Statement by Mr. Toshiro Ozawa, Ambassador of Japan
At the Informal Consultation of the Plenary of the UN General Assembly
On Secretariat and Management Reform
30 January 2006
We thank Deputy Secretary-General Mme Frechette for her detailed explanations covering a wide range of issues related to management reform. We understand that the Secretary-General's report to be issued in late February will address a wide range of issues, and we emphasize that the Government of Japan supports such a comprehensive approach. We expect to see specific and coherent ideas in the report on how the Secretary-General can better manage the Secretariat and on how the Member States can cooperate to make this happen. The Outline explained today is encouraging, and we are looking forward to constructive discussions ahead.
On the issue of UN budgetary and financial policies, regulations and rules, the Government of Japan believes that a comprehensive approach is required in order to achieve an effective, performance-based system of management. On the one hand, the micromanagement of the Secretariat by Member States through the Fifth Committee has been criticized, often with good reasons, but on the other hand, many Member States are not fully satisfied with the efforts made by the Secretariat for enhancing transparency and accountability. Such tension in the relationship between the Member States and the Secretariat is neither healthy nor productive. My Government believes that measures by the Member States to enhance the Secretariat's executive discretion and measures by the Secretariat to improve transparency and accountability to the Member States need to be taken concurrently. By doing so, we will succeed in moving further toward a system of results-based management.
To be more specific, Japan attaches importance to the following measures:
First, the Secretariat should define the objectives and the expected accomplishments more clearly in the programme budget. While trial and error may be inevitable, many Member States, including Japan, have expressed dissatisfaction in the past with regard to the lack of clarity of the objectives and the expected accomplishments.
Second, Member States should grant the Secretary-General greater executive discretion so that the Secretary-General can actually achieve these objectives and expected accomplishments. In particular, we believe that the Secretary-General should be provided with the authority and capacity to redeploy staff and resources so that the Secretary-General is able to tackle new requirements and complex operations in a prompt and effective manner. In our view, this can be done by setting aside certain staff resources, by amending financial regulations and rules to facilitate redeployment of resources, and by making full use of the Secretary-General's authority to recruit staff for limited durations. We urge Member States to consider such measures in a positive way. We are also ready to consider providing greater discretion to the Secretary-General with regard to the management of the staffing table.
Third, the Secretariat should do a better job of assessing and reporting on how successful it was in achieving the objectives and expected accomplishments. More clarity in setting the objectives and expected accomplishments would of course lead to better assessments on how successful the effort put in was in reality. It goes without saying that with greater discretion, there will be a greater necessity for better accountability and also for establishing 'a culture of taking responsibility.' This measure for better assessment and reporting would be inseparable from the first and the second measures. In our view, the huge numbers of reports we receive from the Secretariat do not by themselves lead to improved accountability. More importantly, the Secretariat should provide the Member States with timely information that is coherent, user-friendly and useful for decision-making in the General Assembly. The improvements to the Annual Report explained earlier by the Deputy Secretary General is a step in the right direction.
On human resources policies, regulations and rules, we would like to request the Secretariat to recruit and also retain staff who can tackle the challenges faced by the Organization in the twenty-first century. While we need to enhance staff morale, we emphasize the importance of establishing a "culture of ethics" as a norm. We also attach particular importance to improved staff mobility.
Japan recognizes that the Secretariat is taking initiatives to promote a "culture of ethics." When a case of corruption or mismanagement breaks out in the Secretariat, the normal expectation is that those who are responsible will indeed assume such responsibility. Japan will be following closely the developments of the ongoing investigation of some staff related to procurement. The desirable "culture of ethics" will not develop if impunity prevails despite the misdeeds. As a Member State and as one of largest "taxpayers" of the United Nations, Japan wishes to see a clear delineation of official duty and private matters of the staff. UN staff are expected to meet the highest standards of integrity, acting in the collective interests of the Member States, and discharging their responsibilities in a sincere way.
The Secretariat's recent efforts to strengthen staff training in the area of ethics are very welcome. We wish to make a point, however, that training through the use of CD-ROMs may not in itself be sufficient. We thus hope that there would be additional efforts made to nurture an "esprit de corps" in the Secretariat.
On staff mobility, I wish to recall that the importance of enhancing staff mobility was argued for in detail in my previous statement on 15 December last year. We reiterate our belief that the Secretariat should consider: (1) preparing more generic job descriptions with a view to enhancing staff versatility; (2) according more priority to mobility in promoting staff, with a view to providing additional incentives for changing posts; and (3) managing the selection and recruitment of staff in a coordinated manner by means of strengthening the function of the OHRM.
Before I conclude, I would like to touch upon the current issues regarding procurement. We are very concerned by what is reported in the news media about the OIOS investigations on certain cases of procurement. We are aware that a number of steps have already been taken to promote reform in procurement, but it is clear that more work is necessary. A thorough review of the relevant policies, practices, regulations and rules is required. Perhaps, even more important would be a more effective monitoring of the procurement activities. Thus, special investigations should be considered where necessary. Strengthening the Committee on Contracts may also warrant consideration. Regarding PKO procurement, we feel compelled to say that unless urgent and tangible reform measures are taken, it will become difficult for a number of Member States Governments to maintain their domestic support for underwriting the PKO activities. We request the Secretariat to thoroughly review the PKO budget proposals that are in the preparatory stage, fully taking into account the lessons learned or learning. Unless such actions are taken, the expected expansion of PKO activities and costs will become more difficult to justify within some Member States.
Unfortunately, today, here in the United Nations, skepticism and even cynicism about reform is not a rare commodity. However, all of us should not be oblivious to the fact that the United Nations today is exposed to frequent and sometimes vitriolic criticisms. One could even argue that the authority of the United Nations is perhaps at the lowest ebb in its sixty-year history. Yet, the expectations and hope for the United Nations remain strong. It is clear to us that we cannot allow the status quo to continue. The UN's credibility will depend on the actions we, the Member States, actually take. On what we do or fail to do this year, we will have to answer to future generations.
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