LETTER : Merit appointments for UN staff

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The Independent Online
From Mr Malcolm Harper

Sir: Your articles on the weaknesses of international organisations (News Analysis, 11 May) raise a number of key issues with which this association is deeply concerned.

For many years, Cold War and regional rivalries contributed to the diminishing of the principles enshrined in Article 100 of the UN Charter in respect of the conduct of UN civil servants. Despite this situation, the UN - a point which your correspondents failed to make - has employed a great many men and women, from all its member states, of great integrity and commitment who have contributed to the many successes of the UN, while having to cope with its frustrations and failures. The recent setting up of an Internal Oversight Office in the UN to investigate charges of fraud and financial inefficiency is a very welcome development.

We fully agree that selection procedures for UN staff - from the very top down - need to be made more transparent and to be based on merit and merit alone. To achieve this - along the lines proposed by Brian Urquhart, Erskine Childers and others - will require the active determination of the UN's member states whose governments need, as you say, an active body of public opinion to encourage them in this process. Our association exists to help to develop just such pressure.

We have also proposed to the Government that, in the case of the United Kingdom, there should be established in Parliament a Select Committee on UN Affairs. It was encouraging to hear, in the recent House of Lords debate on the UN, a Labour peer return to this subject. It would be good to think that a future government might pursue this, even if the present administration has rejected our proposal.

Yours sincerely,



United Nations Association of

Great Britain and Northern Ireland

London, SW1

12 May