Un Reform from the Grassroots
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February 17, 2006

Selecting the SG

Want to know how the SG is selected? Here is a summary.

February 12, 2006

Innovative WFP feeds the world’s video gaming community

WFP’s free video game – Food Force – has notched up impressive coverage since it was launched in April 2005. Hats off to WFP and to the game designers and programmers. The game looks slick. And the Food Force website claims more than three million players – with English, Japanese and Italian versions. That figure seems impressive for a game where players save people, rather than kill them. Should we expect a UN Department of Peacekeeping – “Keep the Peace” – video game?

February 06, 2006

LLP Report: Practical steps to a more efficient and effective United Nations

When most people talk about reform of the United Nations, they talk about big reforms – changing mandates, merging agencies, restructuring the Security Council. High level reforms are hugely political and famously difficult to agree – look at 2005’s World Summit in New York for example. Large reforms are only part of what is needed to improve the UN’s ability to deliver its mandates and make the world better. We also need to overhaul the internal workings of some parts of the UN to make it a more effective and more efficient organisation.

For many of us – UN staff – internal management reform is not as interesting or important as the politics of the Middle East, anti-narcotics work on the Afghan-Tajik border, or planning food distribution in Sudan. But we need to focus more on internal reform because the cumulative impact of low level problems on our work is immense.

We waste resources on muddled administrative processes and needless reporting. Some of us lose motivation because we are badly managed and projects are struck by crises that better planning could have averted. Jobs go undone because rigid human resource rules prevent managers transferring personnel rapidly from one post to another to meet a sudden need. This all adds up to an organisation that is becoming less effective as a partner, and less attractive as an employer. We must reverse that trend.

First, Member States must decouple political debates about what the UN should do from efforts to change how it works internally. Member State representatives should consider internal management reform proposals on their merits, and support the UN’s managers and advisors in their efforts to make the organisation more efficient and effective. Internal change then becomes our – all UN staff persons’ – responsibility.

We can do much to make our corners of the UN work better. In this report, the LLP’s 1st, we make 32 suggestions. UN managers and staff could implement nearly all of them without spending a lot of money and without having to seek Member State approval.

January 09, 2006

The UN was designed as a force for change

Ralph Bunche, the first UN official ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize, said that the UN exists “not merely to preserve the peace but also to make change–even radical change–possible without violent upheaval. The United Nations has no vested interest in the status quo.”

December 28, 2005

The UN budget compromise

Last week’s budget compromise in the UN General Assembly seems to be a satisfactory, albeit interim, measure to ensure funding for the Secretariat for the first half of 2006 without perpetuating the status quo. Maintaining momentum for meaningful management reform is critical, so it is helpful that member states will have to readdress these issues in a few months’ time. more

December 28, 2005

SG’s present to next SG: a revamped UN

“If there’s one thing I would like to hand over to my successor when I leave office next year, is that it should be a United Nations that is fit for the many varied tasks and challenges we are asked to take on today,” U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told reporters during his traditional year-end press conference last week.

December 23, 2005

Should the next SG be a “superior administrative officer”?

The US permanent representative to the UN said this week that the US will be looking for a “superior administrative officer” as the next SG. The UN’s Charter mentions the role of the SG only briefly – explicitly referring to the SG’s internal role as the chief administrative officer, and making no mention on the post’s external role. However, over the years that external role – making peace, focusing policy-makers’ and the public’s attention on certain issues, convening talks on a particular conflict or maintaining the world’s focus on a broad issue – has become the majority of the workload that passes through the Executive Office. more

December 20, 2005

Whistleblower policy arrives

The Secretariat’s whistleblower policy comes into force on 1 January 2006. Whistleblower Policy

December 19, 2005

Mandate review; budget review

Member States are supposed to approve the UN regular budget for 2006 and 2007 by 31 December. The US has proposed passing a budget for only four or six months in order to allow the budget to be shaped by the various UN reform proposals the Secretary-General is expected to present to the General Assembly by the end of the first quarter of 2006. Nearly all the other Member States are willing to pass a full two-year budget – perhaps with the significant exception of Japan. However, it appears hard to argue with the logic of the US on this point. more

December 16, 2005

Deputy Secretary-General departure

Louise Fréchette, as Deputy Secretary-General, is the second-highest ranking official in the United Nations. The post also has a lot of responsibility over the Secretariat’s internal reform agenda. Ms Fréchette announced last week that she will depart the Secretariat in April next year. Intelligent design could turn her departure into something helpful; a failure to appoint the right candidate early and transparently would reduce even further the chances of meaningful internal reform taking place next year.