Fifty-eighth General Assembly
45th & 46th Meetings (AM & PM)
SPEAKERS IN GENERAL ASSEMBLY FOCUS ON WAYS TO REVITALIZE “LIFELESS” WORLD BODY,
ENHANCE ITS WORKING METHODS, STRENGTHEN ITS ROLE, AUTHORITY
Amid charges that the main United Nations body for open debate and decision-making had become lifeless, plodding and disconnected from reality, the General Assembly looked inward today during a discussion of overall Organizational reform, which focused on ways to revitalize the Assembly, enhance the Office of its President, and re-evaluate its methods of work.
Stressing that the machinery of the Assembly had become cumbersome and overburdened by an unwieldy agenda and a flood of documentation, several speakers also said the body’s working methods were inflexible and failed to address the ever-changing global agenda. Others declared that the United Nations of the twenty-first century must not be constrained by procedures designed for the post-World War II period.
The Republic of Korea’s representative expressed frustration with a decade of debate and slow progress on the issue of Assembly reform, and proffered some suggestions to explain the growing marginalization of the 191-member governing body. Those included the shift in the centre of the Organization’s gravity to the Security Council after the end of the cold war; the increase in the Organization’s membership, which had led to greater divergence of views, divisiveness and lack of unity in the Assembly; and the adoption of too many non-legally binding resolutions, too few of which were remembered, cared about or heeded.
Yet, much could be done to revitalize and strengthen its role, he declared. The Assembly’s agenda should be organized around a number of thematic issues, and redundant issues should be consolidated. Furthermore, meetings should be scheduled throughout the year to make best use of the resources available to the missions and the Secretariat. The authority and role of the Office of the Assembly President should be enhanced, including through using the General Committee as a bureau for the Presidency.
To that, Nigeria’s representative added that, although the Assembly President’s Office should be afforded the highest priority, the reality for the past decade or so, had been that a lack of resources forced past Assembly Presidents to deploy resources from their capitals to meet their responsibilities. Noting the serious difficulties smaller countries would have if forced to provide meagre funds in that regard, he said it was imperative to move rapidly during the current session to adopt measures that would bolster the Office, including creating a number of additional staff and support positions.
Joining those who suggested that the Assembly’s role and working methods should be restructured and streamlined to deal with salient global issues, Portugal’s representative stressed that the Assembly was the cornerstone of the United Nations -- the main source of the world body’s legitimacy. Continued neglect would damage the whole Organization. One way to redress that was to make the Assembly’s debates more interactive, perhaps moving out of the Assembly Hall, when large audiences were not expected. The Hall regularly looked half empty and was too big to encourage true dialogue.
While, the representative of Singapore said it was necessary to address accusations that the Assembly itself was “lifeless and floundering”, he wondered if a stifled Assembly was really the problem, suggesting that perhaps the body’s current straits were due to larger problems throughout the United Nations system. It was time to look at root causes and solutions, he said, adding that if one contrasted the dynamism of the world outside the United Nations with the “[lethargy] of the room we were in”, one would have to conclude that the Organization had failed to keep up with modern realities.
The time had come for the Assembly to move away from its plodding and near-mechanical processes, and start addressing real issues, not just automatically re-examining the same subjects year after year, he added. “We must stop delivering speeches and start talking to each other”. He urged delegations to realize that even when the Assembly Hall was “quiet and empty”, the body itself still controlled one of the world’s most valuable and precious resources -- legitimacy. That legitimacy was a valuable commodity that could and should be harnessed for the betterment of the wider United Nations and the world.
The representatives of Viet Nam, France, India, Bangladesh, Philippines, Libya, Russian Federation, United Republic of Tanzania, China, Kazakhstan, Slovenia, Croatia, Thailand, Indonesia, Yemen, Bahamas, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Senegal, Ecuador, Nepal, Saint Lucia, Mongolia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Papua New Guinea, Cuba, Poland, Syria, Germany, Eritrea and Israel also spoke.
The Assembly will convene a two-day High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development beginning tomorrow, 29 October, at 10 a.m. It is expected to conclude its consideration of the reform of the work of the United Nations and the revitalization of the General Assembly at 3 p.m. on Friday, 31 October.
The General Assembly met today to continue its consideration of reform of the work of the United Nations, focusing on the Assembly’s revitalization and the restructuring of the Organization’s work in the economic, social and related fields. For background, see Press Release GA/10182 issued on 27 October.
NGO DUC THANG (Viet Nam) said the Organization should do more to meet the confidence and expectations of nations. That required a stronger and more democratized United Nations and Security Council, with better representation by developing countries and those having made positive contributions to common objectives. The current reform within the Organization should also focus on enhancing the Assembly’s authority and role as the chief deliberative, policy-making body of the United Nations. The central role of the Assembly had been gradually eroding, and its legitimacy questioned, due to the preference of some to work through the Council. In addition, the enhancement of the Assembly could not be complete without rationalizing its agenda and improving its working methods. The Assembly President was encouraged to work with the Chairmen of the Main Committees to consider the assignment of more items to the Committees to preserve the plenary as a forum for high-level policy statements and agenda items of political importance or urgency.
He supported the practice of reserving two weeks for the general debate, and the combination of items that concerned more than one committee in a joint debate. The Assembly’s agenda should be periodically reviewed to consider deleting any item where no resolution or decision had been adopted for a certain period of time. Moreover, a strategic framework should be developed to set direction for the Organization’s programmes and budgetary planning to ensure a connection between programmes and resource allocation. Lastly, the biennial programme plan should be a policy instrument to translate the Organization’s legislative mandates into programmes, and the budget outline should be more detailed with information on resource changes.
JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE (France) associated his delegation with the statement made by Italy, on behalf of the European Union, and said that, in the interest of avoiding repetitive discussion, he would not reiterate the arguments therein. He would simply add emphasis to a few points, including that there must be better balance between the Organization’s different bodies. The Assembly must regain its position as the central pillar of the United Nations system.
He also expressed appreciation for the resolute and encouraging efforts of the Assembly President for the revitalization of the world body, and underscored that the need for change had been sensed by all this year. Reform and revitalization would be vital, especially as world attention had been refocused on the Assembly.
VIJAY K. NAMBIAR (India) maintained that in reform and revitalization, remarkable results were not achieved overnight. Where Member States were called on to deal with sensitive political questions and issues, they needed to build on areas of agreement step by step, block by block. A useful beginning, therefore, could be made by a quick review of the revitalization exercise undertaken so far and the state of implementation or non-implementation of the resolutions already adopted. He supported the reform process because he believed that it enhanced the Organization’s effectiveness, to make it more responsive to the priorities of Member States, particularly for the developing countries that constituted the vast majority of its membership.
He pointed out that the “litmus test” of any reform exercise would be whether it increased the Organization’s ability to assist the developing countries in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and other targets which had been agreed on at the major United Nations conferences and summits. The United Nations would be strengthened if and when it contributed effectively to the efforts of the developing countries in the implementation of those outcomes. The other major test of the reform exercise would be greater effectiveness in the ability of the United Nations to deal with issues such as international terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and transnational organized crime. He noted that the strengthening of the Office of the President could be done with the provision of a small number of additional posts. He also called for a review of the rules of procedure and to adapt them to modern times. Furthermore, he underlined that reducing the volume of work and managing time and resources efficiently was not only a task for the Secretariat but also for Member States. A degree of self-discipline had to be exercised by Member States before rushing forth with new initiatives and resolutions every year.
KIM SAM-HOON (Republic of Korea) expressed frustration with the slow progress made during 10 years of debate on the issue of General Assembly reform, and proffered several elements to explain the growing marginalization of the world body. Those included the shift in the centre of the Organization’s gravity to the Security Council after the end of the cold war, the increase in the Organization’s membership, which had led to greater divergence of interests and views, divisiveness and lack of unity in the Assembly, and the adoption of too many non-legally binding resolutions, too few of which were remembered, cared about or heeded. Each of those factors had combined to weaken the authority and relevance of the Assembly.
Yet, much could be done to revitalize and strengthen its role, he reiterated. In that regard, the Assembly should focus on issues to which the United Nations could make a real difference. The Assembly’s agenda should be organized around a number of thematic issues; certain agenda items should be considered only on a biennial or triennial basis and obsolete items should be deleted altogether; and redundant issues should be consolidated. Furthermore, meetings should be scheduled throughout the year to make best use of the resources available to missions and the Secretariat. The authority and role of the Office of the Assembly President should be enhanced, including through using the General Committee as a bureau for the Presidency.
The outdated role of the Assembly’s organs should be restructured and streamlined to deal with salient global issues, he added. The sound administration of the Organization’s resources, transparency, accountability and programme performance should be ensured. Moreover, while holistic approaches to reform had been in fashion for some time, there was merit to employing an incremental approach in the context of a holistic perspective. Overall, the collective interest of the global community must be put above parochial interests; real change within the United Nations would not be achieved without some degree of sacrifice from the general membership. Reform should also be a continuous and action-oriented process.
IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said the Organization’s reform efforts should be a continuing process. It involved enhancing the efficacy of the Secretariat and responding to complex global challenges in the areas of peace, security and development. At the heart of reform must lie the desire to achieve all goals set out in the Millennium Declaration, and the implementation of all action plans emanating from the conferences of the 1990s. Revitalizing the inter-governmental processes and institutions should not be viewed as mutually exclusive. He was heartened that the Secretary-General had accorded high priority to the Millennium Development Goals and the medium term plan in proposing the programme budget for 2004-2005. In addition, he was pleased that the budget would be presented in a results-based format.
Economic and social development was the area to which his delegation attached the highest importance. He supported the Organization’s enhanced field presence in developing countries, and noted the importance of strengthening the United Nations Resident Coordinator’s office, the simplification of development programmes, and improved accountability and joint programming. Human rights, was also an area of high priority for his nation. In fact, he believed that development could only take place against a social matrix where the value of human rights was enjoyed to a premium. He endorsed the Secretary-General’s approach towards closer collaboration with civil society and the private sector, and continued to advocate capacity-building for implementation of the Millennium Goals. Many of the recommendations emanating from the interactions between the Second Committee and civil society this year merited consideration in the work of the Eminent Persons Panel.
As for the revitalization of the Assembly, improving working methods and restoring the authority of that body must progress simultaneously. Beginning with the small and achievable could be a practical strategy, and evaluation of progress made would bring greater success.
LESLIE B. GATAN (Philippines) said he wished to submit three proposals aimed at reforming the Assembly. First, he proposed that regional group statements take precedence over national statements in their inscription for the general debate. Delegations aligning themselves to the views presented by their respective regions or groups should refrain from delivering statements for the purpose of reiterating views already contained in their group statements. Secondly, he proposed that related agenda items, as well as resolutions which had arisen from them, be clustered. Clustering generated a holistic consideration of inter-related issues and avoided duplication, which in turn conserved resources.
Thirdly, he called for more time to be given to interactive discussion of issues considered under general debate or of thematic issues. Furthermore, he recommended that, to avoid an unwieldy exchange of views by all 191 Member States, the interactive discussion should be carried out mainly by the spokesmen of groups, spiced with the participation of representatives of selected sectors of civil society.
He pointed out that revitalization or reform might be elusive if the perennial problems, which confronted the United Nations, were not identified. The foremost problem was the general awareness that United Nations resolutions, with the exception of those adopted by the Security Council, were not binding to Member States. Another problem was the awareness that a great number of United Nations bodies were no longer representative of the general membership, a situation that could erode the interests of many Member States. Thirdly, there was the lack of strong coordination among the three important organs of the United Nations, namely; the Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council.
To correct those problems, he suggested that an effective system be installed to monitor the implementation of resolutions. Also, a review of the working group of the membership of important United Nations bodies, starting with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), should be undertaken to rationalize the membership in relation to the number of countries represented or to group representation. In addition, he suggested that there be inter-sessional bilateral consultative meetings between the Presidents of the Assembly and ECOSOC to coordinate their respective work and assess the outcome of coordination.
JUMA AMER (Libya) said that, in evaluating progress to date on the revitalization of the Assembly, the move to elect the Assembly’s officials several months in advance of the fall session was welcome. Yet, that was only a procedural change. The Assembly must be enabled to fulfil its role under the Charter of the United Nations. For example, in conjunction with its role in international peace and security, it should meet during crises to study the situation and submit its findings to the Security Council.
The Assembly’s decisions should also be published at that national level, he said, which would solve the dilemma of the production of resolutions that were, effectively, “dead letters”. Furthermore, there should be a mechanism to review the implementation of Assembly resolutions. Other issues of concern included the fall-off in participation that occurred after the general debate. The high-level representation witnessed during the first two weeks of the session was indicative of the importance attributed to the general debate. Yet, after that time, there were at best, a few delegates present during most interventions. Instead of listening to prepared statements, there should be more interactive debate.
Balancing the Assembly’s agenda was important, he continued. Thus, while some items did not need to be discussed annually, a review of the number and content of Assembly decisions showed there should also be a regrouping of issues. And, while the extension of the session over the course of the year was an idea worth considering, there were several questions that should be carefully considered before that proposal was adopted. Among them, one must ask if plenary meetings of the Main Committees would take place several times a year. If so, how would Member States be informed of the meetings, particularly when experts from capitals needed to be brought in? Another question was, whether there would be simultaneous meetings of the Main Committees.
GENNADY GATILOV (Russian Federation) said he supported the concept of strengthening the United Nations system and enhancing cooperation between its key bodies. All efforts at reform should, therefore, focus on formulating an international response to new challenges and threats, and on the combined efforts of Member States to strengthen international security, in all its dimensions. He also believed that the 2004-2005 budget should bring the Organization’s activities in line with its proposed priorities and objectives. The new budget document should be a significant factor in the course of action for the reform process.
Turning next to human rights, he said that as the Organization’s revitalization gets under way, the main goal would be to strengthen national systems protecting civil liberties, and to promote closer interaction between governments and United Nations bodies regarding the core human rights treaties and conventions. On public information, he continued to support efforts to restructure the Department of Public Information and hoped that the new operational model launched in 2002 would contribute to efficient and consistent implementation of earlier established strategic goals for reforming the Organization’s information branch. He also supported efforts to improve and modernize the United Nations Libraries.
As for strengthening the United Nations presence in developing countries, he noted that while ECOSOC’s various subsidiary bodies and commissions, generally and appropriately, discussed the agreed approached of Member States on that issue, support should be given to measures which helped to simplify and harmonize programme instruments aimed at reducing transaction costs in programme countries. On strengthening the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, he supported the creation of the Office for Financing for Development and the Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination. Efforts to strengthen the Department, including dividing its work into clusters –- one focusing on data analysis and the other focusing on policy support -– should also aim to bolster the United Nations Forum on Forests.
OLUSEGUN APATA (Nigeria) said that given the Millennium Declaration’s emphasis on wide-scale sustainable development through poverty eradication, the United Nations must redirect its energies to address the problems of hunger, malnutrition and the spread of epidemics and disease. He urged the international community to show the same commitment to promoting social and economic development, as it had to ensuring international peace and security. The Organization should explore creative avenues of resolving the crippling debt problem, he continued, “since we cannot afford a United Nations whose greatest percentage of members is incapacitated by the crisis of staggering debt”.
He went on to say that the United Nations could also step up its efforts to create partnerships and other initiatives for joint action in the area of economic and social development. Wider civic participation could help strengthen the Organization, and he welcomed partnerships with regional and subregional groups, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), universities, and private individuals. He also welcomed the creation of the Office of the Under-Secretary-General and Special Advisor on Africa last May, and noted that focal point’s significant contribution to the promotion of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
On efforts to revamp the Assembly itself, he said that while progress had certainly been made in that regard, during the last three years, it was now necessary to focus on how to strengthen the Assembly President’s Office and reform the organ’s agenda. He stressed that although, the Office of the Assembly President should be held in the highest priority, the reality for the past decade or so, had been that a lack of resources forced past Presidents to deploy resources from their respective capitals to meet their responsibilities. Noting the serious difficulties smaller countries, particularly the least developed, would have, if forced to provide meagre funds in that regard, he said it was imperative to move rapidly during the current session to adopt measures that would strengthen the Office, including, perhaps, creating a number of additional staff and support positions.
AUGUSTINE MAHIGA (United Republic of Tanzania) said the debate on reform had been going on for nearly a decade, and had gathered momentum in the last five years, which in turn, had generated a wealth of ideas that could be implemented. In the meantime, new developments and trends had emerged in the international community, as challenges to the Organization requiring urgent responses from it. He also observed that the pace of the emerging global developments and challenges was overtaking the required pace of reforms of the Organization and capacity of the institution to adequately cope with the changes. However, reforms were long overdue and needed to be put in place “sooner than later” to enable existing institutions to remain relevant and focused on the challenges.
A key shortcoming in the revitalization of the Assembly was the delay or non-implementation of its resolutions on revitalization, which had already been adopted, as well as other resolutions, which had been adopted by the Assembly. There was an urgent need to holistically link policy-making, decision-making and implementation, as stipulated in the Charter regarding the mandate of the Assembly. Equally important, was the follow-up to conferences and meetings arising from Assembly resolutions. Revitalization of the Assembly should go simultaneously with reforms in the other organs of the Organization to coordinate and synchronize the overall process of reform in a transparent manner. Of particular significance, in enhancing the authority of the Assembly was the need to make better use of its decision-making power in budgetary matters. Reform had to be a continuous process and it might be necessary to establish a timetable for initiating reform and revitalization measures, which were feasible and could proceed after receiving the endorsement of Member States.
WANG GUANGYA (China) said a revitalized Assembly would help States pursue multilateralism, thus having a far-reaching impact on rebuilding the Organization’s authority and credibility. He endorsed President Hunte’s proposal to focus discussions on two broad areas: enhancing the Assembly’s role and authority, and improving its working methods. To that end, it was necessary to solicit the views of Member States, especially developing countries, and to begin to discuss issues that were easier to reach consensus on. The relationship between the Assembly and other principal organs was not one of competition and exclusion, but of cooperation and enhanced interactions
Making the general debate more effective required the Assembly to choose a focus for each session, on the basis of advanced consultations among States. He also was in favour, of reviewing resolutions and decisions to carry out adjustments or make changes according to the outcome of implementation. Strengthening the function of the Office of the Assembly President was necessary, in terms of human and financial resources, and he called for a contact mechanism among previous, incumbent and succeeding presidents to ensure continuity and consistency. It was a positive suggestion that the Department of Public Information be authorized to prepare for each session of the Assembly, an annual plan of action, approved and implemented at an early date to avoid redundancies. Improving the Assembly’s working methods called for speedy action, a streamlined agenda and the consideration of items in a more balanced manner.
In addition, he continued, it was important to check the overflow of documents. States should not try to request reports from the Secretary-General on every issue, and the Secretariat should improve the quality of reports, by including a focused analysis and feasible recommendations.
YERZHAN KH. KAZYKHANOV (Kazakhstan) said that, while supporting the Secretary-General’s initiative to establish a high-level panel to review the functioning of the United Nations system, he felt that work on revitalization and reform should continue without waiting for the panel’s recommendations. Among areas for change, an implementation review process should be used to reaffirm the goals and objectives agreed on at the major international conferences and summits, and to identify obstacles and constraints, as well as action, to overcome them. In that context, a major event to review progress made in implementing the goals and objectives of the Millennium Declaration should be held in 2005. He also proposed the establishment of a permanent council of regional organizations to reinvigorate coordination between the United Nations and regional organizations.
In the context of “tuning up” the Organization, he said the General Assembly’s working methods must be improved to ensure that it became more efficient, focused and relevant. Among the steps to take in that regard were the strengthening of the Office of the President, further streamlining of the agenda and focusing debates in the plenary and Main Committees on a limited number of key issues of common interest to make them more interactive. There must also be practical improvement with regard to resolutions; they must be shorter, more focused and meaningful, and their implementation must be effectively monitored. It was also important to make ECOSOC more effective, including through strengthening its cooperation with the Bretton Woods institutions.
Finally, he commended the Secretary-General’s focus on resource allocation and said the proposal to cut the medium-term plan to two years would enable review bodies to take a more strategic approach to the work of the Organization and its resources.
KISHORE MAHBUBANI (Singapore) said it was clear from the debate that there was a new energy to “revive a subject that had been drifting around the United Nations for years”; reform of the Organization and the Assembly in particular. In order for true revitalization to take hold, the principle of accountability must be imbedded in the work of the Organization’s main bodies. If that were done, then half the problem would be solved. Still, there was the need to address accusations that the Assembly itself was “lifeless and floundering”. But, was a stifled Assembly really the problem, he asked, wondering if the body’s current straits were not due to larger problems throughout the United Nations system.
Was it the Assembly that was lost or the overall United Nations that was lost, he said. It was time to look at root causes and solutions, he said, adding that if one contrasted the dynamism of the world outside the United Nations with the “[lethargy] of the room we were in”, one would have to conclude that the Organization had failed to keep up with modern realities. Here, he stressed the importance of the work of the Secretary-General’s proposed panel of eminent persons and hoped its members would not be chosen merely for their notoriety, but for how much of a contribution they could make to real United Nations reform.
Turning to discuss root causes, he said that larger issues than procedure were at stake. He recalled that some speakers had earlier said that the Security Council was “sucking the oxygen” from the Assembly. That was partially true because of current geopolitical realities. The reason the Assembly Hall was full and lively during the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s was because the cold war was on, and the world was focused on politics. The Assembly could hope for a real solution if Member States had a clear understanding of the causes as to why the body was in such dire straits. Looking at geopolitics should be part of the solution. The Assembly had to engage the major powers of the day and make them see that the body needed to be strengthened. Some good news there was that, due to globalization, “everybody was sailing on the same boat”, he said, so there was a new awareness that only by cooperating with each other could States solve the critical problems of the day.
Further, he said the time had come for the Assembly to move away from its plodding, mechanical and automatic processes. The Assembly must address real issues, not just automatically re-examine subjects that came up year after year. “We must stop delivering speeches and start talking to each other”, he declared. It was also time to “sensitively and delicately” address core issues about the Office of the Assembly President. Member States must ensure that that important post was enhanced, and not seen as a final stop or reward, bestowed on diplomats just prior to their retirement from the United Nations system.
Finally, he urged delegations to realize that the Assembly Hall “even when it’s quiet and empty”, controlled one of the world’s most valuable and precious resources -- legitimacy. Even the legitimacy enjoyed by the Security Council was an offshoot of the Assembly’s 191 members ratifying the United Nations Charter. The Assembly’s legitimacy was a valuable commodity that could and should be harnessed for the betterment of the wider United Nations and the world.
ROMAN KIRN (Slovenia) shared the view that there was a momentum for change taking place, and it was necessary to seize on that opportunity. A great majority of speakers had raised the issue of United Nations reform during the general debate, and expressed the need for political will. He viewed that as an emerging consensus, and called on delegations to build on it in further deliberations. A number of good ideas and proposals relating to revitalization and reform had been identified. It was now time to put them into practice.
The informal note on the revitalization of the Assembly was an excellent starting point for a plan of work. And, as it was being well received, it was important to move forward in the direction of decision-making. He believed that everybody’s views and contributions were valuable, and that work should be organized into two, simultaneous tracks: one to deal with proposals and solutions, related to improving the work of the Assembly on the short run; and the second to deal with proposals and solutions of a more structured nature, which could take more time. That work was to complement the work of the panel of eminent personalities being established by the Secretary-General.
VLADIMIR DROBNJAK (Croatia) called for the enlargement of the Security Council and the revitalization of the General Assembly. An essential step towards that goal was to replace the current debate-oriented approach with one that produced tangible results. He outlined the main areas that needed to be considered in the ongoing efforts to enhance the authority of the Assembly, and improve its working methods, noting that it was the only principal United Nations organ that gave each Member State an equal opportunity to participate in the decision-making process.
He called for regionally and subregionally balanced representation in the composition of the working groups and panels assigned to produce comprehensive reform proposals. The collective interest of the Organization should prevail over attempts to safeguard national interests at any cost and at the expense of the efficiency and better performance of the Assembly. Reforms should benefit all Member States, especially those that were not privileged with Security Council membership. No single national interest, regardless of the Member State’s size, should be allowed to derail the reforms, he cautioned.
Further, he advocated for a significant strengthening of the political authority of the Assembly, particularly in relation to the implementation of its resolutions. Adoption of resolutions that members were not ready, or able, to implement, would lead to the “utmost irrelevance” of the Assembly. He believed the plan to revitalize the Assembly, was as much a technical exercise, as it was a political one, and required the expertise, flexibility, pragmatism and understanding of all Member States to fulfil it.
MANOP MEKPRAYOONTHONG (Thailand) said that as the sole universal multilateral institution, the United Nations must evolve with the changing times and geopolitical landscape, to remain effective and relevant. The strengthening of the Organization must encompass the restructuring, reform and revitalization of its main bodies, and particularly, the rationalization of the work of the Assembly. Thus, Thailand supported the framework of action put forward by the Assembly President, including as it related to the clustering of issues related to the authority and role of the Assembly, the strengthening of the Office of the President, the streamlining of the Assembly’s work and lightening of the workload of the Secretariat and Member States, the extension of the session over the full year, and the proposal to have a thematic discussion of issues of pressing priority during the general debate.
The successful revitalization of the Assembly’s work, he recalled, hinged on a number of factors, including the political will of Member States to empower it to play the role envisaged in the Charter. In order for proposals of change to receive broad support and consensus, discussions should be conducted openly and with transparency, in an atmosphere of trust and constructive criticism. Moreover, once decisions were taken, it was equally important to ensure their full implementation. The Assembly must find ways of guaranteeing the implementation of its resolutions in both the national and international contexts.
Finally, he noted, reform was not an indefinite process; that daunting challenge must be achieved within a timeframe. Specifically, it should be carried out, so as to enable the Organization to attain the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, as intended. The prevailing sense of urgency must be sustained.
GONÇALO DE SANTA CLARA GOMES (Portugal) said the revitalization of the Assembly was of immense political importance and was fundamental for the development of strategies to achieve the goals set out in the Charter of the United Nations. The Assembly was the cornerstone of the Organization, the main source of legitimacy. Continued neglect of that body would damage the whole United Nations. One way to redress that situation was to make the Assembly’s debates more interactive, including by removing from the General Assembly Hall, when large audiences were not expected. The Hall regularly looked half empty and was too big to encourage true dialogue.
Another aspect of reform concerned the need to improve ECOSOC’s interaction with the Security Council, he added, especially on post-conflict issues. In pre- and post-conflict situations, the international community must address three aspects: reinforcing the internal security system; building up national institutions and making the State stronger and more capable; and creating a viable economy. However, the Security Council had not paid sufficient attention to all those needs, and it lacked the competence and interest to join economic assistance to State-building and security needs. And, while ECOSOC had a greater sensibility to certain of those aspects, it alone was not equipped to be fully efficient in conflict prevention.
During the General Debate, he recalled, his Prime Minister had proposed the creation of a new institutional mechanism, a commission mandated to monitor conflict prevention and promote conditions for peace and development. That commission could, in conjunction with both Councils, identify and deal with the most pressing needs. It could also draw up integrated strategies to ally the objectives of security, institutional reinforcement and economic and social development for countries at risk. That commission would also need to be closely linked with the Bretton Woods institutions and other United Nations agencies. In terms of the Organization’s budget, he concluded, existing resources should be sufficient to cover the functioning of that Commission.
REZLAN ISHAR JENIE (Indonesia) said reform of the United Nations was justified by the fact that it was the world’s premier instrument of multilateral diplomacy. The strengthening of the United Nations would, in turn, strengthen the practice of multilateralism. He shared the view that the reallocation of agenda items that spanned a number of Main Committees was best handled in the plenary. Also, the Main Committees should continue to develop ways of improving their own methods of work, and to share such information with other Committees that might be interested. He also welcomed the advances that had been made in the technical areas of reform, which concerned such issues as overlapping, enhancing coordination and strengthening efficiency. At the same time, he called for greater commitment towards progress in the strategic areas, which impinged on the capability of the United Nations system to uphold the objectives and principles stipulated in the Charter.
He said the issue of Security Council reform was also important and should be undertaken without further delay. The Security Council, in its current form, reflected the world of 50 years ago. He expressed a similar view with respect to ECOSOC, which should continue to strengthen its role as the mechanism for system-wide coordination. He called for a cross-sectoral approach to be used by ECOSOC to review the implementation of the outcomes of major United Nations conferences and summits and their follow-up processes. At the end of the day, reform must be seen in terms of how well it had helped the cause of development in developing countries, because the exercise was not for the sake of reform but to achieve the objectives of development.
ABDUL-DAYEM MUBAREZ (Yemen) said there was wide awareness of the need to profit from the upsurge in support for United Nations reform. Members States would be shirking their responsibility if they did not take advantage of the current momentum. Thus, it was encouraging to see participants in the debate reiterating their commitment to reform. Furthermore, it was very important for that reform to be an exhaustive and well-integrated process to strengthen the work done by all United Nations bodies.
Of particular importance, was the reform of the Assembly, he reaffirmed. In the course of recent years, that body had suffered from a great deal of imbalance, as one could see in the contrast between the importance of the issues dealt with and its clear failure to deal effectively with them. And, while many resolutions on reform had been adopted, those that had been implemented were largely concerned with the rationalization of the agenda rather than more fundamental issues. The implementation of all its resolutions would make it possible for the Assembly to resume its role, as laid down in the Charter.
Among the issues that reform should confront, he added, was the overburdening of the Assembly’s agenda, which was laden with items of interest to only a few countries. The General Committee should be strengthened to enable it to properly implement resolutions on the revitalization of the Assembly. Finally, he noted that little had been done to take advantage of available skills and to ensure geographical balance in terms of personnel.
PAULETTE BETHEL (Bahamas) said her delegation supported the need for enhancing the capacity of the Assembly and the relationship between it and the principal organs of the Organization. It was necessary to expand the time allotted for the work of the Assembly and allow for work within the Main Committees to be distributed over a longer period rather than the current three months from September to December. She also supported the further clustering of related items to decrease the time allotted to individual items in the plenary and the Main Committees. However, those emerging clusters should not diminish the importance of development issues, as they pertained to the economic and social well-being of developing nations.
The role of the Department of Public Information should be enhanced to assist it in promoting the work of the United Nations, not only within the Organization, but also to the people of the world. In an age of information technology, it was important to assist developing countries to access information and communications technology, which would enable them to become active participants in relevant discussions. Lastly, the time had come for a review of matters on the Assembly’s Agenda to determine their relevance within the context of the existing geopolitical global economy. That could result in biennial consideration of some items while, others in their present form could be removed entirely.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said that reforming the United Nations system, and the Assembly in particular, was necessary to give the Organization its rightful place and function. Regarding specific proposals, he said a concrete measure for strengthening the Office of the Assembly President should involve the seconding of competent Secretariat personnel to that Office. That would create an institutional memory within the Office and make possible the re-election of a President. Furthermore, giving the General Committee a meaningful role was the responsibility of the President. The Committee should live up to its responsibility regarding the agenda -– not only in respect of including new items, but also on the agenda as a whole.
Specifically, the agenda must be made more relevant, accessible and reflective of challenges faced today, he affirmed. In addition to those that should be deleted from the agenda, there were few items that merited annual consideration. That would alleviate the present burden and leave more time for implementation, thus making the consideration of items more meaningful. It would also have an immediate effect on the issue of documentation.
With respect to the Main Committees, he continued, the Assembly might consider an additional reduction in their number. It could also sequence the Main Committees, as an alternative to, or in combination with, reducing their number. There should also be real interaction between the Office of the President and the Main Committees. Moreover, while the consideration of items on a biennial or triennial basis would reduce the number of resolutions, it should also not be assumed automatically that if an item was up for consideration, there must be a resolution. Decisions to reaffirm earlier resolutions, in instances where the text of a new resolution would be close to identical to those of past years, would have the same effect.
DIRK JAN VAN DEN BERG (Netherlands) said it was necessary to create concrete proposals that produced a more relevant Assembly. The Assembly’s agenda should be grouped around major issues of global impact, making it more coherent, accessible and manageable for States. That way, both, the delegations and the general public, would have a better understanding of what was going on in the Assembly. The eight sections of the Millennium Declaration provided an ideal framework for such an exercise. Yet, the distribution of agenda items between the plenary and the Main Committees seemed to disadvantage the discussion of highly relevant topics in the plenary. Also, items on the agenda often had a “micro”-orientation, whether by subject or by country, and that was especially the case in the plenary.
Since, there was a clear correlation between the number of items on the agenda and the number of resolutions, consideration should be given to the longer-term agenda of the Assembly as a gross list of agenda items. Each Assembly could then draw upon that list to compile its programme of work for that year’s session. A new approach could also be agreed on a review cycle, as part of the adoption of a resolution, which would avoid bringing the resolution to a vote again in the next year. Then, only if new developments or improved insights merited substantial change, could the review lead to the adoption of a substantially changed or new resolution. On the issue of consensus, he said it could be overused and misused as a pseudo-veto right by some. Among the elements for discussion on that issue was that consensus should require at least unanimity between the majorities within the regional groups. Also, States opposing a consensus should be obligated to clarify the national interests at stake.
MARGARET HUGHES FERRARI (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) called for a rearranging of the schedule so that the Assembly’s work could be evenly spread throughout the year. She pointed out the economic and physical strain that had been placed on small missions such as hers. The vast majority of the work of the United Nations was “crammed” into three months between September and December, and for the rest of the year, while they were active, the agenda was not nearly so demanding. She said the call to rearrange the schedule did not seem to be such a revolutionary suggestion, but whenever it was mentioned it was met with raised eyebrows and disapproving frowns. Member States had “inflicted” the agenda on themselves and they should now pause and consider whether they could do better.
She insisted that States could and should impose self-discipline on themselves when it came to addressing the Assembly. In that respect, she suggested a speaking time of five minutes, but excluded from that suggestion the general debate and other high-level or ministerial meetings. The revitalization of the Assembly was vital if the Organization was to stay at the forefront of serving the people of the world. On the Security Council, she stressed that non-Council members were seldom consulted and, unlike the Assembly, their voice did not count for anything.
STUART LESLIE (Belize) said that for small developing countries, such as his, the Assembly represented a level field where each Member State could participate on an equal footing in the decision-making process. He stressed that, in no uncertain terms, the people of the world had given the leaders a mandate. To that end, he identified three specific issues related to the revitalization of the Assembly, namely; the role of the Assembly, leadership, in particular the role of the President and media interest.
On the role of the Assembly, he agreed with the view that it had the oversight of the United Nations system as a whole and, hence, had before it the full range of international issues. Therefore, it was necessary to revive the role of the Assembly as the supreme political body that addressed major international issues. On the leadership of the Office of the President, it was now time to revisit how the President’s role could be enhanced through the strengthening of that Office. With respect to media interest, he stressed that the press played an important role in the revitalization of the Assembly. That interest might logically follow from efforts to revive the Assembly’s role, but it was an interest that must be actively sought out and engaged.
CHEIKH NIANG (Senegal) said that reform of the Organization was possible, as seen by the Secretary-General’s proposals, which included a revitalization of the Assembly, the improvement of working methods and the launching of an oversight for the United Nations. Revitalizing the Assembly to deliberate on issues of concern to the international community would make it possible for the body to re-appropriate its position to make strategic choices that resulted in positive outcomes. It was time to act rather than react in the face of challenges that loomed over humankind. The Assembly would be the body to receive initiatives regarding issues of the economy, globalization and poverty. That the Office of the Special Advisor on Africa, which had as its mandate the coordination of support for NEPAD, had become operational, was welcomed. Of no less significance was the establishment of the Office of the High Representative for the least developed countries, which deserved support as well.
He warned against the toils of being caught up in a bureaucracy. For proof of that, one had to look no further than the parade of conferences in the last decade, whose lackluster success undermined the value of the United Nations. On the matter of reports, he raised the issue of the volume of reports and the fact that delegations using French were not treated with equal footing. It would be useful, he said, to merge reports on similar topics and limit their length. He called for a reduction of documentation, and the strengthening of the Department of Public Information to give it the resources it needed. He noted the need to improve the Organization’s Web site to ensure language parity.
LUIS GALLEGOS (Ecuador) said that Member States should seek to make the Organization more democratic, representative and efficient, as demanded by the peoples of the world. If they did not, they would have doomed to failure the “greatest considered action of our time”. The reform process must encompass every part of the whole, and aim to strengthen the United Nations and the multilateral system. Moreover, that goal required that everyone be convinced of the need for reform.
The interdependent nature of the world made it necessary for the international community to be transparent and democratic, he added, to be sensitive to the necessities of each member and willing to seek integral solutions to common problems. It was necessary to analyse the state of affairs and discover those mandates and consensuses that already existed, as well as the areas in which issues could be advanced without prolonged negotiation. The best possible spirit of consensus was needed to unite positions to implement changes all were anxious to see. As every permanent representative and head of State or government that had appeared in the Hall this year had reaffirmed his commitment to reform, the opportunity must not be allowed to slip away.
MURARI RAJ SHARMA (Nepal) said that further efforts were required to rejuvenate the United Nations, as past initiatives had been slow and largely confined to reforming the Secretariat. Sterile debates had dragged on for long enough; tinkering at the margins with insignificant procedural changes was not what the United Nations needed. It needed real, bold initiatives to change business as usual and to shape the Organization with a renewed vision and means and tools to confront the emerging challenges of the new world.
Among those measures critical to revamping the General Assembly, he said, were clustering and consolidating the agenda and adapting it to emerging needs. The committees and sub-committees should be merged and reorganized. The Office of the Assembly President must be strengthened, and the work of the Assembly staggered throughout the session. Moreover, the Assembly’s resolutions must be implemented and its budget allocation should conform to priorities.
The Economic and Social Council also required bold reform to become more relevant and effective, he continued. Again the key to reform was implementation of the Council’s resolutions and decisions. That body should engage more closely and substantively with implementation partners to develop a sense of ownership and commitment to the Council’s decisions. Additionally, it had not always been able to coordinate its activities with those of its subsidiary bodies. Once a year, interaction with its commissions, funds and programmes was woefully insufficient. Also, one long substantive session was not conducive to rationalizing the Council’s work; it should meet throughout the year and not squeeze all its segments together at once. He also called for careful consideration of the idea of an Economic and Social Security Council, and noted the questions that had been raised about the alternate holding of ECOSOC’s substantive session in New York and Geneva.
ANTHONY B. SEVERIN (Saint Lucia) said there was much merit to pursuing the Assembly’s revitalization, under two themes proposed by the Assembly President, namely; “Enhancing the authority and role of the General Assembly” and “Improving the working methods of the General Assembly”. On the issue of the authority and role of the Assembly, he stressed that, in a very real sense, the President embodied the authority of the Organization’s membership. As such, the Office of the President should reflect and project that authority. Therefore, the capacity of that Office to provide confident, competent and effective leadership to the Assembly should be enhanced.
To enhance the Assembly’s role and authority, he said it was necessary to continue work through that body, except where the Organization’s Charter and rules dictated otherwise. In so doing, he pointed to the need to maintain the relationship between the Assembly and other organs of the United Nations, in particular the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council. In that regard, it appeared appropriate that regular, formal briefings between the Presidents of the Assembly, the Security Council and ECOSOC, as well as the Secretary-General, be institutionalized. It was agreed that there were serious flaws in the way business was conducted in the Assembly and fundamental changes were required. To that end, he called for extending the work of the six Main Committees beyond the customary three months. He believed greater logic and coherence to the work of the Assembly could be achieved, as well as a more convenient and delegation-friendly sequencing of work.
PUREVJAV GANSUKH (Mongolia) said he attached particular importance to the reform and revitalization of the United Nations because people, especially those in the developing world, were tired of unfulfilled promises, and attached high value to deeds rather than to lofty but hollow declarations. Reform was another decisive step towards restoring confidence in the Organization, and it was necessary now more than ever, so that the world body could tackle with efficiency, global challenges. In view of the little progress that had been made in practical implementation of the reform process, in spite of the number of open-ended working groups set up to that end, it was urgent that the process was speeded up through identifying innovative approaches. There was a need to consider once again what kind of reform was needed and for what purpose. The realities of the present and the challenges faced by the United Nations had to be taken into account in efforts to achieve reform.
He said an important part of the reform process was the revitalization of the Assembly and strengthening its role. The work of the eminent persons panel and the Assembly could be complementary rather than competing with each other.
The Assembly had, over the past decade, adopted several resolutions aimed at rationalizing its working methods and improving its efficiency. Additionally, there was deep support during last month’s general debate for the central role of the Assembly as a supervisory and policy-making body, and for the continuing efforts towards its revitalization to permit it to deal effectively with both old and new challenges. A genuine and authentic revitalization of the Assembly would only be achieved through additional innovative measures that tackled the problem of its relative marginalization and its relationship with other organs of the United Nations.
ABDELRAHMAN RAHMATALLA (Sudan) said that the Secretary-General had emphasized in his report the importance of introducing appropriate modifications to intergovernmental bodies, starting with the Assembly and the Economic and Social Council. He supported the proposal to establish a panel of eminent personalities. Reform of the United Nations, aimed at strengthening the role and effectiveness of the Organization, required that specific proposals for reform and the modalities by which they would be carried out be put forward. A point of departure could be the agenda of the Assembly itself, which annually comprised a number of items that could not realistically be taken up by that body.
The necessary political determination to enter into the execution phase, with regard to those resolutions for reform and revitalization that had already been adopted, was needed, he added. An overall plan should be drawn up to organize the steps that needed to be taken in that regard.
BONIFACE CHIDYAUSIKU (Zimbabwe) said that the diminishing role of the Assembly was due to the preference of some Member States to work through the Security Council. The challenge to that democratic process was rooted in the division of roles and agendas between the Assembly and the Council, and the interrelationship between the two bodies. Thus, it was not possible to have meaningful reform in the Organization without addressing the issue of the respective roles and mutual relationships of the two. By every criterion of democratic constitutional law and practice, the Assembly was the paramount organ of the United Nations, superior to the Council and central to the Organization. However, little was known of the Assembly’s powers. In fact, only the Assembly was authorized to discuss questions within the scope of the Charter or relating to powers of organs provided for in the Charter. In addition, the Assembly was mandated to consider principles of peace, security, disarmament and arms regulation. He suggested that the Assembly adopt a declaration of principles and guidelines to cover any United Nations intervention in a domestic situation within a Member State.
The Security Council was not exclusively responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security, he stated. Even in the Charter, responsibility for the peaceful settlement of disputes was shared between the Assembly and the Council. It was, therefore, time to cease waiting for the Council and enable the Assembly to act as the superior decision-making body that it was in international law. He called on the Assembly to establish a high-level intergovernmental expert group to review the causes of complex crises and emergencies, and to draw conclusions on the handling of such situations. Lastly, he said that once a resolution was adopted it was important to ensure its implementations.
ROBERT AISI (Papua New Guinea) said that the issue was no longer the need for change but rather how to collectively effect that change. There was a “distinct air of anticipation” and at no other time in the past had there been a better opportunity to make those critical changes. Notwithstanding all the criticisms encountered by the United Nations since its birth, it still stood as probably the only credible world body that could harness the collective focus of all the States of the world. The United Nations had also become an institution where the rich and poor, the weak and powerful, could in an orderly and respectful manner voice their opinions in debate and be heard. It was necessary to collectively address and continuously review the way in which many global issues were addressed.
He said leaders needed to stop “commenting and complaining” about the number of resolutions and “get on with the job” of cleaning the United Nations records as part of the reform process. In that regard, he suggested three areas for consideration. First, there should be an immediate review of all current Assembly resolutions to determine their viability and relevance. Secondly, the process should include a review of the contents of each resolution to determine whether certain provisions had been superseded by new resolutions. Thirdly, there should be a review of resolutions which had been superseded by major international conferences and summits.
BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba) said that the strengthening and reform of the United Nations aimed to restore the Organization’s centrality in international relations and ensure the rule of law. It also necessarily required reaffirming the applicability of the principles contained in the Charter, including the sovereignty of States and the non-use of or threat to use force. The means of strengthening the United Nations, in an age where unilateralism was on the upsurge and a totalitarian order dominated, posed a difficult challenge. The principles of responsibility, accountability, effectiveness, good stewardship of financial resources, modernization, credibility and freedom should guide initiatives for reform.
Reforming the Organization should enable it to implement, in its entirety, the Millennium Declaration, including through the complete destruction of weapons of mass destruction and preventing the development of new and highly effective conventional weapons. There must also be action to create a more fair, inclusive, democratic and sustainable international economic system, which ensured access for all developing countries to the benefits of globalization. The Security Council’s encroachment of the powers of the General Assembly and ECOSOC should also be redressed.
He said the Assembly must take in hand the broad powers ascribed to it by the Charter, including those that were devolved to it by paralysis in the Security Council. Although Assembly resolutions were not legally binding, history showed their powerful message could have considerable impact on the international system. Splitting the main calendar of the Assembly could also prove a major contribution to improving its working methods. Yet, the effectiveness of the work of the plenary and the committees would continue to depend more on the political will of Member States than on procedural changes.
JANUSZ STANCZYK (Poland) said that the revitalization of the work of the Assembly was an ongoing duty for everyone interested in having a place where goals would be turned into reality. The reforms in the economic and social areas constituted an important element in the process of strengthening and revitalizing the United Nations. Therefore, it was necessary to improve the efficiency and review the mandates of the various organizations and agencies working in that field, while at the same time promoting a more effective coordination among them. He also supported the initiative to strengthen ECOSOC because its effectiveness in performing its role as the central mechanism for system-wide coordination had become an issue of utmost importance. However, he stressed that the reform of the United Nations alone should not be the ultimate goal. Instead, leaders must be guided by more ambitious and noble goals as opposed to just making the work easier.
To reform the United Nations, he said it was necessary to be clear on what was expected from it. Similarly, to meet the challenges related to the changing times and needs, it was necessary to redefine the Organization’s objectives and, where possible, re-invigorate its operations. On the work of the proposed eminent panel, he stressed that its work should not only focus on the reform of the current organs and agencies, but should embody a new reinforced basis for the United Nations mandate and delineate the functions of the Organization.
FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said that the need for reform had proved its relevance. It was, however, logical for there to be certain failings and weaknesses, and for the need to resolve them. Reform should be a tool, not an end in itself. He was convinced that strengthening the United Nations as a legislative body was the essential point of reform. It was necessary to reform the main bodies, particularly the Security Council, by enlarging its membership or revising its procedures so that it could be a democratic body that reflected the international community. The Assembly was the main deliberative and decision-making body. The Assembly’s resolutions were valid, relevant and deserved to be implemented, which, in turn, would strengthen the organ’s credibility. That required political resolve by Member States.
The activities of the Organization had increased in the course of the past few years, and that went hand-in-hand with an increase in its membership. Yet, its working methods had not improved at the same pace. He believed that reform should also extend to the formulation of the budget. Referring to the medium-term plan, he wondered what purpose was served to merge that tool with the budgetary process. He emphasized the need to provide funding for United Nations activities. A lack of funding should not be a pretext for not implementing resolutions. The medium-term plan, and its merger with the programming and budgetary process, should be taken up in detail later because data was not currently available to make the necessary decisions now. There was no need to be hasty in that area, as that would be counter-productive. His delegation wished to contribute to deliberations on those items, as Syria was among the first to advocate reform so that the Organization could play its proper role.
WOLFGANG TRAUTWEIN (Germany) said the United Nations must confront threats and challenges, both new and old, hard and soft. It must be fully engaged in the struggle for development and poverty eradication, in the common struggle to protect the environment and in the struggle for human rights, democracy and good governance. Dealing with those threats and challenges would require facing up to concerns that made some States feel uniquely vulnerable and drove them to take unilateral action. Those States must be shown that collective action could effectively address their concerns.
It was in that context that the United Nations found itself at the “fork in the road”, he recalled. It must not shy away from questions about the adequacy and effectiveness of the rules and instruments at its disposal. And, among those instruments, none was of greater importance than the Security Council. That body must regain the confidence of States and of world public opinion. It must demonstrate its ability to deal effectively with the most difficult of issues and become more broadly representative of the international community, and of geopolitical realities. The Council would, he noted, have to address the “pre-emptive” use of force, including with regard to possible criteria for early authorizations of coercive measures, and the best ways to respond to threats of genocide and other comparable, massive violations of human rights.
However, the Council was not the only institution that should be strengthened. The Secretariat should be made more effective, the General Assembly strengthened, and the role of ECOSOC -– indeed the role of the United Nations as a whole in economic and social affairs, including its relationship with the Bretton Woods institutions -– rethought and reinvigorated. The role of the Trusteeship Council should also be reviewed.
AMARE TEKLE (Eritrea) said the proposal for strengthening the United Nations came in a period of transition that witnessed the end of the cold war and the advent of globalization and their consequences. In spite of promising developments, there were challenges to overcome, including the crisis of multilateralism, the inability to adapt to new realities and an identity crisis rooted in what the United Nations could and could not do. The United Nations needed to be strengthened if it was to credibly meet the demands and expectations of a fast changing world. Because it was obvious that the United Nations and its allied organizations could no longer accomplish their missions and mandates, it was imperative to “dream up” a new vision, to recast the mandate and to upgrade the structure of the Organization, if it was to become an efficient and meaningful instrument for global peace and development.
He stressed that the many current challenges and problems of the world could be met or resolved by, faithfully adhering to the values contained in the United Nations Charter. The Organization could execute its mandate faithfully, credibly and effectively if its institutions were empowered and enabled to operate smoothly on the basis of the tasks and duties allocated to them by the Charter. Despite the “hollow myth” of majority of developing countries controlling the affairs of the United Nations, the major powers of the developed countries remained in control of the operations of the Organization. He called for the United Nations to be democratized so that it would reflect the general and specific responsibilities and correct imbalances. He pointed out that the call for more transparency and accountability had yet to elicit any meaningful response from the Security Council. The revitalization of ECOSOC was also essential in view of the current organizational weakness in the area of economic and social affairs.
CHAIM SHACHAM (Israel) welcomed the Secretary-General’s suggestion to combine duplicate discussions and reduce recurring agenda items, as his country had frequently found itself lamenting the automatic annual rehash of resolutions, without regard for the relevance of their content or the efficiency of their treatment. A reduction in the number of overlapping resolutions could be achieved by simply merging and editing draft texts. That would create important savings in time, money and paperwork.
Also, his call for realigning priorities, including a focus on technology-based development solutions, water issues, the promotion of good governance as the foundation for peace, and the strengthening of the Organization’s capacity to fight terrorism, was right on target. Those priorities constituted the building blocks for regional reconciliation and promised cooperation, development and prosperity to all peace-loving peoples.
It was correct, he stated, that the Department of Public Information had suffered from a fragmentation of its efforts, as a result of too many mandates and missions. It was hoped that the new operating model proposed by the Secretary-General would resolve the past phenomenon of waste and counterproductive activities. Furthermore, the establishment of a panel to review the relationship between the United Nations and civil society was welcomed, in that it would bring about improved engagement with civil society based on procedures and policies reflecting greater coherence, consistency and predictability. In particular, the terms and conditions governing the accreditation and participation of non-governmental organizations in United Nations conferences should be reviewed and improved to protect the focus of the Organization from being appropriated by hidden agendas.
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