13 March 2007


13 March 2007
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks at her luncheon meeting with the Development Ministers of the European Union in Bonn, today, 13 March:

Let me say how delighted I am for this opportunity to meet with all of you so soon after assuming the office of Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations.  Returning to Germany always brings back fond memories of my time as a graduate student here in the heady days surrounding the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, and the reunification of Germany.

Of course, reliving those wonderful memories is not the reason -- at least not the primary reason -- why Bonn is the first stop on my very first official trip.

Instead, I am here to thank all of you for Europe’s longstanding and exemplary commitment to the United Nations.  Collectively, EU nations are the leading contributors to our budget.  You are vocal proponents of multilateralism, the rule of law and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). You have been and are consistent champions of human dignity and the other ideals of the United Nations Charter.

From the Middle East to Kosovo, from Afghanistan to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the UN and the EU are working together in new and ever more productive ways.  Not just to build peace, but to advance social and economic progress, to uphold human rights and to work with countries to attain the MDGs.  Our growing collaborative efforts reflect the fact that, today, the European Union and the United Nations are not only natural allies, we are essential partners.

This is why I welcome this opportunity to have an early and timely exchange with you.

As this is our first meeting, I thought it would be useful to start with a few words about my own role and what I anticipate will be my foremost priorities in the Administration of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Both the Secretary-General and I want to see real gains in terms of UN reform.  We have already made proposals in the areas of peacekeeping and disarmament.  More broadly, we are looking to significantly improve the functioning of the Secretariat.  This will mean strengthening internal management and the way we use and develop our human resources.  This will mean focusing on accountability and oversight.

Development is another cause close to my heart.  I, therefore, intend to pay special attention to the UN’s development agenda and, in particular, to find new ways of working with Governments to accelerate programmes to attain the Millennium Development Goals.  In addition, it will be my responsibility to work with the wide constellation of UN agencies and entities to ensure that the broad UN system can truly deliver as one.

In these tasks, I bring to the table an open mind, as well as broad experience in management and in development, both from my time as a private citizen and from my service in Government.  I pledge to be receptive to new ideas, and ready to work with all those partners who are in a position to contribute.

EU countries are among the most reliable and supportive partners of the UN.  This link is strongest in the area of development, where European commitment and generosity complement the UN’s own on-the-ground presence and expertise.  Europe has been at the forefront of initiatives to improve the quality of aid, to increase assistance to Africa and to undertake debt forgiveness.  Already, you are the world’s largest donor bloc, with over half of global official development assistance flowing from EU member States.

Clearly, you all have much to be proud of.  But no one of us can afford to be complacent.

After all, we all struggle to come to terms with the immense disparities that characterize today’s global economy.  This is a world with hundreds of billionaires, where billions still subsist on mere hundreds of dollars a year; nearly half of all humanity ekes out a living on less than two dollars a day.  This situation is not only morally wrong, it is also a cause of global insecurity and instability.

Addressing this immense disparity is a central tenet of the Millennium Development Goals and their ambitious commitment to halve extreme poverty worldwide by 2015.  Yet, midway to the MDG target date of 2015, the world as a whole still lags in the race to achieve all of these Goals.

That is why there is an urgent need to make up for lost ground, so that we may make good on our commitments to the world’s poorest.  The Secretary-General and I believe strongly that this noble and urgent endeavour demands a United Nations system that is truly up to the challenge.  Indeed, we are committed to a vision of an organization that can establish and advocate global standards and norms, while simultaneously delivering concrete results on the ground in line with individual country needs.

At present, however, there is broad consensus that the UN is not optimally configured to face these challenges.  Much of our development resources and know-how are spread across various organizations spanning the entire UN system.  At times, this results in duplicative country-level work by various parts of our system.  It also prompts fragmentation at the national, regional and global levels.  This is why, at the 2005 World Summit, world leaders called upon the Secretary-General to “launch work to further strengthen management and coordination of United Nations operational activities, so that they can make an even more effective contribution to the achievement of internationally agreed development goals”.

And that is why, in turn, the previous Secretary-General brought together the Prime Ministers of Mozambique, Norway and Pakistan to head the High-level Panel on System-Wide Coherence.

The Panel’s report presents an ambitious, yet achievable, vision of a United Nations system that delivers as one at the country, regional and global levels, particularly in the areas of development, environment, humanitarian support and human rights.  The report also stresses the need for a results-based and accountable UN system, which has been a priority of the Secretary-General from his very first day in office.

The Secretary-General and I strongly support the broad thrust of the Panel report.  We believe it has the potential to fundamentally improve the functioning of the UN system in the areas of development, humanitarian assistance and the environment.  We also feel that, as many of the report’s recommendations are interconnected and mutually reinforcing, they should be approached as an integrated and coherent whole.

At the same time, the report should also be set within the context of broader and ongoing UN reform.  Indeed, several of the report’s recommendations are consistent with existing reform mandates and may be implemented fairly quickly.  Other areas, however, require further discussion and consultation.

On his part, the Secretary-General is committed to working closely with Member States and relevant intergovernmental bodies.  In the coming weeks, Member States can expect to receive a note from the Secretary-General outlining his views on the substance of the report, as well as his intended approach on its follow-up.

In the interim, let me share with you some of the broad ways in which we intend to proceed.

First, we hope to start implementing those proposals that build on existing intergovernmental processes and reform initiatives.  Examples of these are:

-- The voluntary “One UN” pilot programmes currently planned by the UN Development Group to unify UN operations in eight countries.  These projects build on previous General Assembly review processes.  If successful, they could be continued and replicated in other places as well -- of course taking into account the peculiarities of each country or region as the case may be.

-- Similarly, the General Assembly has an ongoing consultative process on UN environmental activities.  This process could take up the Panel’s environmental recommendations.  Where appropriate, the GA could further supplement its own review with the discussions and decisions of other relevant intergovernmental institutions.

-- Thirdly, within the context of the UN Chief Executives Board for Coordination’s (CEB) work, the Panel report makes proposals to reform UN business practices, in line with earlier intergovernmental decisions.  As suggested by the Panel, there is a need for more consistent planning, especially in human resources, common services and evaluation procedures across all UN bodies.  This, in turn, will help to unify the UN system.

-- Moreover, the report recommends that the UN CEB, which regularly brings together the executive heads of all UN agencies, review its functioning.  As such, this April, the CEB will consider proposals to strengthen its own coordination and cooperation functions.

These efforts, if fully implemented, could enable us to move towards a better functioning United Nations system.  However, to enhance these ongoing initiatives, we will need to move forward with other recommendations and proposals which require further intergovernmental review and guidance.  In this regard, we look forward to continued EU support. 

Let me highlight a few of the most important of such suggestions which need Member State guidance:

-- First, both the Secretary-General and I agree wholeheartedly with the Panel report’s proposals to strengthen the UN’s gender architecture.  I encourage Member States to study the possibility of replacing several current structures with a dynamic consolidated UN entity.  Such a new structure should be able to call on all of the UN system’s resources in the work to empower women and realize gender equality worldwide.  It would equally mobilize forces of change at the global level, and inspire enhanced results at the country level.

-- Second, a unified UN country-level presence needs more coherent governance, funding and management arrangements at Headquarters. In this regard, the Panel suggests a strengthened Economic and Social Council that is better equipped and empowered to move forward the UN’s development agenda.  It also calls for the establishment of a sustainable development board reporting to ECOSOC to oversee the country-level “one UN” approach.

These recommendations also complement ongoing efforts to make ECOSOC the forum for intergovernmental oversight and assessment of the international development agenda and its implementation.  Thus, this year, ECOSOC will launch two new functions, the annual ministerial reviews and the development cooperation forum that were mandated by the 2005 World Summit Outcome.

The ministerial review is expected to serve as a high-profile forum for political engagement, strengthening accountability of national Governments for international commitments to the agreed development goals and knowledge exchange.  On the other hand, the development cooperation forum will provide a unique global platform to bring the discussion on aid and aid effectiveness to a truly multilateral arena.  It will draw-in a range of stakeholders, from the Bretton Woods institutions and other international organizations to representatives of civil society and the private sector.

Implementing these measures will be a big challenge.  Individual UN agencies, funds and programmes may have to align some of their interests with those of the larger UN system.  In the same vein, under the “One UN” umbrella, donors will also be encouraged to change the way they fund UN development activities.  At the same time, many Member States need reassurance that this overall effort does not, in any way, affect development assistance by the UN, introduce new conditionalities or circumvent intergovernmental oversight.  

We need to make it absolutely clear that these reforms serve a greater purpose -- a UN system that is responsive, that is accountable and that delivers on the promises it makes.

For this purpose, the Secretary-General has stated that he intends to work closely with Member States, the President of the General Assembly and relevant intergovernmental bodies to implement them.

As Deputy Secretary-General, I will assist the Secretary-General in advancing this agenda by working closely with senior UN officials to facilitate further discussions with Member States.

I hope that this approach, by emphasizing consultation with Member States and respect for the intergovernmental processes, will help us advance in a spirit of trust and cooperation.  Together, we can enhance the UN’s overall coherence and effectiveness.  In that way, we would be in a position to deliver an organization that is ready for today’s -- and tomorrow’s -- challenges.

Personally, I look forward to working together with EU member States to realize this vision.  Your leadership and standing among UN Member States remain vital to our success, not only in this area, but also in advancing the broader UN reform agenda.

I am now eager to hear your views and answer a few of your questions.

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