Global Policy Forum

Developing Nations Challenge Plan to Change UN


By Warren Hoge

New York Times
April 24, 2006

A powerful group of developing nations is challenging Secretary General Kofi Annan's prescription for changing the management of the United Nations, and action Monday on the group's resolution could put off consideration of the changes for months. Annan's proposal for modernizing an organization created 60 years ago and bringing its recruitment, contracting and training practices into line with its vast new responsibilities, is a main objective as he completes his last year in office. It also follows widespread criticism of the way the United Nations has been run, as dramatized in the scandal over the oil-for-food program.

Delay could provoke a larger confrontation in June, when the United Nations must establish its annual budget. Under an arrangement pressed by the United States, member states agreed in December to tie the budgeting for the second half of this year to achievement of broad changes in management.

The conflict has arisen in the General Assembly's powerful Fifth Committee, the panel that controls budgeting decisions. Committee members received Annan's plan in March with the expectation that they would review it but not propose major alterations before sending it along to the overall assembly. Instead, the committee has taken up a resolution asking Annan to submit a welter of new reports to the General Assembly next September, describing his proposal in detail. The resolution was offered by South Africa in the name of the Group of 77, which represents 132 developing nations. The committee adjourned at 4 a.m. Friday, with prospects uncertain about whether it would reach consensus and avoid a vote, or whether it would delay Annan's proposals.

John Bolton, the American ambassador to the United Nations, said that the United States and other countries that provide the bulk of the organization's funding opposed the resolution, but he conceded that it would pass if put to a vote. Bolton was speaking to the World Affairs Council in Philadelphia on Friday, but his spokesman, Richard Grenell, said, "Ambassador Bolton would be saddened if it passed because it would be a defeat for the secretary general's management recommendations."

Of particular concern to the developing nations are sections of Annan's report that would give the secretary general new responsibilities in budgeting and personnel deployment, which the General Assembly believes are exclusively its preserve. The South African move reflects deepening suspicions among developing nations that the management changes represent a ceding of power by the 191-member General Assembly, where they have a voice, to the 15-member Security Council and the Secretariat, where authority lies with the great powers and the major donor nations.

"The fear of the G-77 is that the agenda of the most powerful will dictate decisions, probably for political reasons," said Enrique Berruga, the ambassador from Mexico. "We have a deficit of confidence at the United Nations right now." Heraldo Muñoz, the ambassador from Chile, which is part of the G-77, said: "The majority of the Group of 77 have no basic objections to giving greater authority to the secretary general; it only makes sense. But on the other hand, they feel it would put him in a position where he could be pressured by the big donors - 'I want such and such a decision to be taken because I was the one that put up the money.'"

In his proposal, Annan anticipated this dispute, warning that it was one that was "undermining what should be a common commitment to an effective United Nations."

More Information on UN Reform
More Information on Management Reform
More Information on UN Reform Topics
More Information on US, UN and International Law


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.