General Assembly Approves Reforms to Improve Organization's Functioning and Efficiency

UN Chronicle, February 1987 | Go to article overview

General Assembly Approves Reforms to Improve Organization's Functioning and Efficiency


The 1986 General Assembly convened under the shadow of the most serious financial crisis in United Nations history - one that threatened not only the Organization's immediate solvency but also, many feared, its long-term viability.

When the Assembly suspended its forty-first session on 19 December, the financial crisis was still grave. But among the world body's last actions before adjourning for the year was adoption of measures aimed at extensive long-range functional reforms.

For the short term, the Assembly approved economy measures proposed by the Secretary-General to meet an $85 million shortfall anticipated for 1987, and appealed to Member States to meet their financial obligations to the United Nations by paying their assessed contributions in full and on time and clearing up any arrears (see accompanying stories).

For the longer term, the Assembly, after weeks of extensive negotiations, agreed on wide-ranging measures to improve the administrative and financial functioning of the Organization, including new guidelines for decision-making on the programme budget (resolution 41/213).

"The adoption of this historic resolution can truly be considered an achievement of this session of which all of us can be justly proud", Assembly President Humayun Rasheed Choudhury (Bangladesh) declared after the consensus text was approved on 19 December. "We still have a long way to go. The changes introduced in the budgetary process in an effort to seek the much eluded broadest agreement will have to undergo the acid test of practicability. I earnestly hope that Member States approach this challenge with vision and a sense of commitment", he said.

Even Fontaine-Ortiz of Cuba, Chairman of the Assembly's Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), said that the body had shown itself to be a political as well as technical Committee, carrying out its work with dignity and skill, and finishing in record time. It had been faced, with an "historic opportunity to make an extremely valuable contribution to the future of the Organization".

Under the terms of resolution 41/213, the Assembly decided that the 71 recommendations as agreed upon and as contained in the report (A/41/49) 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" - should be implemented, subject to certain qualifications. It also approved a reformed budget process, setting out 11 specific guidelines formulated during negotiations which virtually spanned the length of the Assembly session.

In adopting the text, the Assembly reaffirmed the requirement of all Member States to fulfil their financial obligations, as set out in the Charter, "promptly and in full". It also recognized the "detrimental effect of the withholding of assessed contributions" on the Organization's administrative and financial functioning, and that late payments adversely affected the short-term financial situation of the Organization.

'Without precedent'

The measures for streamlining the Organization were "without precedent in their scope and detail", Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar affirmed, stating they provided "a blueprint.for a more efficient United Nations" and "a sound basis for changes that will bring new confidence in the effectiveness and efficiency of the Organization and facilitate the agreement among Member States on the programmes and budget that is necessary for financial and political viability."

Implementation of the measures would be a "complex and demanding undertaking", the Secretary-General acknowledged, pledging his total commitment to that endeavour. He envisioned 1987 as a "year of transition ... in which we undertake purposefully the reforms that can be quickly begun and lay the groundwork for further rationalization of structures and operations through the reviews and studies that are to be made". …

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General Assembly Approves Reforms to Improve Organization's Functioning and Efficiency
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