April 21, 2013

April 21, 2013 | Commentary on United Nations

Why So Many New UN Bureaucrats?

Under the tenure of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the number of the highest-ranking U.N. officials has increased by an average of 35 percent (a 47 percent increase in New York and a 27 percent increase elsewhere).

This expansion of top-level officials is troubling for a number of reasons, including lack of transparency in the nominating process, unsystematic allocation of senior positions, insufficient justification for why certain positions require senior ranks in order to fulfill their responsibilities, weak efforts to determine ongoing relevance or impact, politicization and patronage in appointments, and obscure reporting of costs of many positions. ...

The budgetary implications of individual appointments are usually small, which reduces incentives for the member states to question or scrutinize their effectiveness. This is especially the case with those envoys, representatives, and advisers who receive a symbolic salary of a dollar a year.

However, when considered as a group along with their associated costs of travel and support staff, the budgetary impact quickly mounts. For example, the cost of just eight special advisers, envoys, and representatives is projected to be $16.7 million in 2013.

Among these, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Cyprus, charged with assisting in the negotiations to resolve the decades-old Cyprus dispute between Greece and Turkey, and 18 support staff are projected to cost $3.5 million in 2013.

The Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, who is paid a symbolic salary of a dollar a year, is projected to cost the U.N. $2.5 million in 2013 due to nine support staff and associated costs.

There are non-monetary costs as well. The proliferation of these positions in recent years can be explained, in part, as political patronage and influence pedaling. The positions are high profile, frequently well-paid sinecures (many with few responsibilities or expectations) too often awarded to former U.N. diplomats and employees.

About the Author

Brett D. Schaefer Jay Kingham Senior Research Fellow in International Regulatory Affairs

First appeared in The Washington Examiner.