Global Policy Forum

US Drops Insistence on UN Budget Cap for 2006


By Evelyn Leopold

June 26, 2006

The United States will drop its insistence that rich nations withhold funds from the U.N. budget next month unless management reforms are enacted, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said on Friday. But he warned that, while the President George W. Bush's administration was in favor of paying U.S. dues in full this year, Congress might not be so amenable because of the slow pace of reforms.

Under pressure from the United States, U.N. members agreed in December to tie the budget for this year's second half to management improvements. "While the expenditure cap is going to come off this week one way or another, it would not be right to conclude from that that we made substantial progress or any progress at all on management reform," Bolton told reporters. He said the United States, which pays about a quarter of the U.N. budget, had always intended to pay its dues in full. But "the question is whether Congress shares that perspective," Bolton said. "The measure we think for Congress will be the extent of real reform. As of this point there is not much reform to talk about."

The move to tie the U.N. budget to management improvements was aimed at pressuring developing nations into approving the reforms. Instead it backfired, angering poor nations who accused wealthy countries of trying to secretly seize control of the world body from the full membership. The cap was demanded by rich nations, which contribute more than 80 percent of the U.N. budget, although developing nations make up the vast majority of the world body's membership.

Bolton said the United States, Australia and Japan had circulated a draft General Assembly resolution that he hoped would be adopted, which outlined a process for reform. These include giving Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his successors limited freedom to move around staff and resources, eliminate unneeded reports, and cut back on the estimated 900 programs mandated by the assembly.

Many U.N. members had braced for a budget crisis after developing nations joined forces in April to stall management overhaul plans aimed at giving Annan more flexibility. The draft resolution now being circulated marks a major scaling back of the initial reform plan, giving Annan flexibility to shift around far less money and staff.

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