31 March 2006

Review of Mandates Is "Unique Opportunity" to Strengthen United Nations, Secretary-General Says, Presenting Report to General Assembly

Work Must Respond to Key Needs, Priorities of World's People, Assembly President States

NEW YORK, 30 March (UN Headquarters) -- "The review of mandates is a unique opportunity to strengthen and adapt our Organization to the priorities of today, and I am sure you will not fail to seize it", Secretary-General Kofi Annan said to the General Assembly, as he presented his report on the matter this afternoon.

The report (document A/60/733) responds to the request world leaders had made at their Summit last September that Member States "review all mandates older than five years" -- and that the Secretary-General provide an analysis and recommendations to facilitate that review.  While not containing the full range of analyses of the Organization's work that could be made, the document provided "a framework and initial tools" for Member States to undertake their review, the Secretary-General said.

The mandates adopted over the last 60 years reflected the desire of all countries to see the Organization play an effective part in helping to solve the world's problems, the Secretary-General continued. "Yet, great as this Organization is, and hard though many of its staff work, it cannot do everything."

He also recalled that the first review of mandates had been conducted, at the request of the membership, in 1954, when Dag Hammarskjöld had concluded that "the very nature of the responsibilities that must be assumed by the Secretary-General and his senior staff imposes a limit on the volume of the tasks that can be handled effectively".  That was even truer today, when the Organization and the number of mandates were so much greater.  There was only so much that the Secretary-General and his senior managers could effectively deliver and manage, especially when they were asked to do so within limited resources.

Today, even more than in 1954, Member States found it hard to cope with the mass of documentation that they themselves requested -- and that made it harder for them to oversee the Organization effectively, he said.  As in 1954, it was necessary to make a choice between urgent and less urgent mandates.  That was not a call for the United Nations to do less, though that might be one result.  It was a call for it to do better.  The review could have a lasting impact not only on what the Organization did, but on how it did it.  The 1954 review, for example, had led to a reduction in the number of reports and the length of documents in general.  It had also merged two departments into a unified Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

"The aim must be to make sure that the solutions and strategies we develop to deal with global issues are complementary and mutually reinforcing, so that the Organization as a whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts," the Secretary-General continued. "That is why the decision to conduct the review, even if not the most glamorous that your Heads of State and Government made last September, was one of the most meaningful and potentially historic."  It was also a daunting challenge.  While there were real opportunities to achieve results in the short term, a full review of mandates would take time and sustained commitment.  The outcome could be extremely rewarding, however.

"Dear friends, it is your review", he stressed, listing an online registry of mandates, and an analytical framework in the report itself, as the tools to conduct it.  The report highlighted patterns in the mandates and gave examples of some of the problems.  Not all the issues raised by Member States in consultations over the last six months were addressed in the report, but the registry of mandates should enable Member States to review any active mandate, or group of mandates, that they believed merited it.

The task ahead was not easy, partly because "we do not yet have the kind of information on every mandate, that may be required for a fully meaningful review", the Secretary-General said.  Member States might decide that they needed more strategic information on the effectiveness of the mandates, as the Assembly moved ahead with the task of making the United Nations truly accountable to its members and ensuring that it fulfilled its commitments to people around the world.  The Secretariat stood ready to give further support, as and when requested.

Other processes under way, including the management reform efforts, the review of governance and oversight, the examination of system-wide coherence, and the revitalization of the Assembly itself, would provide the tools necessary to implement mandates better, he concluded.  For its part, the mandate review should help Member States to determine the priorities for the Organization.  Those processes should, thus, be interdependent and mutually reinforcing.

Following the Secretary-General's introduction, the Assembly President Jan Eliasson (Sweden) said "In a world with a great need for global solutions and a strong United Nations, we must make sure that our work responds to the key needs and key priorities of the peoples of the world."  The discussions on management and secretariat reform, based on the Secretary-General's report Investing in the United Nations, aimed at ensuring how the Organization could carry out its tasks in an effective and efficient manner.

He said the process of mandate review should aim at outlining what those tasks should be.  The report introduced today and the corresponding database of mandates constituted a map drawn up to facilitate the review.  Now was the time for Member States to assume responsibility for carrying out the review process.   The mandate review would be a challenging task, but, he said, "I am confident that, through dialogue and a constructive approach, you and we will be able to achieve good and meaningful results." 

He announced that the process of the mandate review would be continued under the leadership of the Co-Chairs. After informal plenary consultations, the Co-Chairs would outline a work plan for further consideration of the matter.  He also announced that the Secretary-General's report on Investing in the United Nations and its related report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) would be introduced in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) on Monday, 3 April.  He expected that the Fifth Committee would conclude its consideration at the latest by 18 April.

At the opening of the meeting, it was also announced that Eritrea had made the necessary payments to reduce its arrears below the amount specified in Article 19 of the Charter. [By the terms of Article 19, a Member State whose arrears to the Organization equal or exceed the amount of its dues for two years, loses its right to vote in the General Assembly.]

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