March 7, 2006

Annan: UN needs overhaul to cope in 21st century

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi
Annan recommended on Tuesday a radical overhaul on the way the
United Nations does business and suggested relocating U.N.
translators out of New York as well as outsourcing other work.

In a long-awaited report on management reform, Annan sought
more financial oversight, simplifying hiring and reporting
procedures, staff buyouts and a modern information system that
could cost $500 million.

"Just as this building, after 56 years of ad hoc repair and
maintenance, now needs to be fully refurbished from top to
bottom, so our organization, after decades of piecemeal reform,
now needs a thorough strategic refit," Annan told the
191-member General Assembly in introducing the 33-page report.

The exercise, demanded by world leaders at a U.N. summit in
September after a spate of scandals, estimates $280 million for
improving staff conditions in the field; $120 million for
information technology, $10 million for training and a possible
$100 million for buyouts.

In turn, U.N. officials believe they could save $35 million
by transferring staff out of New York and perhaps as much as
$400 million on contract procurement but did not say how. Annan
is responsible for some 13,000 staff in the field and
elsewhere, with some 4,200 in New York, U.N. officials say.

"This reform is not a cost-cutting exercise, any more than
it is a grab for power by the secretariat, or a desperate
attempt to placate one or two major contributors on the
budget," Annan said.

The United States pays 22 percent of the U.N. budget, Japan
19 percent, and the European Union nations, about 38 percent.

For the United States, management reforms, following
scandals in the oil-for-food program for Iraq, are crucial. In
addition, many Republican members of Congress want to attach
management changes to a full payment of U.S. dues.

Moving part of the United Nations' six-language translation
services, done by 312 people, out of its New York headquarters
building could save some $35 million annually. Asia, including
China, are candidates for some of the relocation work, U.N.
sources said.

Annan also said printing and publishing could be outsourced
along with some administrative services, such as payrolls. He
hoped the outsourcing and relocations could take place in


Many of the proposals are controversial, including one that
would give the secretary-general more power to allocate and
consolidate jobs rather than ask the General Assembly for
approval. For example, at the moment U.N. staff handle nearly
40 separate peacekeeping accounts.

But since U.S. Ambassador John Bolton persuaded a reluctant
General Assembly in December to fund the United Nations
bureaucracy for six months only, a bitterness has developed
between developing nations who feel rich countries want to cut
programs and jobs that benefit them.

This clash was evident shortly after Annan spoke. South
Africa's U.N. ambassador, Dumisani Kumalo, head of the Group of
77, a body of 132 mainly developing nations, proposed the
report be handled by the assembly's budgetary panels, without
giving any timetable for completing work.

Bolton said that the plenary of the General Assembly would
have to consider the report and "in turn make decisions as to
how to allocate it among the relevant committees of the General
Assembly," adding: "This work is too important to be caught up
in procedural wrangles in this body."

No decision was made and Assembly President Jan Eliasson
said he would conduct consultations.