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UN Budget Fight Starts Up, Mobility With Ban Away, Union Lock-out?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 20 -- As the UN Fifth (Budget) Committee enters the weekend before Christmas, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is out of town and US Ambassador Joe Torsella has barely been seen. The big issues, sources tell Inner City Press, concern for example Ban's "mobility" proposal, re-costing in the budget, and the perennial "Common System."

  Inner City Press checked with Ban's chief of staff Susanna Malcorra -- she is on call -- and this year's Fifth Committee chief the Deputy Permanent Representative of Finland, Janne Taalas, who told Inner City Press to get ready for a long weekend and hopefully no long knives.

  Other sources predicted it extending, "as usual," right to Christmas Eve. On Friday evening, a break meant to go to 6:30 was extended to 7:30; people were settling in.

 Earlier in the day they heard of the budget for the UN's mission in Mali, MINUSMA. Inner City Press has been looking into just how much France is getting paid, under a non-public Letter of Assist, for airfield services to MINUSMA in Kidal. French Ambassador Gerard Araud has refused to say.

  At the day's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked UN acting deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq about Ban's proposal to begin paying Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions officials with UN money, while others including Security officers face lay-off on December 31. This was the response, on ACABQ:

Subject: your question on the ACABQ
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Fri, Dec 20, 2013 at 1:57 PM
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

The Secretary-General has expressed the view that the General Assembly may wish to give consideration to the service of the members of the Advisory Committee becoming available full time.

Given the volume and complexity of the issues before it, consideration could be given as to whether the present working arrangements of the Advisory Committee are any longer optimal to enable the Committee to maximize its utilization of the expertise of its members in support of the requirements of the General Assembly and other governing bodies.

However, the decision is a matter for the General Assembly.

  Is Ban coming back? What will happen on his mobility plan, now that the staff union is in chaos with the incumbent trying to stay in and Ticket Two threatening to simply occupy the union office on January 2?

  Inner City Press asked Haq on Friday who the UN now considered the Staff Union. Haq said the UN would not get involved -- even as it props up a correspondents group which represents less than ten percent of the journalists accredited to cover the UN, and erases even the name of the new Free UN Coalition for Access @FUNCA_info from its transcripts, for example from that of Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson's December 19 briefing on UN's post Sri Lanka failure Rights Up Front plan.

 But where, as the budget fight started, were Ban's supposed journalist-partners? All noon briefings were canceled for next week. Call it Banning or blacking out the UN Budget. Watch this site.


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