US denounces wealthy-nation discounts for UN peacekeeping

Washington has been trying to convince several countries to reduce their discounts in order to cover the $220 million annually which Washington no longer wants to pay. (File/AFP)
Updated 23 December 2018
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US denounces wealthy-nation discounts for UN peacekeeping

  • Peacekeeping financing is determined by a complicated formula that takes into account a country’s wealth, its standing as a permanent Security Council member and other factors
  • UN member states failed to reach a deal to make up for a $220 million budget black hole left by Washington’s downsizing of its peacekeeping contributions

UNITED NATIONS, United States: The United States on Saturday denounced at the United Nations a system of discounts for the peacekeeping assessments of wealthy nations, and confirmed Washington will pay no more than 25 percent.
The comments came a day after UN member states failed to reach a deal to make up for a $220 million budget black hole left by Washington’s downsizing of its peacekeeping contributions.
The discounts demonstrate an “urgent need to reform,” said Cherith Norman Chalet, the US Ambassador for UN Management and Reform, referring to countries whose “per capita income is more than twice the average of the organization’s membership.”
She did not identify those countries.
Her comments came during the adoption of a resolution renewing until 2021 contributions to the UN operating budget, which is $5.4 billion for 2018-19, and to the peacekeeping budget of $6.6 billion annually.
The United States is the largest contributor, whose share is 22 percent of the operating budget and 28 percent for peacekeeping.
President Donald Trump announced in September, however, that Washington would pay no more than 25 percent for Blue Helmet operations.
Washington has been trying to convince several countries to reduce their discounts in order to cover the $220 million annually which Washington no longer wants to pay.
Peacekeeping financing is determined by a complicated formula that takes into account a country’s wealth, its standing as a permanent Security Council member and other factors.
“These discounts are without justification and have no basis in any methodology and should be eliminated,” Chalet said.
“Nearly half of member states receive an 80 percent discount to their assessments on the peacekeeping scale.”
Diplomats said that, in their quest for a better sharing of the financial burden, the US had approached Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Singapore, Brunei, Brazil, Mexico and India.
Those efforts were in vain.
Ambassador Nikki Haley, who leaves her post on December 31, could have been involved in the battle but surprisingly abandoned it, a diplomat said.
Overnight Thursday-Friday Washington finally joined a consensus to maintain the status quo on key budget issues for another three years, diplomats said, meaning the UN’s financial shortfall will continue to grow.
On Saturday the 193 member states formally confirmed the consensus.
But the financial dispute is not going away.
“The United States is going to attack mission after mission” to eliminate them or reduce the costs, the diplomat predicted.
A second diplomat said that even “without legal basis” Washington “will pay only 25 percent and accumulate the arrears.”
Chalet assured that “the United States takes its obligations to the United Nations seriously and its partnership with the organization and with other member states.”
However, she added that “lack of agreement on a 25 percent ceiling will cause the organization to continue to face a three percent shortfall in its peacekeeping budget as the United States will pay no more than 25 percent of peacekeeping expenses.”


‘Results’ needed from Myanmar over Rohingya return: UNHCR head

Updated 24 May 2019
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‘Results’ needed from Myanmar over Rohingya return: UNHCR head

  • A UN fact-finding mission called for Myanmar’s top generals to be prosecuted for “genocide”
  • Myanmar pejoratively labels the Rohingya as “Bengali,” implying they are illegal interlopers

YANGON: Myanmar must “show results” to convince Rohingya refugees to return, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Friday at the end of his first visit to Myanmar since the crackdown against Rohingya Muslims in 2017.
A brutal military campaign in western Rakhine state forced some 740,000 Rohingya over the border into Bangladesh.
Around one million Rohingya now languish in sprawling refugee camps from various waves of persecution.
A UN fact-finding mission called for Myanmar’s top generals to be prosecuted for “genocide” and the International Criminal Court (ICC) has started preliminary investigations.
During his visit Grandi spoke with both Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine Buddhist communities in Maungdaw and Buthidaung in northern Rakhine, the epicenter of the violence.
He also held discussions with officials in capital Naypyidaw, including civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, describing all talks as “constructive.”
“My message is: ‘please accelerate’, because it has been very slow in the implementation in this first year. We need to show results,” he told AFP in an interview in Yangon.
“This is not enough to convince people to come back,” he said.
Grandi visited the camps in Bangladesh in April.
The two countries have signed a repatriation agreement but so far virtually no refugees have returned, fearing for their safety and unconvinced they will be granted citizenship.
Myanmar pejoratively labels the Rohingya as “Bengali,” implying they are illegal interlopers and the community has had its rights eroded over decades.
Gaining independent access to northern Rakhine is difficult with most journalists, observers and diplomats only allowed on brief chaperoned visits.
Grandi defended the UNHCR’s involvement in a plan by the Bangladeshi government to move some 100,000 refugees onto low-lying island Bhashan Char.
The area in the Bay of Bengal is prone to flooding and cyclones.
Rights groups oppose the scheme that has also so far been universally rejected by the Rohingya themselves.
The refugee agency must be “involved” to have the necessary information in order to take a stance on the issue, Grandi said.
“We’re still at that stage, no more than that.”
He also visited camps near Rakhine’s capital Sittwe, where nearly 130,000 Rohingya have been confined since a previous bout of violence in 2012.
Myanmar has announced it will close the camps but many are skeptical the displaced will enjoy more freedoms.
Grandi said the UNHCR would reconsider its role in providing services if conditions did not substantially improve.
“To simply transform the camps, upgrade the camps, upgrade the houses, for example, but leave them in the same situation will not be a solution,” he said.