Spurred by allegations of fraud and mismanagement in its handling of the oil-for-food aid program in Iraq, a senior UN official says that Secretary-General Kofi Annan is attempting to embark on a series of changes in how the world body is organized and conducts business.
In an interview in the past week, the official, Mark Malloch Brown, who is quitting as the head of the UN Development Program to become Annan's chief of staff, said the secretary-general would begin unveiling an ambitious package of proposed structural and personnel changes soon after an independent commission reports on the oil-for-food scandal later this month.
"To achieve its potential and another San Francisco moment," said Malloch Brown, referring to the site of the creation of the organization, "the United Nations must win back the trust of American public and world public opinion."
Malloch Brown, 51, said the changes were likely to include a deeper reshuffling of Annan's senior management team, changes in internal rules and procedures aimed at diminishing secrecy and enhancing accountability. The structural changes would also be geared toward helping the organization respond faster to crises.
He said Annan planned to propose some of the changes, which he declined to describe in more detail, when he addresses the General Assembly in early March. Annan is due to report then on the organization's progress in achieving "millennium" goals outlined in 2000 in areas including peacekeeping, global security, development assistance, human rights, and aid to Africa.
Asserting that a renewed commitment to development aid for poorer countries was essential to the organization's credibility, diplomats and UN officials said Annan would embrace a recommendation from a special advisory panel yesterday that member nations double the amount of development assistance from about US$70 billion a year to over US$140 billion.
Some prominent supporters of the UN have expressed concerns that deep reform may be difficult. Richard Holbrooke, an ambassador to the UN under former US President Bill Clinton, said it would be impossible without the sustained leadership of the US, which has had a tense relationship with Annan partly because of his opposition to the Iraq invasion.
"Since Bush became president, the United States has put no emphasis on reform because of its internal ambivalence towards the organization," Holbrooke said.
Steven Pike, a State Department spokesman, said the US supported reform at the UN, would consider all credible ideas for change proposed by Annan or others and looked forward to a close working relationship.
Holbrooke emphasized that Annan's ability to make difficult changes also depended on member nations. "A lot of useful ideas are simply beyond a secretary-general's reach," he said.