Skip to comments.UN may quit Australia
Posted on 09/23/2002 12:58:34 PM PDT by Dundee
UN may quit Australia
THE UN may close its Australian headquarters as part of sweeping reforms to the world body unveiled by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan early this morning.
The move would symbolise the end of an era for the UN in Australia there has been an office in Sydney since 1948, when Ben Chifley was prime minister.
The decision to review the future of the UN's Australian headquarters comes as the world body is under pressure from Canberra to take a strong stand on Iraq.
Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer warned this month that the UN could go the way of the defunct League of Nations if the Security Council did not stand up to Saddam Hussein.
But the UN says any decision to close its Sydney office would be the result of financial pressures and a reorienting of priorities rather than because of friction with the Government.
The move would leave only the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Canberra as the flag-bearer for the world body in Australia.
Early today Mr Annan proposed the most radical shake-up of the UN since 1997 to make the organisation more effective at a time when its very future is being questioned.
His report, An Agenda For Further Change, calls for a leaner, meaner UN with an increased focus on the issues of conflict prevention, the war against terrorism and the impact of globalisation.
Mr Annan's agenda calls for a stronger focus on human rights and for a "new impetus" on reform of the Security Council to make it more representative of global realities a process which has all but stalled.
The UN's Under-Secretary-General for public information, Shashi Tharoor, told The Australian from New York that the UN would review the future of its Australian headquarters as part of a global shake-up of its offices.
He said no final decision would be made until next year, but said the budget of $US300,000 ($548,000) for the UN office in Sydney was insufficient for it to properly carry out its mandate. "We would need to gauge can we find the resources," he said.
The UN's six-person Sydney office is responsible for informing government, the public and media about UN decisions and promoting the UN's agenda in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.
Its importance lies in its symbolism rather than its size.
"The office symbolically is a constant reminder that Australia is a founding member of the UN and that Australia is a country involved and engaged in international issues,' the director of the UN in Australia, Juan Carlos Brandt, said yesterday. "It would be a sad development (to close down)."
Mr Annan's reform package comes amid an ongoing financial crisis at the UN, where unpaid dues have reached $US2.11 billion.
Ironically Australia pays its dues in full and on time each year.
Mr Annan's report calls for a wholesale re-evaluation of the work the UN does.
"The organisation as a whole should be better focused with fewer but more productive meetings, and fewer but more useful documents," the report says.
No fair, we asked first.
Translation: "How can the Security Council be used to counter US unilateralism if the US is allowed to remain a permanent member?"
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