General Assembly Votes to Block U.N. Reforms

In a widely expected vote, the U.N. General Assembly blocked reform proposals that would have given Secretary-General Kofi Annan more budget power.

A powerful bloc of developing nations said the reforms would rob them of powers over the U.N. budget. Because of their overwhelming numbers, the developing nations were able to get their way over rich nations that pay more than 85 percent of U.N. finances and had supported Annan's proposals.

The Monday vote to approve a recommendation from the General Assembly's main budget committee — 121-50 with two abstentions — could set up a showdown over the U.N. budget in June. The U.N. is now operating under a six-month budget cap that can only be lifted if member states conclude enough progress has been made on reform.

At the heart of the debate were two proposals that would take some power away from the General Assembly, where each of the 191 member states gets one vote.

One would give more power over the U.N. budget to a small group of nations. The other would empower the secretary-general to decide when to cut staff and make other managerial decisions.

The developing nations said they were committed to U.N. reform but that Annan's proposals would violate the U.N. Charter by placing power in the hands of a few.

"The suggestion was made that to reform the United Nations that some countries would not count and their voices would not count," said South Africa's Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, the group's chairman.