15 November 2004
Fifth Committee Approves Draft Text on Scale of Assessments, Continues Debate on 2006-2007 Strategic Framework
NEW YORK, 11 November (UN Headquarters) -- The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning recommended to the General Assembly a draft resolution, by the terms of which it would urge all Member States to pay their contributions to the Organization in full, on time and without conditions and address the issue of multi-year payment plans to reduce Member States arrears to the United Nations budget.
Approving, without a vote a draft resolution on the scale of assessments for the apportionment of expenses of the United Nations, the Committee recommended that the Assembly take note of the report of the Committee on Contributions and the Secretary-Generals report on multi-year payment plans. In connection with the latter, the Assembly would reaffirm paragraph one of its resolution 57/4B, by which it endorsed the conclusions of the Committee on Contributions regarding multi-year plans.
[The Committee on Contributions had agreed that Member States should be encouraged to submit plans as a useful tool for reducing their unpaid assessments; recognized that not all Member States might be in a position to submit plans; and recommended that plans should remain voluntary and should not be linked to other measures. For those States that were in a position to submit a plan, its submission and the status of implementation should be taken into account as one factor in considering requests for exemption under Article 19.]
Also this morning, as the Committee continued its debate on the proposed strategic framework for the 2006-2007 biennium, the representative of Qatar, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said that the proposed plan outline was not as balanced as it could have been in terms of issues related to economic, social, and cultural development. The internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the United Nations Millennium Declaration and other international agreements since 1992, represented the highest priorities of the Organization and should be duly reflected as the major objectives. The eight priorities of the present medium-term plan were still valid and should be reaffirmed for the 2006-2007 biennium.
As the Committee was also considering the Organizations programme performance for the preceding biennium, several speakers noted that the average implementation rate of programmed outputs for 2002-2003 had been 84 per cent. The 2002-2003 budget had been the first one to be submitted in a results-based format, and the performance report for the biennium provided the Committee with an opportunity to evaluate, for the first time, the application of that methodology. In that connection, South Africas representative, on behalf of the African Group, said that she had expected the performance report to provide more detailed information on why the Secretariat had not been able to achieve full implementation of programmed outputs, or why a relatively low implementation rate had been achieved in some areas.
Chairperson of the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC) Nonye Udo (Nigeria) responded to comments from the floor.
Also today, at the conclusion of the debate on the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), responses to questions from the delegations were provided by Warren Sach, Director of the Programme Planning and Budget Division; Adrian Hills, Senior Officer in the Office of the Deputy Secretary-General; Luiz Da Costa of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations; and Dileep Nair, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services.
Also participating in the discussion were representatives of Canada (also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand), Turkey, Bahamas, Jordan, Republic of Korea, Cuba, Syria, Japan, Mexico and Nigeria.
The Committee will take up the Capital Master Plan at 10 a.m., Monday, 15 November.
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning was expected to continue its debate on programme planning and the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). (For background, see Press Releases GA/AB/3647 of 9 November.)
JERRY KRAMER (Canada), speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, noted that although the new instrument for programme planning was still a work in progress, it was already evident that changes were for the better and would help the membership focus on giving strategic direction, strengthen the results-based approach, and enhance the much-needed flexibility of the Organization to respond to evolving circumstances. They were struck that senior programme managers told Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC) members that alignment of the plan period with the two-year budget period created a more realistic basis for planning and programming.
Rather than repeating the debate that took place in the CPC about features of the analysis in part one of the strategic framework, the plan outline, he suggested that the practical path forward was to view the analysis as the Secretary-Generals and to focus on endorsing the eight priorities recommended as guideposts for the work of the Organization. Those were the same broad priorities that had guided the work of the United Nations since 1998. Despite changes in the world, those very broad headings still captured what the Organization was trying to accomplish. Retaining them did not mean a static approach. Adaptation was not in broad priorities, but in ensuring that programmes, sub-programmes, and specific activities reflected current and prospective circumstances and were implemented effectively.
Although the planning and budget cycle had improved somewhat, the substantive contribution of the CPC remained a concern, he said. The CPC had, once again, not added value commensurate with the time and effort it consumed. A major overhaul of its working methods was required, including shorter sessions, a sharp reduction of the time devoted to the redrafting of the indicators of achievement, and a shift toward drawing lessons from evaluation and programme performance findings. For two years running, the CPC had not acted on the need to consider and improve its working methods. Finally, he agreed with the CPC that the report of the Secretary-General on priority-setting should be taken up next year, if at all.
CIHAN TERZI (Turkey), aligning his delegation with the statement made earlier in the week by the European Union, congratulated management and all personnel for the commendable effort to adapt the programme performance report to the implementation of the first comprehensive results-based budget. The new approach encouraged the Organization to be more accountable and goal-oriented. That required a fundamental change in the organizational culture. It might, therefore, take time to be fully adopted by all personnel in their working procedures. Since results-based budgeting was relatively new, it was not easy to reach a conclusion about how it would affect strategic decisions.
During the last 50 years, as a result of unprecedented economic developments, new technologies and free information flow, organizations had to adapt to continuous change. As micromanagement was not desirable in such a complex environment, it was essential to ensure that the Organization had a reasonable accountability structure, strong internal and external control mechanisms, a rational division of work, and enhanced reporting mechanisms. In that context, recognition of the need to strengthen the monitoring and evaluation system had great value. The OIOS report on strengthening the role of evaluation findings in programme design, delivery, and policy directives, yet another valuable contribution from the Office, depicted both the existing situation -- which was not bad -- and spelled out recommendations to strengthen further those functions. The issue deserved close attention, with a view towards establishing checks and balances.
He said that while one aspect of the envisaged reform had been the possible improvement of the working methods of the CPC, so that it was empowered to provide strategic direction, apparently there had not been much progress in that area. Delegates could improve their way of working by removing duplication, streamlining methods, and clarifying tasks.
One of the recommendations of the CPC that attracted his attention was the consideration of cost-accounting -- also known as managerial accounting for its utility in helping with decision-making, planning, and strategy design. Cost accounting was considered an integral part of management strategies for preparation and implementation. There was no standard application of it, however, and it had to be tailored according to sector and company. Due to the diversity and nature of the activities of the government sector and non-profit organizations, application of cost-accounting might need to be custom-tailored, and require the close involvement and dedication of personnel. It was a dynamic process and might take time, energy, and resources. Before moving towards the implementation of cost-accounting, he suggested that its costs and benefits be carefully considered. He looked forward to the results of such a study, noting that if cost-accounting could be implemented easily, it would be very useful.
MISHAL MOHAMMED ALI AHMED AL-ANSARI (Qatar), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, stated that the draft programme plan outline was not as balanced as it could have been in terms of issues related to economic, social, and cultural development. The internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the United Nations Millennium Declaration and other international agreements since 1992, represented the highest priorities of the Organization and should be duly reflected as the major objectives. The eight priorities of the present medium-term plan were still valid and should be reaffirmed for the 2006-2007 biennium.
The Group recognized that they had been enumerated without reflecting any order of importance. While there was a continuing need to address the many conflicts around the world, and to combat international terrorism, it was necessary to recognize that the importance given to those issues should not dilute or detract from the importance of development issues. Given the increasing resource requirements for funding various activities of the Organization, not enough resources were being made available for development, he said.
He also noted the CPC reports use of terminologies such as global public goods and global commons, on which there was no intergovernmental agreement as to their scope or definition. Further, he noted the statement by the Secretary-General in his report that the responsibility for the success of the programmes was neither the exclusive preserve of Member States nor of the Secretariat. In that context, he reiterated that in accordance with Assembly resolution 55/231, expected accomplishments...are included to measure achievements in the implementation of the programmes of the Organization and not those of individual Member States.
He, therefore, endorsed the recommendation of the CPC regarding part one, the plan outline, of the proposed strategic framework for the 2006-2007 period. However, the Group requested that the narrative of the longer-term objectives of the Organization, as currently drafted in that outline, should be revised to reflect the objectives based on the legislative mandates adopted by the Member States in relevant international conferences and fora. The revised document should also draw required lines between objectives and the relevant implementing entities in the Secretariat. The Group requested that the document be redrafted with the technical consultation of the relevant departments, in order to overcome the substantive shortcomings in the text.
With regard to part two, the biennial programme plan, he emphasized the importance of views provided by the specialized intergovernmental bodies on the various programmes of the strategic framework, as well as their consideration by the relevant sectoral, functional, and regional intergovernmental bodies. Regarding the structure and format of the biennial programme plan, he recognized that much remained to be done in the articulation of objectives, expected accomplishments, and indicators of achievement. Some indicators of achievement remained somewhat abstract and, without the inclusion of baselines, it was difficult to assess their measurability. Also, some indicators of achievement measured the quantity of work, rather than the quality of results achieved. He encouraged the Secretary-General to improve data systems, establish standards, develop manuals and guidelines, and conduct training programmes, in that regard.
He emphasized the crucial role of the CPC in the programme planning, budgeting, monitoring, and evaluation process, and welcomed the continuing efforts of the CPC to improve its effectiveness. He welcomed the decision to prioritize the consideration of measures to improve the CPCs effectiveness by taking the matter up at the early part of the next session. Respecting the intergovernmental nature of the CPC, he stressed that the CPC itself was the most appropriate forum for that discussion.
Regarding programme performance of the United Nations for 2002-2003, he noted, with appreciation, that the Secretariat had been successfully implementing new and revised mandates adopted during that biennium, such as the Monterrey Consensus, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, and NEPAD. He also noted that future reporting on programme performance should be more closely aligned with the objectives, expected accomplishments, and indicators of achievement, and information on the outputs should continue to be provided.
Speaking on behalf of the African Group, KAREN LOCK (South Africa) associated herself with the position of the Group of 77 and China and stressed the important programmatic role of the CPC in the planning and budgetary process. The Group recognized that deliberations on the new framework required a detailed and lengthy consideration by the Committee. Therefore, she congratulated the CPC for completing its work within the time allocated to it and without having to resort to the option of utilizing its resumed session. That had not allowed for a conclusive discussion on possible measures to improve the working methods of the CPC, and she appreciated the Committees decision to continue its discussion on the matter at the outset of its next session.
Turning to the programme performance of the United Nations, she was encouraged to note that the average implementation rate of programmed outputs for 2002-2003 had been 84 per cent. The 2002-2003 budget had been the first one to be submitted in a results-based format, and the performance report for the biennium provided the Committee with an opportunity to, for the first time, evaluate the application of that methodology. Consequently, she had expected the performance report to provide more detailed information on why the Secretariat had not been able to achieve full implementation of programmed outputs, or why a relatively low implementation rate had been achieved in some areas.
For the measurement of results, it was necessary to have reliable data for establishing baselines at the time of formulating the expected accomplishments, she continued. She, thus, welcomed the collaboration between the OIOS and the Programme Planning and Budget Division in the development of the results-based performance paradigm. The Division had assisted with the establishment of baseline and target data for specific expected accomplishments and trained managers and staff in the application of the results-based framework. She trusted that the Secretariat would expand on the progress made in establishing and collecting baseline and target data, as well as on benchmarking in the next performance report.
Turning to the strategic framework for 2006-2007, she concurred with the comments by the Group of 77 and China on part one, plan outline. In addition, she said that resolutions 57/7 and 57/300 had been an important expression of international solidarity and partnership for NEPAD. The CPC had expressed strong support for programme 9, United Nations support for New Partnership for Africas Development, as well as appreciation of the contributions by the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa. It was important for the United Nations to increase its activities in support of NEPAD. That could only be done if the entities in the system increased their collaboration. She appreciated the focus of the Chiefs Executive Board and the CPC on the coordination aspect and looked forward to future reports on the matter. She also concurred with the conclusions and recommendations of the CPC in paragraphs 168 and 469 to 476 of its report.
On programme 14, economic and social development in Africa, she said that she was encouraged by the progress made by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) to align the overall objective of its programme with the goals and priorities of NEPAD and internationally agreed development goals. She also welcomed the focus by the CPC on the coordination function conducted by the ECA to oversee coordination and collaboration concerning NEPAD among the entities of the United Nations at the regional level. She further welcomed the recommendations by the CPC to amend the programme to reflect how the ECA would be aligning its work in follow-up to the Johannesburg Summit with the global processes, for example by organizing regional meetings for follow-up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development. She also noted that vigorous action to address the challenge of HIV/ AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other infectious diseases, as well as their impact on the development in Africa, would form an essential component of the work of the Commission in 2006-2007. That would build on the work conducted by the Commission on HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa.
PAULETTE A. BETHEL (Bahamas) supported the position of the Group of 77 and China and said that during its 42nd session, the CPC had done well to make recommendations on the majority of part-two programmes for 2006-2007. She regretted that it had not been possible for the CPC to make recommendations on part one and some sections of part two of the strategic framework, but it must be accepted that there were difficulties in reaching a consensus on any intergovernmental process. She was encouraged by the fact that the Committee had been able to come to agreement on areas on which it had been difficult to achieve consensus in recent years, and fully supported the recommendations of the CPC.
On part one of the strategic framework, she said that for the plan outline to be fully strategic, it was necessary to take into account the longer-term objectives of the Organization. While understanding the need to be concise, her delegation was disappointed that there was no substantive mention of drug control and crime prevention in section II of the plan outline. That area had been identified as a priority for the period 1998-2001 and 2002-2005 and had been proposed as a priority for 2006-2007. She felt the issue deserved more attention, given that, for a significant number of United Nations Member States, efforts to combat drug trafficking and criminal activities constituted a major priority.
With regard to section III of part one, she said that taking lessons learned into account was necessary if the international community were to truly commit to achieving the objectives of the Organization. Turning to part IV of the document, she supported the retention of the current eight broad priority areas without amendment, as they covered the great bulk of substantive activities of the organization, and the conditions that led to them continued to persist. She understood the interest of some delegations in making adjustments, but it would be counterproductive to engage in such an exercise when there clearly was no consensus.
While the strategic framework would probably attract most attention, it was important not to lose sight of other aspects of coordination and evaluation contained in the CPC report, she continued. She strongly supported the work the CPC had done in following up on United Nations support for NEPAD and agreed with the recommendations contained in paragraphs 469 to 476, in that regard. She agreed that it was important to maintain sustained effort to engage partners to support NEPAD. Her delegation also took great interest in the CPCs consideration of the annual report of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) for 2003 and welcomed the CEB focus on ensuring coordinated implementation of the Millennium Declaration. She also supported the emphasis on the need to avoid duplication and ensure complementarity of efforts between the CEB and other inter-agency bodies.
Continuing, she encouraged the CPC to continue its good work in the areas of evaluation and strongly supported the proposal to conduct thematic evaluations, which would facilitate the Committees consideration of coordination and cooperation among United Nations programmes. On priority-setting, she noted the recommendation of the CPC that it continue its consideration of the Secretary-Generals report on the matter at its 45th session, but believed that the General Assembly should conclude its consideration of the issue during its current session.
On working methods, she said that over the years the CPC had strayed somewhat from its original intent of being a technical body that provided advice on programme coordination, monitoring, evaluation and implementation. That meant that at times, the Committees recommendations had been vulnerable to criticism. That was unfortunate, as the CPC was a very useful body. The Bahamas had been an active member of the CPC and she regretted that the constraints of time had not allowed the Committee to reach agreement on specific recommendations to improve its working methods. Reform was needed, but she cautioned against the Assembly taking steps to impose reform without allowing the body itself to deliberate further on the issue.
MOHAMMAD TAL (Jordan) associated himself with the position of the Group of 77 and China and stressed that proper strategic planning was a primary prerequisite for successful implementation of legislative mandates. It not only ensured that the Organizations long-term objectives were well defined, but also mapped out the most efficient way to achieve them. While appreciating the attempt to sum up the long-term objectives in the plan outline, however, he felt that there was undue emphasis on certain objectives at the expense of others.
Terrorism and global security were important items on the international agenda, but equally important were the issues of economic, social and political development, he said. It was in that spirit that his delegation had always associated successful international collective efforts against terrorism with addressing its root causes, namely poverty, illiteracy and hopelessness.
Moving to the issue of collective responsibility, he agreed with paragraph 36 of the plan outline that it was the collective responsibility of MemberStates and the Secretariat to ensure success of the programmes and effective implementation of mandates. It was the responsibility of Member States to ensure that the outcome of their intergovernmental deliberative process produced focused, unequivocal and clear mandates; and it was incumbent upon the Secretariat to seek the most efficient ways to implement such mandates and provide Member States with complete, accurate and timely information. Only then could the Secretariat and MemberStates claim full partnership and collective responsibility.
On the performance report for 2002-2003, he said that a clear definition of objectives and their linkage to expected accomplishments and indicators of achievement provided vital information on the implementation process and enabled programme managers and others concerned to identify best practices. At the same time, it allowed those concerned to recognize implementation difficulties and identify corrective action. It was important to keep in mind that resolution 58/269 constituted only the beginning of a process aimed at streamlining the planning and budgeting process at the United Nations. The resolution also stipulated that the replacement of the medium-term plan with the strategic framework and the new division of labour between the Fifth Committee, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) and the CPC was an experimental process pending future evaluation. Therefore, it was too early to pass judgement on the process.
At this point, he said in conclusion, it was necessary to focus on the consolidation of the results-based budgeting and management concept and enhancement of the Organizations ability at the programme and subprogramme level to clearly define its objectives with better linkages to expected accomplishments and indicators of achievement.
PARK YOON-JUNE (Republic of Korea) noted that the CPC was for the first time considering a strategic framework for the 2006-2007 biennium, which replaced the previous medium-term plan of the Organization. Despite the burden of unprecedented change due to the application of results-based budgeting, the CPC had presented its reports. His delegation commended the chair and members of the CPC for their efforts to upgrade the Committees work.
His delegation believed that that the long-term objectives contained in part one, the plan outline, offered insights that would help the United Nations meet its challenges. It provided a succinct and well-organized overview. Each of the 26 biennial programme plans in part two was worthwhile and he appreciated the Secretary-Generals structure of dividing each programme into several subprogrammes, as well as his thoughtful biennial plans on each programme. He supported the Secretary-Generals plan outline, and supported the opinion expressed by the representative of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union, that the Committee should reaffirm the priorities identified in the medium-term plans.
He noted with concern that the CPC had made recommendations on only 21 out of 26 programmes, thereby hampering the Committees discussion on programme planning. Among the remaining five programmes, the Fifth Committee had received recommendations on two -- one from the First Committee and one from the Fourth Committee. His delegation looked forward to discussing those five remaining programmes during the informal consultations.
He also joined previous speakers in expressing concern that, despite the tireless efforts of the bureau and its members, the CPC was unable to issue broadly defined strategic recommendations that might guide the Secretariat in formulating results-based budgeting. Rather, it limited itself to minor editorial changes. They were equally concerned that the CPC could not fulfil its mandate to improve its working methods, and hoped the CPC would give urgent priority to those matters at next years 45th session.
He welcomed the new format of the Secretary-Generals report on programme performance for 2003-2004, which focused on results achieved. He also commended the OIOS for distributing its report in several formats, including electronically, but encouraged the Office to make future reports more concise and user-friendly. Finally, he stressed the importance of the recommendation of the OIOS that programme managers pay more attention to the planning of monitoring and evaluation activities.
NORMA GOICOCHEA (Cuba) fully endorsed the statement made by the representative of Qatar on behalf of the Group of 77 and China. While understanding that the CPC should continue efforts to increase its effectiveness, she emphasized that a good part of the problems faced by the Committee could be found among the Member States. Many of the problems faced by the CPC were due to a lack of political consensus, and not to shortcomings of the body. She reiterated her support for the CPC, while expressing full willingness to take an active and constructive role in discussions on how to improve its working methods. However, as pointed out by the Bahamas, those discussions should take place within the framework of the Committee itself.
Noting that resolution 58/269 clearly established that the strategic framework was adopted on a provisional basis, she pointed out that the problems appeared to indicate some difficulties in the operation of this experiment. It would be regrettable if, after the provisional period, there was no consensus among Member States about maintaining the strategic framework.
Cubas position on specific programmes would be made clear during the informal consultations. She noted her lack of satisfaction with the failure of the CPC report to reflect the intensive discussions that took place in the Committee, stressing that it was important that summary records contained a countrys positions, particularly in those areas where the Committee was not able to reach a consensus. The reports of the discussion were unbalanced and did not take into account the opinions of all Member States. She believed the plan outline was not balanced and did not give the necessary importance to development programmes. The outline should not reflect only the position of certain Member States and should be reformulated. Even though the CPC accepted the draft by consensus, Cuba rejected the method, without pre-judging the content of the document.
She endorsed the conclusions contained in paragraph 38 of the CPC report and joined others who praised the efforts of the OIOS to divulge information electronically. Cubas understanding of paragraph 41 of the CPC report was that it didnt mean the elimination of information on outputs and fully supported the statement made by the representative of South Africa on behalf of the African Group in that regard.
She was unsatisfied with the report of the Secretary-General on priority-setting (document A/59/87), which tried to justify a position that went against an analysis of priorities. She supported the need for analyzing from a technical and impartial point of view, how priorities were set. Pointing out that a notable characteristic of the 2004-2005 budget was the reallocation of certain items, she stressed that such redistribution should have clear guidelines in order to avoid arbitrary actions.
NAJIB ELJI (Syria) supported the position of the Group of 77 and China and emphasized the importance of the proposed strategic framework, which constituted the basis for programme planning, evaluation and monitoring within the United Nations. The first part of the document was supposed to cover far-reaching goals of the Organization, but, in fact, it was neither sufficient nor accurate. He supported the position of the Group of 77 and China on the terminology contained in some paragraphs of part one of the document, on which there was no intergovernmental agreement. Reference to anomalous expressions and terminology should be deleted.
Regarding part two, he said that his delegation had followed the discussions of the CPC as an observer, and he would like to refer to the methods of work of the Committee. Its modus operandi was correct in principle, but the failure to perform adequately stemmed from confusing the technical role of the Committee with economic considerations. Instead of following legislative mandates and translating them into programmes, some members of the Committee, including major contributors, introduced financial considerations in order to modify legislative mandates. Some States had turned away from technical matters, focusing on economic and financial matters, instead. That undermined the Organizations ability to implement the legislative mandates determined by Member States. That was contrary to the technical nature of the Committee. It was ironic that the same States had later criticized the CPC for not following up on the technical methodology. On programme 21, Palestine refugees, for example, some members of the CPC had refused to include certain objectives, under economic pretexts.
His delegation requested the CPC to abide only by the technical aspects of its work and refrain from introducing any political aspects, he said. In some cases, however, the CPC had been forced to adopt unnecessary adjustments to programmes, which distorted them.
On programme 1, General Assembly and Economic and Social Council affairs and conference management, he said that the Secretariat had submitted an incomplete programme. Programme 6, legal matters, had been presented in a manner that went beyond established mandates. The CPC had expanded some mandates without legislative authorization. He could not accept some recommendations of the CPC on the programmes, for that reason.
As for the programme performance of the United Nations for the preceding biennium, he said that, due to the lack of time, the CPC had been unable to exercise its role in evaluation and assessment of the progress achieved in 2002-2003. That was reflected in the manner the document before the Committee had been prepared. Important data were not available. Also, part of the document had been transmitted electronically. In that connection, he emphasized the need for the Secretariat to issue all documents in hard copy, translated into all official languages. Given the importance of its work, the CPC should also be provided with summary records.
HITOSHI KOZAKI (Japan) said that his delegation supported part one, a plan outline, reflecting the longer-term objectives of the Organization. For the CPC to prove itself as a useful body, however, it must go through a further reform process. By adopting resolution 58/269 last year, the Assembly had given the Committee clear mandates to tackle reform issues, but the CPC had been unable to address its working methods. He believed that, to add value to the budgeting and programme process, the CPC must focus more on monitoring and evaluation. As for the report on the programme performance of the United Nations in 2002-2003, it was a useful document and he encouraged the OIOS to continue to improve that report. He also emphasized the usefulness of cost accounting for the monitoring and evaluation of programmes.
DIEGO SIMANCAS (Mexico) asked whether the debate on programme 19, human rights, scheduled to take place this afternoon by the Third Committee, would affect the Fifth Committees consideration of this item.
The Secretary of the Committee, MOVSES ABELIAN, said the bureaus of the Fifth and Third Committees were scheduled to meet later this afternoon to discuss the matter further.
NONYE UDO (Nigeria), Chairperson of the CPC, thanked all the delegates who spoke on the issue of programme planning. She took issue with the statement made by the representative of the Republic of Korea, who seemed to have the impression that only two committees had concluded their work. She noted progress made with regard to other programmes and stated that all the main committees had concluded their discussion of the issues sent to them by the CPC, with the exception of the ongoing dialogue with the Third Committee on the human rights programme. The fact that the main committees had taken action had enriched the work of the CPC.
Action on Draft
The Committee then turned to a draft resolution on the scale of assessments for the apportionment of the expenses of the United Nations (document A/C.5/59/L.10), submitted by Vice-Chair of the Committee, Ms. LOCK (South Africa), following informal consultations. By the terms of the draft, the Assembly would urge all Member States to pay their contributions to the Organization in full, on time and without conditions. It would also take note of the report of the Committee on Contributions and the Secretary-Generals report on multi-year payment plans. In connection with the latter, the Assembly would reaffirm paragraph one of its resolution 57/4B, by which it endorsed the conclusions of the Committee on Contributions regarding multi-year plans.
[The COC had agreed that Member States should be encouraged to submit plans as a useful tool for reducing their unpaid assessments; recognized that not all Member States might be in a position to submit plans; and recommended that plans should remain voluntary and should not be linked to other measures. For those States that were in a position to submit a plan, its submission and the status of implementation should be taken into account as one factor in considering requests for exemption under Article 19.]
Also by the text, the Assembly would defer until the first part of its resumed session consideration of the question of outstanding contributions of the former Yugoslavia.
The Committee approved the text without a vote.
As the Committee turned to the activities of the OIOS, ADRIANHILLS, Senior Officer in the Office of the Deputy Secretary-General, answered a question posed by the United States representative regarding the Secretariats follow-up to the Organizational Integrity Initiative. He said that the Secretary-General reaffirmed the importance he attached to the issues of integrity, ethical conduct and accountability. It was for that reason that he had endorsed the initiative last year as a key element of his ongoing reform agenda. He was fully committed to addressing the concerns identified by the staff in the recent integrity survey and was pleased to report progress on several fronts.
Continuing, he said that the full results of the survey had been posted on the web, along with a comprehensive letter to all staff dated 4 June, outlining plans for follow-up. The Deputy Secretary-General had been tasked with chairing a senior-level group to oversee implementation of those actions. In addition, each of the department heads had been requested to conduct town-hall meetings to discuss the survey findings against the specific realities of each department or office. Those meetings had now taken place in almost all cases. The senior-level group had convened its first meeting. An informal body of staff volunteers would also be formed, in order to enhance the dialogue with staff on integrity issues.
A working group, led by the OIOS, had been convened in order to formulate stronger whistle-blowing protection policies -- addressing a key concern emerging from the survey. A draft policy document was now under discussion. Also the Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM) was incorporating integrity concepts into the staff development curricula, induction and senior-level orientation programmes. That was intended to raise overall awareness about the Organizations code of professional conduct and provide information on the formal and informal systems of dispute-resolution. The OHRM was also reviewing the policies of various organizations on workplace harassment, with a view to identifying best practices. A related administrative instruction would be issued in the near future.
Finally, a proposal for revamping the high-level Accountability Panel established in 2000 was currently under review, including suggestions for new membership and broader terms of reference. The Secretary-General was confident that, together, those measures would foster a culture of integrity in the Organization.
WARREN SACH, Director of the Programme Planning and Budget Division, responded to two points raised by Cuba during earlier discussions of the report of the OIOS. On the matter of temporary assistance for meetings, he noted that that the representative of Cuba had asked whether, if the staffing table of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management was set at a lower level than required, could that be a breach in the principle that the level of resources should be commensurate with the mandate. He replied that the question of adequacy of resources was related to the level of the demand for services, and that there was a much better balance between resources and mandates -- though that was not an exact science. The Organization was in a much better state now than a few years ago, and there was no serious gap between the need for services and the level of resources. He noted that there had been a realignment of resources at the Department in order to meet the needs of Member States. The Department was also trying to improve its use of technical innovations.
He also referred to paragraph 2 of the Secretary-Generals note introducing the OIOS report, which suggested that it might be timely for the General Assembly to initiate a comprehensive review of the Offices operations. He noted that the representative of Cuba had asked what were the rationale, needs, and objectives of such a review -- and suggested that the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) could handle the review. He replied that the Secretary-General believed that the General Assemblys review of the activities of the OIOS this year provided an opportunity to consider an external review of the Office -- to get an independent assessment of if and how it should be strengthened. A strong internal oversight office was in the interest of the General Assembly and the Secretariat. While the Secretary-General had made the proposal to the General Assembly, it was up to the Assembly to decide whether it was a matter worth pursuing and to provide precise terms of reference.
LUIZ DA COSTA, of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, responded to concern expressed over the handling of the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) recovered from Kigali. He said the Secretariat considered that to be a matter of great importance and accepted the specific recommendations made in the OIOS report. He noted that the OIOS had concluded that the CVR in the possession of the United Nations was not from the Presidential aircraft crash on 6 April 1994; that the CVR recovered from Kigali in 1994 was neither properly tracked nor examined from the time it was received in United Nations Headquarters; and that reporting mechanisms within the Department did not keep senior management sufficiently aware of significant field developments, among other findings.
The OIOS recommendations for corrective action included that the Department conduct a risk analysis of information flow through the chain of command and institute procedures that would mitigate the risk of important matters not being reported to senior managers, particularly during times of crisis -- as happened in 1994 with regard to the CVR. The OIOS also recommended improving archiving procedures in the Department and archiving facilities generally at the Organization. All the recommendations of the OIOS were accepted and in the process of implementation.
Ms. GOICOCHEA (Cuba) said that she was grateful for the answers provided and asked for them to be distributed in writing. Today, she wanted to express her initial reaction to the Secretariat statements. She took note of Mr. Sachs answers on behalf of the Controller on the evolution of the budget. However, the OIOS report contained specific reference to the fact that the staff table of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management had been set at a lower level than required. Mr. Sach had referred to such factors as introduction of new technology and the fact that no meetings were now held after 6 p.m. and at night time, but his statement did not take into account the specific observation of the OIOS regarding the staffing table of the Department. The level of resources should correspond to the mandate, and she agreed that application of that principle was not a science. Planning, however, should be a science.
Regarding the Secretary-Generals proposal to conduct an independent study of the OIOS, she reiterated her position that Cuba did not see a need for such a study, but was prepared to discuss the issue. Should such a proposal be approved, the Joint Inspection Unit could be requested do it as an external body. She also recalled that she had asked a question regarding the fact that entities of Member States had carried out studies of the Office. That seemed inappropriate, and she wanted to know on the basis of what mandate it could have been done. She also wanted to know how many such audits had been performed.
She intended to further study the written answers by Mr. Da Costa, but believed that his response revealed severe inefficiency of the Secretariat, where a real accountability and responsibility mechanisms were needed.
Mr. ELJI (Syria) said that he was also deeply concerned over insufficient resources for conference services. Multilingualism and the need to ensure the use of six official languages were important, and the lack of resources presented a threat in that respect. When the Committee had been preparing the budget for 2004-2005, the proposal from the Secretariat had been for less resources than in the preceding budget. Asked if those reduced resources were sufficient to implement all legislative mandates, the Secretariat had said yes. He asked the Secretariat, under the first performance report for the biennium, to request resources that would be sufficient to implement all legislative mandates. His delegation would support additional resources to be provided to the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management for that purpose.
Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, DILEEP NAIR, responded to the comments of some representatives, including those of Syria and Cuba, that the OIOS had gone beyond its mandates in some of its reports. He said that the Office was guided by the terms of resolution 54/244, which clearly stated that any recommendations that changed mandates were not in the Offices purview. So, they did not make such recommendations.
In response to Syrias reference to the OIOS report on the regional commissions, Mr. Nair said the recommendations there were aimed at improving organizational structures and working procedure. Their recommendations were for the regional commissions to review. In particular, with regard to the recommendation concerning the statistics division at the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), the Office wanted ESCWA to review that matter. It was then up to ESCWA to decide how to proceed. Similarly, with the recommendations on the non-governmental organization accreditation committee, the Office made recommendations on the working procedures of the Committee to improve their backlog of work. If they decided to make certain changes, they would have to seek the required legislative approval.
Referring to Cubas question about being subject to reviews, he stressed that the OIOS believed that any review should be done only after a mandate was given by the General Assembly. They were not subject to independent reviews -- in terms of providing access to the Offices internal documents -- except for those conducted by the Board of Auditors, which had done two comprehensive audits. He noted that the Joint Inspection Unit had also reported on the offices investigative procedures. As to whether any other review was done, he emphasized that that was not something they would subject themselves to and that was a line that had been consistently drawn. However, he said, if Member States wanted to talk to the officers, that courtesy would be extended to representatives. He categorically clarified that the Office was not subject to reviews other than those mandated by the General Assembly.
Mr. ELJI (Syria) thanked Mr. Nair for his remarks and noted that his delegation appreciated that the work of the Office over the past five years had significantly improved in comparison to the first five years. For the sake of clarification, his delegation wanted to say that their comments on the OIOS review of the regional commissions was based on the presumption that any reviews would be considered by the Member States of those commissions. As far as any deviations by the OIOS from their mandate, Syria might raise the matter in informal consultations, but noted that such problems were to a much lesser extent in the current five years than in the past five years.
Ms. GOICOCHEA (Cuba) said that, concerning her delegations analysis of the intergovernmental machinery -- including topics such as the frequency and length of meetings -- proposals to change such matters did fall within the mandates of Member States. She agreed with the representative of Syria in noting that there were positive developments in the recommendations made by the Office on such issues.
Regarding Mr. Nairs response about reviews carried out by Member States, she noted that there was such a review done before Mr. Nair led the Office. Noting that it was an important principle that no United Nations structure could be subject to supervision by a MemberState, she was pleased with the information given by Mr. Nair that his Office would be open only to bodies that were mandated, such as the Board of Auditors and the Joint Inspection Unit. Her delegation also noted that the level of contact that existed between the Office and MemberStates had improved dialogue and understanding. She was grateful for the work of Mr. Nair, who had had a great deal to do with that approach.
Ms. UDO (Nigeria) also noted that her delegation was please with the work of the OIOS and did not want to miss the opportunity to express appreciation to Mr. Nair for his work.
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