Warning that the United Nations is facing “a moment of truth,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan is urging all UN Member States to tone down their rhetoric over a proposed package of reform measures and join forces to reach a sensible compromise that will prevent a budget crisis and pave the way for more fundamental change later.
“It is time for those who really care about reform to come together and form a new coalition – one that bridges the artificial, destructive divide between north and south and brings together all those who are willing to work together because they share the vision of a UN that really works, for the benefit of all the world’s peoples,” the Secretary-General said in an op-ed article published today in The Financial Times.
The situation, he noted, stemmed from a decision made by Member States last December when they adopted a budget for the current 2006-2007 biennium, but gave the UN “authority to spend only enough to carry us through the first six months.” The main contributors, led by the US, insisted that this spending cap should be lifted only when there is significant progress on UN reform.
“We are now perilously near the deadline and it is far from clear that enough reform to satisfy them has been achieved,” the Secretary-General wrote. “Neither side has found a way of engaging with the other to agree on further reforms.”
In the midst of this stalemate, he recalled a “minor storm” broke out last week when Mark Malloch Brown, the Secretary-General’s deputy, made a speech suggesting that the US should engage more fully and wholeheartedly with other members of the UN to bring about reform.
“That is absolutely right, but he and I believe the same message needs to be heard in many other countries besides the US,” he said, maintaining that that country is trying to use “the power of the purse” to force through the badly needed reforms and the tactic has provoked a negative reaction among developing countries, who see “overwhelming influence of a few rich countries.”
It was crucial to get passed this impasse in order to get on to the full scope of reforms that needed to be accomplished in the organization, including updating the Security Council, which would require greater political vision on the part of all governments.
“But even while we wait for political vision to catch up with the scale of today’s challenges, we have vital work to do right now - programmes that have been mandated by members and provide essential services to people in acute danger or need,” he said.
“We must not let that work be stalled,” he urged.