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Panel Recommends Major UN Overhaul


A panel led by the prime ministers of Norway, Pakistan and Mozambique has concluded that the United Nations needs a radical overhaul to improve efficiency. The panel found a complex tangle of U.N. agencies that often duplicate efforts and compete with each other for resources.

The final report of the Secretary-General's High-Level Panel On System-wide Coherence describes the world body's development work as "fragmented and weak and not properly structured".

The 52-page document says in some cases, as many as 20 U.N. agencies operate simultaneously in a single country. The result, it says, is "incoherent" program administration and "excessive" administrative costs.

The 13-member panel included senior officials, including three prime ministers, British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, and American Josette Shearan, who was named this week to head one of the largest U.N. agencies, the World Food Program.

One of its co-chairmen, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, described an organization where waste and duplication of effort are widespread.

"We believe there is potential for saving 20 percent of cost today," said Jens Stoltenberg. "The idea is not to save money for donor countries, but the idea is to save money so we can use more money for development, more money protecting the environment, and more money for humanitarian assistance."

Another of the panel's co-chairmen, Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, says U.N. efforts to help his country in the wake of last year's devastating earthquake were poorly coordinated. He called on the world body to re-invent itself.

"Any organization, global, regional or local, in time needs to re-invent itself, and we believe the U.N., which serves the interests of humanity in the world, is not the exclusive preserve of any one group of people, but works for every citizen of the world, needs to reinvent and do things better and differently," said Shaukat Aziz.

The United Nations currently comprises 17 departments under the secretary-general, 17 other specialized agencies and related groups, and 14 funds and programs.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan established the panel on coherence last February in response to a call by world leaders at last year's 60th U.N. anniversary summit.

It will be up to Mr. Annan's successor, South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon, to decide how to carry out the panel's recommendations. Ban takes over as secretary-general January 1.

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