Statement by Ambassador Hjálmar W. Hannesson
Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations
on behalf of the Nordic Countries
Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden
Informal thematic debate of the General Assembly
Towards a Common Understanding on Management Reform
8-9 April 2008
I have the honor to speak on behalf of the five Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland.
Let me begin by thanking you, Mr. President, for organizing this important thematic debate on Management Reform, as well as for your introductory statement. I would also like to thank the Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, for his statement.
The Nordic countries agree that the time is right to take stock of the progress made on Management Reform since the 2005 World Summit, and evaluate the challenges ahead. The final aim of our discussions should be, as the theme indicates, to reach a common understanding on management reform and on the need to enhance our efforts to achieve sustained management reforms in the organization.
In recent decades, the activities undertaken by the UN have increased dramatically, and the multitude of mandated tasks has required expansion in the organization’s financial, administrative and human resource requirements. This has challenged the ability of the secretariat to keep up and adapt to different circumstances.
It is our strong belief that management reform is clearly needed for the secretariat to effectively manage these changing realities of the organization. However, it is important that reform is not regarded as a goal in itself, only aimed at identifying savings, but rather as a necessary measure to strengthen UN’s capability to comply with its principles, objectives and mandates. In short – reforms will enable the organization to do more, and to do it better.
The principles of accountability and transparency should be at the center of UN’s management reform process. Just as Member States need to be transparent and accountable to their own constituencies, UN management needs to be transparent and accountable to Member States, both when it comes to the implementation of mandates and management of resources. This is also essential so as to build the necessary trust among Member States, as well as between Member States, management and staff.
Considerable measures have already been taken to strengthen accountability and transparency within the United Nations, but more needs to be done. We therefore look forward to reviewing the Secretary General's recommendations on an accountability framework and hope that we can do so in the near future.
Let me briefly touch upon the three reform areas suggested as the focus topics for our debate, all of which we agree are crucial for strengthening the work of the United Nations:
First, the way mandates are formulated, implemented and evaluated deserves the membership's attention. We agree that Member States must become better custodians of their mandates. As such, we need to strengthen the mandate cycle and during the formulation process, Member States need to be informed about the full context of the proposed mandates, including financial implications. Moreover, the intergovernmental body from which the mandates originate needs to receive transparent and timely information about their implementation and effectiveness. Likewise, gaps, overlaps and duplications have to be dealt with and reporting requirements need to be reviewed. Another important issue is avoiding a gap between mandates and resources.
Reforming the Planning and Budgetary Process of the UN is a second area of crucial importance. The reform of this process should be guided by adherence to result-based management, of which results-based budgeting is an important component. Also important in this context is reforming the system-wide information and communications technology system.
And last, but not least, Human Resource Management Reform is amongst the most urgently needed reforms at the UN. A number of proposals are on the table, and the Nordic countries were disappointed that despite considerable efforts during the first resumed session of the 5th committee, the committee failed to arrive at a conclusion. We sincerely hope that discussions on this important issue will prove to be more fruitful this coming fall.
The Four Nations Initiative presents a number of interesting recommendations on all of these three focus areas. The recommendations deserve our attention and we believe they could provide an interesting input into the intergovernmental discussions.
While in the short run, some parts of management reforms may prove to be costly in financial terms, the Nordic countries believe that those costs should be weighed against the long term gains the organization stands to achieve upon their implementation. In effect, by investing in reform we secure UN’s legitimacy and ensure that the organization can deliver better results more efficiently. It is hence essential that the membership is ready to finance the reforms needed. At the same time, Member States and the secretariat have to ensure that management reform is accompanied by sound financial management and effective use of existing resources.
We do realize that reform is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Going forward, it is important that we build on the considerable progress made. We need to engage in constructive dialogue on the various reform processes, ensure implementation of the already agreed reforms, and to be open to new proposals presented to us. In our view, the 5th committee remains the appropriate forum for such consultations and negotiations.
Furthermore, for this process to be successful there needs to be a common understanding of a need for sustained reforms, as well as of the nature of the reforms needed. The Nordic countries hope that our discussions during this thematic debate will strengthen this common understanding, and we are willing to actively engage in this important process.