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As UN Budget Goes Overtime, P5's Political Missions, Opaque Ban Special Fund

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 23 -- The UN budget was scheduled, perhaps optimistically, to be voted on Friday at 3 pm. As the clock moved past 4 pm diplomats continued to mill about the North Lawn building where the negotiations are taking place.

  While Fifth Committee chairman Tommo Monthe told Inner City Press "we already have a paper, now we just have to... powder it," the representative of a major developing country described a hang up on "thematic issues" related to Special Political Missions.

  "The Permanent Five [members of the Security Council] want to control the SPMs," he said. Major SPMs are in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan. "The P-5 just want us to pay for them."

  The pushback, he said, is not only from non Security Council members, but also from the UN Secretariat, on managerial grounds.

  He said the Secretariat would like to move the SPMs out of the regular budget and create a Special Account, with separate financial negotiations like regular UN Peacekeeping mission have now.

The descripion by this diplomat and others of Ban Ki-moon administration's role in making proposals in the budget negotiations is directly at odds with the responses of Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky.

  Since it was scheduled to be the last in-person briefing of the year, Inner City Press on Friday asked Nesirky for a comment on the budget negotiations and the Secretariat's positions.

Nesirky declined comment, saying it is a matter for member states. But Ban's Secretariat is not only in charge of defending or advocating for programs and staffers that developed countries would like to cut -- it is also making proposals such as about SPMs. But Ban's Secretariat refuses to explain itself, or to be accountable.

Vienna Cafe 4:30 pm Dec 23, food & worker about to disappear (c) MRLee

   While seeming friendlier than in recent years, this December's UN budget negotiations are also less transparent, despite UN Ambassador for Management Joe Torsella's loud push to televise some of the Fifth Committee's proceedings. Another diplomat described a closed door process in which, for example, people say "Africa... take it a D-1 post."

  Does this take place in the closed door but at least formal venue of Conference Room 5? No, it is in the rooms of the Group of 77, down DPA's hallway, and in the room of the EU. Germany's Deputy Permanent Representative Miguel Berger swept through Friday at noon; later on Friday, the US Mission's spokesman sent out as reply a photo of Torsella "pictured here moments ago, in midst of continuing UN budget negotiations."

Inner City Press replied with questions, whether Torsella still wanted the negotiations to be filmed and televised, and whether the US Mission has any reply to Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin's jocular rejoinder to Susan Rice, about her vocabulary and "Stanford education. The P5 might be together on SPMs, but they are far apart in other ways. Click here for that, and watch this site.

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

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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

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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