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Ban's UN Reorganization Plan Hits Snag


Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's opening attempt to reorganize the U.N. bureaucracy is running into stiff resistance from developing countries. VOA's correspondent at the U.N. Peter Heinlein reports Mr. Ban's restructuring proposal has thrust him into the middle of a simmering power struggle.

Little more than one month into his term as secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon has hit what one diplomat calls "his first reality check".

Mr. Ban went to the General Assembly Monday to ask for speedy approval of his plan to restructure the burgeoning peacekeeping department and the department of disarmament affairs. The plans are backed by the United States, Japan and the European Union, which together pay most of the world body's bills.

But a powerful bloc of developing nations known as the Group of 77, which represents 133 countries, a vast majority of the Assembly's 192 members, signalled it wants to take a long look at the proposal. G-77 President Pakistan's U.N. Ambassador Munir Akram said he sees no need to rush.

"The group of 77 feels there should be open process of consultation," said Munir Akram. "We do not think there should be any arbitrary deadline."

Another influential G-77 member, Ambassador Nirupam Sen of India says many countries that contribute troops to U.N. military operations are concerned about proposed changes in the peacekeeping command structure.

"There have to be further discussions with the member states," he said. "And there are laid down processes, and in these discussions we have to go into the details as to how the unity of command on the field will be preserved."

The G-77's go-slow approach revives the tensions between wealthy and less developed blocs that have stymied previous U.N. reform efforts.

Germany's U.N. Ambassador Thomas Matussek, representing the European Union, warned that dragging out the process could derail Secretary-General Ban's reform momentum.

"We can't afford to be bogged down by technicalities because of the big challenges and tasks coming down the road," said Thomas Matussek.

Acting U.S. Ambassador to the U.N Ambassador Alejandro Wolff describes the restructuring issue as a test of Secretary-General Ban's ability to overhaul the world body's inefficient bureaucracy.

"It is his responsibility to deliver a secretariat that's responsive," he said. "Does its work well, that is efficient, transparent. We hold him accountable for that and ought to give him the authority to do the necessary changes, implement the necessary restructuring that he believes is essential for him to do that, and we will judge him by results."

Israel's Ambassador Dan Gillerman says the new secretary-general is learning some tough lessons about the world body's in-built resistance to change.

"Ban Ki-moon, for whom I have a lot of respect and who obviously prepared this with great diligence and great commitment, is probably learning right now that changing anything here is very difficult," said Dan Gillerman.

There was no immediate word on how long it might take to reach a decision on the restructuring plan, or what it might look like after negotiations.

The important budget committee, which must approve the additional expenditures, is not scheduled to meet until early March.