Speakers in Fifth Committee Commend Organization’s Emergency Management, Saying Storm Sandy Underlined Importance of Fully Operational System

6 March 2014
GA/AB/4098

Speakers in Fifth Committee Commend Organization’s Emergency Management, Saying Storm Sandy Underlined Importance of Fully Operational System

6 March 2014
General Assembly
GA/AB/4098
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

Fifth Committee

28th Meeting (PM)


Speakers in Fifth Committee Commend Organization’s Emergency Management,


Saying Storm Sandy Underlined Importance of Fully Operational System


Delegates Assess Funding Needs of Arusha Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals


Good progress was being made on the creation of an emergency management system to better prepare the United Nations to withstand disruptive crises and natural disasters, Secretariat officials and delegates alike told the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today as they scrutinized reports on the subject.


Storm Sandy, which shut down the Organization’s New York Headquarters for three days in November 2012 and caused operational damage, along with other recent events, were “dramatic reminders” that the Organization faced myriad complex risks and needed a fully functioning system-wide resilience management framework in place, said Stephen Cutts, Assistant Secretary-General for Central Support Services of the Department of Management.


Mr. Cutts introduced the Secretary-General’s reports detailing significant progress in installing such a system, which was first piloted in 2010, and in carrying out recommendations made after storm Sandy to improve physical protection against flood risk and loss of information and communications technology, as well to bolster support to staff and flood insurance coverage.


Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) introduced that body’s related report, saying that the system’s ability to govern and coordinate emergency preparedness and management was “satisfactory”.  He asked that the Secretary-General track overall costs among offices and departments to set it up.


Bolivia’s representative, speaking for the Group of 77 developing countries and China, also welcomed the progress made, but expressed concern that there was no detailed accounting of the initiative’s full cost, as called for in General Assembly resolution 67/254.  The Group would seek more information on that and other aspects of the system during informal consultations.


Also today, the Committee took stock of the financing requirements for constructing the Arusha branch of the International Residual Mechanism for the Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia, which was scheduled to be completed by late 2015.


Andrew Nye, Officer-in-Charge of the Office of Central Support Services’ Facilities and Commercial Services Division introduced the Secretary-General’s report on that matter, noting that last December, the General Assembly had approved $8.79 million for the Mechanism for the 2014-2015 period, and that last month the United Nations and the Tanzanian Government had signed an agreement by which the latter would grant land at no cost to the Organization.


Mr. Massieu, introducing ACABQ’s corresponding report, said it was vital to draw lessons during the planning and implementation phase of other construction projects.  He expressed the Committee’s worries over the two-month delay in the selection process for an architectural design consultant, a concern echoed by the Group of 77 and China.  The project must be closely monitored to ensure it was completed within the overall timeline, Mr. Massieu said.


At the outset of the meeting, the Committee appointed Ye Zuenong ( China) to replace his compatriot Zhang Wanhai, who died on 11 February, as a member of ACABQ with immediate effect, until the expiry of the latter’s term on 31 December 2016.


The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 11 March, to discuss the efficiency review concerning civilian capacity, as well as the 2014-2015 programme budget as it relates to the Panel of Experts on the Central African Republic.


Background


The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met today to discuss financing of the Arusha branch of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (documents A/68/724 and A/68/777), as well as the 2014-15 programme budget as it relates to the organizational resilience management system and after-action review of storm Sandy (documents A/68/715, A/68/732 and A/68/780).  It also met to fill a vacancy in the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) (document A/68/101/Add.1).


Financing of International Residual Mechanisms for Criminal Tribunals


ANDREW NYE, Officer-in-Charge, Facilities and Commercial Services Division, Office of Central Support Services, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on financing of the Arusha branch of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (document A/68/724) on behalf of John Hocking, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General, Registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals.  The report provided an update on the progress made on the construction of the new premises of the Arusha branch, as requested by the General Assembly.


Mr. Nyu said that key milestones had been achieved since the previous report.  On 27 December 2013, the General Assembly’s approved the 2014-2015 biennium budget of the Mechanism in the amount of $8.787 million.  On 5 February, the United Nations and the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania signed the agreement on the granting of land offered at no cost to the Organization.  The contract between the United Nations and architectural firm Ridge and Partners LLP for the provision of professional architectural and engineering services had become effective on 26 February.  A business presence in Africa was a key requirement in the selection process to include local knowledge and capacity in the implementation of the project. Construction projects presented challenges and risks to the Organization and, as the representative of the Secretary-General, the Registrar was fully committed to managing them.


CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Chair of ACABQ, presented his Committee’s report on financing of the Arusha branch of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (document A/68/777).  In it, the Advisory Committee welcomed the continued cooperation between the Mechanism and Tanzanian Government and trusted that it would be maintained throughout the project.


He said that ACABQ noted that a full-time project manager to be based on Arusha had been hired to enhance the project’s management and coordination.  The Advisory Committee also noted the addition of an Entebbe-based procurement officer to the Arusha-based project team and trusted that the officer’s location would not affect the team’s functional cohesion.  He emphasized the importance of drawing lessons from other construction projects in the planning and implementation processes, and expressed the Committee’s concern about the two-month delay in the selection process for an architectural design consultant.  The project must be closely monitored to ensure its completion within the overall timeline, he said.


When the floor opened for comments, DAYANA ANGELA RIOS REGUENA ( Bolivia), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, welcomed the progress made so far, including the signing of a land agreement and the recruitment of a procurement officer.  The Group would carefully examine how existing local knowledge and capacities, as well as rapid growth of the host country’s construction sector, were being taken into account in implementing the project.  Turning to the selection of an architectural and engineering design consultant, she expressed serious concern about the two-month delay in the recent recruitment, and said she wished to know the reasons why.


Organizational Resilience Management; After-Action Review of Storm Sandy


STEPHEN CUTTS, Assistant Secretary-General for Central Support Services, Department of Management, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on progress in implementing the organizational resilience management system (document A/68/715) and his report on progress in implementing the recommendations of the after-action review of storm Sandy (document A/68/732).  Both described practical and policy enhancements to improve organizational resilience.  The storm Sandy report also discussed the status of remediation work on the Secretariat’s infrastructure and the Organization’s risk mitigation through insurance markets, noting satisfactory achievement in insurance recoveries.


Storm Sandy and other recent events were “dramatic reminders” that the Organization faced myriad complex risks, he said.  A collaborative effort was needed to manage them.  He noted solid progress in implementing the organizational resilience management system since the Secretary-General’s last report.  That included approval of policy by the senior emergency policy team and the appointment of the Under-Secretary-General as the system’s project owner.  Each Secretariat duty station had been asked to appoint a project manager responsible for implementing the system locally.  The High-level Committee on Management would consider the potential to align emergency management practice with the system at its next session in early April.


He added that the system had been fully implemented at Headquarters and the Secretariat would now focus on the rest of the Secretariat and interest in the system among the Organization’s agencies, funds and programmes.  The central lesson from storm Sandy was that the system, as an approach to harmonize and integrate emergency management disciplines, was an essential framework for the United Nations’ handling of severe disruptive risks and disasters.  The Secretariat had significantly enhanced organizational resilience at Headquarters in terms of physical protection against flood risk, enhancements to emergency preparedness and response systems, and mitigating risk through insurance.


Mr. RUIZ MASSIEU, taking the floor again, introduced ACABQ’s progress report on implementing the system and the recommendations from the after-action review of storm Sandy (document A/68/780).  The report welcomed progress made thus far in implementing the organizational management resilience system and called its governance arrangements “satisfactory” and able to support effective coordination of emergency preparedness and management activities.  ACABQ trusted that a framework for assessing the system’s effectiveness would be approved as soon as possible.  It appreciated that the system would be implemented within existing resources and believed it was important to track resources of various departments and offices for that purpose, including the cost of setting up and operating the United Nations Operations and Crisis Centre and the Emergency Operations Centre.  It was recommended that the General Assembly ask the Secretary-General to do so and to give a consolidated view of actual overall costs within the context of the proposed programme budget.


Ms. RIOS (Bolivia), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, welcomed progress thus far in implementing the system and discussing details of the next phase of implementation, as well as evaluation of the system’s effectiveness in emergency situations and whether it offered the degree of protection expected.  The Group was keen to learn more about how lessons learned were incorporated into areas that might need improvement.  It noted with concern the lack of a detailed accounting of the initiative’s full cost, as called for in Assembly resolution 67/254, and would seek more information on that during informal consultations.  It further wanted to learn more about the training and governance aspects, performance indicators for implementing the initiative, as well as how other stakeholders had been incorporated and possible cost-sharing arrangements among them.


On progress in implementing the storm Sandy after-action review, he said the Group took note of the information on steps taken to prepare for the storm’s arrival, its impact on New York Headquarters, as well as action taken thus far to address the review’s main recommendations.  It was also eager to know the status of physical infrastructure remediation and mitigation activities and risk management through the insurance market.  The Group also noted the information related to the storm’s impact on the Headquarters’ technology centres and communications; status of physical infrastructure remediation and mitigation activities; emergency operations centre, as well as flood insurance coverage.  It would seek further details during informal consultations.


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