Tuesday, January 18, 2005

NEW YORK — U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday appointed outgoing U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman to be the next executive director of UNICEF, one of the highest-profile posts within the U.N. system.

It was the second major appointment by Mr. Annan since Jan. 3, with a half-dozen more expected in the next couple of months.

Midway through his second four-year term, Mr. Annan has been remaking the roster of senior staff and close advisers — several of them clearly chosen to mend the strained relationship with Washington.

Mr. Annan also said yesterday that he would make additional management changes.

The terms of several senior managers are scheduled to expire, he noted, while others will be changed in response to internal audits and an external inquiry of the oil-for-food program, both of which criticized the world body for mismanagement and a lack of transparency.

“I saw [inquiry Chairman Paul] Volcker’s comments on the audit reports, which indicate that we have work to do in the management area and we need clearer transparency, which I intend to work on,” Mr. Annan said.

“I will be making some proposals and taking some action very shortly. I have made some changes, and more are on the way.”

Mr. Annan earlier appointed Mark Malloch Brown, the administrator of the U.N. Development Program, as chief of staff.

Mrs. Veneman, 55, will succeed Carol Bellamy, who was the Clinton administration’s choice to run the U.N. Children’s Fund, when her term expires in April.

Bush administration officials have made no secret of their frustration with Mrs. Bellamy’s positions on sex education and contraception, and have waited eagerly for her to leave UNICEF.

Mrs. Veneman yesterday stressed to reporters that these frictions would not continue under her watch.

“I don’t believe that these issues are relevant to the missions of UNICEF,” she said in response to a question about reproductive health.

“I don’t come with any agenda with regard to those or any other social issues. I come with an agenda of helping children, particularly in the areas of education and health, and to address the issues of hunger and malnutrition.”

Mr. Annan yesterday acknowledged the benefits of taking on a former Bush administration Cabinet member.

“Obviously, relationships and contacts in Washington will be helpful, as we have in the past used contacts and relationships of others,” he told reporters.

Mr. Annan has asked the U.S. Mission to the United Nations to submit a list of candidates to replace Catherine Bertini, the American who has been overseeing the office of administration and management.

Mrs. Bertini, an Agriculture Department official under the first President Bush, has indicated that she would like to take early retirement in the spring.

Like UNICEF’s, that post historically has been occupied by an American, in part because Washington is the largest single donor to both the U.N. regular budget and many agencies, funds and programs.

Two key U.N. posts involving the Middle East also are vacant, and although an American is unlikely to be considered to fill them, Washington’s sensitivities certainly will be considered.

Peter Hansen, the Dane who has run the relief agency for Palestinian refugees, will be stepping down in a couple of months, and likely will be replaced by another European.

The job involves walking a political tightrope between Arab nations that want to see the agency do more to ease the suffering of nearly 4 million Palestinians, and Israel, which frequently has accused the U.N. Relief and Works Agency of aiding militants.

Terje Roed-Larsen, a Norwegian, has left the United Nations to lead the International Peace Academy, a New York think tank. The post of U.N. special representative to the Middle East is likely to be filled by Kieran Prendergast, who has served as the U.N. undersecretary-general for political affairs since 1997.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide