Remarks at a General Committee Meeting on Addressing Gaps and Duplication in the Agenda of the General Assembly

Ambassador Kelley Currie
U.S. Representative for Economic and Social Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations

New York City
December 15, 2017


I would like to sincerely thank the President of the General Assembly for calling this important meeting on a topic of great significance to the United States of America – inefficiencies in the United Nations System arising from duplication and overlap. We have called for a 50 percent reduction in reports, conferences, and negotiations. The funds saved in travel, staff, publication, and translation costs alone could fund millions of dollars in new initiatives to respond to humanitarian and development needs of people on the ground. This year in the Second Committee, we took the drastic step of “disengaging” from 28 of 42 resolutions, precisely because we saw the same contentious issues arising over and over again with no development impact – so many hours of talk with no result. We support such reform efforts to better allocate scarce resources system-wide.

UN development system reform also requires a streamlining of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, DESA, and the Regional Economic Commissions, reducing staffing and establishing clear mandates that advance UN goals. True ECOSOC and General Assembly re-alignment is necessary to remove ever-growing redundancies and overlap in agendas. Within agencies, funds and programs, the mapping agreed in the QCPR should point the way to finding and reducing duplication and overlaps in programming and efficiencies in delivery at country level.

Here I must be very clear – we do not support a merger of the UN agency Executive Boards. We fully support the Secretary-General’s goal of system-wide coherence but we do not believe a merger of the Boards will achieve that result. However, we believe a merger would only weaken transparency and accountability and dilute each agency’s ability to mobilize their unique set of donors and stakeholders focused on achieving specific development and humanitarian objectives in country. There are ways to address issues of coherence and overlap that do not negatively affect the effectiveness of the Boards, including strengthening ECOSOC Operational Activities Segment, and giving the joint meetings of the boards a stronger and clearer role.

In conclusion, as we stretch resources to address more and more development challenges and humanitarian crises, the UN simply cannot afford to put its resources where there is little or no impact. The number of reports, conferences and negotiations has blossomed to reach a point of ineffectiveness and waste, with abundant overlaps and redundancies. We must talk less and do more.

Mr. President, thank you for this opportunity to have a very frank discussion on this very important issue. The Member States have the power and the responsibility to reform the United Nations by reducing duplication and overlap. Let us begin.