Thu, Jul 19, 2007 - Page 6 News List

UN chief accused of downgrading Africa


A powerful group of developing nations has accused UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of trying to downgrade the UN's focus on Africa by consolidating several key posts without General Assembly approval.

The Group of 77 -- which represents 132 mainly developing countries and China -- urged Ban in a letter to reconsider the changes and respect the mandates of the General Assembly.

The controversy stemmed from his decision to abolish the post of special adviser for Africa at the high rank of undersecretary-general and to expand the duties of the new UN high representative for the least developed countries, and landlocked and small island developing states.

He appointed Mali's ambassador to the UN, Cheick Sidi Diarra, to the post on July 6.

Ban told a reporter at a press conference on Monday that "the African challenge is the highest priority on my agenda" and he was in the process of reconfiguring the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa "to strengthen the United Nations focus and attention on African issues."

As part of the reconfiguration, Ban said he was going to appoint Diarra "as a focal point" at the UN dealing with African issues.

Ban said he was putting Diarra in charge of work on the New Partnership for African Development, which rewards countries that fight corruption and modernize their economies with international aid, debt forgiveness and expanded trade opportunities.

He was also going to appoint Diarra as his special representative to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

When told that Africans saw the lumping of these jobs as a downsizing of the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, Ban pointed to several Africans in key positions in his administration and said while "it may look so ... there may be a better way to use limited resources and limited posts for overall African issues."

In the letter to Ban, Pakistani UN Ambassador Munir Akram, whose country heads the G77, welcomed Diarra's appointment as high representative for the least developed countries post.

"The group is, however, deeply concerned at the decision to abolish the post of the Special Adviser for Africa and to place the UNCTAD liaison office in New York under the authority of the high representative," Akram said. "It is the prerogative of the General Assembly to modify or terminate its legislative mandates."

"Any change in the structure of the secretariat should be done with the prior approval of the UN General Assembly," he said.

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