General Assembly

03 November 2015

Remarks to the General Assembly on the Revitalization of the Work of the General Assembly

Ban Ki-moon

Today I will speak about a most serious matter that strikes at the prestige and reputation of this General Assembly.

I have already expressed my shock at the very serious allegations against the President of the 68th session. I have also unequivocally declared that we will not tolerate corruption at the United Nations or in its name.

The Assembly must now draw larger lessons from this incident – and act with resolve.

In this effort, we can build on a tradition of responding to problems with systemic solutions.

As you are well aware, the election of the President of the General Assembly used to be held on the same day a new session opened. Then, in 2001, the September 11th terrorist attacks prevented the Assembly from convening and electing a president. As a result, there was a leadership crisis, a leadership vacuum.

At that time, I was the Chef de Cabinet of the incoming General Assembly President. We realized we had to prevent any such disruption in the future. So we ended the 56-year-old tradition of electing the General Assembly President on the first day of the session. Starting in 2002, the President of the General Assembly was elected three months in advance. That protects against a leadership vacuum and provides transition time for the new president to prepare.

I also take note of the fact that the members of the Security Council – non-permanent members - and the Economic and Social Council will now be elected six months in advance of their terms.

It is critical to learn from any unfortunate incident or terrible event.

Member States must now improve the functioning of the Office of the President of the General Assembly to make it more robustly organized, including the budget supporting the President’s activities. We need greater transparency and accountability. This is essential.

I welcome the work undertaken by their Excellencies, the Permanent Representatives of Croatia and Namibia, who served as Co-Chairs of the 69th session. I welcome their reappointment by you, Mr. President, during this session as well. I will support them in every way possible.

Throughout my tenure, I have made it clear that the United Nations should embody the highest level of integrity and ethical standards.

That is why I have taken note of the intent of the United States Attorney to get to the bottom of the very serious allegations about the propriety of the conduct of the President of the 68th session.

As you know, I have taken a number of specific steps to address, head-on, the important issues that have been raised.

I have requested an internal audit by the Office of Internal Oversight Services of the interactions between the United Nations and the entities mentioned in the criminal complaint. I have asked OIOS to audit any funds received from these entities, as well as any funds disbursed by the United Nations to them. I have also requested OIOS to determine whether, during the course of the audit, other matters arise that merit further audit.

Decisions on the functioning of the Office of the President of the General Assembly are the purview of the General Assembly. But it is incumbent on all of us to help get this right. That is why I have established an internal Task Force, chaired by the Chef de Cabinet, to review the arrangements for the Office’s financing and staffing. The Task Force will recommend ways to promote enhanced transparency and accountability.

I have also requested the heads of UN entities mentioned in the criminal complaint that may have engaged with the entities involved in the criminal complaint, to advise me about what they are doing to look into the matter.

My office, and I personally, will continue to be in close contact with the Office of the President of the General Assembly to ensure the complementarity and coherence of these efforts.

All of us have a responsibility to work together to make sure that this Organization and its officials comply fully with all relevant rules and regulations, and carry out our duties with full transparency before the eyes of the world.

I welcome the General Assembly’s initiatives to involve more stakeholders in its discussions on issues of critical importance to the international community. Informal interactive thematic debates now include civil society and others whose voices and actions can add great value to our work.

In its most recent resolution on revitalizing the Assembly’s work, Member States have set out important measures concerning the process for selecting and appointing the future Secretary-General, my successor. These include a joint letter from the Presidents of the General Assembly and Security Council to start the process of soliciting candidates; the circulation of the names of individuals who have been submitted for consideration; and the convening by the Assembly of informal dialogues or meetings with those candidates.

These advances show us the wide-ranging scope of this agenda item, which encompasses the role and authority of the General Assembly, its working methods, and the institutional memory of the Office of the President of the General Assembly.

I look forward to working with you and supporting your efforts to revitalize the General Assembly so that it can achieve our shared objectives.

Thank you.