Prodded by the Trump administration, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) has gone into an austerity mode cutting the peacekeeping budget for the next accounting year by about $570 million or 7.25 per cent.

After arm-twisting by US Permanent Representative Nikki Haley, whose country foots 28 per cent of the peacekeeping budget, the UNGA approved on Friday the scaled down budget covering 14 operations for the 2017-18 accounting year that starts on Saturday.

Initially the 2017-18 budget will be for $6.8 billion, with about $500 million added on for two missions being downsized, bringing it up to a total of $7.3 billion, against the 2016-17 figure of $7.87 billion.

The additional $500 million is for the missions in Haiti and Sudan’s Darfur region. The military component of Haiti operations will end in October, while a smaller police mission will continue.

On Friday, the Security Council voted to sharply reduce the size of the Darfur operation.

Some of the savings comes from ending the peacekeeping operation in the Ivory Coast on Friday as the UN assesses the needs for and scope of its missions.

Each country’s compulsory contribution to the peacekeeping budget is set by the UNGA based on a complex formula that takes into account its economic status, while the permanent members of the Security Council pay a premium assessment.

India’s share is 0.474 per cent of the peacekeeping budget.

“The overall level (of the 2017-18 budget) is meaningfully smaller than what we had last year, but we will make every effort to ensure that the mandates are implemented,” Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, told the media after the UNGA vote.

“We cannot overstate the value of peacekeeping to achieve peace and stability,” he added. “It remains the most cost-effective instrument at the disposal of the international community to prevent conflicts and foster conditions for lasting peace.”

The budgetary process is a tangle of the UNGA, the Security Council and the UN organisation is built into the budgetary process.

While the Council decides on the peacekeeping missions, the UNGA votes the funding for them. And the UN as an organisation has to make the operations fit the budget.

US President Donald Trump has vowed to slash foreign aid and contributions to international organisations and Haley, the Indian-American cabinet-level official, has made that her mission at the UN.

After an agreement was reached on Wednesday among the diplomats at the UN on the budget cuts – though far less than the $1 billion that the US wanted – Haley said: “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.”  

First Published | 1 July 2017 9:44 AM
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