15 March 2017, New York – European Union Statement by Mr. Gerton van den Akker, Chief of Staff, Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, United Nations General Assembly – 71th Session 1st Thematic Debate of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Revitalization of the General Assembly: Strengthening the Role and Authority of the General Assembly
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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 thematic meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Revitalization of the GA, which focuses on the role and authority of the Assembly. Let me also warmly thank the Secretariat representatives for their presence here today, their insightful briefings and the useful Q&A.
After two landmark resolutions that paved the way for a successful selection of a new Secretary-General and that significantly increased the public image of the UN through increased transparency and accountability, we have now arrived at a moment where we need to take stock of what we have achieved and critically look at what we would like to get out of the GA Revitalisation resolution this year. We believe that this year’s session should be devoted to new creative thinking, while fully supporting the SG’s reform efforts steered towards simplification, decentralization, and flexibility within the Organization. It should focus on delivery rather than procedure and on people rather than bureaucracy; with an emphasis on a culture of accountability and strong performance management as drivers of better outcomes.
Our first focus in that regard should be guided towards reflections on the role and authority of the GA, in line with the UN Charter and relevant resolutions. In our view, this intergovernmental body, with universal membership and a broad mandate with far-reaching responsibilities, needs to be able to take up the challenge of conciliating legitimacy and efficiency in a context of current global challenges. Hence, revitalization can only be ensured when the GA takes relevant action on issues of common concern to the international community and produces results. This includes the need for the GA to deliver its mandates more effectively, to look for creative ways to work, and to use its resources more sustainably. It is imperative that concrete steps are taken, at all levels, to spend more wisely, to deliver in new ways, including through leveraging the use of new technology and streamlining back-office administrative processes, and to ensure that the Organisation lives within the agreed budget levels. We are confident that it is the Secretariat’s intention to be of better service to the member states in this regard.
In this context, more should be done towards the rationalization of the agenda of the General Assembly, the ECOSOC and HLPF to eliminate duplication and overlap and to promote complementarity in the consideration of similar and related issues. We have been discussing this for a long time, with very modest results. Let’s be frank with each other and make this a true priority in our upcoming negotiations. Let’s truly work towards biennialization and triennialization of items, as well as their clustering or elimination, and/or explore options to introduce a sunset clause to resolutions, in order to free time and resources to focus on priorities. In this context we warmly welcome the process of alignment of the work of the General Assembly and ECOSOC on the 2030 Agenda, for which the Permanent Representatives of Australia and Argentina have been appointed to lead the consultations. We look forward to this process delivering tangible results, including reprioritization and the elimination of overlap where necessary.
At the same time, this body should continue to improve the working methods of Committees; leadership of the Chairs and the bureaus of the Main Committees is of great importance. Enhancing the role of the General Committee to support of the work of the General Assembly could be helpful in this regard and needs to be further explored, also based on last year’s discussion. We believe the PGA could play a leading role in this regard.
The GA revitalization process has led to a number of positive developments and has stimulated important discussions on many other issues such as the role and authority of the GA and our working methods. We value the interactive character of thematic debates, as well as a closer engagement of the GA 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 PGA to consult with Member States on the possibilities, where appropriate, and in the spirit of partnership, of engaging a broad range of stakeholders and achieving results-oriented outcomes in such debates. When it comes to the relationship of the GA with other principal organs of the UN, we believe that improving transparency, cooperation, and complementarity remains important and invite the PGA to continue working towards these goals.
Looking forward to the other upcoming thematic debates later this month and in April and building on the good experiences with informal hearings during the SG selection process last year, we could explore introducing this feature to the PGA election process to build on increased transparency and accountability. In addition, the decorum of meetings and the integrity of the High-level debate could be discussed in this year’s session. In addition, the ethics of elections in the context of the GA deserves proper attention in the AHWG. On the day of the election, member states should be prevented from handing out gifts in the GA Hall; we could also imagine that, in case member states feel the need to hand out gifts outside the hall, the value of such presents should have a value cap of a modest amount in US Dollars.
In concluding, let me highlight that increasing awareness of the GA and its important work to the “outside world” is pivotal. To this end we support enhanced interaction between the GA and civil society, including non-governmental organizations and the business community, private sector, academia and philanthropic organisations, which is also an important transparency measure. As to providing information to the public on the work of our own Ad Hoc Working Group, we would like to commend the Secretariat’s efforts in updating the GA revitalization website.
Allow me to once again thank you for convening today’s meeting and to say we look forward to the next thematic meetings. 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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