Tuesday, November 29, 2005

NEW YORK — A senior U.N. administrator warned yesterday evening that a U.S. proposal to pass an interim three-month budget while delegates continue to debate reform could have a disastrous effect on the United Nations.

The Bush administration has refused to pass the proposed $3.6 billion biennial budget unless it includes a variety of administrative and management reforms to make the organization more efficient and effective.

To avoid a budget crisis, U.S. officials have suggested passing a sort of continuing resolution, which is common in Washington and other capitals but unprecedented at the United Nations.

“We do not want to be in a position where we adopt a budget next month and we get no more reform for the two-year life of the budget,” U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton told reporters on Monday.

But U.N. Comptroller Warren Sach said the interim budget would leave the organization in a cash crunch, forcing it to borrow from closed peacekeeping missions and dwindling management accounts.

“The secretariat considers this a serious problem in terms of cash flow,” Mr. Sach said. He said the organization requires between $450 million and $500 million for the period of January through March 2006, but that member states traditionally pay only 38 percent of their assessed dues so early in the year, leaving a shortfall of up to $350 million.

Because roughly 75 percent of the U.N. budget goes to payroll and related fixed expenses, he indicated that staff might be asked to accept late payment or partial salaries during the interim period. The organization would also be forced to defer or delay paying its bills.

Mr. Sach acknowledged to reporters that “the perception of member states is that this is part of a negotiating scheme” by the United States. However, he said that he had already begun to make contingency plans.

Secretariat officials and many member states, including Britain, say that the budget should be passed now, and reforms can be paid for with supplemental budget requests.

The new budget pits the United States and Japan — which pay a combined 40 percent of the U.N. regular operating budget — against a loosely affiliated bloc of developing nations.

Major donors say enacting the reforms is a necessary step to revitalizing the organization. The developing nations say that many of the measures transfer too much power from member states to the U.N. secretary-general.

Specifically, the proposed changes would give the secretary-general more discretion to allocate posts and funding between programs. Many of the suggestions under consideration were first proposed more than a year ago by Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Many members of the 132-nation Group of 77 fear that this secretary-general would transfer resources from development programs to security and human rights.

They have suggested in recent weeks that Mr. Annan is playing into Washington’s agenda to remake the organization.

“I made it quite clear that there’s no attempt at power grab,” Mr. Annan told reporters last week.

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