What should we expect from the Heads of State in General Assembly
Reform is in the air with the process of reform started by the new Secretary General. His first report came out a month ago and there is now a process of consultation with governments, stakeholders and within the UN and the second reform package will come out in December and governments will discuss both formally in the UN Committee Two process in early 2018.
On Friday the 15th September Achim Steiner the new Administrator of UNDP presented his new vision for the organization. This was trialed out a couple of weeks before in an excellent power point presentation to the Member States. He throws out what was there and has a really impressive vision for UNDP which sits very well with the role it should be playign in the 21st century. He is giving UNDP a leadership it hasn't had throughout the last two Administrators and is suggesting a UNDP fit for purpose for the 21st century.
It is important to remember that the UN is directed by member states but the management of the work member states give to it is ultimately the work of the senior managers in the different Agencies and Programmes.
The new leadership in the UN ONLY started in January with the new Secretary General, In March with the new Deputy Secretary-General and I think in June with Helen's replacement at UNDP Achim Steiner. This was followed by in JulyTedros Adhanom the new Director-Genera of WHO. We are still waiting for the new heads of UNESCO and UN-Habitat. So Heads of State need to give their broad support for what is being undertaken by the new UN team. I am sure we all will have elements of the reform we are not happy with but that should not contribute to the unraveling of this reform process.
We have in place the 2030 AGenda with the SDGs and the Paris Climate agreement, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Samoa Pathway to help direct the institution. The major missing element being on migration and that will hopefully be in place in 2018. The agreement of a global compact on refugees and the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration will be critical.
Often those not engaged in the UN do not realize the constraints on the UN Secretary-General. He isn't like a Prime Minister or President. The UN isn't a set of government departments which he (or she hopefully in the future) can tell UN Agencies what to do. WHO or UNESCO or FAO have their own governing bodies which tell them what to do.
Clearly, there can be more coordination by governments presenting agreed approaches to all the relevant governing boards so some work to do here.The balance between what member states do and what the secretariat do by themselves is always a challenging one. Member States usually get involved when the management is not performing to a high standard and they try to micromanage to get the results that they had anticipated.
Should the Secretary-General be able to take bold moves? I think if he has the trust of Member States then there isn't a problem. When member states feel that the Secretary-General is doing something which isn't what they have directed him to do then, of course, they will try and pull him back.
One example of this has been the issue of accountability for the previous Secretary-General when he launched multi-stakeholder partnerships. These have under the previous Secretary General not been held accountable to the Member States. As these partnerships are in the name of the UN it seems that there should be some oversight by the Member States. So in my view, its the responsibility for the Secretary-General to ask the Member States for their support and to ensure whatever they undertake comes back to the Member States for review. Creating parallel processes is not helpful.
This next week offers a chance yet again to remind Heads of State and Government Ministers about their commitments on SDGs and Climate in Particular and to hopefully go back to capital and with more energy address what they are going to do to implement these agreements in their own country and to help other countries to achieve the SDGs and the climate targets. The recent hurricanes should underline the need for urgent action.
This meeting will also address the issue of North Korea and its nuclear programme this is likely to take up a lot of the media focus. What has been interesting is even on Fox we are seeing positive comments about the role the UN can play and obviously the Security Council here. It is difficult for me to see an outcome on this issue that gets North Korea to back down. But hopefully, this week can end with a commitment of all nations to find a solution that enables North Korea to come to the table and talk.
“This report will be a bit of a wake-up call to some leaders of certain countries,” said Melinda Gates in an interview. “There is a lot of work to be done, and we’ve got to roll up our sleeves and as a world get busy on that work.”