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Management Reform in the United Nations: Between Politics and Efficiency

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image of International Organizations Law Review

Management reform in the United Nations has been a frequent concern in the public debate. Although a multitude of initiatives were launched, the result remains disappointing. A string of management reforms are described, emphasizing the most recent ones introduced under the Secretary-Generals Kofi Annan and Boutros Boutros Ghali. Particular attention is given to initiatives following the Volcker inquiry into the alleged mismanagement and corruption under the United Nations Oil-for-Food program. The review concludes with the management reforms approved during the recent World Summit in September 2005. Since the creation of the United Nations, management reforms have been driven from outside the Organization, by member countries and here in particular by the United States. Proposals to improve management are often closely linked to overriding political concerns. The negotiation process militates towards lowest common denominator; with the Secretary-General of the Organization taking a cautious approach and attempting to facilitate the reaching of consensus. While recognizing the challenge to reconcile the different priorities of 191 member countries, recommendations are put forward to facilitate a more proactive approach by the Secretariat. Management reform in the United Nations is seen, however, to remain a cumbersome and lengthy step-by-step process.


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