NGOs appeal to U.S. Congress to pay up

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 27 (G-77/IPS) - A coalition of 138 U.S. organisations has written to their Senators and representatives in Congress, demanding full funding of the United Nations. ‘’We raise an urgent call for responsible U.S. leadership in the United Nations, and fulfillment of our legal, financial, and moral obligations to the world body,’’ says the letter addressed to all 535 members of the U.S. Congress. The coalition says that during the past year, the United Nations has undertaken ‘’constructive reform’’ to make the organisation ‘’more effective, more efficient and more responsive to the collective needs of member states.’’ ’’The United Nations has cut staff, adopted increasingly stringent budgets, instituted management reforms and adopted new personnel performance standards,’’ the coalition writes. Led by the New York-based U.N. Association of USA (UNA-USA), the coalition cuts across a broad spectrum of U.S. society, including ethnic, religious, academic, business, labour, and women’s groups. The signatories include the War and Peace Foundation, the League of Women Voters, the Sierra Club, the Institute of World Affairs, Save the Children, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the American Jewish Congress and the U.S. Committee for Refugees. Washington currently owes about 1.6 billion dollars to the world body. But influential members of the right-wing dominated Congress say funding should not be approved until Secretary- General Kofi Annan has radically restructured the U.N. system. Reforms being sought include additional drastic cuts in staff and U.N. programmes and the elimination of U.N. bodies and agencies perceived as "redundant" by Washington.