When most people talk about reform of the United Nations, they talk about big reforms – changing mandates, merging agencies, restructuring the Security Council. High level reforms are hugely political and famously difficult to agree – look at 2005’s World Summit in New York for example. Large reforms are only part of what is needed to improve the UN’s ability to deliver its mandates and make the world better. We also need to overhaul the internal workings of some parts of the UN to make it a more effective and more efficient organisation.
For many of us – UN staff – internal management reform is not as interesting or important as the politics of the Middle East, anti-narcotics work on the Afghan-Tajik border, or planning food distribution in Sudan. But we need to focus more on internal reform because the cumulative impact of low level problems on our work is immense.
We waste resources on muddled administrative processes and needless reporting. Some of us lose motivation because we are badly managed and projects are struck by crises that better planning could have averted. Jobs go undone because rigid human resource rules prevent managers transferring personnel rapidly from one post to another to meet a sudden need. This all adds up to an organisation that is becoming less effective as a partner, and less attractive as an employer. We must reverse that trend.
First, Member States must decouple political debates about what the UN should do from efforts to change how it works internally. Member State representatives should consider internal management reform proposals on their merits, and support the UN’s managers and advisors in their efforts to make the organisation more efficient and effective. Internal change then becomes our – all UN staff persons’ – responsibility.
We can do much to make our corners of the UN work better. In this report, the LLP’s 1st, we make 32 suggestions. UN managers and staff could implement nearly all of them without spending a lot of money and without having to seek Member State approval.