General Assembly approves nearly $4.2 billion UN budget despite US opposition
Following marathon talks that lasted through the night, the Assembly adopted the 2008-2009 budget early Saturday morning by a vote of 142 to 1. The US, which contributes around 22 per cent of the world body's budget, was the only country to vote against the plan, citing concerns that the actual budget would be significantly higher than what was approved with all the add-ons.
Welcoming the Assembly's decision, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon thanked Member States for their efforts "to reach a budget level for the United Nations sufficient to preserve efficiency and fiscal discipline, while maintaining the priorities of the Organization."
A statement issued by his spokesperson added that Mr. Ban "regrets that the resolution was not adopted by consensus, marking a break with tradition after 20 years," and urged all Member States to "return to consensus decision-making and to demonstrate a greater sense of flexibility and compromise."
In other action, the Assembly approved $1.28 billion for the UN-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) for the period 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008. The 26,000-strong peacekeeping force was established by the Security Council earlier this year to take over from a much smaller AU force that had been unable to quell the violence in the war-wracked Sudanese region.
It also authorized over $182 million for UN Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) which was set up to help protect civilians and facilitate humanitarian aid to thousands of people uprooted due to insecurity in the two countries and neighbouring Sudan.
In addition, the Assembly set the 2008-2009 budgets for the international war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia at nearly $268 million and $348 million, respectively.
The 192-member body unanimously adopted a comprehensive UN strategy on assistance and support to victims of sexual exploitation and abuse by the world body's personnel. It also approved several other texts, including those relating to the UN Human Rights Council and global efforts to eliminate racism, as it concluded the main part of its 62nd session.
Wrapping up what he called a "busy, dynamic and constructive" period of work, Assembly President Srgjan Kerim noted important developments relating to climate change, the set of global anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and the blueprint for the renovation of the UN Headquarters complex (Capital Master Plan).
He stressed that it was the combined will of Member States that created that vital driving force behind the Assembly. "I therefore encourage you to take the initiative and strive for results," he said, urging delegations to return from the holidays ready to continue their joint venture.