16 April 2003
General Assembly Voices Strong Support for "Kimberley Process" Scheme, Aimed at Stemming Use of Diamonds for Financing Conflict
Also Adopts Nine Texts Recommended by Budget Committee, Approves Appointment of UNDP Administrator for Second Four-Year Term
NEW YORK, 15 April (UN Headquarters) -- The General Assembly this morning, recognizing the imperative for urgent action to stem the illicit conflict diamond trade, voiced its strong support for the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme for rough diamonds, which went into effect on 1 January.
The Kimberley Process was established by southern African diamond-producing countries in 2000 to stem the flow of rough diamonds used by rebels to finance armed conflicts aimed at overthrowing legitimate governments and which had led to hundreds of thousands of deaths in the past decade alone. It also sought to protect the legitimate diamond industry, upon which many countries depended. That process led to the emergence of the international Certification Scheme for rough diamonds -- adopted at the ministerial meeting held at Interlaken, Switzerland, on 5 November 2002 -- which is based primarily on national certification schemes and on internationally agreed minimum standards.
Adopting without a vote a resolution entitled "The role of diamonds in fuelling conflict: breaking the link between the illicit transaction of rough diamonds and armed conflict as a contribution to prevention and settlement of conflicts", which had been introduced last Friday, the Assembly stressed that the widest possible participation in the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was essential and urged all Member States to participate actively in it. It also welcomed the willingness by the Government of South Africa to chair the Process during its first year of implementation.
Also this morning, the Assembly adopted nine texts on the recommendations of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) following the conclusion of its first resumed session on 28 March, including an 11-part resolution on human resources management and approved the appointment of Mark Malloch Brown as Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for a second four-year term beginning 1 July.
The Budget Committee resolution on human resources addressed numerous issues related to the ongoing management reform within the Organization, including the role and monitoring capacity of the Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM); recruitment and placement; mobility; delegation of authority and accountability; hiring of consultants and individual contractors; employment of retired staff; composition of the Secretariat; and mandatory age of separation.
Among the latest initiatives within the framework of the reform, which was initiated in 1998, is a new recruitment, placement and promotion system. Other projects include development of generic job profiles for Professional posts; improvement of a staff performance appraisal system; introduction of managed mobility; and flexible working arrangements.
By the resolution, the Assembly expressed appreciation for the Secretary-General's efforts aimed at reforming human resources management and reaffirmed the central role of the OHRM in that respect. To assess the results of ongoing efforts, it requested the Secretary-General to report at the next "personnel" session of the Committee in 2004 on the achievements of the reform and to conduct a study of its impact. [Based on the Fifth Committee's work cycle, it considers personnel matters every other year, the alternate year being devoted to the Organization's budget.]
Welcoming the recently-introduced online "Galaxy" recruitment system, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to further improve that tool, dealing, in particular, with a significantly increased number of applications. Also, pointing to the need to select staff on the basis of merit, demonstrated competencies and performance, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to ensure that experience and institutional memory acquired in the United Nations were given due consideration in evaluating applications for promotion.
In the light of ongoing concern over the low proportion of staff below the age of 35 years, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to examine the factors that inhibited the selection of young people. In order to prioritize the rejuvenation of the Secretariat, it also decided not to change the mandatory age of separation from the Organization, which is currently 60 years.
Also included in the text is a request for the Secretary-General to undertake a comprehensive review of progress made toward the goal of 50/50 gender distribution and to submit proposals to improve representation of women. The text also addresses the need to achieve a wide and equitable distribution of staff and to "fully reach" the level of posts subject to geographical distribution, which presently stands at 2,700.
Another text adopted today was a five-part resolution on the pattern of conferences, which addresses the issues of the United Nations calendar of conferences and meetings; utilization of conference-servicing resources and facilities; the performance of the Department of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services; documentation- and publication-related matters; translation and interpretation; and information technology. In particular, among the measures to ensure timely issuance of documentation and improve the work of language services, the text addresses the need to quickly fill interpretation vacancies, develop a responsibility and accountability system, and further develop workload standards and performance indicators for language staff.
By another text, the Assembly:
-- requested the Secretary-General to ensure independence of the United Nations Administrative Tribunal and welcomed the Secretary-General's request for a review of the appeals process by the Office of Internal Oversight Services, looking to shorten the period required for the disposal of cases;
-- noted the key elements of the Secretary-General's development of a strategic information and communication technology (ICT) framework, and requested further information, on the status of projects and further proposals in the context of the 2004-2005 proposed programme budget; and
-- following consideration of a report of the Joint Inspection Unit on the investigation into sexual exploitation of refugees by aid workers in West Africa, condemned any exploitation of refugees and internally displaced persons and called for those responsible for such deplorable acts to be brought to justice.
By three other resolutions, the Assembly requested the Committee on Contributions to make further recommendations on measures to encourage Member States to pay their arrears; encouraged the OIOS to continue promoting better use of resources and strengthen accountability within the Organization; and took note of several reports related to the results approach in the implementation of the United Nations Millennium Declaration.
The Assembly decided to defer, until the second part of its resumed fifty-seventh session, consideration of several Fifth Committee items, including the review of the gratis personnel provided by governments and other entities; the report of the Secretary-General on the standards of accommodations for air travel; and support costs related to extrabudgetary activities in organizations of the United Nations system.
Following action on the appointment of Mr. Malloch Brown, the President of the Assembly congratulated him on "an outstanding job during his first term". Under his leadership, he said, the UNDP had been transformed from "a dispersed organization that funded a variety of areas of technical assistance" into a networked, practice-based and results-oriented organization. The speed with which the UNDP had responded to post-conflict situations, such as Afghanistan and East Timor, or to new developmental challenges in Africa and elsewhere, reflected the new agility and relevance of the organization.
Speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, the representative of Morocco also made a statement in support of Mr. Malloch Brown's appointment, as did representatives of Andorra, on behalf of Western European and other States; Republic of Korea, on behalf of the Asian States; Canada; Indonesia; Pakistan; and Mauritania, on behalf of the African Group.
The Assembly also took note of the appointment of Bolivia to the Committee of Conferences for a term of office from 15 April 2003 to 31 December 2005 and, acting on the recommendations of the Fifth Committee, appointed Mustafizur Rahman (Bangladesh) as a member of the United Nations Staff Pension Committee for a term of office expiring on 31 December 2004.
At the beginning of the meeting, the Assembly took note of the fact that Uzbekistan had made the necessary payment to reduce its arrears below the amount specified in Article 19 of the Charter. [Under that article, a member State loses its vote in the Assembly if the amount of its arrears equals or exceeds the amount of the contributions due from it for the preceding two years.]
The Assembly was also informed that the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development would take place on 29 and 30 October, with 28 October earmarked for informal meetings.
Finally, delegates observed a minute of silence in memory of Bernard Dowiyogo, President of Nauru, who passed away on 9 March 2003. The representative of Nauru made a statement honouring the life and leadership of late President Dowiyogo. Condolences were expressed by the representatives of Republic of Korea, on behalf of Asian States; Bulgaria, on behalf of Eastern European States; Barbados, on behalf of Latin American and Caribbean States; Mauritania, on behalf of the African States; Andorra, on behalf of Western European and other States; and the United States, as a host country.
Action on Drafts
The first text before the Assembly was a draft resolution, which had been introduced by the representative of South Africa last Friday, regarding the role of diamonds in fuelling conflict (document A/57/L.76/Rev.1). By the text, the Assembly would strongly support the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme and stress that the widest participation in it was essential and should be encouraged and facilitated. In that connection, it would urge all Member States to participate actively in the Scheme.
The Assembly would also note with appreciation the report of the Chair of the Kimberley Process and congratulate the governments, and the representatives of the regional economic integration organizations, the organized diamond industry and civil society participating in the Kimberley Process, on finalizing the Certification Scheme. It would also welcome the decision to implement the Scheme from 1 January and the willingness expressed by the South African Government to chair the Kimberley Process during its first year of implementation.
The draft resolution was sponsored by Angola, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Canada, Central African Republic, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lesotho, Mexico, Namibia, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Tonga, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela.
As the Assembly began its consideration of the draft, the delegates were informed that Luxembourg and Madagascar had joined the list of sponsors of the text.
The text was then adopted without a vote.
As the Assembly turned to the drafts contained in Fifth Committee reports, Rapporteur of the Fifth Committee, Haile Selassie Getachew of Ethiopia introduced all those documents in one intervention.
The Assembly first adopted, without a vote, a draft decision (document A/57/648/Add.1), by the terms of which it deferred until the second part of its resumed fifty-seventh session consideration of several items, including the review of the gratis personnel provided by governments and other entities; the report of the Secretary-General on the standards of accommodations for air travel; and support costs related to extrabudgetary activities in organizations of the United Nations system.
The Assembly then adopted, also without a vote, the first text contained in document A/57/649/Add.1 -- the draft resolution on the results approach in the implementation of the United Nations Millennium Declaration. By the terms of the text, it took note with appreciation of the report of the Joint Inspection Unit and of the note by the Secretary-General transmitting his comments and those of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board on the matter. It also requested the Committee for Programme and Coordination to consider those documents at its forty-third session and to report thereon during the fifty-eighth session.
The Assembly then adopted without a vote draft resolution II on information and communication technology (ICT) strategy, by the terms of which the Assembly welcomed the significant steps taken to develop a strategic framework to guide the further development of ICT in the United Nations. Stressing the importance of information and communication technology as a strategic tool to strengthen the functioning of the United Nations, it recognized its potential application throughout the Organization in improving effectiveness, working practices and facilitating multilingualism, including public information activities and enhancing programme delivery.
The Assembly further noted with interest key elements of the approach set out by the Secretary-General, including the three broad areas of information sharing and dissemination, administration and management and the servicing of United Nations organs and governing bodies as a framework for classifying initiatives; priority to robust infrastructure; system security; reliable field connectivity; internal human resources capacity-building; and the requirement to ensure that ICT investments generate tangible returns commensurate with their cost.
The Assembly requested the Secretary-General to provide further information and to make proposals, to be considered in the context of the 2004-2005 budget, on the further strengthening of governance and central leadership arrangements, including a mechanism to assess results achieved and apply the lessons learned, and the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions' suggestion that the head of the Information Technology Services Division be enabled to act as the United Nation's chief information and communication technology officer.
The Secretary-General was also requested to ensure that ICT requirements for duty stations and the regional economic commissions, in particular those in developing countries, are fully engaged in the strategy and that appropriate provision is made to enable its implementation in those offices. In the next budget, he would be asked to provide an update on the status of projects, the returns on anticipated investment for planned and proposed major projects, specific plans to strengthen ICT infrastructure, measures to strengthen system security and means to ensure system reliability and maintenance.
The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, a five-part draft resolution on the pattern of conferences (document A/57/651/Add.1), which addressed numerous issues related to the United Nations calendar of conferences and meetings; utilization of conference-servicing resources and facilities; the performance of the Department of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services; documentation- and publication-related matters; translation and interpretation; and information technology.
Remarking on the utilization of conference-servicing resources and facilities, the Assembly noted with concern that the overall utilization factor at the four duty stations in 2001 dropped six points below the benchmark of 80 per cent, with a 14 per cent drop in New York. At the same time, the number of meetings supplied with interpretation in Nairobi had increased by 23.5 per cent in 2001 as a result of the establishment of a permanent interpretation service there. The Secretariat was encouraged to maintain the positive trend, under which, from July 2001 to April 2002, 98 per cent of the requests for meetings with interpretation by regional and other major groupings were met at the main duty stations.
Seeking to improve the performance of the Department of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services, the Assembly welcomed the intention of the Secretary-General, with support of the Office of Internal Oversight Services, to develop, as soon as possible, an implementation plan for the envisaged changes. It also recognized the need to develop and update existing workload standards for language staff, taking into account the best practices and expert advice, as well as the impact of technological innovations.
Reaffirming the concepts of delegation of authority and accountability, the Assembly also stressed the need to clearly define the responsibilities and functions of the Department and the United Nations Offices in Geneva, Vienna and Nairobi, with the Department defining conference services policies, standards and management of resources, and the Offices being responsible and accountable for day-to-day operational activities. In that connection, the Secretary-General was requested to ensure dialogue and coordination between the Department and all the Offices in preparing revisions to relevant Secretariat documents.
The Assembly further requested the Secretary-General to ensure that structure and name changes within the Department did not lead to any involuntary personnel departures and were consistent with existing mandates. They should also improve, and not negatively affect, the technical support services and production and distribution of documents in hard copies. The draft advocated following a pragmatic approach to avoid introducing unnecessary restrictions on the ability of intergovernmental bodies or conferences to successfully conclude their work.
Among numerous measures aimed at ensuring timely issuance of documentation, the Assembly recommended taking into account the programme of work of the session at which a report was to be considered, when assigning the timing of submission of manuscripts. If a report were submitted late to conference services, the reasons, therefore, should be included in a footnote to the document. The Assembly also reiterated the need to develop a responsibility and accountability system within the Secretariat in order to ensure timely submission of documents for processing.
"In order to overcome regrettable delays", the Assembly reiterated the request to the Secretary-General to ensure the communication of its resolutions to Member States within 15 days of the closing of each session. Noting the intention of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) to make 100 per cent of documents available in Arabic during 2004-2005, it also requested the Secretary-General to ensure full implementation of that intention. In connection with the proposal to improve electronic access to United Nations collections, publications and parliamentary documents, the Secretary-General was requested to keep the internal capacity for the provision of hard copies at the request of Member States.
Emphasizing the importance of multilingualism, the text further addressed the need to quickly fill vacancies in official language services of the United Nations, as well as the remaining vacancies in the Arabic and English interpretation units in Nairobi. Presenting the budget for 2004-2005, the Secretary-General was requested to make proposals on how "to fill the de facto gap" between the Spanish translation service and other official language services with similar workloads. He was also requested to improve the quality control of language services at all duty stations and ensure continuous dialogue between all the parties involved concerning the standardization of the terminology used.
Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of Mexico said that he had gone along with the adoption of the text, as it contained valuable elements for the effective use of resources. He had asked for the floor, however, to express his delegation's position regarding the interpretation of the section of the draft relating to the proposal to integrate the Fifth and Sixth Committee secretariats within the Department of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services. That action had not been authorized by the Assembly and would continue to be considered within the framework of the next budget. He had some doubts regarding the usefulness of integrating the two Secretariats.
Acting without a vote, the Assembly then adopted a draft resolution on the scale of assessments for the apportionment of the expenses of the United Nations (document A/57/429/Add.2), by the terms of which it requested the Committee on Contributions to make recommendations on measures with positive impact to encourage Member States to pay their arrears and to report thereon at the fifty-eighth session of the Assembly.
The next text before the Assembly, also adopted without a vote, was an 11-part draft resolution on human resources management (document A/57/771), which addressed numerous issues related to the human resources management reform within the Organization, including the role and monitoring capacity of the Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM); recruitment and placement; mobility; delegation of authority and accountability; hiring of consultants and individual contractors; employment of retired staff; mandatory age of separation; placement of staff serving in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General; composition of the Secretariat; and the use of staff-management consultants.
Affirming that the Secretary-General's endeavours to improve performance, productivity and results across the United Nations were a necessary complement to improved conditions of service, the Assembly expressed appreciation for his efforts aimed at reforming human resources management within the Organization.
It also reaffirmed the importance and central role of the OHRM in that regard and requested the Secretary-General to report at the fifty-ninth session on the achievements of the human resources management reform when information became available on the experiences of the Secretariat in its implementation. The Secretary-General was also requested to conduct a study through the Office of Internal Oversight Services on the reform's impact as far as improvement of recruitment, placement, promotion and training were concerned. By the terms of the text, such a study should include an assessment of the role of central review bodies and mobility.
In recruitment and placement of personnel, the Secretary-General was asked to ensure the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity, with due regard to the principle of equitable geographical distribution, as well as transparency of the process. He was also requested to ensure the accountability of programme managers in the staff selection process, in close collaboration with the OHRM.
Welcoming the Galaxy System, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to further improve that tool, including steps to deal with the increased number of applications. Pointing to the need to select staff on the basis of merit, demonstrated competencies and performance, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to ensure that relevant experience, knowledge and institutional memory acquired in the United Nations were given due consideration in evaluating applications for promotion.
Among other recruitment and placement improvements, the text contained paragraphs related to measures to prevent discrimination on the basis of nationality, race, gender, religion and language; addressing the causes of continuous high vacancy rates; reducing the time needed to place on roster the successful candidates in the national competitive examinations; ensuring that movement from the General Service to Professional category was consistent with legislative mandates; and completing the recruitment process without delay.
Noting with concern the low proportion of staff below the age of 35 years, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to examine the factors that inhibited the selection of young people. In order to prioritize the rejuvenation of the Secretariat, the Assembly decided that no further changes were required to the rule of the mandatory age of separation established at 60 years, and requested the Secretary-General to report on the exceptions made in that regard on a biennial basis.
The draft also addressed the need to ensure equitable geographical representation. In that connection, the Secretary-General was requested to hold the heads of relevant departments accountable for the human resources action plan and to ensure they took due account of the principle of equitable representation when considering candidates on the roster and on the list endorsed by central review bodies.
By the draft's terms, the Assembly also reaffirmed that no post should be considered the exclusive preserve of any Member State or group of States, including at the highest levels, and requested the Secretary-General to ensure that, as a general rule, no national of a Member State succeeded a national of that State in a senior post. The Secretary-General was requested to fully reach the level of posts subject to geographical distribution, which presently stand at 2,700, and present a comprehensive assessment of the system of geographical distribution.
In light of ongoing concern about under-representation of women in the United Nations, especially at senior levels, the Secretary-General was requested to undertake a comprehensive review of progress made toward the goal of 50/50 gender distribution, including the factors affecting progress and to submit proposals to improve gender representation, particularly in offices where women were under-represented.
The draft also makes recommendations regarding the implementation of the recently introduced concept of mobility and encouraged the Secretary-General to continue to develop a results-based culture, which rewarded excellent performance. On former staff, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to employ retirees only if the operational requirements of the Organization could not be met by existing staff and ensure that it had no adverse effects on the career planning and mobility of United Nations staff members. It stressed that hiring of retired staff should be on an exceptional basis and encouraged the Secretary-General to fill vacant posts at senior and decision-making posts through the established staff selection process.
Also without a vote, the Assembly adopted the first draft resolution contained in document A/57/604/Add.1, addressing the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). It noted with appreciation the work of the Office and took note of its annual report. It encouraged the OIOS to continue its work to improve the use of resources and strengthen accountability within the Organization. It also welcomed the Office's continuing efforts to coordinate its programme with other oversight bodies, including the Board of Auditors and the Joint Inspection Unit.
By the terms of the draft, the Assembly also stressed the need for adequate supervision and record-keeping of peacekeeping equipment, proper inventory and internal control systems, sufficient control over mission accounts and compliance with procurement guidelines, requesting the Secretary-General to ensure that the applicable recommendations of the OIOS were fully implemented by relevant departments. It noted with concern the findings of the Office on problem areas in the functioning and administration of the Investment Management Service of the Joint Staff Pension Fund and requested the Secretary-General to ensure full and expeditious implementation of related recommendations.
Draft resolution II contained in the same Fifth Committee report (document A/57/604/Add.1), addressed the investigation into sexual exploitation of refugees by aid workers in West Africa (document A/C.5/57/L.61). By the text, the Assembly condemned any exploitation of refugees and internally displaced persons, especially sexual exploitation, and called for those responsible for such deplorable acts to be brought to justice. Expressing its serious concern that the conditions in refugee camps and communities might make refugees, especially women and children, vulnerable to sexual and other forms of exploitation, it emphasized the need to create an environment free of sexual exploitation and abuse in humanitarian crises, in particular through integrating prevention of and response to such phenomena into the protection and assistance functions of all humanitarian and peacekeeping personnel.
The Assembly noted with appreciation the plan of action developed by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in Humanitarian Crises and encouraged all relevant agencies to pursue its effective implementation. It also stressed the need to extend remedial and preventive measures to all peacekeeping missions, refugee camps and humanitarian operations and to put in place clear and consistent procedures for impartially reporting and investigating instances of sexual exploitation and related offences. All the bodies of the United Nations system and non-governmental organizations were encouraged to incorporate in their codes of conduct the specific responsibilities of humanitarian aid workers to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse.
Further, the Assembly would recognized the shared responsibility, within their respective competencies, of United Nations organizations and agencies and troop-contributing countries to ensure that all personnel were held accountable for sexual exploitation and related offences, committed while serving in humanitarian and peacekeeping operations. It requested the Secretary-General, in response to recommendations of the OIOS, to maintain data on investigations into sexual exploitation and related offences by humanitarian and peacekeeping personnel and all relevant actions taken thereon.
Finally, also acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted a resolution on the administration of justice at the United Nations (document A/57/768). It stressed the urgent need to ensure the effective and expeditious administration of justice in the Organization and requested the Secretary-General to ensure that the highest standards of efficiency, competence, integrity, as well as the principles of fairness and due process, served as the paramount considerations in the system of administration of justice within the United Nations. It requested the Secretary-General to take steps to ensure the independence of the United Nations Administrative Tribunal and the separation of its secretariat from the Office of Legal Affairs, and to study the possibility of its financial independence.
Further, the Assembly welcomed the Secretary-General's initiative in requesting the OIOS to conduct a management review of the appeals process. He was also requested to entrust the OIOS to include in its report measures to shorten the period required for the disposal of cases, including imposing deadlines at all stages of the process. It also requested the Secretary-General to ensure that the OIOS included not only the procedures and functions related to the Joint Appeals Board, but also those related to the Panel of Counsel, the Administrative Law Unit and the Secretariat of the Joint Appeals Board and Joint Disciplinary Committee.
The Assembly also agreed that the United Nations Administrative Tribunal should be strengthened through an amendment to its statute requiring that candidates for the Tribunal possess judicial experience in the field of administrative law. Noting that the staff of the Secretariat and the specialized agencies were currently subject to two different systems of administration of justice, it requested the Joint Inspection Unit to continue to study the possibility of harmonizing the statutes and practices of the United Nations Administrative Tribunal and the International Labour Organization Administrative Tribunal.
By further terms, the Assembly reiterated its request to the Secretary-General to develop an effective system of personal responsibility and accountability to recover the Organization's financial losses caused by management irregularities, wrongful actions or gross negligence of Secretariat officials as a result of the judgements of the Administrative Tribunal. It also decided that Staff Rule 110.4 should be amended to read that no disciplinary proceedings may be instituted against a staff member unless he or she has been notified, in writing, of the allegations against him or her and of the right to seek the assistance of counsel in his or her defence at his or her own expense, and has been given a reasonable opportunity to respond to those allegations. Staff rule 111.2 was amended to read that a staff member may arrange to have his or her appeal presented to the panel on his or her behalf by counsel, at his or her own expense.
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