Why the United Nations is Important to Us
Gerald C. Anderson
Office of Peacekeeping, Sanctions and Counter-terrorism
Bureau of International Organizations Affairs
U.S. Department of State
The UN is currently facing a critical test of its credibility. In light of the Oil
for Food scandal, the discovery of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers and years of
fiscal inefficiency, our political leadership is wary of American participation
and financing of the UN.
We certainly seek first and foremost to reform the way the UN operates (and I will
address that later) but I want to speak for a moment to those who might wonder why
we need the UN at all given our position in the world, our economic and political
strength, and our ability to project military power when we are threatened.
While our global reach is unchallenged, we still cannot tackle problems, eliminate
threats or even do good on a global scale alone. Our multilateral campaign to mount
a global war on terror and our coordinated response to tsunami relief efforts are
two very different examples of how our foreign policy objectives can be reached
more quickly and effectively if we do not act alone.
Much like these two examples, other global problems require global solutions. The
proliferation of nuclear weapons, the spread of HIV/AODS, environmental disasters
and the scourge of narcotics trafficking are each dangerous threats that know no
Bilateral and regional agreements are important steps to address these types of
threats, but creating a wide enough safety net takes additional time and resources,
especially in areas where entire sub-regions are unable to overcome challenges without
outside assistance (Central Africa). In these cases, truly multilateral fora like
the UN are needed to take stock of the problem and contribute toward a common solution.
Multilateral organizations can be the most efficient way to set international standards.
There are international norms and standards for dealing with civil needs, like
delivering international mail, creating regulations for international maritime and
air traffic. This type of cooperation is key to getting all nations on board to
strengthen security standards, so we can travel and operate with increased safety,
even in these days of global terrorism.
Multilateral organizations are effective ways to leverage our resources for the
greatest good. The U.S. alone cannot do all things for all people, nor should
we try. Even though as a nation we enjoy great wealth compared to a large part
of the world, our resources are not limitless. Our government has a stewardship
responsibility over these resources, and often we choose to contribute to a multilateral
effort to get the maximum effect that we can afford.
UN peacekeeping is a vital area that depends entirely on multilateral cooperation.
We contribute approximately 27 percent of the UN's peacekeeping budget, and provide
some services lift, logistics and advisory support where we deem appropriate. There
are 17 UN peacekeeping missions deployed in 4 continents that we are committed to
supporting, and could never operate on our own.
The best platforms for advancing our values of freedom, democracy, and prosperity
are usually in fact the broadest ones. As President Bush said at the UN last fall,
"The security of our world is in the advancing rights of mankind." Freedom democracy
and security are mutually reinforcing and must be tackled on all fronts.
With many people suffering from oppression under tyrannical regimes, lacking basic
human rights and suffering from poverty, hunger and disease, we need global forums
where we can make our case for freedom and human rights to the non-democracies of
With Leadership by the U.S., the UN Can be a Strong Force for Freedom
The Case for Reform of the United Nations
The preamble of the UN Charter says that " We the peoples of the United Nations
are determined ....to promote social progress and better standards in larger freedom,"
a concept picked up in the title of the Secretary-General's latest report on UN
reform. Chapter 1 of the Charter explicitly states that the purpose of the UN is
to promote and encourage respect for fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction.
So, fundamentally, the founding principles of the United Nations perfectly complement
what we are trying to accomplish in our foreign policy, but these lofty goals need
strong leadership if they are to be achieved. The UN works best when its member
states work together, and the United States assumes a leadership role. Let me detail
a few examples.
With our leadership, the UN Security Council managed the entire transition process
inside Iraq-- from encouraging significant political and economic reform with Resolution
1483, to creating the mandate for a multinational force in Resolution 1511, to charting
a path for transition after the transfer of governmental authority back to the
Iraqi people in Resolution 1546.
The Security Council thus created the international and legal frame works in which
democracy is now emerging in Iraq.
Another area where the UN has benefited from US leadership is un Sudan. We spurred
the UN to undertake a Commission of Inquiry into violence in Darfur. We also sponsored
Security Council resolutions to authorize a peacekeeping force to protect the North-South
agreement and impose sanctions. Other Council members also deserve credit for their
work on Sudan, but no one can deny the important leadership role the U.S. played
in shaping the UN's response to the Sudan crisis.
We believe in the ideals in which the United Nations was founded, and we want the
UN to have improved capability to achieve its important purposes. In this vein,
we are pressing for management and oversight reforms to make the UN more efficient
and effective. We see the UN as an instrument for making the world safer and enlarging
freedom with the potential to do even more if reformed to meet the challenges of
the 21st century.
The Secretary-General himself acknowledges that the time is ripe for change. To
his credit, his focus on the larger issues of institutional arrangements has brought
a rather new intensity to the discussion and opened a window of opportunity for
As the largest assessed and voluntary contributor to the United Nations and its
technical and specialized agencies, the United States bears a special responsibility
to ensure the UN is living up to its original purposes and principles. You cannot
ensure the UN is doing what we want it to do without accountability and results-based
budgeting and management.
The problem: One of the lessons we have learned from the Oil-For-Food investigations
so far is that the United Nations Secretariat needs to be more focused on the importance
of better management, transparency, and oversight. Credible oversight is critical,
but codes of conduct also must be enforced, and managers held accountable for their
own actions as well as the actions of their people.
The UN needs to work harder to implement results-based budgeting and management
in every program. That means programs, once created, should not continue without
regard for results. More need to be ended when their effectiveness wanes. The
UN system also needs rationalized budgets that do not grow year after year on auto-pilot,
and that have greater oversight.
We are beginning to see the UN address these problems. This past January, for example,
we were able to get a resolution adopted that mandates the Office of Internal Oversight
Services release any of its audit reports to member states upon request. Program
managers will now be held accountable for their programs. That's a significant
step, but more is needed. OIOS is still too beholden to the very bureaucracy it
is inspecting and auditing – especially for its funding.
Our priorities: Our management and administrative reform priorities for the UN include
first, creating a culture of accountability and integrity, second improving effectiveness,
and third, boosting relevance.
Two examples of how we hope to encourage a culture of accountability include strengthening
the independence of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) is critical
to creating a culture of transparency, accountability and integrity in the UN Secretariat.
To meet professional standards for effective and independent oversight, OIOS must
be more independent of the offices and activities it audits and investigates. Currently,
OIOS is dependent upon reimbursement from the UN funds and programs it is investigating
for the costs of such investigations. We want OIOS to operate with an independent
It is also imperative that we enhance internal oversight of UN peacekeeping missions,
particularly in light of the sexual abuses of minors by peacekeepers in the Democratic
Republic of the Congo and several other countries. Increased capacity for OIOS
investigations and personal conduct units in all peacekeeping missions are important
first steps in creating a culture of zero tolerance for misconduct.
In the second major area of reform we are pushing, improving effectiveness of UN
operations, there are additional examples of changes that can maximize the UN's
effectiveness while incorporating greater efficiencies.
The first reform in this area is we are pressing for consolidation of UN Information
Centers around the world. These centers strive to communicate the UN's message
and data around the world. They represent approximately one third of the budget
for the UN Department of Public Information, yet there is little proof that they
are successfully explaining UN programs/concepts to local populations.
A vastly altered world media landscape, changes in the information culture and revolutionary
advances in information and communication technologies should compel the UN Secretariat
to look for more up-to-date solutions, even in areas where Internet services is
limited, the UN can do better.
We also aim to reduce the frequency and duration of UN conferences and meetings.
At $565 million a biennium, the UN's budget for conference services is the single
largest section in the UN budget. With such a high cost, we think member states
ought to be able to pre-approve the Secretariat's plans for each conference and
meeting's agenda and desired outcomes.
The third area of reform proposals I would like to mention is aimed at boosting
the relevance of the UN's work. In December 2003, we were able to get the General
Assembly to approve a pilot program that gave him authority to redeploy up to 50
positions from lower to higher priority areas.
This pilot program was an important first step towards giving the Secretary-General
greater flexibility so as to strategically align and realign budgetary resources
with human resources. We would like to expand this program, but we are disappointed
that the Secretary-General has not yet utilized this new and important authority.
We will press for him to do so.
To further boost the relevance of the UN's work, we are seeking a regular review
for relevance of all program mandates with a designated timeframe for review of
all new mandates.
There is a perception that once authorized and created, UN regular budget programs
and activities continue indefinitely. We and other major contributors continue to
support the adoption of time-limiting provisions whereby each new program and activity
would include a termination date.
Under this approach, each UN program and activity would end unless the General Assembly
specifically adopted a resolution to extend it. This is the approach the Security
Council takes in authorizing peacekeeping operations; each mandate includes fixed
terms, must be renewed in order to continue, and has a defined exit strategy.
It is essential that, whatever set of reforms the UN considers later this year,
matters of management, administration, personnel, accountability, transparency,
and oversight must be included. We are communicating to the Secretary-General to
express our belief that management and administrative reforms are critical to achieving
the vision of the UN Charter.
The momentum for management and oversight reform at the UN is clearly growing, and
you can be assured we will continue striving to make the UN a more effective and
responsible partner in advancing peace, development, and human dignity.
This page last updated 5/27/2005 jdb