A deal on cutting nearly US$600 million from the UN peacekeeping budget was reached on Wednesday following weeks of negotiations over US demands for sharp cost reductions, UN diplomats said.
Under the deal reached by a UN General Assembly budget committee, the UN is to spend US$7.3 billion on peacekeeping in the coming year, down from US$7.87 billion — roughly a 7 percent cut — according to diplomats familiar with the negotiations.
The US, the biggest financial contributor to peacekeeping, had sought a nearly US$1 billion cut to the bill and the EU had also pushed for savings to bring costs down to US$7.3 billion.
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley claimed victory in a statement, saying: “Just five months into our time here, we’ve already been able to cut over half a billion dollars from the UN peacekeeping budget and we’re only getting started.”
Hardest hit by the cuts are to be the UN missions in Sudan’s troubled region of Darfur and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the two costliest operations with budgets that run to more than US$1 billion.
However, a UN Security Council diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity said there would be “cuts across the board” in the 13 peacekeeping missions as a result of US pressure.
Washington pays 28.5 percent of the peacekeeping budget and 22 percent of the UN’s core budget of US$5.4 billion.
French Ambassador to the UN Francois Delattre said the deal will allow UN missions to “fully implement their mandate while being more efficient.”
“The savings proposed in this budget have been carefully targeted,” Delattre said.
The deal falls short of the request from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who had asked for US$7.97 billion for the annual budget which runs from tomorrow to June 30 next year.
It also is less than what African countries had proposed: they wanted US$7.7 billion for the UN missions.
The deal is expected to be approved by the UN General Assembly today.
The UN Security Council was expected to vote as early as yesterday on significant cuts to the 17,000-strong joint African Union (AU)-UN mission in Darfur known as UNAMID.
Britain on Wednesday circulated a draft resolution that provides for a two-stage drawdown over the next 12 months, in line with the recommendations of a joint AU-UN report released last month.
The measure would cut UNAMID force levels to reach 8,735 troops and 2,500 police by June next year, a 44 percent cut in military personnel and nearly 30 percent in police, according to the draft text obtained by reporters.
The drawdown could be reviewed if the Sudanese government fails to ensure protection in those areas from where the peacekeepers would withdraw.
Under the proposed measure, Guterres is to report to the council after six months on whether “conditions on the ground remain conducive to further reductions.”
The draft resolution welcomes a “reduction in military confrontations between government forces and rebel groups,” but rights groups say that the conflict in Darfur is far from over.
Human Rights Watch has criticized the proposed cuts as “misguided,” saying civilians in Darfur still need protection.
Darfur has been engulfed in conflict since 2003, when ethnic minority insurgents mounted a rebellion against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, complaining that his Arab-dominated government was marginalizing the region.
The UN has shut down its mission in Ivory Coast and is planning to pull its peacekeepers out of Haiti in the coming months.
France late on Wednesday circulated a draft resolution on renewing the UN mission in Mali, but no cuts are planned.
The mission would continue to operate with 13,289 troops and 1,920 police, according to the resolution.
A vote on renewing the Mali mission could take place as early as yesterday.
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