Meetings Management Section
The work of the Meetings Management Section is tantamount to assembling a giant four-dimension puzzle (three physical dimensions plus time). Some of the puzzle pieces are human – the delegates, the United Nations interpreters, other staff members who perform conference management functions. Others are physical – the conference and meeting rooms, consultation offices. Once the pieces have been identified and gathered together, they need to be fitted across a time frame in order to ensure the best use of resources. Further complicating matters, each meeting to be scheduled has very specific, and often quite different needs, with the result that meetings management is as far from a “one size fits all” operation as possible. Custom tailoring is the order of the day.
The result of all this puzzle-fitting is the biennial calendar of conferences and meetings of the United Nations, which is prepared in coordination with the United Nations Offices at Geneva, Vienna and Nairobi, since meetings at those locations are listed as well. It also includes meetings of the principal organs of the specialized agencies, the International Atomic Energy Agency and treaty bodies. The calendar is the blueprint for all work in the Section, but it is not set in stone. Over time, modifications are necessary – meetings may be added or cancelled, requirements for meetings listed in the calendar may change, and additional intergovernmental mandates may give rise to the creation of new bodies that require conference services. The Section monitors all those elements as they evolve and makes adjustments to the calendar over the course of the biennium.
The meetings inscribed in the official calendar of conferences are not the only ones that take place on any given day at Headquarters. Into the hands of the staff of the Meetings Management Section fall some 10,000 meeting requests every year. Meeting rooms and resources are required for informal consultations or “break-out” sessions while formal meetings are taking place, for discussions, Secretariat briefings, and planning sessions, for meetings of groups of Member States and meetings sponsored by Permanent or Observer Missions to the United Nations. It goes without saying that intergovernmental bodies have priority in their requests for services, but the work of the informal network of meetings feeds into the more formal processes that result in the successful conclusion of intergovernmental deliberations. The answer to a request for a meeting room is most often “yes”, although on occasion “yes” may have qualifications. A balance must be struck between services requested and services available.
By using eMeets 2.0, a dynamic web-based application, the Meeting Management Section plans and allocates conference rooms and conference servicing resources for intergovernmental bodies and others. It prepares the yearly meetings plan and finalizes the weekly and daily programmes of meetings held at Headquarters. The weekly and daily programmes are shared with all Secretariat offices involved in providing meeting services, in particular the Interpretation Service and the Office of Central Support Services, for their capacity planning and work assignments. In addition, the daily programme of meetings appears in the Journal of the United Nations.
As one of its forward-planning initiatives, the Meeting Management Section reviews all draft resolutions of intergovernmental bodies to ascertain whether they contain meeting servicing implications. The creation of a new deliberative body, for example, would mean that more meetings would have to be added to the calendar and more meeting services provided. Such a decision would therefore have additional budgetary and workload implications, and the body taking the decision must be informed of that fact and whether the additional services can be provided and at what cost.
In summation, the meetings planning work of the Section is successful when space plus resources are measured against requirements over time, thereby resulting in the establishment of a calendar where all needs are met through the most efficient use of resources available.
Following the planning function is that of implementation. The Section ensures that all bodies meeting at Headquarters have at their disposal the meetings services that they require when they require them. In addition, it establishes staffing requirements for conferences of New York-based bodies that are held at external locations, and staff may participate in planning missions to discuss the modalities of conference preparation and organization with representatives of the Government that is hosting the conference. In that regard the Section coordinates with the meetings management staff at the United Nations Offices at Geneva, Vienna and Nairobi and the regional commissions to ensure that all services are provided to external conferences in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.
The Meetings Management Section comprises: