EXCLUSIVE – United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres is on a blitz campaign to streamline the U.N.’s underperforming bureaucracy, give more authority to its outlying branches, and greatly expand his ability to shuffle money around in the U.N.’s regular biennial budget (just part of its total cost)—all in the next 18 months.
On paper, at least, it amounts to perhaps the most ambitious effort at U.N. reform in 20 years, before the world organization floundered into the vast Oil-for-Food scandal, and a subsequent array of administrative fiascos and largely failed reform attempts under Guterres’ predecessor, Ban Ki-moon.
Guterres’ chief motivation, though he won’t say so explicitly, is the Trump Administration.
Instead, Guterres is arguing to U.N. member states what he told a town hall meeting of U.N. staffers in late July: that his version of reform is “an absolutely essential instrument for the protection of the U.N.” amid increasing international skepticism about the organization’s efficiency, effectiveness, and even its reason for existence—all of which also happens to be true.
But as he coyly told the staffers: “When we see that these negative ideas are penetrating at some times, very high levels, at government levels—and I don’t need to explain what this means in relation to the neighborhood–it is very clear is that one thing we must do is project to the outside the idea that we are taking seriously this kind of criticism, and are doing our best to address it.”
Draft proposals for a hard-nosed Trump Administration look at all of its U.N. spending that leaked last January have never resurfacedofficially –but U.N. bloat is under a gimlet eye in Washington, and the U.N.’s multibillion-dollar peacekeeping budget has already taken a sharp haircut on the watch of U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, with more reductions likely soon.