The United Nations (UN) has reached an agreement to overhaul its budget. This comes from the pressures from the United States especially from Congress and the Chairman of its Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Jesse Helms who wanted substantial reforms in the way the UN was run and to lower US contributions to the world body.This means that Singapore's' contribution will increase together with other developing countries that have shown rapid economic growth to make up the difference.
Singapore's combined US$3 million payments could possibly reach US$14 million in 2002. This is a substantial increase but something that will not hit our pockets very hard. It would not be of great significance to the average Singaporean, nevertheless the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will have to be more accountable to parliament in years to come of our expenditure to the UN.
Think Centre, called on some of the NGOs based in Washington on their reactions to this new budget agreement. They felt that Congress has now achieved some of their aims in reforming the UN and will be able to concentrate on some of the hard issues of the coming years more effectively. This means that Congress would not stonewall lobby groups for UN initiatives for peace, free trade and human rights. There will also be less of US politicians trying to "politicise" the reform debate with other matters of the UN agenda.
On Singapore's increased contribution, some have said that it was only fair that Singapore increased its budget contributions to the world body. One person of the NGO community, interviewed by the Think Centre said that "Singapore has always enjoyed great publicity in the world stage. For a country that is so small they do have a powerful intellectual presence and have articulated defensive postures on human rights and world trade that many other countries latch on to. Yet all this was done without substantial contributions to the UN especially with respect to their GNP. Maybe it is time for Singapore to walk the walk for all their talk."
This also means now that Singapore will no longer enjoy being solely seen as a member of the South even though our diplomats will insist that we are still part of the South. Even though it will receive a 7.5% discount by 2002 for peacekeeping initiatives, its increased budget means that there will be more of an accountability factor for our small republic in world issues. Even though there will be no dramatic shift in Singapore's quest for economic security as its number one priority, the accountability factor for its increased budget and also higher profile as a new member of the security council will mean reconsidering our position on human rights, small arms, land mines and environmental protection. It also means that we have to make some hard decisions on conflict areas that could possibly be at odds with our neighbours. This means being sandwiched by the developed world and the developing world. Already reports from some of our neighbours have indicated that they are not too pleased with Singapore's bilateral trade agreements with countires from the North especially the USA. It will be another challenge for our small republic but a good one nevertheless.