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UN Budget Adopted at Noon on Christmas Eve, R2P Fight, Distant Claims of Savings

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 24, updated -- After an all night UN Budget Committee negotiation in which the US pushed to cut funding including to the UN Mission in Ivory Coast and to give Secretary General Ban Ki-moon "flexibility" to cut more, Ban jogged up onto the General Assembly podium for the final votes.

  Ban offered thanks to Tommo "Menthe" -- that's Monthe, the Permanent Representative of Cameroon -- and to UN staff, who have protested his management style, taking sides and failing to protect them, and have threatened to go on strike.

  Ban put on an ear piece and heard Cuba, Venezuela and Iran rail against including Responsibility to Protect in his Office on the Prevention of Genocide. Ban gave no response, just as he has had no substantive comment on for example Sri Lanka's whitewash "Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation Commission" report.

  When the vote occurred, joining those opposing having R2P in the Genocide Office were Ethiopia and Brazil [see below] which has proposed the concept of Responsibility While Protecting. Abstaining was Qatar, of which the President of the General Assembly -- not present for this budget "Super Bowl" of the UNGA -- is a national.

  While Ban waited backstage to miss it, the General Assembly voted on human rights in Myanmar. The 21 countries supporting Myanmar included Sudan, Belarus, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan and Cambodia, whose Hun Sen has, analysts say, pushed Ban around on human rights and its UN-affiliated Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

  Apparently Ban came to say that this year's budget is smaller than that last. That'll also be a bragging point for the US Mission and its Ambassador on Management Joe Torsella. He was working it hard on Friday night, conferring with Susana Malcorra, viewed by many as Ban's new Deputy Secretary General, pacing around saying into his cell phone, it's more complicated than that.

GA from photo booth Dec 24, 2011, Torsella not shown, Ban in & out, (c) MRLee

  But neither during the votes in the Fifth Committee at 8 am, nor in the General Assembly at noon on Christmas Eve when the voting was finally over, was Torsella present. And after it was over, one female representative pleaded to change her vote on R2P. The acting PGA dismissed her, and afterward an ALBA country predicted it was Brazil, while two others said no. We'll have more on this. [See below]

Update: two hours after the final vote was cast, the US Mission to the UN put out a statement by Joe Torsella, along with two Internet links, neither of which yet had the December 24 statement up. Here is Torsella's October 27 statement. Watch this site.

Update of December 26, 4 pm -- On the question of Brazil's R2P vote, which we have already flagged in the above, we have received and immediately publish this:

Subject: Brazil's vote on Plenary regarding Office Special Adviser on R2P: Clarification
From: Permanent Mission of Brazil to the UN, First Secretary (Fifth Committee)
Date: Mon, Dec 26, 2011 at 3:24 PM
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

Dear Matthew: Regarding your article "UN Budget Adopted at Noon on Christmas Eve, R2P Fight, Distant Claims of Savings", I would like to clarify that Brazil's vote on the Plenary meeting concerning the budget of special political missions, including the Office of the Special Adviser for Responsibility to Protect, was recorded incorrectly. The Brazilian delegation is in favor of said resolution. The votes registered at the closure of the Fifth Committee session, a few hours earlier, reflect correctly Brazil's position on the matter: 1) we voted against the amendment proposed by Cuba and other delegations; 2) and in favor of the resolution once the amendments were rejected. We will request the Secretariat to rectify our Plenary meeting vote at the earliest opportunity.

Best regards,

First Secretary (Fifth Committee)
Permanent Mission of Brazil to the United Nations

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