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Vietnam First Country to Test Worldwide UN Reform Program


Vietnam will be the first pilot country in an ambitious attempt at worldwide United Nations reform. The so-called "One-U.N. initiative" program, launched last year, aims to reduce inefficiency and duplicated effort by coordinating the many different U.N. agencies. In Hanoi, Matt Steinglass has more.

The pilot program aims to get different United Nations agencies in a country to work together to reduce overlaps and cut costs.

Kemal Dervis, the head of the United Nations Development Program and the number three man at the U.N., was in Hanoi this week (Friday) to kick off the effort. "What we are talking about is to have better cooperation mechanisms, less duplication, so that in what we do we can be more efficient … what we would like to do is pilot the more integrated approach in a number of countries," he said.

The pilot in Vietnam is the first test of an ambitious worldwide program of U.N. reform that was launched at the Global Leaders Summit in New York in September 2005. The program encourages U.N. agencies to share offices and vehicles, and to coordinate their budgets and plans of action. The U.N. has been under heavy pressure from members to cut waste and inefficiency in its operations.

But Kitty van der Heijden of the UNDP's Hanoi office says the initiative for reform in Vietnam actually came from U.N. agencies here, and from the Vietnamese government. The agencies found they were duplicating effort in many areas.

The Vietnamese were tired of receiving applications for programs from 11 separate agencies in Vietnam. "What we've seen in the past is for example in several provinces, UNICEF would be doing youth-relevant programming, UNFPA would also be working in the same province on reproductive health services, which are extremely important to prevent transmission of HIV/AIDS. If we consolidate these program efforts together, UNICEF and UNFPA work together, we will have a much better effect," he said.

Cao Viet Sinh, Vietnam's vice minister of planning and investment, welcomes the new program. Sinh says that consolidating the efforts of the U.N.'s agencies in Vietnam will help coordinate its programs with Vietnam's own five-year plan.

The UNDP's van der Heijden calls such coordination crucial. "It's making sure that we weed out where there's overlap and where there's duplication in program efforts. Waste of money. We can't do that anymore," he said.

Van der Heijden said the first coordinated plan for all U.N. agencies in Vietnam will be sent to the Vietnamese government in January.

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