At a news conference yesterday, the UN secretary-general said that as his top aide, Mark Malloch Brown would play a key role in shaping UN reforms.
And Annan signaled that more management changes would be coming. "I do intend to make further changes, changes that will affect senior people already in the building and maybe some who are outside headquarters," Annan said. "So this is a first in a series of changes or reshuffle that may happen."
The move follows what Annan has called a "horrible year" in which the world body came under fire for its alleged mishandling of Iraq's oil-for-food program and allegations of sexual exploitation by UN peacekeepers in the Congo. Annan himself has faced calls for his resignation from some U.S. politicians.
Annan's moves come after a high-level panel last month recommended sweeping reforms to UN bodies, including personnel changes. Annan also met privately last month with a group of prominent Americans who urged him to improve relations with Washington, "The New York Times" reported yesterday.
Malloch Brown, credited with reforming the UNDP, is expected to strengthen links between the UN's development and security agendas, which Annan sees as crucial to reform efforts.
"I think that it is essential that we focus on this reform of the organization, put development at the center of our work and ensure that, as we try to improve our collective security we also pay attention to the other threats of poverty, health, AIDS, and other issues. So I'm going to be driving these issues in the next two years and I thought I needed a team that can work with me on that," Annan said.
Two other top posts will need to be filled soon: undersecretary-general for management and UN controller.
A report due at the end of this month could prompt further departures. An independent board headed by Paul Volcker, the former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman, is due to release its first report on UN responsibility for abuses of the oil-for-food program.
Malloch Brown, a Briton, told reporters he would seek to improve the UN's image and outreach to the media. "I think I can be helpful and do look at a much more prominent role, if you like, as a spokesman on occasion for the secretary-general and for the institution and certainly as someone pushing for a quick response to issues, a response of a substantive and open and forthcoming kind as very much part of what I have been tasked with," Malloch Brown said.
Malloch Brown will remain temporarily as head of the UN Development Program as it guides reconstruction efforts in Southeast Asian countries hit by last month's tsunami.
Malloch Brown said the demands for UN coordination of the massive tsunami relief effort also could spur a "transformative moment" for the organization as it embarks on reforms. He likened it to the impact of the Indo-Chinese refugee crisis 25 years ago on the UN refugee agency.
Annan and Malloch Brown later departed for Indonesia. They will launch an emergency appeal for victims of the tsunami at a regional summit on 6 December.
Governments and private entities have now pledged more than $2 billion in donations to victims. But both Annan and his emergency-relief coordinator, Jan Egeland, expressed concern yesterday about governments following through on their pledges.
Egeland also said that in contrast to the generous outpouring of support for the tsunami victims, there are numerous other crises, mainly in Africa, that continue to be neglected. "Here is my criticism of the rich world: Could we wake up, please, to those 20 forgotten emergencies as we have woken up so generously to this enormous tsunami that has hit 5 million people and killed more than 150,000?" Egeland said.
In the aftermath of the tsunami, Egeland criticized rich countries for not providing aid quickly and generously enough. He has since changed tone, and yesterday called the outpouring of pledges "truly overwhelming."