PRESS CONFERENCE ON STRENGTHENING DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL AFFAIRS

6 November 2007

PRESS CONFERENCE ON STRENGTHENING DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL AFFAIRS

6 November 2007
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE ON STRENGTHENING DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL AFFAIRS


Strengthening the Department of Political Affairs would allow the United Nations to carry out “preventive diplomacy”, B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General of Political Affairs, said during a press conference at Headquarters this afternoon.


He said the Department of Political Affairs was seriously understaffed, and it had been having trouble performing its key functions, both in its role as the political arm of the Secretariat and in the field.  On balance, the Department was “too much focused on New York”, and needed to be overhauled with a view to strengthening its regional divisions.


The Under-Secretary-General said he hoped to hire about 100 new staff members, mainly at the lower professional level.  There was a need to reorganize the regional divisions and to free up senior staff for work in the field.


He would also increase the number of regional offices, ideally opening bureaux in the Great Lakes region of Africa, Central Asia, South-East Europe, Central America and South-East Asia to provide political and diplomatic advice to the regions.


The cost of the proposed reforms would be a total of $21 million over two years –- a price tag which, he said, amounted to 1 per cent of the money spent on Darfur.


“It is so obviously cost-effective if we can be successful in stopping fights.  It’s so much better if we can do it earlier rather than later,” he said, explaining the value of preventive diplomacy.


At present, he said the Department had “a lot more business than we’ve got ability to carry out”.  The increased funding would allow it to carry out more high-risk missions in areas of incipient or ongoing conflict.


Asked about the reaction of United Nations Member States to the budget proposal, he said the general sense was that it was “way past time” to look at the Department, and that the proposal represented “a small amount of money compared to the potential returns” of successful reform.


In response to questions about a competition for funds between the Department of Political Affairs and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, he stressed that the two departments filled essentially different functions, and that such a competition did not exist.


On the Middle East Quartet, he said the United Nations played “very strongly” in the group, particularly on humanitarian issues.  It would be a mistake to pull out of the Quartet.


Questioned about a possible mission to Pakistan, he said there were no plans to send Ibrahim Gambari, or any other special envoy, to the region.  The situation in Pakistan was markedly different from that in Myanmar, and it was unclear how the United Nations could be helpful in Pakistan.


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