Press Releases

    GA/AB/3728
    5 April 2006

    Budget Committee Continues Discussion of Secretary-General's Reform Report

    NEW YORK, 4 April (UN Headquarters) -- As the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) continued its consideration of the Secretary-General's wide-ranging reform proposals this morning, its members sought further information on many points and weighed in on such issues as accountability, the Secretary-General's authority to go ahead with certain initiatives and recommendations relating to outsourcing and relocation of services.

    Stressing the need to preserve the intergovernmental nature of the United Nations, Pakistan's representative said that all reform-related decisions should be adopted through consensus.  Reform should lead to greater transparency, efficiency, coordination, judicious use of resources, accountability and high ethical standards.  It should ensure an equal role for all States in setting the priorities of the Organization and a more robust role of the developing countries in development.

    As the Assembly had already adopted several resolutions on management reform, he also wondered if the discussion on relevant segments of the current report would prejudge the contents of the reports requested in those texts.  The representative of the Russian Federation also noted that some of the Secretary-General's previous proposals were still under consideration and expressed concern over the fact that under the heading of the reform, the report before the Committee included some proposals that had been rejected by the Assembly.

    Surprised at the haste with which the Secretariat, without consulting Member States, had undertaken the consideration of the issues of outsourcing and relocating linguistic functions, he also insisted that the decisions as to what functions and departments should be subject to outsourcing and relocation, including cost-benefit analysis, should be taken by Member States. The Secretariat should seriously consider the possibility of relocating to cheaper locations the departments involved in the provision of logistic and other auxiliary services to peacekeeping operations.  It was also necessary to analyse the possibility of relocating other departments closer to their clients in the field.

    Nigeria's representative said that, for the reforms to be meaningful, the most viable asset of the Organization -- its staff -- should be included and informed.  Her country, which had always contributed to the finances and human resources of the Organization, remained committed to the initiatives agreed on by Member States to strengthen the Organization.  In that regard, she shared the view so eloquently stated by Norway yesterday that the unique intergovernmental nature of the United Nations must be preserved.

    Aware of the fact that the report before the Committee only provided a broad outline of management reform initiatives, while a detailed report with proposals for implementation was expected in May, speakers also asked for clarification and justification of many points.  In connection with the forthcoming document, Russia's representative insisted that the recommendations relating to policy changes and rules on finances and personnel must have clear justification and a clear explanation on how they would enhance efficiency.

    The representative of the Republic of Korea said that, at this point, Member States should focus on giving strategic guidance on the proposals as input to the May report.  The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) had provided useful recommendations in connection with the implementation report.  With the Fifth Committee's guidance, he was confident that the Secretariat would come up with sensible, feasible and detailed implementation plans for the report in May, which would provide much needed clarity on what the Secretariat would be, and what it would deliver, after it had been reformed.  In the meanwhile, he expected the Secretary-General to move forward with implementing those measures that were within his authority as chief administrative officer.

    Also participating in the debate were the representatives of Egypt and South Africa (on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China).

    The Committee will continue its work at a date to be announced.

    Background

    The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met today to continue its general debate on the Secretary-General's report entitled "Investing in the United Nations:  for a stronger Organization worldwide" (documents A/60/692 and A/60/692/Corr.1) and the related report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) (documents A/60/735 and A/60/735/Corr.1).  For more background information on the reports, see Press Release GA/AB/3727 .

    Consideration of the reports fall under agenda items:  review of the efficiency of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations; programme budget for the biennium 2006-2007; scale of assessment for the apportionment of the expenses of the United Nations; human resources management; and administrative and budgetary aspects of the financing of the United nations peacekeeping operations.

    Statements

    SUL KYUNG-HOON (Republic of Korea) said that the Secretary-General's report presented a bold approach to reforming the Secretariat, so it could meet the challenges of the twenty-first century.  Based on the ACABQ's analysis, the proposals could be categorized into those that fell under the purview of the Secretary-General and did not need approval from the Assembly; those that were within the Secretary-General's prerogative to act, but had financial implications that required the Assembly's involvement; and those that required a policy decision by the Assembly.  His delegation expected the Secretary-General to move forward with implementing those measures that were within his authority as chief administrative officer.

    The report provided a broad outline of management reform initiatives, while a detailed report with proposals for implementation was expected in May, he continued. At this time, therefore, Member States should focus on giving strategic guidance on the proposals as input to the May report.  The ACABQ had provided useful recommendations in connection with the implementation report.  With the Fifth Committee's guidance, he was confident that the Secretariat would come up with sensible, feasible and detailed implementation plans for the report in May, which would provide much needed clarity on what the Secretariat would be and what it would deliver after it had been reformed.

    As the Advisory Committee had pointed out, ensuring accountability was key to the successful management of the United Nations, he said.  He agreed that the Secretary-General should have greater flexibility in managing posts and resources.  In return for that increased discretion, he would be held more accountable to Member States for the results of his performance.  That was reasonable, but if it was to be workable in practice, it would be necessary to put in place objective mechanisms to assess and evaluate the Secretariat's performance.  It was necessary to define clearly what accountability was in the context of the Secretariat and how to enforce it.  He sincerely hoped that in the forthcoming report, the Secretariat would present workable mechanisms for enforcing accountability.

    IMTIAZ HUSSAIN (Pakistan), supporting the statement made on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, stressed that all reform-related decisions should be adopted through consensus.  His country's support for the reform proposal was premised on the principle that it would not alter the intergovernmental nature of the Organization.  Reform should lead to greater transparency, efficiency, coordination, judicious use of resources, greater accountability and high ethics standards.  It should ensure an equal role of all States in setting the priorities of the Organization and a more robust role of the developing countries in development.

    He said the Assembly had adopted several resolutions on management reform in the past, and many specific reports had been requested.  He wondered about their status and if the discussion on the relevant segments of the current report would prejudge the contents of those reports.  The idea of establishing a change management office had not been well received in the past.  Questions remained about financing, goals and the structure of such an office.  As there was a vision of transformation from a headquarters-based to a field-oriented organization, he said the report did not shed sufficient light on field-based activities related to development.  Further elaboration was needed in that regard, including on mobility of staff and geographic distribution, as well as on addressing the high vacancy rates in field missions in developing countries.

    He asked what the implications would be of merging the 25 under-secretaries-general into eight principal categories and what had happened to earlier reforms to improve the performance of senior management.  Among other questions in that regard, he asked what the costs would be of senior management training proposals and how the process of selection of senior management could be made more transparent.  The proposal regarding selecting a lead agency, such as the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) for procurement, needed some elaboration.  Would it not be better that the Assembly took over the procurement of all agencies, rather than the other way around?  How would the new system ensure the participation of developing-country companies in that process?  Also, how could the quality and reliability of services through outsourcing be ensured, and what were the implications on staff and geographical distribution?

    Continuing, he asked what advantages were envisaged in consolidation of the budget process.  Would it not lead to obscuring the role of Member States in setting the programmatic priorities and would it not lead to lack of transparency and accountability?  The current methodology seemed fine.  On the imposition of time limits on the work of the Fifth committee, he asked if the issues at hand should be abandoned if, due to the absence of instructions and consensus, they were not resolved within the deadline.  Would giving some more time to help consensus on sensitive issues of far-reaching significance not be advisable?

    ANDREY V. KOVALENKO (Russian Federation) said that many management-reform issues needed serious analysis on behalf of Member States.  In order to adopt trustworthy and well considered decisions, additional information was needed, which would be presented in the next report of the Secretary-General, as well as serious justification of certain proposals, primarily from the point of view of enhancing the work of the Secretariat.  He expected to receive from the Secretary-General concrete and specific analysis of the functioning of the Organization in the financial and human resources management spheres.  In accordance with the Summit decisions, the purpose of the reform should be the effective functioning of the United Nations.  His delegation would consider the proposals from that angle.

    He supported the general recommendations of the ACABQ on the basic parameters of the forthcoming report, including those relating to the accountability and responsibility for the decisions made.  The recommendations relating to policy changes and rules on finances and personnel must have clear justification and a clear explanation on how they would enhance efficiency.  He also pointed out that, under the heading of the reform, the report included many proposals that had previously been put forward for Member States' consideration, and some of them had been rejected by the Assembly.  Some of them were also still under consideration.  He also pointed out that many of the matters, including those being presented as fundamental reform proposals, strictly speaking had no relation to management reform, as such.

    Among examples in that regard, he listed the questions of improving the emolument package for field staff, application of geographical quotas, an increase in the Working Capital Fund, and creation of a reserve fund to cover currency fluctuations, as well as the issue of work of expert and policy-making bodies.  On the latter, he said that it was necessary not to weaken, as suggested in the report, but strengthen and improve the oversight mechanisms on behalf of Member States of the activities of the Secretariat and effective use of resources of the Organization. The Fifth Committee, as the main committee with purview of the budgetary, financial and management issues, should have a detailed and critical discussion of the Secretary-General's ideas on the format and decision-making on those matters and pronounce its verdict.

    Regarding the distribution of functions between the Secretary-General and his Deputy, he said that, unlike the ACABQ, his delegation believed that the matter went beyond the Secretary-General's authority to determine the terms of reference of his Deputy.  Delegating of a large part of the Secretary-General's authority and responsibility should be based on the Charter.

    Turning to the outsourcing and relocating of a number of functions of the Secretariat, he said that those issues needed serious discussion and could not be -- as suggested by the ACABQ -- simply entrusted to the Secretariat.  Decisions as to what functions and departments should be subject to outsourcing and relocation, including cost-benefit analysis, should be taken by Member States.  He was surprised at the haste with which the Secretariat, without consulting Member States, had undertaken the consideration of the issues of outsourcing and relocating linguistic functions.  Those were not really auxiliary, as they ensured the multilingual character of the Organization.  The Secretariat should seriously consider the possibility of relocating, to cheaper locations that were closer to the actual conduct of peacekeeping operations, those departments that were involved in the provision of logistic and other auxiliary services to those operations.  It was also necessary to analyse the possibility of relocating other departments closer to their clients in the field, taking into account the changes that have occurred in the programmatic activities of the United Nations and the tendency to "turn towards the field", taking into account that New York was not the cheapest duty station.

    In conclusion, he said that his delegation was somewhat surprised that speakers had been returning to the procedure for considering the Secretary-General's report, the role of the Fifth Committee and the plenary of the Assembly, despite the agreement already reached on the matter.  The Committee should not return to that issue, but devote its time to the substantive consideration of the Secretary-General's proposals.

    NONYE UDO (Nigeria), aligning herself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that as the United Nations seemed to be at a crossroads between past, present and future in many ways, reforms would allow for potent decisions on the way ahead, and a careful analysis of the reports would provide the basis for the path to the future.

    She said the Organization was one of a kind, and that characteristic should be safeguarded.  Only a strong and vibrant Organization could address the challenges placed before it.  She supported reforms aimed at accomplishing those goals.  A stronger, efficient and well resourced United Nations, in which the opinions of every Member State mattered, would make the world a better place.  Member States had already acted on several of the proposed measures.

    For the reforms to be meaningful, one should not fail to include and to inform the most viable asset of the Organization -- its staff, she said.  Her country, which had always contributed to the finances and human resources of the Organization, remained committed to support initiatives agreed on by Member States to strengthen the Organization.  In that regard, she shared the view so eloquently stated by Norway that the unique intergovernmental nature of the United Nations must be preserved.

    YASSER ELNAGGAR (Egypt) supported the position of the Group of 77 and China and said that some of the points he wanted to raise had already been presented by the representatives of Nigeria, Norway and Pakistan.  On the procedure, he joined his colleagues' comments and hoped for a swift conclusion of the agenda item before the Committee.

    Organization of Work

    At the request of South Africa, the Committee's Chairman, JOHN WILLIAM ASHE (Antigua and Barbuda), outlined the progress achieved in informals on several texts and the schedule of informal consultations on several remaining items.

    In connection with the Committee's tentative programme of work, KAREN LOCK (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, expressed concern over the fact that some time slots had not been filled, and the Secretariat should make every effort to find conference services for the Committee's meetings.  The Group wanted to conclude the reform item as soon as possible, but conference services would be needed.

    On the substance of the Secretary-General's report, she said that, at this point, it was difficult to say yes or no to anything.  In that connection, she noted the comments that some areas fell under the purview of the Secretary-General, who needed to move forward on those items.  However, at this point, it was difficult to "quite understand" the proposals and further input from the Secretariat was needed.

    She added that, yesterday, the Committee had agreed on drafts on most outstanding items and could conclude the rest today.  She appreciated the pace at which all delegations were working under the Committee's heavy schedule.

    She also proposed that the tentative programme of work for the next two weeks be adopted on the basis of it being amended, as necessary.

    The Committee adopted the programme, as proposed.

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