3 November 2005
Geographic Distribution of UN Staff, Transparency of Hiring Practices among Issues in Budget Committee Human Resources Management Debate
Also Takes up Conference Management, Financing for Sudan Mission
(Issued on 2 November 2005.)
NEW YORK, 1 November (UN Headquarters) -- "The Secretariat must be an entity, which is modern, forward-looking and staffed by competent and efficient individuals responsive to existing and future challenges", the representative of the United Kingdom, who spoke on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said during the debate on human resources management in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today.
Incorporation of modern management practices into the working methods was a way to achieve that and to preserve and enhance the Organization's effectiveness, he said. That became all the more necessary during the current post-World Summit period. He looked forward to receiving the Secretariat's proposals in respect of simplifying existing human resources regulations, as well as staff buyout.
Kuwait's representative said that that human resources management reform, which had begun seven years ago, was a sustainable process that should include fair geographical distribution in the Secretariat and allow equal job opportunities for both genders. Reform should not allow some countries to monopolize high-level positions.
In that connection, the representative of Pakistan said that central elements of effective human resources management included recruitment and career planning. The Charter ensured merit-oriented selection of staff on as wide geographical basis as possible. However, those objectives still eluded the United Nations, and job selection still lacked transparency. More than 72.2 per cent of staff came from 24 countries and each had more than 100 nationals as staff members. Six out of those countries had over 400 nationals in the Secretariat each. Representation of developing countries should increase, particularly at senior and decision-making levels.
Several delegations pointed out that their countries were not adequately represented in the Secretariat, with Iran's representative saying that only one Iranian national had been recruited in a post subject to geographical distribution over the past 27 years. Libya's representative said that, while 636 Libyan nationals had submitted applications to the United Nations between May 2002 and June 2005, none of those candidates was awarded a post, despite the fact that the country was underrepresented.
Speakers also addressed the results of a recent study on the availability of qualified personnel in local labour market and flagged the importance of succession planning for vacancies, given that there would be many posts coming vacant in the next five years through retirements.
The second major agenda item taken up today was "the pattern of conferences", which relates not only to the Organization's calendar of meetings, but also the utilization of conference-servicing resources and facilities, documentation, translation, interpretation and information technology, as well as ongoing reform of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Services.
Stressing the need to prioritize limited resources, use technological advances and continue the reform, the United States' representative noted that at $590 million, the proposed budget for conference management for 2006-2007 was the largest single budget line item. At the same time, the cost of a three-hour session with interpretation was approximately $15,000; one page of text in six languages cost about $2,400. Using those figures, the recent session of the Committee on Conferences could be estimated at over $260,000. He was disappointed that the Committee had failed to carry out its mandate to recommend the best use of conference services, advise on future requirements and monitor organization policy. In his country's view, that body should be eliminated and its resources transferred to higher priorities.
The Unites States' other proposals included a reduction in the number of meetings; timely beginning and end of meetings; funding of intersessional and subordinate bodies' meetings through voluntary contributions; revision of the mandates of 300 subordinate or subsidiary bodies of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council; and use of technological advances to reduce the number and cost of meetings.
In the afternoon, the Committee focused on the Secretary-General's budget proposal for United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) for two consecutive financial periods: 1 July 2004 to 30 June 2005 and 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006. Several speakers supported providing the Mission with adequate resources, noting the vast territory of the country and the complex mandate of the Mission. At the same time, many delegates supported the Advisory Committee's view that, in tailoring the Mission's structure to the realities on the ground, UNMIS must ensure clear lines of responsibility and avoid duplication of functions, while developing cooperation with other United Nations entities and missions in the region.
In his introduction of this item, United Nations Controller Warren Sach, said that the 2004-2005 budget had been proposed for $222.03 million -- $57.47 million less than the amount of $279.5 million previously assessed on Member States, due to delays in troop deployment. The balance would be applied to the assessment required for the period from 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006. Further, taking into account the revised deployment schedule for military and police personnel and air transportation fleet for 2005-2006, the requested appropriation had been reduced from some $1.02 billion to about $969.47 million.
Also participating in the discussion were representatives of Jamaica (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), Kenya (on behalf of the African Group), Canada (also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand), Russian Federation, China, Japan, Viet Nam, Sierra Leone, Egypt (on behalf of the African Group), South Africa, Uganda and Nigeria.
Other documents before the Committee were introduced by Diego Simancas, Chairman of the Committee on Conferences; Chen Jian, Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly Affairs and Conference Management; Rajat Saha, Acting Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ); Jan Beagle, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management; Wolfgang Münch, of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU); and Qazi Shaukat Fareed, Director of the Secretariat of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination. Responding to questions and comments from the floor were Director of the Peacekeeping Financing Division, Catherine Pollard and Mr. Saha.
The Committee will continue its debate on today's issues and begin its consideration of several reports under its programme planning agenda item at 9.30 a.m. Wednesday, 2 November.
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning was expected to take up its agenda items on the pattern of conferences and human resources management, as well as financing of the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS).
Pattern of Conferences
The Committee had before it a 2005 report of the Committee on Conferences (document A/60/32), which contains the Organization's calendar of conferences and meetings and presents the Committee's deliberations on the utilization of conference-servicing resources and facilities, documentation-, translation- and interpretation-related matters and information technology. The Secretary-General's report on the pattern of conferences (documents A/60/93 and Add.1) responds to a number of Assembly's requests for information on related matters.
The reports indicate that overall conference services utilization factor in 2004 (83 per cent) is six percentage points higher than in 2003 and eight points higher than in 2002, and exceeds the benchmark for the first time since 2000. During the year, 77 per cent of the bodies had planning accuracy factors of 80 per cent and above. Consultations are ongoing between conference management and the bodies that frequently underutilize services to improve the situation further.
Requested by the Assembly to review the current practices of providing facilities and interpretation services for meetings of regional and other major groupings of Member States, the Secretary-General reports that requests for such services are accommodated on an "as-available" basis from existing resources, mostly as a result of meeting cancellations. With consistently high and intensive official meeting schedules, barring provision of dedicated funds for groupings' meetings, flexibility on the part of Member States in moving meeting dates remains a key element for any improvement. Another option could be incorporation of the groupings' needs into the organization of work of calendar bodies and "sharing" them in "related reassignments".
The documents also show that, as a result of intensified marketing, efficiency gains and increased client orientation, the United Nations Office in Nairobi has been able to reduce charges for conference services and attract more meetings to its facilities. There has also been a notable increase in the level of activities at the conference centre at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), with about 500 events hosted in 2004.
The documents also contain information on the efforts to improve delivery of summary records. The options in this regard include shortening the records, reducing the number of bodies entitled to coverage, concentrating précis-writing in the English Translation Service, and replacing hard copy with digital recordings. Among other measures, the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management has initiated a pilot project, under which précis-writing has been concentrated in the English Service for the whole of 2005. Also reported to the Assembly is successful completion of a pilot project aimed at translating summary records of the main part of the fifty-ninth session during the first quarter of 2005, with a deadline of 31 March for their issuance.
Seeking to establish the impact of information technology on the performance of conference-servicing staff, a Department task force also examined personnel workloads, concluding that existing standards should be supplemented by an array of management data along the lines of the "balanced scorecard" widely used in public and private institutions.
With a large number of retirements, the reports also address the vacancy situation at several translation services. Competitive examinations were recently held or scheduled for translators, verbatim reporters and editors in several languages, and efforts have been made to fill the vacancies in the translation and interpretation services in the United Nations Office in Nairobi. However, filling vacant posts, in particular extrabudgetary ones in Nairobi, especially for language staff that have the option to apply for vacant regular budget posts in Geneva, New York and Vienna, continues to be difficult.
According to the Secretary-General's report on the reform of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management (document A/60/112), which is now in its third year, areas for improvement have been identified and restructuring has been implemented. However, full benefits of the reform can only materialize over time. Moreover, owing to its servicing nature, the performance of the Department is heavily affected by external factors, such as document submission by author departments and meetings planning of intergovernmental bodies, which tend to fluctuate and cannot be easily planned in advance.
In the coming year, the Department intends to "continue its dynamic management of conference services in a transparent and accountable manner" in order to achieve better results. Specifically, it plans to further refine the global management of the calendar; synchronize capacity with expected output; identify areas for further improvement of the document management system, following the completion of the self-evaluation project; undertake global analysis of the information technology systems to identify potential for standardization, compatibility and integration; and finalize the manual of policies, practices and procedures, and put in place mechanisms to ensure its effective implementation across duty stations.
The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), in a related report (document A/60/433), expresses concern that the methodology used for calculating the utilization factor has not changed significantly since 1993 and that various bodies' specifics are not taken into account. Raw statistics on the utilization of conference resources are potentially misleading and could obscure understanding of actual efficiency gains. A more qualitative analysis is required, as well as a more results-based approach.
On page limits and submission deadlines under the documents slotting system, the ACABQ writes that 236 of the 923 documents slotted in 2004 were over the page limit and 424 were submitted late. Such findings raise the question of author departments' accountability. At the same time, in order to function effectively, the slotting system must have some flexibility built into it. Also noted in the report are the Department's efforts to get involved in enhancing the drafting skills of staff members in the Secretariat responsible for preparing reports. In undertaking this initiative, the Department "has looked beyond itself" to deal with one of the root causes of the problem, and the ACABQ encourages such creative solutions.
Regarding workload standards and performance measurement, the Advisory Committee finds the statement that existing workload standards should be supplemented by an array of management data along the lines of the "balanced scorecard" vague. The "balanced scorecard" approach, if it is to be used, should be expanded and elaborated upon and reported to the Assembly as soon as possible. Noting information concerning development of information technology tools, the ACABQ stresses the importance of measures to improve quality and accuracy, particularly considering that thought is being given to outsourcing more of the Department's work.
The Advisory Committee further welcomes the fact that the Department is currently working with the Office of Human Resources Management to arrange an Arabic interpretation examination, specifically to fill vacant posts in Nairobi. In the light of vacancy situation, all possible approaches should be considered and rosters should be developed in all the languages.
Also before the Committee was a document containing a letter from the Chairman of the Committee on Conferences to the President of the General Assembly (document A/C.5/60/9) regarding a request to make the documentation for Ad Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities available in Braille and in electronic format. The document also addresses the need to ensure access to conference services for persons with disabilities.
Human Resources Management
Its report on the human resources issues related to the headquarters agreements concluded by the organizations of the United Nations system (document A/59/526), the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) identifies the areas where adjustments in headquarters agreements might be advisable. The Unit's recommendations touch upon such issues as granting of work permits for spouses and children of United Nations staff members and officials and the importance of full implementation of headquarters agreements. Addressed in the report is the need to use simplified procedures to facilitate the exercise of the international staff and officials' privileges, immunities and benefits in such areas as visas for domestic helpers; acquisition and rental of real property; integration into the social security system; retirement in the host country; and tax exemption benefits.
The document also touches upon the issues of visa processing for official United Nations travel; formulation of a model framework headquarters agreement; the need to ensure adequate information of local administration, public services and business communities of the benefits, privileges and immunities of international organizations and staff; and the importance of acquainting staff with the contents of host country agreements.
Comments on the JIU report of the members of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) are contained in document A/59/526/Add.1). They generally welcome the findings of the Unit and are broadly in agreement with its conclusions and recommendations. Members of the CEB support any effort to ensure that staff are provided with pertinent information and recognize the importance of making Member States fully aware of the implications of some of their restrictions. Noted is the need to give priority attention to standardizing conditions of service in various duty stations. The report also welcomes the recommendations of the JIU encouraging staff mobility, spouse employment and proper implementation and respect of the privileges and immunities of the United Nations system organizations and their staff by concerned government authorities.
Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General's annual report on the composition of the Secretariat (document A/60/310) that provides information on the demographic characteristics of the staff and on the system of desirable ranges for posts subject to geographical distribution. The document also contains an analysis of the issues related to under- and overrepresentation of Member States and information on the implementation of human resources action plans.
Contained in document A/C.5/60/L.2 is a list of the staff of the United Nations Secretariat showing, by office, department and organizational element, the name, functional title, nationality and grade of all staff members holding an appointment of one year or more as at 1 July 2005.
The report of the Secretary-General on gratis personnel loaned to the United Nations by Governments and other entities without charge (document A/59/716), indicated, inter alia, their nationality and duration of service, gender, department and functions performed. This is the first such report presented on a biennial basis and on the basis of a modified methodology, which presents the data on a cumulative basis for each calendar year.
The report indicates a total of 1,149, of type I gratis personnel in 2003. [Type I gratis personnel are those who serve as associate experts, technical cooperation experts and interns, while type II refers to all other loaned staff.] In 2004, that number increased to 1,290. Concerning type II personnel, the report shows a total of 53 in 2003. The total number increased to 85 in 2004. Type II personnel were hired for very short periods, often for under one month, almost exclusively by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for humanitarian work and relief operations following disasters such as floods and typhoons in Bangladesh, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Federated States of Micronesia or Vanuatu, as well as the tsunami catastrophe at the end of 2004.
In that connection, the Advisory Committee, in a related report (document A/59/786), notes that utilization of type II gratis personnel for short periods in the context of humanitarian emergencies is in line with the terms of Assembly resolution 51/243. The ACABQ also maintains its previous recommendation that, in the future, information on gratis personnel be presented on a biennial basis in the context of the report on the composition of the Secretariat.
Another Secretary-General's report before the Committee (document A/60/174) contains the full text of new rules and amendments to existing rules that the Secretary-General proposes to implement as from 1 January 2006. The document also provides the rationale for each amendment.
The results of a study on the availability of skills in local labour markets, for which international recruitment for General Service staff takes place, are contained in document A/60/262. The study was carried out at the Text Processing Section, where 47 General Service level vacancies were projected from 2005 to 2009. A targeted recruitment campaign was launched in 2005 to determine availability of required skills in the local market and to build the roster of qualified candidates. With 1,303 applications received by the end of July, there were 166 candidates for Arabic positions, 119 for Chinese, 519 for English, 166 for French, 106 for Russian and 227 for Spanish. However, only 599 of the applicants were found to be eligible for the exam, and only 40 actually passed it, including three in Arabic, 10 in Chinese, 14 in English, five in French, zero in Russian, and eight in Spanish.
The findings of the study confirm availability of a sufficient number of qualified local candidates to meet the needs of the English Unit. For the other languages, with the exception of Russian, it is possible to identify some qualified candidates locally, but not in sufficient numbers to meet the needs.
Another Secretary-General's report before the Committee deals with amendments to Staff Regulations (document A/60/365), which are needed to strengthen financial accountability of staff involved in the management of the Organization's resources and the disciplinary accountability of staff members involved in sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.
According to the Secretary-General's report on the assessment of the existing system of geographical distribution at the United Nations (document A/59/724), representation of various countries' nationals at the Secretariat has always been a major concern for Member States. It is reflected in Article 101 of the Charter, according to which "due regard shall be paid" to recruiting the staff "on as wide a geographical basis as possible". In its resolution 153 (II) in 1947, the Assembly stated that policies and administrative methods of the Secretariat should reflect and "profit to the highest degree" from cultures and technical competence of all Member nations.
In 1948, a system of "desirable ranges" was introduced through a Secretary-General's bulletin, under which a range of posts was established, within which each State was to be adequately represented. Confirming this system, resolution 1559 (XV) (1960) also linked geographical appointments with the concept of budgetary posts set aside for this purpose. Initially, only the contribution of each State to the budget was used to determine the ranges, but in 1962, the Assembly added two other factors: membership in the United Nations and the population of the State (resolution 1852 (XVII). Since then, the weight of each factor varied according to successive Assembly resolutions, but preference was always given to the contribution.
Over the years, discussions about equitable geographical distribution have been characterized by two dominant points of view. One group, composed largely of developing countries, wanted more weight to be given to the membership or, alternatively, to the population factor, whereas another group -- mostly Member States with high rates of assessment -- wanted to keep greater weight on the contributions.
Since 1988, the calculations include a base figure, which currently stands at 2,700 posts. The weight of other factors remains at 55 per cent for contribution, 40 per cent for membership, and 5 per cent for population. The population factor is based on the proportion of each country's population relative to the global population. The posts allotted to the contribution factor are distributed in proportion to the latest scale of assessments for the regular budget of the Organization. The posts allotted to each State through the application of all the factors are added together to establish the midpoint of each State's desirable range.
In his current report, the Secretary-General presents three scenarios, as follows: (a) changes to geographical distribution by varying the weight of the membership, population and contribution factors, while keeping the base figure of posts at the level of 2,700; (b) changes to geographical distribution by expanding the population and the base figure, so as to include groups of staff not currently considered to have geographic status, while keeping the weight of the factors (membership, population and contribution) at their current levels; and (c) changes in the application of the system of weighted ranges.
According to the document, changing the weights of the factors would result in important changes in the status of Member States. The same is true when the base figure is expanded to include staff currently not having geographic status. Expanding the base figure has financial implications, as it means granting international status, with associated allowances and benefits, to a larger pool of staff. It is projected that the inclusion of staff in the General Service and related categories would cost approximately $55.5 million annually. In addition, enlarging the base figure to include extrabudgetary staff would affect stability and human resources planning.
Financing of UNMIS
The Committee also had before it a proposed budget for the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) for two consecutive financial periods: 1 July 2004 to 30 June 2005 and 1 July 2005 to 30 June (document A/60/190). In addition to cost estimates that amount to some $222.03 million for the 2004-2005 financial year, the amount of $1.02 billion for 2005-2006 provides for the phased deployment of a military and civilian police component, which is expected to increase by 30 June 2006 to 750 military observers, 9,250 military contingent personnel, 715 civilian police; a proposed civilian staffing component consisting of 1,053 international staff, 2,690 national staff, and 208 United Nations Volunteers; and related operational costs.
Initially, an advance team in the Sudan was established as a special political mission, and later -- by the terms of Security Council resolution 1590 of 24 March 2005 -- was mandated as a peacekeeping mission for six months. The Secretary-General was requested to transfer all activities of the political mission to UNMIS. The latest extension took place on 23 September, when the mandate of the Mission was extended through 24 March 2006, with the intention to renew it further (Security Council resolution 1627 (2005).
Pending consideration of detailed budgets at its current session, the Assembly, in its resolution 59/292 of 21 April 2005, authorized the Secretary-General to enter into commitments, with assessment, in an amount not exceeding some $595.5 million for the initial establishment of the United Nations Advance Mission in the Sudan (UNAMIS), for the period 1 July 2004 to 31 October 2005. That budget total comprised $279.5 million, including $100 million previously authorized by the ACABQ, for the period 1 July 2004 to 30 June 2005, and $316 million for the period 1 July to 31 October 2005.
The recommendations of the Advisory Committee in a related report (document A/60/428) would entail a reduction of some $48.13 million to UNMIS' proposed budget. Among the ACABQ's other observations, is a statement that the Mission should develop an accountability framework that would make clear the respective responsibilities of headquarters and regional offices. That becomes necessary in view of UNMIS' decentralized structure, with the leadership role for the heads of regional offices.
The ACABQ recognizes the need for a structural framework tailored to the mandate of UNMIS -- which need not be replicated in other missions -- and stresses the particular importance of cooperation among all actors in the area. It welcomes the review undertaken in connection with its previous comments on the proposed structure for the Mission. The two-pillar model proposed by the Secretary-General has been reconfigured, as recommended by the Advisory Committee and endorsed by the Assembly in its resolution 59/292.
The structure of the Mission, the allocation of posts and their grade levels (especially at the D-1 and D-2 levels) should remain under review taking into account the experience gained during full deployment of the Mission, including actual workload. The Advisory Committee encourages the efforts to expedite the conclusion of the status-of-forces agreement in order to facilitate full implementation of the Mission's mandate.
On the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programme of UNMIS, the Advisory Committee states that it is still not convinced that all of related activities, to be carried out through the proposed expenditure of $12.7 million in 2005-2006, are fully consistent with the intent of Assembly on the use of assessed contributions. It recommends that further clarification be provided in that respect.
Introduction of Documents
DIEGO SIMANCAS, Chairman of the Committee on Conferences, introduced that body's report contained in document A/60/32. He said that, unlike the preceding two years, the Committee on Conferences this year had been unable to agree on elements of a draft resolution on the pattern of conferences for adoption by the Assembly. At its organizational session early next year, possible changes in the Committee's working methods would be discussed. That would make possible for the Committee on Conferences to provide more relevant advice to the Assembly. The Committee's work could be made more focused, limiting the discussion to items that were under its purview.
Highlighting some matters appearing in the report, he said that only one matter remained unresolved in connection with the draft calendar of conferences for 2006-2007: the dates of the session of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations. Following extensive consultations in that body, the dates had now been proposed and the calendar had been presented for adoption by the Assembly.
Regarding conference services utilization, he said that the methodology measuring utilization was complex, and its further fine-tuning would bring better results. The percentage of meetings with interpretation provided to regional and other major groupings had decreased to 85 per cent, but the number of such meetings had also decreased.
Having considered the reform of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, the Committee had generally welcomed continued efforts in reforming the Department, he continued. It stressed that the reform should be aimed at improving timely delivery of documentation and the quality of conference services, meeting the needs of Member States efficiently and cost effectively. On documentation-related matters, familiar concerns on equality of the six official languages, delayed and late issuance and partial compliance with the page limits had been raised. Among other things, a suggestion had been made for a one-year pilot project, aimed at issuing pre-session documents by not less than 4 weeks prior to their consideration.
The Committee had also discussed access to documentation by delegates with disabilities, he added. It considered the question favourably and suggested that the Assembly give priority attention to the issue.
Introducing the Secretary-General's reports on the pattern of conferences (document A/60/93) and the reform of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management (document A/60/112), CHEN JIAN, Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management, listed some of the Department's achievements during the reporting period. Among other things, he noted that the utilization rate of conference facilities in Nairobi had increased by 28 per cent during 2003-2005; the summary records of the fifty-ninth session had been issued in a more timely manner; and the backlog from previous sessions had been reduced. Detailed information on the submission of pre-session documents by author departments had been made available; and increased application of information technology had led to improved timelines and cost-effectiveness in the delivery of outputs. All that had been achieved within the Department's allocated resources.
Describing new projects to further rationalize the workflow and enhance synergies, he said that in the first phase of the pilot project undertaken by the Central Planning and Coordination Service (CPCS) and the Documentation Division, the CPCS had estimated the expected monthly output of each translation service for consecutive three-month periods. That estimate had been used by those services as the basis for their capacity planning. That methodology still needed adjustment to become a truly effective tool for matching resources and output as closely as possible.
While the Department continued to do what it could, it was also time to step up efforts to tackle what it could not do on its own, he continued. For instance, the four goals of quality, productivity, timeliness and cost-effectiveness that the Department was to achieve were not fully compatible. In fact, they were inherently conflicting. The Department had started the reform by focusing on the elimination of over-expenditures through better planning. On that basis, it had moved in the last two years to improve timeliness, and then to raise overall output, all within available resources. In that process, improvement of quality presented a constant challenge, and emphasis on quality could only be directed to where it was most needed. Intending to continue with the same order of priorities, the Department would like to seek Member States' understanding and guidance, given that progress in the achievement of one goal might mean sacrifice in the achievement of another.
Another example was "the quandary" of summary records, he said. If what the Department had done was found to be insufficient, and if Members requested summary records for all intergovernmental bodies entitled to them in a shorter time frame, then in-house translation and other capacities would have to be strengthened with significant financial implications, as well as possible waste. A decision by the Committee was urgently needed for the Department to know how it was expected to handle summary records in the years ahead. There was also a contradiction between increasing utilization of conference-servicing resources, on the one hand, and providing interpretation to meetings of regional and other major groupings, on the other, as the latter was a direct beneficiary of cancellation of calendar meetings.
The Department was also sometimes confronted with different mandates from different intergovernmental bodies. When the Fifth Committee called for control and limitation of documentation, but the Sixth Committee obtained the endorsement of the Assembly for a blanket waiver of all the documents of the International Law Commission, the Department found itself in an awkward situation. Thus, there was a need for greater consistency of mandates. As for the issuance of documentation, the Department must juggle with the mandate of six-week issuance, on the one hand, and the need to avoid issuing documents less than one week before their consideration. Experience showed that issuing documents four weeks before their consideration, while minimizing less-than-one-week issuances, might be the best combination of results achievable by the Secretariat and acceptable to the intergovernmental bodies. In that respect, he welcomed the suggestion made at the COC session for a one-year pilot on the four-week issuance of pre-session documents. He also welcomed the ACABQ's recommendation that timely submission of documentation should be included as an indicator of achievement for the author departments.
RAJAT SAHA, Acting Chairman of the ACABQ, introduced that body's report (document A/60/433).
NORMA ELAINE TAYLOR ROBERTS ( Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said the Group attached great importance to this agenda item. She urged the Committee on Conferences to keep monitoring and evaluating the performance of the Secretariat in the field of conference services.
She noted the improvement in the use of facilities and services at the conference center at the Economic Commission for Africa, but noted that there was a 19 per cent drop in use during the first five months of this year because of security considerations. The Group believed there should not be a blanket denial of use by all non-United Nations affiliated organizations, including academics institutions. Instead, requests should be considered on a case-by-case basis. The Group would like to obtain more information on how security standards were affecting access to conference centers at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and other duty stations and regional offices.
The Group also was concerned with information in the Secretary-General's report that showed there was a continuous decrease, from 90 per cent to 85 per cent, in the percentage of meetings of regional groupings provided with interpretation services. When viewed against the backdrop that the actual requests for such meetings dropped by 15 per cent, the Group had every reason to be very concerned.
The Group was also concerned with the late issuance of documents, which remained a chronic problem that negatively affected the legislative process. The Group urged the Committee on Conferences to conduct a thorough examination and evaluation of the problem of late issuance and submission of documents and provide the General Assembly with recommendations to solve the problem.
The Group was also concerned with the vacancy situation in the language sections at different duty stations, particularly Nairobi. The Arabic interpretation section in Nairobi has always had a high vacancy rate, since it was created. She recalled that the Group of Arab States had offered to help conduct an examination for translators and interpreters into Arabic in Nairobi, and would appreciate an urgent update on the issue. She also welcomed the proposal to create a P-3 information technology position with the Division of Conference Services at the United Nations Office in Nairobi. She noted that the Office has had insufficient resources and has had to rely on other duty stations to develop and maintain its information technology capacity.
ANTHONY ANDANJE ( Kenya) spoke on behalf of the African Group, and associated himself with the statement made by Jamaica on behalf of the Group of 77 and China. He said the African Group valued the important role of the United Nations Office at Nairobi and noted the efforts to increase the use of conference facilities at United Nations duty stations, especially in Nairobi. The Group urged the two United Nations programmes headquartered at Nairobi United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) to hold all their meetings and events at Nairobi.
The Group also believed that urgent efforts should be made to upgrade the information technology capacity in Nairobi in line with those at Headquarters, and in the context of the regular budget for 2006-2007. The Group welcomed the creation of a P-3 position within the Division of Conference Services in Nairobi. He also said it was imperative to address the fact that Nairobi relied heavily on extrabudgetary funding for its activities.
Regarding the perennial problem of the late issuance of documents to Member States, the African Group reiterated its concern and hoped that the General Assembly would address its concerns on accountability for the late preparation of documentation. He emphasized that hard copies of documents should be made available on time and in all official United Nations languages.
JOCELYN KINNEAR ( Canada) spoke on behalf of New Zealand, Australia and Canada, said she welcomed the progress on the reform of the Department of General Assembly and Conference Management, particularly the progress in the development of an integrated management system. She looked forward to the issuance in 2006 of the compendium of policies, practices and procedures that was being developed through consultation with the four duty stations.
She noted that the report of the Secretary-General on the reform of the Department did not provide information and updates on all measures contained in the original report on improving the Department's performance that was included in document A/58/289. For this regard, she would like to stress that quantitative measures of efficiency and productivity were invaluable and irreplaceable tools in the management of any organization. She was disappointed that the Secretariat abandoned its work on workload standards. Even through it was an imperfect measure of efficiency, it would be valuable in the absence of any other means.
She also would have liked to see more progress on the development of a system to cost the business processes in the Department as a way to measure efficiency and productivity and provide effective management.
BENJAMIN A. GARCÍA ( United States) said that his country's experience as a member of the Committee on Conferences led to the irrefutable conclusion that sensible prioritization of limited resources, continued modernization, utilization of technological advances and ongoing managerial reform should be the Assembly's overriding goals regarding conference management. Those goals must be addressed simultaneously from a system-wide and day-to-day conference management perspective. At $590 million, the proposed budget for conference management for 2006-2007 was the largest single budget line item.
He said that, according to Secretariat estimates, the cost of a three-hour session with simultaneous translation was approximately $15,000. The cost to produce one page of text in six languages was approximately $2,400. To give a practical example, using those figures, a revised cost-estimate for the recent Committee on Conferences sessions was over $260,000. Given those costs, he was disappointed that the Committee had failed to carry out its mandate to recommend the best use of conference services, advice on future requirements and monitor organization policy. In his country's view, the Committee should be eliminated and its allocated resources transferred to higher priorities.
Aside from the elimination of the Committee on Conferences, speaking on the budget proposal for the next biennium, his delegation had presented its vision for conference management that included a reduction in the number of meetings; timely beginning and end of meetings; funding of intersessional and subordinate bodies' meetings through voluntary contributions; revision of the mandates of 300 subordinate or subsidiary bodies of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council; and use of technological advances to reduce the number and cost of meetings.
With the reform of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management in its second stage now, integrated global management continued to be the right step forward, and he looked forward to its further development, he continued. With regard to the calendar of conferences and meetings, he noted that, as cancellations and time lost to late starts or early endings had markedly declined, the overall conference utilization rates had steadily improved. In that connection, he was disappointed that nine bodies were consistently below the 80 per cent benchmark, resulting in a significant loss of resources. Those who failed to reach the benchmark should have conference resources reduced automatically. E-meets had been an innovative improvement for requesters and providers. As for regional and other major groupings' meetings, he supported continuation of the current policy of providing conference services on an ad hoc basis.
On documentation, he expressed disappointment that in 2004, over 25 per cent of the 923 slotted documents had been over page limits, and that almost 46 per cent had been submitted late. It was impossible to deliver documents on time if the authors did not meet the requirements as established by the Assembly. He agreed with the ACABQ that timely submission of documentation should be an indicator of achievements for author departments and not the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management. He also supported the Department's "four-week" pilot project as a compromise between six-week and one-week document issuance rules. As for the summary records, reducing or eliminating summary records production represented potential cost savings, and he would pursue that further in informal consultations.
MAXIM N. GOLOVINOV ( Russian Federation) noted an important role played by the Committee on Conferences, saying that his delegation attached great importance to the reform measures undertaken to improve its work. He welcomed such recent initiatives by the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management as the introduction of electronic systems to improve document processing and meeting management. It was important, however, that any reform measures should be carefully analysed in terms of expected results, improving the quality of services to Member States and increasing productivity. The reform should be implemented in an evolutionary way, replacing outdated methods and technologies. However, it was necessary to take into account the specific features of various units. For instance, it was necessary to be cautious in reforming the work methods of translation services, whose intellectual functions were not suited to automation.
As for the global management project, success could be guaranteed not through rigorous centralization, but through balanced distribution of workloads, he continued. Here, the coordinating role of the Department was important. He noted with pleasure the creation by the Secretariat of special groups to monitor the progress of the Department in line with Office of Internal Oversight Services recommendation. In his view, the findings of those groups merited the close attention of Member States. Given the fact that there was only a brief reference to the establishment of those groups in the reports, he hoped to receive more detailed information on their work.
On documentation, he said that the lack of necessary documents made the work of the Fifth Committee difficult. That was a source of serious concern. He understood the comments regarding non-respect for the submission rules on behalf of the author departments -- attention should be given to their accountability. At the same time, the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management still had a lot to do to ensure timely issuance of documentation.
As the main criteria for assessing conference services was the satisfaction by Member States, the Department should develop effective means to track user satisfaction, he continued. Delegations should also be provided with the results of the measures taken to examine the views of Member States with regard to services provided in all official languages. In that connection, he recalled a case when a questionnaire had been distributed in only two of the six official languages.
Turning to the information meetings to examine the existing problems in language services and receive feedback, he said that those were useful. The Department should take measures to address the concerns raised during such meetings. For instance, his country still had concerns regarding the quality of simultaneous interpretation from Russian. The quality of translation was also not perfect, although some progress had been achieved recently. He hoped that measures taken by the leadership of the Russian Translation Service to increase accountability of individual staff members for the quality of their work would bring desired results. Also, the recent Russian translators', interpreters', editors' and verbatim reporters' test should allow the Secretariat to create rosters of fully qualified candidates.
One of the factors in ensuring quality was ensuring good working conditions to all language services and providing them with adequate resources, he added.
SHEN YANJIE ( China) said China associated itself with the statement of Jamaica on behalf of Group of 77 and China. Concerning the reform of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, China welcomed the constructive efforts to improve the Department's quality and efficiency and the shift from providing services reactively to proactively managing the services.
He noted with regret that, in respect to the slotting system, the late submission of documents continued. The Department for General Assembly and Conference Management had not created effective cooperative mechanisms with other departments to bring accountability on the issue into effect. China welcomed the pilot study on the effectiveness of slotting systems and the transparency and accountability of the system should be encouraged. Concerning workload and performance management systems, China agreed with the ACABQ that after adopting technology and enhancing quality in the Organization, there should be an increase in productivity. China looked forward to more information about workload standards and performance measurement tools.
Regarding the quality of translation and interpretation services, China attached great importance to the quality of these services. He said quality was a prime consideration in the recruiting of language posts, and that translators and interpreters should use the most recent and modern language tools and standards in regard to language.
Human Resources Management
JAN BEAGLE, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management, introduced the following documents: Composition of the Secretariat (A/60/310); the List of Staff of the United Nations Secretariat (A/C.5/60/L.2); Amendments to the Staff Rules (A/60/174); Amendments to Staff Regulations (A/60/365); and Study of the availability of skills in local labour markets for which international recruitment for the General Service category takes place (A/60/262).
She said the Office of Human Resources Management continued to work in partnership with programme managers to carry forward the Secretary-General's human resources management reform programme and implement the Assembly's resolutions in this regard, most recently resolution 59/266. She looked forward to a constructive discussion on these issues to achieve the common goal of moving forward with the Secretary-General's human resources management reform programme.
Wolfgang Münch, of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), introduced the Report of the JIU on the Review of Headquarters Agreements concluded by the Organizations of the United Nations System: Human Resources Issues Affecting Staff (document A/59/526).
QAZI SHAUKAT FAREED, Director of the Secretariat of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination, introduced the comments of the Secretary-General on the report of the JIU (document A/59/526/Add.1). While generally welcoming the findings of the Unit, members of the CEB were concerned that some of the recommendations seemed to disregard the framework applicable to experts on mission, who were also entitled to robust privileges and immunities. The CEB fully supported recommendation 2 on the need to fully implement the provisions of the Headquarters agreements and ensuring the use of simplified procedures to facilitate their application, except for integration into social security systems. On recommendation 3, he informed the Committee that it had already been implemented. If necessary, further steps would be taken to ensure that staff and dependents were fully briefed on their rights and privileges.
SIMON HORNER ( United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, reiterated the Union's support for effective human resources management within the Secretariat, as well as ongoing human resources reform efforts. "The Secretariat must be an entity, which is modern, forward-looking and staffed by competent and efficient individuals responsive to existing and future challenges", he said. Incorporation of modern management practices into the working methods was a way to achieve that and to preserve and enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the Organization. That became all the more necessary during the current post-World Summit period. He looked forward to receiving from the Secretariat innovative and soundly justified proposals in respect of simplifying the existing human resources regulations, as well as concrete proposals for staff buyout.
As many reports on human resources management were expected during the next session, the Union considered that it would make practical and operational sense to consider all substantive related reports as a whole at the sixty-first session in line with the Committee's biennial consideration of that agenda item. However, it was necessary to take a speedy decision regarding amendments to the Staff Regulations on financial disclosure and sexual exploitation and abuse.
Continuing, he flagged the importance of succession planning for vacancies, given that there would be many posts coming vacant in the next five years through retirements. He urged the Secretariat to address that quickly. On employment, he said that Article 101.3 of the Charter remained the guiding principle in that respect. Although the system of geographical distribution worked adequately, and he welcomed the efforts to reduce non- and under-representation in recent years, the problems that did exist were not necessarily those of methodology, but perhaps of recruitment practices. Better use should be made of the national competitive exam rosters. Greater prominence should be given to attaining the targets in human resource action plans. The Union was disappointed that, in many areas of the action plans, several departments consistently fell well below the established targets. He looked forward to hearing what accountability mechanisms and corrective measures were in place to ensure better performance in meeting the targets.
He welcomed the continued upward trend, albeit slow, in the overall representation of women within the Secretariat and urged the Secretary-General to continue his efforts to achieve a 50/50 gender balance. The Union was disappointed by the response of the Secretary-General on the availability of skills in local labour markets. The report fell short of what was requested. On gratis personnel, he agreed with the Advisory Committee that related information should be incorporated into the composition of the Secretariat report. He took note of the JIU report the CEB comments thereon, as well as the paragraphs of the Assembly resolution that addressed directly some of the issues raised by the JIU.
Mrs. TAYLOR ROBERTS ( Jamaica) spoke on behalf of the Group of 77 and China and said the JIU report provided important information for the Committee's consideration and supported the findings highlighted in the report. She re-emphasized the need for the timely issuance of visas for the staff and officials of the United Nations by all host countries. The Group also would like clarifications on the conditions and requirements for the recruitment of permanent residents at Headquarters and any provisions for change of status required, as well as the underlying reasons for requiring such a change of status, if any.
Turning to the report on the composition of the Secretariat, the Group reaffirmed the need to adhere to the principle of equitable geographical representation in the recruitment of the staff at all levels. The Group would like the Secretariat to provide Member States with a comprehensive list of the nationalities of the current Under-Secretaries-General and Assistant Secretaries-General. And to help ensure the international character of the newly established Department of Safety and Security, the Group would like the Secretariat to provide a status report on the recruitment efforts for that Department, including the nationalities of all staff recruited so far at the senior and management levels (Under-Secretary-General to P-4).
NASER M. AL-HAYEN ( Kuwait) endorsed the statement made by the representative of Jamaica on behalf of the Group of 77 and China and supported the human resources reform programme that the Organization began seven years ago. Kuwait agreed with the Secretary-General's report that the Organization should be staffed with highly qualified and honest personnel and should abide by a fair geographical distribution.
The delegation believed that reform was a sustainable process that should include a fair geographical distribution in the employment mechanism and allow equal job opportunities for both genders. Kuwait hoped that non-represented or poorly represented Member States would be able to participate in the Secretariat's activities, since a fair geographical distribution could provide more transparency and credibility. Reform should not allow some countries to monopolize high-level positions.
Mr. GARCÍA ( United States) noted that the Summit outcome document called on the Secretary-General to submit proposals for implementing management reform that would promote more efficient use of the available financial and human resources.
The United States was concerned about the continuing occurrence of over-represented, under-represented and un-represented States, as well as the apparent lack of inclination of the Secretariat to limit the hiring of nationals from over-represented States. He said senior management at the highest levels should expect and demand timely results from department heads and not accept the status quo, which did not adequately address representation.
Regarding the report on amendments to staff regulations (A/60/365), he said the strengthened requirements meant to enhance financial accountability of United Nations staff did not cover all officials serving on intergovernmental bodies, such as the ACABQ, the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC), to Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) and others. He said the Secretariat needed to revise its proposal, as those officials should be held to the same standard of accountability and transparency as senior officials.
Regarding the Secretary-General's report (A/60/262), which concerned the study on the availability of skills in local labour markets for which international recruitment for the General Service takes place, he said the report raised more questions that it answered regarding the availability of local residents who may be interested and qualified to perform editorial and desktop publishing duties. He would like clarification that applicants who indicated the New York metropolitan area was their current address meant that applicants were considered from the surrounding communities, not just the five boroughs of New York City.
MOHAMID AB-SHKSHUKI ( Libya) supported the position of the Group of 77 and China and focused on the issue of geographical distribution in the Secretariat. According to the reports before the Committee, 17 countries were not represented as of June 2004 and 9 were underrepresented in the Secretariat. His country was one of the underrepresented countries, and that was a source of concern, particularly since Libya's contribution to the budget of the United Nations had doubled in recent years. Almost 636 Libyan nationals had submitted their applications to the United Nations between May 2002 and June 2005, but none of those candidates was awarded a post, despite the fact the country was underrepresented. He did not believe that the selection system was sufficiently transparent. Fair and balanced recruitment with regard to geographical representation was needed, and the Office of Human Resources Management needed to improve representation for under- and non-represented countries.
AKIRA YAMAMOTO ( Japan) recognized that the management of human resources was of paramount importance for the Organization. His delegation highly appreciated the recent reform efforts by the Office of Human Resources Management and would be working with other Member States to further the progress made so far.
On the Secretary-General's latest report on the composition of the Secretariat, he pointed out that, in its resolution 59/266, the Assembly had requested the Secretary-General to prepare an analysis of the level of underrepresentation of Member States. That request had not yet been met. What the Assembly had requested was an analysis of the difference between the number of nationals and the lower limit of the desirable range of each underrepresented Member State, as well as an analysis of the number of newly recruited staff from underrepresented States. His Government was greatly concerned about the state of underrepresentation of Member States. It, therefore, requested the Secretary-General to complete the work requested by the Assembly by including an analysis of underrepresentation in the next report on the composition of the Secretariat.
SEYED MORTEZA MIRMOHAMMAD ( Iran), who supported the views of the Group of 77 and China, said he appreciated the report of the Joint Inspection Unit on the review of Headquarters agreements concluded by the organizations of the United Nations system. He said the report was timely and relevant as the Headquarters agreements covered a wide variety of issues and the enhancement of service conditions for staff was an important element of the human resources reform, especially regarding the successful pursuit of mobility policy.
He emphasized the need for more and better communication and information sharing, for both the host countries and the staff. He agreed with the report's concern that the United Nations experienced administrative and managerial difficulties caused by delays in obtaining visas from some host country authorities for staff and officials travelling on mission.
Regarding the report on the composition of the Secretariat, he was concerned that Iran was among those countries that were not adequately represented in the Secretariat. In fact, the annual documents on composition in recent years showed a downward trend in Iran's representation on an almost yearly basis. As of 30 June 2005, Iranian nationals held eight positions in posts subject to geographical distribution, below the mid-point figure of 9.79.
To the best of his knowledge, there was only one case of recruitment of an Iranian national in posts subject to geographical distribution within the past 27 years. He would appreciate any disputing information in that regard. He asked the Secretariat to take the necessary steps to ensure Iran's representation would not remain under the mid-point figure. He noted that there were Iranian nationals with the necessary standards of efficiency, competence and integrity that could serve in the best interest of the Organization.
Mr. SHEN ( China) associated himself with the position of the Group of 77 and China and focused on several aspects of Human Resources Management agenda item of particular interest to his country. From the report on the composition of the Secretariat, he noted that the imbalance in the geographical distribution of staff had still not been rectified. The percentage of staff from developing countries showed a continued decrease. China's representation was also declining steadily and those who were employed in the Secretariat were at comparatively junior levels. He was gravely concerned about such an abnormal situation and appealed to the Secretariat to implement relevant Assembly resolutions to make sure that developing countries were represented, particularly at senior and decision-making levels.
Many vacancies were anticipated at the Secretariat, and that would provide an opportunity to improve geographical representation there, he continued. The target of limiting recruitment from over-represented countries had been implemented by only 19 per cent so far, and greater efforts should be made to rectify the imbalance. He called on the Management Performance Board to continue to monitor performance of senior managers in meeting the recruitment action plans.
Turning to the report on the assessment of the existing system of geographical distribution at the United Nations, he noted that, in it, the Secretary-General had presented three scenarios, which included: varying the weight of the membership, population and contribution factors, while keeping the current base figure of posts; expanding the population and the base figure, while keeping the weight of the factors at their current levels; and changes in the application of the system of weighted ranges. He believed that a rational system of geographical distribution should take into account all the factors. Also, noting that the study had made dramatic adjustments to the weights of the three factors, he wanted to learn on what basis the percentage of adjustment had been made. As proposed, the adjustments could hardly meet the interests of all parties and would not be practical.
Regarding the study on the recruitment of General Service personnel in local markets, he noted that the report showed that, except for English, the local market in the other five languages could not provide sufficient number of qualified candidates to meet the needs. He appreciated the effort to ensure economies, provided quality could be ensured. When the local market could not meet the needs, however, it was necessary to recruit people internationally. Work should not be compromised for the sake of savings. He also brought the Committee's attention to the fact that there were cases when international staff were recruited as locals, as had been the case with Chinese interpreters. He expected the Office of Human Resources Management to pay attention to such issues and rectify the inappropriate situation. Also, emphasizing the issue of fairness and transparency in recruitment, he appealed to the human resources management to strengthen monitoring of Department of Peacekeeping Operations recruitment processes.
Among other things, he also addressed the report on gratis personnel, saying that he hoped to find out more about related employment procedures and such issues as employment of interns.
AHMED FAROOQ ( Pakistan) associated himself with the Group of 77 and China and said that effective human resources management was particularly important in view of recent decisions taken at the September Summit. The central elements of effective human resources management included recruitment and career planning. The Charter ensured merit-oriented selection of staff on as wide a geographical basis as possible. However, those objectives still eluded the United Nations and job selection still lacked transparency. Representation of developing countries should increase, particularly at senior and decision-making levels.
According to paragraph 46 of the report on the composition of the Secretariat, more than 72.2 per cent of staff came from 24 countries and each had more than 100 nationals as staff members. Six countries had more than 400 nationals in the Secretariat each. That was against the global character of the United Nations and in complete contravention to the Charter provisions. He asked for information on measures to rectify the imbalance. He also noted with concern the declining representation of developing countries at senior and decision-making levels, while the share of staff from developed countries had increased. He wanted to know the countries at whose expense the balance had shifted.
The report did not contain details on the status of female representation from developing countries, he continued. Special opportunities should be provided to women from underrepresented developing countries to allow them to join the United Nations. Today's discussion also needed to take into account the outcome of the Summit, which stated that, to deliver mandates more efficiently, the rules and regulations needed to be in consonance with the needs of the Organization. In that regard, he said that administrative and managerial flexibility for the Secretary-General should be in accordance with relevant provisions of the Charter and mandates given by the Assembly. Clear lines of authority and accountability were needed. Human resources policy needed to ensure total impartiality.
NGUYEN DINH HAI ( Viet Nam) associated himself with the statement made by the representative of Jamaica on behalf of the Group of 77 and China. He said reform of human resources management had been pursued with the goal of producing a more productive, flexible and result-oriented Organization that could better serve Member States. He added that reform was a continuing process that required constant efforts and should lead, among other goals, to a comprehensive and fair system of recruitment, placement and promotion.
Reform should also lead to better staff composition, based on the principle of equitable geographical distribution and gender balance. In that regard, he noted the progress made so far, but said that efforts needed to be accelerated to eliminate the problem of no-representation and underrepresentation by a number of Member States. He hoped that more staff from those countries would be recruited. With regard to the issue of gender distribution in the entire system, he said there was some progress. But, his delegation felt that the goal of 50/50 gender distribution in all categories could only be realized if further attention was paid in the years ahead.
JAMES JONAH ( Sierra Leone) agreed with the statement of Jamaica on behalf of the Group of 77 and China. He said that since 1980 certain Governments had made supplementary payments to senior nationals in the Secretariat, which was at variance with the code of conduct of international civil servants. He said previous efforts, made through the Secretary-General, to obtain information on the Governments giving payments and the recipients had failed. He wanted to know if his delegation could be assured that the new financial disclosure requirements would make it known if officials were receiving supplementary payments from their Governments.
Ms. BEAGLE thanked the delegations for their comments, saying that the Office of Human Resources Management would provide detailed answers in informal consultations. Among the main issues addressed in the debate, she noted recruitment, rules on financial disclosure and availability of skills in local labour markets.
Financing of Sudan Mission
United Nations Controller WARREN SACH introduced the Secretary-General's budget proposal for United Nations Mission in the Sudan, saying that the budget for the period from 1 July 2004 to 30 June 2005 had been proposed for $222.03 million -- $57.47 million less than the amount of $279.5 million previously assessed on Member States, due to delays in troop deployment. The balance would be applied to the assessment required for the period from 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006.
Further, taking into account the revised deployment schedule for military and police personnel and air transportation fleet for 2005-2006, the requested appropriation, as indicated in paragraph 292 (b) of the report had been reduced, from some $1.02 billion to about $969.47 million. The amount to be assessed for 2005-2006, after the application of the balance of $57.47 million and $315.99 million already assessed, had been reduced from $644.14 million to about $596 million.
Introducing a related ACABQ report, Mr. SAHA said that offices and units of the Mission should be consolidated, wherever possible. It should be determined which functions could be more efficiently or cost-effectively provided centrally. Moreover, the relationship between the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and UNMIS and their distinct functions or complementarity must be clarified. The Advisory Committee welcomed the Mission's efforts to maintain maximum participation of the local population, thus contributing to capacity-building, transfer of knowledge and the sense of ownership.
The Advisory Committee also recommended that further clarifications be provided to the Assembly on the proposed expenditure of assessed contributions for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration in order to demonstrate that those plans were fully consistent with the intent of the Assembly, he continued. Also contained in the report was a number of observations with regard to the need to rationalize training, including training-related travel. The Advisory Committee encouraged more in-house training in the region, or through the use of communications and information technology, wherever possible.
YASSER ELNAGGAR ( Egypt), who spoke on behalf of the African Group, said the Group commended the commitment by troop-contributing countries in support of UNMIS. He encouraged troop-contributing countries to increase the deployment rate of their troops and he urged the Secretariat to work closely with them to ensure their swift deployment.
The Group was concerned with the late issuance of documents related to UNMIS proposed budget and noted that the Fifth Committee should have concluded its consideration of the budget by the end of October. The late issuance of reports on this agenda item, as well as other time-bound issues, burdened the Committee's work, as well as the ability of Member States to thoroughly examine the various elements of many issues.
The Group reaffirmed the need to allow adequate time for the work of the Mission to develop and progress before making hasty judgments on cutting its finances. He noted that the Advisory Committee recommended a reduction, because of delays in troop deployment and recruitment, of about $48 million to the proposed budget for the period from 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006. The Group intended to follow up on this recommendation during informal consultations, with a view of confirming the status of deployed troops and the recruitment of civilian personnel.
He emphasized that UNMIS had been mandated to work closely with the African Union Mission in Sudan. He believed that the United Nations Assistance Cell, which was created in Addis Ababa for that purpose, would enhance cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union in support of the peace process. The African Group joined the Advisory Committee in welcoming the Mission's plans to maximize local participation in its work by recruiting 2,690 national staff, or 68 per cent of total posts. That action would promote local ownership of the peace process and contribute to capacity-building, particularly in the south, where it was most urgently needed. He asked the Mission to intensify the implementation of training programmes to develop the skills of suitable candidates from among ex-combatants, in accordance with the Secretary-General's report to the Security Council S/2005/579.
Mr. HORNER (United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that given the enormity of the task facing the United Nations in Sudan and the difficulty of the operating environment, the Union wanted to express its appreciation to all the personnel operating in that country. He welcomed the attempt by the Mission to portray clearly in the budget submission their detailed requirements -- not an easy task for a mission this large. He also welcomed UNMIS comments in response to previous concerns about structure, gradings and air operations.
It was only right that the United Nations should effectively be operating as one entity in the country, he continued. Only in that way could resources and efforts be maximized for the greatest benefit. Therefore, he would welcome clarification that there was, indeed, a clear delineation of roles and functions between UNMIS and other United Nations entities on the ground. He also wanted to know how the two Deputy Resident Coordinators/Humanitarian Coordinators positions were funded.
Aware of the operational requirements for two distinct headquarters, as well as a number of regional and subregional offices, the Union noted the unique organizational structure of the Mission, he said. He did, however, share the views of the ACABQ about the need for the numbers and levels of posts to be kept under review, taking into account experiences gained. While applauding greater use of national staff and the long-term capacity-building impact that should have, he believed there a greater number of offices should not necessarily be accompanied by a proliferation of civilian staff in support services, language assistants and drivers. He would explore several issues further in informals and seek confirmation that delegation of authority to staff in regional offices had been matched by strong accountability measures.
Turning to the large amount budgeted for air services, he said that, while the Union would not seek to deprive any peacekeeping operation of essential operational assets, it did encourage maximum sharing of regional assets. That had worked well in West Africa. The Union also wanted to reiterate its strong support for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes as part of wider United Nations activities in post-conflict areas. He recalled the Committee's discussions last May in respect of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. In the cross-cutting peacekeeping resolution, the Committee had set firm parameters for those activities to be funded from assessed budgets. Given all that, he was puzzled as to why the ACABQ was not satisfied with the explanations it had received in respect of the $12.7 million budgeted for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration activities. He would like to receive a clarification on that issue.
ADELLE FERGUSON ( Canada) spoke on behalf of the delegations of Australia, New Zealand and Canada. She said the creation of UNMIS was a critical step toward achieving the daunting goal of creating lasting peace for the people of the Sudan and helping alleviate the country's extremely difficult humanitarian situation. She supported the Advisory Committee's view that, in tailoring the Mission's structure to the realities on the ground, UNMIS must ensure clear lines of responsibility were maintained and duplication of functions was avoided. And with the size of the Mission, she also was concerned that the lines of accountability remained clear and a strong framework was put in place to allow effective oversight by Mission leadership.
She noted that the proposed budget of $1 billion was virtually unprecedented and it was important that UNMIS focus immediately on the best financial and administrative practices in the Mission's management. The key to the Mission's success was the adoption of an integrated and holistic approach that took full advantage of the expertise and resources among all actors of the UN system. For UNMIS to succeed, it needed the support of the international community through the prompt payment of assessments and voluntary contributions. She pledged full support to help ensure that UNMIS had the necessary resources and structures to meet its objectives.
KAREN LOCK ( South Africa) commended the management of UNMIS for undertaking a review of the structure that it had initially proposed in its budget submission last April. In response to its complex mandate, the Mission had developed a "unified, area-based and decentralized organizational structure", which to some extent drew on the so-called "template" for complex and multi-dimensional peacekeeping operations. The structure, however, had been further tailored to meeting the unique operational requirements for UNMIS. She welcomed that approach, as her delegation had always maintained that the Secretariat should apply the "template" in a flexible manner that would reflect the complexities and mandates of each operation, as well as developments in the field. She trusted that any attempt to further refine the structure, as requested by the ACABQ, would be aimed at effective implementation of the mandate.
She noted the close cooperation among the United Nations operations in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia and Eritrea and said it was evident from the arrangements to share aircraft capacity, exchange of information and efforts to provide support to UNMIS for meetings held outside the country. However, given the geographical vastness of the territories of the Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the expanded role for the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the resources and capacity of the Mission in the Democratic Republic had been placed under considerable strain. Any attempts to increase regional cooperation among those three missions, including the sharing of assets, should ensure smooth functioning of the individual operations.
She also stressed the importance of a successful disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme in the Sudan, as called for in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The Council, in its resolution 1590, had tasked UNMIS with supporting the implementation of the Agreement by performing a number of tasks, including the establishment of a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme. Therefore, she shared the concern of the African Group regarding the observations of the Advisory Committee in paragraphs 40 and 45 of its report. It seemed that the ACABQ did not question whether or not the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration activities to be undertaken by the Mission were in line with its mandate, but rather whether or not they met the intent of Assembly resolution 59/276 on the use of assessed contributions for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. The Assembly had already pronounced itself on the matter, and she expected full adherence to the spirit and letter of the resolution. She also cautioned against any attempts to reopen the agreements reached in June. She fully supported the Secretary-General's request for operational requirements for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration activities to be undertaken by UNMIS.
She also stressed the importance of close coordination and cooperation between the African Union and the United Nations to ensure a lasting solution to the conflict in the Sudan. Given that the Security Council had supported the findings of the assessment mission, which included information on the establishment of the United Nations Assistance Cell in Addis Ababa, her delegation was not clear as to the reasoning for the observations in paragraph 21 of the ACABQ report, which seemed to question the need to maintain the United Nations Assistance Cell. Any review of that structure should be aimed at strengthening coordination with the African Union.
The role of international partners and donors would remain critical in the Sudan, she said. To that end, the African Union had finalized a Comprehensive African Strategy for Post-Conflict Reconstruction in the Sudan, which set out clear and time-bound actions. It would be coordinated with reconstruction efforts funded by donor countries. The Mission had a critical role to play towards coordinating international efforts in support of peace and development in the Sudan. It was, therefore, imperative that the Assembly provide UNMIS with the means necessary to implement its mandate.
MELANIE J. ATTWOOLL ( United States) said that, with over 14,000 military, civilian police and civilian personnel and more than a dozen separate locations in the Sudan from which UNMIS operated, it was critical that from the outset, the United Nations got the management and operational structures "right". The proposal before the Committee was clearly a step in the right direction, yet more remained to be done. Further efforts were required to ensure that appropriate lines of authority and accountability were solidly in place for the highly decentralized Mission. She concurred with the ACABQ that the Mission should develop an accountability framework to clarify respective responsibilities of Headquarters and regional offices.
In a similar vein, her delegation was pleased to note that the division of labour between UNMIS and other United Nations agencies, funds and programmes had been clarified in annual work plans. That division, however, was not always apparent in the budget document, and additional information was required in that regard. For example, there was little information in the budget to assist understanding of how the functions of the Humanitarian Assistance Liaison Unit were distinct from those of Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). She would also appreciate information, in broad terms, on which activities the Mission expected to be of a short-term nature and which were expected to be conducted throughout the lifetime of the operation. What expenses were non-recurrent and not expected to be included in the next budget?
Regarding air transportation, she said that her delegation was encouraged that the Mission had taken steps to utilize existing air assets in Sudan, particularly through a sharing agreement with the World Food Programme (WFP). However, it remained unclear what possible transportation alternatives may exist in the country. Additional information was needed on whether there were surface transport options.
Following a review of the Mission's staffing structure, she noted with appreciation that, as a whole, its civilian staffing reflected a good ratio of international to national posts. Still, there was room for improvement in specific areas where distribution of staff appeared to be top-heavy and the grading of posts inconsistent. Given the decentralized nature of the Mission, her delegation understood the need for additional support elements in regional and subregional offices. However, she would like to explore further the ACABQ's point that offices or units should be consolidated, wherever possible, and that it was necessary to determine whether it would be more cost-effective to provide some functions centrally.
Lastly, she noted that UNMIS would take a strong coordination and leadership role among all United Nations partners and non-governmental organizations in the area of return and reintegration of some 4 million people, but that it would not be involved "in the delivery of return, recovery and reintegration services of operations, which are normally funded through extra-budgetary resources". While appreciating clarity in that respect, she asked for further information on the proposed provision of $12 million for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. More clarity was needed on how the articles of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement obligated UNMIS -- which had a mandate to assist in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme -- to assume the contingency costs of disarmament and demobilization for the 10,000 members of other armed groups that were not signatories to the Agreement.
FRANCIS MUMBEY-WAFULA ( Uganda) associated himself with the statement made by the representative of Egypt on behalf of the African Group. He said the conflict in the Sudan had eroded and weakened State institutions in the south of the country and strong efforts on the part of the international community would be needed to reactivate them.
Without functional State institutions, negative forces operated in the southern Sudan and launched attacks on parts of northern Uganda and terrorized southern Sudanese. He said he hoped that, with the full deployment of UNMIS forces, all negative forces would be eliminated, as a step toward establishing peace and stability.
In that context, Uganda welcomed the efforts of the Secretary-General and noted that UNMIS was slowly and surely being deployed in the Sudan. He supported the Secretary-General's proposed budget of $1.08 billion and looked forward to informal discussions on the Advisory Committee's alternative proposal, owed to delayed deployment, of $969.47 million. Regarding the request of the Advisory Committee to the General Assembly for guidance on the funding of activities of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration raised by the Advisory Committee, and especially on activities of reinsertion, he said the General Assembly had readdressed this matter in the second resumed session of the fifty-ninth General Assembly. He saw no merit in revisiting the matter.
NONYE UDO ( Nigeria) associated herself with the position of the African Group and said that a lot of faith had been placed in UNMIS. The Assembly must act to give the Mission the wherewithal to meet those challenges and focus its energies on the implementation of its mandate. The Sudan occupied a strategic position in Africa. Peace in the Sudan -- the largest country on the continent, with sprawling borders -- portended good tidings for Africa.
The African Union continued to play a vital role in the Sudan, and she wanted to receive assurances that there was good coordination between the Union and UNMIS and that it would be maintained in line with the mandate of the Mission. She noted that the comprehensive budget proposal for UNMIS had taken into account its unique structure and mandate. She also noted the effort to streamline the activities of the Mission, which was welcome. She trusted that the Advisory Committee's suggested actions to keep the structure of the Mission and the grade levels of posts under review would be heeded by the Secretariat in subsequent budget submissions.
The organizational structure of the Mission, though complex, seemed to address the need to effectively cover the vast terrain of the Sudan, she continued. Her delegation would caution, however, that substantial effort should continue to be made towards close coordination to reduce overlap and eliminate duplication. Cooperation should also be explored with other missions in the region. That was a new concept, which required further refinement. Nonetheless, she would like to receive an explanation on possible areas for tangible cooperation in the substantive aspects, as well as for sharing of assets. Regional cooperation should be implemented in a manner that would not impact negatively on any of the missions involved.
Continuing, she recalled that, at the Committee's previous meetings, her delegation had welcomed the Mission's targets for increasing recruitment of national staff and specialized training for such staff. She hoped that those efforts would be sustained. On the actual budget figures, she understood that the delayed deployment factor had occasioned reductions in the initial proposals almost across the board. That should, however, not be done in a manner that would impact on the successful attainment of the Mission's mandate.
HITOSHI KOZAKI ( Japan) said his delegation would like further clarification on the integrated Mission structure and post structure of UNMIS, as well as the division of labour and the respective roles and responsibilities of UNMIS and the United Nations funds and programmes and specialized agencies.
Specifically, Japan would like additional explanation of the concept of a "unified, area-based and decentralized organizational structure" and "unified and comprehensive approach (paragraph 5)" and how it would be applied under the leadership of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General. Japan would like more information about how duplication would be avoided. Japan would also like more information about the division of labour between the Mission and other UN entities and the financial and administrative responsibilities of the Mission. Further explanation was also needed regarding the delegation of authority even while details were being studied.
In regard to operational costs, Japan would like more detailed explanation on how the work of UNMIS was consistent with the language of article 19 of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, thus designating UNMIS to implement, rather than to assist, the disarmament, demobilization and reinsertion of other armed groups allied to the north and the south, but not signatories to the Peace Agreement. Japan also would like to know the current status of voluntary contributions from the international donor community, in particular in the area of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.
CATHERINE POLLARD, Director of the Peacekeeping Financing Division, said she had taken careful note of all the representatives' comments and statements and would spend the rest of the afternoon preparing her response, which she would present at the informal session tomorrow. She could provide the Committee members with the written information regarding its budget proposal that was provided to the Advisory Committee. She was also working to have officials from other United Nations agencies on hand to answer their requests for information.
Mr. SAHA, Acting Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), said he noted the delegates' concerns surrounding the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration issue. He would provide additional information during the informal sessions, but reiterated that the plans for such expenditures were fully in line with the intent of the General Assembly.
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