ASSEMBLY ADOPTS TEXTS RELATED TO HUMAN RESOURCES, DEVELOPMENT ACCOUNT, GRATIS PERSONNEL, IMIS, PROCUREMENT-RELATED REFORM AND ARTICLE 1919990407 Assembly Also Decides on 14 September Date for Opening Of Fifty-Fourth Session; Sets Dates for Fifty-Fourth Session General Debate
The General Assembly this afternoon adopted nine resolutions and nine decisions, including texts recommended by its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) and by the Economic and Social Council.
Among the texts acted on today, in each case without a vote, the Assembly adopted a 12-part resolution on human resources management with over 100 operative paragraphs and provisions on subjects ranging from human resources principles to recruitment practices and staff development. Human resources management was a primary focus of the Fifth Committee's work during the main and first resumed parts of its fifty-third General Assembly session, in keeping with the Committee's biennial programme of work.
By the text, the Assembly asked Secretary-General Kofi Annan to investigate whether racial discrimination existed in staff recruitment, promotion and placement, and to report on reasons for the growing number of resignations of Secretariat staff. Noting that no systematic career development policy had been developed, it reiterated its request that a policy be developed on a priority basis in order to maintain a strong international civil service.
The Secretary-General was also asked to complete the realignment of the competitive examination for promotion to the Professional category from the General Service category, and the national competitive recruitment exam, in particular, regarding academic qualifications and equitable geographical representation.
Before delegating authority for human resources management -- a key element of the Secretary-General's proposal for human resources management reform -- a comprehensive system for accountability must be put in place, the Assembly decided by other terms.
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Also by the resolution, the Assembly reaffirmed its own role in analysing and approving posts and financial resources and the role of the Fifth Committee in human resources management. It recognized the role of the Office of Human Resources Management in ensuring implementation of related mandates set by the Assembly.
Statements in explanation of position on the text were made by the representatives of Guyana, speaking for the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, Philippines and India.
In other action this afternoon, the Assembly decided that its fifty- third session will close on Monday, 13 September, and that its fifty-fourth session will open on Tuesday, 14 September. The general debate for the fifty-fourth session will be held from Monday, 20 September, to Saturday, 25 September, and from Wednesday, 29 September, to Saturday, 2 October. Through another text, the Assembly decided to hold a special session on 27 and 28 September to review implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States.
The two texts on scheduling were adopted after the Assembly suspended for consultations. The representative of South Africa spoke for the Joint Coordinating Committee of the Group of 77 and the Non-Aligned Movement before the action.
The Director of General Assembly and Economic and Social Council Affairs, Department of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services, Vadim Perfiliev, addressed the Assembly about the budget implications of holding the general debate on Saturdays.
Also this afternoon, the Assembly decided that the Development Account will be used to fund four of the Secretary-General's eight proposals for its use. The Secretary-General was asked to reformulate and resubmit his four other proposals for the Account, based on certain prescribed criteria. [The Account was created in December 1997 and allocated some $13.1 million in the programme budget for 1998-1999. The Secretary-General's report on the proposals estimates the cost for the four projects to be roughly $6.5 million.]
The Assembly also adopted a resolution on a category of personnel loaned free of charge to the United Nations by governments which the Assembly had previously decreed should be phased out by 28 February 1999. Noting that one such staffer remains, it sought confirmation that all had gone by the end of June. The Assembly decided to consider the issue of hiring former gratis staff for the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia as a human resources management issue, noting that its instructions on such recruitment had been contravened.
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By another text, the Assembly approved an additional $3.2 million for the Integrated Management Information System (IMIS). It decided that concluding the System's development by August 2000 should not require more than $77.6 million; reiterated deep concern about the project's time and cost overruns; and asked the Secretary-General to ensure that similar problems did not recur.
In other action, the Assembly expressed deep concern about the increase of pending procurement-related arbitration claims against the United Nations, which came to $56 million as of 19 March. It asked the Secretary-General to keep Member States informed about the cases and related corrective and disciplinary measures taken.
The representative of the United States spoke before the action.
The Assembly also adopted an orally revised decision on the scale of assessments used to share out the United Nations costs among its Member States. Before the action, the representative of Honduras asked for an oral amendment of the draft. According to the text that was adopted, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Georgia, Republic of the Congo, Guinea-Bissau and Nicaragua will not lose voting rights despite the level of their arrears.
[According to Article 19 of the United Nations Charter, a Member State loses its vote in the General Assembly if the amount it owes the Organization equals or exceeds the amount it is levied for the proceeding two years. Exemptions are granted if the Assembly decides that non-payment is due to circumstances beyond the Member State's control.]
Also this afternoon, the Assembly adopted texts by which it:
-- Elected Portugal to the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC);
-- Adopted revisions to the General Regulations of the World Food Programme (WFP);
-- Decided to appropriate an additional $12.3 million gross (about $11.6 million net) for the United Nations Civilian Police Mission in Haiti (MIPONUH) for July 1998 through June 1999;
-- Noted the Secretary-General's reports on clearing death and disability claims, on interpretation services for groups of Member States and on conference facilities at the United Nations Office in Nairobi;
-- Noted the Secretary-General's report on the impact of pilot projects on budgetary practices and procedures and decided to consider the matter at its next resumed session;
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-- Decided to send the Secretary-General's report on the impact of economy measures on the delivery of mandated conference services to the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ); and his note on 1996-1997 programme performance to the CPC; and
-- Decided to resume considering at its second resumed session: procurement reform, review of implementation of General Assembly resolution 48/218B [by which the Office of Internal Oversight Services was established], and management irregularities causing financial losses to the Organization.
The Fifth Committee's reports were introduced by its Rapporteur, Tammam Sulaiman (Syria).
At the outset of the meeting, the Assembly observed a moment of silence to pay tribute to the memory of the late Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan, Jumabek Ibraimov, who passed away on 4 April.
The General Assembly will meet again at a date to be announced in the Journal.
Assembly Work Programme
The General Assembly met this afternoon to take action on draft texts recommended by its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) on strengthening the United Nations system; on environment and sustainable development; and on its agenda and organization of work. It was also expected to elect a member to the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC).
Fifth Committee Reports
The Assembly had before it a report on its agenda item on the review of the efficiency of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations (document A/53/521/Add.2). The report contains one draft resolution and two draft decisions. By the draft resolution, on procurement-related arbitration, the Assembly would express concern about increasing pending procurement-related arbitration claims totalling $56 million, and request the Secretary-General to submit a comprehensive report to its fifty-fourth session. It would also request him to keep Member States fully informed about cases by reflecting actions as separate items in financial reports.
By the terms of draft decision I from the same report, the Assembly would decide to resume considering management irregularities at the second part of its resumed fifty-third session pending information from the Secretariat and the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).
Draft decision II would have the Assembly decide to resume consideration of procurement reform, also at its second resumed session.
According to the provisions of a draft resolution under human resources management on gratis personnel provided by governments (document A/53/533/Add.1), the Assembly would note with concern that its resolutions on gratis personnel had not been fully implemented, and reiterate the need for full compliance in the future.
It would decide to consider the question of the recruitment of 17 gratis personnel in the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia under the agenda item on human resources management, since it contravened Assembly resolution 51/226.
Noting that, except for one type II gratis personnel, all others had been phased out by 28 February, the Assembly would endorse the observation of the ACABQ that confirmation should be given that all type II personnel had been phased out at the end of June. It would decide to continue considering the question of gratis personnel at the main part of its fifty-fourth session.
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Another Fifth Committee report proposes two draft resolutions and one draft decision to the Assembly under its agenda item on the programme budget for 1998-1999 (document A/53/485/Add.2). By the terms of draft resolution I, on the Integrated Management Information System (IMIS), the Assembly would approve an additional appropriation of $3.2 million for the System; decide that resources for concluding the System's development by August 2000 should not exceed $77.6 million; and note that the services obtained from the main contractor, other than those related to the warranty, are to conclude by the end of 1999.
Reiterating deep concern about the time and cost overruns for the project, it would request the Secretary-General to ensure that similar problems do not recur, by other terms. The Assembly would reiterate the need for comprehensive training for staff at all duty stations, and request him to clearly establish roles and accountability for implementing the remaining releases.
By draft resolution II in the report, the Assembly would decide that Development Account funds could be used to fund four of eight proposals made by the Secretary-General. He would be asked to reformulate four other proposals and submit them to the Assembly's second resumed session, based on prescribed criteria specifying, for example, multiplier effects that could be expected from the project, and the use of human and technical resources from developing regions.
By the draft decision on budgetary impacts of pilot projects in the same report, the Assembly would take note of the Secretary-General's note on the issue, regret that information it requested in December 1998 had not been submitted, and decide to defer consideration of the issue until the second part of its resumed fifty-third session.
A report on programme planning (document A/53/743/Add.1) recommends a draft decision by which the Assembly would decide to transmit the note by the Secretary-General on the programme performance of the Organization for the 1996-1997 biennium to the CPC for consideration at that Committee's thirty- ninth session.
By the terms of a draft decision contained in a report on pattern of conferences (document A/53/744/Add.1), the Assembly would take note of the Secretary-General's reports on provision of interpretation to meetings of regional and other Member States groups, and on improved use of conference facilities at the United Nations Office in Nairobi. It would decide to send the Secretary-General's report on the impact of economy measures on the delivery of mandated conference services to the ACABQ for its consideration in the context of the proposed 2000-2001 proposed budget.
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The Fifth Committee's report on the scale of assessments (document A/53/464/Add.4) contains a draft decision by which the Assembly would decide that the failure of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia and Georgia to pay amounts necessary to avoid sanctions under Article 19 of the United Nations Charter was due to conditions beyond their control, and that they would, therefore, be permitted to vote in the Assembly until 30 June 1999. By the same decision and for the same reasons, the Assembly would allow the Republic of the Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras and Nicaragua to retain their votes until 30 June 2000.
However, the Assembly also had before it a letter dated 5 April from the Permanent Representative of Honduras to the Assembly President (document A/53/900). In it, the representative advises that his Government has made the payment required to avoid the effects of Article 19, and requests that Honduras be removed from the list of Member States to be exempted under the draft decision recommended to the Assembly.
[According to Article 19 of the Charter, a Member State shall lose its Assembly vote if the amount it owes the Organization is equal or greater than the amount it is levied for the proceeding two years. Exemptions are given if the Assembly decides that non-payment is due to circumstances beyond the Member States control.]
The Assembly also had before it a Fifth Committee report on human resources management (document A/53/748/Add.1), containing a 12-part draft resolution with more than 100 operative paragraphs on human resources management reform. The draft covers areas including the role of the Office of Human Resources Management, delegation of authority and the status of women within the Secretariat.
By its terms, the Assembly would decide that, before delegating authority for human resources management, the Secretary-General should ensure that a comprehensive system for accountability and responsibility, including internal monitoring and control procedures, was in place. The Assembly would note that such a system had not been established, and request a report on it for its fifty-fifth session.
Through other provisions, the Assembly would reaffirm its own role in analysing and approving posts and financial resources, as well as human resources policies. It would also reaffirm the role of the Fifth Committee in human resource management matters. The role of the Office of Human Resources Management in ensuring full implementation of related mandates set by the Assembly would also be recognized, and the Assembly would decide that the Office should remain the central authority for monitoring and approving recruitment and placement of staff.
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Noting that no systematic career development policy had been developed, it would request that such a policy be developed on a priority basis in the interest of maintaining a strong and efficient international civil service.
By other terms, the Assembly would request reports on racial discrimination in recruitment, promotion and placement of staff, and on the reasons for the growing number of resignations of Secretariat staff, particularly in the Professional category, following a study on the matter.
It would also request the Secretary-General to continue probationary appointments for staff recruited via the national competitive exam, and to complete the realignment of the competitive examination for promotion to the Professional category and the national competitive exam, in particular regarding academic qualifications and equitable geographical representation.
By a draft resolution in the Committee's report on United Nations operations in Haiti (document A/53/873), the United Nations Civilian Police Mission in Haiti (MIPONUH) would be given almost $12.3 million gross -- in addition to the $17.7 million already provided -- for the period from 1 July 1998 to 30 June 1999.
Another Fifth Committee report, on administrative and budgetary aspects of financing United Nations peacekeeping operations (document A/53/522/Add.2), contains a draft decision on peacekeeping death and disability benefits. By it, the Assembly would take note of the Secretary-General's quarterly report for 1 October to 31 December 1998 on progress in clearing the backlog of death and disability claims.
The Assembly would decide to resume consideration of its agenda item on the review of the implementation of General Assembly resolution 48/218B (by which the Office of Internal Oversight Services was established), at its second resumed session, by the terms of another report (document A/53/891).
Other Reports and Texts
The Assembly also had before it a note by the Secretary-General regarding the adoption of a draft resolution on revision of the general regulations of the World Food Programme (WFP) (document A/53/899), recommended by the Economic and Social Council. For the Assembly to consider the draft, it would be necessary to reopen the consideration of item 12 (report of the Economic and Social Council) from its fifty-third session. The draft text is annexed to the note.
By the draft, the Assembly would decide, subject to the concurrence of the Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), that the members of the Executive Board of the WFP shall be elected on an interim basis for a term of three years according to a new distribution of seats based on the Basic Texts
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of the WFP. The Assembly would request the Economic and Social Council to elect one member to that Board from one list for three years beginning on 1 January 2000, and decide to review this new distribution of seats two years before the end of one full four-year rotation. It would decide the revised General Regulations shall enter into force on 1 January 2000.
Also before the Assembly was a note by the Secretary-General on the election of seven members of the CPC (document A/53/440/Add.2). According to it, the Economic and Social Council has nominated Portugal, from the Western European and Other States Group, for election by the Assembly to the CPC, for a term of office beginning on the date of election and expiring on 31 December.
A draft resolution submitted by the Assembly President, Didier Opertti (Uruguay), on strengthening of the United Nations system (document A/53/L.74), would have the Assembly decide that its fifty-third session would close on Monday, 13 September, and its fifty-fourth session would open on Tuesday, 14 September. It would also decide to consider the dates of future sessions at its resumed fifty-third session.
A draft resolution submitted by the Assembly's Acting President, on implementation of the outcome of the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (document A/53/L.76), would have the Assembly decide to hold a two-day special session on 27 and 28 September, for a full and comprehensive review and appraisal of the implementation of the Programme of Action for Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States.
Action on Texts
TAMMAM SULAIMAN (Syria), Rapporteur of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), introduced that Committee's reports to the Assembly.
The Assembly first took up the Fifth Committee's report on review of the United Nations administrative and financial efficiency, which contained one draft resolution and two draft decisions.
JAMES B. BOND (United States) said his delegation regretted the deferral of the issue of procurement reform to the Fifth Committee's second resumed session, a session that should be devoted exclusively to consideration of peacekeeping issues. The Secretariat had made significant progress on procurement reform. The Committee should have given it due credit, for example, for increasing the percentage of procurements that were competitively bid, for dramatically improving the quality of Headquarters staff, and for relying less on assistance from governments in peacekeeping procurement.
More remained to be done, he continued, and that should have been drawn to the Secretariat's attention. For example, the competitive bidding process
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needed further strengthening to ensure that vendors were given a reasonable time for submission of bids. The pending arbitration cases provided a stark example of the cost of the United Nations being unequipped to handle the large-scale, urgent procurement required during the period of rapidly expanding peacekeeping operations. Adoption of the resolution was a sign that the Committee wanted assurances that systems were in place that would prevent or reduce reoccurrences of contract disputes of that nature. He hoped that the Committee would take expeditious action in May to adopt a comprehensive resolution on procurement reform.
The Assembly then adopted the resolution on procurement-related arbitration, acting without a vote. In the same manner, it adopted draft decision I, on management irregularities causing financial losses to the Organization. Then it adopted draft decision II, on procurement reform, again without a vote.
The Assembly then turned to the Committee's report on human resources management and review of efficiency, containing one draft resolution on gratis personnel. It adopted the text without a vote.
The Assembly then took up the three draft texts contained in the report on the programme budget for 1998-1999. First, it acted on draft resolution I, on the IMIS, adopting the text without a vote. It adopted draft resolution II, on the Development Account, in the same manner. Then, it took up the draft decision on the impact of the implementation of pilot projects on budgetary practices and procedures, also adopting that text without a vote.
Moving then to programme planning, the Assembly adopted the draft decision contained in the Committee's report without a vote.
In the same manner, it adopted the draft decision on pattern of conferences.
Next, the Assembly turned to the Fifth Committee's recommended draft decision on the United Nations scale of assessments.
HUGO NOE-PINO (Honduras) said his Government had requested exemption from the provisions of Article 19 of the Charter in light of the difficulties it faced because of the devastating effects of Hurricane Mitch. Honduras had since made the necessary payments. He, therefore, requested that his country be removed from the draft text.
Honduras disagreed with the comments made by one member of the Committee on Contributions, as reflected in the addendum to the report of that body, he said. Those comments showed a lack of awareness of the situation in Honduras, and the sacrifices made by its authorities and people to keep payments up to date.
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The Assembly then adopted the decision, as orally amended, in accordance with the request from Honduras.
It then took up the Fifth Committee's report on human resources management, containing a 12-part draft resolution.
GARFIELD BARNWELL (Guyana), speaking for the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, noted with concern the statement made by the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management regarding paragraph 22, section V, of the draft resolution on human resources management, when she had addressed the Fifth Committee on 31 March.
[The paragraph contains the Assembly's request to the Secretary-General to realign the exam for moving from the General Service staff category to the Professional staff category and the national competitive exam, particularly regarding geographical distribution and academic qualifications.]
He said implementation of that paragraph should be in accordance with paragraph 2 of the same section of the draft, which stated: "recruitment, appointment and promotion of staff shall be made without distinction as to race, sex or religion, in accordance with the principles of the Charter and the provisions of the Staff Regulations and Rules". In light of the Assistant Secretary-General's statement, the Secretary-General should inform the General Assembly of the impact and any difficulties arising from the implementation of paragraph 22 of section V of the draft.
FELIPE MABILANGAN (Philippines) said that while he had serious reservations on paragraph 22, section V, of the draft resolution, he did not wish to stand in the way of facilitating the work of the Committee or the Assembly. However, he reaffirmed that staff were an invaluable asset of the Organization and commended their tireless efforts and dedication in furthering the purposes and principles of the United Nations. The Philippines paid tribute to all the staff members who had lost their lives in the service of the Organization.
His country was deeply distressed that the draft resolution failed to recognize or even fully appreciate the important work and significant contribution of staff in the General Service and other categories to the Organization, he said. Also, the Philippines deeply regretted that a window of opportunity for General Service staff might be closed because of the inclusion of equitable geographical distribution as part of the realignment of the national competitive examinations and the General Service to Professional category promotion examination. The General Service to Professional category exams should be regarded as a promotion exercise, and not as a recruitment exercise.
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General Service staff of all nationalities must be given equal opportunities to be promoted to ensure the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity, he added. There should be no distinction as to nationality, race, sex or religion in the promotion of staff, in accordance with the principles of the Charter and the provisions of the Staff Regulations and Rules.
He requested the Secretary-General to inform the Assembly of the full impact and any difficulties arising from the implementation of the relevant section of the draft to enable the Assembly to revert to the issue, he said. Further, he urged the Secretary-General to provide that information, during the next resumed fifty-third session of the Fifth Committee, before any amendments were made to the conditions under which General Service staff might take the exam for promotion to the Professional category and above.
RAJAT SAHA (India) said the issues raised by the Assistant Secretary- General for Human Resources Management and the representative of the Philippines needed to be addressed. He requested that information be provided to enable the Assembly to revert to the issue at a later date.
The Assembly then adopted the text without a vote.
The General Assembly then turned to the financing of the United Nations Support Mission in Haiti, the United Nations Transition Mission in Haiti and the United Nations Civilian Police Mission in Haiti. It adopted the draft resolution contained in the Fifth Committee's report on the subject, again acting without a vote.
It then adopted, without a vote, the draft decision on administrative and budgetary aspects of United Nations peacekeeping operations.
Again, without a vote, the Assembly adopted the Committee's recommendation regarding its review of the implementation of resolution 48/218B.
The Assembly then decided to reopen its agenda item titled Report of the Economic and Social Council and subsequently moved to consider the Secretary- General's note containing a draft resolution recommended by the Economic and Social Council on a revision of the General Regulations of the WFP. It then adopted the text without a vote.
HAJI AMPAL JEMAT (Brunei Darussalam), acting Assembly President, said it was expected that the Conference of the FAO would adopt a parallel resolution at its first session in 1999.
The Assembly then took up the Secretary-General's note regarding election of members of the CPC. As the number of candidates corresponded to the number of seats to be filled, a secret ballot was not required. The
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Assembly elected Portugal, the Western European and Other States Group candidate nominated by the Economic and Social Council, without a vote, to fill the remaining vacancy on that body.
The Assembly then turned its attention to its agenda item on strengthening the United Nations system. As consensus had not yet been reached, Mr. Jemat (Brunei Darussalam), acting President, suspended the Assembly meeting for 15 minutes for further consultations.
Following the resumption of the meeting, the acting PRESIDENT advised that, after informal consultations, agreement had been reached on dates for the two sessions under consideration. As indicated in the first draft resolution, the fifty-third session would close on 13 September and the fifty- fourth session would open on 14 September. In addition, it was agreed that, as indicated in the second draft resolution, the special session on small island developing States would be held on 27 and 28 September. It was also agreed that the general debate would be held from Monday, 20 September, to Saturday, 25 September, and from Wednesday, 29 September, to Saturday, 2 October.
VADIM PERFILIEV, Director of General Assembly and Economic and Social Council Affairs in the Department of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services, said that holding the general debate on the two Saturdays would involve limited additional requirements for overtime relating to technical servicing of the meetings. Those requirements would be met from within the revised appropriation approved by the Assembly for the biennium 1998-1999.
PIETER A. VERMEULEN (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the Joint Coordinating Committee of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that his Committee was prepared to consider the proposal favourably in the interest of reaching consensus on the matter. Therefore, he concurred with the proposal that the fifty-third session should close on Monday, 13 September, and that the fifty-fourth session should open on Tuesday, 14 September.
It was his understanding that the arrangement would only apply to the opening date of the fifty-fourth session and that the opening dates of future sessions of the Assembly should be the subject of further deliberations, he said. In that context, the Joint Coordinating Committee believed that the Assembly should revert to the provision in Rule 1 of the Assembly's Rules of Procedure, namely, that each session should commence on the third Tuesday in September. That was the only precedent which had been set in that regard.
Further, it was the Joint Coordinating Committee's understanding that the annual general debate would commence the following week, namely, on Monday, 20 September 1999, he continued. To benefit from the presence of prominent world leaders at the United Nations during that time, and to encourage greater
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interaction among leaders from both the developed and the developing world, the Joint Coordinating Committee also supported the convening of the Special Session to Review the Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island States on 27 and 28 September 1999, as proposed in the draft resolution.
The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution on dates for General Assembly sessions under its item on strengthening the United Nations system, again without a vote.
Next, it adopted -- also without a vote -- the draft resolution on its agenda item on environment and sustainable development: implementation of the outcome of the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States.
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