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U.S. Department of State
95/10/20 Statement: Madeleine Albright on Program Budget for U.N.
Office of the US Mission to the United Nations
 

 
                      STATEMENT TO THE FIFTH COMMITTEE 
                       UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
 
                     PROPOSED PROGRAM BUDGET FOR 1996-1997
 
                       AMBASSADOR MADELEINE K. ALBRIGHT 
               U.S. PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE TO THE UNITED NATIONS 
                               OCTOBER 20, 1995 
 
 
Mr. Chairman, 
 
I am pleased to present the views of the United States of America with 
respect to the proposed program budget for the United Nations for the 
next two years. 
 
I begin, as other speakers have, with praise for the timeliness and the 
improved format of the budget submission.   
 
Substantively, as well, there are many positive aspects. 
 
The proposed budget abolishes a net of 109 positions and shifts 
resources towards the organization's priorities: political and 
peacekeeping activities, development, human rights, humanitarian 
assistance and internal oversight. 
 
A number of valuable initiatives instituted by the Secretary General are 
reflected in the budget.  These include important reforms in the 
management of personnel, modernization of information systems, 
administration of justice, strategic budgeting and controlling 
administrative costs.  We are also strongly encouraged by the 
establishment of a new efficiency board and believe it will yield 
significant savings and improved performance. 
 
My government believes that the Secretariat has taken some creditable 
first steps towards the goals specified by the Secretary General of 
maximizing efficiency gains without having a negative impact on the 
fulfillment of mandates. 
 
It is now the responsibility of the Member States to re-shape the 
budget, where necessary, and to approve a funding plan that will be 
sustainable during the next two years and that will begin the process of 
preparing this institution for the 21st century. 
 
My government takes these responsibilities very seriously. 
 
The UN is now fifty years old, but the post cold war era in which it 
will henceforth operate is still very young.  The changed circumstances 
implied by the end of super-power confrontation require us to seek a 
fresh look at first principles.  In our examination of this budget, we 
must set priorities and establish standards and goals for UN management.  
We need to keep ever in mind some key questions: 
 
How closely does the budget conform to the basic purposes we expect the 
UN to serve? 
 
Are we demanding a high standard of efficiency in selecting the means to 
achieve these purposes? 
 
And have we achieved a balance between our expectations of the UN, and 
our collective willingness financially to support the UN? 
 
In the weeks ahead, we need to work together to see that this budget 
provides satisfactory answers to these questions. 
 
To do that, we must at least begin to address the confusion of purpose 
reflected in the multiplicity of agencies and programs with overlapping 
mandates that have come to exist within the UN system, and in the 
continuation of obsolete committees and organizations.  Unfortunately, 
we have allowed a system to develop here in which bureaucratic turf is 
divided and subdivided again, so that each entity can claim a unique 
role, but few can operate successfully without help from others.  This 
results, in turn, in the creation of yet more entities to coordinate 
among those already in existence. 
 
Bureaucracies, like plants, need pruning from time to time, lest they 
become all branches and no blossoms. 
 
If the UN is to succeed, its organization must be rationalized around 
core purposes with the Charter as our guide, we need to ask ourselves:  
what is it that the UN is uniquely able to do because of its 
universality and global legitimacy?  In approaching the budget in the 
Fifth Committee, we should ask not "how much?" but "why"?  Why and how 
does this activity or agency or Department contribute to a core purpose 
of the UN? 
 
This requires a departure from "business as usual" and the adoption of a 
zero-based approach to budgeting.  Future budgets should be prepared on 
a zero-based approach which places the burden of proof on the advocates 
of continuing or expanding programs. 
 
There are a host of ways to improve efficiency in day to day 
administrative matters, and Under Secretary General Connor has made 
excellent progress in the short time he has been on the job.  Progress 
must continue and accelerate in eliminating nonessential spending, 
abolishing unneeded positions and increasing efficiency through greater 
use of outsourcing and simplified administrative procedures and full 
implementation of reforms currently underway.   
 
That is, of course, the responsibility of UN managers.  But real reform 
depends on what the Member States demand.  In considering this budget, 
we must give the Secretariat a clear mandate for reform. 
 
Three weeks ago, I put forward a list of ten ideas for improving the 
efficiency of the UN system.  As I hoped, a number of those proposals 
have already become the catalyst for serious discussion.  Today, I would 
like to relate some of these ideas to the 1996-1997 budget. 
 
First, we must reduce operating costs.  The Secretariat today has a much 
higher ratio of general service staff to professional staff than do most 
of the specialized agencies.  In light of today's technology, this is 
wasteful.  We estimate that a reduction in this ratio to the average 
attained by the specialized agencies could save tens of millions of 
dollars over the biennium.  We should do all we can to realize these 
savings. 
 
Second, we must eliminate spending on activities which are essentially 
duplicative or which have become obsolete with the passage of time.  For 
example: 
 
The Department of Development Support and Management Services, with a 
budget of more than $25 million, overlaps the work of other agencies.  
It should be consolidated with the agencies whose work it duplicates. 
 
We should take a very hard look at whether the Decolonization Committee, 
created more than 30 years ago, under circumstances that no longer 
exist, still has important business to conduct.  And we should re-
examine the various committees dealing with Palestinian issues in light 
of the peace process. 
 
Third, the proposed budget includes funding for a number of activities 
which are not justifiable in light of current fiscal constraints.  
Spending for discretionary and cosmetic maintenance and renovation 
projects should be curtailed.  Resources for travel, general temporary 
assistance and consultants should be rationalized. 
 
Fourth, some activities can do more with less.  Reductions in the budget 
for Conference Services could be achieved by holding fewer and shorter 
meetings.  The size and cost of the Department of Public Information 
could be scaled back considerably without harm to the essential mandates 
of the organization. 
 
Fifth, savings can also be achieved by reducing the flood of paperwork 
produced by this institution every year.  We will be inviting all 
members to join us in supporting a resolution that outlines principles 
for reducing the number and size of reports.  We will spend an estimated 
$295 million on reports in the current biennium; our goal should be to 
reduce that amount significantly over the next two years. 
 
Finally, this is not the time to increase staff salary.  My government 
will oppose the 9% pay raise proposed by the International Civil Service 
Commission.  We believe that it is not justified on the merits and 
cannot be absorbed in the budget without compromising important UN 
programs. 
 
The third fundamental question we face in considering this budget 
concerns the will and ability of member states to pay for UN activities.  
Many member governments are behind in payments to the UN regular budget, 
including my own.  I would like to elaborate a little on our situation. 
 
The Clinton Administration asked Congress to appropriate $923 million 
this year to meet our assessments to international organizations, 
including the UN.   Although the issue has not yet been settled, it is 
clear that we will not get the full request.  The House of 
Representatives approved $858 million; the Senate only $550 million.  
This means that we will be $70 million to $370 million below our funding 
request for international organizations, including the UN, this year.  
This figure does not include $672 million in arrears for peacekeeping 
that we requested, but which Congress denied.   
 
Under our democratic system of government, the Executive cannot pay any 
money on its own.  Nor do we have a Parliamentary system in which the 
Prime Minister, by the very nature of his office, commands a legislative 
majority.  Every year, we must go to Congress, each Member of which was 
elected by the people to represent their interests, and make the case 
for meeting our obligations to the UN.  And we must do so at a time when 
public spending for all purposes--foreign and domestic--is under extreme 
pressure, and when spending for other portions of our international 
affairs accounts has declined sharply. 
 
The Clinton Administration is strongly committed to meeting U.S. 
obligations to the UN.  We are engaged in a continuing dialogue with 
Members of Congress towards that end.  And we were pleased this week to 
be able to make payments totalling $150 million towards our peacekeeping 
and regular budget assessments for this year.  More broadly I hope that 
my colleagues will bear in mind the fact that even though our payments 
are often late we have contributed $1 billion over the last year.   
 
Despite efforts to control escalating budget costs, member states over 
the years have witnessed a real growth in the level of their 
assessments.  For example, over the last decade, even with the UN 
maintaining budgets at or close to zero real growth, the U.S. regular 
budget assessment has grown by more than 80%.  Continuation of this 
trend is not acceptable.  We cannot and will not ask our Congress or 
taxpayers to support levels of funding for the UN that do not reflect a 
high degree of fiscal discipline and restraint. 
 
Just as national governments are tightening belts, so must the United 
Nations.  What we call "mandatory cost increases" cannot simply be added 
on to budgets year after year; to the extent possible, they must be 
absorbed.  Today, I want to be very clear: the United States believes 
that the Secretary General's goals and priorities can be fully 
implemented within a budget ceiling of $2.51 billion for the next 
biennium.  Therefore, we will not support a budget in excess of that 
figure.  This reduction of only 3.8% from the current two years can 
certainly be achieved without harm to essential UN mandates. 
 
Many previous speakers have made a point with which my government fully 
agrees.  Budget cutting and reform are not the same thing.   Budget 
reductions that are random, oblivious to priorities and ignorant of 
consequences will not produce a better organization.  But reductions 
that trim fat, rationalize priorities, eliminate duplication and 
emphasize accountability can revitalize this institution and earn it 
broader and deeper support in my country, among other major donors and 
around the world.  That is why I hope my colleagues will examine the 
reforms suggested today on their own merits.  Do not let your 
understandable frustration over the $1 billion my government now owes 
the UN cloud your judgment as we pursue our common goal:  ensuring that 
the UN delivers programs for people not jobs for bureaucrats. 
 
This year, in the General Assembly, reform must be job #1.  We must 
improve the UN's mode of doing business in ways that are visible, 
substantial and consequential; piecemeal reform is not sufficient.  If 
the UN's first half century is not to be its last, we must create the UN 
anew. 
 
This Fall, the General Assembly will be asked to approve a number of 
important reforms that should constitute a down payment on the 
comprehensive changes the UN needs.  It is time now to make a serious 
effort to increase outsourcing, bring transparency to the ACABQ, 
strengthen the newly-established OIOS and establish a modern code of 
conduct and appropriate financial disclosure for the staff. 
 
Fortunately, a serious dialogue is underway on how to revitalize the UN 
for the long term.  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.  We must review these 
ideas, select the best, and implement them as soon as possible.  
 
Our goal should be a UN system that is more productive for all its 
members, east, west, north and south.  Nations aspiring to expand their 
economies don't need more UN bureaucrats; they need hands-on technical 
assistance, access to credit and help in connecting to regional and 
nongovernmental organizations working for the same goals.  That's why we 
want a UN that talks less and produces more; a UN that spends less on 
salaries, stationery and ceremonies and more on services that save and 
enrich peoples' lives. 
 
Towards that end, my government pledges its own best efforts, and 
solicits the assistance and counsel of all member states. 
 
Thank you. 
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