United Nations Reform: U.S. Policy and International Perspectives
United Nations Reform: U.S. Policy and
Updated November 24, 2008
Analyst in International Relations
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
United Nations Reform: U.S. Policy and
Since its establishment in 1945, the United Nations has been in a constant state
of transition as various international stakeholders seek ways to improve the efficiency
and effectiveness of the U.N. system. Recent controversies, such as corruption of the
Iraq Oil-For-Food Program, allegations of sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers, and
instances of waste, fraud and abuse by U.N. staff, have focused renewed attention on
the need for change and improvement of the United Nations. Many in the
international community, including the United States, have increased pressure on
U.N. member states to implement substantive reforms. The 111th Congress will most
likely continue to focus on U.N. reform as it considers appropriate levels of U.S.
funding to the United Nations and monitors the progress and implementation of
ongoing and previously-approved reform measures.
In September 2005, heads of U.N. member states met for the World Summit at
U.N. Headquarters in New York to discuss strengthening the United Nations through
institutional reform. The resulting Summit Outcome Document laid the groundwork
for a series of reforms that included establishing a Peacebuilding Commission,
creating a new Human Rights Council, and enlarging the U.N. Security Council.
Member states also agreed to Secretariat and management reforms including
improving internal U.N. oversight capacity, establishing a U.N. ethics office,
enhancing U.N. whistle-blower protection, and reviewing all U.N. mandates five
years or older.
Since the World Summit, U.N. member states have worked toward
implementing these reforms with varied degrees of success. Some reforms, such as
the creation of the Human Rights Council and the Peacebuilding Commission, have
already occurred or are ongoing. Other reforms, such as U.N. Security Council
enlargement, have stalled or not been addressed. U.N. member states disagree on
whether some proposed reforms are necessary, as well as how to most effectively
implement previously agreed-to reforms. Developed countries, for example, support
delegating more power to the Secretary-General to implement management reforms,
whereas developing countries fear that giving the Secretary-General more authority
may undermine the power of the U.N. General Assembly and therefore the influence
of individual countries.
Congress has maintained a significant interest in the overall effectiveness of the
United Nations. Some Members are particularly interested in U.N. Secretariat and
management reform, with a focus on enhanced accountability and internal oversight.
In the past, Congress has enacted legislation that links U.S. funding of the United
Nations to specific U.N. reform benchmarks. Opponents of this strategy argue that
tying U.S. funding to U.N. reform may negatively impact diplomatic relations and
could hinder the United States’ ability to conduct foreign policy. Supporters contend
that the United Nations has been slow to implement reforms and that linking payment
of U.S. assessments to progress on U.N. reform is the most effective way to motivate
member states to efficiently pursue comprehensive reform. This report will be
updated as policy changes or congressional actions warrant.
In troduction ......................................................1
Reform Efforts (1980s and early 1990s)............................2
Reform Efforts (1997 to 2005)...................................3
Recently Adopted and/or Implemented Reforms and the New
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.N. Reform ...................7
Congress and U.N. Reform..........................................9
U.S. Funding as a Tool for U.N. Reform...........................10
Possible Instruments for Furthering U.S. Reform Policy..............11
George W. Bush Administration Policy...............................13
Management, Budget and Secretariat Reform.......................13
Democracy Initiatives .........................................16
Human Rights Council.........................................16
Convention on Terrorism.......................................17
Security Council Reform.......................................18
Reform Perspectives and Priorities...................................19
Selected International Perspectives...............................19
Commissions, Task Forces, and Groups...........................22
Implementing Reform:Mechanics and Possible Challenges................25
Mechanics of Implementing Reform..............................25
Possible Challenges to Reform..................................27
Appendix A. Previous Reform Legislation .............................29
Kassebaum-Solomon Amendment (1986-1987).....................29
U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services (1993)...................29
Helms-Biden Agreement (1999).................................30
Henry J. Hyde U.N. Reform Act (2005)...........................30
Appendix B. Key U.N. Reform Recommendations and Proposals by
Independent and U.N. Affiliated Groups ..........................31
Appendix C. Organizational Chart of the U.N. System....................32
Appendix D. Additional U.N. Reform Resources........................33
Websites (NGOs, Think Tanks, U.S. Government, United Nations).....33
U.S. Government Reports (CRS and GAO)........................33
United Nations Reform: U.S. Policy and
U.N. reform is an ongoing policy issue for the United States, and may be a point
of focus during the 111th 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 stated 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.
Proposed reforms often reflect the political, economic, and cultural climate of
the time. For example, in the 1950s and 1960s, member states focused on increasing
membership on the U.N. Security Council and the U.N. Economic and Social
Council (ECOSOC) to account for growing U.N. membership.1 In the 1970s, as the
economic and political gap between developed and developing countries grew more
pronounced, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to appoint a
group of experts to recommend structural changes that would help the United Nations
address “problems of international economic co-operation.”2 The most recent wave
of U.N. reform may be driven by a combination of U.N. budgetary and financial
issues, controversy over mismanagement of the Iraq Oil-For-Food Program,
perceived ineffectiveness of U.N. human rights mechanisms, and recent allegations
of sexual abuse committed by U.N. staff and peacekeepers, among other things.
Reform Efforts (1980s and early 1990s)
U.N. reform initiatives in the 1980s and early 1990s focused primarily on
financial and structural issues. In 1986, under pressure from the United States and
other industrialized countries, the General Assembly established a high-level group
of 18 intergovernmental experts to “review the efficiency of the administrative and
financial functioning,” of the United Nations. The group made 71 recommendations
to the General Assembly, including a revised budgetary process that introduced the
use of consensus-based budgeting.3 In the early 1990s, U.N. Secretary-General
Boutros Boutros-Ghali introduced broad reform proposals in reports, “An Agenda for
Peace,” (1992) and “An Agenda for Development” (1994).4 Some of these reform
initiatives proposed led to substantive changes to the U.N. structure.5
1 U.N. membership grew from 51 countries in 1945, to 114 countries in 1963. Currently,
the United Nations has 192 member states. Amendments to the Charter related to increased
membership are discussed in the “Mechanics of Implementing Reform,” section of this
2 The General Assembly approved some, but not all, of the recommendations in 1977. For
more information on this group and other U.N. reform efforts prior to the 1980s, see
“Reforming the United Nations: Lessons from a History in Progress,” by Edward C. Luck,
Academic Council on the United Nations System — Occasional Papers Series, 2003.
3 U.N. document, A/RES/41/213, December 19, 1986. The group of experts was convened,
in part, because of U.S. legislation popularly known as the “Kassebaum-Solomon
Amendment,” which directed that U.S. contributions to the U.N. regular budget be reduced
if larger U.N. financial contributors did not have a more substantial influence in the U.N.
budget process. See “Previous Reform Legislation” section of this report.
4 In response to the proposals in Boutrous-Ghali’s reports, the General Assembly created
five open-ended working groups to consider reforms in specific areas, including peace,
development, the Security Council, the U.N. financial situation, and strengthening the U.N.
system. Only one working group completed its work (the Working Group on Development),
and three stopped meeting due to an inability to reach agreement on key issues. The fifth
Security Council Working Group still meets regularly. For more information on this
working group, see “The Mechanics of Implementing Reform” section of this report.
5 Notably, in 1994 the General Assembly established the Office of Internal Oversight
Services (OIOS) to enhance and improve oversight in the United Nations.
Reform Efforts (1997 to 2005)
Kofi Annan ran for Secretary-General on a platform of reform and introduced
many reform proposals during his tenure, most notably in 1997, 2002, and 2005.
Annan also appointed several independent panels and commissions to propose
reforms on specific issues, such as the effectiveness of U.N. peacekeeping
operations.6 Annan first proposed a “two track” reform program that recommended
cutting Secretariat administrative costs, combining three smaller departments into
one large Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), and creating the post
of Deputy Secretary-General.7 Over time, some of these early reform initiatives were
achieved.8 In September 2002, Annan proposed additional reforms, including a
reorganization of the budget and planning system to make it less complex; a thorough
review of the U.N. work program; establishing a high-level panel to examine the
relationship between the United Nations and civil society; improving U.N. human
rights protection; and enhancing U.N. information services.9
In September 2003, Annan appointed a High-Level Panel on Threats,
Challenges and Change to evaluate how the United Nations addressed present-day
threats to international peace and security.10 The Panel recommended enlarging the
U.N. Security Council, establishing a Peacebuilding Commission, and enhancing the
role of the Secretary-General. Annan drew from many of the Panel’s
recommendations in his 2005 report, In Larger Freedom: Toward Development,
Security, and Human Rights for All.11
6 Annan appointed a special panel on U.N. Peace Operations in March 2000 to make
recommendations for improving the peacekeeping system. The panel’s recommendations
were consolidated into what is known as the “Brahimi Report.” A number of the report’s
recommendations, such as increasing the number of staff in the Department of Peacekeeping
Operations, were implemented. Other recommendations, particularly those involving U.N.
member state personnel commitments for deployment, have yet to be achieved.
7 Annan subsequently outlined the thematic and technical aspects of these reform proposals
in his report, Renewing the United Nations: A Programme for Reform, (A/51/950, July 14,
8 Completed reforms include establishment of a strategic planning unit; creation of a senior
management group; establishment of a Department for Disarmament and Arms regulation;
creation of the Deputy-Secretary-General position; and the establishment of a U.N.
Development Group to better coordinate U.N. development mechanisms and programs.
9 U.N. document, A/57/387, September 9, 2002, Strengthening the United Nations: An
Agenda for Further Change. Some of the 2002 reform proposals were implemented,
including centralization of U.N. information around regional hubs, starting with Western
Europe; strengthening the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; and the
establishment of a policy planning unit in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
10 The Panel’s report, A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility, was released on
December 2, 2004, and is available at [http://www.un.org/secureworld/].
11 See “Commissions, Task Forces, and Groups” section for more information on the report,
which was released on March 21, 2005. A copy is available at [http://www.un.org/
The 2005 U.N. World Summit. In September 2005, U.N. reform efforts
seemed to gain momentum as heads of state and government met for the 2005 World
Summit at U.N. Headquarters in New York. The Summit convened to review the
progress made in the fulfillment of the 2000 Millennium Summit goals and12
commitments made in other earlier U.N. conferences. It provided the groundwork
for potentially significant changes to the U.N. system, with a focus on strengthening
the United Nations through various reforms. The Summit Outcome Document was
negotiated by 191 member states and adopted by consensus on September 16, 2005.
The document laid the foundation for reforms such as: establishing a Peacebuilding
Commission; strengthening the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF);13
establishing a Democracy Fund; strengthening the Security Council; improving U.N.
system coordination; and creating a new Human Rights Council. Member states also
agreed to Secretariat and management reforms, including (1) establishment of an
ethics office; (2) greater whistle-blower protection; (3) strengthening oversight
capacity; (4) review of all General Assembly mandates over five years old; and (5)
full financial disclosure by U.N. staff.14
Recently Adopted and/or Implemented Reforms and
the New Secretary-General
U.N. member states have worked toward implementing reform with varied
results since the 2005 World Summit. Some reforms, particularly initiatives related
to internal oversight, human resources reform, and Security Council enhancement,
are stalled or have not been addressed. Other reforms, such as changes to CERF, the
establishment of the Human Rights Council, and the creation of a Peacebuilding
Commission, are already completed or are underway. Some management and budget
reforms endorsed by heads of state and government at the World Summit were also
implemented, including the establishment of a U.N. Ethics Office, enhanced whistle-
blower protection policies, and improved financial disclosure policies for U.N.
12 The 2000 Millennium Summit was held from September 6-8, 2000, in New York. Its
theme was “the role of the United Nations in the 21st Century.” More information on the
Summit is available at [http://www.un.org/millennium/summit.htm].
13 CERF was re-launched on March 9, 2006, with an aim of ensuring a more timely and
efficient response to humanitarian disasters. The Fund is administered by emergency relief
coordinators on behalf of the Secretary-General. Since CERF was established, over $1
billion has been committed and pledged by U.N. member states and NGOs for about 1,400
projects in 66 countries. See [http://ochaonline.un.org/cerf/CERFHome/tabid/1705/
14 U.N. document, A/RES/60/1, 2005 World Summit Outcome, September 16, 2005.
staff.15 On July 7, 2006, the U.N. General Assembly reached consensus on a series
of additional management reforms,16 including
!establishment of the post of Chief Information Technology Officer
to assist in the replacement of an outdated U.N. information system;
!authorization of approximately $700,000 for the Secretary-General
to strengthen the U.N. procurement system;
!full operation of a U.N. Ethics Office, with a need for strengthening
internal oversight and accountability;17
!“experimental” authorization of up to $20 million in discretionary
spending for the Secretary-General to meet the needs of the
!adoption of International Public Sector Accounting Standards.19
System-wide Coherence. The 2005 World Summit Outcome Document
also called on the Secretary-General to improve system-wide coherence and
coordination by “strengthening linkages between the normative work of the United
Nations system and its operational activities.”20 Accordingly, in February 2006, the
Secretary-General announced the creation of a High-Level Panel to examine how the
15 The improved financial disclosure requirements were expanded to include senior
managers, procurement officers, and individuals who invest in U.N. assets. The new
requirements lowered the threshold for accepting gifts and provided mechanisms for
improving the monitoring of disclosure forms. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon agreed to
submit a disclosure form and release it to the public. Former Secretary-General Annan
submitted the form but did not make it publicly available. The whistle-blower protection
policy was labeled the “gold standard” for other international organizations. More
information is available at [http://www.un.org/reform/highlights.shtml].
16 These reforms were proposed in Secretary-General Annan’s March 2006 report, Investing
in the United Nations: For a Stronger Organization Worldwide, available at
17 The U.N. Ethics Office was established on January 1, 2006. Initially, some U.N. member
states expressed concern that the office was insufficiently staffed. In May 2007, Robert F.
Benson of Canada was appointed director of the office, and additional staff were hired. The
office has reportedly provided increased ethics training for U.N. staff, including workshops
and materials for distribution, such as a May 2007 publication entitled, Working Together:
Putting Ethics to Work, available at [http://www.unescap.org/asd/HRMS/odlu/files/ethics.
18 The resolution includes nine criteria for how the money may be spent by the Secretary-
General, including a stipulation that if over $6 million is spent per biennium, the Secretary-
General must receive prior approval from the U.N. Advisory Committee on Administrative
and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).
19 U.N. press release, GA/10481, General Assembly Approves Reform Measures to
Strengthen United Nations, July 7, 2006.
20 U.N. document, A/RES/60/1, 2005 World Summit Outcome, September 16, 2005, p. 36.
U.N. system can work more effectively, especially in the areas of development,
humanitarian assistance, and the environment.21 The Panel’s final report emphasized
the overall value and progress of the United Nations, but also noted that without
substantial reforms the United Nations will be “unable to deliver on its promises and
maintain its legitimate position at the heart of the multilateral system.”22
The Panel recommended the concept of “One U.N.,” to promote greater
coherence and consolidation of U.N. departments and agencies at the country,
regional, and headquarters level, and also recommended an overhaul of U.N. business
practices to bring greater focus on achieving the Millennium Development Goals
(MDGs).23 On December 8, 2006, the United Nations announced that it would test
a One U.N. pilot program in Vietnam with an aim of ensuring “faster and more
effective development.”24 Secretary-General Ban supports the findings of the Panel,
emphasizing his “intention to keep implementing those proposals that build on
existing inter-governmental processes and reform initiatives.”25
Overhaul of Internal Justice System. On April 4, 2007, the General
Assembly adopted a framework resolution to create a new system of internal justice26
administration. The system, which should be functional by early 2009, will be part
of the Secretariat and coordinated through a new Office of the Administration of
Justice that will operate in two tiers — the U.N. Dispute Tribunal and the U.N.
Appeals Tribunal.27 The resolution establishes formal and informal channels to
protect U.N. staff facing disciplinary action, and provides additional accountability
21 The 15-member Panel released its report, Delivering as One, on November 9, 2006. The
Panel met over a six month period and engaged in a thorough examination of the strengths
and weaknesses of the U.N. system. For a list of Panel members, their affiliations, and a
copy of the Panel’s final report and recommendations, see [http://www.un.org/events/
22 U.N. document, A/61/583, Delivering as One, Report of the Secretary-General’s High-
Level Panel, November 9, 2006.
23 Examples of MDGs include cutting the number of people living on less than a dollar a day
by half; ensuring that all children receive primary schooling; reduce the number of people
who do not have access to safe drinking water by half; and reverse the spread of diseases
such as malaria and HIV, among other things. More information on MDGs is available at
24 The United Nations currently has 11 agencies in ten separate buildings in Hanoi. The One
U.N. Initiative would consolidate these agencies into one building to avoid duplication and
harmonize management practices. The United Nations announced the establishment of One
U.N. initiatives in seven additional countries: Albania, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Pakistan,
Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uruguay. For more information, visit [http://www.undg.org/?P=7].
25 U.N. press release, “Secretary-General Gives Priority to Streamlining U.N. with Greater
Cohesion,” March 29, 2007.
26 U.N. document, A/RES/61/261, April 4, 2007.
27 These tribunals replace the Joint Disciplinary Committee and Joint Appeals Board. The
current internal justice system was established in the late 1940s and was designed to
administer internal justice for only several thousand employees in very few locations.
among staff, especially managers.28 The current internal justice system is criticized
by member states for being “slow, cumbersome, ineffective, and lacking in
professionalism.”29 The system is backlogged with cases and many of its employees
lack formal legal training or qualifications.
Mandate Review. The Outcome Document negotiated by member states at
the 2005 U.N. World Summit called for a systematic review of all U.N. mandates
five years or older, a process that has never before been undertaken. Member states
are currently reviewing mandates in the Working Group of the Plenary on Secretariat
and Management Reform, but progress is slow due to resistance from some countries
that fear that mandates important to them will be discarded. If the working group
recommends a mandate for removal, the General Assembly would need to amend the
resolution that established the mandate.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.N. Reform
On December 14, 2006, Ban Ki-moon of South Korea took the oath of office to30
succeed outgoing U.N. Secretary-General Annan. Ban stated that U.N. reform is
“the most pressing and principled issue of today,” and that it will be a top priority31
during his tenure. Ban has stated that his overall reform priorities include
consolidation and better coordination in the U.N. system, improving morale,
accountability, and professionalism for U.N. staff, and restoring trust in the United
Proposed Disarmament and Peacekeeping Restructuring. In
February 2007, Ban introduced his first set of reform initiatives. He proposed the
establishment of a new Department of Field Support to improve the coordination and
effectiveness of U.N. field activities. He also called for the Department of
Disarmament Affairs (DDA) to become an office under the Secretary-General instead
of a stand-alone department. He noted that the U.N. disarmament and non-
proliferation agenda needs revitalization, and will require “a greater role and personal33
involvement of the Secretary-General.” Ban’s proposals were met with skepticism
28 Resolution A/RES/61/261 also abolishes the Panels on Discrimination and Other
Grievances, and transfers responsibility to the U.N. Office of the Ombudsman. The office
will “encourage staff to seek resolution through the informal system,” and will also house
a Mediation Division to provide mediation services for the staff in the Secretariat and in
U.N. funds and programs.
29 U.N. documents, A/RES/61/261, April 4, 2007.
30 Prior to becoming U.N. Secretary-General, Ban was the Minister of Foreign Affairs and
Trade for the Republic of Korea. A biography of Secretary-General Ban is available at
[http://www.un.org/ News/Press/docs/2006/sg2118.doc.htm] .
31 “U.N. Security Council Reform is Most Pressing Issue — New Secretary-General,” ITAR-
TASS Russian News Agency, November 1, 2006.
32 U.N. press release, SG/2119, GA/10558, Speech of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on
Taking Oath of Office, December 14, 2006.
33 For detailed information on Ban’s restructuring proposals, see U.N. document, A/61/749,
by many developing countries, which were concerned with the possible downgrading
of DDA and the impact of a new Department of Field Support on current
On March 15, 2007, after extensive consultations among the Secretary-General
and member states, the General Assembly approved two framework resolutions
offering preliminary support for Ban’s proposals. The first resolution supported
establishment of an Office of Disarmament Affairs (ODA). It stated that DDA will
retain its budgetary autonomy and “the integrity of the existing structures and
functions.”35 It also stated that the High-Representative for ODA should be
appointed at the rank of Under-Secretary-General and report directly to the Secretary-
General. The resolution requested that after appointing the High-Representative, the
Secretary-General report to the General Assembly on the financial, administrative,
and budgetary implications of the reorganization, as well as report on the ODA’s
activities at the 62nd session of the General Assembly.36 On July 2, 2007, the
Secretary-General appointed Sergio Duarte, a career diplomat from Brazil, as High
The second General Assembly resolution addressed peacekeeping restructuring
and supported establishing a Department of Field Support to be headed by an Under-
Secretary General. It requested that the Secretary-General submit “a comprehensive
report ... elaborating on the restructuring of the Department of Peacekeeping
Operations and the establishment of the Department of Field Support, including
functions, budgetary discipline and full financial implications.”37 The General
Assembly supported Ban’s proposal in principle. In late June 2007, the Assembly
approved the restructuring, establishing the Department of Field Support with a new
Under-Secretary-General to head the Department.38 A significant point of contention
among some member states during negotiations was the level of autonomy the
Secretary-General would have to organize the Secretariat vis-á-vis the Assembly’s
authority to determine the budget and how it should be spent. Thus, in its initial
framework resolution the General Assembly required the Secretary-General to
provide comprehensive information on the functions, budgets, and other financial
implications of the reorganization.
February 15 2007.
34 Farley, Maggie, “Ban’s U.N. Peacekeeping Reforms Rejected,” Los Angeles Times,
February 6, 2007.
35 U.N. document, A/61/L.55, March 13, 2007.
36 U.N. document, A/RES/61/257.
37 U.N. document, A/RES/61/256, March 15, 2007. For more information on the
peacekeeping restructuring, see CRS Report RL33700, United Nations Peacekeeping: Issues
for Congress, by Marjorie Ann Browne.
38 The framework resolution, A/RES/61/256 was adopted March 15, 2007 and the Assembly
adopted A/RES/61/279 on June 29, 2007.
Other Reform Initiatives. Secretary-General Ban has raised other aspects
of U.N. reform, including:
!Financial Disclosure — Ban submitted his mandatory personal
financial disclosure form and released it to the public. He
encouraged other U.N. staff to follow his example of public financial
disclosure, but will not make it a requirement.39
!Staff Mobility — Ban announced the availability of several
Secretariat positions to be filled by internal U.N. staff. He
encouraged other managers to do the same, noting the importance of
staff mobility among U.N. agencies and departments.
!Security Council Reform — Ban calls Security Council reform “an
important and sensitive issue.”40 He supports enlarging the Council,
and has stated he will use his position as Secretary-General to
facilitate cooperation among member states in order to build a broad
consensus for Security Council enhancement.
Congress and U.N. Reform
Generally, Congress supports the United Nations and its mission. It authorizes
and appropriates U.S. funds to the organization each year, and often utilizes U.N.
mechanisms to further U.S. foreign policy objectives.41 Congress can also be critical
of the United Nations, however, especially when some Members believe that the
organization may not be running as effectively as it could be. When this happens,
Congress may use a wide range of legislative tools to influence and direct U.S. policy
at the United Nations. Such efforts may include considering “sense of the Congress”
resolutions; holding hearings to investigate U.N. programs or oversee Administration
policies; and determining U.S. nominees for U.N. posts. Placing financial conditions
39 Some critics of Secretary-General Ban’s policy maintain that the financial disclosures of
all high-level staff should be made public. Ban has stated that public disclosure is “an
important voluntary initiative,” that “demonstrates that U.N. staff members understand the
importance of the general public and U.N. Member States being assured that... staff
members will not be influenced by any consideration associated with his/her private
interests.” The U.N. Secretariat maintains a public list of financial disclosures by senior
U.N. officials, which is available at [http://www0.un.org/sg/PublicDisclosure.shtml].
40 U.N. press release, SG/2120, Transcript of Press Conference by Secretary-General-
Designate Ban Ki-moon, December 14, 2006.
41 Congress has enacted laws supporting U.N. policies and/or requiring that U.N. member
states comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions or the directives of other U.N. bodies.
For example, the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for FY2007 (P.L. 109-
364, §302) states, “Congress urges ... in the event Iran fails to comply with United Nations
Security Council Resolution 1696 (July 31, 2006), the Security Council to work for the
adoption of appropriate measures under Article 41 of Chapter VII of the Charter of the
or limits on U.S. funding to the United Nations is another common congressional
policy approach to U.N. reform.
U.S. Funding as a Tool for U.N. Reform
Overview and Options. In the past, Congress has used its authority to limit
U.S. funds to the United Nations as a mechanism for influencing U.N. policy.42 In
some cases, Congress withheld a proportionate share of funding for U.N. programs
and policies of which it did not approve. Since 1980, it has withheld funds from
regular budget programs, including the U.N. Special Unit on Palestinian Rights (for
projects involving the Palestine Liberation Organization), and the Preparatory
Commission for the Law of the Sea.
The overall impact of withholding a proportionate share of assessed payments
depends on the origin of the program’s funding. If a program is funded by the U.N.
regular budget and the United States withholds a proportionate share of its normal
contributions, the cost of the program will most likely be covered by surplus regular
budget funds. Some U.N. programs are funded from several budgets that may
include the U.N. regular budget, specialized agency budgets, and separate conference
and administrative budgets. Because of this, it may be more difficult for U.S.
proportionate withholdings to have a significant impact because the program’s
funding comes from several sources. In such cases, a U.S. withholding would have
little or no impact on the program’s operation or funding levels. If the United States
withholds funds from a program funded primarily by member state contributions,
however, the impact of a U.S. withdrawal could be greater. Currently, the only
proportionate U.S. withholding from the U.N. regular budget is for some activities
and programs related to the Palestine Liberation Organization or entities associated43
with it. Additionally, the Bush Administration announced in April 2008 that it
would withhold a portion of its contributions to the 2008 U.N. regular budget44
equivalent to the U.S. share of the Human Rights Council budget.
In addition to withholding a proportionate share of U.S. funding, Congress may
consider enacting legislation decreasing or increasing U.S. assessment levels or
linking payment of U.S. arrears to policies it favors. In October 1993, for example,
Congress directed that the U.S. payments of peacekeeping assessments be capped at45
25% (lower than the assessment level set by the United Nations). Congress also
used this strategy to further its U.N. reform policies. Enacted legislation such as the
42 For a more detailed examination of U.S. funding of the United Nations, see CRS Report
RL33611, United Nations System Funding: Congressional Issues, by Marjorie Ann Browne
and Kennon H. Nakamura.
43 Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (P.L. 87-195; Sec. 307; 22 USC 2227), as amended.
44 For more information, see the “Human Rights Council” section.
45 Foreign Affairs Authorization Act for FY1994 and 1995 (P.L. 103-236), April 30, 1994.
On September 30, 2002, Congress lifted the 25% cap on Peacekeeping assessment to allow
the United States to pay its current assessments (P.L. 107-228, section 402). For more
information on U.N. Peacekeeping funding, see CRS Report RL33700, United Nations
Peacekeeping: Issues for Congress, by Marjorie Ann Browne.
Helms-Biden Agreement linked U.S. assessment levels and the payment of U.S.
arrears to reform benchmarks (see Appendix A for more information on legislation).
Arguments For and Against Linking U.S. Funding to U.N. Reform.
Opponents of linking U.S. funding to progress on U.N. reform are concerned that
doing so may weaken U.S. influence at the United Nations, thereby undercutting its46
ability to conduct diplomacy and make foreign policy decisions. Some argue that
withholding U.S. assessed payments to the United Nations infringes on U.S. treaty
obligations and alienates other U.N. member states. Opponents also note that
withholding U.S. funds could have an impact on diplomatic relations outside of the
U.N. system. Additionally, some contend that U.N. reform legislation proposals may
be unrealistic because the scope and depth of reforms required by the legislation47
cannot be adequately achieved in the proposed time frames.
Supporters of linking U.S. funding to specific reforms argue that the United
States should use its position as the largest U.N. financial contributor to push for the
implementation of policies that lead to comprehensive reform. They note that despite
diplomatic and political pressures from many countries, the United Nations has been
slow to implement substantive reform. Advocates also argue that some previously
implemented reforms, such as the new Human Rights Council, have proved to be
ineffective. They believe that tying U.S. funding to U.N. reform may motivate
countries to find common ground on divisive issues. They also emphasize that past
legislation that threatened to cut off U.S. funding of the United Nations (such as the
Kassebaum-Solomon amendment) was effective, and led to substantive changes in
U.N. operations and programs.
Possible Instruments for Furthering U.S. Reform Policy
Congress’s influence over U.S. funding of the United Nations is a powerful tool
for furthering U.S. reform policy at the United Nations. However, there may be other
strategies for Congress to consider when advocating its reform agenda. These
strategies have been widely used by many past and current Members of Congress and
Administrations, and include, but are not limited to:
!Resolutions — Members of Congress may propose and/or enact
simple or concurrent resolutions expressing an opinion, fact, or
principle in one or both chambers of Congress. Some Members of
Congress have used these resolutions to voice an opinion about U.S.
policy in the United Nations/or the United Nations itself.
46 Additionally, some observers contend that if the United States were to delay or stop
payment of its arrears, it may risk losing its vote in the General Assembly — a generally
undesirable outcome for many Members of Congress and the Administration. In 1999, for
example, the United States came very close to losing its General Assembly vote. Under
Article 19 of the U.N. Charter, a U.N. member state with arrears equaling or exceeding the
member states’s assessments for the two preceding years will have no vote in the General
47 “The Right Approach to Achieving U.N. Reform,” Better World Campaign Fact Sheet,
available at [http://www.betterworldcampaign.org].
!Working with the U.N. Secretary-General — Some previous and
current Members of Congress and Administrations have worked to
earn the support of U.N. secretaries-general to help advocate their
positions. Developing a relationship with the chief administrative
officer of the United Nations can be valuable during some
negotiations, where the Secretary-General can act as a bridge among
member states that disagree on issues. In addition, U.S. citizens
have also held key U.N. reform-related posts at the United Nations,
which some Members of Congress believe may play a role in
furthering U.S. reform policy interests.48 Most recently, Christopher49
Burnham served as U.N. Under-Secretary for Management.
!Collaborating with U.N. Member States — The United States may
wish to continue to reach out to other U.N. member states to build
consensus and form partnerships on reform policies, either within
the framework of the United Nations or bilaterally.50 Some
observers have noted that U.S. support for certain U.N. reform
initiatives can be a liability because some member states may view
U.S. support as self-serving. In these cases, the United States may
consider allowing like-minded countries advocate its reform agenda.
!Identifying Key Priorities — The United States may wish to focus
on a small number of reform priorities and pursue them vigorously
in both multilateral and bilateral fora. It may also consider
compromising with other member states on U.N. reform issues that
it has identified as lesser priorities.
48 Article 100 of the U.N. Charter states, “In the performance of their duties the Secretary-
General and the staff shall not seek or receive instructions from any government or from any
other authority external to the Organization. They shall refrain from any action which might
reflect on their position as international officials responsible only to the Organization.” A
copy of the U.N. Charter is available at [http://www.un.org/aboutun/charter/].
49 Under-Secretary-General Burnham stepped down before Secretary-General Annan’s term
ended in 2007. Prior to Christopher Burnham, the post was held by Catherine Bertini, also
a U.S. citizen. The current U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Management for Secretary-
General Ban is Angela Kane of Germany.
50 In the 1970s and 1980s, for example, the “Geneva Group” was formed to encourage
dialogue and cooperation among like-minded U.N. member states. It was composed mostly
of Western countries that were the United Nations’ largest financial contributors. The group
focused mainly on financial and budgetary issues, and some contend it was instrumental in
bringing about budgetary restraint in some of the U.N. specialized agencies. For more
information, see The United States and Multilateral Institutions, edited by Margaret P.
Karns and Karen A. Mingst, Unwin Hyman Publishers, 1990, p. 313; and United Nations:
Law, Policies and Practice, edited by Rudiger Wolfrum, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1995,
Former Secretary-General Kofi Annan often stated that U.N. reform is a process
and not an event.51 With this in mind, the 111th Congress may wish to continue
monitoring the implementation and overall progress of recently-approved reform
initiatives. It may also consider future reform initiatives proposed by member states
and the Administration, as well as by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon or Members
George W. Bush Administration Policy
The United States generally supports the mission and mandate of the United
Nations. It played a key role in establishing the United Nations in 1945, and serves
as one of five permanent members of the Security Council. Some Administrations
have been critical of the United Nations, however, and have advocated sweeping
reform of the organization.
The George W. Bush Administration is an active participant in recent U.N.
reform efforts. Prior to and since the adoption of the 2005 World Summit Outcome
Document, the Administration attempted to work with like-minded countries and the
U.N. Secretary-General to move a reform agenda forward. Some initiatives supported
by the United States, particularly management and oversight reforms, were not
approved or considered by the General Assembly. In addition, the Administration
expressed its displeasure with the overall effectiveness of some previously52
implemented reforms. The Administration has stated, however, that it will continue
to advocate its reform agenda, though it does not support mandatory withholding of53
U.S. payments to the United Nations. It has identified several key priorities that it
believes will help the United Nations “move towards a goal of strong, effective, and54
Management, Budget and Secretariat Reform
The Bush Administration views management, budget, and secretariat reform as
a top U.S. priority for U.N. reform. It contends that substantive change in the United
Nation’s management and budget structure, particularly within the Secretariat, may
contribute to the implementation of more effective U.N. policies and further
51 U.N. press release, SG/SM/10089, “Transcript of Press Conference by Secretary-General
Kofi Annan at United Nations Headquarters,” September 13, 2005. This is a view shared
by many who are involved in formulating U.N. reform policy.
52 Testimony by then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton before the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee, Challenges and Opportunities in Pushing Ahead on U.N.
Reform, May 25, 2006. Available at [http://www.state.gov/p/io/rls/rm/66904.htm].
53 Testimony by then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton before the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee, Challenges and Opportunities in Moving Ahead on U.N.
Reform, October 18, 2005, available at [http://www.state.gov/p/io/rls/rm/55341.htm].
54 Drawn from U.S. Department of State Fact Sheet, “U.S. Priorities for a Stronger, More
Effective United Nations,” June 17, 2005, available at [http://www.state.gov/documents/
reforms.55 In a statement before the General Assembly in 2005, President Bush said
that meaningful reforms “include measures to improve internal oversight, identify
cost savings, and ensure that precious resources are used for their intended
purpose.”56 President Bush also emphasized the creation of U.N. structures to “ensure
financial accountability and administration and organizational efficiency.”57
Specifically, the Administration advocates:
!Increased Oversight and Accountability in U.N. Management
Structures — This includes enhanced oversight of procurement
activities and management in the Secretariat, including the
Department of Peacekeeping Operations, as well as a fully
independent Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).58 The
Administration also advocates increasing the authority of the
Secretary-General to hire and deploy personnel.
!Review of All U.N. Program Mandates and/or Missions — The
Administration has pushed hard for a full mandate review, stressing
that the United Nations has over 9,000 mandates and/or programs,
some of which may be duplicative or obsolete. It maintains that cost
savings resulting from identifying and eliminating these programs
can be transferred to fund other reforms.59
!Fiscal Discipline — The Administration believes that the United
Nations should implement reforms within existing U.N. budget
resources, and encourages reallocating funds from programs60
identified as lower priority to those identified as higher priority.
The Administration also generally supports some management reform initiatives
that were recently approved by the General Assembly and Secretariat, including the
establishment of the U.N. Ethics Office, increase in internal oversight funding;
improved whistle-blower protections, and stricter U.N. staff financial disclosure
55 Testimony by then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton before the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee, May 25, 2006.
56 “President Addresses United Nations High-Level Plenary Meeting,” Office of the Press
Secretary, The White House, September 14, 2005.
57 The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, Executive Office of the
President, March 2006, p. 45.
58 OIOS is dependent on much of its funding from the U.N. programs that it audits, which
some believe creates a conflict of interest. For more information, see U.S. Government
Accountability Office Report GAO-05-392T, United Nations: Sustained Oversight is
Needed for Reforms to Achieve Lasting Results, March 2, 2006, and GAO Report 08-84,
United Nations Progress on Management Reform Efforts has Varied, November 2007.
59 “Statement by Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, U.S. Representative for U.N. Management
and Reform, on ‘Investing in the U.N.: For a Stronger Organization Worldwide,’” U.S.
Mission to the United Nations press release, July 7, 2006.
60 Testimony by then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton before the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee, May 25, 2006.
requirements.61 Most recently, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations established
a “Whistleblower Hotline” for U.N. staff who wish to report “cases of corruption,
malfeasance, waste, harassment, and/or retaliation” within the U.N. system.62
U.N. Transparency and Accountability Initiative. In 2007, the U.S.
Mission to the United Nations established the U.N. Transparency and Accountability
Initiative (UNTAI), which tracks the adoption of management reforms by U.N. funds
and programs. According to the Administration:
The initial U.N. management reforms authorized by world leaders at the
September 2005 World Summit have begun to take shape through the
introduction of a number of initiatives relating to increased transparency and
accountability in the U.N. Secretariat affairs. Unfortunately, U.N. funds and63
programs have lagged far behind in the adoption of any such reform measures.
To address these issues, the U.S. Mission sent letters to several U.N. funds and
programs requesting information on efforts to implement various management
reforms. Specifically, the United States requested information on eight key areas that
it maintains will lead to greater oversight and increased transparency and
accountability among U.N. entities:
!availability of internal U.N. audits and other reports to U.N. member
!public access to all relevant documentation related to operations and
activities, including budget information and procurement activities;
!whistleblower protection policies;
!financial disclosure policies;
!an effective Ethics Office;
!independence of the respective internal oversight bodies;
!adoption of international accounting standards; and
!establishment of a cap on administrative overhead costs.
The Administration received initial responses from UNDP, the U.N. Children’s Fund
(UNICEF), and the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA). The responses, which are part
of an ongoing dialogue among the U.S. Mission and these U.N. entities, discuss steps
that the organizations are taking to address the issues raised by the United States.64
According to the Administration, the United States will continue to track the status
of reform efforts by these organizations and other U.N. funds and programs.
62 The U.S. Mission assures confidentiality for whistleblowers who use the hotline. More
information is available at [http://www.usunnewyork.usmission.gov/Issues/reform_
63 As evidence of this, the Administration cites abuses by the government of North Korea
involving U.N. Development Program (UNDP) humanitarian and development activities.
See “United Nations Transparency & Accountability Initiative,” U.S. Mission to the United
Nations, available at [http://www.usunnewyork.usmission.gov/Issues/reform_untai.html].
64 Copies of the correspondences between the U.S. Mission and U.N. funds and programs
are available at [http://www.usunnewyork.usmission.gov/Issues/reform_untai_let.php].
The Administration supported the creation of a U.N. Peacebuilding
Commission, which was established by concurrent General Assembly and Security
Council resolutions on December 20, 2005.65 The Commission’s mandate is to
advise and propose “integrated strategies for post-conflict recovery, focusing
attention on reconstruction, institution-building and sustainable development, in
countries emerging from conflict.”66 Many consider the Commission to be a key
component of broader U.N. reform efforts, though U.S. officials have stated that it
is not as significant a priority for the United States as management and budget
reform.67 The Commission operates under the authority of the Security Council and
has a 31-member organizational committee.68
The Administration identified democracy promotion — particularly the U.N.
Democracy Fund (UNDEF) — as a U.S. priority for U.N. reform. On September 21,
2004, President Bush proposed the establishment of UNDEF to provide resources
and assistance for projects that promote emerging democracies. The Fund accepts
voluntary funding from U.N. member states and promotes activities related to
democratic governance, rule of law, electoral assistance, and anti-corruption in new69
democracies. In 2005, Secretary-General Annan established UNDEF as a U.N. trust
fund, and held its inaugural advisory board meeting on March 6, 2006. The United
States has contributed over $25 million to UNDEF. As of November 5, 2008, U.N.
member states have pledged or contributed more that $97 million.70
Human Rights Council
The Bush Administration generally supported the establishment of a Human
Rights Council (the Council) to replace the now-defunct Commission on Human
Rights as a component of U.N. reform. The previous Commission was criticized by
the United States and other countries over the composition of its membership when
countries perceived by many to have poor human rights standards were elected as
members. On March 15, 2006, the U.N. General Assembly agreed to a resolution
creating the new Council, but the United States was one of four countries to vote
65 U.N. documents, A/RES/60/180 and S/RES/1645(2005), December 20, 2005.
66 Further information on the Peacebuilding Commission is available at [http://www.un.org/
67 U.S. Mission to the United Nations press release, December 20, 2005, available at
68 The United States is a member of the organizational committee. For a list of members, see
[http://www.un.org/ peace/peacebuilding/ mem-orgcomembers.shtml ].
69 For further information on UNDEF, see [http://www.unfoundation.org/features/
70 Top UNDEF donors include Australia, India, Japan, Qatar, and the United States. For a
list of all donors, see [http://www.un.org/democracyfund/XFinancialContributions.htm].
against the resolution, contending that the new Council “lacked stronger mechanisms
for maintaining credible membership.”71
The Administration has expressed disappointment with the Council’s work
during its first two years, which focused primarily on alleged Israel’s human rights
abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in Lebanon.72 On April 8, 2008,
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, stated that
the United States would withhold a portion of its contributions to the 2008 U.N.
regular budget equivalent to the U.S. share of the Human Rights Council budget.73
Khalilzad stated that the Council “is less willing to take affirmative action, but is
more willing to focus on Israel-bashing exercises.”74 On June 6, 2008, the
Administration further announced that the United States would engage with the
Council “only in matters of deep national interest.”75 According to the
Administration, instead of focusing on human rights situations around the world, the
Council “turned into a forum that seems to be almost solely focused on bashing
Israel.” The official added that future U.S. participation will be “ad hoc.”76 The
United States did run for a seat in the first three Council elections and is currently a
Council observer with no voting rights.
Convention on Terrorism
The Administration supports the adoption of a Comprehensive Convention on
International Terrorism as part of its U.N. reform platform. However, disagreement
among U.N. member states regarding the definition of terrorism has delayed progress
on the Convention. The United States agrees with Secretary-General Annan’s
assertion in his 2005 report, In Larger Freedom, that “the right to resist occupation
does not justify the targeting and killing of civilians.”77 Currently, a draft legal
71 Drawn from then-Ambassador Bolton’s statement in the U.N. provisional verbatim record.
U.N. document, A/60/PV.72, March 15, 2006, p. 6.
72 For more information on the Human Rights Council, see CRS Report RL33608, United
Nations Human Rights Council: Issues for Congress, by Luisa Blanchfield.
73 U.S. Mission to the United Nations press release #075(08), “Statement by Zalmay
Khalilzad on the Durban II Conference and the Human Rights Council,” April 8, 2008,
available at [http://www.usunnewyork.usmission.gov/press_releases/20080408_075.html].
74 U.S. Mission to the United Nations press release #075(08), “Statement by Zalmay
Khalilzad on the Durban II Conference and the Human Rights Council,” April 8, 2008,
available at [http://www.usunnewyork.usmission.gov/press_releases/20080408_075.html].
75 Daily Press Briefing, Sean McCormack, Spokesperson, U.S. Department of State, June
76 Ibid. The State Department official also stated, “Part of our strategy is to take a look at
any suggestions or thoughts we have to improve the performance of the Council. There’s a
five-year review period, and that review period is going to fall outside the term of this
Administration, but of course... we feel as stewards of the national interest, we are going to
think about ways that might improve the function of the Council.”
77 “Statement by Ambassador Anne W. Patterson, Acting U.S. Ambassador to the United
Nations, on U.S. Proposals for U.N. Reform in the General Assembly,” U.S. Mission to the
framework for the Convention is being considered by the Ad Hoc Committee
established by General Assembly Resolution 51/210 of December 17, 1996, which
met in February 2007.78
The Administration identifies economic development as a U.N. reform priority,
and aims to build “healthy institutions and strong economies through trade, foreign
investment, and aid,” with a focus on “supporting good governance and sound
economic policies.”79 At the 2005 U.N. World Summit in New York, the United
States joined other member states in agreeing to a $50 billion a year increase in
funding (until 2010) to combat poverty, and supported assistance for anti-malaria
initiatives, education, and healthcare. The Administration also reaffirmed its
commitment to achieving the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by
Security Council Reform
One of the most discussed issues in the U.N. reform debate is the possibility of
modifying the composition and size of the Security Council so that it more
adequately reflects present-day political and economic realities. The Administration
is generally open to Security Council reform but stresses that the Council should be
changed only if it will increase the Council’s overall effectiveness.80 It supports
Japan as a permanent Security Council member given its democratic and human
rights record, and its role as the second largest contributor to the United Nations.81
The Administration believes that developing countries deserve increased
representation in the Council, and maintains that any new potential permanent
members should meet specific criteria, including the “size of economy and
population; military capacity; contributions to peacekeeping operations; commitment
to democracy and human rights; financial contributions to the United Nations; non-
proliferation and counter-terrorism records; and equitable geographic balance.”82 The
Administration states it will remain engaged in the Security Council reform debate,
United Nations press release, June 22, 2005.
78 More information on the activities of the Ad Hoc Committee is available at
79 “U.S. Priorities for a Stronger, More Effective United Nations,” U.S. Department of State
Fact Sheet, June 17, 2005.
80 Statement by then-Ambassador John Bolton on Security Council reform and expansion,
to the General Assembly, U.S. Mission to the United Nations press release, July 21, 2006.
81 In 2007, Japan contributed 16.624% (approximately $332.2 million) of the U.N. regular
budget. For more information on individual member state contributions to the United
Nations, see CRS Report RL30605, United Nations Regular Budget Contributions:
Members Compared, 1989-2006, by Marjorie Ann Browne and Luisa Blanchfield.
82 Statement by Ambassador Mark Wallace, December 11, 2006, available at
and will continue to be an active participant in the U.N. Working Group on the
Question of Equitable Representation on and Increase in the Membership of the
Security Council. It has not supported any of the Security Council reform proposals
that were submitted for consideration by U.N. member states or former Secretary-
Reform Perspectives and Priorities
A significant challenge for advocates of U.N. reform is finding common ground
among the disparate definitions of reform held by various stakeholders. The global
community has no common definition of U.N. reform and, as a result, there is often
debate among some over the scope, appropriateness, and effectiveness of past and
current reform initiatives. One method for determining how a stakeholder defines
“U.N. reform” may be to identify policy priorities in the U.N. reform debate. In some
cases, common objectives among stakeholders have translated into substantive
reform policy, though shared goals do not always guarantee successful outcomes.
Recent reform debates in the U.N. General Assembly and its committees drew
attention to fundamental differences that exist among some member states,
particularly developing countries (represented primarily by the Group of 77 and
China), and developed countries (including the United States, Japan, and the United
Kingdom). Developed countries, which account for the majority of assessed
contributions to the U.N. regular budget, would like the Secretary-General to have
greater flexibility and authority to implement reforms, specifically those related to
oversight and human resources. Developing countries, however, generally object to
policies that may enhance the power of the Secretary-General and decrease the power
of the General Assembly and its budget and administrative committees. Observers
are concerned that this difference in reform philosophy will create a deadlock in the
General Assembly and significantly delay the implementation of some key
management and budget reforms.
Selected International Perspectives
Stakeholders engaged in the U.N. reform debate have different perspectives on
how U.N. reform should be implemented and how to prioritize specific U.N. reform
issues.83 Several key actors, including the European Union, the Group of 77 and
China, developed countries, and non-governmental organizations, have weighed in
83 The groups of U.N. member states discussed in this report are only a few of many political
and geographical alliances in the United Nations. Others include the Non-Aligned
Movement, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the African Union. Israel is a
temporary member of the Western European and Others Group (WEOG), but it is excluded
from the system of regional groups outside of U.N. Headquarters in New York. The United
States is not a member of any regional group but participates in WEOG as an observer and
is “considered part of that group for the electoral purposes.” For more information, see
Chapter 3, “Groups and Blocs,” in Politics and Process as the United Nations: The Global
Dance, by Courtney B. Smith, Lynne Rienner Publishers, London, 2006, p. 64. A list of
U.N. alliances is available at [http://www.eyeontheun.org/view.asp?1=11&p=55].
on several reform issues, most notably management and budget reform and
European Union (EU). The EU is composed of 25 countries, accounting for
13% of the vote share in the U.N. General Assembly and approximately 38% of the
U.N. regular budget.84 The EU’s reform initiatives often focus on management
reform and increasing the U.N. capacity for development. The EU “attaches great
importance to keeping U.N. management reform on track,” and “vigorously supports85
“management reforms such as mandate review. It also views the work of the
Secretary-General-appointed Panel on System-Wide Coherence as a high priority,
and supports the Panel’s efforts to explore how the U.N. system may improve system
coordination in the areas of development, humanitarian assistance, and the
environment. The EU actively supports the reform of core U.N. organs, including
the Security Council, General Assembly and ECOSOC,86 and it also attaches87
particular importance to the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.
The Group of 77 and China (G-77). The G-77 is a loosely affiliated group
of 132 U.N. member states representing the interests of developing countries.88 It
has played a significant role in recent reform debates due in part to its large
membership, which can be a significant voting bloc in the General Assembly. The
G-77 generally supports U.N. reform and has long viewed development as a key U.N.
reform issue, emphasizing that it should be given the “utmost priority by the United
Nations.”89 The G-77 views reform as a process to examine how the mandates of the
United Nations can work through “well-coordinated synergies to achieve the
Millennium Development Goals.” It believes that U.N. reform should not alter the
“intergovernmental nature of our [the United Nations] decision-making, oversight,
and monitoring process.” Additionally, the G-77 does not view reform as a
mechanism to “reduce budget levels ... to fund more activities from within the
existing pool of resources, nor to redefine the roles and responsibilities assigned to
the various organs.” 90
84 Each U.N. member state has one vote in the U.N. General Assembly regardless of its
affiliations. For more information, see “The EU at the U.N. — Overview,” at
[ h t t p : / / www.eur opa-e u-un.or g/ document s / i n f opack/ e n/ EU-UNBr o chur e-1_en.pdf ] .
85 “EU Priorities for the 61st U.N. General Assembly,” July 18, 2006, available at
[ ht t p: / / www.eur opa-e u-un.or g/ ar t i c l e s/ en/ a r t i c l e _6242_en.ht m] .
86 An October 25, 2005 EU paper on ECOSOC reform is available at [http://www.europa-
eu-un.org/ articles/en/article_5350_en.htm] .
87 “EU Priorities for the 61st U.N. General Assembly,” July 18, 2006, available at
[ ht t p: / / www.eur opa-e u-un.or g/ ar t i c l e s/ en/ a r t i c l e _6242_en.ht m] .
88 The G-77 was established in 1964 and represents approximately 69% of U.N. member
states. For more information and records of G-77 statements made at the United Nations, see
[ h t t p : / / www.g77.or g/ i ndex.ht ml ] .
89 U.N. document, A/60/879, Statement Adopted by the Special Ministerial Meeting of the
Group of 77 and China, Putrajaya (Malaysia), June 7, 2006.
90 U.N. document, A/60/907, June 27, 2006.
The G-77 supported some management reforms adopted by the U.N. General
Assembly, including the establishment of an ethics office and whistle-blower
protection policy. It has, however, actively opposed other initiatives proposed by the
Secretary-General, particularly those proposals that it feels may weaken the authority
of the General Assembly in the areas of management, budget, and oversight.91 The
G-77 also maintains that the positions of all member countries should be taken into
consideration during the reform process. The G-77 has also expressed concern that
reform initiatives proposed by the Secretary-General may be influenced by the larger
U.N. financial contributors, such as the United States, Japan, and some members of
the European Union.92
Developed Countries. In some cases, the reform priorities of developed
countries may not always align with the reform priorities of the G-77 and other
developing countries. While the G-77 views development as a top U.N. reform
priority, many developed countries tend to focus on management, budget, and
structural reform. Generally, developed countries make significantly larger financial
contributions to the U.N. system than developing country member states and
therefore may want to ensure that their funds are used in what they perceive as the
most effective way. For example, the United States and the EU, which together
account for a significant portion of the regular budget, view management and budget
reform as a top priority. Japan, which contributed approximately 16.6% of the U.N.
regular budget in 2007, also views management reform as a priority, particularly93
Secretariat reform, Security Council reform, and system-wide coherence.
The differing perspectives on U.N. reform among developing and developed
nations were highlighted in December 2005 when a group of U.N. member states, led
primarily by developed countries such as the United States and Japan, sought to link
progress on management reforms to the U.N. budget. The countries placed a
spending cap of $950 million (about six months of U.N. spending) on the two-year
$3.6 billion budget in hopes that the General Assembly would adopt a series of94
management and budget reform measures proposed by Secretary-General Annan.
On May 8, 2006, the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee (Administrative and
Budgetary) bypassed the traditional practice of budget-by-consensus and voted on a
91 For example, the G-77 opposed proposals by Secretary-General Annan that gave the
Secretariat more power to move, hire, and fire U.N. Secretariat staff, as well as to modify
and consolidate the budgeting process.
92 “Statement on Behalf of the Group of 77 and China on Secretariat and Management
Reform: Report of the Secretary-General entitled ‘Investing in the United Nations’” New
York, April 3, 2006, available at [http://www.g77.org/Speeches/040306.htm]. Also see
“U.N. Management Reform: The Role and Perspective of the G-77,” by Irene Martinetti,
Center for U.N. Reform, September 10, 2007.
93 The foremost institutional reform priority for Japan is changing the composition of the
Security Council to “reflect the realities of the international community in the 21st Century.”
For more information on Japanese U.N. reform priorities, see the Japanese Ministry of
Foreign Affairs publication, “Japan’s Efforts for Reform of the U.N.,” available at
[ h t t p : / / www.mo f a .go.j p/ pol i c y/ un/ r e f o r m/ p amph0608.pdf ] .
94 Annan’s reforms were proposed in his March 2006 report, Investing in the United
Nations: For a Stronger Organization World Wide.
resolution, supported by the G-77, that approved some reforms but delayed the
consideration of several others. The developed nations that imposed the budget cap
were disappointed with the outcome, and eventually lifted the budget cap in June
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Generally, many NGOs
believe that the United Nations needs reform, though they may differ on the best way
to achieve this goal. NGO interest in a specific U.N. reform issue is largely
dependent on the mission and purpose of the organization. One U.N. reform issue
that has captured the attention of some NGOs is the improvement of U.N. human
rights mechanisms. The majority of human rights organizations generally supported
the creation of a new U.N. Human Rights Council to replace the discredited U.N.
Commission on Human Rights. Many believed that the Council was an improvement
over the Commission because its structure made it more difficult for countries with
poor human rights records to be elected as members. Since the Council began its
work in September of 2006, however, some NGOs have been concerned that it has
paid too much attention to alleged Israeli human right abuses in Lebanon and in the
Occupied Arab Territories.
NGOs closely monitored the progress on management reforms proposed by
Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2005 and 2006. On June 8, 2006, 42 organizations
delivered a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that offered their “continued
support” for the management reforms proposed by Annan. The letter expressed
concern with the G-77’s opposition to the reforms, and criticized the United States’
threat to withhold U.N. funding in response to G-77 opposition, which “may have
harmful and potentially irreparable effects on our shared goal of improving the96
United Nations.” Other NGOs expressed dissatisfaction with ongoing reform
efforts and the work of the United Nations in general. Some believe that the current97
reform attempts do not go far enough to improve the organization.
Commissions, Task Forces, and Groups
Since the United Nations was established in 1945, many commissions, panels,
committees, and task forces (hereafter referred to collectively as “groups”) have been
created to examine ways to improve the United Nations.98 These groups are
95 On July 7, 2006, the General Assembly approved the reforms recommended by the Fifth
Committee. (See U.N. document, A/RES/60/283, July 7, 2006.) A list of the approved
reforms is available in the “Recently Adopted Reforms and the New Secretary-General”
section of this report. For more information and additional resources on the six-month
budget cap controversy, [http://www.globalpolicy.org/finance/docs/unindex.htm].
96 A copy of the June 8, 2006 letter from 42 NGOs to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
is available at [http://www.unausa.org/site/pp.asp?c=fvKRI8MPJpF&b=1833403].
97 See Appendix D for a selection of U.N. reform perspectives and resources.
98 For a discussion on the effectiveness of various U.N. reform groups, see keynote speech
at University of Waterloo made by Edward C. Luck, Director of the Center on International
Organization at Columbia University, “U.N. Reform Commissions: Is Anyone Listening?”
May 16, 2002, available at [http://www.sipa.columbia.edu/cio/cio/projects/waterloo.pdf].
established by a variety of stakeholders, including past secretaries-general, individual
member states, groups of member states, NGOs, academic institutions, and others.
The following paragraphs will address the findings of a cross-section of these groups
— the Volcker Commission, the U.S. Institute of Peace U.N. Reform Task Force,
and Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s report, In Larger Freedom: Toward
Development, Security, and Human Rights for All.
Though the circumstances and mandates for each group are different, they made
similar recommendations for improving the United Nations. Notably, each group
highlighted the need for enhanced internal oversight and Secretariat reform, including
staff buyouts and enhanced financial disclosure requirements. The groups also
emphasized the need for overall streamlining and consolidation of the U.N. system
(see Appendix B for a side-by-side comparison of the recommendations).
The Volcker Commission. In April 2004, Secretary-General Annan, with
the endorsement of the U.N. Security Council, appointed an independent high-level99
commission to inquire into corruption in the U.N.-led Iraq Oil-for-Food Program.
The Commission, led by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, concluded
that the failures of the Oil-For-Food Program were evidence of a greater need for
“fundamental and wide-ranging administrative reform” in the United Nations.100 The
Commission recommended: establishing an Independent Oversight Board to review
U.N. auditing, accounting, and budgeting activities; creating the position of Chief
Operating Officer to oversee administrative matters such as personnel and planning
practices; providing fair compensation to third parties involved in U.N. programs
(while ensuring that the compensation does not lead to inappropriate profit); and
expanding financial disclosure requirements to cover a variety of U.N. staff,
including those working on procurement.
U.S. Institute of Peace U.N. Reform Task Force. In December 2004,
Congress directed the U.S. Institute of Peace to create a bipartisan task force to
examine ways to improve the United Nations so that it is better-equipped to meet
modern-day security and human rights challenges.101 Congress appropriated $1.5
99 U.N. document, A/RES/1538, April 21, 2004. The Committee was chaired by Paul
Volcker and included Professor Mark Peith of Switzerland, an expert on money laundering
from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); and Justice
Richard Goldstone of South Africa, a former prosecutor with the International Criminal
Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The Commission’s final report was
released on October 27, 2005. For more detailed information on the functioning of the Iraq
Oil-For-Food Program, see CRS Report RL30472, Iraq: Oil For Food Program, Illicit
Trade, and Investigations, by Kenneth Katzman.
100 “Briefing by Paul A. Volcker Chairman of the Independent Inquiry Committee into the
U.N. Oil-For-Food Program for the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the U.S.
Senate,” Washington, DC, October 31, 2005.
101 Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005 (P.L. 108-447, December 8, 2004). In the report
accompanying the act, conferees stated that they were “deeply troubled by the inaction of
the United Nations on many fronts, especially in regard to the genocide in Darfur, Sudan and
the allegations of corruption regarding the United Nations Oil-For-Food Program.”
million to the Task Force and required that it submit a report on its findings to the
House Committee on Appropriations.102 The Task Force identified improving
internal oversight as its single most important reform recommendation. It supported
the creation of an independent oversight board to direct the budget and activities of
the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). It also recommended several
management reforms, including establishing the position of Chief Operating Officer,
creating a U.N. Ethics Office, and enhancing whistle-blower protection. It supported
broadening the U.N. staff financial disclosure policy, and recommended the review
of all U.N. mandates five years or older, as well as the incorporation of sunset clauses
into all new mandates. The Task Force supported incorporating results-based
budgeting into the U.N. system, and a one-time buyout for all unwanted or unneeded
staff. It recommended the creation of a new U.N. Human Rights Council to replace
the discredited Commission on Human Rights, but was unable to come to consensus
on Security Council reform.103
In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security, and Human
Rights for All. On March 21, 2005, Secretary-General Annan released his report,
In Larger Freedom, in response to the findings of the High-Level Panel on Threats,104
Challenges and Change. The report was presented to member states as a starting
point for discussion at the 2005 U.N. World Summit, and included the following
management reform recommendations:
!the review of all U.N. mandates over five years old;
!a one-time staff-buyout to ensure U.N. Secretariat staff meets current
!the establishment of a cabinet-style decision-making body in the
Secretariat to improve management and policy activities;
!the review of all budget and human resource operations; and
Conferees directed that the task force should include experts from the American Enterprise
Institute, Brookings Institution, Council on Foreign Relations, Center for Strategic and
International Studies, Hoover Institution, and the Heritage Foundation.
102 The Task Force was co-chaired by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and
former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, and released its first report, American
Interests and U.N. Reform in June 2005. Following the 2005 U.N. World Summit in New
York, the Task Force released an updated report entitled, The Imperative for Action, in
December 2005. The USIP Task Force reports are available at [http://www.usip.org/un/
103 The Task Force stated that any Security Council reform should “enhance the
effectiveness of the Security Council and not in any way detract from the Council’s
efficiency and ability to act in accordance with the U.N. Charter.” (See page 7 of the Task
Force’s report, American Interests and U.N. Reform.)
104 See “Reform Efforts (1997-2005)” section of this report for more information on the
!a comprehensive review of Office of Internal Oversight Services to
examine ways to enhance its authority and effectiveness.
In addition, Secretary-General Annan proposed a broad range of institutional
and programmatic reforms, including modifying the composition of the U.N. Security
Council so that it more adequately reflects current political realities, and replacing
the Commission on Human Rights with a new Human Rights Council. Annan also
recommended streamlining the General Assembly agenda and committee structure
so that the Assembly can increase the speed of its decision-making and react more
swiftly and efficiently to events as they occur.105
Mechanics and Possible Challenges
Mechanics of Implementing Reform
Previous and current U.N. reform initiatives encompass an array of
organizational issues that may require different processes for implementation. These
reforms might be achieved by amending the U.N. Charter or through various non-
Charter reforms. Charter amendment is a rarely used practice and has only occurred
on three occasions. Non-Charter reforms are more common and comparatively easier
Amending the U.N. Charter. Articles 108 and 109 provide for potential
changes to the U.N. Charter. Article 108 of the Charter states that a proposed Charter
amendment must be approved by two-thirds of the full General Assembly, and be
ratified “according to the constitutional processes” of two-thirds of U.N. member
states, including the all permanent members of the Security Council.106 The Charter
was first amended in 1963 to increase U.N. Security Council membership from 11
to 15 members, and to increase ECOSOC membership from 18 to 27. It was last
amended in 1973, when ECOSOC membership increased from 27 to 54.107 Examples
of possible reform initiatives that might involve amending the U.N. Charter include,
but are not limited to: increasing Security Council membership — either permanent
105 Annan also supported reforming the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) so
that it may better coordinate with economic and social agencies and departments within the
U.N. system. More information on ECOSOC reform is available at
[http://www.centerforunreform.org/node/186] and [http://www.globalpolicy.org/socecon/un/
106 Article 108 of the U.N. Charter states, “Amendments to the present Charter shall come
into force for all Members of the United Nations when they have been adopted by a vote of
two-thirds of the members of the General Assembly and ratified in accordance with their
respective constitutional processes by two thirds of the members of the United Nations,
including all the permanent members of the Security Council.” A copy of the U.N. Charter
is available at [http://www.un.org/aboutun/charter/].
107 Simma, Bruno, The Charter of the United Nations: A Commentary. Second Edition, Vol.
II. New York, Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 1367-1357.
or and non-permanent members; increasing membership on ECOSOC; and adding
or removing a principal organ.108
Article 109 of the Charter allows for a convening of a General Conference of
U.N. members with the purpose of “reviewing the present Charter.” The date and
place of the Conference would be determined by a two-thirds vote in the General
Assembly, and an affirmative vote from any nine Security Council members.
Potential revisions to the Charter would be adopted at the conference by a two-thirds
vote (with each country having one vote), and take effect when ratified by the
governments of two-thirds of U.N. member states. A Charter review conference has
never been held.
Non-Charter Reform Process. Since 1945, the General Assembly has
authorized reforms of its own processes and procedures — as well as those of the
Secretariat — without Charter amendment. The General Assembly has established
various fora for discussing reform issues, including a Committee on the Charter of109110
the United Nations and a Working Group on the Security Council. The General
Assembly has also implemented reforms on its own by adopting proposals introduced111
by member states or the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General can also
implement reform in his capacity as chief administrative officer. For example, as
part of his reform proposal in 1997, Annan established a Senior Management Group
to “ensure more integrated and cohesive management of the Secretariat.”112 The
Secretary-General can also make administrative decisions regarding the organization
of some U.N. departments.
108 Principal organs of the United Nations include the Trusteeship Council (TC); Security
Council; General Assembly; Economic and Social Council; International Court of Justice;
and the Secretariat. There is an ongoing effort to abolish the TC, a system that was designed
to administer and supervise U.N. trust territories. The TC suspended its operations on
November 1, 1994, with the independence of its last trust territory, Palau.
109 The “Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening
of the Role of the Organization,” was established in 1974 to consider “any specific
proposals that Governments might make with a view to enhancing the ability of the U.N. to
achieve its purposes,” as well as “suggestions for the more effective functioning of the U.N.
that might not require amendments to the Charter.” The Committee also makes
recommendations for possible Charter amendments. Most recently, in 1995 it proposed an
amendment to delete “enemy state” clauses in the Charter. For more information on the
Committee, see [http://www.un.org/law/chartercomm/].
110 The “Working Group on the Question of Equitable Representation on and Increase in the
Membership of the Security Council and Other Matters Related to the Security Council,”
was established in 1993, and a copy of its most recent report is available at
[ h t t p : / / www.r e f o r mt h eun.or g/ i ndex.php?modul e=uploads&func=download&fileId=1757 ] .
111 For example, on March 15, 2006, the Assembly negotiated and approved a resolution
replacing the previous U.N. Commission on Human Rights with a new Human Rights
Council, which was considered a key component of U.N. reform by many member states and
112 U.N. document, A/52/684, November 10, 1997.
Other non-Charter reforms have included the establishment of consensus-based
budgeting in 1986; the creation of an Office of Strategic Planning in the Secretariat,
authorized by Kofi Annan in 1997; and the establishment of a Peacebuilding
Commission by the Security Council and General Assembly in 2006.113
Possible Challenges to Reform
Achieving meaningful and comprehensive U.N. reform is a significant and
ongoing challenge for U.N. member states. Congress may wish to take possible
reform obstacles into account when considering legislation that exercises oversight
or supports a reform agenda.
National Self-Interest and Differing Reform Perspectives. Each U.N.
member state has its own political agenda and foreign policy goals, and may also
have its own definition of U.N. reform. As a result, member states often hold
differing views on how best to implement reform and how to measure the success or
failure of a given reform initiative. In some cases, failure to reach consensus can
lead to significant delay, or failure, of certain reform initiatives. Some member states
package their policy priorities as U.N. reform to further their own policy goals. This
can cause distrust among member states as countries question whether reform
proposals by other member states are based on self-interest or a genuine desire to
improve the U.N. system.
Competing Priorities. Some observers cite the inability of U.N. member
states or secretaries-general to effectively prioritize reform initiatives as an obstacle
to U.N. reform. When Secretary-General Annan presented his 2005 reform
proposals, for example, he requested that they be adopted by the General Assembly114
not in increments, but as a package of reforms. Instead of considering a large
series of reform proposals, some observers argue that member states should select
only a few reform priorities and work toward their adoption and implementation.
Others contend that the most efficient way to achieve reform may be for member
states first to adopt reform initiatives they can agree to and then gradually work
toward tackling the more divisive and complicated reform issues.
Organizational Structure and Bureaucracy. The United Nations is a
highly complex and decentralized organization, and therefore may be slow to
consider or implement potential reforms. Some argue that there is a “culture of
inaction”115 in the United Nations, and that U.N. managers and staff are resistant to
the implementation of new programs or changes to existing programs. Many contend
that prospective and agreed-to reforms lack clear plans for implementation, including
113 An example of a possible non-Charter reform could be the redistribution of regional seats
on the Security Council or ECOSOC. For further discussion on possible non-Charter
reforms, see article by Louis B. Sohn, “Important Improvements in the Functioning of the
Principal Organs of the United Nations that Can be Made Without Charter Revision,”
American Journal of International Law, October, 1997.
114 “The Secretary-General’s Statement to the General Assembly,” New York, March 21,
115 “Annan’s ‘Culture of Inaction.’” The Chicago Tribune, December 12, 2006.
deadlines and cost estimates. They stress that this overall lack of planning may affect
the progress and ultimate success of reforms already implemented, as well as those
reforms currently being considered by the General Assembly.116 Some also
emphasize that without proper implementation plans and follow-up, U.N. member
states will be unable to adequately gauge the overall effectiveness of reforms.
Limited Resources. Many observers note that a significant challenge for
U.N. reform efforts may be the effective implementation of reforms within the
current U.N. budget. Some reform initiatives, such as the Peacebuilding
Commission, were established by member states to operate “within existing117
resources.” Many argue that the existing U.N. budget limits may not be able to
support all of the reform initiatives currently being considered. Some member states,
including the United States, however, contend that money saved from other reforms,
such as mandate review, could create a funding source for further reforms and/or the
creation of new U.N. programs or bodies.
External Influences. The complex relationships that exist among member
states outside of the U.N. system may be another challenge affecting U.N. reform
efforts. These relationships are entirely independent of the United Nations but can
affect how countries work together within the U.N. framework to achieve reform
objectives. Military conflict, religious and ethnic differences, political conflict, trade
and economic issues, and geography can all potentially impact reform cooperation
among U.N. member states.
116 U.S. Government Accountability Office Report, GAO-07-14, United Nations
Management Reforms Progressing Slowly with Many Awaiting General Assembly Review,
117 U.N. document, A/RES/60/1, 2005 World Summit Outcome, September 16, 2005.
Appendix A. Previous Reform Legislation
When considering U.N. reform issues, the 111th Congress may wish to explore
the nature and effectiveness of past legislative approaches and how or if they may
have influenced the adoption of reform measures at the United Nations. There is
evidence that legislation such as the Kassebaum-Solomon Amendment and the
Helms-Biden Agreement may have led, either directly or indirectly, to substantive
changes in U.N. policies. The following paragraphs highlight selected reform
legislation from 1986 to the present and note any subsequent changes to internal U.N.
Kassebaum-Solomon Amendment (1986-1987)118
In the mid-1980s, some Members of Congress expressed concern that U.S.
influence over the U.N. budget was not proportionate to its rate of assessment. In
1986 Congress passed legislation, popularly known as the “Kassebaum-Solomon
amendment,” which required that the U.S. assessed contribution to the U.N. regular
budget be reduced to 20% unless the United Nations gave major U.N. financial
contributors a greater say in the budget process.119 Subsequently, in 1986 the General
Assembly adopted a new budget and planning process that incorporated consensus-
based budgeting as a decision-making mechanism, thus giving member states with
higher assessment levels a potentially greater voice in the budget process.
U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services (1993)
In the early 1990s, some Members of Congress and the Administration were
concerned with the apparent lack of oversight and accountability within the U.N.
system. In 1993, as part of the FY1994 State Department Appropriations Act,
Congress directed that 10% of U.S. assessed contributions to the U.N. regular budget
be withheld until the Secretary of State certified to Congress that “the United Nations
has established an independent office with responsibilities and powers substantially
similar to offices of Inspectors General Act of 1978.”120 On July 29, 1994, the U.N.
General Assembly established the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS)
which reports directly to the Secretary-General and provides “internal auditing,
investigation, inspection, programme monitoring, evaluation and consulting services
to all U.N. activities under the Secretary-General’s authority.”121
118 For a more detailed account of the Kassebaum-Solomon Provisions, see CRS Report
RL33611, United Nations System Funding: Congressional Issues, by Marjorie Ann Browne.
119 Foreign Relations Authorization Act, FY1986 and 1987 (H.R. 2608, P.L. 99-93), Section
120 U.S. Department of State Appropriations Act, 1994 (H.R. 2519, P.L. 103-121), October
121 More information on OIOS is available at [http://www.un.org/depts/oios/]. See U.N.
document, A/RES/48/218 B, August 12, 1994, for a detailed description of its mandate.
Helms-Biden Agreement (1999)
In the late 1990s, Congress and the Administration negotiated and agreed to
legislation that would further U.S. reform policy at the United Nations. The Helms-
Biden bill authorized payment of some U.S. arrears if specific reform benchmarks
were met and certified to Congress by the Secretary of State.122 Under the terms of
Helms-Biden, the United States agreed to: (1) pay $819 million in arrearages over
fiscal years 1998, 1999, and 2000, and (2) forgive $107 million owed to the United
States by the United Nations in peacekeeping costs if the United Nations applied the
$107 million to U.S. peacekeeping arrears. For arrearage payments to occur,
Congress required that the U.S. assessment for contributions to the U.N. regular
budget be reduced from 25% to 22% and that the peacekeeping contribution be
reduced from 30% to 25%.123 In December 2000, the U.N. General Assembly
reduced the regular budget assessment level to from 25% to 22%, and the
Peacekeeping share from approximately 30.4% to 28%. In subsequent years, the U.S.
peacekeeping assessment continued to fall and is now close to 26.5%.
Henry J. Hyde U.N. Reform Act (2005)
In the 109th Congress, the House of Representatives passed, but Congress did
not enact, H.R. 2745, The Henry J. Hyde United Nations Reform Act. The act would
have required that the United States withhold 50% of its assessed payments
beginning in calendar year 2007 if the United Nations did not implement 32 of 40
changes, including 15 mandatory reforms (the potential withholding would have
come from FY2008 funds). The proposed changes included transferring 18 U.N.
programs from mandatory to voluntary funding, and reducing funding for U.N.
General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services. Under the act, the State
Department would have been required to certify and report to Congress that each
condition was accomplished. The Bush Administration did not fully support the
Hyde Act because it was concerned the automatic withholdings would impact its
ability to pursue its foreign policy objectives.
122 The Helms-Biden Agreement was incorporated into the Consolidated Appropriations Act
for FY2000 (H.R. 3194, P.L. 106-113), November 19, 1999.
123 See CRS Report RL33700, United Nations Peacekeeping: Issues for Congress, by
Marjorie Ann Browne for further information.
Appendix B. Key U.N. Reform Recommendations
and Proposals by Independent and
U.N. Affiliated Groups
Report of the Task Force onIn Larger Freedom:Report of the Independent
the United Nations Towards Development,Inquiry Committee into the
(June 2004,Security and Human RightsUnited Nations Oil-for-Food
December 2005)for All Program
(March 2005)(October 2005)
Improved managementSecretariat reform, including Strengthen U.N. management
reform, including: practices, including:
Establish an IndependentReview of the Office ofEstablish an Independent
Oversight Board to functionInternal Oversight ServicesOversight Board with
as an independent auditand general strengthening ofresponsibility over internal
committee;internal oversight; and external audits and
inve stigatio ns;
Establish the role of ChiefCreation of a cabinet-styleCreate the position of Chief
Operating Officer (COO); decision-making mechanism;Operating Officer (COO);
Establish policies forAuthority/resources forExpand financial disclosure
improved financial disclosureSecretary-General to realignrequirements for U.N. staff,
standards, whistle-blowerand/or buy-out Secretariatincluding the Secretary-
protection; andstaff; and full review ofGeneral, Deputy-Secretary-
budget and human resourcesGeneral, and those involved
operations; andin procurement and/or
d i sb ur se me nt;
Review of all U.N. mandatesReview of all U.N. mandates
and sunset clauses for newfive years or older.Improve coordination and
mandates.framework for cross-agency
U.N. programs; and
Reorganization of theStreamlining the General
General Assembly;Assembly to speed-upEnsure third party agencies
decision-making processes;involved in U.N. programs
are entitled to fair
Replace the Commission onReplace the discreditedcompensation.
Human Rights with a newCommission on Human
Human Rights Council;Rights with a new Human
Identification of U.N.
programs that could be moreModify composition of the
effective if funded bySecurity Council to reflect
voluntary contributions; andcurrent political realities; and
Improving the Department ofReform ECOSOC so it may
Peacekeeping Operations sobetter coordinate the U.N.
that it becomes “a moredevelopment agenda and
independent program” withguide other economic and
its own rules and regulationssocial agencies in the United
to address its unique mission.Nations.
Appendix C. Organizational Chart of the U.N. System
(as of December 2007)
Appendix D. Additional U.N. Reform Resources
Websites (NGOs, Think Tanks, U.S. Government, United
Better World Campaign — U.N. Reform
[ h ttp://www.betterworldcampaign.org/ us-un-relations/un-reform.html]
Center for U.N. Reform Education
[ h ttp://www.centerforunreform.org/ ]
Eye on the U.N. (joint project of Hudson Institute and the Touro Law Center Institute
for Human Rights)
[ h ttp://www.eyeontheun.org/ ]
Global Policy Forum — U.N. Reform, An Analysis
[ h ttp://www.centerforunreform.org/ ]
Heritage Foundation — International Organizations
[ h ttp://www.reformtheun.org/ ]
United Nations Association of the USA
[ h ttp://www.unausa.org]
U.N. Reform (Official U.N. web page)
[ h ttp://www.un.org/ reform/]
U.S. Department of State
[http://www.state.gov/p/io/c15031.htm] and [http://www.un.int/usa/]
U.S. Institute of Peace U.N. Reform Task Force and Report
[ http://www.usip.org/ un/report/index .html]
U.S. Government Reports (CRS and GAO)
CRS Report RL33611, United Nations System Funding: Congressional Issues, by
Marjorie Ann Browne and Kennon H. Nakamura.
CRS Report RL33608, United Nations Human Rights Council: Issues for Congress,
by Luisa Blanchfield.
CRS Report RL33700, United Nations Peacekeeping: Issues for Congress, by
Marjorie Ann Browne.
CRS Report RL30605, United Nations Regular Budget Contributions: Members
Compared, 1989-2006, by Marjorie Ann Browne and Luisa Blanchfield.
Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) Report 08-246, United Nations
Management Reforms and Operational Issues, January 24, 2008.
GAO Report 08-84, United Nations Progress on Management Reform Efforts Has
Varied, November 2007.
GAO Report 07-597, United Nations Organizations: Oversight and Accountability
Could be Strengthened by Further Instituting International Best Practices, June
GAO Report 07-14, United Nations Management Reforms Progressing Slowly with
Many Awaiting General Assembly Review, October 2006.
GAO Report 06-330, United Nations: Lessons Learned from Oil for Food Program
Indicate the Need to Strengthen UN Internal Controls and Oversight Activities,
April 25, 2006.
GAO Report 06-701T, United Nations: Internal Oversight and Procurement
Controls and Processes Need Strengthening, April 27, 2006.
GAO Report 06-577, United Nations Procurement Internal Controls are Weak, April
GAO Report 06-575, United Nations Funding Arrangement Impede Independence
of Internal Auditors, April 2006.
GAO Report 05-392T, United Nations Sustained Oversight Is Needed for Reforms
to Achieve Lasting Results - Statement of Joseph A. Christoff, Director,
International Affairs and Trade, March 2, 2006.
GAO Report 04-339, United Nations Reform Progressing, but Comprehensive
Assessments Needed to Measure Impact, February 2004.