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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (April06/06)

6 April 2006


Series on UN Reform --- Article 4

G77 stresses UN’s leading role to coherence panel

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 and operations.

We are sending you a series of articles on the reform process.  This is the fourth article in the series.   It was first published in the South North

Development Monitor on 4 April 2006.

With best wishes
Martin Khor
TWN

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United Nations: G77 stresses UN’s leading role to coherence panel

Geneva, 2 Apr (Martin Khor) -- The Chairman of the G77 in New York has written to the Prime Ministers of Pakistan, Mozambique and Norway who co-chair the panel on UN system-wide coherence to stress that the coherence exercise must strengthen the role of the UN so that it becomes the premier international organization dealing with economic, social and development issues.

The leadership role of the UN should include coordination of global economic and social issues and policies, said the South African Ambassador to the UN, Dumisani Kumalo, who  chairs the Group of 77 in New York.

Kumalo said it would be inappropriate to confine the UN’s role to “niche issues” such as disaster and post-conflict management, while leaving issues such as development strategies, trade, finance and macro-economic policy to other international organisations.  “The UN system is more developmentally holistic, and provides a diversity of views and approaches that the Bretton Woods institutions seriously lack,” he added.

The G77 and China stressed that the exercise of system-wide coherence should not erode the mandate and resources of UN organisations playing an important role in development. 

“It is especially important that the mandate of UNCTAD is maintained and strengthened and its organisational integrity is upheld,” he said, adding that UNCTAD remains the UN’s main organisation for addressing development issues in an integrated manner. 

UNIFEM (the UN development fund for women) has played a very significant role in expanding the role and rights of women, and its mandate should be strengthened, said the G77 Chairman.

The letter was issued on 31 March on behalf of the G77 and China on the eve of the inaugural meeting of the panel which is being held this week in New York.   Other members of the panel, which was  established by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in February, include the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, the EU’s Development Commissioner, and the former Presidents of Tanzania and Chile.

The panel is to examine the UN’s operational activities and structures and propose reforms for greater coherence.   Developed countries, led by the Europeans, are advocating that the UN’s development  system be radically rationalized, with many organisations closing or merging to form only three large units dealing with development, humanitarian and environment issues.

The panel is given a tight schedule to finish its work by August so that a decision can be taken at the General Assembly in September.  Observers believe the reform advocates want to rush through key decisions when Kofi Annan is still Secretary General, leaving it to the next SG to complete the exercise. 

The G77 warned, however, that the deadline is ambitious, given the complexity of the issues, and that the panel should not rush its work.  “Thoroughness and careful consideration of issues should not be sacrificed for the sake of meeting an unrealistic timeline,” it said.

The G77 Chairman’s letter was addressed to Mozambique’s Prime Minister Luisa Dias Diogo, Norway’s Prime Minister Jena Stoltenberg, and Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Azia in their capacity as Co-Chairs of the panel.

“We believe that the work of the Panel should be driven by a vision of a strengthened role for the UN on development issues and the need to implement the internationally agreed development goals including the MDGs so as to ensure the vision crated in the UN Charter is actually translated into reality,” said the letter.

“The G77 and China supports the exercise of reform and change in the operational activities of the UN system, with the vision of building a stronger role and a leadership role for the UN in development.  

“We believe that this exercise must be driven and underpinned by this vision of s strengthened role for the UN in development.  This role includes coordination of global economic and social issues and policies; research and analysis on global and national economic, social and development issues and policies; assisting members states in advice on development policy formulation;  and operational delivery of services on social, economic, humanitarian and environmental matters at national and regional levels.” 

The G77 and China said the UN must develop into the premier international organisation and system addressing economic, social and development issues.

This strengthened role should cover the normative, analytical, policy and operational aspects of development.  The comparative advantages of the UN system include its universality and legitimacy, and its capacity to be multi-functional and to take up issues in a cross-cutting manner.  The holistic approach of the UN should be strengthened so that it can realise the potential role in the economic, social and development fields set since its founding.  

“From this perspective, we don’t believe it would be appropriate to define or confine the UN’s role to “niche issues” (such as disaster management, post-conflict reconstruction or the environment), while leaving issues such as development strategies, trade, finance and macro-economic policy to other international organizations,” said the G77 chairman.    “The UN system is more developmentally holistic, and provides a diversity of views and approaches that the Bretton Woods institutions seriously lack.”

The letter continued:  “The G77 and China believes that the exercise of system-wide coherence should not erode the mandate, resources and activities of organisations and units that play an important role in development. 

“In particular, the mandates and roles of organisations that were created by the General Assembly or ECOSOC should not be eliminated, removed or otherwise eroded.   It is only through the General Assembly that any change in mandate can be made. 

“It is especially important that the mandate of UNCTAD is maintained and strengthened and its organisational integrity is upheld.  UNCTAD was established by the developing countries and endorsed by the General Assembly in 1964.  In fact the G77 and China was established in conjunction with UNCTAD which remains the UN’s main organisation for addressing development issues (including trade, finance, technology, macro-economic issues) in an integrated manner. 

“Another organisation, UNIFEM, was also established by the General Assembly, and it has played a very significant role in expanding the role and rights of women. We believe its mandate should be strengthened so that it can be even more active in its role of catalysing and mainstreaming gender concerns in the UN system.”  

The G77 letter also addressed issues regarding the process. It said that as the work of the Panel continues, there is a need for Member States to be kept informed, and consulted in in an open, inclusive and transparent manner, in all phases of the work of the Panel. 

It proposed that mechanisms be established that allow ample opportunities at all stages of the Panel’s work, for Member States to provide inputs to the Panel and also to be informed about the progress that is being made. 

“Given the enormity of the task, which includes examining and giving proposals on the UN system’s operations at national, regional and international levels, it may be ambitious to expect that a report by the Panel could be completed in a few months,” said the G77 Chairman.

“As a result, it may be better to have a comprehensive report that does justice to the range and complexity of issues, than to have a rushed report.  The G77 and China believes that thoroughness and careful consideration of issues should not be sacrificed for the sake of meeting an unrealistic timeline.”

The G77 and China added it will soon present a paper laying out the principles to guide the work of the Panel as well as the process of the system-wide coherence of the UN. 

 


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