Global Policy Forum

Developing Nations Blast UN for Appeasing US


By Thalif Deen

Inter Press Service
October 10, 2005

See also: Original letter

The 132-member Group of 77, the largest single coalition of developing nations, has sent a letter of protest to Secretary-General Kofi Annan implicitly decrying the U.N. Secretariat's efforts to appease U.N.-bashing right-wing conservatives, both inside and outside the U.S. Congress. "The Group of 77 (and China) is constrained to seek clarification as to whether it is now the practice of senior officials of the Secretariat to report directly to national parliaments on actions taken by the membership of the United Nations," the G-77 chair Ambassador Stafford Neil said in a letter to Annan.

At a meeting of the Group of 77 last week, several delegations criticised the appearance of Annan's chief of staff Mark Malloch Brown before the U.S. Congress in Capitol Hill last month. The U.N. Secretariat, Neil pointed out, is "accountable to the (191-member) General Assembly and not to individual member states". The role of the Secretariat, he said, "is to implement the legislative mandates of the Organisation and accordingly, public utterances by Secretariat officials critical of decisions taken by the Assembly are not acceptable".

As a follow-up to the recently concluded summit meeting of world leaders, Malloch Brown recently briefed the House International Relations Committee, seeking U.S. support for the proposed reform agenda of the United Nations in four main areas -- development, security, human rights and management restructuring. "To help achieve this," Malloch Brown told U.S. Congressmen, "we rely on our friends not only in the (Bush) administration but also here in Congress. You, after all, have the power of the purse, and that ensures you an attentive audience wherever you go," he added.

Malloch Brown's visits to Capitol Hill have followed strong criticisms of the United Nations by some legislators who have not only threatened to reduce U.S. funding for the world body, but also demanded Annan's resignation over charges of fraud and mismanagement of the U.N.'s now-defunct oil-for-food programme in Iraq.

The Group of 77, on the other hand, has also objected to statements in several news media interviews where Malloch Brown took some passing shots at member states. This, Neil says, is in violation of the U.N. charter, "which requires the staff of the Secretariat to be politically neutral and to refrain from any action inconsistent with their status as international civil servants responsible only to the Organisation".

Asked about the charges of "management failings" in the U.N. Secretariat, Malloch Brown bluntly told a TV interviewer last month: "We have a hell of a structural problem. The Security Council and member states generally interfere in the management of this organisation. They've not given the secretary-general the authority or the resources or the means to run a modern organisation that can be held properly accountable to its membership". He also accused member states of interfering in the work of the Secretariat: "We instead have a highly politicised interference in the day-to-day decision-making by ambassadors and their minions." Explaining the division of powers between legislative and executive bodies in the United States and Britain, Malloch Brown said: "And in the U.N. context, the congress or legislature has run wild and has trampled all over the freedom of management to manage, so that every single post, every single mini bit of the budget has to be approved by a vast governmental committee of 191 members. And we've got to push back against that."

In his letter, Neil told Annan: "I have been requested by member states of the Group of 77 and China to write to you to express their concern regarding the content of public statements being made by senior officials of the Secretariat which the Group considers inappropriate and reflect negatively on the Organisation."

The letter also referred to the negotiations over the "outcome document" -- a global political and economic plan of action adopted by world leaders at the Sep. 14-16 summit meeting. "In this context, I have to draw attention to recent statements that were made in the media concerning the process of the negotiations among member states and the results achieved in the Outcome Document. Some of the interpretations given of motives and actions of Member States are unfortunate and regrettable." "Particularly troubling," the letter said, "is where decisions taken by Member States are not interpreted in a positive light and where views are expressed which embraced one position over another."

Asked for Annan's comments, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told IPS: "It is clear that the Secretariat is accountable to the General Assembly. The Secretariat takes its guidance from decisions reached by the member states, as it is doing with the outcome document, where the secretary-general and his senior staff are working hard to implement the decisions on which the member states reached agreement last month."

In addition, Haq said, the secretary-general has his management responsibilities to fulfill as the U.N.'s chief administrative officer, which he will continue to do. "In terms of comments made by the secretary-general and his senior staff -- they speak out when appropriate, and their comments do not favour any individual member states over others," Haq added. Since Annan is the chief administrative officer of the organisation, the Group of 77 has urged him "to ensure that actions of the staff do not compromise the high standard of professionalism nor the accepted reporting procedures of the Secretariat to the membership of the Organisation".

Don Kraus, executive vice president of Citizens for Global Solutions, a U.S.-based membership organisation that works to promote more effective and empowered international organisations like the United Nations, said G77 members complaining about appeasement of U.S. officials is "a bit of the pot calling the kettle black". "The group of spoilers who have slowed the U.N. reform process includes G77 leadership and the United States," Kraus told IPS.

Additionally, for the most part, he said, there is strong consensus across the political spectrum within the United States regarding the creation of a Human Rights Council, a Peacebuilding Commission, a Democracy Fund, and a comprehensive convention on terrorism. "For the most part, this is not about (U.S.) neocons. Where this consensus does break down is on disarmament, impunity (support for the International Criminal Court), and U.N. funding. The Secretariat certainly has not appeased on these issues," he added.

In regards to Congressional briefings, Kraus said, the U.S. Congress is making decisions about withholding U.S. assessments to the United Nations. "There is also a strong push for more voluntary U.N. funding, a push to create a U.N. a la carte. This would be disastrous, particularly for developing nations," Kraus added. Briefings by senior U.N. officials have been particularly helpful in giving legislators accurate information to make decisions on, rather than having them made based upon inaccurate media reports or slanted information spread by neocon think tanks, he said.



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