ANNAN: MAN WITH A PLAN
July 16, 1997
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan aims to streamline the organization and create an economic development fund with the resulting savings. He shares his reorganization plan with Charles Krause.
CHARLES KRAUSE: U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's reorganization plan aims to streamline the U.N. bureaucracy to make it more efficient. Unveiled this morning in New York, the plan is detailed. But in many cases the changes it recommends can't be implemented without approval from the U.N.'s 185-member general assembly.
A RealAudio version of this NewsHour segment is available.
February 13, 1997:
President Clinton discusses his policy regarding the paying of delinquent dues to the United Nations.
December 16, 1996:
Ghana's Kofi Annan talks to Charlayne Hunter-Gault about his plans for repositioning the U.N. for the 21st century.
August 8, 1996:
Charlayne Hunter-Gault discusses international intervention in the Burundi crisis with Kofi Annan.
United Nations Charter
The plan outlined today proposes creation of a cabinet to reduce the number of senior officials reporting directly to the secretary-general, and the new deputy's position to further streamline the U.N.'s top administration, consolidation of three economic and social development offices into one, the merger of two human rights offices, and a new office in Vienna to deal with drug trafficking, money laundering, and crime prevention programs, also a new disarmament agency in New York to prevent nuclear and other arms proliferation. The office would also attempt to monitor and control the flow of weapons into areas of conflict, and finally a new $200 economic development fund to be paid for with the administrative savings that result from the new plan.
Joining us now is Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Mr. Secretary-General, welcome.
KOFI ANNAN, U.N. Secretary-General: Thank you very much.
CHARLES KRAUSE: How would these new reforms that you've announced today change the United Nations?
SECRETARY-GENERAL KOFI ANNAN: I think it will change the way we do business. It will change the way the organization is led, and it will also encourage us to focus on our priorities. And I listened to the issues you listed, but there's another important area in the economic and social. In addition to the consolidation of the three economic departments into one, we have brought together all the development agencies, UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA, and to some extent a welfare program--into an economic development program that will work together, that will pool their efforts, discuss their programs and priorities, and eliminate duplication.
And that U.N. development group, by pulling their efforts, are definitely going to make a greater impact on the ground. And at the field level we are requiring all the U.N. agencies to work as a team under one leadership, under one flag, and in one building, and to pool their efforts and also join in common services to save money that can be applied to economic and social development. So I see the net result of our effort in creating an organization that is not only coherent, that is not only better managed, but an organization that is much more responsive in the dynamic and constantly changing world.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Are these changes--do you think they're sufficient to convince people like Sen. Helms and others in the U.S. Congress that the U.N. must change?
SECRETARY-GENERAL KOFI ANNAN: I hope so. I think it will convince most member states and all those who would want to see the U.N. strengthened, who would want to see the U.N. adopt a culture of change, and a constant search for excellence. And I think those who share their objective that the U.N. need to be strengthened, the U.N. has to be made more effective and relevant will be happy with a package we've put together. But those who have other dreams and other ambitions and who have different vision from that, I'm not sure I'll be able to convince easily.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Have you had any reaction yet from a Senator or from the administration for that matter about your plan?
SECRETARY-GENERAL KOFI ANNAN: Not directly. I did read a comment by Sen. Grant, who thought it wasn't sufficient. But, by and large, the comments by the member states have been supportive and very encouraging. And of course, the media and opinion leaders who are reading the report I hope will also conclude that we do have a story to tell and that we are making a genuine effort, an effort that has not been made before in the 52-year history of this organization. The reform proposals I maintain and I think once you read them you will conclude they're both extensive and far reaching.
CHARLES KRAUSE: What would you point to--one or two changes--there are these--one or two of these proposals that really illustrate the kinds of reforms, bold reforms, you say, that you are trying to undertake?
SECRETARY-GENERAL KOFI ANNAN: Okay. I think I have talked about economic area, but in the work of the general assembly we have made proposals that the general assembly, which has 168 agenda items, should review its work and restructure its operations along the eight main priority areas we have all agreed on in the medium-term plan, and that, in time, they should adopt a theme for each general assembly, a theme like development financing. It could be any other topic, but for the first week, when the health of state and government are here, and the ministers are here, we can focus on an issue that is important to the entire international community. And if they did restructure their activities the way we are proposing, I think it ought to be possible to reduce the duration of the general assembly by about three weeks.
CHARLES KRAUSE: But, of course, the criticism in the Congress has more to do with money basically, and the claim is that the U.N. has just wasted all this money, and the Congress doesn't want to continue to pay for it. What can you point to in your plan that will save money and will answer those critics?
SECRETARY-GENERAL KOFI ANNAN: I think in the plan we have cut a thousand posts; we have reduced paper by 30 percent, which saves millions. We have indicated that we are going to reduce our administrative overhead by a third and apply those savings to economic and social issues. We are making extensive use of communication using teleconferencing to prevent people--to avoid people having to travel around the world to conferences, when we can do it electronically. And over the period, as we continue to streamline, there will be other savings down the line. But my plea is that we should not be judged so much by what we cut; we should be judged by what we do.
The assistance we give to the needy, the poor, the relief we give to 25 million refugees, I think those kinds of substantive activities and the attempt to come up with a program that will encourage the member states to band together to fight those problems--the problems like drought, terrorism, international crime--are very important, and I hope one would concentrate on some of these constructive efforts, rather than cut, cut, cut. Cutting is not necessarily reform. We will cut where we can--we see opportunities for cutting. But the objective which the member states have agreed on, and I share this with them 100 percent, is to strengthen the organization, make it relevant, and position it for the 21st century.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Now, one of your proposals, one that's gotten quite a bit of attention, is to use a savings of $200 million or so for a new development fund. Now, do you think--can you run this by Sen. Helms or others in the administration, or Congress, to see whether the United States is likely to go along with this proposal of yours?
SECRETARY-GENERAL KOFI ANNAN: I hope they will go along with it, because it makes sense. Not only does it make sense, we have been better--we have been more with less, and we are giving everybody better value for their dollar. If we squeeze $200 million out of administration costs through rationization and further computerization and apply the savings to the essential area of economic and social activities, I think one should see the sense in that--and I hope it will be supported.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Do you--the Senate passed a bill last month which would--in return for paying the money--the $800 million, which the United States owes to the United Nations--would set as a condition of that, that the U.S. allocation or as part of your budget be reduced from 25 to 20 percent. Now, that's not in today's proposal. Why is that not there?
SECRETARY-GENERAL KOFI ANNAN: That is an issue for the member states. There is a committee of member states discussing that issue. The scale of assessment has been under discussion for several years now. And I think the U.S. will have to make its case to the other member states. We are an organization that lives through the contribution of its member states. And the member states, themselves, have established an objective criteria for assessment. That objective criteria is based on GDP and population. And it is for that reason that China, for example, pays much less than the U.S., because of the population factor.
And so if the conditions are going to be changed, the U.S. has to negotiate it with the other members and get the rules changed. I think ideally if the member states were to decide that no one member should pay more than 20 percent, and that will be a political decision agreed to by all, that is fine. But if they do not come to that conclusion, then the U.S. will have to negotiate with them. And while we are on that, this is where we have--we already have a conflict with the U.S. on the peacekeeping budget. We assess them 31 percent. The U.S. unilaterally reduces assessment to 25 percent, and that in some way explains the differences in our figures. When we say they owe $1.3 billion, Washington maintains that they owe less, because they are calculating on the basis of 25 percent, and we under our rules calculate on the basis of 31 percent. And I hope we will not get into the same struggle over the regular budget, and that they will try and convince the other member states to go along.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Mr. Secretary-General, we'll have to leave it there. I want to thank you very, very much for joining us.
SECRETARY-GENERAL KOFI ANNAN: Thank you very much.