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Assembly Vote Reflects Lack Of Consensus

Assembly Vote Reflects Lack Of Consensus On Annan’s Bold Reform Proposals

New York, May 8 2006

In a divisive vote separating developed from developing countries, the United Nations General Assembly today passed a resolution that could effectively slow a series of bold reform proposals put forward by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to overhaul and modernize the world organization's management structures while bringing them in line with its increasingly field-based work.

By a vote of 121 to 50 with 2 abstentions (Norway and Uganda), the Assembly adopted a resolution which had passed by a similar margin late last month in the powerful Administrative and Budgetary (Fifth) Committee after being put forward by the “Group of 77,” a caucus of 132 countries.

Addressing the Assembly after the vote, its President, Jan Eliasson of Sweden, voiced regret that the tradition of adopting by consensus resolutions on management issues had not been maintained, but cautioned against “a pointless discussion of why we failed to agree or what went wrong.”

Instead, he urged efforts to achieve “the broadest possible agreement on all the reform issues before us” and appealed for dialogue among those with opposing views. “We must listen to each other, gain a better understanding of each other’s positions and move from polarization to cooperation,” he stressed.

This, he said, would be for the good of all. “It is in our common interest and in the interest of the United Nations.”

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, the President suggested that the far-reaching nature of the reforms had presaged a difficult road. “If the Secretary-General had proposed a less ambitious programme, he would have perhaps achieved that consensus, but here was a serious effort to lift the bar and ask for more – and you saw the reaction from Member States,” Mr. Eliasson said.

He pointed to notable recent achievements in the area of reform – including the establishment of the Human Rights Council, the Peacebuilding Commission and the Central Emergency Revolving Fund (CERF) – as evidence of progress. “In spite of the turmoil in the world, in spite of the atmosphere that is somewhat strained, we have actually achieved results.”

The Assembly last year authorized spending authority for the Secretary-General only through June, with the rest of the year’s allocation subject to approval. At the time, the Group of 77 voiced dissatisfaction with the measure, which was welcomed by the United States.

Asked how today’s action could affect the budget process, the President voiced hope that “we will come to a situation in June where we can proceed and let the work of the United Nations continue.”

The resolution responds to Secretary-General Kofi Annan's report, “Investing in the United Nations: For a Stronger Organization Worldwide,” submitted in March to enable the UN to accommodate its own shift from largely bureaucratic tasks to life-saving work in the field. The proposals encompass a revamped version of how to recruit, contract, train, assign and compensate staff, and include a redefined post of Deputy Secretary-General. Other recommendations call for exploring options for alternative service delivery, including relocating and possible outsourcing of functions.

In a reflection of the Group of 77's concern about governance of the UN, the resolution reaffirms the Assembly's oversight role - and that of its Fifth Committee - in administrative and budgetary matters, and in carrying out a thorough analysis and approval of the human and financial resources and policies. Other provisions of the text mandate that any changes to the role of the Deputy Secretary-General must be in accord with the original Assembly resolution that established the post. Proposals to amend the UN's overall departmental structure are now subject to the Assembly's review.

The resolution requests a series of detailed reports that could slow the reform momentum as the Secretary-General's second - and final - five-year term approaches its close at the end of 2006. These include studies on the impact of previous and ongoing reforms as they relate to the proposals; on investing in information and communications technology, new sourcing options, financial management practices and performance evaluation and reporting; and on a comprehensive review of procurement rules, regulations and policies.

The Secretary-General's comprehensive reform blueprint was called for in the Outcome Document adopted by national leaders at last September's World Summit in New York. It builds on a package of reforms Mr. Annan launched last year to enhance effectiveness, ethics and accountability and to address weaknesses exposed by the Independent Inquiry on the Oil-for-Food Programme as well as evidence of sexual exploitation in certain peacekeeping operations.

In reaffirming other decisions of its Fifth Committee today, the Assembly also adopted a resolution authorizing over $100 million for the so-called “capital master plan,” a massive refurbishment of the UN headquarters complex that is widely considered to be long overdue, which the Committee had approved in April.


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