UN approves peacekeeping budget after tough debate

Photo: UN approves peacekeeping budget after tough debate
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The U.N. General Assembly's budget committee approved the budget for its far-flung peacekeeping missions Thursday after contentious negotiations pitting wealthy countries against developing nations, AP reported.

The dispute stopped the clock at midnight on June 30 and left missions in legal limbo for three days. It was over the amount of money that countries supplying troops to U.N. missions should receive per soldier for extra expenses involved in their deployment, including training, vaccinations, overseas allowances, uniforms and additional equipment.

The overall budget for the fiscal year July 1, 2014-June 30, 2015 is estimated at $8.6 billion, an increase from the $7.83 billion budget that expired on June 30. It covers 17 missions and about 100,000 peacekeepers.

By way of comparison, the U.N. notes that this is less than one half of one per cent of world military expenditures, which were estimated at $1.7 trillion in 2013.

The Group of 77, which represents 132 mainly developing countries including all the major troop contributing nations and China, wanted the U.N. to reimburse governments contributing troops $1,763 per month per soldier, a huge rise from the average amount of $1,210 last year.

The United States, European Union, Japan and South Korea, which pay the vast majority of peacekeeping costs, balked at the amount, estimated at about $700 million this year.

In a compromise proposed by the committee chair, the reimbursement level will rise effective July 1 to $1,332 monthly per soldier - the largest increase in 35 years at 17 percent - and in steps to $1,410 on July 1, 2017.

Western negotiators said the initial increase will cost about $200 million and will be offset by $200 million in cuts from the budgets of the peacekeeping missions across Africa, the Middle East, on the India-Pakistan border and in Haiti.

The 193-member General Assembly was scheduled to rubber stamp the committee's approval later Thursday.

Susana Malcorra, the chief of staff to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, told the committee it was crucial that it maintained its principle of adopting the budget by consensus rather than resorting to a vote for the first time. But she expressed concern that the three-day delay "may send an unprecedented signal of uncertainty" about the financing of peacekeeping missions. She expressed hope that the committee examine "lessons learned" and prevent any delays in the future.

"I think there are no winners and losers here today," said U.S. Minister-Counselor Stephen Lieberman, echoing the importance of consensus. "We walked to the edge of the precipice but we didn't fall over the abyss."

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