Delegation of the European Union
to the United Nations - New York

EU Statement – United Nations Ad Hoc Working Group on General Assembly Revitalization: Role and Authority of the GA

New York, 12/03/2020 - 19:34, UNIQUE ID: 200312_19
Statements on behalf of the EU

12 March 2020, New York – European Union Statement by Ambassador Silvio Gonzato, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, at the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly Second thematic meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group on GA Revitalization on the Role and Authority of the General Assembly

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I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.

The Candidate Countries Turkey, the Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.

Thank you, Co-Chairs, for the opportunity to express our views on the important aspect of the ‘Role and authority of the GA’. Many of the points were already made in our intervention this morning on the GA’s working methods, which is closely linked to the topic we are discussing now.

The European Union and its Member States remain committed to supporting efforts aimed at strengthening the role and authority of the GA, in line with the UN Charter and relevant resolutions. Indeed, we wish that the GA, as the only intergovernmental body with universal membership and given its broad mandate with far-reaching responsibilities, be put in a position to effectively carry out its mandate.

It is imperative to take concrete steps to achieve a more effective delivery of mandates, while making the use of resources better and more sustainable. Revitalization can only be ensured when the GA takes relevant action on issues of common concern to the international community and produces results visible and tangible to our citizens. Our common commitment is making the UN as a whole more accountable, democratic, transparent, efficient and effective, which should also translate into a guiding principle of our work at the GA.

But for this to happen, we need to ensure that the whole system runs as a smooth machine. This includes for instance the timely submission of documents in all languages. Likewise, translation and interpretation services should not suffer from budgetary constraints, because they are crucial for the efficiency of the GA.

The commitment we show in the GA, for instance, on rationalising agenda items as well as the number and length of resolutions and other outcome documents, also sets the tone for the committees. We must focus on the realistic implementation of our key priorities, and avoid that the Assembly becomes the catch basin for issues that are better addressed in the respective committees.

This said, initiatives taken at Committee level can positively inspire other fora. For instance, we welcome the concept of a 5C troika created to ensure continuity in the work of the committee and to encourage other committees to follow that example.

The year of the UN’s 75th Anniversary is a unique opportunity to demonstrate to the outside world – i.e. our citizens – how our work is relevant to them.

Il est essentiel à cet égard d'améliorer encore la communication et la diplomatie publique sur notre action. Le soixante-quinzième anniversaire de l’ONU, que nous recommandons vivement de mettre en évidence dans la résolution sur la Revitalisation de l’Assemblée Générale, offre la possibilité de traduire nos paroles en actes. Cette Organisation sera sous les projecteurs, tout comme notre agenda commun et ambitieux, de l'action climatique aux droits de l'homme, des questions de paix et de sécurité à la Décennie d'Action pour le développement durable. Nous soutenons pleinement l'approche proactive et ciblée de la Secrétaire générale adjointe à la communication globale, Mme Melissa Fleming, qui met l'accent sur la dimension humaine des problèmes qui nous concernent tous, mais également sur les moyens concrets et positifs de les résoudre.

Improving communications and public diplomacy on what we are doing is key in this respect. The UN’s 75th Anniversary, which we highly recommend to reference prominently in the GA Revitalisation Resolution, offers the chance to turn our words into action. This Organisation will be under the spotlight, and so will our shared and ambitious agendas from climate action to human rights, from peace and security to the Decade of Action. We fully support the proactive and targeted approach by the Under-Secretary-General for Communications, Melissa Fleming, focusing on the human dimension of problems that affect all of us, but also on concrete and positive ways to address them.

Tanto en nuestra comunicación, como en la elaboración de las políticas, nos tendríamos que guiar el principio de centrarnos en lo relevante e informar a los ciudadanos de manera comprensible, evitando especialmente la jerga institucional, de manera que realmente fortalezacamos un sentimiento de apropiación mundial por su parte. Evidentemente, el multilinguismo es esencial para asegurarnos de que llegamos a todos y cada uno. Debemos hablarles a los ciudadanos en un idioma que entiendan.

Our guiding principle – both in communications as well as in our policy-making – should be to focus on what is relevant, and to inform our citizens with intelligible communication – notably avoiding institutional jargon – so as to really enhance global ownership. It goes without saying that multilingualism is an essential element in making sure we reach everyone; we must speak to our citizens in a language they understand.

But efficient communication also requires a good story, and the starting point is always our decision on agenda setting. Do we really need to debate the same resolution every year? Is that the right use of our scarce resources?

As the Covid-19 pandemic is drastically affecting the UN's work and activities, it is a reminder that there are genuine priority issues affecting our citizens across continents, which can only be addressed together. It also reminds us that our time working together within the UN is precious, and that we have an immense responsibility to make the most and the best of it.

The EU and its Member States are determined to make the GA more relevant by showing that we can prioritise and by communicating better to the general public why and how our discussions really affect them. It’s our contribution to improving this body’s transparency and accountability. Lastly, and closely linked to this, we also believe that the GA has the authority to set standards when it comes to opening up its discussions to external stakeholders, such as civil society, the private sector, academia, youth organisations. All of them are playing an increasingly important role in people's lives, and thus in our work. It would fit well with the SG’s approach to use the 75th anniversary first and foremost to listen.

Let us remind ourselves that the possibility for non-governmental organisations to contribute to the work of the UN was established by Article 71 of the Charter. NGOs speak truth to power, and in many cases give voice to the excluded and to minorities. NGOs are therefore instrumental for the success of the UN. We are highly concerned over accreditation procedures being used by MS to hinder NGO representatives from speaking out in a number of events on the agenda of the GA. The initiative of the Third Committee Chair to hold a joint session of Third Committee delegates and NGOs is very welcome in this regard.

But more can and should be done. The EU supports a closer and more structured involvement of NGOs in the work of the Committees as well as the GA itself.

I thank you for your attention.

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