Global Policy Forum

Kofi Annan Calls for Reform


By Ranjan Roy

Associated Press
September 24, 2002

Countless committee meetings, fat reports written in dense language, reams of paperwork that tie up a complex web of officials. 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 yesterday on the need for reform.

"We must be prepared to change with the times, constantly adjusting to new conditions and new needs," Annan said. Calling on his officials and the 190 member nations to help redraw priorities, Annan's report to the General Assembly prescribes streamlining various departments, simplifying labyrinthine procedures, firing 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. reports 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 governments. "We are not saying conferences are obsolete or should be abandoned. But there could be other ways of organizing these conferences," Annan said.

He advocated more planning ahead of conferences so that all the documents are ready before delegates meet. Otherwise, he warned "you come up with a document with an agreement on the lowest common denominator." The report added that even larger countries find it difficult to participate 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 redundant, the report said.

More Information on UN Reform
More Information on Kofi Annan's Reform Agenda
More Information on UN Reform Initiatives


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