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UN: High-Level Panel Lays Groundwork For Review Of Reform Process

(ITAR-TASS) The reform process that is under way at the United Nations has been boosted into higher gear with the establishment on April 6 of a Panel on Coherence in the areas of development, humanitarian assistance, and the environment. The main goal of the panel, which will have a time-limited mission, is to oversee the reform process and to provide recommendations to improve the efficiency of the UN's various departments. The world body has been plagued in recent years by corruption, mismanagement, and sex-abuse scandals. The panel is expected to produce a set of practical recommendations, which will be provided to the UN General Assembly in September.

UNITED NATIONS, April 7, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The panel will examine how to restructure the UN system to ensure better coherence and performance in the three targeted areas: development, humanitarian assistance, and the environment. Various critical reports have concluded that the United Nations functions inefficiently and a major reform undertaking began last year.

Shaukat Aziz, the prime minister of Pakistan and one of the panel's co-chairs, said that the panel's main objective will be operational and policy assistance to developing countries.

"In life today, the only constant is change," Aziz said. "The world is changing around us. Our countries are developing, growing, changing. The challenges we face are also different than what they were in the past. As such all organizations which exist to help the world, need to readjust, retool, reequip and reorganize themselves to meet the needs of tomorrow."
"We need to provide a clear role for the UN to accelerate development,
to fight poverty, to give capacity building techniques to countries,
and to assist them in various reform initiatives." -- Aziz

Tapping high-profile political leaders to chair the panel, it is hoped, will give more credibility to its work. In addition to Shaukat, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has asked the prime ministers of Mozambique, Louisa Diogo, and of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg, to co-chair the body. The three prime ministers spent two days in consultations before announcing the panel's objectives.

"We need to provide a clear role for the UN to accelerate development, to fight poverty, to give capacity building techniques to countries, and to assist them in various reform initiatives," Aziz said.

In the area of humanitarian assistance the panel announced that it will urge the creation of a special relief fund to be available for UN disaster relief efforts, such as the major earthquake last year in Pakistan.

In the area of the environment the emphasis will be on how to cope with the consequences of climate change, which affects all countries.

Prime Minister Stoltenberg of Norway pointed out that another important area is financial coherence, citing the new Central Emergency Relief Fund , which gives the United Nations more ability to coordinate among agencies in an emergency, and the common vaccine fund that allows World Health Organization and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) to take on complementary roles in inoculation campaigns in various countries.

"We are all strong supporters of a stronger UN and the reason why we are in the panel is that we want to improve the ability of the UN to meet the challenges within development, environment and the disaster relief operations," Stoltenberg said. "So, the whole idea with the panel is to make the UN an even better organization in the future."

At their first meeting, the members of the panel reviewed the scope and orientation of the panel's work program, and discussed strategies for consultation and outreach to the key stakeholders.

"We have discussed some of the problems we are facing within the UN system," Stoltenberg said. "We have been told about problems when it comes to coherence, when it comes to overlapping. We've been told about examples, for instance, in some of the member countries where you have nearly or around 20 UN organizations working on the same issues, like for instance, clean water."

The panel's second meeting is scheduled for late May. It has to produce a list of recommendations by the opening of the UN General Assembly in late September, and to conclude its work in 2007.