The United Nations General Assembly today endorsed the major reform proposals put forward by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon upon taking office earlier this year, including the designation of a High Representative for Disarmament Affairs and the restructuring of peacekeeping functions to provide better planning, faster deployment and a more responsive process.
The Assembly supported these plans in two separate “framework” resolutions whose consensus adoption was accompanied by applause. Both texts requested the Secretary-General to provide more details in reports to be submitted to the 192-member body.
“Today, I see the adoption of these two resolutions as a good beginning to our work together,” Mr. Ban told the Assembly. “Now, we can embark on a reform initiative with one voice – a collaboration based on mutual trust,” he added, pledging to continue to consult Member States “in a spirit of openness and transparency.”
In its resolution on strengthening the UN’s peacekeeping capacity, the Assembly supported the restructuring of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), including the establishment of a new Department of Field Support.
Last month, in a letter to the General Assembly Mr. Ban said change was required in the face of growing demand. “The number of peace operations is at an all-time high with almost 100,000 personnel in the field. It appears that the figure will rise still further in 2007,” he said, noting that reforms in 2000 had aimed to equip DPKO with sufficient capability to launch one new multidisciplinary mission per year.
“Yet, the past 36 months alone have seen the start-up or expansion of nine field missions, with three additional missions currently in active start-up. Over the course of the next year, the number of personnel in UN peace operations could increase by as much as 40 per cent,” he added.
Under the plan, the new Department of Peace Operations would consolidate all factors dealing with strategy, planning and deployment while the Department of Field Support would take on the responsibility of the current “impossibly overstretched” management.
“Taken together, these measures would bolster and improve the assistance that Headquarters provides to field missions and to field personnel contributed by Member States,” Mr. Ban wrote.
Prior to the adoption of the text, General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa said it would ensure that DPKO’s restructuring would be “decided by the Membership through the established procedures of the General Assembly and its intergovernmental, technical, administrative and budgetary subsidiary organs.”
By its resolution on advancing the UN’s disarmament agenda, the Assembly supported the establishment of an Office for Disarmament Affairs, “while maintaining the budgetary autonomy and the integrity of the existing structures and functions of the current Department of Disarmament Affairs.” The new Office will be led by a High Representative at the rank of Under-Secretary-General, the same held by the current head of the Department.
Assembly President Sheikha Haya said this measure would “provide the Secretary-General with the political support needed for him to discharge his duties in a flexible and effective manner, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the UN Charter.”
In his letter, Mr. Ban said the need for a new approach to disarmament was evidenced by the failure of the 2005 review conference of Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament and the need for new impetus for the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
“This deeply alarming situation makes clear the need to revitalize the disarmament and non-proliferation agenda through a more focused effort,” he wrote.
Representatives of over a dozen countries took the floor to welcome the adoption of the resolutions, with many calling this action a vote of confidence in Mr. Ban’s reform proposals.
In his address to the Assembly today, Mr. Ban voiced confidence that a cooperative spirit would pave the way ahead. “The road ahead will not be without its challenges. But I look forward to working hand in hand with you as we advance together. I look with confidence to our collective journey, and I promise, for my part, to make it as free as possible of unnecessary obstacles and detours.”
Speaking to reporters following the meeting, he expressed gratitude for the support of the Member States and repeated his pledge to move forward in concert with them. “This consensus adoption of two framework resolutions on very important areas of management structure reforms is a clear sign that Member States have given me full confidence and trust in my leadership. And with this, I can continue my remaining reform measures.”