UN ‘needs financial support to be effective’

THE United Nations needed the financial support and resources of its member countries to play a more effective role in maintaining peace and security, former UN secretary-general Javier Perez de Cuellar said yesterday.

He said that the main problem his successor Dr Boutros Boutros-Ghali would face was to secure the financial commitment of countries like the United States to aid future peacekeeping operations.

“The United Nations should be given the necessary means of embarking on very serious and well-organised preventive diplomacy. For that it needs money,” said Mr Perez de Cuellar.

He was responding to a question on a possible UN role in the Middle East peace process at a luncheon organised by the Foreign Correspondents Association.

Mr Perez de Cuellar, who headed the UN for 10 years until he stepped down in December 1991, said that a UN involvement in the peace process was “right” in principle, but stressed the need for financial commitment from member countries.

“The Middle East problem is a complicated affair and will incur an enormous cost,” he said.

Last month, Dr Boutros-Ghali told the 184 member countries that the UN, owed more than US$2 billion (S$3.2 billion) in unpaid dues and was facing its worst financial crisis.

He said that UN members between them owed US$848 million in regular budget dues and another US$1.2 billion for peacekeeping operations.

The US, which pays about one-quarter of the regular budget and nearly a third of the peacekeeping budget, owed about US$836 million. Russia, Japan and Germany had paid their regular budget dues but still owed money for peacekeeping operations.

Mr Perez de Cuellar, who is now special adviser to the UN, also said that the world body had no independent resources to assume the role of preventive diplomacy. “The superpowers have satellites … but the UN has nothing. The UN doesn’t have embassies, the centres we have in the different countries are not entitled to act as political observers.”

He said he believed that the UN Security Council could have averted Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait had America and the former Soviet Union informed the UN of the 100,000 troops at the border of Kuwait and Iraq.

“I would have convened a meeting of the Security Council immediately to avert a war,” he told his audience of about 120 executives, diplomats and journalists at the Raffles hotel.

When asked to comment on over-expenditure and corruption in the UN, he said: “Like any other institution, the UN can be improved. But I would refute claims that the UN is a centre of corruption and irregularities.”

Turning to the region, he said that South-east Asia had the opportunity to be “an enormous economic power in the Pacific region” once Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia joined it.

Closer home, he said that Singapore, despite its small size, had played an “active role” in world peace by contributing troops to international peacekeeping operations.

Mr Perez de Cuellar, who was here on a private visit, arrived on Sunday.

He left last night.

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