Published: Wednesday 15 May 1996

Austerity measures to prop up the crumbling UN, hit by an acute financial crisis, has resulted in the unprecedented step of enrolling unpaid volunteers. This has become necessary, say UN officials, to continue running the organisation. The volunteers are mostly being hired to keep the UN's peacekeeping department afloat. in fact, the UN secretary general, Boutros-Boutros Ghali has also proposed the reduction of paid posts in the department of peacekeeping operations from 55 to 16, much to the annoyance of Third World countries. Protests from their quarter insist that such a move could create a 'geographical imbalance' in the department, as most of the countries who can afford volunteer military officers are from the West. Said Nalin Surie, Indian ambassador to the UN, "We believe that such an overwhelming presence of loaned officers affects the orientation of work, affects standards, creates a system of dual allegiance and adversely affects the need for institutionalisation".

The UN has been forced to resort to such measures as dues amounting to nearly three billion dollars have yet to come its way from several member countries, including the US. Rumours doing the rounds in the UN corridors even hint at a possible closure of the world body for a month during the year end. Meanwhile, it is aiming at drastic cuts in its work- force and other overhead costs which is expected to reduce US $250 million from its operating expenses.

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