Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN, United States

General Assembly - Informal meeting to consider ways and means of further enhancing the cooperation between Permanent Missions and the United Nations Secretariat

Statement by H.E. Karel J.G. van Oosterom, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations, New York, 15 March 2015

Thank you very much Mr President.

(1. Introduction)

Let me first express appreciation for both the President of the General Assembly and the Permanent Mission of Belarus for organizing this timely debate.

The issue at hand is of crucial importance to both Member States as the Secretariat and we hope it will contribute to further improving the working arrangements.
In particular, the interests of smaller Missions are at stake.  
Let me be clear: we do not want to micro-manage the Secretariat, but we want to improve the interaction between the Secretariat and Member States.

I will address three issues:
-          The current State of play
-          Areas of improvement by the Secretariat, and
-          What can Member State Missions contribute

(2. State of play)

In general, we see that the Secretariat is filled with highly motivated colleagues and that many issues are being dealt with in more than satisfactory manner.
Particularly as Chair of the First Committee I am impressed by the professionalism of the colleagues who make my job possible.
The Secretariat sometimes looks like a huge bureaucracy but there are less people working at the UN Secretariat in New York than for the New York City Fire Department.
A common understanding of what service Member States may expect from the Secretariat and what the Secretariat can reasonably offer, seems to be lacking. 
It would seem such a common understanding between the Secretariat and the Member States might be useful.
In the meantime, let us work on practical improvements.
This is in particular necessary for small Missions, who do not have enough staff to navigate the UN-system.

(3. Areas for improvement)

Let me make three specific practical suggestions.

a.       Who does what @UN

For small Missions, it is not always easy to get hold of the rights person in the Secretariat.
The UN Secretariat is currently built up based on internal expertise – and not based on the external clients, the Member States.
Creating one entry point, especially for smaller Missions, would tremendously help in solving practical issues.
Also better accessibility of documents, press releases are a point of attention.
Using social media or creating a UN app for this purpose could be a way to address this need.

b.       Organizing a side-event at the UN.

In recent weeks we started a discussion with the USG for General Assembly and Conference Management on improving the ways in which a Mission can organize these.
We welcome the fact that since these discussions, a list of ten contact points for organizing a side-event is now available in the UN journal.
At the same time, a list of ten contact points for organizing one event is rather cumbersome.
So creating a one-stop-shop for especially smaller Missions, would help us tremendously.
Furthermore, the current list is not complete: e.g. catering, translation services, mentioning an event in the UN journal, social media aspects, press information, billing aspects currently are lacking.
And organizing a side event in the Delegates Dining room has its own procedure.
A point of misunderstanding for many of us is the billing system from the UN Secretariat.
Which services are for free, which services must be paid for and who determines the sometimes quite high costs for services delivered? 
For one side event, we may receive more than 3 bills.
This calls for a more objective and transparent system. 
We should continue our discussions with the UN Secretariat to further improve the interaction.
And we will shortly publish a checklist of our own to help smaller Missions to organize a side event at the UN.

c.       Updating yellow and white pages / telephone list of the Secretariat

The last printed version of the yearly yellow and white pages dates from 2012.
That is logical as the information is made available via the internet, and since 2013, yearly an update is published on the UN website.
But why not more regular digital updates? 

It would be very useful if the example of the blue book could be followed; this is weekly updated with new information.
We furthermore hope that the information in the yellow and white pages could be made more accessible.
The way in which the yellow pages give a telephone number is almost incomprehensible, as it is based on the internal UN telephone system.
Currently to dial a UN extension to the UN from outside, you have to manually take the five digit UN internal number.
Than you have to replace the first digit(s) by 6 different digits.
In total, currently there are 12 variations for this replacement.
And all this has to be done manually.
This system is not user-friendly.
And it seems it is ready, for a digital, more client friendly interface.

(4. What can Member States do)

Do not curse the darkness but light a candle, a wise old Chinese proverb says.
We Member States can also contribute to better interaction.
Therefore our Mission has started an app: the PermRapp; it shows on almost real time basis the current Permanent Representatives, their telephone numbers, addresses, email and twitter feeds.
In a new update we will link the information provided to the telephone, google maps and email function of your iPhone; and we will include the UN-journal.
As I mentioned we are also preparing a checklist for organizing a side event at the UN. 
Our Mission will furthermore soon organize an interactive workshop with other Missions to share and develop tips and tricks about organizing events at the UN and other locations. 
We call on other Member States to also share their best practices of interacting with the Secretariat.
I have heard of apps used by individual Missions which streamline UN information.
Sharing such apps would be very useful.

(5. In conclusion)

A smooth, interaction between the Secretariat and Member States is in the interest of all of us.
Bigger Missions have enough staff to overcome the obstacles I mentioned; it is the smaller Missions which face challenges.
Only by working better together we can create a really level playing field.
Working together we can contribute to enhancing Peace, Justice and Development in the world.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands is and will be your Partner in this endeavor.
I thank you for your attention.