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Statement by Mr. Kenzo Oshima
Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations
At the Informal Consultation of the Plenary of the United Nations General Assembly
on Secretariat and Management Reform
6 December 2005
At the outset, I wish to express the satisfaction of my delegation that these informal consultations on UN Secretariat and management reform issues are conducted under your skillful stewardship. We all realize that the subject under discussion has a very important bearing on the health, vitality, and effectiveness of our Organization, and, therefore, on its relevance and credibility in the eyes of member states, certainly in my own country, now and in future. And, as such, we attach utmost importance to the process and outcome on this subject that you will be guiding us through in the next weeks and months, under the overall leadership of General Assembly President Eliasson.
We must acknowledge that during its life for the past sixty years, and particularly in the more recent years under Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the Organization has undertaken various reform efforts. Let us give credit to all these past efforts, to where it is due. However, at the same time, it is all very clear to us that there is a serious and urgent need, now more than ever before, for a deeper and comprehensive reform in the Organization, not merely because of the recent regrettable incidents but also, more fundamentally in the long run, in order to enable the Organization to function with efficiency, integrity and credibility, so that it can meet the full range of problems and challenges of our time.
That is why, in the September Summit Outcome Document, our leaders recognized and agreed on a wide-ranging set of goals to strengthen the United nations by making the Secretariat more effective and accountable, and to infuse the Organization with a culture of management that puts a premium on accountability, transparency and integrity. The goals set and guidance provided by our leaders are an ambitious one, and as they have pledged, it should be our shared responsibility to implement them as faithfully and expeditiously as possible in our common interest as member states.
The Outcome Document already clearly sets out what needs to be done, and on some issues with a timeline. Among the issues identified on management reforms, my delegation places a high priority on several goals, namely, (a) strengthening and improving oversight, (b) review of budgetary, financial and human resources rules, and (c) mandate review.
One of the key objectives of management reform, as we all agree, is enhancing accountability, integrity and transparency. Recent regrettable incidents surrounding the Oil-For-Food program, misbehavior of peacekeepers and UN staff, among others, are clear signs that urgent action is needed in this area. My delegation therefore supports your suggestion laid out in your letter, which is that member states should discuss right away and reach a decision on a group of measures classified under "Group A" (namely, an ethics office, an independent external evaluation of the auditing and oversight system, the creation of an independent oversight advisory committee, the protection of whistle blowers, etc.) to facilitate their implementation before the end of December, as "early wins". We welcome the Secretary-General's report with respect to these issues and look forward to having discussions on them.
That said, however, we respectfully submit that while important and urgent these "Group A" issues are, they alone would not be sufficient as concrete outcome by the end of this year. Besides the goals of greater accountability, integrity, and transparency, there is another set of critical goals for management reform, namely, improving the effectiveness of management and activities of the United Nations. This set of goals should be no less an important and urgent concern, and my delegation believes that we need to achieve some tangible results in this area as well, by the end of this year, also as "early wins". For example, in order to allow the Secretary-General to redeploy posts for the purpose of enhancing the Secretariat's capacity to meet evolving needs with high priority and urgency, the Secretary-General should be authorized to have additional flexibility on staffing and budgetary resources in accordance with certain procedures. We will be proposing concrete language on this and other points in the context of the draft resolution on the proposed regular budget for 2006/2007.
On the third point, namely, review of all mandates older than five years, we recall that the Secretary-General has been requested to present for early consideration by the Assembly a report that will contain analysis and recommendations, including on the opportunities for programmatic shifts on mandates. We would like to ask the Secretariat to give us a briefing, as early as possible and before the end of the year, on the work in progress and the timing of the report in preparation. Let me express our hope in this connection that, in preparing this report, the Secretary-General should also indicate priorities. Of course, ultimate decisions on priorities and programmatic-shifts are those of member states, not of the Secretariat. However, Secretariat's first-hand and direct assessment and recommendations would be necessary and useful. The Secretariat should be also encouraged to identify areas of duplication to facilitate discussions among Member States.
In our view, the focus of the whole exercise of mandate review should not be solely for cost-cutting per se or elimination of activities, but it should rather be to review whether there are possible or desirable programmatic-shifts for higher priority activities and whether more cost-effective implementation of activities is available.
Mandate review that member states are about to undertake promises to be difficult and arduous. But it must be done nevertheless, with a full commitment from all parties. As to its scope, my delegation believes that the review should take place across the board, with special emphasis, however, on those areas which have seen rapid change in challenges and requirements in the world today.
In the discussion of mandate review, we should avoid debates on "criteria," "parameters" or "benchmarks" on mandates because we believe they are likely to lead to prolonged, unproductive discussions.
Finally, with respect to the relationship between management reform/mandate review and the next biennial budget, as I stated in the beginning, it's important that we deliver the right message. The Organization has undertaken, in the Outcome Document endorsed by world leaders in September, to achieve a range of serious and deep institutional reforms of the United Nations in order to revitalize it.
To my government, this means three months later in December we must make sure that seriousness of our efforts at reform should be adequately reflected already in the biennial budget for 2006/2007, and not in the budget for 2008/2009, by incorporating some "early wins" in terms of tangible and substantial reform results. Our government and people who support a strong, effective, and reformed United Nations would want to see the implementation of management reform and mandate review as a matter of urgency. In this sense, we consider that "business as usual" approach to the ongoing budget negotiations would be neither appropriate nor acceptable.
While we must be careful not to take a course of action in the budget decisions that could lead to a cash-flow crisis, disrupting the operations of the United Nations in the 2006/2007, we would also need to be clear in our message to the world, in taking decisions on the biennial budget, that serious efforts at implementation of reform are on and will continue, as leaders' resolved in September.
To that end, my delegation intends to present some ideas in the coming days and looks forward to working with other member states to reach a balanced solution to issues on hand.
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