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Monday, December 10, 2007

UN Reform

Three landmark reviews propose fundamental changes

United Nations Headquarters BuildingWorld Leaders at the 2005 World Summit requested a number of landmark reports. The first of these was delivered in March of 2006: “Investing in the UN: For a Stronger Organization Worldwide”. It put forward a bold vision of Secretariat management reform for the next three to five years. In the second half of 2006, three further reports elaborate on this vision – namely: the “Comprehensive Review of Governance and Oversight”, the report of the “UN Redesign Panel on the UN Internal Justice System”, and the review by the “High-Level Panel on System Wide Coherence”. All three contain far-reaching recommendations on key management processes and structures which, if approved by Member States, could redefine the way the Organization works.

The Comprehensive Review of Governance and Oversight was delivered to the Secretary-General in July by the members of a Steering Committee of eminent experts in public administration. They had conducted an independent evaluation of governance and oversight within the United Nations, Funds, Programmes and Specialized Agencies. Their report recommends a series of improvements that affect both management and the governing structures in place for a number of years. Many of the recommendations – including the creation of a robust Independent Audit Advisory Committee and greater operational independence for the OIOS - are far-reaching and will need close consideration of the General Assembly in the 61st session.

Also in July 2006, a “Redesign Panel” of external judicial experts submitted its review of the UN Internal Justice System [PDF, 181KB]. It found that the current system was "outmoded, dysfunctional, ineffective and lacks independence", and in light of these findings, recommended "a completely new system of administration of justice" designed to be "professional, independent and decentralized". The Secretary-General welcomed the report, and will be submitting his response to the report to the General Assembly in the first resumed session of the GA in 2007, following close consultation with staff members and a full costing of the proposed new system.

Finally, the recommendations of the Panel on System-Wide Coherence, a panel co-chaired by the prime ministers of Mozambique, Norway and Pakistan, were presented to the Secretary-General in early November 2006. The report aims to help the UN fulfill its potential in supporting countries reach the Millennium Development Goals, by streamlining the currently large and diverse UN family. It says that the UN must be radically revamped to “deliver as one”, in particular at the country level, where the UN could have a much greater impact if it were less fragmented. The President of the General Assembly is expected to initiate a process of consultation and dialogue on the Panel's recommendations. It will be for the incoming Secretary-General and his team to follow-through on this vision.

All three reports, if they result in concrete, meaningful reform, have the potential to improve the effectiveness and responsiveness of the Organization. However, given the far-reaching organizational (and financial) implications, it is likely that the recommendations will take several years to implement.

In the meantime, the General Assembly in its 61st session is tackling the detailed human resources reform proposals that are outlined in “Investing in People [PDF, 429KB]” (addendum 1 [PDF, 71KB], and corrigendum to the addendum [PDF, 25KB]) – the detailed follow-up report on personnel reforms that was issued in August 2006. This integrated package proposes fundamental changes that will bring United Nations human resources management system into line best practices. This includes a more proactive, targeted and speedy recruitment system, an approach to mobility that integrates Headquarters with field staff, greater career development opportunities, simplifying and streamlining contractual arrangements and harmonizing conditions of service – particularly for our staff serving in hardship duty stations.

Secetary-General Ban Ki-Moon is committed to the continued modernization and reform of the organisation. As the reform initiatives proposed by his predecessor reach the General Assembly for decsion in the resumed 61st sessions of 2007, he will define his own reform priorities, in consultation and collaboration with the Member States.

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