would voluntarily contribute to it, because they would wish — naturally — to help foster growth and development to those who most need it, and especially the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.”

It is the strongest comment yet from Mr. Annan in support of a global tax.

The solidarity fund is a nascent idea to create a mechanism for richer countries help poor ones, likely as a supplement to official development assistance.

Dozens of world leaders are expected in New York for a mid-September summit examining U.N. reform and to assess the progress on the Millennium Development Goals to eliminate extreme poverty and improve access to basic services like sanitation and education.

“I think it is very important to find means to support, in any way we can, the development of developing countries,” Mr. Annan said, noting that the primary responsibility belongs to governments.

Betsy Pisik can be reached by e-mail at bpisik@washingtontimes.com.

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