December 21, 1987

December 21, 1987 | Backgrounder on International Organizations

The Charade of United Nations Reform


(Archived document, may contain errors)

624 December 21, 1987 I 1 THE"CHARADE OF UNITED NATIONS REFORM I I I I I I I INTRODU~ON J While the Reagan Administration and congressional leaders1 continue to search fo r ways of reducing the federal budget deficit, certain Administration officials .are A finding new ways to spend money. The recipient- of this largessetstrangely. is. the.

United Nations. The State Department has given United Nations Headquarters ins New York $100 million for 1987; this is what the United States contributed1 t0,U.N headquarters last year. In addition, the U.S. is giving-about $650 million this year to various other U.N. agencjes.

Department, various private groups, and even some Reagan Ad ministration key aides such as Office of Management and Budget Director James Miller, III. They are pressuring Congress to increase this amount significantly. Such a contribution would be an unjustifiable use of the taxpayer's money. Even worse perhaps, i t would all but eliminate any prospects for genuine reform of the United Nations. The only incentive the U.N. has had to reform itself is the threat of the U.S.. withholding funds. This threat, it appears, is going to be lifted Congressional Insistenoe. Wh e n the U.N. began its reform effort in February 1986, many Members of Congress and Administration officials were skeptical that significant reform could be achieved without intense U.S. political and financial pressure. As Representative Gerald Solomon, th e New York Republican, wrote in the March 1987 Report on the State Department Authorization Bill, the legislative vehicle that authorizes U.N. funding I aI I Apparently, this $750 million to the U.N. is not enough for the State -2- the reform process at th e U.N. is a long way from .being completed, much of it could still come unravelled. Therefore, the need-to maintain American financial leverage becomes even more important.1 As a result of congressional insistence, the U.S. withheld roughly $185 million of the $570 million owed in assessed contributions-mandatory dues-to all U.N agencies for '19

86. In order to maintain. such leverage this year, both congressional chambers have reduced sharply the Reagan Administration's request of close to $571 million for international organizations in 198740 the 1986 level of $385 million in the case of the House of Representatives. Although both the House and the Senate have authorized the payment of further funds, it is unclear whether such funds would actually be avai l able gone through the motions of reform It has made some minor. administrative changes some reshuffling of;.responsibilities, and some. minimal reductions in the number of senior-level officials. These are the extent of U.N. "reforms they have done little to change the waste and the inefficiency endemic-at the U.N of time and energy lobbying' Washington for more money. Senior officials of the U.N. Secretariat, such as Martti Ahtisaari, Under, Secretary-General for Administration and Management, have called on Memb.ers of Congress, a iobbying activity that may violate U.S. law. U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar meanwhile, has written to U.S. Permanent .Representative to the.I.U.N Vernon Walters, demanding that the U.S. give the U.N. more money. B owing to this pressure, the State Department has decided to funnel as ,much. money as possible to the headquarters in New York. Ironically, thisis the part of the.U.N.1.system least responsive to U.S. interests. i Severe reductions in U.S. funding, meanwh i le, are to be applied to the smaller U.N. specialized agencies, some of which perform,.valuable functions. Florin's Chadfeured Iimousine. Such actions. ignore that even ;the officials of the U.S. Mission to the U.N. acknowledge that the U.N has not addres s ed the significant concerns of the U.S. Congress: the numerous U.N. offices and continue; and U.N. General Assembly President ,Peter Florin still" cruises New York City in a chauffeured limousine41 courtesy to an enormous extent of the American taxpayer I I I I hbbying Rather than .Reform. As the U.N has .felt the, financial. pinch, it has r Rather than working on reform, U.N. officials have .been spending a.good deal committees that directly su port the Palestine Liberation Organization still thrive massi ve Soviet violations o P U.N. Charter provisions gover

g the U.N Secretariat In short, the State Department's actions on funding the U.N. may mean that the Reagan Administration is abandoning the common sense approach to the U.N crafted by former Ambassado r Jeane J. Kirkpatrick. The U.S. Congress may not want to go along with this reversal, of a successful policy. Congress should not change its message to the Administration: unless and until real changes take place at the United Nations, the U.N. should re ceive only limited U.S. funding 1. Report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives on H.R. 1797, US.

Government Printing Office, 1987, p. 65. -3 THE ROAD TO REFORM I In 1985, dismayed by persistent reports of large-scale waste, fr aud, and mismanagement at the U.N., the U.S. Congress voted to withhold 20 percent of the U.S. assessed contribution to the United Nations and its specialized agencies. Along with Gramm-Rudman-Hollings reductions, this curtailed U,S. assessed contribution s to the total U.N. system (including specialized agencies) from roughly $442 million in 1985 to $385 mllion in 1986 In addition, the U.S. contributes roughly $300 million annually in voluntary" contributions to U.N. agencies such as UNICEF, and an additio n al $70 million for U.N. eacekeeping activities The measure Solomon, passed ovenvhelrmngly in both Houses, and made clear that full U.S funding would not be resumed unless and until the U.N. allowed its major donors introduced by Senator Nancy Kasse f aum, the Kansas Republican, and Representative more control -over. the disposition of,.its funds r r lnUOrr 1 In response the W.N. General Assembly -in 4985 established a 'Group of Experts" to review U.N. administration and management The Group, composed of re presentatives of 18 nations, including the five permanent members of the U.N.

Security Council (the U.S., Britain, France, China, .and the Soviet Union met 67 times between February and August 1986, and issued its report in September 1986 Damning Indicbnen t The Group of 18 Report made a significant and substantive contribution to the reform process. Writes former U.S. Alternate Permanent Representative at the U.N. for Special Political Affairs Charles Lichenstein The Report of the Experts Group is an extra o rdinary document. Read literally, with all the loopholes of diplomatic understatement closed, it is a damning indictment of U.N. 'business as usual On a single page of the Report, dealing with 'Structure of the Secretariat,' the descriptive phrases includ e duplication of work reduced productivity reduced quality of performance too top-heavy too complex too fragmented dispersion of authority,' and 'diffuse lines of authority accountability and communication."'2 Specifically, the Group of 18 recommended cons o lidating a number of offices in the U.N. Secretariat, banning the creation of anymnew offices without the elimination of the existing offices that perform the same function; and cutting back 15 percent on the total size of the U.N. Secretariat staff. In a ddition, the. report called for a 25 percent reduction among high-level Secretariat staff, cessation of the common practice of rehirin retired Secretariat employees as consultants, and capital of famine-ravished Ethiopia.

Saviet ControL The Group of 18 proposed significantly reducing the percentage of employees of any one country that is "seconded to the U.N.

Secretariat. Secondment-the practice of assigning officials to the U.N. on temporary duty4 the means by which the USSR retains control of its nationa ls posted to the U.N. Secretariat. Although the Soviets objected to this proposal, it was included in the Group's final report, with a note acknowledging the objections of "some delegations stopping the construction o B a $73.5 million conference center i n Addis Ababa 2. Charles M. Lichenstein United Nations Reform: Where's the Beef Heritage Foundation Backpunder No. 593, July 9, 1987 4 With regard to the U.N. budget process, the Group of 18 could not agree on a consensus package, but offered three separat e proposals, ranging from one that would have continued the status quo to one that would have given major donors near total control over the U.N. budget. Despite the lack of agreement on the formal. mechanisms of budgetary control, many nations and U.N. of f icials accepted at least rhetorically--the need for greater influence over the budget process by such large donors as the U.S Japan, the USSR, and the nations of the European community Budget Add- After receiving the report from the--group.of experts that it had created, the U.N. General Assembly rejected outright or diluted the report's most useful and needed proposals. In the resolution that the General Assembly finally passed, which purportedly contained the reforms proposed by the Group of 18 (Resoluti o n 41/213), the suggested staff. cuts .were only "targets the conference center in Addis Ababa remained in the budget; the suggested curtailment of secondment" evaporated; the call for a ceiling on the U.N.'S "contingency fund for extra-bud et expenditures was ignored; and budget "add-ons" would continue to be controlle d by the Third World nations in the General Assembly, although those 80 countries--a majority .of -the General Assembly's 159 member nations--together contribute less than 1 percent of the b udget.

Reagan Administration officials chose. to emphasize the modest change in U.N budget procedure that was the centerpiece of the reform package. Formerly, the U.N. budget had been passed first by the Fifth Committee of the General Assembly and then by the fu l l General Assembly--bodies where. the. major tU.N. donors were severely outnumbered. The new system envisioned by the Group of 18 strengthened the previously obscure 21-member Committee on Program and Coordination; it was to be given the power to draft a c onsensus budget, which would be.presented to the Fifth Committee and the Plenary for ratification. All the major donors would have seats on the CPC, and could presumably exercise veto power over the, entire budget if dissatisfied with its content Over Wes k m Objextions. There are a number. of obvious problems. with- this structure. First, the dynamics of the consensus procedure: place great. pressure on delegations to go along with unwise proposals in the name of unanimity; second even with a consensus proc e dure, the Third World majority on the CPC could use its collective weight to fight to retain their pet wasteful programs;,third there was the ossibility of the CPC not reaching a consensus, or of such' a consensus Assembly-over Western objections--by a si m ple majority of develo ing nations. In countries tacked on $61 million over the planned U.N. budget level bre aL 'ng down. If this were to occur, the budget could be passed by the General fact, this is what occurred at the end of the 1986 General Assem E l yi the developing THEPROCEWBREAKSDOWN changes at the U.N these changes, however, do not meet even the minimal reform standards established by Resolution 41/213, the reform resolution passed by the During the past year, there have been some administrative and management U.N. General Assembly in December 19

86. They fall far short of the reform proposals offered by the Group of 18 The reality of reform at the U.N. bears little resemblance to the rhetoric.

Examples 1) The U.N. daims to have imposed a Wring hxze" in 19

86. The method the U.N. purported to use to slim down was "attrition meaning that those who retired or left the U.N. would not be replaced. Though this has resulted in some reductions, virtually all the reductions have affected only Western- an d Third World employees, since the U.N. has exempted the Soviets from this "freeze."

Moreover, in a bid to obtain political support for his accommodation-of the I L Soviets, U.N. Secretary General Jawer..IPerez de Cuellar .in May offered also to hire 52 n ew, junior-grade officers--many West Europeans, a few from developing countries, and no Americans. Senator Robert. Kasten, the Wisconsin 'Republican accurately characterizes this politically motivated rejection of. Americans as "an added insult I 2) There has been very little reduction. At the executive, level, while the number of Assistant Seqetaries General has been trimmed from 28 to 22, there are still 27 Under Secretaries General, unchanged from 19

86. This falls far short of the 25 percent reduction in the number of these positions called for by the Group of

18. In terms of total U.N. professional staff systemwide, the U.N claims to have a vacancy rate of 15 percent--that is, 15 percent. of the available posts have one could be filled eventually. me total personnel reductions amount- to only 1.8 percent 3) AU profixsiod employees at the U.N. continue to receive des that not only exceed those of their counterparts in the US. federal government, but exceed the U.N.'s own guidelines Stated a 1987 U.S. G eneral Accounting Office Report on U.N. compensation and personnel issues New York-based U.N professional employees' net remuneration exceeded that of. equivalent U.S. civil servants in Washington, D.C. by a margin of 21.3 This--margin doubled from 1978 t o 1985."3 In addition, many nations illegally supplement the salaries of their top officials: Canada, for example, has admitted supplementing. the l17,00oI salary of its top U.N. official by $88,000 4) The SecretaryGeneral announced in March that certain p arts of the U.N. secretariat's "antialoniialism" bureau- would be folded into an existing department. He further announced that two relatively small offices would be discontinued, and their responsibilities shifted to other parts of the Secretariat.

These moves, however, have resulted in only minimal reduction of professional positions, reduction that was large1 vitiated by the creation of a new Office for unfulfilled. Yet these positions have yet to be abolished. The positions, in f act I Research and the Collection of I n! ormation 3. U.S. General Accounting Offik United Nations: Personnel Compensation and Pension Issues,"

February 1987, p. 11. -6 5) Though it has a new &et the U.N. Department.of Public Informaton continues to be what is generally amceded the U.N.'s mat overstaEed department.

Despite publishing a lengthy internal manifesto on the 'hew DPI, the new Under Secretary-General, Therese Paquet-Sevigny of Canada, has not cut back significantly on DPI's far-flung operations. Says one U.N. Secretar iat official DPI is still a disaster area 6) Vital bancial mersi

hnctions, administrative pmaxhms and rudimentary cost controls contmue to be ignored. A recommendation by the Group of 18 that the U.N.'s Internal Audit Unit be made an independent part of the Secretariat, responsible only to the U.N. Secretary-General, was brushed aside by the former Under Secretary-General for Administration and Management Patricio Ruedas. The result was made clear in a report of the U.N.'s Board-of Auditors recently deli v ered to :the. 42nd General:.Assembly which .looked:hto :athe question of U.N. allowances and entitlements. The report's contents are. well summarized by the U.S. delegation's comments The number of cases- of fraud which have been reported over the years b y the auditors .may have been greatly understated I 7) In the area of highest American priority, the committee on Program and coordination emphatically rejected setting either a budget ceiling or a cap on the U.N. Contingency fund, as proposed by the US. T his was deferred until 19

88. Notes an internal State Department document analyzing U.N. budget reform prospects the chances of significant budget reform in 1987 are poor."

Nonetheless, using its power to apportion funds among U.N. agencies, the State Dep artment has decided to devote the majority of the, funds granted to U.N agencies to the U.N. in New York--while pushing for further funding increases AFLAWED ARGUMEWT Despite failures of the reform program, some State Department officials argue that the U .S. should still pay its full $210 million 1987 assessment to U.N.

Headquarters, a $110 million increase over last year's contribution. They claim that the U.S. would "lose its influence" in the U.N. if it' failed. to fulfil1 itk "promise" to pay full U.N. dues once the reform process is begun correlation between contrib u tions and influence. Small states, such as Algeria- and Singapore, which make only minimal contributions to the U.N., often have been very influential, thanks to the diplomatic and intellectual skills of their delegations and to the clear and consistent n a tional orientation of their policies toward the U.N. The Soviet Union until recently had refused to pay the hundreds of millions of dollars it owed the U.N. for decades, yet the Soviets have basically suceeded in creating two sets of rules for the organiz a tion: those the Soviets live by, and those every other nation lives by This argument is without merit. U.N. history shows that. there is little Faithful U.S. A cursory examination of U.S. participation in the U.N. yields the same conclusion. During the 19 6 0s and 1970s, the United States faithfully paid its allotted share of the (ever-rising) U.N. budget. Yet it was during these decades that.U.S. influence at the U.N. all but evaporated. Conversely, the U.N. reform -7 movement was largely triggered by large -scale withholding of funds by the U.S.

Coneress--in fact, congressional withholding was the only reason such a course was considered. The purported correlation between "generous funding" and "influence" is a false one: to suggest that the U.S. pay its ful l share of its U.N. assessment is therefore to urge abandonment of .the only leverage. the U.S. has ever had over the U.N U.S. policy toward the United Nations is at a turning point: after six years of pressuring the United Nations to reform itself, the R e agan Administration seems to Y. even on .key,-:budgetary and 4'inancial issues; The US. Congress, long the-driving force behind U.N. reform efforts, should. prevent a State Department-led reversal of this six-year effort. Congress should.freeze or reduce t he US. contribution to the U.N. The reform efforts taken to date 'do- not merit being rewarded by any increase over the 100 million the U.S. contributed last year Such tough congressional action will be in the U.N.'s long-term interests. i For only when t h e U.nited Nations administration is convinced that genuine change is the only means of regaining full U.S. support will it begin to effect 'the. needed, desired reforms, and thus enable the U.N. to fulfill its mandate be flirting with surrender to State D e partment efforts to rescue the UiN. system Thomas E.L. Dewey Policy Analyst All Heritage Foundation papers are now available electronically to subscribers to the "NEXIS" on-line data rebieval service. The Herita Foundation's Repm (HFRPTS) can be found in the OMNJ CVRRNT ZTRS, and GVT pup Ees of the NEXIS libraty and in the GOVT and OM" pup files of the GOVnrWS libraty.

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