Press Releases

    31 October 2002


    NEW YORK, 30 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s statement to the General Assembly, 30 October:

    I am grateful for this opportunity to present my report on "Strengthening the United Nations: An Agenda for Further Change".

    As this Assembly well knows, one of my chief aims, ever since I became Secretary-General, has been to make the United Nations more useful -- to its Member States and to the peoples of the world -- by making it more effective and efficient. And I have consistently said that, in order to do this, we must be prepared to change with the times, constantly adjusting to new conditions and new needs.

    That was the object of the Reform Report that I introduced in my first year, and of other initiatives I have taken since then. It is equally the aim of this new report. The report sets out a package of very pragmatic improvements. It builds on all that we have achieved together in the past five years. And it is guided by what you, the Member States, have decided should be the Organization’s priorities.

    I am proposing a thorough review of our programme of work -- to make sure we are concentrating our efforts on what matters to you and to the peoples of the world. The Millennium Declaration, along with the outcomes of the International Conference on Financing for Development, the World Summit on Sustainable Development and other major conferences of the past decade, have outlined a comprehensive vision of what Member States seek to accomplish. We must now ensure that our programme of work is adjusted and aligned to support this ambitious agenda -- especially the Millennium Development Goals and other imperatives in the economic and social areas. Our goals will not be met unless we put all our efforts behind them.

    In response to specific requests made by this Assembly, the report contains a number of proposals for improving our performance in the areas of human rights and public information.

    Some of you have suggested that the attention given to these two areas implies a downgrading of the priority given to development. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have looked at human rights and public information in response to your specific requests. And the report is driven by our overriding ambition and mission to meet the development goals set for the world’s people.

    Also, in response to your request, the report identifies major improvements in the planning and servicing of meetings, including a more integrated approach and the greater use of information technology.

    I have put forward a variety of ideas for improving the reports that the Secretariat prepares.

    This is not simply a question of reducing the number and length of reports, though that certainly is necessary. It is also a question of strengthening their quality -- to permit a more comprehensive and holistic consideration of the complex, interconnected issues which we must grapple with.

    This is particularly relevant for the consideration of economic and social issues. This Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and subsidiary organs need high-quality analysis, based on rigorous research and thematic coherence. Better reporting will help to enhance the Organization’s development voice, and strengthen the role of the Assembly and the Economic and Social Council in leading the international agenda in this area.

    The report also identifies further steps required to reinforce coordination among United Nations entities, particularly in the delivery of United Nations programmes at the country level. We are all better off when the United Nations works well as a team.

    The report proposes some important changes in our budget and planning system. At the moment we have three different processes, covering different time scales, and there are three different oversight and review mechanisms. This is unnecessarily complex and labour-intensive, and makes it nearly impossible for the vast majority of Member States to participate meaningfully in the deliberations of this Assembly.

    I am establishing a high-level panel to take stock of the relationship between the United Nations and civil society. The intensity of this interaction has grown tremendously in the past 15 years or so. Much good has come from these contacts. At the same time, some real challenges have come to the fore, and we can all sense that it may well be time to look closely at what is working well and what isn’t. The panel will be composed of people from different backgrounds -- governments, non-governmental organizations, research institutions, parliaments, and so on -- as well as from different regions of the world, and will suggest ways to enhance this crucial relationship.

    Finally, the report contains proposals aimed at making life better and more rewarding for our staff, as well as further improving their quality and performance -- notably by making it easier for them to move, between locations, between functions, and between organizations.

    This report provides a broad direction for the future. It sets goals, and provides an indication of how to reach those goals. The whole package hangs together as a coherent whole, and I urge you to treat it as such.

    What I need to know now is whether you agree with this broad direction.

    I hope we can all agree that the programme of work needs to be updated; that reports can better serve your difficult policy-making decisions; and that the system of planning and budgeting needs to be simplified.

    And I hope that once you debate the report in plenary, you will adopt a single resolution giving me clear guidance on the way forward.

    My proposals may seem modest, taken individually. But taken together, they amount to a new way of doing business. Most importantly, they are achievable steps, with real potential to make the United Nations a more effective instrument in pursuit of your priorities.

    In closing let me stress that as we move ahead, I would want there to be an open process, with real dialogue between the Member States and the Secretariat, based on mutual trust and confidence. That is the only way for our Organization to meet the diverse and many demands placed upon it. Let us, then, in the words of the Millennium Declaration, "spare no effort to make the United Nations a more effective instrument".

    * *** *