9 May 2006
Acting on Budget Committee Recommendations, General Assembly Adopts Text on Management Reform Proposals by Vote of 121 - 50 - 2
Capital Master Plan, Ethics Office, among Other Issues Addressed; Decides on Seats for Peacebuilding Commission's Organizational Committee
NEW YORK, 8 May (UN Headquarters) -- The General Assembly this afternoon adopted resolutions recommended by its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) on a number of major issues, including the Secretary-General's management reform proposals, the Capital Master Plan and the ethics and peacebuilding support offices, and decided on the distribution of Assembly seats on the Organizational Committee for the new Peacebuilding Commission.
By a vote of 121 in favour to 50 against, with 2 abstentions (Norway, Uganda), the Assembly adopted a draft resolution on the Secretary-General's wide-ranging proposals to reinvigorate the United Nations management structure. On 28 April, a similar vote broke the tradition of consensus decision-making in the Budget Committee. (For details of the vote, see Annex.)
While welcoming the Secretary-General's commitment to strengthening the Organization and taking note of his report Investing in the United Nations: for a stronger Organization worldwide, the Assembly reaffirmed its oversight role and that of the Fifth Committee in administrative and budgetary matters. It stressed that setting the United Nations priorities was the prerogative of Member States, and reaffirmed the Assembly's role in carrying out a thorough analysis and approval of the human and financial resources and policies.
The Assembly also highlighted the importance of strengthened accountability in the Organization and of ensuring greater accountability of the Secretary-General to Member States. It requested the Secretary-General to specifically define accountability, as well as clear accountability mechanisms, in the context of a series of reports requested in the resolution, and to propose clear parameters for its applications and instruments for its rigorous enforcement -- without exception -- at all levels.
While several speakers expressed disappointment over the breach of the 20-year old tradition of consensus decision-making in the Budget Committee, the representative of South Africa, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, which had initially sponsored the draft, said that today's resolution did not in any way delay or prevent United Nations reform. A large part of the text captured areas in which there was general agreement among Member States. The exceptions were those proposals that would have amended the oversight role of Member States through the Assembly. In addition to governance issues, the elements in the text that the Group had differed on were on the enforcement of gender targets in the Secretariat, ensuring equitable geographical representation in recruitment, in particular at senior levels, and increasing procurement opportunities for developing countries.
He added that the Group supported the Secretary-General as chief administrative officer of the United Nations. He was elected by Member States and was accountable to the Assembly. For that reason, the Group did not accept that, in order for the Secretary-General to carry out his duties, the majority of Member States should be denied the right to pronounce themselves on the administration of the United Nations. For a "small, but representative group of Member States" to replace the role of all Member States in carrying out the oversight responsibilities of the General Assembly, was an attempt to deny every Member State the role due them.
The representative of Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, expressed preference for a more detailed elaboration of the reform proposals and urged the Secretary-General to take action in the areas where no legislative mandate was needed. The Union could not agree to the adoption of the resolution, as it did not reflect crucial concerns of the Union and other countries. At this early stage, pending more detailed information and without a request for action, proposals should not be selectively rejected, amended or convoluted with conditions.
The Assembly's President, Jan Eliasson, expressed regret that the Assembly had been unable to reach consensus on the resolution, but also cautioned against inaction and "a pointless discussion of why we failed to agree or what went wrong". Instead, he urged Member States to look forward and join forces in fulfilling the tasks the world leaders had entrusted them with at the 2005 World Summit.
During the next few weeks, the Secretary-General would prepare detailed reports on various issues in pursuance of the resolution just adopted, he said. The first ones, due in a few days, would address accountability, information and communication technology, reporting mechanisms, and budgetary and financial management. In June, the Secretary-General would report on procurement, monitoring and evaluation issues. The third phase, in September, would focus on reforms in human resources management. Those reports would first be taken up by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) and then by the Fifth Committee. He urged all delegations to constructively engage in the work of the Fifth Committee on those issues, as well as several important administrative, financial and human resources management issues that body would be taking up this year.
In other action, the Assembly adopted a resolution on the election of the members of the Organizational Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission that had been set in motion by concurrent action by the General Assembly and the Security Council on 20 December 2005. Identical texts adopted by those two bodies prescribed that the Commission's Organizational Committee would consist of seven Security Council members, including permanent members, selected by the Council; seven members of the Economic and Social Council, elected from regional groups; five top contributors to United Nations budgets, funds, programmes and agencies; and five top providers of military personnel and civilian police to United Nations missions. The General Assembly would elect seven additional members, with special consideration for States that have experienced post-conflict recovery.
By the terms of today's resolution, the Assembly decided that its seven seats for this year would be distributed among the five regional groups, as follows: two seats for African States; one seat for Asian States; one seat for Eastern European States; three seats for Latin American and Caribbean States; and no seats for Western European and other States. The text also specifies that this year's elections would set no precedent for the future, and that the distribution of seats would be reviewed annually, on the basis of changes in the membership in other categories of members, in order to give due consideration to the representation of all regional groups.
The representative of Colombia, on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, said that, as it stood today, the Commission would be an organ composed mainly of troop and financial donors. The principle of equitable geographic distribution had been ignored, in this case, and members of the Group asked themselves if that would be the future trend within the Organization. It would be positive for the Organization to review the composition, as the experience and contributions of all regions were valuable to the work of the Commission. Experience must be taken into account in post-conflict situations.
The representative of the United States supported the aspiration of Latin American and Caribbean neighbours to gain enhanced representation in future years, as well as adjustments that could be made to affect the composition of the Commission, to make it as effective as possible. He also emphasized the potential contribution of countries that had experienced post-conflict situations. It was important to move ahead swiftly and to get the Commission -- a promising outcome of United Nations reform -- up and running. The quality of members, and the diversity of experience and influence they brought to the table, would be critical to the mutual goal of building stability in countries.
The representative of Zambia, who spoke on behalf of the African Group, said he would like to see, in the future, more equitable geographical representation, which would give Africa no less than seven seats. It was no exaggeration to state that the African continent had an unenviable share of conflicts -- indeed, a lion share. It was, therefore, natural, in his view, that Africa should be given special consideration.
Another Budget Committee text on the review of efficiency of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations, similar to the management reform resolution, contained a request to clearly define the lines of authority and responsibility, as well as respective roles of individual elements of the accountability framework. The text also addresses performance evaluation measures, oversight bodies, fraud and corruption, procurement, measures to enhance transparency, management practices and reporting requirements. Also included are provisions on the functioning of the Ethics Office, which was recently launched in the Secretariat, along with changes to financial disclosure rules and the policy on whistle-blower protection.
Acting on the rest of the Fifth Committee reports, the Assembly appropriated $23.5 million for financing the design and preconstruction phases of the Capital Master Plan, including swing space requirements for relocating staff for the time of the refurbishing. For the whole biennium, the Secretary-General was authorized to enter into commitments of up to $77 million to provide for a conference swing space building on the North Lawn of the complex, and for the leasing, design, preconstruction services and related requirements of library and office swing space. Like all other remaining texts, the draft was adopted without a vote.
As part of a draft resolution on special subjects relating to the 2006-2007 biennium, the Assembly -- stressing the exceptional nature of its action -- authorized the use of up to $1.6 million from the provision for special political missions to make the Peacebuilding Support Office operational. The text also contains estimates for the Organization's 29 special political missions, and addresses after-service health insurance benefits for staff and the harmonization of travel conditions within the United Nations system.
By two other resolutions, the Assembly addressed the work of two of the Organization's oversight bodies -- the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU). Action was also taken on the resolution on programme planning and a five-part draft on the pattern of conferences, which addresses the issues of utilization of conference-servicing resources; reform of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management; documentation and publication-related matters; translation and interpretation; and information technology.
And, finally, the Assembly decided to defer to its next session a series of documents under agenda items on the 2006-2007 programme budget, including the scale of assessment for the apportionment of the expenses of the United Nations, the United Nations common system, and the administration of justice at the United Nations.
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