Europe urges Annan to reform the UN

The European Union is to urge the new Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, to take swift and aggressive steps to overhaul the organisation's sprawling web of departments, agencies and specialised funds, if necessary merging some with each other and eliminating others altogether.

The proposals, that have emerged from months of debate between EU governments most recently at foreign minister level, are contained in a 25-page memorandum obtained by The Independent. The document will be presented today to Maurice Strong, the Canadian industrialist who was appointed by Mr Annan at the weekend to bring together an overall reform package.

While the memorandum, which is still classified, is far-reaching in its suggestions for change, it contains repeated warnings that reform at the UN should not be equated with cutting the organisation's budget. The references are meant to put distance between the EU and those voices in the United States, most of them Republican, seeking to use the reform exercise to strip away UN resources. "The reform of the United Nations is not about cost-cutting," it insists.

In what promises to be a critical week, Mr Annan tomorrow begins a visit to Washington, where he will meet for the first time as Secretary General with President Bill Clinton and members of the Congress. Mr Annan must try to persuade members of Congress of his commitment to reform while convincing them to release the more than $1bn in late payments due the UN from the US.

Mr Annan hopes to have a complete package of reform proposals ready by the summer. Mr Strong, 67, who also acted as an adviser to the last Secretary General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, will head a task force of advisers on reform. Its other members will include Gustave Speth, the head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), who last year caused controversy by asking that all UN development and humanitarian bodies be streamlined and grouped under his own.

The EU document, which is restricted to addressing UN social and development activities, notably borrows heavily from the controversial Speth proposals.

Where the need for rationalisation is clear, the paper said, the "Union considers that funds and programmes so assesses could be merged ... the assessment should extend to all funds and programmes".

In a nod to Mr Speth's allusion to a new umbrella role for his agency, the paper adds: "While fully open to dialogue on best ways forward in this respect, the EU considers that the UNDP could provide a focus for enhanced co-ordination in this area".

Both Mr Speth and Mr Strong have voiced on the record their support for closing down some of the less obviously useful UN agencies such as the UN Industrial Development Organisation in Vienna (from which Britain has just withdrawn) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development.

The EU also calls for the creation of a new Under-Secretary General who would take overall responsibility for all UN social and development activities. This person would act as Executive Secretary to the Economic and Social Council, the overarching committee of all UN members that oversees all development matters and which would itself be radically streamlined and pared down.

The EU would also like to see the establishment of a single UN headquarters in each country where the UN is represented. At the head of each would be a single UN representative, responsible for co-ordinating all UN efforts in that country.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Howard Marks has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer, he has announced
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
Rowan Atkinson at the wheel of his McLaren F1 GTR sports car
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us