Letter: Successes and failures of the United Nations

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Sir: I have read with interest the articles regarding the United Nations (1 November). Your portrayal of the World Health Organisation as one of the agencies 'where the most notorious abuses are to be found' prompts this letter.

One of the articles refers to a rental subsidy provided to the Director-General during the period 1988-1989. The presentation which, incidentally, uses truncated quotations from documents on this subject that you appear to have obtained from our personnel files, is not accurate or complete. In fact, the actual subsidy payable amounted to around Sfr 2,000 per month, and ceased to be paid on 15 September 1989.

Above all, I am deeply shocked by the headline 'Agencies out of control' applying to WHO. There has been no suggestion of this even in independent appraisals. Not only is the organisation well under control, but WHO, in close consultation with its member states, has recently embarked on a series of reforms to ensure that the organisation adjusts to worldwide global changes and maintains accountability both on a programme level as well as for its own management.

The World Health Organisation and its staff, who are dedicated and committed, deserve more than the caricatural sketch presented by your newspaper.

Yours faithfully,


Assistant Director-General

World Health Organisation