UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. General Assembly approved an increase of about 5 percent to cover the United Nations' regular operations in 2012-2013 on Monday evening, raising the two-year budget to about $5.4 billion but delaying action on a key proposal that would allow greater mobility of U.N. staff.
It took the U.N.'s budget committee until Monday afternoon to reach agreement on a host of budget-related issues after meeting all weekend. The 193-member world body finally voted by consensus on Christmas Eve to increase the budget by about $243.3 million from the $5.15 billion agreed on last December.
More than half the increase is due to additional costs for some of the 33 special U.N. political missions which include U.N. envoys for Syria, Yemen, Libya and Sudan-South Sudan and large operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon failed to win assembly approval for a key proposal — allowing the U.N. Secretariat greater flexibility to move staff from headquarters to the field. Negotiators said they came close to agreement, but the issue was delayed until the General Assembly meets again in March.
The assembly also approved new rates that all U.N. members pay for the regular budget.
China, Russia, Brazil and other countries with growing economies will have to pay an increased share, European Union contributions will drop, and the U.S. ceiling for the regular budget will remain the same at 22 percent.
U.S. deputy ambassador Joseph Torsella said the United States "is pleased by the significant progress we were able to achieve toward advancing fiscal discipline during a period of significant global financial difficulty and setting the United Nations on the path of increased efficiency."
The United States is also pleased to have kept the 22 percent ceiling and to have negotiated a budget outline for 2014-2015 "that instills real financial discipline by keeping the U.N. budget level constant over several years," he said.
The budget includes a first-ever pay freeze for New York-based staff for six months, and Torsella said the United States will try to extend it because "it is important that member states finally recognize that 'business as usual' cannot continue in the current financial climate."