Friday, March 28, 2008

"Do more." costs more

In the United States, criticism of the United Nations is old news. For years critics have drummed the "Do more." beat, urging the 63-year-old international organization to be more efficient, more effective, to keep the peace and feed the poor, here, there, and everywhere. A number of recent articles underscore an obvious response:
"Do more." costs more.
The Washington Post's Colum Lynch reported that the United Nation has just

presented its top donors with a request for nearly $1.1 billion in additional funds over the next two years -- boosting current U.N. expenses by 25 percent and marking the global body's highest-ever administrative budget ...
Lynch attributed the increased to "Bush administration demands for a more ambitious U.N. role around the world," with particular reference to Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Sudan/Darfur.
And as for those U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur, there's this report from Lydia Polgreen of the New York Times:

The force, a joint mission of the African Union and the United Nations, officially took over from an overstretched and exhausted African Union force in Darfur on Jan. 1. It now has just over 9,000 of an expected 26,000 soldiers and police officers and will not fully deploy until the end of the year ....
Even the troops that are in place ... lack essential equipment, like sufficient armored personnel carriers and helicopters, to carry out even the most rudimentary of peacekeeping tasks. Some even had to buy their own paint to turn their green helmets United Nations blue ...
Nor is it just peacekeeping operations that are in dire straits. The Los Angeles Times' Tracy Wilkinson reported that rising food and fuel prices have spurred another U.N. agency to declare a global food emergency:

The World Food Program called on donor nations for urgent help in closing a funding gap of more than $500 million by May 1. If money doesn't arrive by then, Executive Director Josette Sheeran [left] said in a letter to donors, the WFP may be forced to cut food rations 'for those who rely on the world to stand by them during times of abject need.'
Official U.S. response? Despite linkages between some U.N. programmatic weaknesses and the strength of U.S. demands, in the Post article Zalmay Khalilzad, the United States' Permanent Representative to the United Nations, criticized the ballooning budget:
'I want to have a Ferrari, but if I can't afford it I would have to take something else or defer' additional spending .... 'There have to be trade-offs; there has to be savings from reforms.'

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