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U.S. Employment at UN Agencies Falling Behind and Immediate Actions Are Needed, GAO Report Shows

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) today released a follow-up report entitled, "U.S. Employment in the United Nations: State Department Needs to Enhance Reporting Requirements and Evaluate Its Efforts to Increase U.S. Representation."

The report, requested by U.S. Senators Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI) and George V. Voinovich (R-OH), reviewed U.S. representation at five United Nations organizations -- the Secretariat, World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, International Atomic Energy Agency, and UN High Commissioner for Refugees -- and the Department of State's efforts to increase U.S. employment at these agencies. GAO found that the U.S. is underrepresented at all five UN organizations and U.S. representation at policymaking and senior level positions has declined.

"I am greatly concerned about the United States' underrepresentation in UN agencies, which is why I asked GAO to conduct a follow-up review. U.S. citizens working in UN organizations provide valuable expertise while strengthening our global leadership and expanding our country's influence," said Senator Akaka. "As I have stated in the past, providing more entry level professional opportunities in multilateral institutions is key to building a more secure future. I urge the State Department to take up GAO's recommendations."

"The United States is the largest financial contributor to the United Nations organizations reviewed in this GAO report, and I am troubled to learn that the United States' representation in policy-making decisions and in senior-level positions at the United Nations has declined. The report also finds multiple challenges for those seeking employment with the U.N., including spouses who have trouble finding jobs and limited opportunities for promotions and professional development for U.N. employees," Sen. Voinovich said. "This report provides several key points of action for the State Department, and I hope Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and our U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice will consider these recommendations to ensure the United States is fairly represented at U.N. agencies."

According to the report, the five UN organizations reviewed have challenges that affect the recruitment, hiring, and retention of U.S. citizens, which include American's lack of proficiency in UN languages, difficulty for spouses to obtain employment, lengthy hiring processes, and limited opportunities for promotion and professional growth. Since 2006, the State Department has made progress in implementing recommendations found in GAO's previous report, but has not evaluated the effectiveness of its efforts.

GAO made the following recommendations to the Secretary of State:

* Provide information on U.S. representation in all professional positions in State's annual report to Congress on U.S. representation in UN organizations.
* Develop a way to evaluate the effectiveness of State's efforts to increase U.S. representation.
* Consider implementing a pilot program to fund Junior Professional Officers (JPOs) at UN organizations where the U.S. does not have JPOs.

The State Department agreed with these recommendations.

Senators Akaka and Voinovich lead the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia, in the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. This subcommittee has responsibility for oversight of national security staffing and government management.

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