Carlos Magariños was the director general of UNIDO for two consecutive periods. He was chosen for this position in open, independent elections held among over 170 member states. During the 8 years he headed UNIDO, he managed a USD1.3 billion portfolio. The successful implementation of reforms under his leadership led to 150% growth in voluntary contributions
The UN system
The United Nations is led by a secretary general and is headquartered in New York. It’s most important organ is the General Assembly, whose meetings begin every September, attended by many heads of state and government.
The secretary general is appointed by the United Nations Security Council (made up of 15 member countries) and ratified by the General Assembly. He/she is responsible for appointing the heads of programs under his/her area, such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the United Nations Conference for Commerce and Development (UNCCD).
The United Nations System also includes a number of independent agencies; in some cases, such as that of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), they date back further than the United Nations. This group of organizations includes the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). All of these organizations have their own members and budgets separate from those of the Office of the Secretariat.
The heads of these organizations are chosen in independent international elections open to all member states. The Secretary General plays no role in these elections.
UNIDO’s annual budget is approximately 160 million dollars. The budget is allocated equally between operations (infrastructure, i.e. offices and personnel) and technical cooperation (grants for development assistance).
It is headquartered in Vienna, where approximately 650 functionaries work. UNIDO operates in a territory served by 45 field offices (in developing countries), 20 investment promotion offices (in developed countries that export capital), and around five associated scientific centers (there are a total of about 70 offices outside its headquarters), which employ some 250 additional functionaries assisted by a slightly lower number of local employees.
Every year, UNIDO hires around 3,000 consultants to implement its technical assistance programs.
Critical situation of the United Nations
Almost from the beginning, this complex, costly United Nations system has been subject to intense scrutiny and pressure for reform, in order to increase its efficiency and effectiveness. The fall of the Berlin Wall in the 1990s exacerbated the pressing need to redefine the role of the United Nations within this new historic context.
In 1996 and 1997, UNIDO was facing a critical financial situation and its very existence was in danger. In fact, several independent reports (such as the one issued by the Commission on Global Governance) evaluated or recommended closing it or merging it with another agency within the system.
During those years, the United States, Australia and Canada withdrew from UNIDO, and Denmark, Germany and Great Britain considered the possibility of doing so.
One last chance…
It was in this context that Carlos Magariños assumed the position of Director General (in December 1997), upon winning a complicated election involving several candidates, including the Foreign Minister of Poland (in office at that time) and the man who would later be named Prime Minister of Haiti (2005). During the eight years in which he led the organization (the maximum term allowed by its Constitution), Carlos Magariños managed a portfolio of more than 1.3 billion dollars.
The implementation of his first measure involved a profound reform program in three phases:
- Financial and administrative reform
- Programmatic reform
- Substantive reform
The purpose was to rebuild the organization’s credibility and the Member States’ confidence in its viability.
The UNIDO member countries acknowledged the significance of the reforms and the speed with which they were implemented. As a result, the organization’s management was rewarded with new voluntary contributions that exceeded regular member fees, which the countries began paying regularly.
The successful implementation of the reforms was also acknowledged by external auditors (the German Federal Court of Audit during the first four-year term and the Auditor General of South Africa during the second term). Both auditors affirmed that UNIDO was financially sound and that it had recovered its prestige and efficiency.
Voluntary contributions grew by 150% in five years (this growth could be compared to what is known as “market capitalization” in the financial world), and the provision of technical cooperation programs (that is, the sale of the organization’s “products”) increased by more than 50% during the same period.
A recent independent evaluation made by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development ranked UNIDO in 6th place out of a group of 23 multilateral organizations (including the World Bank, as well as regional banks such as the IDB and other organizations such as the UNDP). In the category of Standard Setting Agencies, which includes the FAO, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNESCO, UNIDO placed 1st with 86 points, compared to a category average score of 62 points.
When his constitutional term at the head of the agency came to an end, Carlos Magariños accepted a post as a Senior Associate Member at Saint Antony’s College at the University of Oxford in England.
Debate in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom