Press Releases

    GA/AB/3497
    11 March 2002

    PROPOSED EXTENSION OF RETIREMENT AGE FOR STAFF HIRED BEFORE 1990 RAISES QUESTIONS, RESERVATIONS
    FROM SOME DELEGATIONS

    Fifth Committee Adopts 2 Draft Resolutions, One on Arrears
    Of Former Yugoslavia, Another on Geneva Common Services

    NEW YORK, 8 March (UN Headquarters) -- Having considered the report of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) on the United Nations common services at Geneva, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning encouraged the adoption of streamlined consultation procedures, with a view to the possible full launching of the plan of action for Geneva common services earlier than the targeted year of 2010.

    Approving, without a vote, a draft resolution introduced by its Vice-Chairman, Collen Vixen Kelapile (Botswana), the Committee made recommendations to the Assembly on further development of an efficient common system of obtaining goods and services in Geneva. By the terms of the text, the Assembly would take note of the JIU recommendations and the comments of the Secretary-General and the Administrative Committee on Coordination, and welcome the comments of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) on the matter. The Geneva-based organizations participating in the system would be encouraged to pursue a more structured approach in the improvement of common services, within the framework of the Management Ownership Committee and the Task Force on Common Services and its working groups.

    Under the agenda item on the scale of assessments for apportionment of expenses of the Organization, the Committee approved, also without a vote, a draft resolution by whose terms the Assembly would decide to consider the question of the arrears of the former Yugoslavia at its fifty-seventh session, taking into account the views of the Committee on Contributions thereon. The Committee on Contributions would be requested to consider the question and report on it to the General Assembly at its fifty-seventh session.

    [Following last year’s admission of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to membership in the United Nations, the membership of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia -- the State admitted to the United Nations in 1945 -- was automatically terminated. ow, a decision must be made regarding that country’s outstanding dues, which amount to some $16.22 million. The Assembly has an option of approving a write-off of those dues, or seeking payment from the five successor States -- Croatia, Slovenia, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.]

    Also this morning, the Committee continued its consideration of human resources management and concluded its general discussion on several other issues introduced earlier this week, including conditions of service of members of the JIU and judges of the two International Tribunals, and gratis personnel.

    Expressing doubt that the Secretary-General’s report on the retirement age at the United Nations had sufficiently analysed all the factors involved, the representative of Japan said that the views of younger people should also be taken into account on that matter. As senior staff reaching the mandatory age of separation were likely to have considerable influence, Japan was concerned that the report did not represent the view of younger staff members. Changing the mandatory age of separation could not but influence their career expectations.

    While Japan appreciated the efforts of the Office of Human Resources Management to improve geographical representation in the Secretariat, the overall situation had worsened, he added. The number of Japanese nationals occupying posts subject to equitable geographical distribution had decreased from 106 at the end of June 2001 to 103 in 2002. The number of Japanese nationals in the Secretariat remained at less than half the desirable range of 246 to 332. He hoped that an effective programme with specific targets would be prepared by the Secretary-General as soon as possible, to reduce the level of under-representation among Member States.

    On the same subject, the representative of India supported revising the outdated formula used by the Organization in determining the desirable ranges within the Secretariat. Of particular importance was the increase of the population factor. The reason was obvious: currently, a country of a billion people had a desirable range of 27 to 36.

    [Member States are currently grouped into four categories as far as their representation within the Secretariat is concerned: unrepresented, under-represented, within range and over-represented. A country is "under-represented" when a number of its nationals appointed to the posts subject to geographical representation is below the lower limit of desirable range. Currently, within the overall total of 14,874 Secretariat staff who hold appointments of one year or more, a limited group of 2,445 employees is recruited under the system of desirable ranges.]

    Returning to the issue of cutbacks in services announced in information circular ST/IC/2002/13 of 28 February, the representative of Cuba (on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China) insisted that answers be provided by the Secretariat.

    The representative of Spain (speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States) said that the budgetary savings identified in last year’s budget resolutions required action from the Secretary-General as Chief Administrative Officer, so as not to overspend the resources allocated. The Union trusted that the Secretariat would adhere to the stipulations and orientations set out in those resolutions, as well as resolution 56/242 on the pattern of conferences. The Union would closely follow the execution of the budget in the coming year.

    Statements were also made this morning by representatives of the United States, Syria and China. Responding to comments and questions from the floor was Denis Beissel, Director of the Operational Services Division of the Office of Human Resources Management.

    The Committee will continue its work at 10 a.m. Monday, 11 March, when it is scheduled to begin its consideration of the financing of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC); the Office of Internal Oversight Services report on fee-splitting arrangements in the International Tribunals; and the question of estimates in respect of matters of which the Security Council is seized.

    Background

    When the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning, it was expected to conclude its general discussion on the conditions of service for members of the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia, as well as several issues related to human resources management.

    Also this morning, the Committee was expected to act on two draft resolutions. The draft resolution on the scale of assessments (document A/C.5/56/L.42) for the apportionment of expenses of the United Nations was introduced yesterday by Committee Chairman Nana Effah-Apenteng (Ghana). [For background information on that draft text, see Press Release GA/AB/3496 of 7 March.]

    By the terms of draft resolution A/C.5/56/L.41, the General Assembly would take note of the recommendations contained in the report of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) on the United Nations common services at Geneva and the comments of the Secretary-General and the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) on the matter. It would also reiterate that the use of common services should be one of many tools available to obtain goods and services in the most efficient manner.

    Further by the text, the Assembly would encourage relevant Geneva organizations to give priority to services lending themselves to common delivery, while taking into account the distinct mandates, roles, tasks and rules of each participating body. Welcoming the views of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) on the matter, it would note the efforts made to date by the Geneva-based organizations of the United Nations in the enhancement of common services. The Assembly would also encourage them to pursue, on a more structured approach, the improvement and further development of common approaches within the framework of the Management Ownership Committee and the Task Force on Common Services and its working groups.

    The Secretary-General would be requested to encourage the Management Ownership Committee to adopt streamlined consultation procedures to promote timely agreement on what services should be delivered jointly, with a view to the possible full launching of the plan of action for Geneva common services earlier than the targeted year of 2010. The JIU would be invited to continue to monitor progress in the development and consolidation of common services at Geneva and other duty stations.

    Action on Drafts

    Committee Vice-Chairman COLLEN VIXEN KELAPILE (Botswana) reported on the outcome of informal consultations on common services at Geneva and, on behalf of the Chairman, introduced the draft resolution on the matter.

    The Committee then approved the text without a vote.

    Turning to its agenda item on the scale of assessments for the apportionment of the expenses of the United Nations, the Committee then approved, also without a vote, the draft resolution on the arrears of the former Yugoslavia.

    Statements in General Debate

    HOWARD STOFFER (United States) said that the issue of gratis personnel had evolved over time, and it might be useful to start considering the issue on a biannual basis, rather than every year.

    RAMESH CHANDRA (India) said that the situation had indeed improved. The concerns of the Assembly, for once, had been noted by the Secretariat. He would be wary of the suggestion just made, however, particularly as it was only last year that it had been decided to deal with the issue of gratis personnel on an annual basis, rather than quarterly. At this stage, it was necessary to consider how the issue would evolve on the basis of the new reporting cycle.

    ABDOU AL-MOULA NAKKARI (Syria) said that some in the Committee wanted the items to be taken up once every two years, rather than annually. However, dialogue on the issues on the Fifth Committee’s agenda should continue. It should be constructive and effective, making delegations part of what was happening in the Secretariat and keeping them informed. Last year, the Committee had agreed to consider the issue annually, and he wondered why the proposal to change the reporting cycle was being made.

    Noting an increase in the number of type one gratis personnel (technical experts), he also said that more information should be provided on the reasons for such an increase. The numbers of gratis personnel were still high, despite the improvements made. The resolutions on the matter promoted elimination of gratis personnel, unless there were exceptional circumstances on which the Assembly was to act. He also wanted to know if any gratis personnel had not been included in the report, for example gratis personnel employed for less than one year on non-reimbursable loan.

    EVA SILOT BRAVO (Cuba), speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said that the issue of gratis personnel was of special interest to the Group. The General Assembly should be systematically informed about the situation of gratis personnel. There seemed to be no reason why the Assembly should be less frequently informed. Although there had been some progress on the matter, she supported those who stressed the need to keep the current practice for now.

    Mr. STOFFER (United States) asked about the opinion of the Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM) on his proposal.

    Responding to comments from the floor, DENIS BEISSEL, Director of the Operational Services Division of the Office of Human Resources Management, said that although it had been the practice to deal with human resources management every other year, there were some issues that had been the subject of annual reports. The Secretariat did not have an opinion on how often those reports should come up. It was entirely within the prerogative of Member States.

    The Committee then concluded its general discussion on the item.

    Human Resources Management

    YOICHI NIIYA (Japan) said his delegation attached great importance to human resources management. While Japan appreciated the efforts of the OHRM to improve geographical representation in the Secretariat, the overall situation had worsened. The number of Japanese nationals occupying posts subject to equitable geographical distribution had decreased from 106 at the end of June 2001 to 103 in 2002. The number of Japanese nationals in the Secretariat remained less than half the lower end-point of the desirable range, which was from 246 to 332. To reduce the level of under-representation among Member States, he hoped that an effective programme with specific targets would be prepared by the Secretary-General as soon as possible for the Assembly’s consideration at its fifty-seventh session.

    Regarding the mandatory age of separation, he said that any change in the age of retirement would have a substantial impact on human resources management. The approach to the subject should, therefore, be comprehensive, with factors such as career development, gender balance and equitable geographical distribution receiving substantial consideration. The Secretary-General’s report, which covered only the Secretariat and not the other United Nations entities, did not sufficiently analyse those factors. As the Secretary-General’s approach to the subject only permitted a partial treatment of the issue, he believed that the Assembly could not discuss the mandatory age of separation on the basis of that report.

    He said that changing the mandatory age of separation would contravene General Assembly resolution 55/258 and the report of the Secretary-General on human resources management -- document A/55/253 -- both of which mentioned the need to rejuvenate the Secretariat. Also, in discussing the retirement age, it was necessary to take into account the views not only of senior staff but also of the younger staff. As senior staff reaching the mandatory age of separation were likely to have considerable influence, Japan was concerned that the report did not represent the view of younger staff members. Changing the mandatory age of separation could not but help overturn their career expectations. Noting that United Nations Staff Regulations contained provisions for the Secretary-General to extend the age limit in exceptional cases, which he had often done, Japan believed that that provision was effective in helping the Organization retain capable staff beyond the mandatory age of separation.

    Japan agreed with the recommendations contained in the report of the Secretary-General on amendments to the staff rules, he said. Japan attached great importance to mandatory reassignment in light of career development and mobility of younger staff appointed through the National Competitive Examination. He agreed with the Secretary-General’s proposal that he should be free to outpost staff serving in his Executive Office.

    Ms. SILOT BRAVO (Cuba) speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, deeply regretted the late submission and non-issuance of some of the reports to be considered in the first part of the fifty-sixth session of the Assembly in accordance with its resolution 55/258. She stressed the need to fully redress the problems of late issuance and non-submission of reports by the Secretariat. Non-compliance with the relevant rules and the General Assembly resolutions adversely affected the proper consideration the issue deserved.

    The Group also regretted that the reports on gratis personnel and consultants and individual contractors were not only submitted late but failed to comply with the provisions of Assembly resolution 56/242 -- pattern of conferences -- which stipulated that the reasons for late issuance of the report should be included in a footnote to the report. The Group further regretted that no explanation had been given for the non-issuance of some documents. She sought the Secretariat’s clarification on the matter. Moreover, some reports, such as the report on the mandatory age of separation, were lacking clear and sound information. She proposed that, pending the Secretariat’s explanation, the consideration of the agenda item be concluded in a future session.

    Mr. NAKKARI (Syria) said he had not received a response from the Secretariat on the question of gratis personnel. He would have wanted to hear that response in a formal meeting. He also expressed his support for the statement made by Cuba on behalf of the Group of 77.

    LI TAIZHANG (China) said that his delegation attached great importance to the human resources management issues, including the question of the mandatory age of separation. He fully supported the statement by the Group of 77 in that regard. The matters before the Committee needed to be considered attentively. For delegations to be able to form their opinions and make decisions, information should be presented well in advance. He hoped the Secretariat would satisfy the requirements of Member States in that regard.

    Mr. CHANDRA (India) supported the position of the Group of 77. Regarding the document on the composition of the Secretariat, he said that the General Assembly, in its resolution A/55/258, had requested the Secretariat to consider the implications of using the population factor in formulating desirable ranges within the Secretariat. The reason was obvious: currently, a country of a billion people had a desirable range of 27 to 36. It was important to revise the outdated formula used in the Organization. He hoped future documents on the composition of the Secretariat would attach due importance to that vital aspect. He hoped to see a more coherent response to the requests of the General Assembly.

    Another point he wanted to make concerned a disturbing trend of administrative and budgetary matters being taken up by entities other than the Fifth Committee, which was mandated to deal with them. For instance, the issues of recruitment had been recently taken up by the General Assembly plenary, as well as another body of the United Nations. Relevant resolutions firmly stated that all administrative and budgetary matters should be dealt with in the Fifth Committee.

    The representatives of Syria and Cuba then said that specific proposals and inquiries had been made in the debate. In view of the late submission of reports, formal discussion on the matter should not be closed today, to give the delegations an opportunity to submit their statements at a later date and consider the matter in a substantive and comprehensive way. Also, specific questions had been asked on various issues, and they insisted that the Secretariat should provide answers to them.

    The Committee’s Chairman, Mr. EFFAH-APENTENG (Ghana), said that the matter would be taken up in informal consultations.

    The Committee would come back to it at a later stage. The Secretariat would provide answers to the questions in informal consultations, as well.

    Ms. SILOT BRAVO (Cuba) said that she would prefer the answers to be provided in writing.

    Other Matters

    Regarding the note appraising Member States of cutbacks in services, DANIEL SOTO (Spain), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that resolutions 56/253 and 56/254, by which the General Assembly had approved the programme budget for 2002-2003, were the result of consensus among all Member States. The European Union stood by those resolutions. It was clear that the budgetary savings identified in those resolutions required action from the Secretary-General as Chief Administrative Officer, so as not to overspend the resources allocated. In addition, the European Union trusted that the Secretariat would adhere to the stipulations and orientations set out in the budget resolutions, as well as resolution 56/242 on the pattern of conferences. The Union would closely follow the execution of the budget in the coming year.

    Ms. SILOT BRAVO (Cuba), on behalf of the Group of 77, said that the cutbacks in services directly affected Member States. In its previous statement, her delegation had already stressed that the services needed to be restored immediately. No formal answer had been received to that statement so far. Starting on Monday, no Internet or e-mail services would be provided to Missions through the United Nations. Such reductions were counter to the budget resolutions, as well as the note itself. She proposed that the Secretariat should provide the answers to her formal request on Monday. Depending on the answers provided, the Group would decide what action should be taken.

    Mr. KELAPILE (Botswana), Committee Vice-Chairman, proposed using the remainder of the morning for informal consultations.

    Ms. SILOT BRAVO (Cuba) said that the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) had concluded, some three weeks ago, a discussion of the resolution on the follow-up to the Durban Conference. A statement of programme budget implications awaited adoption. She hoped it would be included in the Committee’s work programme next week.

    The Committee CHAIRMAN said the matter would be included in the programme of work as soon as the ACABQ had finished with its related report. The item would be taken up next week.

    He also informed the Committee that it would not be possible to have informal consultations this morning.

    Mr. NAKKARI (Syria) asked for information regarding a meeting taking place in an adjacent conference room. Non-United Nations security guards were at the doors to that room and were deciding who was allowed to enter the room. That non-United Nations security staff should be allowed to turn away members of delegations carrying appropriate United Nations identification was a matter of great concern to him. What was the nature of that meeting? How had it been organized? He asked that his concerns be conveyed to the United Nations Security Office and to Conference Services. Representatives from those offices should be present at the next meeting to answer his questions.

    Regarding the programme of work, he thanked the Bureau for assigning a meeting on matters related to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). A half hour should also be assigned to discuss the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).

    The Chairman of the ACABQ, CONRAD S.M. MSELLE, said the Advisory Committee would take up the Secretary-General’s request via video-conferencing on Monday. It would decide to report either orally or in writing.

    The Committee CHAIRMAN assured the delegate of Syria that the appropriate persons would be asked to come to the Committee.

    Mr. NAKKARI (Syria) said his delegation would be flexible concerning the ACABQ report.

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