United Nations:

Reform Initiatives Have Strengthened Operations, but Overall Objectives Have Not Yet Been Achieved

NSIAD-00-150: Published: May 10, 2000. Publicly Released: May 10, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO assessed the status and impact of reforms to improve the United Nations (U.N.), focusing on whether: (1) the U.N. had put into place the three core elements of the Secretary General's 1997 reform program; and (2) they are improving U.N. management and performance as intended.

GAO noted that: (1) the U.N. has substantially restructured its leadership and operations and partly implemented a performance-oriented human capital system; (2) however, the U.N. is still considering initiatives that would focus its program and budgeting on managing the Secretariat's performance; (3) thus, the goal of creating an organization with a results and continuous improvement orientation has not yet been achieved and will require continued advocacy by the United States and other member states; (4) U.N. reform is an interrelated program and requires that all core elements be in place to succeed; (5) initiatives to restructure the organization are substantially in place and have provided more cohesive leadership for the U.N.; (6) in sharp contrast with the past, where senior managers and program heads operated with great autonomy, the organization is now structured to integrate their efforts; (7) as a result, the U.N. conducts more coordinated and thorough planning for peacekeeping operations and integrates human rights considerations into all U.N. programs; (8) however, these initiatives have not fully penetrated to the working and field levels of the organization; (9) moreover, the initiatives do not address all organizational issues, such as the capacity of the U.N. to undertake the scale of its current peacekeeping responsibilities; (10) the Secretariat is also putting in place a performance-oriented human capital system; (11) for example, it has fully implemented a merit-based appraisal system that ties staff expectations and ratings to results in achieving U.N. goals; (12) nonetheless, the Secretariat's performance cannot be systematically assessed because the General Assembly has not yet adopted initiatives to focus and clarify the Secretariat's work objectives or approved performance-oriented budgeting; (13) the General Assembly is still considering these proposals and is reviewing a draft of the U.N.'s primary planning document, which includes performance indicators for all programs; and (14) the Secretariat also has not developed a system to monitor and evaluate program results and impact.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to our recommendation, the State Department through the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations has reported annually to the Congress about U.N. reform efforts as part of its oversight hearings.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that the U.N. maintains momentum in its overall reform efforts, the Secretary of State should report annually to Congress on the status of the Secretary General's reform plan, including an assessment of whether U.N. agencies and departments are effectively coordinating efforts at the country level, effectively implementing a results-oriented human capital system, and effectively implementing a performance-oriented management system.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GAO has issued several reports over the past few years on efforts to reform the United Nations. GAO recommended that the Secretary of State and the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations work with other member states to ensure that the United Nations adopt results based budgeting. In response, with State, the U.S. Representative has worked with other member states, and the United Nations has adopted adopted results based budgeting.

    Recommendation: To support the U.N. in transforming the organization into one that is performance oriented and continuously improves, the Secretary of State and the Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations should work with other member states to take immediate steps at the Secretariat to implement results-oriented budgeting, such as setting measurable goals and performance indicators for each section of the budget and introducing pilot tests on these measures.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GAO has issued several reports over the past few years on efforts to reform the United Nations. GAO recommended that the Secretary of State and the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations work with other member states to ensure that the United Nations adopt results based budgeting. In response, with State, the U.S. Representative has worked with other member states, and the United Nations has adopted adopted results based budgeting.

    Recommendation: To support the U.N. in transforming the organization into one that is performance oriented and continuously improves, the Secretary of State and the Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations should work with other member states to take immediate steps at the Secretariat to implement results-oriented budgeting, such as setting measurable goals and performance indicators for each section of the budget and introducing pilot tests on these measures.

    Agency Affected: United Nations: Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GAO recommended that the Secretary of State and the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations work with other member states to ensure that the United Nations develop a strategy for monitoring and evaluating the impact of its activities. In response to our recommendation, with State, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations has worked with other member states, and as a result, the United Nations developed a strategy to systematically momitor and evalutate the results of its programs, and began implementing it in 2002.

    Recommendation: To support the U.N. in transforming the organization into one that is performance oriented and continuously improves, the Secretary of State and the Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations should work with other member states to require the Secretariat to develop an organizational strategy for monitoring and evaluating the results and impact of Secretariat activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GAO recommended that the Secretary of State and the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations work with other member states to ensure that the United Nations develop a strategy for monitoring and evaluating the impact of its activities. In response to our recommendation, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations has worked with other member states, and as a result, the United Nations developed a strategy to systematically momitor and evalutate the results of its programs, and began implementing it in 2002.

    Recommendation: To support the U.N. in transforming the organization into one that is performance oriented and continuously improves, the Secretary of State and the Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations should work with other member states to require the Secretariat to develop an organizational strategy for monitoring and evaluating the results and impact of Secretariat activities.

    Agency Affected: United Nations: Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations

 

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