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U.N. reforms taking hold Cleaning up organization must happen for Americans to take it seriously

U.N. Ambassador John Bolton optimistically sees the suspension of eight top procurement officers as a sign that the world organization is taking its management problems seriously. We hope he's right. Structural and management reforms are priorities for a United Nations facing challenges it can't meet without change.

A September summit sought to restate, reorganize and reenergize the United Nations' mission and principles. While many of the most important steps are still untaken and power groups within the United Nations still feud -- in the past week, for example, over whether peacekeeper abuse issues should be handled by the General Assembly or the Security Council -- encouraging change is beginning in many areas.

The United Nations now is assembling a new Peacebuilding Commission, designed to do the follow-up work to prevent the all-too-typical backsliding into violence by war-torn regions where peacekeeping ended and peace agreements were broken. It is establishing a new Ethics Office and Management Performance Board, took several steps to strengthen its internal audits, oversight and investigations, and has added outside evaluations.

Work is slower on reforming the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, and the shape of a new Human Rights Council is still under negotiation. So, too, is agreement on a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. And the marquee element for change at the United Nations, a proposed shuffling of the all-powerful permanent membership seats on the 15-member Security Council, remains a delicate and slowly developing discussion among superpowers.

But the United Nations now has improved financial transparency and accountability standards, anti-fraud measures, better whistle-blower protection and sexual harassment policies, and tougher conduct and enforcement rules for its peacekeeping forces. Continuing reform is vital to any U.N. hopes of meeting its anti-poverty and anti-hunger Millennium Goals, let alone its mandate to act as a force for global cooperation.

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