Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

UNESCO Cleans House to Invite the US Back

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

UNESCO Cleans House to Invite the US Back

Article excerpt

One year into his term as head of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Koichiro Matsuura has begun to turn the deficit- and corruption-ridden agency around, but he is moving more slowly than his supporters would like, according to diplomatic sources here.

His reforms, aimed largely at persuading the United States to rejoin the troubled UN body, "are not moving far enough fast enough," according to one Western diplomat. "It is frustrating to watch this process move forward in fits and starts."

Mr. Matsuura, a Japanese career diplomat, has taken a cautious approach to overhauling UNESCO, which Washington left in 1984 complaining that it had become a mismanaged vehicle for anti- Western ideologists. And his agency faces strong opposition in the US Congress, which appears to make US membership unlikely in the near future.

Over the course of what Matsuura calls "a very difficult year," he has taken a knife to UNESCO's top-heavy bureaucracy, halving the number of top-level posts and streamlining the agency's organizational structure.

The cuts were essential, he says, in light of an external auditor's report indicating that his predecessor, Spaniard Federico Mayor, ignored hiring rules in filling 40 percent of UNESCO jobs and ran up a $17.5 million deficit in the staff budget by hiring scores of informal advisers. That deficit has now been eliminated, and new accounting procedures have been introduced, monitored by an internal oversight body.

As Matsuura continues his staff changes, "we are guardedly optimistic about where he is going," says one European diplomat. "The message going out to the organization is 'stop playing as you were playing, the game is different now.' "

But the UNESCO boss is hampered by opposition to reform from powerful third- world nations on the agency's executive board, diplomats say. Many developing countries fear that budget cuts will mean cuts in UNESCO programs that they favor. …

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