26 October 2005

Secretary-General Presents Budget Proposals to Fifth Committee; Stresses Its Pivotal Role in Transforming Organization, Enabling Flexible Management

Pointing out Profound Scale of Changes in Operating Environment, He Says "Business as Usual" Can No Longer Be Option

NEW YORK, 25 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's address to the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) of the General Assembly in New York today, 25 October:

I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to you at a crucial moment for the United Nations and for this Committee.

Our times are as challenging as any we have faced.  The United Nations has been called on to deploy several new peacekeeping operations in the past year alone.  A series of natural disasters is taxing the international humanitarian system.  Deadly diseases continue to spread or emerge.  Last month's landmark World Summit gave us still more to do.

But it not just the exceptional number of new demands being placed on the United Nations that defines our work today.  The very way in which the Organization is doing business has also changed profoundly.

The entire scale and locus of our operations have shifted.  Not so long ago, our main job was to staff and service a predictable routine of meetings and conferences.  Today, on top of that ongoing work, we manage an unpredictable, non-routine, fast-moving global enterprise encompassing peacekeeping, political missions, humanitarian relief and development.

Yet we still function under the old rulebook, setting staffing tables and allocating financial resources by committee in New York.  As our work has changed, and our operating environment has changed, "business as usual" is not an option.

This Committee has a pivotal role to play in transforming our Organization, and in giving it the flexible management, and the skilled, motivated workforce it needs to meet today's challenges.

Moreover, the relationship between this Committee and the Secretariat will be critical.  If we understand our respective roles; if we respect and really listen to each other's concerns; if we work in a constructive manner, the Secretariat will better carry out your mandates, and people in need throughout the world will be the beneficiaries.

In that effort, management reform is indispensable.  We need to constantly improve our services, learn from experience and correct our mistakes.  Good management is in the interest of everybody.  Bad management serves no one.

And let me be clear about the goal of management reform.  It is to equip the Secretary-General and Secretariat with the management tools and resources needed to handle complex global operations.  And it is to ensure that we are answerable for results and performance through effective, stringent oversight.  Working together, we can and must achieve this.

The General Assembly has asked us to produce a staggering number of reports over time, and to comply with a seemingly infinite number of managerial requirements.  Indeed, the level of detail can be quite extraordinary.  Such an approach does not lead to more accountability.  Instead, Member States themselves become mired in detailed discussions that end up leaving many of the larger strategic questions unanswered.

So let us move towards a proper division of labour, with you, the Member States, providing strategic direction, and the Secretariat managing.  But we need to be empowered.  Not as part of some competition or zero-sum game in which the Secretary-General's gain is this Committee's loss, or vice versa.  And I do not mean a blank cheque.  I mean authority with accountability.

We do not have it yet.  But in implementing the outcome of last month's Summit, we have a chance to bring important programmatic and management changes to our work.

Last week, I informed you about the work plan I have established for implementing the Summit outcome.

In the days ahead, I will be announcing the appointment of a senior adviser on management issues.  It is my intention to enlist a person of proven renown in the field, who would advise me on all aspects of the reform process and help ensure that our work is in line with international best practices.

Today, I would like to say a few words about some of the items that must be addressed by the end of the year.

Member States have called for the Peacebuilding Commission to be operational by December, along with its associated Support Office and Fund.  I am taking steps to set up a "start-up" element of the Office, so that it can hit the ground running once the Commission has been established.  Financial implications will be submitted early next month.

In November, I will also submit preliminary budgetary requirements related to a new Human Rights Council, pending a decision by Member States.  Given that the Council's parameters are still to be defined in discussions among Member States, these will be tentative.  I will also submit financial implications for the doubling of the High Commissioner's budget over the next five years, which Member States agreed as a vital and long-overdue step for strengthening our work in this area.

Member States also asked me to make detailed proposals to strengthen oversight.  Strengthening the capacity of the Office of Internal Oversight Services will be done in two phases:  first, the provision of additional resources for auditing and investigation; and second, an independent external evaluation, which will be commissioned by November.  The Secretariat is also preparing proposals on the creation of an independent oversight advisory committee; these will be submitted to the General Assembly by the end of the year.

The new Ethics Office is another important part of the picture.  The Bulletin for the Office will be issued in the next few days, and you will receive financial estimates by early next month.

Let me now look ahead to the first few months of next year.

During the first quarter of 2006, I will submit recommendations to ensure that our budgetary, financial and human resource policies and rules respond to the Organization's current needs and enable it to do its work effectively.

During that time, you will also receive my analysis and recommendations aimed at facilitating the review of mandates older than five years that the General Assembly and other relevant organs have agreed.  This exercise gives us a golden opportunity to eliminate outdated activities, and to update and reprioritize our entire programme of work.

I will also submit a detailed proposal for a one-time staff buy-out, so we can establish a staffing profile that reflects the new priorities of the General Assembly and that enables us to meet the requirements of the twenty-first century.

As you already know, the budget for the next biennium envisages a very slight increase in real growth:  less than 0.1 per cent over the previous biennium before the revised estimates that will arise from the Summit Outcome Document.

Growth in priority areas is to be funded largely through the reallocation of resources.

The budget continues a trend of significant investments in staff development and information technology, and maintains our capacity to handle special political missions.

And more than 3,000 obsolete, ineffective or marginally useful outputs have been discontinued.

As I stressed throughout the Summit process, our agenda is very ambitious but achievable.  As we move ahead, let us not accept the false hierarchy of issues that treats management as ancillary to our main work.  Let us not succumb to the view that the workings of this Committee are some kind of arcane pursuit for specialists only.  Management matters.

As your country's representatives, you have a dual role:  first, to give this Committee serious attention; and second, to ensure that your capitals do the same.

For nearly a decade now, a sustained effort has put in place a wide range of structural, technical and managerial reforms at the United Nations.  The General Assembly has given broad support to these changes, and I believe they have made this Committee more strategic, and this Organization more effective in doing the job the world expects of us.

But even that extensive slate of reforms does not go far enough.  For the sake of our Organization, and most of all for the sake of the people we serve, let us continue pushing forward the indispensable process of management reform.  Our time is here; the hour for action is now.

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