- The Washington Times - Monday, June 13, 2005

NEW YORK — A congressional report on the United Nations calls its management “ossified” and questions whether Secretary-General Kofi Annan can overcome inertia, low morale and micromanagement as he pushes sweeping reform.

The report from a bipartisan task force, obtained yesterday by the Associated Press, said recent U.N. scandals — ranging from sex abuse by peacekeepers to revelations of corruption in the Iraq oil-for-food program — give the United States a rare opportunity to push for reform at the United Nations.

Among dozens of recommendations, the task force calls for the 191-nation body to develop a rapid-reaction force to combat genocide; set up an independent auditing board; and adopt weighted voting on financial issues for members who contribute larger portions of the U.N. budget. Some of its contents were first reported by the New York Times yesterday.

“As it approaches its 60th anniversary, the United Nations needs reform and reinvigoration,” the report said. “Otherwise, the organization risks declining credibility, and its own future will be at risk.”

The task force was led by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Georgia Republican, and former Senate Majority leader George Mitchell, a Democrat from Maine. It will be formally released tomorrow.

The report is far less critical than many of the pronouncements made by congressional Republicans, reflecting its bipartisan makeup. Notably, it cites U.N. officials’ receptivity to change and backs many of the reform proposals Mr. Annan laid out in March.

Mr. Annan hopes world leaders will enact the reforms at a summit set for September.

It does not endorse a Republican reform package in Congress seeking to tie U.N. reforms to U.S. payment of dues to the world body, saying reform may be possible without blocking U.N. funding.

Yet the report highlights a fundamental problem in the United Nations — that worthy initiatives are often stymied by the body’s own member-states.

Currently, nations that collectively pay less than 1 percent of U.N. dues constitute more than two-thirds of its membership, giving them power to block initiatives.

“Too many countries with too little on the table have too much to say in decision making,” the report said.

Its criticism of U.N. management is blunt. It describes one staffer characterizing the internal justice system as “royally screwed up.”

U.N. officials refused to comment on the substance of the report.

“Our reform efforts are well under way and we continue to support them actively, but we are interested to see what this group has to offer,” Mr. Annan spokesman Fred Eckhard said.

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