Magazine article UN Chronicle

The World Assembles Once Again

Magazine article UN Chronicle

The World Assembles Once Again

Article excerpt

During the General Debate of its current fifty-first session, the United Nations General Assembly heard statements from 12 Heads of State, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, 6 other Ministers and 22 Permanent Representatives or other Envoys. As in last year's debate, reform, revitalization and the financial crisis of the United Nations were prominent themes for many speakers. Other major issues were the adoption of the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty, the fight against organized crime, terrorism and drug trafficking. Regional security was once again a very prominent feature in the debate, with particular focus on the crisis in the Great Lakes region and the Middle East peace process. High priority was also given to development issues, in particular the widening gap between North and South.

In the following pages, we look at some of the principal points made in the General Debate and the subsequent meetings of the Assembly's Main Committee: First (disarmament and international security matters), Second (economic and financial questions), Third (social, humanitarian and cultural issues), Fourth (special political questions and decolonization), Fifth (administrative and budgetary subjects) and Sixth (legal matters).

During General Debate, almost every Member State underlined the great importance of United Nations reform to prepare the Organization for the next millennium.

The reform of the Secretariat was welcomed by many countries, including the United States, Japan, Slovenia, Andorra, the Marshall Islands, Angola, Fiji and Latvia. However, there was some concern about how it should be achieved and its effects. Slovenia considered that downsizing should become part of a wider change characterized by a clear definition of UN principles and with adequate allocation of human and material resources. However, Botswana believed that in some areas, additional staff could be the catalyst for enhanced effectiveness and efficiency; while Uruguay observed that the current problems lay "far deeper than the pursuit of administrative efficiency or the rationalization of functions". Malaysia was openly critical of "corporate downsizing" by the major Powers and Norway pointed out that the Secretary-General's hands were often tied when it came to redirecting resources to conflict-ridden areas.

Multilateralism was another prominent feature: Brazil warned that UN reform was needed to stem unilateralism; while Suriname emphasized the indispensable nature of the United Nations as a multilateral organization. The Republic of Korea favoured enhancing the principle of multilateralism.

The sovereign equality of Member States and equitable geographic distribution were regarded as important principles in Security Council reform. In particular, it was felt that the regions of Africa, Latin America and Asia should have greater representation on the Security Council. Lithuania, Bulgaria and Slovakia believed at least one more non-permanent seat should be allocated to Eastern Europe, since the number of Member States from that region had doubled. There was also a fair amount of support for Italy's proposal which would establish 10 new non-permanent seats. It was supported by Jordan, Romania, Burundi, Maldives, Ukraine, Panama, Tunisia, Bulgaria and Malta. …

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