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19 January 2016, New York – Statement by the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations at the United Nations General Assembly 70th Session, 1st meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the revitalization of the General Assembly – general debate

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Co-Chairs,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.

The Candidate Countries Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia, and Georgia align themselves with this statement.

Thank you, Co-Chairs, for convening this first meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Revitalization of the General Assembly. I would like to congratulate you once again on your reappointment as Co-Chairs of the Ad Hoc Working Group. This reappointment is a testament to your excellent work done in the Ad Hoc Working Group in the 69th session of the General Assembly and the significant progress achieved in the corresponding GA resolution 69/321.  We wish you success also for this year and express our support for the upcoming work. Let me also highlight that the significant novelties achieved in resolution 69/321 would not have been possible without the flexibility shown by all UN Member States engaged in the negotiations.

Co-Chairs,

The European Union and its Member States are strongly attached to effective multilateralism with the United Nations at its core. Strengthening of the UN, based on effective and sustainable funding – in line with real capacity to pay, and increasing the efficiency of its functioning – on which there is scope to do more, remain our top priorities. In this context, we continue to be committed to revitalization and to supporting efforts aimed at strengthening the role and authority of the GA, in line with the UN Charter and relevant resolutions. Indeed, we wish that the GA, as the only intergovernmental body with universal membership and given its broad mandate with far-reaching responsibilities, is able to take up the challenge of conciliating legitimacy and efficiency in a context of emerging global challenges. At the same time, we wish to reiterate that it is imperative that concrete steps are taken, at all levels, to spend more wisely, to deliver in new ways, and to ensure that the Organisation lives within the agreed budget levels. This applies to all activities of the UN, from peacekeeping, to construction, to the regular budget. An unceasing effort to find new and creative ways to work is essential to achieve more effective delivery of mandates and sustainable use of resources. We believe that revitalization can be ensured only when the GA takes relevant action on issues of common concern to the international community and produces results. By doing so, it lives up to its role as one of the principal organs of the UN.

The GA revitalization process has led to positive developments such as, for example, the thematic debates which facilitate more in-depth discussions on current issues of critical importance to the international community. The EU and its Member States especially value the interactive character of thematic debates allowing closer engagement of the General Assembly with other stakeholders, international and regional organizations and groups outside the United Nations system. We look forward to the continuation of this practice and invite the President of the General Assembly to consult with Member States on the possibilities, where appropriate, in the spirit of partnerships engaging a broad range of stakeholders and achieving result-oriented outcomes in such debates. We also recognize the importance of the interaction between the GA and international or regional fora and organizations dealing with global matters of concern to the international community and the benefits to be drawn from such interaction.

We appreciate the continued practice of holding periodic informal briefings by the Secretary-General on his priorities, travels and most recent activities, including his participation in international meetings and events organized outside the United Nations, and encourage him to continue with this practice.

As to the relationship of the General Assembly to other principal organs of the UN, the EU and its Member States believe that improving transparency and cooperation remain important goals. The General Assembly should benefit from information about the meetings between the Presidents of the General Assembly, the Security Council, ECOSOC, as well as with the Chairs of subsidiary bodies.

On the issue of working methods, we wish to recall the need to consider and take steps towards the rationalization of the agenda of the General Assembly and of the ECOSOC with a view to eliminating duplication and overlap and promoting complementarity in the consideration and negotiation of similar and related issues. In this context, it is important to point out General Assembly resolution 68/1. Let me also highlight the important role played by the President of the General Assembly with regards these issues. His informal consultations with the Chairs of the Main Committees and the President of ECOSOC once again showed that there is a need to address synergies, coherence, and complementarity of the General Assembly agenda, including its Committees and the ECOSOC. We value his commitment to help take this process forward. We have agreed in resolution 69/321 and previous resolutions that it would be appropriate to examine further the biennialization and triennialization of items, as well as their clustering or elimination, including through the introduction of a sunset clause, with the clear consent of the sponsoring State or States. In this regard, leadership of the Chairs and the bureaus of the Main Committees is of great importance. I would like to highlight in particular the efforts of the Chairs of the Main Committees in the 69th and the current session to improve working methods in the Committees.  Let me recall on this occasion the joint letter of all Chairs of the Main Committees in the 69th session, dated 13 April 2015, with specific proposals to streamline working methods which proved most helpful in making further progress in this area. We appreciate the continued constructive work with the Committee Chairs of the 70th session and look forward to their briefings to the Ad Hoc Working Group in a few weeks’ time. We are encouraged by the general recognition of the need for the Second Committee to respond comprehensively and coherently to the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  We note with appreciation that the Second Committee will convene a meeting early this year to continue its discussion on the revitalization of its Committee and fully support the ongoing efforts of the Chair to collect ideas and propose ways forward in this endeavor in line with GA resolution 69/321. We welcome similar initiatives by the Chairs of the other Committees during the present session. 

Although each Main Committee has its own authority over the rules of procedure, we believe that streamlining and standardizing some would lead to more efficient work of the Committees. We would like to stress as well the importance of making full use of e-services provided by the Secretariat. The widespread use by Main Committees and Member States alike of such e-services, including the PaperSmart portal, has had a positive impact on the work of the General Assembly during its main session, while it has also saved considerable amount of resources, energy and paper. We have to continue to work in that direction.

We look forward to an active role of the Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly, including in his capacity of the Chair of the General Committee, and the Chairs of the Main Committees, in consultation with Member States, to enhance the coordination of the scheduling of high level meetings with the view to optimizing their number and distribution throughout the year while bearing in mind the need to preserve the integrity of the General Debate. We believe that the General Committee could play a useful role in this process.

Also, we would like to stress the importance of the implementation of all resolutions of the General Assembly, including on the revitalization of its work, and note its impact on the authority, effectiveness and efficiency of the General Assembly. Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly is clearly interlinked with the overall reform of the United Nations.

Co-Chairs,

Resolution 69/321 can be seen as a milestone in enhancing the transparency and inclusivity of the selection process of the next Secretary-General. We trust that the President of the General Assembly will continue to ensure the necessary follow up, and welcome the issuing of the joint letter by him and the President of the Security Council of last December to begin soliciting candidates for the position of Secretary-General as foreseen in resolution 69/321. We look forward to the holding of informal dialogues or meetings with candidates for the position, which is a true novelty.

On the functions of the Office of the President of the General Assembly, efforts to strengthen the institutional memory of the office remain of great importance and are to the benefit of all of us. To this end, efforts to encourage cooperation between incumbent and incoming PGAs could prove most useful. With the evolving work load of the GA, the EU and its Member States are firmly committed to identifying and implementing possible rationalisation and improvements in the definition of the role of the PGA in support of the work of the GA and in the effective and efficient functioning of the office.

Resolution 69/321 encourages the PGA to continue the practice of periodically briefing Member States on his or her activities, including official travel. We see this as not only a valuable source of information, but also an important act of transparency for the Member States. As the Chair of this principal body of the UN, with its universal membership, it is paramount that the President of this assembly embodies transparency and accountability for all stakeholders. As the Secretary-General has stated, all of us have a responsibility to work together to make sure that this Organization, its officials, and its representatives comply fully with all relevant rules and regulations, and carry out their duties with full transparency before the eyes of the world. We need to strive to uphold the highest level of integrity and ethical standards throughout the UN.

Finally, let me emphasize the important role the Ad Hoc Working Group on the revitalization of the work of General Assembly plays. I would like to assure you that the EU and its Member States will continue to engage in a constructive manner in the proceedings of the Ad Hoc Working Group.

I thank you.


* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process..

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