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On UN Budget, Some Empty Seats for R2P & Debt Restructuring Votes

By Matthew Russell Lee, Follow up on Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, December 29 -- After pushing the UN budget deadline back from December 24, on December 29 its Fifth Committee further pushed controversial items back, while finalizing over $3 billion in funds for UN Peacekeeping, mis-run by Herve Ladsous whom 123 non-governmental organizations and Sudan experts have asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to fire.

   In the Fifth Committee there were two rounds of voting on whether the Responsibility to Protect was ever approved by the GA. (Inner City Press tweeted the vote counts here and here; on Section 4 with R2P in it, there were 141 "Yes" votes. Then a lull until 7 pm to vote it out in the full General Assembly.

  Of the UN's 193 member states, fewer than 160 voted in the Fifth Committee. How many would in the full GA? Photo here.

  The answer, at least on the sovereign debt restructuring resolution, was 170 of 193: the resolution passed 120 in favor, 35 abstaining and 15 against, including the US, UK, Israel, Switzerland, Japan and Australia.

 Then on Section 4 with R2P in it, there were 137 "Yes" votes -- four fewer than in the Fifth Committee. Some, it seems, didn't understand the difference between voting for Cuba's amendment or Section 4. Sri Lanka, it must be said, voted against R2P in both the Fifth Committee and in the GA. Sudan's seat was empty, even when the UNAMID budget was adopted, as for when the ICTR on Rwanda was passed through. (Rwanda spoke in favor of R2P in both the Fifth Committee and GA

  In  GA speeches, the Law of the Sea Treaty, LOST, was being trashed by Turkey and others, while a new probe into the death of Dag Hammarskjold was approved. (The UN's promised self-probe into its peacekeepers shooting at unarmed demonstrators for democracy in Haiti two weeks ago is apparently still UNfinished.)

  Finally, after Syria spoke on Special Political Missions and Iran against funding for the sanctions committee against it, Ambassador Masood Khan of Pakistan read out a list of item that had been deferred and it was over, with a whimper and a small bang of the gavel.

   In the run up to the December 24 budget showdown at the UN, diplomats worked until six in the morning, on issues ranging from the 2016 budget to the first performance report.

  At 3 pm on December 24, however, the outgoing head of the Group of 77, Bolivia's Sacha Llorenti, told G77 representatives that the other side said no more talks today. Later in the day it was rolled-over to the next week, and now Inner City Press is first to report some of the results.

  Beyond the money (see below), the contentious issue of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's same sex marriage benefits, on which the Organization for Islamic Cooperation and others were prepared to vote no, has been pushed over into the next session. One African Permanent Representative, not in the OIC, told Inner City Press Ban should "just withdraw" his policy. Ban is on annual leave.

  On Yom Kippur, Diwali and other religions' holidays becoming official UN system holidays, sources tell Inner City Press that language has been arrived at that allows these holidays to be celebrated without requiring it.

  The Partnerships facilities, which many delegates linked to former UN official Robert Orr, ran into opposition from those who say its modalities and "programmatic" elements must be further negotiated. The return of some $150 million by the Capital Master Plan is still being pushed for; G77 says it "held the line on re-costing."

  In the hallway outside Conference Rooms 5, 1 and 3, Inner City Press interviewed a range of diplomats and UN Secretariat officials about the  rebellion by some member states at Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's policy position -- or "executive order," as one delegate called it -- on same sex marriage.

  "Between the OIC and African countries, it's going down," one Permanent Representative had told Inner City Press. The other side says that Ban has the power to "just do it." But, even the person making this argument conceded,  Ban is no Obama.

  And, another asked, where IS Ban Ki-moon, as his policy is "going down" in the Fifth Committee? On December 29 the answer was: on annual leave.

  A delegate from Uruguay last week urged the rest of the Fifth Committee of the UN General Assembly to do everything possible to come to a conclusion before midday on December 24. That didn't happen.  Now will it be done on December 29?

In this session the Fifth Committee is considering, for example, the proposed program budget outline for the biennium 2016-17. On this, amid threats of cut-backs, the Group of 77 and China put a resolution into an “L document” on December 23, leading to protests from diplomats from Italy, Japan and the US.

Diplomats stayed until 6 am on December 24, and returned for a G77 meeting at 11 am, moved due to its size from Conference Room 9 to CR 1. Bolivia's Permanent Representative Sacha Llorenti, soon to turn over the G77 gavel to South Africa, reported back to G77 Ambassador where things stood.

For now, the Fifth Committee “plenary” is not set until 3 pm, with the full General Assembly with no time set at all.

Other items include the Capital Master Plan, the Extraordinary Chambers court in Cambodia, revised estimates for the Ebola mission UNMEER and for the Human Rights Council (regarding cut-backs at which, see this Inner City Press story) and UNHQ long term accommodation needs, otherwise known as building on a current New York City playground.

Another item concerns the UN's UMOJA system, with cost overruns and corruption scandals. One former UMOJA official, Paul van Essche who was caught up in a scandal -- "PHP irregularities," Inner City Press exclusive coverage here -- now announces he'll resurface as UNICEF's chief of information technology in January 2015. We'll have more on this.


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