SECRETARY-GENERAL PRESENTS REPORT TO GENERAL ASSEMBLY CALLING FOR ‘RADICAL OVERHAUL’ OF UN MANAGEMENT STRUCTURE, PRACTICES

7 March 2006
GA/10447

SECRETARY-GENERAL PRESENTS REPORT TO GENERAL ASSEMBLY CALLING FOR ‘RADICAL OVERHAUL’ OF UN MANAGEMENT STRUCTURE, PRACTICES

07/03/2006
General Assembly
GA/10447
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixtieth General Assembly

Plenary

71st Meeting (AM)


Secretary-General presents report to General Assembly calling


for ‘radical overhaul’ of un management structure, practices


Says Current Rules Designed for Static Secretariat,

While UN Today Increasingly Field-Based, Handling Complex Operations


Years of skimping on investment in staff and operating systems, coupled with outmoded management policies, had left the United Nations barely able to conduct its work effectively and efficiently, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said bluntly today, urging Member States to undertake a “radical overhaul” of the 60-year-old body’s management structure and practices so that it can carry out the increasingly complex operations demanded of it.


Presenting to the General Assembly his report on management reform, “Investing in the United Nations:  for a stronger Organization worldwide”, the Secretary-General said his assessment of the United Nations was “that in many respects our present regulations and rules do not respond to current needs; and indeed that they make it very hard for the Organization to conduct its work efficiently or effectively”.  The truth was that current regulations were designed for an essentially static Secretariat, while today more than half the 30,000 civilian staff served in the field in peacekeeping, humanitarian relief, human rights monitoring and supporting national elections.


The Secretary-General stressed that, because of ongoing reform efforts, “I have no hesitation in saying that the Organization is more efficient and effective than it was 10 years ago.”  But, drawing comparison to the world body’s deteriorating Headquarters on Manhattan’s East River, he acknowledged that:  “Just as this Building, after 56 years of ad hoc repair and maintenance, now needs to be fully refurbished from top to bottom, so our Organization, after decades of piecemeal reform, now needs a thorough strategic refit -- one that can only be achieved if there is a sustained commitment to see it through, at all levels of leadership.”


The Secretary-General’s report was submitted in response to a request of the 2005 World Summit for proposals on the conditions and measures necessary for the Secretary-General to carry out his managerial responsibilities effectively, and for an assessment and recommendations to help ensure that the United Nations budgetary, financial and human resource policies, regulations and rules respond to the current needs of the Organization and enable the efficient and effective conduct of its work.


The report contains proposals in seven areas:  people; leadership; information and communications technology; cost reduction and increase of efficiency; simplification of budget and financial management processes; ways of making the management and budget more accessible to Member States; and the creation of a dedicated office within the Secretariat to manage the process of change itself.


Calling for restoration of trust and partnership between the Assembly and him as chief administrative officer, the Secretary-General said that the Organization had been skimping on investment in people, in systems and in information and communications technology, and that those deferred expenditures must now be made up for.  That would make the Organization one that gave better value to the hundreds of millions of people who, by no fault of their own, found themselves in need of its services.  He said it was those people -- those threatened by poverty, diseases, natural disasters and violence -- who were the true stakeholders in an effective United Nations, effectively controlled by its Member States.  “Let us not fail them.”


Assembly President Jan Eliasson ( Sweden) said the Organization was now facing great challenges and daunting tasks.  More than ever, global solutions were needed for global problems.  That was why multilateralism and global cooperation were imperative.  In order for the United Nations to fulfil its crucial mandates relating to development, security and human rights, it needed the right norms, the right structures and the right people to carry out the work.  Also needed were accountability and trust between Member States and the Secretariat.


“We need a strong United Nations that could meet the global challenges with credibility and with the moral authority that is borne from the confidence of Member States and the world at large”, he said.  Now that the Secretary-General had outlined his vision, it was for Member States to examine his proposals and take decisions on them.  In that intergovernmental process, the Fifth Committee and the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) would have crucial roles to play.


The representatives of South Africa (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Austria (on behalf of the European Union), the United States and Japan addressed ways and venues in which the report should be considered by the Assembly.


Statements


KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said his report “Investing in the United Nations:  for a stronger Organization worldwide” (document A/60/692, and available at http://www.un.org/reform) was submitted in response to requests in the Outcome Document of the 2005 World Summit for proposals on the conditions and measures necessary for him to carry out his managerial responsibilities effectively, and for an assessment and recommendations to help ensure that the United nations budgetary, financial and human resource policies, regulations and rules respond to the current needs of the Organization and enable the efficient and effective conduct of its work.


He said:  “My assessment is -- if I may put it bluntly in one sentence -- that in many respects our present regulations and rules do not respond to current needs; and, indeed, they make it very hard for the Organization to conduct its work efficiently or effectively.”  That might be hard to believe after efforts at reform over the years, including his own two sets of proposals in 1997 and 2002, as well as the 2000 Brahimi report and the strengthening the safety and security system of 2004.


Indeed, with the help of Member States, important changes had been made, he said, continuing “I have no hesitation in saying that the Organization is more efficient and effective than it was 10 years ago.”  It delivered more that ever, even though the rules made it difficult, and had been found to be cost-effective compared to others engaged in similar activities.  “But the truth is that our current rules and regulations were designed for an essentially static Secretariat, whose main function was to service conferences and meetings of Member States, and whose staff worked mainly at Headquarters.  That is not the United Nations of today.”


Today, the Organization was engaged directly in many parts of the world, working on the ground to improve the lives of people who needed help, he said.  More that 70 per cent of the $10 billion annual budget now related to peacekeeping and other field operations, compared to about 50 per cent of a budget half that size 10 years ago.  In the 16 years since the cold war ended, more than twice as many new peacekeeping missions had been undertaken than in the previous 44 years.  Spending on peacekeeping had quadrupled.


Over half of the 30,000 civilian staff now served in the field, in peacekeeping, humanitarian relief, criminal justice, human rights monitoring and capacity-building, electoral assistance and the battle against drugs and crime.  The number of humanitarian field personnel had increased eightfold, human rights work at the country level had grown dramatically, and the Organization had been called upon to support over 100 national elections.  Those increasingly complex mandates required staff with different skills.  “We need to be able to recruit and retain leaders, managers and personnel capable of handling large multidisciplinary operations, with increasingly high budgets”, he said.


As things stand, many staff, especially field staff who served with “great idealism and integrity, often in situations of hardship and danger”, were demoralized and demotivated by lack of opportunities for promotion and by the frustrations of dealing with a bureaucracy that could seem both “excessive and remote”, the Secretary-General continued.  Against the odds, the Organization’s dedicated staff had delivered more each year.  “But our management system does not do justice to them.”  It was not equipped to handle multi-billion dollar global operations, which often had to be deployed at great speed.  “Both staff and Member States deserve better.”


He said earlier reforms had addressed the symptoms, more than the causes of shortcomings.  “It is now time to reach for deeper, more fundamental change.” What was needed was a radical overhaul of the entire Secretariat to bring it more in line with today’s realities and enable it to perform the new kinds of operations that Member States now expected of it.  “Just as this Building, after 56 years of ad hoc repair and maintenance, now needs to be fully refurbished from top to bottom, our Organization, after decades of piecemeal reform, now needs a thorough strategic refit -- one that can only be achieved if there is a sustained commitment to see it through, at all levels of leadership.”


The report, he said, contained proposals in seven main areas, starting with people -- the way the Organization recruited, managed and motivated the men and women entrusted with carrying out those mandates.  From there, it went on to leadership, where it set out the changes he believed were needed in the structure of the top management of the Secretariat, to enable the Secretary-General to exercise effective authority.  Third, it dealt with information and communications technology, where a major investment was required to enable all the different parts of the Organization to communicate efficiently with each other, and retrieve information quickly when needed.


Fourth, he continued, the report identified opportunities to reduce costs and increase efficiency by exploring new ways to deliver services, such as relocation and outsourcing, as well as tightening rules and procedures for procurement.  Fifth, it proposed a drastic simplification of the budget and financial management processes.  Sixth, it suggested ways of making the management and budget of the Organization more accessible to Member States, and enabling them to exercise more effective control.  And finally, it urged the creation of a small, dedicated office within the Secretariat to manage the process of change itself, in close liaison with a small but representative group of Member States.


Those proposed changes were mutually interdependent, he noted, as they also depended on the achievement of the highest ethical standards throughout the Secretariat and on the reform of the oversight and internal justice systems, which were the subject of separate reviews.  Failure to carry through reform in any one of those areas could greatly reduce, or even nullify, the value of reform in all the others.  “Therefore, I cannot too strongly urge Member States to view this process of change as a whole, and to embark on it in full-hearted partnership with the management and staff of the Secretariat.”


Strong management could only work if it responded to strong governance, he stated.  “And successful reform depends on a strategic partnership, based on mutual trust, between you, the governors, on the one hand, and the managers --myself and my colleagues -- on the other.”  He fully realized that that trust could not be taken for granted.  He knew that many States felt excluded from any real say in the affairs of the Organization, and sought to correct that by asserting their authority on matters of detail.  “But this has the effect of breaking down what should be the division of labour between me, as chief administrative officer, and this Assembly.”


“It is vital that we find a way to restore trust and partnership, based on a clear understanding of each other’s roles”, he said.  The role of a governing body was to provide strategic direction to the management, and then hold it accountable for the results.  And the role of management was to deliver those results effectively and transparently, so that it could be judged on its performance.  “Thus, if change is to happen, we -- the Secretariat -- and you, the Member States, must work together to make it happen.” 


He added, “This reform is not a cost-cutting exercise, any more than it is a grab for power by the Secretariat, or a desperate attempt to placate one or two major contributors to the budget.”  Yes, there were real savings to be made through the proposals, since over time they would reduce the cost of many of the Organization’s activities, by ensuring that they were carried out more simply and effectively.  But what the report showed, above all, was that for many years the Organization had been skimping on investment -- investing in people, investment in systems, investment in information and communications technology -- and that those deferred expenditures must now be made up for.  He called the report “Investing in the United Nations”, he said, because he believed Member States must be prepared to make a significant investment, if the United Nations was to reach the level of effectiveness that they and their peoples were entitled to expect.


If they were prepared to do that, all Member States would find, as the reforms took effect, that they had at their command a better organized and more transparent United Nations, which was easier for them to control, and responded faster and more effectively to their direction.  Above all, they would have an Organization that gave better value to the hundreds of millions of people throughout the world who, by no fault of their own, found themselves in need of its services.  It was those people who were the true stakeholders in an effective United Nations, effectively controlled by its Member States.  “Let us not fail them.”


JAN ELIASSON ( Sweden), President of the General Assembly, said the Organization was now facing great challenges and daunting tasks.  It would do so also in the future.  More than ever, global solutions were needed for global problems.  That was why multilateralism and global cooperation were imperatives in today’s world.  In order for the United Nations to fulfil its crucial mandates relating to development, security and human rights, it needed the right norms, the right structures and the right people to carry out the work.  Also needed were accountability and trust between Member States and the Secretariat.


“We need a strong United Nations that could meet the global challenges with credibility and with the moral authority that is borne from the confidence of Member States and the world at large”, he said.  That was why the 2005 World Summit devoted such an important part of its Outcome Document to Secretariat and management reform.  Now that the Secretary-General had outlined his vision to us, it was for Member States to examine his proposals and take decisions on them.  In that intergovernmental process, the Fifth Committee and the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) would have crucial roles to play.  He intended to have consultations on the process for the consideration of the report in the next few days.


DUMISANI KUMALO (South Africa), on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, thanked the Secretary-General for the introduction of his report, agreeing that it was an important report that the World Summit had requested the Secretary-General to present to Member States.  He expected the entire report to be forwarded to the ACABQ so that it could consider the substance of the proposals, before it was formally presented to the Fifth Committee.  That was the process that had always been followed for reports that contained administrative and budgetary policies, and in line with established practice.  To ensure a smooth process and to save time, he expected that when the report was introduced in the Fifth Committee, it would be reissued for technical reasons to include other relevant agenda items, such as items 122, 124 and 129.  He remained ready to see the process of bringing positive changes happen soon, in order to strengthen the Organization.  He reconfirmed the commitment of the Group of 77 to reform of the United Nations in an intergovernmental process and according to the rules and procedures of the Organization.


GERHARD PFANZELTER (Austria), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the report, which was mandated by Heads of State and Government at the World Summit, would have an important impact on the future of the Organization.  He was pleased to see that the review had not been done in the “business-as-usual” approach, but in the form of a comprehensive package that had the potential to improve the way the Organization was working.  He proposed that the report be treated in the same way that all follow-up reports to the World Summit had been treated -- in informal meetings assisted by two co-chairs.  He did not object to consideration of the report in the ACABQ and the Fifth Committee.  However, the Assembly, as the addressee of the report, should have control over the process and give guidance if needed.  At the current stage, he was not in a position to discuss the substance and needed to study all proposals, keeping in mind that change was a gradual process.  In order to determine the most appropriate way to proceed, he requested an informal meeting of the Assembly be convened by the chairs for management reform.


JOHN BOLTON ( United States) welcomed the report and noted that the Secretary-General had called for a radical overhaul of the entire Secretariat and for a thorough strategic refit of it.  He endorsed those objectives, and said it would be hard work to achieve them.  It was surprising, he added, that he had been told the only speaker would be the Secretary-General, then others were invited to speak and he was not informed.  Consideration of the report in the first instance belonged to the plenary, which would, in turn, decide whether to allocate it to other committees.  He hoped procedural difficulties did not mar the work ahead, which was too important to be caught up in procedural wrangles in the Assembly.


KENZO OSHIMA ( Japan) said the report was a very significant one, as management reform was one of the most pressing issues among all reform efforts to ensure efficient and transparent management of the Organization.   It was a bold report containing a number of important proposals.  While technical details should be discussed in the Fifth Committee, it was essential that policy discussions on key proposals had to take place in the plenary.


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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.