4 April 2006
Deputy Secretary-General Introduces Reform Report to Budget Committee; Says Strategic Document Maps Vision for UN Future
Mark Malloch Brown Tells Delegates Proposals Intend to Make UN Response to Global Crises more Flexible, Effective
NEW YORK, 3 April (UN Headquarters) -- Introducing the Secretary-General's report "Investing in the United Nations for a stronger Organization worldwide" to the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning, Mark Malloch Brown, Deputy Secretary-General, told delegates it was a strategic document that mapped out a vision for the Organization for many years to come, and the reforms it envisioned could be enacted only if there was strong trust between Member States and the Secretariat.
Mr. Brown emphasized that today's United Nations was much more complex, diverse and fast moving than the United Nations of the past and that, despite "heroic" efforts of staff, they were encumbered by regulations and a lack of investment that did not allow them to deliver to the best of their or the Organization's potential. One idea underpinning the report was the transformation of the United Nations into a field-driven organization. A second idea was that a new bargain, or strategic partnership, could be offered to Member States, namely that if more and better tools were offered, more accountability could be delivered.
It was not, he said, a "cost cutters" report. Taken in their entirety, the Secretary-General's proposals intended to set the Organization on a path where it could respond to global crises and conflicts more flexibly and effectively, where the Organization could act as one, lead by a management whose training had been invested in and that truly reflected the gender and the geographical distribution. The ideas underpinning the report, he concluded, were ambitious and bold.
Rajat Saha, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introducing that body's report, said that the Advisory Committee's principal consideration in preparing that document had been to facilitate the work of the Assembly. Key in that regard was the request that the Secretary-General prepare a detailed implementation report by the beginning of May, which would set out in a concrete manner the actions and resources required to develop and carry out his vision. Also included should be a history of previous similar proposals, assessment of their impact, explanation of how accountability would be defined and enforced in relation to the proposals, as well as information on the projected return on investment and time lines for implementation.
The representative of South Africa, speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said he strongly supported ongoing efforts to reform the United Nations, based on the fundamental principle that the intergovernmental nature of the Organization should be upheld. The Organization should be more responsive to the priorities collectively agreed by Member States and be able to recruit and retain qualified staff that reflected the Organization's international character. That necessitated providing the Organization with the requisite resources. In that context, the Group attached great importance to providing additional resources to the Secretariat to help meet the Millennium Development Goals.
Austria's representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the Secretary-General had clearly set out his vision and the Union supported him in his efforts. He concurred with the ACABQ's observation that, for a more substantive discussion, more detailed information was needed. At this stage, any review by the Fifth Committee could only be of a general and preliminary nature. It would depend entirely on the progress made if input to the plenary of the Assembly took the form of a resolution or a letter from the Chairman. He objected to any calls for votes, any name-calling and efforts to antagonize the discussion. It was necessary to restore the atmosphere of trust.
The representative of Norway said the Organization must have a transparent, effective and accountable system for resource management. The Assembly had addressed that issue many times, and she was surprised there had been no adequate response. She shared the concern of Member States and their wish to counter what could be seen as attempts to transfer functions from the Assembly to a small circle of rich and powerful nations. "Take away the multilateral and universal character of the United Nations, and it is no longer qualified to be the leading organisation for world order", she said.
Other speakers, notably the representative of the United States, urged prompt action on the report and endorsed the conclusions and recommendations of the ACABQ, saying the Fifth Committee should complete its consideration of the report before 18 April.
Other speakers, however, expressed dismay that, in the coming weeks, the Committee could not benefit from conference services on certain days, according to an announcement made by Lars-Hjalmar Wide, Chef de Cabinet of the Office of the President of the General Assembly. South Africa's representative said, in that regard, that the 18 April deadline was now a joke.
The representatives of Japan, Australia (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand), India, China and Egypt also spoke.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 4 April, to continue its general debate on the matter.
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today took up consideration of the Secretary-General's report on Investing in the United Nations: for a stronger Organization worldwide (document A/60/692) and the related report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) (document A/60/735).
The Secretary-General's report presents a plan for a radical overhaul of the United nations Secretariat to bring it more in line with today's new operational realities and better equip the Organization to meet the growing demands and expectations of Member States, transforming the UN into a more efficient and accountable organization that reflects the fact that more than 70 per cent of its $10 billion annual budget now relates to peacekeeping and other field operations.
The report contains some 23 proposals on investing in: people (proposals 1-4); investing in leadership (proposals 5-7); information and communication technology (proposals 8-10); new ways of delivering services (proposals 11-15); budget and finance (proposals 16-18); governance (proposals 19-21); and change (proposals 22 and 23).
In its report, the ACABQ, noting that the Secretary-General's report represents the third major reform initiative proposed since 1997, and that many of the ideas put forward in the latest round have their genesis in past proposals, points out that some of what has been approved in the past is still in the process of implementation. The Advisory Committee further points out that a set of principles to ensure accountability is key to the successful management of any organization, and that there is a need to specifically define what is meant by accountability in the United Nations context.
The Advisory Committee recommends that the Secretary-General be requested to prepare a detailed report that would "tie together interrelated issues while reflecting the unique nature of the United Nations and its central role". It encourages the use of best practices throughout the United Nations system, but emphasizes that the special character of the Organization should always be borne in mind. The Committee was informed that, if requested, the Secretariat could submit such a report by May, except for the case of human resources, for which a report is already scheduled for September.
The detailed report should include, according to the ACABQ, all areas covered by the current Secretary-General report and incorporate all additional reports now contemplated. For each proposal, the report should include, among other things: an assessment of the impact of previous similar proposals; specific cost and administrative implications; an explanation of how accountability will be defined and enforced; projected enhancement of the effectiveness of the work of the Organization, as well as the return on investment; and time lines for implementation. The report then goes on to address individual proposals, asking for detailed information in the upcoming May report regarding many of them.
Regarding proposals 1-4 on investing in people, the report notes that during the last three bienniums, the Secretary-General has introduced a number of initiatives and human resources reforms, but that much remains to be done. As the Secretary-General intends to consult with the staff on human resources management issues, the Committee trusts that such consultations will be carried out in accordance with provisions of the Staff Regulations and of Assembly resolution 59/266 on human resources management.
As for investing in leadership (proposals 5-7), the Committee considers that it is up to any individual Secretary-General, within the framework of Assembly resolutions, to determine the functions of the Deputy Secretary-General. Regarding the proposals to regroup departments, the Committee recommends that the proposal be further developed for the consideration of the next Secretary-General. As for the concept of building up a cadre of senior and middle managers, it notes that a clear accountability framework should be drawn up for appropriate action in the case of under- or non-performance.
Addressing the proposals 8-10 on information and communication technology, the Committee requests more details in the report to be issued in May, including an assessment of previous investments and taking into account problems being experienced by both the Information Technology Services Division and the Communications and Information Technological Service, as well as the experience of the United Nations system with recent technological innovation programmes.
Regarding the proposals 11-15 on investing in new ways of delivering services, the Committee noted that, for proposed cost-benefit analyses on relocation, outsourcing and telecommuting opportunities for select administrative services, no legislative approval is necessary. The Committee trusts that such analysis will take into account lessons learned and that the Assembly will be fully informed of the results. The proposals on strengthening procurement likewise require no legislative approval.
As for proposals 16-18 on investing in budget and finance, the Committee, noted that current requirements for scrutiny of the budget do not permit implementation of a proposal to shorten the budget cycles and review processes taking place during the September-December session of the Assembly. As for aligning the financial period for peacekeeping operations with the calendar year, the Committee states that the current practice -- the period of 1 July through 30 June -- had worked well.
The Committee requested a "mock-up" of a proposed budget where appropriation lines would be consolidated from 35 sections into 13 to be included in the May report, noting that the proposal would increase the flexibility of the Secretary-General to move post and non-post resources. Clarification is asked regarding a proposal to give the Secretary-General authority to use the savings from vacant posts for emerging priorities. The Committee will comment on a proposal concerning the consolidation of peacekeeping accounts after it receives a report on the matter.
Regarding the proposal to streamline the management of trust funds and the introduction of a single trust fund category, the Committee requests that a report on the matter be included in the detailed report in May. A "clear and convincing justification" is needed before an increase in the ceiling of the commitment authority for peacekeeping operations from $50 million to $150 million can be considered. Increasing the level of the Working Capital Fund for the regular budget from $100 million to $250 million is a policy decision to be made by the Assembly, as is a proposal to charge interest rates on arrears in a Member State's assessed contributions.
Turning to investing in governance (proposals 19-21), the Committee requests a mock-up of the proposed single comprehensive annual report to be included in the May report. The detailed policy proposal containing new rules on public access to United Nations documentation should also be included in that report. As for proposals regarding interaction between the Secretariat and Assembly budgetary bodies, the Committee notes that the Assembly is the competent body to deal with those issues.
The Advisory Committee intends to comment on proposals 22 and 23 on investing in change, in which the Secretary-General indicates that resources will be needed at an early stage for a change management office and for a staff buyout, when they are developed. The presentation of proposals should include relevant experiences in the United Nations system, as well as a set of criteria for potential recipients of the buyout. Capacity and expertise already available in the Secretariat should be taken into account in making a proposal on change management.
Introduction of Reports
LARS-HJALMAR WIDE, of the Office of the President of the General Assembly, conveying a message of the President, asked that time should not be lost on procedures. One month had already been spent on finding the right formula in addressing the reports, he said, and the President had had difficulties in finding resources for the Fifth Committee to carry out its substantive work. He then went on to outline the coming programme of work.
Introducing the Secretary-General's report "Investing in the United Nations for a stronger Organization worldwide" (document A/60/662), MARK MALLOCH BROWN, Deputy Secretary-General, said he recognized that, only if there was strong trust between Member States and the Secretariat, could the reforms be put through. The report of the ACABQ had not closed any doors. The Secretary-General, in his meetings with the Assembly and the regional groups, had already had the opportunity to hear preliminary reactions.
He reiterated that the report was a strategic one that mapped out a vision for the Organization for the years to come. The report was not very detailed, but he had felt that there must first be agreement on directions. The Organization had outgrown its business model. Although many had said that there had already been many reforms, the fundamental point was that there was a need to lay out the idea that today's United Nations was much more complex, diverse and fast moving than the United Nations of the past and that, despite "heroic" efforts of staff, they were encumbered by regulations and a lack of investment that did not allow them to deliver to the best of their or the Organization's potential.
He said the report had delivered some unsolicited advice on governance. A report on governance and oversight had been delivered. There was still work ahead on how to ensure real accountability for results and transparency. However, underlying the report was "the offer on our part of a strategic partnership". If the Secretariat would get the means to deliver on the responsibilities Member States tasked it with, more accountability could be set. One idea underpinning the report was the transformation into a field-driven organization. A second idea was that a new bargain could be offered to Member States, namely that if more and better tools were offered, more accountability could be delivered.
He said the numbers in the report spoke for themselves: there had been a fourfold increase in peacekeeping budgets; a doubling of Secretariat resources; and there were twice as many civilian staff in the field than there were in the Secretariat. The "critical observations" that the highly valuable normative and analytical work performed by the Organization would continue to be at the core of what the United Nations did. The focus of the report was on leadership, human resources, finance and procurement, information technology and governance.
Proposals were all geared towards delivering more in the field, he said. Although he was aware that the emphasis on the role of field staff would provoke reactions in New York, he said the intention was not to reduce benefits of staff in New York, but rather to harmonize with field staff and remove the second rate standard that existed for field staff. The vision of a more flexible organization was not limited to field versus Headquarters, but also in Headquarters itself. It called, for instance, for more career opportunity for General Service staff. However, none of it could happen if it was not based on a stronger information and communication technology platform.
Addressing comments that the report was a "cost cutters" report, stripping out functions that did not meet the political objectives of some, he said that was not the case. It called, among other things, for a $120 million investment in renewed information and communication technology systems. Neither was it a report that accepted the idea that everything was additional. The ACABQ had said that no Assembly decision was needed to explore more fully the outsourcing of work to other United Nations centres away from Headquarters. The report only asked for studies. He hoped that the costs of the proposals could be offset by major economies in the area of procurement.
Taken in their entirety, he said, the proposals intended to set the Organization on a path where it could respond to global crises and conflicts more flexibility and effectively, where the Organization could act as one, lead by a management whose training had been invested in and that truly reflected the gender and the geographical distribution. Ambitious and bold ideas underpinned the report. He hoped that "the flame" that led to the idea of the report would not be extinguished.
RAJAT SAHA, Chairman of the ACABQ, introduced that body's report, saying that the Advisory Committee's principal consideration in preparing that document had been to facilitate the work of the Assembly on the important matter before it. Key in that regard was the ACABQ's request that the Secretary-General prepare a detailed implementation report by the beginning of May, which would set out in a concrete manner the actions and resources required to develop and carry out his vision. Also included should be a history of previous similar proposals, assessment of their impact, explanation of how accountability would be defined and enforced in relation to the proposals, as well as information on the projected return on investment and time lines for implementation.
Details on the proposals relating to human resources should be covered in the report, which would be presented to the Assembly in September, he continued. Should the Assembly approve the Advisory Committee's recommendation for a detailed report to be submitted in May, the ACABQ would submit its own detailed observations and recommendations as soon as possible thereafter.
DUMISANI KUMALO (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, recalled that when the Assembly agreed on the deadline of 18 April, it had been because of the United States the European Union, Japan and Canada, Australia, and New Zealand (CANZ), who felt that if the report was presented to the Fifth Committee, it would "either die, or be delayed". Therefore, he was now surprised that the Fifth Committee, while ready to work, was facing delays. He was thankful to the President of the General Assembly who had made efforts "to create meetings" for the Committee. However, the deadline was a joke now, because in the coming weeks, there were days that the Fifth Committee had no conference services. He wanted to be on record: the Group of 77 was ready to engage on substance right now. He was tired of the Group being accused of holding up the discussion -- it was not the one waiting for instructions that never came.
He strongly supported ongoing efforts to reform the United Nations and said that the Group based its positions on the fundamental principle that the intergovernmental nature of the Organization should be upheld. The Group shared a collective agenda and a common interest in making the United Nations more responsive to the present-day needs of the people. It was, therefore, a prerequisite that the views of every Member State should be taken into account. The legitimacy and viability of the reform measures would ultimately depend on the buy-in of Member States, as well as of the Secretariat personnel who dedicated themselves to the Organization. The objective was to make the United Nations more efficient, effective and accountable to Member States. It should also be more responsive to the priorities collectively agreed by Member States. The Organization should further be able to recruit and retain qualified staff that reflected the international character of the United Nations.
The World Summit had provided Member States with an opportunity to affirm their commitment to the principles and values of the Organization, as enshrined in the Charter, he continued. The world leaders had recognized that development, human rights, peace and security were mutually reinforcing and reaffirmed their commitment to urgently addressing the numerous challenges by strengthening the United Nations. That, in turn, necessitated providing the Organization with the requisite human and financial resources, because it would be unrealistic to expect the Organization to deliver on the ambitious goals set by Member States within the limited existing resources. In that context, the Group attached great importance to providing additional resources to the Secretariat to help address development challenges and meet the Millennium Development Goals.
In recognition of the fact that the reform was a continuous process and not an end in itself, the World Summit Outcome had requested the Secretary-General to submit proposals that would advance ongoing reform efforts, he said. Member States had already acted decisively by adopting several concrete measures that were intended to reform the Secretariat and strengthen its accountability to Member States. The Group had supported the creation of an Ethics Office, the development of a whistle-blower policy, the strengthening of internal auditing and investigation capacity of the Organization, and the evaluation and review of oversight structures and accountability framework in the Secretariat. The Assembly had also ensured that the Secretary-General received the resources he required to implement the World Summit decisions and continue to implement numerous other mandates bestowed on the Organization.
Turning to the remaining tasks at hand, he noted that the current Secretary-General's report presented the third major reform initiative undertaken by him since 1997. As noted by the ACABQ, many of the proposals in this latest round of reform measures had their genesis in past proposals, some of which were still in the process of implementation. It was, therefore, imperative for the reform proposals before the Committee to take the positive aspects of existing efforts into account and to build upon them. The Group firmly supported the recommendation of the ACABQ regarding the preparation of a detailed report on the matter and believed that it was necessary to have well thought-out and rational proposals that would tie together inter-related issues. The proposals should be cognizant of the intergovernmental nature and unique character of the United Nations.
ENNO DROFENIK (Austria), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that the Union had already stated its view on the need for change in the plenary and, in the interest of time, he would refrain from restating it. The Secretary-General had clearly set out his vision -- the Union supported him in his efforts.
The ACABQ's report was concise, well-balanced and provided valuable guidance for the consideration of the Secretary-General's report, he continued. He agreed with the Advisory Committee that some subjects, particularly the proposals on governance, were not suited for a technical review of an expert body, but rather for a policy decision by the Assembly. He also concurred with the general observation that for a more substantive discussion more detailed information was needed. He was looking forward to the implementation report scheduled for May. He also noted that some proposals were within the purview of the Secretary-General and could be implemented without a decision of the Assembly. The Union wished to see more focus on accountability. Furthermore, it might be desirable to see the human resource proposals already at an early stage.
A more detailed implementation report was necessary, he continued. At this stage, any review by the Fifth Committee could only be of a general and preliminary nature. The Union stood ready to work together with all Member States to identify a first input for the consultations of the plenary. It would depend entirely on the progress made if that input took the form of a resolution or a letter from the Chairman. Whatever the form, it was important to give analysis and recommendations to the Assembly.
While taking note of the deadline of 18 April, he added that it was his understanding that a decision should be taken as soon as possible. The President of the General Assembly had assured that conference services would be provided to the Committee for most of the coming two weeks. He fully appreciated those efforts. Also, in the absence of a detailed implementation report, he was not fully convinced that it was necessary to enter into long and detailed debate on the matter. He objected to any calls for votes, any name-calling and efforts to antagonize the discussion. It was necessary to restore the atmosphere of trust, and the Union was certainly prepared to cooperate in the discussions to ensure a successful conclusion of the Committee's work.
MARK D. WALLACE (United States) said his country's representative, at the presentation of the report on 7 March, had said the report needed to be closely examined and acted on promptly. In many ways, the measures were a natural follow-on on accountability and oversight provisions of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document. The ACABQ had recommended that the Committee consider 14 of the recommendations. He expected that the Committee will have done so by the deadline of 18 April. The ACABQ had also recommended that the General Assembly should consider several of the proposals, and he looked forward to that consideration at an early time. As the ACABQ had also noted that the Secretary-General could proceed with seven proposals, he urged him to do so as soon as possible. In conclusion, he said that the Fifth Committee should endorse the conclusions and recommendations of the ACABQ.
MARI SKARE (Norway) said that, while understanding the rationale behind many of the proposals, she disagreed with some and needed to consider more closely the operative consequences of others. As a substantial amount of Norwegian public money was transferred to the United Nations, there was a responsibility to that country's taxpayers, as well as to the people in need of United Nations assistance, which meant that the Organization must be monitored. Nowadays, there were serious weaknesses in the United Nations administration. It must have a transparent, effective and accountable system for resource management. The impression that some managers in the Secretariat were not always acting in accordance with the principles of the Charter was very damaging to the Organization.
She said Norway had been promoting a stronger executive leadership of the United Nations for a long time and had advocated that the Secretary-General should have greater authority to manage resources. However, greater authority had to be coupled with managerial accountability. The Assembly had addressed that issue many times, and she was surprised there had been no adequate response. With regard to the role of Deputy Secretary-General, she warned against the establishment of what could be perceived as two power bases and cautioned against Assembly decisions that could undermine the Secretary-General's authority to organize his offices.
She shared the concern of Member States and their wish to counter what could be seen as attempts to transfer functions from the Assembly to a small circle of rich and powerful nations. "Take away the multilateral and universal character of the United Nations, and it is no longer qualified to be the leading organization for world order", she said. She, therefore, strongly cautioned against proposals on establishing new governance structures within the United Nations, consisting of small groups of representative Member States. While agreeing that there were some serious challenges to be dealt with in the decision-making processes, she did not agree that the large number of Member States and their participation in negotiations, in itself, constituted a problem. There was a tendency for Member States to take an a la carte approach to the United Nations, and a gap between what Member States mandated and the collective resources made available to do the job. There was room for improvement that would benefit the real clientele of the Organization, namely the people of the world.
She concurred with the main thrust of the proposals on human resource management, budget and finance, but needed more clarity on the operative consequences of some of the proposals. There was a need for improvement both in the recruitment system and in personnel management. A number of proposals did not seem to require legislative action by the Assembly. She would like to learn more about those initiatives and understood that specific guidance and decisions from the Assembly might be necessary at a later stage.
HITOSHI KOZAKI (Japan) welcomed the Secretary-General's report and noted that the proposals before the Committee aimed at reforming the Organization towards a more efficient, effective and accountable one. His Government would give serious thought to the proposals contained in that document.
His delegation, in principle, supported the way the report of the ACABQ sorted out the proposals before the Committee, providing it with useful information for its deliberations, he said. As the Advisory Committee rightly pointed out, there were several proposals of the Secretary-General, such as the systematic analysis of new ways of delivering services and strengthening procurement, which should be implemented without delay within the authority already vested in him. He urged the Secretary-General to exercise his leadership on those issues.
His delegation would closely study those proposals, which required consideration in the Fifth Committee, together with additional information and analysis of the Secretary-General to be provided by May. He also noted that the Committee would receive in September a comprehensive report on human resources management. With regard to the proposals on governance, he found the recommendations of the ACABQ sensible. It would be appropriate for the plenary, not the Fifth Committee, to discuss how to deal with those matters, as the Assembly was the competent body to deal with those governance issues. It was the firm view of his delegation that the Fifth Committee, taking into account the guidance of the ACABQ, as well as the request by the President of the Assembly, should come to a quick conclusion on the way to deal with the report of the Secretary-General that had been requested last September by the world leaders.
EDWINA STEVENS (Australia), also speaking on behalf of Canada and New Zealand (CANZ), said that she saw the Secretary-General report as a valuable blueprint for streamlining the Secretariat's work. The Fifth Committee had been asked to present its comments to the plenary as soon as possible and not later than 18 April, and it needed to adhere to that deadline. It was necessary to examine the Secretary-General's report carefully, taking into account the expert advice of the ACABQ.
The ACABQ had identified several initiatives that did not require the Assembly's approval to implement, and she strongly urged the Secretary-General to move forward on those initiatives as soon as possible. He did not need anything from the Fifth Committee on those. She also endorsed the Advisory Committee's recommendation for a detailed implementation report and looked forward to those reports, which would be presented during the sixty-first session. Until then, the work that the Fifth Committee could undertake seemed somewhat limited.
And finally, the Advisory Committee identified recommendations, which clearly posed policy questions. CANZ regarded the plenary as the only appropriate body for the consideration of those issues.
JAIDEEP MAZUMDAR (India) said that, in considering the report, there was a need for strong understanding and trust between Member States, as well as between Member States and the Secretariat. The ACABQ report was clear and rational. He strongly supported the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.
He said his delegation would be looking at the proposals in a positive frame of mind, as they were often a logical extension of work already done in the Committee. More important, however, was that the fundamental assumptions that underpinned the report would have to be examined and agreement on them reached.
WANG XINXIA (China) expressed her strong support of the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China. She said her delegation considered the report of high importance and would engage in serious and earnest discussions on it. For that, she requested that conference services be provided in full to the Committee.
YASSER ELNAGGAR (Egypt) also strongly supported the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China. He welcomed the fact that the report was now before the Committee after a needless procedural debate. If there was to be a new discussion on the procedure for consideration of the report, he said he would prefer that discussion to take place outside of the conference room, so that conference services would not be wasted. There had been an agreement and to redefine the time frame and the type of outcome of the report's consideration was not only needless, but touched upon the responsibility of the Committee to discharge itself of its functions according to the Rules of Procedures of the Assembly. His delegation stood ready to join others in taking any decisions necessary to facilitate the Committee's work.
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