Fifty-seventh General Assembly
Plenary 30 October 2002
38th and 39th Meetings (AM & PM)
PROPOSED REFORMS OF UN SYSTEM WILL NOT DIMINISH FOCUS ON DEVELOPMENT,
SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS ASSEMBLY
32 Speakers Address Assembly in First Day of Debate
Secretary-General Kofi Annan assured Member States in today's General Assembly debate on strengthening the United Nations system that development issues would not be sacrificed to other priorities, such as peacekeeping and human rights.
Presenting his report on proposed United Nations reforms to the Assembly, the Secretary-General noted that “some of you have suggested that the attention given to these two areas implies a downgrading of the priority given to development. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have looked at human rights and public information in response to your specific requests.”
To make the United Nations more useful, efficient and effective for Member States and the peoples of the world, the Organization must be prepared to change with the times, constantly adjusting to new conditions and new needs, he said. His report constituted a package of very pragmatic improvements, building on what had been achieved in the past five years. It was driven by the Organization’s overriding mission to meet the development goals of the world’s people.
Among other things, he said, the report proposed measures regarding the planning and servicing of meetings, reinforcing coordination among United Nations entities and the Organization’s budget and planning system, as well as proposals aimed at making life more rewarding for United Nations staff, improving their quality and enhancing their performance.
The report, said the Secretary-General, provided broad direction for the future, setting goals and providing an indication of how to reach those goals. The whole package hung together as a coherent whole, and he urged the Assembly to treat it as such. “What I need to know now is whether you agree with this broad direction.”
Welcoming the report as a stepping-stone towards further improvements in the work of the Organization, Assembly President Jan Kavan (Czech Republic) noted with approval that the Secretary-General had dispelled any anxiety that the reforms could lead to the curtailment of the development agenda of the United Nations.
General Assembly Plenary - 1a - Press Release GA/10090
38th and 39th Meetings (AM & PM)
United Nations reform was not and could not be perceived as unilateral action, he emphasized. It was a process in which joint efforts by Member States and the Secretariat were absolutely crucial for getting the second phase of reforms started and agreed actions implemented. The process leading to the adoption of a resolution would be open and transparent, involving all interested delegations, he said.
Speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, the representative of South Africa agreed that a holistic and comprehensive approach to the discussion on reform should be adopted in order to avoid giving the impression that reform was limited to issues of development. All developing States, he pointed out, would benefit from joint programming at the country level.
In contrast to the position adopted by South Africa, Venezuela (speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China) strongly emphasized the need to maintain a focus on development issues. He also welcomed the Assembly President's announcement that clarification would be provided on a number of issues pertaining to the reform process which had been raised by delegates in pre-debate consultations.
The representative of Denmark, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, agreed with the Secretary-General that the Organization’s presence in developing countries had to be strengthened by improving its effectiveness. Also, the managerial capabilities of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs needed to be strengthened, given the burdens it carried.
Continuing to examine the impact of the reform process on developing countries, the representatives of Ghana and China warned against linking human rights issues with development matters. There was a risk of shifting attention away from the core issue of development financing when human rights issues became linked with the country programmes of the World Bank.
Speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Group, Fiji’s representative said the avalanche of documentation, the number of meetings, the long agendas of many committees and the sprawling budget process reduced the capacity of delegations, such as those of the small-island developing States, to affect decisions in the Assembly. Because of that, the democratic quality of the Assembly had been diminished.
Also speaking today, the first day of the debate, were the representatives of New Zealand, Egypt, Iran, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, United States, Singapore, Cuba, Norway, Pakistan, Viet Nam, Thailand, Colombia, Kuwait, Bhutan, Chile, Guatemala, Nigeria, Costa Rica, Russian Federation, Japan, Philippines and Bangladesh.
The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 31 October, to continue its consideration of the strengthening of the United Nations system.
The General Assembly met this morning to consider the report of the Secretary-General on Strengthening of the United Nations: an Agenda for Further Change (document A/57/387 and Corr.1), which calls for a number of decisive actions to make the Organization a more effective, efficient instrument in the era of globalization.
The 34-page report lists 36 actions intended to streamline and enhance the mode of operation of the United Nations. While acknowledging that some meaningful changes had been made since 1997, the report urges further change so that the United Nations would be better focused on attaining the various priorities fixed by Member States.
Among critical concerns, the report identifies as priorities globalization and its impact on development; the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals; and conflict prevention and combating terrorism. Of no less importance is the building of human rights institutions in individual countries, especially those emerging from conflict.
Though the report notes clear improvements in the Organization’s capacity to deploy and manage peacekeeping and peace-building operations, as revealed in such countries as Timor-Leste and Sierra Leone, it underscores the need for peacekeeping budgets to be presented in a new format, reflecting a more strategic approach to the process of resource allocation.
Internally, the report sees the need for greater and better coordination throughout the United Nations system. In the field, it recommends an appropriate division of labour among organizations to handle major national projects based on expertise and past experiences, under the supervision of a competent resident coordinator system.
Beyond that, it points out that United Nations relationships with civil society and the private sector must be better organized. In the case of civil society, the report proposes a high-level panel to make recommendations in that regard, while, in relation to collaborative partnerships with companies and foundations, it advocates that such partnerships be brought together under a common umbrella.
The report links the future success of the Organization to a world-class staff, equal to the challenges of the new global era. To ensure the realization of that objective, it recommends that staff mobility be improved, career prospects for General Service staff be enhanced, and that contracts and benefits for staff in field locations be significantly upgraded to match those offered by United Nations funds and programmes.
Included among the goals identified in the report is the restructuring of the Department of Public Information (DPI), currently burdened with too many mandates and missions, so that United Nations messages wound around priority themes could reach their target audiences. The report also calls for an outreach division to handle responsibilities pertaining to delegations, civil society and the general public.
Statement by Secretary-General
KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that one of his chief aims had been to make the United Nations more useful, to its Member States and to the peoples of the world, by making it more efficient and effective. “In order to do this, we must be prepared to change with the times, constantly adjusting to new conditions and new needs.” The current report, he said, set out a package of very pragmatic improvements, building on what had been achieved in the past five years.
In response to specific requests made by the Assembly, the report contained a number of proposals for improving performance in the areas of human rights and public information. Because some Member States harboured fears that the development agenda was being downgraded in the reform process, he said, “Nothing could be further from the truth”. What the report reflected were the specific requests received from Member States.
He said that the report was driven by the Organization’s overriding mission to meet the development goals of the world’s people. In addition, the report identified major improvements in the planning and servicing of meetings, including a more integrated approach and the greater use of information technology. He had also put forward a variety of ideas for improving reports prepared by the Secretariat.
Further, he continued, the report identified additional steps required to reinforce coordination among United Nations entities, particularly in the delivery of United Nations programmes at the country level. The report also proposed some important changes in the Organization’s budget and planning system. At the moment, there were three different processes, covering three different time scales, and there were three different oversight and review mechanisms. That was unnecessarily complex and labour-intensive, making it nearly impossible for the vast majority of Member States to participate meaningfully in deliberations.
He was establishing a high-level panel to take stock of the relationship between the United Nations and civil society, he added. Moreover, the report contained proposals aimed at making life better and more rewarding for United Nations staff, as well as further improving their quality and performance, notably making it easier for them to move -- between locations, between functions and, indeed, between organizations.
The report, he noted, provided broad direction for the future, setting goals and offering an indication of how to reach those goals. The entire package hung together as a coherent whole, and he urged the Assembly to treat it as such. “What I need to know now is whether you agree with this broad direction,” he said. He hoped that once the Assembly debated the report in plenary, Member States would adopt a single resolution, giving him clear guidance on the way forward.
JAN KAVAN (Czech Republic), President of the General Assembly, was gratified that the Secretary-General had dispelled any anxiety that the reforms might lead to the curtailment of the United Nations development agenda. United Nations reform was a continuing process, and the Secretary-General’s report was a stepping-stone towards further improvements in the work of both the Secretariat and the Assembly. That was why many of the Secretary-General’s proposals could bring fresh ideas into the process of revitalizing the work of the Assembly.
The report was an important impulse to which the Member States should react in a constructive way, he said. United Nations reform was not and could not be perceived as unilateral action. It was a process in which joint efforts by the Membership and the Secretariat were absolutely crucial for getting the second phase of reforms started and agreed actions implemented.
He had proposed that the Secretariat prepare a conference room paper providing written answers and explanations to all major issues raised by various groups or individual Member States, as well as to the questions he expected would arise during the plenary session. The paper would be prepared after the debate, so that it could be considered during the first round of informal consultations. That approach would accommodate the concerns of delegations and create an atmosphere of trust for further deliberations.
The process leading to the adoption of a resolution would be open and transparent, he said, involving all interested delegations. After the plenary debate, he would launch open-ended informal consultations as soon as possible, preferably on 1 November. After the first round of informal consultations, he would introduce a draft resolution reflecting the views expressed. Given good political will, dedicated time and energy on the part of concerned delegations, and a bit of luck, he believed there would be a workable, endorsed resolution before Christmas.
DUMISANI S. KUMALO (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Union, said that a strong and effective United Nations could play a pivotal role in carrying out the core Charter mission reaffirmed in the Millennium Declaration. Africa had realized that there were dynamic linkages between development on the continent and the General Assembly’s agenda. Thus, the establishment of the African Union and the adoption of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) acknowledged the need for new institutions equipped to deal with the challenges of the new millennium. Moreover, those items concerning development issues in Africa had been clustered for consideration; that process of streamlining Africa’s agenda would be continued.
Warning that reform was an ongoing process and should not become an end in itself, he recalled that the mandates from recent world conferences formed the basis of the tasks to be carried out by the General Assembly. Furthermore, a clearly delineated follow-up mechanism and revised programme budget should integrate the follow-up processes. A holistic and comprehensive approach to discussion on reform should be adopted to avoid creating the impression that reform was limited to issues of development. Moreover, while the importance of joint programming at the country level was acknowledged and the implementation plan of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) anticipated, it should be recognized that all developing States could benefit from those reforms, not just those emerging from conflict.
Reforms such as the additional post of Assistant Secretary-General were welcome, he added, especially if the intention was to support policy coherence as emphasized at the Monterrey Conference. When filling that post, the principle of equitable geographic representation should be kept in mind. Also of special interest for Africa was the appointment of an Adviser for Special Assignments in Africa. That office should have a particular mandate on NEPAD. Furthermore, reforms aimed at supporting human rights at the country level and streamlining the budgetary and administrative activities of the Organization were supported. Finally, as every delegation would be proud to have its citizens serve as international civil servants, the working conditions of Secretariat employees should be improved, so that they were equally proud to serve the United Nations.
VICENTE VALLENILLA (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, agreed with the need to transform the United Nations, but was particularly concerned about the implications of such changes on economic and social, as well as information and budgetary, issues. In that regard, he proposed a framework based on two considerations: firstly, none of the changes should impact the capacity of developing countries to negotiate; and, secondly, they must not prevent the Secretariat from delivering its full and potential contribution to the development of developing countries.
In the view of those he represented, there had to be a comprehensive and holistic approach to the process, one characterized by transparency and full participation by all Member States. To that end, he called for further clarification on a number of issues. Indeed, the group had submitted a series of pertinent questions to the Secretariat on the occasion of the informal consultations convened by the President of the General Assembly. The group was pleased that a document, as announced by the President, was being prepared to satisfy the need for information expressed by some delegates.
The reform process, he went on, must strengthen the United Nations ability to fulfil its role and functions in the development fields. The needs and priorities of developing countries had to continue to enjoy the attention of the Organization, because the developmental tasks of the United Nations were not to be treated as secondary to peacekeeping, human rights and humanitarian issues.
It was also important that the financial implications of the reform process be carefully assessed, including those that would affect staff rules and regulations. Any proposal with financial implications should be submitted by the Secretary-General for the Assembly’s approval.
ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, offered examples of areas where Member States and the Secretary-General, working together in a spirit of partnership, could deliver tangible results. She attached importance to strengthening the economic and social areas of activity in the United Nations, particularly in relation to Africa. High priority must be given to Africa in the work of the Organization, she emphasized.
On human rights, the Secretary-General’s proposals identified key areas where activities needed to be reviewed and possibly strengthened. There must be consultations with the relevant intergovernmental bodies in the implementation of the proposed changes. She agreed with the Secretary-General that the Organization’s presence in developing countries must be strengthened by improving its effectiveness. Also, the managerial capabilities of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs must be strengthened, given the burdens it carried. Likewise, proposals for further improvement of the United Nations information work were very important.
The budget cycle of the Organization clearly needed modernization, so that it could better serve a modern and efficient United Nations, she said. The first step must be a more transparent and strategic budget document, clearly setting out the Organization’s priorities and consequent resource requirements. Therefore, the measures proposed by the Secretary-General on how best to present the budget were very helpful. Similarly, it was necessary to streamline the “jungle” of reports and meetings. Documents that were on time and more to the point, and better management of the Assembly and conference services, meant greater efficiency.
AMRAIYA NAIDU (Fiji), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum group, said it would be necessary to distinguish between proposals within the Secretary-General's purview and those requiring intergovernmental decision. The focus should remain on the Secretary-General's proposed strategic direction, he said, noting that there would be many opportunities to discuss the details of most of the proposals when they went before the Fifth Committee and other bodies.
He agreed with the Secretary-General that the United Nations should take a more comprehensive look at migration issues and strengthen its ability to combat terrorism, drug trafficking and international crime. However, the United Nations needed to be more flexible in adapting its actions to its aims. At present, the Organization's capacity to respond to new priorities set by Member States was seriously constrained by the rigidity of the programme budget. It was only sensible that less relevant activities would give way to higher priorities over time.
Pointing out that he was speaking on behalf of a group composed mainly of small delegations, he said the "avalanche of documentation", the number of meetings, the long agendas of many committees and the budget process reduced the capacity of small delegations to affect decisions in the General Assembly. They also diminished the Assembly's democratic quality and rendered that organ less effective.
He said that the proposed principles for modifying the budget process warranted careful consideration. The budget process took too long, there was too much "wrangling over inconsequential issues", and little capacity for Member States to provide strategic direction. The budget process put small States at a disadvantage and it was unlikely that the specifics of a remedy could be agreed upon during the present session.
DON MACKAY (New Zealand), also speaking on behalf of Canada and Australia, said that reform of the United Nations was necessary to improve the effectiveness, credibility and visibility of the Organization. The Millennium Declaration, which addressed the entire spectrum of United Nations activities, was a valuable organizing concept focused on urgent and current priorities. The goals articulated therein would help the United Nations better reflect the collective will of Member States. Furthermore, the Secretary-General's intention to propose, in the next budget, the strictest alignment of resources and activities with current priorities was welcomed.
At the heart of the Secretary-General's proposals was the need for a functioning and effective General Assembly, he said. However, its collective voice had been weakened by systemic inefficiency and an overloaded agenda. The General Assembly needed to focus on key issues requiring international action and, while special conferences could play an important role in the work of the United Nations, they should not take over the roles of Charter organs. Moreover, a stronger and better-functioning Secretariat would strengthen the decision-making capability of Member States, not dilute it.
Recognizing that improving the use of meeting time and the organization of work should be a collaborative effort, he suggested the consideration of a mechanism to look at recurring reporting requirements. Moreover, the logic that focusing on outcomes required a realignment of resources against priorities should be supported by budgeting and planning, and adaptable to change. The Organization faced a resource problem; the best use possible should be made of available resources while the process of planning and allocating budgets should be streamlined.
AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Group of African States, said that the report included many positive proposals to improve the efficiency and impact of the United Nations. The process of strengthening the United Nations was a continuing one. He called for distinguishing between proposals that fell within the purview of the Secretary-General, on the one hand, and those that required intergovernmental approval, on the other hand, or led to contradictions with established mandates.
The development agenda of the United Nations, he said, was especially important to the African Group. He stressed the central role to be played by the Organization in the formulation of environmental, economic and social policies at the global level. He called for a more effective response by the United Nations to the sharp decrease in basic resources provided to different organizations, which had hindered the implementation of various programmes. While he attached importance to the implementation of the Millennium Declaration, working towards those objectives should not lead to a lessening of other development goals adopted by the international community at various global conferences. All those objectives and decisions of past conferences should be reflected in the proposed programme budget for 2004 to 2005.
He stressed the importance of strengthening the Secretariat’s work in relation to Africa, and looked forward to receiving a comprehensive report by the Secretary-General on how the capacity of the United Nations would be strengthened to deal effectively with Africa, in the context of NEPAD. Within the new institutional framework to follow up implementation of NEPAD, it was necessary to guarantee the required coordination among different departments of the Secretariat. He also stressed the need for the general membership to search for and consider any innovative approaches before their implementation in the area of human rights.
In that connection, he said it was important for United Nations resident representatives to work within their mandates and not exceed those mandates. The implementation of all measures in the field of human rights must be in line with their established mandates, particularly in the case of special rapporteurs, some of whom had exceeded their mandates. In addition, the proposed restructuring of the DPI should be done in consultation with Member States and through the Committee on Information. The establishment of regional information offices would only be beneficial in areas advanced in information and communication technology.
Regarding the staff of the Organization, he welcomed the proposals on mechanisms and incentives to encourage staff mobility within the Organization. He welcomed the Secretary-General’s intention to conduct a review of the internal justice system to enhance its effectiveness and guarantee the equitable treatment of all staff.
GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO, Deputy Foreign Minister for International and Legal Affairs of Iran, said that reform was obligatory in shaping a dynamic international organization in the age of globalization. The main challenge ahead was to enhance the capacity and strengthen the capability of multilateral machinery for collective action. Selective approaches should be avoided in reform proposals, which should properly be concentrated on implementing the priorities identified at recent international conferences.
Reforming the General Assembly required acknowledging its fundamental role as a forum for equal representation by establishing concrete and reliable mechanisms for the implementation of its resolutions, he said. The same approach should be adopted towards the Economic and Social Council. As for the Security Council, in order to make it a global forum for shaping development policies, reform should include conducting a dialogue with the Bretton Woods institutions and the World Trade Organization (WTO). The reform of the Council should promote an enabling environment, upholding balanced economic development for all regions in the maintenance of international peace and security.
Welcoming the focus on the development aspects of United Nations work, he nevertheless warned that there was no concrete action proposed in the report to assure its adequacy and practicability. Moreover, to modify the mandates of United Nations funds and programmes required the approval of Member States, while new conditionalities for the maintenance of development activities in the field would distort their scope, nature and mandate. Finally, regarding the review and restructuring of the DPI, while regional information centre hubs were a positive initiative for developed areas, in developing countries their role should be strengthened and they should continue to develop Web pages in local languages.
MOURAD BENMEHIDI (Algeria) said that, in refocusing the Organization’s work around the priorities laid down at the Millennium Summit, it should not be forgotten that they had already been incorporated in the mid-term plan for 2002 to 2005. They should not be allowed to replace other legislative mandates to be recognized in the mid-term plan, which was the cornerstone of programme planning, budgeting, control and evaluation of the United Nations.
He stressed that the reform of the DPI should not focus strictly on financial criteria. In all cases, departmental reform should maintain and improve activities of particular interest to developing States designed to narrow the gulf between the developed and developing countries in the crucial domains of information and communication. While regional information centre hubs could be set up in areas where costs were particularly high or telecommunication and information infrastructures well advanced, each case should be considered separately with the host country, in less developed areas.
The outcomes of the Monterrey and Johannesburg conferences were of crucial importance in reinforcing international economic development, he concluded. The follow-up would facilitate the adoption of a coherent and integrated global approach for development. Africa should continue to receive special attention and NEPAD should be accorded support in order to fulfil its objectives.
MOHAMED BENNOUNA (Morocco), noting that a strong, credible organization was in the interest of all Member States, said the United Nations needed the most sophisticated tools to achieve its mandate. If the market being served was globalizing, then the rules should change as well. But he cautioned that reform was not an overnight phenomenon, but a continuous process in which Member States must be involved for the long term. While the Organization’s very survival depended on change in the long run, everything could not simply be upended and thrown out the window. In that respect, the report was helpful in asking that attention be paid to what had been done and what should be done in the future.
Emphasizing the need for change in the planning and budgeting areas, he said changes had to be carried out at the highest levels. And while the Secretary-General should enjoy greater flexibility in managing the budget, intergovernmental bodies must determine the benefits of proposed changes and approve them.
No efficient organization could succeed without good management or governance, he said, but even as reforms were being pursued, changes should be made at the lowest possible cost. Resources would have to be reallocated and dialogue would have to be kept up to determine how to rationalize them. It was hoped that changes in the General Assembly would be carried out without pandering to any special interests, since that organ was universal.
Though the existence of the United Nations was based on the sovereignty of Member States, some were more equal than others, he said. It should be natural for all to display solidarity with African States because they had experienced the least development, but activities intended to benefit the region were too scattered. Close attention should be paid to NEPAD, he added.
Acknowledging that reforms were always intended to benefit human beings, he supported the report’s emphasis on human rights issues, but called for better oversight of human rights matters. He faulted existing methods that allowed for overlapping and required the use of far too many experts. The High Commissioner for Human Rights should determine the nature of reforms to be carried out in that respect.
NOUREDDINE MEJDOUB (Tunisia) said that the structural, administrative and budgetary reforms presented by the Secretary-General did not, in themselves, sufficiently respond to the need to adapt the Organization to the requirements of today’s world. The reform of the Organization would not be complete until the composition of the Security Council was modified and its efficiency and credibility were strengthened, by improving its working methods and decision-making processes, especially the veto. It was imperative to restore to the Assembly its true role, as described in the Charter.
The programme of work of the United Nations, he said, needed to be rationalized. It should be organized around the objectives set down in the Millennium Declaration as well as around the results of major conferences, particularly those on financing for development and sustainable development. It was important to avoid overlapping within the Organization, which wasted energy, time and resources. Development should also be central to the Organization and constitute its top priority. The right to development should be considered equal to other fundamental human rights and be promoted by all United Nations activities.
Further, reform should not be motivated by budgetary concerns. He hoped Member States would not impose financial considerations as the determining factors in the elaboration of the reform programme. In addition, the reforms suggested by the Secretary-General should be put into effect gradually and be subject to systematic evaluation. The issue of accountability needed to be examined in more depth and an adequate system of responsibility and control should be established. Certain issues of a technical nature should also be examined further before the Assembly could pronounce itself.
JOHN NEGROPONTE (United States) said that a strong, well-managed Organization focused on the highest priorities was essential to ensuring the fulfillment of Member States’ needs. Agreeing that “reform is a process, not an event,” the United States still saw the need to speed up that process from time to time. Achieving modernization, effective oversight and the elimination of redundant and obsolete functions were integral steps in that process.
Over the last few years, considerable progress had been made in improving the working methods of the United Nations, he said, including in streamlining its staff and structure, human resources management, scales of assessment, peacekeeping management and results-focused budgeting. Thus, the Secretary-General’s report built upon those improvements to maximize the use of valuable resources and to ensure that the Organization’s work was closely aligned with the Millennium Development Goals.
Anticipating that the budget for 2004 to 2005 would better reflect the priorities of Member States, he welcomed the critical function of programme evaluation highlighted in the Secretary-General’s report. Moreover, measures aimed at improving intergovernmental coordination and avoiding duplication, strengthening United Nations activities in human rights at the field level, repositioning public information and conference services and improvement in the area of human resources management, such as accelerating recruitment, increasing the retention of qualified individuals and improving mobility, were welcomed.
KISHORE MAHBUBANI (Singapore) said that it was necessary to conduct a strategic review to examine the role of the United Nations in today’s world. The key question to be answered was why the United Nations needed to reform. Was it because the Organization was too big? That could not be so, because the United Nations, as an international Organization, had a very light footprint. Was it because the United Nations was too inefficient? If so, what were the benchmarks for progress? Which civil service in the world was the United Nations civil service to be compared to? Or was it because the Organization was fundamentally heading in the wrong direction? If that was the case, why was it that whenever conferences were held, numerous heads of State and government attended? Perhaps they did because the United Nations served as the “leading temple of legitimacy” to which all agendas must be brought.
Was reform needed because the priorities of the Organization were wrong? What, then, were the real priorities of the United Nations? Its first priority was to make the world a better place for the world’s poor. If that was the case, then, were the present priorities geared to accomplish that? Or was reform needed because the major contributors were unhappy with the direction of the Organization? In the past few years, the reform process had been driven by major contributors who where troubled by various dimensions of the Organization’s work. There was a troubling North-South divide on the reform issue. It need not be the case that the South should support reform while the North was suspicious of it. Both sides must develop a common idea of what the goals were, and how they would serve everyone in the United Nations community. Today’s challenge was to put aside national interests for the sake of strengthening the Organization.
Turning to the report, he noted that there was little or no mention of the Security Council, which could also do with administrative reform. He shared the analysis and most, if not all, of the recommendations in the report. Singapore, he said, supported the efforts deployed to revitalize the DPI, and would so inform the Fourth Committee.
In terms of improving the General Assembly, he asked, where would the leadership come from? Member States must resist the urge to micromanage the Secretariat, and not take issue with too many details of the Secretary-General’s proposals. In deciding how to proceed, it must be clear which recommendations fell under the purview of the Secretary-General's authority and which required the approval of the Assembly.
BRUNO RODRÍGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba) said the United Nations should be democratized on the basis of total compliance with the Charter. In spite of nearly a decade’s worth of discussion, there had been hardly any progress in reforming and democratizing the Security Council. Yet, reform of the Council was necessary to remedy the underrepresentation of developing countries, continued use of the veto and the holding of closed consultations. The most urgent focus of United Nations reform should be directed on the Security Council.
Reform of the General Assembly was also necessary, he said. Until the Assembly fully exercised its powers under the Charter, there would be no truly democratic United Nations. The report of the Secretary-General, together with Member State proposals, would be an appropriate basis to begin the discussion proposed by the President of the General Assembly. Moreover, new measures should be designed to apply the priorities of the Millennium Summit and other international conferences. Priorities related to such issues as peace, disarmament, sustainable development and poverty eradication were not developed fully enough in the report.
The General Assembly should identify means to improve the efficiency of management within the competency of the Secretary-General. Additionally, the Assembly and its subsidiary bodies should work with the Secretary-General to determine the scope and form of measures whose real effect would depend on the interpretation and the context of their application, including those on budgetary procedures and the transfer of resources among programmes. Finally, the focus on an integrated approach to human rights at country levels created some doubts. The intertwined approach seemed to be limited to developing countries only, while within developed countries a large scope of activities remained for ensuring access of all to all human rights.
OLAV KJØRVEN (Norway) said the work of the United Nations depended on multilateralism, which called for a strong United Nations. Strengthening the Organization had special significance for the achievement of the goals set out in the Millennium Declaration. Implementation of those goals was the responsibility of all.
Norway appreciated the report’s emphasis on human rights, he said. Though there had been accomplishments in that area, a lot remained to be done to move human rights into the mainstream of the Organization’s activities. There had to be changes in attitudes and more practical efforts to realize that goal.
His country also endorsed the need for integration of United Nations activities in the field, especially in those countries emerging from conflict. Resources should be pooled to achieve objectives. “We look forward to the completion of the implementation plan for effective coordination among the various entities working in a given country by 2003,” he said. That coordination must include activities of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.
On public outreach, he welcomed the planned changes in the area of information, saying they would build popular support for the Organization and further its legitimacy and authority as the world’s foremost multilateral institution. By extension, Norway welcomed proposals that would strengthen and organize the relationship between the United Nations and civil society and the private sector. He also called on Member States to improve the way in which they carried out their work in the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council.
When the Assembly reconvened this afternoon, MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said that there was a need to rationalize and streamline the human rights machinery of the United Nations. Action was required at three levels. First, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights needed to be considerably overhauled. It was necessary to ensure that the funding of various human rights activities of the Office reflected the priorities set by Member States. United Nations human rights programmes should be financed through the regular budget. Presently, because of the tendency to rely on extra-budgetary funding, the Office’s personnel heavily represented the more affluent countries which provided the resources.
Secondly, he said, the numerous human rights mechanisms also needed to be streamlined. Presently, there were around 30 special rapporteurs and representatives. The Commission on Human Rights should be asked to recommend how those proliferating special mechanisms could be reduced in number and enhanced in efficiency and relevance. Thirdly, the promotion of human rights at the country level needed to be pursued in a well-considered way. The injection of human rights officers into United Nations country offices was not the best way to do so. The Commission on Human Rights could be asked to examine and suggest a more acceptable and balanced approach to promote human rights at the country level.
Regarding the DPI, he said was not convinced of the viability of creating “regional hubs”, at least not in some regions. The Committee on Information should formulate broad guidelines and criteria to be applied in each region, bearing in mind the region’s particularities. Also, while he shared the Secretary-General’s dissatisfaction with the planning and budgetary process of the United Nations, he was not fully convinced that the solution proposed in the report was the best one.
NGUYEN THANH CHAU (Viet Nam) said it was obvious that the goals set in the Millennium Declaration could not be achieved without strengthening the United Nations. The process of further rationalizing the Organization, therefore, had to be continued and accelerated. His country supported the total strengthening of the backbone organs of the Organization, especially the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council.
On the General Assembly, Viet Nam supported the recent steps to improve its working methods, while it agreed that no reform of the United Nations would be complete without reform of the Security Council, including the expansion of both its non-permanent and permanent membership. In that regard, it was regrettable that the Working Group on reform of the Council had not been able to make progress after a decade of discussion, giving the impression that it was flogging a dead horse.
He said concrete actions and measures were also needed to enable developing countries to take advantage of all the opportunities globalization offered, especially in trade and investment, and to ensure their greater involvement in the decision-making process. Concerning the organization of the work of the Secretariat, he stressed that any reform in the direction of streamlining and rooting out redundancies and overlappings should be encouraged and supported on the understanding that they did not result in further financial implications, and that concerns of Member States were adequately addressed.
CHUCHAI KASEMSARN (Thailand) said the Secretary-General’s report raised some challenging questions about the revitalization of intergovernmental bodies of the United Nations. That process had to be seen in the wider context of Security Council and General Assembly reform. Thailand saw the need for a thorough review of United Nations activities to ensure that the Organization was properly focused on tackling urgent issues and producing tangible results.
Thailand agreed with the proposal to pool resources among agencies and programmes without increasing budgetary allocations. The Thai Government had in fact adopted a similar approach in the administration of its public organizations abroad. One matter that did not meet with its approval, however, was the proposal to increase resources in real terms. The timing for that was wrong, because most Member States were now experiencing financial and economic difficulties. The approach should be to increase budget savings through reforms so that they could be used to maintain future programme budgets at current levels.
On the other hand, Thailand fully supported the proposal to improve planning and budgeting systems by synchronizing the Medium-Term Plan with the biennial proposed programme budget to cover two years. It also agreed with the proposed simplification of planning and budgeting systems of regular and peacekeeping budgets. To improve the efficiency of the Secretariat staff, Thailand wanted the annual quota of P-2 posts available for General Service staff who were successful in the G-to-P exams to increase to 25 per cent.
JOSÉ NICOLÁS RIVAS (Colombia) said that successful handling of all issues taken up by the United Nations depended on the strengthening of the Organization. Greater commitment to reform was needed on the part of Member States, including bold and ambitious ideas. There was a need to revitalize the Organization’s main organs. Although Member States knew that the Organization faced problems, such as the weakening of multilateralism and administrative and bureaucratic obstacles, their people saw the United Nations as a solid and effective institution, responsible for responding to global issues.
There was much to be accomplished, he continued. Colombia had participated and would continue to participate in official consultations to study the proposals of the Secretary-General. A forum as important for its universality and composition as the General Assembly needed to overcome the difficulties that plagued it -- such as the superposition of themes, repetitive and sterile debates and the negotiation of resolutions that in the end had few political repercussions. It was also essential to reform the Security Council by making it more representative in terms of membership, and more flexible in terms of its work.
In conclusion, Colombia was well disposed to study and promote the reforms necessary to the United Nations, which had been given responsibility for such difficult tasks as guaranteeing international peace and security and economic and social development by the peoples and governments of its Member States.
MOHAMMAD A. ABULHASAN (Kuwait) emphasized that the reform process must be continuous and uninterrupted, and must display flexibility in planning reform measures. The views of all States must be taken into account equally. The reform process was a collective responsibility, to be shared between the Secretariat and the Member States. The key factor to success in the reform process was taking quick measures, implementing those that enjoyed agreement without delay and leaving for later those issues not yet agreed on. In addition, the reform process must be in line with the political realities of Member States.
He proposed that informal consultations could be held in which all proposals in the report could be debated. That way, the proposals could be divided among those that the Secretary-General could act on under his own authority, and those that required the agreement of Member States. Following that, they could be further divided into urgent proposals that enjoyed general agreement, and those that required further consultations. The President of the Assembly could draw up a draft resolution based on those issues that enjoyed agreement. Technical proposals to be taken up in the relevant bodies could be put on a different list. Member States must be given sufficient time to consider those issues which did not enjoy agreement, without any action being taken in the meantime.
He supported moves to lessen the burden on smaller delegations, namely by producing fewer meetings and fewer reports, and simplified working procedures in all United Nations bodies. He urged speedy adoption of measures on those issues. He also supported strengthening the abilities of United Nations staff and considering them all as international civil servants, especially those in the General Service category.
OM PRADHAN (Bhutan) said that the United Nations should function dynamically. With international issues that were ever changing, an outdated structure could not cope with the challenges of the times. The bodies of the United Nations needed regular reform to face those new situations. Small delegations, especially those with difficult manpower and financial positions, could not cope with “the large number of meetings and the piles of documents that emanate from the United Nations”. He questioned whether those reports and meetings served their purposes.
He said that, in the past, his delegation had cautioned against too many summit meetings on too many issues, or on issues where the international community had not reached the stage when a summit was justified. The Secretary-General might like to give his recommendations on the criteria for calling summits.
He added that reform of the Security Council was critical to strengthening the United Nations system. The Council should be made inclusive and democratic, and reflect aspirations of Member States not involved in setting up the Organization in 1945. Indeed, Member States did not seem to be able to exercise the degree of control that was felt necessary by financiers and investors. The current system of control, review and checks and balances would have to be reformed in a manner that would give greater confidence to Member States, and enable the Organization to function better financially.
Considering the Organization’s diverse nature, he said that the current methods of financing for the regular budget must be maintained. However, it would be worthwhile to consider, even if only gradually, the possibility of forms of independent financing for the United Nations. Moreover, representation of all Member States in the recruiting process must be given added emphasis. Unfortunately, such proposals were usually countered by arguments that they would result in the recruitment of mediocre Third World personnel. However, the recruitment process should be such that only qualified persons would be inducted, whether from developed or developing countries.
JUAN GABRIEL VALDÉS (Chile) reviewed the reasons to support the Secretary-General’s proposals for reform, and concluded that the United Nations had rarely had such demands placed upon it. It was increasingly indispensable. Yet, though the volume of voices crying out had rarely been so loud, there were some who denied the need to see mankind as a whole. Supporting the reform of the system was a way of providing a clear response to those who acted thus against multilateralism.
While nothing was more legitimate than exploring the consequences of the proposals made by the Secretary-General, he urged that any objections should be introduced constructively, with full respect for the attributes given to the Secretary-General by the Charter. The importance of analyzing the impact of globalization on development, and reducing the risks it entailed for developing countries, needed to be stressed. So did the need to ensure the survival of human rights, democracy and international security. In areas related to economic development, interaction with the Bretton Woods institutions was necessary, as recognized by the report. The true purposes of the Human Rights Commission needed to be maintained, while the Office of the High Commissioner should be strengthened. Moreover, an annual report on the status of human rights in the world should be prepared.
Turning to the issue of reforming the Economic and Social Council, he said that there was a weak link between the results already achieved by the Council and the work of the Second and Third Committees. Moreover, any reform of the United Nations would be incomplete without reforming the Security Council. Finally, regarding the budget, there was a need to promote a medium-term plan, as well as to set clearer objectives and establish a strengthened system of evaluation.
GERT ROSENTHAL (Guatemala) agreed with the Secretary-General that “reform was a process, not an event.” The report contained proposals to create a more efficient Organization with a clearer sense of direction. The Organization had embarked on a process which had already yielded important progress and also revealed shortcomings. The majority of proposals in the report were reasonable and consistent with the logic of the reform initiated five years ago.
His only reservation to what was proposed -- "and where we would have preferred a larger dose of boldness" -- concerned the intention to reform United Nations system of governance, in tandem with the reforms of the Secretariat. For understandable reasons, the Secretary-General had focused his proposals on his own sphere of competence, limiting himself to “venturesome suggestions” to reforming the intergovernmental machinery. However, to truly strengthen the Organization, an additional section was needed, with more detailed proposals regarding how to adapt the Assembly, Economic and Social Committee and, especially, the Security Council to a renewed vision of the United Nations for the 21st century.
The section on the planning and budgetary process contained what were potentially the furthest-reaching proposals of the whole report, he said. In general, he supported them. It was indispensable to pursue and deepen the reforms already initiated in that field, in the area both of results-based budgeting and of human resources.
WANG YINGFAN (China), detailing six separate points in relation to the report of the Secretary-General, said that, first, United Nations reform should give equal importance to questions of maintenance of international peace and security and to those of economic and social development. That would reflect the wishes of its membership, particularly among the developing countries. More resources should be devoted to development, increased official development assistance (ODA), opening markets, eliminating trade barriers and ensuring that globalization benefited all countries.
Second, he supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations on reducing the number of reports and meetings and ensuring the quality of conference services. Third, the financial planning and budgeting of the United Nations needed streamlining to conform to reality and to improve the effectiveness of its work. The final decision-making power on financial matters should rest with the Member States. Fourth, developing countries had serious concerns about the focus on integration of human rights programmes at the country level. Human rights and development assistance should not be lumped together. Human rights programmes should be suited to the specific situation of a country.
Fifth, he continued, he supported the establishment of a panel of eminent persons to review the role of civil society and to improve the modalities of United Nations interaction with civil society members. The panel should keep in mind the need to support and improve interaction, to confront problems and to solicit the opinions of Member States. Finally, he concluded that all States should be equal participants on issues of concern in the reform process.
ARTHUR C. I. MBANEFO (Nigeria) said the United Nations provided a unique institutional framework to develop and promote human rights, norms and practices, while respecting national and cultural diversities. The promotion and protection of human rights was necessary for the realization of the United Nations vision of a just and peaceful world. He supported the Secretary-General’s view that the building of strong human rights institutions at the national level was the only way to ensure the protection and advancement of basic human rights.
He welcomed the Secretary-General’s efforts aimed at streamlining the planning and budgeting system. The need for creating “real strategic instruments” and achieving greater effectiveness should, however, not preclude the retention of priorities contained in the Millennium Development Goals. Furthermore, adequate programme planning, evaluation and monitoring implementation should be enhanced through a well-articulated intergovernmental process. In that regard, the Committee for Programme and Coordination should be encouraged to fine-tune its working methods to enhance its performance.
On human resource management, he supported the idea of well-deserving staff being encouraged to attain their career objectives. Therefore, he supported encouraging the promotion of General Service staff to the Professional category, and called on the Secretary-General to explore ways to increase the number of General Service or eligible posts from those not subject to geographical distribution.
BRUNO STAGNO (Costa Rica) said that, without a doubt, the United Nations required in-depth reform. During its 57-year history, it had explored to the maximum its constitutive Charter and adopted new programmes and mandates while, conversely, many programmes had been abandoned or lost importance. Some of its functions no longer responded to mankind’s current needs, while others reflected outdated ideological struggles and political concepts. In its expansion, the Organization had lacked a unified conceptual framework to guide growth. It had adapted and survived, but it could not be said to have learnt or evolved.
Throughout the reform process, the special nature of the Organization must be kept in mind, he continued. The United Nations was a public organization; it did not seek financial gains but was devoted to the service of its members. Thus, some reforms that made sense from a purely administrative point of view were not compatible with political demands. The reform process required careful consideration of the proposals embodied in the report by all the competent intergovernmental bodies. The unilateral implementation of measures by the Secretariat, without an express mandate from Member States, would be a source of concern.
Some proposals were doubtful, he added. Among others, the suggestion to reduce the number of meetings and reports was simplistic. True reform should ensure that the reports provided the most updated data and substantive analysis. Also, the proposal to unify the management of conferences and secretariat services ignored the operational and technical needs of the various bodies. Nobody had proposed to unify the Security Council’s and General Assembly’s secretariats, because the quality of the services provided would be jeopardized. As to the creation of an alliance with non-governmental organizations and the private sector, care should be taken to assure that the agendas of some did not overtake the United Nations agenda, or that those entities were not taken as substitutes for democratically elected governments.
GENNADY M. GATILOV (Russian Federation) said that efforts to achieve United Nations reform should focus on formulating a consolidated response to new challenges and threats, such as those posed by international terrorism. Recent tragic events, particularly in Indonesia and Moscow, demonstrated, once again, the unprecedented cruelty of terrorists and their readiness to sacrifice the lives of innocent people.
Acknowledging the need to strengthen the role of the General Assembly and rationalize its agenda, Russia was also of the view that Security Council reform should not merely lead to an increase in its membership, since the success of the Council’s work depended on its ability to take prompt and effective decisions. It was thus necessary to seek the broadest possible agreement on Security Council reform, without counter-productive haste.
The proposals to improve the United Nations human rights-related activities were balanced and realistic, especially those aimed at streamlining procedures for implementation of all international human rights treaties and at improving human rights special procedures. He commended the Secretary-General’s appeal to de-politicize and make more effective the work of the Commission on Human Rights. His country believed that the fulfillment of the tasks assigned to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights would lead to enhanced effectiveness of the bodies established by human rights treaties and human rights special procedures system.
In the economic field, Russia supported and approved measures to reinforce the role of the Economic and Social Council in expanding its dialogue with the Bretton Woods institutions and the WTO. Of the Secretary-General’s proposal to reform the public information machinery in several ways simultaneously, he had “serious doubts”, particularly about the proposed integration of the United Nations libraries under the umbrella of the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, since such “rigid centralization” would only do harm to the efficiency of library services designed for the benefit of Member States.
It was also regrettable that the section of the report dedicated to personnel questions did not contain the long-awaited proposals for a radical reform of the United Nations contractual system and improvement of the performance evaluation system. Similarly, he could not agree that the United Nations needed a more competitive system of pay and benefits, since review of that system by the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) was a purely creative quest for ways to enhance the efficiency of the Secretariat.
NANA EFFAH-APENTENG (Ghana) noted the capacity within the United Nations to effect efficiency gains rather than seek out additional budgetary resources. To bring the current programme budget in line with the priorities agreed upon at the Millennium Assembly, there should be a review every two years, as was the case with the Medium-Term Plan.
While agreeing with the need to strengthen human rights internationally, Ghana was hesitant about linking human rights issues with country programmes of the World Bank, because that could shift attention away from the core issue of development financing. Such action required further study and assessment. Ghana urged more reporting by States parties to human rights treaties, and said the Office of Internal Oversight Services should focus on ways to strengthen the fund-raising capacity of the Office of the High Commissioner, freeing it of the restrictive conditionalities that some donor countries tied to funding activities.
In looking at actions proposed to enhance the public information machinery, he said the proposal to create regional information hubs had the potential to free resources from high-cost but low-impact areas to other strategic locations. In the case of Africa, subregional hubs might be a better alternative. Further, the need for brevity in reporting should not compromise the need for information based on all available and relevant facts on a particular matter. Still, on the related issue of coordination, he said mechanisms to be used in that regard must embrace country-ownership and leadership.
Focusing specifically on Africa’s needs, he expressed the hope that the proposed restructuring of the Office of the Adviser for Special Assignments in Africa would not sacrifice Africa’s priority status, as reflected in the Medium-Term Plan. Instead, he wished the Office would be freed from its current allocation under special political missions, and, further, that it be allowed to interact with the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council -- not merely with the General Assembly, as supported in the report. Further, he questioned the usefulness of replacing the Medium-Term Plan with a short-term plan. In conclusion, he said Ghana looked forward to the new format for peacekeeping budgets that the Secretary-General intended to develop.
KOICHI TAKAHASHI (Japan) said that his Government attached particular importance to the following four points. First, it was crucial for the United Nations to realign its programmes according to the new agenda defined in the Millennium Declaration and at major global conferences. That programme review should be reflected in the 2004 to 2005 United Nations regular budget. It was essential to allocate resources to high-priority activities by redeploying resources from low-priority and obsolete activities. He expected the Secretary-General to identify and propose activities that could be discontinued or terminated.
Second, he underlined the importance of improving the management of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and looked forward to a concrete and effective proposal from the High Commissioner to that end. Third, he attached importance to the realization of the principle of equitable geographical distribution regarding Secretariat staff. On the proposal for lifting the restriction on the number of General Service staff eligible for promotion to the Professional category, he did not think that opportunities for such promotions should be ensured by increasing the ratio of recruitment from the former to the latter.
Rather, he continued, it was appropriate to increase opportunities for recruitment to the Professional level through national competitive exams and the General Service to the Professional category examinations by changing the top-heavy post structure of the Secretariat to a structure that was more pyramid-shaped. Fourth, he expected further coordination in the field among the United Nations system and other players, and the streamlining of reports and conference management. He also noted that the report did not address the changes necessary within the Security Council, an important task in strengthening the United Nations. It was necessary to focus on such questions as the number of seats on the enlarged Council.
ALFONSO T. YUCHENGCO (Philippines) said that his delegation had elected to keep an open mind and welcome many of the actions proposed by the Secretary-General in his report. He particularly welcomed the proposed measures to improve coordination within the United Nations system to reduce duplication in activities or publications. He also agreed that there was scope for consolidating and rationalizing work programmes and reports. It was expected that the new format would allow for a “less tedious deliberation” of the budget, yet allow for a more substantive debate on its content.
He believed that the Organization should have the human resources capacity to implement the proposed changes, he said. Capacity constantly needed to be upgraded by providing incentives to maintain the best pool of talent and continue the upgrading of skills. He also appreciated the need to communicate the United Nations message to sustain the support of the international community. While millions knew of the Organization’s existence, few had a full awareness of its role in their lives and its efforts to promote development and maintain international peace and security.
While he would like to see reform as a continuing process of improvement, however, clear goals and processes were also necessary. Accountability and
universal participation had proven the best way of achieving results and ensuring support for reforms. Delegations should be able to discern and be prepared to implement the actions within the Secretary-General’s mandate. Work on an item should be concluded as expeditiously as possible. However, it should be kept in mind that reform was an ongoing process. He added that the content of any resolution on the issue should aim more at providing broad and strategic direction for further work at a detailed level. He concluded by saying that the General Assembly should be revitalized so that it could reaffirm its central position as the chief policy-making organ of the United Nations. The General Assembly was the only major United Nations organ in which sovereign equality among Member States was observed.
IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) supported the measures proposed by the Secretary-General in the areas of public information and documentation -- measures which aimed at creating a culture of communication involving new techniques and technologies. At the same time, there was need to recognize that an intergovernmental organization such as the United Nations, numbered Member States with diverse requirements. It was, therefore, important to consider the diverse needs of each of the members the Organization served.
He said the proposals made in the human rights area merited support, particularly when they related to helping countries build strong human rights institutions. Therefore, even though the High Commissioner for Human Rights' report was not due until next year, Bangladesh expected that Member States would be appropriately consulted in its preparation.
Stressing that economic and social development was one area of importance to Bangladesh, he welcomed the proposal for greater coherence aimed at better service delivery in that sector. For a stronger United Nations, whose programme delivery would be effective, the role of the planning and budgetary process could not be overemphasized.
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