Statement by Ambassador Joseph Torsella, U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform, on Action Taken on Fifth Committee Resolutions from the First Resumed Session of the 66th GA, General Assembly

Ambassador Joseph M Torsella
U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
April 9, 2012


Mr. President,

We are grateful by strong Fifth Committee action on the Capital Master Plan, but are disappointed in the lack of responsible action on public disclosure of the Office of Internal Oversight Services audit reports, air travel reforms, and other items.

Mr. President,

In particular we note, the Fifth Committee and the General Assembly had an opportunity this session 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 took regrettable and premature action to force a vote on and sidetrack the Secretary General’s change management initiative before it has even begun.  This unnecessary action, on an item not even on the agenda for this session, undermines the Charter authority of the Secretary-General and his successors’ as Chief Administrative Officer of the Organization. 

The United States strongly supports a more 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 and General Assembly will have ample opportunity to assert their prerogatives on specific initiatives in the normal course of events.

My delegation, therefore, did not support the draft resolution contained in paragraph 17 of A/66/638/Add. 1, and instead proposed a constructive and balanced amendment, allowing Member States to express their concerns while not unduly constraining the Secretary General’s authority. 

The resolution as passed indeed erodes rather than promotes a culture of accountability, by attempting to delay the implementation of approximately 50% of all the recommendations of his Change Management Team, claiming these areas as the uncontested prerogative of the General Assembly.  Just one example illustrates the overreach of that claim: Recommendation 40 simply asks the Secretary General to direct his own senior managers to fly economy class for travel of less than six hours on one continent. 

My delegation profoundly regrets that some Member States did not seek to achieve the broadest possible agreement on this issue, even when presented with a compromise chairman’s text.   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.  We regret that consensus, the legitimate basis of all Fifth Committee decisions, was not achieved this session despite being so clearly within our grasp.  The United States stands ready to work collaboratively to achieve such consensus in the future, as we have always done in the past.

Thank you, Mr. President.


PRN: 2012/074