United Nations:

U.S. Participation in Five Affiliated International Organizations

NSIAD-97-2: Published: Feb 27, 1997. Publicly Released: Feb 27, 1997.

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Benjamin F. Nelson
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the progress and status of management, administrative, and program reforms in the World Health Organization (WHO), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the International Labor Organization (ILO), the United Nations (U.N.) Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), all of which are affiliated with the U.N. system.

GAO found that: (1) policies and agendas adopted by WHO, PAHO, ILO, UNCTAD, and UNFPA coincide with U.S. foreign policy objectives; (2) assessments by U.S. officials and other experts conclude that programs and activities of the 5 organizations provide significant benefits; (3) the programs and activities also provide opportunities for joint scientific research among the technical experts of participating countries in combating deadly diseases; (4) U.S. officials asserted, and other experts agreed, that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for any federal agency or private institution to perform the mandates of the 5 organizations; (5) these organizations are now generally considered politically neutral by most governments and provide the United States access to countries in which it would otherwise face legal, financial, or jurisdictional obstacles; (6) in addition, membership in these organizations allows the United States to work with other nations in sharing the burden of dealing with challenges that threaten domestic security, international stability, and human well-being around the world; (7) declining resources available from donor countries, the increasing number of worldwide crises, and the demands for better collaboration between the donor organizations and the recipient countries have caused the 5 organizations to recognize the need for improved management and administration; (8) each has begun to address weaknesses in the management and administration of its operations and programs; (9) these weaknesses have been the subject of frequent criticism by Congress, the State Department, and other U.S. foreign policy analysts; (10) PAHO, ILO, and UNFPA, which the United States generally considers to be responsive to recommended management and administrative improvements, have initiated a number of reforms; (11) in contrast, WHO and UNCTAD have been slower than the other 3 organizations in undertaking significant management and administrative improvements; (12) although the United States believes that strengthening the internal audit function is imperative to efficient management, WHO still has not clearly defined the function's degree of independence or established specifically which internal audit reports would be provided to WHO's members; (13) UNCTAD was even slower in initiating reforms, but provisions were adopted at its 1996 conference for streamlining institutional arrangements; and (14) the United States and other member states are continuing to push for reforms in each of the 5 organizations GAO studied.

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