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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Reform Programs of United Nations

Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - 0 Comments

Reform Programme

An official reform programme was begun by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan soon after starting his first term on 1 January 1997. Reforms mentioned include changing the permanent membership of the Security Council (which currently reflects the power relations of 1945); making the bureaucracy more transparent, accountable and efficient; making the UN more democratic; and imposing an international tariff on arms manufacturers worldwide.

In September 2005, the UN converted a World Summit that brought together the heads of most member states, calling the summit “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take bold decisions in the areas of development, security, human rights and reform of the United Nations”. Kofi Annan had proposed that the summit agree on a global “grand bargain” to reform the UN, revamping international systems for peace and security, human rights and development, to make them capable of addressing the extraordinary challenges facing the UN in the 21st century.

World leaders agreed on a compromise text with such notable items as: the creation of a Peace building Commission to provide a central mechanism to help countries emerging from conflict; an agreement that the international community has the right to step in when national governments fail to fulfil their responsibility to protect their citizens from atrocious crimes; a Human Rights Council (agreed 15 March 2006 and first meeting 19 June 2006); an agreement to devote more resources to UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services; several agreements to spend billions more on achieving the Millennium Development Goals; a clear and unambiguous condemnation of terrorism “in all its forms and manifestations”; a democracy fund; an agreement to wind up the Trusteeship Council due to the completion of its mission.

Although the UN member states achieved little reform of UN bureaucracy, Annan continued to carry out reforms under his own authority. He established an ethics office, responsible for administering new financial disclosure and whistleblower protection policies. As of late December 2005, the Secretariat was completing a review of all General Assembly mandates more than five years old. That review is intended to provide the basis for decision-making by the member states about which duplicative or unnecessary programmes should be eliminated.

Food Programme

Oil-for-Food Programme

The Oil-for-Food Programme was established by the UN in 1996. Its purpose was to allow Iraq to sell oil the world market in exchange for food, medicine, and other humanitarian needs of ordinary Iraqi citizens who were affected by international economic sanctions, without allowing the Iraqi government to rebuild its military in the wake of the first Gulf War. Under UN auspices, over $65 billion worth of Iraqi oil was sold on the world market. Officially, about 46$ billion was used for humanitarian needs. Additional revenue paid for Gulf War reparations through a Compensation Fund, UN administrative and operational costs for the Programme (2.2%), and the weapons inspection programme (0.8%).

The programme was discontinued in late 2003 amidst allegations of widespread abuse and corruption. The former Director, Benon Sevan of Cyprus, was suspended and then resigned from the UN, as an interim progress report of an UN-sponsored investigation concluded that Sevan had accepted from the Iraqi regime, and recommended that his UN immunity be lifted to allow for a criminal investigation.

Among the other people and organizations implicated in the scandal was Kofi Annan’s son Kojo Annan and the Australian Wheat Board. Kojo Annan was alleged to have illegally procured UN Oil-for-Food contracts on behalf of the Swiss company Cotecna. India’s foreign minister, Natwar Singh, was removed from office because of his role in the scandal. The Australian government set up the Cole Inquiry in November 2005 to investigate whether the Australian Wheat Board breached any laws with its contracts with Iraq during the Oil-for-Food Programme. AWB paid Saddam Hussein’s regime almost $300 million, through a front company called ‘Alia’, to secure wheat contracts to Iraq. The Cole Inquiry reports its findings in November 2006.

Role of United Nations in Social and Economic Development

International development

The UN is also involved in supporting development, e.g. by the formulation of the Millennium Development Goals. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) is the largest multilateral source of grant technical assistance in the world. Organizations—like the World Health Organization (WHO), UNAIDS, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria—are leading institutions in the battle against diseases around the world, especially in poor countries. The UN Population Fund is a major provider of reproductive services. It has helped reduce infant and maternal mortality in 100 countries. The UN also promotes human development through various related agencies. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), for example, are independent, specialized agencies, and observers within the UN framework, according to a 1947 agreement. They were initially formed as separate from the UN through the Bretton Woods Agreement in 1944.

Millennium Development Goals

The Millennium Development Goals are eight goals that all 192 United Nations members states have agreed to try to achieve by the year 2015. The United Nations Millennium Declaration, signed in September 2000, commits the states to: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development.

Reform

In recent years there have been many calls for reform of the United Nations. But there is little clarity, let alone consensus, about how to reform it. Some want the UN to play a greater or more effective role in world affairs, others want its role reduced to humanitarian work. There have also been numerous calls for the UN Security Council’s membership to be increased to reflect the current geo-political state (that is, more members from Africa, South America and Asia). Renewed calls for reform came in 2004 and 2005, after allegations of mismanagement and corruption of the oil-for-Food Programmes for Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

Bureaucracy

The UN has been accused of bureaucratic inefficiency and waste. During the 1990s the United States, currently the largest contributor to the UN, gave this inefficiency as a reason for withholding their dues. The repayment of the dues was made conditional on a major reforms initiative. In 1994 the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) was established by a ruling of the General Assembly to serve as an efficiency watchdog. A reform program has been proposed, but has not yet approved by the General Assembly.

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