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Press Conference By Chairman Of 'Group Of 77' On Secretariat, Management Reforms

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

9 February 2006

The “Group of 77” developing countries and China supported enhanced transparency and accountability within the United Nations, which was a responsibility for all Member States and not exclusively for the Secretariat, Group Chairman Dumisani Kumalo (South Africa) said this afternoon at a Headquarters press conference on Secretariat and management reforms.

He said management reform was a means to an end rather than an end in itself. Their aim was to enable the Organization to fulfil its mandate effectively and efficiently and to reinforce the supreme oversight authority of the General Assembly and the entire United Nations membership. Some of the proposed management changes were unusual for an intergovernmental organization, though they may be common to private sector corporations. However, the Group of 77 was committed to finding a way to accommodate them.

A correspondent asked about perceptions that the Group of 77 was trying to slow down attempts to clean up possible corruption within the Organization, as well as the pace of reform, particularly in light of the suspension of Secretariat officials from the Group’s membership.

The Chairman responded by emphasizing that any corruption in the United Nations went against the interests of developing countries, which benefited more from the Organization than all others. However, the Group disagreed with the current tendency among some senior Secretariat officials to discuss developments in the system in the media without informing the Member States, who must be involved given their overall oversight role.

Asked by the same journalists whether slowing down the mechanisms for reacting to problems in order to accommodate Group of 77 concerns did not, in fact, hurt reform efforts, the Chairman said that informing Member States about people who may have broken the law could not slow down reform. Secretariat officials were supposed to work with Member States and the Group preferred not to learn about developments through the media.

Pressed about perceived efforts to protect certain individuals who had been suspended or had come under the microscope because they were from Group of 77 countries, he reiterated that the Group’s interest was to be informed of whatever action was being taken. Ignoring the membership gave the impression that Group of 77 members were more tolerant of any transgressions that might happen. “This is the thing where the whole issue of management, when we have a debate, it’s the United States only that cares about this.” There are 191 Member States here, he stressed.

“If I may talk as South Africa for a minute, we contribute to this Organization”, he said. “My Government is also interested that there should be no corruption in this Organization”, he added, reiterating, “It’s not only an American interest and it’s not only of interest to the developed countries. Developing countries have the same interest. But ... we have the General Assembly that has the Charter responsibility of oversight. We have to be informed, that’s all we are saying. It doesn’t, therefore, mean that by asking to be informed we condone what’s happening.”

Another correspondent asked how optimistic he was, as co-chair of the consultations on the Human Rights Council, about the proximity of a deal.

Mr. Kumalo said that, while there had been movement on human rights and several other issues, the discussions were now focused on some very difficult questions, including that of the Council’s size, and whether its members should be elected by a simple or a two-thirds majority. A number of African, Asian and Caribbean delegations were insisting on a simple majority, while those from Latin America, Europe and elsewhere were insisting on two thirds.

He underlined that one thing had been accepted without question: each and every Member State nominated for membership would be subjected to an individual vote by the General Assembly. On the other sticking points, the General Assembly President was holding intensive bilateral discussions with various Member States, while the Secretary-General was trying to close the gaps in talks with capitals.

Asked when a deal was expected, he cited a letter from the General Assembly President, which stated that, ideally, the Human Rights Council should be in place before March, when the Commission on Human Rights started its meetings.

The same journalist asked whether the Group of 77 was involved in discussing candidates for the next Secretary-General and who could best fill the position. Mr. Kumalo replied that the African Group had decided a long time ago to support a candidate from Asia, which had a number of candidates.

Asked why South Africa had abstained from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) vote on Iran’s referral to the Security Council, he said it believed in the elimination of all nuclear weapons by whomever owned them, be it the five permanent Security Council members or anybody else. At the same time, South Africa believed in the right to peaceful use of nuclear technology. Regarding Iran’s referral, there was still room for negotiation.

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For information media • not an official record



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