Magazine article UN Chronicle , Vol. 24
Reform measures called |blueprint' for a more efficient Organization
"We have just concluded what was in many ways a historic session", declared General Assembly President Humayun Rasheed Choudhury of Bangladesh on the evening of 19 December, shortly after the 159-member plenary had ended its work for 1986.
In opening the forty-first Assembly three months before, on 16 September, he had made a plea to the international community to Work towards a "better United Nations for a better world". By the time the world body suspended the session, it had, he believed, moved closer to that goal.
This Assembly had begun its work as "a deepening financial crisis was gathering force and momentum," a situation "exacerbated by the erosion of confidence in the United Nations system on the part of many Members", Mr. Choudhury recalled.
"We took on the crisis and confronted it boldly", with "grim determination and unflinching commitment" to the principles of the Charter, he affirmed. And he was confident that, as the session ended its work in December, "global confidence in the credibility of the United Nations system has been largely restored".
The crucial issue on the 146-item agenda was a review of the efficiency of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations. The session's crowning achievement was agreement on wide-ranging reforms involving nearly every aspect of the running of the Organization, in particular the programme budget process.
Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, who was appointed to a second five-year term on 10 October, called the measures a "blueprint for a more efficient United Nations". He told the Assembly on 19 December the measures were of "cardinal importance for the future of this Organization as an effective force for progress and for peace".
"What we tried to get", President Choudhury explained, "was the broadest possible agreement on budget preparation, recognizing the need for the long-term financial viability of the United Nations and ensuring that every Member State's concerns are met." And, he added, "every art and procedure known to the profession of diplomacy was applied to arrive at the agreed draft resolution".
In that respect, the 1986 Assembly is likely to be remembered not just for what it did, but also the way it did it. The reform measures emerged from one of the most intricate diplomatic processes in the history of the Organization, extending over nearly the entire year. Lengthy closed sessions of the 18-member Group of High-level Inter-governmental Experts appointed to study the system's functioning yielded 71 recommendations for its improvement. The recommendations were then discussed exhaustively throughout the Assembly session by the plenary, contact groups set up by the Assembly President, and the Assembly's Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), before culminating in a resolution (41/213) calling for implementation of nearly all of the "Group of 18" recommendations and setting forth new guidelines for the programme budget.
Adoption of the reforms amply demonstrated that "given commitment and political will we can solve any issue, however complex, however sensitive", President Choudhury said.
Commitment and political will were evident throughout the 1986 session, as delegates - at times surprising even themselves, it seemed - took to heart the Assembly President's exhortation to adhere to schedules and work programmes, and to carry on their work in a manner that would ensure what President Choudhury called "constructive, purposeful and coherent discussions aimed at achieving practical and implementable decisions".
Through "mergers where possible, consensus where desirable and reductions where practicable", the number of resolutions was reduced, President Choudhury pointed out. At the forty-first session, 310 resolutions and 92 decisions were adopted, compared with 346 resolutions and 96 decisions at the fortieth session. …