Fifty-seventh General Assembly
13th Meeting (AM)
FIFTH COMMITTEE CONCLUDES CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS ON 2002-2003 BUDGET,
REVIEW OF ADMINISTRATIVE, FINANCIAL FUNCTIONING OF UNITED NATIONS
As the Fifth Committee concluded its consideration of a series of reports related to the programme budget for 2002-2003 and its review of the efficiency of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations, several speakers responded to the Secretary-General’s request for guidance on the need to identify resources in the amount of some $1.3 million for strengthening the United Nations Web site in all six official languages.
The representative of the United States stressed the importance of the smooth functioning of the Web site, which the Department of Public Information (DPI) had often cited as a priority activity. She commended the Department for shifting its resources in order to create the site in 1995. Giving priority to the use of new technology was precisely what was needed to modernize the Department and make it more responsive to the needs of Member States. Since
1996, there had been nearly 20 reviews and evaluations of DPI, including those by the Office of Internal Oversight Services, the Joint Inspection Unit, independent consultants and the Secretary-General. The Department as a whole had worked with a leading management consulting firm in a comprehensive review designed to reorient its activities in line with the Organization’s priorities. Given the many suggestions the Department had received from numerous studies and consultants, she was confident that it would find the resources to strengthen the Web site within its currently approved budget of $144.7 million.
The representative of Japan emphasized the importance of making local information activities more cost-effective. DPI reform should be considered in the larger context of United Nations reform as a whole.
On the question of the United Nations Office in Nairobi (UNON), South Africa’s representative said that the Office played an important role in strengthening the United Nations presence in Africa. It should be supported by the United Nations membership through easing the administrative costs levied on the substantive programmes of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UN-Habitat). In addition to their existing mandates, UNEP and UN-Habitat were expected to play a critical role in implementation of the outcome of the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Her delegation further urged the Secretariat to take those demands into consideration in the course of developing detailed budget proposals.
Whilst her delegation welcomed the Secretariat’s undertaking to submit further proposals to strengthen the Office in future bienniums, it was concerned
that the present level of resources did not provide sufficient financing for the Office. She shared the concerns expressed by other delegates over the decline -- from 15.2 per cent in 2000-2001 to 9.7 per cent in 2002-2003 -- in the financial resources set aside for the Nairobi Office.
Warren Sach, Director of the Office of Programme Planning and Budget Division, responded to questions raised by delegates on several items. With regard to the level of servicing for the Chinese-language Web site, he said that the mandate of the report had been to strengthen the site in all official languages of the Organization. At present the staff for the Chinese Web site was one P-3 and one general temporary assistant position. Under the proposals before the Committee, one permanent G-level post would be established in the Chinese language as well as one P-4 editor. The same had been proposed for all languages except English, where there would be one additional P-4 post.
Regarding extra-budgetary financing for the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), he said that fluctuations in the currency of pledges and contributions could result in lower dollar receipts. The uncertainty factor that related to extra-budgetary contributions often created difficulties for programming activities.
Turning to UNON, he said that there would be a further phase of strengthening the Office in the 2004-2005 budget. Responding to South Africa’s concern over the decline in financial resources set aside for the Office, he said that those figures represented percentages of growth and there were actually more resources in the budget for 2002-2003 which had increased by some 9.7 per cent compared with the previous biennium. It was just a question of a lower amount of increase. In a broader context, delegations must be aware that there were a number of different sections in the budget that had been increasing.
Regarding advisory services, he said that there was a substantive mechanism to ensure appropriate reporting of the handling of advisory services, which was in the hands of the Economic and Social Council.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 23 October, to continue its consideration of the pattern of conferences.
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