Danish former Under-Secretary-General issues rebuke at 'controlling' UN member states

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Danish former Under-Secretary-General issues rebuke at 'controlling' UN member states
Christian Friis Bach. File photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Scanpix Denmark

Christian Friis Bach, who served as Under-Secretary-General with the UN from 2014-17, has criticised the intergovernmental organisation, saying individual countries have too much power.


The high influence wielded by countries within the UN prevents necessary aid from being provided during conflicts, Bach said in an interview with Politiken on Friday. The UN has said it recognises the points raised by the former Under-Secretary-General.

The UN is incapable of acting or leading effectively with its current organisation said Bach, who was also executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe until May 2017.

"Once member states and bureaucracy are involved, there is little chance left to lead, and issue needs to be taken with that if an effective UN system is seriously wanted," Bach, now secretary general of the Danish Refugee Council, said.

Bach cited conflicts in Syria and Ukraine as examples in which subordinate organisations within the UN were unable to offer sufficient help due to the micro-management of the organisation's 193 member states.

"We are a paralysed UN. We have a security council that cannot act," he said.

"It is shameful to see how the Security Council in recent years has failed in relation to conflicts in Ukraine and Syria," Bach told Ritzau.

A move away from micro-management is necessary to improve the situation, he said.

"We must move away from micro-management in which UN member nations controls individual posts and budgets in small details.

"And the UN must have a broader framework," he added.

The former deputy leader said that his words were not intended as a criticism of the UN but rather the actions of member countries.

"We do not have an effective UN, because the leadership quite simply does not get the opportunity to adapt and use the organisation to solve the great problems faced by the world," he said.

Farhan Haq, spokesperson for UN Secretary General António Guterres, told Politiken that he understood the points being made by Bach.

"This is a valid criticism. It is clear to most people that we need to adapt. But we have already begun this process, and we will adapt. Our HR reform is one example of this. But in the end, the UN can only be as effective as member states allow it to be," he said.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article erroneously gave Christian Friis Bach's current role as secretary general  with the Danish Red Cross, rather than the Danish Refugee Council. The error has now been corrected.

READ ALSO: Denmark extends block on UN quota refugees

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