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United Nations 60th Birthday: Two Simple Ideas for Reform and a Third Idea About PEACE
an article by Joanne Tawfilis

This week marks the 60th Birthday of the UN. One of the best portrayals of the celebration is the UN Foundation's website that provides a 52 page illustrated report and a photo slide show illustrating a sampling of just how much work has been accomplished;

However, the criticism regarding effectiveness, including financial grounding of the UN continues to ring loud with calls for reform, including statements made by the Secretary General himself and published on the UN website.

Based on my former Executive level positions as Head of Managements Services (P-5) (IAEA), and Director, Human Resource Management Services (D-1) (UNEP), I was able to personally witness accomplishments of the UN and at the same time, obtain first hand experiences and observations regarding possibilities for realistic measures that could make a difference. These two ideas are proposed below for consideration that could change the look and feel of the UN and enhance its effectiveness, while bringing it back to the organization the great Eleanor Roosevelt had envisioned it to be.

1) To clarify and mandate clarity of purpose and functions between organizations, and encourage collaboration between them on common areas of concern, and to rely more on collaborations and partnerships with international NGO's who fund raise and have staff to carry out SOME of the work the UN is currently duplicating. (This would streamline organizations and collaborations and sharing of experts would be maximized)

2) To equalize and flatten salary baselines and restructure the personnel pay and performance system to resemble something similar to the US Federal System, where all employees are General Service, with few exceptions for very senior managers and professionals. (This would truly "equalize" the current system and make it fair. Money saved from the periodic wage classifications surveys that are conducted for local national employees could actually be given to those employees who MUST have the same qualifications across the board in developed countries. Working for the UN should be a privilege and all workers should be paid equally and accordingly and finally

3) During this Decade for the Culture of Peace and Non Violence Among Children of the World, it would be worthwhile for governing boards to mandate each of the organizations to report in 2010, precisely what THEIR organization did to support this resolution? Collaboration could then become a reality and program results would be much more visible enabling the good work of the UN to proliferate PEACE efforts for the next 60 years.


Question(s) related to this article:

Can the UN help move the world toward a culture of peace?,

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Latest reader comment:

The following comes from my blog of October 2012

The United Nations and the Culture of Peace

My ten years working in the United Nations system left me with a sweet and sour taste: the sweet side was the universality of the UN, both its staff and mandate, and its great significance for raising the consciousness of the peoples of the world; the sour side was the jealousy of the Member States who make sure that the UN does not encroach on their freedom to rule over their own citizens, as well as people in other countries that they may dominate through neo-colonial relations. This became crystal-clear to me when the United States delegate, during the informal meetings of the UN General Assembly in 1999, opposed the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, saying that it would make it more difficult for them to start a war. In fact, throughout history, war (call it “defense” if you prefer) has always been the most fundamental “right” of the state

With this in mind, I have been pleasantly surprised by the extent to which the UN system has once again taken up the culture of peace as a priority, as shown in this month's CPNN bulletin, just as it was a priority in the Year 2000 when I was the director of the UN International Year for the Culture of Peace

Of course, this does not happen by chance, and great credit belongs to two men who played key roles for the Year 2000, Federico Mayor Zaragoza, who made the culture of peace a priority of UNESCO, and Anwarul Chowdhury, who played the role of midwife at the UN General Assembly, guiding the culture of peace resolution through nine months of opposition by the powerful states. Once again, this last month, these two men motivated and spoke eloquently at the High Level Forum on a Culture of Peace at the UN

As always it was the countries of the South who supported the initiative (see the CPNN article of September 24 and its discussion), but at least this month it was not blocked by the powerful states

In fact, it is my impression that the powerful states pay less and less attention to the United Nations. When there was a financial crisis a few years ago, the powerful states did not turn to the UN agencies , the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, but set up their own temporary system of finance ministers, and when it came time for the review of nuclear non-proliferation, President Obama held his own meeting with heads of state in Washington and ignored the UN conference where the only head of state to speak was that of Iran. And the US has pulled out of UNESCO entirely, forcing drastic cuts in its budget

In fact, the lack of attention by the powerful states may provide the UN system with an opportunity to push the agenda of the culture of peace without their opposition - let us hope that the UN can take advantage of this

Of course, in the long run, the UN, or any other institution, cannot mandate a culture of peace; instead, the culture of peace can only grow from the consciousness, both understanding and action, of the peoples of the world (see last month’s blog below). That’s why the role of the UN for consciousnes-raising is ultimately its greatest contribution!

This report was posted on October 25, 2005.