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U.N. Chief: Efforts to Reform Have Failed

By Stewart Stogel   |   Wednesday, 03 Sep 2008 12:26 PM

UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon decried turf wars in the global organization during a private speech in which he also acknowledged bluntly that his first 20 months in office have been a failure.

Ban labeled the organization a “huge bureaucracy,” according to a transcript Newsmax obtained of the speech he delivered to senior staffers at an annual closed conclave during the weekend in Turin, Italy.

That bureaucracy indicates that U.S. efforts to reform the United Nations, starting with then-U.S. Ambassador Madeleine K. Albright and continuing through six U.S. representatives spanning more than 16 years, have come up short.

"We must admit this. ... We must acknowledge how resistant we are to change. It cripples us in our most important job to function as a team. ... Here at the UN, unfortunately, I see people too often putting their own interests first. ... I see too many turf fights, too much intramural wrangling, too much protectiveness of the status quo," the U.N. chief said.

"I see little evidence of a change in mindset,” he said. “We get too bogged down in internal or bureaucratic technicalities. We waste incredible amounts of time on largely meaningless matters."

The staff’s task is to change the U.N. to change the world, Ban said, adding, " This is the big picture. I am frustrated by our failure so often to see it. ... Department heads squabble among themselves over posts and budgets and bureaucratic prerogatives, as though they owned them. But our departments, agencies and programs are not personal fiefdoms."

The secretary-general also acknowledged what has been whispered in the halls of the U.N.’s New York City headquarters: He has not gained the trust of the organization’s rank and file.

"I tried to lead by example. Nobody followed."

Ban’s address lent credence to what many inside the world body have been talking about for almost a year, that electing the former South Korean foreign minister in 2006 was a mistake.

Many veteran diplomats often complained that Ban simply did not know how the U.N. operated. Others raised questions of competency when a veteran U.N. staffer, Angela Kane of Germany recently was promoted to a key post as undersecretary-general for management.

The promotion came despite the fact that investigators with the U.N.'s Office of Internal Oversight Services severely criticized her previous performances. The elevation raised eyebrows among U.N. staffers.

The Kane appointment is just one decision on a long list of what many inside the organization have questioned. Echoing the internal criticism are several diplomats, including those from the United States who were instrumental in getting the South Korean elected. And U.S. State Department officials privately wonder whether Ban has enough support to seek a second five-year term in 2112.

Ban’s troubles come during the first stage of the U.N.’s five-year renovation project to rehabilitate its headquarters. The so-called Capital Master Plan, begun in May with a projected cost of $2 billion, is said to be more than $200 million over budget.

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UNITED NATIONS —U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon decried turf wars in the global organization during a private speech in which he also acknowledged bluntly that his first 20 months in office have been a failure.Ban labeled the organization a “huge bureaucracy,” according...

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