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Annan Proposes UN Management Shakeup

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has unveiled a plan to shake up the U.N. management structure as part of a broad effort to reform the world body. The proposal calls for modernizing the 60-year-old organization, and outsourcing some work now being done at headquarters.

In a speech to the General Assembly Tuesday, Secretary-General Annan called for a radical overhaul of the entire U.N. bureaucracy.

"My assessment is, if I may put it bluntly in one sentence, that in many respects our present regulations and rules do not respond to current needs; and indeed that they make it very hard for the organization to conduct its work efficiently or effectively."

A 32-page document outlining the reform proposal calls for a wide variety of changes and updates in management. Among them is what Mr. Annan called a "drastic simplification of budget and financial management processes," streamlining the bureaucracy, modernizing computer and other technology, as well as outsourcing, or moving some jobs, such as translation services, to other countries as a cost-saving measure.

The proposals to improve efficiency are partially in response to demands by the United States and Japan, which together pay more than 40 percent of the U.N. budget.

But the secretary-general warned that the proposed reforms would cost more, at least in the short term.

"Yes, there are real savings to be made through these proposals, since over time they will reduce the cost of many of our activities by ensuring that they are carried out more simply and effectively," he added. "But what the report shows, above all, is that for many years this organization has been skimping on investment; investment in people, investment in systems, investment in information and communications technology, and that these deferred expenditures must now be made up for."

One of the most controversial proposals is to contract operations out, or shift work to lower cost locations. A recent report estimates outsourcing of translation services could save 35-million dollars a year and free three-floors of the 38-story headquarters building in New York.

At the same time, Mr. Annan's report calls for an increase of $280 million a year in salary and staff benefits.

The New York headquarters employs about 4,500 people. But Mr. Annan noted that worldwide, the organization has 30,000 employees, more than half in the field. The biggest growth area in recent years has been in peacekeeping, which takes up 70 percent of the $10 billion annual budget.

To underline the growth of peacekeeping, Mr. Annan noted that when he took over as secretary-general 10 years ago, peacekeeping accounted for only 50 percent of a budget that totaled less than half of today's $10 billion figure.