Statement by H.E. Mr. Yoshiyuki Motomura
Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations
At the Plenary Meeting of the 58th General Assembly on Revitalisation of the Work of the General Assembly (Item 55); United Nations Reform: Measures and Proposals (Item 57); Restructuring and Revitalisation of the United Nations in the Economic, Social and Related Fields (Item 58); Strengthening of the United Nations System
27 October 2003
The changes that we see today in the international community are frequent and increasingly more dynamic. Every day we face new and diverse challenges. As the advancement of globalisation has led us to an increasingly more interdependent world, we cannot fail to recognise the effectiveness of a viable multilateral framework in taking on these challenges. The United Nations, we believe, is the best tool available today to the international community.
The relevance of this tool, however, depends entirely on its ability to effectively deliver its message to the real world. This is especially true with regard to the ability of the General Assembly to make its opinions heard, as it is the most representative body within the UN, in that it comprises all the Member States. The General Assembly also should play a key role when the international community takes decisions following legitimate avenues for action. It is against this background that I wish to stress how important it is for us to seriously seek ways and means to let the General Assembly recover the status the Charter grants it and the role the Millennium Declaration clearly assigns to it.
In addition, the United Nations must enhance its ability to respond to shifting priorities. The Member States must constantly reassess whether we are meeting with success in devoting our time, energy and resources to our highest priorities, so as to produce maximum yield within the given limitations.
First, let me touch upon some of the matters related to revitalisation of the General Assembly which we consider to be of particular importance. This matter actually has been on our agenda since 1990, and we have engaged in numerous discussions from a variety of perspectives. I believe it is high time for us to take stock of the results of those discussions and to come up with a more comprehensive approach to this matter. In this regard, I would like to pay tribute, Mr. President, to the initiatives that you are undertaking.
Today we are here to discuss four agenda items in this joint debate session. This is quite a symbolic step forward in our effort to enhance the efficiency of our work, by clustering related items. I also would like to commend the efforts made by Mr. President in that direction.
As concerns the measures to enhance the authority and role of the General Assembly, we are in favour of strengthening the Office of the President. In order to ensure a smooth transfer and to accumulate institutional memory, the Secretariat should assign one or two persons from among its current staff members to the Office. In our view it is preferable that an expert with solid knowledge of the substance and precedence of the work of General Assembly be allocated.
This year we have elected the President in June, which is a remarkable step forward. But three months is still quite short a period in which to fully prepare oneself for this important job, and one year is still a very short timeframe for the completion of a great deal of substantive work. We therefore propose that we consider the possibility of reelecting the President, as well as the possibility of electing the President from among the Vice-Presidents for the previous year. We are also of the view that the President should further enhance coordination with representatives of other relevant organs, that is to say, the Main Committees, the Security Council, ECOSOC, the Secretary General, and the regional groups.
The General Assembly should also explore ways to enhance cooperation with the Security Council through promotion of dialogue with it. In order to realise that, however, it is necessary for us to make our discussions in the General Assembly more interactive and more focused. We must therefore direct our attention to consideration of measures to improve the working methods of the General Assembly.
The need to further rationalise the agenda, in both the Plenary and the Main Committees, has been repeatedly stressed in our discussion. It might be worth giving serious consideration to the introduction of a rule that would enable us to streamline and consolidate agenda items, as well as the resolutions. For instance, those agenda items concerning which discussion is deferred for a number of years should be deleted from the list. We should also take a hard look at the way in which the agenda items are allocated to each Main Committee. There must be significant room for rationalisation in this area.
In the context of agenda reform, I have been paying particular attention to the work of the Second Committee, which , on the basis of resolution 57/270B, is to reach a conclusion on this topic by the end of the 58th session. I have already underscored the stagnant nature of the work of the Second Committee in the statement I delivered before the Committee on 6 October.
The role of the Second Committee becomes more and more important. In the economic, social and related fields, the discussions are often left stranded amid ideological confrontations among groups, without allowing participants even to reach a common understanding of the priorities of their work. In order to produce concrete and positive results, all the countries that take part in those fora must increase their efforts to reconcile their positions and work together.
Resolution 57/301 provides that the regular session will commence in the third week of September, which results in a considerable time squeeze for discussions in the Main Committees. The Third Committee, for example, has to deal with as many as about 80 draft resolutions in seven weeks, which is one week less than is allotted in a normal year. I call for the Member States to review this situation and to be flexible enough to return to the previous practice. Another matter for consideration is the possibility of dispersing sessions of the Main Committees, currently concentrated in the period from October to December, throughout the year, as was proposed by the Permanent Representative of Singapore, which action we support.
Now I would like to turn to the issues related to reform and strengthening of the United Nations.
We are glad to note that, since the General Assembly adopted resolution 57/300, those actions stipulated in it are being steadily implemented, as is indicated in the Secretary-General's report 58/351.
In the draft program budget for the biennium 2004-2005, the Secretary-General pays particular attention to resource reallocation and proposes to terminate 912 outputs. While commending his efforts, we call for a smaller and more rationalised budget through more strict prioritisation of activities and further redeployment of resources away from more obsolete activities in order to produce maximum output within our limited financial resources.
We also appreciate the concrete initiatives taken since last year with respect to the restructuring of the Department of Public Information and measures implemented for the enhanced effectiveness of the Department's information products and activities including the promotion of strategic communications services. I would like to encourage the Secretary-General to continue these reforms in accordance with the relevant resolutions and decisions already adopted concerning public information.
In one respect, reform is the accumulation of concrete, operational measures. Sometimes it involves our everyday behaviours. We, the delegation members, are by no means free from blame; we must not above all waste our precious resources. For instance, if we start a session later than the scheduled time, the interpreters can only stand by idle during that time, and still we are paying them a considerable amount of money. As one hour of meeting time with interpretation in six languages and support services costs 1,875 US dollars, 20 minutes of delay wastes 625 dollars. Supposing we had ten meetings in the morning and another ten in the afternoon, all delayed for an average of 20 minutes, we would lose 12,500 dollars a day. If we have 22 working days in a month, the loss amounts to 275,000 dollars. We could easily end up wasting one million dollars if we went on like this for four months! Hypothetical though this may be, it clearly indicates the critical importance and urgent need of being punctual ourselves if we wish to demonstrate financial accountability for the further promotion of reform.
In another respect, the reform process should take into account more long-term, strategic perspectives. It is a question of how we construct and maintain durable multilateral frameworks with which we can tackle the real problems of the international community.
First comes the matter of Security Council reform. We do regret that the discussions in the Working Group, established by the General Assembly ten years ago, have yet to produce any significant progress or any way out of the deadlock.
The Secretary-General proposes that we set 2005 as a deadline for reaching agreement on the changes that are needed in our international institutions. Japan takes this proposal very seriously and holds the view that a political decision should be made on that occasion, by convening a meeting of heads of states and governments regarding the reform of the United Nations and that of the Security Council, in particular, as proposed by our Foreign Minister at the General Debate.
Japan also supports the initiative of the Secretary-General to establish a High-Level Panel of Eminent Personalities and will be following those developments with great interest. Japan intends to make the maximum contribution possible to this initiative.
In order to enhance the Council's legitimacy and effectiveness, it needs to add new states both willing and able to shoulder global responsibility as its permanent members. Japan has repeatedly expressed its intention to continue to work actively for the realisation of Security Council reform, and would like to assume greater responsibility as a permanent member in a reformed Council.
When we talk about true UN reform, it is our strong conviction that it must lead to a system of world governance that can provide each and every member with a sense of its legitimacy and fairness. Unless a sense of fairness is widely shared among the Member States, we cannot hope for smooth management of the UN. Japan believes that achieving appropriate and equitable burden-sharing among Member States must be the focus of our attention.
In this regard we believe that the scale of assessments should, at an appropriate timing, be made more properly balanced and equitable in conformity with each country's actual economic performance, as well as with its status and level of responsibility in the UN. In addition, attainment of equitable geographical distribution among Member States with regard to the number of staff in the UN Secretariat is long over due. Severe under-representation must be redressed as a matter of priority.
While deployment of PKOs should be carried out according to the circumstances in each case, we also believe that the budgetary burden for PKOs should be kept at a reasonable level for the Member States. Special care must also be taken to ensure transparency, particularly vis-a-vis major financial contributors, when making decisions to establish and redesign PKOs. Some form of dialogue mechanism with those contributions should be developed.
Finally the famous four criteria introduced by Ambassador Mahbubani of Singapore are applicable not only to the Security Council but also to the General Assembly and the United Nations as a whole. We must be constantly monitoring our own performances asking ourselves whether we are managing to handle the issues successfully, improving on procedural matters and working methods, being transparent and open among ourselves, and enhancing our credibility and prestige before the international community. Reform is a continuous process that requires our devotion and constant exertion. Japan is prepared to devote its utmost efforts in order to make a significant contribution to this process.
Thank you very much.