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23 May, 2007

ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT NAMES TWO DIPLOMATS TO GUIDE SECURITY COUNCIL REFORM TALKS

General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa has appointed the ambassadors of Chile and Liechtenstein to conduct consultations with United Nations Member States on how to move forward on reform of the 15-member Security Council.

Heraldo Muñoz of Chile and Christian Wenaweser of Liechtenstein will be expected to report back to Sheikha Haya on the outcome of their consultations by the end of next month, the President said in a letter sent to UN Member States yesterday.

Sheikha Haya has asked Mr. Muñoz and Mr. Wenaweser to use last month’s report of the five facilitators on Council reform she appointed in January as the basis for their consultations.

That report found that even though there is overwhelming support for Council reform, the world’s countries remain so divided on the details – from the question of expansion to the use of the veto to the categories of membership – that a transitional stage of reform may be necessary to break the deadlock.

The report stated that a “significant number of Member States tend to agree that their ideal solution may not be possible at this stage, and believe that it may be more reasonable to consider the best possible solution for now.”

It called on nations to “explore new and emerging ideas concerning a transitional approach” to Council reform, in which there would be an intermediate arrangement ending with a mandatory review at a pre-determined date to decide if that arrangement should continue.

Member States would not have to give up their original position pending the mandatory review, according to the report, which proposed four possibilities for an intermediate category of Council seats.

Mr. Muñoz is one of five facilitators who presented that report, with the others being the permanent representatives of Tunisia (Ali Hachani), Cyprus (Andreas D. Mavroyiannis), Croatia (Mirjana Mladineo) and the Netherlands (Frank Majoor).

Sheikha Haya said in her letter that those facilitators would continue to advise her on the issue.

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30 January, 2007

BAN KI-MOON TO CONTINUE CONSULTATIONS ON PLANS TO RESTRUCTURE UN DEPARTMENTS

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will hold further talks next week with Member States about his plans to restructure the political and security departments of the United Nations Secretariat to ensure they are as effective as possible at delivering their mandated programmes and handling any other challenges.

Mr. Ban wants to continue his consultations with countries, both individually and in groups, before he makes any formal proposals to the General Assembly, his spokesperson Michele Montas told journalists today.

She said the meetings would be the Secretary-General’s first priority when he returns from his current international trip, and that he would decide how to proceed with the restructuring based on the reaction he receives from Member States.

Stressing that Mr. Ban intends to work through the established Assembly procedures, Ms. Montas added that he has already spoken with the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) of countries, many individual States and with Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa.

“The Secretary-General is concerned about the need to strengthen the capacities of the Organization to cope with the increased scope of activities in the area of peace and security, as well as to advance the disarmament agenda,” she said.

Sheikha Haya’s spokesman Ashraf Kamal said the Assembly President has also met representatives of blocs of countries and individual nations over the past week to discuss the Secretary-General’s proposals.

At Mr. Ban’s request, Sheikha Haya has held talks with NAM, the Group of 77 developing countries and China, the European Union, the African Group and CANZ, a grouping that comprises Canada, Australia and New Zealand. She has also met the United States, Russia, China, Japan, Norway, Mexico and Switzerland individually.

Mr. Kamal said that so far Member States have indicated that although they welcomed the Secretary-General’s intentions to improve the management of the UN and make it more effective, “there is a general view that the ideas need further elaboration through a process of wide consultations with Member States within a reasonable time frame.”

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27 September, 2006

AT GENERAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE, SPEAKERS PRAISE UN REFORMS BUT URGE FURTHER ACTION

As the General Assembly continued its annual debate today, speakers voiced support for measures that have been taken to strengthen the United Nations while calling for further reforms to enable the Organization to meet the challenges ahead.

“Even sceptics cannot deny that the UN in 2006 is profoundly different from the UN 10 years ago,” said Alexandr Vondra, the Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic, noting that many reform projects were carried out although some, including the “long-overdue reform of the Security Council” were not.

If the UN could succeed in management reform, it will become “stronger, leaner, less bureaucratic and more operational,” he said. “Let us hope that these changes will be backed by the adoption of a new and fair scale of assessments, by adequate budget and payment discipline, and, last but not least, by progress in implementing the Capital Master Plan” for overhauling the UN’s dilapidated Headquarters complex.

Anders Lidén, Sweden’s Ambassador said the High-level Panel on UN System-wide Coherence provides “a unique opportunity to revitalize the support of the United Nations to the developing countries.”

This, said, will ultimately serve those States where the Organization operates. “If the UN can become more effective at the country level, it will be able to mobilize more resources and ensure that they will reach the countries in need.”

Representing the Observer Mission of the Holy See, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, President of the Governatorate of the Vatican City State, voiced support for reforms that have already been carried out, such as the creation of a new Peacebuilding Commission and Human Rights Council, while stressing the need for further changes.

“The need to improve the system for effective humanitarian interventions in catastrophes brought on by war, civil conflict and ethnic strife will be an important test of the UN reform agenda,” he said.

Also addressing the Assembly today, Gilles Noghès, the head of Monaco’s delegation, said the Principality’s Princess Stéphanie would soon be designated as a Special Representative of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS. This “will further reinforce her commitment to the battle against this terrible pandemic affecting more and more women,” he said.

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22 September, 2006

WEST AFRICAN COUNTRIES URGE REFORM OF SECURITY COUNCIL

Joining their voices to numerous others calling for reform of the Security Council at this year’s General Assembly debate, leaders of West African countries have urged granting Africa a permanent seat on the powerful body.

“Senegal regrets the status quo involving a deadlock in the negotiations to the detriment to a region such as ours which, while it is the focal point of the Council’s agenda does not have a single permanent seat,” said Abdoulaye Wade, the country’s President, on Thursday. He called this a “historic injustice” which must be rectified by granting Africa a seat with the right to veto, “regardless of the overall nature of the reform.”

Mr. Wade hailed reforms that have begun to adapt the UN to the world’s changing realities. In particular, he lauded the creation of the new HumanRights Council and Peacebuilding Commission, voicing hope that this “will allow for better promotion of human rights and more effective management of post-conflict periods.”

Moctar Ouane, the Foreign Minister of Mali, also welcomed the reforms which had given rise to the Peacebuilding Commission and Human Rights Council, but said these should not overshadow the need to reform the Security Council. He called the Peacebuilding Commission one of the major outcomes of the 2005 World Summit, noting that management of post-conflict situations had been a weak link in the Organization’s work.

“Progress made should not overshadow the fact that much remains to be done particularly with respect to the necessary reform of the Security Council,” he said. The need was widely accepted, yet none of the proposed formulas had enjoyed consensus. Mali “supports Africa’s claim to have two permanent seats and five non-permanent seats,” he said, arguing that this would allow the Council to be more representative.

Aichatou Mindaoudou, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and African Integration of Niger, said that, more than ever before, the international community was confronted by challenges to peace and security, although positive changes had taken place in managing conflicts in places such as Burundi, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Those developments served as a reminder of the need for a decision-making mechanism that could address any threats to international peace and security, regardless of their complexity.

Only a reform of the Security Council, accompanied by a revitalization of the General Assembly, could enhance the legitimacy and effectiveness of those bodies, particularly if they took into account equitable representation accompanied by an improvement in working methods, she said.
Only a fair enlargement of the Council could improve its function and provide a basis acceptable to everyone.

Sidi Mohamed Ould Boubacar, Prime Minister of Mauritania, joined others in welcoming the creation of the Human Rights Council and the Peacebuilding Commission, saying they would improve the ability of the UN to tackle two of the world’s biggest concerns.

Great changes on the international scene had called for further UN reforms, he said, including a more dynamic General Assembly, a reactivated Economic and Social Council, and increased representation within the Security Council, taking into account not only major regions of the world such as Africa and Latin America or important country groups, but also industrialized countries which have made major contributions to the Organization, such as Germany and Japan. The Security Council also had to improve its methods of work, in order to ensure peace and security throughout the world.

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12 September, 2006

FIGHTING POVERTY, UN REFORM TO TOP GENERAL ASSEMBLY AGENDA, SAYS NEW PRESIDENT

As the General Assembly opened its 61st session today, the body’s new president promised to focus on alleviating extreme poverty and advancing the process of UN reform undertaken during the previous session.

“The General Assembly has to continue to evolve and strive to deliver sustainable solutions to the major challenges of our time,” Sheikha Haya Rashid Al Khalifa told delegates this morning. “Reform is a process rather than an event.”

She noted that several recommendations of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document have yet to be fully realized, such as disarmament and non-proliferation, Security Council reform, mandate review and system-wide coherence.

The UN also had a crucial role in promoting peace and security, she said.
“Today, man-made conflicts are destroying lives and displacing people on a scale that sometimes exceeds the destructive effects of nature – floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis.”

A pressing issue was combating international terrorism, which required the adoption of both preventive and defensive measures, she said.

Later briefing reporters, she expressed the hope that after last week’s adoption of a resolution on a global counter-terrorism strategy, the current Assembly session would reach agreement on a comprehensive definition of terrorism.

She also said that it was important to consolidate the reforms that had been achieved in the past year, notably by ensuring that the new Peacebuilding Commission and Human Rights Council have a real impact on large numbers of people.

Improving the situation of women is also one of her top goals. The fact that half the world’s population typically have less access to health care, employment, decision-making and property ownership needed to be addressed, she told Assembly delegates.

Sheikha Haya is the first female General Assembly President since 1969 and the first Muslim woman to hold the post.

“It does not matter that I am a Muslim or a Christian or Jewish,” she told reporters. “We are human beings and we have the same worries and we have the same problems.

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10 July, 2006

GENERAL ASSEMBLY APPROVES SERIES OF UN REFORMS AIMED AT GREATER EFFICIENCY

The United Nations General Assembly has unanimously approved a series of reforms that its President said will further consolidate a “culture of accountability, transparency and integrity” at the world body, as well as make it more effective and efficient.

Acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted the eight-part resolution entitled, “Investing in the United Nations: for a stronger organization
worldwide: detailed report,” which addresses accountability, budgetary discretion, information technology, procurement, financial management, reporting mechanisms, public access to UN documentation and future consideration of management reform.

“By the decision today we have contributed to the strengthening of the United Nations. Together we have taken a step to make the organization more efficient and effective. We have begun consolidating a culture of accountability, transparency and integrity in the Secretariat,” President Jan Eliasson said after the resolution was adopted late on Friday.

“I am particularly pleased by the constructive atmosphere that has prevailed during the difficult negotiations of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) during the past three days,” he added, highlighting the complexity of some of the issues in the resolution.

In particular, the resolution authorized Secretary-General Kofi Annan “on an experimental basis” to spend up to $20 million in 2006-2007 and again in
2008-2009 to meet the UN's needs in a more flexible manner. It also gave Mr. Annan up to $706,600 to strengthen the world body’s procurement system, established the post of an information technology chief and decided to replace the world body’s outdated information management system.

“By the adoption of the resolution, the General Assembly has…decided to authorize the Secretary-General on an experimental basis a limited discretion for budgetary implementations to enter into commitments of up to $20 million during 2006-2007 and 2008-2009. This would enable the Secretary-General to meet the evolving needs of the organization,” Mr.
Eliasson told the Assembly, listing all the measures in the resolution.

Along with the positives included in the eight-part resolution, the President stressed the atmosphere of consensus involved in reaching Friday’s decision but also acknowledged that the 192-member Assembly had decided to put off until its next session, which begins in September, discussion of several other reform measures.

“While I note that in some areas the resolution did not fully meet the concerns of all delegations, I’m glad to note that this resolution was adopted by consensus.”

He also noted that, concerning future work on management reform, the Assembly decided to defer to its next session the question of peacekeeping accounts, proposals of the Secretary-General on governance, oversight and accountability as well as human resources management.

The eight-part resolution was adopted just over a week after the Assembly lifted a spending cap on the UN budget – despite objections from the United States, Japan and Australia – that had threatened financial crisis at the world body.

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15 June, 2006

ENCOURAGED BY UN MEMBERSHIP’S MOVES ON REFORM, ANNAN SEES NO IMMINENT BUDGET CRISIS

As he enters the last six months of his tenure as United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan today expressed optimism that divisions between Member States on reform of the world organization were healing, allowing a feared budget crisis to be avoided and letting both the reform, and the myriad of ongoing operations, to continue.
“I think the sort of tensions and poisonous atmosphere we saw earlier in the year seem to be dissipating, and I am confident that the Member States will come together and reform this Organization,” he told a press conference at UN Headquarters in New York that touched on a wide range of issues, from Somalia to Timor-Leste to relations with the United States administration to the football World Cup.

“The cap on the budget will be lifted,” he added in response to a reporter’s question about the funding compromise between Member States reached at the end of last year, under US pressure, which allowed funding for only six months this year with the expectation that management reform would be completed in that time.

“There will be no crisis, as far as I can see, this month. I think the Member States understand that the Organization has work to do,” he said. “I think that by the end of the month, the way we are going, you are going to see quite a lot of progress and Member States will realize that reform is running apace and there is no need to maintain the cap, and they will come to an agreement to lift it.

“Certainly I sense a strong desire among the whole membership to move ahead with reforms that are very much in the general interest, because they will make the Organization more effective and more efficient and more useful to all its Member States.”

Citing examples of tangible progress on the reform front, Mr. Annan pointed to the creation of the new Human Rights Council and Peacebuilding Commission, which will hold their first meetings next week, along with the inception of the Ethics Office, reform of development sections, and review of mandates.

In another vital area, he said he will transmit next week to the General Assembly the comprehensive review of accountability and oversight, and will soon submit proposals for procurement reform, as well as the terms of a new Independent Audit Advisory Committee, along with further details on management reform.

“Given the agendas I gave you, I still have quite a lot to do, and I am determined to work till midnight the 31st of December,” he added, stressing that reform is an ongoing process and that the next Secretary-General would probably be continuing the task.

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12 June, 2006

ANNAN CALLS FOR ‘A NEW COALITION’ ON UN REFORM TO BRIDGE NORTH-SOUTH DIVIDE

Warning that the United Nations is facing “a moment of truth,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan is urging all UN Member States to tone down their rhetoric over a proposed package of reform measures and join forces to reach a sensible compromise that will prevent a budget crisis and pave the way for more fundamental change later.

“It is time for those who really care about reform to come together and form a new coalition – one that bridges the artificial, destructive divide between north and south and brings together all those who are willing to work together because they share the vision of a UN that really works, for the benefit of all the world’s peoples,” the Secretary-General said in an op-ed rticle published today in The Financial Times.

The situation, he noted, stemmed from a decision made by Member States last December when they adopted a budget for the current 2006-2007 biennium, but gave the UN “authority to spend only enough to carry us through the first six months.” The main contributors, led by the US, insisted that this spending cap should be lifted only when there is significant progress on UN reform.

“We are now perilously near the deadline and it is far from clear that enough reform to satisfy them has been achieved,” the Secretary-General wrote. “Neither side has found a way of engaging with the other to agree on further reforms.”

In the midst of this stalemate, he recalled a “minor storm” broke out last week when Mark Malloch Brown, the Secretary-General’s deputy, made a speech suggesting that the US should engage more fully and wholeheartedly with other members of the UN to bring about reform.

“That is absolutely right, but he and I believe the same message needs to be heard in many other countries besides the US,” he said, maintaining that that country is trying to use “the power of the purse” to force through the badly needed reforms and the tactic has provoked a negative reaction among developing countries, who see “overwhelming influence of a few rich
countries.”

It was crucial to get passed this impasse in order to get on to the full scope of reforms that needed to be accomplished in the organization, including updating the Security Council, which would require greater political vision on the part of all governments.

“But even while we wait for political vision to catch up with the scale of today’s challenges, we have vital work to do right now - programmes that have been mandated by members and provide essential services to people in acute danger or need,” he said.

“We must not let that work be stalled,” he urged.

   
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