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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Kofi Annan and the United Nations' Reforms

The problem of power is how to achieve its responsible use rather than its irresponsible and indulgent use - of how to get men of power to live for the public rather than off the public. Robert F. Kennedy (1925 - 1968)'I Remember, I Believe,' The Pursuit of Justice, 1964

In the 16 years since the Cold War ended, we have taken on more than twice as many new peacekeeping missions than in the previous 44 years. Spending on peacekeeping has quadrupled. Secretary General Kofi Annan Investing in the United Nations: For a Stronger Organization Worldwide


Kofi Annan like George Bush is a man. Both are in the waning years of their mandate. And like man in high office both want to leave behind a legacy.

On March 7, 2006 Secretary General Kofi Annan spoke of 'radical overhaul of the United Nation's Secretariat.' He was following up on last year's Millenium Summit. He spoke of focussing on six major areas:

I: People
II: Leadership
III: Information and Communication Technology
IV: Delivering Services
V: Budget and Finance
VI: Governance

He lamented the United Nation's budget increase in peacekeeping and field operations. They rose from 50% of US $4.5 billion from 10 years ago to a whopping 70% of US $10 billion budget today.

His recommendations:

* Convert the temporary peace keeping forces into an elite force of 2500 mobile core of Rapid Reaction Team
* Relocate IT, medical, payroll, translation and document productions departments out of the US
* Reorganize and streamline internal departments
* Trim the staff -- a one-time buyout of about 1000 extra staff
* Consolidate Management Reports from over 30 to under 6
* Streamline Purchasing - eliminate wastage and fraud

His plans and recommendations will have to be approved by the 191 member organization before being implemented.


Going through the 43 page report his glaring omissions stood out. He failed to streamline the contributions from member countries, address raising financing issues and the reforming of the Security Council.

The UN operations are hampered by its dependence on financial support from member countries. And when big players like US withheld their contributions in what appears to be blatant arm twisting, the world suffers. As of September 2005 the US arrears to the UN exceeded $1.246 billion.

U.S. arrears to the UN currently total over $1.3 billion. Of this, $612 million is payable under Helms-Biden. The remaining $700 million result from various legislative and policy withholdings; of course, there are no current plans to pay these amounts.CLICK.

If the UN is to become a more effective world body there is a dire need to reform the Security Council and to streamline contributions from member countries and raise independent financing for a Rapid Reaction Team that can land in any trouble spot within 18-20 hours.

Security Council Reforms

The other 190 member countries of the world have to get their act together and convince a reluctant uni-power to play along. To be effective as a moral, political and viable powerhouse the UN Security Council needs to be revamped to deal with the geo political realities of this century. Right now it is stuck in the ground realities of 1946.

To make the UN responsive, powerful and active the SC (Security Council) should be modified and reformed. The US, Russia and China should retain their permanent seats. France and UK should be replaced. Five or six more countries should be added from amongst Germany, India, Egypt, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico etc. to reflect all the continents and the new geo-political alignment.

Financing of RRT - Rapid Reaction Team

Governments rich or poor import oil and drivers buy gasoline. The UN should impose a mandatory one cent per liter consumption tax to be collected by the individual countries or by the oil suppliers and remitted to the UN directly to finance this RRT.

It is important that this RRT be seen as an important and independent peacekeeping arm of the UN.

According to estimates there are 800 million cars on the road world wide. A lowerd estimate of the yearly gasoline consumption would be about 360 liters per vehicle. Calculating at a low average world price of US 50 cents a liter, taxed at one cent per liter would yield $1.44 billion to the UN coffers.

These are conservative estimates. Local government, military and commercial gasoline consumption is not figured in this calculation. If they are also included then this total would go up. Then the rate can be reduced to a cent or less per liter consumed. Or the additional amount can be directed to a trust fund for natural calamities.

Today the world needs more than ever a powerful and effective world body. Or it will go the way of League of Nations.


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