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Last Updated: Monday, 28 February 2005, 16:16 GMT
Tough times for the UN

By Suzy Price
BBC News UN correspondent

Ruud Lubbers
Ruud Lubbers resigned as Commissioner for Refugees
The corridors of the United Nations headquarters in New York are buzzing with speculation about further changes to this normally slow moving organisation.

The resignation of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, following allegations of sexual harassment, was generally welcomed by UN staff.

Mr Lubbers said he had done nothing wrong and the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, said last year there was too little proof to take action.

However the accusations continued to overshadow Mr Lubbers' work and the Secretary General was accused of failing to take decisive action.

Real reform

Earlier this month Mr Annan appeared to change his mind.

After a confidential UN report on Mr Lubbers was leaked to the press, Mr Annan threatened disciplinary action and the High Commissioner resigned.

UN officials say there will be real reform at the 60-year-old organisation.

There have already been changes among Mr Annan's closest advisers and his aides say that upcoming senior appointments will be done in a transparent way.

"We hope the staff will see that there is a firm hand on the tiller and that the interests of the organisation are put ahead those of individuals," said Edward Mortimer, Director of Communications for the UN.

"We are getting through this rough patch and making the changes that are needed."

Kofi Annan
Mr Annan has been accused of not acting decisively

During the past year, the UN has been under intense pressure over allegations of mismanagement and corruption in the Oil for Food programme which had provided humanitarian relief for Iraqis hit by the sanctions during Saddam Hussein's rule.

American right wingers called for Mr Annan's resignation and for cuts in the US contribution to the UN budget.

A preliminary UN report found that the head of the program, Benon Sevan, had shown unethical conduct and he now faces disciplinary action.

However it is not over yet.

Peacekeeper investigations

The next UN interim report will deal with questions about Kofi Annan's son, Kojo, who had worked with a company linked to the Oil for Food programme.

A final report is due later this year and there are also several Congressional committees looking into the issue.

"Right now there is a lull," said James Traub, a contributing writer for the New York Times magazine who is writing a book on Kofi Annan.

"However one does not know if it is a lull before the storm or a lull before the lull. I think they are all waiting to see how bad the next report will be."

The UN Secretariat is also accused of acting too slowly on reports that UN peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo sexually abused women and girls.

Investigations are also underway about the conduct of peacekeepers in Haiti.

A U.N. plane at Kinshas's NDjili international airport
The UN have been operating as peacekeepers in DR of Congo

"The reports about peacekeepers are extremely troubling," said Mr Mortimer. "It is difficult to get evidence for this kind of crime but we are determined to take a much tougher line."

The Secretary General is due to make recommendations next month on wide-ranging UN reforms aimed at overhauling the organisation and these will be discussed by a summit of world leaders at the UN in September.

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