Press Releases

24 September 2002

  Secretary-General Launches New Round of United Nations Reform

NEW YORK, 23 September -- Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan announced today a plan to further strengthen the United Nations and improve its ability to meet the challenges placed before it by the Member States and the world's peoples.

The report sets out an "agenda for further change" that will affect the full spectrum of the United Nations entities and activities. The objective is not to reduce the budget, or to respond to pressures or conditions imposed from outside. Rather, it is an initiative from within. "We must take a critical look at all our activities", writes the Secretary-General, "and ask ourselves whether they are relevant to the implementation of the Millennium Declaration and whether they have the desired impact. And if the answer is no, we must be willing to let go."

The new effort builds on an earlier round of reform undertaken shortly after the Secretary-General took office in 1997. While much has been achieved in that effort, the United Nations faces the perpetual challenge of changing with the times, constantly adjusting to new conditions and new needs.


The report contains a wide-ranging package of pragmatic improvements affecting both substance and process, including:

  • A thorough review of the Organization's programme of work -- to make sure it is doing what matters, and not wasting time or money on out-of-date or irrelevant tasks;
  • Detailed proposals for improving performance in the areas of human rights and public information. The network of United Nations information centres will be reorganized around regional hubs, starting with Western Europe;
  • A reduction in the number of meetings, and of reports that the Secretariat has to produce, in order to avoid overlap and duplication;
  • Steps to improve coordination among United Nations entities at the country level, for example through joint programming, common databases and pooling of resources;
  • Changes in the budget and planning system, which is unnecessarily complex and labour-intensive;
  • A review by an independent panel of relations between the United Nations and civil society;
  • Proposals aimed at making life better and more rewarding for staff, as well as further improving their quality and performance -- notably by making it easier for them to move, between locations, between functions, and indeed between organizations.

Next Steps

The impact of these and other changes will vary from department to department, and from person to person. Many jobs will change; some functions will disappear. Some actions will take effect immediately, while others will be implemented over time. One key step will be to produce a programme budget proposal for 2004-2005 that incorporates the changes contained in this report and reflects some reallocation of resources to higher-priority activities.

"The need for an effective multilateral institution -- one dedicated to the service of humanity as a whole -- has never been more acutely felt than in the current era of globalization," the Secretary-General says in the report. "This new age of interdependence and integration offers many opportunities to all the peoples of the world, but it also poses many dangers. The challenge ahead is to strengthen our capability for collective action and thus forge a common destiny in a time of accelerating global change."

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