I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The countries of Central and Eastern Europe associated with the European Union – Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Associated Countries – Cyprus, Malta and Turkey, as well as the EFTA country of the European Economic Area – Iceland align themselves with this statement.
The European Union would like to thank the Secretary-General for his initiatives to further strengthen the Organisation. Under his leadership, we have come a long way towards modernising the United Nations. The European Union fully supports the process set in motion with the Secretary-Generals report.
Together we have improved the UNs effectiveness and stature, both here in New York and in the field.
If the United Nations is to be able to meet the continuing new challenges of this Millennium, there is much more to do. Above all, if the consensus around the development agenda has to be realized. A development agenda which took significant steps forward by the adoption of the Millennium Declaration, the decisions taken in Rome, Monterrey and Johannesburg and the increased focus on the African continent enshrined in the memberships unanimous support for the NEPAD.
We welcome the attention that these issues, among others, have received in the Secretary-Generals report. It shows that strengthening the Organisation is not an abstract activity pursued for its own purposes, but the means to change the lives and well-being of the worlds poor. It underlines that the ultimate aim of our work in the United Nations is to make the world a better place for the poor people of this planet.
Two years ago, Heads of State and Government set the goals and priorities of the Organisation. Having adopted the blueprint, now is the time to ensure that the Organisation is well equipped to implement these goals and priorities.
The Agenda, which we have before us, and the specific actions contained in it, constitutes an invitation by the Secretary-General to the Member States to strengthen the implementation capacity of the Organisation. In this way, the United Nations can better assist Member States in implementing the Millennium Declaration and other crucial mandates of this Organisation, including the follow-up to the Monterrey and Johannesburg summits. The European Union would like to accept this invitation and move swiftly to the hard work that will commence once this report has been endorsed by the General Assembly.
The Secretary-Generals proposed Actions focus on implementation. They are practical and down to earth. They should, within the coming years, bring tangible improvements to this Organisation. A clearer sense of the Organisations priorities means better and more efficient resource allocation. Not budget cuts.
Some things should be done right away by the Secretary-General. Others have to be endorsed by us the Member States. And others will have to be discussed further by the General Assembly in the years to come, based upon inter alia further reports or in connection with next years proposed budget for 2004-05.
This process will generate tangible advantages for the entire UN membership as well as the Secretariat and its valuable staff in terms of improved programme quality and delivery, transparency, accountability and value for money.
Let me give you a few examples of where the European Union believes that the Member States and the Secretary-General, working together in a spirit of partnership, can deliver these tangible benefits.
The Secretary-General proposes to review some specific programme activities so as to improve the UNs work, for instance on important issues such as human rights, information and in the economic and social area.
The European Union would like to stress the importance it attaches to strengthening the economic and social areas of activity in the United Nations, in particular in relation to Africa.
The world community has signed up to a new partnership for development, based on the Monterrey Consensus and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. In order for us to realize the commitments of the Millennium Summit and the results of the major UN conferences and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, thereby lifting more people out of poverty, implementation through this partnership for development has to be successful.
We attach special importance to giving high priority to Africa in the work of the United Nations. The birth of the African Union (AU), the consolidation of the New Partnership for Africas Development (NEPAD), and the recent positive prospects of ending some of Africas protracted conflicts in Angola, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia/Eritrea, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Somalia are notable political developments that call for continued, strong and focused co-operation between the UN system and Member States.
We see the proposed strengthening of the economic and social areas of activity in the United Nations against this overall background.
We agree with the Secretary-General that the Organisations presence in developing countries must be strengthened by improving its effectiveness. We welcome the proposal that the UN Development Group should draw up an Implementation Plan to this effect. We also welcome the steps towards clarifying the roles and responsibilities in the area of technical co-operation.
The managerial capabilities of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs must be strengthened, given the burdens it carries. There is a need for a clearer definition of responsibilities, including a better division of labour between Headquarters and the UNs field stations as well as improved coordination between Headquarters and regional levels, including regional commissions. We support the strengthening of the role of the Adviser for Special Assignments as a means of sustaining the Organisations stronger policy focus on Africa.
In this regard, we also emphasize the need to consolidate and strengthen the cooperation between the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions.
The European Union remains supportive of involving civil society and the private sector in the work of the Organisation. We look forward to the recommendations on improving modalities for the United Nations interaction with civil society.
On human rights, the proposals of the Secretary-General identify the key areas where activities need to be reviewed and possibly strengthened. This is an area of work on which the European Union has always placed a high priority. And it is a matter of importance and concern for the General Assembly as a whole, so there must be the necessary degree of consultation with the relevant inter-governmental bodies in the implementation of the proposed changes.
The proposals for further improvement of the UN information work are very important. Strengthening the Organisation in this field is crucial in securing continued popular support behind the United Nations as the worlds primary inter-governmental organisation. Information work is constantly changing, driven by technological advance. That in turn requires a constant process of appraisal to make sure that the United Nations is reaching its target audiences and getting the message across with the most effective means possible. Reviewing the role of the UN Information Centres should be seen in that context and deserves serious consideration. The European Union stands ready in principle to take up the challenge in the Secretary-Generals proposal aimed at making the information work in Europe more efficient and looks forward to participating in discussions about its practical implementation, taking into account regional needs.
The budget cycle of the United Nations clearly needs modernisation, so it can better serve a modern and efficient Organisation like the United Nations. The important first step is a more transparent and strategic budget document, which clearly sets out the Organisations priorities and consequent resource requirements.
Therefore, the measures proposed by the Secretary-General on how best to present the budget to us – such as presentation of our priorities, briefer and more strategic documentation, fewer and more focused meetings, and strengthening of the oversight and evaluation services – are very helpful.
We agree that the programme budget for the biennium 2004-05, which will be submitted to us in 2003, should be thoroughly revised, so that it better reflects the priorities agreed to at the Millennium Assembly. Obviously, this must be done within the overall framework of the Medium-Term Plan.
Similarly, our daily work will become more transparent and focused when we have streamlined the jungle of reports and meetings. Documents that are on time and more to the point and better management of the General Assembly and conference services means greater efficiency. And it will give better opportunities for all to play a more significant role in our work.
We support the continuing improvement of the Human Resources Management in the coming years. An Organisations most valuable asset is its staff, and an Agenda for strengthening the United Nations must also address the need to continue to enhance the competence of UN personnel.
It is also crucial that Member States shoulder their responsibilities and find ways to streamline the inter-governmental process. Important work has already begun on ways to revitalise the General Assembly.
We have noted that the Secretary-Generals proposed actions regarding the budget generally build on the framework already established by the General Assembly, for the budget cycle in general, for the introduction of Results Based Budgeting and for the Financial Rules and Regulations. We believe that the UN membership should endorse this roadmap for streamlining the implementation of these existing mandates. We recognise that concerns among the membership have to be addressed. In our view, we should allow ourselves sufficient time to deal with these concerns. But we should also, at this session of the General Assembly, agree on the goal to be achieved: A more transparent, results-oriented and strategic budget for our Organisation.
In response to the Secretary-General’s report, the Member States must now show the leadership needed and give a renewed mandate to the Secretary-General in order to strengthen the Organisation.
We will formulate our joint vision of new and more modern ways of doing business in the United Nations and ask the Secretary-General to start implementation.
At the same time, we must all be aware that the proposed measures cannot be implemented automatically or overnight. We, the Member States, will come back to these issues, in close dialogue with the Secretary-General, as part of the regular inter-governmental consultation once the detailed implementation gets under way.
Achieving this calls for deliberations at a high level. Permanent Representatives, the President of the General Assembly, the Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General have an important task to perform in the coming days and weeks.
We will look to you, Mr. President, to lead us towards taking this first important step over the next few weeks.
Please be reassured of our full co-operation to this end.
Thank you, Mr. President.