Troubleshooter with U.N. in sights
By Simon Hooper for CNN
|U.N. MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS|
1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.
2. Achieve universal primary education
3. Promote gender equality and empower women
4. Reduce child mortality
5. Improve maternal health
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
7. Ensure environmental sustainability
8. Develop a global partnership for development
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(CNN) -- As management jobs go, the task of overhauling the United Nations must rank as one of the biggest on the planet.
Combine that with the job of running the global organization's development program and you have a workload that would terrify even the most devoted CEO.
But for the past two months, Mark Malloch Brown has tirelessly fulfilled both roles.
In January, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan invited the 51-year-old Briton to become his chief of staff, charging him with the job of reforming the management culture of a 60-year-old organization.
Malloch Brown, midway through a second term as head of the United Nations Development Program, was overseeing the UNDP's post-Tsunami relief effort at the time and might have argued that one clean-up operation was enough.
Before he had settled into the new role, Malloch Brown was called on to deal with allegations of corruption involving the U.N.'s Iraqi oil-for-food program, and a sexual abuse scandal involving U.N. peacekeepers in the Congo.
But Malloch Brown, who will stay on as head of the UNDP until a successor is appointed, insists the U.N.'s humanitarian concerns take priority.
"We have some critical issues on our plate at the moment," Malloch Brown told CNN.
"We have Darfur and Sudan, we have the post-election scenario in Iraq. We have the continued recovery operation after the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean countries. You can't just drop it all to focus on oil-for-food.
"The real challenge in a managerial sense is to stay focused, to keep making clear decisions leading to results, to book those results and move on to the next challenge."
Malloch Brown, a former vice-president at the World Bank, is widely credited with having overhauled the UNDP since his appointment in 1999, resulting in a more focused and effective administration that has been rewarded by a 40 percent increase in resources.
He hopes to draw on those achievements to build a wider U.N. management culture that is more transparent and less tolerant of lapses in professional and personal behavior.
"My mission is to bring to the U.N. this integration of politics, policy and communication which, in major public sector or commercial organizations in today's world, is nowadays taken for granted," he said.
"What I learnt [from the UNDP] was how you build an accountable, transparent, results-oriented, international organization that isn't a captive of inter-governmental processes or other 'small-c' conservative forces that get between it and action."
Malloch Brown says the UNDP's biggest achievement during his tenure was the international adoption of its Millennium Project, which aims to halve poverty by 2015.
"The Millennium Development Goals have really given the whole of the development community a single, common, simple agenda.
"They're also now increasingly the common agenda of politics in developing countries as people start to benchmark their governments by what they're doing to reduce poverty and to hold them to democratic account for their progress towards the goals. I think we've created something far bigger than ourselves."
While Malloch Brown advocates democratization and debt relief as necessary measures in tackling poverty, he also argues that a vigorous private sector, combined with proper corporate responsibility, is necessary to economic health.
"The jobs, the growth, and many of the services from water to sanitation to energy, which the world needs to meet Millennium Development Goals will come from businesses being businesses," he said.
"Our challenge in those kinds of areas is to find financing models which allow the businesses to sell these services at affordable rates to the poor.
"Well-established businesses must meet the expectations of their stakeholders, be it customers, shareholders or employees or local government officials. Everybody expects businesses to do good for the world as well as for themselves."
Having spent the last six years tackling humanitarian crises across the world, Malloch Brown now has the job reforming an organization which critics would claim exists in a state of perpetual crisis. But that, at least, he says, would create an environment in which change is possible.
"Crisis creates the conditions of red heat. It softens metals, they become more malleable and you can bend them," he said.
"Crisis does the same thing to organizations. Positions which were fixed suddenly soften. So taking over these functions during crisis has its own advantages. You can drive through change that you might otherwise have never been able to do."