ECOSOC - Statements in 1997
27.01.2002 / 22:27
Statement by H.E. Mr. Karel Kovanda, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, Substantive Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, High-Level SegmentGeneva, July 3, 1997 Opening statement of H.E. Mr. Vladimir Galuska, Permanent Representative of the Czech
Statement by H.E. Mr. Karel Kovanda, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, Substantive Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, High-Level Segment
Geneva, July 3, 1997
Opening statement of H.E. Mr. Vladimir Galuska, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations, President of the Economic and Social Council, Substantive Session of the Economic and Social Council
Geneva, June 30, 1997
Remarks of H.E. Mr. Vladimir Galuska, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations on the occasion of his election as President of the UN Economic and Social Council
New York, May 2, 1997
Statement of H.E. Mr. Karel Kovanda, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic on the occasion of his election as President of the UN Economic and Social Council
New York, January 23, 1997
Statement by H.E. Mr. Karel Kovanda, Deputy Minister of
Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, Substantive Session of the
United Nations Economic and Social Council High-Level Segment
Messrs. Presidents of the GA and of ECOSOC, Mr. Secretary-General, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a great honor for me to stand here today, not only representing the Czech Republic but also as the immediate past president of ECOSOC, to make a few remarks about the topic of this year´s high-level segment of our substantive session. This topic has the most unwieldy name possible: can any of us really imagine that in our day-to-day parlance we would utter a phrase such as "fostering an enabling environment for development: financial flows, including capital flows, investment and trade"? None of us talks like that, of course. It is a part of the reform challenge of ECOSOC which its President mentioned a couple of days ago in his opening remarks, to translate our ECOSOC-speak into something more plain, more understandable, and thus more meaningful.
Leaving the obscurity of its title aside, the topic this year´s session is as relevant as any we have been dealing with in recent years. Indeed, what does it take to tend the garden of development? The Secretary-General´s report on the topic contains a very stimulating array of thought, and I congratulate him on it. Instead of commenting on the entire wealth of the report, I will take one or two of these thoughts and graft them onto the specific example of my own country, to see whether this exercise yields any more general lessons.
For several years, the Czech republic had prided itself on its macroeconomic performance. During the 90´s, its economy underwent a significant transformation which included, among other, privatization of an overwhelming percentage of previously state-owned companies, introducing the free play of the market to determine prices and thereby to allocate resources, reorienting the country´prevailing foreign-trade patterns from East to West and transforming the country´s currency from funny money into convertible tender.
The results had been encouraging: the original shock of collapsing industries which produced stuff that couldn´t be sold subsided after a few short years, GDP started growing again by respectable margins, inflation dropped into single digits and kept slowly declining, the currency exchange rate held steady, unemployment was exceedingly (even unhealthful) low and the government maintained a balanced budget for years in a row. The country signed an association agreement with the EU, joined the OECD and generally looked forward to a bright future with steady growth.
Suddenly, we hit a speed bump earlier this year. Suddenly, the currency was attacked by international money managers, the trade account deficit had grown to intolerable proportions, economic growth decelerated, and the treasury had to impose painful cuts to keep the budget balance.
At the end of May, the Government issued an analysis which was very self-critical. It admitted several errors in its past policies, and I will not explore them all here. But one of the important things the government reflected upon was the country´s defective legal and administrative environment which does not provide the conditions in which, as the Government put it,"property owners would find it worthwhile to behave responsibly."
The Government came to realize that macroeconomic accomplishments, no matter how impressive, are not a sufficient condition for the successful transformation of our economy. The problem was that the country´s economic transition - guided by well-known liberal principles - had not been accompanied by a corresponding transition of its legal system. Privatization lead to the prevalence of private property - but legislation was lacking that would protect this private property. The role the state used to play in the country´s previous communist regime had been negated - but the baby was tossed out with the bathwater: liberal economic reformer had ignored the fact that Adam Smith´s invisible hand needs the help of the state in safeguarding the rule of market fair play. Proudhon may have argued that "property is theft"; more appropriate, though, is the observation that "unprotected property results in theft".
As a consequence, the Czech business scene has been buffeted by scandals. Non-existent barriers between banks and the investment funds they manage, toothless controls of security markets, murkiness of property relationships, sweetheart loans with no expectations (or prospects) of ever being repaid, grossly insufficient information about publicly traded companies, rampant insider trading. Add to this the uncertain groping of the Czech law-enforcement and court systems which don´t have the experience, the tools, the knowledge to even begin to cope with these phenomena. This random selection of evils bedevil Czech capital markets, dissuade foreign investor from entering it, and indeed are giving capitalism a bad name in my country. Theft and larceny have acquired new forms with their own new terminology: the expression "tunneling of banks" has made its appearance in the Czech language lately, to describe ruthless investors who gain control of a bank only to bore a gaping hole through its assets - and then let it go bankrupt, for the State to pick up the pieces, i.e., to reimburse the legion of hapless small depositors.
The Secretary-General notes in paragraph 16 of his stimulating report that it si "essential to ensure the soundness of the banking system through prudential regulations, better assessment of credit risks, stringent capital requirements, action to prevent money laundering, improved management of bank and better regulation of security markets". This is language my country has finally come to understand; but we have paid a heavy price for these lessons. "Governments," as the Secretary-General observes, "have a definite economic role: they must ensure an appropriate policy environment /and/ create favorable conditions for the business sector," among other. He is right - with the understanding that this policy environment, these favorable conditions encompass not only economic aspects but also, and importantly, legal aspects.
We have learned our lesson and may already have gotten over the economic speed bump of the first months of this year. But other countries experiencing a rapid transformation of their ownership patterns, such as countries in transition or any other embarking on large-scale privatization, reduction of the State´s role in steering the national economy and other forms of otherwise laudable economic liberalism, will ignore this lesson only at their own peril.
Opening statement of H.E. Mr. Vladimir Galuska, Permanent
Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations,
President of the Economic and Social Council, Substantive Session
of the Economic and Social Council
Dear Colleagues, Distinguished Guests, Dear Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my honour and privilege to open this year's substantive session of Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is a tradition of ECOSOC to hold its substantive sessions alternatively in New York and in Geneva. This year we are to go through the demanding agenda of our substantive session. At the same time, however, we have a fortunate opportunity to enjoy the beauty of Geneva and its mountainous surroundings. I hope that such a beautiful location will help us to mobilize our mental strengths and will contribute to our endurance so that we can attain the goals set in our agenda.
We do not start our work from scratch because we can build upon a construction founded by our predecessors. Let me mention and appreciate at this moment the previous presidents of the ECOSOC, who contributed a lot to the work and performance of this body. Let me mention at least some of them - amb. Somavia of Chile, amb. Butler of Australia, amb. Kamal of Pakistan, amb. Kacou Gervais of Cote d'Ivoire and amb. Kovanda of the Czech Republic. Some of them will join us later during our deliberation here, some of them left the UN community in New York or Geneva for other duties and posts. We are grateful to them for their effort to make ECOSOC more efficient and more relevant to the contemporary world and its development. I would like to confirm that it is my intention to continue in one tradition of my predecessors and to start the sessions punctually at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and to make best possible use of our available time. I hope that all delegations will help me in achieving this.
Barely two years ago we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. At those moments perhaps we all were full of enthusiasm about the past and hopes for the future of the UN. However, there is not a feast every day and since the moments of the 50th anniversary we have witnessed some moments of excitement about successes of the work of UN, but also moments of skepticism, when we were not able to reach a consensus on urgent problems. The period after the 50th anniversary was also the time of growing consensus that more substantial reform of the UN structure and its work is urgent and necessary.
This year the UN started with a new Secretary General, H.E. Mr. Kofi Annan having been elected to its head. His role as UN chief administrator at this time is utmostly demanding and difficult, also because there are so many differing opinions on how the UN should be re- formed, re-shaped, re-structured and re-adjusted to the contemporary world and its problems. Some reform proposals and initiatives have already been announced, the second track of the reform will be announced in mid July. We hope to have an opportunity to preview the framework of the second track of UN reform during the visit of Secretary General Mr. Kofi Annan in Geneva later in this week. In any case I suppose it will be of the supreme interest for ECOSOC to participate fully in the discussion about the reform and to participate fully in the implementation of the adopted conclusions or decisions.
The idea of ECOSOC reform and feeling of its urgency is not a new one. Indeed, an important resolution in this regard is the GA resolution 50/227. It is irrelevant at this very moment to argue whether this resolution or some others are perfect or not, whether there are some "beauty spots" or not, where the resolution should have been more far-reaching in this or that direction. At the moment of its adoption it incorporated all what was possible to achieve under the time constraint and under other circumstances.
However, there are important provisions in the resolution 50/227 which can and should be implemented soon and swiftly. On one hand we can admit that all delegations were very busy in the last weeks and months because of many important meetings and negotiations such as finalizing the Agenda for Development, preparation of UNGASS etc. On the other hand, however, it is hard to resist the opinion that more should have been achieved.
Yes, I speak about some tasks, which are still unfinished and which are waiting for further progress, substantial progress, such as the revision and streamlining of ECOSOC subsidiary bodies. I very much appreciate the effort of amb. Chowdhury of Bangladesh, who is leading the negotiations and I am confident his effort will be crowned with success during our substantive session. The issue at stake is not whether some important topics will be eliminated from the UN agenda as some may fear. The issue at stake is the extremely high risk of making our own work less efficient because of spending too much time and effort, I underline our own time and effort, whilst struggling with heaps of reports, papers, meetings, negotiations, which can and should be organized more efficiently and more rationally. I would like to appeal to all - our governments and constituency expect and should expect more from us, we should expect more results from our hard work. Let us not waste time with empty speeches and senseless arguing, let us focus strictly on the basic problems we are supposed to solve here. Let us abandon any attempt to overwhelm one another with richness of synonyms or antonyms in any of our working languages when negotiating any resolution or decision. Even complex problems and issues can be described and solved in simple, straightforward language - obviously, if there is a will to do so.
As the GA resolution 50/227 is concerned, there are many provisions for furthering the reform effort, specifically the agenda of ECOSOC sessions, structure of its subsidiary bodies, methods and forms of its work. During the presidency of my predecessor the first rounds of consultations with chairpersons of the Second and Third (C.2 and C.3) committees of the GA were held on simplification of the agenda through more rational clustering of agenda items. Some results were achieved, however, such consultations should further continue. Consultations were also held on abandoning some agenda items which are either obsolete or on the working tables of other UN bodies. The first steps in the right direction were made, but we still cannot be satisfied.
The consultations are sometimes hampered by tacit, though still existing, lack of confidence among parties concerned. Though well hidden "behind the curtains", there is a feeling that "the others" have a hidden agenda through which "our" substantive important interests might be harmed. New style of thinking and understanding the global problems must be adopted and must prevail - institutions including the UN entities should by their mandate and functioning be here to help us manage and eliminate problems. If this is not the case, than the entities should be restructured or eliminated - if appropriate.
Unfortunately, from the history our mutual relations may have been heavily burdened by historical problems resulting in sometimes emotional interpreting of the current situation. This should be abandoned! The global problems of mankind are of such a dimension and such profound nature that anything else than strictly rational and unselfish behaviour cannot lead us to better, less troubled world. In my opinion, ECOSOC and its functional commissions and committees and all related UN bodies are a very proper place for such strictly rational and sober approach.
Several global international conferences dealing with urgent global social, economic or environmental issues were held in the last few years. ECOSOC through its appropriate functional bodies and related special agencies participated in preparation of them and today it is the task of ECOSOC to take care of coordination of the follow-ups to these conferences and reviewing of results achieved. The recent UNGASS is an example of such reviewing and assessing meeting. Speaking about the UNGASS and possibly the future similar special events, we could perhaps conclude that through the multilayer and intertwined processes we understand much better the issues of sustainable development in its three principal dimensions - economic, social and environmental. Regrettably, we are still disagreeing rather than agreeing about which remedial measures should be adopted and how to solve the agreed upon basic problems of sustainable development. It is true also regarding the issue of available financial resources which is a bottom line of many negotiation troubles which otherwise are clear and more or less simple to deal with. In this connection I have requested amb. Somavia of Chile to undertake informal consultations on this important matter.
The major topic of the current high-level segment is fostering an enabling environment for development. It is a mandate and tradition to hold discussion on major issues of international development. The current high-level segment issue is very topical because of several reasons.
First - one of the major problems of the contemporary world is
the issue of economic and social development including the
questions of population growth, poverty eradication, empowerment of
women, basic human rights, problems of education for all and for
girl children especially. Rather surprisingly, there are divergent
opinions about the preconditions for such enabling environment for
development. Although we presumably will not be able to make a
breakthrough discovery on this issue and attain a "once-for-all"
solution, I hope that our discussion will contribute to the process
of finding the general formula. We have a chance to make a real and
tangible progress regarding the enabling environment for
development in its both national and international dimension. In
this connection we should not forget one old proverb - unless I
start cleaning and sweeping in front of my own house, I cannot
expect the whole street to be nice and tidy and full of flowers.
Second - this year for the first time we are requested by GA resolution 50/227 not only to discuss the issue of enabling environment, but to adopt the agreed conclusions resulting from the content of the high-level segment discussion. It creates a very challenging task for us but in spite of some skeptic voices I hope that we shall manage to conclude our discussion in time and to adopt well-balanced, well-founded and relevant agreed conclusions.
Third - unfortunately in the past we were still far from the state when the form of high-level segment would be a real, genuine discussion. We are still somehow bound to the "classical" model of UN negotiation which is often a series of monologues but not a real dialogue. We are not very successful in achieving genuine discussion where people would be willing and would have a courage to abandon the "classical" model of series of monologues and to consider the issue from unusual point of view. I would like to appeal to you to try (and I will do my best to encourage it) to engage in genuine discussion.
Fourth - delegates tend to accept more and more the idea that the private sector is becoming an important partner for our discussions. It is not only the clean technology concept for the sustainable development, but quite naturally it is also the issues of enabling environment for development. For this reason the bureau of ECOSOC decided to invite some eminent persons from outside of the UN community to participate in panel discussion about the enabling environment for development. We could not secure all of those eminent persons which we would like to have here with us, but this effort could be considered another step towards open discussions and contact among the UN community, private sector and international financial institutions.
When speaking about the high-level segment, we should not forget the leading topics of other segments of our session - specifically both topics of the coordination segment and the topic for operational activities segment. Our success to progress from a mere "platonic" discussion (or - even worse - from a series of monologues) to the adoption of a well targeted, realistic and implementable resolutions and an action plan will be a major contribution to the current discussion about ECOSOC and its reform.
Let me conclude my opening speech by thanking all our distinguished guests for joining us, by thanking all members of the ECOSOC bureau and UN Secretariat staff for hard work in preparing this substantive session and by wishing us all the best in our deliberations.
The runway is clear, let us start the engines for a take-off! Good luck, bon chance and happy landing a month later!
Remarks of H.E. Mr. Vladimir Galuska, Permanent
Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations on the
occasion of his election as President of the UN Economic and Social
Dear colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the outset let me thank the members of the Economic and Social Council for honoring me today by electing me to the high office of its President. Furthermore, I would like to thank my colleagues from the East European Regional Group for having endorsed my candidacy.
In assuming this office, I want to thank the outgoing President of the Council, former Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations, H.E. Deputy Foreign Minister Mr. Karel Kovanda, for the impressive leadership he provided our Council with during the previous months and weeks of his tenure. The Council has successfully started some very important business under his guidance, which we will try to push forward. I would also like to thank my distinguished colleagues who are currently serving as vice-presidents of the Council, and primarily the Council's acting president H.E. Juan Somavia, for their mastery with which they conducted the work in the Council's bureau during the absence of the Council's president. It can hardly be overstated that in view of the extensive diplomatic experience and capabilities of the all vice- presidents, this year's bureau is very, very strong, indeed. The effort of the members of the Bureau, however, would be hardly successful without the immense, knowledgeable and very friendly support and assistance of the Council's secretariat.
In assuming the role of President of ECOSOC, I realize my responsibility in securing the success of the implementation of the plans for change. I consider it a giant challenge which would be unmanageable without a genuine cooperation and collaboration all of us here. I feel it is my principal advantage and privilege to rely on the extensive experience and capabilities of the Council's members, as well as the non-members. If there is one single characteristic prevailing in my management style, then it is "teamwork". I sincerely want to get the opinion and advice from all of us who honestly strive to make ECOSOC, and the U.N. in general, more efficient, more focussed and more relevant to the contemporary world. I will do my best to continue with the changes, which have already started. It is my sincere intention to make the work of ECOSOC as transparent as possible. To achieve this, I will support the positive experience of informal consultations. Furthermore, I will personally want to meet with chairmen of the regional groups and the groups of countries very often. As for the promptness in starting the Council's sessions, I will continue in the recent tradition enforced by my predecessor.
only a few weeks separate us from the commencement of the substantive session of the Council in Geneva. As I am sure you are aware, a lot of work remains to be done. Yet I firmly believe that good intentions, willingness to work towards the goals and diplomatic skills and capabilities are so amassed here that all potential hindrances are only opportunities for all of us to demonstrate that we not only want to succeed, but that we will.
Let me once again thank the outgoing President of ECOSOC H.E. Karel Kovanda and let me wish him every success in his new position and invite him to join us again whenever it might be feasible. Let me also wish every success to you in our joint effort to make ECOSOC relevant to the conditions and requirements of the contemporary world
Statement by H.E. Mr. Karel Kovanda, Deputy Minister of
Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic on the occasion of his
election as President of the UN Economic and Social Council
Let me first of all thank members of the Economic and Social Council for honoring me today by electing me to the high office of its President, and in particular thank my colleagues from the East European Regional Group for having endorsed my candidacy. In assuming this office, I cannot fail to thank from the bottom of my heart my predecessor, Ambassador Jean-Marie Kacou Gervais, for the impressive leadership he provided to our Council during the previous twelve months. As we all know, the Council completed some very important business under his guidance, which we will in many respects build upon this year. He was also unstinting with the advice he shared, based on his extensive experience with diplomacy in general and with Ecosoc in particular.
Let me thank outgoing Council members, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, which also functioned as the spokesman for the G77+China, Egypt, Ghana, Greece, Indonesia, Ireland, which doubled in the second semester as spokesman for the EU, Pakistan, which held the presidency two years ago, Paraguay, Portugal, Senegal, UR of Tanzania, Venezuela, which shepherded GA resolution 50/227, and Zimbabwe, for their contributions to our work, and welcome new members: Cape Verde, Cuba, Djibouti, El Salvador, Gambia, Iceland, Latvia, Mexico, Mozambique, Republic of Korea, Spain, Turkey and Zambia.
President Kacou Gervais' tenure followed on the heels of several other strong presidents who had led our Council in previous years. These have been years of flux and changes for our Council, both in form and in substance, and these changes are not over yet.
Ecosoc should be abolished! It doesn't do anything worthwhile. What work it does do should perhaps be assumed by a new Economic Security Council. Then again, all the important matters that Ecosoc should deal with are being handled by the Bretton Woods Institutions anyway. These are views from one end of the extraordinarily broad spectrum of opinions as to what Ecosoc should do, where Ecosoc should go. This end of the spectrum looks at Ecosoc as a pretty useless organization, deserving no respect. And indeed we ourselves often feel frustrated that our Council enjoys little respect, is seldom taken seriously, and we wonder how this can be changed. I wonder sometimes whether members really consider their membership in Ecosoc to be anything more than a platform for getting elected to its various subsidiary bodies.
The other end of the spectrum features opinions that Ecosoc should become the predominant organism in economic and social affairs and should indeed direct them, complete with gaining power over the purse strings, rather than merely coordinate them.
Which way should Ecosoc go? Or should it perhaps go nowhere, should it stay just the way it is? What should it really do? These questions indicate one approach to reform: namely, to decide what needs to be done, to agree on the content of work, and then sort out the corresponding optimum organizational form. This approach could be described as mission-driven: focus on the mission of an organ, and from that mission derive its most appropriate form.
There is another possible approach to reform; an approach which takes the organization as it is, without substantially questioning its work content, let alone its mission, and chips away at its form, its process, its methods. I would describe this as a form-driven approach to reform.
In the past year, we have had the good fortune that a working group focusing on many aspects of Ecosoc's form completed its efforts. I am of course talking about the "Working group on restructuring and revitalization of the UN in the economic, social and related fields", which was chaired by Ambassador Oscar de Rojas, the Deputy Permanent Representative of Venezuela. Parenthetically, it is so far the only one of the various working groups in the UN that has actually produced a final text. The GA resolution 50/227 which resulted from this working group deals, among other, with Ecosoc issues - and largely, as I say, with Ecosoc's form. For example, it directs us to shorten our summer substantive session by 20%, from five to four weeks. This in itself has major, major implications: inasmuch as we now have to very seriously consider what business can we fit into this reduced time period. And the resolution gives us further guidance. Eliminate duplication with items that are on the agenda of the General Assembly, it says. And in a couple of other paragraphs, it asks for specific consideration of particular issues.
Resolution 50/227 is what we will take this year as our starting point. Reorganizing and streamlining the agenda for next summer's general segment and eliminating duplication with agenda items of the 2nd and 3rd Committee of the GA will be the first priorities of my presidency. It will not be easy, but we have to collectively invest all the necessary effort to accomplish these objectives as best as possible. We can complain as much as we wish about Ecosoc not enjoying the necessary respect; but it will always enjoy only exactly the respect it deserves. The respect it deserves is derived from the seriousness, commitment and dedication we, its members, invest in it. It is not a sign of seriousness to draw up a work program that we manifestly cannot fulfil. It is not a sign of commitment to focus on issues twice, once in Ecosoc and once in one of the GA's main committees. It is not a sign of dedication to ask the Secretary-General to produce more reports than we can possibly read, much less disccuss. There is hardly any more elementary way of demonstrating our seriousness, commitment and dedication than by sweeping up our own doorstep, by pruning the dead wood and culling the wild growth, by cleaning the stables, by putting our house in order - pick your own metaphore.
I envision this clean-up will start with the following measures, appropriate in particular for the general segment of the substantive session: (a) Let's agree on appropriate labelling of our agenda items. Let us abandon the historical and cryptic item titles that prevent anyone without a PhD in Ecosocology to fathom what's behind them. (b) Let's reorganize our agenda items, cluster them if convenient, introduce some logic into their ordering. (c) Let us decide what it is we have to deal with, what is it nobody else can do better than us; and as for everything else, let us pass it on to other organs or merely take note of it. (d) Let us sift through our agenda items and compare them most soberly with what other organs, especially the GA, are addressing, and let us ruthlessly eliminate all the duplication we can identify.
This is an approach to reform we readily recognize as form-driven. If we succeed with it, it will yield a clear, unobstructed, fresh picture of what Ecosoc is really up to. We will be able to discern far more acutely where our Council does make or could make a difference. And I do not mean a difference in the paper flow, a difference in the number of reports requested or the number of resolutions adopted, but rather a difference to the people of this world, and especially to the suffering people of the world. We will, further, be able to discern far more clearly what other circumstances need obtain for Ecosoc to fulfil this potential. With the dead wood gone, we will recognize that some trees in our orchard are growing far too close to one another; that some parts of our acreage are underutilized; and that here and there, a little cultivation or fertilizing could be very fruitful. And who knows: we might at that point see the situation clearly enough to embark on a mission-driven approach to further reform.
The form-driven and the mission-driven approaches to reform are of course neatly separable only in a statement such as this one; in reality, they are intertwined. Still, practical considerations, if nothing else, invite us at this moment to focus on form in the first instance, even while realizing that content will be affected almost automatically as well.
In addition to form and content, our work is marked by a certain style. And let me be most emphatic about one thing: we need to change our style, and we need to change it now. Let me illustrate, by reflecting on one extremely satisfying and encouraging experience from last year. You will recall that during last summer's substantive session, several members submitted a draft text dealing with international corruption and bribery. Initial reactions were mixed. During the resumed session, however, consultations about this text were completed and it was adopted by consensus. What I found so encouraging about this particular exercise was that in the discussions of the proposal's merits, countries from different parts of the world, from different groupings, with different philosophies, stood on all the various sides of the issue. The debate did not feature a North-South division, or a developed-vs-developing countries division, or indeed any other us- vs-them division. Rather, the debate focused on the issue's merits rather than on its politics.
This particular discussion exhibited very little of the one trait which, it seems to me, debilitates our work here more than anything else that under our control: namely, mistrust. It breaks my heart to see serious, well-intentioned proposals hitting the dust just because of who presented them. All too often, it seems to me, proposals are not considered on their merit but are instead turned over seven times, picked apart, shuffled about and ultimately dumped because one group or another feels that they conceal some hidden agenda, some arriere-pensée, and feel it safer to vigilantly turn down an initiative - even if no such hidden agenda is discovered! - rather than to risk endorsing something new and untried which originated in another group. The private sector, where I worked for many years, knows this attitude all too well: it is often called the NIH - "not invented here" - syndrom and is the scourge of progress and creative thinking. And without creative thinking, Ecosoc is doomed. Therefore this year, I really hope that much more of our discussions and negotiations will run athwart group boundaries, across prefabricated positions, that they will focus on the merits of ideas submitted. I hope that adopting automatic positions of blocs and groups of countries will abate. I hope that we will take one another as colleagues to work with, rather than as adversaries to mistrust. That together, we will manage to think creatively, to improve on one another's ideas rather than jettison them out of hand, striving, together, to fulfil this Council's potential.
Overcoming mistrust is then one element of style that would be so helpful to change. Let me mention a few additional ones that might help us and which I will also do my best to foster:
One, I plan to have an open and transparent presidency. That implies working extremely closely with my fellow bureau members, and with the expanded Bureau. It means holding informal consultations as frequently as needed and technically feasible. It also means that I will be at any time at the disposal of any Council member for consultations on anything. My home phone number is in the Manhattan phone book, and I'm the only Karel Kovanda there. Please use it.
Two, I feel it necessary to insist, again as a measure of our self-esteem, that representatives of member countries, their alternates and advisors be duly accredited, in accordance with Articles 16 and 17 of our rules of procedure.
Three, I would encourage representatives to the Council, who are usually Ambassadors, to take a greater interest than has been customary in the Council's business. This may allow political decisions to break the occasional logjam we get into at the level of our effervescent and energetic junior colleagues.
And four, I plan to aggressively adopt what is now known as "Razali time" for our proceedings. Starting meetings on time is an imperative facet of our organizational culture and is a measure of respect in which we hold one another. Rule 41 of our procedures should never stand in the way of starting meetings punctually.
These are some elements of style that we should introduce in our own work here. We will introduce other elements during next summer's substantive session in Geneva: such as cutting down on long-winded speechifying, eliminating self-congratulatory verbiage, sustaining fresh, lively, fruitful informal exchanges. The Bureau will focus on these issues in the coming months.
During the past year, I have found the Secretariat to offer excellent support to our work. In managing meetings, in conducting informal consultations and in clarifying the implications of resolution 50/227 for our work, its support has been indispensable. Our Council has of course no permanent members or executive directors, and the turnover in its Bureau from one year to the next is considerable. The Secretariat thus acts as the repository of our "historical memory". I am grateful for the role it plays, in an objective and disinterested manner, and hope that we will manage to profit even more from the various proposals and suggestions the Secretariat put forth last year in several useful documents.
In conclusion, let me reiterate the debt I feel I owe to my
illustrious predecessor, Ambassador Kacou Gervais, to my other
colleagues on last year's Bureau, to our Secretariat contingent
headed by Mr. Miles Stoby and indeed to all of you who have
entrusted me today with this important office.