Press Releases

     
    For information only - not an official document.
      UNIS/GA/1730
      8 November 2000
     Fifth Committee Continues Discussion of Human Resources
    And Medium-term Plan for 2002-2005
     

    NEW YORK, 7 November (UN Headquarters) -- As the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) concluded its general discussion on the proposed programmes for the medium-term plan for 2002 to 2005, several speakers commended the revised format of the proposals.  Stressing the need to provide better links between the plan and the budget, they also said that, having agreed on the substance of the programmes, it was important to provide the necessary resources for their implementation.  

     [The proposed medium-term plan consists of 25 programmes, all of which, except one, have been approved by the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC).  The exception is the human rights programme.  Once approved by the General Assembly, the medium-term plan constitutes the principal policy directive of the United Nations, and serves as a basis for formulation of the biennial programme budget.]

    Several speakers also noted that the inclusion of expected accomplishments and indicators of achievements in the programmes needed to be further improved before being presented to the General Assembly.  On the human rights programme, it was suggested that the Assembly’s Third Committee (Social Humanitarian and Cultural) should further consider that aspect of programme planning to provide guidance to the Fifth Committee.  As an alternative, some said that it might be necessary to return to a previously adopted human rights programme as the basis for that part of the new medium-term plan. 

    Responding to comments made in the course of the general debate, the Director of the Programme Planning and Budget Division, Warren Sach, said that considerable progress had been achieved in modifying statements of expected accomplishments and indicators of achievement to better represent the views of Member States.  But their inclusion was a new exercise and a process that would evolve over the years.  To better link the plan with the budget within the new format, the plan included specific headings for objectives, strategies, expected accomplishments and indicators of achievement.  The use of expected accomplishments in both the plan and the budget allowed a bridge between the two.  If agreed to, the inclusion of indicators of achievement could serve the same purpose.

    Tommo Monthe, Chairman of the CPC, said that it was unthinkable that a programme on human rights -- one of the main priorities of the Organization -- should be deferred.  An old programme should not be adopted if there was no agreement on the new one.  With some expertise from the members of the Third  Committee, the Fifth Committee should be able to present to the General Assembly a text on the programme on human rights that could be fully acceptable.

    Also this morning, the Committee concluded its general debate on human resources management.  The Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management, Rafiah Salim, once again addressed delegates, responding to comments and questions raised in the discussion.

    Speaking this morning were the representatives of Libya, Russian Federation, India, Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh and Cuba.

     The Committee will meet at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 8 November, to hear a statement of the Chairman of the International Civil Service Commission in commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of that body.  Following that, the Committee is expected to conclude its consideration of the reports of the Board of Auditors.

    Committee Work Programme

     The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to conclude its general discussion on the issues of human resources management and programme planning.  (For background information, see Press Releases GA/AB/3398 and GA/AB/3401.)

    Statements

     Responding to questions posed by Member States at yesterday’s meeting, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management, RAFIAH SALIM, said that national competitive exams were normally held in unrepresented and under-represented Member States.  In addition, other Member States were invited to host exams if they were in danger of falling below the desirable range in the near future.

    Turning to the role of consultations with staff within the context of the reform, she said that the Secretary-General as chief administrative officer of the Organization had an obligation to consult with staff representatives on all issues concerning conditions of service and staff welfare.  He had undertaken such consultations in a serious and intensive manner.  Three times those issues had been the subject of discussion in the Staff Management Consultative Committee, and one special session of that body was devoted to them.  The Secretary-General had also undertaken a communication programme with the staff at large on his proposals.  Member States had empowered the Secretary-General to lead the Organization, to make decisions and to come forward with proposals for change, she continued.  He did that by consulting with staff and management.  At the end of the consultative process, it was he, the Secretary-General, who had to make a decision as to what was in the best interest of the Organization.  

    As for proposals on contractual mechanisms, the Secretary-General had not yet made specific recommendations to the General Assembly in that regard, she continued.  He had raised the issue with Member States, so he could hear their views.  He fully intended to hold further consultations with staff and management on that critical issue.   On the concerns expressed by one delegation regarding the link between mobility and promotion, she said that she appreciated those concerns, but believed that incentives were necessary to induce staff to move.  Promotions, particularly to posts having supervisory and managerial functions, should be linked, inter alia, to proven mobility and broad experience.  However, she stressed that mobility did not have to be geographical, but could be between functions and offices within the same duty station.  In some occupational categories, geographical mobility would not be possible, or could be very limited.  Such situations would be taken into account.

    She supported comments of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) on the usefulness of the ombudsman system, she said.  Those comments would be taken into consideration when a staff/management working group met later this month to discuss the administration of justice.  Regarding delegation of authority, she said that each of the major departments and offices had administrative offices, which would handle any administrative processing delegated to them.  She did not envision that a programme manager would handle administrative processing himself or herself.  On the other hand, if department heads were going to manage their resources effectively, they had to be involved in human resources planning.  That could not and should not be divorced from their substantive responsibilities.  It was the role of the Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM) to ensure that they were able to undertake those functions in a knowledgeable, capable and responsible manner.

    The proposals would facilitate programme delivery and not impede it, she said.  Without pre-empting the General Assembly’s decision on results-based budgeting, the entire thrust of the reform of human resources management was to ensure that the mandates of Member States were effectively and efficiently carried out.  As for General Service to Professional examination, written responses to questions had been prepared and attached to her statement.  Details concerning the 1999 G to P examination had been included, as well as the chronology of events regarding the General Assembly resolution, advice provided by the Office of Legal Affairs and implementation decisions taken by her Office.

    Turning to comments that a comprehensive system for accountability had not been presented in the documents before the Committee, she said that the accountability of managers was indeed crucial in the current management reform.   For that reason, the Secretary-General had strengthened accountability mechanisms at the senior management level.  Recent measures included the introduction of a performance management compact for senior managers.  That was unprecedented in the history of the Organization.  The accountability chain also extended to every staff member through the performance appraisal system.  Recent measures also focused on strengthening management capacity and the management monitoring and reporting system, streamlining human resources rules and procedures, developing core and managerial competencies, promoting good management practices and increasing training for managers.

    On the question of costs of the reform proposals, she said that to date all the reform initiatives had been developed within existing resources.  However, she  posed the question to all delegations of what the cost would be if mobility were not facilitated in the Organization to fill important vacancies.  It was also important to think what the cost would be if the United Nations was unable to recruit and retain staff of the highest calibre, and if managerial capacity was not improved.

     ABDALLA K. ABDALLA (Libya) said the Assistant Secretary-General had said that it was required of the Secretary-General that he discuss his proposals with his staff, which he had done extensively.  He appreciated that the Secretary-General reviewed those matters with staff and Member States.  The Assistant Secretary-General had also said that, after consultations were made, the Secretary-General must make a decision in the best interest of the Organization.  He regretted that there was a departure in their thinking on that matter.  If the General Assembly had not approved a matter, it was not within the authority of the Secretary-General to take a decision in the best interest of the Organization.  It was the General Assembly that did that.  A quick review of Articles 97, 98 and 99 of the United Nations Charter, and of the history of how authority had evolved since the establishment of the United Nations, showed that, whilst there had been much interpretation of the issue of authority, the Secretary-General was not equated with the General Assembly and did not have authority over the General Assembly.

     On the financial implications of implementation of the new system, he understood that budgetary requirements would be within departmental resources.  The Assistant Secretary-General had said in her response, however, that the implementation of the new system would be done on the basis of requirements.  He asked if there would be any additional financial resources sought.  If that was not the case, he would appreciate if the Assistant Secretary-General could tell the Committee that there would be no financial implications.  Zero-budget growth meant that any resources needed would have to be shifted, and it was not clear how much money would have to be shifted.  

     Promotion should not be linked to mobility, he said.  Promotion was earned through performance.  Staff members might perform in such a way that justified accelerated promotion.  That was their legitimate right.  That said, he was not against mobility and thought that it might be a good thing.  It was good to have staff members who could work in different situations.

     He said that yesterday he had received the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) report on results-based budgeting.  Many questions and discussions could be raised on the issue.  Programme managers would have to evaluate their own failures, and this was very subjective.  All other countries, including very advanced countries, had abandoned results-based budgeting.  He asked on what basis would one implement a system that was doomed to failure.  He was not trying to discourage the Assistant Secretary-General, but trying to be straight forward.  The approach had to be practical and pragmatic.

     SERGEY O. FEDOROV (Russian Federation) said that, in the 1970s, attempts had been made to modernize human resources management, in particular through delegation of authority, but that unfortunately those attempts failed and the Organization had returned to the previous system.  Department heads had no time to deal with personnel planning and policy and it would require funds from the regular budget for them to have individuals working under them dealing with those matters.  

     The Assistant Secretary-General had not answered his questions, he said.  He had received no explanation of why 16 people were hired after General Assembly resolution 53/221 had been adopted.  All of her explanations as to when it happened were unsatisfactory.  

     He sought information on why exams were held in February 2000, in violation of that General Assembly decision.  The Committee had been told that in 2001 there would be no examination.  That was completely unsatisfactory.  He asked for official answers to his questions in writing.

     A.V.S. RAMESH CHANDRA (India) said that useful clarifications had been provided by Ms. Salim, and he only wanted to make some quick points.  He welcomed the statement that the level of consultations in preparation of the report had been unprecedented.  Also, the measures to strengthen accountability by introducing a performance management compact for senior managers, brought the Organization a step closer to institutionalizing a system of accountability.  He would pursue specific tools to ensure compliance with the mandates of the General Assembly in informal consultations.  

    The creation of an ombudsman was a very healthy idea, he said.  He welcomed comments of the JIU on the justice system and wondered if details could be provided by the OHRM in writing on those comments.  The main point he wanted to make concerned the Staff Management Consultative Committee (SMCC).  He welcomed the fact that a meeting would be held on 27 November to look at the system of justice, and asked if the conclusions of that meeting could be provided to the Fifth Committee by the end of the year.  Many questions were far from being resolved, with little time left.  It was necessary to address them without wasting any time.

     AYMAN ELGAMMAL (Egypt) said that he wanted to comment on Ms. Salim’s statement that the Secretary-General had provided his proposals for changes on the basis of consultations with his administrative team and staff.  He had no disagreement with that.  However, he disagreed with the suggestion that the Secretary-General’s proposals could not be implemented unless the General Assembly decided to authorize them.  That was clear, as was the case with the G to P exams.  

    The General Assembly had adopted resolution 53/221, he continued, paragraph 22 of which addressed equitable geographical distribution in connection with the G to P exam.  The Secretary-General had subsequently asked for a waiver of that principle as far as G to P exams were concerned.  The fact that the General Assembly had not reached a decision on that waiver did not negate the need for the Secretariat to comply with resolution 53/221.  However, that was not what the Secretariat had done, as staff who took the exam had been appointed.  

    He also addressed the statement that the proposals of the Secretary-General about contractual mechanisms were simply an exchange of views on the proposals.  He wondered if that meant that the contractual arrangements referred to in the Secretary-General’s report were simply provided by way of information to delegations and that he did not expect the General Assembly to adopt any decisions on them at the current session.

     OMAR KADIRI (Morocco) said that he just had one question concerning contractual arrangements:  he wanted to know what the differences between the permanent and the continuing contract were.

     AIZAZ AHMAD CHAUDHRY (Pakistan) said that he did not insist on answers in an open meeting.  However, he would like information on the application of the principle of equitable geographic distribution throughout the United Nations common system.  He would appreciate some background information in that regard.  In addition he believed that the question raised about financial irregularities in connection with travel within the United Nations system should also be further pursued.

     AHMED FARID (Saudi Arabia) said that he took the floor to indicate that he had studied the report and reserved the right to enter into detailed discussions on it in informal consultations.

     Assistant Secretary-General SALIM said, in response to Member States’ questions on human resources, that the OHRM should be able to carry out much of the reforms proposed within the resources assigned.  However, she did see that a few additional resources would be needed, vis-à-vis the Secretary-General’s proposal on the creation of the post of ombudsman.  The other aspect that would require additional resources was legal backstopping for the Staff Counsel.  The Secretary-General appreciated the demands of the staff that they be given equal access to legal counsel.  That was one of the issues put forward by staff, which he intended to support. 

    In terms of delegation of authority to managers, she did not foresee requirements for additional resources under the United Nations current structure.  Administrative offices were already attached to all departments.  Those offices had personnel managers.  It was, therefore, a question of realigning the duties they were currently undertaking.  She hoped and believed that the reform would succeed.  They had started training both managers and staff, streamlining rules and procedures, providing guidance and installing the monitoring mechanisms, as well as strengthening the human resources information and management systems.  She welcomed the discussion on linking mobility to promotion.  She realized that there were two sets of views.  Regarding the request of the delegate from India, if there was an outcome paper from the meeting of the Staff Management Working Group it be forwarded to the Committee as soon as possible.

     Regarding the question of changes to contractual mechanisms, the Secretary-General did not expect approval or a resolution, but sought input from the Committee before he continued to discuss the issue with staff.  The difference between permanent and continuing contracts would be explained in writing, so that delegates would have the necessary information before them to help them in discussions.  She would also prepare a reply on the G to P examination in writing, which would address the reason why 1999 candidates were promoted.  

     Mr. FEDOROV (Russian Federation) said it was important to note that Assembly resolution 53/221 affirmed the applicability of the principle of equitable geographic distribution to all examinations.

     Mr. ELGAMMAL (Egypt) asked Ms. Salim to include in her written answers a response to the comments from the “Group of 77” developing countries and China.

     The Committee then turned to the question of programme planning.

     RIAZ HAMIDULLAH (Bangladesh) supported the statement made by Nigeria on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, and said that he supported the recommendations of the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC) on all medium-term-plan programmes.  It was regrettable, however, that the CPC had not reached an agreement on programme 19 on human rights.  During that session, it would be difficult for the Fifth Committee to look further at that item without proper guidance.  The Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) should further look at that programme in detail and give the Fifth Committee its concrete views on the programme in question.

    The medium-term plan was the key policy document before the Organization, he continued.  Having agreed on the substance of the programmes, it was important to provide the necessary resources for their implementation.  Remarking on the new format of the medium-term plan, he welcomed the changes.  However, in a number of programmes the objectives proposed were not linked to the expected accomplishments or strategies.  Strategies were also often not clearly defined.   In the same vein, there were substantial difficulties with expected accomplishments and indicators of achievement.  He supported their inclusion since they would help measure achievements in an objective manner.  He also supported the recommendation of the CPC that the distinct responsibilities of Member States and the Secretariat be identified with regard to the expected accomplishments and indicators.  He would be following that item with interest in the informals.

     Mr. CHANDRA (India) said that, as opposed to the report of the Committee on Contributions, the report of the CPC should get a grade of four on a four-point scale.  He hoped that when the Third Committee finished its work, it could address the issue of programme 19 on human rights and reach a consensus on that part of the plan.  There could be only two solutions to the problem.  One would involve going by the rules, which clearly stated that indicators should be included only where possible.  If there was a bone of contention on any of the programmes, it was better to either leave out the indicators, or agree to their definition.  He also supported the position of the Group of 77 and China, which provided a means to allow adoption of the programme in question in the absence of consensus.  Translation of all the mandates into reality should be based on the provision of adequate funds.

    WARREN SACH, Director of the Programme Planning and Budget Division, said that several delegations had mentioned that identification of expected accomplishments and indicators of achievement needed improvement.  That proposal was the first exercise using those concepts in the plan.  Considerable progress had been made in modifying statements of expected accomplishments and indicators of achievement to better represent the views of Member States.  It was a process that would evolve over the years.

     On the need for better links between the plan and the budget, he said that the plan’s format, which included specific headings of objectives, strategies, expected accomplishments and indicators of achievement, would improve those links.  The use of expected accomplishments in each of the plan and in the budget allowed a similar bridge between them.  They would also be able to do the same with indicators of achievement if Member States agreed.

     Regarding rules and regulations, he said that the Secretary-General would not want to do anything that would contravene the prerogatives of Member States.  The changes had been discussed at length during the year.  What had been agreed upon was a request from Member States that the Secretary-General take certain changes to the draft rules into account.  Twenty-one of the 26 sets of changes were immediately incorporated into revised rules.  There were five instances in which the Secretary-General believed it was not appropriate to use the exact wording discussed in the Committee last year.  For those reasons -- reasons relating to his own prerogatives –- he made some slight modifications of those texts.  That was within his prerogative.  It was the prerogative of the Secretary-General to promulgate rules.  It was also for the Secretary-General to determine how he undertook his own prerogatives under those rules.  He would be happy to discuss the differences in further detail.  It was in no way the intention of the Secretariat to ignore the wishes of the General Assembly.  

     Concerning the revised format of the proposed medium-term plan and the relationship between objectives and mandates, he said that all of the objectives in the plan were drawn from mandates.  The mandates were, however, a synthesis of separate resolutions.  Mandates could not be included in their entirety and must be synthesized.  They were a synthesis of thousands of resolutions that had accumulated over the years.

    He said that the medium-term plan did not identify external factors that might affect programme delivery.  They had, however, included in the instructions for the proposed programme budget for 2002-2003 that programme managers should identify such external factors.  Regarding the impact of the new format of the medium-term plan on the rest of the cycle for budgeting, evaluation and monitoring, a separate paper had been issued on that subject -- document A/C.5/55/14.  He was sorry if some delegations felt that it did not address the issue as completely as possible.  The format adopted in the medium-term plan followed regulations faithfully, so that they would be in a position to plan and budget well within that plan.  Under regulations for planning, programme budgets and evaluation, separate tasks were carried out at the right points of the system.

     TOMMO MONTHE, Chairman of the CPC, noted that the Fifth Committee had supported the outcome of the work of that body.  However, there was a question by the representative of Cuba on general methodology of dealing with questions not related to the medium-term plan.  The results of the Committee’s work were before the Fifth Committee, and the delegates could refer to any of them.  Even if some questions did not concern the medium-term plan, they could still be addressed. 

     Members of the CPC had worked very hard during the session, he said.  They appreciated the importance of the work before them.  The human rights programme was an important aspect of the plan, but no consensus was reached on the matter at both parts of the CPC session.  Now the Third Committee would be the most appropriate body to resolve the outstanding issues.  However, the answer from that Committee to the Fifth Committee was not fully satisfactory.  If an answer was not forthcoming, the Fifth Committee should truly negotiate on that programme.  It was unthinkable that a programme on human rights –- one of the main priorities of the Organization -- should be deferred.  An old programme should not be adopted if there was no agreement on the new one.  With some expertise from delegates to the Third Committee, the Fifth Committee should be able to present to the General Assembly with a programme on human rights that would be fully acceptable.  It would be up to each member of the Fifth Committee to draw on the available expertise to solve the problem.  A large number of amendments had been proposed on programme 19 during the first part of the session of the CPC, but now many delegations were ready to take advantage of the last opportunity to resolve the issue.  After having reached agreement on 24 programmes, it did not make sense to stop.

     EVA SILOT BRAVO (Cuba) said that greater clarity was needed on the procedure for considering reports.  In the report of the CPC, there was a statement that it was necessary to reconsider relevant reports in the light of that body’s recommendations.  It was necessary to make a decision, whether all reports should be considered together, or each should be addressed individually. Also, Mr. Sach’s statement should be provided to the delegations in writing.

    As far as the Rules and Regulations Governing Programme Planning were concerned, the Secretary-General and the General Assembly each had their own functions, she continued.  The Secretary-General could promulgate rules, but some rules could lead to modification of the decisions of the General Assembly.  It was not only a problem of legality, but also a question of prerogative and of interpreting the decisions of the General Assembly.  Revisions made by the Secretariat should be made available to all Member States.  Unless the Secretariat provided information regarding the rules used to reduce the number of mandates and strategies, changes should not be implemented.  On the cycle of programme planning, budgeting, monitoring and evaluation, she said that all the changes in the plan would be translated into the budget.  It was necessary for delegations to be informed about the impact of the proposed changes and methodology on the programme plan.

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