|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-second General Assembly
1st Meeting (AM)
Deputy Secretary-General pledges broad effort to further improve United Nations
effectiveness, efficiency as budget committee holds organizational session
“We will not shrink from our responsibilities of seeking continuous improvement, and to deliver more effectively and efficiently in the discharge of mandates you have entrusted us with, but we expect your support in providing adequate resources in implementation of the mandates,” Deputy-Secretary-General of the United Nations, Asha-Rose Migiro, told the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning.
Addressing the Committee during its organizational meeting, she said urgent action was needed to further improve the Organization’s work and effectively discharge its mandates. Among the main issues that would be central during the session, she listed the need to strengthen the United Nations’ work in the areas of development, peace and security, and human rights; effective and efficient use of resources; legislative mandates; budgets; accountability and oversight; and management reform. She said Member States had also called for improved managerial performance, including improvements in work processes, greater transparency and the highest standards of ethical conduct among staff. The Secretary-General and she were fully committed to working on a number of fronts to further improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the United Nations. That was particularly true in peacekeeping. She was encouraged by Member States’ willingness to substantially invest in bolstering the Secretariat’s capacity in that critical area. The Secretary-General was putting equal prominence in conflict prevention.
Through the Ethics Office, the Organization was committed to implementing new policies and training initiatives to foster a working climate steeped in a culture of ethics and transparency, she said. In the context of strengthening the accountability framework, the Secretary-General attached great importance to the completion of Performance Compacts with his senior managers. In July and August, she had been engaged, for the first time, in dialogue with each of the senior managers on their 2007 and 2008 Performance Compacts.
The Secretary-General and she were also fully committed to strengthening the internal management bodies, such as the Management Performance Board and the Management Committee. Those mechanisms were a means of building managerial commitment to reform and were important for ensuring adequate institutional follow-up to the recommendations of oversight bodies. They would also serve to keep the momentum of reform on track, in a coordinated manner. That would be particularly critical as the Organization sought to deliver and manage proposed improvements in various reform areas, including a new system of internal justice, proposed introduction of the Enterprise Resource Planning System or the changeover to the new International Public Sector Accounting Standards.
Among the priorities for the session, she listed the approval of the proposed budget for 2008-2009, including “a number of add-ons, which are essential elements of the reform scheme”. The Secretary-General would also submit a number of important reports outlining the efforts to improve systems of internal controls and accountability, including an update of the various in-house efforts to improve procurement and management of risks. That was particularly important in view of the expansion of the United Nations’ peacekeeping activities. Also of interest to the Committee would be a comprehensive report on procurement reform. “In this report, we will be accountable for the resources you provided to us in the last session, and we will have to update you on the advances performed in setting up our systems of controls,” she said.
Moreover, Member States would be asked to move ahead on reforms relating to the management of human resources and have before them the details and resource requirements of the new system of internal justice approved last spring. The Committee would also have before it the requested information on scope and resource requirements of the global resource-management system, which the Assembly had approved in principle last year. Progress on all those fronts would be critical to transforming the human resource base of the Organization. It would also be important for the enhancement of managerial decision-making tools, including better financial controls, and more accurate and timely management reporting. Progress in those areas would provide for a better functioning of the Secretariat.
Also this morning, the Committee approved its programme of work, on an understanding that adjustments would be made during the session, as required. In the discussion that preceded that action, several speakers emphasized the importance of effective management, financial responsibility and efficient use of resources, particularly in view of the growing requirements of the Organization, which, according to the budget proposal submitted by the Secretary-General, amounted to almost $4.2 billion.
The representative of Portugal, speaking on behalf of the European Union, singled out as particularly important the proposed 2008-2009 budget; the financing of International Tribunals and peacekeeping missions; and management reform, particularly the administration of justice, human resources management, information and communications technology and oversight. He also encouraged efficient use of time and emphasized the feasibility of finishing the Committee’s work by 14 December, as well as the need for eliminating evening, night and weekend meetings, and timely submission of reports.
The position of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China was presented by the representative of Pakistan, who said that the Group’s readiness to consider any item on the programme of work would be contingent upon the availability of all relevant documents in six official languages, with sufficient time for the Group to coordinate its position. He also noted that, during the sixty-first session, under strong political pressure, the Committee had had to deal with important issues at the last minute, as had been the case with restructuring of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. He regretted that, contrary to the urgent need for the appointment of the Under-Secretary-General for Field Support Services, five months after the establishment of the post it still remained vacant. He emphasized the need for adequate time allocation for deliberations on the 2008-2009 budget, insisting on the need to maintain transparency and inclusiveness during the negotiations on the matter. He opposed decision-making in small groups and called for flexibility, compromise and understanding during the session.
The representative of the Dominican Republic, speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, stressed the need to agree on the budget, which would provide the Organization with adequate resources to fully implement all its mandates, with development, peace and security, and human rights among the main priorities. Of great importance to the Group was the scale of assessments item. Also important were the administration of justice, the Capital Master Plan, human resources management reform, and the common system of the United Nations. He was concerned about the tentative price escalation for the implementation of the Capital Master Plan. He also reaffirmed the International Civil Service Commission’s fundamental role in regulating the Organization’s systems of service and emphasized the need to avoid the adverse impact of dollarization in Ecuador, calling on the United Nations Joint Pension Fund to implement a proposal on the matter.
Regarding the budget, he was concerned that issues addressed at the 2005 World Summit were not being given priority. Concerned that the post for the Under-Secretary-General of Field Support Services remained vacant, he urged that the post be filled with someone from a developing or troop-contributing country.
The United States’ representative stressed the importance of wise use of resources and good management, saying that it was necessary to aim for zero growth in the budget at all times, and especially in times of limited resources. It was necessary to realistically seek to control growth in the budget, while ensuring that there were sufficient funds to meet the authorized mandates. He also advocated prioritization of expenditures, cutting back on redundant programmes and redirecting resources to new challenges and priorities. The future of the United Nations depended on such sound management and governance. In considering the Organization’s significant financial requirements, it was necessary to discuss the modification or elimination of duplicative, redundant, or no longer relevant mandates.
That process, called for by the world leaders during the 2005 Summit, had not happened and there was no viable path for real mandate review, he said. Merely continuing consultations on mandate review without a viable framework for producing a significant impact on the work of the Organization was not the answer. He also urged the Secretary-General to ensure full implementation of the Outcome Document in the areas of ethical conduct, more extensive financial disclosure for United Nations officials, and enhanced protection for those who revealed wrongdoing within the Organization.
Of particular importance was the need to finalize a system-wide code of ethics and apply the authority of the Ethics Office throughout the system, including the funds and programmes, he continued. He also urged all senior United Nations officials to make public their financial disclosure statements. Among other priorities, he addressed the selection of members of the Independent Audit Advisory Committee, operational independence of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), a formal internal control framework, procurement reform, and complete overhaul of the administration of justice. Important decisions must be made to regularize contracts and conditions of service, as well as training and staff mobility.
Canada’s representative, speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, stressed the importance of efficient use of resources and financial responsibility in the climate of increasing budgetary requirements.
The representative of Honduras welcomed the Secretary-General’s decision to accompany the budget proposal with measures to improve effectiveness and efficiency in the use of resources. However, he was extremely concerned that the Development Account represented only 0.3 per cent of the budget proposal. He was in favour of fully overhauling the administration of justice system and said that efficient and transparent human resources management was of key importance to ensure ethics, integrity and transparency. Also, steps were needed to reduce the time for filling posts and ensure equitable geographical distribution, including at the senior level.
He also informed the Committee that, this year, there would be no request for financing from the regular budget from the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), saying that the Institute would be able to reimburse the funds received by the end of the year. Among other important issues, he mentioned the modernization of the Organization with the help of information and communications technology, introduction of the Enterprise Resource Planning System and transition to the International Public Sector Accounting Standards. His delegation was prepared to look favourably at the inclusion of any proposals in favour of the Organization, including the reform of the Department of Political Affairs.
The representatives of Bangladesh and the United Republic of Tanzania (on behalf of the African Group) expressed concern on the negative impact of the late issuance of reports, noting that delayed submissions aggravated the constraints of delegations, especially the smaller ones.
The Committee will begin its substantive work at 10 a.m. Monday, 8 October.
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For information media • not an official record