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At UN, Budget Endgame Has Genocide and R2P, Iran Against Political Missions

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 23 -- The UN Budget fight went into overtime Thursday evening on the issues of genocide and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P).

  Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua put forward a proposal to bar the UN Special Representative on Genocide from having anything to do with R2P, which they say is a concept which has never been approved by the UN General Assembly and which could be used for imperialist interventions.

  The standoff took place in the context of Cote d'Ivoire strongman Laurent Gbagbo issuing threats against the UN peacekeepers there.

  Whereas Wednesday night UN officials Susana Malcorra, Catherine Pollard and Controller Yamasaki were on hand to lobby for the Secretariat, neither R2P Special Adviser Ed Luck nor current top genocide official Francis Deng were seen on Thursday evening.

  No UNTV stake out had been set up for statements to the Press. Ban Ki-moon's spokespeople had left, and would not hold a briefing until 2011. Thus are billions fought for and spent.

UN's genocide man Denger, R2P and budget not shown

Budget Committee diplomats milled around the UN's North Lawn building while negotiations continued in Conference Room 5. “OICT is done,” a delegate called out, referring to the Office of Information and Communications Technology. A final deadline was announced: 10 or 10:45 in the General Assembly.

There, contested votes were still predicted on Durban III and on Iran's challenge to the Group of Experts on its Sanctions Committee, and to Special Political Missions more generally.

Earlier the General Assembly met in its old building, but only to act on the Credentials Committee's recommendation to accept the new Cote d'Ivoire Mission personnel appointed by Ouattara. President of the General Assembly Joseph Deiss quickly read out the proposal and quickly gaveled approval.

   Nigeria and Namibia protested that they had wanted to speak, even to ask for a postponement. But Deiss would not relent. With other countries asking to speak, Deiss suspended the meeting, to reconvene only when the Budget Committee is ready.

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UN Budgets Votes On Durban III & Iran Sanctions Panel, R2P & Staff Treatment

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 22/23 -- With the UN Budget committee at work at 2:30 am on December 23, the number of issues on which a contested vote would be called was whittled down to two, or three at most. The main achievements, though, would be under or unreported, committee members complained to Inner City Press.

  Surprising to some, Iran is still calling for a vote on the funding of the Panel of Experts of its Sanctions Committee. On the other side of the coin, the Durban III event in September will be voted against by, among others, Canada -- which has already said it won't participate.

  Also causing agita at 2 am is a merger of functions of the offices for the Prevention of Genocide and of the Responsibility to Protect. The opponents of R2P say it has never been approved, and oppose the merger.

  As the Fifth Committee members mill around past midnight, with bottles of wine and pizza boxes on tables, a deal is said to be near on R2P, while votes are predicted on Iran's Panel of Expert and on Durban III.

Meanwhile some Committee members bemoan the lack of coverage of the bigger ticket items: continuing contracts and so-called common system. As one heart felt developing world committee member told Inner City Press, staff are 70% of the UN's costs and therefore its major asset.

  They need to be given security, especially working in some of the most dangerous places in the world. And to pay funds and programs staff more than Secretariat makes no sense. This too, they say, will be part of the package.

  The votes, it is predicted, still come December 23. Watch this site.

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In UN Budget, Iran Wants to Cut Sanctions Group, UNICEF to Pay More

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 21 -- The UN budget committee has begun its ritual of all night meetings to finish before Christmas. This year the global financial crisis has finally hit home, as one delegate put it to Inner City Press, in the discussion of the “common UN system” or “harmonizing contracts.”

  There are additional political issues around the UN's funding of a Durban conference review day in September, and Iran trying to defund the Panel of Experts of its Sanctions Committee.

Harmonizing UN system contracts has been a theme since September in the budget committee. UNICEF came and argued that it should be allowed to pay its people more, since it needs “better” people in order to attract private sector support.

  UNHCR and the World Food Program, among others, came to make the same pitch. The phrasing, and the arrogance, troubled many.

But the argument grew more subtle with example of staffers leaving UN peacekeeping missions in order to work for UNICEF to earn more money. There are also examples of seeming UN peacekeeping officials, like Alan Doss when in Liberia and the Congo, secretly being under better paid UNDP contracts.

To avoid at least some of these scams, the proposal is to harmonize contacts, with some sort of a phrase in or grandfathering period. This may raise costs, and countries which are cutting back pay to their own workers are hard pressed to vote increases for UN system staff.

  Similarly, the Permanent Representative of Tunisia recently admitted to Inner City Press that his country's announced plans for a Youth Conference have fallen through due to lack of funding. Still, a deal is predicted for December 22 or 23.

Member states are complaining about Ban Ki-moon's Secretariat not doing enough of the heavy lifting on “continuing contracts,” leaving Missions like Singapore having to do the calculations.

A recorded vote is predicted on funding the Durban III day in September, and perhaps on Iran's proposal to defund its Sanctions Committee. Why aren't North Korea and Sudan, for example, making the same proposal to undercut their Sanctions Committee?

   At Tuesday's UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ban's acting Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq for any comment from Ban about Durban III. "The member states decide," he said.

UN's Ban and Controller Yamazaki, (not) taking the 5th

   Also referred from the Third Committee is the question of Myanmar. Despite evidence that staff time has been redevoted from Myanmar to other uses in the Department of Political Affairs, nothing has yet been done.

   Tuesday night in the North Lawn, the new venue for budget committee rituals, included two diplomats from Cote d'Ivoire chatting nervously with the Press. Earlier Ban Ki-moon urged the General Assembly to disaccredit Permanent Representative Djedje. What would this mean for others in the Ivorian mission? Their budget expert just keeps working. It is the Fifth Committee ethic. Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually 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

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