High-level panel calls for streamlining U.N. development, aid, environment operations

Monday, November 6th 2006, 3:55 pm
By: News On 6

UNITED NATIONS (AP) A high-level panel called for streamlining U.N. programs to fight poverty, provide humanitarian aid and protect the environment, saying competition among agencies often duplicates efforts and fails to deliver results, a final draft of its report says.

The draft, obtained Monday by The Associated Press, said that while the U.N. ``is an indispensable force,'' it has outgrown its post-World War II structure and ``is not as effective as it could be.''

``Too often, authority and management responsibility is dispersed among individuals and across organizations, thus limiting accountability for performance and results,'' it said. ``Better cooperation between organizations has been hindered by competition for funding, by mission creep and by outdated business practices.''

Secretary-General Kofi Annan established the 13 member panel in response to a call by world leaders at their September 2005 summit for coordinated U.N. operations to meet development goals, including cutting extreme poverty by half and ensuring universal primary education by 2015.

It will be up to Annan's successor, Ban Ki-Moon, who takes over as secretary-general on January 1, 2007, to decide whether to implement the panel's recommendations. The panel's co-chairs, Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Mozambique's Prime Minister Luisa Dias Diogo, are expected to present the report Thursday.

``The essence of our vision is for the U.N. to deliver as one in the areas of development, humanitarian assistance and the environment,'' the panel said.

``The U.N. system now encompasses 16 specialized agencies, 14 funds and programs, 17 departments and offices of the U.N. Secretariat, five regional commissions, five research and training institutes and a plethora of regional and country level structures,'' the draft said.

Weak and disjointed U.N. operations coupled with ``inadequate and unpredictable funding have contributed to policy incoherence, duplicating functions and operational ineffectiveness,'' it said.

A survey by the panel found, for example, that more than one-third of U.N. country teams include 10 or more U.N. agencies carrying out separate operations, and ``several teams include 20 or more.''

At the global level, the draft said, more than 20 U.N. agencies are active and competing for limited resources in some areas, such as water and energy, and more than 30 U.N. agencies and programs have a stake in environmental management.

A survey by the panel found that the three agreements reached at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, on biodiversity, climate and desertification, have up to 230 meeting days every year. ``Add the figures for seven other major global environmental agreements ... and that number rises to almost 400 days,'' the draft said.

Developing countries ``are unable to cope with the extensive reporting and participation requirements'' of global environmental treaties, which take time, money and expertise away from actually implementing the agreements, the draft said.

The panel said its recommendations can ``potentially radically change the way the U.N. operates at headquarters, in each region and in each country.''

The panel called for one U.N. program in every country, ``not 10 or 20 fragmented and uncoordinated programs delivered by different arms of the U.N.'' That program would respond to the country's need, the community's views and be approved by the government, it said.

A new U.N. oversight body reporting to the U.N. Economic and Social Council would be responsible for the performance of the single U.N. country program, the draft said.

It called for a new partnership for humanitarian assistance, including the U.N., governments, the International Red Cross and non-governmental organizations led by the U.N. emergency relief coordinator.

The draft also recommended the Nairobi based U.N. Environment Program be the center of a strong system for environmental protection.

It called for ``one strong voice on women's issues in the U.N. system to ensure that the pursuit of gender equality and women's empowerment are taken seriously.''

It also called for ``one clear framework'' to reinvigorate the promotion and protection of human rights, with the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights at the center.