I. Executive Summary
In September 2005 at the World Summit, global leaders resolved to "strengthen and update the programme of work of the United Nations so that it responds to the contemporary requirements of Member States". To that end, they instructed the General Assembly and other relevant organs to "review all mandates older than five years originating from resolutions of the General Assembly and other organs", and requested me to facilitate this with analysis and recommendations. The present report responds to that request, and aims to provide Member States with an analytical framework for their review of the Organization’s current mandates.
Legislative mandates express the will of Member States and are the means through which they grant authority and responsibility to the Secretary-General to implement their requests. For the purposes of this report, a mandate has been defined as a request or a direction for action by the United Nations Secretariat or other implementing entities in the system, which originates in a resolution of the General Assembly or one of the other organs.
In response to requests from several Member States, the Secretariat has compiled an electronic inventory of mandates originating from the resolutions of the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, and the Security Council. This inventory, which is presented as a searchable online registry, will give Member States access to information on the Organization’s active and potentially active mandates that are older than five years, and the resolutions from which they derive, in a convenient way.
The mandate-generation cycle through which mandates are adopted, funded and implemented, and then considered for continuation, change or elimination, should be re-examined. In order to conduct a proper and fully comprehensive review, Member States must be able to serve as better custodians of their mandates. The current system has not sufficiently allowed an intergovernmental organ, once it has adopted a resolution, to analyse the effectiveness of its mandates and how they contribute to the overall priorities of the Organization as a basis for subsequent decision-making. This critical gap has contributed to, or exacerbated, the following problems, which are common to issue areas, departments and entities throughout the Organization:
Burdensome reporting requirements
The single greatest symptom of the lack of a coherent system for evaluating mandates and their effectiveness is the uncoordinated and burdensome mass of reports requested from the Secretariat. The quantity of the reports obscures their quality and impact, overwhelming the Member States and overburdening the Secretariat. Because information is not often provided on the overall picture of the Organization’s work in an area, it is difficult through those reports to judge the effectiveness of mandates in meeting the Organization’s objectives.
Overlap between and within organs
Year after year, the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the Security Council continue to adopt new mandates on the same issues, sometimes even under more than one agenda item in the same organ, usually without introducing new ideas or approaches. While some overlap of mandates from different organs is inevitable and different perspectives desirable, the existence of many interrelated mandates is generally confusing, redundant and wasteful.
An unwieldy and duplicative architecture for implementation
The proliferation of mandates has in some cases led to overlapping, uncoordinated and inconsistent architecture for implementing mandates, in which the whole may be less than the sum of the parts. Little guidance is provided on what to do with older mandates that address the same issues, which therefore linger on over the years.
Gap between mandates and resources
A fundamental and recurring challenge has been the adoption, year after year, of hundreds of mandates which must be implemented within resource constraints that do not keep pace. Member States confer additional responsibilities with neither corresponding funds nor guidance on how resources should be reallocated. This gap leads to real costs for the Organization and the people it serves.
Some of these problems might be addressed if the system were strengthened to improve Member States custodianship of their mandates. More strategic interaction through better reporting to Member States on the state of mandates would not only unburden the Secretariat but also – importantly – would enable Member States to ascertain whether their mandates are being effectively implemented and whether they contribute to the overall goals and priorities of the Organization. This more transparent system would allow Member States, when considering the adoption or renewal of mandates, to make informed and deliberate decisions about the direction in which they want the Organization to go. Such a system would require the development and more strategic use of three tools:
(a) Reports and documentation requirements. Reporting should be improved and consolidated to provide timely, concise and clear information in a way that meets the needs of the Member States and in a manner that does not overburden the Secretariat.
(b) Mandate monitoring and evaluation. The principal organ from which a mandate originates should have information on the effectiveness of its mandates and an understanding of how they fit into the overall programme of work of the Organization, in order to make decisions about future mandates. Evaluative information is crucial for this purpose and it must be strengthened.
(c) Legislative decisions and resolutions. Member States should provide strategic direction and objectives when adopting resolutions and, for fuller accountability, the Secretary-General should determine which entity or department is the most competent to lead implementation efforts.
To ensure that information is provided in a strategic manner that meets the true demand for knowledge about the work of the United Nations, a set of core policy reports on each of the Organization’s priority areas could be prepared to provide a full picture of all the activities in each thematic area. When a draft resolution is being considered, the Secretariat could provide, in addition to estimates of budget implications, information about the proposed mandates that the resolution contains. This information could include (a) the status of implementation, and evaluation of the effectiveness of previous mandates that address the same issue; (b) an explanation of how the proposed mandate will complement or supplement existing structures, conferences, reports and activities; and (c) indications of how the mandate might serve the overall goals of the Organization.
In addition, the online registry of mandates could be used by Member States as a simple monitoring tool to inform them of the basic status of the implementation of their mandates, as has been requested by several delegations. I will further support Member States in their efforts to rationalize mandates in various issue areas by providing analysis and possible options for consideration. Member States may wish to initiate a process to consider more fully which intergovernmental organ should be the primary forum for consideration of certain items, and ways to improve coordination between the principal organs.
The aforementioned problems and issues play out in different ways for each of the Organization’s programme priorities and for the United Nations research and training institutes:
A. Maintenance of international peace and security
The increasing complexity of conflicts and the interconnectedness of security and development issues have lead to overlaps between the organs on this set of issues, so that both reporting and architecture need to be updated. The new Peacebuilding Commission may help to harmonize strategies and establish a clearer division of labour on peacebuilding activities. Reports on situations that are no longer crisis-driven could be less frequent, and reports to different organs on the same issue could be consolidated. To ensure effective and timely responses, efforts should be made to ensure that mandated requirements are matched with adequate resources.
B. Promotion of sustained growth and sustainable development
The Economic and Social Council, building on the reaffirmation of its central role in the World Summit Outcome, should better review, guide and monitor the work of the subsidiary machinery. Given the peculiarities of each issue area, from trade and finance to sustainable development and human settlements, Member States could review mandates using the analytical framework, and the support of the various networks, created in the context of the Executive Committee on Economic and Social Affairs. Reporting requirements should be streamlined to better serve the follow-up to the Millennium Declaration. Resources dedicated to development should be more predictable, and so managed as to ensure that high-priority activities are covered.
C. Development of Africa
The adoption in 2002 of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) has allowed different approaches to development in Africa to coalesce around a specifically Africa-defined and Africa-driven approach. It may now be appropriate to review all pre-NEPAD mandates in order to streamline them in the context of NEPAD and to ensure full support to the priorities identified by the African Union.
D. Promotion of human rights
The resolution establishing the new Human Rights Council calls for a streamlining of the various mandates. This offers Member States an opportunity to take immediate action to improve reporting requirements in this area, which are particularly important as they are one of the primary means through which human rights are monitored, and Member States are held accountable for the fulfilment of treaty obligations.
E. Effective coordination of humanitarian assistance
The scale and magnitude of recent emergencies and disasters clearly demonstrate the need for a timely and coordinated humanitarian response. While some overlap in mandates among implementing entities exists, the main concern here is that the principal organs often approach humanitarian assistance in a fragmented manner, which can result in implementation gaps. Addressing those gaps is necessary to ensure that emergency needs are met.
F. Promotion of justice and international law
Mandates in this area have expanded greatly in scope and intricacy, either because of the expanded jurisdiction of United Nations organs, and of other entities serviced by the Office of Legal Affairs, or because the spectrum of legal issues to be dealt with has increased in response to the demands of transitional justice work. This has stretched the capacity of the Office to respond effectively and efficiently to the needs of Member States. Taking some steps to provide information to Member States in a more efficient manner may better serve the goals and priorities of the United Nations in this area.
Consultations and resolutions on disarmament have not always produced the intended results. Similarly, extensive deliberations and reporting sometimes have rather limited additional value in this area, owing to the sensitivity of the issues involved. It might make sense to adopt fewer resolutions of a general nature, unconnected to any immediate situation. On issues such as missiles, where Member States are deadlocked on points of substance, different ways to conduct deliberations and studies should be considered.
H. Drug control, crime prevention and combating international terrorism
Over the past 10 years, the activities of the United Nations in the fields of drug control, transnational crime prevention and combating terrorism have grown considerably. It is important that any unnecessary overlaps or duplications be identified so that their resources can be shifted to the many important aspects of work in the field that are currently under-resourced. In addition, Member States should explore further the idea of one commission to deal with both drugs and crime issues, as well as ways to better coordinate the actions of the three counter-terrorism subsidiary bodies of the Security Council.
I. Gender equality and empowerment of women
Gender issues deserve the same consideration of other cross-cutting priorities in the work of the Organization. Overlapping mandates for reports on gender could be examined and, most importantly, an overall assessment and evaluation of the institutional resources across the system is needed to strengthen the United Nations work in the area of gender equality and gender mainstreaming.
J. Research and training institutes
The various United Nations training and research institutes have evolved in an ad hoc manner. Strengthened coordination, an accountability system and the establishment of a common policy on these institutes would streamline decision-making, and ensure relevance of research to policy. Consolidating these institutes into one United Nations educational research and training system would make it possible to articulate a unifying vision and an overarching set of strategic directions for them, and thereby help to maximize their collective contribution to the United Nations system.
Some of the problems identified in this report can be addressed quite quickly by Member States, while others will require extended consideration. Thus, I recommend that Member States consider dividing their review of mandates into two distinct phases. The first phase could be devoted to examining mandates in those areas where the problems have been clearly identified and a solution can be reached in the coming months. The second phase would include consideration of groups of mandates which require new processes and guidelines for coming to agreement over a period of time.