Nauru Ambassador Addresses United Nations

Nauru’s permanent representative Ambassador Marlene Moses has delivered a speech on behalf of Pacific Small Island Developing States to the UN Secretary-General’s Retreat with member states on management reform in New York.

The main thrust of the speech was that the goal must be to increase the responsiveness of the UN system to the most pressing problems facing member states.

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the 12 Pacific Small Island Development States
(PSIDS).

We thank you for convening this important retreat. The UN’s management and architecture must be up to the task of addressing new and emerging challenges, including those that the 2030 Agenda was designed to address. We look forward to regular and transparent engagement over the coming months as these proposals are developed.

To begin, I would like to make one overarching point – the goal of this exercise cannot be to cut costs. The goal must be increasing the responsiveness of the UN system to the most pressing problems facing member states. Should we look for efficiencies? Yes. Eliminate redundancy? Yes. Improve cooperation across departments and agencies? Yes. If it makes the UN system more effective, then you will find strong support from the PSIDS. But addressing the most pressing issues facing our countries cannot be done on a shoestring. This reform process should deliver an honest assessment of what is required for the UN to be effective, and then come to the question of resources.
With regard to specifics, first, the UN system must be accountable to Member States. In other words, Member States should set the political priorities, and the UN architecture should be prepared to deliver on them. Too often this is not the case. The women and men who serve throughout the UN system hold a vast wealth of knowledge and expertise, on which we all rely. They are the unsung heroes of the diplomatic community. They can be most effective when there is a healthy appreciation for the division between political decision making and the technical execution of these decisions.

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Second, women and individuals from the global South must be better represented within UN bodies, and we thank you, Mr. Secretary-General, for your attentiveness to this issue. This is important both in central headquarters and field posts and at all levels. Ensuring there is a diversity of skills and perspectives throughout the UN system is critical to making it more responsive.
Lastly, the UN system must address emerging threats and challenges to international peace and security. This is part and parcel of addressing the root causes of conflict. As the PSIDS have said before, climate change will be the defining security issue of this century. For the PSIDS, as well as many other countries, it is an existential threat.

The Paris Agreement notwithstanding, many dangerous impacts of climate change are now unavoidable. We are not confident that the UN system as it currently operates has the capacity to respond to these threats. In fact, if the more extreme climate scenarios materialize, the international system could very well be overwhelmed.

We need to have a better understanding of how climate change will affect public health, critical food and water systems, land tenure and territorial integrity, access to natural resources, and other cornerstones of social and political stability. We also need to understand how we respond when critical thresholds at the climate-security nexus are crossed.

The PSIDS feel very strongly that human security is best protected through international cooperation. No single nation can ensure their security in isolation. We also feel that even small countries should be full participants in this critical discussion. It is not for the powerful countries alone to decide how security is protected when then impacts of climate change push some of us to the brink.

This is why we think a new Special Representative of the Secretary-General on climate and security is a vital addition to the UN system. The SRSG can help kick start this discussion in an open and transparent manner, so that we are all better prepared to grapple with the destabilizing impacts of climate change.

Mr. Secretary-General,
We look forward to learning more about your proposals and those developed by the Internal Review Team on Management Reform, and to considering those proposals.

The need to ensure a more nimble, effective and efficient United Nations is an evergreen priority—and a challenging one. We support these goals, as well as ensuring strengthened communication, a culture of accountability, and better regional representation.

Today’s consultations are a positive step, as we ensure that the steps taken to realign the system with our work, continue to maintain their multilateral character.
I thank you, Mr. Secretary-General.