U.S. Participation in U.N. Program Budgets

NSIAD-85-14: Published: Dec 28, 1984. Publicly Released: Dec 28, 1984.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed U.S. participation in the budget process of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Since 1981, the United States has had an international organization budget policy which called for zero net program growth and a significant absorption of nondiscretionary cost increases. An active promotion of this policy has contributed to the lower levels of program growth which were achieved in the 1984-85 program budgets of most of the United Nations (U.N.) agencies. GAO found that the organizations' budget documents do not clearly designate intended users, expected results, and other performance indicators. In addition, the documents are not always available to U.S. reviewing officials early enough prior to major U.N. agency meetings. GAO found that the extent to which major executive agencies involved in FAO and UNESCO affairs participated in the management process varied widely, and the action programs were prepared unilaterally by the Department of State. Furthermore, State's involvement in the budget process and the opportunity for access to budget data and information sources is limited by a lack of geographic proximity to U.N. agencies. While the zero growth policy necessitated reductions in existing programs to offset any new program proposals, it did not: (1) emphasize how or where such reductions could be made; (2) address ways to absorb associated cost increases in existing activities; (3) emphasize early U.S. participation in the budget process; or (4) identify where specific program reductions could be made in association with U.S. program goals and objectives.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State has not tried to replicate the ILO approach because of cost and personnel constraints. Alternative measures include: (1) directives for earlier and more direct U.S. involvement in the budget process; (2) emphasis on interagency participation in policy implementation and review; and (3) initiation of assessments of U.N. organization field programs.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should promote the interagency consultation and planning necessary for developing strategies and action plans, determining means for implementation, and designating tasks and responsibilities for earlier U.S. involvement in U.N. agencies. The approach applied to the 1984-85 International Labor Organization (ILO) budget is one example of how this might be done. Such efforts should begin on a selective agency-by-agency basis and should weigh the relative needs for this additional emphasis in particular U.N. agencies and the availability of staffing and funding resources to carry out the new initiatives.

    Agency Affected: Department of State


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