United Nations:

U.S. Participation in the Environment Program

NSIAD-89-142: Published: Jun 21, 1989. Publicly Released: Jun 21, 1989.

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Harold J. Johnson, Jr
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the: (1) United Nations Environment Program's (UNEP) accounting practices, financial reserves, and general efficiency and effectiveness; and (2) extent of U.S. influence in the organization.

GAO found that UNEP: (1) received financing from the United Nations budget, trust funds, other miscellaneous income, and voluntary contributions to the Environment Fund, to which the United States was a major contributor; (2) for its 1988 through 1989 biennial budget, allocated $25.8 million for operating expenses, $60 million for its environmental programs and projects, and $2 million for its fund program reserves; (3) adjusted its financial reserves each biennium to equal 7.5 percent of its budget to guarantee the Environment Fund's financial liquidity and integrity; (4) administered 22 trust funds with a total balance of $17.4 million in December 1987; (5) has successfully created various conventions and protocols on environmental conservation, addressed several environmental issues of global importance, and coordinated several environmental initiatives of special interest to the United States; and (6) made several organizational changes and improved management procedures after conducting a comprehensive self-assessment which identified project design and project link weaknesses and a tendency to dispense funds on many small projects rather than on a few major programs. GAO also found that the Department of State: (1) was satisfied with the level of U.S. influence in UNEP; and (2) had general goals to guide its participation in UNEP, but no longer prepared action programs defining U.S. goals and establishing specific and measurable plans for achieving objectives.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State, in coordination with concerned U.S. agencies, has developed U.S. goals regarding improving U.N. institutional involvement in environmental affairs. State asserts that its plans for achieving its goals is a continuing process. One of these processes is to put forth the U.S. proposals before the UNEP Governing Council in May 1991.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should direct the Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs to establish an action program or a similar formulation that would: (1) define objectives and priorities for U.S. participation in UNEP; and (2) specify a plan for achieving them.

    Agency Affected: Department of State


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