1 September 2005

Successful Outcome at September Summit Will Be Success for All, Secretary-General Says in Statement to Core Group

NEW YORK, 31 August (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the statement by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Core Group established by the President of the General Assembly to advance work on the draft outcome document for the 2005 World Summit:

Thank you very much for inviting me to join this working session for a few minutes.  I have been following your negotiations on the draft outcome document, and I am glad to hear that, in some areas at least, you are now making good progress.  I also hear that in other areas you are still divided, and in those I can only urge you to redouble your efforts.  A successful outcome at next month's summit will be a success for all of us -- for all the peoples that you represent.  And failure would be a lost opportunity for all.  The stakes are high.  Very high.

You are now turning to the issues of development, as well as Secretariat and management reform.

Development rightly has pride of place in your draft outcome document.  One of the great achievements of the Millennium Declaration was its success in focusing the world's attention on precise targets which, if achieved by 2015, would mark a real turn of the tide in our struggle against life-destroying poverty.  Since codified and widely endorsed by Member States as the "Millennium Development Goals", these targets form the basis of the great pact of mutual accountability between developed and developing countries, which was sealed at Monterrey two years ago.

We are not yet on track to achieve them, but they have proved to be an unprecedented catalyst for global action.  The challenge now is to put the bargain into effect.  I believe the commitments outlined in your draft document would be a big step towards doing so.

Management reform, of course, is an area where, by virtue of my office, I have a special interest.

As you know, Excellencies, I have been striving to reform the management of this Organization, with your help, ever since I became Secretary-General -- now nearly nine years ago.  I believe we have achieved a great deal, but the deficiencies revealed in our management of the oil-for-food programme in Iraq, and the disgraceful misconduct that has been brought to light in some of our peacekeeping missions, have convinced me, as chief administrative officer, that more is needed.

In the areas where I have discretion I have already embarked this year on a new wave of reforms, designed to improve the performance of senior management, to strengthen oversight and accountability, to increase transparency, and to ensure the highest standards of ethics throughout the Secretariat.

Under this last heading, we are already in the process of creating an Ethics Office, which will oversee compliance with our new financial disclosure requirements for senior officials, ensure protection for whistleblowers, develop and oversee mandatory ethics training for all staff, and provide advice to staff on ethical issues such as the propriety of receiving gifts.

I shall be happy to submit further details to the General Assembly at its next session, as suggested in the draft outcome document that you have before you.

Yet I am convinced, Excellencies, that more far-reaching reforms are needed, which require the authority of the General Assembly.

I am therefore very happy to have the chance to explain to you in person why I attach such great importance to the changes proposed in the draft outcome document, and to clear up any misunderstandings that may have arisen.

The draft calls for a full review of the rules governing our budgetary and human resources.  I believe this is necessary because these rules have been left largely untouched in the last 15 years despite the transformation of the Secretariat, which Member States have required to undertake a far wider range of operations than in the past.

It is vital that our rules should allow us to attract, retain and develop a cadre of professionals capable of carrying out these operations, to move them from post to post in a fair and practicable way, and to rationalize a budgetary process which is far too heavy, time-consuming and bureaucratic.

The draft also calls for an overview of all mandates older than five years.  I know some of you have questioned why this should be needed, given that Regulation 5.6 already allows discontinuation of unnecessary outputs and activities.

The answer is that this is not enough.  Every year, you ask the Secretariat to undertake new tasks, often without providing additional or new resources -- indeed, requiring that the budget should remain at its existing level.  We have reached a point where this cannot be done without clearly prioritizing the Organization's mandates, and deciding which old ones should be discontinued to make room for new ones that are considered more urgent.

I cannot do this without your help.  I am willing, if asked, to carry out the suggested overview, but the choices are ones that you, and only you, can make.

Let me also explain why I believe changes are needed in the oversight structure of the Organization.  One lesson we should all have learnt from the recent revelations is that we need more effective oversight, carried out by a body that is clearly independent.  I mean, independent from the Secretary-General.

Yes, we have the Office of Internal Oversight Services.  But under present arrangements its budget is drawn up by my staff -- in other words, by some of the very people it is supposed to oversee.  That is why I believe that the new body suggested in the draft outcome document -- the independent oversight advisory committee -- is indeed necessary.  We need -- or rather, you need -- an expert body, appointed by the General Assembly, which can make professional recommendations for the OIOS budget each year without being dependent on input from me.

Let me stress that this not a novel or outlandish suggestion.  We have studied the methods your own governments use to oversee their administration, and have found that structures similar to the one proposed are already working successfully in countries as diverse as South Africa, the Philippines, Indonesia and the United Kingdom.

Finally, the draft would call on me to submit an implementation plan, and speaks of "ensuring that the Secretary-General has sufficient authority and flexibility to redeploy posts and resources".

Let me be very clear that, while I would indeed welcome these provisions, I do not see them as offering me any kind of carte blanche to run the Organization on my own.  I would never ask you for that, and if I did you would be quite right to refuse.  In fact, all I am asking for is authority to manage the Organization similar to that which my colleagues have in the Specialized Agencies.

The Charter designates the Secretary-General as chief administrative officer of the Organization.  He must have the authority to carry out that function effectively, by taking day-to-day decisions on the deployment of staff and resources.  But it is you, the General Assembly, who give him his marching orders, and it is to you that he must give an account of his stewardship.

I am convinced that none of you want a Secretariat that can always blame its failings on the Member States -- or Member States blaming their failings on the Secretariat.  You want a Secretariat that is given clear instructions by Member States, and then takes responsibility for its success or failure in carrying them out.

That is what I want, too.  I want the leeway to do my job properly, but the obligation always to come back to you when strategic decisions are needed.  It would then be for you to decide whether the course I recommend is the right one, or whether a course correction is in order.

No one can dispute that the last two years have been very serious for us and for the system as a whole.  We have seen serious problems in our system of management, and I believe all of you have read what has come to light.  A solution is badly needed, and I believe that it lies in the changes that you have before you.  If you decide to enact these changes, we have an answer for our critics.  If not, I fear that those critics will win the argument, and the prestige and effectiveness of our Organization will continue to suffer.

Let me conclude by repeating my hope that your negotiations will result in a balanced outcome for next month's summit -- one that brings about real advances in our common struggle for development, security and human rights, as well as real improvements in the effectiveness of our Organization; an outcome, in short, that justifies the journey to New York that your heads of State and government are about to make; an outcome of which they can be proud.

Mr. President, I hope I have answered some of the questions that Member States have been putting to you about your reform proposals.  I would be glad now to hear directly from delegates about their concerns, so that we can understand each other fully and can move forward together.

* *** *