Press Releases

    GA/10092
    1 November 2002

    DELEGATES QUESTION PROPOSED ABSORPTION OF INFORMATION CENTRES INTO REGIONAL HUBS, AS ASSEMBLY CONTINUES DISCUSSION OF SECRETARY-GENERAL’S REPORT

    NEW YORK, 31 October (UN Headquarters) -- As the General Assembly continued its consideration of the Secretary-General’s report on strengthening the United Nations system today, most of his proposals continued to find favour with Member States. However, the question of absorbing individual information centres into regional hubs attracted critical attention from a number of delegates.

    According to Action 8 of the report, it would be possible to "rationalize the network of United Nations information centres around regional hubs, starting with the creation of a Western European hub", as a way of minimizing costs and rationalizing information work in the field.

    The representative of Poland said experience had demonstrated that information centres were a powerful tool at the Organization’s disposal. As such, hasty decisions to close efficiently functioning centres in the name of rationalization and expected savings could lead to more harm than good. If the Secretary-General decided to go ahead with his intention to create a Western European hub, it should be a limited pilot project only.

    The representative of Switzerland, on the other hand, could appreciate the wisdom of such rationalization, and suggested that the United Nations Office in Geneva could play a key role in setting up the regional centre in Western Europe. His country also supported measures that would bring about greater coordination of library services and good management of archives.

    The representative of India supported those who spoke in favour of regional hubs, especially in cases where individual centres proved to be a drain on the information budget. However, he advised caution in extending the idea to developing country regions where centres were performing valuable services. Likewise, the representative for Nepal emphasized that the interests of information-poor developing countries should not be undermined by the elimination of centres.

    The representative of Belarus, while agreeing with proposals to restructure the information centres network, urged sensitivity to specific regional needs in carrying out the restructuring of the Department of Public Information (DPI). Materials produced for their use, he emphasized, had to be specific. The representative of Jamaica echoed that perspective on the issue.

    The representative of Israel expressed his country’s full support for the Secretary-General’s intention of reforming DPI so as to resolve the wasteful and counterproductive fragmentation of its efforts.

    Also speaking in today’s debate were the representatives of The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kenya, Sudan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Senegal, Uruguay, Republic of Korea, Croatia, Brazil, Suriname, Mozambique, Mexico, Libya, Ethiopia, Grenada, United Republic of Tanzania, Liechtenstein, Saint Lucia, Ukraine, Argentina, Qatar, Botswana and Iraq.

    The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Friday 1 November 2002, to conclude its debate on the item.

    Background

    The General Assembly met this morning to continue its consideration of the report of the Secretary-General on the Strengthening of the United Nations: An Agenda for Further Change (document A/57/387 and Corr. 1). For a summary of the report, see Press Release GA/10090 of Wednesday, 30 October.

    Statements

    SRGJAN KERIM (The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) said that strengthening the United Nations depended on two assumptions: one, that its agenda should focus on essential global issues; and two, that its main bodies needed reforming. On the first precept, success had been achieved, as evidenced by the Secretary-General’s focus on strengthening human rights and enhancing public information, strengthening the capacity to fight terrorism and enhancing financing for development and sustainable development. The shortcomings in the United Nations agenda were to be found in the faltering reformation of the main United Nations bodies.

    To make the United Nations a more meaningful, powerful and effective organization in the era of globalization meant that it could not be reduced to a sum of national interests, he continued. The guiding threads of reform should be enlargement of the Security Council, revitalization of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council and strengthening management and administration within the Secretariat. The final goal should be to achieve a fully emancipated multilateral institution. In that, the three main pillars of the United Nations system should be equals; the Assembly must not function as a seasonal body.

    The relationship between the Security Council and the Assembly was a key issue of the reform debate, he added. Close cooperation and coordination between the two bodies was necessary, particularly when issues of vital importance to the Organization as a whole were discussed. The vision shared by many was to move from a world of interdependence to an integrated global community in which a shared future, with shared responsibilities, prosperity and values, existed.

    JANUSZ STAŃCZYK (Poland) endorsed the thrust of Action 1 of the report, in which the Secretary-General announced that his next proposed programme budget for 2004 to 2005 would better reflect the priorities agreed at the Millennium Assembly. Currently, it was a declaration of intent, which corresponded and was linked with a number of other Actions aimed at streamlining the planning and budgeting processes, improvements required by results-based budgeting, and the expansion of that very concept to peacekeeping operations. That set of Actions, which taken together reflected the concept of results-based management, obviously required a closer technical review at the expert level.

    Representative of the group of measures on which Poland had some doubts and reservations was Action 8, which contemplated consolidation of United Nations information centres into regional hubs, starting with Western Europe. The argument for that measure was rationalization and cost cutting. Poland’s experience had demonstrated that information centres were a powerful tool at the Organization’s disposal, playing a key role in outreach, liaison and advocacy of United Nations activities with the general public.

    Hasty decisions to close well-functioning centres in the name of rationalization and expected savings could bring more harm than good. Accordingly, he suggested a cautious approach. If the Secretary-General decided to go ahead with his intention to create a Western European hub, he recommended that it be a limited pilot project only. In due time, the results and impact of the project should be properly evaluated and communicated to Member States before taking any further action on the matter.

    ALYAKSANDR SYCHOV (Belarus) stated that the main task was to determine the most important directions to take in order to strengthen the Organization’s capacity to implement the Millennium Declaration and the outcomes of other key conferences, held recently in Monterrey and Johannesburg. The process would, of necessity, involve a redistribution of financial resources. His country believed that equitable emphasis should be given to all the goals formulated in the Millennium Declaration.

    He hoped that subsequent measures to strengthen the United Nations would take into consideration the different stages of social and economic development of its Member States. It would be of benefit to the community of nations if the Organization sought consistently to integrate all nations into the world economy. Without that integration, large-scale financial crises would derail dynamically developing economies and cause them to become recipients of international development assistance.

    In carrying out the restructuring of the Department of Public Information (DPI), Belarus urged sensitivity to the specific needs of the regions. "Materials prepared with due account of the domestic specifics are the most effective ones," he said. He also argued that measures to rationalize the preparation and submission of reports should be linked to the principle of consideration of every situation, on a case-by-case basis, with due account being taken of the opinions of countries directly concerned.

    Budgetary changes, he went on, needed serious analysis and revision, in accordance with the priorities of the Organization. The context for those changes, he reminded the Assembly, was an ever-increasing scope of United Nations activities. He was concerned about what he saw as an oversimplified approach to the complex issues of budgeting and planning processes. Nevertheless, he agreed with the proposal to transform the Mid-Term Plan into a plan covering only two years, including measures for simplification of its preparation. Further, Belarus felt Member States would lose control of budgetary matters if the Secretary-General could reallocate resources -- up to 10 per cent -- between programmes in a single budgetary year. That was an extremely sensitive issue.

    BOB F. JALANG’O (Kenya) said he supported those who called for strengthening the United Nations’ capacity for collective action. That principle had led Kenya’s leaders to help establish the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and to transform the Organization of African Unity (OAU) into the African Union. Kenya, he said, also called for strengthening the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UN-Habitat) through adequate funding so they could carry out their mandates effectively. There was, likewise, a need for further measures aimed at strengthening coordination between Headquarters and regional offices. He added that he would like further clarification on the mandate and the Office of the Adviser for Special Assignments in Africa and its role with regard to the follow-up of NEPAD.

    He said that Kenya believed the General Assembly should fully assume its role as the principal organ of the United Nations, and called for streamlining cooperation between the Assembly and other United Nations organs. Items and resolutions should be reviewed, with a view to reducing them. Caution should be exercised to ensure that significant issues, particularly those concerning developing countries, were not denied adequate attention.

    He welcomed the Secretary-General’s initiative on support for human rights at the country level, by streamlining the work of the human rights treaty bodies. Member States should be consulted regarding plans to expand the mandates of the resident representatives, and all operational activities of the United Nations should conform to principles of neutrality and multilateralism. He praised the United Nations role in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Kenya had established a National AIDS Control Council, he said, and levels of the pandemic had decreased since the inception of advocacy programmes.

    He expressed support for the report’s recommendations on restructuring the DPI, especially the possibility of establishing regional information links.

    Regarding the Secretary-General’s intention to submit a revised programme budget to the General Assembly in 2003, he stressed that the budget would reflect the priorities in the Medium-Term Plan and other legislative mandates. Kenya urged the Secretary-General to ensure enhanced use of conference facilities and services in other United Nations duty stations, particularly the United Nations Office at Nairobi. The Secretary-General should take "pragmatic steps" to expand the facilities at that station. Regarding proposals to enhance staff mobility across the United Nations system, he noted that the Arabic and English interpretation booths had "remained vacant" since the Permanent Interpretation Service was set up in 2000. He said the newly appointed Ombudsman should resolve some of the long-pending cases of injustice to employees or former employees of the United Nations from developing countries, including some Kenyan nationals. Some of those cases had been outstanding for almost 10 years.

    ELFATIH MOHAMED AHMED ERWA (Sudan) said that reform needed insight and remained a long, multi-phased process. The Secretary-General’s report had engendered numerous questions, provided food for thought and laid down an appropriate building block on which to move forward. At the Millennium Summit, heads of State and government had laid down strategic priorities for the way forward. There were numerous important topics which the report had not touched upon.

    He welcomed the Secretary-General’s initiative to support and promote human rights on the country level. In that regard, he emphasized the need to adhere to the universality of human rights and to ensure non-selectivity when dealing with human rights questions. It was also necessary to observe the norms for candidature for the Commission on Human Rights. Further, it was necessary to solicit the views of Member States before widening the mandate of the United Nations resident coordinator.

    Turning to information, he strongly supported the central role of public information in the work of the Organization. An operational programme of action should be prepared with an accompanying budget and submitted to the Assembly. He also supported efforts to improve the efficiency of the United Nations, particularly regarding administration and the budgetary process. He hoped the proposed budget for 2004 to 2005 would reflect the priorities of the Medium-Term Plan. He also welcomed the Secretary-General’s proposal for the management of meetings.

    JENÖ STAEHELIN (Switzerland) was glad that the proposed approach to reform was one that envisaged change without time or money being wasted. The proposed changes pertaining to human rights were welcome, and Switzerland stood ready to cooperate in the achievement of change in that arena. Information related to human rights treaties should be compressed into a single document providing a clearer, more realistic and efficient picture of the implementation of human rights conventions. His country was awaiting the report from the Human Rights Commissioner on improving management methods.

    Turning to plans to restructure and improve the information centres network, he endorsed the idea of regional hubs, and believed that the United Nations Office in Geneva could play a key role in helping to establish a regional hub in Western Europe. Switzerland also appreciated the need for greater coordination of library services and good management of archives, especially those of the League of Nations, an organization without historic ties to New York, which justified them being kept in Switzerland.

    He accepted the report's proposals on development cooperation. He took note of the fact that changes were contemplated within the constraints provided by the triennial comprehensive policy review. As for planning and budgeting, he agreed that the procedures involved were still too complex and required too many staff. There should be shorter and more strategic budget presentations, reflecting the priorities and working programme of the Organization. Such changes had already been carried out by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO). As a new member of the United Nations, Switzerland was also concerned about budgets for peacekeeping programmes. Those budgets were extremely difficult to manage in national accounts. On that basis, he supported the consolidation of mission budgets, if only to improve the quality of budget forecasts in the field. As for proposed measures to reorganize intergovernmental bodies, Switzerland supported the strengthening of the Economic and Social Council. Its activities should be realigned, especially with regard to conferences. Any reform of the United Nations had to take into consideration the Security Council, which had to be sensitive to the nature of the changed world of today. He, therefore, favoured a limited enlargement of the Council.

    MOCHAMAD S. HIDAYAT (Indonesia) said that if the Security Council was to continue to enjoy worldwide credibility, not only its size, composition and working methods had to be changed, but also its capacity to act promptly and apply the same standards to issues on its agenda. The ability to reform itself comprehensively -- as demanded by the majority of Member States -- was crucial to the Council’s credibility. The immediate and most obvious results of such enhanced credibility would be the willingness and readiness of Member States to implement the Council’s resolutions in conflict situations.

    Even more important, he said, was continuing reform of the General Assembly.

    Its overloaded agenda needed reordering and balancing by accommodating new and emerging issues, so that the Assembly was made stronger and more meaningful in facing new challenges. It was imperative, in that respect, to strengthen the General Assembly’s relationship with the other main organs of the United Nations, such as the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council.

    Turning to human resources management, he said Indonesia supported the Secretary-General’s initiatives to create a world-class staff that would enable the Secretariat to deliver adequate service to Member States. However, he stressed that any human resources policy pursued by the Secretary-General needed to achieve geographical as well as gender balance, without compromising excellence in the quality of the personnel.

    HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said that reform should be an ongoing process involving all of the organs of the United Nations. No reform of the United Nations would be complete without Security Council reform. However, the Council’s progress had been painfully slow, in spite of almost a decade of deliberations among Member States. He supported the proposal for a codification of recent changes in the Council’s practice. He also supported efforts to "reposition" the DPI in facing new challenges to implement its mandate.

    Regarding the proposal to submit in 2003 a revised programme budget that better reflected the priorities of the Millennium Declaration, he said that attention should also be focused on achieving goals from other United Nations conferences. The revised budget should address the outcomes of all those conferences. The proposed creation of an additional Assistant Secretary-General post to support policy coherence and management in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the establishment of a policy planning unit in that department, were important, because the issue of coherence was well reflected in the Monterrey Consensus.

    He supported the proposal to have the Secretary-General’s Adviser for Special Assignments in Africa coordinate and guide the preparation of reports and input for Africa-related debates of the General Assembly and its subsidiary bodies. He also supported the merging of the Office of the Special Coordinator for Africa and the least developed countries with the office of the Adviser, to further address development issues in Africa.

    Regarding human rights, he noted that the measures in Action 2 of the report pertained to the incorporation of human rights standards into the country programmes of its specialized agencies, with no mention of requests by States or of collaboration with them. His delegation had opposed that idea when it was debated in 1997, and its position had not changed. Regarding the proposal that the High Commissioner for Human Rights make recommendations on streamlined reporting procedures, Malaysia recommended that the High Commissioner consult with States parties to each of the six treaties, instead of only committee members. He supported Action 4, because the various special procedures created needed to be more coherent. Special rapporteurs needed to show the highest standards of professionalism in carrying out their mandate.

    PAPA LOUIS FALL (Senegal) reiterated his support for the proposals of the Secretary-General to ensure that various components of the United Nations worked together better for more coordinated and effective action. Reforms should be in accordance with the principle of efficiency. They should not result in the erosion of the Organization’s work or produce bottlenecks.

    On human rights, the question was how to better ensure that human rights were exercised more fully at the national and international levels. Were the existing international human rights treaties and instruments adapted to the current international context? States parties to international legal instruments on human rights were weighed down by daunting obligations, particularly that of periodic reporting. Perhaps a joint meeting of all States parties to international human rights instruments could be convened. The institutional and legal machinery on human rights must be rationalized.

    He expressed appreciation for the vital role played by the DPI in promoting the objectives of the Organization. He endorsed the recommendation of the Secretary-General to introduce a policy of monitoring the impact of the activities of information centres on the work of the Organization. That would require a restructuring of the centres, particularly in Africa.

    In considering the large number of meetings held and reports produced, he said it was important to address issues of quality, size and delays in publication. The number of official meetings and documents must be reduced. The DPI must be strengthened by providing it with the requisite resources. It was also important to categorize proposals and determine at what level their implementation should be carried out.

    FELIPE PAOLILLO (Uruguay) said the strengthening of an institution meant the strengthening of its organs. The fact that the United Nations was currently engaged in finding the best way of improving the functioning of three of its five major organs was eloquent evidence of the need to adapt the Organization to the needs of an international community, which was itself in constant flux. The reforms of those three organs –- the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Secretariat –- all pursued the same objective, namely to make them more effective instruments for the achievement of the Organization’s common goals. The processes of reform of those organs, he said, should be allowed to evolve separately. He particularly commended initiatives designed to ensure the universality of and respect for human rights. Much work needed to be done to promote human rights, and the report’s proposals should amplify and further that agenda.

    In pre-debate consultations, he said, Uruguay had expressed concern on certain proposed measures, including budgeting procedures and public information. It was now in a position to support many of the measures suggested in the report, in those two areas as well as in human rights. He hoped that additional information the Secretary-General might provide in response to its concerns would serve to dispel its doubts. Without prejudice to the foregoing, he believed that the Secretary-General should proceed to put into practice those measures whose execution did not require the authorization or approval of the Assembly.

    The report, he said, made a good case for change in budgeting procedures. The budget should be briefer and embody critical details. One of the matters that concerned Uruguay was the proposal to allow the Secretary-General to reallocate portions of budgets between programmes. While the judgement of the Secretary-General was sound, there was no guarantee that Member States would share his view about the justification for shifting financial resources. Instead, he advised that some sort of consultative mechanism be fashioned to determine action in that area.

    He also had some concern about the likely fate of the Committee for Programme and Coordination. He feared that the elimination of that Committee, as hinted at in the report, would have the effect of increasing the work of the Fifth Committee. That eventuality could be averted, however, with an increase in the membership of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).

    SUN JOUN-YUNG (Republic of Korea) said that in considering Security Council reform, the suggestion of increasing only the number of non-permanent seats was a viable option. On the establishment of dialogue between the Economic and Social Council, the Bretton Woods institutions and the World Trade Organization (WTO), he said that it was important to follow up and hold periodic reviews on "concretizing" that channel of cooperation. However, the format of the Economic and Social Council should be more focused.

    He said that reform of the DPI should focus on selected fields only after a cost-effective assessment was undertaken. Concerning structural reform, it would be better to make changes to the existing organization than establish a new one. Printed publications should be further streamlined, in light of the DPI’s plan to strengthen its Web-based communication.

    In the preparation of the next biennium budget, he hoped that the Secretariat would make a critical review of the current programmes and identify activities that were ineffective. Also, the multifarious trust funds should be consolidated and their management needs streamlined. He added that to revitalize the Organization, its staff must be competent. In the past, many competent young professionals had left the Organization because of the lack of career prospects or lack of transparency in management. A reasonable and transparent personal management system must be put in place.

    The proposed creation of a new Assistant Secretary-General post in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs was a matter of concern, he said. He would like to see further consideration of this matter in the context of the next biennium budget before making a final decision. He said that budgetary discipline should be one of the guiding principles in deliberations of the proposed reform initiatives.

    IVAN ŠIMONOVIĆ (Croatia) said that to be more efficient, the main bodies of the United Nations needed to be strengthened, while duplication and overlaps were avoided and the complementarity of work was encouraged. While the Economic and Social Council had already begun its reform process, the General Assembly needed to be made stronger, to make its work more efficient and its decisions more respected. Although broad consensus on some issues meant that progress could be made quickly, Security Council reform would probably take longer. A package deal in which each State gained more than was lost would be needed.

    Cooperation among the main United Nations bodies had improved, he said, but better coordination of the work of the General Assembly –- especially its Second and Third Committees –- and that of the Economic and Social and Council was needed. In aligning the Organization’s activities with its priorities, the Secretary-General’s intention to submit a thoroughly revised programme budget to the General Assembly in 2003 was fully supported. Furthermore, the proposal to be more open to cooperation with non-governmental organizations and the private sector was commendable.

    Finally, he concluded that, in today’s globalizing world, the promotion and protection of human rights should be universal. Goals in that area should not be diverted by political deals, and the credibility of the Human Rights Commission should not be jeopardized. Outside of the Commission, the reporting requirements of the large number of treaty bodies and human rights mechanisms should be standardized and streamlined.

    VIJAY K. NAMBIAR (India) said the reform measures had the primary objective of increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the Organization. If, at the end of the exercise, it was found that the costs would go up as a result of the restructuring, Member States should demonstrate the requisite political will to support the reform measures by agreeing to such increased expenses.

    In the field of human rights, he welcomed the proposal for initiating processes to rationalize, streamline and reduce the burden, particularly on the developing countries, of reporting requirements. However, he was somewhat concerned by the proposals whereby the Resident Coordinator system would be mandated to incorporate human rights activities at the country level. He was concerned that the limited resources currently available for technical cooperation in development areas would now be diverted to human rights, good governance and other softer areas of development. Entrusting the Resident Coordinator system with promotion of human rights at the country level would only be at the expense of traditional technical cooperation. That would hardly be acceptable to most developing countries.

    He welcomed the proposal to create regional information hubs instead of the current patterns of United Nations information centres in Western Europe, where those centres drained away a large chunk of DPI resources. However, he would like to study the implications of extending that idea to developing country regions where those centres had been performing valuable services. He also supported other proposals of the Secretary-General for restructuring the DPI and improving oversight of publications.

    GELSON FONSECA (Brazil) said the Secretary-General’s proposals could be divided into three categories. First, there were those that could be implemented by the Secretary-General without the authorization of the Assembly. The second category contained those proposals that required further study, which was where most of the proposals fell. The third category contained those recommendations which required the Assembly to set forth explicit mandates before the Secretary-General could take action. Measures such as those connected to budgetary matters fell in that last category.

    It was necessary to have a stricter system of evaluating the costs associated with the measures suggested, he said. The Secretary-General had devoted only three paragraphs to reform of the Security Council and had presented it in a rather categorical fashion. He was convinced that it was a matter that should receive the necessary attention. Dialogue on the proposed measures should continue in the form of informal consultations with all Member States. Those consultations should give separate, but detailed, consideration to the major issues contained in the reform proposals.

    IRMA LOEMBAN TOBING-KLEIN (Suriname) said the international community needed a strong multilateral institution to address contemporary international issues in the age of globalization. Thus, reform and strengthening of the United Nations were essential. The reforms outlined in the Secretary-General’s report would assist in reaching the pivotal Millennium Development Goals. Of particular importance was the reform of the General Assembly, Security Council and Economic and Social Council, as highlighted in the report, as well as the emphasis placed on the promotion and protection of human rights as a bedrock requirement in realizing the Charter’s vision.

    Every human being had the right to development, she stressed, and there was a special interrelation between human rights and development. In that respect, the importance of human rights education as a key to development should be stressed, and the Secretary-General’s rights-based approach was satisfactory on that score. On another issue focused upon by the Secretary-General, she noted that the operations of the DPI should be improved through reforms directed at such things as focusing on the quality and not the quantity of reports and United Nations conferences, allocating resources to priorities and investing in the United Nations workforce.

    In conclusion, she said that if Member States could join together to realize the essential goals of the report, they would live up to the noble values, principles and goals enshrined in the Charter –- namely, respect for human rights, human dignity, equality, tolerance, peace, national and international security and social and economic justice.

    When the Assembly reconvened this afternoon, CARLOS DOS SANTOS (Mozambique) said that the ultimate goals of the reforms should be to ensure that the Organization devoted its attention to the priorities agreed upon by Member States, and that the Secretariat delivered better service. The common policy framework for the entire United Nations system should provide clear benchmarks related to the full implementation of the Millennium Goals, as well as other goals and targets envisaged in the relevant documents used to inform the drafting of such policy framework. On the other hand, the policy framework should also recognize the special and preferential treatment that Africa and the least developed countries should be accorded in prioritizing United Nations activities, as agreed upon in various meetings and documents.

    The common policy framework to be debated and agreed upon by consensus, as well as the revised programme budget drafted on the basis of that framework, should be forward-looking, action-oriented and results-based. Ultimately, it should once and for all align activities with agreed priorities, including allocating the necessary resources for relevant activities. Resources should be allocated to areas where they were most needed and could make a real difference. The current trend of allocating resources based on political agendas that were alien to the objectives of the United Nations -- and that had proven to be cost-ineffective and wasteful -- should be avoided.

    In the reform process, Africa should be accorded special attention. He welcomed the proposal to appoint an Adviser for Special Assignments in Africa as a step in the right direction. A focus on NEPAD would be in order, consistent with the recently adopted Assembly resolution on NEPAD. He hoped that that arrangement would be of a permanent nature, and that the Adviser would report directly to the Secretary-General to ensure the necessary political guidance and impact. Also, it was crucial for the office of the Adviser to be adequately staffed and resourced. The Adviser should work closely with the Office of the High Representative for least developed countries, as most African countries fell into that category, and mandates could, thus, be streamlined and ensure cooperation.

    AARON JACOB (Israel) said that the report of the Secretary-General was concise, candid and constructive. It embodied the spirit of the agenda itself, which called for "fewer reports, richer in content and shorter in length." Regarding the call for combining duplicative discussions and reducing recurring agenda items, he said his delegation had frequently lamented the annual rehash of resolutions without regard for the relevance of their content and the efficiency of their treatment. A reduction in overlapping resolutions could be achieved simply by merging and editing texts, resulting in saved time, money and paperwork.

    The call for realigned priorities focused on technology-based development solutions, water issues, the promotion of good governance as the foundation of peace and the strengthening of the capacity to fight terrorism was appropriate, he continued, as those issues constituted the building blocks for regional reconciliation and provided a promise of cooperation, development and prosperity for all peace-loving people. Also, the Secretary-General was right to observe that the DPI should be reformed to resolve the wasteful and counterproductive fragmentation of its efforts.

    Finally, he welcomed the determination that a panel to review the interaction of the United Nations with civil society should be established. The terms and conditions concerning the accreditation and participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at the United Nations should be reviewed and improved to protect the focus of the Organization from being appropriated by hidden agendas.

    ADOLFO AGUILAR ZINSER (Mexico) said the report was not only timely and necessary, but it also encompassed spheres that went beyond administration and required the renewal of commitment of all Member States to multilateralism. What was needed was to strengthen the United Nations to act effectively in the interest of international peace and development. Five years ago, the United Nations began a process of profound and necessary change, which now covered areas not even imagined in 1997.

    That, he said, required a set of actions not only by the Secretary-General, but also by Member States. Member States had the duty to review the priorities of the Organization and provide general guidance that would enable it to carry out its functions. Some obsolete practices must be abandoned, and confidence must be restored in some of the functions of the Organization. The proposals in the report were part of the package of reforms to be carried out, not only by the Secretariat, but also the other principal organs of the United Nations. Full implementation of all proposals would require wide-ranging consultations and the political will of all Member States.

    Regarding the budget, the Organization had made important progress regarding planning, transparency, accountability and financial discipline. He was also satisfied with the greater rationalization of the work of the Organization and the better use of available resources. He agreed with the Secretary-General’s view that the priorities of the Millennium Declaration should be better reflected within the programme budget. It was important to discuss in depth the proposal to give the Secretary-General a greater degree of discretion regarding budgetary matters.

    He agreed with the proposals related to human rights. It was important to strengthen the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Also, human resources were the most valuable asset of countries and institutions. The implementation of modern methods of work would require greater flexibility. The new work culture proposed by the Secretary-General should include accountability as one of its central priorities.

    JUMA AMER (Libya) said that in order to make the United Nations stronger, its bodies needed to be more effective. The role of the General Assembly, in particular, must be strengthened. This year, the General Assembly President and other officers had been elected three months early, yet other proposals remained dead letters. Further reform was needed to avoid giving the impression that the Assembly was simply a forum in which to utter laments or praises and in which nobody listened. Streamlining agenda items was a good idea, as was the clustering of similar items. However, items that had been on the agenda for years should not necessarily be eliminated.

    Turning to the issue of Security Council reform, he said that it could not be confined simply to increasing the membership. Improvements in its working methods must also be undertaken. Recent changes in the work of the Council should be institutionalized. As for the Economic and Social Council, Member States should make additional efforts to bolster the Council and increase its contacts with other bodies, such as the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The Economic and Social Council needed to be more neutral and objective and to avoid double standards.

    A number of countries had not been able to participate effectively in the many meetings held last year, he noted. While the need to increase international awareness was recognized, the United Nations should refrain from holding conferences, apart from high-level conferences on new issues. Moreover, unnecessary reports should not be drafted and the quality of those drafted should be improved.

    The Secretary-General, he said, had talked about tailoring the work programmes of the United Nations to the priorities set at the Millennium Summit. But the priority of the Organization should be to confront the issue of security. There was a need to improve the international campaign to eliminate weapons of mass destruction and to address the causes of terrorism. Also, as human rights was a very important and sensitive issue, impartial, objective and non-selective approaches should be adopted.

    STAFFORD NEIL (Jamaica) said it was obviously necessary for the United Nations to align its programmes with the needs of the time -- exemplified by the Millennium Development Goals, as well as the outcomes of global conferences. The proposal for a shorter, more strategic Medium-Term Plan, covering two years instead of four, would allow pragmatic adjustment within a shorter budget cycle. Moreover, while progress had been made in promoting human rights norms and practices and supporting human rights at the country level, the proposal to streamline the machinery of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights should result in more cooperative arrangements between the Commission and governments and reduce the level of reporting requirements.

    Recognizant of the role played by the United Nations Information Centres (UNICs) in disseminating information at the country level, he cautioned that while one should be mindful of the need to minimize the costs associated with maintaining the centres, further plans to regionalize the UNICs should take into consideration the special needs of each region. Furthermore, the integration of United Nations libraries through information technology could improve access to information. While the creation of a multilingual electronic gateway for accessing collections, documents and information was a positive initiative, due consideration should be given to those countries lacking the technological capacity to access that information.

    Improving coordination among the component parts of the United Nations had proven to be an effective means of confronting the challenges faced in developing countries. Thus, joint programming and the pooling of common resources was welcome. However, as the delivery of technical cooperation was particularly important, the inclusion of human rights in operational activities at the country level caused some concern, as it could divert resources from traditional areas of technical cooperation.

    ABDUL MEJID HUSSEIN (Ethiopia) welcomed the Secretary-General’s report as timely, because the Millennium Declaration and its development goals constituted not only what should define the key objectives of the international community, but what would also serve as the standard by which the Organization would be judged in the years to come. Previous reviews of the internationally agreed development goals had left much to be desired, and the problem had been particularly pronounced in Africa. He welcomed the Secretary-General’s decision to better coordinate the Secretariat’s support for the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council in their consideration of Africa-related issues.

    Further, he welcomed the proposed measures to transform the "fragmented and ineffective Department of Public Information" which he said had been "dormant for many years now." The DPI needed to be turned into a department that was not defensive about the many positive activities that the United Nations had carried out and was continuing to carry out. The department would do so only if it advocated for multilateralism. He said the proposal to rationalize the network of UNICs around regional hubs was good, and added that Ethiopia would also support giving special attention to specific countries -- particularly developed ones, where United Nations principles were under frequent attack from certain quarters he did not name.

    MURARI RAJ SHARMA (Nepal) said that he believed that the Secretary-General’s proposals for United Nations reform held great promise for improving the work of the world body. It called for careful consideration by Member States. He agreed that the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and their commissions needed to rationalize their agenda further. He also believed that no reform of the United Nations would be complete without Security Council reforms, which were currently stalled.

    More technical detail was needed on most, if not all, of the Secretary-General’s recommendations before an informed judgment could be reached, and he urged him to provide those details. The Secretary-General’s serious and far-reaching recommendations deserved a thorough examination by Member States before they arrived at a conclusion.

    Restructuring the UNICs, he said, would be detrimental to the interests of information-poor developing countries if it led to the weakening or elimination of such centres in those countries. Caution should be exercised so that this process did not compromise the quality of documents Member States might need. He welcomed the effort to pool system-wide resources for coherence of the United Nations system, but needed to know how the proposal would be implemented. Also, clarification of responsibilities across a spectrum of issues and addressed by the United Nations was overdue, and he wanted to see more detailed information. The departments that were expected to help implement the Monterrey and Johannesburg outcomes must not be incapacitated.

    Nepal would have appreciated measures to respond to such questions as how efficiency could be enhanced, redundancy eliminated, and prerequisites linked with performance. Also, steps to eliminate waste, improve efficiency and remove "the serious geographical imbalance that exists in the United Nations civil service" would have addressed long-standing concerns.

    LAMUEL STANISLAUS (Grenada) said that if "an agenda for change" involved change or reform for the better, Member States must measure up to the challenge and "take the bull by the horns" to institute corrective measures. The dynamics of change were usually played out in three ways, even when change was positive and desirable. First, there was doubt, followed by resistance, and, finally, acceptance. That was amply borne out by the many years that had been spent debating reform of the Assembly and the Security Council.

    One must be blind in one eye and unable to see in the other not to discern that the least painful and most economical change that the United Nations could immediately undertake was to reduce the number and duration of statements and reports. What was needed for that was the political will to overcome the addiction to obfuscating and repetitive rhetoric, thereby sparing one another excessive verbal punishment. More importantly, the time and money that could be saved by changing the modus operandi in that regard should be considered. "Some of us can say nothing and can say it so well."

    DAUDI N. MWAKAWAGO (United Republic of Tanzania) said that after the plenary debate, there should be a series of informal consultations of the whole. The consultations should be guided by transparency and a strategic approach, instead of sinking into a time-consuming debate. However, the focus should be on providing guidance and decisions that would make the United Nations more effective. The reform process launched in 1997 had been a rewarding experience, in that all Member States were involved and the outcome was positive, and he hoped that that same spirit would prevail this time around. A lengthy debate on technicalities could be avoided if, during the coming informal meetings, the Secretariat could provide concise additional clarifications. He hoped that all could endorse the objective of reflecting the priorities of the Millennium Declaration. Given that the Declaration had emerged from the Millennium Summit, he hoped that such alignment would be system-wide.

    Regarding the thrust of proposals to revamp the way the Organization communicated its mission to Member States and the rest of the global community, he said that information centres in the developing countries needed strengthening in terms of personnel and resources. The people in those countries needed the United Nations more, not less.

    Regarding the strengthening of the Secretariat, he said that Africa needed more "cosmetic" attention, and coordination at that level was vital if the resources directed to the continent by a myriad of channels in the United Nations family were to have the desired impact. He added that States parties to treaties should be consulted on measures envisaged to streamline reporting procedures under such conventions. He hoped that one or several informal meetings would be assigned to proposed areas of reform, "so that when we finish our deliberations we can say we covered all aspects".

    CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said that further reform was necessary. He agreed that a strategic decision was needed on the proposed agenda for further change, and was ready to subscribe to the overall direction and principles of the report. Considering the past few years, he said, it could not but be concluded that while major changes had been undertaken within the Secretariat, Member States had not delivered enough. If reform came from good deeds performed by others, it would never be carried out.

    He said that reform discussion tended to be frustrating, but effective reform was possible if it was kept in mind that compromise could be reached on issues that did not garner automatic agreement. He was referring, he said, to the "North-South divide" divide, which always tended to be a problem in reform debates.

    Strong emphasis on the Millennium Declaration was a political necessity, he said. The United Nations needed to align its activities to the priorities identified at the Millennium Summit and at the global conferences of the last decade. He welcomed the attention given to the review of human rights as a whole, and did not believe that it would dilute the "traditional" focus on the area of development. He believed in the interdependence of the issues of peace and security with development and human rights. Strengthening one area would necessarily strengthen the others. The key points of the report -- doing what mattered, serving Member States better, working together, allocating resources to priorities and investing in excellence -- were a reflection of what was now needed.

    EARL STEPHEN HUNTLEY (Saint Lucia) agreed with the Secretary-General that change must begin with the intergovernmental organs. Without that, change in the Secretariat alone would not achieve the necessary reforms. Why subject Member States to unnecessary stress with simultaneous meetings of the Assembly, the Security Council and all six Main Committees? Couldn’t the Main Committees meet for a longer period of time during the rest of the year? Couldn’t the General Assembly session be organized in a different manner? Was it necessary to have a general debate in each committee on the same topics discussed during the general debate in the Assembly? Regarding resolutions, did all resolutions really have an impact on the lives of people? Perhaps what was needed was to decide not to adopt any resolutions at all next year, and spend that time examining the resolutions adopted at the current session.

    VALERIY KUCHINSKY (Ukraine) said the efficient functioning of the United Nations would always be measured by its ability to respond adequately to the challenges confronting humanity, no matter how difficult or complicated. Thus, there was a periodic need to review the Organization in order to make timely adjustments and improvements in its work. The Secretary-General was encouraged to proceed with the implementation of those proposals that fell exclusively within his purview, while Ukraine was ready to work on those that required appropriate actions by intergovernmental bodies.

    Sharing the view that the activities of the Organization should be aligned with the priorities and objectives highlighted in the Millennium Declaration, he looked forward to a thoroughly revised programme budget for the biennium 2004 to 2005. Such a major undertaking required prior endorsement by Member States of the modalities for formulating the next budget so it would follow the agreed format. Moreover, the Secretary-General’s proposals in the field of human rights were timely. The proposals concerning a more coordinated approach to the activities of the treaty bodies, standardized reporting requirements and the submission of single country reports covering the full range of human rights treaties were welcomed.

    The time for reforming the existing process of planning, budgeting and evaluation had come, he added. Reform should result in a streamlined, transparent and strategically oriented budget that allocated resources to priority areas. Furthermore, prudent staff management was one of the most essential preconditions of successful activities. It was equally important to ensure high motivation and morale, underpinned by competitive conditions of service, to recognize performance and to enforce accountability. Also, more should be done to ensure equitable geographic representation in senior-level posts within the Secretariat.

    LUIS ENRIQUE CAPPAGLI (Argentina) viewed the Secretary-General's proposals on human rights positively. The proposed actions served to make the international protection of human rights more effective, since the current mechanisms were somewhat dispersed and proliferated and might make the system less operative. In that regard, he was awaiting the proposals of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, both for the future activities of the treaty bodies and for the special procedures. In that area, it was necessary to rationalize, so that each body might play its supervisory role in the achievement of international commitments.

    Regarding public information, he believed that in the production of news, the few existing multilingual channels, such as radio programmes and the use of traditional media, should be strengthened. Attention should be paid to the fact that the public in developing countries did not speak English and did not have easy access to electronic media. The role of the Committee on Public Information in the elaboration of strategic communications, and the role of United Nations public information in general, should be further discussed.

    The measures proposed to solve the deficiencies of the current process of budgeting and planning were those that needed more detailed follow-up to determine the most appropriate course of action. For example, if the Committee for Programme and Coordination were to be eliminated, it should be determined which body would absorb its functions in the budgeting process.

    NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER (Qatar) said the vital role of the General Assembly, as the main body for deliberating and adopting decisions, should be stressed; streamlining and coordinating consultation among the main bodies encouraged; and the Economic and Social Council and the ICJ strengthened to play their Charter-mandated role of making the United Nations an effective tool for achieving international goals in this and future generations. Moreover, the Secretary-General should use available resources to adopt the best technological and managerial structures available.

    The report offered proposals to improve the effectiveness of the United Nations, which should be coupled with the Millennium Declaration and the outcomes of recent international conferences as foci of the Organization’s activities. Follow-up mechanisms and amended programme budgets should be clarified. The report had suggested further interaction between the United Nations and civil society. However, the rapidly increasing number of NGOs participating in conferences and special sessions had strained the material and human capacity of the United Nations. Moreover, there seemed to be an imbalance in the number of NGOs coming from industrialized, as opposed to developing, countries. NGO participation should be limited to striking the proper balance between representatives of developed and developing countries, while the possibility of receiving contributions from NGOs to cover the costs of their participation should be studied.

    The United Nations should apply a flexible and efficient approach to allocating resources to fulfil the objectives of the Millennium Declaration, he added. The present system had failed because Member States had not paid their contributions and the budget had not kept pace with the rate of inflation. The international community needed to understand the constraints some States experienced in paying increased contributions; they should not be expected to pay more than they could afford.

    ALFRED M. DUBE (Botswana) supported the continued commitment by the Secretary-General to transform the United Nations into a credible multilateral institution. A close partnership between the Secretariat and Member States was crucial for the reform process to be successful.

    Although the Secretary-General’s report contained useful elements, he said, some ideas would require further clarification to enable Member States to make informed decisions. Botswana, therefore, associated itself with the list of questions forwarded to the Deputy Secretary-General on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China. Answers would facilitate further exchange of views between the Secretariat and Member States.

    He said that there were actions in the reform proposals that fell directly within the purview of the Secretary-General and did not require explicit approval by Member States. Those actions should be identified and implemented without delay. Through the reform process, there should also be an integrated approach to how the United Nations would work hand-in-hand with Africa to assist the continent in achieving its goals, as set out under the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

    He proposed that at its 43rd session, in 2003, the Committee for Programme and Coordination should intensify its discussions aimed at improving its working methods. He added that there must be continued emphasis in investment on staff training to ensure that the United Nations enjoyed the services of a dynamic international civil service. An area that needed urgent attention was the composition of the Secretariat, which had yet to reflect the requirements of a multilateral organization.

    He agreed that the Secretary-General must be granted the flexibility he required to manage the resources at his disposal, provided that there were clearly defined checks and balances to guarantee that the Secretary-General and his staff used those resources in a prudent manner, and remained accountable to the intergovernmental machinery for their actions.

    MOHAMMED A. ALDOURI (Iraq) said the report outlined the efforts undertaken by the Secretary-General to make the United Nations system more capable of facing up to the challenges of the new century. Why was reform the question today? Was it because the United Nations had become incapable of fulfilling its mandates and failed to address the challenges threatening the world? Or was it an exercise in cosmetic changes? Terrorism, hegemony and colonialism -- in their old and new forms -- had shattered hopes across the world. The forces of darkness had re-emerged to impede the march of the United Nations in the new century. Those forces should not be allowed to prevail.

    The message of reform was addressed to all countries, he said. International relations today were driven by considerations of power, rather than anchored in high principles and values. The Assembly was the only organ in which any Member State could participate in discussing any question being debated. While the Assembly was more open and transparent now, resolutions passed did not enjoy adequate enforcement power. Also, the expansion of the membership of the Security Council must reflect the new membership composition of the United Nations to ensure that it was more open, democratic and transparent.

    Regarding the Economic and Social Council, he said it was necessary to strengthen its functional and subsidiary commissions, in light of the grave global economic situation in the world today. The resources available must be commensurate with its mandates to ensure effectiveness. What was strange was that Iraq had been prevented from paying its dues to the United Nations over the past 12 years. Why the United Nations was not accepting the accumulated arrears of his country was strange. The United Nations remained relevant and indispensable, and its structures required realignment.

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