The U.S.
ambassador for management and reform at the United Nations, Joseph Torsella, scolded his U.N.
colleagues today for excessive
drinking during delicate budget negotiations.

The unusual
censure reflected lingering American frustration with its counterparts' conduct
in budget negotiations in December, which one U.N.-based diplomat compared to a
circus.

"There has always
been a good and responsible tradition of a bit of alcohol improving a
negotiation, but we're not talking about a delegate having a nip at the bar,"
said the diplomat who recalled one G-77 diplomat fell sick from too much
alcohol.

As the United
States sought to rally support for a proposal to freeze U.N. staff pay in
December, it found that key negotiating partners, particularly delegates from
the Group of 77 developing countries, were not showing up for meetings. When
they did arrive, they had often been drinking.

"As for the
conduct of negotiations, we make the modest proposal that the negotiation rooms
should in future be an inebriation-free zone," Torsella said in a meeting of
the U.N. membership's budget committee, known as the Fifth Committee. "While
my government is truly grateful for the strategic opportunities presented by
some recent practices, lets save the champagne for toasting the successful end
of the session, and do some credit to the Fifth Committee's reputation in the
process."

Throughout the
budget negotiations, delegates maintained a stock of booze in a negotiating
room, according to the U.N.-based diplomat. The diplomat said that the heavy drinking
reflected a wider ethos that was aimed at stymieing changes at the United
Nations.

"I don't believe
people were saying 'alright our negotiating strategy for next two weeks will be
to drink,' but it is rather a function of delegations seeking to avoiding any
meaningful change in the negotiations and preserve the status quo."

But other
diplomats challenged that account, saying that the main representatives who
carried out the detailed negotiations were sober. They said that other
diplomats who were required to ride out the negotiations — but who had little
direct involvement in the talks — were the ones imbibing the most.

The American
complaint over drinking reflected a deeper rift between the United States and
its Western partners on one hand, and developing countries on the other, over
the way the 193-member organization approves its budget.

The U.N. budget
is generally approved by consensus — which allows the U.N.'s wealthiest
contributors a veto over budgets. But the Group of 77 (now a group of 132 developing
countries), would prefer to vote by majority. In December, the organization
broke with tradition and put a single budget measure up for a vote, which it
easily won.

In his address to
the Fifth Committee, Torsella denounced the move, saying "we believe that
consensus, which in the U.N. context is commonly defined as the absence of
objection, is the best way to ensure the interests of all parties to a
negotiation are met. This assurance has long been and remains fundamental in
securing the confidence of major financial contributors such as the United
States in the work of the organization." Only decisions adopted "by all
stakeholders by consensus can be considered legitimate, and as such we caution
our colleagues against the major consequences to the U.N. that would follow
from substituting 'majority' for 'consensus.'"

The U.N.'s main
budget committee conducts marathon negotiations during the final weeks of the
year, culminating in a series of endurance sessions that creep into the
Christmas holidays. As the talks in the U.N. budget committee go into the late
hours, some delegations have a tradition of uncorking the libations. A Western
diplomat singled out African delegations.

The drinking, in
some cases, is an integral part of the negotiations — a social lubricant
offered up to soften an adversary's negotiating position or simply a delaying
tactic to put off final decision until the final hours, when negotiators are
keen to get back home for the holidays and concessions are easier to exact.

"It's all about
the last one standing is the winner," said one Security Council diplomat who
has participated in many U.N. budget negotiations. "After three weeks together
and 20 hours a day, people start to get really comfortable enough. But if you
are dumb enough to get so drunk you can't negotiate, then you deserve [to get
out played]."

"By the way, it's
not just Africans. The Russians do it," the delegate continued. "There's
nothing new or surprising about this. Canada used to bring whisky. The French
used to bring bottles of wine," said the diplomat.

Another official,
however, came to Russia's defense, saying it was true that Moscow's diplomats
shared a bottle of vodka with their negotiating partners, but that they did so
after the proceedings were concluded.

As the U.N. began
a new session of budget negotiations this week, Torsella urged governments to try
to get the work done before Good Friday, rather than letting it slip into the Easter
Holiday. "We fully expect to conclude before the Good Friday holiday, and
believe this goal is easily achievable."

He said the United States was willing
to "take all appropriate steps" — including working outside of normal working
hours — to make sure it happens.

Follow me on Twitter @columlynch

The U.S.
ambassador for management and reform at the United Nations, Joseph Torsella, scolded his U.N.
colleagues today for excessive
drinking during delicate budget negotiations.

The unusual
censure reflected lingering American frustration with its counterparts' conduct
in budget negotiations in December, which one U.N.-based diplomat compared to a
circus.

"There has always
been a good and responsible tradition of a bit of alcohol improving a
negotiation, but we're not talking about a delegate having a nip at the bar,"
said the diplomat who recalled one G-77 diplomat fell sick from too much
alcohol.

As the United
States sought to rally support for a proposal to freeze U.N. staff pay in
December, it found that key negotiating partners, particularly delegates from
the Group of 77 developing countries, were not showing up for meetings. When
they did arrive, they had often been drinking.

"As for the
conduct of negotiations, we make the modest proposal that the negotiation rooms
should in future be an inebriation-free zone," Torsella said in a meeting of
the U.N. membership's budget committee, known as the Fifth Committee. "While
my government is truly grateful for the strategic opportunities presented by
some recent practices, lets save the champagne for toasting the successful end
of the session, and do some credit to the Fifth Committee's reputation in the
process."

Throughout the
budget negotiations, delegates maintained a stock of booze in a negotiating
room, according to the U.N.-based diplomat. The diplomat said that the heavy drinking
reflected a wider ethos that was aimed at stymieing changes at the United
Nations.

"I don't believe
people were saying 'alright our negotiating strategy for next two weeks will be
to drink,' but it is rather a function of delegations seeking to avoiding any
meaningful change in the negotiations and preserve the status quo."

But other
diplomats challenged that account, saying that the main representatives who
carried out the detailed negotiations were sober. They said that other
diplomats who were required to ride out the negotiations — but who had little
direct involvement in the talks — were the ones imbibing the most.

The American
complaint over drinking reflected a deeper rift between the United States and
its Western partners on one hand, and developing countries on the other, over
the way the 193-member organization approves its budget.

The U.N. budget
is generally approved by consensus — which allows the U.N.'s wealthiest
contributors a veto over budgets. But the Group of 77 (now a group of 132 developing
countries), would prefer to vote by majority. In December, the organization
broke with tradition and put a single budget measure up for a vote, which it
easily won.

In his address to
the Fifth Committee, Torsella denounced the move, saying "we believe that
consensus, which in the U.N. context is commonly defined as the absence of
objection, is the best way to ensure the interests of all parties to a
negotiation are met. This assurance has long been and remains fundamental in
securing the confidence of major financial contributors such as the United
States in the work of the organization." Only decisions adopted "by all
stakeholders by consensus can be considered legitimate, and as such we caution
our colleagues against the major consequences to the U.N. that would follow
from substituting 'majority' for 'consensus.'"

The U.N.'s main
budget committee conducts marathon negotiations during the final weeks of the
year, culminating in a series of endurance sessions that creep into the
Christmas holidays. As the talks in the U.N. budget committee go into the late
hours, some delegations have a tradition of uncorking the libations. A Western
diplomat singled out African delegations.

The drinking, in
some cases, is an integral part of the negotiations — a social lubricant
offered up to soften an adversary's negotiating position or simply a delaying
tactic to put off final decision until the final hours, when negotiators are
keen to get back home for the holidays and concessions are easier to exact.

"It's all about
the last one standing is the winner," said one Security Council diplomat who
has participated in many U.N. budget negotiations. "After three weeks together
and 20 hours a day, people start to get really comfortable enough. But if you
are dumb enough to get so drunk you can't negotiate, then you deserve [to get
out played]."

"By the way, it's
not just Africans. The Russians do it," the delegate continued. "There's
nothing new or surprising about this. Canada used to bring whisky. The French
used to bring bottles of wine," said the diplomat.

Another official,
however, came to Russia's defense, saying it was true that Moscow's diplomats
shared a bottle of vodka with their negotiating partners, but that they did so
after the proceedings were concluded.

As the U.N. began
a new session of budget negotiations this week, Torsella urged governments to try
to get the work done before Good Friday, rather than letting it slip into the Easter
Holiday. "We fully expect to conclude before the Good Friday holiday, and
believe this goal is easily achievable."

He said the United States was willing
to "take all appropriate steps" — including working outside of normal working
hours — to make sure it happens.

Follow me on Twitter @columlynch

The U.S.
ambassador for management and reform at the United Nations, Joseph Torsella, scolded his U.N.
colleagues today for excessive
drinking during delicate budget negotiations.

The unusual
censure reflected lingering American frustration with its counterparts' conduct
in budget negotiations in December, which one U.N.-based diplomat compared to a
circus.

"There has always
been a good and responsible tradition of a bit of alcohol improving a
negotiation, but we're not talking about a delegate having a nip at the bar,"
said the diplomat who recalled one G-77 diplomat fell sick from too much
alcohol.

As the United
States sought to rally support for a proposal to freeze U.N. staff pay in
December, it found that key negotiating partners, particularly delegates from
the Group of 77 developing countries, were not showing up for meetings. When
they did arrive, they had often been drinking.

"As for the
conduct of negotiations, we make the modest proposal that the negotiation rooms
should in future be an inebriation-free zone," Torsella said in a meeting of
the U.N. membership's budget committee, known as the Fifth Committee. "While
my government is truly grateful for the strategic opportunities presented by
some recent practices, lets save the champagne for toasting the successful end
of the session, and do some credit to the Fifth Committee's reputation in the
process."

Throughout the
budget negotiations, delegates maintained a stock of booze in a negotiating
room, according to the U.N.-based diplomat. The diplomat said that the heavy drinking
reflected a wider ethos that was aimed at stymieing changes at the United
Nations.

"I don't believe
people were saying 'alright our negotiating strategy for next two weeks will be
to drink,' but it is rather a function of delegations seeking to avoiding any
meaningful change in the negotiations and preserve the status quo."

But other
diplomats challenged that account, saying that the main representatives who
carried out the detailed negotiations were sober. They said that other
diplomats who were required to ride out the negotiations — but who had little
direct involvement in the talks — were the ones imbibing the most.

The American
complaint over drinking reflected a deeper rift between the United States and
its Western partners on one hand, and developing countries on the other, over
the way the 193-member organization approves its budget.

The U.N. budget
is generally approved by consensus — which allows the U.N.'s wealthiest
contributors a veto over budgets. But the Group of 77 (now a group of 132 developing
countries), would prefer to vote by majority. In December, the organization
broke with tradition and put a single budget measure up for a vote, which it
easily won.

In his address to
the Fifth Committee, Torsella denounced the move, saying "we believe that
consensus, which in the U.N. context is commonly defined as the absence of
objection, is the best way to ensure the interests of all parties to a
negotiation are met. This assurance has long been and remains fundamental in
securing the confidence of major financial contributors such as the United
States in the work of the organization." Only decisions adopted "by all
stakeholders by consensus can be considered legitimate, and as such we caution
our colleagues against the major consequences to the U.N. that would follow
from substituting 'majority' for 'consensus.'"

The U.N.'s main
budget committee conducts marathon negotiations during the final weeks of the
year, culminating in a series of endurance sessions that creep into the
Christmas holidays. As the talks in the U.N. budget committee go into the late
hours, some delegations have a tradition of uncorking the libations. A Western
diplomat singled out African delegations.

The drinking, in
some cases, is an integral part of the negotiations — a social lubricant
offered up to soften an adversary's negotiating position or simply a delaying
tactic to put off final decision until the final hours, when negotiators are
keen to get back home for the holidays and concessions are easier to exact.

"It's all about
the last one standing is the winner," said one Security Council diplomat who
has participated in many U.N. budget negotiations. "After three weeks together
and 20 hours a day, people start to get really comfortable enough. But if you
are dumb enough to get so drunk you can't negotiate, then you deserve [to get
out played]."

"By the way, it's
not just Africans. The Russians do it," the delegate continued. "There's
nothing new or surprising about this. Canada used to bring whisky. The French
used to bring bottles of wine," said the diplomat.

Another official,
however, came to Russia's defense, saying it was true that Moscow's diplomats
shared a bottle of vodka with their negotiating partners, but that they did so
after the proceedings were concluded.

As the U.N. began
a new session of budget negotiations this week, Torsella urged governments to try
to get the work done before Good Friday, rather than letting it slip into the Easter
Holiday. "We fully expect to conclude before the Good Friday holiday, and
believe this goal is easily achievable."

He said the United States was willing
to "take all appropriate steps" — including working outside of normal working
hours — to make sure it happens.

Follow me on Twitter @columlynch