United Nations:

Planning for Headquarters Renovation Is Reasonable; United States Needs to Decide Whether to Support Work

GAO-01-788: Published: Jun 15, 2001. Publicly Released: Jun 15, 2001.

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Harold J. Johnson, Jr
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The United Nations' (U.N.) headquarters in New York clearly needs to be renovated, and the Secretary-General will ask member states to make key decisions in 2002 about the future of the renovation. As host country to U.N. headquarters, the United States needs to play a major role in making these decisions if the renovation is to proceed. However, the administration and the Department of State have not yet developed a comprehensive U.S. position on the renovation. Assuming the United States decides to support the renovation, it needs considerable lead time to examine the issues, including what scope of renovation meets U.N. and U.S. needs in the 21st century, what share of the renovation costs would the United States be willing to provide, and what process is needed to ensure that the construction is cost-effective and timely. One option for examining these issues would be to establish a team comprised of experts on construction management and U.N. issues, using appropriate administration resources from State, the National Academy of Sciences, and the General Services Administration.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In August 2002, State officials told GAO that the Secretary of State had taken a position to formally support the United Nations Capital Master Plan. According to these officials, the Department planned to be "right in the middle" of the process including having a presence on the United Nation Secretary General's advisory board. Since taking this position, the Department has appointed a point person and began both formal and informal work to advance the renovation. Specifically, the point person has been facilitating the United Nations coordination with U.S. firms and agencies on security and swing space issues. State officials have also been working within the 5th Committee of the United Nations to approve funding for continuing design work. This funding was approved by the General Assembly in December 2002.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State, in consultation with appropriate officials in the administration, should take the steps necessary to develop a comprehensive U.S. position on matters pertaining to the renovation, including whether to support the effort. If the U.S. position is to support the renovation, the Secretary of State and appropriate officials should consider what mechanisms would be needed to obtain the necessary expertise in construction management, financing, and U.N. issues.

    Agency Affected: Department of State


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