FACT SHEET: Obama Administration Accomplishments: Reforming the United Nations

New York, NY
January 19, 2012


The Obama Administration has dramatically changed America’s course at the United Nations to advance our interests and values and help forge a more secure and prosperous world. Critical in this endeavor has been our ongoing work to build a modern, more efficient, more effective United Nations. Key achievements in this effort include:

Economy: A Leaner UN

As the largest financial contributor to the UN, the U.S. is committed to ensuring that funds are spent wisely and not wasted. The Obama Administration has saved U.S. taxpayer money by:

· Leading efforts to achieve a 5% cut in the size of the 2012-13 UN regular budget, resulting in a savings to American taxpayers of as much as $100 million, and representing the first time in 14 years – and only the second time in the last 50 years – that the General Assembly has approved a regular budget level below the previous biennium’s final appropriation.

· Establishing an unprecedented broad coalition of countries committed to fiscal restraint, which was successful in ensuring greater economies and savings in UN peacekeeping. Because this group collectively contributes 92.4% of the UN peacekeeping budgets, it is informally known as the G-92.4.

· Defeating a proposed 57% annual increase in the reimbursement rate for troops in peacekeeping missions that would have cost the U.S. alone $190 million per year.

· Promoting a more “paperless” UN that has resulted, for example, in a 65% reduction of pages printed in New York by the Department of General Management and Conference Management by over the past two years, saving on an annual basis a pile of paper 49 times the height of the Secretariat building.

· Introducing the concept of administrative pay freezes in the UN system by tasking the International Civil Service Commission with finding ways to reflect the freezes on pay for U.S. federal employees, including the statutory pay freeze in effect through next year, within the UN salary system for professional staff system-wide.

· Containing the growth of the UN peacekeeping budget, which grew from $1.8 billion to $7.1 billion from 2001 to 2009, by closing peacekeeping missions, as appropriate, and showing increased discipline in establishing new missions.

 Accountability: A Cleaner UN

The Obama Administration has made considerable progress in boosting transparency and advancing accountability issues at the UN, including:

· Supporting the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) to be a strong and independent watchdog so that U.S. taxpayers’ money is spent wisely and UN programs are managed effectively, and successfully leading efforts to appoint a well-respected and qualified candidate—Carman Lapointe—to lead OIOS. Overall OIOS vacancies have decreased from 27% to 17% under her leadership.

· Supporting the head of the Ethics Office, Ms. Joan Dubinsky, a highly experienced American to strengthen the culture of ethical behavior in the UN by increasing training and ensuring compliance of financial disclosure to prevent conflict of interest.

· Securing access to UNDP and UNICEF’s internal audit reports for the Inspector General of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and other intergovernmental donors, who previously did not have the same access as Member States to internal audit reports.

· Securing a commitment from the heads of OIOS and all of the UN funds and programs in New York to press their governing bodies for public disclosure online of all internal audit reports startingin 2012.

· Instituting public coverage of all UN Committee formal meetings through webcasting.

Integrity: A Respected UN

The Obama Administration is working to ensure that the UN lives up to its founding principles and values by:

· Working from within the Human Rights Council to enhance protection for and improve the treatment of people around the world. Though the Council remains flawed, U.S. engagement at the HRC has resulted in major progress. This includes:

o Mandates to closely monitor and address the human rights situations in Iran, Libya, Syria, North Korea, Burma, Sudan, Ivory Coast, and Cambodia.

o Reinvigorated use of the special session mechanism to highlight atrocities and abuses on the ground in Syria and Libya and establish Commissions of Inquiries for both to report on human rights violations.

o The first UN resolution solely focused on LGBT persons that paves the way for the first UN report on the challenges faced by LGBT people and sustained Council attention.

o A new way forward to counter the deeply problematic concept of defamation of religion that instead promotes tolerance for all religious beliefs, promotes education and dialogue, does not support bans on free speech, and is consistent with U.S. laws and universal values.

o The creation of the UN Working Group on laws that discriminate against women.

· Increasing the vote margins on the General Assembly resolutions condemning human rights abuses in Iran, North Korea, and Burma.

· Working tirelessly to ensure that, for the first time ever this year, the General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to condemn the appalling human rights situation in Syria.

· Working consistently and forcefully to oppose unbalanced and biased actions against Israel in the Security Council, the UN General Assembly, and across the UN system, while at the same time working to secure Israel’s full integration in the UN system, including pressing at all UN institutions for Israel to be admitted to appropriate regional consultation groups.

· Fighting to ensure that all worthy non-governmental organizations have access to the UN by gaining accreditation through the UN’s NGO Committee, including leading historic efforts to accredit the first Syrian-based NGO.

· Leading efforts to prevent human rights abusers, such as Iran and Syria from winning election to the Human Rights Council.

· Actively supported historic efforts to suspend Libya from the Human Rights Council, a first time the General Assembly has censured an abusive state serving on its human rights body based on that state’s human rights record.

· Led efforts to impede Iran’s bid to serve on the new UN Women Executive Board.

· Negotiating a historic new provision to prevent reimbursement for UN peacekeeping troops who have been repatriated for disciplinary reasons, including violation of the UN zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.

Excellence: An Effective UN

The Administration has constantly pushed for ways to ensure that the UN delivers real results and performs to the highest standards by:

· Spearheading establishment of a new UN agency called UN Women, combining four separate UN offices into one stronger, streamlined and more efficient entity working to support and empower women worldwide.

· Promoting the adoption of the Global Field Support Strategy, a sweeping reform of UN administrative and logistics support for UN field operations, leading thus far to over $62.2 million in savings and improvements in the quality, consistency, and efficiency of peacekeeping.

· Supporting reforms that harmonized conditions of service for staff serving in the most difficult locations in the world, to help the UN attract and retain the most qualified staff for hardship posts.


PRN: 2012/009