28 October 2003



NEW YORK, 27 October (UN Headquarters) -- This is the statement by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette to the General Assembly today on the question of United Nations reform:

It is a great pleasure to join you today to present the Secretary-General's report on implementation of his "agenda for further change" (document A/58/351).

This is a moment when the United Nations is facing formidable challenges and wrestling with fundamental questions.  The Secretary-General, in his speech to the General Assembly at the opening of the general debate, called for bold changes in order to ensure that our Organization is up to the task.  At the same time, it is important not to lose sight of the more practical measures and day-to-day steps that need to be taken to strengthen, adapt and otherwise equip the United Nations to meet the tests of our times.

A lot has already been achieved since the process of reform was initiated by the Secretary-General upon taking office in 1997.

The Millennium Declaration you adopted three years ago gives the world a common vision for the new century, including a set of development goals that now serves as a template for action by the entire international system.

Through the Brahimi report and other initiatives, we have made major improvements in our capacity to deploy and manage complex peacekeeping and peace-building operations.

We have developed new mechanisms and procedures to ensure that the disparate parts of the Organization work better together both at Headquarters and in the field.

We have built strong new partnerships with the private sector, civil society groups and others, bringing new energies to the pursuit of our common goals.

And we have stressed managerial reform more than ever before, in recognition of the need to modernize our systems and our skills.

Last year, the Secretary-General introduced an "agenda for further change" that sought to build on these achievements and take into account important developments in the international arena, most notably the Millennium Declaration. 

The report now before you sets out what has been done to implement that new agenda, and describes the steps to be taken next.  It also, of course, reflects the guidance you provided in last year's resolution.  Allow me to mention a few highlights:

-- The budget submitted this year represents a major effort to realign activities with priorities, and to increase attention to development issues, in particular the Millennium Development Goals.  The Secretary-General will offer greater details tomorrow in his address to the Fifth Committee to introduce the 2004-2005 budget;

-- The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has moved forward with efforts to improve management and the services it provides;

-- Restructuring of the Department of Public Information (DPI) has taken place, and the regional Information Centre for Western Europe will be fully operational next year;

-- We have made major innovations in managing conferences and meetings, in particular through greater reliance on information technology;

-- The streamlining of reports, considered essential to better focus the work of the General Assembly and its subsidiary bodies, and of the Economic and Social Council, has been initiated.  A number of reports on related subjects were consolidated, leading to an overall reduction, during this session, of approximately 20 reports from what was originally foreseen.  Further progress on this front depends in large part on decisions which you, the Member States, can take in the context of the revitalization of the Assembly and the integrated follow-up to conferences;


-- The United Nations presence in developing countries is being made more effective through simplification and harmonization of procedures, joint programming, the pooling of resources, better knowledge management and improvements in the resident coordinator system;

-- A review of technical cooperation activities in key areas was carried out and is being transmitted to you in a separate report.  This review identifies the various Secretariat entities and operational agencies involved in the provision of technical cooperation in a selected number of issues, and identifies areas where further clarification of roles and responsibilities will be undertaken in order to avoid duplication.  It is hoped that this compendium will be a useful source of information for programme countries and the donor community;

-- The panel of eminent persons to review the interaction between the United Nations and civil society, which the Secretary-General announced in his reform report last year, was formed last February.  It is chaired by the former President of Brazil, Dr. Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and comprises 12 members from all regions of the world.  The panel’s report is expected early in the new year.

And we are continuing to make new investments in our staff through training.  With the appointment of a new Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources, renewed impetus will be given to the implementation of the measures identified in the Secretary-General’s report last year, particularly with regard to staff mobility and career prospects for General Service staff.

Some of the reform activities I have just mentioned are covered in greater detail in complementary reports.  These are identified in the report before you today and should be read in conjunction with it.

While implementation is under way on all elements of the Secretary-General’s reform package of last year, there is one major piece of unfinished business:  the reform of the planning and budgeting system.  The Secretary-General argued in his report last year that the process needs to be more strategic and results-oriented, and less time-consuming.  He proposes changes to the format and content of the budget document.  He proposes that the “strategic framework” for the Organization should consist of a medium-term plan that would cover a two-year period, combined with the budget outline.  And he suggests that the Committee for Programme and Coordination shift its focus to monitoring and evaluating the work of the United Nations -- critical functions that are all-too-often verlooked or given short shrift -- rather than replicating the reviews of plans and budgets already done by other bodies.

The Assembly did not reach decisions on most of these issues last year, and requested supplementary information.  This information is contained in documents A/58/395 and A/57/786.  The changes proposed are not dramatic, but if adopted they would significantly improve the quality of the budget process while reducing the quantity of time and documentation that go into it.  I hope you will take your decisions before the end of the year so that the changes can shape the way in which the budget for 2006-2007 is developed. 

Reform is not a single, specific destination.  Rather, it is a wide-ranging, indeed all-encompassing journey.  Ultimately it is a state of mind -- an openness to new ideas and partners, a continuous search for better ways of doing our work, a commitment to excellence, a talent for focusing on what matters, an appetite for service.

All of the reforms, big and small, swift or slow, internal or intergovernmental, that have been achieved, show not only that the United Nations can change, but that change is an integral part of the way we do business.  Indeed, change has been our métier since our earliest days.  We all look forward to wise decisions in the days ahead that will enable us to keep it so for the future.

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