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October 17, 2017

UN: Crisis talk to reform a labyrinthian institution


Lalit Shastri

It has been observed that many who are responsible for carrying out the mandate of a UN subsidiary organ like the UNICEF have their own agenda. They dislike continuity and instead of carrying forward projects initiated by their predecessors, they prefer to pick a new agenda when they have the opportunity so that they can have their story to narrate and a personal track record that can help them advance their own career and rise the ladders of success.

The co-hosts of a high-level event on UN Reform have spelt out a clear charter to act upon for reducing mandate duplication, redundancy and overlap of targets.

Notwithstanding the fact that the countries engaged in deliberations to reform the UN have recognised the role of the United Nations in providing a platform for partnership to enable global sustainable development, what is also significant is that they have even emphasised that each country has the primary responsibility for its own economic and social development.

Asserting commitment to reducing mandate duplication, the nations that co-hosted event on UN Reform, have stressed the need to advance stronger collaboration across the United Nations system for improved mandate delivery.

A crucial input that has emerged from this event is the advise to UN Secretary General Guterres to advance stronger collaboration across the United Nations system for improved mandate delivery and field-centric management reforms.

The Secretary-General has also been extended support in endeavours to strengthen the United Nations system’s accountability framework through enhancing transparency, strengthening oversight, and aligning authority with responsibility.

The United Nations System consists of the United Nations, its subsidiary organs, the specialized agencies, and affiliated organizations, including the separately-administered funds and programmes like the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The global support for the UN Secretary General’s initiative’s for reform, especially when it comes to enhancing transparency across the UN systems should go a long way towards addressing the crux of the problem that emanates basically from the labyrinthian institution that according to Mark Malloch-Brown, who rose from the ranks and became number two to Kofi Annan, a former UN chief, carries the image of “Gucci-shoed bureaucrats”. The UN, he goes on to observe, is a Jekyll and Hyde institution where there are people who work there who just want to get by, there are many others who have a personal sense of commitment to making a real difference and the two live in permanent tension with one another.

It has been observed that many who are responsible for carrying out the mandate of a UN subsidiary organ like the UNICEF have their own agenda. They dislike continuity and instead of carrying forward projects initiated by their predecessors, they prefer to pick a new agenda when they have the opportunity so that they can have their own story to narrate and a track record that can help them advance their career and rise the ladders of success. In the central Indian State of Madhya Pradesh, UNICEF has worked in the mission mode by partnering with civil society in areas like sanitation, hygiene, and flourosis mitigation and child health (especially through the setting up of the sick newborn care units -SNCUs). But a lot of this initiative, if one looks back has been like a drop in the ocean and duplication of agenda that overlaps with the federal mandate and constitutional responsibility of the democratically elected governments both at the Centre and the State.

Leaders from United States, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Slovakia, Thailand, United Kingdom, and Uruguay were at the United Nations to discuss reform. On Monday, US President Donald Trump also made his debut presence at the UN ahead of his first address to the General Assembly.

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