U.S. would force U.N. to ac­count for how its money is spent

The Washington Times Weekly - - World - By Betsy Pisik

NEW YORK — The United States has started a new ini­tia­tive to force dozens of U.N. in­de­pen­dent agen­cies to pub­lish de­tailed bud­gets in an ef­fort to see how U.S. con­tri­bu­tions are be­ing spent, an of­fi­cial said Oct. 31,

U.S. diplo­mat Mark Wal­lace said the United States in­tended to use its mus­cle as one of the largest con­trib­u­tors to the agen­cies to per­suade ad­min­is­tra­tors to make the changes, rather than seek­ing sup­port for a res­o­lu­tion.

“We’re not seek­ing co-spon­sors on this,” said Mr. Wal­lace, who over­sees man­age­ment and ad­min­is­tra­tion is­sues for the U.S. Mis­sion to the United Na­tions. “We think it’s im­por­tant enough to do our­selves for now.”

The U.S. Mis­sion has cir­cu­lated a list of eight de­mands for the U.N. Sec­re­tariat and its agen­cies, funds and pro­grams aimed at bring­ing trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity to tra­di­tion­ally murky ar­eas.

The ini­tia­tive is called the U.N. Trans­parency and Ac­count­abil­ity Ini­tia­tive, or UNTAI. The U.S. Mis­sion has tried to build sup­port for the ini­tia­tive by dis­tribut­ing made-in-China lapel pins say­ing ‘UNTAI,’ but so far Mr. Wal­lace has been the only diplo­mat seen wear­ing them.

The U.N. sys­tem in­cludes some two dozen agen­cies of vary­ing in­de­pen­dence, in­clud­ing UNICEF, the World Food Pro­gram, the U.N. De­vel­op­ment Pro­gram (UNDP) and the U.N. Pop­u­la­tion Fund.

Most fund their pro­grams with vol­un­tary con­tri­bu­tions, and Mr. Wal­lace hinted that Wash­ing­ton may be re­luc­tant to con­tinue fund­ing pro­grams that re­ject the sug­ges­tions.

The United States pays close to $3 bil­lion an­nu­ally to U.N. en­ti­ties, in- clud­ing as­sessed con­tri­bu­tions to the op­er­at­ing bud­get and peace­keep­ing, and vol­un­tary con­tri­bu­tions to pro­grams that pro­tect refugees and chil­dren, and fos­ter health and de­vel­op­ment around the world.

The latest ini­tia­tive grew out of frus­tra­tion with the UNDP, which has been run­ning a variety of op­er­a­tions in dic­ta­to­rial coun­tries such as North Korea, Burma and Zim­babwe. Th­ese are coun­tries of undis­puted need, but Wash­ing­ton sus­pects their lead­ers de­mand kick­backs and fa­vors in ex­change for al­low­ing re­lief work.

The North Korea pro­gram, in par­tic­u­lar, has been dogged by ac­cu­sa­tions of im­proper spend­ing and al­low­ing the gov­ern­ment to dic­tate lo­cal hir­ing.

AformerUNDPof­fice­m­an­agerin Py­ongyang, who was let go af­ter re­port­ing ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties, has been de­nied whistle­blower sta­tus un­der a new U.N. pro­gram.

U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki­moon has spo­ken of­ten of re­new­ing the United Na­tions and build­ing trust be­tween the or­ga­ni­za­tion, its em­ploy­ees and its mem­ber states.

How­ever, he has not de­creed that Sec­re­tariat stan­dards will ap­ply to some two dozen in­de­pen­dent bod­ies — a fact that irks some U.N. law­mak­ers and ac­coun­tants in light of re­cently ex­posed ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in pro­cure­ment and the ad­min­is­tra­tion of some pro­grams.

As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary of State for In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion Af­fairs Kris­ten Sil­ver­berg said in an in­ter­view last month that Mr. Ban could unify the sys­tem sim­ply by cir­cu­lat­ing a writ­ten memo.

Un­der pres­sure from the United States, Mr. Ban may be close to ex­pand­ing the reach of the U.N. Ethics Of­fice, which ad­min­is­ters the whistle­blower pol­icy.

Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

The moon is seen Nov. 1 above the “Fee­gletscher” (Fairy Glacier) near the ski re­sort of Saas-Fee in Switzer­land.

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