FIFTH COMMITTEE APPROVES DRAFT RESOLUTION CONTAINING RECOMMENDATIONS ON UN CONFERENCES, MEETINGS SERVICING
FIFTH COMMITTEE APPROVES DRAFT RESOLUTION CONTAINING RECOMMENDATIONS ON UN CONFERENCES, MEETINGS SERVICING
Fifty-seventh General Assembly
Fifth Committee (Resumed)
43rd Meeting (AM)
FIFTH COMMITTEE APPROVES DRAFT RESOLUTION CONTAINING RECOMMENDATIONS
ON UN CONFERENCES, MEETINGS SERVICING
Also Considers Joint Inspection Unit Reports
on Extrabudgetary Activities, Results-Based Budgeting
Approving, without a vote, a five-part resolution on the pattern of conferences this morning, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) made recommendations to the General Assembly on the United Nations calendar of conferences and meetings; utilization of conference-servicing resources and facilities; the performance of the Department of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services; documentation- and publication-related matters; translation and interpretation; and information technology.
[A much shorter resolution on the pattern of conferences was adopted at the conclusion of the regular session in December. By that text, the Assembly approved a revised 2003 calendar of United Nations conferences and meetings and decided to continue consideration of the pattern of conferences item at the first resumed session.]
By today’s text, the Assembly would note with concern a decline in the use of programmed conference servicing six points below the benchmark of 80 per cent, driven largely by a 14 per cent drop in scheduled New York meetings. At the same time, the number of meetings supplied with interpretation in Nairobi has increased by 23.5 per cent in 2001 as a result of the establishment of a permanent interpretation service there. The Secretariat would be encouraged to maintain the positive trend of satisfying 98 per cent of requests for meetings with interpretation by regional and other major groupings.
Turning to efforts to improve the performance of the Department of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services, the Assembly, would welcome the Secretary-General’s intention to develop, as soon as possible, an implementation plan to carry out the changes there, requesting him to ensure that structure and name changes within the Department did not lead to any involuntary personnel departures and were consistent with existing mandates. They should also improve and not negatively affect the technical support services and production and distribution of documents in hard copies.
Also addressed in the text are measures to ensure timely issuance of documentation and improve the work of language services, including the need to quickly fill interpretation vacancies, develop a responsibility and accountability
system as far as submission of documents is concerned, and further develop workload standards and performance indicators for language staff.
As the Committee turned to the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) report on extrabudgetary activities support costs, introduced by Inspector Sumihiro Kuyama through videoconferencing, several speakers, including the representative of Gabon on behalf of the African Group, expressed concern that such activities are, in effect, “subsidized” by core resources and are diverting these scarce resources away from mandated projects and activities. [The report reviews formulation and application of extrabudgetary support cost policies in the United Nations system and proposes measures aimed at harmonizing these policies.]
The representative of Morocco (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China) insisted that core programmes should be fully budgeted. Extrabudgetary resources for activities beyond the reach of core budgets should be in line with the broad programmatic priorities approved by legislative organs.
Introducing the JIU report on results-based budgeting, Inspector Doris Bertrand said that the new budgeting format was a built-in necessity to ask what the Organization was doing, for whom, in what fashion and with what impact. The essence of the new approach was constant self-evaluation. The results-based budgeting was not an end in itself, however. The challenge before the Secretariat and Member States was to make it relevant to programme managers. As a “one-size-fits-all” approach was not possible, adaptation and flexibility were needed. Currently, there were some 864 achievement indicators, and adapting them to the nature of programmes was a challenge.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the Committee paid a special tribute to its Secretary since 1992, Joseph Acakpo-Satchivi, on the occasion of his retirement.
Other documents before the Committee were introduced by Principal Inter-Agency Officer of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board (CEB) Secretariat, Jaime Sevilla; Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), Conrad S.M. Mselle; and Director of the CEB Secretariat, Qazi Shaukat Fareed.
Also participating in the discussion were representatives of the United States, Gabon, Greece (on behalf of the European Union), Syria, Niger, Canada, Cuba, Mexico (on behalf of Spanish-speaking delegations) and Botswana (on behalf of the African Group).
The Committee will continue its work at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 11 March.
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning was expected to take action on a draft resolution on the pattern of conferences and begin consideration of several reports by the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU).
Pattern of Conferences Draft
A five-part draft resolution on the pattern of conferences (document A/C.5/57/L.54) addresses numerous issues related to the United Nations calendar of conferences and meetings; utilization of conference-servicing resources and facilities; the performance of the Department of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services; documentation- and publication-related matters; translation and interpretation; and information technology.
Remarking on the utilization of conference-servicing resources and facilities, the General Assembly would note with concern that the overall utilization factor at the four duty stations in 2001 dropped six points below the benchmark of 80 per cent, with a 14 per cent drop in New York. At the same time, the number of meetings supplied with interpretation in Nairobi has increased by 23.5 per cent in 2001 as a result of the establishment of a permanent interpretation service there.
Also by the draft, the Secretariat would be encouraged to maintain the positive trend, under which, from July 2001 to April 2002, 98 per cent of the requests for meetings with interpretation by regional and other major groupings were met at the main duty stations. The Assembly would reaffirm its decision to include, in the 2004-2005 budget, all the resources needed for servicing such meetings, requesting information on meetings not provided with services. The Secretary-General would also be requested to ensure that the level of resources for temporary assistance is commensurate with the full demand for services, estimated on the basis of current experience.
Seeking to improve the performance of the Department of General Assembly and Conference Management, the Assembly would welcome the intention of the Secretary-General, with support of the Office of Internal Oversight Services, to develop, as soon as possible, an implementation plan for the envisaged changes. Responding to the proposal to integrate the functions of the Fifth and Sixth Committee Secretariats into the Department, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to submit it for consideration in the context of the 2004-2005 budget.
Under the draft, the Assembly would further recognize the need to develop and update existing workload standards for language staff, taking into account the best practices and expert advice, as well the impact of technological innovations. In light of the complex intellectual nature of the language services, the Secretary-General would be invited to develop further related performance indicators in order to evaluate their quality and functions.
Reaffirming the concepts of delegation of authority and accountability, the Assembly would also stress the need to clearly define the responsibilities and functions of the Department and the United Nations Offices in Geneva, Vienna and Nairobi, with the Department defining conference services policies, standards and management of resources, and the Offices being responsible and accountable for day-to-day operational activities. In this connection, the Secretary-General would be requested to ensure dialogue and coordination between the Department and all the Offices in preparing revisions to relevant Secretariat documents.
The Assembly would further request the Secretary-General to ensure that structure and name changes within the Department do not lead to any involuntary personnel departures and are consistent with existing mandates. They should also improve, and not negatively affect, the technical support services and production and distribution of documents in hard copies. The draft advocates following a pragmatic approach to avoid introducing unnecessary restrictions on the ability of intergovernmental bodies or conferences to successfully conclude their work.
Among numerous measures aimed at ensuring timely issuance of documentation, the Assembly would recommend to take into account the programme of work of the session at which a report is to be considered, when assigning the timing of submission of manuscripts. If a report is submitted late to conference services, the reasons, therefore, should be included in a footnote to the document. The Assembly would also reiterate the need to develop a responsibility and accountability system within the Secretariat in order to ensure timely submission of documents for processing.
Noting with concern the delays in the issuance of verbatim and summary records, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to study further possible measures in this regard, including enhanced cooperation between the production of summary records by the Department and press releases by the Department of Public Information, bearing in mind the different nature of those two products.
“In order to overcome regrettable delays”, the Assembly would also reiterate the request to the Secretary-General to ensure the communication of its resolutions to Member States within 15 days of the closing of each session. Noting the intention of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) to make 100 per cent of documents available in Arabic during 2004-2005, it would also request the Secretary-General to ensure full implementation of this intention.
In connection with the proposal to improve electronic access to United Nations collections, publications and parliamentary documents, the Secretary-General would be requested to keep the internal capacity for the provision of hard copies at the request of Member States. The Assembly would also welcome the elimination of pouching or couriers shipments of documents to duty stations in light of their capability to download and print their own copies from relevant databases.
Emphasizing the importance of multilingualism, the text further addresses the need to quickly fill vacancies in official language services of the United Nations, as well as the remaining vacancies in the Arabic and English interpretation units in Nairobi. Presenting the budget for 2004-2005, the Secretary-General would be requested to make proposals on how “to fill the de facto gap” between the Spanish translation service and other official language services with similar workloads. He would also be requested to improve the quality control of language services at all duty stations and ensure continuous dialogue between all the parties involved concerning the standardization of the terminology used.
The Committee had before it a note of the Secretary-General (document A/57/372) transmitting to the Assembly the report of the Joint Inspection Unit on the results approach to the United Nations: implementing the United Nations Millennium Declaration. The purpose of the two-part report is to clarify the concept of “results” as it relates to the implementation of the United Nations Millennium Declaration Goals. Part one of the report deals with the issue of results-based budgeting and planning procedures. The second part proposes the creation of new instruments to provide Member States with more effective monitoring of progress towards the objectives of the Millennium Declaration.
With a target date of 2015 for implementation of goals in areas such as peace, conflict prevention and poverty eradication, the adoption of the Millennium Declaration has presented a new challenge for the international community, the report states. To implement the Millennium Declaration Goals, the Secretary-General, in his “road map” report, underlined the need for a comprehensive approach and coordinated strategy. Towards that end, both the United Nations system and the Bretton Woods institutions established new working methods, including results-based budgeting and planning. [Approved by the Assembly in 2000, results-based budgeting shifted the United Nations budgetary process from a quantitative focus on resources to a more qualitative one, based on expected accomplishments, programme delivery and measurement of the effectiveness of the Organization’s activities.]
The Bretton Woods institutions have also made important changes, including giving high priority to poverty eradication, the report says. The World Bank, for example, developed the Comprehensive Development Framework (CDF), which espouses a holistic approach to development and forms the basis of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) prepared by developing countries. Despite promising changes, however, the concept of results must be clarified and brought into line with the goals of the Millennium Declaration.
According to the first part of the report, “results” -– called “expected accomplishments” in the United Nations programme budget and medium-term plan –- are seen primarily as results obtained by the programme activities of the United Nations proper. [The medium-term plan constitutes the principal policy directive of the United Nations. It provides the overall direction for the work of the Organization and serves as a framework for the formulation of the biennial programme budget.] In the Millennium Declaration, however, results are understood as results to be brought about at the national and international level.
Results-based techniques have not been adapted to the needs and realities of international organizations, the report states. Factors, including the number of decision-makers (Member States), the nature of programme activities, imprecision of objectives, the lack of time limits and baseline data for comparison, and inadequate correlation of objectives with resources, have made it more difficult to use results-based budgeting and planning in the United Nations context than in a national setting.
The report recommends that the present results-based budgeting methodology be reviewed and further adapted to the needs of Member States. Programme managers must better define “expected accomplishments” as they will ultimately be held accountable for programme performance. An enabling environment must also be created, including dynamic human resources management, adequate information systems and confidence-building, not only within the Secretariat but also between the Secretariat and Member States.
In a note to the Assembly (document A/57/372/Add.1), the Secretary-General transmits a report containing his comments, as well as those of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board (CEB), on the JIU report. It describes the report as a timely reminder of the need to review the results approach applied in the United Nations system. While appreciating the objectives underlying the report, CEB members find the study too wide-ranging to permit a judicious overall assessment and concrete follow-up. The CEB proposes taking up both parts of the report on a point-by-point basis at the intergovernmental level.
The Committee also has before it a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the JIU on support costs related to extrabudgetary activities in organizations of the United Nations system (document A/57/442). The inspectors point out that in light of frozen or falling core resources, effective use of extrabudgetary resources in support of mandated programmes has become increasingly important. The report reviews formulation and application of extrabudgetary support-cost policies in the United Nations system organizations and proposes measures aimed at harmonizing these policies.
Despite an important supplementary role of the activities financed from extrabudgetary sources, a number of Member States have expressed concern that they are, in effect, “subsidized” by core resources and are diverting these scarce resources away from mandated projects and activities. Expressing preference for increased contributions to core budgets instead, these Member States also argue that such activities undermine the legislative process and reorienting the United Nations machinery.
Responding to those concerns, the document recommends integrating extrabudgetary resources with core resources in budget presentations and subjecting them to legislative approval. It also addresses the need to precisely define the role of extrabudgetary financing in the overall structure of the United Nations, to refine approval and control mechanisms, and explain the role of extrabudgetary financing in relation to core programme activities. The inspectors insist that acceptance of extrabudgetary resources should be in line with approved programmatic priorities of various bodies.
The JIU further advocates consistent application of rules, clear justification of exceptional support-cost rates and improved efficiency of administrative services. Legislative organs should continue to monitor overall administrative and other support expenditures and review these components in the budgets of organizations. Also recommended is careful prior consideration to the costs and benefits associated with potential approaches to incremental cost measurement, as well as elimination of contradictions in applicable support-cost legislation. The inspectors conclude that the practice of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and, to a certain extent, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) of retaining interest earned on supplementary resources and of using this income to offset support costs is worthy of further study.
Currently existing within the United Nations system is a diverse range of support-cost arrangements and other recovery mechanisms, which reflects the diversity of programmes, funding arrangements and financial management structures. However, most legislative organs have approved rates of reimbursement for support costs that are lower than the full costs incurred in supporting extrabudgetary activities. Such calculations are based on the original United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) “partnership formula” -– later approved by the General Assembly –- providing 13 per cent support-cost reimbursement of actual project costs, with United Nations system organizations and Member States sharing support costs as an appropriate financial expression of partnership.
An addendum to the report (document A/57/442/Add.1) contains the comments on the recommendations by the Secretary-General and the CEB. The JIU report is welcomed as a comprehensive and useful addition to the growing body of work on the subject. CEB members appreciate, in particular, the background information provided in the document, as well as the analysis of current policies and procedures across the United Nations system. They generally accept the findings and recommendations contained in the report and acknowledge the need to monitor, on a system-wide basis, emerging policy questions and procedures. They also agree regarding the need to keep under review the overall management of extrabudgetary resources within the Organization.
Referring to the fact that the JIU report contains comments from participating organizations, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), in its report (document A/57/434), suggests examining how such an innovation could expedite consideration of JIU reports by various legislative bodies. The Advisory Committee also notes that the general thrust of the report was well received and welcomed by most participating organizations. The ACABQ recommends endorsing the JIU recommendations and including information about related policy changes in the introduction to the proposed programme budget for 2004-2005. The ACABQ intends to revert to this subject during the review of the proposed budget for the next biennium.
Introduction of Reports
Introducing the JIU report on support costs related to extrabudgetary activities of the United Nations (document A/57/442) through videoconferencing, Inspector SUMIHIRO KUYAMA, said the JIU had prepared its unique report in close collaboration with many organizations of the system. The main objective of the document was to propose recommendations to harmonize extrabudgetary support-cost policies in the United Nations system organizations. While the use of extrabudgetary resources had become increasingly important in the activities of the United Nations, the validity of the currently prevalent 13 per cent rate was increasingly questioned by the participating organizations, most of which supported harmonizing the policies related to the recovery of costs associated with extrabudgetary resources. He hoped the Assembly would endorse all the recommendations contained in the report.
JAIME SEVILLA, Principal Inter-Agency Officer of the CEB Secretariat, introduced the addendum to the report contained in document A/57/442/Add.1, saying that members of CEB welcomed the document as a source of valuable information. In particular, they found useful a compilation of background information, showing similarities and differences in the recovery of extrabudgetary costs throughout the system. Members of CEB noted that the use of extrabudgetary resources was growing and concurred with the finding that application of a single rate was no longer relevant for new realities. That old practice was unable to respond to the fast-changing needs of the Organization. The CEB members were unanimous in accepting the need to adopt a single approach, increasing the diversity of services and flexibility, which would allow the Organization to react to the changing demands. Generally, all JIU recommendations were acceptable to the members of the CEB.
A related ACABQ report was introduced by Chairman of that body, Conrad
S. M. Mselle, who said the Advisory Committee would continue using the JIU report, in particular during its consideration of the programme budget.
AICHA AFIFI (Morocco) speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that the consideration of results-based budgeting should be carried out in full conformity with the provisions of resolution 55/231, the rules and regulations governing programme planning, the programme aspect of the budget, the implementation monitoring and the method of evaluation. Results-based budgeting was a technical mechanism to improve the evaluation capacity of the Secretariat’s performance in the implementation of mandated programmes and activities in accordance with the intergovernmental specificities of the Organization. It was not an end in itself and should be kept under constant review.
The Group, she said, appreciated the fact that the JIU had distinguished between the specifications of applying results-based budgeting at the national level and at the level of international organizations. She agreed that while relatively feasible in the case of national governments, results-based budgeting remained somewhat complex in the case of the United Nations. The Group did not concur, however, with the observation that Member States interfered through micromanagement, making them responsible, in part, for the shortcomings of some programmes and/or activities.
Regarding the JIU report on support costs related to extrabudgetary expenses, she noted with concern that dependence on extrabudgetary resources for the implementation of mandated programmes had substantially increased in recent years. Extrabudgetary expenses did not necessarily cover legislative priorities, nor did existing support costs reflect the importance of particular extrabudgetary activities and legislative priorities. While core programmes should be fully budgeted, extrabudgetary resources for activities beyond the reach of core budgets should be in line with the broad programmatic prioritization approved by legislative organs.
Extrabudgetary activities should not be prioritized on the basis of subjective judgement, she said. She asked for clarification on “presumed legislative contradictions” as regards the extrabudgetary support cost policies applied by the United Nations system. Core activities should not be used to subsidize extrabudgetary activities. Support costs should be met by extrabudgetary resources.
ELIZABETH NAKIAN (United States) said that much of the content of the JIU’s report on implementing the Millennium Declaration was interesting and timely, especially as the Committee would be considering the reform and results-oriented 2004-2005 proposed budget. Her delegation was disappointed, however, that the JIU had taken an overly ambitious, broad and academic scope that failed to give intergovernmental bodies, including the Fifth Committee, feasible and concrete recommendations.
She agreed with the CEB that the study was too wide-ranging, particularly concerning the linkages it endeavoured to establish between its two parts. She asked why the report had been done in two parts, making it more difficult for intergovernmental bodies to consider. As only part one of the report fell under the Committee’s purview, she questioned what would happen to part two. In the future, the JIU should take heed of previous General Assembly resolutions calling for more concise, narrowly focused reviews containing action-oriented recommendations.
Regarding the report on support costs for extrabudgetary activities, the United States concurred with the ACABQ recommendation that the Assembly endorse the JIU’s recommendations, she said. She particularly supported the recommendation that the CEB take a more active role in establishing support cost policies and in monitoring them. She also supported the ACABQ request that the introduction to the Secretary-General’s 2004-2005 proposed programme budget contain information on policy changes regarding support costs that need to be made in order to implement the relevant recommendations contained in the JIU report.
She said her delegation expressed frustration with the complicated and convoluted nature of the JIU report, however. The JIU’s approach had made it difficult for the Committee to fully understand and appropriately act on its recommendations. In the interest of full disclosure and budgetary transparency, she asked to know the full costs of the two JIU reports.
Speaking on behalf of the African Group, JEAN CHRISTIAN OBAME (Gabon) associated himself with the position of the Group of 77 and China and reaffirmed the important role played by the Committee on Programme and Coordination (CPC) and the continuing relevance of the medium-term plan in the intergovernmental process of planning, programming, budgeting, monitoring and evaluation. It was necessary to learn from past experiences in that regard in order to define clear targets and develop measurement indicators. He encouraged the CPC to continue its ongoing discussions aimed at improving its working methods and called upon the Secretary-General to submit relevant proposals at the fifty-eighth session of the Assembly.
The development challenges facing the Organization and Member States necessitated the adoption of strategies that were responsive to their needs, he continued. As it was difficult to establish concrete targets within the context of the biennial budget, it would be more advisable to apply a results-based approach in the mid-term plan if one wanted to achieve the set objectives. Clear-cut targets and time frames should be defined to ensure efficient allocation of resources for the implementation of mandated programmes and to provide an opportunity to assess their impact, in accordance with budgeting rules.
Turning to the issue of support costs related to extrabudgetary activities, he said the Group supported recommendations aimed at ensuring efficient and effective use of resources for the implementation of mandated programmes. It saw the wisdom of integrating the extrabudgetary resources with core resources and would appreciate more details from the Secretariat on the practical implementation of the recommendations. The Group also believed, however, that there was a need to ensure that core budget activities did not subsidize extrabudgetary activities. It should be the other way around.
Core resources were already over-stretched and the current trend needed to be reversed, he added. Therefore, he supported the introduction of some measures aimed at harmonizing the policies governing the establishment of support costs in the United Nations system organizations. The African Group concurred with the ACABQ that information on policy changes regarding support costs should be included in the introduction to the proposed programme budget for the next biennium.
ERICA-IRENE A. DAES (Greece)(on behalf of the European Union) thanked the inspectors for their interesting recommendations and requested clarification on several issues. In particular, she wanted to know how the inspectors planned to react to the reservations and dissenting views of participating organizations. During the drafting of the report, had the JIU discussed the policy principles related to approximation instead of moving to the next step of harmonization of principles?
Inspector KUYAMA said the views of participating organizations had been included in the report on an experimental basis. The purpose of that exercise was to illustrate the approach of various components of the system. While some reservations and dissenting views had been presented in the annex to the report, they were mostly marginal. In general, CEB members had accepted most recommendations. Last year, the Fifth Committee had requested the JIU to come up with additional information on how to deal with CEB and agencies’ comments, and the question would be further discussed during the next session.
Turning to the second question from the representative of Greece, he said that as far as future prospects were concerned, at an inter-agency meeting last December there had been strong support for proceeding in a harmonious manner. He hoped the question of harmonization would be further considered, resulting in tangible improvements in the future. The treatment of extrabudgetary resources should be more serious, based on the mandates and the priorities of the Organization. Regarding contradictions in rules and procedures, he said that one of the JIU recommendations addressed the need to resolve them.
Introduction of Report on Implementing Millennium Declaration
DORIS BERTRAND, JIU Inspector, introduced the report, saying she regretted that the report came late, as she had finished it almost one year ago. She thanked delegations for their interest in the report. She firmly believed that the results culture was an occasion for all to think about how to go on with United Nations business. It was a built-in necessity to ask what the Organization was doing, for whom, in what fashion and with what impact. Self-evaluation was a healthy ingredient for every organization. The report offered a great opportunity to revisit the way in which the United Nations was trying to achieve its goals.
A process was as good as it served the ultimate purpose for which it was created, she said. The purpose, or technique, was not an end in itself. The challenge before the Secretariat and Member States was to make the results approach relevant to programme managers. It was important that programme managers were allowed to see the value of the results approach. The essence of the results approach was constant self-evaluation. In preparing the 2004-2005 programme budget, it was important to reconsider approaches and how they fitted the nature of the United Nations programmes.
A “one-size-fits-all” approach was not possible, she said. The programme nature must be taken into account when adopting a results approach. Adaptation and flexibility was needed. Defining the ingredients of a results approach presented a challenge. At the current stage, there were some 864 achievement indicators. Adapting them to the nature of programmes was a challenge. She agreed that administrative and management activities and political activities were different. However, improvement in all areas was possible.
Regarding the two parts of the report, she said the credibility of the results approach would engineer support for it. A mechanistic adaptation was the “deadly kiss” to a results approach. She had used the Millennium Declaration as an example in her report in that it was a capsule form of mandates before the international community. Other mandates were equally important. She had wanted to see how a results approach served Member States in attaining their goals. To her, that was a logical linkage. She was sad that the Committee’s mandate was to look at part one, as the linkage was important to study. Regarding the cost, she had worked on her own in preparing the report. The cost of the report was her salary, plus two economy fare trips to New York. She hoped that her ambition in preparing the report would help the Committee.
QAZI SHAUKAT FAREED, Director of the Secretariat of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board, introduced that body’s comments, saying that the report was a far reaching and extensive study relating to almost all aspects of United Nations work. The inspector had taken up an interesting and challenging issue. The CEB’s comments were set out in two parts. Part one dealt with results-based budgeting and planning; part two addressed the inspector’s suggestions regarding the creation of new instruments.
He said the CEB had studied the report with much interest. Given its wide-ranging nature and the complex link between the two parts, the two parts should be taken up one after another, so that more concrete follow up could be taken on the totality of the report. The basic concept of a results approach must be further reviewed and its methodology further refined. The analysis of the effectiveness and weakness of results-based budgeting would have been more helpful if account had been taken of international organizations other than the United Nations. The Board concurred with the recommendation to create an enabling environment. The suggested new instruments would be unlikely to eliminate the need for existing reporting. An additional downside would be long reporting cycles. Part two of the report did not present sufficient analysis of operational and practical realities at the country level. The report would no doubt influence future thinking on United Nations activities.
ERICA-IRENE A. DAES (Greece), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States said the Union had consistently argued in favour of the results-based management in the United Nations and had greatly supported the Secretary-General’s 1997 reform proposals, which sought to introduce a “results culture” in the Organization. On a national level, the approach allowed Member States to respond to public opinion. In the United Nations context, there was an equally important need to introduce the culture of responsiveness and accountability. Public opinion in all countries ought to be informed about whether the United Nations responded to manifold challenges in an efficient and transparent manner.
The theme of the JIU report was timely, she said, in that it analyzed the important role of results-based management techniques to reach the Millennium Declaration Goals. Compared to previous budget methodology, results-based management instruments had already put Member States in a better position to assess progress made. While the Union believed in the need to perfect results-based management processes, it was necessary not to lose sight of the purpose of the exercise -- the need to assist Member States in reaching the goals which constituted a commitment undertaken by the whole international community.
While the 2002-2003 programme budget was an important first step towards a “results culture”, there was still much room for improvement, she said. The report provided a useful analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the present results-based programme budget and medium-term plan and recommended ways to enhance their effectiveness. Acknowledging that it was not always easy to attribute results to actions, the Union welcomed the report’s clarification of the potential and constraints of the present results approach. Only clearer and more precise objectives, expected accomplishments, indicators of achievement and external factors would allow for a more effective monitoring and evaluation.
There was no “one-size-fits-all” results approach, she emphasized. On a national level, results-based management techniques were continuously adapted, reformed and refined. The JIU report rightly stressed that specificities must be taken into account, and results-based management must be continuously adapted to the nature of the United Nations. That process was a challenge both to the Secretariat and Member States.
The medium-term plan could be a valid results-based management instrument, she added. The medium-term plan should be the instrument to allow Member States to assess whether the strategy and corresponding activities of the United Nations were relevant and coherent in order to assist the international community to reach the Millennium Declaration and other international goals. The JIU recommendation to bring the plan more in line with the Millennium Declaration and action plans of the latest United Nations conferences must be implemented. Much work remained to be done, however, so that the medium-term plan served as a truly strategic instrument in the Organization’s results-based management.
While the Committee would consider only part one of the report, the link to the overall objectives of the Organization in part two also deserved attention, she said. Part two should soon be before the appropriate intergovernmental forum to address the report’s system-wide angle. The Union expressed its appreciation for an excellent JIU report. It should guide both the Secretariat in its preparation and Member States in their review of future programme budgets and medium-term plans.
HUSSEIN SABBAGH (Syria) endorsed the position of the Group of 77 and China and stressed the need to apply results-based budgeting in accordance with relevant resolutions and the financial rules and regulations. While appreciating the efforts of the JIU to formulate its recommendations, his delegation stressed the need for those recommendations to be clearer and more practical. If ambiguous, recommendations could be overlooked. That meant that there was a chance that the Assembly would disregard and forget the recommendations, merely taking note of the report without benefiting from its contents.
BOUBACAR TANKOANO (Niger) sought some clarifications in connection with the inspectors’ results-budgeting recommendations in the second part of the report, in particular as far as coordination regarding strategic documents on poverty reduction was concerned. He wanted to get some information regarding a coherent and coordinated strategy on poverty alleviation.
MS. AFIFI (Morocco) said nobody could deny the importance of results-based budgeting. At the same time, referring to numerous paragraphs of the report, she wanted to know if the field had been adequately prepared for the implementation of the new management mechanism. Had adequate training been provided to the staff involved? Were Member States educated regarding the changes taking place?
Ms. BERTRAND, responding to questions, said results-based budgeting was a wide-ranging matter. The governments that had introduced the results approach methodology at the beginning of the 1990s were constantly improving the system. Adaptation was part and parcel of the methodology itself. The approach demanded review. Programme managers were convinced that results-based budgeting was a good thing. When the methodology had been introduced at the United Nations, there had been too little study on national techniques in adapting results-based budgeting. The Secretary-General had said that the results approach was a process of learning by doing. She hoped to go into greater detail on the matter during informal consultations.
Mr. TANKOANO (Niger) asked whether the inspector could provide information on the content of the strategy for the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper or PRSP.
JERRY KRAMER (Canada) asked if Mr. Fareed’s statement could be made available to the Committee.
Ms. AFIFI (Morocco) asked if all the official statements made today could be circulated.
Ms. BERTRAND said that while she did not have statement, a transcript could be prepared. She had focused on part one of the report. In the context of a report prepared on one of the Millennium Goals, primary education for all, she regretted the multiplicity of “strategies” and plans that governments were asked to assume. The objective was to help countries to achieve goals. All obstacles should be considered in view of a country’s capacity and ownership.
Action on the Draft
The Committee Chairman, MURARI RAJ SHARMA (Nepal) reminded delegates that working in informal consultations, the Committee had elaborated a draft resolution on the pattern of conferences during the period from 18 to 27 February, prior to the beginning of the resumed session.
Introducing the text, coordinator of informal consultations, GERARD HO (Singapore) drew the Committee’s attention to technical changes in the text. In particular, paragraph 12 of part B should read: “… to ensure that the structural and name changes of the Department will be consistent with the existing mandates, inter alia, the medium-term plan, as well as ensuring the implementation of these mandates, and not lead to any involuntary personnel departures, and that they should improve and not negatively affect the quality and timeliness of technical support services being provided to intergovernmental bodies and not negatively affect the quantity of production and distribution of documents in hard copies, as requested by Member States.”
Morocco’s representative (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China) expressed her gratitude to the Group’s partners in the Fifth Committee for their constructive cooperation and understanding during the work on the text. On paragraph 30 of part III of the draft, which reiterated paragraph 20 of resolution 54/249, she said the Group had agreed to it on the understanding that the proposed budget for 2004-2005 would include the resources for the issuance of the volume of the programme budget in its final form, incorporating the amendments to the proposed programme budget adopted by the Assembly.
The representative of Syria also reiterated his understanding that paragraph 30, which reiterated paragraph 20 of resolution 54/249 meant that necessary financial resources for the implementation of the paragraph mentioned would be adopted after the amendments had been made by the Assembly. Necessary financial resources should be included in the budget submitted to the Assembly for 2004-2005.
Cuba’s representative recalled that in informal consultations, her delegation had requested clarification regarding the situation concerning page limits of communications with Member States. Her understanding was that no limits would be applied, and she expected clarifications from the Secretariat before acting on the text.
The United States representative congratulated the coordinator on the successful conclusion of intense negotiations on the text. Regarding paragraph
30 of Part III of the draft, he also agreed that resources needed to be included in the budget to implement paragraph 20 of resolution 54/249. A good compromise had been reached during the fifty-fourth session of the Assembly, and the practice of the Secretariat had been very effective in providing Member States with the information needed regarding the approved budget. That practice should be continued, and the resources should be provided for that.
The representative of Greece (on behalf of the European Union) thanked the coordinator and the Secretariat, saying that her delegation was in a position to act on the text without a vote. Regarding paragraph 30, she said she could adopt it with the rest of the resolution. She was ready to examine the proposals of the Secretary-General on how to address the issue in the context of the proposed budget.
VIVIAN LEWIS, Chief and Secretary of the Inter-Agency Meeting on Language Arrangements, Documentation and Publications of the Department of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services, confirmed that the existing guidelines for the documents were strict regarding the length of reports originating from the Secretariat, but open as far as communications from Member States were concerned. Nothing in the existing rules specified the length of such documents.
The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.
The representative of Mexico, speaking on behalf of Spanish-speaking delegations, said that there had been an increase in the number of contacts between Spanish-speaking countries and the Secretariat. Consultations with the Secretariat had been open and had produced tangible results. Consultations with the chiefs of the translation and interpretation services were of particular importance as they had allowed Spanish-speaking delegations to ascertain their commitment and professionalism. The Spanish-speaking countries now had a better understanding of those providing services. He expressed gratitude for Mr. Ho’s leadership during consultations on the matter. Spanish-speaking delegations also conveyed their appreciation to all delegations that had supported their cause.
The representative of Botswana, speaking on behalf of the African Group, also congratulated Mr. Ho for successful coordination of the item. Regarding paragraphs 3 to 11 of section 2 of the draft, there was clear indication that the number of events at Nairobi had increased significantly, which was a positive development. He stressed the need to meet the repeated request for the report on the improvement of the conference services at the Nairobi facility. The Secretariat must ensure adherence to the practice of providing written reports on the utilization of conference services. He also stressed the need to adhere by the Headquarters rule.
Cuba’s representative thanked the Coordinator for his efforts during several months of negotiation. One of the most important merits of the draft resolution was that it recognized the role of the General Assembly in the consideration and adoption of reform measures in the administrative and budgetary spheres.
Regarding section 2, paragraph 13 of the draft, she hoped that the methodology on services provided to various regional groups would be presented, and that it would include sources used for the provision of statistics. She also hoped that the report on the cost implications of providing conference services to regional groups would be submitted at the second resumed session so it could be included in the framework of the next programme budget.
On the reform of the Department, she said that operational paragraph 3 did not authorize the proposed change of integrating the Fifth and Sixth Committees into Conference Services. That paragraph remitted further consideration of the issue in the context of the budget. Such a decision must not take place without a prior decision of the Assembly. In the case of paragraph 12, she trusted that reform measures would lead to improvement of conferences services to Member States. Paragraph 13 did not adopt additional restrictions on meetings. In the case of paragraph 17 on verbatim records, she hoped measures would improve the situation regarding delays. On the issue of time limits, Cuba was grateful that there had been no changes based on existing mandates. Those guidelines must be made known to all officials dealing with the issue.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the Committee paid a special tribute to its Secretary since 1992, Joseph Acakpo-Satchivi, on the occasion of his retirement. The representatives of Morocco (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), Greece (on behalf of the European Union), Botswana (on behalf of the African States), Lao People’s Democratic Republic (on behalf of the Asian States), Bosnia and Herzegovina (on behalf of the Eastern European States), Bahamas (on behalf of the Latin America and Caribbean Group), United States, Benin, New Zealand (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand), Uganda, Mexico, Gabon, Venezuela and Syria expressed their appreciation to Mr. Acakpo-Satchivi. Joining them were Mr. Mselle and the United Nations Controller, J.P. Halbwachs. Mr. Acakpo-Satchivi made a statement in response.
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