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At UN, 10% of Ban's Budget Faces Axe, on 36% Proposed Hike, UN Has No Comment

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, December 23, 6:59 am -- As the sun rose over an icy New York, in the basement of the UN delegates remained clustered on couches surrounded by blue metal barricades negotiating the wording of budget resolutions to be voted on before Christmas. While this is a so-called "off year" for the UN budget, which runs in two year cycles, some of the controversy revolves around the preliminary 2010-2011 budget submitted by Ban Ki-moon.

  Inner City Press asked Ban's spokeswoman Michele Montas on December 22 about Ban's proposed 36% increase in spending from 2006-2007, but she declined comment. Here are Inner City Press' calculations:

UN budget for 2006-2007: $3.799 billion

UN budget for 2008-2009:  $4.207 billion

Ban Ki Moon's proposed UN budget for 2010-2011: $5.187 billion

Percentage increase:

from 2006-2007 to 2008-2009: 10.7 percent increase

from 2008-2009 to 2010-2011: 23.3 percent increase

from 2006-2007 to 2010-2011: 36.6 percent increase

See esp. paras 3 & 8 of A/63/622

  While not wanting to give the U.S. a disproportionate voice on budget matters, particularly since as Inner City Press exclusively reported yesterday the U.S. got its nationals fully 134 new UN jobs from 2007 to 2008, only its Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad made himself available on camera in front of Security Council on the UN's second floor as drafts circulated down in the basement. Inner City Press asked him for the US position on the budget, the proposed increase in posts and spending. Video here, from Minute 5:14.

  Ambassador Khalilzad answered that while "we want consensus" the US is demanding a "full picture... piecemeal is not a productive way." Regarding the proposals for new posts, both in the Departments of Political as well as Social and Economic Affairs, he said that "the circumstances we find ourselves in are different than when the ideas" were first discussed. He referred darkly to the "circumstances in which the world operates right now." To the side of the Security Council stakeout cable television news showed riots in Russia against the tariff on imported cars being raised. Similar unrest is predicted elsewhere, perhaps even in a diplomatic fashion in the basement of the UN.

  Wednesday morning, past the 6 am deadline set the previous day, negotiations continued. Rather than Ban Ki-moon's $5.1 billion figure for 2010-11, which represents a 36% increase over 2006-2007, the draft in circulation would "invite" Ban to "prepare his proposed program budget for the biennium 2010-2011 based on a preliminary estimate of $4,617,900." So are the $500 million at issue mostly waste, like the 30,000 unused license from Oracle which Inner City Press uncovered yesterday, or are they simply not available at this time?

As UN's Ban dines with US Khalilzad and Condi, waste and conflict not shown

From the December 22 UN noon briefing:

Inner City Press: As the Budget Committee wraps up its work, I want to ask you two questions.  One is, they have a resolution about information technology, in which they say the Secretary-General began something called “enterprise content management” and “customer relations management” software programmes without approval of the General Assembly.  I want to ask you now, before it goes to a vote, did the Secretary-General agree to that critique?  What was the authorization that began those two programmes?

Spokesperson Montas:  I do know that the Budget Committee met practically all weekend, practically all night Saturday, all night yesterday, Sunday, until early morning today, and they have been discussing different matters.  I don’t know about that specific issue, where they are on the discussion on that, and I don’t have any specific comments from the Secretary-General on any items on the budget, as long as it is being discussed in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).

Inner City Press: How about this one?  There is a peer report out by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), just in time for the vote, which says that it appears from his budget outline, the 2010-2011 budget, is for a $5.1 billion budget, a 36 per cent increase, rather than a 2 per cent decrease.  Is that not the number?  Does the ACABQ have the number wrong?

Spokesperson:  I am not commenting on this, I told you.  It is being discussed in the Committee.  I am not going to comment on any aspect of the budget.

Inner City Press: After the vote will you have a comment?

Spokesperson:  After the vote we’ll have someone discuss the budget with you, okay?  And as far as I know, the discussions might last until late on 24 December, if you’re patient enough to wait.  At any rate, we are not having a press briefing on Christmas Day.

Question:  But we will have one on the 24th?

Spokesperson:  The 24th yes, we will be having one.  From the 25th until 2 January we won’t have a briefing.

  So perhaps as on the disappearance of stealth UN envoy Robert Fowler in Niger, they'll be no comment at all...

Footnote: the member states' delegates to the Fifth Committee are noticeably younger than those for example who cover the Security Council. They also live in different worlds. When Inner City Press told one around the U.S. answer to its questions, the assumption was that it was "Bruce" (Rashkow, the U.S. gray bearded, bow-tied budget delegate) and not Zalmay Khalilzad, of whom the budget committee delegate said he knew very little. And for that there's now so little time left...

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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