Delegates Stress Need to Strengthen General Assembly’s Authority, Avoid ‘Impractical’ Reform Proposals, as Revitalization Debate Concludes

14 November 2017
Seventy-second Session, 54th Meeting (AM)

Delegates Stress Need to Strengthen General Assembly’s Authority, Avoid ‘Impractical’ Reform Proposals, as Revitalization Debate Concludes

Delegates spotlighted the need to engage fully and equally with all Member States in order to improve the General Assembly’s working methods, authority and transparency, as the 193‑member organ concluded its annual debate on the revitalization of its work.

Several delegates underlined the Assembly’s critical role as the most representative body of the United Nations as well as its chief deliberative organ, as the Assembly ended its two‑day debate.  (See Press Release GA/11973 of 13 November.)

The Russian Federation’s representative emphasized that any effort to change the Assembly’s work must always consider the views of all Member States.  He also cautioned against reform proposals that would ultimately prove impractical or excessively codify existing processes.

South Africa’s representative stressed the need to strengthen the Assembly’s authority, describing the organ as the Organization’s most important forum for participation by marginalized countries.

Elaborating on that point, Guatemala’s delegate said that necessary improvements would include enhancing the exchange of best practices, and developing a more fluid relationship between the Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, which would assist Member States in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Meanwhile, several delegates highlighted the Assembly’s critical role in addressing the nexus linking peace, security and development, describing it as central in combatting emerging global challenges.

Also speaking today were representatives of Egypt, Slovakia, United States, Croatia and Bangladesh.

The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 17 November, to consider the interactions among the United Nations, national parliaments and the Inter‑Parliamentary Union.


MARTIN ERIC SIPHO NGUNDZE (South Africa), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, called for further reforms on the selection and appointment of the Secretary‑General, highlighting the possibility of a term limit and the appointment of the next Secretary‑General by a vote in the Assembly.  Moreover, additional human resources must be permanently assigned to the Office of the President of the General Assembly to improve record‑keeping and assist in continuity, he said, calling for sufficient resources allocated from the United Nations regular budget.  Turning to the Assembly’s role and authority, he emphasized the importance of equal opportunity between Member States, thus making that body the most important forum for marginalized States to address concerns.  In that regard, he welcomed closer coordination between the Main Committees and the ad hoc working group.

IHAB MOUSTAFA AWAD MOUSTAFA (Egypt), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said revitalization of the Assembly’s work was an integral part of wider efforts to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the United Nations as a whole.  Calling on the international community to mobilize the necessary resources to enhance the authority of the Assembly, he said efforts must be aimed at developing its working methods at administrative and technical levels.  The United Nations faced grave challenges and threats, especially in the areas of countering terrorism, achieving peace and security, and realizing sustainable development.  Hence, cooperation was required among various organs, particularly the General Assembly and the Security Council.  He also expressed concern that the Assembly’s secret ballot system paved the way for violating the principle of transparency, leaving room for manipulation.

MICHAL MLYNÁR (Slovakia), associating himself with the European Union, said that the last few years had demonstrated that the Assembly could make significant achievements in relation to its revitalization processes.  Citing progress on matters related to improving appointments and voting processes, he said further advancement was needed in aligning the Assembly’s work with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The relationship between the General Assembly and other principal organs was instrumental to ensure better coordination on issues that required harmonized action by the United Nations.  Advancing gender equality as it related to the work of the General Assembly was also critical.

OMAR CASTAÑEDA SOLARES (Guatemala), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, underlined the need to strengthen the Assembly’s role, authority, effectiveness and efficiency, as the organ was crucial to helping the United Nations align its work to meet current and emerging challenges.  Necessary improvements included an enhanced exchange of best practices and a more fluid relationship between the Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, which would assist States in implementing the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  At the heart of reforming the United Nations were initiatives focused on the areas of peace, security and development.  Enhancing the Assembly’s authority would help to streamline the process of approving all proposed United Nations reforms.

AMY NOEL TACHCO (United States) welcomed the “robust” work of the ad hoc working group, which had resulted in improving the balloting process and moving away from the distribution of gifts in the General Assembly Hall on election days.  Calling for the development of a code of conduct for future elections, she said the Assembly should also identify further opportunities to consolidate and streamline its agenda, while considering grouping or reviewing topics at greater intervals.  Furthermore, the Assembly and its Main Committees should identify resolutions suitable for biennial or triennial review, and the former should consider shifting the draft resolution on revitalization to a biennial cycle, as the additional time would allow for its more thorough implementation.

PETR V. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) said that while resolution 71/323 had contained balanced and important provisions to help to improve the Assembly’s work, such efforts must not be politicized.  Proposals should seek to streamline working methods, in particular by considering some agenda items every two or three years.  Voicing support for proposals to lighten the Assembly’s workload during the week of its annual high‑level debate — when Heads of State and Government ministers were already very busy — he said any changes must always consider the views of all Member States.  Raising several concerns, he said the Security Council was encroaching on the work of other United Nations bodies when it should focus on specific country situations and other items where it could take concrete action.  Regarding the Secretary‑General’s selection, he said any reform proposals should be carefully studied and must strictly comply with the rules that he or she be elected by the Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council.  Indeed, efforts to overly codify that process would likely be fraught with problems.

VLADIMIR DROBNJAK (Croatia), Co‑Chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Revitalization of the Work of the General Assembly, delivered a joint statement also on behalf of his counterpart from Colombia, noting the widespread recognition that related resolutions represented “a success for all of us”.  Such drafts served as a blueprint on how to achieve revitalization through constructive, reform‑oriented and consensus‑based work.  They were the result of Member States engaging in a thorough and substantive debate on numerous issues vital for the enrichment of the work of the Assembly.  It would be a daunting task to try to make an overview of all achievements, he said, adding that he would take note of today’s debate, which would serve as a guideline for the group’s upcoming work.  “We stand at the disposal of the Member States for consultation, exchanges of view and the exploration of new ideas,” he said.

FAIYAZ MURSHID KAZI (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said it was crucial to further strengthen functional relationships among principal organs.  While it did not help to create unwarranted barriers in the work of different organs, it served no one’s interest to encroach into each other’s mandates.  Monthly meetings among the presidents of the principal organs would help to make a difference.  More flexibility was needed to address certain outstanding critical issues, and bolder and more decisive approaches must make the United Nations truly “fit for purpose”.  Welcoming changes being made to the Journal of the United Nations, he highlighted a need to address remaining inconveniences and outstanding issues.  Doing so required enhanced dialogue between the Secretariat and permanent missions.  Offering additional suggestions, he said Assembly meetings and debates must be scheduled in a way to encourage the participation of least developed countries, and further consultations were required to make the election campaign procedures fair and equitable for all candidates.

For information media. Not an official record.