World News

Ban's U.N. reform plans make developing states wary

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s formally proposed on Monday changes to the U.N. bureaucracy that would downgrade the disarmament affairs department and split peacekeeping into two divisions, measures that met with skepticism from developing nations.

Ban made his realignment proposals in a memorandum obtained by Reuters last week. On Monday he wrote a formal letter outlining the plans to all 192 U.N. members.

But South Africa’s U.N. ambassador, Dumisani Kumalo questioned his idea to reduce the status of disarmament affairs from a department to an office, saying that “disarmament is very important to us so we would want an assurance that disarmament is not marginalized.”

As an office, disarmament affairs would probably not be headed by an undersecretary-general as it is now but a lower ranking assistant secretary-general.

Kumalo, however, told Reuters he would prefer to wait until Ban returns from an African trip next week and explains his initiative “to give him the benefit of the doubt because he has just been in office for a month.”

Developing nations, organized in the Nonaligned Movement and the Group of 77, are meeting this week on the proposals. They form a majority of General Assembly members, which must approve the new measures.

A realignment under Ban has been confusing with the United States expected to have its candidate take over the powerful political affairs department, which originally was to absorb disarmament affairs.

But developing nations objected vigorously to a nuclear power making disarmament policy, now run by Japan’s Nobuaki Tanaka. Tokyo, the second-highest dues payer, was offered the chance to name the head of the new peacekeeping department but reacted coolly, Japanese envoys said.

Consequently, Ban, in an apparent effort not to increase the number of undersecretaries-general, proposed downgrading the disarmament department to an office reporting directly to him.


On peacekeeping, Ban’s letter to U.N. members said there was an “unprecedented growth in the number and scope of peace operations mandated by the Security Council.” Thus he proposed splitting it into two departments.

The United Nations has 18 peacekeeping missions fielding nearly 100,000 soldiers and civilians around the world, mainly in Africa.

Under his proposal, the current Department of Peacekeeping Operations would continue to plan, direct and manage field operations.

But a new department called the Department of Field Support would provide services on personnel, finance, procurement, logistics, communication and information technology.

Some diplomats questioned whether this would entail an increase in staff and expenses, which Ban promised not to do. Developing nations also were skeptical that two officials from rich nations would have control over the large peacekeeping departments.

Furthermore, the new peacekeeping department would report to two U.N. officials.

It would get direction from the current peacekeeping department, now headed by Frenchman Jean-Marie Guehenno. But general administrative and management issues would be handled by the new deputy secretary-general, Asha-Rose Migiro, the former foreign minister of Tanzania, Ban said.