CONCERN EXPRESSED OVER DECLINING FUNDING LEVELS FOR DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITIES AS ASSEMBLY CONCLUDES CONSIDERING UN RESTRUCTURING19951117 Expressing concern over declining levels of funding for United Nations operational activities for development, several speakers in the General Assembly this afternoon put forward a variety of proposals to redress that situation as the Assembly concluded its discussion of restructuring and revitalization of the United Nations in the economic, social and related fields.
The representative of Norway expressed regret at the lack of commitment by Member States to secure funding for operational activities for development. The Nordic countries had previously suggested an alternative three-tier funding system, based on assessed contributions by all Member States, multi-layer negotiated pledges and voluntary contributions, he recalled, suggesting that other alternatives could include proposals to introduce transport taxes on air tickets.
The representative of Indonesia said there was a dire need to increase the resources for operational activities for development, and for the delivery of those resources in a predictable, continuous and assured fashion. The developing countries had kept their side of the partnership agreement, but funding from the developed countries had not been forthcoming. He added that the Bretton Woods institutions, which were supposed to coordinate with the Organization, had drifted away and should be brought into line with the policies of the United Nations system.
The representative of Bangladesh said it was frustrating to observe that development had been by-passed as the work of the United Nations focused more on peace and security issues and short-term emergency issues. Any restructuring and revitalization exercise had to be able to address the crucial issues of international trade, finance, debt and technology transfer.
The representative of Ukraine expressed support for the creation of an economic security council which would have weight and influence comparable to the Security Council. Such a body would have a mandate to coordinate international development cooperation and to eliminate any forms of economic aggression, particularly the threat or use of embargoes, boycotts and trade and financial blockades. In that way, it would contribute to respect for national independence, non-interference in internal affairs, and mutual benefit.
Also taking part in the debate were the representatives of Malta, Cameroon, Canada, Zimbabwe, El Salvador, Zambia, Venezuela and Hungary.
The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 20 November, to commemorate the Year for Tolerance.
Assembly Work Programme
The General Assembly met this afternoon to continue its consideration of the restructuring and revitalization of the United Nations in the economic, social and related fields.
Before the Assembly was the report of the Secretary-General on the subject (document A/50/697 and Add.1). The report identifies a number of issues that were recently discussed by the Economic and Social Council in the context of possible further reform measures. Those issues included policy development and coordination within the Council, its working methods and the organization of its work. Other matters discussed included the subsidiary machinery in the economic, social and related fields; inter-agency coordination; cooperation among the United Nations, the Bretton Woods institutions and the World Trade Organization; and the question of documentation.
Also before the Assembly, annexed to a note by the Secretariat (document A/50/271), was the report of the Chairman of the consultation process on prospective modalities for funding operational activities for development. According to the report, the operational activities for development were beset by serious resource shortfalls. It reiterates the importance of maintaining the fundamental characteristics of neutrality, multilateralism and the voluntary nature of contributions and calls for a more secure and predictable basis for funding.
HAMID ALHADAD (Indonesia) said that in recent years national and international approaches to the development process were being undermined by new approaches which argued that development efforts were best left to market forces and mechanisms as well as to private initiatives. Therefore, restructuring and revitalization of the functioning of the United Nations in the economic, social and related fields was of great importance. It would be regrettable if that exercise were directed by the views of only a very few countries and ignored the unique characteristics of the United Nations system, including its democratic principle of representation.
There was a dire need for a substantial increase in the resources for operational activities for development, and for the delivery of those resources in a predictable, continuous and assured fashion, he continued. The developing countries had kept their side of the partnership agreement contained in Assembly resolution 48/162 (on restricting and revitalizing of the United Nations in the economic, social and related fields), but funding from the developed countries had not been forthcoming. The potential of multi-year negotiated pledges should be explored.
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From the very beginning, he said, the Bretton Woods institutions were supposed to be fully coordinated within the United Nations orbit. But they had drifted further and further away, keeping their distance from the United Nations. For the restructuring and revitalizing to succeed, the Assembly should bring the Bretton Woods institutions into line with the policies of the United Nations system.
JOSEPH CASSAR (Malta) said there was still much scope for increased and improved coordination and complementarity between the various United Nations programmes and funds with overlapping mandates. A rational division of labour should be pursued to avoid duplication. Members States must guarantee a financially viable United Nations. Concerted effort must also continue to coordinate national and multilateral development strategies in order to achieve genuine international cooperation in development.
He added that the role of the Economic and Social Council as the leading coordinating and policy integrating body of the United Nations system in the economic and social fields must be strengthened. That entailed a reassessment and rationalization of its working relationship with the General Assembly if multiple consideration of the same issues was to be avoided.
JEAN KOE NTONGA (Cameroon) reaffirmed his country's support for the restructuring and revitalization of the United Nations in the economic and social sectors. Economic and development questions should be given the same priority as political and peace-keeping questions, to which they were inextricably linked. Unfortunately, for several years, development aid had been drying up.
Priority should be given to Africa's economic situation and to increasing the budgetary credits allocated for putting into effect programmes for Africa, he continued. The decentralization of the regional economic commissions and of other economic and social activities would also increase the effectiveness of the United Nations in the economic and social sectors.
ROBERT R. FOWLER (Canada) said economic, social and environmental preoccupations were increasingly the determinants of security and human well- being. The challenge was to adapt institutions to future needs. The triennial policy review should consolidate and build on the improvements to operational field activities. However, this logic would run counter to proposals to further fragment the system. The Economic and Social Council had a role to play in focusing the work of the United Nations and providing the Organization with cross-sectoral coordination. The high-level segment of its sessions must address significant emerging issues and identify those requiring greater coordination. The Council could benefit from the insights offered by the Bretton Woods and multilateral trade institutions. Meetings should be held more frequently but of shorter duration, and a bureau should be formed to improve meeting preparations.
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A review of the mandates of functional commissions had been agreed to, he said. Major conferences held recently had suggested the importance of refocusing and reviewing the Commission on Social Development. It would also be useful to examine the possibility of consolidating all population issues under the Commission on Population and Development. A stronger link between substantive programming and coordination and the budgeting process was important. He applauded the Secretary-General's creation of thematic task forces with participation from across the United Nations system and the Bretton Woods institutions, which should be seen as flexible mechanisms.
SVEIN AASS (Norway) said the Nordic countries were the key initiators of the governance reforms of the United Nations funds and programmes. Norway welcomed the introduction of the executive board in the World Food Programme (WFP) next year but did not see the need for a separate United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) board.
Norway was disappointed at the limited progress made in improving the funding system of United Nations operational activities, he said. The lack of commitment by all Member States to secure funding was regrettable. The Nordic countries had previously suggested an alternative three-tier funding system, based on assessed contributions by all Member States, multi-layer negotiated pledges and voluntary contributions. Other alternatives could include international taxes such as transport taxes on air tickets and other proposals.
The coordination and policy guidance role of the Economic and Social Council should be strengthened, he added. Suitable thematic issues for its segments ought to be identified to avoid repetitious debates. The clustering of themes should also be reviewed, as should the issue of documentation. Norway believed that the duration of the substantive session of the Economic and Social Council should be reduced; the possibility of shortening the general segment to one week and restructuring it must be explored. Besides, some of the less substantive items could be dealt with by a restructured organizational session. Also, the question of giving the Council Bureau an expanded role throughout the year could be considered. The role and status of deliberations of the high-level segment should also be reviewed.
NGONI FRANCIS SENGWE (Zimbabwe) said reform must be pursued not merely for its own sake, but as an integral part of a broader process which encompassed the revitalization of the General Assembly, the reform of the Bretton Woods institutions and the democratization of the Security Council. "Regrettably, however, the reformist zeal has not been matched by an equal enthusiasm to arrest and reverse the persistent decline in resources for United Nations operational activities." No amount of institutional restructuring could substitute for the necessary increase in the resource base of the United Nations.
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He went on to express grave concern at the erosion of participation by the developing countries in the decision-making of the governing boards of the specialized agencies, and at the lack of coordination between the activities of the Bretton Woods institutions and those of the United Nations. The proper forum for considering that question was not, as some had advanced, summits of the "Group of Seven" industrialized countries, but rather the General Assembly, where all countries were represented on an equal basis. Democratic decision-making, and not exclusivity, must be the goal.
MOHAMMAD ZIAUDDIN (Bangladesh) said the mandated role of the United Nations in economic and social development, as envisaged in the Charter, had not been fulfilled completely. It was frustrating to observe that development had been by-passed as the Organization increasingly focused on peace and security issues and on short-term emergency issues. Any restructuring and revitalization exercise had to be able to address the crucial issues of international trade, finance, debt and technology transfer. Recent trends of decreasing allocations to development activities were contrary to the provisions of Assembly resolution 48/162. While the world economy was well on its way to a broad-based recovery, it was difficult to rationalize the dwindling external finances for development.
He said the General Assembly must exercise the leading role in promoting economic and social development. The Second and Third Committees could contribute to global economic integration and enhance cooperation on development. The new format of this year's session of the Economic and Social Council had proved to be more effective in providing coordination and policy guidance. His delegation was flexible on the idea of a high-level inter- sessional mechanism for the Council so long as its work remained open-ended and transparent. There should be no duplication between the work of the Council's general segment and the Second and Third Committees.
It was important to harmonize the work of the functional commissions, which, along with the regional economic commissions, could contribute a great deal to implementing the action programmes adopted at the recent United Nations Conferences.
GUILLERMO A. MELENDEZ-BARAHONA (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Central American countries -- Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and El Salvador -- said continued restructuring was essential to modernizing the Organization and rendering it capable of responding to emerging challenges. Important progress had been made, including through the presentation of the Secretary-General's management plan. In his report on the work of the Organization, the Secretary-General had described new measures to better administer United Nations operational activities for development. Such measures were essential, especially as there was a grave lack of resources. Contributions should remain voluntary, neutral and multilateral.
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The speed and magnitude of changes in today's world pointed to an extremely complex future which would require new initiatives for peace, he said. Economic and social development was essential to peace and security. For the United Nations to fulfil its mandate, it must have a sound resource base. The composition of the executive boards should be revised so that they would better represent the Member States. Equitable geographical distribution as well as special attention to small States and those with limited resources should guide decisions on the composition of the proposed executive board for UNFPA. "We need to search for solutions together, with shared responsibilities."
IGOR V. GOUMENNY (Ukraine) said it was necessary to enhance coordination of United Nations activities in the economic and social sectors and to clearly prioritize them. The work of the Second and Third Committees should be further coordinated. The coordination segment of the Economic and Social Council should provide an opportunity for an annual review of the implementation of the agreements reached at recent major international conferences. The regional commissions should be supported in their efforts to assist countries in the implementation of those agreements. In that context, Ukraine welcomed work of the Economic Commission for Europe in assisting the reform process in the countries of eastern Europe.
He went on to express support for what he termed a more radical step to renew the United Nations work in the socio-economic sector: the creation of an economic security council which would be invested with wider powers and would have weight and influence comparable to the Security Council. Such a body would have a mandate to monitor, analyze and coordinate international development cooperation. In addition, it should be entrusted with the task of eliminating any forms of economic aggression, particularly the threat or use of embargoes, boycotts and trade and financial blockades. In that way, the proposed economic security council would contribute to adherence to the principle of respect for national independence, non-interference in internal affairs, and mutual benefit.
PETER L. KASANDA (Zambia) said his country associated itself with the statement made by the representative of Philippines on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China. The United Nations through the Economic and Social Council must be able to deliver effectively on the development problems facing its Member States especially the developing countries. The effective implementation of the various programmes of action was of primary importance in that regard.
The reporting process of the Economic and Social Council should be streamlined, he said. It was difficult for the small delegations to keep track of various layers of bodies. Strengthening of the coordinating bodies, specially the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC)
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and the Joint Inspection Unit could greatly improve the situation. Also, the role of the regional commissions and ad hoc and expert bodies ought to be enhanced. In addition, Zambia wanted the financing aspect of the operational activities for development to be dealt with in a holistic manner.
OSCAR DE ROJAS (Venezuela) said the reform process had been fruitful and should be brought to a successful conclusion. "This session of the Assembly should proceed to the adoption of a new draft resolution on this item which consolidates, amplifies and improves what was already agreed." Such a text could contribute to the negotiations on the Agenda for Development. The working group on the Agenda should address the need to improve the relations between the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions. Transformation of the Economic and Social Council could result in a revitalized North-South dialogue on macroeconomic issues. There was no need to resort to a body outside the United Nations system for that purpose.
ANDRAS LAKATOS (Hungary) said his delegation supported the statement of Spain this morning on behalf of the European Union and welcomed the statement of the representative of the United States. He underlined the importance of achieving further structural changes in the United Nations family so as to achieve greater effectiveness. The proposals to restructure and revitalize the United Nations opened a window of opportunity for a more productive relationship between different United Nations organs.
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