05/11/2002
Press Release
GA/AB/3534



Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Fifth Committee

21st Meeting (AM)


SEVERAL DELEGATIONS ARGUE THAT AGE OF SEPARATION


BE FIXED AT 62 YEARS FOR ALL STAFF MEMBERS


The mandatory age of separation and staff mobility were among the issues highlighted this morning as the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) continued its consideration of issues related to human resources management and programme planning.


The representative of Ghana said the implications of extending the mandatory age of separation pointed towards a positive picture.  The extension could improve staff morale and dovetail, in a beneficial manner, the programme to mentor young professionals under the rejuvenation policy.


Burkina Faso’s representative was in also in favour of such a reform.  The demand for labour depended on security and guarantees provided to workers, he said, and in today’s competitive market, the United Nations was compelled to compete with other organizations in recruiting its staff.


As much as he appreciated the rationale behind the proposed change, the representative of Malawi also saw it as a fairly short-term solution.  After agreeing on the age of 62, the Organization would probably aim for 65, unless a deliberate policy was put in place to attract young men and women into the system.  His delegation was disappointed that the current trend did not encourage the entry of young blood into the Secretariat.


Japan’s representative said that staff mobility was key to human resources reform as it fostered a multi-skilled, versatile staff.  He welcomed the measures to promote mobility and hoped that managed reassignment of staff, time-bound post occupancy, generic job profiles and other steps would be applied to staff strictly and uniformly.


Other speakers also commended the newly introduced mobility concept, as well as its training aspects, as long as the criteria for selecting course participants were implemented in a transparent and objective manner and that no particular divisions or sections were favoured over others.


Also discussed this morning were issues related to programme planning. 


[Although the United Nations has already adopted a medium-term plan, certain revisions in programme planning components are needed to incorporate programme


budget implications of resolutions and decisions by intergovernmental bodies and international conferences.  Before the Committee were proposed revisions relating to 19 programmes.  When adopted by the Assembly, the revised plan would serve as a basis for preparation of the next budget of the Organization.]


Denmark’s representative (also speaking on behalf of the European Union), emphasized the responsibilities of programme managers within the Secretariat, especially for the monitoring process, and felt that additional expertise through the training of managers should be encouraged.


The representative of Saudi Arabia, however, disagreed with the idea of managers being involved in investigations.  There should be a clear line between management and investigations, he said, otherwise, there would be more cases of irregularities and fraud within the Organization.


A representative of the Joint Inspection Unit said that the issue was not whether or not managers should be involved.  Managers were already involved in the investigation process, and what the Joint Inspection Unit wished to do was reduce any risk factors stemming from that.


Also addressing the Fifth Committee this morning were the representatives of Mongolia, Uganda, Morocco, Syria, Mexico, Poland, Cuba, Nigeria, Jamaica, Algeria, Thailand, Egypt, United States and Iran.  Ali K.T Basaran, President of the Federation of International Civil Servants Associations; Jiu Othman, Chairman of the Joint Inspection Unit; Rafiah Salim, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management; and a representative of the Office of Internal Oversight Services also spoke.


The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 6 November, to take up the items on the United Nations common system, the United Nations pension system, and the administration of justice at the United Nations.


Background


The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning was expected to conclude its consideration of human resources management reform and continue its debate on proposed changes in the Organization’s programme planning.  (For summaries of documents before the Committee, see Press Releases GA/AB/3530 of

28 October for human resources management, and GA/AB/3533 of 4 November for programme planning.)


Statements


PUREVJAV GANSUKH (Mongolia) associated himself with the position of the Group of 77 developing countries and China:  human resources management, he said, was an important part of the entire United Nations reform.  His delegation noted the progress in bringing about the changes in the ten main building blocks of human resources management, through such measures as improved planning, streamlining of rules and procedures, mobility, and implementing a new staff selection system.  He was sure that based on the progress achieved, the Secretary-General would successfully implement future activities as described in his report.


Turning to the recruitment of personnel, he stressed the importance of equitable geographic representation, saying that Member States were not represented at all, while others were under-represented.  It was important to change that situation and redress geo-misrepresentation, extending preferential selection to candidates from under-represented and unrepresented countries.  The total number of Mongolian nationals in the United Nations Secretariat was still below midpoint of its range.


He said that national competitive examinations were an indispensable tool for achieving equitable geographical representation.  It was satisfactory that number of countries participating in such examinations was growing.  However, the situation still needed to be improved, for the number of recruits through national competitive examinations still remained low.


Regarding the mandatory age of separation, he said that further detailed studies were needed before a conclusion was reached.  In particular, the issue of career development of younger professionals must be taken into account.  Another factor to be considered was the high average age of staff at the United Nations.


HAROLD ACEMAH (Uganda) also agreed with the Group of 77 and China that human resources were the most important asset of the Organization.  He supported career appointments as a cornerstone of the international civil service, and encouraged promotion of General Service staff to the Professional category through appropriate examination.  In that connection, he said that alternative proposals needed to be submitted to the current G to P examinations in consultations with the Staff Union.  He also encouraged implementation of staff mobility in relation to G-to-P promotion and other advancement policies.  His delegation believed in a well-motivated staff with ample career development opportunities.  Security of tenure was essential, and human development policies should be geared to that goal.


Continuing, he supported the creation of the post of Ombudsman as part of the development of internal justice.  He believed that with the appointment of the Ombudsman, the internal justice system would realize staff members’ independence and direct access to the Secretary-General, as provided for in the performance of her duties.  In light of the fact that she was also mandated to make recommendations to improve the Organization, she should undertake a thorough review of the internal justice system in order to restore confidence in it.


Turning to the mandatory age of separation, he noted the findings of the report on age profile, gender balance and career development opportunities.  The prevailing situation created disparities in the treatment of staff due to retire:  those who had entered before and after 1990 would be retiring at 60 or 62.  A uniform retirement age of 62 should be introduced.  That idea had found support from the Pension Fund and the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC).  Other common system organizations had already raised the age of separation.  Staff at the Bretton Woods institutions retired at the age of 65.  Hence, the United Nations Secretariat lagged behind.


With improved living conditions and improvement of the quality of life, many countries had already eliminated the mandatory retirement age, he continued.  However, the changes should not affect development of young staff through recruitment of new officers.  The numbers involved represented a small percentage of the total number of staff, and the impact of the change of retirement age would have minimal impact on career opportunities, gender balance and development of younger professionals.  Many mothers were now joining the Organization after raising children, and raising the retirement age would allow them to retire with reasonable pensions.  That would actually improve the gender balance within the Organization.


AICHA AFIFI (Morocco) said that providing the Organization with highly qualified and motivated personnel was a very important element in helping the United Nations to operate in an efficient way.  It was essential to make the function of human resources management a strategic instrument capable of institutionalizing change.  It was also necessary for the reform to be conceived as a stimulant, enabling it possible for the Organization to attract and retain the best possible staff.


With respect to the recruitment of consultants and retirees, the geographical imbalance must be corrected.  Use of retirees must be on an exceptional basis.  It should only be resorted to in specific areas which required a certain expertise, without prejudice to the career development prospects of permanent staff members of the Organization.  The United Nations also needed incentives to retain young professionals, who would prove to be a very valuable capital.


Her delegation was concerned at the high rate of vacancies of posts in Africa.  She asked the Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM) to carry out an in-depth study as to the real cause of the phenomenon.  She also lamented the fact that parity between the sexes had not been achieved, especially among higher ranked staff members.  The implementation of vertical and horizontal mobility within the Organization should be encouraged and even integrated into global career development, she said.  That would allow the United Nations to have a more competent body of more experienced staff.  It should in no way be used as a measure for punishment, however, and should be strengthened by continuous training to enhance efficiency and rationalization.


HUSSEIN SABBAGH (Syria) believed that human resources reform should aim at further contact between the administration and the staff, a just and comprehensive system for appointment, mobility and promotion, equitable geographical distribution, a transparent system for the delegation of authority, gender balance and enhancing the administration of justice.  It should not in any way lead to a reduction of the budget or a staff cut.  United Nations staff were a valuable asset in promoting the purposes and principles of the United Nations.  Pursuing the system of horizontal mobility might enhance their abilities.  However, the Organization must make an effort to avoid the possibility of abusing the principle of mobility, for example, by forcing staff to move.


Reform could not succeed unless staff members wished to cooperate, he said.  His delegation therefore recalled the successive resolutions of the General Assembly, presupposing that the administration would consult staff representatives about decisions that would affect them.  His delegation attached importance to the concept of balanced geographical distribution, and more transparent mechanisms should be employed to ensure that.  The United Nations had not yet arrived at desired targets, which raised questions about the success of appointment mechanisms.


The delegation of authority had not yet been associated with a comprehensive system of accountability and transparency, he continued.  The current system of justice was flabby and slow, and tied the destiny of a staff member to individual decisions that could be arbitrary.  Internal and external vacancies did not reach many of the permanent missions in time.  Furthermore, the difficulty of accessing the Internet in many developing countries, and the fact that not all vacancies were advertised in all of the six official languages, meant that opportunities were lost for many nationals.


ERNESTO HERRERA (Mexico) encouraged the OHRM to continue with human resources management reform, stressing that human resources were the most important asset of Member States and institutions alike.  Good labour conditions were important for great labour productivity, and it was necessary to achieve both objectives.  Two years since the beginning of the reform, a new set of proposals had been presented to the Committee, although it was not quite clear what had been accomplished.  A new report on the results of human resources management reform should be presented to the Assembly at its fifty-ninth session.


Regarding equitable geographical representation of Member States at the Secretariat, he said the current methodology for determining advisable limits was good, and any change would have an adverse effect on countries with small populations.  A national competitive exam to be held in Mexico in 2003 would make it possible for his country to achieve an appropriate level of representation.  As for the Secretary-General’s report on possible discrimination within the Organization, he was concerned over some such cases.  The gender imbalance at the United Nations could be an example in that regard.


SAIDU ZONGO (Burkina Faso) said that the importance of human resources in the functioning of the United Nations did not have to be proven.  It was necessary to engage in a rigorous analysis of problems related to United Nations staff.  His delegation was pleased at the efforts made to promote the recruitment of national cadres from developing countries and encouraged efforts to reduce the number of un- and under-represented countries.  Any process of renewing staff needed to address present imbalances.


He went on to say that moving retirement age to 62 would have a negligible effect on the overall situation and he was in favour of such a reform.  One thing was certain:  demand for labour depended on security and guarantees provided to workers.  In today’s competitive market, the United Nations was compelled to compete with other organizations in recruiting its staff.  For example,

446 resignations had been recorded from 1 July 2001 to 30 June 2002, including seven Directors and 240 administrators.  Based on that fact, emphasis should be placed on guarantees and incentives in the recruitment process.  His delegation believed that recruitment should be based on objective criteria for experience and professionalism.  Justice, promotion of multilingualism and promotion of gender balance could give more credibility to the United Nations, and he called on the OHRM to continue in its efforts to meet those challenges.


NANA EFFAH-APENTENG (Ghana) took note of the improvements being developed and implemented to achieve a robust monitoring capacity in the OHRM on all activities in the Secretariat.  Ghana endorsed the results-oriented approach towards monitoring, and looked forward to further utilization of information technology applications, which should assist in the further delegation of non-critical monitoring activities to departments.  Regarding the Secretary-General’s proposals on the ceiling of retired employees of the language staff category, his delegation concurred with the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) that it was more appropriate to establish the ceiling in terms of number of days.


Extending the mandatory age of separation for staff appointed prior to 1990 did not impact adversely on concerns such as geographical distribution, gender balance or age profile, he continued.  Indeed, the implications pointed towards a positive picture.  The extension could improve staff morale and dovetail, in a beneficial manner, the programme to mentor young professionals under the rejuvenation policy.  His delegation had also noted that other common system organizations had their staff retiring at 62 years, without distinction or discrimination.  Moreover, as confirmed by the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund, the actuarial projections showed that the extension of the mandatory age of separation at 62 years for staff appointed prior to 1990 would be positive for the pension fund.


In his delegation’s view, the matter of concern was the preservation of acquired rights of staff members appointed before January 1, 1990, so that those who wished to retire at the age of 60 could do so without compromising their acquired rights, while at the same time equalizing opportunities for all staff members.


THURE CRISTIENSEN (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the European Union was disappointed that some of its Member States were under-represented in the United Nations.  He underlined the need for equitable geographical representation within the Organization.  The European Union also believed that the national competitive examination was an important tool in the recruitment of United Nations staff.


DARIUSZ MANCZYK (Poland) supported the Secretary-General’s aim of strengthening the monitoring function of the OHRM, at the same time empowering heads of departments with authority over personnel matters.  It was self-evident that this would require demarcation of authority between the OHRM and functional departments in the field of human resources management in order to eliminate possible overlapping.  It was his delegation’s view that the reform ensured that the OHRM and individual managers were monitored and that they were held equally accountable for the application of rules and procedures in the field of human resources management.


Poland welcomed the recent introduction of the Galaxy system, and hoped that next year its functioning could be evaluated.  In general, the development of electronic tools that underpinned new mechanisms of human resources management contributed to improvements in timeliness, transparency, consistency and monitoring.  The Organization’s record on gender balance was less encouraging, however.  The findings of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) on the recruitment and promotion of men and women at the P-4 to D-2 levels indicated that gender parity targets were unlikely to be met without additional attention on the part of the OHRM.  His delegation also noted that the number of under-represented States had been reduced during the past five years; he hoped that trend would continue.


YOICHI NIIYA (Japan) said that his delegation highly appreciated the recent efforts of Ms. Salim and the OHRM to reform human resources management in the Organization.  He hoped that the Office would make continuous efforts to consolidate and institutionalize the changes brought about by the reform.  Without the human resources action plan, reform would not occur, or it would lead to arbitrary selection of staff.  His delegation encouraged the heads of departments to implement the plan steadily, under OHRM monitoring.  He hoped to see substantial results in the near future.


Mobility was key to human resources reform as it fostered a multi-skilled, versatile staff.  He welcomed the measures to promote mobility and hoped that managed reassignment of staff, time-bound post occupancy, a requirement for lateral moves for promotion, generic job profiles and other steps would be applied to staff strictly and uniformly.  Managed reassignment of junior professionals would contribute to mobility and career development of staff.  Rejuvenation of the Secretariat was a priority, and his delegation welcomed the Secretariat’s measures to that end.  Also, streamlining of rules and procedures was one of the areas in which outstanding success had been achieved.


While the Assembly had requested the Secretary-General in several resolutions to make the structure of the Secretariat less top-heavy, that issue had not been addressed so far, while there had been a substantial number of upward reclassifications of posts.  His delegation was concerned about the limited number of staff at entry level, especially P-2.  Another issue not duly addressed was the need to reduce the number of under-represented and unrepresented countries.  His delegation welcomed the OHRM’s concerted efforts to improve geographical representation within the Secretariat, but was concerned that despite those efforts, the overall situation had not improved over the years.  The number of Japanese nationals in posts subject to the principle of equitable geographical distribution stood at 111 at the end of June -- below the lower end-point of its desirable range of 256 to 356.


Continuing on the same subject, he added that the Secretary-General had been requested to develop a programme and set specific targets as soon as possible for achieving equitable geographical representation, but the reform before the Committee did not fully address that request.  He therefore looked forward to a full report on that matter during the current session of the Assembly.  He also requested information on what immediate measures had been taken by the Secretary-General to date to improve the equitable representation within the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.  His delegation was concerned that there were only five Japanese nationals in a total mission staff of 1,408 persons at the Professional level and above.

He added that Japan attached great importance to the national competitive examination as a means of achieving equitable geographical representation.  His delegation considered it appropriate to increase opportunities for recruitment to the P-2 level by changing from a top-heavy to a pyramid-shaped Secretariat structure.


ISAAC C. LAMBA (Malawi) said it remained a major concern that 18 Member States were still not represented in any of the United Nations services, ten States were under-represented and yet other countries were over-represented.  It was also important to look at the level at which officers were placed.  In Malawi’s case, for example, there were seven officers in the system by 2001, but the highest of them was at the P-5 level.  Qualified men and women should get the openings in the system, and he joined the Secretary-General in his quest to improve recruitment through the national competitive examination process.  Gender representation, particularly in senior and policy posts, remained a problematic area, despite the fact that a 71 per cent rise from 1997 to 2001 was a giant stride in the right direction.


On the separation age, he said that much as he appreciated the rationale behind the proposed change, he also saw it as a fairly short-term solution.  After agreeing on the age of 62, the Organization would probably aim for 65, unless a deliberate policy was put in place to attract young men and women into the system.  His delegation was disappointed that the current trend did not encourage the entry of young blood into the Secretariat.


He commended the newly introduced mandatory mobility concept, as well as the training aspects, as long as the criteria for selecting course participants were implemented in a transparent and objective manner.  No particular divisions or sections should be favoured over others.  Combined with the use of electronic advertising, the new Galaxy system would go a long way towards “casting the net wider in a transparent manner”.  However, the traditional way of recruitment should not be totally forgotten.


COLLEN VIXEN KELAPILE (Botswana) said that human resources management was essential to any organization, including the United Nations.  He appreciated the continuous efforts to improve the composition of the Secretariat, in particular in addressing the imbalance in geographical representation.  The Secretary-General should continue to use the national competitive examinations as a useful tool in that respect.  There was a need to achieve wider representation at higher and senior levels.  He was not entirely satisfied with the representation of developing countries at the decision-making level.  Regarding gender issues, he said that while his delegation appreciated the almost complete balance at the Professional level, it was concerned over the lack of gender equity at the higher level.  More needed to be done in that respect.


The continuing massive separation of staff, in particular through resignations, also required attention, he said.  Inadequate compensations and the need to improve career development for young professionals were among the concerns.  The outcome of the recent session of the ICSC offered a good opportunity to effectively address those concerns, and he was prepared to favourably consider the recommendations of the ICSC in that regard.


He supported raising the age of separation to 62.  Staff must be accorded equal treatment, regardless of the time of entry to the United Nations.  The impact in the change to 62 would be minimal.  Concerning the engagement of consultants and individual contractors, he noted the challenges were far from being addressed in a satisfactory manner.  He had hoped that the recommendations of the Joint Inspection Unit would help Member States explore the alternative options to achieve equitable balance in the use of consultants, but the methodology proposed by the Inspectors had raised possible problems.  At this stage, he could simply echo the sentiments of the Inspectors that it was almost

30 years since the Assembly had called for greater equity in the provision of consultancy services.  More consultants and individual contractors should be hired from developing countries.


Regarding the report on possible discrimination, he took note of the OIOS recommendations, including the information that the results of the inspection did not reveal any systemic pattern of preference or exclusion.  However, he took seriously the isolated cases of real or perceived discrimination of staff.  It must be ensured that discrimination was not tolerated at the United Nations.  He hoped the Secretary-General would utilize all mechanisms at his disposal to render equal administration of justice to all staff.  The creation of the post of Ombudsman was important in that regard.


DULCE BUERGO (Cuba) said that resolution 55/258 had given a green light to the adoption of reform measures for human resources management.  Two years had now elapsed and her delegation would have liked to have been given more information on the status of the resolution’s implementation in all the various clusters.  On the question of equitable geographical representation, her delegation believed that specific efforts should have been made to enhance it.  Information was presented at a general level in the Organization, and did not provide an idea as to geographical representation in specific departments.  She also sought more information about mobility.


Her delegation hoped to see a more wide-ranging review of changes in contracting and the impact that the contracting process was having.  Regarding the delegation of authority, there should be greater accountability and transparency and it would be useful to have an external examination of the various components of human resource management.


NONYE UDO (Nigeria) concurred with the view of the ACABQ that the Secretary-General should report in detail on the achievements of the OHRM.  Her delegation put a premium on human resources management, as it remained the bedrock for human development and any technological advancement.  Therefore, representation should reflect the true characteristics of the United Nations in all their aspects, and all countries should be represented at the decision-making levels.  Furthermore, the mandatory retirement age of all Secretariat staff members should be consolidated to 62 years.


ALI K.T. BASARAN, President of the Federation of International Civil Servants’ Association (FICSA), said he agreed with the importance of ensuring accountability, responsibility, transparency, equity, fairness, and a secure working environment.  He was concerned, however, about the deterioration of relations between management and staff in various United Nations family offices around the world.  He urged the Committee to reaffirm the fundamental nature of the rights and essential role of staff representatives in furthering good governance.


He was extremely concerned by the fate of staff in the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) area and the way in which their hazard pay issue had been handled.  Locally recruited UNRWA staff had been denied hazard pay, despite the fact that they had been performing their duties under extremely difficult and dangerous conditions.  Other staff, doing similar work for other United Nations family organizations, were granted that entitlement.


He was also concerned about the difficulties faced by FICSA itself and its members in ensuring meaningful participation in the staff-management "consultative" process at all levels.  The cost of that was borne almost entirely by voluntary contributions from the staff themselves.  FICSA urged the Executive Heads to provide financial support for this request.


JOAN E. THOMAS (Jamaica) said the vitality of the Organization rested upon having a core cadre of international civil servants who dedicated their careers to the service of the United Nations.  Her delegation shared the Secretary-General’s vision of an Organization which fostered management excellence and was accountable for achieving objectives determined by Member States, empowered and responsible staff and managers.  She welcomed the successes made so far in implementing the ten building blocks of human resources reform, as outlined in resolution

55/258.  Among positive developments, she noted improvements in the conditions of service, administration of justice, recruitment, mobility, staff development and training, as well as complementary reform measures by the ICSC.  The thrust of the main ICSC recommendations was encouraging and forward-thinking, and her delegation could support in principle the pilot study for two years on broad banding. 


In the area of recruitment, she welcomed the new staff selection system implemented in May.  The Galaxy recruitment system appeared to be a useful mechanism.  While increased use of information technology was welcome, the success of the system depended to a large extent on the accountability of managers.  Therefore, she requested an interim report at the next session of the Assembly, which would reflect trends in the operation of the new system.


She advocated a clear path for career development for both Professional and General Service staff.  Greater opportunities for mobility were important means by which to attract and maintain staff.  Her delegation was also committed to the system of promotion based on the G-to-P examinations.  While she supported the rationale for the use of continuing contracts, those must in no way preclude permanent contracts, which were a cornerstone of the international civil service.  The implementation of continuing contracts should also be buttressed by an effective, fair and objective system of performance assessment.


FOUAD RAJEH (Saudi Arabia) commended progress in carrying out human resources management reform and said that many measures, including the introduction of the Galaxy recruitment system, represented an important step forward.  Among the issues of greatest importance, he noted the need to maintain the principle of seniority in considering promotions.  He advocated consistency in recruitment practices at both G and P levels. Another point he wanted to make concerned the use of consultants and individual contractors.  Those should be hired after a search for pertinent expertise had been exhausted inside the Organization.  Consultants should be also hired on a wider geographical basis. 

Delegation of authority should be closely monitored and activated only when a system of accountability was in place.


ABDELMALEK BOVHEDDOV (Algeria) said that resolution 55/258 had taken note of the fact that the administration of justice in the United Nations was both slow and cumbersome, and his delegation was sorry that the Secretary-General had made no reference to measures taken to resolve that situation.  Furthermore, resolution 55/258 had asked that emergency measures be taken to recover amounts that were owed to the Organization due to errors by staff members, but no follow-up had been received.


Responding to comments and queries from the floor, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management, RAFIAH SALIM, said she appreciated the encouraging words addressed to her.  Her Department would not have come this far without Member States’ guidance and support.  She reiterated the Secretary-General’s commitment to continue improving intake of nationals from unrepresented and under-represented Member States, and looked forward to discussing all the human resources issues at informal consultations. 


Ms. AFIFI (Morocco) asked why monthly vacancy announcements were being sent to missions after the deadline for submission of documents had already expired.


Ms. SALIM replied that she would get the details and provide an answer to that question in informals.  She reiterated, however, that announcements on the Internet were timely, and there was evidence that people from some 171 countries all around the world were now applying online through the Galaxy system.


Mr. SABBAGH (Syria) said his delegation had commented on the OIOS discrimination report, and he would like to know when the Secretariat would issue a corrigendum to that document. 


An OIOS Representative said that Under-Secretary-General NAIR would address that issue in informal consultations. 


Programme Planning


When the Committee turned to the issue of programme planning, Mr. CHRISTIANSEN (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that the medium-term plan was an essential programming tool for the United Nations.  It set out the overall orientation, objectives, strategies and expected accomplishments of each subprogramme, ensuring transparency in programme design, coordination and monitoring.  The European Union had noted with interest the Secretary-General's proposal to change the timing, length and frequency of the medium-term plan and felt that this proposal merited careful, in-depth consideration in the appropriate context.


The Union expressed its appreciation to the OIOS for the preparation of the programme performance for the biennium 2000-2001, and hoped that this reporting of quantitative output would prove helpful to the Secretariat in assessing performance of programme managers.  The European Union also supported the shift of focus in the performance report of the current biennium from a quantitative to a qualitative approach.  The qualitative indicators would prove more useful in judging whether programmes were achieving the desired outcomes.  It would also help in analyzing the causes for lower implementation rates in certain programmes.


Great importance should be accorded the responsibilities of programme managers within the Secretariat, especially for the monitoring process.  Additional expertise through the training of managers should be encouraged.  The European Union agreed with the proposal by the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC) to make compliance with monitoring requirements a standard component of staff appraisals for managers, and trusted that the Secretariat would take up the recommendation.


PIRAWAT ATSAVAPRANEE (Thailand) said that the Asia Pacific region contained 13 of the least developed countries in the world, and it must be a priority of the international community to help those countries integrate into the international economy.  Having examined the report of the CPC, he continued, he wished to point out that some of the changes recommended to the medium-term plan for the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific went beyond the mandate that had originally been given to the Commission.      


AYMAN M. ELGAMMAL (Egypt) in general concurred with the recommendations of the CPC, although he wanted to touch upon some details in informal consultations.  While studying the CPC report, however, he had noticed that numerous paragraphs of the discussion part of the report ran counter to the rules and practices to be followed in the Committee.  The paragraphs in question created an impression that the discussion part represented a consensus, while it only represented viewpoints expressed by delegations in the course of the general debate.  Some paragraphs spoke in the name of the Committee and not in the name of the delegations.  Despite his belief that such non-compliance would run counter to the practices and procedures of the CPC in the preparation of its reports and required a revised version of the report, his delegation would take into account the budget restrictions that the Organization was facing, and only submit some revised paragraphs in discussing the draft resolution on the matter. 


Ms. BUERGO (Cuba) said her delegation attached particular importance to the issue under discussion.  The medium-term plan was the main guideline for setting the policy of the Organization and she lauded the work and effective outcome of the CPC’s latest session. In general, she agreed with the comments contained in the CPC report. 


Continuing, she noted the proposed programme revisions.  Her delegation was anticipating with interest the presentation of changes related to the Monterrey Financing for Development Conference and the Summit on Sustainable Development, held earlier this year.


At the end of the year, the Assembly should be able to adjust the programme to take account of the decisions by those conferences.  As for several other programmes that remained outstanding, there should not be many difficulties in that respect.  She noted with interest the comments by the representative of Egypt and supported them. 


CANDICE EBBESEN (United States) said her delegation supported the conclusions and recommendations of the CPC.  With regard to document C.5/57/19, the United States delegation supported the proposal to defer consideration of this item.


Mr. KELAPILE (Botswana) commented on the report of the Joint Inspection Unit on strengthening oversight mechanisms, highlighting the issue of involving managers in investigation activities.  His delegation believed that this was not a wise idea; it was an issue the General Assembly should look at very closely.


OTHMAN JIU of the Joint Inspection Unit said that while the main focus on investigations within the United Nations was concentrated on fraud and corruption, there were also investigations on a wide range on wrongdoings without direct

financial implications.  Turning to the involvement of managers in investigations, he stressed that the issue was not whether or not managers should be involved but the need for measures to reduce any resulting problems.  Managers were already involved in the investigation process, and what the Unit wished to do was to reduce any risk factors stemming from that.


Mr. RAJEH (Saudi Arabia) said that he completely disagreed with involving managers in investigations.  That was against the internal control system of the United Nations.  Not only should they not be allowed to conduct investigations, but they should not even be encouraged to take part in them.  There were staff members who were trained in conducting investigations, and there should be a clear line between management and investigations.  Otherwise, there would be more cases of irregularities and fraud within the Organization.


Responding to comments, the Chairman of the CPC, THOMAS MAZET, agreed that in the past, the CPC had agreed on the rules of procedure for its work, but it was a matter of the language of the CPC report.  That document had been adopted by consensus, and its language was a product of long discussions.  The Fifth Committee was free to amend the recommendations, but it could not decide on the report itself.


ALIREZA TOOTOONCHIAN (Iran) said his delegation favoured the endorsement of the CPC report.  The successful work of that Committee proved its relevance in the planning and budgeting processes of the United Nations. 


Mr. ELGAMMAL (Egypt) agreed that the CPC was the master of its own procedures, but the Committee itself, in paragraph 361 of its report, had reaffirmed all the conclusions and recommendations adopted at its previous sessions regarding those proceedings.  Thus, he found that the language of the report was contradictory. 


* *** *