General Assembly Faces Choice: Adapt or be Left Behind, Warns Body’s President, Urging ‘Bold Action’ to Revitalize United Nations Most Representative Forum

11 October 2012
GA/11300

General Assembly Faces Choice: Adapt or be Left Behind, Warns Body’s President, Urging ‘Bold Action’ to Revitalize United Nations Most Representative Forum

11 October 2012
General Assembly
GA/11300
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-seventh General Assembly

Plenary

23rd Meeting (AM)

General Assembly Faces Choice:  Adapt or be Left Behind, Warns Body’s President,

Urging ‘Bold Action’ to Revitalize United Nations Most Representative Forum

Delegates Say Stronger, More Responsive Assembly, Backed by Implementation

Of Results-Based Decisions, Can Help Erase Current Deficit in Global Governance

“I’m afraid that we are confronted with the choice of either adapting to the new times, or simply being left behind,” General Assembly President Vuk Jeremić said today as delegates discussed ways to reinvigorate the 193-member body, which faced an ever-widening gap between its duties and its capabilities.

“The speed of the changes taking place outside these walls is increasingly outpacing the tempo of changes we are able to agree upon in this building,” he said, urging United Nations Member States to “find the strength to keep changing ourselves” and in the process, change the world for the better.

Describing the United Nations as without doubt “the greatest humanist project of the twentieth century”, Mr. Jeremić said he believed that greatness should extend well into the twenty-first century.  “But it’s not going to come by default […] Let us conduct ourselves with the courage of our convictions,” he said, calling for “bold action”. 

The revitalization debate was not new, he pointed out, explaining that the Assembly had recognized as early as 1948 the need to adapt to changing circumstances.  Decades later, Member States were still trying to make headway in “what has always been understood as a work in progress”.  But despite some breakthroughs, the world was becoming increasingly unpredictable and volatile, making the need for serious progress to reinvigorate the Assembly more urgent than ever.

In that context, several delegates commended the Assembly President’s decision to address the issue of revitalization at the beginning of the sixty-seventh session, rather than later.  Last year, the debate on the same topic was held in December.  Speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, Algeria’s representative expressed hope that today’s outcome would set the tone for the Assembly’s work throughout the rest of the session.

Among the related issues covered during the meeting was the need to provide the Assembly President’s Office with necessary human and financial resources as well as the encroachment by the Security Council on the Assembly’s prerogatives.  Delegates also discussed measures to improve the chamber’s working methods and improve implementation of Assembly resolutions.

Egypt’s delegate said it was “unacceptable that there had been no budgetary increase since 1998” for the Assembly President’s Office despite growing demand for its services.  During the previous session, no contributions had been made to the Trust Fund to support that Office, he said, highlighting the need for allocation from the regular budget, instead of relying on voluntary contributions.  

Algeria’s representative noted the Assembly adopted roughly 300 resolutions and decisions annually and established a host of working groups and facilitation functions throughout the year, arguing that such expansion should be matched with budget and personnel increases.

Cuba’s representative was among those concerned by the Security Council’s practice of establishing legal norms and definitions, conveniently ignoring the exclusive responsibility of the General Assembly to develop international law and ensure its codification.  He called for an immediate end to those “dangerous trends”, as demonstrated by the growing number of items on the Council’s agenda that overstepped its mandate.

He also echoed the concerns of a number of delegates on another issue at the heart of today’s debate, saying it was unacceptable that there was virtually no implementation of the many resolutions of the General Assembly, which subsequently had remained “inert”.  That situation also applied to the resolutions aimed at implementing the body’s revitalization, he said, adding “that work cannot be limited to speeches”.  Yet, there was a lack of willingness on the part of certain States to move forward with revitalization.  The matter was not a technical one, as some States would have people believe, but instead a political one.

On matters regarding the financing of the Office of the General Assembly President, the representative of the Russian Federation said that the issue, like others with budget implications, must be considered in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) and in the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).  As for the Assembly’s work, he said, before proposing any decisions, it was important for Member States to ask themselves how far they could be implemented in principle.  He suggested, therefore, that they follow the basic principle of “less is more”.

In other business, the Assembly adopted a draft resolution recommended by the Fifth Committee concerning the failure of five Member States to pay the minimum amount of membership contributions in full.  By the text, delegates agreed that the failure was due to conditions beyond their control, thus allowing those countries to vote in the General Assembly during the sixty-seventh session.

Also participating in the joint debate today were the representatives of India, Malaysia, Belarus, China, Indonesia, Tunisia, the United States, Japan, Bangladesh, Iran, Nicaragua, Pakistan and Ethiopia. 

A representative of the Delegation of the European Union also spoke.

The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m., 15 October, to consider reports of international tribunals for Rwanda and former Yugoslavia.

Background

The General Assembly met today to discuss matters regarding implementation of resolutions on the revitalization of the 193-member body’s work and processes.

By its resolution 64/301 (2010), the Assembly created an Ad Hoc Working Group to identify ways and methods to carry through with revitalization.  Prior to today’s joint debate, the Working Group held several discussions on a host of issues, including the Assembly’s role and authority and its relationship to the other principal organs of the United Nations, as well as working methods and implementation of resolutions.  The topics also included the Assembly’s role in selecting and appointing the Secretary-General and choosing candidatures for other executive heads of the Organization, as well as strengthening the Office of the General Assembly President, including augmenting its institutional memory and increasing its budget.

In other business, the General Assembly was to take action on a report of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) on scale of assessments for the apportionment of the United Nations expenses (document A/67/502), in which the Committee recommends that the Assembly adopt draft resolution (A/C.5/67/L.2), which is contained therein.  By that text, the Assembly would agree that the failure of the Central African Republic, the Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe and Somalia to pay the minimum amount of membership contributions in full was due to conditions beyond their control.  Given that, those nations would be permitted to vote in the Assembly until the end of its sixty-seventh session.

Action on Draft

At the outset of the meeting, the Assembly adopted by consensus draft resolution (A/C.5/67/L.2) contained in the report of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) on scale of assessments for the apportionment of the United Nations expenses (document A/67/502).  By the resolution, Assembly delegates agreed that the failure of the Central African Republic, the Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe and Somalia to pay the minimum amount of membership contributions in full was due to conditions beyond their control, thus allowing them to vote in the General Assembly during its sixty-seventh session.

Opening Remarks

VUK JEREMIĆ, President of the General Assembly, said this was the only body where all countries came together as sovereign equals to advance the aims of the Charter of the United Nations.  To be able to meet the expectations of humanity, it was necessary to continue with the process of its revitalization and modernization.  “The topic we are focusing on today is not a new one,” he said, adding that as early as 1948, the body recognized the need to adapt to changing circumstances.

However, this was the first time the two agenda items – revitalization of the Assembly and implementation of its resolutions – had been scheduled to immediately follow consideration of the Secretary-General’s report on the work of the Organization (See Press Release GA/11299).  The aim had been to highlight their importance for the Assembly.  “It is critical for Member States to consistently implement what has been agreed in this chamber.  This should be a core principle of effective multilateralism in the twenty-first century,” he declared. 

During this session, the Ad Hoc Working Group had been mandated to review the inventory of General Assembly resolutions on revitalization, and issue an updated version in its report to the plenary.  Expressing hope that the findings of that exercise would suggest that “we are moving in the right direction”, he noted that some progress had been made in a number of areas.  On relationships with the other principal organs of the United Nations, he said he had started to exchange views with the Secretary-General, the Presidents of the Security Council and Economic and Social Council, and the Heads of various United Nations entities and specialized agencies, as well as the Chairs of the Main Committees. 

He went on to express his intent to continue the tradition established by his predecessors; to convene informal meetings of the Assembly plenary before and after G20 preparatory meetings, as well as the annual Heads of State or Government Summit.  “In my view, however, we should work on increasing the complementarity of both policies and actions between the United Nations and key international economic players,” he said, proposing a process leading to the establishment of an effective consultative framework between the General Assembly and international financial and trade institutions, as well as groupings such as the G20.

“Let us take a step back for a moment, and consider the overall context in which the process of revitalization is taking place,” he said.  Whether in the political, economic or technological realm, the world was becoming increasingly unpredictable and volatile.  The overall scope and rapidity of the transformation were unknown in the annals of history.  That global trend was likely to continue well into the future.  “The speed of the changes taking place outside these walls is increasing and outpacing the tempo of changes we are able to agree upon in this building,” he said.

“We are confronted with the choice of either adapting to the new times, or simply being left behind to watch the gap between our duties and our capabilities widen by the day,” he said, reflecting the sense of urgency surrounding the issue.  It was up to Member States only to propose and decide how to move forward, and he was elected to serve them.  Quoting Scottish social commentator Thomas Carlyle, he said:  “Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into action.”

Statements

MOURAD BENMEHIDI (Algeria), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, described General Assembly revitalization as an agenda item that deserved equal consideration among other important topics, and he welcomed the Assembly President’s decision to address it at the beginning of the sixty-seventh session so delegates could make a better use of the outcome as the Assembly pressed ahead with its work.  Emphasizing the need to fully respect the functions and powers of each principal organ of the United Nations, he said the Movement was concerned by the Security Council’s ongoing attempts to encroach on the Assembly’s prerogatives.

The Assembly, as the Organization’s policymaking organ, held the authority and the essential role of drawing the framework, setting the principles and identifying the objectives for the wider United Nations system, he said.  Furthermore, the Assembly should remain the principal organ to review the work of all its subsidiary organs and bodies.  The Assembly should maintain its role and mandate in setting priorities of the United Nations in considering all budgetary and administrative issues and reforms, including its “absolute authority” to allocate and reallocate financial and human resources, and in the appointment of senior officials in the Secretariat.  As the Organization’s chief oversight organ, its prerogatives, including those on management and procurement for peacekeeping operations, must be respected.

He noted the activities of the Office of the General Assembly President had increased drastically over the years.  The agenda of the Assembly and consequently that of its President now included a tremendous number of issues.  The Assembly adopted roughly 300 resolutions and decisions annually and established working groups and facilitation functions throughout the year.  Such increased activity should be matched with the necessary human and financial resources, he said.     

ROLAND TRICOT, Delegation of the European Union, said that the bloc was committed to multilateralism with the United Nations at its core.  In that context, it was also committed to the revitalization of the General Assembly and to supporting efforts aimed at strengthening its role and authority.  The European Union and its Member States hoped that the Assembly - as the only intergovernmental body with universal membership – would be able to take up the challenge of conciliating legitimacy and efficiency in a context of emerging global concerns.  Indeed, revitalization of the work of the Assembly was clearly linked with the overall reform of the United Nations, he stressed.

L. K. ADVANI ( India), enumerating the challenges facing the global community, said:  “Our responses to the most challenging socio-political and economic crises of the last 50 years cannot be patchy and half-hearted.”  He endorsed the sense of urgency in bringing the Organization into synch with current realities espoused in the President’s opening statement.  The deficit in global governance must be addressed, he said.  The Security Council needed to be expanded in both the permanent and non-permanent categories to reflect current geopolitical realities, and the Assembly’s position as the chief deliberative, policy-making and representative organ of the United Nations must be respected both in letter and spirit.

Revitalization of the General Assembly required that it take the lead in setting the global agenda and restoring the centrality of the United Nations in formulating multilateral approaches to resolving transnational issues, he said, particularly the primacy of the Organization in development matters.  It was critical to establish a relationship of respect for mandates between the Security Council and the Assembly.  The Council should not encroach on the Assembly’s mandate through expanded interpretations of what constituted threats to international peace and security.  Doing so overburdened its agenda and left it with insufficient time to deal with the hot spots that constituted real threats.  The Assembly’s competence in areas such as setting standards and codification of international law must also be scrupulously respected.

The Assembly must also have a greater say in the process of selecting the Secretary-General, he continued.  It could identify objective criteria for the candidatures, such as extensive leadership, and administrative and diplomatic experience, among other qualities.  He also said that the formal presentation of candidatures should allow sufficient time for the interaction of Member States and that candidates should present their views to all Member States.  Finally, all parts of the United Nations system must reflect diplomatic best practices in their day-to-day functioning.  There was a lot to learn from Member States in that regard.

MOOTAZ AHMADEIN KHALIL ( Egypt) said that increasing challenges facing the world today required a strong and responsive General Assembly to allow that universal body to play its leading role, mandated in the Charter, in global governance at the political, economic and social levels.  Resolutions on revitalization, adopted over more than two decades, were not being fully implemented due mainly to the lack of political will.  Decisions must be transformed into actions.  The Ad Hoc Working Group should continue to evaluate the status of implementation of all previous resolutions, identify constraints hindering their implementation and specify means to overcome them.

One of the main obstacles to revitalization was the Security Council’s continuous encroachment on the Assembly’s role and functions, as that 15-nation body widened its interpretation of issues constituting a threat to international peace and security.  Greater coordination was needed between the main organs to prevent that, he said.  The Assembly should be more proactive in responding to emerging challenges of common concern.  Assembly resolutions 66/253 A and B on the situation in Syria were clear illustrations of that body’s abilities in that regard.  He also said that the Assembly should adopt a resolution enhancing the status of Palestine, at minimum, to a “ Non-Member Observer State”.

Further, the Office of the General Assembly President should be allocated greater financial and human resources from the regular budget to match the growing workload and responsibilities of that official from one session to the next.  It was unacceptable that there had been no budgetary increase since 1998.  Noting that no contributions had been made during the sixty-sixth session to the Trust Fund established in 2010 to support that Office, he said that in any case, the office should not have to rely on voluntary contributions.  Resources from the regular budget must be allocated so as not to affect the credibility or impartiality of the President’s position.  Finally, he said that the Assembly should be involved in identifying candidates for Secretary-General early on.

JASPAL SINGH, Member of Parliament of Malaysia, said that while attention had been given to the issue of revitalization year after year, “we have only managed to achieve qualified success” in that area.  There had been some improvements to the Assembly’s working methods over the years, but they were only minor.  It was without a doubt that the Assembly was the chief deliberative policymaking and representative organ of the Organization.  “It is the highest authoritative body of the United Nations as it represents all 193 Member States,” he stressed.  In that context, Malaysia firmly believed that that the non-implementation of Assembly resolutions continued to be the largest stumbling block in enhancing its role and effectiveness.

In addition, he said, Malaysia continued to view the issue of encroachment seriously, and he could not emphasize enough the need for all principal organs, especially the two main bodies – the General Assembly and the Security Council – to faithfully respect each other’s mandates in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.  Indeed, he said, “encroachment by one organ onto the mandate of the other would severely affect not only the functioning of the organ itself, but the entire United Nations machinery as well”.

It was obvious that the activities of the President of the General Assembly had evolved significantly over the years, and there were more issues and agenda items than there had been in the past.  Furthermore, the workload of the Assembly now covered the whole year, rather than being limited to its main session.  It was therefore only natural that the Office bearer should be provided with the necessary resources to enable him or her to efficiently and effectively perform the role entrusted by the Charter.  While Malaysia recognized the benefits of the Trust Fund established to assist in that funding, it was also important that the regular budget be increased as to avoid the President being dependent on voluntary contributions.  In addition, he said, the Assembly should play a more meaningful role in the process of selecting the Secretary-General.

VLADIMIR SERGEYEV ( Russian Federation) said that his delegation hoped the efforts of the Ad Hoc Working Group on revitalization would be “balanced” and “depoliticized” in nature.  All initiatives and proposals of that panel must be based on the principles of the strict separation of powers, and an emphasis must be placed on improving the working methods of the Assembly as well as streamlining its agenda.  The Assembly’s programme of work was overburdened, he stressed, and it would therefore be appropriate to consider the biennialization and triennialization of some items. The Russian Federation supported lightening the workload of the Assembly’s High-level week in September, in particular, as it was very busy and ministers were committed to attending bilateral meetings.

The Russian Federation was prepared to review proposals to enhance the institutional memory of the Office of the General Assembly President.  However, the issue, like others with budget implications, must be considered in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) and in the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).  With regard to selecting and appointing the Secretary-General, the delegation supported maintaining the current practice, in which the Secretary-General was appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council.  Moreover, he said, before proposing any decisions, it was important for Member States to ask themselves how far they could be implemented in principle.  He suggested, therefore, that they follow the basic principle of “less is more”.

YURY YAROSHEVICH ( Belarus) placed a major priority on enhancing the role of the General Assembly, including in the area of maintaining international peace and security.  Balancing its authorities and powers with other principal United Nations organs was important.  Belarus welcomed discussions on the role of President of the General Assembly and his Office and the method of elections.  He appreciated the positive results of an open-ended working group as well as interactive debates in the Main Committees.  As a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, his delegation considered it an important step to enhance the visibility of the General Assembly, as evidenced in the United Nations Journal, with the Assembly schedule listed first followed by that of the Security Council. 

With regard to this sixty-seventh session, his delegation would undertake active participation in designing a clear mechanism for electing bureau members of the Main Committees.  In that regard, efforts undertaken by Venezuela and Cuba in the Ad Hoc Working Group were appreciated.  As a universal organ, the Assembly must respond to current international circumstances.  He concurred with the President of the General Assembly, who said in his opening speech that the body must “adapt to the new times”.  A successful businessman thought of ways to improve business every day.  In the same vein, the Assembly must reinvent itself, move promptly and become more effective, mindful that its mission is much greater than a businessman.

WANG MIN ( China) said that given the complex international situation, the international community had high hopes for the United Nations and particularly the General Assembly, the organization’s preeminent deliberative body.  In that regard, China supported efforts to enhance the prestige and authority of the Assembly as well as its credibility.  He commended the President of the General Assembly for making the revitalization a priority.  The body should place emphasis on common concerns of Member States.  Particular attention should be paid to cooperation for development.

As for its relationships with the Security Council and Economic and Social Council, the Assembly should strengthen coordination with those and other United Nations bodies, based on the principle of division of labour.  The Security Council reports to the Assembly should be more analytical, concise and clear.  China supported efforts to provide the Office of the General Assembly President with necessary funding and manpower.  Numerous Member States highly expected the Assembly to play a key role in settling disputes through peaceful means, he said, calling for further implementation of the body’s resolutions on revitalization. 

OSCAR LEÓN GONZÁLEZ ( Cuba), joining with the statement on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that it was unacceptable that there was virtually no implementation of the many resolutions of the General Assembly, which subsequently had remained “inert”.  That situation also applied to the resolutions aimed at implementing the body’s revitalization, he said, adding “that work cannot be limited to speeches”.  Indeed, he said in that respect, “the General Assembly enjoys all necessary legal prerogatives for taking action”. Due to its broad and democratic nature, the Assembly enjoyed legitimacy and great prestige, and was the “ultimate expression of the principle of sovereign equality between States”.  There was a lack of willingness on the part of certain States to move forward with revitalization.  The matter was not a technical one, as some States would have people believe, but instead a political one.

Cuba reiterated its concern at the attempts of the Security Council to establish legal norms and definitions, conveniently ignoring the fact that it was the exclusive responsibility of the General Assembly to develop international law and ensure its codification.  Those “dangerous trends”, as demonstrated by the growing number of items on the Council’s agenda that overstepped its mandate, should cease immediately.  He also renewed his delegation’s urgent appeal for a “radical reform” of the Security Council into a transparent, participatory and representative organ.  Moreover, only a universal and democratic organ such as the General Assembly could truly confront global problems, which went beyond the scope of any one country, no matter how powerful they believed themselves to be.

YUSRA KHAN (Indonesia), also joining with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that Assembly resolution 66/294 (2012), which had mandated the Ad Hoc Working Group to continue its work during the sixty-seventh session, underscored the “zeal” of delegations to reinforce the gravity of the reform process.  “That the Assembly alone uniquely reflects the aspirations and concerns of all [Member States] must elevate the status of its revitalization efforts,” he said. In that respect, he emphasized the updating and utilizing of the inventory chart that accompanied the annual reports of the Ad Hoc Working Group, which had proved to be a valuable tool in systematically identifying, monitoring and proposing solutions to the issues in the Assembly’s revitalization.  He reiterated Indonesia’s request to the Secretariat to update the chart and provide the Working Group with information on the challenges and obstacles hindering the timely and concrete implementation of all relevant resolutions.

He further underlined that a faithful implementation of United Nations resolutions was vital to strengthening the oversight role of the Assembly.  In that regard, Indonesia concurred that a strong oversight role was indeed needed on the management of and procurement for United Nations peacekeeping operations, as well as the wider Organization’s post-conflict peacebuilding efforts, including in the areas of preventive diplomacy, conflict resolution and mediation.  Those issues should have a dedicated United Nations intergovernmental forum, he added, and the General Assembly should play a more effective role in guiding and supporting the work of the Peacebuilding Commission, of which it was one of the parent bodies.

OTHMAN JERANDI ( Tunisia) described the revitalization of the Assembly as “the basic element of the broader United Nations reform”.  Because the Assembly was the Organization’s most representative deliberative body, his delegation asserted the need to continue efforts to that end, ensuring that its resolutions were implemented and its role and authority were promoted.  This Assembly must adapt to changing times to meet emerging challenges.  Organizing thematic debates, including interaction with the civil society, was important to respond to contemporary issues, he said, expressing hope for tangible results. 

Noting that the responsibilities of the Security Council were set out in the Charter, he said the Assembly should also react more concretely to international peace and security matters.  He called for the Security Council’s annual report to the Assembly to be more analytical.  He also stressed the need for holding periodic meetings with Heads of the United Nations principle organs.  “Member States should be informed of these meetings,” he said. 

On working methods, he said a number of resolutions on the topic should be reviewed, the agenda must be streamlined and best practices should be shared.  This debate should focus on the procedure of electing members of United Nations senior management.  His delegation supported efforts to provide necessary financial and human resources to the Office of the General Assembly President from the regular budget.  The issue of implementing resolutions should be a priority in the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group.  

WILLIAM POPE ( United States) said that his delegation was committed to multilateral engagement and a strong United Nations system.  Recognizing the important contributions of the General Assembly, he said that the United States would continue to advocate for measures to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and transparency of the United Nations.  In that regard, streamlining the work of the Assembly and its Main Committees was at the top of the delegation’s priorities for its engagement with the Ad Hoc Working Group over the coming session.  He also stressed a number of other goals, including the timely publishing of reports, and better interaction between the chiefs of the main United Nations organs, the President of the General Assembly, and Chairs of its Main Committees.  In that regard, greater cooperation among United Nations organs was critical to streamlining agendas and eliminating wasteful overlap.

In addition, he said that merging or clustering items that were related in substance, as well as proposing more omnibus resolutions and urging Member States to be more judicious in submitting texts, and to keep their statements succinct, would also be important.  The United States also proposed, among other things, setting deadlines for achieving objectives and encouraging working groups to complete their work on time.  Finally, he said, the roles of the General Assembly and the Security Council in selecting the Secretary-General were clearly defined in the Charter; the Assembly should not consider changing that process as a priority matter.

KAZUO KODAMA ( Japan) said that the Assembly “can offer a useful forum as we endeavour to adapt to today’s complex society”.  With respect to the Security Council in particular, he said that, while the Council bore the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, the Assembly might play a complementary role when the Council failed to act, as in the case of Syria.  Such a function highlighted the necessity of establishing a better relationship between the two bodies.  The Assembly must also demonstrate to the people of the world that it was an organ capable of responding adequately to emerging challenges of common concern and of producing result-oriented outcomes.  In that regard, the holding of thematic debates on relevant issues was welcome.  Additionally, he stressed, the outcomes produced by the Assembly would lose their meaning if they were not implemented and followed up.

It was important to rationalize the work of the Assembly, including by considering ways to streamline and prioritize its agenda and those of its Main Committees.  Various possibilities in that respect were the further biennialization, triennialization, clustering or elimination of items.  It was also necessary to improve the Assembly’s working methods to make the body more effective.  For instance, Member States had been unable to reach consensus on the composition of a working group on elaborating sustainable development goals before the opening of the current session, as mandated in the outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development – known as “Rio+20”.  The issue of underrepresentation of the Asia-Pacific group countries, in terms of equitable geographic representation, might also be posed in that regard.

MUSTAFIZUR RAHMAN ( Bangladesh) said that revitalization of the General Assembly was a critical component of the wider reform of the United Nations.  The discussion of revitalization must lead to decisions that could be implemented in a reasonable period of time.  Noting that his views were generally reflected in the statement made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, he emphasized that the objective of revitalization was to strengthen the Assembly’s role as the chief deliberative, legislative, policymaking and representative body of the international community.  The Assembly offered all members of the international community the opportunity to exchange ideas on equal footing and reach consensus on solving global challenges.

He expressed concern at the Council’s encroachment on the prerogatives of the Assembly.  Despite several resolutions adopted on the issue, that encroachment continued.  The Council was already overburdened with real threats to international peace and security, leaving it with little time to deal with peripheral issues.  In addition, as the role and activities of the Assembly President had evolved significantly over the years, sufficient and predictable financial and human resources were essential to the efficient and successful functioning of the Office.  Funding from the regular budget must be increased to avoid dependence on the Trust Fund and voluntary contributions, which would affect the credibility and impartiality of the position.

Further, the Assembly should have a “strong” role in appointing senior management in the Secretariat, he said.  Indeed, selection of the Secretary-General should be more transparent and inclusive, involving the entire membership of the Organization.  Resolutions adopted that included provisions to that end must be implemented.  He supported measures to streamline the Assembly’s agenda, among them the clustering or elimination of items, and said the number of reports should also be rationalized to improve their quality and precision.  All such actions should be taken with the clear consent of concerned States, without attempts to apply artificial deadlines or so-called “sunset clauses”.

ESHAGH AL HABIB ( Iran) recalled that since 1991, 20 resolutions had been adopted containing specific measures aimed at revitalizing and enhancing the work of the Assembly as the chief deliberative, policy-making and representative organ of the United Nations.  Unfortunately, while those measures had been agreed by consensus, they were not fully implemented due mainly to a lack of political will.  Therefore, he said, a thorough evaluation of the status of implementation of Assembly resolutions, and a clear identification of the underlying causes behind the lack of implementation, was of utmost importance.

As for the Security Council, he said, a considerable number of General Assembly resolutions had set certain criteria to clarify the relationship between those two bodies.  “In recent years, we have witnessed the gradual but constant encroachment by the Security Council on the functions and powers of the General Assembly, as well as the other organs”, such as the Economic and Social Council.  Iran was particularly concerned by the exercise of norm-setting, law-making and establishing definitions by the Security Council in areas beyond its competence.

With regard to the process of selecting and appointing the Secretary-General, he said:  “We should not relegate the General Assembly to play the role of a rubber stamp.”  In addition, ensuring the effectiveness of the Office of the General Assembly President – including through the allocation of sufficient human and financial resources from the regular budget - was also important to improving the role and authority of the General Assembly, he stressed.

JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO ( Nicaragua), also endorsing the statement on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that his delegation attached great importance to the democratization of the United Nations.  In that regard, he believed that the revitalization of the work of the General Assembly must be characterized by its universality and transparency.  The reforms of the Security Council were also essential, and that body must not continue to usurp the powers of the General Assembly.

The international community must strengthen the General Assembly to make it able to meet the needs and aspiration of the 193 Member States of the United Nations, without distinction, and while respecting the sovereign equality of all those members.  The Assembly President must also be strengthened, and resources to it bolstered.  Nicaragua also believed that the General Assembly should play a more rigorous role in appointing the Secretary-General, with more participation of Member States in that process.  All resolutions agreed by the Assembly must be implemented in their entirety.  “We cannot countenance ... the paring down of [the Assembly’s] role,” he stressed, adding that the voice of all Member States should instead be strengthened with each passing day.

RAZA BASHIR TARAR (Pakistan), said that the efforts of the last two decades to revitalize the United Nations had made considerable progress in rationalizing and streamlining the work of the Main Committees, increasing financial savings and gains in efficiency, yet, concerns persisted over a range of issues:  implementation of resolutions; growing encroachment by the Security Council on the role and authority of the Assembly; and marginalization of the Assembly’s role in choosing the Secretary-General.  “Perhaps it is time to revitalize the revitalization debate,” he declared.

Two mutually reinforcing aspects - efficiency and efficacy - should form the core of a new debate on revitalization, he continued.  The considerable discussion that had already taken place on improving working methods of United Nations bodies, including the Assembly and its Main Committees, had led to steps primarily focused on efficiency and rationalization, where much progress had been made.  Yet, revitalizing the effectiveness and authority of the Assembly remained a largely unfulfilled task, he said.

The real causes underlying the conundrum of efficiency gains that seemed to defeat the larger political imperative of effectiveness must be identified, he said.  He looked forward to a more focused debate on the correlation between the objectives of efficiency and effectiveness.  He proposed that the Ad Hoc Working Group examine the possibility of exploring new ideas on how to bring more vigour, visibility and attention to the revitalization debate at a high-level meeting in future.

DANIEL YILMA WORKIE ( Ethiopia) said a revitalized Assembly would help strengthen the determination of Member States to pursue multilateralism, which in turn would have a far-reaching impact on rebuilding the authority and credibility of the wider United Nations system.  His delegation was of the view that the Assembly should benefit from information about the meetings between the Presidents of the General Assembly, the Security Council and Economic and Social Council, as well as from the Chairs of its subsidiary bodies.  Periodic briefings by the Assembly President on his recent activities, including his official travel, continued to be appreciated.  In the same vein, the Secretary-General’s practice of holding periodic informal briefings should continue.

Debates in the Assembly were often repetitive, resulting in the adoption of equally repetitive resolutions without having an effective mechanism to assess and evaluate their implementation, he said.  To that end, Ethiopia supported the launch of regular review of previous resolutions and decisions so that necessary adjustment or deletion could be made.  Ensuring the effectiveness of the Office of the General Assembly President, including enhancing the office’s institutional memory, was essential to improving the overall role and authority of the Assembly.  He said that resolution 66/294 on allocating the necessary budget and strengthening human resource to the office was critically important.

* *** *

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