New initiatives make UN more transparent, accountable, ethical – top management chief

New initiatives make UN more transparent, accountable, ethical – top management chief

USG Christopher Burnham briefs correspondents
The departing top United Nations management official said today he leaves behind an organization that is more transparent, accountable and ethical than when he joined thanks to new initiatives that have been championed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and called for efforts to carry them forward.

“Over the last few months, we have accomplished a tremendous amount. This Secretary-General Kofi Annan had laid the foundation on the road to a 21st century,” said Under-Secretary-General for Management Christopher Burnham on his last day of work at the world body, where he served since June 2005.

With Mr. Annan’s term coming to an end in December, Mr. Burnham called on incoming Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to “pave this road” by carrying the initiatives forward.

Among other measures, Mr. Burnham hailed the creation of the new UN Ethics Office, which provides ethical advice and training for UN staff “so that we can always rise to the highest numerator and not immediately think we all have to go down to the lowest common denominator.”

He noted that the Ethics Office also serves to review new financial disclosure forms which are more comprehensive than those of the United States Congress and had been expanded to apply to more staff members, from some 200 to approximately 2,000.

He called the UN’s new whistleblower protection policy the “strongest” in the world, and praised the use of international public sector accounting standards. Those standards, combined with new software systems, would serve to improve accountability.

A new audit committee will help in a number of ways, including by allowing the Office for Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) to have greater independence, he said, hailing also the work of the Procurement Task Force for promoting accountability.

Looking ahead, Mr. Burnham stressed the importance of the Capital Master Plan, a scheme to overhaul the dilapidated UN complex in New York and render it compliant with health and safety codes. “We have a moral responsibility to bring this building into the 21st century,” he said.

Other issues which will require follow-up include efforts to improve the administration of internal justice at the UN. A high-level panel had done critical work on this issue. Follow through “will have to be on the to-do list for 2007,” Mr. Burnham said.

“I believe that the path of reform has been set. We need to stay the course.”