TWN Info Service
on WTO and Trade Issues (April06/05)
6 April 2006
Series on UN Reform --- Article 3
G77 warns against
attempts to eliminate UN mandates
The UN is undergoing
a reform process that may have serious consequences for its future as
an organisation that has the capacity for development policy
We are sending you
a series of articles on the reform process. This is the third article
in the series. It was first published in the South
on 31 March 2006.
With best wishes
United Nations: G77
warns against attempts to eliminate UN mandates
30 Mar (Martin Khor) -- The process of reform of the operational activities
of the United Nations and possibly of the structures and mandates of
its many organizations is proceeding at an increasingly fast pace, with
the developed countries taking a leading role in pushing for the reforms.
However, developing countries have also been taking initial positions,
and responding to some of the moves.
There are two seemingly inter-related streams of the reform of UN operations:
a review of mandates of the UN agencies, and an attempt to have more
system-wide coherence of UN activities and organizations in the areas
of development, humanitarian affairs and the environment.
According to diplomatic sources, the US
has been more active in the mandates review, while the European countries
have taken the lead on system-wide coherence.
Several papers by European countries such as the Netherlands,
Belgium and the
make clear the aim of closing down many existing UN organizations, with
some of them merging. In most scenarios, there would be only three main
UN agencies (dealing with development, humanitarian affairs and the
environment), while a few specialized agencies may be allowed to remain.
(See SUNS # 5995 dated 28 March 2006.)
The first meeting of the panel on UN system-wide coherence, set up by
Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and co-chaired by the Prime Ministers
of Norway, Mozambique
and Pakistan, is
scheduled to be held next week in New
The developing countries, under the umbrella of the Group of 77 and
have expressed support for a UN reform process in support of development,
but have warned against inappropriate types of reform that eliminate
or erode the mandates of UN agencies which in their view play important
The G77 and China
have taken an initial position on the mandates review, in which they
stress that the exercise should be driven not by the cutting of costs
or by political ulterior motives, but by the need to strengthen the
UN's programme of work. It also warned that the exercise should not
arbitrarily or selectively abolish any mandates, as the lack of support
by a few Member States is not a valid criterion for the abolishment
of a mandate.
The G77 and China
have yet to take a position specifically on system-wide coherence, but
they voiced strong opinions on issues related to this in a recent declaration
and an accompanying statement.
A meeting of the Chairpersons and Coordinators of the G77 held in Paris
on 27-28 February and chaired by Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo of South
Africa (who is also the chairman of the G77 in
adopted a "Paris Consensus".
According to this Paris Consensus, "The work being done by the
UN institutions in centres of the Group of 77 Chapters such as
UNESCO, UNDP, UNEP, UNCTAD, FAO, IFAD, UNIDO and UN-HABITAT, is tremendous
and commendable and we reaffirm the roles and mandates of these institutions
"We reiterate the importance of UNCTAD as the principal organization
within the UN system for an integrated treatment of trade and development,
and we commit ourselves to ensure that the UN reform process shall not
dilute its mandate, supplant or subsume it. We reaffirm that technical
assistance should work in tandem with research and consensus building;
it should not become the flagship project of UNCTAD."
The Paris Consensus also touched on WIPO, taking a position that it
has to reform to be more development-oriented. It stated: "We express
concern that the norms and the technical assistance programme of the
World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) over-emphasize the promotion
of intellectual property rights standards at the expense of development
dimensions. We shall continue to push for a Development Agenda to make
WIPO more development-oriented."
The Paris Consensus also called on UNESCO and FAO to cooperate closely
to promote rural education and on FAO and other competent organizations
to promote capacity building in developing countries in order to meet
the challenges of the spread of Avian flu.
The G77 chairs and coordinators also affirmed that human rights should
not be denuded of their economic and social content. "Trade agreements
should not be allowed to impede the ability of people to obtain affordable
textbooks and medicines or make basic services such as water and sanitation
un-affordable for large segments of the population," said the Consensus.
"In this context, the discussions of the Right to Development need
to be further invigorated in the proposed Human Rights Council."
The Paris Consensus was accompanied by a "Statement by the Chairmen/Coordinators
of the Chapters of the Group of 77 on UN Reform", dated 28 February.
The statement said that "We attach high priority to the reform
of the UN as an ongoing process and not an end in itself in accordance
with the parameters for the objective and scope of the review exercise
set out by the world Summit Outcome Document.
"We see the objective of the reform as a means to strengthen the
Organization, so that it can efficiently respond to the current and
future challenges affecting the international community, in particular
those concerns and interests of developing countries which constitute
the vast majority of its membership.
"We reaffirm that this process should be aimed at strengthening
multilateralism, providing the Organization with a substantive capacity
to fully and effectively meet the purposes and principles enshrined
in the UN Charter, and at consolidating its democratic character and
its transparency in the discussion and implementation of decisions of
The statement said the G77 would strive in the UN to develop its full
potential and address urgent and serious economic and social problems.
They reiterated the importance of the UN as the central forum for dialogue
and negotiations on issues relating to international cooperation for
development and attached great political importance to the strengthening
of the UN's role of in promoting development.
They believe the UN should be allowed to develop its full potential
in international economic cooperation, and to that end, the realization
of the right to development should be given utmost priority by the UN.
"We stress the importance of main-streaming development dimension
in the ongoing process of reform of the UN, bearing in mind the aim
of enabling the full participation of peoples from the South in the
international decision and rule-making economic processes and ensuring
their access to and enjoyment of the benefits of international economy.
"We reaffirm the role of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
as a principal body for the promotion of development cooperation, coordination,
policy making, review and dialogue on international economic issues
and for making recommendations on issues of economic and social development.
"We emphasize that the objective of the UN reform is to strengthen
and update the work of the Organization so that it responds to the contemporary
requirements of Member States. The work of the Organization is geared
towards implementing the legislative decisions and mandates adopted
by the inter-governmental bodies of the UN.
"It is imperative to
stress that the final result of the exercise should be to ensure that
the organization is able to implement the entire range of its mandates
more effectively and efficiently.
"We do not accept that the exercise is intended to change the inter-governmental
nature of our decision-making, oversight and monitoring processes. Neither
is it to reduce the budget levels of the Organization or to fund more
activities from within the existing pool of resources, nor is it meant
to redefine the roles and responsibilities assigned to the various Organs
of the United Nations by the Charter.
"We reiterate our support for the reform of the United Nations.
Reform of the United Nations is a collective agenda and serves our common
interests. We believe that the voice of every Member
State must be
heard and respected during this reform process irrespective of the contributions
made to the budget of the organization.
"We believe that reform should be meaningful, strengthen the ability
of the Organization to implement its mandates effectively and enable
it to serve the interests of the collective membership.
"We reaffirm the roles and mandates of UN institutions and agencies
(UNCTAD, FAO, UNIDO, UNESCO, IFAD, UN-HABITAT and UNEP) and we particularly
reiterate the importance of UNCTAD as the principal organization within
the UN system for an integrated treatment of trade and development,
and we commit ourselves to ensure that the UN reform process shall not
dilute its mandate, supplant or subsume it.
"We attach importance for consultations aimed at developing a more
coherent institutional framework for environment and human settlement
activities in the UN
system and express our determination that this process should result
in strengthening or existing institutions and enhance the interest of
On the issue of review of mandates of the UN organizations, the G77
and China (represented
by South Africa)
made a statement at a meeting on management reform at the UN on 25 January.
They said that firstly, the objective of the review should be clear
and well understood by the Secretariat and Member
The World Summit Outcome Document stated the review is intended to "strengthen
and update" the programme of work of the Organisation. "This
is not a cost-cutting exercise and we should be ready to increase resources
Secondly, the exercise is not intended to arbitrarily or selectively
abolish any mandates. "Mandates are established by a collective
decision taken by Member States and can only be amended or abolished
collectively. The lack of political support by a few Member States is
not a valid criterion for the abolishment of a mandate," said the
G77 and China.
They added that the programmes on the Question of Palestine, for example,
were selectively being referred to previously by some delegations for
termination. "These pronouncements have been counter-productive
to our reform efforts, and we urge our partners to follow a more constructive
Further, the scope of the review has been set out in the World Summit
Outcome Document and should be respected. The document has limited it
to mandates that
are older than five years.
Thirdly, the Group expects the Secretariat to provide will provide neutral,
unbiased and transparent information to be presented in the form of
"raw data". The Secretariat should therefore not be requested
to pass value judgments on mandates by suggesting any for termination.
The G77 and China
also expect that Member States will be able to interact with the programme
managers that are overseeing the implementation of the mandates. They
requested the Co-Chairs to schedule several sessions for this purpose
once the information has been circulated to Member States. "We
should be careful not to set artificial time-lines that will lead to
a rushed and incomplete exercise."
Fourthly, said the G77 and China,
"we have been assured that the exercise is not cost-cutting in
nature. At this stage of the review exercise Member States have
to focus on the programmatic validity of a mandate without being influenced
by the costs associated with it.
"We should first resolve the programmatic aspects before we review
the resources and it is therefore undesirable at this stage to receive
an indication of the amount of resources allocated to any given mandates.
In addition, the format of the budget makes it impossible to provide
an accurate indication of the amount of resources that have been allocated
to any given mandate, in particular at the sub-programme level."
The G77 called on the Secretariat to develop an acceptable methodology
(to be approved by member states) to accurately determine the amount
of resources that have been set aside for a mandate. An indication of
the source of financing for each mandate should be reflected in the
On the issue brought up by other delegations on the issue of duplication
of Mandates, the G77 and China
said there should be a common understanding of what is meant by the
"Some mandates require a concerted effort by more than one entity
on more than one front. This is not duplication. The UN has many important
mandates and activities that are older than five years and we should
be careful before we arbitrarily accord priorities to mandates, with
a view to releasing funds for new activities."
The G77 and China
also assured that it is approaching this exercise from a positive stand
point. "The exercise provides a good opportunity for Member States
to reflect on the work of the Organisation and ways to enhance the effective
implementation of mandates and strengthen the United Nations. It is
therefore important that we embark on it without any preconceived political
agendas or notions that we may realize savings by abolishing mandates
that are still relevant."
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