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At UN, Political Affairs Plan Slated to Shrink, Development Plan Missing, Along with Budget Officials

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

UNITED NATIONS, February 12 -- With much fanfare last Fall, UN management proposed to member states that 103 new hires would be needed to strengthen the Department of Political Affairs. A lengthy report was issued, but the General Assembly did not act on it in its December 21 all-night budget session. Now, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions has opined that DPA needs, at most, sixty posts, and not the proposed 103. ACABQ suggests that fully $8 million of the Secretariat's requested $21 million for DPA is not necessary.

   While the deeper scuttlebutt is that the Assembly will refuse to act even on this until a similar strengthening of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs is proposed, Inner City Press on Tuesday asked Spokesperson Michele Montas for a response to the shrinking of DPA plans recommended by ACABQ. Video here; transcript here. Ms. Montas said she would look into it, and also into Inner City Press' question about reports of dozens of recent murders in Southern Sudan by the Lord's Resistance Army, a group with which the Department of Political Affairs is engaged and on which, it would seem, it should be reporting.

            Later on Tuesday, a full-paragraph response arrived, also inserted into the day's UN transcript:

"The ACABQ's report (A/62/7/Add.32) on the Secretary-General's proposals for Strengthening of the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) supported the concept and rationale of the Secretary-General and recommended approval of approximately two-thirds of the resources proposed. The issue now goes to the Fifth Committee. It is the Member States who ultimately have the say over the budget, but as this discussion continues the Secretariat will continue to make the case for the full funding of the Secretary-General's proposals, which were developed based on a careful assessment of what DPA needs to carry out its mandated work. The Secretary-General remains strongly convinced that strengthening DPA is a modest investment with a potentially big payoff in that the UN will be in a better position use diplomatic means to prevent and resolve conflicts before they turn into larger and costlier tragedies."

            While some UN insiders say that where DPA falters, it is more for lack of will than lack of resources -- they point not only to the UN's recent silence on the Lord's Resistance Army but also to Myanmar as the best current example -- the more concrete question is who will make the Secretariat's case? 

UN budget and DPA proposal introduced in Oct. 07, ACABQ's Rajat Saha on left

   UN Comptroller Warren Sach is said to be on vacation -- he is also said to be leaving, that's been in the air for a while -- while another high budget official, Sharon Van Buerle, is also out. The head of the Department of Management Alicia Barcena, who on February 4 candidly told  Inner City Press that the glitzy event on the UN's North Lawn, which she had approved, had become inappropriate, soon after that had a broken arm from which she is recovering, away from the UN.  (We wish her luck and health.) So who is running the show? And, relatedly, where is the DESA restructuring plan that developing countries have demanded? We will continue to follow this issue.

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These reports are 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

  Because a number of Inner City Press' UN sources go out of their way to express commitment to serving the poor, and while it should be unnecessary, Inner City Press is compelled to conclude this installment in a necessarily-ongoing series by saluting the stated goals of the UN agencies and many of their staff. Keep those cards, letters and emails coming, and phone calls too, we apologize for any phone tag, but please continue trying, and keep the information flowing.

Feedback: Editorial [at]

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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540