Explanation of Vote by Ambassador Joseph Torsella on Agenda Item 132 - Review of Efficiency: Accountability at the First Resumed Session of the 66th General Assembly

Ambassador Joseph M Torsella
U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
Washington, DC
April 2, 2012


Mr. Chairman,

The General Assembly had an opportunity this session in the Fifth Committee to strengthen the UN’s accountability framework and to promote a more modern, efficient and transparent UN that responsibly stewards resources to deliver better results.  But despite the common ground on a number of important areas related to accountability, many Member States have tonight taken regrettable action to hobble the Secretary General’s change management initiative – which was, as has been noted, not even on the agenda for this session – before it has even begun, but could  undermine his and his successors’ Charter authority as Chief Administrative Officer of the Organization. 

The United States strongly supports the Secretary General’s vision for a modern, engaged and efficient Secretariat.  We commend the collegial spirit in which the Secretary General shared his internal Change Management Plan with Member States. We also appreciate the Secretary-General’s commitment to forging relationships based on mutual trust, greater flexibility and accountability as outlined in his Change Plan.  We trust that he will consult, as he and his predecessors have, with Member States where our approval is required.  And we note that the Fifth Committee will have ample opportunity to assert its prerogatives on specific initiatives in the months ahead.

We therefore strongly object to and voted against the resolution proposed by Algeria on behalf of the G-77 and China, A/C.5/66/L.30.  It erodes a culture of accountability and weakens the ability of the Secretary-General to advance important management reforms.

This resolution attempts to delay the Secretary General from implementing approximately 50% of all the recommendations of his Change Management Team.   Just two examples illustrate the overreach in this resolution: Recommendation 40 asks the Secretary General to direct his own senior managers to fly economy class for travel of less than six hours on one continent.  Recommendation 28 simply urges the Secretary General “to keep legislative bodies and other partners well informed as the working groups on cost recovery and program support costs conclude their work. Presumably, Mr. Chairman, this Committee is one of those very legislative bodies.

Our strong objection, Mr. Chairman, is not just substantive, but also procedural.  Following the proposal to vote this resolution, the United States was compelled to submit, with regret, an amendment to the resolution before us because some Member States have not sought to achieve the broadest possible agreement on this issue. They have departed from the long-standing principle of consensus-based decision-making in the Fifth Committee by including provisions that a significant number of delegations clearly oppose.   Let us be clear: legitimate decisions of the Fifth Committee proceed from consensus, and this is not consensus by any definition.  

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


PRN: 2012/062