Conversation with ... Robert C. Orr on the UN Mandate Review Process

Article excerpt

Robert C. Orr of the United States (left) was appointed Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General on 6 August 2004. He was interviewed on 30 May 2006 by Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, founder and Director of Global Interfaith Peace.

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KAVEH L. AFRASIABI: In light of your involvement in the current UN management review process, what are the key issues and prospects for substantial changes in the way the United Nations manages its own affairs?

ROBERT C. ORR: The reform process is a broad one, and the management changes are very important pieces of this process. While we have made progress on some substantive issues, including specific management areas, some of the reforms are yet to be adopted by Member States. The debates are ongoing. The Secretary-General has put a bold agenda in his report, Investing in the United Nations--For a Stronger Organization Worldwide, that is under consideration. He is committed to make sure that he leaves the Organization in a better managerial state than when he came in--and that will require some changes, which is why he has put forth the package.

KA: There is a United Nations management reform crisis, as reflected in a resolution of the G-77 countries blocking the Secretary-General's proposal. Do you agree?

RO: Well, some describe this as a crisis. I have a long-term view on United Nations reform, having been through its many phases over the years. As contentious and difficult as this issue is, Member States somehow always find a way to come to an agreement on some of the issues. So I remain optimistic that the right decisions will be taken, at least on the major proposals put forth by the Secretary-General.

KA: Is the United Nations making any headway with respect to financial discipline and transparency?

RO: I think so. Case in point, looking at the process underway in terms of mandate review, that is a splendid example of an open and transparent process that could have implications for the financing and substantive aspects of the Organization. All Member States are participating in a full, transparent and serious discussion. On transparency, the Secretary-General has proposed the idea of an enhanced regime of information being available not only to Member States but also to the public. This is an ongoing process--trying to define what categories of information could be available on a routine basis.

KA: In his report, Mandating and Delivering: Analysis and recommendations to facilitate the review of mandates, the Secretary-General has called for allocating more resources to monitoring and evaluation functions. Has this been followed? And do you expect to see the end of duplicative, ineffective or obsolete programmes any time soon?

RO: The reason the Secretary-General has made this recommendation is that the United Nations community currently lacks adequate monitoring and evaluation of its mandates. He thought of completing properly the life cycle of a mandate and bringing each to its successful completion. Enhancing the resources to monitoring and evaluation will also be an important part of that "cradle to grave" system. This will help Member States to be better custodians of the directives they adopt. Regarding programmes, I think that the debate in the General Assembly has been very encouraging in this regard. Member States have taken this very seriously; their approaches may differ slightly, yet the overall agreement on the need for this process has been quite striking. I think that there will be an agreement on eliminating some mandates and consolidating many others, given the fact that all the major UN organs--the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council--are involved in the work under way.

KA: The UN High-level Panel on System-wide Coherence has a report due--any clues on what it will contain? …

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