THE UNITED NATIONS AND DEVELOPMENT
A CRITICAL ASSESSMENT
Jacques Fomerand (*)
Scope and purpose of the paper
1. The maintenance of peace and security is the first purpose assigned to the Organization in Chapter I. No less than five of the Charter's 18 chapters deal with peace and security issues. In contrast, only one article of the UN Charter -- Article IX -- explicitly make mention of "development" as an objective which the United Nations should "promote". Moreover, the term appears only at the very end of a list of other objectives which include -in line with the vernacular of the then prevailing orthodoxy in economic thinking -- the achievement of "higher standards of living", "full employment", and "conditions of economic and social progress".
2. In spite of this thin constitutional basis, for at least two to three decades, the United Nations expanded by leaps and bounds in an uncoordinated process of growth evolving into a large array of programs and agencies concerned with humanitarian, economic and social development questions. UNICEF, the Expanded Technical Assistance Programme, the Special Fund, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Food Programme (WFP) as well as such institutions as the International Development Agency (IDA), the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development IFAD), were some of the institutional and functional milestones of this pattern of growth.
3. With the onset of the seventies and perhaps more markedly beginning in the eighties, the United Nations growth and expansion in the economic and social fields slowly came to a halt. Increasingly frequent and pointed criticisms of excessive decentralization and redundancies led to a greater emphasis on "streamlining", "rationalizing" and "consolidating" an Organization perceived by some of its key stakeholders as having grown out of control. In sharp contrast with the buoyant experience of the previous decades, only a handful of new institutions came into existence in the 1990s such as the Global Environmental Facility GEF) and the Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD). The system seems to have now entered a cycle of controlled institutional inertia.
4. Still, the edifice is impressive in its own right. The UN development system comprises 14 funds or programmes attached to the General Assembly (i.e., UNDP, the United Nations Fund for Population Activities [UNFPA], UNICEF and WFP). 12 Specialized Agencies (i.e. UNESCO, WHO, ILO, FAO, UNIDO, IFAD) report to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The Bretton Woods Institutions (the World Bank [WB], the International Monetary Fund [IMF] and the World Trade Organization [WTO]) have an even looser -if any connection at all -- with ECOSOC. Over $5 billion flow each year through the system to promote development and eradicate poverty in poorer countries. If one includes the Bank and the IMF are included, the figure rises to $30 billion. The UN proper (technically the Secretariat) devotes 30% of its regular budget resources to development, three times as much as for peace and security (excluding peacekeeping operations which are funded separately) Of the 9070 posts making up the Secretariat, 3,659 are earmarked for international and regional cooperation for development and human rights and humanitarian affairs. The activities of the "other United Nations" now span over a broad range of activities which include the compilation and standardization of statistical data, setting technical and legal standards in functional areas of global interaction, policy oriented research and analysis, the promotion of child survival, human rights and women's equality, improving the livelihood and security of the poor, ensuring sustainable environmental management, supporting refugees and vulnerable social groups, fighting AIDS and illicit drug trafficking, providing emergency relief to victims of war or flood drought and crop failure. The list is by no means exhaustive.
5. Although it is difficult to "prove" conclusively specific results from specific efforts, the United Nations development system can boast a number of substantial accomplishments in the field of development and human welfare. The health of millions has been improved and life expectancy has increased throughout the world as a result of UNICEF immunization campaigns and WHO's fight against malaria and other parasitic diseases. Efforts supported by the UN have helped raise adult as well as female literacy in developing countries. The international human rights space has been broadened beyond all expectations after the formulation of more than 80 human rights treaties since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UN mobilize more than $1 billion a year for emergency assistance to people affected by war and natural disaster. According to UNDP estimates, since 1980, the UN system has delivered a total of $67.63 billion in the promotion of development and human progress.
6. This paper presents a broad stroked assessment of the developmental work of the United Nations with particular emphasis on issues of governance and effectiveness. The focus is on the United Nations proper, that is to say the UN Secretariat and the Funds and Programmes including UNDP. The specialized agencies which make up what is known as the "United Nations system" also play an important developmental role. They have not been included in this evaluation as this would broaden the scope of the analysis beyond manageable proportions. However, whenever appropriate and relevant, references will be made to the activities of the specialized agencies, especially the World Bank, a key developmental actor both in terms of resources and intellectual influence. Also excluded from the scope of this analysis are those autonomous UN research entities like the United Nations University (UNU) or the United Nations Institute on Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) which carry longer term independent sustained policy analysis which cannot be undertaken by the United Nations itself. Much could be said about the subject and in particular the need for the system to tap more extensively in the intellectual resources of these institutions. The affiliation of the author to one of them, however, precluded it.
I. The governance issue
7. To the uninitiated, the UN development may appear as an extraordinarily confusing maze of institutions. At the apex of the system stands the General Assembly and its Second and Third Committees which deal with economic and social and humanitarian questions respectively. The Assembly is the supreme policy making organ. A number of "subsidiary" bodies of the Assembly -the so-called Funds and Programmes-- are also involved in development. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Center for Human Settlements (Habitat), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have grown out of specific functional or political needs identified by member states over time. There is another cluster of institutions concerned with research, analysis and training, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), the United Nations University (UNU), the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women INSTRAW), the United Nations Institute for Disarmament research (UNIDIR) and the recently created Staff College. These entities have their own governing bodies and enjoy varying degrees of autonomy. But they all report to the General Assembly.
8. Under the authority of the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council acts as a forum for discussion of economic and social issues, policy making and coordination of UN activities in the economic and social fields and governance of the UN's operational activities. ECOSOC has six "functional commissions" (on social development, human rights, narcotic drugs, women, population and statistics) that report to it. Five regional commissions (Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, Asia and the Pacific, Africa and Western Asia) also report to the Council as do a large number of sessional and standing committees and expert ad hoc bodies.
9. This machinery is to say the least cumbersome and it has long been recognized that it suffers from dysfunctional and wasteful redundancies, duplication and overlap attributable to the expansion of a system driven more by the vagaries of the political process than by pre-established organizational blueprints of change. Indeed, reform efforts have been numerous (1977, 1986, 1989, 1995). Their contradictory outcomes have cancelled out each other. The resulting impact has been minimal and the UN development policy-making structure has not significantly gained in transparency and simplicity.
10. Numerous factors account for this state of affairs. "Unholy" coalitions of international civil servants, government representatives and NGOs, turf battles among "status quo" or "imperial" organizations and sheer bureaucratic inertia have been singled out as factors contributing to the inertia of the system. The most critical factor has been and remains the widely differing views of member states about the very concept of development and the role of the United Nations therein. From the very inception of the Organization, two competing visions have been vying with each other about ways and means to achieve "conditions of economic and social progress". One was largely espoused by industrial powers and the United States in particular, the main progenitor of the Organization, the other was shaped by the demands and concerns of Southern countries and middle sized powers. The former assigns only limited functions to the United Nations in economic and social affairs: the United Nations is a voluntary association of Nation-States with no discretionary regulatory legislative functions. It may act as "as a town meeting of the world where public opinion is focused as an effective force" but, under the best of circumstances, the United Nations remains a "center for the harmonization of national policies", a "catalyst", a "facilitator" and a "conveyor" exerting a loose degree of coordination over the specialized agencies. The Bretton Woods institutions and other non UN institutions like the Group of 8 and OECD, however, have a key role in the field of economic and social cooperation and in the management of the world economy. Southern countries give priority to the resolution of the structural problems -internal and international -which hamper their drive to industrialization and/or now their "sustainable development". They take the view that development cannot be left to the vagaries of international financial, monetary and commercial markets. At the international and national levels, regulatory mechanisms and agencies are necessary. The state not the market has a key role in planning the allocation of scarce resources required for development. This "statist" agenda assigns a key policymaking role to the United Nations in the achievement of these goals and, for developing countries, the United Nations is the keystone of the governance architecture of the world economy and development cooperation. From their vantage point, the Organization should bring under its purview the Bretton Woods institutions.
11. In this polarized setting in which the North uses the language of "effectiveness" and the South the terminology of "equity" and "democracy", any agreement on governance has proved elusive. Any victory by one side has been matched by determined efforts by the other to undo the paper agreements reached or to nibble at the margins of the prevailing "consensus". The result has been a seesaw process of legitimization of competing and largely mutually exclusive development concepts. Twenty five years ago, Secretariat officials drew up inventories of development goals and objectives that had been "adopted" in various United Nations intergovernmental fora in implementation of the New International Economic Order. Now the UN appears to have shifted gears and is seeking new "partnerships" and "new structures of cooperation" in support of a development process now deemed to be governed by market forces.
12. Under these conditions, in spite of minor adjustments over time, governance structures have by and large been left unattended. Glaring institutional weaknesses thus abound. Discussions, resolutions and recommendations in the General Assembly, ECOSOC, the Second (economic) and Third (Social and humanitarian) Committees of the Assembly are repetitive. To cite a not infrequent case of absurd redundancy, in late October 2002 in New York, the General Assembly and the ECOSOC at its "resumed" summer session discussed ways and means to consider in an integrated manner follow up action to UN global conferences. Suggestions have thus been made to abolish ECOSOC, to merge the Assembly's second and third committees or to abolish them and transfer their functions to a revitalized ECOSOC. More politically motivated proposals would bring the Bretton Woods institutions under the authority of the General Assembly. Deep seated North-South cleavages have stranded these recurrent demands for change on the drawing board. Insofar as the political stalemate is not likely to evaporate, the first broad recommendation of this essay is to refrain from engaging in efforts designed to effect large scale structural change but rather to focus on politically feasible incremental changes. For there is considerable evidence that the system is malleable. Functional and incremental adaptations leaving untouched the institutional environment have been and are politically possible and feasible.
13. The main issue facing the United Nations is that it is structurally ill suited to deal with developmental issues in a holistic and integrated manner. The United Nations was set up and developed essentially along vertical and sectoral lines. It mirrors national governmental structures. Changing conceptions of development have evolved from approaches which focused on discrete sectoral activities -money, finance, trade, science and technology, technical cooperation - to an understanding highlighing horizontal linkages and underlining the necessity of concerted policy actions. The very concept of human security which now prevails is far broader in scope that earlier definitions of development which simply focused on GNP growth and the satisfaction of basic needs. It is now recognized that development means increasing the availability and widening the distribution of basic life sustaining goods such as food, shelter, health and protection, raising levels of living (higher incomes, more jobs, better education) and expanding the range of economic and social choice available to individuals. Even the conventional distinction between peace and security issues on the one hand and economic and social development and human rights on the other is being challenged. In fact, one of the lessons learned by the United Nations in its multifaceted field experiences in peace keeping is that the continuum of functions identified by Agenda for Peace -prevention/early-warning/conflict management and resolution/peace building and reconstruction -- needs to be addressed concurrently rather than sequentially.
14. Some argue that the establishment of an Economic Security Council would better equip the United Nations in meeting these new challenges. The idea may have intellectual merits within university and think tank walls. It has little resonance in the politically constrained environment of the United Nations. Much more promising are approaches that would build bridges between institutions by drawing from and expanding on precedents. There is no doubt that the work of the Security Council and ECOSOC can no longer run on parallel lines but should must be brought closer to each other and feed each other. A useful instance to be emulated is the cooperation that developed in 1998 between the Security Council and ECOSOC in the elaboration of a long term programme of support for Haiti. The initiative was triggered by ECOSOC which in July 1998 noted the need to develop a comprehensive approach to countries in crisis in which key aspects of durable recovery, peace building, all human rights, sustained economic growth and sustainable development were included (Agreed conclusion 1998/1 of 17 July 1998). The Security Council followed suit in the Fall of 1998 by inviting ECOSOC to elaborate such a strategic framework for Haiti. (SC resolution 1212(1998) of 25 November 1998). In this respect, the Security Council has in recent years shown a greater sensitivity to the economic, social and development dimensions of security issues. It held a much heralded special meeting on HIV-AIDS. Subsequently, in October 2000, the Council held an open discussion on Women and Peace and Security in which 40 member states made strong statements supporting the mainstreaming of gender perspectives into peace support operations. In its resolution S/RES/1325, the Council requested the secretary General to prepare a study on the impact of armed conflict on women and girls, the role of women in peace building and the gender dimensions of peace processes and conflict resolution. The study was discussed by the Council at the end of October 2002.
15. Another possible approach is to draw from the experience of some intergovernmental bodies. The Commission on Sustainable Development has demonstrated its capacity to deal with complex, interrelated issues in an integrated manner by relying on deliberations focusing on inter-sectoral and thematic subjects. The recommendations emerging from UN global conferences and the Millennium Development Goals could provide an opportunity to rationalize and simplify the agenda of the General Assembly by clustering hitherto disparate policy issues. One such cluster could be labeled "Enabling environment for sustained economic growth and sustainable development" and would include finance, trade, debt, technology and governance issues. Another cluster would deal with poverty eradication and social integration and encompass issues like employment, access to basic services, social protection and gender equality. Still another cluster could be concerned with the sustainability of natural resources and might cover climate change, bio-diversity, desertification and land management, patterns of consumption and production, the protection and managing of the resource base of economic and social development. Other conceivable clusters of development issues include human resource development and capacity building, the special needs of Africa, the least developed countries, small island developing countries and transnational issues like terrorism, trans-national crime. The General Assembly is now seized of the question. Its deliberations reveal significant but not necessarily insurmountable divisions among member states. The Secretariat should provide the elements of a workable and reasonable compromise. UN autonomous research entities should also contribute to this debate.
16. As indicated earlier, the UN's work in the economic and social sectors spans a large swath of activities. These may be subsumed under the following broad categories. 1. policy analytical work which provides the underpinning for intergovernmental deliberations; 2. facilitating the efforts of member states to set norms and standards and to build consensus on a range of international issues; 3. global advocacy on development issues and 4. support of national development efforts through technical cooperation activities in developing countries and countries with economies in transition. Not surprising the proliferation of intergovernmental structures triggered by the growing number of UN functional tasks has been paralleled by a corresponding proliferation of structures within the United Nations itself. The question arises as to whether the four broad functions identified above in such a fragmented institutional setting. The answer is very imperfectly and this leaves considerable for much needed incremental improvements.
a. Strategic objectives
17. The 1997 reform programme of the Secretary General rightly placed particular emphasis on the need for a more integrated systemic approach to policies and programmes throughout the range of UN activities. For this purpose, four "Executive Committees" were created in addition to a "Cabinet" type of body which came immediately under the aegis of the Secretary General. These Executive Committees brought together the various parts of the United Nations concerned with key major clusters of activities of the United Nations: the Executive Committee on Peace and Security (ECSA) deals with peace and security issues, the Executive Committee on Humanitarian Affairs (ECHA) with humanitarian questions, the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) with operational activities and the Executive Committee on Economic and Social Affairs (EC-ESA) with economic and social affairs..
18. The Committees were established to produce substantive analysis and policy guidance and serve as proactive fora for strategic planning and coordination. The results are at best uneven and mixed. The frequency and regularity of meetings as well as the level of attendance have been erratic. Most disturbingly, the membership of the Committees has grown to such an extent as to make them unwieldy and largely ineffective as policy formulation organs. Thus, ECSA's membership expanded from 7 departments when it was created to 17 and two regular observers. ECHA doubled in size and UNDG has grown from the original four members of the Committee (UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA, WFP) to 20 funds programmes, specialized agencies and regional commissions. EC-ESA was too large from the very beginning. Thus, the Committee was a useful forum for information sharing and identifying issues of common concern. It also produced four policy papers on the international financial architecture, the social dimensions of macroeconomic policies, a new aid compact and the debt problems of the developing countries. Each one was deemed to represent the common position of the system. But conflicting viewpoints among the entities involved slowed down the production of the papers and their policy recommendations were considerably watered down to reconcile internal divergences. More seriously, the limited impact of the policy papers is not unrelated to the fact that they were treated as additional common outputs rather than as a source of policy guidance.
19. It is widely recognized within the Secretariat that key, substantive discussions in order to be effective should take place within "core goups " to be established within each executive committee. The core group idea seems to have worked well with UNDG. It should be applied to all the committees and in particular to the EC-ESA whose "core group"would include DESA, UNCTAD and a representative of the Regional Commissions with the participation of other units of the UN as appropriate. The meetings of the EC-ESA should be regularized. The full membership could meet in alternance with the core group. All meetings' discussions would be limited to principals so that EC-ESA can remain a bona fide executive committee.
20. In recognition of the increasingly holistic nature of development issues, further efforts should be made to broaden the bridges between each of the four committees. Joint meetings with ECHA and ECPS have proved effective in addressing issues of common interest and concern. A joint ECHA-UNDG working group established for Afghanistan has enabled the UN system to provide a coherent and cohesive approach to relief and recovery in the country. A joint ECHA/UNDG working group was set up to produce a policy paper on partnership between UN and EU. More use should be made of such joint meetings on cross cutting policy issues. At present, no representative of the ECSP participate in the work of the ECESA. The relationship between EC-ESA and ECPS should be strengthened in recognition of the linkages between conflict settlement and peace building. UNDG focuses on UN activities in the field and how they should be coordinated and jointly undertaken. EC-ESA focuses on policy research and analysis. Greater linkages should be established between the two committees so that policy analysis and field oriented operational activities may nurture one another. If the Committee structures prove to be too unwieldy, then ad-hoc, informal and time bound networks of concerned offices and departments should be constituted tackle a particular issue requiring a systemic response. Several of these networks are already in existence. The latest one was created in the wake of the cease fire achieved earlier this year in Sri Lanka and brought together the Bank, UNDP, OCHA and the Office of the Secretary General among others for the purpose of assessing the reconstruction needs of the country.
21. As pointed out earlier, the fragmentation of the system is a major obstacle to the development of a common UN strategic view on development issues. An important aspect of the problem is the status, role and functions of the Regional Commissions. In part, the issue arises because unlike the other Departments of the United Nations, the Regional Commissions have in effect two roles which are not necessarily compatible. On one hand, they act as regional branches of a UN global system. On the other hand, they are parts of the institutional setting of their respective regions and their priorities are set by their respective member governments. Conflicting governance structures and constituencies lie behind the repeated failures to affect change as was the case in the implementation of resolution 32/197 on the restructuring of the economic and social sectors of the UN.
22. The SG reform proposals of 1997 did not include specific recommendations on the Regional Commissions within a reformed United Nations. The Commissions did embark on reform measures themselves and in the last few months on a series of self assessments. But significant issues of functions and structures remain unattended. What is their relationship with global UN bodies and how should the regional and global activities of the United Nations be articulated? "Who does what?" thus stands out as a complex, at time contentious and by and large unresolved issue which has gained a new sense of urgency in the light of the impact of globalization on individual countries and groups of countries. The Secretary-General should initiate -perhaps with the assistance of external high level experts --another assessment of the development work of the Regional Commissions in order and to come to some determination as to how it relates and should relate to the global work of the United Nations. More specifically, this assessment should seek to answer the following questions: What changes should be made in the relationship between the UN and the Commissions. Are there any duplicative areas of work? Is there duplication at the sub regional level as UN agencies are establishing their own sub-regional offices? What criteria and yardsticks might be used to measure the comparative advantage of different entities through a given joint effort? How should the RC operational activities be developed so that they would not duplicate or compete with the activities of the UN Programmes and Funds? Should the UN Funds and Programmes continue to finance the work of the Regional Commissions?
b. Policy Analysis and early warning
23. One of the major functions of the United Nations in development is to collect and disseminate economic and social information, monitor economic and social developments and identify emerging issues of global concern. The unique global character of the UN system with its global resources has made it a natural focal point for collecting data collection in the economic and social fields. Most of the agencies and bodies which make up the UN development system require submission of statistical; data from member states and, in turn, the United Nations produces compilations of statistics. The Statistical Yearbook, the Demographic Yearbook,. the International Trade Statistics Yearbook are examples of the outstanding work of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs in this field. This "soft infrastructure" of the United Nations has been in place since the inception of the Organization. It has since steadily expanded and become an indispensable underpinning of the functioning of the global economy.
24. Concurrently, the United Nations produces a plethora of studies of report on an endless string of subjects include national accounts, tax and accounting, finance and investment, natural resources, agriculture, industry, labor markets, the environment, human settlement, transnational corporations, transportation, refugees displaced persons, public health, social statistics, gender issues, children.... Some celebrate this proliferation of studies as a manifestation of the vitality and universalism of the Organization. Others ask what policies and criteria guide this outpouring of studies and reports. Producing information is one thing, assigning meaning to it and providing guidance to intergovernmental bodies quite another when the identification of "emerging issues of global concern" becomes the focus of attention. The issue relates primarily to the so-called "flagship" reports of the United Nations, that is to say to those empirical and normative reports which lay down the foundations of the agenda and deliberations of inter-governmental deliberations. The Secretariat of the United Nations has always played a key role in shaping the agenda of inter-governmental bodies. It should continue to do so. But its capacity to do so may be hampered as long as the trend toward an increasing number of "flagship" reports continues unchecked and projects the image of an organization lacking in coherence of purpose.
25. The problem was raised in the latest round of reform proposals of the United Nations. But the issue is by no means new and may be viewed as the symptom of a relative decline of the United Nations intellectual leadership. In the late forties and early fifties, development economists of exceptional talent held appointments in the UN Secretariat. Researchers like Gerasimos Arsenis, Celso Furtado, Lal Jayawardina, Nicolas Kaldor, Michal Kalecki, W.R. Malinoswski, Jacob Mosak, Raul Prebish, Hans Singer, Manmihan Singh, Victor Urquidi, and two Nobel Prize winners Arthur Lewis and Gunnar Myrdal developed influential ideas which shaped the development debate for at least two decades. Among these ideas were the notion that the critical importance of structural factors in the development process, notably the dynamic role of industry and the constraints imposed by agriculture; the analysis of the dynamics of inflation, the secular tendency for the terms of trade of primary commodities to deteriorate, the concept of a trade constraint and of a trade gap, the cumulative process whereby intercountry polarization of income takes place. This generation is gone and has not been replaced with a resulting loss of intellectual leadership by the United Nations and a corresponding shift in gravitas toward the World Bank and the UNDP which began publication of the influential Development Report in the late 1980s.
26. The changing fortunes of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs provide an illustration of this evolution. In the fifties, the Department (together with ECLAC) provided the fertile ground for the innovative and ebullient thinking that we just referred to. Today, it is very much in search of a role. As a result of Third World political pressures, many constituent parts of the Department were pulled away and turned into autonomous agencies: thus came into existence UNCTAD, UNEP and Habitat. By way of consequence, the current Department of Economic and Social Affairs is a rump entity. It has to a large extent succeeded in maintaining the integrity and quality of its statistical and demographic work. But its original core function of assessing global economic and social trends has been weakened. Its flagship report "The World Economic and Social Survey" is a pale reflection of its former glory and has become proverbial for its extreme political cautiousness. More disturbing is the fact that the current portfolio of the Department is made up of disconnected activities ranging from sustainable development, gender advocacy to technical assistance in national public administration reform to interagency coordination. The recent reform proposals of the Secretary General include the creation of a position of Assistant Secretary General and a policy planning unit to reinforce the Department strategic planning capacity and to support policy coherence and management. These may be useful steps but they must be complemented by a thorough review of the mandate and functions of the Department with a view to sharpening its function with a better focus on its normative and policy analysis functions and clarifying its relations with other entities in the United Nations (the Office of the Deputy Secretary-General, UNCTAD, and the Regonal Commissions).
27. The Secretary-General rightly stresses the need to rationalize the production of flagship reports. Beyond that, consideration should be given to the possibility for a revamped Department of Economic and Social Affairs to prepare a comprehensive analytical and normative "State of the World" presenting a synthesis of the major findings of the United Nations development system and offering an agenda for action to government. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the policy outcomes of UN global conferences (notably, Monterry and Joberg) have increasingly become normative objectives for the Organization. They could be used to structure the contents and focus of the proposed State of the World. The organization would thus not only strengthen its global watch function, it would also introduce considerable consistency and coherence in its strategic policy prescriptions.
28. All social and economic entities in the United Nations carry out both research and technical assistance activities within their own mandates. How one relates to the other is often unclear. For instance, the technical cooperation work of DESA seems unconnected to the Department's overall analytical work. Likewise, the prescriptions of the Human Development Report would need to be more tightly related to UNDP's field work. These are matters for investigation with a view to developing horizontal connectivity between seemingly isolated vertical structures operating in an ad-hoc manner and without a sense of systemic priorities. Ways and means should be explored to include the funds and programmes in the UN analytical work and more generally to strengthen the linkages between research, capacity development and operational activities.
29. In the meantime, the secretariat should revert to a recent practice apparently now abandoned by the Secretary General. The annual report of the Secretary General on the world of the Organization should be retrospective and focus on what the UN has done. As such it should be an accountability report. But the annual report should also identify and discuss pressing global concerns of interest to the international community as it did in recent years in regard to the impact of sanctions, the root causes of humanitarian crises and conflict prevention. The annual report of the Secretary General should include a forward looking, agenda setting section highlighting a major issue which he feels requires the sustained attention of the international community and offering policy prescriptions for its consideration.
30. For many, the United Nations suffers from an institutional deficit. This may very well be the case. But as long as the United Nations remains an organization of nation states and as long as there is no political consensus as to its purposes in the development process, the search for institutional solutions for some of the problems identified here will remain fruitless. For this reason, this paper focused on processes rather than structures and on incremental rather than comprehensive change. Its underlying premise was that change in complex organizational settings like the United Nations tends to be, like in any other similar organizational setting, an incremental process in which innovations trigger (in fact compel) further changes of an incremental nature in a slow moving and sometimes cumulative process which may acquire a momentum of its own.
An example of incremental innovations which has received little notice but has brought significant improvements in defects justifiably denounced for a long time was the recourse in 1974 to competitive examinations for the recruitment of junior professional . The practice has by no means resolved the staffing problems of the United Nations but it has certainly brought about considerable improvements in the quality of staff while preserving the principle of equitable geographical representation. The recommendations contained in this paper were offered in the same spirit. They are also consistent with the most recent reform proposals of the Secretary General and build upon them.
* The author is Director of the United Nations University Office in New York. The views expressed in this paper are his and do not in any way reflect those of the United Nations University or the United Nations.
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