Coleman Gives A Failing Grade to United Nations Reform Efforts

Washington, DC—Senator Norm Coleman, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, and Congressman Henry Hyde, the Chairman of the House Committee on International Relations, today released a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report detailing the dismal status of reform efforts at the United Nations (U.N.). The report was requested as part of the Subcommittee’s continuing investigation into the U.N. “Oil-for-Food” Program. The Subcommittee has already held four hearings and issued several reports relating to its investigation and continues to press for meaningful reform at the U.N. “The report makes clear that reform efforts have been, at best, very disappointing and moving at glacial speed,” says Coleman. “I would give the U.N. an ‘F’ for its efforts taken to date. Everyone who has studied the U.N. – including the Subcommittee, the U.N. Independent Inquiry Committee, the Gingrich-Mitchell Task Force on U.N. Reform, and even the U.N. Secretariat – are in agreement that the institution requires major reform. This new report indicates that the U.N. has, thus far, fallen woefully short of what needs to be accomplished.” The GAO report related several areas where U.N. reform efforts have failed to meet expectations, and identified several obstacles to reform: * The U.N. recently created the new Ethics Office. The new office, however, is currently staffed by only six temporary workers (the Secretariat recommended that 16 positions be created). These six temporary workers are charged with administering the U.N.’s financial disclosure program, implementing the new whistleblower policy, providing ethics guidance to U.N. staff, and developing standards and training. “It is highly improbable that a skeleton staff of six is sufficient to handle all of those responsibilities,” says Coleman. * The GAO reported that one of the major obstacles to achieving reform is the coalition of the world’s “developing countries” and China – called the “G-77” – which effectively controls the decisions of the General Assembly. Instead of embracing reform as the right path to a more credible organization, the G-77 considers certain reforms as a power grab by the Secretariat, or worse, as a “cost-cutting” measure. * One example of the G-77’s reluctance to reform involves the “mandate review” process. The U.N. currently administers and oversees almost 9,000 “mandates,” which are U.N. programs and activities ordered by the General Assembly or the Security Council. At the 2005 World Summit, the General Assembly agreed to review all mandates by the end of 2006 in an effort to streamline operations and eliminate outdated or unnecessary programs. With the end of 2006 approaching, however, a mere 6% of the mandates will likely be reviewed. This major discrepancy is directly due to attempts by the G-77 to severely restrict the scope of the mandate review process, over the objection of the United States and other major sources of U.N. funding. The General Assembly will meet during the upcoming months to determine how serious they are about reform,” says Coleman. “The American people pay 22% of the U.N.’s budget, and therefore have a right to demand an accounting of where their billions are being spent and ensure that the U.N. has the legitimacy to exercise its authority. These issues will not blow over. I will continue to demand accountability for as long as it takes to fully root out the corruption and maladministration at the U.N.” CONTACT: Tom Steward 651-645-0323 _______________ Copies of the GAO Report, “United Nations: Management Reforms Progressing Slowly with Many Awaiting General Assembly Review,” GAO-07-14, may be obtained through the Government Accountability Office OR by contacting the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, 202/224-3721.