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The Dartmouth
May 23, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Thornburg calls for reforms within U.N.

Former U.S. Attorney General Richard Thornburgh spoke on the need for personnel and financial reform within the United Nations last night before a large audience in Hinman Forum.

Thornburgh, who also served as U.N. undersecretary general and governor of Pennsylvania, delivered a report addressing problems facing the U.N. before he left his post as attorney general in the Bush administration. He said last night that although many important changes have been made, major problems still exist within the U.N.

He cited current Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's dedication to updating and streamlining the U.N. as evidence that changes are being made.

But Thornburgh said problems of inefficiency, duplication of services and lack of trained management still plague the U.N.

"There has been very little progress in dealing with a stultified personnel system," he said. "There is an inability to discipline and dismiss people for poor performance."

Other changes that need to be made involve cost-cutting and better financial management, such as examining the need for expensive worldwide conferences, according to Thornburgh.

With the end of both the Cold War and the traditional rivalry between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in the Security Council, the U.N. must play an expanded role both in peacekeeping operations and in the economic and social development of underdeveloped nations, Thornburgh said.

"The U.N. has really become a global 911 activity number," he said, citing that in the last five years, peacekeeping forces have increased in number from 9,500 troops to 45,000 with an annual budget of $2.6 million.

With this increase in size, peacekeeping forces have also seen a change in their role. The U.N. no longer waits to intervene militarily until after two nations have agreed on a political settlement. Examples of this new U.N. preventative strategy, in which concerned but not directly involved nations call for U.N. assistance on behalf of a troubled nation, can be seen in Angola, Cambodia and Somalia, according to Thornburgh.

These are "peacekeeping operations where there is no peace to keep," he said. "It is a virtual trusteeship of those particular countries. A whole new infrastructure is being established."

With the increase in activity by the U.N. comes the need for a firmer financial base and a greater control over budgetary and personnel affairs, Thornburgh cited. Currently, many services are being duplicated and resources are being wasted.

The U.N. is also facing cash flow problems. It has a $1 billion debt, much of which is owed by the U.S. and the Russia.

These problems were addressed by Thornburgh's report to Boutros-Ghali. But he noted that his report was met with much resistance and an unwillingness from the U.N. bureaucracy to carry out his reforms.

He said copies of his report were hidden and even shredded by officials who did not want to deal with current financial and organizational problems.

Thornburgh recently testified before Congress in support of the changes he recommended in his report.

"The U.S. is not going to let this report gather dust," he said. "This is not just reform for reform's sake. Unless the U.N. takes positive and affirmative steps to clean up its act, it is going to face dire consequences.

"It is important enough for us to look upon the reform effort as a serious and important effort for this generation and generations to come," he added.