UN 2014-2015 Budget Includes Slight Spending, Staffing Cuts

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaks to the media following a U.N. Security Council meeting at United Nations
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaks to the media following a U.N. Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013. The Security Council voted to temporarily increase the U.N. peacekeeping force in conflict-torn South Sudan to 12,500 troops from 7,000, a nearly 80 percent increase. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

By Michelle Nichols

Dec 27 (Reuters) - The United Nations General Assembly on Friday approved a $5.53 billion U.N. budget for 2014-2015, down 1 percent from the total spending during the previous two years.

The new biennial budget includes a 2 percent staffing cut, or some 221 posts, and a one year freeze in staff compensation.

The so-called core U.N. budget that was adopted does not include peacekeeping, currently running at over $7 billion a year and approved in separate negotiations, or the costs of several major U.N. agencies funded by voluntary contributions from member states.

As in past years, the biennial budget negotiations were marked by a tussle between poor countries seeking to raise U.N. development spending and major developed countries, which are the biggest budget contributors, trying to rein in the figures as they struggle to reduce expenditures in their own national budgets.

Fiji's U.N. Ambassador Peter Thomson, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing nations, said the 2014-2015 budget "represents the best that we as member states can muster at this time of continuing austerity in the world economy."

He said the G77 bloc supported the budget "with deep concern that budgetary austerity may negatively effect the development pillar of the work of the United Nations."

Critics of the United Nations, especially in the United States, have long charged that it is a bloated and sometimes corrupt bureaucracy that wastes taxpayers' money.

U.S. Deputy Ambassador Joe Torsella, who focuses on U.N. management and reform at the U.S. mission, said the 2014-2015 budget marked a "new commitment to real fiscal discipline at the United Nations at a tough time for hardworking families around the world."

"Our shared goal should be to ensure that the United Nations can maximize the results that it delivers with the amount of resources that member states are collectively able to provide," Torsella said.

The United States, which pays 22 percent of the U.N. budget, is the biggest financial contributor to the United Nations. (Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Toni Reinhold)