United Nations Reform: U.S. Policy and International Perspectives
U.N. reform is an ongoing policy issue for the United States, and may be a point of focus during the 110th Congress. As the single largest financial contributor to the U.N. system, the U.S. government has an interest in ensuring the United Nations operates as efficiently and effectively as possible. Congress has the responsibility to appropriate U.S. funds to the United Nations, and can impose conditions on payments. On several occasions, Congress has sought to link U.S. funding of the United Nations to specific reform benchmarks.
In recent years, there has been growing concern among some in the international community that the United Nations has become ineffective and unwieldy in the face of increasing global challenges and responsibilities. In response to these concerns, then-U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and some U.N. member states proposed a series of management, programmatic, and structural reforms to improve the organization. Many of these reforms are in various stages of implementation, while others are still being considered by member states. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who assumed the position of Secretary-General in January 2007, has indicated that he will continue to support U.N. reform efforts.
This report focuses on current U.N. reform efforts and priorities from the perspective of several key actors, including the U.S. government, the U.N. Secretary- General, selected groups of member states, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and a cross-section of groups tasked with addressing U.N. reform. It also examines congressional actions related to U.N. reform, as well as future policy considerations.
Since the establishment of the United Nations in 1945, U.N. member states and past secretaries-general have repeatedly attempted to reform the organization. These reform efforts tend to be cyclical, with member states considering waves of new reform proposals every five to ten years. The reform attempts can be initiated by a member state, groups of member states, and/or the current secretary-general. They generally focus on three areas of concern: (1) perceived inefficiencies and lack of accountability in the U.N. Secretariat; (2) duplication and redundancy of U.N. mandates, missions, and/or programs; and (3) evidence of fraud, waste, abuse and/or mismanagement of U.N. resources.