Statement at the 74th General Assembly Debate on U.N. Revitalization

John Giordano
Public Delegate
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 8, 2019


Thank you, Mr. President. First of all, the United States would like to express its appreciation to the co-chairs of the Revitalization Working Group during the 73rd Session, Ambassador Bahous and Ambassador Mlynar. We very much appreciated your efforts to prepare a streamlined, focused resolution. We congratulate you on the consensus adoption of the annual revitalization resolution during the 73rd Session. We would also like to thank you, Mr. President, for your interest in advancing these efforts.

During the 74th Session, the United States would like to build on the progress already made, so that we can collectively further improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the General Assembly.

The United States continues to call for the reduction of duplicative resolutions and agenda items across the six UNGA committees – but particularly in the Second Committee. As we have stated on numerous occasions, we continue to believe there is insufficient change or development on many of the issues in our agenda on a yearly basis to justify annual reports or resolutions; rather, triennial or quadrennial reporting and negotiation would be beneficial for us all. There are also a number of resolutions that are outdated, irrelevant, ineffective, and, in some cases, redundant.

We support streamlining the General Assembly’s agenda in order to eliminate such obsolete and redundant agenda items. By doing so, we will enable member states to focus on concrete outcomes, not just on process. Despite lengthy discussions on the alignment of the work of the Second and Third Committees and ECOSOC, the agenda only continues to balloon. This year’s Second Committee has more resolutions than ever before, and the Third Committee has over 60 resolutions.

It is time for us to practice what we preach. The one resolution run by the United States in the Third Committee on elections is biannual. We all must look holistically, across the board, at the periodicity of all but the most essential resolutions.

Additionally, we should look at the resolutions themselves. They have also gotten longer than before, with some running more than 20 pages. And as the President of the General Assembly has highlighted, many call for the convening one-day high-level events as well – with 10 out of 13 proposals currently under consideration coming from a single political group.

We remain supportive of moving to a biannual UNGA revitalization resolution process. This shift would allow member states to focus on implementation versus negotiation and advance our common efficiency goals.

We must remember that the extensive program of work also results in opportunity costs for delegations and capitals – time spent in negotiating rooms on resolutions with little effect is time taken away from other forms of outreach. It leads to problems in coordination by groups of countries, making positions more rigid and making it harder for participants in the negotiations to work out compromises. In short, the overloaded program causes the quality of work to suffer.

The UN does not have infinite resources to create reports. Furthermore, delegations do not have infinite human resources and time to devote to prepare for and participate in debates in this Hall and in the Committee rooms. At some point, we must question their value – if everything is important, then nothing is. Our time, energies, and limited resources should be devoted to endeavors that have more impact.

We also strongly encourage member states to consider supporting a code of conduct governing elections in the General Assembly. These standards would improve transparency and accountability for member states’ election campaigns.

We continue to believe that civil society participation in high-level conferences and meetings of the General Assembly will provide valuable – and often missing – perspectives on the issues before this body. The true drivers of sustainable development and the advancement of human rights are respect for the rule of law and human rights, citizen-responsive governance based on transparency and accountability, and the participation of civil society. Citizens’ voices must be heard.

Finally, we ask that the Working Group remain focused on the main objective with which the General Assembly has tasked us: that is, strengthening the work of the General Assembly.

Thank you, Mr. President.