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UN reform must not stall long-term budget planning

UN reform must not stall long-term budget planning, Annan says

Secretary General Kofi Annan called on Member States of the United Nations to divorce the urgent consideration of reform of the Organization from the equally critical need to pass a biennium budget by the end of the year, without which ongoing operations would be straight-jacketed.

"The business of the UN is not reform," he said, but rather it is about carrying out the mandates it has been given. "That business must continue," he asserted at an assembly that was part of today's Staff Day celebration.

The General Assembly is in the throes of up-to-now slow-moving negotiations on new ways for the UN to deal with human rights, peace building and management reforms agreed on at the 2005 World Summit as well as the budgetary implications of these new initiatives.

UN Controller Warren Sach told a news conference yesterday that proposals to fund the world body for just the first three months out of the next biennium so as to postpone confrontations over reform might leave it in serious financial straits early next year.

At a press encounter this morning, Mr. Annan rejected the notion that United States representative John Bolton had recommended the cancellation of Mr. Annan's departure for Asia this weekend, though at the assembly he said part of his reason for staying was the crisis caused by the "suggestion by a government that we should not be given the two-year budget but maybe a temporary, three-months or so budget.

"This doesn't work for the United Nations," he said. "We are an organization of Member States and we live on the contributions made by our Member States."

He said that the 191 Member States are given assessments in the beginning of the year and very few of them pay on time. The organization lives on the early contributions "until the stragglers come along and pay."

"So if you were to decide not to pass a budget and assess the member states, you are going to run into a financial crunch." That, along with some other developing crises, was why he decided to postpone his trip.

If a biennium budget was adopted on time, an adjustment of assessments could be still be made, possibly around June next year, once reform measures had been agreed upon, he added.

After meeting with Member States representing various negotiating groups on reform, Mr. Annan said he had stressed to them the urgency of finding consensus, particularly on such issues as management and the proposed Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council.

At the same time he reiterated that the reform issue must be separated from the budget, so that the organization could continue its work while it pressed ahead with reforms.

"At the end everyone agreed that a budget was needed and we must have a budget but at the same time we should find some means of maintaining the pressure for reform, so that one doesn't believe that we've now got a budget and we have nothing else to do," he said.

He decided not to go to Asia, he said, because the organization is entering a critical period in both the budgetary reform processes.

"I had expected things to move much further than we are so I decided to stay on and work with the Member States through these problems," he said.

"The trick is to make sure that a difficult situation doesn't turn into a crisis one, he added. "And that's what I'm working on."

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