A US ambassador to the UN has scolded his colleagues for excessive drinking during budget negotiations. With stocks of booze in the negotiation room, the talks have been slow to progress, prompting one diplomat to call them a “circus”.
Frustrated with his drunk and unproductive colleagues, US
ambassador for management and reform Joseph Torsella on Monday
addressed the issue.
“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,” Torsella told his UN colleagues, describing a recent occasion when one diplomat got sick from alcohol poisoning during the negotiations.
“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,” he added.
The Fifth Committee, which is the assembly’s budget body, each year holds the record for the longest negotiations on spending. Lasting for many days and nights on end, the committee often tries to finish up its annual spending negotiations before the annual winter holidays in December. The current budget negotiations are likewise expected to take many long days and nights as delegates impatiently try to finish up before the Easter holidays.
While some pass the time getting drunk, others are required to pick up the slack of their inebriated counterparts.
“On one occasion the note-taker who was meant to be recording the talks was so intoxicated he had to be replaced,” a US official told AFP while speaking on condition of anonymity.
Some UN representatives have been “falling down drunk,” another diplomat said.
Angered by the “circus” of the drawn-out UN budget negotiations, US diplomats have been calling for a ban on drunks, which they believe are responsible for ruining the talks.
"It's all about the last one standing is the winner," one Security Council diplomat, who has participated in many U.N. budget negotiations, told Foreign Policy Magazine. "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]."
The diplomat described the French bringing wine, Canadians bringing whiskey and Russians bringing vodka. But while many nationalities consume alcohol at the negotiations, the heaviest drinkers appear to be delegates from the G-77 group of developing countries, who were frequently skipping out on the meetings.
Some diplomats have responded to the accusations angrily, claiming that not everyone drinks at the negotiations.
“It is absolutely not the case that everyone at the talks is drunk,” a diplomat told AFP. “All the people doing the negotiating are sober.”
But facing sleepless nights and rowdy behavior, the US ambassador is not amused, and made a vague threat against those who choose to surpass their drinking limit.
"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," Torsella said.