New York

25 October 2007

Secretary-General's remarks to the Fifth Committee of the General Assembly on the Proposed Programme Budget For the Biennium 2008-2009

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

It's a great pleasure to be here this morning. You may have heard me say, at the opening of the general debate, that I expect the year ahead to be among the most challenging in our history. I am confident that, together, we can also make it one of the most successful.

Our work begins, in earnest, with this proposed programme budget of $4.2 billion, broadly in line with what the General Assembly has approved. It represents real growth of $23 million over the previous biennium, or half a percentage point.

That is not much, considering the demands upon us. Think of what the coming year will bring. Darfur peace talks open this week-end in Libya, in advance of yet another major peacekeeping deployment. We face difficult diplomatic and security challenges in Lebanon, Somalia, Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of Congo - to name but a few. And of course, there are longer term challenges: alleviating global poverty, especially in Africa; on-going humanitarian crises; human rights violations; our global fight against climate change and HIV/AIDS.

Never has the world so needed a strong United Nations. Yet never have our resources been stretched so thin. As your Chief Administrative Officer, I am committed to doing everything in my power to strengthen our organization, so that we can do the job expected of us. This requires careful fiscal management. It means balancing varied and often conflicting priorities. It demands, absolutely, that we change ourselves from within - to make our United Nations faster, more flexible and more efficient in delivering better results with the limited assets at our disposal.

In doing all this, let us bear in mind a fundamental principle: that there is an unbreakable link between peace, human rights and development - the three pillars of our work. You cannot have one without the others. They go hand-in-hand, part of an organic whole. If we lose sight of this fact, we cannot hope to achieve our goals.

This is a year of immense opportunity - to build a stronger UN for a better world. You on this Committee are the key to our transformation. We all understand the importance of a strong, empowered Secretariat - pragmatic, accountable, focused on results, representing pride and excellence in serving the global public good. To deliver on this vision, we must modernize ourselves. We need to think freshly about our work and how we get it done.

Together, we have already begun the difficult work of institutional strengthening and reform. We have re-organized our worldwide peacekeeping operations. Now it's time to turn our attention to conflict prevention and peace-building, with special emphasis on Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Let us rethink our approach to preventive diplomacy. Let us exploit to the fullest our potential for good offices and international mediation?in the broadest spirit of the Charter.

As this Committee well knows, dealing with the aftermath of war is costly. Too many lives are needlessly lost, often as a result of the international community's inability to act early enough. Economies are ruined. Hopes for development are dashed. For what? Strengthening the UN's capacity to step in - to resolve conflicts earlier rather than later - is among the smartest investments we can make.

I ask you to support my plan for strengthening of the Department of Political Affairs by authorizing $18 million for this purpose. I am also pleased to report that the proposed budget includes stable funding for the newly created Peacebuilding Support Office, as mandated by the General Assembly and the Security Council.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The link between security and development is clear. Peace is the child of their union. Issues of economic advancement and social equity cannot be geopolitical afterthoughts.

As you know, we are at the midpoint of our 2015 time-line for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Millions of people look to us for a better, healthier and more decent future. The scale of our programs is impressive, by any measure. Over the past decade, we have made tremendous progress in shifting the UN from too-heavy a focus on security to a broader development agenda. The annual value of contributions to the various UN agencies and programs, largely extra-budgetary, today totals more than $15 billion. Yet clearly, we have far to go.

I expect the Africa MDG Steering Group to help set the agenda. Many international commitments were made at places like Gleneagles and Heiligendamm. We need to move beyond promises and put up the money for those in need.

This is not to say that the United Nations should do what developing nations can?and should? do on their own. But the ways of providing aid and development assistance should be adapted to new realities. South-South cooperation, for example, has emerged as a new force in international economics. Today, developing countries account for nearly 40 percent of global exports, and about 50 percent of that trade is among themselves. Some countries in the South have even emerged as new donors.

This is immensely promising. I will therefore seek to reinforce our work on South-South issues with the full involvement of DESA, UNCTAD and the regional commissions. We need to bolster our research and monitoring capabilities, particularly in tackling the problems of the world's “bottom billion”?those left behind by global economic growth. We must devote special attention to the needs of the least developed land-locked and small island nations. I propose to re-organize the Secretariat to better serve their interests. We must help them develop, so that they too can enjoy a greater measure of peace and prosperity. It is their human right.

The coming year marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is with pleasure, therefore, that I note this budget reflects the decision by Member States to double the resources ear-marked for human rights. But it is time to think more expansively about traditional definitions of human rights, including the responsibility to protect?and to speak out. Let me say, emphatically: development is a human right, integral to our moral mandate.

Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen:

We have focused on the three pillars of the UN - development, peace and security, human rights. But these pillars can only stand as strong as their foundation, and we must ensure that foundation is firm and well-maintained. I refer here, of course, to issues of management and UN reform.

Reform is a process, not a one-time project. It needs your continuing support and mutual trust. As suggested by many Ambassadors, I will keep engaging myself with the general membership on the reform of DPA, DESA and other departments.

I also agree that the Secretariat should continue to streamline and rationalize its work to avoid duplication and save costs. As an organization, we need to be faster, more flexible and more modern. We must place results before process. This requires us to streamline rules and work patterns, in line with the best public and private practices.

To this end, I have set up a new internal change-management task force. Its work will focus on human resources, budget and finance, and procurement. The goal: to consolidate rules in each area according to clear criteria?simplification, rationalization, transparency and accountability. To the extent that real improvements require legislative changes by the General Assembly, we will prepare recommendations accordingly.

This budget also provides for stiffer internal oversight. You are already considering proposals for a comprehensive revision of the UN system of administrative justice. Together, we must extend the vital work of the Procurement Task Force for another year, even as we work toward more permanent independent auditing and investigative capabilities. We will also soon be adopting new accounting practices, set forth under the protocols of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards.

To be more responsive and nimble in meeting the changing demands of today's global environment, we must better manage the UN's human resources, our most vital asset. We need an internal climate change at the United Nations. We must build a more skilled and mobile workforce. Too often, we remain constrained by rules and regulations anchored in a vanished past, particularly those governing contracts and conditions of service that are difficult to administer and no longer serve our needs. Streamlining these arrangements would boost efficiency, flexibility and equity in the workplace.

Soon, we shall embark on perhaps the most outwardly visible of all our rejuvenation efforts: the physical renovation of our UN headquarters. Under the Capital Master Plan, the UN will "go green" - carbon neutral and energy efficient. The plans are completed; work is poised to begin next fall. It will be a fitting symbol of all we can accomplish together.

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me say, in closing, that considerable work went into this budget. Over the past ten months, I have paid careful attention to the mandates entrusted to us. I have updated programmes where necessary. The proposals before you reflect strict budgetary discipline, balancing growth in some areas with reallocations in others.

I will also be separately submitting a number of initiatives considered important by the members. Some involve add-ons to the budget. Among them are the plans I referred to earlier for a revamped, more responsive and professional internal justice system, as well as a detailed proposal for an integrated global resource management system (ERP) and certain human resources reforms. Before the end of the year, I will also submit a series of reports on frameworks for accountability, enterprise risk management, and results-based management.

This budget is not only a financial document. It is a compact of understanding between myself, and the Member States. It details in concrete terms how we intend to realize the goals of the United Nations, and how I intend to exercise the authority you have entrusted to me. I look forward to our full partnership and teamwork, and to your guidance and advice.

Let us begin our work.

Thank you very much.