High-power efficiency panel says UN reform must keep up with global change

6 April 2006

The three prime ministers helping to lead Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s efforts to streamline and strengthen United Nations efforts in development, humanitarian assistance and the environment said they were looking for serious reform that could help the Organization keep up with the dizzying pace of global change.

“We need to retool and reorganize ourselves to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow,” Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz of Pakistan told reporters after the close of the first session of the High-level Panel on UN System-wide Coherence, which was requested by national leaders at the 2005 World Summit.

Prime Ministers Luisa Dias Diogo of Mozambique and Jens Stoltenberg of Norway also co-chair the panel, which is expected to produce a study, also requested at the Summit, laying the groundwork for a fundamental restructuring of UN work in the field.

“As you know, the UN has a broad mandate and there are many organizations and sometimes they do tend to work at cross purposes,” Mr. Aziz said, citing the example of the social sector, where he said both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) work in similar areas.

“Coherence means bringing them all together so we get the maximum firepower, the maximum punch, and get results. And the results are improving the delivery mechanism in the country,” he said.

In order to do that, Prime Minister Dias Diogo stressed that it was crucial to have coherence between the national programmes and the various programmes of the UN system in any particular country.

Prime Minister Stoltenberg said another important area was financial coherence, citing the new Central Emergency Relief Fund, or CERF, which gives the UN more ability to coordinate among agencies in an emergency, and the common vaccine fund that allows WHO and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to taken on complementary roles in inoculation campaigns in various countries.

Also addressing reporters today, Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown acknowledged that there have been previous coordination efforts, such as those by UN Development Programme at the country level and the creation of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) for humanitarian relief. Unfortunately, he said, “the world has changed faster than the UN.”

“We realized after steady reform that we’re hitting up against a ceiling and we probably need to look at something more radical,” he said.