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AFRO-NETS> UN reform right from the top

  • Subject: AFRO-NETS> UN reform right from the top
  • From: Claudio Schuftan <aviva@netnam.vn>
  • Date: Fri, 4 Oct 2002 13:31:27 -0400 (EDT)

UN reform right from the top

Kofi Annan calls for reform at the United Nations, asks officials to
simplify their labyrinthine procedures

By RANJAN ROY, Associated Press Writer

UNITED NATIONS - Countless committee meetings, fat reports written in
dense language, reams of paperwork that tie up a complex web of offi-

That's not a critic's cynical view of the United Nations. It's what
the U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan himself says about the world
body in a report released Monday on the need for reform. "We must be
prepared to change with the times - constantly adjusting to new con-
ditions and new needs," Annan told a news conference at U.N. head-

Calling on his officials and the 190 member nations to help redraw
priorities, Annan's report to the General Assembly prescribes stream-
lining various departments, simplifying labyrinthine procedures, fir-
ing or retraining staff and recruiting more skilled people.

"Activities which are no longer relevant must be dropped, while on
new issues ... the U.N. must deepen its knowledge, sharpen its focus
and act more effectively," the 55-page report said.

According to the report 15,484 meetings were held by various U.N.
bodies and 5,879 reports were issued in 2000 and 2001. Most U.N. re-
ports appear in the six official languages of the United Nations.

"But it must now be clear to everyone that the international agenda
has become overloaded with such meetings," the report says, warning
that "summit fatigue" had set in both among the general public and

"We are not saying conferences are obsolete or should be abandoned.
But there could be other ways of organizing these conferences," Annan
told reporters.

He advocated more planning ahead of conferences so that all the docu-
ments are ready before delegates meet. Otherwise, he warned "you come
up with a document with is an agreement on the lowest common denomi-

The report added that even larger countries find it difficult to par-
ticipate in and keep track of all such meetings.

Annan said U.N. reports, which often run into hundreds of pages of
dense, technical prose, should now have size limits and be written in
"simple, crisp language." Annan began a major effort to overhaul U.N.
operations when he took office five years ago, a key demand of the
United States and other members. He has continued his effort during
his second five-year term that began in January.

Annan also said the fight against international terrorism will remain
at the top of the U.N. agenda, along with the priorities spelled out
in the Millennium Declaration adopted by more than 150 world leaders
in September 2000.

The Millennium Summit targets include cutting in half the proportion
of people living on less than one dollar a day, ensuring that every
child goes to primary school, and reversing the AIDS epidemic by the
year 2015.

To create a leaner organization, the United Nations may for the first
time start offering golden handshakes for staffers whose jobs are re-
dundant, the report said.

It said its Department of Public Information will be trimmed and many
of the 71 U.N. Information Offices worldwide will be closed and sub-
sumed into regional hubs.

As a first step, 13 such offices in Western Europe will be consoli-
dated into one regional information center.

More than 5,000 people are employed in the 35-story U.N. headquarters
in New York. Hundreds of thousands of others work full-time, part-
time or as consultants worldwide.

However, Annan's plan does not envisage a lower budget, a U.N. offi-
cial said. Money saved in the restructuring would be used to retrain
staff and improving the organization's information systems, the offi-
cial said.

For 2002-2003, the regular budget is US$ 2.625 billion, up US$ 90
million from the US$ 2.535 billion in 2001-2002.

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