Let’s make alcohol-free budget talks, US tells UN diplomats

Let’s make alcohol-free budget talks, US tells UN diplomats

UNITED NATIONS - Agence France-Presse
Let’s make alcohol-free budget talks, US tells UN diplomats

Hürriyet photo

The United States has called for drunk diplomats to be barred from budget negotiations at the United Nations and warned of taking all appropriate steps to maintain more discipline in the wake of past, unpleasant incidents.

“We make the modest proposal that the negotiating rooms should in future be an inebriation-free zone,” Joseph Torsella, deputy U.S. ambassador for management and reform, told the U.N. General Assembly’s budget committee on March 4.

The assembly’s budget body, the Fifth Committee, holds marathon negotiations in December each year on spending and national contributions. These often last all night for several days in a row so that a vote can be held before the end-of-year holidays. The United States is not calling for a ban on alcohol, just on drunks, U.S. officials said.

Some envoys have turned up for talks “falling down drunk,” said one diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. “On one occasion the note-taker who was meant to be recording the talks was so intoxicated he had to be replaced,” said another. Both spoke on condition of anonymity.

But the comments have caused some controversy. “It is absolutely not the case that everyone at the talks is drunk. All the people doing the negotiating are sober,” said a third diplomat.

“While my government is truly grateful for the strategic opportunities presented by some recent past practices, let’s save the champagne for toasting the successful end of the session, and do some credit to the Fifth Committee’s reputation in the process,” Torsella said.

Throughout the budget negotiations, delegates maintained a stock of booze in a negotiating room, according to a U.N.-based diplomat. “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 another diplomat who recalled one G-77 diplomat fell sick from too much alcohol.

“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. “By the way, it’s not just Africans. The Russians do it,” he said, adding that there’s nothing new or surprising about this. “Canada used to bring whisky. The French used to bring bottles of wine.”

Another Russian official also admitted that 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.
Torsella soberly called on his colleagues for more discipline and an end to attempts to block accords by failing to turn up for negotiations.

 He warned that if “negotiators do not arrive on time for meetings scheduled on nights and weekends, or simply refuse to meet on a specific item in order to run down the clock, we must conclude that they do not share a commitment to negotiating in good faith, and we will respond accordingly.”