Speakers Call for Broad Consultation, Applying Lessons of Past Reform Initiatives, as Secretary-General Proposes Sweeping Management Changes to Fifth Committee
Welcoming the Secretary-General’s proposals aimed at reforming the United Nations programme planning and budget process, as well as increasing transparency and accountability, delegates in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today stressed that management reform must employ lessons learned from past efforts, and could not be an isolated endeavour.
Delegates also called for ample time to review the Secretary-General’s proposals given their wide-ranging scope.
Reform could only succeed if there was active participation and true ownership by all Member States and the Secretariat, and if it strengthened implementation of the Organization’s mandates, particularly concerning the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, said the representative of Ecuador, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China. “Previous reform initiatives focused on cost‑saving and staff reductions, but failed to deliver on hollow promises to redirect savings towards development and mandate delivery,” he said.
Increasing transparency and accountability to Member States must be a guiding principle, he said, stressing that proposals for the delegation of authority and changes in reporting lines must be matched by effective accountability proposals. Like other speakers, he underscored the importance of ensuring equitable geographical representation and gender parity at all levels throughout the Organization, adding that the Group looked forward to a strategy that would identify inherent biases that allowed certain regional groups to dominate particular departments and senior management posts.
The representative of Ghana, speaking on behalf of the African Group, welcomed the ongoing evaluation of the impact of previous reforms, calling on the Secretary-General to build on best practices and develop risk management in his refined proposals. “Management reform is not a static one-off process,” she pointed out. The Group would also examine the proposals in terms of how they addressed Africa as one of the Organization’s eight priorities, paying special attention to how reformed delegation of authority, programme planning and budgetary proposals, as well as new organizational structures would align with United Nations and African Union cooperation.
Several delegates took the opportunity to request additional clarification from the Secretary-General on his reform proposals, with the representative of the United States asking how he would use the authorities he had requested to make strategic decisions on resources. She also requested to hear more about his efforts to develop a reform-minded senior leadership and to ensure buy-in by staff members.
The representative of Australia, also speaking on behalf of Canada and New Zealand, said the Secretary-General was right to point towards a better budget process focused on results, but asked why Member States should expand flexibility for him to redeploy resources and how that would help people on the ground.
The Secretary-General’s proposal to move from an biennial to an annual budget was supported by several speakers, with the representative of Morocco saying it would lead to a more precise and credible budget, while also helping Member States shoulder their financial obligations better. The representative of Russian Federation, however, opposed the change, emphasizing that the Secretary‑General’s report failed to present clear advantages of doing so.
Presenting his reports on shifting the United Nations management paradigm, Secretary-General Antonió Guterres, highlighted that his three strategic priorities for reform focused on the Organization’s work for peace, its support for sustainable development and its internal management. “Reform is not an end in itself. The purpose of reform is simple and clear: to best position the United Nations to do the work that Member States ask us to do,” he said.
With 90 per cent of its personnel serving in the field, the United Nations must bring decision-making closer to the people it served, empower managers to deliver on mandates, reform cumbersome and costly budgetary procedures, and eliminate duplicative structures, he said. In the past seven months, he and his team had conducted extensive consultations and outreach with Member States, and shared their findings at the first-ever retreat with Member States on the subject, held in July.
In addition to having the Organization move from a biennial to an annual budget, he proposed that planning and budgetary cycle be shortened from five to three years, as a way simplify and streamline the process. The Secretary-General also asked Member States to broaden his authority to commit funding for unforeseen events such as natural disasters in order to respond quickly to emergencies, and to give him additional authority to redeploy resources within budget parts to ensure that resources allocated for a particular area, such as development, were used only for that area and not diverted elsewhere.
Achieving gender parity and increasing geographical diversity were other important aspects of his reform, as was his proposal for a Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance and Department of Operational Support to eliminate duplication and hold programme managers accountable for mandate delivery. “These are ambitious reforms,” he stressed, highlighting that he would present concrete proposals on the various elements in May and October 2018.
Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), presenting that entity’s corresponding report, backed the proposal to shorten the budget cycle and replace the biennial budget with an annual budget. It also supported streamlining the planning and budgeting process, including the proposed elimination of the budget outline, as well as efforts to improve the clarity and presentation of budget documents, among other things.
At the end of the meeting, Michel Tommo Monthe (Cameroon), Chair of the Fifth Committee, made closing remarks.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Singapore (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Switzerland (also on behalf of Liechtenstein), Mexico, Chile, Cuba, South Africa, Pakistan, Algeria, Japan, Argentina, Norway, Brazil, Indonesia, Côte d’Ivoire, China, Republic of Korea, Thailand, Colombia and Tunisia.
The Fifth Committee will next meet at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 5 December, to discuss the administrative expenses of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund and progress in the construction and property management project at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
ANTONIÓ GUTERRES, Secretary‑General of the United Nations, introduced his reports titled “Shifting the management paradigm in the United Nations: ensuring a better future for all” (document A/72/492) and “Shifting the management paradigm in the United Nations: improving and streamlining the programme planning and budgeting process” (document A/72/492/Add.1). “The purpose of reform is simple and clear: to best position the United Nations to do the work that Member States had asked the Organization to do,” he said. His three strategic priorities for reform aimed at the United Nations work for peace, its support for sustainable development and its internal management. With 90 per cent of its personnel serving in the field, the United Nations must bring decision‑making closer to the people it served, empower managers to deliver on mandates, reform cumbersome and costly budgetary procedures and eliminate duplicative structures. In the past seven months, he and his team had conducted extensive consultations and outreach with Member States, and shared their findings at the first ever retreat with Member States on the subject, held in July.
“We are all keenly aware of what ails us and what we must improve,” he said. A more agile and responsive service delivery was required, while fragmentation in management structures must be addressed. Greater trust with Member States and staff must be promoted, while adequate resources of mandates must be ensured. Further, there must be improvement in implementation of mandates and increased transparency and accountability. “Clearly the status quo is not an option,” he said, and added that he intended to deliver concrete results in four key areas. Empowering the leadership of the Organization to better deliver on mandates was critical, as was becoming more transparent and better able to demonstrate the link between resources and programme delivery with stronger management frameworks. To enable effective and timely action, managers must have the authority — under clear conditions — to exercise decisions closer to the point of delivery. He went on to call for a reorganization of management structures at Headquarters to provide better support to managers and ensure accountability.
The planning and budget cycle and reports must be simplified and streamlined, he underlined, proposing that the Organization move from a biennial to an annual budget and that the planning and budgetary cycle be shortened from five to three years. Programme planning and performance information would be presented alongside financial information to improve transparency and support strategic decision‑making. The Organization’s budget documents must become instruments to hold programme managers accountable for the effective delivery of their mandates and the use of their resources, he stressed, adding that this would provide Member States not only a quantitative, but also a qualitative assessment of performance. “I am seeking your support to provide additional authority to me to redeploy resources up to 20 per cent of a section within the budget parts, not between parts,” he said, which would preserve the principle that resources allocated for development should be used for development, and that resources allocated for the other pillars of the Organization should be used for those pillars. Doing so would also improve inter‑departmental cooperation and more responsiveness to changing demands.
The scope of the commitment authority for “unforeseen and extraordinary expenses” should be broadened to allow for a more rapid response to unforeseen events in the areas of development and human rights, he said. He would seek to increase the transparency and frequency of reporting to Member States, including in monitoring, evaluation, programme and financial performance and resource use. Duplicative functions would be eliminated by establishing a Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, he said, adding that the Organization should also take full advantage of Umoja and the global service delivery model to carry out administrative transactions in a reduced number of locations. In that connection, he proposed consolidating certain functions into two or three centres and undertaking strategic assessment of locations. He went on to propose streamlining and simplifying human resources rules, processes and procedures, which would ensure timely recruitment, deployment and staff development. Achieving gender parity and increasing geographical diversity were other important aspects of his reform efforts, he said, noting that in his Executive Office he had achieved gender parity in Professional level positions, while also increasing geographical representation.
Through such changes, accountability to Member States would increase by creating stronger internal control and quality assurance functions in the new structure; changing the current system of delegation authority to enable managers to deliver and hold them accountable for their performance; separating responsibilities between the two new departments to ensure that troop and police contingents were better supported; introducing 360‑degree performance evaluations for senior managers; strengthening the compacts of senior managers; improving self‑evaluation capacities; making budgets more strategic and tools for accountability; and linking resource requirements more clearly to programme planning and performance results.
He said trust would be built and transparency would be increased by reflecting procurement and expenditure information on dashboards accessible to Member States throughout the year; improving self‑evaluation programmes and including evaluation information in the annual budgets and on websites; submitting programme performance and budget information every year to the Fifth Committee, rather than every two years; and reporting on redeployments on dashboards throughout the year and annual financial reports at the end of the budget period.
“These are ambitious reforms,” he stressed, highlighting that an advance Change Management team was already at work so that a comprehensive, costed proposal on the new structure could be presented to the Fifth Committee for its May 2018 session. He pledged to give full authority to senior managers to deliver on their mandates, while also pledging that the Secretariat would be transparent, responsible and accountable in its stewardship of the resources of the Organization and in delivering on agreed mandates and benchmarks. “Reforming the current management system and structure is our shared interest,” he underscored. He sought support for the proof of concept set out in his report A/72/492 and said he would present concrete proposals on the various elements in May and October 2018. Further, he sought support for his proposals contained in Addendum I of the report.
CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), presented that entity’s corresponding report (document A/72/7/Add.24), saying it welcomed the Secretary‑General’s reform efforts. Many of the management reform plans and proposals were interdependent and interrelated, and thus best considered together. In considering the proposals, the Advisory Committee made several observations and recommendations on elements that required further elaboration, analysis and clarification, including with regard to the information and communications technology strategy, the proposed integration of procurement into supply chain management, and replacing the Department of Management and Department of Field Support with two new departments. He also noted the Advisory Committee’s request for further clarification on how the accountability framework would be adopted to reflect changes to the system of delegation of authority.
The Advisory Committee responded positively to the proposal to shorten the budget cycle and replace the biennial budget with an annual budget, he said. Doing so would reduce uncertainty, improve budgetary precision, and reduce the lag between planning and implementation. The ACABQ also supported streamlining the planning and budgeting process, including the proposed elimination of the budget outline, as well as efforts to improve the clarity and presentation of budget documents. At the same time, the Advisory Committee had some reservations over the proposed review process, and also considered proposed modifications to budget documents to be a shift in the application of results‑based budgeting methodology. The Advisory Committee wished to maintain the level of detail made available, he said, adding that any proposal to alter budget documents should be submitted to the General Assembly for consideration.
Several proposals involved new or expanded authorities for the commitment or redeployment of funds within budget cycles to address unanticipated demands, he said. Overall, an annual budget cycle would reduce the level of budgetary uncertainty. In that case, different mechanisms and levels of discretionary managerial authorities should be assessed prior to the start of the first annual budget period. Regarding the proposed two new authorities starting in 2018‑2019, the ACABQ was unconvinced by the technical justifications provided. However, it recognized that was a broader policy decision that required the General Assembly’s consideration, he said.
Turning to proposals to increase and expand the existing mechanism for unforeseen and extraordinary expenses, he said the Advisory Committee supported the proposal for the Secretary‑General to enter into commitments of up to $20 million for matters related to maintaining international peace and security. It also recommended in favour of a proposal to allow the use of that mechanism for up to $1 million in commitments to address the immediate impact of natural or man‑made disasters on United Nations operations. The Advisory Committee did not support the proposed expansion of the mechanism to cover development and human rights, as the existing experimental mechanism could be used more effectively. In that regard, the Advisory Committee recommended that the General Assembly lift the existing requirement to identify savings within the authorized appropriation level.
DIEGO MOREJON PASMIÑO (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said reform could only succeed if there was active participation and true ownership by all Member States as well as the Secretariat. “Management reform must be grounded in the firm foundation of the Organization’s intergovernmental, multilateral and international character,” he said, emphasizing the oversight roles of the General Assembly, through the Fifth Committee, as well as the Committee for Programme and Coordination and the Advisory Committee. The Group encouraged the Secretary‑General to involve the Advisory Committee, the Board of Auditors and the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), among others, in his reform efforts. Attention must also be given to risk management, monitoring and the evaluation of the impact of reform initiatives. Noting the extensive nature of the change management process, he said the Secretariat must ensure no negative impact on mandate delivery on the ground.
Welcoming the centrality of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the Secretary‑General’s reform proposals, he said the Group expected a mainstreaming of the Goals at the global, regional and national levels to be matched by necessary resources for development institutions — including the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the regional economic commissions — as well as for developing countries. “Previous reform initiatives focused on cost‑saving and staff reductions, but failed to deliver on hollow promises to redirect savings towards development and mandate delivery,” he said, emphasizing the need to strengthen mandate implementation.
Increasing transparency and accountability to Member States must be a guiding principle of management reform, he said, stressing that proposals for the delegation of authority and changes in reporting lines must be matched by effective accountability proposals. Welcoming the Secretary‑General’s commitment to more precise and accurate budgets, the Group looked forward to the Secretariat using new tools to provide more information and detail to Member States. He went on to underscore the importance of ensuring equitable geographical representation and gender parity at all levels, adding that the Group looked forward to a geographical representation strategy that would identify inherent biases that allowed certain regional groups to dominate particular departments and senior management posts. There must also be fair and increased access to United Nations procurement opportunities for developing countries and countries in transition, he added. Concluding, he said the Group was encouraged by early efforts to reform internal coordination and collaboration within the Secretariat and across the United Nations system. Organizational change was not only about restructuring departments, but about empowering staff to deliver on their mandates without administrative obstacles. Changing the Organization’s culture would leverage the speed and effectiveness with which reforms were implemented.
MARTHA AMA AKYAA POBEE (Ghana), speaking for the African Group and associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said the trust deficit in the Organization must be addressed by enhancing transparency and strengthening accountability and oversight mechanisms. The Group would consider all proposed reforms in the context of mandate delivery and sound management principles, not merely for cost savings or staff reductions. Recalling that the United Nations had been undergoing constant reforms with varied success, she welcomed the ongoing evaluation of the impact of previous reforms, calling on the Secretary‑General to build on best practices and develop risk management in his refined proposals. “Management reform is not a static one‑off process,” she pointed out. The Group would also examine the proposals in terms of how they addressed Africa as one of the Organization’s eight priorities, paying special attention to how reformed delegation of authority, programme planning and budgetary proposals as well as new organizational structure would align with United Nations and African Union cooperation. In that regard, she expressed concern that the post of the Office of Special Adviser for Africa remained vacant, urging the Secretary‑General to address the issue.
Turning to sustainable peace in Africa, she emphasized that reform required sustainable and predictable financing for United Nations mechanisms across the peace spectrum. As such, special political missions should be financed by implementing the same criteria, methodologies and mechanisms used to fund peacekeeping operations. That would enable the Organization to respond more effectively and efficiently to their respective mandates in the field. Regarding the Secretary‑General’s strategy on geographical representation, she noted that equitable geographical representation was not a dilution of the merit principle, stressing the need for reformed human resources management based on equal and non‑discriminatory job opportunities in New York and in the field. “The Group struggles to understand how certain departments that primarily focus on African issues are dominated by staff from other regions,” she said. In terms of the Secretary‑General’s technical recommendations, the Group would examine the proposals in detail during informal consultations and continue to engage on those and future reform proposals.
BURHAN GAFOOR (Singapore), speaking on behalf of the Association of South‑East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that for any reform effort to be successful, the buy‑in and trust of Member States would be critical. ASEAN had heard the Secretary‑General’s call for change and agreed that it was important to make the Organization fit for purpose and to enable it to deliver on its mandates. The Group welcomed the steps that the Secretary‑General had already taken and the sense of momentum that existed across the Organization. ASEAN welcomed the Secretary‑General’s focus on delivery and results and would examine how those proposals could make the Organization more effective and efficient in delivering on the ground.
Reform must increase transparency and accountability to Member States, and in that context, he said ASEAN was pleased that the Secretary‑General placed high importance on those goals. ASEAN emphasized that any change to the presentation of information must offer more transparency and accountability, not less. Reform must be carefully managed and must not impact mandate delivery on the ground. Adequate risk mitigation measures must be put in place, and in that connection, ASEAN reiterated the importance of a roadmap for implementation to guide each stage with clear objectives, safeguards, benchmarks and indicators of achievement. “We should proceed with purpose, but also with prudence,” he stressed.
CAITLIN WILSON (Australia), also speaking on behalf of Canada and New Zealand, said the Fifth Committee should focus only on those elements it needed to decide on now. Canada, Australia and New Zealand would take such an approach, which meant not passing substantive judgment on all points highlighted by the Advisory Committee, but on those where a decision was needed now. The Secretary‑General was right to remove overlap and duplication between the Department of Management and the Department of Field Support, she said, adding that the countries on whose behalf she spoke would want to explore architecture improvements with the benefit of ACABQ’s recent advice. Noting that ACABQ had determined that the issue of flexibility fell outside its competence as an entity, she asked the Secretary‑General why Member States should expand flexibility for him and how that would help people on the ground.
JOÃO PEDRO VALE DE ALMEIDA, European Union, said that the management systems of the United Nations had grown too complex to be able to respond to today’s challenges in a flexible and agile manner. Now was the time for the Organization to underline its relevance and added value, and to respond flexibly to diverse and evolving global challenges. That would require an important shift in the Organization’s culture, strategy, structures and operations. The current reform agenda had the potential to make the system more effective and the entire United Nations family more united and coherent.
Action was needed on the reform of the budget process, he said. A responsive United Nations for effective multilateralism required a planning and budgeting tool that was transparent and agile. It should ensure that resources were allocated in the best way possible to deliver the Organization’s crucial mandates. Management reform was also an important enabler for the reform for the peace and security and development pillars of the United Nations. It had been four months since a retreat on management reform was organized. Many meetings and consultations had taken place and the time had come to take action.
OLIVIER ZEHNDER (Switzerland), also speaking for Liechtenstein, said “there is broad consensus that the Organization is not fit for purpose.” As such, Switzerland and Liechtenstein fully endorsed the Secretary‑General’s vision for management reform. In that context, managers and staff must be empowered and held accountable for their performance in an effective, results‑based management framework. Also, the Secretary‑General must be empowered in his role as Chief Administrative Officer, with the flexibility to effectively and efficiently lead the Organization without consulting Member States on every detail. Member States must undergo a cultural change in terms of their engagement with the United Nations. They should trust the Organization and reduce micromanagement, he said, adding that they should base their trust on a sound accountability framework, asking for further transparency.
JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico) highlighted that the Fifth Committee was in an essential position to help reform the United Nations. The Secretary‑General’s proposal was just the first step on a path of adjustment and the evolution of the Organization. The status quo was not an option and in that connection, he stressed the need for an adjustment to the structure of the Secretariat to promote greater accountability and transparency. More must be done to improve the recruitment and deployment of personnel to respond to emergencies. There must be improvement in coordination efforts and less orientation towards procedures and regulations as well as greater attention paid to the specific results of activities. There must be reform in the planning and budgetary cycles to reduce the number of reports produced. The on‑going session of the Fifth Committee was of great importance, he emphasized, warning against a backslide or resistance to change.
OMAR KADIRI (Morocco), associating with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, said the regional model proposed by the Secretary‑General would help the United Nations to transform itself based on robust management rules and principles to make it more flexible, transparent and action‑oriented. The proposed reforms aimed at decentralizing decision‑making while also bolstering ownership and accountability. He commended the very clear timeline proposed by the Secretary‑General to implement the reforms, and the shared responsibility between the Secretary‑General and Member States was apparent. The slow delivery of services, the fragmentation of management structures, the lack of resources dedicated towards performance management as well as the lack of transparency were all of concern. Morocco believed that submitting an annual budget would have a positive impact in the adoption of a more precise and credible budget. Morocco agreed that a shorter budget cycle would help Member States shoulder their financial obligations better.
PETR V. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) expressed his delegation’s support for the Advisory Committee’s position on culture and oversight within the Organization, saying that each proposal must be subjected to in‑depth cost effective analysis, followed by a new comprehensive report. The Russian Federation opposed moving to an annual budget cycle, he said, emphasizing that the Secretary‑General’s report failed to present clear advantages of doing so. He said his country agreed with the Advisory Committee that the Secretary‑General’s powers regarding unforeseen and extraordinary expenditures should be kept at current levels, as well as its request for more information on integrating the trigger function for supply chain management. Concluding, he said reforms could only follow broad intergovernmental discussion and General Assembly approval.
Ms. DOMINGUEZ (Chile), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, stressed the need for a transparent and inclusive intergovernmental negotiation process, both in matters of management, and in the other pillars of the reform. That was necessary to prevent reinforcement of existing fragmentation and to guarantee that the reform enjoyed the necessary legitimacy. Member States should be given the time necessary to engage in a constructive dialogue. The scale of the reform required broad and coherent negotiations to create mutually reinforcing synergies. For that, it was necessary to clarify the concrete links among the various reform initiatives.
MICHELE J. SISON (United States) said her country would continue to support the Secretary‑General’s efforts to find ways the United Nations could better deliver on development, management, and peace and security. The United States sought a United Nations that maintained the trust of people around the world, but for a truly effective and relevant Organization, it must change the way it did business, including by focusing more on delivering results in the field. It also must strive for enhanced accountability and oversight, she said, adding that its management framework, structures and procedures must enable and support more dramatic action relating to peace and security, sustainable development and human rights.
She said the United States fully supported the principles outlined by the Secretary‑General. At the same time, the United Nations must realize the full benefits of existing initiatives to streamline business processes and provide critical information that would make the Organization smarter and better. Member States must also be willing to change business as usual, she added, noting the broad, cross‑regional support displayed at the United Nations reform event hosted by her country’s President in September 2017. Hopefully that would translate into timely action to support the management reform proposals. At a minimum, the Secretary‑General should bring forward detailed proposals in May for further consideration by Member States.
Regarding the Secretary‑General’s attempts to make the budget a strategic tool, and the related ability to account for results, she asked how he would use the authorities he had requested to make strategic decisions on resources. She also requested to hear more about his efforts to develop a reform‑minded senior leadership and to ensure buy‑in by staff members. Concluding, she said her country was confident that with strong leaders, reform could be accomplished. “We pledge to be partners in this important work, as we believe that the United Nations can emerge as a stronger and more effective institution,” she added.
ANA SILVIA RODRÍGUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said that any reform process implemented must have as its purpose the strengthening of the Organization’s role and efficiency. Reforms could not be seen as an exercise to gain budget savings, and the political and intergovernmental nature of the United Nations could not be ignored in that regard. The proposals to reform the peace and security and development pillars were closely related to management, and the study and implementation of the former must also take place in a parallel and interconnected fashion with that of the latter. Recalling that the Organization had experienced many reform processes, she called for studying the lessons of past processes to properly understand current proposals. The reforms called for a radical redesign of management and, as such, required careful consideration and study by the Organization’s membership. The current planning and budgeting process must be reviewed comprehensively, she said, noting that it came at a complex time and during an intense and heavily burdened session. While Cuba did not object to simplifying procedures, such a step must be supported by strengthening planning tools and the accountability system and must also duly respect Member States’ ownership and supervision prerogative.
JERRY MATJILA (South Africa), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, welcoming the centrality of the 2030 Agenda in the reform proposals, said the United Nations must be effective, efficient, transparent, accountable and people‑centred. South Africa would support proposals to simplify and normalize the United Nations’ programme plans and budgets, and would consider them in light of their impact on increased transparency, accountability and oversight by Member States. He emphasized that mandate delivery must continue as reforms are put in place, stating: “We do not have the luxury of pausing the Organization to implement the reforms.” Management reform should also not be seen in isolation with other reform initiatives, he added, stressing the need to strengthen the voice and representation of African and developing countries. He added that his country welcomed the Secretary‑General’s gender parity strategy and looked forward to its counterpart on geographical representation.
NABEEL MUNIR (Pakistan) stressed that streamlining processes and procedures should not undermine the oversight role of the General Assembly and other intergovernmental bodies, including the Advisory Committee and the Committee for Programme and Coordination. Any introspection and mandate review exercise should be based on lessons learned and cost benefit analysis of past policy changes in the United Nations system. Outcome of the reform proposals should protect the legitimate interests of all Member States, including those of the developing countries. Management reform should not be seen in isolation, he said, stressing that it was part of a broader reform initiative and should be conceived as such.
MOHAND TAHAR MOKHTARI (Algeria) said that his delegation supported the Secretary‑General’s efforts to reform and to strengthen trust, with the aim of improving efficiency and increasing the role of the United Nations in maintaining world peace and promoting common development. It was a vital and timely step as part of the wider effort to reform the Organization, making the United Nations more receptive and reactive. He also welcomed the Secretary‑General’s focus on human resource management and underlined the need for the reform to include wide, equitable geographical representation and to permit fair and equal job opportunities for both genders in all duty‑stations, including adequate representation of women from African countries.
TOSHIYA HOSHINO (Japan), affirming support for the Secretary‑General’s leadership in all areas of United Nations reform, stressed the importance of efficiency, effectiveness, accountability and transparency — as well as the proper balance between flexibility and discipline — in management of the Secretariat. The fundamental role of Member States in the effort, he said, was to establish consensus upon which the Secretary‑General could base detailed proposals. Towards that end, he pledged the active and constructive engagement of his delegation.
GABRIELA MARTINIC (Argentina), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said that her country appreciated the process of consultations initiated by the Secretary‑General with Member States to ensure that the Organization better responded to the demands of a rapidly changing world. Her country was committed to participating in upcoming debates on the different reform proposals of the Secretary‑General, such as those regarding the changing of the programme budgeting process. As such, Argentina was committed to working with the Secretary‑General towards the best outcome possible.
TORE HATTREM (Norway) said that his delegation saw great merit in the intent to clearly distinguish between strategic management, policy formulation and control and operational and logistic support. A new management paradigm was needed to guide the Secretariat and its leadership and, as such, many elements still needed to be explored, developed and tested. “It is high time for a more simplified budget process,” he emphasized, calling for greater authority for the Secretary‑General and increased transparency for Member States. Budget reform must be accompanied by sound systems for compliance, accountability and reporting. In that regard, the Secretary‑General must make good use of previous reviews and the extensive expertise already embedded in the Secretariat. As such, he urged the Secretary‑General to get changes and simplifications within his authority under way.
MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, welcomed the efforts led by the Secretary‑General towards a shift in the management paradigm of the United Nations, and his commitment to strengthening the development pillar. The level of detail and information made available for the consideration of budgetary proposals must be maintained, he said, also noting that meaningful reform required ownership of the process by the entire membership of the Organization. Reforms must increase transparency, accountability, effectiveness, and oversight in the Organization without altering its intergovernmental, multilateral and international character. He underscored the importance of equitable geographical representation and gender parity in the Secretariat, cautioning that they were still far from being adequately addressed throughout the Organization. Brazil stood ready to reach an outcome which led to a more effective and efficient United Nations.
INA HAGNININGTYAS KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China and ASEAN, said that the ambitious vision of the 2030 Agenda had challenged the United Nations to reorganize itself. Budgeting was an important instrument for translating the Organization’s priorities into actions and to measure accountability and performance in implementing actions. Efforts to streamline programme planning and budgeting should aim to achieve a more effective and efficient Organization, she stressed, adding that while securing the highest standards of efficiency and integrity were paramount considerations in recruitment, there also needed to be a more balanced gender and geographical representation.
FLORA CHRISTIANE SEKA-FOUAH (Côte d’Ivoire), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, expressed her country’s support for the reform proposals, noting that an annual budget would better align the Organization’s budget cycle with those of the majority of Member States. As a post‑crisis country, Côte d’Ivoire was paying special attention to the proposal to increase the level of expenses which the Secretary‑General could commit in the event of a Security Council decision regarding international peace and security. The proposal to decentralize decision‑making would meanwhile help the United Nations to better grasp local realities and concerns. She said that in her delegation’s opinion, the reforms were going in the right direction and it would support their implementation.
WU HAITAO (China), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, expressed appreciation for the “wisdom, courage and sense of responsibility” of the Secretary‑General in pushing for management reform. It was vital to strengthen the mutual trust between him and the Member States, he said, adding that the Secretariat should effectively enhance its internal capacity and strengthen accountability. In delegating authority within the Secretariat, it was necessary to ensure the alignment of responsibility with authority. Management reform must also continue to follow the established procedures and rules, and accommodate the legitimate concerns of the developing countries, he stressed.
CHO TAE‑YUL (Republic of Korea) said that management reform was the most important reform initiative pillar because it would provide the foundation for peace and security and development reform. “Management reform should be treated like the air we breathe — as a daily essential that we sometimes take for granted,” he said, calling for continued support for the Secretary‑General’s initiatives regardless of regions or groups. He went on to request that the Secretary‑General make further efforts to provide more concrete, constructive and feasible reform measures based on the opinions and advice by ACABQ members and Member States. The Secretary‑General must also engage with staff members in a more proactive manner so they could be fully aware of their ownership of the overall reform efforts and their indispensable role in moving forward. In terms of expanding the flexibility of financial resources, including easier budget redeployment, and considering ACABQ and Member State reservations on that proposal, he asked how the Secretary‑General would enhance his flexibility while addressing those concerns, especially in terms of balancing accountability with increased authority.
VIRACHAI PLASAI (Thailand), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China and ASEAN, said that the reform process must continue to be coherent to result in an Organization that was more efficient, transparent and nimble. Only an inclusive and Member‑State‑driven process could build the trust and broad‑based support it needed. Welcoming the emphasis on embedding a culture of accountability in the work of the Organization, he added that addressing fragmentation in the work culture was crucial, with attention to be paid to the scope of delegated authorities, reporting lines to the Headquarters and as well as increased engagement with host countries.
CARLOS ARTURO MORALES LÓPEZ (Colombia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that the United Nations must adjust and adapt to the twenty‑first century and the management paradigm must be shifted. As such, he valued the Secretary‑General’s commitment to gender parity and geographical representation. Moving from a biennial to annual budgeting process would shorten the cycle, make it possible to conclude the budgeting exercise and match it to reporting and accounting timelines. He also noted that another reform element was establishing a more simplified mechanism making it possible to better distribute and cover possible deficits. Such measures, among others explained in the Secretary‑General’s report, were general considerations for the Fifth Committee in adapting the Organization to respond to global events in a versatile manner.
SOUMAYA BOURHIL (Tunisia), associating with the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, said that management reform was the bedrock which would determine the success of reforms in other pillars. An effective, efficient and results‑based management system would enable to United Nations to meet its mandates. She pointed out that, in paragraph 5 of Secretary‑General’s report A/72/492, six obstacles had been identified by internal review that prevented the Secretariat from meeting its goals and responding to global challenges. Also, the Secretary‑General had laid out three main areas of reforms in his report, including architectural reform which would help implement all of the measures. Given the decisive nature of the reform, it was clear that the detailed report would be able to provide important information on operationalization, she observed. Moreover, a new leadership model would be able to deal with shortcomings in culture, and Tunisia would cooperate and collaborate in that initiative.
Mr. GUTERRES, responding to questions and comments, emphasized that the reform process had been a fully consultative one, and it would remain so going forward. The Secretariat would engage with staff members at the same level of commitment as it engaged with Member States. Reform was not about cutting staff or reducing costs; it was to improve delivery on the ground, he said, adding that improving regional diversity provided an opportunity to promote gender parity. He also said he understood the need to mitigate risk and to have a road map in place to ensure that Member States’ concerns were fully met.
He explained that budgeting on a yearly basis would mean that budgets would be based on two‑year‑old programme performance information, rather than five years, under the existing biennial system. He noted that, without the ability to redeploy resources, the Organization might not be able to respond to requests from the General Assembly or to respond within 24 hours to natural disasters. The proposed Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance and Department of Operational Support would eliminate duplication and hold programme managers accountable for mandate delivery. He stressed the importance of strengthening the role of senior managers, while increasing transparency.