February 22, 2006

Developing states counter US on peacekeeping forum

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.S. Ambassador John Bolton on
Wednesday chairs the first of two sessions on financial and sex
scandals in U.N. peacekeeping operations, prompting a slew of
criticism from developing nations against big powers.

The content of the meetings are less in dispute than the
fact they are being held at all in the powerful 15-member
Security Council, which is responsible for war and peace and
approves peacekeeping ventures.

But the General Assembly, which includes all 191 U.N.
members, is in charge of financing, including for peacekeepers,
and oversight of the U.N. bureaucracy. It is frequently
overshadowed by the council whose five permanent members have
veto power.

South Africa, head of some 132 mainly developing countries
known as the Group of 77, accused Bolton of "encroachment" on
General Assembly prerogatives in holding the meetings.

But Bolton, this month's Security Council president, said
that since both bodies were responsible for peacekeeping,
either one could call for a debate.

"If the Security Council never created any peacekeeping
operations, there would not be an examples of procurement,
waste, fraud and abuse in peacekeeping," he said on Tuesday.

At the heart of the dispute on jurisdiction is a struggle
over major management reforms in the General Assembly, with the
secretariat that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan heads
accusing the assembly of micromanagement.

In turn, many assembly members perceive the United States
and other Western nations of riding roughshod over their
interests and distribution of jobs.

Mark Malloch Brown, Annan's chief of staff, addresses the
Security Council on Wednesday on U.N. probes into contract
rigging and waste in peacekeeping operations. On Thursday, the
council hears from Jordan's ambassador, Prince Zeid Raad
Hussein, who has surveyed sexual abuse among peacekeepers.


The conflict escalated last week when two members of the
U.S. House of representatives, Republican Henry Hyde and
Democrat Tom Lantos, accused the Group of 77 of "working
feverishly" to block efforts "to clean up the institution."

The congressmen responded to a letter South Africa's U.N.
Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo wrote to Annan on February 6
accusing his staff of bypassing the assembly in commissioning
audits, suspending officials under investigation and briefing
reporters rather than the assembly members.

Kumalo stressed at a news conference on Tuesday that the
group too expected action "in cases of corruption, fraud or any

But he said the "voice of every member state must be heard
and respected during this reform process irrespective of the
contribution made to the budget."

"This is encroachment," Kumalo said of the Bolton-chaired
meetings. "We have long watched Security Council encroachment
on General Assembly turf."

Bolton has frequently noted that the United States pays 22
percent of the regular budget and 27 percent for peacekeeping.
Japan pays some 20 percent and the European Union collectively
contributes more than 35 percent of the budget. However, most
of the peacekeeping troops come from developing nations.

In response, Kumalo said the United Nations was an
intergovernmental organization and "not a corporation with
people who own class A stock and class B stock."

"We are all assessed ... on our ability to pay," he said.

After a debate within the council on who could speak at the
meetings, Kumalo said he would be allowed to address the
council. He said he would do this "very reluctantly" because
the issues "are very important to our membership."