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John Bolton Says Proposed UN Reforms Do Not Go Far Enough
Less than a year has passed since President George W. Bush's controversial choice of John Bolton as permanent U.S. representative to the United Nations. So it was with more than a little curiosity that students at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) crowded into a room at the school to hear him deliver a lecture on UN reform.
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As reported by second-year SIPA student Tom Glaisyer in the Morningside Post, SIPA's first community blog, Bolton delivered a clear articulation of the U.S. attempt to foment a "revolution of reform," as coined by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, restating his intention to work from within what former Federal Reserve Chair Paul Volcker called the UN's "culture of inaction." Volcker headed up the UN inquiry into the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal.

In addition, Bolton mentioned his "grave doubts" about the package of reforms announced by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his March report to member states. Although Bolton said he agrees with Annan's premise that the body needs a "radical overhaul," in his view, the proposed reforms do not go far enough.

For Bolton, the only way to achieve drastic change at the 60-year-old bureaucracy lies in the application of "best management practices" -- or as the title of his SIPA address put it, "No More Business As Usual."

Management reform of the UN is not a new idea, but current discussion of the subject is louder than ever, with Washington insisting that the UN be run like a business, not like a government, by moving to streamline its operations for greater efficiency.

Bolton made it clear that citizens of member states -- whom he referred to as "consumers" -- deserve better value for their money. It was this belief, he said, that was driving his efforts to review all UN program mandates more than five years old, to cull those that are still relevant from duplicative or obsolete programs.

Such a review, he explained, should help "realize budget savings and eliminate the significant waste and overlap which pervades the UN system." It should also "pave the way for future phases of mandate reviews as a regular order of business in the UN."

As part of the review process, Bolton's team is also analyzing how different funding mechanisms influence or impact performance. Does it make a difference, for instance, whether a particular UN agency receives a voluntary or assessed contribution?

In Bolton's view, agencies that compete for funding tend to perform better and are more responsive to both contributors and beneficiaries. He cited the World Food Programme (WFP) as an example. Unlike the UN, the WFP tries to be as efficient, accountable, transparent and results-oriented as possible, he said.
Finally, Bolton argued that the assessment scale for determining member states' dues should be revisited. Alternative mechanisms, he claimed -- in particular, that of using purchasing power parity data in the calculation of a member state's gross national income -- would be fairer.

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Published: May 31, 2006
Last modified: May 30, 2006