U.N. plans to streamline Secretariat U.S., other powers would lose top posts

September 17, 1991|By New York Times News Service

UNITED NATIONS -- As the U.N. General Assembly prepares to open its 46th annual session today, negotiators from 22 nations have agreed on a plan that would deprive the United States and other powers of the senior posts they have automatically claimed in the world organization.

The plan, worked out by the group of 22 industrial and developing countries, including the United States and the other permanent Security Council members, is intended to streamline the unwieldy U.N. Secretariat, increase the power of the new secretary general -- who is to be chosen next month -- and make the organization more responsive to humanitarian disasters.

Diplomats said the plan reflected the end of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States.

This has paved the way for a less politicized organization that could respond to global problems and be run by impartial civil servants loyal to the secretary general rather than the governments that posted them here.

Diplomats hope that the plan could cut costs of the United Nations, although the purpose of the changes is primarily to improve the functioning of the Secretariat.

The Assembly is meeting at a time when there is no overarching superpower crisis, but when a number of regional issues like those in Yugoslavia and the Middle East need to be addressed.

The draft plan condemns the organization's present unwieldy hierarchy, under which 30 to 40 top officials report directly to the secretary general. It says this structure grew up over the years in a series of "ad hoc responses to specific problems" and as a result of the "distorting effect" of the Cold War. Instead, it proposed four new major departments, covering political and security affairs, humanitarian and human rights issues, development and environmental questions, and management and finance.

The United States, France and China have not yet formally accepted all the limits the plan would place on their control over top posts. But diplomats said they were likely to do so, because many developing countries have conditioned their agreement to the changes in the administrative structure to the big powers' making these sacrifices.

The five permanent members of the Security Council -- the United States, the Soviet Union, China, Britain and France -- are considering replacements for Javier Perez de Cuellar, who will step down as secretary general this year.

The Assembly is expected to vote unanimously this morning to admit seven new members: the three Baltic states, North Korea, South Korea, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands. Assembly members then vote by secret ballot to elect a president for the session.

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