Global Policy Forum

Management and Secretary General Reform


Management reform of the UN is not a new idea. Over the years, new Secretary Generals have often re-organized departments, introduced new lines of command and renovated the organization through re-structuring. But today, talk about management reform is louder than ever, especially following the Millennium+5 Summit of September, 2005. Washington has made sweeping demands, insisting that the UN should be run like a business, not like a government, and urging that the Secretary General be considered as Chief Executive Officer. Washington says that unless its demands are met, funding will stop or be greatly reduced. Under this draconian threat, Secretary General Kofi Annan issued a report titled "Investing in the United Nations" (March 2006) that proposes far-reaching changes, including outsourcing of Secretariat services and new authority for the Secretary General to shift budgets and close programs without consulting the General Assembly. The report has prompted strong criticism from many governments as well as UN staff.

Critics have charged that Annan's proposals ignore the UN's financial crisis and its negative impact on good management. They also point out that Washington likes to name political cronies to UN posts, not exactly a reformist approach. And they note that the Secretary General's text has similarities to a hostile Congressional bill, written by Republicans in the House of Representatives. Critics often charge that the US wants "structural reform" of the UN not to improve effectiveness, but to increase US control, weaken the organization and stir up fights within it. Few reform projects in the past have stirred up such controversy or posed such danger to the organization's future. This page follows developments and critically analyzes the debate.


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UN Chief Exercises Selective Transparency in Key Posts (March 2, 2012)

The permanent five members (P5) of the UN Security Council usually pressure UN Secretary Generals to appoint top officials into the Secretariat. Back-room dealing among great powers place personnel in high positions based on political interests rather than merit. For the first time, however, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon sent public advertisements calling for potential Under-Secretary Generals (USGs). It remains to be seen whether Ban Ki-moon will consider the public nominations or continue appointing personnel as dictated by the P5. (IPS)   

Senior Management Heads Roll at World Body (January 25, 2012)

Ban Ki-moon is set to hire eight new under-secretaries-generals (USGs), the third highest-ranking position in the UN system. Ban claims that the appointments will be merit-based and that he will take into account geographical and gender balance. But the five permanent members of the Security Council traditionally succeed in lobbying for key appointments in the Secretariat, which furthers the interests of powerful nations. There, gender balance is far from equal. In an interview with IPS, Jim Paul of Global Policy Forum notes that the process of selection for USGs are far from transparent, involving murky deals and behind-the-scenes favors. The Secretariat has seen many incompetent leaders as a result. (IPS)


Transparency in the Selection and Appointment of Senior Managers in the United Nations Secretariat (2011)

This report from the UN Joint Inspection United describes the Secretary-General’s procedure for hiring senior managers, and it touches on the non-transparent hiring process in which gender and geography is “considered”. The report recommends a better way for Member States to obtain clear information about the Secretary-General’s selection process. But UN reports use vague and conflated language, making change slow. While the JIU recommendations are important, it remains to be seen whether the General Assembly will act upon them, and whether formal rules can improve a highly political selection process dominated by the most powerful countries. (The Joint Inspection Unit)

Ban’s Second Term: the Case for a Woman Secretary General (June 20, 2011)

Following Ban Ki-Moon’s re-election, Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury criticized the Security Council’s “opaque, non-democratic process” of selecting a Secretary-General. Ambassador Chowdhury argues that the P5 members have a long tradition of supporting “weak, non-performing, acquiescent leaders” to advance their own agendas and increase their control over the UN.  As UN member states push for reform of the Security Council, electing a more dynamic and active leader could demonstrate that the Security Council has the possibility of adapting to changing realities. Ambassador Chowdhury also suggests that the Security Council should advocate for the election of the first female Secretary-General, which would be a step towards achieving gender equality in all UN positions. (IPS Terraviva)


General Assembly Adopts Series of Resolutions on Management Reform (February 2, 2009)

In December 2008, the United Nations General Assembly decided to adopt a new system of appointments for UN staff, which will consist of temporary, fixed-term and continuing contracts. It also adopted a resolution stating that, in the long-term, an ad hoc body cannot deal with cases of fraud and corruption within the UN, as is currently the case with a subgroup of the Office of Internal Oversight Services. The General Assembly further agreed on an organizational change by deciding to establish an independent Office of Information and Communication Technology. (


Open Letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations (May 16, 2008)

The UN staff union has expressed a vote of no confidence in Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and some of his senior administration officials. In this letter to the Secretary General, President of the UN Staff Union Stephen Kisambira argues that Ban has repeatedly ignored the concerns of the staff union regarding the appointment of senior UN officials and general management. Kisambira argues that "nepotism, favouritism and patronage" characterize the staff selection system and reforms in the management of the UN have only been "cosmetic."

Remarks to the General Assembly Thematic Debate "Toward a Common Understanding of Management Reform" (April 8, 2008)

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon emphasized the urgent need for UN management reform, as the organization has to take on more responsibilities with fewer resources. Ban talked about speeding up the UN's recruitment process and improving the selection of top managers. To increase the accountability of individual managers and their decisions, UN staff will be able to assess the Secretary General's "Compacts" with senior managers, which lists their responsibilities. (UN News)

Mandate Review Moves to Humanitarian Cluster with New Methodology (March 6, 2008)

The UN Working Group on Mandate Review will soon start reviewing the humanitarian mandates. The working group will divide the mandates into four categories, based on their efficiency and effectiveness. Resources that become available due to eliminated mandates will fund "development-related activities." Member states raised the concern that the UN accounting system cannot calculate the precise amount of money that corresponds to each mandate. (


Accountability and the United Nations System (2007)

Accountability should play a larger role in the debate on UN reform. According to Michael Fowler and Sumihiro Kuyama, "perceptions of UN efficiency, effectiveness and credibility are closely related to accountability." A UN, which is both managerially and politically accountable, will attract larger support from member states and thereby play a more effective role in global governance. (unu)

Towards a Compact (September 2007)

The 4NI is a reform initiative by Sweden, Thailand, Chile and Singapore, addressing the issue of accountability and transparency in the management of the UN. The 4NI offers recommendations that include: increasing informal consultations between member states and the Secretariat, strengthening drafting and evaluation of mandates and improving the recruitment process. (The Four Nations Initiative)

UN Management Reform – The Role and Perspective of the G77 (September 10, 2007)

During the 2005 – 2006 discussions on UN management reform, Western governments and media often accused the G77 for being "counter-agents of change, resistant to all reform initiatives." This article disputes this idea, showing how the G77 plays an important role in the UN reform process. The group, however, has a different reform agenda than their richer counterparts, focused on development and the equitable distribution of resources. (Center for UN Reform Education)

US Crusader Odd Man Out at UN (July 31, 2007)

The US representative for UN management and reform, Mark D. Wallace, clashes with UN authorities as he continues his "anti-corruption crusade." Wallace's mission to uncover corruption in the UN Development Programs in North Korea and Burma has frustrated UN officials, who say that "he has hyped his findings." While former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton encouraged Wallace's aggressive investigations, the current ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, aims to ease the tension between the US and UN and has tried to "prevent Wallace's probe from triggering a larger public battle." (Washington Post)

General Assembly Supports Ban Ki-Moon's Reform Proposals for Stronger UN (March 15, 2007)

Having previously rejected Ban Ki-Moon's controversial and seemingly hastily drawn- up reform plans, the General Assembly has now approved the UN chief's revised proposals. The modifications ensure that an Under Secretary General, and not a lower-ranked Assistant Secretary General, will head the new Office for Disarmament Affairs. The Assembly also backed the decision to divide the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations into two units – a Department of Peace Operations and a Department of Field Support. According to some diplomats, the GA's endorsement signals "a vote of confidence" in Ban's reform efforts. (UN News)

South Faults Double Standards on UN Top Jobs (March 14, 2007)

This Inter Press Service article draws attention to some UN observers' concerns about Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's hiring techniques for his senior management team. The five Security Council Permanent Members and other big donors often use their clout to secure key posts for their nationals, allegedly disregarding the criteria that other individuals must meet. Members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), one of the largest bloc of countries at the UN, say "there should be a level playing field" and an open appointment process based on merit and not influence.

UN Chief Relents on Restructuring World Body (February 21, 2007)

Following strong protests from mostly non-aligned governments at the UN, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon will modify his reform plans and comply with traditional procedures for General Assembly approval. According to some diplomats, Ban's hasty reform efforts, which included splitting the Department of Peacekeeping Operations into two, "created the unfortunate perception that the proposals had not been well thought out." In light of the political realities as well as the different priorities of the various blocs at the UN, this Inter Press Service article emphasizes the need for openness in the UN reform process.

Secretary General Faces A Backlash (February 14, 2007)

Less than two months into his tenure as UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon has already received sharp criticism for pushing reform proposals that appear "to accommodate US interests and the desires of other wealthy member nations." This Washington Post article highlights the challenges Ban faces in pursuing an independent agenda at the UN's helm. The UN leader must strike a balance between meeting the demands of the "big powers" and addressing the poor countries' concerns.

Activists Warn UN on Downgrading Disarmament (February 7, 2007)

In an effort to block UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's proposal to reduce the stature of the Department of Disarmament Affairs (DDA), a group of NGOs has circulated a letter to delegations at the UN, seeking their support. John Burroughs of the Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy – a signatory to the letter – recalls that some neoconservative US politicians successfully led a campaign in the 1990s that "laid the groundwork for the retrograde US positions on disarmament." The NGOs emphasize the need for the DDA to remain independent and "shielded to some extent" from political pressure. (Inter Press Service)

UN Chief Tries to Avoid Roadblocks on Path to Reform (February 5, 2007)

Amid concerns that he intended to hastily push through dubious reforms, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon assured the General Assembly that he would "personally engage in consultations with Member States." While the US and other big donors back Ban's proposals, many others – mostly the countries of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77 – remain skeptical about the planned changes. The situation hints at the underlying North-South power struggle entwined with the UN reform process. (Inter Press Service)

South Rejects Deadline for UN Restructuring (January 30, 2007)

In light of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's controversial suggestion to downgrade the Department of Disarmament Affairs, diplomats assert that the UN reform process could take a long time. The Group of 77 and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) have firmly rejected a February 5 deadline to decide on Ban's proposed changes. Global Policy Forum's Executive Director James Paul comments that "with little concern about democratic process, UN reform suddenly takes on an urgency that is certain to puzzle an outside observer." (Inter Press Service)

UN Chief Moves to Restructure World Body (January 23, 2007)

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has laid out his suggestions for reshaping the organization. Several NGOs as well as UN delegations have already balked at the proposal to move the Department of Disarmament Affairs (DDA) more directly under the UN chief's authority. Further, the largest bloc of nations at the UN, the Non-Aligned Movement, has called on Ban to clarify some issues, such as whether he will downgrade the top post at the DDA from Under Secretary General to Assistant Secretary General. (Inter Press Service)

UN Chief to Drop Merger Plan (January 19, 2007)

Following strong protests from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon will abandon his proposal to combine the UN's Departments of Disarmament Affairs (DDA) and Political Affairs (DPA). Amid speculation that the US – a nuclear power – seeks to secure the top DPA job, the NAM, which consists largely of "nuclear have-nots," rejected the idea of a merger they believe could further politicize and, therefore, slow down the global disarmament process. (Associated Press)

UN: Move to Downgrade Disarmament Triggers Protests (January 16, 2007)

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon suggested a merger of the UN Department of Disarmament Affairs with another office, possibly the UN's Department of Political Affairs (DPA). In light of rumors that a US diplomat might take charge of the DPA – and given Washington's opposition to nuclear disarmament and arms control – peace activists have resoundingly rejected Ban's proposal. Furthermore, NGOs fear that a combination of the two offices may well undermine the UN's leadership role in global security and peace. (Inter Press Service)

Stabbing UN Reform in the Back (January 3, 2007)

According to this TomPaine piece, Washington pushes for reforms ostensibly to strengthen the UN but with the hidden aim of reining in the organization's autonomy. Specifically, the author cites alleged US resistance to protect whistleblowers at the UN as an example of US hypocrisy about making the world body more effective. Furthermore, the article rightly points out that the poor UN member states – though often criticized by their rich counterparts for "blocking" change – actually support legitimate and substantive reforms.


Fixed Selection or Democratic Election: Reforming the Appointment Process for the World's Top Job (May 26, 2006)

This One World Trust paper reviews criticisms of the existing process of selecting the UN Secretary General (SG) and also puts forth proposals for long term reform such as setting up a committee to nominate several candidates to the General Assembly. The UN can lift the shroud of secrecy surrounding the process by, for example, making a list of final candidates and their biographies available to the public. The author points out that the debate for reform encompasses other international organizations such as the Bretton Woods Institutions.

Selecting the Next UN Secretary General (May 2006)

This United Nations Association of the USA report includes recommendations on the role of the Secretary General and the selection process. UNA-USA argues that the SG should primarily be a "diplomatic post," accountable for overall management of the UN, but able to rely on senior Secretariat staff. The report also urges the General Assembly to assume a larger selection role and the creation of a nominating committee within the Security Council. Regional rotation should be replaced with an "open, deliberative process that eliminates gender and regional barriers."

Appointment of a New Secretary General (February 16, 2006)

This paper from Security Council Report provides an overview of the appointment of a UN Secretary General, detailing the selection process, terms, and previous appointments. The report addresses criticisms of transparency that commentators have leveled at the selection process, and gives a historical overview of the use on the veto power. The authors show mixed evidence on the issue of regional rotation.

A Priority Agenda for the Next UN Secretary General (December 28, 2006)

This report categorizes UN reform goals as either "actionable," "achievable" or "untenable" based on how quickly they could improve the UN's performance in key areas such as development, the environment and global security. According to the report, the greatest expectation for change at the UN presents itself when a new Secretary General takes office. Therefore, incoming UN chief Ban Ki-Moon must set realistic targets for UN reform, taking into consideration the political realities and regional differences among Member States. (Friedrich Ebert Foundation/Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies)

UN Secretary General Selection Lacks Insight (November 7, 2006)

According to this Daily Yomiuri article, two groups – the General Assembly and the Asian bloc at the UN – could have taken different approaches to getting a bigger say in choosing Kofi Annan's successor. The author remarks that the Asian nations should have put forward a single candidate, showing "regional solidarity" instead of pursuing individual ambitions for UN leadership. But in calling for the GA to "assert" itself more in the selecting the UN's top diplomat, the author does not acknowledge previous attempts to break the Security Council's virtual monopoly over the decision-making process.

Korean Minister Likely Candidate to Replace Kofi Annan, But Will the General Assembly Approve? (October 3, 2006)

In response to General Assembly calls for a more democratic process in choosing the next Secretary General, the Security Council conducted informal polls on candidates vying for the highest-ranking UN job. Many UN observers have labeled the polls a mere formality, since the veto-wielding Permanent Members – China, France, Russia, the UK and the US – ultimately have the final say. As this United Nations Association of the USA article points out, due to the power struggle over this selection process, the GA may refuse to formalize the Council's decision in an act of defiance.

And the Winner Is Ban Ki-Moon (October 2, 2006)

Before Ban Ki-Moon was appointed as UN Secretary General, the Security Council decided that a member country would need to present its candidate for UN Secretary General to the President of the Security Council. Critics argue this sort of nomination goes against the idea that the Secretary General should be independent and serve in his personal capacity. This piece by the Center for UN Reform Education urges NGOs to actively promote a more transparent and coherent selection process.

UN Needs Woman Chief to Clean It Up (September 24, 2006)

For the third time in the 61-year history of the United Nations, a woman will preside over the General Assembly. Yet no woman has ever held the highest-ranking post at the UN – the Secretary General. The author of this opinion piece from The Oregonian suggests an experienced female Asian diplomat would represent the ideal replacement for incumbent UN chief Kofi Annan in January 2007. Such a nomination would fulfill the unwritten UN tradition of "geographical rotation" for the top UN job while also addressing gender equity.

UN: Secretary or General (September 9, 2006)

In this MaximsNews piece, Sri Lanka's nominee for the top UN job, Jayantha Dhanapala, highlights the difficulties of "spelling out" the criteria for the next UN chief. Dhanapala explores the complex requirements for someone expected to win the support of all five Security Council permanent members and still demonstrate enough independence and commitment to multilateralism. While an impressive resume can work to a candidate's advantage, the true test of the eventual Secretary General's effectiveness only comes when he or she takes office.

UN Secretary General Unbound (September 2006)

According to this Inter Press Service piece, the UN General Assembly must fight off US-driven reforms which threaten to weaken the "multilateral character" of the organization. These reforms give more power to the Secretary General but many perceive them as a maneuver by Washington to gain more influence at the UN. The author proposes a more democratic process of choosing the UN chief to prevent the election of an individual widely perceived as "compliant with certain centers of power."

US Gets as Much as It Gives to the UN (August 10, 2006)

Referring to its 22 percent share of the UN regular budget, Washington demands "value for money" and a dominant voice in management and administration of the world body. This Inter Press Service article considers the many benefits the US receives from the UN and how in turn Washington continuously undermines the UN Charter. The US gets more than 20 percent of UN procurement contracts and earns US$ billions a year from the New York location of the UN Secretariat and agencies. The US location of the UN headquarters also places Washington ideally for "spying" on and influencing UN diplomats.

Race for Top Post Wide Open (July 26, 2006)

The UN Security Council conducted a straw poll to gauge opinions on candidates for the next Secretary General before the official election takes place in October. Observers conclude that no "single clear winner" emerged, since all four contenders received at least one "discourage" vote. The veto power of each Permanent Member as well as the secrecy veiling the informal poll renders futile any speculation about the final outcome of the selection process. (Inter Press Service)

Security Council to Test Waters on New UN Chief (July 14, 2006)

The 15 members of the UN Security Council will undertake a "straw poll" to express their opinions on the candidates vying for the position of UN Secretary General (SG). Given the Council permanent members' veto power as well as the rejection of the General Assembly's proposals to increase openness in choosing the next SG, skeptics doubt this early ballot represents true reform of the selection process. Executive Director of Global Policy Forum James Paul emphasizes the importance of involving the entire UN membership in the process. (Inter Press Service)

UN Approves Modest Management Reforms by Consensus (July 7, 2006)

After lifting a US-imposed budget cap on UN spending, the General Assembly (GA) has adopted a resolution to implement some of the US-driven management reforms. Poor nations had rejected the initial reform package, which would have marginalized them and given more power to the Secretary General. However, despite US reservations about the extent of the measures agreed upon, the GA unanimously approved the compromised resolution. (Reuters)

US Drops Insistence on UN Budget Cap for 2006 (June 26, 2006)

US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton has failed to persuade rich countries to restrict funding to the UN pending US-backed management reforms by the June 30 deadline. The General Assembly will lift the US-imposed budget cap. Developing nations perceive the US-proposed reforms as a tool to give more power to their rich counterparts. Bolton contends that the US will continue to press for the reforms and Congress may withhold contributions to the world body. (Reuters)

New War of Words in UN's North-South Battle (June 8, 2006)

This Inter Press Service article elucidates US ambassador John Bolton's perception of the role of the US in the United Nations. UN Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch Brown decries the extent to which the US uses its financial contributions to control the UN. Bolton, on the other hand, enjoys and condones US eminence in the decision making process at the UN. Fearing that Bolton's US-centered attitude will further isolate the US and undermine the UN's financial situation, a coalition of NGOs sent a letter to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice requesting that the US cooperate with the UN.

UN Comments Trigger Row with US (June 7, 2006)

While UN Secretary General (SG) Kofi Annan agrees with his deputy's call for more US involvement with the UN, US Ambassador John Bolton has strongly objected to what he calls "condescending, patronizing" remarks. Observers say that the confrontation between the two officials has brought to surface tensions within the UN over US threats to withhold funding unless the organization achieves significant US-proposed management reforms. Bolton has suggested that the Deputy SG's criticisms will sway Washington further against the UN. (BBC)

UN Risks Shutdown over US Budget Cap (June 6, 2006)

In this interview, a top UN aide says that if the US and Japan cut off funds as of July 1, the organization risks closing down. The two countries have threatened to maintain the UN budget cap unless the UN makes sufficient progress in fulfilling US-proposed management reforms. Fearing a loss of influence in the UN, developing nations have resisted the proposed reforms. The official points out that withholding funds will affect fundamental operations, for example, paying for utilities and interpreters, which in turn will affect larger projects such as the UN's peacekeeping missions and humanitarian efforts around the world. (Reuters)

United Nations Management Reform: A Perspective (June 2006)

This paper discusses the "collective responsibility" of UN member states to engage in the divisive management reform process. Author Mohammad Tal criticizes the rich nations for misusing their financial clout to manipulate reform. But he also chides the developing countries for exploiting the process to acquire "special status in the organization." In addition, Tal discourages all member nations from politicizing negotiations and urges them instead to prioritize genuine dialogue to strengthen the UN. (Global Policy Forum)

Rich vs. Poor in Power Struggle, Says Top UN Official (May 31, 2006)

The US, Japan and the EU who collectively shoulder more than 80 percent of the UN budget, have imposed a spending cap as a "weapon for forcing management reforms" including staff buy-outs and giving more power to the Secretary General (SG). Poor countries, represented by the Group of 77 (G77) and China, argue that they have no say in decision making processes at the UN and intend to use their voting power to resolve this problem. Deputy SG Mark Malloch Brown says that the growing North-South divide stems not only from the reform proposals but also from the politics surrounding "power and the future control of the organization." (Inter Press Service)

South Seeks Authority to Decide on Next UN Chief (May 19, 2006)

India has initiated a resolution proposal aimed at breaking the virtual monopoly held by the Security Council's permanent members in choosing the Secretary General (SG). The largest single political coalition at the UN, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), has agreed to put together a working group to improve the draft proposal. UN Watch's Hillel Neuer, who believes that the GA already has significant power, argues that people around the world will take more interest in how well the next SG will lead the UN rather than in the actual selection process. (Inter Press Service)

Canada Proposes Future UN Secretary Generals Should Serve Single Term (May 18, 2006)

Canadian Ambassador, Allan Rock, announced that Canada wants the next UN Secretary General to serve only one term of five or seven years. Canada has been the only government to formally push for changes to the Secretary General selection process, although other governments have supported Canada's proposals. Rock also added further requirements such as asking candidates to identify ahead of time whom they will name as deputy secretary general and a "job description" that defines the responsibilities of the Secretary General. (Canadian Press)

India Proposes Panel of 3 Names for Choosing Next UN Sec Gen (May 18, 2006)

India has proposed that the Security Council submit three candidates instead of one to the General Assembly (GA) for selection. India wants to ensure the wider participation of all member states in choosing the next Secretary General and that the candidate will not be influenced by the major powers. The Indian proposal also urges the GA President to conduct member state consultations with the candidates to show contenders "they are not obliged only to the five permanent council members." (Zee News)

Surakiart, Korean to Meet Annan (May 12, 2006)

The Security Council and General Assembly have begun discussing procedures for the election of the next UN Secretary General. Discussions produced a three-stage scenario proposal, which involves the circulation of a list of candidates, informal discussions and a secret ballot for the final nomination. The General Assembly would then approve the candidate – either by a simple majority, a two-thirds vote or acclamation. (Deutsch Presse Agentur)

UN General Assembly Votes to Block Reforms (May 9, 2006)

The General Assembly (GA) has approved a recommendation from the Fifth Committee to block management reform proposals that would give Secretary General Kofi Annan more budget power. Observers say that the GA's vote could lead to a "budget showdown" in June 2006. Since January 2006, the UN operates under a six month budget cap that will only be lifted if member states conclude that they have made enough progress on reform. The US pushed for the budget cap, which was opposed by poor countries. (Ireland On-line)

A New Bargain for UN Reform (May 4, 2006)

Looking at some likely effects of the US-imposed budget cap on UN programs, financier-philanthropist George Soros suggests that the US should lead the way in increasing the General Assembly's (GA) role in electing the Secretary General (SG) to reduce resistance to the US-driven management reform proposals. The G77 has opposed the proposed reforms fearing that more power to the SG would essentially allow the US to better control the UN. Soros argues that the G77 members would be more willing to shift power away from the GA to the SG, if they could choose who will be the next SG. (Open Society Institute)

Asians Remain Divided Over Top UN Job (May 4, 2006)

The author points out the link between the election of the next Secretary General and the "coveted prize" of a permanent seat on the Security Council. Japan and India, who both desire a permanent seat, could now aim for the seat held by the outgoing Secretary General. But although a majority of UN member states, including veto-wielding China, have confirmed their support for an Asian Secretary General, "this will not suffice if Asians cannot unite behind one candidate, or… agree on a common strategy. (Inter Press Service)

The UN's Management Crisis (May 4, 2006)

BBC reports how management reform has divided the UN "to a degree not seen since the 1970s." Rich nations are using financial power to push through reforms, while poor countries are demanding that their rights be respected. Developing countries have become "fed up" with the US telling the UN what to do. Diplomats believe the divide will have an effect on the selection of the next Secretary General – the General Assembly may not merely "rubber stamp" the Security Council's choice.

Developing Nations Thwart Annan's Plan for Reform at UN (April 29, 2006)

The UN Group of 77 (G77), joined by China, forced a vote on a resolution in the the UN's main budget committee that delays action on Secretary General Kofi Annan's management reform proposal. The group of 132 poorer nations argued that Annan's proposals would "curtail" developing nations' influence in the General Assembly, and give wealthier countries too much control. The resolution also limits Annan's plan to wield greater authority over budget matters and management decisions. US and UN officials predict that the G77's action will cause the US Congress to withhold UN funding. (Washington Post)

United Nations After Annan (April 28, 2006)

Under-Secretary General Shashi Tharoor describes the role of the Secretary General (SG) as "truly an impossible job." He states that the post comes filled with paradoxes – a SG must remain politically impartial, yet often needs the support of governments. And although an SG has vast agenda-shaping authority, ultimately the UN relies on governments to implement many ideas. The SG must maintain a relationship with the US, which constantly tightens its grip over UN finances, but to ensure the UN's survival, a SG must not relinquish integrity and independence. (Namibian Times)

Developing Nations Challenge Plan to Change UN (April 24, 2006)

The Group of 77 has submitted a resolution challenging Secretary General Kofi Annan's management reform proposals. South Africa, representing the group of 132 developing nations, has asked Annan to submit reports to the General Assembly (GA) describing his plans in detail, which could delay implementation. South Africa's action reflects "deepening suspicions" that management reform masks a yielding of power by the GA to the Security Council and Secretariat. Poor countries particularly oppose proposed new secretary general responsibilities in budgeting and personnel deployment, typically the domain of the GA. (New York Times)

NGO Letter to UN Security Council on Selection Process of Next Secretary General (April 17, 2006)

NGOs, including Global Policy Forum, call on the Security Council to implement a set of provisions to bring "accountability and transparency" to the selection of the next Secretary General. The NGOs recommend that the UN creates a formal set of qualifications for candidates, a timetable with systematic reporting and procedures for assessment of candidates. The letter urges that the Secretary General must have a "comprehensive understanding and demonstrated commitment" to the UN's principles, extensive experience within the UN system and an openness to working with NGOs. (

Staff on War Path with UN Chief (April 12, 2006)

UN staff members continue to express displeasure with Secretary General Kofi Annan's management reform proposals. Staff members believe that Annan's reforms are tantamount to turning the UN into a US-style corporation "where the bottom line would be governed by a value-for-money ethic." Out-sourcing and staff buyouts demonstrate the intent to weaken the organization and allow the powerful to dominate. (Inter Press Service)

Big Powers Still Monopolise UN Top Jobs (April 4, 2006)

The author writes that the UN has consistently favored "big powers" in appointments to senior jobs. Examples include the position of Under Secretary General for Administration and Management, which US nationals have held for several decades. Angered by this domination, poor countries argue that such appointments contradict General Assembly Resolutions that call for staff recruitment from a "wide .. geographical basis." Diplomats believe Secretary General Kofi Annan's management reform plans do not address this monopolization. (Inter Press Service)

UN Reform Plan Is US Driven (March 22, 2006)

UN Staff Union President, Rosemary Waters, stated that Secretary General Kofi Annan's management reform agenda has been set by the US. A US Congress bill passed in 2005 includes recommendations that have appeared in Annan's reform proposals, including an ethics office, staff buyout and outsourcing of translation services. UN staff believe Annan's proposals does not address the "fundamental causes for the lack of adequate management" and does not represent the 191 member states wishes. (Inter Press Service)

Running Amok with John Bolton (March 11, 2006)

The author writes that US Ambassador John Bolton aims to use UN "management" reform as a guise for turning the UN into a business that will pander to Washington. The media has assisted the US by "hyping the reform-project" and "carping about the fictitious oil-for-food scandal." Bolton has enlisted Secretary General Kofi Annan to promote an outsourcing agenda that will allow Bolton to fill the UN's staff with likeminded business people. (

UN Overhaul Plan Leaves Staff with No Confidence in Annan (March 10, 2006)

The UN Staff Union passed a motion of "no confidence" in Secretary General Kofi Annan following the release of the Secretary General's report on management reform. UN Staff Union oppose proposed outsourcing of jobs and the "disappearance of permanent appointments." Staff are also dismayed that the Annan's report does not hold anyone accountable for the failed systems that spurred the "management reform" process. (Associated Press)

UN Chief Challenged at Contentious Meeting (March 8, 2006)

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's speech detailing his plan for management reform was met with criticism by UN staffers. The staff opposes proposals relating to lay-offs and appointments, specifically targeting Annan's desire to grant more "formal authority" to the Deputy Secretary General (DSG). The General Assembly created the DSG position and diplomats argue that Annan lacks the power to alter the DSG's role. Commentators state that under pressure from Washington, Annan has been trying to "strong arm the General Assembly" and turn the post of Secretary General into that of a corporate CEO. (Inter Press Service)

UN Forges Multi-Million Dollar Reform Plan (March 3, 2006)

Inter Press Service states that an unreleased UN Report detailing management reforms calls for US$400 million in new investments. The majority of investment will be spent on staff-training and career development. Secretary General Kofi Annan has also considered outsourcing administrative work to "lower-cost countries." The report proposes the creation of further offices and positions to implement these management reforms. The cost of these reforms takes money from an already stretched UN budget.

Africa Endorses Asia's Bid for Next UN Chief (March 2, 2006)

The 53 member African group at the UN has expressed its support for an Asian as the next UN Secretary General. When combined with the Asian group, the two have 107 votes in the General Assembly, more than half of the total. Chinese diplomats continue to state that they will only accept Asian candidates and have proposed submitting several Asian candidates to the General Assembly for selection. The US would undoubtedly oppose this method. (Inter Press Service)

Tussle for Top Job at UN Begins (February 22, 2006)

The author refers to UN Secretary General elections as the "diplomatic struggle of the decade" and a chance for China to assert its growing importance on the world stage. The article argues that the Asian candidates are all "flawed" in some way. The candidate may lack UN experience, or they may lack credibility for other reasons, such as their governments' positions on political or human rights issues. The author believes such candidates are unlikely to be supported by UN member states. (Standard - China)

Canadian Non-Paper on the Process for the Selection of the Next Secretary General (February 15, 2006)

Canada calls for a more "open and rigorous" selection process of the next UN Secretary General. The proposal argues that the UN needs a Secretary General that can play an effective role in UN reform and that has broad support from member states. Canada suggests a list of qualifications and proposes discussion between member states and Secretary General candidates. (Canadian Mission to the UN)

Annan Prepares for Privatisation of UN (February 12, 2006)

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan commissioned a study by a US consulting firm into outsourcing a UN department. This Business article asserts that the UN has drawn up plans for privatizing the bulk of its staff at its New York headquarters and to outsource their work overseas. With Washington pressuring the UN to cut costs, the study explores possibilities for privatization from the conservative to the radical.

UN Looks at Ways to Reduce its Staff (February 10, 2006)

The UN has considered outsourcing over 200 translation and documentation jobs in an attempt to reduce costs as part of its reform effort. The UN is under pressure from Washington to cut its budget, but a study commissioned by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan states that privatization will not definitely save money. The study also highlights other risks associated with privatization, including secrecy issues, political objections and job loss. (Boston Globe)

In Selecting New UN Secretary General, Leadership Most Important Factor (February 3, 2006)

This Daily Yomiuri article outlines the many hats that a UN Secretary General must wear in order to operate effectively. A Secretary General must appease powerful members, but not alienate important funding providers, and remain sensitive to the General Assembly as a whole. Not only within the United Nations must the Secretary General provide leadership, but to the general public as well, inspiring them to mobilize and providing a voice to the world's citizens.

It's Time for a Woman UN Secretary General (February 2, 2006)

Equality Now has launched "It's Time for a Woman" - a campaign to elect a female UN Secretary General. The UN's failure to appoint a female SG in the last 61 years raises questions about the UN's commitment to gender equality and hinders progress towards the UN's goals. The article reports that patriarchy has influenced UN culture, where women remain underrepresented in professional and under-Secretary General roles. (Gender Links)

If You Want it, Forget it (January 18, 2006)

Former UN Under Secretary General, Brian Urquhart, describes the process of choosing a new Secretary General as more a "squalid competition" than a set process. Often the candidates themselves are the last to know of their prospects. The Asian region's turn to produce Kofi Annan's successor has been mentioned by many, but others such as US Ambassador John Bolton state they prefer "merit over geography." This arguably however translates to US cover for choosing a candidate of its choice. Politics inevitably comes into play when the P5 of the Security Council make their recommendation. (Los Angeles Times)

Starting Operations, New UN Ethics Office Fields Staff Requests For Advice (January 17, 2006)

After being vehemently debated in December 2005 negotiations, the new UN ethics office has begun operations. According to staff, the office was designed to prevent problems before they arise and identify conflicts of interest, not as an enforcement agency. The office assists staff with accepting gifts, financial disclosure obligations and whistleblower protection policies. (UN News)

Q & A – UN's Record For 2005 (January 6, 2006)

In this interview with the Council on Foreign Relations, President of the United Nations Association of the United States (UNA-USA) William H. Luers comments on a range of issues including management reform, the creation of a Human Rights Council and its membership and US attitudes towards the UN. Overall, Luers paints a positive view of the reform process, but he critically questions the role the US wants to play at the UN.



US Calls for Delay in UN Budget Unless Reforms Met (November 23, 2005)

The US ambassador to the UN John Bolton threatens to block the two-year UN budget if the organization does not approve all management and reform proposals by the end of 2005. While Bolton pressures the UN General Assembly to approve what he calls "management reform," he also questions the usefulness of the organization as "the main global problem solver." Bolton also threatens to withhold US dues to the organization, which could severely undermine the effectiveness of many of its operations. (Reuters)

UN Chief Denies Making a "Grab for Power" (November 22, 2005)

Secretary General Kofi Annan responded to developing countries' allegations that the UN Secretariat is becoming a pawn of the US. Secretary General Annan assured UN member states that the General Assembly and its committees will retain their importance, even if Annan's management reform plans, which are heavily endorsed by Washington, are realized. (Inter Press Service)

Time to Look Beyond Mere Administrative Reforms (April 26, 2005)

This Financial Express piece considers Kofi Annan's report on UN reform "cautious, if not conservative." The article suggests that realpolitik prevents the reform debate from going beyond administrative restructuring. The writer attributes this approach to governments' "attachment to parochial symbols of power and influence" and presents radical suggestions for change, including redesigning the principle organs of the UN.

The Right's Assault on Kofi Annan: How the Neocons Created a "Scandal" to Punish a Critic of US Policies (January 10, 2005)

"The reality is that the current calls for Annan's head are provoked by his opposition to America's pre-emptive war in Iraq," says The Nation's UN correspondent. The author also denounces the "creation" of the oil-for-food scandal as simply a way for US neoconservatives – who have been historically opposed to the United Nations – to push their own "reform" agenda to weaken "multilateral institutions and their role in the world."

US Housecleaning


American Gets UN Political Affairs for First Time (February 9, 2007)

As predicted by many UN observers, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has named US diplomat Lynn Pascoe to head the UN's Department of Political Affairs. Ban's other high-level appointments include officials from China, Egypt and Japan. While the UN chief can choose his senior team without the General Assembly's approval, some critics charge that Ban succumbed to pressure from the major powers and donors in making his appointments. (Reuters)

American Diplomat Secures Top Political Post at UN (January 8, 2007)

The Times, London identifies the US Ambassador to Indonesia, Lynn Pascoe, as the frontrunner for the position of UN Under Secretary General for Political Affairs. Pascoe's pending appointment raises concerns among UN insiders that a US diplomat might have difficulty "distancing himself" from Washington's official policy. Furthermore, critics say that US ambitions to gain more political clout at the UN indicate Washington's incessant efforts to control the organization.


Bush Crony to Head UN's Food Program (November 7, 2006)

In light of US ambitions to secure the top UN peacekeeping job, and the Bush administration's nomination of Josette Shiner as head of the UN World Food Programme, this piece from The Nation examines Washington's continuing efforts to infiltrate the UN leadership. In principle, the UN Secretary General has the final say in the appointment of individuals to such high-ranking posts, but in reality, pressure from powerful member states can influence these decisions. Washington's interference often raises questions within the world body about the UN chief's independence.

America Fights to Take Charge of UN Peacekeepers Around World (November 3, 2006)

Critics speculate that the UN's "big powers" will put pressure on incoming Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to include their "favorites" in his senior management team. This Times, London
article reports that the Bush administration seeks to install a US general at the helm of the UN peacekeeping department – a post currently held by a Frenchman. Such an act demonstrates US attempts to use its financial clout to gain more control of the UN. Yet Washington pays less than its assessed 26 percent peacekeeping dues and US troops constitute a mere 0.5 percent.

US Rebukes UN No. 2 for Criticizing Mideast Policy (August 3, 2006)

UN Deputy Secretary General (DSG) Mark Malloch Brown has triggered a strong protest from the US after his outspoken comments regarding US policy in the Middle East. The high-ranking UN official criticized Washington for refusing to demand an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Lebanon crisis. Malloch Brown, who steps down at the end of 2006, previously chided the US for failing to defend the UN against domestic critics. SG Kofi Annan has resisted pressure from the US and the UK to reprimand his deputy. (Reuters)

US Wants Top Aides at the UN to Resign When Annan Leaves (June 7, 2006)

US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton has suggested that several Under Secretary Generals at the UN leave office when Secretary General (SG) Kofi Annan's term ends so that the new SG can choose his or her own team with more "flexibility." UN staff union members opposed to SG Annan's proposed reforms, particularly staff cuts at the lower levels, reportedly support the call for mass resignation of senior officials. The resignations could include highly influential heads of department who have butted heads with Washington. (New York Sun)


Lawyer Who Told of US Human Rights Abuses at Afghan Bases Loses UN Post (April 30, 2005)

The New York Times reports that a UN human rights monitor in Afghanistan was relieved of his post after accusing US military forces of abusing and torturing prisoners. M. Cherif Bassiouni was expecting a routine two year renewal of his contract but claims the US lobbied against him because of his determination to examine US-supervised prisons.

Annan's Last Spin (February 17, 2005)

Amidst allegations of corruption and partiality at the UN, Al-Ahram Weekly explores the "revolving-door interaction" between the Secretariat and member states with regards to UN reform. The article criticizes the fact that senior UN officials "sometimes succumb to the myopic interests of influential member states in return for political favour," which gives rise to the Secretariat's "vested interest in preserving the status quo."

Annan to Improve UN Accountability (January 31, 2005)

This Associated Press article reports that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan intends to overhaul the selection process for the UN's principle positions to make it "more transparent and inclusive." Annan's new chief of staff Mark Malloch Brown is quoted as saying that he finds it "galling to see how many senior appointments are stitched up by governments in back corridors." The article does not mention that Malloch Brown's own selection resulted from back room political maneuvering by the US and Britain, and that touted "reforms" may be steps to tighten Washington's grip on the world body.

Imminent Staff Shake-Up Signals Tough Days Ahead for UN's Annan (January 4, 2005)

Secretary General Kofi Annan announced UN Development Program head Mark Malloch Brown as the new Chief of Cabinet, succeeding Iqbal Riza. Annan stated that other senior staff will be leaving, including Kieran Prendergast, the Under Secretary General for Political Affairs. Commentators believe Annan shuffled his key aides in order to appease Washington following criticism of the Iraq war. (Axcess News)

Secret Meeting, Clear Mission: 'Rescue' UN (January 2, 2005)

The New York Times reports that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan attended a private meeting with prominent US foreign policy figures in December, at the height of attacks on him in the US press and in Congress. The article says Annan listened quietly while these self-styled "friends of the UN," led by former US ambassador Richard Holbrooke, offered sharp criticisms and insisted that the Secretary General "repair relations with Washington." Annan's cautious criticism of the US role in Iraq appears to have been the main trigger for this latest effort to bring the UN to heel.

UN and Governmental Documents

Key Documents

Investing in the United Nations: for a Stronger Organization Worldwide (March 7, 2006)

In this Report of the Secretary General, Kofi Annan lays out the Secretariat's plans for UN management reform. Due to "dramatic operational expansion" in a wide range of areas, such as peacekeeping, Annan believes that a "radical overhaul" of the UN Secretariat is required. The report contains 23 proposals including development of staff skills, information technology, and budget and finance. The report also includes controversial schemes for staff buyout and outsourcing of labor.

Report of the Secretary General on Management Reform (November 28, 2005)

Since the Millennium+5 Summit, Secretary General Kofi Annan has focused heavily on Secretariat reform, often after pressure to do so from powerful countries like the US. In this report to the General Assembly, Annan lays out his plans for reform, including establishing a new UN ethics office. The office would have external oversight and auditing, and is intended to address perceptions of unethical behavior at the UN following the oil-for-food report, and the results of a UN staff survey.

Excerpt from the Millennium+5 Summit Outcome Document (September 15, 2005)

The Summit Outcome document establishes the basis for UN management reform. The document calls for a more "efficient and effective" Secretariat, the creation of an ethics office, whistleblower protection and effective information technology. The report also mentions a "one-time staff buyout."

Other Documents

General Assembly Draft Resolution A/C.5/60/L.37 (April 21, 2006)

This Group of 77 (G77) resolution asks Secretary General Kofi Annan to submit to the General Assembly (GA) further reports regarding his management reform proposals (Investing in the United Nations) and insists on prior review by the General Assembly of any changes to budget practices. Wealthy countries argued the resolution will block Annan's reform efforts. The vote broke a 20-year tradition in the GA 5th committee of reaching decisions by consensus.

Testimony Before the US House International Relations Committee – Management Reform of UN (May 19, 2005)

This speech to the US Congress outlines Washington's position on UN management reform, calling repeatedly for "accountability" and "efficiency." As the largest contributor to the UN budget, the US believes "it bears a special responsibility to ensure the UN [lives] up to its original purposes and principles." Priorities include strengthening the Office of Internal Oversight, outsourcing of translation services and "boosting the UN's relevance" of the UN. (US Department of State)


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