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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 November 2006, 20:14 GMT
Panel to recommend simplified UN
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website

Sri Lankan refugees. Image: AP
Streamlining humanitarian aid is a key recommendation
The High-Level Panel on United Nations Reform will propose that the UN becomes a tighter and simpler body, according to a draft of the final report.

The panel says UN programmes are often "fragmented and weak", and it has too little power to enforce its plans in areas such as the environment.

The panel says agencies which reform should be rewarded with secure and sustained funding.

The report will be formally unveiled in New York on Thursday.

Convened by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan after last year's World Summit, the High-Level Panel of 15 people included such political luminaries as Pakistan's Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, his Mozambique counterpart Luisa Diogo, and UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown.

They have spent six months preparing the report.

The report recognises that the UN has outgrown its original structure
Felix Dodds
According to the final draft, seen by the BBC, they have concluded that the UN is crucial to achieving the Millennium Goals, the set of targets for improvements in health, education and living standards agreed in 2000.

They describe the UN as "an indispensable force in our time of many global challenges.

"It has defined the global agenda and it is a crucial player in moving development forward, responding rapidly to humanitarian disaster and mobilising international action for the protection of the environment," the report continues.

But question marks remain over the organisation's effectiveness, the panel says.

Reform package

Across the range of UN activities they see streamlining, coordination and management reform as key goals. Recommendations include:

  • putting operations in countries under a single umbrella with overall responsibility for delivery
  • enhancing environment protection under stronger leadership from the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep)
  • better funding and co-ordination of humanitarian aid
  • full funding of the Central Emergency Response Fund
  • donors to commit more aid through UN programmes and less to their own "pet projects"
  • ongoing reform of business practices under the Secretary-General's direction
  • secure long-term funding for agencies which meet reform goals

"The report recognises that the UN has outgrown its original structure, and has gone a long way to propose solutions to address these problems," said Felix Dodds of Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future, an NGO which has been running a dialogue on UN reform.

"Its recommendations have fallen short, however, in the areas of the environment and strengthening the sustainable development system," he told the BBC News website.

Kofi Annan. Image: AP

The panel found that meetings surrounding its three major environmental conventions, on climate change, biodiversity and desertification, totalled 230 days a year, putting a major strain on resources of poorer countries.

Stronger cooperation, higher efficiency and a stronger funding system are advocated, but it has not accepted the need put forward by some conservation groups for a wholesale upgrading of global environmental governance, replacing Unep with a body equal in power to the World Trade Organization.

Nicola Reindorp, head of the New York office of the charity Oxfam International, also welcomed the report while agreeing it could have gone further.

"Overall we would agree with much of the analysis and recommendations," she said, "although I think it's fair to say that in efforts to bring consensus the panel has pulled its punches.

"Where we really salute its findings is in its emphasis on funding, in particular full funding of the Central Emergency Response Fund with new money."

The fund, launched during last year's World Summit, aims to create a pool of $500m in ready money allowing a quick response to natural disasters; but only half of the money has so far arrived.

The full report will be unveiled to the UN on Thursday morning in New York, with public access later in the day.

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