China org: China celebrates 30 yrs of conserving biodiversity




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UN chief asks Congress for more funding. Republicans less than thrilled
Christian Science Monitor, 7 April 2011, Howard LaFranchi
http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Foreign-Policy/2011/0407/UN-chief-asks-Congress-to-protect-funding.-Republicans-less-than-thrilled


With UN-assisted operations taking place in Libya and Ivory Coast, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon may have thought he chose a good time to make the case for continued strong US financial support of the United Nations

But when he made the trip from New York to Washington on Thursday, what the secretary-general got instead was a wall of Republican resistance – to funding US foreign-policy operations in general and the UN in particular.

The UN needs “robust financial support from the United States” to carry on its global-security, development, education, and health work, Mr. Ban told reporters on a day of meetings with congressional leaders. But with Washington more focused on prospects for a government shutdown as a budget stalemate dragged on, the message for Ban was more one of slashed US support.

The US pays 22 percent of the UN budget and 25 percent of UN peacekeeping operations, and President Obama has requested $3.5 billion for the UN in his FY 2012 budget.

But in the House, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R) of Florida, let it be known that if she gets her way, the days of the US sending a check to pay a large chunk of the total UN budget will be over.

In addition to reduced overall US spending on the UN, Representative Ros-Lehtinen favors an a la carte approach under which the US would pick and choose among UN programs, funding only those it likes or deems effective.

Ban said he has told his top managers to plan on a 3 percent reduction in spending. Ros-Lehtinen dismissed that as a gesture akin to “forgoing a cost-of-living increase.”

Also on the Hill Thursday was Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN. In testimony before the Foreign Affairs Committee, she tried to portray the UN as a security bargain for the US, pointing to Libya and UN contributions to the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the Republicans in front of her would have none of it.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R) of California said it is an “incredible demand” to ask US taxpayers to pay 22 percent of the UN budget in the midst of an “economic crisis” – and especially when the billions of US dollars are provided with “no strings attached.”

Ambassador Rice cautioned the committee that if the US treats its UN bill “as an a la carte menu,” this would encourage other countries to do the same – in the long run resulting in a stiffer financial burden for the US.

Ban found himself on friendlier turf when he made his way to the Democratic-controlled Senate. With Ban looking on, Sen. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters it would be “unwise and even dangerous” for the US to reduce its presence on the world stage.

Ban ended the day with a stop at the State Department and a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.


Republicans argue to cut U.S.'s share of UN budget
Ottawa Citizen, 8 April 2011,
Steven Edwards
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Republicans+argue+share+budget/4579767/story.html


UN chief Ban-Kimoon scrambled Thursday to justify the multi-billion-dollar cost of running the world body as pressure rose in the United States -the UN's biggest funder -to cut contributions.

As Ban spent the day in Washington, there was potentially more trouble on the horizon as Japan -the UN's second biggest contributor -said it was considering cutting its foreign aid budget by 20 per cent to help fund its recovery from last month's earthquake and tsunami.

The two countries provide around 35 per cent of the billions the UN spends each year on aid programs and peacekeeping operations.

Ban met with U.S. legislators debating how to reform the UN, telling them he agreed it was "important for U.S. dollars to go as far as possible -especially in hard economic times." But he also argued the UN delivers an "outsized return" on investment in its work in hot spots around the world.

"The United Nations does on a daily basis what no country can do alone," Ban told members of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives.

He said the United States and the UN "share the same goals" -whether the focus be on operations in troubled countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan and Haiti, or "on reforming the UN itself."

But the committee's Republican chairwoman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, is a harsh critic of the UN, having long called it a bloated bureaucracy with an opaque budget.

Amid the wider Washington debate in which U.S. lawmakers are looking for ways to reduce the country's $1.4 trillion deficit, Ros-Lehtinen is about to table an updated version of her 2009 bill that would overhaul the way the United States pays its dues to the world body.

While the 192-member UN General Assembly now decides how much each country must pay, Ros-Lehtinen says Washington should be able to choose the programs it wants to fund.

"America, not UN bureaucracies or other countries, should determine how much taxpayer dollars are spent on the UN, where they go and for what purpose," Ros-Lehtinen said at the start of a hearing on the issue Thursday.

Called to testify, Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the UN, said the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama opposed that proposal.

"Treating our bills as an à la carte menu would invite others to follow suit -and would likely lead to greater financial burdens on the United States," she argued. "It would leave us having to pay more for the programs we care most about."

The Obama administration has made a far greater effort to "engage" with the UN than did the administration of former president George W. Bush -but has made little headway in persuading the world body to become more efficient.

The current UN "assessment" for the U.S. amounts to 22 per cent of the "regular" operating budget of about $5-billion over two years.

But that is only a fraction of the UN system's total spending on peacekeeping -to which the U.S. must contribute around 25 per cent -and sprawling agencies such as the Development Program, the World Food Program and the World Health Organization.

In "core" contributions, Canada must pay more than 3.2 per cent of the total, but dozens of countries pay less than $35,000.

While Japan has not sought cuts in its UN assessment, some analysts say pressure could mount for such a move as lawmakers there discuss the proposed 20 per cent cut to the $6.7 billion set aside for overseas aid.

Republicans took control of the House in the 2010 election, but Ros-Lehtinen's office says she is reaching out to legislators on both sides of the political aisle for help in pushing through her bill.


Clean-Energy Investment Is Placed at Risk as UN Climate Negotiations Stall
Bloomberg:, 7 April 2011, Jim Efstathiou Jr
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-04-07/renewable-energy-investments-at-risk-as-un-climate-negotiations-stall.html

Clean energy investment that totaled $243 billion last year is at risk of slowing as talks on curbing greenhouse gas emissions bog down, said the United Nations official in charge of promoting industrial development.

Kandeh Yumkella, director general of the UN Industrial Development Organization, said $40 billion a year is needed through 2030 to bring basic energy to 3 billion people, and part of those funds are linked to the outcome of 192-nation negotiations on global warming that hit a roadblock in Bangkok this week.

The talks are aiming to unlock $100 billion a year in aid for developing nations to cope with rising sea levels and more volatile weather, which scientists say are caused by damage to the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels.

“We want to keep that pressure up because we have a feeling that pledges can be made but the cash doesn’t move,” Yumkella said in an interview at a UN conference in New York today. “If there’s a continued slowdown in investment in clean energy it takes longer to build them up again.”

In the strongest criticism yet of the UN talks, Todd Stern, the lead U.S. climate negotiator, said yesterday that a binding treaty is “unnecessary” and may not be “doable.” His remarks limit the chances of a breakthrough this year and underscore the rift between rich nations and developing ones including China, India and Brazil.
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