GROUP OF 77
Statement by Ambassador Agnes Kalibbala, Deputy Permanent Representative of Uganda to UN-HABITAT and UNEP and Chairperson of the Group of 77, on UN Reforms (Nairobi, 4 May 2006)
First of all we would like to associate our selves with the statement already made by H.E Ambassador Kumalo, the Permanent Representative of South Africa to the UN and Chair of the Group of 77 and China, New York Chapter in regard to these reforms both on substance and on the process of the reforms. We do however have a few more points we would like to add on especially in regard to UNEP and UN-HABITAT matters here in Nairobi.
As we contemplate the reforms called for by the 2005 world summit, the Group of 77 and China, Nairobi chapter recognizes that circumstances have changed over the last years in the area of environment and human settlements since UNEP and UN-HABITAT were established. We therefore welcome the reforms and hope that they will make both UNEP and UN-HABITAT more effective in handling their respective mandates.
Our comments are divided into two parts and I will start with comments on UNEP.
We would like to see UNEP being strengthened and its role being clarified within the context of sustainable development to which the international community is now committed. There is a need to revisit the role and functions of UNEP within the United Nations System and to re-affirm and strengthen its capacity to serve as the agency coordinating the environment component within sustainable development. There is a tendency to confuse environment with sustainable development and this has led to some uncertainty of UNEPs role in relation to CSD. This issue needs to be clarified in these reforms.
The second issue Mr. President is in regard to the share of funding for UNEP's activities from the United Nations regular budget that is approved by the United Nations General Assembly. The on-going UN-Reform process is a unique opportunity to address this issue as the current contribution of only 4 per cent from the regular budget to fund UNEP activities is far below the desired amount. This issue has been repeatedly brought to the attention of the UN General Assembly through the reports of the UNEP Governing Council but no action has been taken to date. We hope the current process of consultation on the UN reforms will address this matter and recommend for upward adjustment of the budget allocation to UNEP from the UN regular budget.
In regard to the International Environment Governance, the Group of 77 and China has the following remarks to make:
The first one is that the establishment of the Global Ministerial Environment Forum with Universal participation at the Ministerial level was expected to result in a renewed focus for high level environment policy discussion. We note however that this goal has not yet been achieved and there is a strong need to strengthen further the Global Ministerial Environment Forum to enhance its relationship with other intergovernmental forums and assist in developing policy coherence as well as enable it to serve better as a forum for environment policy discussion.
On the issue regarding enhanced cooperation, there is a general consensus with in the group that there is need for inter-agency coordination and an authoritative role for the Environment Management Group (EMG). The EMG presents an opportunity to address and promote the UN system-wide coherence of interagency cooperation within and out side the United Nations system. A more effective utilization of the EMG would not only strengthen UNEPs capacity for environment monitoring assessment and early warning, but could result in the provision of timely, improved and co-coordinated information to countries. Despite this, however, the Group of 77 stresses the need to have a more transparent process of the revitalization of the EMG in order to ensure consistency with the respective mandates of its members.
In regard to the issue of promoting a specialized organization on environment (namely a UNEO), the G77 and China does not support investing time in discussing the establishment of new institutional frameworks such as a UNEO. We do instead support mainstreaming of environment management issues into all economic and social development processes in national policies and within the UN systems in order to achieve sustainable development. This is because promotion of environment protection alone in developing countries is not a priority as it raises obstacles to the use of limited resources for economic development.
In this regard we do stress the importance of the Bali Strategic Plan for technology support and capacity building, and the poverty and environment project as the best mechanisms to provide a basis for integration of environment activities in the broader development frame work at national level.
It is therefore our strong recommendation that instead of investing time in discussing the establishment of new institutional frameworks such as a UNEO, we should concentrate more on exploring means to strengthen the financial base of UNEP to implement the elements that have already been negotiated and adopted internationally such as the Bali strategic plan. We therefore need the political will of the developed countries to achieve this.
On the issue of the scientific base, we note that it is a very expensive venture and we suggest that UNEP instead invests in implementing tangible programs at regional and country level. We do however support incremental strengthening of the scientific base in the longer term for future use but not immediately as this is` not a priority at the moment
As I said earlier on, we do also have contributions to make in regard to UN-HABITAT issues.
The first and most important issue in this regard, is that we don't support splitting UN-HABITAT into two along the normative and operational lines as recommended by the OECD report. This is because UN-HABITAT has comparative advantages which we have to take into consideration before thinking of merging it with other organizations. The comparative advantages include: its unique expertise in working directly with Governments of developing countries, local authorities and local communities, to solve issues related to housing, land, urban planning, access to water and sanitation and so on. Splitting it will therefore water down its efficiency to support developing countries to deal with these problems.
Secondly we express the urgent need to strengthen the financial base of UN-HABITAT with predictable funding to enable it address the new urbanization challenges of developing countries such as slum formation, slum prevention, slum upgrading and urban poverty.
Our final comment is in regard to strengthening of Nairobi as the head quarters of both UNEP and UN-HABITAT. We note that Nairobi is the only UN- headquarters based in the developing world and therefore underscore the need for the reforms to ensure that Nairobi is strengthened at all times. We therefore wish to see Nairobi acquiring the same status and attractiveness as other UN stations such New York, Geneva, and Vienna.
Lastly, I wish to state that member states within the Group of 77 and China will be making separate interventions on other issues which I have not mentioned in this statement.
I thank you Mr. President.