Obama Administration Details U.S. Agenda for U.N. Reforms

Ambassador Rice at the UN in New York
Ambassador Rice called on fellow member states, NGOs and the United Nations community to join in forging an organization better equipped to deal with emerging challenges

By MacKenzie C. Babb
IIP Staff Writer
Washington,
January 20, 2012

President Obama has announced a comprehensive agenda for building a modern, more efficient and more capable United Nations through steps that include increased fiscal responsibility, accountability and effectiveness.

“The Obama administration is committed to achieving a reformed and renewed U.N. that saves lives, keeps the peace, seeds development, finds common solutions to the urgent problems of a new century, operates effectively and lives within its means,” the U.S. Mission to the United Nations said in a press release January 20.

Reforming the organization’s budget represents a major portion of the administration’s new agenda.

“Every dollar sent to the U.N. represents the hard work of a taxpayer somewhere, and any dollar wasted at the U.N. is a wasted opportunity to build a better, freer, more prosperous world,” the mission said. It called on the United Nations to face tough economic times “by tightening its belt and doing more with less.”

As the largest financial contributor to the organization, the United States is committed to ensuring that funds are spent wisely, the mission said. The country has already led efforts to achieve a 5 percent cut in the 2012–2013 U.N. regular budget, saving American taxpayers as much as $100 million and representing only the second U.N. budget reduction in the last 50 years.

To continue to create a leaner organization, the Obama administration has proposed measures to bring discipline and fiscal restraint to U.N. budgets across the board, to promote a streamlined, transparent budget-making process, and to use 21st-century technology to overhaul the organization’s information management system, an initiative that will improve performance while saving more than $100 million annually.

The new agenda also stresses the importance of accountability, noting that taxpayers around the world “deserve to know how the money they send to the U.N. is spent and to have confidence that every dollar, euro or yen is handled honestly and well.” While the United Nations has made important advances in recent years, the United States is calling on the organization to continue to strengthen oversight mechanisms, ethics enforcement, whistleblower protection and transparency.

As a founding member, the host country and the largest contributor to the organization, the United States has a “particular interest in seeing that the U.N. lives up to its founding principles and values” and stands firm against actions by member states that discredit the United Nations and the important work it does.

The new plan calls on the organization to make ineligible for leadership any member state in violation of U.N. sanctions for proliferation or massive human rights violations. It also calls for tougher standards for would-be members of the U.N. Human Rights Council, and more stringent checks on peacekeeper misconduct.

“Billions of people depend, many for their lives, on crucial U.N. services,” the mission said. “They deserve a U.N. that delivers real results and that performs — from senior officials in New York to front-line implementers in African villages — to the highest standard of excellence.”

To promote this excellence, the agenda calls for the organization to increase its effectiveness through a more merit-based compensation system, reduction of mandate redundancies and new performance evaluations to inform program planning.

The Obama administration said the United States is committed to improving the United Nations because the organization “is among the best tools we have to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges.”

“The U.N. goes where nobody else will to provide desperately needed humanitarian and development assistance to the world’s neediest people, and promotes universal values that Americans cherish, including human rights, democracy and equality,” the mission said.

Susan Rice, U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, said the comprehensive agenda highlights the next steps “in our continuing efforts to build a U.N. better equipped for the 21st century.”