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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

06 December 2005

United States Suggests Interim U.N. Budget

Ambassador Bolton says 2006-2007 budget must reflect reform effort

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- The United States is urging the U.N. General Assembly to adopt a three-month interim budget to give member states more time to act on a comprehensive reform package before committing to a biennial budget.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said December 6 that the 191-member General Assembly is at "a critical moment" in implementing the management improvements agreed upon by world leaders at the United Nations' 60th anniversary summit in September. (See related article.)

"The time for repeating our previous arguments is past; now we need to work together to implement the necessary changes to make the U.N. a stronger, more effective, and more accountable organization.  This is in the interest of every member state," Bolton said during special consultations called by the president of the General Assembly.

The ambassador emphasized that the budget must reflect the efforts to reform the United Nations.  "Meaningful reform will both strengthen the General Assembly's ability to provide oversight of the U.N.'s operations and the secretariat's ability to manage the organization and its personnel with commensurate accountability," he added. (See related article.)


The General Assembly's major three-month work session ends in December, at which time it is scheduled to pass a biennial budget that will reflect its priorities and work plan for the secretariat and assessment of annual dues for the member countries for 2006 and 2007.  The United States is concerned that the budget will be passed before final decisions are taken on a range of reforms called for in the final summit document.

Changes include management and administrative reforms such as the establishment of an ethics office, an independent external evaluation of the U.N. auditing and oversight system, the creation of an independent oversight advisory committee, stronger whistle-blower protection as well as the creation of a new Human Rights Council to replace the Commission on Human Rights, and a Peacebuilding Commission.  One of the most time-consuming projects involves a review of all programs older than five years as mandated by the General Assembly and the Security Council.

Despite months of negotiations and meetings, the reform process -- especially the mandate review by the secretariat -- is lagging.  The United States feels that the various programs should not be evaluated on a piecemeal basis but must be considered in the context of the overall management agenda agreed upon at the summit.

The General Assembly traditionally adopts the biennial budget before it suspends for the year-end holidays around December 22.  The United States has proposed adopting a temporary, interim budget of three months to four months so that more reform can be achieved.


Mark Lagon, U.S. deputy assist secretary of state for international organization affairs, said that having an interim budget will "keep the pressure on and force the secretariat and member states to keep their eyes on . . . the importance of management reform."

Reform, Lagon told reporters December 6, "doesn't just serve the United States or the larger contributors but all members.  Our goal is not to save money for the U.S., but to better achieve the [U.N.] intended goals." (See related article.)

The United States will not withhold its dues if the assembly fails to agree on the reform package, he said.  "We don't need blackmail.  We don't need a train wreck.  We need to find a way to keep a focus on reform -- not for the United States, but for the entire membership."

The mandated review must be comprehensive and seen by the entire U.N. membership as balanced and fair.  If the review is done as a full package over the next few months, no one member can accuse another of choosing items important to one and eliminating programs important to others, Lagon said.

U.N. member states must understand that during the mandate review "items will be cut or reduced because they are redundant or obsolete thus freeing up resources for other matters that will help the lives of others around the world," the deputy assistant secretary said.

Lagon said that he has talked with the U.N. comptroller and the United Nations is preparing for the possibility of an interim budget.  He has been assured that the United Nations will be able to pay its bills and do business.

"It will require some shuffling of resources; some flexibility will be necessary," he said.  "We are confident that it can work."

"The purpose of the temporary budget is not to punish or inflict pain either on the secretariat or member states but to allow time for a meaningful budget to be finalized," Lagon said.

For additional information on U.S. policies and goals, see The U.S. and United Nations Reform.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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