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Top U.N. financial contributors, developing nations clash over reform
The Associated Press (apwire)     Email Article  Print Article 
Published 2006-04-25 09:30 (KST)   
NICK WADHAMS

UNITED NATIONS

In an acrimonious debate, rich nations who pay most of the United Nations budget warned poorer nations on Monday not to stand in the way of U.N. management reform, and hinted at a showdown that could plunge the world body into a cash crisis.

South Africa, speaking on behalf of 132 developing nations and China, shot back by accusing U.N. critics ''in Washington and elsewhere'' of a smear campaign meant to portray the United Nations as dysfunctional.

The debate in the chief U.N. budget committee underscored the bitter rivalry between wealthy and poor nations over the fate of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's demand for a management overhaul that would streamline U.N. operations, cut jobs and give him more budget authority.

Poor nations fear that Annan's proposals, unveiled in March, are an attempt by richer nations to wrest control of the U.N. finances away from them _ their key power in the 191-member General Assembly, where there are no vetoes.

Last week, the Group of 77, led by South Africa, went before the budget committee with a resolution asking Annan to elaborate on his reform ideas with up to 10 new reports.

The United States, the European Union, Japan and other leading contributors to the annual US$2 billion (euro1.62 billion) U.N. budget accused the developing countries of introducing the resolution to stall the reforms. Some of the proposals were approved by a summit of world leaders last September.

''They should realize we pay 82 percent of the budget and we're not going to have this sort of imposition on us by the draconian tactics by the G-77 at the moment,'' Britain's Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry said. ''If they want to play with fire, they're going to get their fingers burnt, that's clear.'' On Monday, the G-77 heldoff calling for a vote on its resolution until Thursday to allow time for more talks. The group would almost certainly have enough support to pass the resolution despite objections from the main financial contributors.

At the heart of the dispute is a fundamental difference in opinion about how the U.N. should be run. Nations that contribute the most fear their money is being wasted in a U.N. system that has not seen serious reform since its creation after World War II.

But poorer nations fear they are being marginalized by the rich and powerful, and argue that they have just as much say, even if they do not pay as much.

South Africa's U.N. Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo accused the United States and others of portraying poorer nations as anti-reform and said they had ulterior motives _ to make the U.N. look ''dysfunctional.'' ''There is an attempt to paint the U.N. as a body that is not functioning properly,'' Kumalo said. ''There are people out there in Washington and elsewherewho have the view that the U.N. is dysfunctional, so all this is made to sound like, 'Look how dysfunctional this is.''' U.S. Ambassador John Bolton raised the threat of a budget crunch if the reforms are put off.

In December, the U.N. agreed to a US$950 million (euro768.3 million) spending cap for 2006 that could only be lifted if sufficient reforms were implemented. Member states will reconvene in June to decide whether enough progress has been made, and the U.S. and its allies could threaten to withhold their dues.

''It would be a debacle for the reform process and effectively could spell the end of the reform process,'' Bolton said of the G-77 proposal. ''The terms of the budget cap are clear. We'll see what happens.'' For now, neither side appears likely to compromise.

Kumalo and the G-77 insist they will not scrap their proposal seeking more detail on the reform; the United States and others say the resolution is a nonstarter.

Annan himself refused to enterintothe debate except to say the United Nations was ''at a critical stage.'' ''I would urge them to put aside their differences and focus on the interests of the organization,'' he told reporters Monday.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter The Associated Press

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