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UN Week – 1/24/11

January 25, 2011

by John and Douglas Carey, editors, www.unweek.blogspot.com

Contents of this issue: US Congress member shooting at fish in a bowl; Holocaust remembrance at the UN.

US Congress member shooting at fish in a bowl.

The new Chair of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, last July called the UN a “stew of corruption, mismanagement and negligence,” according to Bloomberg News on January 21st. She plans a hearing tomorrow for UN critics.

As in times past, those in Congress who find the UN an attractive target because it is virtually defenseless, are talking about making US dues voluntary rather than compulsory.

 This view ignores the binding nature of each UN Member State’s financial obligations to the Organization. The UN Charter in Article 17 sets forth in simple terms the way revenue is to be raised from Members: “(2) The expenses of the Organization shall be borne by the Members as apportioned by the General Assembly.”

Article 19 sets forth the penalty for delinquency, loss of vote. Whether or not one concedes that Members have a legal obligation to pay their share, and on time, there certainly is a moral obligation. And any major power should set an example by making its contributions in full and on schedule. Still, attempts have been made in the past to bully the UN from the sanctuary of Congress.

During the Clinton Presidency, negotiations with Congress resulted in the Helms-Biden UN Reform Act of 1999, tying US payments to certain changes. US arrears were paid up Before Clinton left office but built up again during the Bush Presidency. The Secretary-General says he will go to Washington to present the UN’s case for US payment of its dues.

US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice made the following comments to the press on January 18th:

“Reporter: Ambassador, we have now entered an election year for Secretary General. What is the US view of the Secretary General’s performance in the first term? Does it support him and is there concern on the part of the US Mission about the chairman of the House and Foreign Affairs Committee tying US dues to performance of the UN as the Republican majority takes over the House? “

Ambassador Rice: On the second question, let me say that I very much look forward to working with leaders of both Houses on the important issue of our budget request, and President Obama has made clear that we’re fully committed to paying our dues in full and on time. And that remains the strong view of the Administration and we’ll be looking forward to working with Congress to ensure that that’s possible.

“With respect to the Secretary General’s – the Secretary General election, which is upcoming, Bill, this will not be the forum in which I announce a US position but clearly the United States has worked very constructively and productively with this Secretary General. We have been grateful for his leadership on a number of important issues, and we continue to talk about the ways we can work together to strengthen this institution, to make it more efficient, more cost effective, and to improve its performance.”

 Mr. Ban’s task in facing Congress would be less awesome if he did not have to explain what is going on it the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services. USA TODAY reported on January 20t that the acting head of OIOS, Michael Dudley, is under investigation for allegedly having retaliated against two whistle-blowers in the office.

According to the UN web site, “The Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) was established in July 1994 as an operationally independent office that assists the Secretary-General in fulfilling his internal oversight responsibilities in respect of the resources and staff of the Organization through monitoring, internal audit, inspection, evaluation and investigation. The Office has the authority to initiate, carry out and report on any action it considers necessary to fulfill its responsibilities with regard to its oversight functions.”

Holocaust remembrance at the UN.

A UN press release advises that, “Two exhibitions on the Holocaust will open to the public in the Main Gallery of the Visitors Lobby on Tuesday, 25 January, as part of a week-long series of Holocaust remembrance activities at the United Nations. The International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust is 27 January and the theme of this year’s observance is ‘Women and the Holocaust: Courage and Compassion’.

 “The exhibition ‘The Memories Live On’ presents drawings of Auschwitz made by an unknown prisoner of the concentration and death camp and focuses on the legacy of the survivors to young people. This exhibit is sponsored by the International Auschwitz Committee in Germany, the State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland, the International Youth Meeting Centre Oświęcim/Auschwitz in Poland, the German Resistance Memorial Centre in Germany, the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations and the Permanent Mission of the United States to the United Nations.

“’Hélène Berr, A Stolen Life’, curated by the Mémorial de la Shoah in France, will also be on display. Through excerpts of the journal kept by Ms. Berr, a young Jewish woman, this exhibition documents the persecution of Jews in occupied France during the Second World War. Ms. Berr died in Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp in 1945.

“’Jewish women performed truly heroic deeds during the Holocaust. They faced unthinkable peril and upheaval — traditions upended, spouses sent to the death camps, they themselves torn from their roles as caregivers and pushed into the workforce, there to be humiliated and abused,’ said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki moon. ‘In the face of danger and atrocity, they bravely joined the resistance, smuggled food into the ghettos and made wrenching sacrifices to keep their children alive. Their courage and compassion continue to inspire us to this day.’

“Holocaust remembrance activities at the United Nations are led by the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme of the Department of Public Information. The programme, as established by General Assembly resolution 60/7, aims to mobilize civil society for Holocaust remembrance and education, in order to help prevent future acts of genocide.”

 That’s all for this January 24th issue of United Nations Week: News and Views. We’ll be back with the next issue. Meantime, do send your own views on these or other UN-related issues to http://www.unweek.blogspot.com

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