G-77 welcomes UK decision to stay in UNIDO

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 1 (G-77) - The Group of 77 has welcomed a move by Britain to reverse its decision to quit the U.N. Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO).

''The Group of 77 thinks it is a very important signal,'' Ambassador Daudi Mwakawago of Tanzania, chairman of the Group of 77 said. He said he was ''encouraged by recent developments in the United Kingdom which has a new government with a clear mandate.'' ''We welcome their return,'' he said.
Since it was elected to office in May, the new Labour government led by Prime Minister Tony Blair has decided to return to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) from which it withdrew in 1995, and to reverse the previous government's decision to quit UNIDO by the end of 1997.

Britain's decision to leave the Vienna-based UNIDO was followed by a U.S. pullout in January 1997. Australia and Germany, on the other hand, have both threatened to withdraw from UNIDO which is already facing a severe cash crisis.

Asked if he expects other countries to follow the UK example, Mwakawago said: ''I don't want to say there is a domino theory at work. But we hope that UK's return (to UNESCO) will also have an important impact on others.''

The London Financial Times reported that the UK decisions relating to UNIDO and UNESCO symbolise Britain's desire to actively participate in U.N. operations.

''The government believes rights and responsibilities lie at the heart of the international as well as the domestic agenda,'' Claire Short, Britain's International Development Secretary, was quoted as saying.

Since the United States pulled out in January 1997, UNIDO has been embroiled in a cash crisis. The U.S., which owes about 68 million dollars in outstanding debts accumulated since 1993, accounted for about 25 percent of the UNIDO's annual budget of about 70 million dollars. The Clinton Administration has said it will not pay the outstanding dues even though UNIDO has a legitimate right to it.

UK accounts for about 7.4 percent of the budget, Australia about 2.1 percent and Germany 12.6 percent.

Following UK's return to the Paris-based UNESCO, UNIDO Director-General Mauricio de Maria y Campos said that he was glad to discover that Europe was moving towards a very positive environment in terms of international solidarity.
He said that the new Labour Party ''is supportive of the developing world.'' ''Recent events in France go in the same direction,'' he said referring to the socialist-led election victory in that country.

Maria y Campos said that ever since Washington had stopped paying its dues, he had undertaken a comprehensive restructuring of UNIDO with a 25 percent cut in the budget and a reduction in staff by 36 percent in four years, to some 800.

The Group of 77 last month wrote a letter to British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook urging the UK to reverse its decision to quit UNIDO.

''The member states of UNIDO, including members of the European Union, recently noted with great satisfaction that the reform of the Organisation has gone far beyond what has been done in other U.N. agencies, funds and programmes in equal need of reform,'' the letter said.

''The 132 members of the Group of 77 from Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean strongly believes in the importance and necessity of multilateral cooperation for development in a rapidly changing and increasingly interdependent world,'' it added.
''We remain convinced that industrial development cooperation, more than ever before, is a priority concern of the international community,'' the letter added.

Last month the Executive Coordinator for U.N. Reform Maurice Strong expressed reservations about the future of UNIDO. ''It was an organisation which if it is not reformed should die,'' he said.

However, Strong noted, that he believed UNIDO could be reformed as there were important areas where developing nations needed help. He cited energy and technology where a revitalised UNIDO could assist.

''If UNIDO were to remain as it is then it might not be abolished but would probably die,'' he added.