U.N. Selects Management Chief

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The United Nations (search) chose a State Department finance expert as its new management chief Tuesday and announced a series of reforms in response to the Oil-for-Food and sexual exploitation scandals and staff concerns about the organization's leadership.

The package announced Tuesday includes protection for whistleblowers, an anti-fraud and corruption policy, a unified standard of conduct for peacekeepers to prevent sexual abuse and expanded financial disclosure requirements for senior officials.

Christopher Bancroft Burnham (search), currently acting undersecretary of state for management, was hired as the world body's management chief and charged with strengthening "accountability, ethical conduct and management performance," said Undersecretary-General Louise Frechette.

He replaces Catherine Bertini (search), an American who formerly headed the U.N. World Food Program.

The United Nations has come under intense criticism from some members of Congress, especially over its mismanagement of the U.N. Oil-for-Food program in Iraq, and of peacekeeping operations where U.N. soldiers were able to engage in widespread sexual abuse.

Frechette said she hoped the selection of Burnham and his qualifications would reassure Washington "that we're very serious about getting the most competent people to manage our organization."

Burnham will take over as U.N. undersecretary-general for management on June 1. His State Department responsibilities have included chief financial officer and head of administration and human resources.

Frechette said U.N. management reform started in 1997 after Kofi Annan became secretary-general, but that events in the past year "convinced us of the need to upgrade them very significantly."

She also noted that in recent years the U.N. Secretariat has taken on additional responsibilities around the world, citing as an example its 18 peacekeeping missions.

"We now have more people in the field than we have in headquarters. We are asked to take on, on short notice, many complex mandates, and our system has just not kept up with this new reality," she said.

Frechette said the United Nations intends to implement the bulk of the reform package by the summer.

She said a committee is being established to help address poor oversight and accountability, a shortcoming identified by an independent investigation of the Oil-for-Food program led by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker.

Annan has already recommended that the General Assembly authorize an external review of the Office of Internal Oversight Services, the U.N.'s internal watchdog, to strengthen its independence and authority, she said.

At the September summit focusing on U.N. reform, Frechette said Annan wants world leaders to change budget, finance and staffing rules to ensure that the United Nations has "a system that's more agile and more flexible."