Revitalization of the international system, resolving financial crisis are 1986 priorities
LAST year, as the United Nationscelebrated its fortieth anniversary, a record turnout of world leaders addressed the General Assembly in a notable demonstration of recommitment to multilateralism and reaffirmation of the principles of the Charter.
This year, as delegates gathered inthe Assembly Hall on 16 September for the opening of the forty-first session, the mood was less than celebratory.
Faced with an agenda reflecting thefull range of international crises, the 159-member world body convened under the shadow of one overriding issue--the most serious financial crisis in United Nations history--and the less tangible but related issue of what has been described as a "crisis of confidence."
"Regrettably, in marked contrast tosentiments expressed during the fortieth anniversary, 1986 has witnessed the United Nations subjected to a severe crisis challenging its solvency and viability", Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar declared in his annual report on the work of the Organization (A/41/1).
"Precisely at the time when renewedefforts have been called for to strengthen the Organization, its work has been shadowed by financial difficulties resulting primarily from the failure to Member States to meet obligations flowing from the Charter."
It is essential, the Secretary-Generalcontinued, "to lift this cloud so that the United Nations can, both now and in the longer term, be that strong constructive force in world affairs that is vitally needed in our increasingly interdependent world. The strengthening and revitalization of the present structure of multilateral institutions is critical to the resolution of problems confronting the international community relating to peace, security and development. To ignore this necessity is to imperil the future prospects of a better world."
The Assembly, in considering this"crisis challenging its solvency and viability", was expected to focus on both the immediate and long-term aspects of the question. In the short term, it would be asked to deal with the immediate consequences of the failure of some states to pay their assessed contributions.
For the longer term, the Assemblywould be asked to consider recommendations of the Group of High-level Intergovernmental Experts to Review the Efficiency of the Administrative and Financial Functioning of the United Nations--the "Group of 18". The Group has formulated 71 proposals to streamline the structure and other aspects of an Organization they found "too complex, fragmented and top-heavy" (see story, p.17).
A 'fresh breath': Newly-elected AssemblyPresident Humayun Rasheed Choudhury, Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, told correspondents on 16 September: "My principal endeavour [at the 1986 session] will be to pilot the recommendations of the Group of 18 to a meaningful conclusion, so that we can have a rejuvenated United Nations with a fresh breath of confidence in the Organization."
This year's in-house business alsoincludes the appointment of a Secretary-General. The Security Council nominates a candidate for a term of five years, and the Assembly must approve its recommendation. Mr. Perez de Cuellar has been Secretary-General since 1 January 1982; his current term expires 31 December 1986 (see story, p.4).
A 'formidable challenge': Whilequestions relating to the "Organization-in-crisis" offered the 1986 Assembly a formidable challenge, the world situation it confronted was equally sobering. Over the past year, there were new and more devastating terrorist attacks, new outbreaks of violence and confrontation in southern Africa and the Middle East, fresh East-West tensions, deterioration of the situation in Central America, increased concern about illegal drug trafficking, and a rise in third-world debt--to name just a few of the persistent problems on the international agenda. …