US criticizes UN for failure to cut budget

AP News
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Posted: Sep 29, 2011 10:01 PM
US criticizes UN for failure to cut budget

The United States criticized the U.N. on Thursday for not making deeper cuts in its proposed $5.2 billion budget for the next two years amid an economic crisis that has forced member states to make far greater sacrifices.

Ambassador Joseph M. Torsella, U.S. representative for management and reform to the United Nations, told the U.N. budget committee that the current plan eliminates just 44 positions from a work force of 10,307 _ a mere 0.4 percent.

At the same time, said Torsella, an expected "onslaught of add-ons" could push the current proposal for the 2012-13 budget as high as $5.5 billion.

U.N. member states including Brazil, South Africa and Mexico are finding ways to do more with fewer resources, he added.

The world economic crisis "has made financial resources ever more scarce, made efficient outcomes ever more important, and made leaders _ including every one of us in this room today _ ever more accountable to the citizens we represent for the fiscal decisions we make," he said.

Torsella said that U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon early this year called on managers to trim 3 percent from their proposed spending plans, but "not all of the organization has risen to the challenge set by the Secretary-General."

For a decade, the U.S. ambassador said, the U.N. operating budget has grown "dramatically, relentlessly, and exponentially: from $2.6 billion in 2001-2002, to $5.4 billion in 2010-2011."

He said that growth has significantly outpaced the growth of the budgets of nearly all member states that fund the world organization through assessments.

Torsella said the U.S. called for a comprehensive, department-by-department, line-by-line, review of this budget in hopes of achieving "a real, meaningful, and sustainable reduction in expenses."

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Florida Republican who chairs the U.S. House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee, recently introduced legislation to pressure the U.N. to adopt a voluntary funding system.

With more than 50 Republican co-sponsors, the legislation proposes to withhold half of the U.S. nonvoluntary regular budget contributions if, after two years, 80 percent of the U.N. regular budget is not funded on a voluntary rather than assessed basis.

The U.S. State Department has criticized the proposed legislation as "backward" and says it would undercut American standing in the world.

The U.N. regular budget is shared by all 193 U.N. member states. Each country's assessment is based on its economy. The United States is the largest single contributor, responsible for 22 percent of the regular budget.