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In UN Budget Wrangling, of Orr, Re-Costing & Ban's Mobility, No Answers

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 21, updated -- With the UN budget fight heating up as Christmas approaches, Saturday night found UN Deputy Permanent Representative gathering in groups on the second floor of the North Lawn building.

  There was Peter Wilson of the UK and Alexis Lamek of France, and their EU counterpart Ionnis Vrailas. There was US Joe Torsella, making analogies to the budget deal struck in Washington: can the UN do it?

  In fact, UN DESA has commented on US budget woes, as Inner City Press covered. They slammed the US for the impending fight of raising the debt ceiling. So who's mocking whom?

Update: past 2 am on December 24 in the Vienna Cafe, sources told Inner City Press that while "the Pension Fund item just got agreed, re-costing is still in play;" another told Inner City Press it was a matter of "finding scraps" to pay for it, with Ban Ki-moon requested to issue a report on future alternatives.

Update 2:38 am - A Permanent Representative tells Inner City Press that "they... the West" want to cut the Department of General Assembly and Conference Management and the Department of Public Information by 2.9%. "But then they complain about the qualify of services. Let them cut Ban's travel, and consultants."

  And amid calls for cuts, including layoffs for some UN Security officers on January 2, why is the UN moving to send 500 blue helmeted guards to Central African Republic with mandates limited to offering protection to a smaller number of UN staff? Click here for that Inner City Press story.

In the UN budget process, disputes include $160 million of "re-costing" -- adding back to the budget after Secretary General Ban Ki-moon claimed cuts -- and the mobility plan of Mister Ban, himself so mobile as to be out of town.

  Ban's Controller was present Saturday night along with other staffers. Apparently there were no UN Spokespeople working -- Inner City Press' questions from Saturday morning about the crisis in South Sudan went entirely unanswered for eight hours and counting.

  When Inner City Press spoke with diplomats working on the budget Saturday night, there were many critical comments about Ban's "corporate partnerships" proposal, some calling it an attempt to get a promotion for longtime UN official Robert Orr, said to be very close with Ban.

 Orr himself was not seen, at least by this reporter in several hours, in the North Lawn.

 This is not a good time for the UN to have no one on duty answering press questions, and no noon briefing scheduled for Monday, December 23 as protested by the Free UN Coalition for Access, @FUNCA_info.

  As many of complained, the 2014-15 UN budget is over 600 paragraphs, 85 pages. Diplomats wandered around with random pages. A table was set up with mint Oreo cookies and dried green mangos; pizza boxes came in, and boxes of Starbucks coffee. America may run on Dunkin but the UN is all about, well, destroying neighborhoods (as one anti-Starbucks diplomat put it).

Notably absent from budget negotiations on Saturday, even on the sidelines, were the Staff Union, whose incumbent is battling to stay in control or block the recognition of Ticket 1, and those ostensibly covering the UN.

At least two Permanent Representatives were present: Benin, and Fiji as chair of the Group of 77, which Bolivia takes over on January 1. Finland's Deputy Permanent Representative Janne Taalas, the chair of the Budget Committee, joked to Inner City Press that it should get done since "this is the longest night of the year." Watch this site.


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