World

US presses UN to cut peacekeeping budget by $831m

NEW YORK: A tentative deal to cut nearly US$600 million (S$831 million) from the United Nations' peacekeeping budget was reached yesterday, capping weeks of tough negotiations over US demands for a sharp reduction in costs, UN diplomats said.

Under the deal agreed by a budget committee of the General Assembly, the UN will spend US$7.3 billion on peacekeeping in the coming year, down from the current US$7.87 billion - roughly a 7 per cent cut - according to diplomats familiar with the negotiations.

The US, the biggest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping, had sought a nearly US$1 billion cut to the bill and the European Union had also pushed for savings to bring costs down to US$7.3 billion.

Hardest hit by the cuts will be UN missions in Sudan's troubled region of Darfur and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the two costliest operations with budgets that run over US$1 billion.

The closure of the UN mission in Haiti in October will also generate savings.

A Security Council diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity said there will be "cuts across the board" in the 13 missions as a result of US pressure.

But French Ambassador Francois Delattre said the cuts will allow the missions to continue their peacekeeping work "while being more efficient".

He said: "The savings proposed in the budget have been carefully targeted."

Washington pays 28.5 per cent of the peacekeeping budget.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley wants to bring the US share of the peacekeeping budget down to 25 per cent. China, Japan, Germany and France are the four biggest peacekeeping financial backers after the US.

The budget deal falls short of what UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was seeking. He had put forward a budget of US$7.97 billion for the year, which runs from July 1 to June 30, 2018.

It also drops below the budget proposal of African countries which had sought US$7.7 billion. - AFP

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