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95/09/22 Address: Madeleine Albright on Opening of 50th UNGA
Bureau of International Organizations
FOR RELEASE ON DELIVERY USUN PRESS RELEASE #145-(95)
CHECK TEXT AGAINST DELIVERY SEPTEMBER 22, 1995
Statement by Ambassador Madeleine K. Albright, U.S. Permanent
Representative to the United Nations, at the Foreign Press Center on the
Opening of the 50th UNGA, September 22, 1995
I am pleased to meet with you to discuss U.S. concerns and priorities as
the 50th session of the UN General Assembly begins.
We meet at a time--at long last--of real hope for progress towards peace
in the Balkans. The United Nations can view with pride its efforts to
provide humanitarian relief to the victims of that conflict. It can
look with pride, also, at its role in the democratic transition in
Haiti; in ending the twenty year civil war in Angola; in using diplomacy
to prevent further outbreaks of mass violence in Rwanda and Burundi; and
in exposing Iraqi duplicity with respect to their weapons of mass
Another major accomplishment of the past year was extension without
conditions of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. In the months ahead,
we hope to see agreement on a comprehensive ban on nuclear tests. We
will also be seeking support for a worldwide moratorium on the export of
The United States continues to view the United Nations as an important
instrument for making the world more secure, democratic and humane. The
UN needs--and deserves--the full backing of member states. The Clinton
Administration will continue to do all it can to help the UN succeed,
and to see that U.S. financial obligations are met, despite opposition
from some in Congress.
This fall, at the General Assembly, we will be asking other nations to
work with us to prepare the UN to meet the challenges of the 21st
As the board of directors of this institution, we--the member states--
must take responsibility for its structure, management and productivity.
We must recognize that, during the years of Cold War neglect, the UN
bureaucracy grew to elephantine proportions; now, in the absence of Cold
War divisions, we are asking that elephant to do gymnastics.
So this year, for the General Assembly, reform must be job #1. We must
improve the UN's way of doing business in ways that are visible,
substantial and consequential; piecemeal reform is not sufficient. If
the UN is to avoid the fate of the League of Nations, a full overhaul is
Fortunately, a serious dialogue is underway on how to revitalize the UN.
The General Assembly has established a High Level Working Group on UN
Reform. A number of recent studies have been conducted, with many
useful recommendations. And we have some ideas of our own.
We must begin by supporting the positive changes that are already
underway. These include the creation of the new Office of Internal
Oversight Services and the personnel reforms instituted by Under
Secretary General Joseph Connor.
This morning, I would like to share with you a list of ten ways we can
build on those improvements:
First, we must bring UN budgets under control. In this era, financial
discipline is critical. We can no longer afford the principle of zero
real growth, which allows budgets to rise with inflation and other
mandatory cost increases. Now, we have to seek nominal decreases
wherever possible. The best managers will see this imperative not as
grounds for complaint, but as an opportunity to improve efficiency
through innovation, restructuring and reallocation of resources.
Second, the UN Secretariat must eliminate waste. Savings can be
achieved by privatizing services, reducing paperwork, cutting excess
staff, stopping unnecessary travel, eliminating some benefits and
minimizing the use of consultants. To cite one example, the Secretariat
has a much larger ratio of general service staff to professional staff
than do most of the specialized agencies. A reduction even to the
average level would save tens of millions of dollars. In addition, the
budget of the Department for Public Information can certainly be cut
sharply without any damage to the functioning of the UN.
Third, to improve accountability, we should extend the concept of an
Inspector General from the Secretariat to all the major agencies.
Fourth, the workings of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and
Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) should be exposed to the light of day.
ACABQ members should be answerable to their governments, and most ACABQ
hearings should--for the first time--be open to all member states.
Fifth, there should be a moratorium on the scheduling of major UN
conferences until we have absorbed and acted upon the results of the
most recent series, ending with the World Food Security Summit in Rome
and HABITAT-II in Istanbul in 1996.
Sixth, the Trusteeship Council has worked itself out of a job; it should
be applauded--and abolished.
Seventh, Committees that have outlived their usefulness should close up
shop. This includes the Ad Hoc Committee on the Indian Ocean and the
Information Committee. We should take a very hard look at whether the
Decolonization Committee still has important business to conduct. And
we should consolidate the various committees dealing with Palestinian
Eighth, we should re-evaluate the structure of UN agencies and programs
with overlapping mandates. For example, we should consider
consolidating all technical/development assistance functions, all
emergency-response functions and all monitoring and reporting activities
into single agencies. We should also consider ending U.S. support for
the UN Industrial Development Organization, downsizing the regional
economic commissions and modifying the functions of the UN Conference on
Trade and Development to complement those of the World Trade
Ninth, we must rationalize the subsidiary bodies of ECOSOC. Today's
ECOSOC organizational chart looks like it was designed by a crazed
kitten in a string factory. A first step towards untangling it would be
to highlight the role of the Commission on Sustainable Development,
transfer it to Geneva, and fold into it the Commission on Science and
Technology for Development, the Commission on Social Development and the
Committee on Natural Resources.
Tenth, and last, we should stop repeating ourselves. We approve many
resolutions year after year, in virtually identical form, first at
ECOSOC, then in the UNGA's second or third Committee, then in the
General Assembly. Let's stop chewing over the same issues again and
again. We should consider resolutions on recurring subjects every third
year instead of every year, and we should shorten or eliminate the
summer session of ECOSOC.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of reforms. Others, such as
Security Council reform, and the rationalization of the peacekeeping
scale of assessments are also the subject of special high-level working
groups. U.S. views on those important questions are well known.
I want to emphasize once again what is at stake here.
Efficiency in today's UN is not just a question of dollars and cents; it
is a matter of life and death. When the UN's resources are squandered,
there are fewer funds available for services that save and enrich
people's lives. Every nation--from Albania to Zambia--has a stake in a
UN that wastes less and produces more.
Obviously, reforming the UN is not an event, but a process; it will not
take place overnight; but this, the UN's 50th year, is an excellent time
to get that process off to a running start.
Thank you very much.
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