12 April 2006
Budget Committee Approves Draft Resolutions on Peacebuilding Support, Strengthening Accountability, Improving Oversight
Texts also Adopted on Programme Planning, Financing Special Political Missions, Conference Servicing
NEW YORK, 11 April (UN Headquarters) -- The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this afternoon made recommendations to the General Assembly on several important issues that it considered during its month-long first resumed session, including the newly established Peacebuilding Support Office and Ethics Office; programme planning; measures to strengthen accountability within the United Nations; financing for special political missions; the pattern of conferences; and functioning of the Organization's oversight bodies.
Revised budget estimates in connection with the 2005 World Summit Outcome were part of a draft resolution on special subjects relating to the 2006-2007 biennium -- one of 6 texts that were approved without a vote today -- which also contains estimates for the Organization's 29 special political missions and addresses after-service health insurance benefits for staff and harmonization of travel conditions within the United Nations system.
By the text, the Assembly, stressing the exceptional nature of its action, would authorize the use of up to nearly $1.6 million from the approved initial provision for special political missions to make the Peacebuilding Support Office operational. As of the next biennium, the Office would be financed from the regular budget, and the Assembly would consider the staffing and functions of the Office in the context of its consideration of budget proposals, in the light of decisions that may result from the Secretary-General's forthcoming report on the arrangements for establishing the peacebuilding fund.
As for the estimates in respect of the special political missions themselves, by another part of the same text, the Assembly would approve an additional charge of some $20.2 million against the provision already approved for 2006-2007. It would also request the Secretary-General to identify means of achieving greater complementarities and synergies among various special political missions and good offices, including greater sharing of human resources and logistical arrangements. The Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) would be entrusted with conducting a management review of the Department of Political Affairs, on its ability to carry out the direction of special political missions, as recommended by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).
Contained in the draft on the review of efficiency of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations are provisions on the functioning of the Ethics Office, which was recently launched in the Secretariat along with changes to financial disclosure rules and the policy on whistle-blower protection. The Fifth Committee recommended that administration of the policy to protect those who report misconduct should be carried out by the Ethics Office in close cooperation with the OIOS and the Office of Human Resources Management. Also recommended is a Secretary-General's report on the staff perception of the impact of the Ethics Office on improving ethics and integrity at the United Nations.
The draft also addresses measures to strengthen the accountability framework, performance measures, oversight bodies, fraud and corruption, procurement, measures to enhance transparency, management practices and reporting requirements. By some of its provisions, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to clearly define the lines of authority and responsibility, as well as respective roles of individual elements of the accountability framework, and improve coordination among them to avoid duplication. It would also decide that assessment of staff performance should be further enhanced, calling for a system that recognizes competence, addresses underperformance, and establishes direct links between performance and career advancement.
Recalling that there would be a separate report on the independent external evaluation of the auditing and oversight system within the United Nations, as well as on a comprehensive governance review, the Assembly would note the need to clarify the roles and responsibilities of management with respect to supporting Member States, and would emphasize the intergovernmental nature of the Organization and its international character. Also, reaffirming the need to ensure respect for the independent nature of internal and external oversight structures of the United Nations as key governance partners, the Assembly would stress the importance of full implementation of their recommendations and request the Secretary-General to hold managers accountable for delays or non-implementation.
The work of two of those oversight bodies -- the OIOS and the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) -- was also addressed in two separate texts. By one of them, the Assembly would reaffirm the separate and distinct roles of the internal and external oversight mechanisms; and look forward to the results of the independent external evaluation of the audit and oversight system of the United Nations. It would stress that the evaluation should include proposals on ensuring full operational independence of the OIOS; strengthening its evaluation capacity at the programme and subprogramme levels; and ensuring adequate funding for timely reimbursement by funds and programmes for the services of the Office.
The Assembly would also reaffirm the unique role of the JIU as the only system-wide external oversight body and urge all host countries to facilitate prompt access for Inspectors to all offices of participating organizations. It would request the Unit to include in future annual reports more information on the impact of full implementation of recommendations, including any cost savings, productivity and efficiency gains achieved.
By the draft on programme planning, the Assembly would reaffirm the role of the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC) as the main subsidiary organ for planning, programming and coordination and re-emphasise the role of the plenary and the Main Committees in taking action on the CPC's recommendations relevant to their work. It would also stress that setting the priorities of the United Nations is the prerogative of Member States, which also need to participate fully in the budget preparation process, from its early stages.
In the "Evaluation" section of the draft, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to report on the measures to strengthen monitoring and evaluation in the Organization, as well as measures to strengthen the use of information technology as a management and monitoring tool.
Also approved today was a five-part draft on the pattern of conferences, which addresses the issues of utilization of conference-servicing resources; reform of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management; documentation and publication-related matters; translation and interpretation; and information technology.
The date of the Committee's next meeting will be announced.
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this afternoon to take action on several outstanding issues.
Action on Drafts
The first text before the Committee was a draft resolution on the review of the efficiency of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations (document A/C.5/60/L.34), by the terms of which the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to further strengthen the current accountability framework by establishing an effective system that clearly defines the lines of authority and responsibility, as well as respective roles of individual elements of the framework and efforts to improve coordination among them to avoid duplication.
Further by the text, the Assembly would decide that staff performance assessment should be further enhanced, calling upon the Secretary-General to improve performance management measures, including: a system that recognizes competence as an integral element of performance management and eventual career advancement; a measures to address underperformance, as well as incentives to encourage outstanding performance; and direct links from performance to career advancement.
The Assembly, recalling that there would be a separate report on the independent external evaluation of auditing and oversight system within the United Nations, as well as on a comprehensive governance review, would note that the focus of the comprehensive governance review should be to clarify the roles and responsibilities of management with respect to supporting Member States, and would emphasize the intergovernmental nature of the Organization and its international character. Also, reaffirming the importance of respecting the independent nature of the internal and external oversight structures of the United Nations as key governance partners, the Assembly would stress the importance of full implementation of their recommendations and request the Secretary-General to hold managers accountable for the delay or non-implementation of oversight recommendations.
The Assembly would also request the Secretary-General to continue the efforts to make procurement policies and practices of the system more transparent, efficient and effective. Welcoming the establishment of the Ethics Office, the Assembly would endorse the main responsibilities of that Office and urge the Secretary-General to finalize a system-wide code of ethics for all personnel at an early date. It would request the Secretary-General to administer and monitor more extensive disclosure of financial and other interests by United Nations officials and to ensure enhanced protection for those who reveal wrongdoing within the Organization. Among other reporting requests to the Secretary-General is one on staff perception of the impact of the Ethics Office on improving ethics and integrity in the Organization.
Prior to action on the draft, the Coordinator of informal consultations on the matter, NONYE UDO (Nigeria), introduced several editorial changes to the draft. She also said that it had been brought to her attention that there was need for a little correction to the last line of paragraph 8 of the text, where the last seven words should be deleted.
The Committee then approved the text, without a vote, as orally corrected.
The Committee adopted without a vote a draft resolution on special subjects relating to the programme budget for the biennium 2006-2007 (document A/C.5/60/L.35) that addressed the issues of: estimates in respect of special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the Assembly and/or the Security Council; the Peacebuilding Support Office; liabilities and proposed funding for after-service health insurance benefits; and harmonization of the conditions of travel.
By the provisions of the draft, the Assembly would approve an additional charge of some $20.2 million against the provision for special political missions already approved under the programme budget for the biennium 2006-2007 and establish a P-4 level position for a Political Affairs Officer in the Office of the Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for Lebanon.
By the same text, the Assembly, noting the lack of information analysing the growth and decrease in resources proposed, would request the Secretary-General to formulate and present future budgets of special political missions on the basis of an analysis of actual expenditure patterns, including the latest vacancy situation and variances between appropriations and expenditures, and to provide full justification when requesting resources for experts and consultants. It would further request a management review by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).
The Assembly would also decide to authorize the Secretary-General to utilize an amount of up to $1.6 million from the approved initial provision for a special political mission to operationalize a Peacebuilding Support Office. Stressing the provisional and exceptional nature of that measure, the Assembly would also decide that the Peacebuilding Support Office shall be financed from the programme budget commencing with the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2008-2009. It would consider issues regarding level, staffing and functions of the Office in the context of its consideration of the 2008-2009 proposed programme budget. The Secretary-General would be requested to ensure that the Office "has the necessary gender competence" to implement the Commission's mandate to integrate a gender perspective into all of its work.
Regarding liabilities and proposed funding for after-service health insurance benefits, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to submit a report to the sixty-first Assembly session providing updated information on the status of liabilities, clarifications regarding the assumptions used to determine liabilities and alternative strategies to fund the liabilities.
By the same text, the Assembly would also revert consideration of harmonization of the conditions of travel to the sixty-first session and request the Secretary-General to initiate a review of the standards of travel and entitlements for staff members, members of organs and subsidiary bodies of the United Nations and organizations of the United Nations system with a view to adopting a common policy at the system level.
Speaking in explanation of the vote after the vote, the representative of Uganda, addressing the Great Lakes Conference and the Panel of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said his delegation had joined consensus on the understanding under the Great Lakes Conference, that the Secretary-General would implement aspects of the resolution addressing the lack of staff with local knowledge. Regarding the Panel of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he hoped that appropriate action would be taken to address concerns regarding duplication and enhancing efficiency. He hoped that paragraphs 7 and 8 would be applied to address overlaps between the Panel and the Great Lakes Conference, which, when adequately staffed, could complement the Panel. His delegation's views on the Peacebuilding Support Office would be addressed by the "Group of 77" developing countries and China at a later stage.
The representative of Cameroon said one of the special missions concerned his country, namely United Nations support for the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission established to assist in the implementation of an International Court of Justice decree to resolve the border differences between Cameroon and Nigeria. He thanked, in that regard, all Member States for funding the Joint Demarcation Commission. While congratulating the Secretary-General for the initiative to inform the Committee of the work of that Joint Commission, he said information, in order to be useful, had to be clear and objective. His delegation had been surprised to see the unclear priorities assigned to the Commission. In that regard, he asked if withdrawal from the Bakassi peninsula was still a priority for 2006.
He said Nigeria had proposed a draft schedule for withdrawal to conclude in August 2006. The Joint Commission was to examine the schedule and submit it to the three parties. Those parties would then approve the schedule for it to become operational as soon as possible. In the light of those facts, he hoped that the withdrawal from the Bakassi peninsula would remain a priority for 2006.
Nigeria's representative said that her delegation would speak on the issue at a later time.
The Committee then turned to the draft resolution on programme planning (document A/C.5/60/L.32), by the terms of which the Assembly would reaffirm the role of the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC) as the main subsidiary organ for planning, programming and coordination and re-emphasize the role of the plenary and the Main Committees in reviewing and taking action on the CPC's recommendations relevant to their work. It would also endorse the Committee's recommendations as contained in paragraphs 36 to 39, 135 to 139, 151 to 158, 165, 175 to 178, 186, 201 to 212, 227 to 237 and 248 of its report (document A/60/16), as well as the recommendations of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) concerning the evaluation of linkages between Headquarters and field activities: a review of best practices for poverty eradication in the framework of the United Nations Millennium Declaration and on the in-depth evaluation of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).
In connection with programme questions, the Assembly would stress that setting the priorities of the United Nations is the prerogative of Member States, which also need to participate fully in the budget preparation process, from its early stages. As an exceptional measure and without prejudice to relevant resolutions or future scheduling of the CPC's sessions, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to reschedule its forty-sixth session to no later than September 2006, so that it could consider the proposed strategic framework for 2008-2009 and other items of its provisional agenda.
In the "Evaluation" section of the text, the Assembly would take note of the report of the OIOS on the matter (document A/60/73) and advocate the use of the findings of the programme performance report of the Secretary-General and evaluation reports for planning and policymaking. As per the proposals in the OIOS report, the Secretary-General would be requested to report on the measures to strengthen monitoring and evaluation in the Organization and on measures and resources needed to strengthen the use of information technology as a management and monitoring tool.
The Assembly would further welcome enhanced coordination between the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) and the OIOS and encourage such coordination in the future. It would request the Secretary-General to respond to ad hoc evaluation requests by programme managers to ensure that intergovernmental bodies are provided with high-quality professional and objective reports on the performance of programmes and activities. The Secretary-General would also be requested to entrust the OIOS with reporting on the efforts to strengthen its in-depth and thematic evaluation function, and to report on measures to strengthen self-evaluation by programme managers and ensure more extensive use of self-evaluation at the programme and subprogramme levels. Also addressed in the text is the need to develop common professional standards and methodologies for self-evaluation throughout the United Nations system.
On the CPC's other recommendations, the Assembly would welcome the high priority attached to the United Nations system support for Africa's development and the implementation of the priorities and programmes of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). It would request a report on further efforts made to ensure that support for the NEPAD remains a priority and that organizations represented on the Chief Executives Board increase their efforts in support of the New Partnership. It would also ask the Secretary-General to continue to enhance and monitor coordination of system-wide efforts against hunger and poverty.
And finally, noting with concern that during the CPC's forty-fifth session, no conclusions were agreed to on the Committee's own working methods and procedures, the Assembly would emphasizes the need for the Committee, within the framework of its mandate, to improve its working methods and procedures without having a negative impact on the effective consideration of other agenda items, in particular the proposed strategic framework for the period 2008-2009, as matters of priority, during its next session. Recognizing the importance of ensuring the highest level of expertise for the CPC, the Assembly would also invite the Committee to consider how best to achieve this objective.
Prior to action on the text, the Secretary of the Committee introduced an oral correction to the document.
The text was approved, as orally corrected.
Cuba's representative said that he had a comment in connection with the concern expressed in paragraph 19 of the draft that no conclusions or recommendations had been agreed to on improving the working methods and procedures of the CPC during its forty-fifth session. He understood it on the basis of the fact that due to the lack of political will of some Members and their wish to discredit that Committee, there had been no progress. He hoped the situation would not be repeated during the next session of the CPC.
In that context, he also wanted to report that work of his delegation had been affected by the United States' non-compliance with its duties as a host country. Delays in granting of visas influenced the work of his delegation and had prevented the participation of some members of his delegation in the work of the Commission. He hoped the Government of the United States would comply with its duties and make it possible for delegations to participate normally in the work of the General Assembly.
Without a vote, the Committee approved a five-part draft resolution on the pattern of conferences (document A/C.5/60/L.36) addressing issues of: utilization of conference-servicing resources; reform of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management; documentation and publication-related matters; translation and interpretation-related matters; and information technology.
On utilization of conference-servicing resources, the draft would have the Assembly request the Secretary-General to ensure, when preparing budget proposals for conference services, that the level of resources for temporary assistance is commensurate with the full demand of services. It would urge, once again, that intergovernmental bodies spare no effort at the planning stage to take into account the meetings of regional and other major groups of Member States, and to make provisions for such meetings in their programmes of work.
By the text, the Assembly would strongly discourage any invitation to host meetings that would violate the headquarters rule at the United Nations Office at Nairobi and other centres with low utilization levels. It would invite the Secretary-General to explore means to increase the utilization of the conference centre of the Economic Commission for Africa, bearing in mind the headquarters minimum operating security standards.
On the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, the Assembly would, by the draft, welcome, among other things, the progress achieved in the implementation of the Electronic Meeting Planning and Resource Allocation System (e-Meets) and the electronic documentation management concept (e-Doc), and would request the Secretary-General, while reviewing the workload standards dating from 1976, and performance measurement tools in the context of information technologies, to take fully into account the unique nature of the functions of the language services of the Department. It would also stress the importance of retaining the official records editing function and ensuring equally valid texts of resolutions in all six official languages.
Noting with concern the continued high level of late submissions of documentation by author departments, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to report on impediments, if any, to achieving full compliance with the 10-week and 6-week rule for the issuance of pre-session documents, including proposed measures to address such impediments, and would reiterate its request to ensure the simultaneous distribution of documents in all official languages. It would also request the Secretary-General to ensure the communication of adopted resolutions within 15 days after the closure of the session.
Among other measures to address the problem of late issuance of documentation, the Assembly would welcome the efforts of the interdepartmental task force on documentation and request the Secretary-General to develop a clear accountability mechanism within the Secretariat for the submission, processing and issuance of documentation, presenting a detailed report thereon to the Committee on Conferences for its further consideration and analysis, in order to provide concrete recommendations to the General Assembly at its sixty-first session.
To ensure the highest quality of interpretation and translation services in all official languages, the Assembly would emphasize the need to use the latest linguistic norms and terminology; improve the accuracy of translation of documents, giving particular significance to their quality; and ensure that all language services are given equal treatment and are provided with equally favourable working conditions and resources when recruiting temporary assistance.
It would also request a report addressing the question of the appropriate level of self-revision that is consistent with quality in all official languages and note with concern the disparities in interpretation and translation vacancy rates between the United Nations Office at Nairobi and other duty stations. Expressing deep concern over the situation in Nairobi, especially the chronic difficulty in staffing the Arabic Interpretation Unit, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to address this through, inter alia, assistance from Member States in advertising and facilitating the conduct of competitive examinations to fill these language vacancies.
Also by the text, the Secretary-General would be requested to continue exploring new technologies, such as computer-assisted translation, remote and off-site translation and speech recognition, in the six official languages, in order to further enhance the quality and productivity of the conference services.
In the text's information technology section, the Assembly would note with appreciation the progress in integrating information technology into meetings management and documentation-processing systems and the global approach to sharing standards, good practices and technological achievements among conference services at all duty stations. It would request the Secretary-General to ensure the compatibility of technologies used in all duty stations, making them user-friendly in all official languages. He would also be asked to complete the task of uploading all important older United Nations documents onto the website in all six official languages on a priority basis and continue to address the issue of maintaining parity among duty stations in terms of information technology capacity. In that connection, the Assembly would welcome the strengthening of the Information Technology Unit in Nairobi.
Speaking in explanation of the vote after the vote, the representative of South Africa, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the Group attached great importance to ensuring equal treatment of the official languages of the Organization, as well as the timely publication of documentation, the provision of adequate conference facilities to Member States and the integration of information technology across duty stations.
He reiterated the importance of meetings of regional and other major groupings of Member States and was disappointed that some Member States still were not ready to provide the additional resources necessary to address the decline in interpretation services for such meetings. Timely, easy and rapid access to documents in the six official languages was an essential element for the success of intergovernmental processes. The resolution, however, did not sufficiently address the backlog in the summary and verbatim records in the official languages. Measures proposed to address the chronic problem were inadequate. Concrete proposals on an accountability framework in that regard were necessary.
He said the Group encouraged the Secretariat to bring about parity among duty stations in terms of information technology and to fill vacancies in the interpretation and translation sections at the United Nations Office at Nairobi. The Secretariat should conduct a special competitive exam to fill vacant Arabic language posts there. The Group emphasized that any reduction in the length of the reports should not negatively reflect the quality of presentation or the content of the reports and should be conducted in a non-selective, flexible and case-by-case manner. Current Assembly mandates encouraged intergovernmental bodies to abide by certain voluntary page limits. However, those limits could not be enforced. Recent attempts by the Secretariat to impose a page limit on the report of the Committee of 34 were unacceptable.
The representative of Canada, speaking on behalf of CANZ, recognized the efforts of facilitator for negotiations on the draft resolution, Alejandro Torres Lepori of Argentina.
Acting without a vote, the Committee then approved a draft resolution on the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) (document A/C.5/60/L.31), by which the General Assembly would reaffirm the unique role of the JIU as the only system-wide external oversight body and urge all host countries to facilitate prompt access for inspectors to all offices of participating organizations. The Assembly would request the Unit to include in future annual reports more information on the impact of full implementation of recommendations, including any cost savings, productivity and efficiency gains achieved. The Assembly would also decide to revert to the consideration of the procedures for the appointment of the Unit's inspectors (as proposed in document A/60/659) to its sixty-first session.
Also before the Committee was a draft resolution on the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) (document A/C.5/60/L.33), by the terms of which the Assembly would reaffirm the independence and separate and distinct roles of the internal and external oversight mechanisms and look forward to the results of the independent external evaluation of the audit and oversight system of the United Nations. In connection with the latter, it would stress that the evaluation should include proposals on: ensuring full operational independence of the OIOS; strengthening its evaluation capacity at the programme and subprogramme levels; and ensuring adequate funding for timely reimbursement by funds and programmes for the services of the Office.
Taking note of the annual report of the Office (document A/60/346), the Assembly would stress the importance of full implementation of legislative decisions, and request the Secretary-General to ensure that programme managers provide information to the OIOS, to be reflected in the report on the rate of implementation of legislative mandates and decisions. Where full implementation has not been achieved, the reasons should be provided.
Noting that not all programme managers have reported the results of investigations to the OIOS, as required in paragraph 11 of its resolution 59/287, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to ensure that programme managers comply with this requirement as a measure of accountability. He would also be requested to entrust the Office with submitting a report on the use of the best-value concept in the evaluation and awarding of procurement contracts in order to identify any possible misuse.
Noting with concern paragraph 25 of the OIOS report concerning the investigation of fuel theft in peacekeeping missions, the Assembly would welcome the intention of the Office to report on the oversight of fuel management in peacekeeping. [In its report, the OIOS states that "investigations of criminal activity have identified thefts of large amounts of fuel by staff in collusion with local nationals. Recently, the involvement of troop contingents in fuel theft has been identified along with breakdowns in the application of systems of control."]
Also by the text, the Assembly would welcome the comprehensive tsunami risk assessments undertaken by the Office jointly with United Nations funds and programmes and specialized agencies, and request the Secretary-General to ensure that those funds, programmes and specialized agencies cooperate with the OIOS in the preparation of a consolidated report on audits and investigative reviews of the tsunami relief operation. The OIOS would be entrusted with presenting such a report during the Assembly's sixty-first session.
The Assembly would welcome the intention of the Office to conduct a risk assessment of the activities of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund, and invite the Pension Board to request the Office, in this context, to conduct an audit of the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of services provided to its beneficiaries. Noting with concern numerous allegations of fraud and irregularities in the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), the Assembly would request the OIOS to submit an overview report on its investigations and follow-up at its resumed sixtieth session.
The Committee approved the text without a vote.
Stating his country's position with regard to the agenda items on the scale of assessments, Japan's representative expressed his desire to keep that item open and continue its consideration during the current session. The consideration of the report of the Committee on Contributions should continue in view of its significant importance.
Chairman of the Committee, JOHN W. ASHE (Antigua and Barbuda) said that consultations on outstanding items were continuing, and he hoped that the Committee would reach its conclusions soon. He also reminded the delegates that when the Secretary-General's report on the management reform had been introduced by the President of the Assembly, the Committee had been given a deadline for its consideration of the matter. The deadline was Tuesday, 18 April. That was a deadline that the Committee should observe.
South Africa's representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that the Group had made it clear that it would work very diligently towards meeting the expectations of the President of the Assembly. However, in view of insufficient conference services, it had also presented its position regarding the timelines within the Committee. The Group would stand by that position.
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