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 United Nations Myth #3: 

The abusive corruption and crippling mismanagement of the U.N. doesn't significantly undermine its mission.

The current reform drive is being fueled by a series of UN scandals that have been keeping the UN's professional spinmeisters and their allies in Congress and the media operating in nonstop damage control mode. Last December 60 members of Congress called on United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to resign from his UN post. Among the legislators urging him to step down were eight members of the House International Relations Committee and nine members of the House Appropriations Committee, which provides the UN with 22 percent of its operating budget each year. The issue that galvanized many of these Senate and House members to demand Annan's departure was his ongoing arrogant and high-handed effort to thwart congressional probes into the multi-billion dollar Iraq oil-for-food fiasco.

Annan repeatedly refused to turn over documents to U.S. congressional committees and ordered UN employees not to cooperate with U.S. investigations into the scandal, which has become infamous as the biggest swindle in the history of humanitarian aid. For cover, he claimed that the congressional probes would interfere with the UN's own investigation, which was being led by his pal Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve. The Volcker-run "Independent Inquiry Committee" dragged its feet and, as its critics predicted, finally issued a report that turned out to be a whitewash.

Annan claimed total exoneration. Then on June 14 a memo surfaced showing Annan's direct personal connection to the scandal, reigniting calls for Annan's scalp — just as he was preparing to host the world's heads of state at the Millennium Goals Summit in New York City in September.

Without a doubt, the United Nations is suffering one of the worst public relations nightmares of its inglorious 60-year existence. At every turn, it seems, the organization's seamy underbelly is being exposed, belying the claims of UN defenders that it is a noble institution in pursuit of global peace and compassionate aid for the destitute and downtrodden of the world. These are but a few of the outrages, in addition to the Iraq oil-for-food scandal, that are feeding America's growing anti-UN sentiment:

• Blue-helmeted UN "peacekeepers" and other UN personnel are under fire for sexually exploiting and raping young girls in the Congo and the Central African Republic over the past several years.

• Human rights workers are now charging that UN troops knowingly and intentionally gunned down unarmed civilians in a crowded market in Congo's Ituri province in March.

• Ruud Lubbers, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees who was accused of sexual harassment, was let off the hook by his pal Kofi Annan, even though an internal investigation pointed to Lubbers' guilt. Lubbers resigned in February after news reporters revealed what Annan had covered up.

• In April, Canadian billionaire Maurice Strong resigned as Kofi Annan's Special Envoy to North Korea, amid charges of ties to the oil-for-food scandal through Korean businessman Tongsun Park, whom U.S. prosecutors are accusing of acting as an "unregistered agent" of Saddam Hussein. Strong, who served as secretary-general of the UN's 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, is a longtime personal friend of and senior adviser to Annan.

• The UN claims to be the world's premier defender of human rights, but its infamous Human Rights Commission is an outrageous assortment of tyrannical dictatorships notorious for terror, torture, and genocide — such as China, Cuba, Libya, Russia, Sudan, Syria, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe. Not surprisingly, the commission, which freely criticizes the U.S., cannot even manage to condemn slavery and slaughter in Sudan or gross human rights violations in Zimbabwe.


Excerpt from: The UN "Reform" Bandwagon
by William F. Jasper
July 11, 2005


Oil-for-food report condemns 'corrupt' UN

Annan comes under fire as inquiry calls for broad reform

Ewen MacAskill, diplomatic editor
Wednesday September 7, 2005
The Guardian

The UN is guilty of "corrosive corruption", according to a long-awaited investigation published today into the handling of the multimillion-pound Iraq oil-for-food programme.

The 1,000-page report by Paul Volcker, former head of the US Federal Reserve, found "serious instances of illicit, unethical and corrupt behaviour within the United Nations".

The report blames Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, for mismanagement. It adds: "The inescapable conclusion from the committee's work is that the UN organisation needs thoroughgoing reform - and needs it urgently."

The investigation, which produced a stream of damaging interim reports this year, has badly undermined Mr Annan and the UN.

Mr Volcker, who was appointed by Mr Annan to carry out the investigation, released a five-page preface to his report last night after it was leaked to a news agency. The full report will be published this afternoon.

According to a UN source, Mr Annan will express regret over the mismanagement but is not considering resigning.

The UN source said the report would clear Mr Annan of any wrongdoing in relation to the business dealings of his son, Kojo, who worked for Cotecna, the Swiss-based company which won one of the oil-for-food programme contracts in 1998.

One of Mr Volcker's interim reports in March found no evidence of improper influence by the secretary general in awarding the contract. But Mr Volcker reopened the investigation after emails disclosed in the press suggested the secretary general knew more than he had said about his son's involvement.

According to the UN source, the final report has found no evidence to support those claims.

Mr Annan is expected to express regret over the role of his son.

The secretary general was criticised for his overall handling of the programme. "The UN charter designates the secretary general as chief administrative officer. Whatever the founders had in mind, the secretary general - any secretary general - has not been chosen for his managerial or administrative skills, nor has he been provided with a structure and instruments conducive to strong executive oversight and control."

The oil-for-food programme was set up in 1996 to alleviate the worst effects of UN sanctions on the Iraqi population. But it quickly came to be abused by UN staff, by Saddam Hussein and by western and Middle East companies, who made millions from illegal kickbacks.

The report's preface says the difficulties encountered - "the politicisation of the decision making, the managerial weakness, the ethical lapses" - were "symptomatic of systematic problems in the UN administration".

"Neither the security council nor the secretariat leadership was clearly in command. That turned out to be a recipe for the dilution of secretariat authority and evasion of personal responsibility at all levels.

"When things went awry - and they surely did - when troublesome conflicts arose between political objective and administrative effectiveness, decisions were delayed, bungled, or simply shunned."

The report adds: "Most notable among the UN's structural faults is a grievous absence of effective auditing and management controls."

Partly as a result, there were instances of corruption among senior staff as well as in the field.

Mr Annan can take some comfort from the fact that the report says the blame has also to be shared around the security council and member states. "However well-conceived the programme was in principle, the security council failed to define clearly the practical parameters, policies and administrative responsibilities," the report says.

Reform should be tackled at the UN summit next week, the report recommends, adding: "To settle for less, to permit delay and dilution, will invite failure, further erode public support, and dishonour the ideals upon which the UN is built."

Although this is the final report on the UN, Mr Volcker is planning to issue a further report in October listing companies which, according to the preface, engaged in "wholesale corruption".


Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005


UN Management Reforms: 2005


Management Reform Measures to Strengthen Accountability,
Ethical Conduct and Management Performance


The importance of effective multilateralism and the unique role of the United Nations in development, security and human rights are reaffirmed in the Secretary-General's "In Larger Freedom" report submitted to the General Assembly in March. That report includes broad proposals to accelerate management reform of the Secretariat to make it more flexible, transparent, accountable and equipped to deal with the needs and challenges of the 21st Century. These measures are part of a longer-term series of reforms launched in 1997 and reinforced in particular with three packages of change initiatives since then: namely, the Brahimi report on UN peace operations, the 2002 Agenda for Further Change and last year's overhaul of the staff security system.

The current phase of reform comes at a particularly crucial time for the UN. The Secretariat has faced an unprecedented series of organizational challenges which have exposed flaws in the way it conducts its business. As a result, the UN must take real action now where it is in the Secretary-General’s authority to do so directly, particularly in the critical areas of management, oversight and accountability. The reform initiatives summarized below are already underway and most will be fully implemented within the next few months, with the exception of those that require Member States approval. While the preparation for many of the steps predates the problems revealed over the past year, the initiatives also explicitly seek to address both the serious concerns expressed by UN staff in last year’s Integrity Perception Survey, and the recommendations of the Independent Inquiry Committee led by Paul Volcker into the Oil-for-Food Programme.

I. Improving the Performance of Senior Management

A series of steps are being taken to streamline and improve the decision-making processes of the Secretariat, open up the recruitment process and enhance training and development of senior officials.

  • Introduction of executive-level decision-making committees
    The existing Senior Management Group, established in 1997, and comprising all Heads of Secretariat Departments and UN Offices, Funds and Programmes, has improved coordination and coherence within the UN family. In practice, however, while having real utility as an information-sharing body, it has proved too large for effective and timely decision-making. As a result, two new, senior committees chaired by the Secretary-General - one dealing with Policy issues and the other on Management - have been created to enhance the quality and speed of top-level decision-making. The modus operandi of these committees will ensure clear, action-oriented outcomes with better definition of responsibility areas and timelines for implementation.

    Status: The Policy Committee has met frequently since its creation in early May 2005. It has presented the Secretary-General with policy options on a wide range of issues. The Management Committee has held two meetings to endorse several reform proposals and will meet approximately monthly throughout 2005 to take up issues as they arise.

  • Selection system for senior officials
    Historically, the selection process for senior UN officials has been opaque and not sufficiently focused on the growing needs for management as well as political expertise in candidates. To address this, a transparent new selection system has been introduced to ensure a much wider search for qualified candidates and a rigorous, open selection process against pre-determined criteria for all new heads of UN Funds and Programmes. This will help build a new generation of UN senior leaders, recruited on the basis of merit and a proven combination of substantive, political, managerial and leadership skills. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) is also developing new criteria for the appointments of its senior-level field managers.

    Status: Several high-level appointments have been made using the new system, including those of the UNDP Administrator Programme, Kemal Dervis, the Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, Inga-Britt Ahlenius and the new UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Gutierrez.

  • Induction of senior officials
    Given the findings of the Volcker Inquiry and other instances of alleged misconduct, it is clear that a more robust approach is needed to ensure that once senior officials are appointed, they are properly briefed on the broader system of UN rules, regulations, codes of conduct and managerial systems.

    Status: DPKO piloted its first Senior Leadership Induction Programme from 20-25 June for a group of newly appointed leaders in a number of field missions. The Programme included sessions on conduct and requirements for management performance. It is intended that this will take place twice a year.

    At the same time, OHRM is developing a broader induction programme for officials in the Secretariat, where USG and ASG will participate in an "Orientation and Induction Programme"; D1s and D2s in a "Leadership Development Programme"; and P4s and P5s in a modified "People Management Training Programme". The first "Leadership Development Programme sessions will be held from 9-14 October and 4-9 December 2005.


II. Enhancing Oversight and Accountability

Perhaps the most obvious shortcomings identified by the Volcker Inquiry and other crises are in the area of oversight and accountability. The current "control" systems for monitoring management performance and preventing fraud and corruption are insufficient and must be significantly enhanced.

  • The Management Performance Board
    In order to ensure a rigorous monitoring of individual offices and managers, a Management Performance Board (MPB) has been created. It will systematically assess the performance of senior managers, bring to the Secretary-General's attention instances which require his attention, and advise him on suggested corrective action, where necessary.

    Status: The Deputy Secretary-General chaired the first organizational meeting of the MPB on July 6th. A review of existing sources of managerial performance data was conducted and gaps were identified. The Department of Management will review strategic reporting models used in other comparable organizations, with a view to establishing a set of qualitative and quantitative benchmarks for the Board's periodic review. A new system of reporting will be considered at the next meeting of the Board in the fall of 2005.

  • The Oversight Committee for the UN Secretariat
    To address shortcomings identified by both the General Assembly and the Volcker Inquiry and to increase the effectiveness of the oversight function, a new Oversight Committee is also being established. The Committee, which will have three internal and one external member, will ensure that appropriate management action is taken to implement the recommendations of the Office of Internal Oversight Services, the Board of Audit and the Joint Inspection Unit. A new tracking system is being piloted for better follow-up of the 500-plus important audit recommendations issued each year.

    Status: The Terms of Reference for the Committee have been finalized and are ready for issuance. The three internal participants have been identified. Selection of an external participant is being finalized. The Committee will convene its first meeting shortly and meet quarterly thereafter.

  • Comprehensive review of OIOS
    In November 2004, the Secretary-General recommended to the General Assembly that the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) undergo a comprehensive external review to strengthen its independence and authority while ensuring it is fully equipped in terms of resources, expertise and capacity to carry out all aspects of its work. That recommendation was reiterated in the Secretary-General's "In Larger Freedom" report. In addition, the General Assembly has asked the Secretary-General to report on how to guarantee the full operational independence of OIOS in the upcoming session this fall.

    Status: The Secretary-General's recommendation is currently before the General Assembly. It is also anticipated that the outcome document for the September Summit will contain measures to strengthen the independence of OIOS. In addition, the new Under-Secretary-General for Oversight Services took up her duties on 15 July 2005. She has a one-term, non-renewable term of five years.

  • Enhanced Anti-Fraud and Corruption Policy
    The UN already has in place various rules and policies designed to prevent fraud and corruption. However, following a recommendation of the UN's external auditors, it is now consolidating them into a stand-alone, comprehensive anti-fraud and corruption policy. The policy will draw on existing best practices, including the model recently developed by the World Bank.

    Status: The High-Level Committee on Management (HLCM) Working Group on Fraud Prevention, under the leadership of the UN Controller, is finalizing a policy with input from the UN Funds and Programmes. A final policy is scheduled for endorsement by the Management Committee in October.


III. Ensuring Ethical Conduct

In direct response to the concerns about fairness and integrity raised in last year's Integrity Survey among UN staff, and to prevent the reoccurrence of such damaging incidents as the exploitation reported in certain peacekeeping missions, misconduct of senior officials and harassment in the workplace, the UN is implementing concrete steps.

  • Whistleblower protection
    The results of the Integrity Survey indicated that staff had little confidence in the Organization's ability to provide sufficient protection for whistleblowers. A review of best practice was conducted, using the expertise of a consultant recommended by Transparency International. The Secretary-General has now issued a robust new whistleblower policy and is seeking the views of staff before formally promulgating it. The policy is designed to reassure staff that they will be protected against retribution when reporting on misconduct. The release of the draft policy was accompanied by a circular (ST/IC/2005/19) outlining to staff all existing avenues for the reporting of misconduct.

    Status: A new draft Whistleblower Protection will be submitted for approval to the Management Committee in September 2005. The draft took into account more than 100 comments garnered from the formal consultations with staff around the world, as well as external partners. The policy will be then consulted with staff representatives for final comments before it is issued.

  • Incorporating Ethics into staff training programmes
    A new training module in the form of a CD-ROM on integrity and ethics provisions has been developed. The intention is that all levels of Secretariat staff would be required to complete the module. In addition, ethics modules have been added to all existing training programmes for UN staff and managers.

    Further, a UN-wide ethics training and certification programme entitled "Harassment, Sexual Harassment, & Abuse of Authority" has also been developed, in collaboration with the UN Development Group. It is intended to reinforce the UN's zero tolerance policy.

    Status: Ethics modules have been mainstreamed into all training programmes. In addition, the adaptation of an online training programme for use throughout the Secretariat has been completed. The launch of the UN-wide ethics training and certification programme will be rolled out over the coming months with versions ready in multiple languages by the end of the year.

  • Responses to allegations of sexual misconduct by field personnel
    The Organization is taking systematic disciplinary action where individual cases of sexual exploitation and/or abuse have been identified. Across all missions, 186 peacekeepers have been investigated over the past 20 months; seven UN civilian staff have been fired and 80 "blue helmets" have been expelled from missions. Investigations are ongoing in several missions - Burundi, Cote d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Haiti and Georgia. In addition, a number of short, medium and longer-term initiatives are underway:

    • The introduction of a unified standard of conduct across all categories of peacekeeping personnel. Training has been integrated into all mission induction programmes.
    • Credible complaints mechanisms have been established in all missions, including telephone hotlines and confidential email accounts.
    • A global review on the state of discipline in peacekeeping missions was undertaken by OIOS in April 2005 and the resulting report is currently being finalized.
    • Missions are ensuring that victims of sexual abuse are referred to existing emergency assistance in the mission area (medical, psycho-social, legal).
    • DPKO has established a conduct and discipline unit at UN Headquarters, which is expected to be fully operational by end of September 2005.
    • Over the coming months, similar units will be established in eight DPKO missions. They will focus on preventing misconduct through various means including training, monitoring and providing improved welfare and recreation facilities. Missions will continue to work with in-country networks developed to better coordinate and share information.
    • In the longer term, the Secretary-General will undertake a comprehensive review of the welfare and recreation needs for all peacekeeping personnel as well as the development of a comprehensive strategy for victim assistance. The model agreement with troop-contributing countries will be reviewed to strengthen its content on conduct and discipline. In addition, a group of legal experts will be examining ways to ensure that UN staff and experts on mission are held accountable for the consequences of criminal acts committed in countries where no functioning judicial system exists.

    Status: In June 2005, the General Assembly approved the creation of 19 new OIOS investigator positions as well as additional investigative resources for following up allegations of misconduct in peace missions. Resources were also earmarked to enhance the Department of Peacekeeping Operation's capacity for supporting and advising staff on conduct-related issues. A multidisciplinary workshop on victim assistance, drawing on the experience of Member States and civil society groups, was held on 16-17 June 2005.

  • Financial Disclosure Policy for Senior Officials
    The UN Department of Management has conducted a review of disclosure practices in comparable organizations with a view to expanding the scope of financial disclosure currently required of senior officials, including those employed on a short-term basis or under special conditions. The appropriate mechanisms for monitoring these disclosures are also under review for immediate strengthening.

    Status: A new Financial Disclosure Policy was approved by the Management Committee on 12 July. A new Secretary-General Bulletin reflecting the new requirements will be issued shortly. Staff at the Director level (D-1s and D-2s) will be encouraged to comply with the new disclosure requirements, pending a General-Assembly mandated change to the pertinent Staff Regulation.

  • Enhancement of Codes of Conduct/Conflict of Interest rules
    While the UN has in place a detailed Code of Conduct, it has not been disseminated to staff in an effective manner. The Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM) is reviewing the practices of other organizations in disseminating such information in more accessible and easy-to-read forms (web pages, handbooks, orientation guides, etc). Special additional rules are also being developed for staff engaged in procurement activities. A UN Supplier Code of Conduct is also being formulated.

    Status: A user-friendly booklet for staff on Status, Basic Rights and Duties, as well as the Standards of conduct, has been drafted with the assistance of outside expertise. The draft text is currently being reviewed. The final text is expected to be finalized September/October 2005.

  • Protection against harassment in the workplace
    While the UN has a strict sexual harassment policy in place, OHRM is now finalizing a new, broader policy to encompass wider forms of harassment for consultation with the Staff Representative bodies. It is also assessing more effective ways of disseminating the provisions of this new policy.

    Status: The new harassment policy is to be consulted with the staff this fall. In addition a UNDG-led online learning programme on the prevention of harassment, sexual harassment and abuse of authority is due to be issued in English, French and Spanish language versions in September/October 2005.


IV. Increasing Transparency

  • Access to Information
    Currently, there is no established policy for determining which UN documents should be accessible outside the Secretariat. While a large number of documents are currently accessible, the UN needs a clear and consistent policy that increases transparency while ensuring confidentiality where needed. The Office of Legal Affairs has carried out an assessment of best practices in public administrations around the world. The Management Committee is monitoring this work and will provide recommendations.

    Status: The Office of Legal Affairs has solicited external expertise to develop a policy based on existing models in a range of different countries and organizations. The new policy will be formulated during the course of the fall.

  • External validation of the UN procurement system
    The Volcker Inquiry has been critical of various UN procurement cases in the early years of the Oil-for-Food Programme. Since the mid-1990s, the UN's procurement process has undergone several reforms, making it more transparent and addressing many shortcomings identified in a number of reviews. The UN Department of Management commissioned a review conducted by the US National Institute of Government Purchasing (NIGP) which was submitted in June 2005. Further revelations have necessitated an additional review to look exclusively at the adequacy of the financial and internal controls on the procurement system. At the same time, OIOS is continuing its investigations into the allegations of misconduct arising from the Volcker Inquiry.

    Status: The Reform Group reviewed the NIGP report on 11 August and recommended that an additional review of financial and internal controls be conducted by the end of September 2005.

  • Policy guidance on pro-bono contracts
    A working group led by the Office of Legal Affairs has drafted a new policy on the provision of pro-bono goods and services offered to the UN, building on a body of disparate existing practice and precedent.

    Status: Draft guidelines will be endorsed by the Management Committee in September. A circular containing the final guidance will then be issued to all Secretariat offices.


Report from:  "Reform at the U.N. by the Secretary-General"


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