31 March 2006

Mandate Review Must Ensure that Organization Becomes Greater Than "Sum of Its Parts", Secretary-General Tells General Assembly

NEW YORK, 30 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of today's statement by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the 75th Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly:

Thank you, Mr. President -- and let me take this opportunity to congratulate you on your appointment as Foreign Minister of your country.  It is certainly Sweden's gain, and I trust it will not be the United Nations loss, because I know how high a priority both you and your country give to the work of strengthening this Organization.  I might also add, perhaps more for the benefit of the Permanent Representatives in this room, that this is a clear indication that a UN assignment is good for career enhancement.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Six months ago, your Heads of State and Government set in motion a potentially historic process, by resolving to "strengthen and update the programme of work of the United Nations so that it responds to the contemporary requirements of Member States".

To that end, they called on you, the Member States, to "review all mandates older than five years, originating from the resolutions of the General Assembly and other relevant organs".  And, to facilitate that review, they asked me to provide analysis and recommendations.

This report responds to that request, providing a framework for your consideration, and the initial tools you will need to undertake your review.  It does not contain the full range of analyses of the Organization's work that can be made, but the Secretariat stands ready to provide additional analysis, if it would be useful.

The mandates you and your predecessors have adopted over the last 60 years reflect the desire of all your countries to see this Organization play an effective part in helping to solve the world's problems.  Yet, great as this Organization is, and hard though many of its staff work, it cannot do everything.  As a great French statesman once said, "Gouverner, c'est choisir".

Dag Hammarskjöld, my great predecessor, conducted the first review of mandates, at the request of the membership, in 1954.  In appraising the Secretariat's work, he came to the conclusion 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".  This is even truer today, when the Organization and the number of mandates are so much greater.  There is only so much that the Secretary-General and his senior managers can effectively deliver and manage, especially when they are asked to do so within limited resources.

Today, even more than in 1954, Member States find it hard to cope with the mass of documentation that they themselves request -- and this, in turn, makes it harder for them to oversee the Organization effectively.  As in 1954, responsible intergovernmental organs must make a choice between urgent and less urgent mandates.  This is not a call for the United Nations to do less, though that might be one result.  It is a call for it to do better.

This review could have a lasting impact not only on what we do, but on how we do it.  The 1954 review, for example, led the membership to reduce the number of reports, and the length of documents in general, as well as merging two previous departments into a single, 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.

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 is also a daunting challenge.  While there are real opportunities to achieve results in the short term, to conduct a full review of mandates will take time, and sustained commitment.  But the outcome can be extremely rewarding, particularly for those we serve around the world. 

Dear friends, it is your review.  You are the ones who are going to do the review. I am only giving you the tools to conduct it -- an online registry of mandates and, in the report before you, an analytical framework.

The registry, which responds to requests from several Member States, is a searchable electronic inventory of still-active mandates originating from the resolutions of the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council.  It will enable you to find all the mandates you have adopted, and to view them in a convenient way.

The report itself highlights patterns in the mandates, and gives examples of some of the problems.  I hope you will examine these areas, and many others, to see what can be done to strengthen and update our Organization.

Many issues have been raised by Member States in consultations over the last six months.  Not all of them are addressed in the report, but the registry of mandates should enable you to review any active mandate, or group of mandates, that you believe merits it.

The task facing you is not an easy one -- partly because we do not yet have the kind of information, on every mandate, that may be required for a fully meaningful review.  You may well decide that you need more strategic information on the effectiveness of the mandates, enabling you to judge how well they contribute to the overall goals of the Organization, as you move ahead with the task of making the United Nations truly accountable to its members and ensuring that it fulfils its commitments to people around the world.  The Secretariat stands ready to give further support, as and when you request it.

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 this Assembly itself, will provide the tools necessary to implement mandates better.  For its part, the mandate review should help you, the Member States, to determine the priorities for the Organization.  These different processes should thus be interdependent, and mutually reinforcing.

The review of mandates is a unique opportunity to strengthen and adapt our Organization to the priorities of today.  I am sure you will not fail to seize it.  And I assure you that, as you proceed, you can count on the Secretariat's support.

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