The Permanent Mission of Iceland
to the United Nations
Statement by Mr. Harald Aspelund
Deputy Permanent Representative of Iceland
to the United Nations
at the informal thematic consultations of the General Assembly
on Cluster IV (The imperative for collective action: strengthening the United Nations)
contained in the report of the Secretary General
(In larger freedom: towards development, security and human rights for all)
New York, 27-28 April, 2005
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
First of all allow me to reaffirm Iceland’s ongoing commitment to the UN Charter and to the success of the reform process instigated by the Secretary-General.
General Assembly: One of the litmus tests for how serious we are as member states in reforming the United Nations will be the extent to which we succeed in reforming our central forum – the General Assembly. The Secretary-General makes a number of pointed criticisms of the Assembly. These criticisms are not new and therefore we have little excuse for not deciding on and implementing serious streamlining of the committee system and a rigorous refining of the agenda to make it relevant to issues of the day. Strengthening the position and resources of the President is also a practical measure to contribute to more effective leadership and running of the General Assembly.
As a smaller member state Iceland attaches great importance to the effectiveness of the General Assembly, which is the universally representative organ of the UN. We are therefore ready to work hard with other member states to bring about meaningful change.
Human Rights Council: We have already expressed support for the proposals by the Secretary-General on establishing a new Human Rights Council elected by the General Assembly. His proposals have the potential to reinvigorate the role of the UN in the field of human rights and to revive the credibility of the UN. The establishment of a Human Rights Council will also necessitate a close look at the work of the third committee in New York. We would be prepared to endorse, in principle, the establishment of a Council in the September Summit’s final declaration in line with the Secretary-General’s proposal.
Security Council: We have on a number of occasions underlined our view that reform of the Security Council is urgent to bring it into line with changed geopolitical realities, including an increase in permanent and non-permanent seats. We have also expressed concerns that the proposals made by the High Level Panel could potentially exclude smaller states, thus undermining the legitimacy of the Security Council. On this occasion I would like to limit my comment to stating that the reform of the Security Council, while very important, is by no means the only issue, and that this process should not be allowed to block the other much needed reforms on the table.
Peacebuilding Commission: Iceland fully supports the emphasis placed by the Secretary-General on peace building. A key proposal in the Secretary-General’s report is for a new body which would assist countries in transition from war to lasting peace. We support the overall recommendations in the explanatory note from the Secretary General on the functions, modalities and membership of a future Peacebuilding Commission.
ECOSOC: I think many would concur that ECOSOC could and should work better. It has enormous potential and Iceland will work with partner countries to make sure that ECOSOC is given its due role and is equipped to fulfil it.
Secretariat: It is essential that the UN Secretariat be equipped to deal with the challenges we, the member states, thrust upon it. I would like at this point to praise the Secretariat under the inspirational leadership of the Secretary-General and a number of other top officials for its committed and professional work in many areas. But as in any large organisation adjustments are needed, new skills need to be brought in and a more rapid renewal of staff may be required than can be achieved by natural turnover. Such may entail some expense in the short term – but with dividends in the long run.
It is also for the member states to ensure that we are not imposing too many tasks on the Secretariat and spreading resources too thinly. Iceland, therefore, is ready to follow the request of the Secretary-General to review all mandates older than five years in the General Assembly to see whether they are still needed.
System coherence: We concur that efforts to improve coordination of UN activities at the country level is an essential part of the overall reform process. Although progress has been made in recent years, more needs to be done to fight competing behaviour between UN agencies.
We welcome the Secretary-General´s proposal to establish a Council of Development Advisers. However, our attention in the next years must be focused on implementation on the ground and on improving the efficiency of the institutions that have been given the task to provide the assistance.
Charter of the UN: Iceland supports the proposals regarding amendments to the Charter.