Our speaker, Mr. Peter Smith, is the Special Assistant of the Assistant Secretary-General who is Executive Director of the Capital Master Plan Project.
In recent years, calls for a fundamental reform of the UN have become increasingly louder. However, there is not yet a consensus on the extent and implementation of the reform projects. While some states would like the United Nations to player a bigger role in international affairs, others would like to see the powers of the UN reduced to humanitarian work. An initial reform program was introduced by Kofi Annan shortly after the beginning of his first term as Secretary-General on 1 January 1997. On 21 March 2005, Annan presented a further, more comprehensive report on UN reform, entitled In Larger Freedom.
One of the main concerns of reformers refers to an administrative reform of the UN. The goal is, to design the Secretariat and other institutions and processes in a more transparent and more efficient way.
Compared to the reform of the Security Council, the UN Secretariat and management reform gets relatively little attention in the media, but is regarded as substantially within the organization.
Particular attention is paid to the renovation of the UN Headquarters. John D. Rockefeller II. donated the area on the eastern shore of Manhattan in New York to the UN and, on 24 October 1949, the construction of the UN Headquarters began. While on U.S. soil, the region has the status of an international territory. The low building of the General Assembly represents the legislature, the tall building, the seat of the Secretariat, the executive branch. Since the complex has not yet been modernized it does no longer fulfill modern security requirements. There are no smoke detectors, sprinklers or emergency lightings. In addition, during the construction large amounts of asbestos were used. Consequently, in 1998 the so-called “Capital Master Plan” was introduced. The plan’s purpose is to manage the historic renovation of the UN Headquarters. The Capital Master Plan has to assure that neither the time frame, nor the tightly calculated budget is exceeded. Furthermore, the renovation process has to be conducted in a safe and transparent way from the beginning to the end of the project and it has to be in accordance with the principles of “ecological construction”. According to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon the Headquarters shall be globally recognized as an “example of efficient use of energy and resources”. In the next years the buildings will be stripped down to their foundation walls and before they will be completely reconstructed.
It took 10 years until the implementation of the estimated 2 billion US$ project finally started. On 6 May 2008, the construction of a temporary building on the grounds of the UN east of First Avenue was started. In this building a part of the UN employees will have their office until the planned ending of the renovation process in 2013 and also the conference rooms, including the General Assembly, will temporarily move into it. According to Peter Smith the temporary building much resembles a warehouse. The other employees will have their offices in rented buildings nearby.