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Voting 120 to 50, Assembly Seeks Reform Details

Voting 120 to 50, UN Assembly Adopts Text Seeking Details on Annan’s Reform Plan

New York, May 10 2006 4:00PM

Reflecting persistent divisions among Member States on a package of reform proposals put forward by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the United Nations General Assembly held a recorded vote today to adopt a resolution welcoming Annan’s commitment to a stronger UN while at the same time reaffirming the Assembly’s “oversight role” in administrative and budgetary matters and requesting a series of follow-up reports to spell out the details of the proposed reform measures.

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 Administrative and Budgetary (Fifth) Committee, where the draft had been initially proposed by a caucus of 132 countries, known as the Group of 77 and China. The Fifth Committee vote broke the panel’s longstanding tradition of consensus action on budgetary matters.

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, adding that this would work 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.”

In his remarks to the Assembly after the vote, Dumisani S. Kumalo, the Ambassador of South Africa and Chair of the G-77, stressed that the resolution was presented in a constructive spirit. “We want to reassure all Member States that the resolution we have just adopted does not in any way delay or prevent the reform of the United Nations,” he said.

“In fact, a careful reading of this resolution will show that many of the proposals in it are meant to make this a better Organization,” he added. “A large part of this resolution captures areas in which there is general agreement among Member States about their importance and necessity. The exceptions are those proposals that would have amended the oversight role of Member States, through the General Assembly.”

Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Austria’s Ambassador, Gerhard Pfanzelter, voiced opposition to the resolution, which he said did not reflect crucial concerns of the Union and other countries. At this early stage, he said, proposals should not be selectively rejected, amended or convoluted with conditions.

He expressed regret that the Union’s efforts to foster agreement on the resolution had failed and cautioned that the collapse of the consensus principle in the Fifth Committee should be a matter of serious concern to all. It was necessary to restore the long-standing working methods of the Committee, he added, calling for a forward-looking approach and the re-establishment of a climate of trust and cooperation.

Ambassador John R. Bolton of the United States said the vote on management reforms in the Fifth Committee, as well as the vote called for today in the General Assembly, “raises deep concerns about the breach of the consensus decision-making principle that has been the practice of the Fifth Committee for nearly two decades.”

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.

The resolution also 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.

Among other actions 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.


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