UNITED NATIONS — After a year of scandal and political attacks that marginalized and demoralized the United Nations, Secretary-General Kofi Annan named a new chief of staff Monday in a bid to invigorate the organization.
Mark Malloch Brown, head of the U.N. Development Program and the world body's No. 3 official, is known as a troubleshooter and activist who Annan hopes can drive change at the United Nations.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday January 06, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 42 words Type of Material: Correction
U.N. chief's term -- An article in Tuesday's Section A about the appointment of Mark Malloch Brown as the United Nations chief of staff said U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was in his second four-year term. His term of office is five years.
He is also seen as someone who may help mend frayed relations with Washington.
"The next nine months offers a real opportunity to push through a new round of reforms aimed at revitalizing the United Nations system," Annan said. September will mark the U.N.'s 60th anniversary, and Annan hopes leaders gathering then will endorse an overhaul of the world body.
Malloch Brown's reform of the UNDP, an agency that helps developing countries modernize, along with his experience as World Bank spokesman and a journalist "makes him my ideal right-hand man at a time like this," Annan said.
Last year, the world body came under repeated attack, prompting Annan to brand 2004 "annus horribilis."
The U.N. was criticized for allowing former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to exploit the oil-for-food humanitarian program and amass billions of dollars; conservative members of the U.S. Congress called for Annan's resignation.
Reports that U.N. peacekeepers and officials had sexually exploited young Congolese women further sullied the organization's reputation. At the New York headquarters, staff members criticized top officials for putting employees in danger in Iraq and for dismissing internal allegations of sexual harassment and mismanagement. Morale plummeted.
Last year, Annan appointed a panel of 16 prominent figures from around the world to present recommendations for an overhaul. They unveiled their ideas in early December, but the scandals have detracted attention from the proposed reforms.
Acknowledging that morale had been low and that officials' response to a variety of allegations had been sluggish, Malloch Brown said 2005 would be "a pivotal time" for the United Nations.
"A modern, global public organization of this kind has to understand that there are many news cycles a day, and that to get your message out requires both a vigorous and rapid response," he said.
As the U.N. has sprung into action to coordinate relief to millions of people affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami, calls for Annan's resignation have eased. Congressional critics say they will remain quiet until after the Jan. 30 Iraqi elections and a preliminary report this month on the U.N.'s management of the oil-for-food program. Then it will be up to Annan, who is halfway through his second four-year term, to show whether he can lead the U.N.'s reform or be swept out as part of it.
Malloch Brown said part of his goal will be to "more effectively promote the U.N.'s case and, frankly, strengthen relations with Washington."
He will take up his new post Jan. 19, replacing Iqbal Riza, 70, who recently announced his retirement. But Malloch Brown will hold on to his job as UNDP chief until September, to oversee tsunami relief efforts and a major report on Millennium Development Goals, efforts to halve global poverty by 2015.
Annan said the appointment of Malloch Brown was "the first of a series of changes" in his Cabinet. Undersecretary-General for Management Catherine Bertini and Controller Jean-Pierre Halbwachs both resigned in December and must be replaced.
Annan's longtime chief of political affairs, Kieran Prendergast, may also move on to new responsibilities, perhaps as the special envoy to the Middle East, U.N. officials said.
In an interview, Malloch Brown said that Annan had approached him "weeks ago" and that the plan was for him to take the job in March. But the need to have a chief of staff in place to help coordinate tsunami relief prompted them to move up the announcement.
Malloch Brown, 51, a Briton, began his U.N. career more than 25 years ago as an intern to the secretary-general's Cabinet. He later became a political correspondent for Economist magazine and founded its monthly development report.
After taking over at the UNDP in 1999, Malloch Brown was credited with implementing reforms but criticized for running the agency like an independent fiefdom, often taking positions at odds with Annan's Cabinet.
In October, when Annan refused to send reluctant staff members to Iraq more than a year after a deadly attack on the U.N.'s Baghdad headquarters, Malloch Brown said the world body should return to Iraq in force to do what it did best.
"The new culture of caution is damaging the world body's essential mission of providing aid and bearing witness," he said.
On Monday, Malloch Brown said that in the last few months, the U.N. had been more involved in Iraq than many realized, and "to everyone's great surprise, the elections are on track."
His positions on Iraq and other issues may improve U.N. ties with the White House and push Annan into a more proactive stance on a range of matters.
"I did warn the secretary-general that I did not push paper very well," Malloch Brown said. "Give me two options to any problem -- a cautious or an activist one -- and it's sure I'll choose the activist one."