Friday, 4 February 2011


Posted on | February 3, 2011 by Terrence McKeegan, J.D. |

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UN reform is high on the list of the new Republican-controlled House in the US. The Obama administration has talked often about the need for real UN reform. The State Department has also made such calls. Just this week, the new head of UNFPA said that accountability would be the agency’s number one priority.

So it seems like everyone is on the same page for UN reform, right?

Not exactly.

The US administration and the State Department just insisted this week that their “pay first, push for reform later” approach has produced real reform. The new Republican leadership has responded that only a “reform first, and pay later” approach will work with the UN. So what does the evidence say?

According to Brett Schaeffer from the Heritage Foundation, withholding payment until true reform is made is the only way to go.

As I detailed in my testimony before the Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.N. reform has stagnated since 2006. Some key reforms have actually been reversed and weakened: The U.N.’s quasi-inspector general—the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS)—has been directly undermined by the U.N. Secretary-General. The U.N. Procurement Task Force was eliminated for doing its job and uncovering mismanagement and fraud. The U.N. Ethics Office is weak, and its authority has been refuted by other U.N. organizations. Financial disclosure is a farce. The effort to review U.N. activities for relevance, effectiveness, and redundancy has been killed. The U.N. Human Rights Council is just as bad as the body it was created to replace. U.N. peacekeepers continue to go unpunished for criminality and sexual abuse.


History is littered with examples of failed U.N. reforms. The unfortunate reality is that few countries are interested in making sure that the U.N. has adequate oversight and accountability or uses its resources effectively. Most pay the U.N. a pittance and, therefore, have nothing at stake. Diplomacy alone is rarely sufficient to overcome this inertia. Congress has been instrumental in pressing for U.N. reform in the past and will continue to be indispensable in the future.

See Schaefer’s entire piece here.

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