- The Washington Times - Monday, February 5, 2007

NEW YORK — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pitched his troubled plan to restructure the U.N. Secretariat yesterday, offering ambassadors a detailed version of his plan to separate the sprawling peacekeeping department into two well-managed offices “at the earliest date possible.”

Mr. Ban, who took office Jan. 1, first circulated his ideas two weeks ago, but he ran into opposition because he had not consulted with the General Assembly and various regional groups, which have the power to kill his initiatives by withholding budgetary approval.

Mr. Ban wants to split off the personnel and procurement functions into a new Department of Field Support (DFS) while concentrating political and military oversight within a renamed Department of Peace Operations. It is now called the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

He also wants to downgrade the Department for Disarmament Affairs, having it report directly to the secretary-general. Proximity to the 38th floor, he said yesterday, would allow him to play a stronger advocacy role. The move also would free up a senior post to helm the new DFS.

“Of course, these are but two of the many crucial areas of the U.N.’s work for peace and security, but my consultations so far lead me to conclude that they are the most urgent,” he told diplomats in yesterday’s closed-door meeting.

Key ambassadors from the developing world reiterated their reservations about the changes.

India, one of the largest contributors of peacekeeping troops, has said it fears the division of authority would jeopardize its soldiers’ security in the field.

Pakistani Ambassador Munir Akram, who heads a powerful 132-member coalition of developing nations, said such changes should be discussed formally by the management committee and the whole General Assembly — a time-consuming process that would dash Mr. Ban’s hopes for swift action.

The United States and many of the European nations agree in principle with the changes.

“It is [Mr. Ban’s] responsibility to deliver a Secretariat that is responsive, that does its work well, that is efficient, that is transparent,” acting U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff said after yesterday’s meeting. “We hold him accountable for that, and therefore we ought to give him the authority to do the necessary changes.”

Mr. Ban assured the diplomats that he has not frozen them out of the restructuring process.

“Please rest assured that over the past few weeks, I have taken account of your concerns,” he said. “Every one of you has the right to be listened to, whatever the size of your country or budget, whichever hemisphere you call home.”

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