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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
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
Second, we must eliminate spending on activities which are essentially
duplicative or which have become obsolete with the passage of time. For
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
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
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.
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