DELEGATIONS UNDERSCORE NEED TO REVITALIZE GENERAL ASSEMBLY, CONTINUE WITH REFORM OF ORGANIZATION; SUPPORT PROPOSAL TO STREAMLINE BUDGETING, PLANNING PROCESS
DELEGATIONS UNDERSCORE NEED TO REVITALIZE GENERAL ASSEMBLY, CONTINUE WITH REFORM OF ORGANIZATION; SUPPORT PROPOSAL TO STREAMLINE BUDGETING, PLANNING PROCESS
Fifty-eighth General Assembly
43rd & 44th Meeting (AM & PM)
DELEGATIONS UNDERSCORE NEED TO REVITALIZE GENERAL ASSEMBLY, CONTINUE WITH REFORM
OF ORGANIZATION; SUPPORT PROPOSAL TO STREAMLINE BUDGETING, PLANNING PROCESS
Also Adopts Text on Global Public Health,
Accredits NGOs to High-level Dialogue on Development Financing
Reform was not a single, specific destination, but a “wide-ranging, indeed all-encompassing journey”, declared Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette, as the General Assembly today began 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.
Introducing the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the “agenda for further change”, she said that the reforms “big and small, swift or slow, internal or intergovernmental” that had been achieved showed that change was an integral part of the way the United Nations did its business.
Although implementation was under way on all elements of the Secretary-General’s reform package, she stated, one major piece of unfinished business remained the reform of the planning and budgeting system. In that context, the Secretary-General had argued for a more strategic, results-oriented and less time-consuming process. Among other recommendations, the Committee for Programme and Coordination should shift its focus to monitoring and evaluating the work of the Organization.
While those changes, she added, were not dramatic, if adopted, they would significantly improve the quality of the budget process. It was to be hoped that decisions in that regard would be taken before the end of the year, so that any changes could shape the development of the 2006-2007 budget.
Articulating the consensus on the need to embark immediately on a process of substantial reform and revitalization was the Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade of Fiji, Kaliopate Tavola, who spoke on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum. He urged Member States to seize the opportunity now, when prospects for reforming the United Nations system looked brighter than they had in the past, to engage in processes that would deliver specific reforms on which all could agree.
Providing a succinct list of common proposals to revitalize the Assembly, Italy’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said priority should be given to, among other things, strengthening the role of the President and his Office; enhancing the role of the General Committee; strengthening the functioning and organization of work of the Main Committees; improving the implementation of past Assembly resolutions on efficient working; and establishing a closer link between the Assembly’s agenda and the global challenges of the outside world.
Overall, United Nations reform required a strategy to prioritize the stages of change in a way that would enable it to focus on the major challenges of globalization –- the eradication of poverty and the maintenance of international peace and security, stated Morocco’s representative, who spoke on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China. The “beacon of collective action” should point the way towards a comprehensive reform package, which best served humanity and ensured the prosperity of millions of people suffering from the scourges of poverty and other devastating epidemics.
Also addressing the Assembly was its President, Julian R. Hunte (Saint Lucia), who described the practical steps he had already undertaken, including those to streamline the Assembly’s work and to make better use of the General Committee as a body providing coordination and oversight, advice and support to his office.
The representatives of Australia (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand), Norway, Algeria (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Peru (on behalf of the Rio Group), Suriname (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Egypt, Namibia, Kuwait, Japan, Pakistan, Iran, South Africa, Jamaica, Malaysia, Guatemala, United States, Switzerland, Guyana, Tunisia and Belarus also spoke before the Assembly today.
At the top of the meeting, the Assembly, having recognized the need to strengthen efforts to halt and begin to reverse the spread HIV/AIDS and the incidence of malaria and other major diseases by 2015, adopted by consensus a resolution by which it urged Member States to further integrate public health into their national economic and social development strategies.
The text was introduced by the representative of China. The representatives of Morocco (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Russian Federation, Brazil, India, Cuba, Thailand and Pakistan also spoke in support of the text before its adoption.
Also acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted a decision whereby it decided to accredit a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to the High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development, to be held in New York on 29 and 30 October.
The representative of Pakistan made a statement before the adoption of that text.
The Assembly will continue its consideration of the reform of the work of the United Nations and the revitalization of the General Assembly at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow, 28 October.
The General Assembly met today to begin its consideration of the strengthening of the United Nations system, including the revitalization of the General Assembly and other bodies. It was also expected to consider draft resolutions on enhancing capacity-building in global public health and the upcoming High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development.
Among the reports before the Assembly is the report of the Secretary-General on strengthening of the United Nations: an agenda for further change (document A/57/786), which states that the process for review of the medium-term plan and the programme budget of the Organization has become burdensome not only for Member States, who spend a lot of time considering those documents, but also for the Secretariat, which provides substantive and technical support for all the formal and informal meetings. In spite of the in-depth and detailed review process, the deliberations have had little effect on the strategic direction or outcome of the Organization’s work.
The Secretary-General had proposed that the medium-term plan be a shorter plan covering two years instead of four and combined with the budget outline. That proposal would enable the review bodies to take a more strategic and coherent approach to the Organization’s work and its related resources. A report on the modalities for a shorter plan combined with the budget outline will be submitted to the Assembly at its current session. The Secretary-General has also proposed that the intergovernmental review of plans and budgets, currently performed by both the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) and the Committee on Programme and Coordination (CPC), be absorbed under the aegis of the Fifth Committee.
The report recommends that the Assembly approve the Secretary-General’s proposal for a single-stage intergovernmental review of the medium-term plan, the budget outline and the programme budget, to become effective in 2004, and that it review the functions of the CPC to enhance its effectiveness in the areas of monitoring and evaluation.
The Secretary-General’s report on questions relating to information (document A/58/175) recalls the new mission statement of the Department of Public Information (DPI) and its revised operating model. It also explains the Department’s new organizational structure, which is aligned to a proposed new four-part subprogramme structure encompassing strategic communications services, news services, library services and outreach services. All of that has generated a renewed sense of mission within the Department, which is increasingly reflected in its activities.
As part of its strategic communications services, the Department develops thematic communications campaigns using multimedia outlets, outreach to civil society, private sector partnerships and, at the local level, the United Nations information centres (UNICs). In addition, it continues to support the information components of peacekeeping, peace-building and other political missions. In the Department’s news services, the Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General continues to be the conduit for the Organization’s official position on matters in the headlines. The United Nations Web site, which is expected to receive nearly 2.5 billion accesses in 2003, is enhancing the Department’s ability to communicate with media around the world on important developments in the United Nations system. A live radio project is now firmly established and its worldwide reach confirmed. Coverage is also available through United Nations Television, as well as in press releases, of meetings, conferences and special events at Headquarters.
Outreach services focus on educational outreach, with the United Nations Chronicle establishing its home page as a portal for that purpose. The “United Nations Works” programme places a human face on the work of the Organization, and the annual training programme for broadcasters from developing nations continues to be an important feature of the Department’s work.
As part of its reorientation process, the Department is working to establish a new ethos of performance management through the systematic evaluation of the impact of its programmed activities, aimed at ensuring that United Nations information products and services are targeted and achieve the greatest public impact. A key element of the evaluation will be the new annual programme impact review, the first of which has now begun. Another significant development in the Department’s performance management efforts is its close collaboration with the Office of Internal Oversight Services on two projects: the Office is assisting the Department with a systematic three-year evaluation of its activities; and the Department is working with the Office to complete a series of change management projects.
Another report, Status of implementation of actions described in the report of the Secretary-General entitled “Strengthening of the United Nations: an agenda for further change” (document A/58/351), states that the rationale behind the Secretary-General’s agenda for further change was to ensure the Organization devoted its attention to the priorities Member States established in the Millennium Declaration and the outcomes of the recent conferences. The nature and pace of reform will also depend on progress made in a number of intergovernmental forums, the most significant being the Assembly, which, during the current session, will discuss systemic improvements to the planning and budgeting system. Other areas requiring further deliberation by Member States include funding for operational activities for development, to be discussed in the Economic and Social Council, and the reform of the treaty bodies, to be discussed in the Commission on Human Rights.
Also, the Secretary-General’s report on the strengthening of the United Nations had stressed that a stronger Organization also depends on commensurate changes in the intergovernmental organs, most notably the Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the Security Council. Revitalizing the agendas of these bodies and improving their working methods will be an essential step towards improving the efficiency of the United Nations. The implementation of the reform will require the continued collective commitment of United Nations staff, managers and Member States alike.
The report of the Secretary-General on the review of technical cooperation in the United Nations (document A/58/382) states that the variety of differing mechanisms that exist within the system for the delivery of technical cooperation continue to attract funding support from donors, and their services continue to be of value to developing countries. Donor funding practices have a major impact on the structure of the system. Rationalization of the supply-side structure must, therefore, be addressed cautiously, for it is no guaranteed that existing funding arrangements would follow any functional reorganization within the system. This and other factors tend to favour an incremental approach to rationalization rather than a fundamental restructuring. The report emphasizes the linkages between the supply side, the demand side and the system of financing. Each must complement and support the others if an optimal system is to be achieved.
Despite the large number of entities involved overall and the variety that may act on any single issue, the areas of outright duplication of roles that were identified are limited. A number of areas where some element of clarification may be required have been flagged, and the Deputy Secretary-General will undertake a process of follow-up on the main recommendations emerging from this report. Action will be taken to ensure that optimum synergies within the system are achieved. Attention will also be given to ensuring effective collaboration between the regional commissions and the funds and programmes, in cases where there is shared sectoral priority and where the required expertise exists.
A complex and at times under-resourced system appears to be performing reasonably well. Managers are aware of their mandates and also the need to work with others to achieve the range of required inputs. However, the system has not been designed for optimal efficiency, but rather has evolved over a number of decades as a result of incremental decision-making by governance bodies and by the system’s funders. Any major structural rationalization would be a complex process involving the questioning of the continued relevance of a number of existing mandates and an assessment of donors’ willingness to support rationalization with a reform of their own funding practices.
In the report on improvements to the current process of planning and budgeting (documents A/58/395 and Corr.1), the Secretary-General proposes a strategic framework to be considered biennially, consisting of two parts: an improved and renamed medium-term plan, and an interlinked and expanded budget outline to ensure a strategic connection between programmes and resource allocation. He also proposes the enhancement of the role of the CPC with respect to monitoring programme performance and evaluation.
The report states that it is important to ensure that the programmes of the Organization are all geared towards achieving their objectives. It is also important to ensure that the work of the Organization is financed adequately to carry out the directives of Member States in an efficient and effective manner. It is recommended that the Assembly approve several features of an improved planning and budgeting system. Among them is a medium-term plan covering a two-year period, to be renamed “part one, biennial programme plan” and combined with “part two, budget outline”, so as to constitute a “strategic framework” for the Organization. The other features include an expansion of the detail contained in the budget outline, including additional information on programmatic and resource changes, and further improvement to the format and content of the proposed programme budget to facilitate decision-making at the policy level.
The draft resolution on enhancing capacity-building in global public health (document A/58/L.5) would have the Assembly urge States to further integrate public health into their national economic and social development strategies. The Assembly would also call on Member States and the international community to raise awareness of good public-health practices, including through education and the mass media. Further, it would call for the improvement of the global public-health preparedness and response systems to better cope with major diseases, including in cases of global outbreaks of new diseases.
A draft decision (document A/58/L.6), submitted by the Assembly President, would have the Assembly decide to accredit to the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development (New York, 29-30 October), and to the hearings of civil society preceding it, the following non-governmental organizations: African Women’s Economic Policy Network (AWEPON); Association Femmes Soleil d’Haiti (AFASDA); Association pour le Déploiment Rural, la Protection de l’Environnement et l’Artisanat (DERPREA-Cameroon); Consejo de Desarrollo Socioeconómica para Sudamérica (CODESESA-Peru); Institute for Democracy in Southern Africa (IDASA); Local Association for Cooperation and Social Development (LACSD); Montreal International Forum (FIM); Ocaproce Internationale -– Organisation Camerounaise de Promotion de la Coopération Economique Internationale; South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA); and the World Forum of Civil Society Networks (UBUNTU).
Introduction of Draft Resolution
WANG GUANGYA (China), introducing the draft resolution on enhancing capacity-building in global public health, recalled that halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and the incidence of malaria and other major diseases by 2015 was one of the Millennium Development Goals. To accomplish that, the international community must pay greater attention to capacity-building in global public health, for only by enhancing the international community’s capacity to combat infectious diseases and boosting national capacity-building in public health would a solid basis for development and prosperity in all countries develop.
Among the co-sponsors welcoming the draft, the representative of Morocco, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, expressed support for the comprehensive nature of the text, which, as the representative of the Russian Federation noted, emphasized the need to confront infectious diseases through strengthening national capacities. For his part, the representative of Brazil welcomed the text’s support for the Doha Declaration on the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) and Public Health, and the representative of India expressed satisfaction that the text recognized that the magnitude of the challenge to confront the incidence of infectious disease was beyond the capabilities of many developing countries. The representatives of Cuba, Thailand and Pakistan also expressed their support for the text.
The text was then adopted without a vote.
Introductory Remarks by Assembly President
As the Assembly began its discussion of a cluster of reform items, Assembly President JULIAN ROBERT HUNTE (Saint Lucia), said he considered the issue a matter of the highest priority. Indeed, he had already begun to take practical steps to streamline the Assembly’s work and to make better use of the General Committee as a body providing coordination and oversight, advice and support to his office. He had also begun to look into provisions of various Assembly resolutions, which conferred specific responsibilities on the President, but which had yet to be implemented.
He went on to say that, as Chairman of the Assembly’s Working Group on Revitalization, he had a responsibility and “deep personal commitment”, not only to the body’s reform and strengthening, but to heed the wishes of Member States, who, time and again during the general debate, had stressed that the time had come for the Organization to take action on wide-ranging reform. The revitalization of the Assembly, of course, figured prominently. With so many States expressing the will and commitment to begin the reform process, he believed that leaders in capitals were now looking to those in the hall today to proceed from discussions to action.
Statement by Deputy Secretary-General
Introducing the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of his “agenda for further change”, Louise Frechette, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that the United Nations was facing formidable challenges and wrestling with fundamental questions. The Secretary-General, in his speech to the opening of the Assembly’s annual high-level debate, called for bold changes to ensure that the Organization was up to the task. “At the same time, it is important not to lose sight of the more practical measures and day-to-day steps that need to be taken to strengthen, adapt and otherwise equip the United Nations to meet the tests of our times”, she said.
A lot had already been achieved since the Secretary-General’s process of reform had been introduced in 1997, she said, stressing that the 2000 Millennium Declaration had given the world a common vision for the new century –- including a set of development goals that now served as a template for action by the entire international system. Through the Brahimi Report and other initiatives, major improvements had been made in the Organization’s capacity to manage complex peacekeeping and on peace-building operations. “We have built strong partnerships with the private sector, civil society groups and others, bringing new energies to the pursuit of our common goals”, she added.
“Last year”, she continued, “the Secretary-General introduced an ‘agenda for further change’ that sought to build on these achievements and take into account important developments in the international arena, most importantly, the Millennium Declaration.” The main report before the Assembly set out what had to be done to implement that new agenda and described the next steps to be taken. Highlighting some of the report’s specifics, she said the budget submitted this year represented a major effort to realign activities with priorities and to increase attention to development issues, in particular the Millennium Development Goals.
She went on to cite restructuring under way in the Department of Public Information, the streamlining of reports which had been initiated, and the major innovations made in holding conferences and meetings, particularly through greater reliance on information technology. “The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has moved forward with its efforts to improve management and the services it provides”, she said, adding also that United Nations presence in developing countries had been made more effective through simplification and harmonization of procedures. The Organization was also continuing to invest in its staff through training.
While implementation was under way on all elements of the Secretary-General’s reform package, she noted, there was one major piece of unfinished business: the reform of the planning and budgeting system. Stressing that the process needed to be more results-oriented and less time-consuming, he had proposed, among other things, changes in the format and content of the budget document, and that the strategic framework for the Organization should consist of a medium-term plan that would cover a two-year period, combined with the budget outline. And he suggested that the Committee for Programme and Coordination shift its focus to monitoring and evaluating the work of the United Nations.
“The Assembly did not reach decisions on most of these issues last year, and requested supplementary information”, she continued. The changes were not dramatic, she said, but if adopted, would significantly improve the quality of the budget process while reducing the quantity of time and documentation that went into it. “I hope you take your decisions before the end of the year so that the changes can shape the way in which the budget for 2006-2007 is developed.”
“Reform is not a single, specific destination”, she said. “Rather, it is wide-ranging, indeed all-encompassing journey.” Ultimately, it was a state of mind –- an openness to new ideas and partners, a continuous search for better ways of carrying out the Organization’s work, a commitment to excellence, a talent for focusing on what mattered, and appetite for service. “All of the reforms, big and small, swift or slow, internal or intergovernmental, that have been achieved, show not only that the United Nations can change, but that change is an integral part of the way we do our business.”
JOHN DAUTH (Australia), also speaking on behalf of Canada and New Zealand, said the need for reform within the United Nations was more pressing than ever. Generating enough political will would be the only way to overcome inertia intrinsic to an Organization governed by 191 sovereign members. There was no lack of good reform ideas, but a decade of labour towards revitalization had produced few results. The Secretary-General’s recently announced panel to examine challenges should consult widely with Member States and be bold in its analysis and recommendations.
Resolution 57/300 had broadly welcomed the Secretary-General’s proposals, but he was disappointed that whenever reform actions had been discussed, there was resistance or opposition from one quarter or another. For instance, at the Committee on Programme and Coordination in June, every one of the reform measures proposed in the budget was criticized, and efforts were mounted to block several of them. As many proposals had been referred to the Fifth Committee, it had a particular responsibility to advance management and administrative reforms to make the Organization stronger. He attached special importance to the request by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for a greater share of the regular budget, and, in particular, supported new posts to strengthen the human rights treaty bodies.
Regarding the two reports before the Assembly on planning and budgeting, he said they offered a compelling diagnosis of flaws in the current process. Taken as a whole, the process was so protracted and burdensome that it disenfranchised the majority of Member States. The medium-term plan, as it stood now, created rigidity in the Secretariat’s work, and inhibited the ability to respond to changing circumstances. Programmes and resources were on separate tracks, undermining the development of results-based budgeting. The following refinements to the process could lead to significant improvements: it should support results-based budgeting; programme and resource decisions should be integrated; States should be able to give strategic policy direction; evaluation of results must be effective; and intergovernmental organs must spend less time on reviewing budgets. Finally, he called for a thorough reappraisal of the Assembly’s agenda, which was overloaded, outdated and repetitive.
KALIOPATE TAVOLA, Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade of Fiji, speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, urged Member States to seize the opportunity now, when prospects for reforming the United Nations system looked brighter than they had done in the past, to engage in processes that would deliver specific reforms on which they all could agree. The case for those reforms had been made and widely accepted. Members, at the highest level, needed to look at the effectiveness and relevance of the Organization’s major organs first, and then they needed to continue to work on strengthening the Organization as a whole. They also had to breathe new life into the General Assembly. Those areas, he said, were closely linked.
The Group, he said, had a particular interest in strengthening United Nations operational activities and, in that regard, strongly supported the thrust of the world body’s work in that area. The work of the United Nations Development Group and the strengthening of the Resident Coordinator system had been positive developments. To that end, he supported continuing efforts to improve coordination between United Nations funds and programmes, particularly through the simplification and harmonization of work. The reduction of transaction costs was a particularly important one for developing countries in the Pacific, given their generally small size and constraints on capacity. Additionally, he welcomed the improved focus on post-conflict transition, an area where the United Nations funds and programmes had made useful inputs in two Pacific Island Forum member countries, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.
On strengthening human rights, he welcomed the recognition of the importance of the role of national human rights institutions. He would like to see better targeting of technical assistance in support of the treaty body and special procedures system. It was necessary to find solutions to the demands that increased reporting and compliance placed on small States. In addition, he supported proposals to make the Assembly more efficient and focused. Changes should not diminish the Assembly’s role, but enhance its relevance.
JOHAN LØVALD (Norway) said he wanted to see a more effective and efficient General Assembly with a better-managed and more relevant agenda. He also wished to see an Economic and Social Council that was a real force in international development cooperation and a true partner with the Bretton Woods institutions. In that regard, he welcomed the establishment by the Secretary-General of a high-level panel of eminent persons to review those issues and recommend ways of strengthening the Organization.
He applauded the concerted effort under way to provide an integrated response to Member States that requested support in strengthening their national human rights systems, noting that true respect for, and protection of, human rights began at home. The ongoing work for enhanced implementation of human rights treaties, as well as for improving the system of special procedures, was both timely and necessary. Similarly, increasing the effectiveness of development assistance was a prerequisite for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. In that respect, improving the consistency and coordination of United Nations activities at the country level and increasing programme effectiveness was essential. Successful coordination in the field should also include the major financial development institutions, mainly the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group.
He noted, with satisfaction, the Secretary-General’s changes and improvements, as well as the reallocation of resources in the Organization. The revised budget format, for instance, was a first step in pursuing the Organization’s priorities as defined by the Millennium Declaration and recent global conferences. He also noted that an area in the Secretary-General’s reform programme where consensus would not be apparent was with regard to the greater participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society. He was particularly keen to find ways to make it easier for civil society actors and NGOs from developing countries to play central roles in United Nations activities. That would facilitate the mobilization of civil society resources for development cooperation.
ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, recalled that the Assembly had, since 1993, adopted several resolutions aimed at rationalizing its working methods and improving its efficiency. Those measures had put more emphasis on rationalizing the agenda and working methods and less on the substantive aspects of the Assembly’s revitalization. They had contributed, to a certain extent, to a better functioning Assembly, but had had minimal impact on the achievement of the main goal set out in paragraph 30 of the Millennium Declaration, to restore the Assembly’s central position as the chief deliberative, policy-making and representative organ of the United Nations.
He noted that a genuine and authentic revitalization of the Assembly would only be achieved through additional innovative measures addressing the problem of its relative marginalization, as well as its relationship with other United Nations organs. He supported the strengthening of the Office of the President of the Assembly; scheduling the consideration of agenda items over the full year, rather than only during the September-December period; and Member States, particularly co-sponsors, playing a more important role in the implementation of resolutions.
He welcomed the proposal to establish a high-level panel of eminent personalities, he continued, and felt its members should meet the important requirements of high integrity, competency and neutrality. They should also be knowledgeable of the functioning of the Organization. The panel should take into account accomplishments to date in the different processes of institutional reform; the current revitalization exercise should converge with the new process initiated by the Secretary-General.
MOHAMED BENNOUNA (Morocco), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said reform of the United Nations required a strategy to prioritize the stages of such change in a way that would enable it to focus on the major challenges of globalization –- the eradication of poverty and the maintenance of international peace and security. The “beacon of collective action” should point the way towards a comprehensive reform package, which best served humanity and ensured the prosperity of millions of people suffering from the scourges of poverty and other devastating epidemics.
He went on to say that broad efforts to begin the reform of the Organization should be accompanied and reinforced by sincere efforts to strengthen system-wide resolve and capacity to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and implement the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits of the past decade. Such reform required re-shaping the architecture of the intergovernmental organs and their programmes of work. That would affect mainly the Assembly, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the Security Council. The Assembly’s revitalization, however, was at the heart of the reform process and should, therefore, not be carried out piecemeal.
He noted that the Assembly had earlier adopted a resolution on integrated follow-up to major international conferences, which implied that the Assembly, as well as ECOSOC, could play a central role in such matters. Therefore, ECOSOC should be more involved in efforts to coordinate the actions of the Organization’s specialized agencies and in reinforcing cooperation with the Bretton Woods institutions. On the other hand, it was important that the Assembly hold a year-round session to react to proposals from the main bodies of the United Nations or the wider international community, as they arose.
The Assembly should also be able to establish thematic groups whenever it was asked to take a position on a particular issue. Turning to budgetary reform, he stressed that the Assembly must make better use of its decision-making powers on financial maters under the Charter. Budget-oriented reform required thorough discussion and an adequate time frame. The process of negotiations must be transparent and open to all Member States.
MARCO BALAREZO (Peru), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said that reform initiatives should be both bold and consistent. They should confront the most difficult matters and promote multilateralism. As the Charter of the United Nations had allocated extensive functions and powers to the General Assembly to deal with all affairs related to cooperation for development, as well as international peace and security, and as the Assembly was the most democratic and representative organ of the Organization, it must be able to react promptly and discuss those matters of great urgency and importance to the international community. In that context, the role of the Assembly President should be strengthened.
For the Assembly to become a relevant organ, he added, it must be able to prioritize the main issues within a specific situation. That did not imply categorizing the agenda between first and second class, rather identifying the international community’s interests at a precise moment and transmitting a prompt and substantive result. The Department of Public Information should better disseminate the results of the world body’s work, and he supported the proposal by the Department for the creation of a plan of action in that regard. On working methods, the simplification of the Assembly’s agenda must continue. A more coherent and balanced calendar of meetings should be developed to avoid the concentration of the majority of the work of the plenary and the Main Committees in only three months. The current workload prevented adequate participation of all countries in the several official and unofficial meetings, panels, report presentations and parallel negotiations.
On the Assembly’s decision-making process, he said that, while the rule of consensus was very important, it must not constitute an impediment to treating and advancing matters vital to a qualified majority of Member States. Moreover, it was most important to ensure that resolutions approved by the world body were implemented in an integral manner. The Secretariat could provide assistance in that regard, including through the issuance, at the beginning of each session, of an exhaustive report on those non-implemented resolutions. The “fulfilment capacity” of resolutions by the Secretariat and other United Nations organs should also be the subject of study.
EWALD LIMON (Suriname), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the commitment to the revitalization of the Assembly’s work found resonance not only in the universal call for change among the diplomatic and intellectual community, but also from the people of the world, who increasingly sensed that their leaders had failed to make the United Nations a more effective instrument for pursuing the fight for development of all peoples of the world. The time had come to move away from simply making “rhetorical calls” for reform to finally taking action. One of the first acts must be to reaffirm the position of the Assembly as the principal organ of the United Nations.
He supported the proposal to put the revitalization issue into two clusters. While a number of ideas had been put forward on improving the working methods of the Assembly, he felt such improvements should lead to more substantive debates, more interactive discussions and implementation. He also acknowledged the concerns of those who worried that reform of the working methods could be used to marginalize issues of less significance to some influential delegations. The CARICOM would be vigilant in ensuring that important issues were not marginalized, while recognizing the need for flexibility in finding common ground in fulfilling the task at hand.
He also believed that improving the Assembly’s work and ensuring that it produced relevant and meaningful outcomes represented a significant contribution to the enhancement of its authority and role. Also of importance was the strengthening of the Office of the President of the General Assembly. The President must have the resources to carry out the mandates given to him by the Charter and by the deliberations of the Organization, and he must be given the necessary resources to take the message of the Assembly beyond the confines of the General Assembly Hall.
YASSER ELNAGGAR (Egypt) said the recommendations for reform of the Organization covered a variety of objectives, including revitalization of the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the Trusteeship Council, as well as reform of the Security Council. Therefore, reform must be comprehensive, deepening the participation of States and expanding international agendas. While avoiding selectivity, the process should be based on frankness and transparency, addressing current international realities head-on. All initiatives should support the role of the Organization in the economic, social and related fields.
He cautioned that there were widely divergent views as to what path wider Organizational reform should take. There were those, he said, that felt the reforms should encompass changes such as amending the Charter. Meanwhile there were others that believed the status quo should be maintained, or that the role of the Organization should be relegated mainly to humanitarian issues. As for the Security Council, specifically, he wondered –- in light of recent events -- if that body’s role continued to be limited in the area of international peace and security, and if merely expanding the membership would be enough to enhance its effectiveness.
He went on to stress that many of the reform initiatives before the Assembly currently overlapped. In the course of the Assembly’s own discussion of revitalization, the high-level panel to be appointed by the Secretary-General would shortly be discussing the very same thing and would present its recommendations to the Assembly by next year. At that time, the Assembly would again take up the issue of reform. He urged the President to set out clear guidelines and perhaps even create a mechanism to coordinate the panel’s work with that of the Assembly to avoid duplication. On budgetary reform, he stressed that greater attention be paid to enhancing and strengthening the medium-term planning procedures, for, without them, it would be very difficult for developing countries to determine what had been done and what challenges remained.
MARCELLO SPATAFORA (Italy), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said he supported the reform process, set in motion by the Secretary-General for a strong and efficient United Nations system. That process should be extended to the main policies of the Organization to make them more effective in the face of new and evolving global challenges. The Union and its members continued to work to strengthen the coherence and consistency of their collective actions in principal United Nations organs, with a view to ensuring greater respect for, and implementation of, multilateral decisions.
In the context of revitalizing the Assembly, he expressed support for the proposal to hold informal consultations that grouped issues under the two headings of enhancing the authority and role of the Assembly, including the restoration of its central role in international debate and decision-making, and improving its working methods. Priority should be given to strengthening the role of the President and his Office; enhancing the role of the General Committee; strengthening the functioning and organization of work of the Main Committees; developing constructive interaction with and between the bureaus of the Main Committees; communicating more effectively the decisions of the Assembly to governments and agencies; improving the implementation of past Assembly resolutions on efficient working; and establishing a closer link between the Assembly’s agenda and the global challenges of the outside world.
Among other suggestions, he noted that some items did not require annual debate; considering them every two or three years would make room for more in-depth debates and topical new items. Debates should become more interactive, following alternative formats such as high-level dialogues and panels. The Assembly should also become more action-oriented; resolutions and decisions should be shorter, less repetitive and focused on implementation, within a given time frame. Their implementation by Member States, the Secretariat and other parts of the United Nations system should be monitored more vigorously.
In other areas, he said the Economic and Social Council should also be strengthened to perform its role as the central mechanism for system-wide coordination. Debate in that regard should address the wider issues of the synchronization of the Council’s work with that of the Assembly and its Main Committees in the economic and social sphere, as well as its interaction with the Security Council, for example, on post-conflict issues. Welcoming the Secretary-General’s analysis of a single-stage approach to budgetary and programming decisions, he expressed support for the basic structure of the Assembly’s decision-making process. It must continue to be transparent and representative of the full membership. Yet, within that framework there should be frank appraisal of existing structures. There were also serious questions as to the usefulness of the medium-term plan and the budget outline.
MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said that the current international situation demanded an authoritative Assembly, commanding respect and legitimacy worldwide. He asked why resolutions of the Assembly were not implemented by its own members, whereas those of the Security Council were, with the exception of a few cases. He also questioned whether it was possible to earnestly enhance the work of the Assembly without looking at the Charter itself. While the Council had primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, the Assembly could also play an effective role. He proposed that major international conflict situations be considered first in the plenary, after which the Council could then meet having benefited from the views of the general membership.
His delegation wondered what determined the tenure of various United Nations bodies. Having served on the Security Council, he said that, for non-permanent members, the first six months were about learning the ropes, and the second half for making meaningful contributions. He pointed out that a gap existed between the assumption of office and the opportunity to make an impact as far as the tenure of the Office of the President of the Assembly was concerned. He recommended that items be considered on a biannual basis to ensure effective action was taken. Moreover, he said States must adequately equip the Office of the President to meet the demands placed on it, and recommended that resources from the regular budget be available to that Office. The onus must not be left on the country assuming the Presidency.
BADER MOHAMMAD AL-AWADI (Kuwait) said the President’s proposals on General Assembly reform could guide the body toward consensus on issues of revitalizing its work and the Organization as a whole. It was important to use the current momentum to come up with concrete reform initiatives and to ensure the implementation of principles that would enhance continuity and coherence among the major organs of the United Nations. The Assembly should also recognize that the reform process might, of necessity, touch on politically sensitive issues. That meant that all discussions should take place in full transparency. He called on the President and the wider Secretariat to help identify proposals –- namely, those on working methods –- which could be adopted right away, so they would not be “held hostage” while other issues were being negotiated.
He also called for the continuation of the “cluster approach”, so that similar or related issues could be discussed at the same time, and supported the biennialization or triennialization of issues. He also supported the notion that States or regional groups could meet with the Assembly President prior to each main session to identify which issues could be postponed or deferred until a later session. Meeting schedules should also be set so that smaller delegations could more easily keep track of the discussions.
YOSHIYUKI MOTOMURA (Japan) proposed that the Assembly consider re-electing its President, as well as the possibility of electing him from among the Vice-Presidents from the previous year, as a way of enabling him to fully prepare for the functions of the Office. Although this year the President was elected in June, three months was still too short a period in which to fully prepare oneself for that important job, and one year was still a very short time span for the completion of a great deal of the substantive work. The President should further enhance coordination with representatives of other relevant organs, particularly the Main Committees, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Secretary-General and the regional groups.
The Assembly should also explore ways to enhance cooperation with the Security Council through the promotion of dialogue. To realize that, it was necessary for members to make their discussions in the Assembly more interactive and more focused. Expressing appreciation for the initiatives and measures taken since last year with regard to the restructuring of the Department of Public Information (DPI), he encouraged the Secretary-General to continue the reforms in keeping with the relevant resolutions and decisions already adopted, concerning the Department’s public information products and activities, including its promotion of strategic communications service.
He called for the Assembly to lead by example by being punctual to demonstrate financial accountability and avoid wastage of precious resources. He regretted that discussions in the working group on Security Council reform had yet to produce any significant progress or any way out of the impasse. In that regard, he was supportive of the Secretary-General’s initiative to establish a high-level panel of eminent personalities and would follow those developments with interest. To enhance the Council’s legitimacy and effectiveness, that body needed to add new permanent members, who were both willing and able to shoulder global responsibility.
Any true reform of the United Nations, he added, should lead to a system of world governance that could provide each member with a sense of its legitimacy and fairness. Unless a sense of fairness was widely shared among its members, there could be no hope for the smooth management of the Organization. Therefore, the achievement of appropriate and equitable burden sharing among Member States had to be the focus of their attention. In that regard, the scale of assessments should, at an appropriate time, be made more properly balanced and equitable, in conformity with each country’s economic performance, as well as with its status and level of responsibility in the United Nations.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) observed that, while criticism of the Security Council, whose reform the General Assembly also recently discussed, was subdued, assessments of the Assembly were often harsh, with such adjectives as “inefficient”, “ineffective” and “irrelevant” often used to describe it. Noting that such harsh assessments ignored history, he pointed out that the Assembly had contributed immensely to the evolution of international law and norms in many vital areas, including disarmament and non-proliferation, economic and social development, human rights, health, labour and decolonization, among others. The much-advertised irrelevance of the General Assembly had, in fact, been brought about by the same powers that decried the importance of its deliberations and decisions.
He was of the view that enhancing the role of the Assembly was a political, not a procedural, exercise. The Assembly should be enabled, rather than disabled, from considering priority issues. Sadly, he observed, the thrust of some proposals for the Assembly’s reform ran counter to, rather than towards, the principle of democracy. Despite professions of respect for the principle of sovereign equality, some States supported proposals to create more restricted bodies within the Assembly, ostensibly to enhance efficiency and effectiveness, he asserted. While bodies, like the Security Council, might adopt decisions more quickly and perhaps more clearly, they lacked universality and legitimacy, and would deprive the majority of a voice on the most important issues. Also, they would increase inequality within the Organization, as well as turn the Assembly into a rubber stamp.
To that end, he proposed rationalizing the Assembly’s agenda as a desirable objective. He also suggested that it could do much to improve the content of resolutions by restricting itself to shorter resolutions of three or four operative paragraphs, at least for those items previously considered by the Assembly. It was also essential to strengthen the Office of the President to enable it to discharge its duties. He added that, although considerable attention had also been devoted to reform and revival of the Economic and Social Council, it could not happen by merely changing its name. It might be more productive to focus on ways and means to operationalize the responsibility of that body for the integrated follow-up of the major international conferences.
He said that Member States’ decisions could not be realized without adequate resources and, therefore, United Nations reform should be accompanied by political commitment by all States to fund its approved activities. Reform of the United Nations budget and the budget formulation process would strengthen the Organization. His country would like to participate in budget reform discussions with an open mind, taking into account that the most important issue was the end result.
MOHAMMAD H. FADAIFARD (Iran) said that revitalization issues should be grouped into two clusters: enhancing the authority and role of the Assembly, and improving the Assembly’s working methods. Those two issues were mutually interrelated. If Member States demonstrated their political commitments towards strengthening the authority and role of the Assembly, then its working methods would take on more importance and could be much more easily addressed. He stressed that the same attitude needed to be adopted with respect to the reform of the Economic and Social Council. But they were faced with a different set of problems when it came to the functioning of the Security Council and the international financial institutions.
Despite the complexities of the system, he hoped that the Assembly and ECOSOC would be better able to respond to the development needs of the developing countries through the efficient organization of their work, in line with the priorities of the international community. That could not take place in isolation from relevant Assembly resolutions in the past, the ongoing debate on United Nations reform and need for the reflection of macroeconomic perspectives and strengthening of developmental issues in the work of the Assembly’s Main Committees.
He also believed that the current process of restructuring and reviewing the activities of the DPI should aim at strengthening the Department’s role and activities in the areas of special interest to developing countries, and sufficiently enable it to contribute to bridging the existing gap between developing and developed countries. He supported the consultative process among the Secretary-General, the President of the Assembly and the Chairmen of the Main Committees for consolidating reports on related topics, as well as intensified efforts for simplification and improvement of the planning and budgetary processes of the United Nations. He stressed the need for all intergovernmental mandates to be incorporated in the medium-term plan as the basic strategic directive of the Organization, as well as the need for programme planning to be built on legislative mandates as the determining factor. He also stressed that reform proposals should refrain from selective approaches, and present solutions on how to enable the United Nations to implement the priorities identified by its Member States.
DUMISANI S. KUMALO (South Africa) said that the machinery of the Assembly had become cumbersome and overburdened with an ever-growing agenda. Its working methods did not allow for flexibility to address the ever-changing global agenda. The United Nations of the twenty-first century required a leadership which was allowed room to be proactive and creative, not one constrained by procedures designed for the post-World War II period. Thus, he had three specific proposals to put forward on the revitalization of the world body.
First, as it was difficult, if not impossible, to address more than
170 resolutions in a session that lasted only thirteen weeks, he expressed support for the proposal to divide the Assembly’s session into two parts. Outside of those two sessions, the Assembly would still be able to meet in plenary to address any emergency issues that might arise. Moreover, as more than 80 per cent of missions were composed of less than 10 officials, the simultaneous scheduling of plenary, main committee, Security Council and Economic and Social Council, as well as regional and other group meetings, made it impossible for the majority of Member States to participate in the Organization’s business. For that reason, committee meetings should be sequenced. The two-session format would also allow the committees to work over a longer period, to conduct thorough analyses and assessments of the challenges facing the United Nations.
Finally, he said, the role and purpose of plenary sessions of the Assembly must be redefined. Almost-daily plenary meetings, in which virtually every issue on the agenda was discussed, made it hard for delegations to focus on every discussion, much less the world at large. Yet, when the Assembly had dedicated significant time to one important issue, as, for example, during the tenth emergency special session on the “separation wall” last week, all Member States had participated and the world-at-large had followed the debate with interest. Plenary sessions should thus be reserved for debating important global issues.
STAFFORD NEIL (Jamaica) said that an important dimension of the strengthening of the United Nations was the need for reform and revitalization of the organs and institutional arrangements of the system. He stressed that revitalization of the Assembly did not necessarily require reform but a reassertion of its authority and mandate. Revitalization meant a more active Assembly, which included more meetings throughout the year and distributing the agenda over time. The Assembly also had a role to play in the area of peace and security, specifically in reviewing the work of the Security Council to preserve accountability. Revitalization should also restore the authority of the Assembly in the areas of its competence. To that end, he suggested that thematic debates of the Security Council be discontinued, since those were matters for debate and resolution in the Assembly.
In addition, the assignment to international conferences of subjects ordinarily dealt with at special sessions of the Assembly had weakened its role as the authentic voice of the international community in relation to those matters. He also supported strengthening the Office of the Assembly Presidency, which meant incorporating the Presidency in consultations affecting all important initiatives and activities within the United Nations system. He also called for more substantive decision-making by the Assembly, as well as a greater focus on implementation. He called for a special mechanism in the Secretariat for monitoring implementation of Assembly decisions and special focus in reports of the Secretary-General identifying the problem areas. Revitalization must also bring improvement in the working methods of the Assembly. Furthermore, an important dimension of revitalization was the political revitalization on the part of Member States to adhere to obligations and commitments to the multilateral process.
RASTAM MOHD ISA (Malaysia) said that there was a view among some that “much of the oxygen has been sucked out” of the Assembly, leaving that body listless, losing its “memory, hearing and teeth”. Still others believed the Assembly needed a new or different structure or arrangement. But what was most important was that “we are all in agreement on the need to prescribe the Assembly with a new blend of tonic, however bitter that might be”. All were aware of what the problems were, and everyone had ideas about what needed to be done. So it was time, then, for all States to come together and work for genuine change, revitalization and strengthening, which would ensure that the decisions made by an efficient and effective Assembly would be respected and implemented.
Going on to highlight some specific suggestions, he said the Department of General Assembly and Conference Management could be requested to monitor the implementation of all Assembly resolutions, including those on enhancing its efficiency and methods of work. It was necessary to ensure that the Assembly’s decisions and recommendations are pursued, complied with and sincerely implemented by all parties. Also, Member States needed to be more accountable for the draft resolutions they initiated. To that end, co-sponsors of texts could play a more responsible role in ensuring not only ownership, but also follow-up, accountability and implementation. He added that the texts themselves needed to be more concise and focused.
He supported proposals to strengthen the Assembly President’s Office, including through the provision of adequate financial and other resources. On the question of the Assembly’s working methods, he welcomed suggestions to have some items on its agenda biennialized or triennialized. But, at the same time, the Assembly should be more circumspect in holding joint debates on critical items. Also, the Assembly’s work should be scheduled throughout the year, rather than concentrating the bulk of its activities from September to December. To restore its central position as the chief deliberative and policy-making body, the Assembly could revise its current programme of work to allow greater participation of all delegations, particularly those from developing countries. To that end, the Assembly could be convened in two or three regular session throughout the year.
GERT ROSENTHAL (Guatemala) applauded the Secretary-General’s call to adapt the United Nations to the new circumstances being faced by humanity. The core of such reform was no doubt found in the transformations to be introduced in the Organization’s system of governance, including the Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council. There was no doubt that the preparation and execution of the budget was the single most important instrument which gave content to the mandate contained in the Millennium Declaration, to reaffirm the central role of the Assembly as the chief deliberative, policy-making and representative organ of the United Nations.
He noted that follow-up to the Conference on Financing for Development and the Monterrey Consensus offered the possibility of bringing two of the main organs, the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, together around very concrete activities. Additionally, there had been progress on defining a shared working relationship between ECOSOC and the Security Council around the topic of reconstruction and development in countries emerging from conflict. However, he observed it was more difficult to discern shared tasks between the Assembly and the Security Council, in spite of the fact that the former elected the non-permanent members of the Council, and the latter acted on behalf of the members of the Assembly.
JAMES CUNNINGHAM (United States) said that a new age called out for the United Nations to assume new obligations and responsibilities. However, renovations would be needed to make it and its operations a modern and effective Organization that could meet its mandates in the twenty-first century, especially implementation of the Monterrey Consensus. Attaining that goal would largely depend on seven principles he outlined as essential: responsibility, accountability, effectiveness, stewardship of financial resources, modernization, credibility and, and, perhaps most importantly, freedom. With those principles in mind, he welcomed the Secretary-General’s call for an Eminent Persons Panel to make reform recommendations and, thereby, bypass the restraints that had made change from within difficult.
While similar efforts had been attempted in the past, three new factors made that effort more compelling now than at any other time since the Organization’s founding in 1945. The first factor was the Secretary-General’s personal commitment to reform and the reinvigoration of the Organization to meet a rapidly changing world. The second was the broad-based recognition among Member States that the United Nations had vastly expanded its scope, range and volume of work over the past decade, and that the current intergovernmental machinery and procedures were not able to respond quickly and effectively to today’s new and demanding issues. The third factor was the clear-cut determination of Member States to address the lack of coordination among all of its activities as an indispensable step to reform the Organization’s overly complex structure, processes and intergovernmental machinery.
Continuing, he said any effort to reform the Organization should take a comprehensive look at the Security Council, the Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, and the relationship among them. While he agreed that the Assembly needed to be reformed and revitalized, there were practical steps that could be taken now to improve its work as well. Among them was expediting the clustering of issues on the agenda, and giving the General Committee and the President of the Assembly greater authority to propose termination of agenda items. Also, making the Assembly less of a speech-making body and more of an interactive and deliberative forum could improve the Assembly’s functioning. He said he was supportive of the Secretary-General’s considerable efforts to streamline the Organization’s budgetary process, which would alter the working relationships of the Committee on Programme and Coordination, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) and the Fifth Committee.
JENÖ C. A. STAEHELIN (Switzerland) said it had become clear that, in order for the United Nations to fulfil its role as the sole universal forum for multilateralism, the Organization must rapidly adapt to the twenty-first century international environment. Thus, the Secretary-General’s initiative to establish a high-level panel of eminent personalities was welcomed, as was the effort and personal commitment of the Assembly President, whose leadership had identified two clusters of issues for discussion. He expressed support for the strengthening of the Office of the President, enhancing the role of the General Committee, and improving the functioning of the Main Committees. On improving the Assembly’s working methods, the proposal to distribute that body’s work over the entire duration of a session was of particular interest. A “code of conduct” to concentrate the flow of statements and drafting of resolutions could also constitute a first step toward reducing the Assembly’s workload.
In the context of the Deputy Secretary-General’s statement, he expressed support for strengthening the application of human-rights-related treaties, including through a consolidated report providing an overall view of the implementation of legal obligations. It was also essential to ensure that the Organization’s budget provided sufficient resources for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to cover the costs incurred by various treaty bodies and the special procedures of the Human Rights Commission. Furthermore, he welcomed the Secretary-General’s recommendations for streamlining the planning and budgeting process. Additionally, reforming the planning and budgeting cycle should involve reviewing the tasks of the implicated bodies, such as the ACABQ, the Committee for Programme and Coordination and the Fifth Committee. With their agendas becoming more and more crowded, several committees should not be allowed to study the same questions without visible value added.
GEORGE TALBOT (Guyana) said the question of revitalizing the Assembly has been on the agenda for nearly 13 years, with over 15 resolutions and decisions adopted, primarily aimed at rationalizing the body’s methods of work and improving procedures. In spite of all that, the Assembly still struggled to answer the charge that it was failing to fulfil its mandate. The ultimate question to be answered was not how the Assembly functioned internally, but, rather, how its decisions -- as the United Nations “chief deliberative and policy-making body” -- affected the wider international community, particularly towards the comprehensive achievement of global development goals.
He believed that some of the possible areas where progress could be made included strengthening the role and enhancing the Office of the President, strengthening the Assembly’s relationship with other United Nations organs, and enhancing the Assembly’s visibility. To that end, he supported initiatives to more actively engage the Department of Public Information to promote the Assembly’s work throughout the general populous. On the Assembly’s programme of work, he supported proposals to prioritize items for special attention, enhance the role of the General Committee, and to spread the Assembly’s work over a full 12 months. He also supported efforts to involve the wider international community, including civil society, in the work of the United Nations.
MOHAMED FADHEL AYARI (Tunisia) said that hastened reform was more necessary than ever, given the need to find more viable and lasting solutions to the questions of peace, security and development confronting the international community on a daily basis. As reform was an overall undertaking that must involve all the structures of the Organization, he supported the proposals put forward by both the Secretary-General and the Assembly President. Reform was essential, and should be in keeping with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations. It must meet the shared commitment to promote multilateralism, and thus make it possible to solve world problems in a more just and equitable manner and ensure the enjoyment of the benefits of globalization by all.
Reiterating the central role that should be played by the Assembly as the forum in which political, economic, social and humanitarian questions should be debated and decided, he said that the work of that body and its committees should be structured around the goals elaborated in the Millennium Declaration, and the outcomes of the Monterrey and Johannesburg Conferences. He also supported the clustering of certain agenda items. However, the biennialization and triennialization of items should only be undertaken after careful analysis. He also expressed support for strengthening the Office of the Assembly President, and said that the proposal to consider agenda items throughout the year was interesting and deserved some thought.
The role of the Economic and Social Council should also be strengthened, he added, particularly with regard to promoting and coordinating the implementation of and follow-up to the major international conferences and summits. Moreover, the partnership and cooperation between the Organization and the private sector and NGOs, and the relationship between ECOSOC and the Bretton Woods institutions, should also be strengthened.
ALYAKSANDR SYCHOV, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, said the lack of significant progress on United Nations reform over the last decade had led to its being sidelined by some countries that had chosen to act unilaterally in solving matters of international concern. That situation undermined the established system of international relations and international law, thereby making the world less secure. The restructuring of the Security Council was key to reform of the Organization as a whole, which was also linked to the strengthening of other bodies, among them the General Assembly.
He backed measures to strengthen the Assembly’s status and to reconsider its relationships with other bodies of the United Nations. Also meriting serious consideration was increased cooperation with the Security Council, increasing the significance of the Assembly Presidency and improving the President’s consultation with regional groups and organizations, as well as streamlining the methods and working practices of the Assembly. An important component of the reform of the Organization’s social and economic sector was an institutional restructuring of its relevant entities.
In that regard, he supported efforts to consolidate the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) through the provision of required organizational, technical and staff capacity. His delegation was ready to seriously consider the Secretary-General’s proposal to establish a strategic planning capacity in DESA. Because Belarus attached great importance to economic and social matter in the Organization, it had decided to present its candidature to the Economic and Social Council at the elections scheduled during the current session.
Introduction of Draft Decision
The President of the Assembly then introduced a draft decision on the accreditation of non-governmental organizations to the High-level dialogue on financing for development (document A/58/L.6).
Before action was taken, ISHTIAQ HUSSAIN ANDRABI (Pakistan) asked why the NGO International Human Rights Observers of Pakistan had not been included on the list contained in the draft decision, to which the Assembly President said that, under the rules of procedure, his Office had received a timely objection to that group’s inclusion. Asked which delegation had objected, he responded that it had been India.
Mr. ANDRABI then said that, in an attempt to stifle the voice of conscience and reason, India had effectively blocked the participation of the only Asian NGO in Wednesday’s High-level Dialogue. India claimed the NGO had misused its participation in the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development, and that delegation had produced inauthentic news clippings in support of its allegations.
According to the clipping, the NGO had demanded the United Nations play an effective role in the resolution of the Kashmir issue, and for peace in South Asia. “This, India claimed, was in contravention of the United Nations Charter and a challenge to India’s territorial integrity”, he said, adding, “Only India would consider a call for peace as contravening the United Nations Charter”. In seeking a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue, the NGO was merely echoing the Secretary-General’s report on the work of the United Nations, which had called for a resumption of sustained dialogue.
He was disappointed but not surprised, since it had been India’s longstanding policy to choke voices questioning its gross human rights violations in Kashmir and elsewhere. As a matter of policy, India barred human rights groups from visiting occupied Kashmir or Gujarat, where last year the State machinery had helped the ruling party in carrying out the massacre of thousands of Muslims. He stressed that Kashmir was not a part of India, nor had it ever been.
He went on to say that the procedure adopted for the accreditation of NGOs at the Monterrey International Conference on Financing for Development had been replicated for the upcoming High-level Dialogue, and, flawed as that procedure might be, it did not give States the right of veto. By allowing India to veto the NGO in question, a very dangerous precedent had been set that could be used in the future by other Member States wishing to block civic participation in United Nations activities.
The Assembly then adopted the text without vote.
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