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[Newsmaker] U.N. mulls cost-cutting measures

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. (AP-Yonhap News)
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. (AP-Yonhap News)
The United Nations will undergo large-scale restructuring amid international pressure to cut its spending, according to U.N. sources. The unprecedented move is widely interpreted as a sign of problems with its reforms.

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, citing unnamed sources, reported Monday that the organization will eliminate at least 260 jobs. The initial job cut plans only target some 6,600 employees working at the U.N. headquarters in New York.

The plan is expected to include the suspension of hiring replacements for retirees and layoffs of contract workers from countries that pay relatively small contributions to the organization.

The overhaul may have been prompted by U.S.-led pressure on the U.N. to cut its costs by at least $100 million, the source said. The U.S. has criticized the U.N. for overspending on its workforce in terms of budgets and salaries.

Joseph M. Torsella, U.S. representative for management and reform to the U.N., had asked in a past statement: “Why is it that both the number and compensation of U.N. personnel have grown so dramatically?” He pointed out that the average total cost of employing one U.N. staff member is $238,000 every two years.

The U.N. source pointed out the organization’s chronic lack of reform as the possible reason behind the failure to cut spending.

“U.N. Secretary-General Ban (Ki-moon) is not the kind of man who forces unreasonable plans, but he was nevertheless met with opposition. This demonstrates the antireform trend within the organization,” the source said.

The U.N. has long been reluctant to change. In 2011, for instance, Republicans even proposed to Susan Rice, then U.S. ambassador to the U.N., that the U.S. withhold or reduce funds to the international body unless it goes through a series of necessary reforms.

Rice agreed on the need for reform, but said the credibility of the U.S. would be undermined if they failed to “pay dues” to the U.N.

The U.S. is the U.N.’s biggest contributor, accounting for about 22 percent of the 193-member organization’s $5.4 billion budget for 2012-2013.

By Yoon Min-sik (
Korea Herald daum