Annan hails approval of $1.8 billion refurbishment of Headquarters complex

Annan hails approval of $1.8 billion refurbishment of Headquarters complex

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Wrapping up the main part of its annual session, the United Nations General Assembly approved over $1.8 billion in funding for a comprehensive renovation of the world body's New York campus, drawing immediate praise from Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has argued that the refurbishment is essential from a health and security standpoint, and promises to save costs in the long-run.

Wrapping up the main part of its annual session, the United Nations General Assembly approved over $1.8 billion in funding for a comprehensive renovation of the world body's New York campus, drawing immediate praise from Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has argued that the refurbishment is essential from a health and security standpoint, and promises to save costs in the long-run.

In a statement released by his spokesman, the Secretary-General welcomed the adoption of the resolution on the Capital Master Plan by the General Assembly, pointing out that the $1,876.7 million allocation over the period from 2007 and 2014 will allow for repairs on buildings that have lacked essential upkeep since most of them were completed in the early 1950s.

“Through the Capital Master Plan, UN Headquarters will become a safer, healthier and more secure environment for staff, delegates, and visitors,” Mr. Annan said in his statement, one of the last during his decade-long tenure at the helm of the world body before retiring at the end of next week.

“It will become better equipped for adapting to change, and for using resources in sustainable and responsible ways,” he added.

The Secretary-General “extends his sincere thanks to Member States for funding the Capital Master Plan, and for ensuring that UN Headquarters can remain a workshop for peace for generations to come,” the spokesman said.

In adopting the resolution, the Assembly cited “the hazards, risks and deficiencies of the current conditions of the building.”

The main UN Headquarters buildings were constructed in 1949 and 1950 and have not been significantly improved or maintained since then. They are extremely energy inefficient, costing the UN more than $30 million a year in energy costs alone.

The New York Fire Department has long expressed its concerns that the UN Headquarters buildings do not meet current local fire, safety and building code standards. The Capital Master Plan seeks to redress these shortcomings while tightening security.

In other actions on Friday, the Assembly adopted resolutions on UN support to governments promoting and consolidating new or restored democracies.

The Assembly also adopted a number of resolutions on Africa, including one on the 2001-2010 Decade to Roll Back Malaria in Developing Countries and on the new Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

Tying up a number of loose ends, the Assembly voted on resolutions dealing with decolonization and the human rights situation in Myanmar. It also took a technical decision on how to apportion UN costs among Member States. In addition, it adopted resolutions on UN staffing with a view to improving current recruiting practices.

In her closing statement, Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa of Bahrain said that she had worked with Member States and Mr. Annan to build bridges and trust, and pledged to continue this effort when Secretary-General-designate Ban Ki-moon takes office in the new year.

“You have shown that, when we are united in partnership and overcome mistrust, we can achieve much more for each other,” she told representatives in the General Assembly Hall, citing among other examples the adoption of international pacts on the rights of persons with disabilities, and on protecting persons from enforced disappearance.

She also highlighted the informal thematic debate on development as an example of the increasing visibility of the Assembly, and expressed the hope that consensus would be reached on a comprehensive convention on international terrorism.

Looking ahead, she said she planned to convene a debate in March on gender equality and the empowerment of women and then, in the summer of 2007, on dialogue and tolerance among civilizations and cultures. She also expressed the hope that “we can begin the new year by working even more closely together in the spirit of cooperation, mutual trust and collective responsibility.”