UNESCO Programming and Budgeting Need Greater U.S. Attention

ID-79-12: Published: Sep 14, 1979. Publicly Released: Sep 14, 1979.

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The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is one of the fastest growing United Nations (U.N.) agencies. Although the budget resources allocated to individual program objectives are in line with specific plan targets projecting an overall 6-percent biennial growth rate, additional offsets for inflation, currency depreciation, increased administrative costs and other nonprogram expenditures have combined to produce a much higher rate of budget growth. The approved budget for 1979-80 represents a 35 percent increase over the prior biennium and more than a threefold rise since 1971-72. As with other U.N. agencies, one consequence of the rise in the budget has been the proportionate increase in the cost of U.S. participation in these international organizations.

Recent emphasis by UNESCO on medium-term program planning, standardization of program and budget presentations, and assessment of results should make possible more effective coordination and strengthened financial discipline in planning and implementing its programs. However, there has not been any perceptible slowdown in the rate of budget growth thus far. The United States, by virtue of its preeminence in UNESCO fields of competence, can do more to exert a strong influence on agency program activities and their cost than what it is presently doing. There is an overall need for the United States to participate earlier and more actively in the development of the UNESCO program plan and budget. The officials responsible for representing U.S. interests in UNESCO have been handicapped by an overriding concern with political matters, by an inadequate system for identifying program goals and priorities, and by a shortage of qualified staff to analyze the budget and emerging new issue areas. If the United States and member governments participate more fully in planning and management activites of U.N. affiliated agencies, progressive results will be measurably increased.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: To better capitalize on improvements made in UNESCO program planning and budgeting procedures, the Secretary of State should instruct those representatives responsible for managing U.S. interests in UNESCO to enlist Executive Board assistance in requiring the Secretariat to: (1) describe program objectives and performance targets in the plan and budget in more clear and precise terms, enabling assessments of program progress and results; (2) address, in the plan, those nonprogram cost factors likely to have significant budgetary impact to allow member states a better opportunity to determine, in advance, the nature and size program which they are willing to support long range; and (3) make detailed program justification data, performance reports, and financial-management data available routinely to the Executive Board for a more timely and effective use of its advisory function. Attention should be given to developing and submitting, on a timely basis, the program suggestions the UNESCO Director-General requested for the next budget and medium-term plan. The Secretary of State should establish a program policy which includes: (1) developing long-range strategies based on expressions of broad-based interest and support, consistent with overall U.S. foreign policy objectives; (2) balancing new U.S. program initiatives against the concern that their cost would increase the budget, and gearing planning efforts so proposals are submitted early enough to receive serious Secretariat staff attention at the time the plan and budget are drafted; (3) identifying questionable projects and promoting those likely to have significant impact but which do not overlap the work of other agencies; (4) positioning a budget expert to assist U.S. resident staffs at UNESCO and other European-based U.N. agencies in defining the resources needed to implement their proposed programs; and (5) appointing General Conference delegates with not less than 6-months notice to allow adequate time to prepare for their assignments.

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