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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

U.S. VOTES NO ON PROPOSED CHANGE TO AUTHORITY OF UN SECRETARY GENERAL

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Samantha Power
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
New York, NY
March 24, 2015
AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The United States will vote NO on the resolution proposed by the Russian Federation and we urge that other countries do the same.

This resolution attempts to undermine the Secretary-General’s authority as Chief Administrative Officer of the United Nations, a role entrusted to him by the UN Charter. At issue is a staff bulletin issued by the Secretary-General that made a straightforward change with respect to how the UN Staff Regulations and Rules are implemented. This is an administrative decision made by the UN, for the UN; this decision has not interfered and will not interfere with any Member State’s domestic legislation.

In issuing this bulletin, the Secretary-General acted within his legitimate authority and on the advice of the United Nations’ Office of Legal Affairs, OLA. OLA has shared that advice, in detail, with this Committee on several occasions. In our view, OLA’s advice is clear and persuasive, grounded in important and well-established precedents. Nonetheless, the Russian Federation has continued to press the Secretary-General to rescind the bulletin, leaving some in this Committee with a misleading impression of the bulletin’s effect.

Russia claims the administrative decision will impose a new standard on Member States. But this is not true. The bulletin changes the UN’s practice and does not seek to change Member States’ domestic legislation.

The sponsor claims the bulletin will carry significant costs. However, the UN Office of Human Resources Management has informed us that there have been no financial implications as of yet, and that any future costs would be insignificant.

It is the resolution we are being asked to vote on that would have a profound and lasting impact. This resolution seeks to alter the division of labor between the Secretary-General and the General Assembly. Of course, the General Assembly, and the Fifth Committee in particular, have essential roles to play in guiding the operation of the organization – and the United States joins all Member States here in guarding this role vigilantly. But this resolution would have us micromanage a decision that is well within the Secretary-General’s discretionary authority. It would set a dangerous precedent, diminishing the office of the Secretary-General and involving this Committee and the General Assembly in a degree of granularity that could negatively impact the effective delivery of mandates, and would create legal uncertainty around the extent of the Secretary-General’s administrative authority and legal uncertainty about the durability of future administrative decisions made by the Secretary-General.

The Secretary-General’s authority should not be undermined, this bulletin should not be politicized, and this Committee and the General Assembly should not be divided by a vote that almost none of us wanted. As such, the United States will be voting NO and we respectfully urge other countries to do the same. Thank you.