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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2703

U.N. Chief Faulted for Undermining General Assembly

Thalif Deen, UN Bureau Chief, Inter Press Service

United Nations, 19 July, (IPS) : The largest single coalition of developing nations is accusing Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of undermining the General Assembly -- the U.N.'s highest policy-making body -- by his proposed unilateral action to make structural changes in programmes relating to Asia, Africa and Latin America.

In a letter of protest to Ban, the 130-member Group of 77 (which also includes China) took the unusual step of demanding that the proposed "changes be reconsidered and the mandates legislated by the General Assembly be fully respected."

Ambassador Munir Akram of Pakistan, the chairman of the Group of 77, challenged the secretary's general's authority to circumvent the 192-member General Assembly.

"It is the prerogative of the General Assembly to modify or terminate its legislative mandates," Akram said.

Any change in the structure of the Secretariat, he told the secretary-general, should be done with the prior approval of the U.N. General Assembly.

The protest letter followed a decision by the secretary-general to strengthen the mandate of the High Representative and Under-Secretary-General for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.

As a result, the new appointee as high representative, Ambassador Cheick Sidi Diarra of Mali, is expected to take over the additional functions of the Office of the Special Adviser for Africa and also serve as a focal point for all economic and social issues dealing with the New Partnership for African Development.

As a consequence of this, the secretary-general has decided to eliminate the post of Special Adviser for Africa which was at the level of an under-secretary-general, the third-highest-ranking in the U.N.secretariat.

Additionally, the New York liaison office of the Geneva-based U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), which deals with trade and other economic issues dealing with all 130 developing nations, will also be brought under the umbrella of the new high representative.

In his letter, Akram said that while welcoming the appointment of Ambassador Cheick Sidi Diarra as the new high representative, the G77 was "deeply concerned at the decision to abolish the post of the Special Adviser for Africa and to place the UNCTAD Liaison Office in New York under the authority of the High Representative."

"The Africans are particularly upset and angry since the secretary-general is effectively consolidating three appointments (and their respective support offices) into one," a G77 delegate told IPS.

He said he has never seen such a strong outpouring of anger by African diplomats at a G77 meeting.

"Either the secretary-general is being wrongly advised, or he doesn't realize he is only the servant of the General Assembly. He cannot make the decision first and later come to the General Assembly for approval," the G77 delegate said.

In the original draft circulated to members, the G77 took a even stronger stand against the secretary-general.

The draft said: "It is not a prerogative of the Secretariat to act on matters of such great importance before seeking the approval of the General Assembly."

"The Group of 77 and China would like to reiterate its opposition to any attempt to undermine the role and authority of the General Assembly in reviewing and approving changes to the structure of the Secretariat," the draft added.

Still, the revised version was equally critical of the secretary-general's decision to change legislative mandates of the General Assembly.

In the letter, Akram also said: "Africa's development is an established priority of the United Nations. Given the serious challenges faced by the African continent in poverty eradication and in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the continent should continue to receive special attention and resources from the United Nations."

Although the U.N. chief of staff Vijaya Nambiar has written a letter to the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) indicating that the secretary-general will submit written proposals to the upcoming 61st session of the General Assembly, the G77 was not formally consulted about any of the proposed changes.

"The intention to merge operations," Nambiar admitted, will require the submission of a formal proposal through the ACABQ.

The primary reason for the merger, according to the secretariat, is to maximise the use of limited budgetary resources.

But the G77 is of the view that the proposed consolidation is a subtle
attempt to reduce resources allocated to developing country programmes.

The G77 has also challenged the "limited budget" argument by pointing out that the secretary-general had no qualms about freely increasing the budget for U.N. Security Council activities such as peacekeeping operations, prompted mostly by Western nations. The Group of 77 said it "believes that the growing role of the United Nations in the field of development fully justifies the allocation of increased budgetary resources to its development activities and mandates."

"We therefore do not accept that limited resources imply the need for consolidating programmes in the development field while increased allocations are made to peace and security and other areas of the budget."

In view of these facts, "it is an overwhelming desire of the Group of 77 and China that the specific functions, responsibilities and objectives assigned by the General Assembly, to the High Representative, the Special Adviser on Africa and the mandate of UNCTAD should maintain their distinct roles."

The Group of 77 further stressed that urgent attention be given to the appointment of Special Adviser for Africa.

Asked about his proposed restructuring plans, Ban told a news
conference Monday he was planning to strengthen, not weaken, the U.N.focus on African issues.

He said his plans were to "integrate and consolidate" the various
programmes relating to Africa.

"The African challenge has the highest priority in my agenda," Ban
said, pointing out that he has number of "special envoys" dealing with African issues.

He also said that one of his first appointments was an African woman as deputy secretary-general: Asha-Rose Migiro of Tanzania.

Less than a month after he took office last January, Ban also came
under heavy fire from the 117-member Non-Aligned Movement when he
decided to make structural changes in the Department of Disarmament Affairs and also create a new Department of Field Support for peacekeeping operations without formal consultations with member states.

After months of discussions and negotiations, the General Assembly
approved a modified version of his proposed plans last month.

- Inter Press Service (IPS) News Agency -

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