FIFTH COMMITTEE, DISCUSSING PROVISION OF CONFERENCE SERVICES, HEARS COMPLAINT OF INEQUALITY OF LANGUAGES IN DOCUMENTATION

25 October 2001
GA/AB/3469

FIFTH COMMITTEE, DISCUSSING PROVISION OF CONFERENCE SERVICES, HEARS COMPLAINT OF INEQUALITY OF LANGUAGES IN DOCUMENTATION

25/10/2001
Press ReleaseGA/AB/3469

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Fifth Committee

17th Meeting (AM)

FIFTH COMMITTEE, DISCUSSING PROVISION OF CONFERENCE SERVICES, HEARS COMPLAINT

OF INEQUALITY OF LANGUAGES IN DOCUMENTATION

Russian Federation Says Gap between English and Others

On United Nations Web Site Is Violation of Principle of Parity

The complex task of achieving optimal use of conference resources required joint efforts of the Secretariat and Member States, the representative of the Russian Federation told the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning as it continued its consideration of the agenda item on the pattern of conferences (for background information, see Press Release GA/AB/3468 of

23 October).

He welcomed the coordinating role of the Committee on Conferences and said that, on the whole, his delegation was prepared to support the proposed pattern of conferences, bearing in mind the comments of that body.  He also approved of the increasing utilization of conference facilities, and welcomed the increased percentage of meetings of regional groups and other major groupings which had been provided with interpretation.  He said the meetings of Charter and mandated bodies should be serviced on a priority basis.  He expressed concern over the late issuance of documentation, saying the problem had become chronic in nature.  He said he supported the recommendation to establish an effective accountability system within the Secretariat to ensure timely submission of documents. 

His delegation attached particular importance to translation and interpretation services, he said.  Despite the rules on the use of six official languages within the United Nations, Member States did not always receive equal services in that regard.  His country would insist on strict implementation of the principle of language parity.  Effective measures were needed (particularly at the personnel level) to improve the quality of translation and interpretation services.  His delegation had certain concerns about the quality of translation of documents into Russian, as well as oral interpretation into English.

Regarding recruitment of language staff, he reiterated his country’s position that the quality of translation services was not possible without radical changes in the human resources policy on the whole.  In particular, it was necessary to create a system of recruitment and rotation of personnel, which would ensure regular inflow of oral and written translation professionals.  He also supported the recommendation to conduct a comprehensive review of the norms and standards of productivity in the language services, taking into account the introduction of new technology. 

Welcoming the renewal of the optical disk system, he added that it would enable searching for documents in all six official languages.  At the same time, he said he wished to express serious concern over a growing gap between the English and other official languages on the United Nations Web site.  He did not see serious efforts on behalf of the Secretariat to prepare, on a priority basis, new proposals to remedy that situation, as requested by resolution 35/136.  Continuing violation of the principle of language parity, which manifested itself in the non-balanced development and content of the Web site, required concrete action. 

Turning to the proposed budget, he inquired about the distribution of temporary conference services assistance and asked the Secretariat to present data regarding possible conversion of part of temporary assistance funds into permanent language positions, taking into account that it would improve the quality of work and lead to savings.  Taking into account the Committee on Conferences' scope of work, it was necessary to consider strengthening its functions of review and monitoring.

In other business this morning, the representative of Egypt suggested to the Committee that summaries of the debate in informal consultations on the proposed programme budget should be prepared, since it was essential for delegations to have a record of different views expressed in the debate. 

The representatives of Syria and India also participated in the discussion of other matters.

In addition to the documents presented yesterday, the Committee had an additional document before it today (document A/56/261).  It is a letter dated

31 July from the Permanent Representative of Qatar in his capacity as Chairman of the Arab Group, in which he informs the Secretary-General of the Arab Group’s concern over declining standards in the provision of Arabic language services in United Nations conference services and information activities.  In an annex to the letter, he expresses the Group’s specific concerns and details the actions needed to ensure the simultaneous issuance of documentation in all the six official languages of the Organization.

The Fifth Committee will continue its debate on the pattern of conferences at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Friday 26 October.

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For information media. Not an official record.