"Extracts on UN reform, including relations with pro-Palestinian NGOs, from US Ambassador to the UN Bolton's Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee"
The Prepared Statement
One key task is to identify those programs that we consider to be the best run in terms of efficiency, accountability, transparency, and, of course, performance. As has been discussed before by many officials, both within the UN system and in member state governments, there are several identifiable factors that seem to account for the variation in performance of UN agencies.
One factor appears to be the size of the management structure. Simply put, more is not necessarily better and, in fact, can make a body unwieldy. The logic here is not complicated and is, in fact, the very reason I speak today before a Committee and not the Senate as a whole. The problem, of course, comes with changing structures where countries, or sometimes individuals themselves, have vested interests in remaining part of a particular UN agency. The consequence, of course, is a myriad, almost bewildering range of UN governing councils, executive boards, assemblies, commissions, committees, conferences, ‘open-ended working groups,’ panels of ‘independent’ experts, and subsidiary bodies, not to mention the proliferation of agencies, programs, funds, organizations, missions, secretariats, offices, tribunals, facilities, institutes, representatives, envoys and observers. There is continuing pressure for high level conferences due in part to the plethora of UN bodies and mandates, all of which at some point seek high level affirmation through a conference. Another factor is that most member states, as well as the UN Secretariat, bear little or no financial cost for staging conferences. None of this is to deny that it is sometimes necessary to hold high-level conferences when transnational problems require us to push the frontiers of cooperation. Where conference agendas conflict or overlap with the mandates of other institutions or simply review outcomes of earlier conferences, however, their costs – both financial and political in terms of re-opening issues – far outweigh the benefits.
Transcript of Statement as Delivered
There is no doubt that the activities of many of these institutions can be rationalized, and that some of them can be merged or eliminated, having outlived whatever usefulness they might once have had. One might go further and ask what the clear distinction is between the Second and Third Committees, — and they with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) — for which there seems to be considerable overlap. Moreover, all of the Committees are committees of the whole, which leads again to the problem of unwieldy bodies forced to accept the lowest common denominator in terms of outcomes.
We and others have urged the secretariat not to wait until next year to do the task that the Outcome Document has given to them, but to try, if at all possible, to respond by mid-November, which would give us – and this is in the area of things like mandate review, which is a shorthand way of saying we have asked the secretary-general to review existing tasks that have been given to the secretariat over decades by the General Assembly; that we want the secretary-general’s advice on whether some of these mandates are outmoded, whether they’ve outlived their usefulness, whether they simply don’t rise to a sufficient level of priority that they ought to be continued. And we think, in that category, for example, of mandates, both by the General Assembly and some decisions [divisions?] in the secretariat that have created three offices on Palestinian affairs that, given developments between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, we think now are outdated.
But there are many, many potentially outdated mandates that we’d like to hear back from the secretary-general on.
We are hopeful that if the secretariat could provide its input by mid-November, as I say, that that would give us an opportunity by mid- December to factor the results of the secretariat’s work into our consideration of the next biennium budget.
If we fail to meet that target, we are concerned – and we’ve expressed this concern to the secretariat – that we may lose a full two years before many of these review – before many of these reform priorities can be implemented and therefore reflected in the budget.
Now we have suggested to the secretariat that – and to some other member governments – that we try to think of a U.N. analogy to a continuing resolution. It’s a different circumstance, obviously, but the idea is that if we were not able to – if the secretariat was not able to complete its work on the ongoing management reform issues by the time of the adoption of the biennium budget, that perhaps we could adopt a kind of temporary budget – let’s say for the first quarter of 2006 – that would give us a little bit more time, give the secretariat a little bit more time, and give the member governments more time to consider the additional suggestions the secretariat could make, and have them then reflected in the budget that would carry on for the remainder of the biennium.
That’s a difficult task in the U.N. system. But as I say, if the alternative is losing a full two years, we think we need to explore that kind of possibility.