UN, Dawn Budget Deal Benefits Bahrain, Has Russia Bitter,
Politics of Human Rights
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, December 24 -- A UN
budget deal was sealed at 4 a.m. on
Christmas Eve, just as the building itself began to be gutted.
two countries, Bahrain and Bahamas, managed to get their assessment
decreased by a side letter from General Assembly President Ali Treki,
Russia and its allies lost a vote about rates of exchange, and only
begrudgingly supported the overall deal.
called for a
vote on support of the Goldstone report on Gaza, and found only a
couple of African countries and North Korea to support it.
campaign by Syria and others against Terje Roed Larsen's role in
Lebanon never came to fruition. India on the other hand gave a long
speech denouncing the upgrade of a human rights liaison post in New
York to Assistant Secretary General, but did not call for a vote.
night, when Ambassador and Treki met and milled around in the UN's
basement, Inner City Press quizzed Permanent Representatives and
staffers and got increasingly candid answers as the night went on.
"This place is a joke," said one South Asian envoy. "We
pay too much," said a Latin American. "Bahrain's play was
shameful." The live blog is online here.
Budget Committee vote at 2 a.m. and the large session upstairs to
confirm it from 3 to 4, dozens of Ambassadors toasted with Scotch
whiskey and the remains of take-out pizza, wishing each other happy
holidays. The Delegates Lounge, a fixture, will close on Christmas
Eve for up to two years. During the first part there will be no
construction in the space: it will simply lie empty, which the General
Assembly next door remains open. "They're just closing it to close it,"
several delegates complained.
first year when despite pleading from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
the U.S. broke consensus on the budget, Wednesday night Mr. Ban was
nowhere to be seen.
UN's Ali Treki in a theater like setting, story
Controller stood BlackBerrying in the
basement. Later his Under Secretary General for Management sat on the
Budget Committee podium without saying a word. She left before the GA
asked about India's argument that using the budget process to upgrade
particular posts will create a precedent for more sleaze. I don't
opine on that, she said. A staffer from the PGA's office said that
current holder of the post, American Jessica Neuwirth, will not
benefit from the upgrade. "She was only brought in for eleven
months," he said. So who will get the post, after all this
evening -- or
early morning -- ended with Myanmar denouncing criticism of its human
rights record, but vowing as part of its foreign policy to continue
to cooperate with the Secretary General's "Good Offices."
The occupant of that post, Ibrahim Gambari, has been re-assigned to
Darfur, for reasons as much budgetary as political. At the UN it is
hard to disconnect the two. Happy holidays.
* * *
UN, Final Night Falls on Budget, of Scales, Bahrain and Human Rights,
Live Blogging Budget from UN
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, December 23-24, updated
-- As the UN budget process moved into what
should be its final night, Permanent Representatives milled around
basement Conference Room 8, amid cigarette smoke and furniture set to
be moved out the next morning.
issues on which Inner City Press has so far exclusively
the requests by Bahrain and Bahamas to pay less, and India's
opposition to upgrading a human rights post -- the issue was when
how to review the scales of assessment.
countries in the Group of 77 demand no review for the next three
years. Western countries and other some others, who feel their ox is
gored, are pushing for faster review.
delegation, for example, point out that they pay "over fifty
percent of Latin America," even after suffering swine flu and a
decrease in tourism.
Group of 77,
which fell into some disarray during the climate change talks in
Copenhagen, remains united in the UN Budget committee. They have
thrown their weight behind Bahrain and the Bahamas, who are predicted
to prevail in being dropped in peacekeeping assessment from Category
B to C, with a 7.5% discount.
objections that human rights are being conflated with supporting an
upgrade of a post, it is suggested to Inner City Press that "India
will back down."
General Assembly Ali Treki has already met with Ambassadors, then
retreated to his second floor office. One of his advisors remains in
the basement, glad handing the chairman and secretary of the Budget
Committee. There was talk of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who stayed
hidden throughout the first budget vigil of his Secretary Generalship,
waiting in the wings.
UN's Ban and Treki at another meeting, this year's
budget not yet shown
delegation, beyond their long time bow tied representative, Alejandro
Wolff is in the basement, there's no sign of Susan Rice. Inner City
Press asked Ambassador Rice earlier on Wednesday for the U.S. view on
the budget, if she is satisfied with her Mission's level of
involvement, and whether like at least her last two predecessors she
believes the UN budget is too piecemeal, not transparent enough.
replied that of course she is satisfied with her Mission's
performance, and that the U.S. is very involved in making sure
Missions get enough resources. But what about the when to review the
scales of assessment? More fundamentally, what about the piecemeal
budget process in which "add ons" comprise more than $1
billion? More blogging to follow: watch this space.
Update of 7:27 p.m. -- the basement is still full of
Ambassadors, but UN TV keeps showing live shots of the empty General
Assembly chamber upstairs, in front of which four Security officers are
posted. In the cafeteria, the chairs and tables are being carted away.
Some the basement furniture, too, will be on the move. An African
Ambassador stops to tell Inner City Press that "the PGA would be wise
to re-schedule the plenary for 10 a.m. tomorrow."
of 7:45 p.m. -- in the Delegates Lounge, Deputy Permanent
Representatives are lifting a glass on the last, or next to last,
night of the UN bar. "They're at the level of Perm Reps down
there," one tells Inner City Press. "Let them earn their
of 8:10 p.m. -- even countries' Budget Committee experts are no
longer in the loop. "My Ambassador is in there," one tells
Inner City Press, gesturing at the entrance to Conference Room 8.
"But I don't know where things stand."
Inner City Press has dug into who it would be, who would get the
upgrade to ASG level from D-2. It's American Jessica Neuwirth, whom
Inner City Press questions on camera in April, vidoe here
40:05. One UN human rights expert has expressed disgust at the way
the Secretariat has tried to upgrade the post, a promotion through
the budget process. Only at the UN.
of 8:26 p.m. -- an Inner City Press source emerging from Conference
Room 8 says they are discussing the scale of assessments for
peacekeeping, with the U.S., Japan and EU opposing the G-77's push to
move Bahrain and Bahamas from Classification B to the discounted C. The
news: there is a proposal to abolish Classification C....
of 9:21 p.m. -- the crowd outside Conference Room 8 has grown;
President of the General Assembly Ali Treki has descended again, and
still to no avail. Inner City Press is asked: why are you the only
media here? Later a camera crew comes. But they are covering neither
scale of assessments nor human rights. They are here, it seems, by
mistake, asking Treki about the UN tribunals for Rwanda and
Yugoslavia. Inner City Press asks the crew: did he say anything
useful or useable? No, is the answer. Will the results in Conference
Room 8 be any better or more authentic? Or is this all just theater?
of 9:34 p.m. -- a PGA staffer tells Inner City Press that a deal is
near on Bahrain and Bahamas. He calls it a "transitional
arrangement" from Classification B to C. Classification C, he
says, was set up as a compromise in 2000 under then U.S. Ambassador
Holbrooke, as a way to "shut up" Kuwait, the Emirates and
Singapore, so Holbrooke could bring about some other reduction.
Another diplomat marvels at how little the U.S. Mission says now.
"When Rice is not in New York, you don't hear anything," he
says. "The others used to be allowed to talk. Now they are not."
Ambassadors strain in the doorway of Conference Room 8. It is
untransparent, but something is afoot.
of 9:42 p.m. -- in the corner by Conference Room 4, U.S. deputy
Alejandro Wolff speaks with G-77 members. Afterwards, Inner City
Press is told by G-77 that Bahrain and Bahamas will be put into
Classification C, with its 7.5% discount, for three years. What about
the human rights liaison upgrade to ASG? G-77's chair in New York
scoffs. Why do we need another
useless ASG? We will vote with India!
of 9:47 p.m. -- a crowd comes out of Conference Room 8, with shouts
of "Conference Room 4! We'll go to Conference Room 4!" It
is the Group of 77, almost 77 of them now, going to plan strategy.
"It's percolating," a G-77 member in Classifaction C tells
Inner City Press. "Like the coffee."
of 9:54 p.m. -- while the G-77 and EU consult, Inner City Press has
received the following predictions from perhaps the best placed
source: India will NOT call for a vote on the human rights liaison
upgrade to ASG, even though "Navi Pillay has not made the case
for the upgrade." The argument has become that there are six or
seven "development" USGs in New York, and none for human
Israel WILL call for a vote opposing the Goldstone report follow up.
But a Middle Eastern source says Israel does not have support from
the usual places for this. Nonetheless, a vote is predicted.
predicted to back down on calling for a vote on Roed Larsen's
mandate. This is perhaps wishful thinking by the source. He is
correct, however, in diagnosing that unresolved political issues rear
their head in the budget's eleventh hour.
of 10:27 p.m. -- Finally, there are numbers. How much would the
Permanent Five members of the Security Council have to pay, if
Bahrain and Bahamas are allowed to shift down from Classification B
to C? $300,000, is the answer from one of the P-5. 50% or so to the
U.S., 15% each to France and the UK, the rest Russia and China.
principle of the thing!" the P-5, as well as Japan and others,
say. But principle left the station in 2000, which the artibrary
Classification C was set up to solve some other political problem.
Yamasaki is now down in the basement. Inner City Press asks him "what
for." He agrees that "the scales" are up to the member
states. But so it is the ASG upgrade? The Goldstone report follow up?
asks Israel's representative: will you call for a vote? They say you
are threatening to do so. He replied, "It is not a threat. And
it is more than a follow up." And so that train, too, has left
of 10:35 p.m. -- in this micro issue, of $150,000, stop the presses.
Inner City Press asks the P in the P-5, "if Bahrain and Bahamas
are reduced, does it cost you $100,000 or $150,000?" The answer
is, "It's not sure that Bahrain and Bahama will be reduced." Could be a
of 11:10 p.m. -- the word is, Bahrain and Bahamas will get moved to
Classification C, but not in the resolution. Rather, they will get a
letter of guarantee from the President of the General Assembly. On
the overall scale of assessments, Russia has made a new proposal. But
G-77 is not backing them up: every country for themselves, it's up to
you. Everyone is eating pizza and waiting for another paragraph to be
of 11:17 p.m. -- Russia, it's said, has some supporters, including
Mexico and Kazakhstan. But not enough supporters...
of 11:38 p.m. -- amid talk of an "agreed scenario,"
Ambassadors huddle in front of Conference Room 7: Sudan and
Singapore, the U.S. and UK. This is how deals are cut at the UN.
Update of 11:59
p.m. -- from within Conference Room 8, some clapping. A delegate
emerges and tells Inner City Press, "It's done. In 45 minute, committee
vote in Conference Room 3." (After that, there'll be a wait for
translation before the full General Assembly.)
But even as
typing this up, Inner City Press asks Kazakhstan's Ambassador: are you
happy with how the Russian proposal has been addressed? No, is the
answer. We will be putting it to a vote. We are not happy.
She is eating La Vache Qui Rie
cheese on Breton crackers. The room is full of smoke.
of 12:10 a.m. -- Mexico clarifies that it previously supported
Russia's one year proposal, but fell away when Russia changed it into
a proposal about market exchange rates. Now, alongside Kazakhstan and
some others, Ukraine (Mexico says) is supporting Russia's position.
Inner City Press a thumbs up, it's done. There will be at least two
votes called for. And there is more to be said, not only about the
budget. But budget first, in this space, when the Fifth Committee
of 12:45 a.m. -- Delegates stand in line in Conference Room 3,
waiting to get their copies to vote on. A European representative,
saying "good night" to Inner City Press, explains that her
mission works the budget in three shifts. The skeleton crew is coming
in for the vote.
asked the Committee chairman, Peter Maurer of Switzerland, how many
countries he thinks will vote along with Russia. I don't know, he
says. You will see.
of 1:09 a.m. -- finally, the two scales of assessment resolutions are
distributed. The peacekeeping scale says, in paragraph 16, that the
GA "recognizes the concerns raised by Member States, including
Bahrain and Bahamas, regarding the structure of the levels."
Both have been assured they will get a side letter from the President
of the General Assembly. Inner City Press asked at the document
window, but where's the Russian amendment? The response: that's a
different story. Still the curtain that covers the voting board has
not been drawn back. But Maurer has gaveled the meeting to order.
of 1:13 a.m. -- the first items called by Maurer are the
international criminal tribunals for Rwanda and the former
Yugoslavia. Jun Yamasaki speaks on changes in rates of exchange.
of 1:22 a.m. -- Maurer asks again and again, are there any comments?
Are there any objections? I see none, it is so decided. Does any
delegation wish to make a statement after the adoption of the draft
resolution? Eritrea's seat is empty. We will be writing about their
speech outside the Security Council (much) earlier today. And now
India is taking the floor.
of 1:24 a.m. -- India says it proposed to maintain the liaison at D-2
level. I would like to keep this on record. "I find it difficult
to accept.. Human rights and Human Resources management tool... This
needs to be understood... We are moving this amendment... this is not
about nurturing human rights... this is budgetary.... without
prejudice to our positions on several aspects to human rights...
Human rights is one for the GA... I need to remain most delegates
here... a job, an assignment, a protocol job in the real sense of the
term... why is there a need to upgrade... cannot attend meetings...
surely, simple expeditious answers, tell the USG to give all area
of 1:28 a.m. -- "India's commitment to multilateralism... we
have been participating.... fully aware it's 1:30 a.m., one and a
half hour beyond when we should have completed our work... without
wishing to make matter divisive... I wish to inform you, we would not
wish to press for the amendment we had mentioned earlier in the day
And so it is adopted, without amendment. There is applause.
of 1:36 a.m. -- now Israel is calling for a vote on the
Goldstone report. A/64/7/L.3 of ACABQ about the Goldstone report. "As a
matter of principle... we cannot support... established with
favor 136, against 2, abstain 3. Guatemala says it made a mistake,
wants to be green.
U.S. has voted in favor of part 5... The U.S. supports creation of
expert on Sudan, DPRK and Myanmar... Somalia... We will not reiterate
our views, it does not change our view of the report.
of 1:45 a.m. - now Russia is speaking, "despite all efforts...
we have not been able to achieve a consensus on scale of assessments
for the regular budget... this draft does not take into account the
views of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and others...
fluxuations in currency rates, over-estimates... Russian federation
is submitted its own amendment to paragraph 6...
of 1:49 a.m. -- this table is the same as Russia distributed in Room
5 on December 1.... Now Kazakhstan is taking the floor, excusing
Maurer for calling her "sir," "it's 2 a.m.," she
says. The mic is not working. "Sabotage," Maurer jokes. She begins in
of 1:52 a.m. -- she says Iraq is given special treatment, "that
is understandable," why would poor Kazakhstan as a developing
country have to pay this... I propose that the proposal of the
Russian federation, we put it to a vote today... We support it, the
amendment to item 136..."
of 1:55 a.m. -- Japan says the agreement is for scales to remain the
same for three years, with review "urgently." Japan urges
opposition to the Russian amendment.
of 1:59 a.m. -- Ukraine, which Maurer called "The Ukraine,"
says it supports Russia's amendment not because it benefits Ukraine,
but because it's right. Now Sweden, on behalf of the EU: "against the
proposed amendment by the Russian federation."
of 2:04 a.m. -- Russia loses, 22-85-27. Russia's supporters include
Nicaragua and Venezuela, Laos and Mongolia , Serbia, Qatar, Myanmar
and so forth. Afterwards Russia notes that this is not a consensus
resolution. Belarus trashes the Committee on Contributions as biased.
of 2:07 a.m. -- looking back at the Goldstone vote, now that the voting
sheet has been released, when you take
away Guatemala's erroneous vote, Israel has only three abstainers in
support, and these are surprising: Cote d'Ivoire, Cameroon and Benin.
of 2:09 a.m. -- on scale, Maurer reads out it is the understanding of
the Committee that Bahamas and Bahrain will be treated as Category C.
And there are no comments -- except Bahamas, which wants to thank its
of 2:13 a.m. -- Sweden says the EU accepted the Chairman's proposal
on the peacekeeeping scales -- that is, the letter from the PGA to
Bahrain and Bahamas.
of 2:15 a.m. -- Maurer says it's over, come to the GA. He thanks the
bureau. "it's not the moment to get philosophic... to GA and then sleep
before daylight starts."
of 2:17 a.m. - Mosves congratulates Paul, 17 years serving the 5th
committee, there is applause. 35 minutes gap before the GA.
of 2:41 a.m. -- in the Delegates Lounge, there are drinks and
congratulations. Mosves says he is the only Committee secretary allowed
in to the most sensitive negotiations, because he has no position, only
wants to help them get where they want to go. Other committees are not
binding, he said. In the 5th it must be by consensus. He tells a PGA
staffer, see I brought it in earlier than last year, when it was 8:01
a.m.. The staffer later scoffs. USG Angela Kane has headed off,
no need to wait for the GA. Will Russia raises its issue again in the
GA? Inner City Press is told no. Israel will, yes. With only
of 3:12 a.m. -- Ali Treki gravels the meeting to order. In the TV
booth, there are no headsets for translation. It sounds like he is
of 3:17 a.m. -- underneath TV booth 14 there are many empty seats in
the GA. Comoros, DRC, Lesotho, Paraguay... Not voting in the Budget
committee earlier tonight (or this morning) were, among others,
Belize, Botswana, Burundi, Cape Verde, Central African Republic and
Chad. The Comoros, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea and Eritrea.... and
on from there.
of 3:34 a.m. -- after the resolution criticizing Myanmar's human
rights record passes 86-23-39 (Norway asked that it's vote be changed
to yes), the Solomon Islands speaks up to say that due to pressure it
is changing its position from that in the 3d Committee.
Another change: on Israel's vote, the DPRK (North Korea) abstains, in
seeming support of Israel -- or simply against any human rights mandate
of 4:07 a.m. -- the Kazakhstan Ambassador brings it to a close, be
well, be happy, be lucky!
The voting screen depicts a green and orange Christmas tree.
of 4:14 a.m. -- the Japanese delegates are still at their GA table,
talking on their cell phones.
* * *