Over the past two years, the United Nations has published an
astonishing number of documents on how to reform itself. Its many
reports are a welcome acknowledgment of the serious flaws and
problems that plague the United Nations, and they offer many useful
assessments of its weaknesses as well as recommendations to
remedy those weaknesses. Sadly, however, little is being done
to implement these recommendations. The timing of the reports,
coming on the heels of the Oil for Food scandal, merely
highlights the continuing reluctance and inability of the
United Nations and many of its member states to confront and
fix its internal problems before they erupt into even more
The most recent reform report, Delivering as One, was
released on November 9, 2006. It recommends a number of steps to
revamp the U.N.'s development, humanitarian, and environment
activities. Some of its recommendations are useful, others less so;
but it pointedly serves as a reminder of how few of the
recommendations in the previous reports have been adopted.
Reports are useful only if they are acted upon, and acknowledgment
of problems is no substitute for resolving them.
It is past time for fundamental reform of the United Nations.
The election of the new Secretary-General presents an opportunity
to reinvigorate the drive to improve the hopelessly archaic and
inefficient system of duplicative and outdated mandates and
problems with management, oversight, transparency,
accountability, human resources, and other fundamental
day-to-day operations. The United States should work with
Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon to change those practices that are
within his authority and to press the General Assembly to adopt
many of the positive proposals already put forth.
The Latest Report: More Smoke Than
Delivering as One, the latest report on U.N. reform by
Secretary-General Kofi Annan's High-Level Panel on U.N. System-wide
Coherence in the Areas of Development, Humanitarian Assistance, and
the Environment, offers a lengthy list of recommendations in
these areas. Outgoing Secretary-General Annan was quick
to praise the report: "We all now have a solemn obligation to seize
the opportunity the panel has offered, and to take its
recommendations forward with the same energy and sense of urgency
that its members devoted to formulating them." This statement
illustrates that there is no shortage either of analysis of
problems afflicting the U.N. or of proposals to fix those
problems. There is, however, a great deficit among the U.N.
member states and within the U.N. bureaucracy when it comes to
Over the past several years, three major scandals-- the
corruption of the Iraqi Oil for Food program, sexual abuse
committed by U.N. peacekeepers, and corruption and mismanagement in
U.N. procurement--spurred calls for management reforms,
stronger oversight and accountability, increased transparency, and
reexamination of U.N. priorities and organization to bolster
effectiveness. The scandals provoked a series of reports and
resolutions identifying the problems and proposing solutions. For
- The U.N. High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and
Change submitted its report, A More Secure World: Our Shared
Responsibility, to the Secretary-General in 2004. The
Secretary-General established the High-Level Panel to review the
capabilities of the U.N. to respond to threats in the 21st century,
and the report suggests a number of reforms to better equip
the organization to confront current and anticipated security
challenges. Among the issues addressed were the notion of effective
collective security, the identification of future threats to
international peace and security, the need to promote sustainable
development as an aspect of security, conflict prevention, the use
of force and peacekeeping, terrorism, and weapons of mass
- Secretary-General Annan issued his report, In Larger
Freedom: Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for
All, in March 2005 as an update on the Millennium Declaration
and to serve as a follow-up to the High-Level Panel report. This
report focuses on assessing progress toward implementing the
Millennium Declaration and recommends reforms to increase and
enhance the capacities of the U.N. in the areas of development,
security, and human rights by making specific recommendations on
good governance, the rule of law, democracy promotion,
development assistance, trade, debt forgiveness, collective
security, terrorism, weapons proliferation, the use of force, human
rights, U.N. Security Council reform, and the establishment of a
Human Rights Council.
- Former General Assembly President Jean Ping released a draft
outcome document in June 2005 that includes various portions of the
preceding reports on U.N. reform by the Secretary-General and
his High-Level Panel. The document incorporated some of the
comments, objections, and demands voiced by member states in
reaction to the reports of the High-Level Panel and the
Secretary-General. Negotiations resulted in a document that
sought to provide something for everyone rather than a focused
effort to consider the weaknesses of the organization accompanied
by targeted reforms. In particular, numerous proposals that would
dramatically expand U.N. authority over a broad array of issues and
increase the financial obligations of developed countries, such as
adopting an economic assistance target of 0.7 percent of GDP for
developed countries, raised concerns in the U.S. A revised document
was released in August 2005.
- The General Assembly adopted a consensus resolution on U.N.
reform as the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document in
September 2005. The General Assembly approved reforms that
had been under discussion since 2004 and pledged support for
reforms aimed at enhancing "the relevance, effectiveness,
efficiency, accountability, and credibility of the United Nations
system." The World Summit Outcome Document was light on
detail but accepted in principle a number of overdue reforms,
including replacing the discredited Human Rights Commission
with a new Human Rights Council and asking the Secretary-General to
propose improvements in U.N. management, programs, personnel,
oversight, transparency, and accountability.
- The Secretary-General proposed a resolution, "Investing in the
United Nations: For a Stronger Organization Worldwide," in April
2006 in response to the request by the General Assembly for
detailed proposals on improving U.N. management, programs,
personnel, oversight, transparency, and accountability. The
resolution proposed substantial reform of staffing, service
delivery, governance, and budget matters, as well as a more
integrated information and communications system and outsourcing of
- The Secretary-General also established an expert panel to
examine the U.N.'s internal justice system. The resulting Report
of the Redesign Panel on the United Nations System of
Administration of Justice was released in July 2006 and
concluded that the "United Nations internal justice system is
outmoded, dysfunctional and ineffective and that it lacks
independence." The panel recommended a series of
proposals to redesign and improve the current system.
- The Secretary-General submitted a report, Human
Resources Management Reform: Report of the Secretary-General, to
the General Assembly in August 2006. It follows up on previous
reports by providing an overview of actions taken and proposes
additional reforms to improve U.N. human resources practices.
- Another August report, Investing in People: Report of the
Secretary-General, offered additional details on the
Secretary-General's proposed human resources reforms.
Specifically, the report clarifies proposals for an improved
recruitment system, staff mobility, career development,
reformed employment contracting, reorganization, and the staff
Like most U.N. documents, these reports reflect the differing
priorities and concerns of the now 192 member states. They contain
a mixture of initiatives, including overhauling management
practices, improving oversight and accountability, calling for
aid targets, creating a new Human Rights Council, and granting the
U.N. greater authority over international policy.
Many of these reform proposals are designed to solidify and
expand U.N. authority. Such proposals should raise questions, given
the poor performance of the organization in meeting its current
mandates. However, the various reports also contain a number
of recommendations focused on improving the performance and
effectiveness of the institution, particularly reforms
proposed by the Secretary-General to overhaul management,
oversight, ethical, and transparency practices. These types of
reform must be adopted before serious consideration can be given to
expanding the U.N.'s authority and responsibilities.
Yet very little progress has been made in implementing
these fundamental reforms over the past two years. Significant among
the few measures adopted are new international accounting
standards, a new ethics office, a whistle-blower protection
policy, and new financial disclosure requirements. While these
reforms should not be dismissed, they comprise only a small portion
of the reforms proposed in the above-listed documents. The
vast bulk of reforms--particularly the critical management and
oversight improvements that would undergird other initiatives and
reorganization and make them effective--remain stalled due to
opposition in the General Assembly, which must approve most reforms
governing U.N. management, oversight, transparency, and
Despite the General Assembly's support for the Outcome
Document last fall, a draft resolution introduced in
early spring by South Africa on behalf of China and the G-77
delayed and blocked the Secretary-General's proposals to
implement many of the reforms approved in the document. In April,
the 5th Committee approved the South African resolution by a vote
of 108 to 50 with three abstentions. On May 8, the General
Assembly passed the resolution by a margin of 121 to 50 with two
abstentions. Opponents of the resolutions, including
the United States and most other major donors like Japan and most
of the European countries, contribute over 85 percent of the U.N.
The successful resistance to reform precipitated a showdown over
the U.N. budget. Following the General Assembly decision to adopt
the Outcome Document, the U.S. led a campaign to cap the
U.N. assessed regular budget at $950 million as an incentive for
the General Assembly to adopt the Secretary-General's reform
proposals. The cap was projected to be reached at the end of June
2006. The United States and Japan, which together provide
nearly 42 percent of the U.N.'s regular budget, opposed approving
more budgetary funds unless the General Assembly made progress
toward adopting the Secretary-General's reform proposals. Again led
by the G-77, the cap was eliminated, and the remainder of the U.N.
budget was approved without adoption of the reforms sought by the
U.S. and other major contributors. Although the U.S. did not
vote against the resolution, it disassociated itself from the
consensus position. Without the pressure of the budget cap, the
urgency of adopting reforms evaporated, and the current session of
the General Assembly has seen negligible progress toward management
and administrative reform.
After years of talk and multiple reports on reform, the U.N. is
little changed from the organization that allowed the Iraq Oil
for Food scandal, the despicable peacekeeping abuses in the Congo,
and the extensive cases of fraud and abuse in procurement to
occur. The credibility of the U.N. cannot be
restored simply by publishing documents espousing dedication
to reform or outlining intent. Reforms must be implemented.
More of the Same
The U.N.'s response to the lack of progress toward reform has
been to release another report on how the organization should be
reformed. Delivering as One, the final report of the
Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on U.N. System-wide Coherence
in the Areas of Development, Humanitarian Assistance, and the
Environment, like the earlier reports, is mixed in its
recommendations: Some are good, some are questionable, and others
The Good. Delivering as One notes accurately that
"without ambitious and far-reaching reforms the United Nations will
be unable to deliver on its promises and maintain its legitimate
position at the heart of the multilateral system." The report
sensibly endorses the Secretary-General's call to
modernize and reform U.N. business practices, overhaul the
processes for planning and allocating funding and resources, pursue
internal evaluation and coherence in the U.N. system, enhance staff
mobility, and implement results-based management.
The repeated scandals, corruption, and ineffective use of resources
at the U.N. have been well documented over the past few years,
and reforms to address these shortcomings are long overdue. Indeed,
these proposals, along with a review of existing mandates, should
be the first priority of reform because failure to address
them undermines the organization's effectiveness in meeting its
existing responsibilities and mandates, much less the additional
tasks that some seek to assign the world body.
Delivering as One pertinently observes that many U.N.
bodies claim custody over the same issues, thus clouding overall
accountability, creating overlap, and undermining
effectiveness. For example, the report notes that "there are a
large number of overlapping functions, failures of coordination and
policy inconsistency within the UN system." Moreover:
In some sectors, such as water and energy, more than 20 UN
agencies are active and compete for limited resources without a
clear collaborative framework. More than 30 UN agencies and
programmes have a stake in environmental management.
The report rightly urges consolidating or eliminating
duplicative U.N. funds, programs, and specialized agencies in
order to clearly assign lines of responsibility, reduce
duplication, and "significantly reduce the burdens it
currently places on recipient and donor governments." It
recommends establishing an independent task force to examine
possibilities for consolidating and eliminating duplication
within the U.N. system. Undermining this proposal, however, is
the report's call for multi-year funding for U.N. programs. Such a
funding mechanism would weaken efforts to allocate funding
according to priorities by locking in funding for existing programs
and making it more difficult to consolidate duplicative
Regrettably, the report does not explain that a great deal of
redundancy and inefficiency also could be resolved if the U.N.
General Assembly would conduct a comprehensive mandate review and
adopt sunset clauses for mandates. Secretary-General Kofi Annan
missed an opportunity when he ignored the instruction in the
Outcome Document to propose U.N. mandates for elimination.
That failure and the lack of progress on mandate review greatly
inhibit the U.N.'s ability to allocate funds according to
priorities and eliminate unnecessary tasks, personnel, and
functions that drain and divert scarce resources. Complaining about
a lack of resources for important priorities does little good when
the General Assembly resists reviewing existing U.N. mandates
and reallocating resources from low to high priorities.
The Questionable. Delivering as One recommends
consolidating the authority and enhancing the accountability
of United Nations activities by giving additional authority to the
Resident Coordinator. Under the proposed "One Country Programme,"
the Resident Coordinator would strengthen the policy coherence and
coordination of U.N. activities in the country. Certainly, in many
cases, centralization of U.N. offices could reduce
administrative costs and aid cooperation. It makes little sense to
have many small, individual U.N. offices in one city when costs
could be reduced by renting office space and sharing support staff
to serve the entire U.N. presence. Similarly, the U.N. should close
remote offices unless objectives could not be met without an
immediate presence. It likewise makes sense to apply consistent
definitions of regions and review mandates of regional institutions
to avoid duplication and overlap.
However, while lack of coordination is indeed a problem within
the U.N. system, placing a U.N. administrator as the Resident
Coordinator of the One Country Programme to oversee and direct the
wide variety of U.N. tasks in each country would not necessarily
improve effectiveness. The more important issue is the lack of
leadership and clear direction by U.N. member states. Member states
oversee and approve the budgets and programs of individual U.N.
programs, funds, specialized agencies, and the U.N. regular
budget. In many ways, the lack of coordination lies not with the
lack of U.N. leadership in a country, but with the competing
priorities of member states. That is not necessarily a bad
thing, but it does often create problems of coordination and
overlap, particularly when the same member state presents competing
messages at different U.N. institutions. Elevating the authority of
the Resident Coordinator will not resolve this problem and would be
largely unnecessary if the member states could identify policy
priorities more clearly and consistently.
Another questionable proposal is the recommendation to cede
overall responsibility for U.N. country coordination to the United
Nations Development Program. In recent months,
disturbing reports of favoritism and mismanagement at the UNDP have
cast doubt over the soundness of proposals to place that
organization in the powerful position of managing virtually
all U.N. activities at the country level. Moreover, the UNDP lags
behind the U.N. in a key area of transparency: Unlike the Office of
Internal Oversight Services, whose audits must now be shared with
member states upon request, the internal audit reports of the
Office of Audit and Performance Review at the UNDP are not
available to the public or to member states.
However, even without these concerns, placing the broad array of
U.N. activities performed in individual countries under the
narrower rubric of development risks undermining effectiveness.
Moreover, a large portion of the report makes recommendations
that would establish a far more robust role for the U.N. in
development. These recommendations contravene another dominant
theme in the report: removing duplication and overlap. The World
Bank would be more appropriate as an overall development
coordinator in each country based on expertise, in-country
presence, and resources. Indeed, it makes far more sense to
eliminate or consolidate the UNDP and regional economic
commissions in favor of the international financial institutions
like the World Bank, regional development banks, and the
International Monetary Fund to avoid duplication and lack of
coordination. The U.N., with its same resources, could then
address complementary issues, such as political
transformation, post-conflict stability, disease and other health
issues, humanitarian assistance, or institution building in
coordination with the international financial
The Misguided. Delivering as One strongly
suggests that a lack of coordination extends beyond the U.N.
system and urges donors to let the U.N. have overall say in and
control of all development assistance funds and projects at the
country level. It calls on donors to "increasingly refrain from
funding country-level interventions by the UN system outside
the One Country Programme."  This proposal could
limit development only to U.N.-approved projects, initiatives,
guidelines, philosophies, and practices, which often focus
disproportionately on income transfers.
This recommendation would elevate a U.N. development agenda
that contravenes evidence that foreign assistance alone cannot
increase economic growth and development. Rather, success in
development ultimately depends on developing countries'
adopting and implementing policies that promote economic freedom,
good governance, and the rule of law. Competition in development
strategies is a strength, not a weakness, when consensus on
development would eliminate or inhibit innovative development
initiatives like the U.S. Millennium Challenge Account.
In several instances, the report supports calls for the U.N. to
assume a much stronger role over international responses to
various issues, such as humanitarian assistance and environmental
governance. The U.N.'s past performance in
addressing these areas greatly undermines the credibility of
assigning it such a position of responsibility. For example, within
days of the December 2004 Asian tsunami, U.S. military aircraft
were conducting aerial reconnaissance and transporting supplies and
wounded victims; American ships began providing fresh water,
carrying supplies, and transporting helicopters; and over
12,000 American military personnel were in place to help assist the
victims of the disaster. The U.N. was much slower to act. In the
succeeding months, the U.N. assumed a greater role, but if the
initial response had been left to the U.N., many people would have
been condemned to an unnecessary death. Moreover, as an
investigative report by the Financial Times revealed, over a
year after the tsunami, U.N. relief agencies resisted public
disclosure of how they had used funds for the tsunami.
Similarly, the report recommends strengthening U.N. governance
over the environment and environmental activities by granting
the United Nations Environmental Program "real authority as the
environmental policy pillar of the UN system."
Yet the most ambitious U.N.-led effort to address a global
environmental concern--the Kyoto Protocol on global warming--would
do little to deal with global warming while imposing enormous
economic costs on the citizens of developed countries.
The Kyoto fiasco exemplifies the politicized nature of U.N.-led
environmental policy and underscores the need to keep environmental
regulatory initiatives in the hands of national governments,
which must answer to their citizens for the economic and political
consequences of action or inaction, rather than in the hands of
comparatively unaccountable international organizations.
In a related observation, the report inexplicably concludes that
"sustainable development" is insufficiently incorporated into
the deliberations and programs of the U.N. and should be elevated
within the U.N.'s "institutional architecture." In reality,
"sustainable development" is a ubiquitous term and objective
throughout U.N. documents, programs, resolutions, and statements.
The report also fails to clarify exactly what benefit would result
from establishing a new "Sustainable Development Board" to oversee
U.N. activities on the country level--other than to establish a new
layer of bureaucracy to micromanage the Resident Coordinators
and proposed One Country Programme. Indeed, much confusion and lack
of coordination would be resolved through the report's other
proposals to consolidate U.N. funds, programs, and specialized
agencies in order to clearly delineate roles and responsibility.
Further improvement in U.N. coordination should be the
responsibility of the existing U.N. Chief Executives Board and the
individual member states.
Another extremely questionable plan is the recommendation
to consolidate "three of the UN's existing gender institutions
[Office of the Special Advisor on Gender Issues and the Advancement
of Women (OSAGI), the Division for the Advancement of Women, and
the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)] as a consolidated UN
gender equality and women's empowerment programme." Although
consolidating three institutions addressing the same broad issue to
remove overlap, reduce unnecessary costs, and enhance
accountability does make sense, it is unclear why this consolidated
entity must be "enhanced" and elevated within the U.N. system.
Gender inequity is certainly rampant among many U.N. member states,
particularly those in the Middle East that deny women the right to
vote or participate in society with the same privileges as men.
However, the U.N. is dedicated to "promoting and encouraging
respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all
without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion."
The report's recommendation would create a major U.N.
institution to serve half the world's population--people clearly
already included and addressed in the U.N. Charter and much of its
work. Gender equity should be a goal of the United Nations, but it
would be better handled within the context of existing human rights
institutions rather than as a new stand-alone organization
that would actually work against mainstreaming the issue within the
Finally, the report refers repeatedly to "unpredictable"
voluntary funding of many U.N. activities as a key factor
undermining long-term planning and effectiveness. The report
[There is] too much earmarked funding and too little funding for
the core budget of UN organizations. Moreover, funding is
unpredictable, and burden-sharing procedures are unclear. So
UN organizations are only to some extent masters of their own
budgets, with donor priorities rather than multilateral mandates
determining some of their actions.
Based on this statement, one would assume that the U.N. assessed
budget has been greatly constrained. Quite the opposite is
true: The U.N. regular assessed budget has increased by about
45 percent from the $2.625 billion 2002-2003 biennial budget to the
$3.799 billion 2006-2007 biennial budget.
While it is true that assessed budgets for many funds, programs,
and specialized agencies have plateaued, they have not
declined. The report claims, "Even in specialized agencies,
assessed contributions have not increased for years, leaving them
to rely on voluntary funding for core activities." This claim raises
the question of where those assessed funds are going if not to core
activities, but the report fails to answer it. Voluntary funding
from donors does not threaten U.N. activities. Voluntary funding
for U.N. funds, programs, and specialized agencies actually remains
fairly stable from year to year with donor nations consistently and
reliably providing funding for activities they support. Indeed, in
many cases, voluntary funding has increased sharply. Only
voluntarily funded activities that fail to meet donor expectations
of performance see reductions in funding levels.
The report glosses over the real reason why donors increasingly
rely on voluntary funding: the failure of U.N. regular assessed
budgets to fund donor priorities. In essence, voluntary funding has
risen to address failures of the U.N. system, not (as the report
states) to "constrain the UN and recipient countries from making
strategic choices for the use of funds and in contributing to the
[Millennium Development Goals] and other internationally agreed
goals." It is a reaction to the
disproportionate influence over the assessed budget of
countries that contribute little to the U.N. and recognition that
donor nation priorities are likely to be better addressed through
This is as it should be: Activities that fail to deliver do not
deserve long-term, inviolate funding steams. Assured funding
through assessed contributions is one of the reasons why some
U.N. mandates and activities continue after their relevance
declines; their purpose is overtaken by events, other institutions,
or mandates; and support by most member states evaporates. Instead
of increasing assessed funding or moving toward multi-year
funding, the U.N. system should be moving toward increased
voluntary funding to impose a stronger market incentive for
programs to meet their goals and justify continued funding.
What Should Be Done
Supporters of the United Nations often describe the organization
as an "indispensable instrument" or as possessing a "unique
legitimacy." These claims are more wishful thinking
than reality. The U.N. is fraught with outdated mandates,
antiquated management and business practices, and ineffectual
oversight, all of which waste resources and undermine its
effectiveness in discharging its responsibilities. These failings
greatly sully the reputation of the U.N. and call into
question proposals to give the U.N. more authority or a more
central role in addressing international problems.
The United Nations does, however, possess advantages and
resources that make it useful in addressing many international
problems. These advantages and resources could be utilized even
more if the organization could be reformed to address the
flaws that keep it from fully meeting its responsibilities. It is
in the interest of the U.S. to have an effective United Nations and
engage the organization to advance its priorities and facilitate
cooperation with other nations in addressing common problems.
To be useful, the U.N. must carry out its responsibilities
competently, and the organization as it currently exists falls
short. It is past time for the U.N. General Assembly to move
forward on adopting the fundamental reforms necessary to make
the organization more relevant and effective.
Specifically, it should:
- Make implementation of the Secretary-General's reform
proposals on management, oversight, human resources,
transparency, and accountability the first priorities in U.N.
reform. Delivering as One notes accurately that "without
ambitious and far-reaching reforms the United Nations will be
unable to deliver on its promises and maintain its legitimate
position at the heart of the multilateral system." Repeated
scandals, corruption, and ineffective use of resources at the U.N.
have been well documented, and reforms to address these
shortcomings are long overdue. Indeed, these proposals should
be the first priority of reform because failure to address them
undermines the organization's effectiveness in meeting its
existing responsibilities and mandates, much less the
additional tasks that some seek to assign the world body.
- Conduct a comprehensive review of U.N. mandates and
eliminate outdated, duplicative, or unnecessary mandates.
A great deal of redundancy and inefficiency could be resolved if
the U.N. General Assembly would conduct a comprehensive mandate
review and adopt sunset clauses for mandates, some of which
date back to the 1940s. Secretary-General Kofi Annan missed an
opportunity when he ignored the instruction in the Outcome
Document to propose U.N. mandates for elimination. The G-77 is
resisting efforts to eliminate older or duplicative mandates.
While an ad hoc Informal Working Group on Mandate Review has been
created, it has focused only on the 399 mandates of the
General Assembly--only about 4 percent of all U.N. mandates.
The lack of progress on mandate review greatly inhibits the U.N.'s
ability to allocate funds according to priorities and
eliminate unnecessary tasks, personnel, and functions.
- Move toward increased voluntary funding for the U.N. and its
funds, programs, and specialized agencies. Delivering
as One refers repeatedly to "unpredictable" voluntary
funding of many U.N. activities as a key factor undermining
long-term planning and effectiveness. Nothing could be further from
the truth. Increased reliance on voluntary funding is a reaction by
major donors to the failure of U.N. funds, programs, and
specialized agencies to address donor priorities through the
regular budget. Assured funding through assessed contributions
is one of the reasons why some U.N. mandates and activities
continue after their relevance declines; their purpose is
overtaken by events, other institutions, or mandates; and support
by most member states evaporates. Instead of increasing assessed
funding or moving toward multi-year funding, the U.N. system
should be moving toward increased voluntary funding to impose a
stronger market incentive for programs to meet their goals and
justify continued funding.
- Resist efforts to invest greater authority, resources,
and responsibilities in the U.N. until the organization adopts the
reforms necessary to ensure that it can discharge those tasks
effectively and efficiently. Many reports considering U.N.
reform contain proposals to expand U.N. authority. Such proposals
should raise questions, given the organization's poor
performance in meeting its current mandates. Initiatives
to overhaul the management, oversight, ethical, human resources,
and accountability and transparency practices of the organization
must be adopted before serious consideration can be given to
expanding its authority and responsibilities. Publishing
repetitious reports and fatuous proposals to expand the size and
responsibilities of the U.N. is no substitute for reform. Until
management and administrative reforms are implemented and existing
activities and mandates are reviewed for their relevance and
importance, all existing and new U.N. initiatives and
proposals will be undermined.
The election of a new Secretary-General presents an opportunity
to reinvigorate the drive for U.N. reform. Secretary-General Ban Ki
Moon has an opportunity to change practices within his authority
and press the General Assembly to adopt many of the positive
proposals made under Kofi Annan that have yet to be adopted. The
United States should support Ban in pushing for fundamental
However, if history holds any lessons, diplomacy and moral
suasion will not be sufficient to achieve the reforms necessary.
The U.S. should not hesitate to supplement its diplomatic efforts
with financial carrots and sticks and use its voice and vote to
oppose new initiatives, offices or organizations, or budget
increases until reforms are implemented.
Brett D. Schaefer
is Jay Kingham Fellow in International Regulatory Affairs in
the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, a division of the Kathryn
and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies,
at The Heritage Foundation.
Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on UN System-wide Coherence in
the Areas of Development, Humanitarian Assistance, and the
Environment, Delivering as One: Report of the
Secretary-General's High-Level Panel, November 9, 2006, at
Cited hereafter as Delivering as One.
"Annan Welcomes High-Level Coherence Panel's
Blueprint for Sweeping UN Overhaul," UN News Centre, November 9,
2006, at .
information on these issues, see Independent Inquiry Committee,
"Documents," at ; U.S. Government
Accountability Office, United Nations: Lessons Learned from Oil
for Food Program Indicate the Need to Strengthen U.N. Internal
Controls and Oversight Activities, GAO-06-330, April 25, 2006, at
; U.S. Government
Accountability Office, United Nations: Procurement Internal
Controls Are Weak, GAO-06- 577, April 27, 2006, at
www.gao.gov/new.items/d06577.pdf; and hearing, United
Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo: A
Case for Peacekeeping Reform, Subcommittee on Africa, Global
Human Rights and International Operations, Committee on
International Relations, U.S. House of Representatives, 109th
Cong., 1st Sess., March 1, 2005, at .
High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, A More
Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility, 2004, at .
Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for
All," A/59/2005, March 21, 2005, at .
"Draft Outcome Document of the Millennium+5
Summit," posted by Global Policy Forum, June 3, 2005, at .
General Assembly, "Revised Draft Outcome Document of the High-Level
Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly of September 2005," August
5, 2005, at www.un.org/ga/59/hlpm_rev.2.pdf
"2005 World Summit Outcome," U.N. General
Assembly Resolution A/RES/60/1, 60th Sess., September 15, 2005, at
Investing in the United Nations: For a
Stronger Organization Worldwide: Report of the
Secretary-General, General Assembly Document A/60/692, March 7,
2006, at .
Administration of Justice at the United
Nations: Report of the Redesign Panel on the United Nations System
of Administration of Justice, General Assembly Document
A/61/205, July 28, 2006, at .
Human Resources Management Reform: Report
of the Secretary-General, General Assembly Document A/61/228,
August 7, 2006, at .
Investing in People: Report of the
Secretary-General, General Assembly Document A/61/255, August
9, 2006, at .
U.S. Government Accountability Office,
United Nations: Management Reforms Progressing Slowly with Many
Awaiting General Assembly Review, GAO-07-14, October 2006, at
, and Brett D. Schaefer,
"The Status of United Nations Reform," Heritage Foundation
Lecture No. 966, October 3, 2006, at .
Most of the major donors to the United
Nations, including the United States, Japan, and most European
countries, voted against the resolution. Armenia, Norway, and
Uganda abstained. Press release, "Budget Committee Approves
Management Reform Text by Vote of 108 in Favour to 50 Against, with
3 Abstaining," GA/AB/3732, U.N. General Assembly, Department of
Public Information, April 28, 2006, at .
Most of the major donors to the United
Nations, including the United States, Japan, and most European
countries, voted against the resolution. Norway and Uganda
abstained. "Investing in the United Nations: For a Stronger
Organization Worldwide," U.N. General Assembly Resolution A/
C.5/60/L.37, April 18, 2006, at , and
United Nations General Assembly, Department of Public Information,
"Acting on Budget Committee Recommendations, General Assembly
Adopts Text on Management Reform Proposals by Vote of 121-50-2,"
GA/10458, May 8, 2006, at .
United Nations General Assembly, Department
of Public Information, "General Assembly Lifts Spending Cap,
Allowing United Nations Operations to Continue for Remainder of
2006, 2007," GA/10480, June 30, 2006, at .
Schaefer, "The Status of United Nations
A November 2006 report by the BBC revealed
that years after the revelation of abuses by peacekeepers in the
Congo, the United Nations remains unable or unwilling to prevent
repetition of such abuses and seemingly powerless to discipline
U.N. peacekeepers who are perpetrating rape and sexual abuse on
children in Haiti and Liberia. See BBC, "UN Troops Face Child Abuse
Claims," November 30, 2006, at .
Delivering as One, p. 1.
For information on these issues, see
Independent Inquiry Committee, "Documents"; U.S. Government
Accountability Office, United Nations: Lessons Learned from Oil
for Food Program Indicate the Need to Strengthen U.N. Internal
Controls and Oversight Activities; U.S. Government
Accountability Office, United Nations: Procurement Internal
Controls Are Weak; and hearing, United Nations
Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo: A Case
for Peacekeeping Reform.
Delivering as One, p. 3.
Ibid., pp. 2, 14, 17-18