Commentary and Newsletters

Anne Bayefsky

UN deputy advises donors just hold your nose and pay

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

In May the UN General Assembly rejected management reform efforts in a vote which saw the countries paying 87% of the bill consigned to the minority. Now the UN secretariat is pressing the case for approval of the remainder of the 2006-07 budget (and their own salaries) regardless of the loss. UN Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown, for example, believes that the countries holding the purse strings should just keep on paying, despite the failures of UN reform. Says Malloch Brown, "developing countries have been marginalised in decision-making, which has led us to where we are." Yesterday, he also dredged up the usual scapegoat for UN failures - the United States and American Ambassador John Bolton.

Malloch Brown ought to take a closer look at the record of voting at the UN General Assembly - which is after all the UN body that (together with its offspring and associated bodies) produces nine-tenths of UN output.

The Group of 77 controls 132 of 191 votes in the General Assembly. In the 2005 fall UN General Assembly the United States was in the minority 76.5% on all votes held. But Malloch Brown explains the unwillingness of developing countries to agree on management reform by saying: "This was not an issue of just management. This was about power and the future control of the organisation." If not the General Assembly, then power where? He then points to the Security Council.

In other words, UN champions want to have it both ways: control of the General Assembly, the budget and the results, without responsibility, coupled with more seats on the Security Council in the name of representation alone. At the UN, the name of the game is "representation without taxation."