UN Gen'l Assembly approves reforms

US calls reforms a "positive first step."

annan 88 (photo credit: )
annan 88
(photo credit: )
The General Assembly unanimously approved a series of reforms which the United States called a long overdue but positive first step toward greater efficiency and accountability in the United Nations. The 191-member world body adopted the reform resolution Friday by consensus a week after it lifted a US$950 million spending cap on the UN budget over objections from the United States, Japan, Australia and Canada, who wanted to keep the lid to press for management reforms. US deputy ambassador Mark Wallace, who is responsible for UN management and reform issues, told the assembly after the resolution's adoption that the United States looks forward to implementation of the reform measures, but "we believe at the same time that critical elements are still missing." Secretary-General Kofi Annan proposed a raft of management reforms a year ago and got world leaders' backing at a summit last September, but developed and developing countries have been at odds over how to implement the measures. The United States and richer countries have demanded greater flexibility for the secretary-general and the UN Secretariat, but poorer countries have been reluctant to give up power over the UN budget and administrative matters. The resolution adopted Friday authorizes some improvements to the UN's oversight system, approves internationally accepted accounting standards for the organization, establishes an information technology chief, and decides to replace the UN's long-outdated information management system. It authorizes Annan "on an experimental basis," to spend up to US$20 million in 2006-2007 and again in 2008-2009 to meet the UN's needs, which will give the UN chief some budget flexibility. It also gives the secretary-general US$706,600 to strengthen the UN purchasing system pending action by the General Assembly at its next session, which starts in September, on his upcoming report on procurement reform. General Assembly President Jan Eliasson, while noting that the reform process is still under way, welcomed the resolution's adoption by consensus after difficult negotiations in the budget committee and expressed hope that the "cooperative atmosphere" that led to agreement will prevail. "By the decision today, we have contributed to the strengthening of the United Nations," he said. "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." South Africa, as head of the Group of 77 which represents 132 mainly developing countries and China, said the resolution showed member states could reach consensus "because we are committed to the strengthening of this organization", not due to the threat of a spending cap. Wallace, the US envoy, said that the new measures "while long overdue, represent positive first steps toward achievement of the types of Secretariat and management reform" agreed to at last September's summit. "They will only have value, however, if they are implemented in a timely and cost-effective manner, and if they are accompanied by additional reforms," he said. Members decided to put off key reforms until the next General Assembly session, including overhauling UN procurement rules and the internal UN justice system as well as human resources reforms and proposals on governance and accountability.