Budget Committee Takes Up Agenda Items on Programme Planning, Pattern of Conferences, Including Proposed Strategic Framework for Biennium 2012-2013

7 October 2010
GA/AB/3958

Budget Committee Takes Up Agenda Items on Programme Planning, Pattern of Conferences, Including Proposed Strategic Framework for Biennium 2012-2013

7 October 2010
General Assembly
GA/AB/3958
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fifth General Assembly

Fifth Committee

4th Meeting (AM)

Budget Committee Takes Up Agenda Items on Programme Planning, Pattern of Conferences

Including Proposed Strategic Framework for Biennium 2012-2013

 

Hears Introduction of Reports on Committee for Programme and Coordination,

Committee on Conferences, Programme Performance 2008-2009, Pattern of Conferences

As it took a look ahead at the Organization’s objectives for the years 2012 and 2013, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today praised the strategic plan shaped by Secretariat officials, while affirming the General Assembly’s key role in setting the priorities.

The Committee used its third formal meeting to kick off a discussion on programme planning after reviewing a massive two-part document, “Proposed strategic framework for the period 2012-2013”, prepared by Secretariat officials.  Part One of the document aims to ensure that the Assembly’s legislative mandates are properly translated into programmes and subprogrammes.  Part Two consists of multiple documents that outlined a specific plan for each of 27 programmes for the 2012-2013 period.  Programme 6, for example, focuses on legal affairs, programme 4 on peacekeeping operations, and programme 17 on economic and social development in Latin America and the Caribbean.  The documents also serve as tools for the Secretariat and Fifth Committee during their budget preparation process.

The Committee also heard the introduction of the report of the Committee for Programme and Coordination, which recommends that the Assembly approve the eight priorities for the biennium enveloped in the plan outline.  The Committee is the main subsidiary organ of the Economic and Social Council and the Assembly for planning, programming and coordination.

The representative of Yemen, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said the Committee for Programme and Coordination’s work formed the core of the Assembly’s capacity to provide oversight in these key areas.  While welcoming the Committee’s guidance on the proposed strategic framework for the period 2012-2013, the Group stressed that setting the Organization’s priorities was the sole prerogative of Member States.  The Group endorsed the conclusions and recommendations adopted by the Committee regarding the framework, which included an important set of amendments made to bring it in line with the adopted intergovernmental mandates.  He emphasized that the various entities of the Secretariat had to strictly adhere to the regulations and rules.

Supporting the Group’s stance, the representative of Cuba said programme planning was essential for the Organization’s smooth functioning, as it ensured that mandates for intergovernmental bodies were translated into concrete activities.  It was essential that Secretariat entities followed the rules and procedures on planning and evaluation methods.  He cited the importance of paragraphs 4.8 and 4.9 in the rules of procedure and said the fiftieth session had drawn attention to those points.

The representative of Iran noted that the Committee for Programme and Coordination, for the first time since 2000, had successfully completed the consideration of all 27 programmes and made very important recommendations that managers could use as guidance and to make adjustments.  He also urged the Secretary-General, in his capacity as the Chairman of the Chief Executives Board, to encourage more frequent and substantive dialogue between the Board and Member States, in order to enhance the Board’s transparency and accountability.

As part of the pattern of conferences agenda item, delegates also discussed their concerns about ongoing trends across the Organization in such areas as the use of conference facilities, the timely preparation of documents, and the use of translators and interpretation services.

Several delegates were concerned that the use of conference facilities in Nairobi had dropped to 90 per cent in 2009, down from 100 per cent in 2008, while the use of the conference centre at the Economic Commission for Africa had stagnated at 76 per cent.  The representative of Senegal, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said United Nations officials had to use more proactive and innovative marketing activities to generate greater use of the Commission’s facility.

The high vacancy rate in the language services division at the Untied Nations office in Nairobi was also a concern. The representative of Kenya urged the conference division in Nairobi to keep working to fill current and future vacancies.  She also urged the Secretariat to develop partnerships with universities to help curb the Organization’s high vacancy rate in languages services, particularly in Nairobi.  Several delegates expressed concern that any use of external translators or interpreters not sacrifice the quality of services.

The timely submission of documents was another issue that captured the delegates’ attention.  The representative of Pakistan said the Fifth Committee’s programme of work and the quality of deliberations was impacted by the late submission of documents.  Unfortunately, the 90 per cent compliance target for submission before the deadline was not being met.

Also speaking today on programme planning were Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), Viet Nam and Belarus.

Regarding the topic of programme planning, Vladimir Pavlovich (Belarus), the chair of the fiftieth session of the Committee for Programme and Coordination, introduced the Committee’s Report; Jun Yamazaki introduced the report of the Secretary-General on the Proposed Strategic Framework for the biennium 2012-2013, Part I and Part II; and Mario Baez, Chief of Policy and Oversight Coordination Service in the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management, introduced the Report of the Secretary-General on programme performance.

Regarding the pattern of conferences, Claudia Corti (Argentina) introduced the Report of the Committee on Conferences; Shaaban M. Shaaban, Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management, introduced the Report of the Secretary-General on the pattern of conferences; and Collen V. Kelapile, Vice-Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, introduced the Committee’s related report on the pattern of conferences.

Also speaking on the pattern of conferences were the representatives of Yemen (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), Cuba, Ethiopia, and Mexico.

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) will reconvene at 10 a.m. Friday, 8 October, to resume debate on the review of the Organization’s efficiency, and begin discussion on the report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).

Background

The Fifth Committee had before it a report of the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC) (document A/65/16), issued after the CPC held its substantive session from 7 June to 2 July 2010.  The CPC is the main subsidiary organ of the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly for planning, programming and coordination.  It is involved with regulations and rules governing programme planning, the programme aspects of the budget, the monitoring of implementation and the methods of evaluation.

In a set of conclusions and recommendations starting on page 6 of their report, the CPC recommends that the Assembly approve the eight priorities for the 2012-2013 period that were contained in paragraph 47 of the plan outline, which is document A/65/6 (Part One).  It also recommends that the Assembly ask the Secretary-General to fully implement Assembly resolution 64/259, “Towards an accountability system in the United Nations Secretariat”.  This would let the Organization achieve its objectives and high-quality results in a timely and cost-effective manner while fully implementing all mandates given to the Secretariat, as approved by the United Nations intergovernmental bodies and other subsidiary organs.

The CPC identified the following areas of concern regarding Part One of the plan outline:  Insufficient action- and results-based objectives; insufficient reflection on the ongoing managerial reform processes in the Organization, including in procurement, human resources and the accountability framework; poverty eradication had not been addressed as a main objective, but rather limited to one of the Millennium Development Goals; the Committee on World Food Security of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) had not been recognized as the main organ dealing with the food security issue; the intention to operationalize the concept of the “responsibility to protect” despite the fact that it was still under consideration by the General Assembly; the food and energy crises were not adequately reflected; the respective roles and responsibilities of the Secretariat, including personal accountability at all levels with respect to Member States, were not clear; and the intention to incorporate new principles, such as “the principle of collective responsibility” was not part of the intergovernmental agreement.

Regarding the programme planning issue, the Fifth Committee also had before it the Proposed strategic framework for the period 2012-2013, Part One:  plan outline (document A/65/6 (Part One) and (Part II:  Progs. 1-27)).  Pursuant to Assembly resolutions 58/269, 59/275, 61/235, 62/224, 63/247 and 64/229, the Secretary-General has prepared this biennial strategic framework to replace a four-year medium-term plan.

The document compromises two parts.  Part One is a plan outline reflecting the longer-term objectives of the Organization for the period 2012-2013 and aims to translate legislative mandates intro programmes and subprogrammes.  Part II:  Progs. 1-27 is a multidocument biennial programme plan for 27 programmes for the period 2012-2013.  Each programme corresponds to the work carried out by an organizational entity, usually at the departmental level, and is then divided into subprogrammes.

The report says that for the periods 1998-2001, 2002-2005, 2006-2007, 2008-2009 and 2010-2011, the Assembly identified eight priority areas, which covered most of the substantive activities of the Organization.  As the conditions that led to those priorities persist, the Assembly may wish to consider reaffirming or amending, as appropriate, the following priorities for the 2012-2013 period.

These areas are:  promotion of sustained economic growth and sustainable development in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the Assembly and recent United Nations conferences; maintenance of international peace and security; development of Africa; promotion of human rights; effective coordination of humanitarian assistance efforts; promotion of justice and international law; disarmament; and drug control, crime prevention and combating international terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

The presentation of each programme of the biennial plan in Part II includes:  the overall orientation, reflecting the raison d’être of the programme as a whole, changes as a result of the programme’s intervention and expected benefits for its end-users; the subprogrammes; and a list of legislative mandates.

Each subprogramme follows results-based-budgeting concepts with respect to the use of the logical framework and reflects the following elements:  the objective of the Organization; the expected accomplishments of the Secretariat; and the indicators of achievement.  All of these elements will form the basis of the forthcoming programme budget.  Each subprogramme includes the strategy to be employed for attaining the expected accomplishments.

The final report before the Committee on this issue was a Report of the Secretary-General, Programme performance report of the United Nations for the biennium 2008-2009 (document A/65/70).  The report on programme performance is an important accountability and management tool in the Organization’s results-based budgeting approach, which follows a recurrent cycle that includes planning, budgeting, programme implementation, monitoring and reporting.

The present report closes the cycle and summarizes the major achievements of the Organization achieved during the biennium 2008-2009, as well as the outputs delivered during the implementation of the work programme.  These outputs are the traditional measure of performance.

The report includes a detailed recounting of the results obtained by each individual budget section in a total of 7,121 expected accomplishments implemented under the 34 sections of the programme budget.  Additionally, highlights of the main results achieved by the Organization in its 10-programme elements have been included in chapter II in order to give Member States a chance to assess the Secretariat’s performance at a more aggregate level.

The analysis of programme performance in regard to the outputs, as detailed in chapter III, shows that the production of outputs was maintained at the same level of the previous biennium, when it reached 89 per cent.  This refers to the more than 32,100 outputs that were implemented by the Organization during the current biennium.  The highlights of the performance of the different budget sections, at the programme and subprogramme levels, are presented in chapter IV.  This chapter also includes information on some of the challenges and obstacles met by the departments in this endeavour.  The presentation of results is more complete than in the previous biennium, since the report includes more detailed information on section 22, the regular programme of technical cooperation.

A recent report of the Secretary-General, “Towards an accountability system in the United Nations Secretariat” (A/64/640), identified three systemic weaknesses that should be addressed to strengthen the quality of performance reporting in the Secretariat.  These are the creation of logical frameworks; improved timing of the issuance of the programme performance reports; and the current management information system’s lack of capacity to link results achieved to the resources used.  The Organization will keep working with Member States to correct these weaknesses since a strong performance reporting system is crucial to a more effective and accountable United Nations.

On the issue of the Pattern of Conference, the Committee had before it the Report of the Committee on Conferences for 2010 (document A/65/32).  The report covers a range of topics that relate to conference management and refers to information and solutions provided in the Report of the Secretary-General on the Pattern of Conferences (document A/65/122).

Referring to the Secretary-General’s report at the opening of its substantive session, the Committee noted that the Department needed clarity regarding dates, duration and specific needs of conferences so that the resulting implications, including budget, could be presented to Member States.

In consideration of the section of the report on utilization of conference resources, it was noted that the overall utilization factor for all four duty stations in 2009 was 86 per cent.  Regarding meeting demand for interpretation services, meetings of “as required” bodies in New York showed an increase to 95 per cent in 2009 and 98 per cent for the period 1 January to 31 May 2010.  Geneva reported 95 per cent.

Due to the relocation of meetings to the North Lawn Building following the implementation of the Capital Master Plan at Headquarters, it was noted that the Department continued to face limitations in accommodating meetings with large numbers of participants owing to reduced capacity.

On the topic of integrated global management, the Committee noted that intensive joint efforts of the four duty stations had produced concrete findings and recommendations covering all main conference management areas, including costing models.  In particular, the data warehouse (“project 1”) was now functional and yielding useful management information.  “Project 2”, a state-of-the-art meetings management system known as e-Meets 2.0, had been piloted in Vienna and was launched in New York on 16 August 2010.  The interpreters’ assignment program (e-APG module) was fully functional across all duty stations.  It was noted that for “project 3” concerning documents management, a global evaluation team from the four duty stations had reviewed existing processes and provided a cost-analysis report.  Progress in the implementation of integrated global management, while significant, had remained slow.  Several delegations noted that the voluntary nature of the initiative and the lack of clarity regarding accountability and authority was a recurring theme in this regard.

Concerning matters related to documentation and the internal printing of parliamentary documents, the Committee noted that significant progress had been made on the timely submission and issuance of documents in New York.  Based on this success, it was decided to formally implement proactive documents management, namely the slotting system, at all four duty stations.  It was suggested that a system of alerts to signal the late status of any slotted documents would further expedite this process.  The Committee was informed that a pilot project to slot untimely documents submitted to the Security Council had just begun.  Lastly, the Committee agreed to change the method used to determine the length of documents from page count to word count.

As regarded language translation, the Department was facing an acute demographic transition expected to take place in the next five years.  In response, the Department was outreaching to universities and streamlining competitive examinations for language services, but would need further resources to continue.

Further, there was a real challenge in obtaining interpretation services at short notice and duty stations lacked an effective roster management system.  A representative from the Secretariat stated that a recently designed outreach portal on language career opportunities at the United Nations and memorandums of understanding signed with universities would the improve visibility of examinations.  The representative also noted that as regarded the streamlining of competitive examinations, a consultant had been hired to make specific recommendations, and a panel of experts had been established to take action on them.  Quality control of contractual translation was performed by senior revisers at the P-5 level.

On the conference issue, the Committee also had before it the Report of the Secretary-General on the Pattern of Conferences (document A/65/122) that responds to requests made by the General Assembly for information and progress related to conference management and proposes solutions based on its findings.  These solutions are outlined below.

In response to under-utilization of conference resources, it was proposed that intergovernmental bodies plan and adjust their program of work based on the actual utilization of conference-servicing resources.  In regards to the impact of the Capital Master Plan on meetings held at Headquarters, it was suggested to re-emphasize the need to ensure that all measures are taken for the full and uninterrupted provision of quality conference services.

As pertained to integrated global management, it was proposed to request the Secretary-General to review the current structure of conference management across the four duty stations and submit proposals at its sixty-sixth session.

In matters related to documentation and publication, it was suggested to urge intergovernmental bodies to ensure the timely submission of their documents, measure the length of documents by their word count rather than by their number of pages, and endorse the maximum length of 10,700 words for intergovernmental reports.  As pertained to the shortage of translators and interpreters, it was suggested that the Department raise or waive the mandatory age of separation for language staff.

Lastly on the conference issue, the Committee had before it the Pattern of Conferences Report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) (document A/65/484) that takes into account the report of the Secretary-General on the pattern of conferences (A/65/122) and the draft report of the Committee on Conferences for 2010, and includes the text of a draft resolution.

Concerning the Secretary-General’s recommendations in his report on the pattern of conference, the ACABQ was generally in concurrence, with a few notations and elaborations.  On the provision of interpretation services, the Committee notes that in 2009, no requests for meetings with interpretation services were met — or indeed made — in either Vienna or Nairobi because the concerned groups were aware that all available capacity was being used for mandated meetings.  Concerning the performance matrix of 2009, the Committee is of the view that statistical data on language services should include a quantitative analysis focusing on the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the Department’s operations.

Regarding translation and interpretation, the Committee suggests that any concrete action taken in response to the consultant engaged on this issue should be included in the Secretary-General’s next report on the pattern of conferences.  In response to the demographic transition noted by the Department, the Committee states the General Assembly may wish to request the Secretary-General to explore the possibility of raising the 125-day threshold for employment of retired staff as a temporary measure, including financial and/or administrative implications.  In relation to quality control of contractual translation, the Committee states that those contractors whose work systematically fails to meet the required standards should be removed from the common roster.

Introduction of reports

VLADIMIR PAVLOVICH (Belarus), Chair of the Fiftieth session of the Committee for Programme and Coordination, introduced the Committee’s report (document A/65/16), held from 7 June to 2 July.  Regarding the United Nations programme performance for the 2008-2009 biennium, the Committee recommended that the General Assembly request the Secretary-General to continue efforts to improve the programme performance report and, in that regard, urged more clarity about the implementation rate, as well as reasons for addition, postponement and termination of outputs.  The Committee also examined the proposed strategic framework for the 2012-2013 period, he said, which comprised two parts:  a plan outline and a biennial programme plan.  For the first time since its forty-second session (June/July 2002), the Committee had made substantive recommendations on all 27 Programmes presented to it.

Regarding Part One, the Committee recommended that the Assembly approve the eight priorities for that period and, among others, request the Secretary-General to fully implement resolution 64/259 (2010), entitled “Towards an accountability system in the United Nations Secretariat”.  The Committee further identified areas of concern regarding the plan outline for the proposed strategic framework, he said, including insufficient action– and results-based objectives; insufficient reflection on ongoing managerial reform in the Organization — notably in procurement and human resources; the fact that poverty eradication had not been addressed as a main objective; and the intention to operationalize the concept of the “responsibility to protect”, despite the fact that it was still under the Assembly’s consideration.

In the area of evaluation, the Committee made recommendations on the report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) on the triennial review of the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations made at its forty-seventh session, he said, which included that the Assembly request the Secretary-General to take measures to address imbalance in geographic representation and gender parity in the Department of Political Affairs. On the question of Coordination, the Committee made recommendations relating to the annual overview report of the United Nations Chief Executives Board for Coordination for 2009/10, among them, that the Assembly bring to the attention of the Secretary-General, in his capacity of Chair of the Board, the need for the Board to act in accordance with its mandate of enhancing system-wide coordination.

As for support for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), he said the Committee urged the Secretary-General to urgently fill the post of Under-Secretary-General in charge of the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, and that the Assembly request the Secretary-General to report the outcome during the first resumed part of its sixty-fifth session.

JUN YAMAZAKI, Assistant Secretary-General and Controller, introduced the proposed Strategic Framework for the period 2012-2013, saying that, in the formulation of the report, efforts had been made to comply with resolutions 62/224 (2007) and 63/247 (2009), which called for improving the format of Part One of the Framework and reflecting on the longer-term objectives contained therein.  Recalling that the proposed Framework was among the fundamental instruments guiding the United Nations’ work, he said Part One, which comprised the Plan Outline, highlighted longer-term objectives, while Part Two — the Biennial Programme — covered 27 programmes.

In formulating the longer-term objectives, the Secretary-General had drawn on guidance from Member States as to the priorities of the United Nations.  “There is widespread agreement that this should be a year in which we renew our focus on sustainable development and ensure an inclusive recovery from the economic crisis”, he said.  Climate change was another critical determining factor in development work, as the first year covered by the Framework coincided with the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, as were the special needs of least developed countries, and implementation of the plan agreed at the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review conference.  Finally, he said realizing the Framework’s vision depended on ensuring the United Nations’ effective functioning through progress in implementing the Enterprise Resource Planning Project, Umoja, and International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS).

Noting that his office would continue to ensure that programmes were updated to reflect the impact of intergovernmental decisions taken subsequent to the preparation of the Framework, he said that it also was important to note that the report had been subjected to intergovernmental review by the relevant sectoral, functional and regional bodies.  In several cases, those reviews took place prior to the Framework’s finalization and the outcomes had been incorporated in the present proposals.  In other instances, intergovernmental review occurred after the finalization of initial proposals was provided to the Committee when it reviewed the Framework in July.

MARIO BAEZ, Chief of Policy Oversight Coordination Service in the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on the programme performance of the United Nations biennium 2008-2009.  This report was the sixteenth biennial programme performance report since its first preparation in 1980 for the 1978-79 biennium.  It contains information on the production of outputs, the traditional measure of performance, and provides an overall account of the results obtained by the Organization during the 2088-2009 biennium period.

He said that, of the 31 sections reporting quantifiable outputs, 18 achieved total implementation of rates of 90 per cent or higher, compared to 23 in the previous biennium, and 10 reached implementation rates between 80 and 89 per cent, compared to five in the previous biennium.  Disarmament, Safety and Security, and the office of Human Resources Management had implementation rates of less than 80 per cent, at 71 per cent, 71 per cent and 68 per cent, respectively.  The analysis shows that the Organization achieved significant results during the biennium.

He noted that the Committee for Programme and Coordination had recommended, among others, at its forth-eighth session, that all programme managers be held accountable for the achievement of results, and progress towards fulfilling the commitments made in the programme budget should be documented, by including the related management responsibilities in the performance appraisal process.

As of January 2010, the terms of reference of the Management Performance Board, which is the highest level committee that advises the Secretary-General on performance-related issues, were modified to consider the senior managers compacts and the Programmer Performance Report.  The reinforcement of the link between these two instruments would produce a better managed and more accountable United Nations, he said.

WALEED AL-SHAHARI (Yemen), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said the work of the Committee for Programme and Coordination provided the core of the Assembly’s capacity to provide oversight in those key areas and was an excellent basis for considering relevant issues in the Fifth Committee.  While welcoming the guidance provided by the Committee on the proposed strategic framework for the period 2012-2013, the Group stressed that setting the Organization’s priorities were the sole prerogative of Member States.  The Group endorsed the conclusions and recommendations adopted by the Committee regarding the framework, which included an important set of amendments made, to bring it in line with the adopted intergovernmental mandates.

The Group emphasized that the various entities of the Secretariat had to strictly adhere to the regulations and rules governing programme planning, the programme aspects of the budget, the monitoring of implementation and the methods of evaluation.  The disconnection and inconsistencies between the adopted legislative mandates and some of the proposals made on the strategic framework had created conditions for long debates and talks over concepts and approaches that were far from enjoying consensus among Member States.  Some were still under discussion by relevant intergovernmental bodies, he noted.  The results of the Committee report were now a balanced reflection of legislative mandates.

While strongly believing that the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) should play an important role in enhancing the Organization’s effectiveness, the Group urged the Secretary-General, in his capacity as CEB Chairman, to enhance the Board’s transparency and accountability to Member States.  As the Committee for Programme and Coordination recommended, the Board needed to act in accordance with its mandate.  The Group welcomed the cooperation between the CEB, the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC), and the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU).

The Group welcomed the Organization’s support of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the recent establishment of the United Nations office in Addis Ababa, which should help implement the Organization mandates meant to support the region, he said.  The Group expected urgent action to fill the vacant post of Under-Secretary-General in charge of the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa.

JAN DE PRETER (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Committee for Programme and Coordination had succeeded in organizing open and pragmatic discussions on its action and the role it could play in the United Nations system.  Welcoming the Committee’s implementation of measures approved at its fiftieth session, he said such implementation should help it carry out its mandate to provide guidelines for the budget planning process, with regard to priorities set by the General Assembly.  Moreover, it would ensure the coordination needed to prevent duplication.  The Secretariat’s assistance was invaluable for the implementation of the Committee’s work and, bearing that in mind, the Union was ready to discuss such questions further with others in an open and constructive manner.

JORGE CUMBERBATCH (Cuba), supporting the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said programme planning was essential for the Organization’s functioning, as it ensured that mandates for intergovernmental bodies, among others, were translated into concrete activities.  It was fundamental that Secretariat entities adhered to rules and procedures on planning and evaluation methods.  Citing the importance of paragraphs 4.8 and 4.9 in the rules of procedure, he said the fiftieth session of the Committee for Programme and Coordination had drawn attention to those points.

It appeared that the Human Rights Council was not the intergovernmental body to which the Office of the High Commissioner should submit the Strategic Framework before it was submitted to the Committee, he said.  The Rules of Procedure were clear and not open to biased interpretations.  The Office of the High Commissioner must comply with that, as must other United Nations entities.  The Secretariat must formulate frameworks in line with relevant mandates.  The Committee had been marked by the insistence of some to promote concepts that did not enjoy consensus or on which there was still deliberation.

Finally, he said the fiftieth session had analysed the oversight of the Secretariat’s work and he had been struck by the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination’s tendency to work in a spirit of almost total autonomy, ignoring intergovernmental mandates.  He called for paying attention to the recommendations of the Joint Inspection Unit, regarding the selection and conditions of service of the Chiefs of organizations within the United Nations system.  He awaited comments from the Secretariat on one of the Unit’s documents relating to the role of Special Representatives of the Secretary-General and Resident Coordinators.  The results of the session reaffirmed the relevance of the Committee’s conclusions, which Cuba endorsed in their entirety.  Cuba was prepared to achieve a draft resolution on such matters.

JAVAD SAFAEI (Iran), associating himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said the work of the Committee on Programs and Coordination formed the core of the Assembly’s capacity to provide oversight in the key area of programme planning.  The Committee also provided Member States with assurances that the United Nations objectives had been carefully derived from priorities and goals set by them.  He noted that the detailed evaluation carried out by the CPC was an important element in ensuring the effective implementation of mandates, adding that his delegation strongly endorsed the recommendations contained in the Committee for Programme and Coordination reports.

For the first time since 2000 and following extensive negotiations, the Committee for Programme and Coordination had successfully completed the consideration of all 27 programmes, making very important recommendations for adjustments and providing guidance on programmatic aspects.  In that context, the Committee performed a fundamental role in programme design by ensuring that the Secretariat accurately interpreted and translated all legislative mandates into programmes and subprogrammes.  He congratulated the Committee for completing its revision of the proposed biennial programme plan for the period 2012-2013, saying that it would facilitate the budget preparation process given that it was based on consensus.  In closing, he urged the Secretary-General, in his capacity as the Chairman of the Chief Executives Board, to encourage more frequent and substantive dialogue between the Board and Member States, in order to enhance the Board’s transparency and accountability.

NGU YEN (Viet Nam), associating with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, attached great importance to the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC) in its capacity as a major subsidiary organ of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council. Indeed, it was crucial for the United Nations’ smooth functioning and its guidance to United Nations entities on their programmes and activities helped improve system-wide coherence and the accountability of all involved. Endorsing the Committee’s recommendations, he agreed that more coordination was needed within the Secretariat to improve the formulation of its expected accomplishments.

Evaluation was also crucial for the Organization’s functioning and he agreed with the recommendation that each programme manager should improve the qualitative aspects of indicators of achievement, to enable better evaluation of programme results. Also legitimate were recommendations that the Chief Executives Board do more to enhance system-wide coordination. There was vast space for coordinating bodies to improve their effectiveness in programme delivery, among other areas. He expressed hope that the Committee’s recommendations would enjoy adequate attention from all coordinating bodies, especially the Chief Executives Board, to minimize the risk of failure in meeting coordination goals.

Mr. NGUYEN (Viet Nam), associating with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, attached great importance to the Committee for Programme and Coordination in its capacity as a major subsidiary organ of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council.  Indeed, it was crucial for the United Nations smooth functioning and its guidance to United Nations entities on their programmes and activities helped improve system-wide coherence and the accountability of all involved.  Endorsing the Committee’s recommendations, he agreed that more coordination was needed within the Secretariat to improve the formulation of its expected accomplishments.

Evaluation was also crucial for the Organization’s functioning and he agreed with the recommendation that each programme manager should improve the qualitative aspects of indicators of achievement, to enable better evaluation of programme results.  Also legitimate were recommendations that the Chief Executives Board do more to enhance system-wide coordination.  There was vast space for coordinating bodies to improve their effectiveness in programme delivery, among other areas. He expressed hope that the Committee’s recommendations would enjoy adequate attention from all coordinating bodies, especially the Chief Executives Board, to minimize the risk of failure in meeting coordination goals.

VLADIMIR PAVLOVICH (Belarus) said his country was pleased with the outcomes of the Committee for Programme and Coordination and the measures adopted for 2011-2013, which would be the leading legislative document of the United Nations.  It would help assess the implementation of its programmes.  Belarus supported the Committee and maintaining its mandate.  Belarus was prepared to work with the body during its upcoming sessions.

Introduction of Reports on Pattern of Conferences

CLAUDIA CORTI, Chair of the Committee on Conferences, introduced the report of the Committee, which describes its work during its 2010 substantive session, and introduced a draft resolution, contained in Annex I, and the draft revised calendar of conferences and meetings for 2011, contained in Annex II.  They were recommended for adoption by the Assembly.

She said the overall utilization factor for all four duty stations in 2009 was 86 per cent, up slightly from 85 per cent in 2008, and meeting cancellations remained high in New York, compared with other duty stations.  The draft resolution urged intergovernmental bodies to review their meeting entitlements and adjust their programmes of work, based on their actual use of conference-servicing resources, in order to improve the efficient use of conference services.

Regarding meeting demand for interpretation services, she said the percentage of meetings held by regional and other major groupings of Member States that were provided with interpretation services at the four main duty station was 79 per cent in 2009, up slightly from 77 per cent in 2008.

Due to the relocation of meetings to the North Lawn Building after the implementation of the Capital Master Plan at Headquarters, the conference management department had faced limitations in accommodating meetings with large numbers of participants, as well as ad hoc meetings that were not related to core activities, she said.  Regarding the availability of documentation, the Committee learned that the limited storage space in the North Lawn Building meant that the conference management department had moved forward with electronic processing of documents and printing on demand.  This tied in with its efforts to move towards the full electronic processing of documents.  Though still available, printed documents might take slightly longer to be delivered because of the lack of storage space. Guarantees had been given that there was no intention to stop producing hard copies as Member States had different access to technology, she said.

The Committee had noted the progress made in the global information technology project, which aimed to integrate information technology into meetings management and documentation-processing systems across duty stations.  She said the Committee had been informed that all four duty stations had made efforts to increase the share of translation done contractually, without sacrificing the quality of the documents processed.  The draft resolution requested the Secretary-General to increase the proportion of translation completed contractually with a view to achieving, among others, further efficiencies where the mode of delivery yielded a final product that was of comparable quality to in-house translation.

SHAABAN M. SHAABAN, Undersecretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management, said that over the last two weeks his Department had met the challenge of an unprecedented number of meetings, including three high-level meetings, the General Debate of the General Assembly, high-level meetings convened by the Secretary-General, a Security Council Summit, as well as over 1,186 bilateral meetings between Heads of State and Government and ministers.  Clarity regarding dates, duration and modalities was a major prerequisite for the Department to successfully carry out its mandate in an efficient and cost-efficient way.  Meeting cancellations also remained high in New York compared to other duty stations and in a few cases had disrupted the planning of interpretation services, he said.

Since meetings were relocated to the North Lawn Building in New York, reduced capacity in rooms had placed limitations on those with a large number of participants as well as ad hoc requests.  Last week there was a power failure, and backup systems were being tested to avoid such a situation in the future.  Different proposals were also being considered to overcome the serious logistical challenge of transporting documents from the Publishing Section, caused by ongoing construction, he said.  Nevertheless, proactive document management was showing good results and was being expanded, as New York had achieved a very high rate of timely issuance of parliamentary documents.  Also after much deliberation in the Committee for Programme and Coordination, the proposal to shift the measurement of the length of documents from page count to word count was supported.

All duty stations had expanded contractual translation to increase their workload without sacrificing quality, he said.  Despite inadequate financial and staff resources for external training, the Department made every effort to promote and maintain language-related services, with some outreach activities by language staff.  But, the temporary nature of the arrangement could not be sustained, nor could it deliver desired results, and he urged Member States to support the proposal to increase the Department’s budget for training and outreach.  In 2009, the four duty stations put the survey of conference services on an electronic platform, reducing printing and distribution costs and increasing the efficiency of data collection.

The Department had worked hard to improve and standardize methodologies and quality of data at all four duty stations, and would review recommendations towards the development of a global datawarehouse to support better informed managerial decisions as well as enhanced transparency and accountability.  The use of two new standardized information technology tools would also produce synchronized statistical reporting and allow information access between duty stations, he said. This year the Department set up a global team to evaluate existing document planning and processing systems at duty stations to examine how to reduce spending and become more efficient.  In closing, he said implicit in all the topics he was addressing was the dimension of “global management”, except for the Capital Master Plan in New York.  Certainly, there was a long way to go, but with the progress achieved so far and with the support of Member States, “we do look at its future development with great confidence”.

COLLEN V. KELAPILE, Vice-Chairman of the ACABQ, introduced the Committee’s report on the pattern of conferences (document A/65/484 and Corr.1), which covered issues related to the delivery of conference services.  The report’s Section II dealt with questions relating to meetings management, such as interpretation services and the ongoing impact of the Capital Master Plan on meetings held at Headquarters.  On that latter point, he re-emphasized the need to take all necessary measures to ensure the full and uninterrupted provision of quality services.

Observations and recommendations on integrated global management, contained in Section III, noted that the Secretary-General had indicated that the pace of implementation of integrated global management had been slow.  That was attributed to the fact that, to date, it had been premised on a fully voluntary and collaborative approach, and he proposed, as a remedial measure, revision of the organizational structure and hierarchical reporting lines within the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, so as to afford the Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management the required authority to fulfil Assembly mandates.

In Section IV, which contained recommendations and observations on documentation and publication, the Advisory Committee welcomed the introduction of slotting systems at the United Nations Office at Geneva and United Nations Office at Nairobi, as well as the intention to establish a global dynamic slotting system, he explained.  It also welcomed steps taken by the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management to deal with the additional workload arising from the activities of the Human Rights Council.  Regarding the late submission of documents, the Advisory Committee’s compliance with submission guidelines hinged on both the programme of work of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) and the timely receipt of reports originating elsewhere in the Secretariat.  It did not object to the Assembly confirming the shift to measuring document length by word, rather than page count, without prejudice to any of the six official languages.

Finally, he said that in Section V, which covered translation and interpretation matters, the Advisory Committee addressed the suggestion that, to ease the demographic transition affecting the language services, the General Assembly consider endorsing the proposal to raise or waive the mandatory age of separation for language staff.  It viewed such matters as a human resources policy question, which should not be addressed in the present context.  As a temporary measure, the Assembly might request the Secretary-General to increase the number of days that retired language staff were permitted to work.  Referring to contractual translation, he said any savings arising from the increased use of such modes of delivery must not come at the expense of quality.  Any contractors whose work systematically failed to meet standards should be removed from the common roster.

Speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 on the pattern of conferences, WALEED AL-SHAHARI ( Yemen) said the Group gave great importance to the effective delivery of quality conference services, particularly to support the work of the intergovernmental and expert bodies of the United Nations.  The use of conference services, documentation, translation and interpretation services, and the calendar of events were all critical to the Organization’s functioning.

Noting that the utilization rate at the four duty stations was up slightly in 2009 at 86 per cent, he said the utilization rate in Nairobi had dropped from 100 per cent in 2008 to 90 per cent in 2009 and the use of the conference centre at the Economic Commission for Africa remained at 76 per cent.  He was convinced that, with more innovative marketing, the Commission’s conference centre use could be boosted.

Turning to documents, he said the Group was encouraged by the progress made in increasing the timely submission of documents, which had reached 78 per cent during the first six months of 2010 for slotted, pre-session documents.  That was up from 71 per cent in 2008 and 75 per cent in 2009.  Regarding translation and interpretation, the Group would closely examine the Secretary-General’s proposal for a proactive succession planning programme in language services.  This would mean outreach to universities and the streamlining of the competitive examination for language services.

The Group strongly supported the work of United Nations interpreters, which allowed multilingual communication among Member States during meetings.  He was concerned that, in several occasions, some interpreters had expressed inappropriate comments on the statements made by Member States or by personalities, through the interpretation system.  The Group called on the Secretary-General to take all measures to avoid a repetition of these unfortunate episodes during meetings in the conference rooms.  And while contractual translation should save money, the quality should not be compromised and internal monitoring and control had to be provided to maintain the quality of the documents, he said.  The Group was very concerned that the duty station in Nairobi was the only main duty station that lacked revisers and interpreters at the P-5 level to perform this task.

The Group repeated its position that the accelerated implementation of the Capital Master Plan should not negatively impact on the quality and availability of conference services, or the equal treatment and working conditions of language services, in all six official languages.  Regarding the integrated global management initiative, he said its implementation had to comply with the relevant resolutions of the Assembly.

JAN DE PRETER ( Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union, appreciated the results achieved through the integrated global management project, but expressed concern at its slow implementation.  He supported a review of the current structure of conference management across the four duty stations, with the aim of achieving full implementation and the ensuing gains in efficiency and cost-effectiveness.  He further welcomed the Secretariat’s continued efforts to avoid late submission of documentation, including to the Fifth Committee, and asked the Secretary-General to continue his work in that regard.

Recalling that adequate conference facilities and the highest standards of language services were essential to the work of intergovernmental and expert bodies, he welcomed the Secretary-General’s steps to more effectively address that issue.  He also recognized progress achieved across duty stations in many areas of reform and noted the Committee on Conferences’ recommendations in that regard.  Finally, he said the Union relied on the Secretary-General to ensure that implementation of the Capital Master Plan conformed with the high quality of linguistic and conference services expected by Member States, and in that regard, noted that a series of technical difficulties disrupting translation services had occurred since the opening of the Assembly’s sixty-fifth session.

BABOU SENE (Senegal), speaking on behalf of the African Group and aligning with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, commended the quality of the Committee on Conferences’ work.  The draft resolution on the Pattern of Conferences submitted by the Committee provided a good basis for negotiations on the issue in the Committee.  The Group attached great importance to the issue of conference management, and welcomed the adoption of the draft revised Calendar of Conferences and Meeting for the United Nations for 2011 by the Committee on Conferences without amendments.  On the issue of utilization of conference services, he said the 86 per cent utilization realized across the four main duty stations in 2009 was an improvement over the rate of the previous year. 

He noted, however, that utilization at the United Nations Office at Nairobi for 2009 was at 90 per cent, down from 100 per cent in 2008, and that had been the result of a statistical reporting procedure rather than a reflection of underutilization.  In that regard, the Group stressed that Nairobi should be given equal treatment to avoid further discrepancies.  Noting with concern stagnating utilization rates at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), he said there was a need for more proactive and innovative marketing and called for the Secretary-General to consider improving the facilities there.  On the timely issuance of documents and the quality of documentation, he pointed out that no effort should be spared to sustain positive trends.  Moreover, the Group placed importance on achieving high standards of quality in translation and interpretation.  Concerning the outreach programme to recruit language staff, the Group regretted there was not a single university from Africa on the list of fourteen universities that had already signed Memorandums of Understanding with the United Nations.  He hoped appropriate action would be taken to remedy the situation.

Turning to the special challenges faced by the Nairobi Office, he said the Group was concerned that Nairobi was the only main duty station without interpreters and revisers at the P-5 level to monitor and control the quality of documentation processed externally.  Given that, he strongly supported the Secretary-General’s intention to remedy the situation in the context of the proposed budget for the next biennium.  Other issues of concern included a decline in the number of requests for interpretation at meetings from 2008 to 2009.  He noted that Vienna and Nairobi did not have available capacity, and therefore did not provide that service to such meetings.  In that regard, the Group would be working closely with other delegations to determine how to best tackle those challenges.

JORGE CUMBERBATCH (Cuba), supporting the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said decisions taken on conference services were essential for the functioning of intergovernmental bodies and he rejected the use of United Nations facilities by some Member States, with the cooperation of the Secretariat, to undertake clearly hostile actions against other States.  Such actions breached the United Nations Charter and the Organization’s rules of procedure, and threw into question the neutral character of the Secretariat.  The Secretariat must take immediate measures to prevent such behaviour, a matter Cuba would continue to follow closely.

In other areas, Cuba wished to learn about the publication of reports resulting from the Universal Periodic Review, which were pending in the last session.  He expressed great concern at the re-circulation of old proposals by the Secretariat, aimed at modifying criteria for publishing reports that resulted from deliberations of intergovernmental bodies, and those published on the basis of information provided by Member States.  It was not the United Nations role to second guess the positions of Member States and such a “re-cycled” approach raised the possibility that some United Nations officials sought to manipulate the reports.   Cuba would follow closely Committee debates on such issues as stabilizing the use of conference services, support to regional groups and other negotiation groups, and the impact of the Capital Master Plan on conference services.

DANIEL YILMA WORKIE (Ethiopia), associating himself with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, and the African Group, focused on the United Nations Conference Centre in Addis Ababa.  His Government had noted marketing activities aimed to increase its occupancy, as explained in paragraphs 18 and 19 of report A/65/122, commending activities such as participation in high-profile exhibitions.  He congratulated the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) for establishing partnerships with the Ethiopian Tourism Association, among others.

The Centre’s occupancy rate was at 76 per cent last year, similar to 2008 levels and higher than in 2007.  That the Centre did not achieve a higher rate than 2008 showed that more must be done.  He regretted that the Economic Commission for Africa conference facilities were not being properly maintained, which rendered them less competitive.  Innovative marketing and timely maintenance of the facilities were more important than ever.  The United Nations had yet to fully exhaust all options to increase the occupancy rate of the Centre, and important lessons could be drawn from the experience of other centres in cities where there were a high number of other conference facilities.

Specifically, there was a need to renovate the African Hall, where the first African Summit had been held and where the Charter for African Unity had been signed.  He requested the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, in collaboration with the Economic Commission for Africa, to explore all available means to increase the occupancy of the centre.  Clear strategies must be devised and required resources found to meet such objectives.

JOSEPHINE OJIAMBO ( Kenya), aligned with the statement of the Group of 77 and the African Group on the pattern of conferences issue, and said she was concerned with the high vacancy rate in the language services division at the United Nations Office at Nairobi.  The conference division in Nairobi should keep working to fill current and future vacancies.   Kenya was convinced that the development of partnerships with universities would help curb the high vacancy rate in the languages services at the United Nations, particularly in Nairobi.  The conference management department should initiate a process for the signing a memoranda of understanding with universities participating in the Africa project.  This project, initiated by the Nairobi Office, aimed to enhance training programmes of potential professional translators and interpreters on the African continent.

She welcomed the Secretary-General’s proposal to expand Nairobi’s capacity to monitor and control the quality of documents externally.  She was pleased to note that innovative marketing activities had helped maintain the utilization rate at the Commission’s centre.  But the rate was below the agreed threshold and sustained efforts should be taken to improve the marketing strategies, so as the centre could compete with other conference facilities in the same geographical area.

ABDULLAH HUSSAIN HAROON ( Pakistan), aligning with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, expressed his appreciation to the Committee on Conferences and its draft resolution.  Efficient conference management was an essential tool for the effective functioning of the United Nations and, likewise, efficient resource use could not be over-emphasized.  Regional group meetings were important and, as such, should be prioritised among language services without wasting resources.  For their part, regional groups must be more prudent in the agendas of their meetings and he commended the Group’s frugal approach, in that context.

While supporting the concept of integrated global management to improve the quality of conference services, he said its implementation had been slow and its outcomes unknown.  Its intended results should be clearly identifiable and lead to an overall improvement in conference management.  Challenges faced in Nairobi should be quickly addressed.

The Department for General Assembly and Conference Management had a lead role in the submission of documents and he urged a multipronged approach to remedy continued delays of submissions to the Fifth Committee.  Improvements in that Department’s performance were needed, notably for better planning of conference servicing during the high-level segment of the General Assembly.  He expressed concern that some reports did not comply with formatting guidelines and he requested information as to why.  Also, colour-coded passes had been needed to attend side events during that period.  The Department should have informed the Membership of such requirements in advance and he sought assurances that such behaviour would not be repeated.  He also asked for reasons as to why the information and communications technology help desk for delegates, which had closed earlier this year, had not been restored.

INGRID BERLANGA (Mexico) said the meeting and reports were important for Mexico, as it provided an opportunity to see how all the services functioned throughout the United Nations.  Mexico supported the global information management technology project, to bring about greater efficiencies and reduce costs.  Mexico was aware of the need to contact universities and inform them about opportunities for interpreters and translators, in order to reduce vacancies in these areas at the United Nations.  It would be good if the United Nations could inform the Member States about the ways to recruit and train language staff.

Secretariat Response

Mr. SHAABAN said the report on the utilization of conference services in Nairobi was a result of a standardized statistical reporting procedure.  He said that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), which held their meetings in Nairobi, had

their own board of governors and would cancel meetings because documents had not been prepared.  There was no respect for the 10-week rule, which was needed to ensure the timely issuance of documents.

Regarding the outreach programme for universities, he said he had sent a signed letter to 100 missions in 2008 asking them to contact their respective universities.  He received only nine answers in response.  This was why the Secretariat did not solicit universities.  There were no dedicated resources for outreach activities.  The United Nations worked with universities that approached the Organization.  He noted that interpreters and translators needed to master two foreign languages, in addition to their mother tongue.

He said interpreters were fully aware that they should not comment on anything they heard during a meeting.  It was regrettable that the incident had taken place.

On the issue of integrated global management, he said no dedicated resources had been provided for that initiative, adding that one of its programmes cost $2.5 million.  Efforts were being made to provide financing from savings.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.