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close this bookWIT's World Ecology Report - Vol. 09, No. 1 - Critical Issues in Health and the Environment (WIT, 1997, 16 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentSPECIAL FOCUS: The World's Forests and Human Health
View the documentPOINT: Modern Timbering Contributes to Forest Fires
View the documentCOUNTERPOINT: Only the Logging Industry Can Save Our Forests
View the documentDid You Know?
View the documentCHERNOBYL UPDATE: Turning Nuclear Swords Into Hazardous Plowshares
View the documentFOOD FOR THOUGHT: A Hopeful Future for the United Nations Under Kofi Annan
View the documentHEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT: Environmental Health Policies: A View From Africa
View the documentGood News
View the documentVoices
View the documentPOINT OF VIEW: Faith and Fear of the Future

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: A Hopeful Future for the United Nations Under Kofi Annan

The United Nations has been subjected to a great deal of criticism over the past few years, mostly in the United States. Much of the criticism is directed at what is perceived as bad administration, inefficiency and a "bloated bureaucracy". These charges in fact go back to the days of the Reagan Administration when the United States began to arbitrarily withhold part of its assessed contribution to the United Nations budget.

Over several years, US arrears accumulated to some $1.4 billion. Adding arrears by the Russian Federation and few other member states, the UN financial situation reached a crisis dimension which has continued for several years.

UN reform, including significant personnel reduction, largely through attrition, has been going on for several years. A number of divisions, offices and programs have been eliminated despite the fact that legislative bodies continue to pass additional mandates to the Secretariat. This fact was acknowledged by the US administration, which agreed to schedule payment of US arrears over a period of five years.

However, this commitment remains unfulfilled as a result of continued opposition in Congress, especially by the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In recent months, Washington came to blame former Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali for insufficient progress in reforming the UN. This in fact was the reason given in explaining the US veto in the Security Council against Mr. Boutros-Ghali's nomination for a second term. It should be stated however, that progress in UN reform has been repeatedly defended by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Administration and Management, himself a highly respected American who was nominated to the post by Washington.

This of course, is not to say that all is well at the United Nations. Indeed, several restructuring exercises over the past few years had failed to produce significant progress and, in some cases, produced the opposite results. An example of such failure is the costly restructuring of the Department of Public Information in 1988 which was crafted by external consultants with no previous experience or knowledge of the United Nations. In fact, much of what they recommended was reserved in subsequent years.

The UN opens the new year under the leadership of a new Secretary-General. Kofi Annan of Ghana is a distinguished international civil servant with thirty years of outstanding service to the UN. He has served in various senior capacities, notably as Under-Secretary-General for Peace-Keeping Operations, Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the former Yugoslavia and Special Envoy to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Having also served as Assistant-Secretary-General for Program Planning, Budget and Finance and Controller of the UN, as well as head of the Office of Human Resources Management, Mr. Annan is in a great position to energize the reform process, improve the image of the UN, and lead the Organization into the twenty-first century. In addition to having such wide knowledge and experience in UN affairs, Mr. Annan also enjoys the respect of members States and the trust and goodwill of the staff.

Another important constituency of the UN with which Mr. Annan is well acquainted with are the non-governmental organizations (NGO's) who have played a very important role in recent UN Conferences. Mr. Annan has addressed their Conferences and meetings, especially on UN peace keeping issues and objectives. As supporters of the UN since its founding, the NGO's certainly look forward to enhance their cooperation with the UN under the leadership of Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

SOURCE: Farouk Mawlawi, Former UN Senior Advisor and NGO Liaison Coordinator, Habitat II

Income Ranges With Life Expectancy at Birth and Infant Mortality Rate

Income Range
(per capita GNP in US$)

Life Expectancy at Birth

Infant Mortality Rate

15,000 and above


















SOURCE: The State of World Health, 1996