U.N. System Development Assistance: Issues for Congress [July 28, 2011]   [open pdf - 540KB]

"Members of Congress continue to demonstrate an ongoing interest in the efficiency and effectiveness of United Nations (U.N.) development activities, both in the context of U.N. reform and broader U.S. development and foreign assistance efforts. Thirty-two U.N. agencies, funds, programs, and offices play a role in development. These entities, collectively referred to as the U.N. development system (UNDS), are independent intergovernmental organizations with distinct mandates, rules, membership, and financial resources. [...] Many experts and policymakers recognize the unique role that the United Nations plays in development. In their view, the United Nations' universal membership provides it with a neutrality, legitimacy, and convening power not enjoyed by countries and other development organizations. At the same time, however, the United Nations has been criticized for lacking effectiveness and cohesion in its development activities, particularly at the country level. [...] The United States is the largest contributor to the U.N. system as a whole and is often one of the top financial contributors to UNDS entities. It holds leadership roles in U.N. governance mechanisms and annually appropriates funding to UNDS organizations. Given the extent of U.S. participation in and funding of the UNDS, the 112th Congress may raise questions regarding: (1) The overall effectiveness of the UNDS, particularly at the country level [...;] (2) The level and extent of U.S. contributions to the UNDS [...and] (3) The benefits and drawbacks of multilateral versus bilateral assistance."

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CRS Report for Congress, R41949
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