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PRESS CONFERENCE BY GROUP OF 77 ON UNITED NATIONS REFORM

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

26 April 2006

Far from being a private corporation, in which those contributing the most to the budget could demand the greatest input in decision-making, the United Nations membership was assessed according to each Member State’s ability to pay, and the Charter granted each the right to pronounce on the running of the Organization, Dumisani Shadrack Kumalo, Permanent Representative of South Africa, said at a Headquarters press conference this morning.

Responding to correspondents’ questions in his capacity as Chairman of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, he said the Group disagreed profoundly with a proposal that would enable a “small representative group of States” to make all key decisions on budgetary matters. It was not clear who had decided who was representative and who was not. Another “very divisive” issue had to do with the flexibility of the Secretary-General, who, as clearly spelled out in the Charter, was the Organization’s chief administrative officer. While he may ask his deputy to assist him, the Deputy Secretary-General could neither become another source of power, nor begin to assume the role of Secretary-General, who was hired by Member States.

Asked what authorities the small group of nations and the proposed reforms would take away from Member States, specifically in personnel and budgetary terms, Mr. Kumalo said that, in the last few months, the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, and other countries contributing the largest proportion to the United Nations budget, had been saying they must have a greater say. “We thank them for paying 82 per cent of the budget, but we are saying that doing so does not entitle them to have a larger voice and to then decide for the rest of the membership, because that goes against the Charter.”

He recalled that, during the last debate on the budget, the United States, Japan and the European Union had said they were putting a spending cap on the Organization, because they wanted it reformed according to their wishes and, if that was not done, the United Nations would have no money by 30 June. That was the sword hanging over the Organization, and the Group of 77 would fight the budget cap. The Group had made clear to ambassadors John Bolton ( United States) and Kenzo Oshima ( Japan) that it expected the Secretary-General to have the resources needed to run the Organization come 30 June.

Another journalist, pointing out that successful adoption of the draft resolution on reform (document A/C.5/60/L.37/Rev.1) before the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) would undoubtedly delay management reforms that were taken very seriously by some of the countries mentioned, asked whether the Group of 77 did not risk providing ammunition to critics of the United Nations, enabling them to undermine the Organization, which was extremely important to African countries.

Mr. Kumalo replied that those with the means to fund the United Nations were forcing the rest of the membership to give up their rights under the Charter. “We think that is not right. We are saying that the Charter, which we all believe in, says we have the right to pronounce on this Organization. What’s wrong with us wanting to pronounce?”

He added that he had never seen the Group of 77 as solid as it was now, because its members realized that accepting such a proposal would marginalize a number of countries. Why then should countries pay their dues to belong to the Organization if they were to be kept away from decision-making? “It’s a very defining moment for the United Nations,” he added. The United Nations mattered to the Group of 77, but did it matter so much that they must give away their fundamental rights under the Charter?

Asked whether he agreed with a recent editorial to the effect that more diplomacy on the part of the United States would have gone a long way towards agreement, he said the Group of 77 agreed with about 80 per cent of the Secretary-General’s report. The disagreement concerned the proposed “small representative group of States”, especially if that proposal was predicated on those who contributed the most funding, and the “farming out” of the Secretary-General’s Charter-mandated role to deputies.

To a question regarding who was claiming that the Group of 77 was pushing the United Nations into a crisis, he replied it was the United States, United Kingdom and European Union. They were the ones pushing the Organization into a crisis, by trying to force the developing countries to agree to “very undemocratic things”.

Earlier, Mr. Kumalo said the role, prerogatives and responsibilities of Member States in the General Assembly had no relation to Secretariat management reform or to the Charter-defined role of the Secretary-General, and the suggestion that the draft resolution in any way obstructed management reform was wrong. Reform should be meaningful, strengthen the Organization’s ability to implement its mandate effectively and enable it to serve the interests of the entire membership.

The voice of every Member State must be heard and respected during the reform process, irrespective of its contributions to the United Nations budget, he said. Every Member State’s right to an equal say in the Organization’s decision-making must be upheld, and to suggest that a small and representative group of Member States could replace the membership’s role in carrying out the General Assembly’s oversight responsibilities was to deny each member its due role and an attempt to amend the equality of Member States as enshrined in the Charter.

He said a great deal had been made of the three reports that the Secretary-General would be issuing in May (on information and communication technology, financial management practices, and performance evaluation and reporting of the Secretariat), June (on procurement practices) and September (on human resources management). Every Member State had supported the timelines for their issuance and agreed that they would be necessary to help them make the necessary decisions. To suggest that developing countries had requested the reports to delay reform was just not true.

More than two thirds of the draft resolution consisted of paragraphs adopted by consensus during the negotiations this month, he said. The Group of 77 was encouraged that other Member States had been able to support its proposals regarding the importance of strengthening accountability in the Secretariat. All Member States would be able to join the consensus if they objectively assessed the draft’s content and if they were willing to pronounce on the right of every single Member State to participate, on an equal footing, in the Organization’s decision-making. A decision to the contrary would go against the letter and spirit of the Charter.

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For information media • not an official record



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