SECOND GLOBAL MEETING OF NATIONAL Y2K COORDINATORS BEGINS AT HEADQUARTERS19990622
USG for Management Says He Is Reasonably Confident about UN Ability To Cope with Internal Y2K-Induced Problems, but Risks Must also Be Addressed
Much had been done to ensure that the last headache of the twentieth century did not become the first crisis of the twenty-first century, the Chairman of the United Nations Working Group on Informatics told the Second Global Meeting of National Y2K Coordinators this morning, which was convened to review international preparedness for dealing with the Year 2000 date conversion problem.
In opening remarks, Chairman Ahmad Kamal (Pakistan) said there was record participation in today's meeting, with near complete participation of the United Nations membership. There had been about two dozen regional, subregional and sectoral meetings over the past six months, and now the aim was to evaluate what still needed to be done.
Speaking about the United Nations Y2K preparedness, the Under- Secretary-General for Management, Joseph Connor, said that the Organization had come a long way since the last meeting of the Working Group in December 1998. While he was reasonably confident concerning the ability of the United Nations to cope with internal Y2K-induced problems, both geographic and external risks also needed to be addressed. Validating, testing and preparing contingency plans still needed to be completed.
The Year 2000 Team and the Management Group were responsible for ensuring the operational readiness of the United Nations even in the worst- case scenario, he said. Particular attention was being paid to maintaining uninterrupted communications within the Organization and with Member States. At the inter-agency level, the United Nations had taken action in line with General Assembly resolution 52/233 regarding global implications of the Year 2000 date conversion problem.
Introducing the objectives of the session, Bruce McConnell, Director of the International Y2K Cooperation Center, said the goals included coordinating plans on a regional basis; exchange of information about the countries' readiness; and preparing event management and ensuring availability of response facilities in case of failures.
The Director of the World Bank's InfoDEV (Information for Development Programme) said the "millennium bug" was the first epidemic of the information age. The answer was to share information and learn from each other.
After introductory addresses, the group met in closed session to hear reports on regional and national preparedness to ensure a frank exchange of views between Y2K coordinators at those levels.
Today's meeting is organized by the United Nations Working Group on Informatics, in collaboration with the International Y2K Cooperation Center. The Center was established in the follow-up to the first global meeting of Y2K coordinators, which took place in December 1998.
The open meeting will resume at 3 p.m. today with two panel discussions on "public information and public confidence" and on "disaster preparedness and event management", respectively.
AHMAD KAMAL (Pakistan), the Chairman of the United Nations Working Group on Informatics, in welcoming remarks, said there was a full house today, with a record participation of close to the total membership of the United Nations. There were less than 200 days before midnight struck on 31 December, he continued. Much had been done to ensure that the last headache of the twentieth century did not become the first crisis of the twenty-first century. National Y2K Coordinators had been brought onto a common platform to exchange views through a mechanism called the Listserv, which had converted Y2K Coordinators into a single family focused on a single problem.
Internationally, a focal point had been established by the creation of the International Y2K Cooperation Center with a full-time Director and a Steering Committee, he said. The problem had been sliced into component regional, subregional and sectoral elements, which had been discussed and addressed separately. A YES Corps of volunteers had been established for developing countries and economies in transition who did not have the necessary expertise to handle the Y2K problem on their own.
All total, there had been about two dozen regional, sub-regional and sectoral meetings over the past six months, he said, adding that the purpose of today's meeting was to evaluate what still needed to be done.
BRUCE MCCONNELL, Director of the International Y2K Cooperation Center, said today's meeting had three goals: coordinating plans on a regional basis; commitment to sharing details and verifying information regarding the countries' readiness; preparation to event management and response in case of failures and ensuring that response facilities were available.
There would be a variety of activities on various aspects of the problem, he said, including contingency planning, information, risk management and evaluating the lessons learned. The International Y2K Cooperation Center continued and would continue to work for the benefit of the Member States in the future, he stressed.
CARLOS BRAGA, Director of InfoDEV at the World Bank, said that over the past year and a half a dramatic and positive change in awareness of the Y2K problem had occurred. Progress, however, should not lead to complacency because the problem was too large to solve in time. There was no way to guarantee there would not be problems. Renewed vigour and contingency plans were needed.
The World Bank's approach to the problem had several dimensions, he continued. The Bank had focused on fixing its own internal systems. Instruments had been developed and applied to examine the vulnerability of projects to Y2K problems. Monies had been awarded in loans to help countries take care of Y2K-related problems, including by helping them to strengthen national structures. Dialogues had been undertaken, as well as an initiative to cover activities such as outreach seminars and exchange about national strategies.
He said InfoDEV had been awarding Y2K grants as a follow-up to the first global meeting, but those resources were nearly exhausted. Cooperation with the International Y2K Coordination Center indicated that a positive and timely response for additional resources could be expected, but many gaps remained. Segments of infrastructure, the preparedness of small and medium-sized countries and interdependency issues were of major concern.
Contingency planning was a cornerstone for computer operations and for dealing with the Y2K problem, he said. Funding would be provided to send groups to developing countries and guidelines for actions to be taken were available on the InfoDEV Web site, where information about best practices was also available. There were templates for risk assessment, and those were being made available at the meeting on CD-rom.
It was encouraging that developing countries were making use of resources offered by InfoDEV and the IY2KCC, he said. The "millennium bug" was the first major epidemic of the information age. The answer was to share information and learn from each other.
JOSEPH E. CONNOR, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Management, said that like many governments and businesses around the world, the United Nations was addressing potential problems associated with the Y2K phenomenon. While much had been done during 1998 and thus far this year, work still needed to be completed in validating, testing and preparing contingency plans for all critical activities that must continue to operate even if technology failed. The Y2K was, in fact, a complex business problem that would affect all aspects of the Organization's operation.
Priority was given to mission-critical operations, he said. Since February this year, with the assistance of a specialized vendor, a Year 2000 Risk Assessment Study had been conducted. The first Inventory Phase of the study had been completed by March and the second phase (Risk Assessment) would be completed at the end of June. Efforts were being made to obtain Y2K compliance certifications of the software and hardware products from their vendors. With respect to embedded systems and microprocessors, letters had been written to all United Nations business partners, service and infrastructure providers in February to request certificates of compliance of all equipment, systems and services, and also requesting assurance that in case they were not Y2K compliant, the providers were taking actions to achieve conformity and have a contingency plan to resolve any problems. About half the business partners had responded as of the date of the report.
An assessment study of all embedded building equipment and systems had also been completed, he continued. Detailed contingency plans in the facilities management area had been finalized at the end of May. Testing would take place from 15 June to 31 July. Offices away from Headquarters had been contacted and guidance provided on such matters as Y2K management structure to be put in place, identification of mission critical activities and establishment of a work programme. A network of Y2K focal points had been activated and information provided to them, including: a Y2K strategy for offices away from Headquarters; a background note on the management structure at Headquarters; and guidelines to ensure that all information technology components procured by the United Nations were Y2K compliant. Three model letters to utilities providers, vendors and landlords had been developed, requesting information on compliance.
Assessment visits had been made to several duty stations, including those in Addis Ababa, Arusha, Nairobi, Beirut and Bangkok, he said, and several other visits were being planned. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and other offices had established working groups to address all the aspects of the problem. Assuming the highly unlikely scenario of a full disruption of services, the minimum functional requirements for each critical business process had been specified.
He said that the Year 2000 Team and the Management Group, in cooperation with the various Departments of the Secretariat, would take all necessary steps to ensure that the United Nations would maintain operational readiness at the specified level even in the worst-case scenario. The United Nations paid particular attention to ensuring uninterrupted communication links within the Organization and with Member States. At the inter-agency level, the United Nations had taken action in line with General Assembly resolution 52/233 regarding global implications of the Year 2000 date conversion problem.
The Secretary-General had put the Y2K issue on the agenda of the high- level meeting of the Consultative Committee on Administrative Questions in March, he continued, where it had been agreed that system-wide coordination approaches were needed. Those activities would focus on contingency planning, logistics, financial and personnel matters, and telecommunication.
In conclusion, he said that since the last meeting of the Working Group in December 1998, the Organization had come a long way in its preparedness for the transition to the next millennium. While he was reasonably confident concerning the Organization's ability to cope with internal Y2K-induced problems, the risks must also be addressed both on a geographic basis and with respect to external constraints.
* *** *