Press Releases

    GA/AB/3632
    14 October 2004

    Pattern of Conferences, Financing for Burundimission Debated in Budget Committee

    (Issued on 14 October 2004.)

    NEW YORK, 13 October (UN Headquarters) -- As the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) took up the pattern of conferences this morning, the representative of the Russian Federation cautioned the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management -– which is in the second year of its reform -- against rash steps that could “do away” with existing methods in the absence of reliable alternatives. 

    Bold experiments of the Secretariat should be tried out on a restricted scale before being widely introduced, he continued.  For example, the introduction of the slotting system for documentation planning had become a hindrance to timely issuance of documentation and negatively affected the current session of the Committee.  Particular care should be exercised when reforming language services, as well.  He drew attention to serious problems with the quality of interpretation and translation, stressing that client satisfaction was the main criterion for success in that area.

    Also addressing reform of the Department, the Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management, Chen Jian, who introduced several reports before the Committee, said it was gratifying that the reform had been making progress.  The transition from conference servicing to conference management was well under way, and two conference management systems, for meetings and documentation, respectively, were gradually taking shape as part of the Department’s proactive approach.  Integration was being enhanced within the Department and across various duty stations.  Information technology continued to play a vital role.  He also noted a better budgetary position of the Department, a greater sense of accountability and increasing user-friendliness of the services.

    Speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, the representative of the Netherlands welcomed the progress made with regard to reform of the Department.  The introductions of e-meets and the progress made with e-doc were valuable steps in the right direction.  The Union looked forward to the completion of the global study of integrated management of conference services and the study on workload standards and performance measurements.  He also expressed appreciation for the Department for its efforts to revitalize the General Assembly.  For example, under the Assembly’s resolution 58/316, the Main Committees were now mandated to give specific attention to the rationalization of their agendas.

    As far as the provision of conference services was concerned, the representative of Qatar, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, emphasized the importance of ensuring equal treatment of all duty stations and called on the Secretary-General to take the necessary steps to bring services at the Nairobi Office to a level similar to other duty stations.  He was seriously concerned that the vacancy rate in translation ranged from 7.79 per cent at Geneva to 25 per cent at Nairobi, while the vacancy rate in interpretation ranged from 3.65 per cent at Geneva to 26.3 per cent at Nairobi.

    Introducing the report of the Committee on Conferences on its latest substantive session, the Chairman of that body, Enno Drofenik, said that there were “familiar concerns” on equality of languages, delayed and late issuance of documentation and their distribution, as well as partial compliance with page limits.  Nevertheless, he was convinced that after decades of complaints about the volume, lateness and lack of accountability within the Secretariat, the slotting system could “bring order to the chaos”.  He encouraged the Secretariat to continue fine-tuning the system.

    Many speakers urged the Secretariat to do more to ensure the timely issuance of documents, remarking on the negative impact of the lateness or non-availability of key documentation on the functioning of intergovernmental and expert bodies.

    Recognizing that late issuance of documentation as a serious problem, the United States’ representative said that, although in most cases author departments were responsible for the delays, the slotting system lacked needed flexibility and the ability to respond to surge requirements.  At the same time, scheduling of programmes of work in the Main Committees needed to be better coordinated with documentation-processing needs. Committees themselves should do a better job of limiting requests for documents. 

    India’s representative argued that, while consolidation of reports and reduction in the number of reports originating in the Secretariat were legitimate issues, Member States also needed to consider how to deal with the 70 per cent of documentation that did not, in fact, originate in the Secretariat.  Given the workload as it stood, the Secretariat’s responsibility was to deliver documentation on time through increased efficiency and by projecting the resources required to handle the workload.

    As the Committee turned to peacekeeping financing, the vast majority of the delegates supported granting the United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB) the full resources it needed to carry out its mandate.  Delegates stressed that the mission had a crucial role to play in pursuing and completing the peace process and that its success or failure would have implications across the region.

    Discussing the budget proposed by the Secretary-General in the amount of $333.2 million for the financing cycle ending on 30 June 2005, many agreed with the statement made by the representative of South Africa, on behalf of the African Group, expressing concern that changes recommended by the ACABQ with regard to the staffing and structure of the mission could impede its functioning at a crucial juncture.

    Also participating in the work of the Committee were representatives of Syria, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Guatemala and Brazil.  The documents were also introduced by  Louis-Dominique Ouedraogo of the Joint Inspection Unit; Jessie Rose Mabutas, Director of the Office of Under-Secretary-General for Management; Patricia Azarias, Director of Internal Audit Division, Office of Internal Oversight Services; E. Besley Maycock (Barbados), Member of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ); and Catherine Pollard, Director of the Peacekeeping Financing Division.

    The Committee will continue its debate on the pattern of conferences at 10 a.m. Thursday, 14 October.

    Background

    The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning was expected to take up its “pattern of conferences” agenda item and begin its consideration of financing of the United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB).

    On the pattern of conferences, the Committee had before it a 2004 report of the Committee on Conferences (document A/59/32), which contains the Organization’s calendar of conferences and meetings and presents the Committee’s deliberations on the utilization of conference-servicing resources and facilities, documentation- and publication-related matters, translation and interpretation-related matters and information technology.  A Secretary-General’s report on the pattern of conferences (document A/59/159) responds to a number of Assembly’s requests for information on related matters.  An addendum to the Secretary-General’s report contains a draft revised calendar of conferences and meetings for 2005 (document A/59/159/Add.1).

    Presenting statistical data on the utilization of conference services, the reports indicate that the overall utilization factor in 2003, 77 per cent, is two percentage points higher than in 2002 and three percentage points higher than in 2001.  There has been steady progress and significant improvement in the utilization of conference facilities at the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON) since the establishment of a permanent interpretation service in 2001. Also reported is “a robust and enhanced marketing campaign” to increase utilization of the conference centre at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

    According to the reports, in relative terms, the percentage of regional and other major groupings’ meetings that were provided with interpretation in 2003-2004 decreased to 90 per cent from 92 per cent in 2002-2003 and is 8 percentage points lower than in 2001-2002.  However, in absolute terms, the total number of meetings provided with interpretation was 10 per cent higher than in 2002-2003 and 21 per cent higher than in 2001-2002.

    On documentation, the Secretary-General reports that while there has been an increase in the number of documents issued in accordance with the page limits, overall compliance with the targets continues to be partial.  Also addressed in the report are continued high vacancy rates at several translation services and the Editorial Control Section at Headquarters.  The Secretary-General states that recruitment to fill all posts will proceed at maximum speed, and special measures will be taken to mitigate the problems arising from the assimilation of large numbers of new staff over a relatively short period of time.

    On the proposal under which the Assembly would consider the “Pattern of Conferences” item every odd-numbered year, instead of annually, the reports state that the biennial calendar would coincide with the budget submission.  The Secretary-General concludes that risks of such a change seem minimal, while gains in terms of more structured and streamlined work of the Assembly and more sound reporting on issues through the Committee on Conferences seem quite attractive.

    The Secretary-General’s report on the reform of the Department of General Assembly and Conference Management (document A/59/172) containsproposals for further improvement of the services provided by the Department, focusing on the general aspects of the technical secretariat support and conference services, as well as the main projects undertaken over the past year, including an Integrated Global Management initiative.  The reform of the Department, now in its second year, seeks to integrate various projects and achieve full-system benefits by relying on management and technology.

    Outlined in the document is a recent study aimed at optimizing the work of the Main Committees, which has produced three options for a mock calendar of conferences and meetings that would schedule the Committees’ work over two substantive periods during the session.  Further negotiations will be required on the matter.  The Department has also presented a broad range of recommendations on the Committees’ working methods and the agenda of the Assembly, promoting further biennialization, triennialization and clustering of items, as well as elimination of some of them.  The agenda and the programme of work of the fifty-ninth session of the Assembly reflect the efforts to align items of the agenda according to the priorities of the medium-term plan of the Organization for 2002-2005.  To facilitate the work of the Main Committees, for the first time this year, the chairpersons and all the members of the bureaux were elected three months and provisional programmes of work circulated four months ahead of the session.

    To alleviate the chronic documentation problem, the Department has introduced a slotting system for documentation forecasting and planning and made adjustments to ensure timely processing.  Control and limitation of documentation are being implemented through reduction, where appropriate, in the quantity, length and frequency of reports requested by the intergovernmental machinery, by consolidating such reporting requests, and by strictly enforcing page limits.

    According to the proposed strategic framework for 2006-2007, also included in the report, the Department intends to improve planning of conferences; further develop such tools as e-meets and e-docs; improve the e-flow system; and begin actual electronic transmission of documents through the documentation chain.  Other actions envisioned in the document include measures to enhance the cost-effectiveness of printing on demand (POD) for parliamentary documentation and begin utilization of that system for publications; follow-up on the comprehensive study on integrated global management; continue study of workload standards and performance measurement to present proposals on a comprehensive methodology at the sixtieth session; and further improve quality control and timeliness.

    In a related report (document A/59/418), the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) notes that the purpose of the slotting system was to enhance the predictability of the document processing workload and, thus, enable better planning and utilization of the processing capacity of the Department.  However, chronic problems continue, due, at least in part, to “off schedule” document submissions.  The ACABQ is of the view that lacking flexibility, the system has become an obstacle to the timely issuance of documents, as well as the ability to respond to surge requirements.  An interdepartmental review group is being set up to address those weaknesses.

    While welcoming the overall increase in utilization of conference resources at all duty stations since 2001, the ACABQ remains concerned that raw statistics are potentially misleading and may obscure the understanding of actual efficiency gains.  Under the results-based management system, more emphasis should be placed on the optimal use of conference resources by measuring results achieved.  In that connection, the ACABQ advocates revisiting the methodology for calculating the use of conference resources.

    On the issue of vacancy rates in language posts, the ACABQ states that greater attention should be paid to succession planning by identifying potentially successful applicants in local markets and developing a roster of qualified candidates in all languages.

    The Advisory Committee further expresses concern that after a large investment in information technology, the Department’s measurable gains in productivity and quality are yet to be realized.  In that connection, the Department is requested to continue its efforts to develop a coherent and results-oriented information technology strategy.  In so doing, it should make sure that the needs and experience of language staff are fully taken into account.  From its exchange of views with managers of the Department, the Advisory Committee is also not convinced that sufficient efforts have been made to raise performance of individual staff members by linking training programmes with workload standards and performance measurements.

    Another document before the Committee is a note by the Secretary-General transmitting to the Assembly a report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) on the integration of global management of conference services (document A/59/133).  The centrepiece of the report is a proposal that the Department establish nine cross-duty task forces to jointly draft chapters for a new manual of policies and procedures, to be ratified by the Department’s Coordination Meeting in 2005.  The manual is intended to address inconsistent management practices across the duty stations in New York, Geneva, Vienna, and Nairobi -- a problem that the OIOS said had arisen from differences as to whether authority in the Department resides in New York, or is decentralized.  Among a number of other specific proposals, the report indicated that the most pressing need was for the Department to actively promote “a cooperative and consultative culture, in which all duty stations’ views and contributions are valued and systematically sought, and where all information is freely shared”.

    A report of the Joint Inspection Unit on the Official Documents System (ODS) (document A/58/435) assesses the status of implementation of the Organization’s archival and retrieval documents system, identifying remaining policy and management issues in order to widen its use.  According to the document, following introduction of the ODS at Headquarters and in Geneva, the system was supposed to be expanded to include the United Nations Office at Vienna, the five regional commissions, the United Nations Office at Nairobi and other duty stations.  However, at the time the report was prepared, the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), as well as UNON, were covered only partially or not at all.

    In that connection, the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) recommends that the Assembly request the Secretary-General to pursue the implementation of ODS at ECA, ECLAC, ESCAP and UNON.  The report also reiterates the need to abide strictly by the rules, which mandate that no language version of a particular document is to be released for dissemination until all other language versions are available.  The report on the pattern of conferences should present all instances of non-compliance with this rule, as well as an assessment of the backlog of official documents not yet released or missing in the required languages on ODS.  The Unit also recommends:  a new policy of free public access to the system;areview of the ODS management; a survey to evaluate user satisfaction; and better guidance on the use of the ODS.  Measures to widen awareness of the system include steps to:  make the system more widely available to diplomatic missions and national administrations; indicate the availability of documents on individual organizations’ web sites; and provide training on the use of the System. 

    The addendum to the report (document A/58/435/Add.1) provides updated information on the matter, stating that most recommendations have been duly noted and supported by the administration.  In particular, the administration fully supports the recommendation regarding the need for more clearly defined policies on simultaneous posting of official language versions on ODS.  A cursory review of the examples annexed to the Unit report reveals many cases where the document does indeed exist in the official languages, but has not been posted.

     Among recent measures, the document lists regular training courses provided by the Dag Hammarskjöld Library for permanent missions, Secretariat staff, non-governmental organizations, accredited journalists and visiting information centre staff.  The Library is currently in the process of creating direct links from its bibliographic records to the ODS.  The regional commissions remain committed to full participation in the shared indexing programme.  The ESCAP has recently concluded integration of its documentation into ODS, and over 300 documents of ECLAC have been posted on the system in January 2003.  In consultation with the Information Technology Services Division and the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, ESCWA has also been able to resolve all problems associated with the input of Arabic data into ODS.

    In a related report (document A/58/620), the Advisory Committee requests information on the financial implications of extending usage of the system, including the long-term implications of processing reports published prior to its introduction.  The ACABQ also notes that 50 per cent of Member States in Geneva and 70 per cent in Vienna have not requested access to ODS.  Upon enquiry, the Advisory Committee was informed that the low level of requested access to ODS in Geneva and Vienna is the result of a lack of awareness of the availability of the system.  The ACABQ stresses the importance of modernizing, re-engineering and making ODS fully accessible to Member States; the Secretariat should publicize the availability of this facility.

    UNOB Financing

    The Secretary-General’s proposed budget for the United Nations Operation in Burundi (document A/59/300) for the period from 1 July 2004 to 30 June 2005 incorporates and supersedes the budgetary proposal for ONUB for the period from 1 July to 31 December 2004, as set out by the Secretary-General at the time of the establishment of the Mission last May (document A/58/802).

    The proposed budget in the amount of $333.2 million provides for the deployment of 200 military observers, 5,450 military contingent personnel (including 125 force headquarters staff officers), 120 civilian police, 403 international and 423 national staff (including 56 national officers), and 172 United Nations Volunteers.

    A related report of the ACABQ (document A/59/412) makes recommendations that would entail a reduction of $3.5 million in the proposed budget, identifies opportunities for further savings, and contains a number of observations and recommendations regarding the administration and management of the Operation.  While the Advisory Committee welcomes the efforts of ONUB to present its proposed budget in the results-based budgeting format, it indicates that there is room for further improvement, particularly regarding the measurability of indicators of achievement and outputs.

    Among the primary concerns of the Advisory Committee is “what appears to be the application of a model structure with certain commonalities for current and future missions” – the matter also discussed in connection with the Haiti Mission.  Having had an exchange of views with representatives of the Secretary-General, the Advisory Committee is of the opinion that its concerns indicated in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) report -- particularly regarding the need to avoid fragmentation, establish clear lines of authority and avoid grade inflation -- have not been fully addressed.  The ACABQ cautions against a tendency to replicate functions of the Operation itself in the Office of the Special Representative or Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, saying that the aim should be to improve efficiency, accountability and management.  There should be no increase in the posts or the grade level of the posts.

    The Advisory Committee also offers several specific recommendations for adjustments regarding the staffing of ONUB and highlights several areas where estimated costs appear too high, including those for military and police personnel rations, facilities and infrastructure, and official travel.  The ACABQ recommends that the delayed deployment factor be adjusted to a more realistic rate of 25 per cent for international staff, 15 per cent for national staff, and 10 per cent for United Nations Volunteers.  Registering particular concern about the slow pace of recruitment of national staff, where the vacancy rate as of 28 September was 64.5 per cent, the Advisory Committee expects that urgent measures will be taken.

    Welcoming the high degree of cooperation among various participants in the area of operation, and with other peacekeeping operations in the region, the Advisory Committee asked that the next performance report for ONUB include detailed information in that respect.  Also addressed in the report are requirements for spare parts for vehicles and a $36,000 provision to cover the cost of official functions held by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General at a monthly cost of $3,000.  The ACABQ advocates a uniform presentation of hospitality requirements, which should be based on a consistent and transparent policy.  In the meantime, the Advisory Committee recommends a $12,000 reduction in the estimate for official functions for ONUB.

    Finally, while estimated requirements of $1 million are included for so-called “quick-impact projects”, the Operation has not started any such projects.  The Advisory Committee stresses the importance of starting quick-impact projects at the early stages of deployment and trusts that the administration will take urgent steps to expedite the planning and implementation of these activities.

    Introduction of Documents

    The Chairman of the Committee on Conferences, ENNO DROFENIK, introduced that body’s report contained in document A/59/32, saying that the Committee on Conferences had recommended for the adoption by the Assembly, through the Fifth Committee, a draft resolution that reflected its substantive discussion.  The draft was contained in annex I to the document.  He considered it a success of the Committee on Conferences that this year’s draft contained twice as many agreed paragraphs as the one last year. 

    Addressing concerns over the overlap between the sessions of the Commission on Sustainable Development and the Governing Council of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), he said that following his consultations with chairpersons of both bodies, he had received word from the Commission showing flexibility in rearranging its organization of work to accommodate input from Habitat.  The bureau of the Commission had decided to move its high-level segment to 20-22 April and the consideration of the Habitat report to the week of 18-22 April.  The bureau of the Governing Council would further discuss the matter on 19 October.

    He had conducted consultations with chairpersons and secretaries of bodies that had been underutilizing their resources for three years in a row, he continued, urging them to introduce certain changes they conducted their work.  Systematic follow-up was needed regarding the use of conference services by those bodies.

    Much interest and some enthusiasm had been expressed in the Committee on Conferences regarding the e-doc and e-meets and the printing on demand, and their further development was requested in the draft, he said.  Regarding documentation- and publication-related matters, he said that there were “familiar concerns” on equality of languages, delayed and late issuance of documentation and their distribution, as well as partial compliance with page limits.  Nevertheless, the initial positive effects of the slotting system had been noted by the Committee.  He was convinced that after decades of complaints about the volume, lateness and lack of accountability within the Secretariat, the slotting system could “bring order to the chaos”.  He encouraged the Secretariat to continue fine-tuning the system.

    The draft also addressed requests to the Secretary-General on recruiting temporary assistance in language services, on the use of new technologies and exchanging language staff among duty stations.  It noted with appreciation the continued practice of holding informational meetings with Member States, and  noted the progress in integrating information technology into management and documentation-processing systems.  It further requested compatibility of technologies used in all duty stations, ensuring that they were user-friendly for all official languages.

    The Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management, CHEN JIAN, introduced the reports of the Secretary-General on the pattern of conferences (documents A.59/159 and Add.1) and on the reform of the Department (document A/59/172).

    On the reform of the Department, he said that it was always harder to achieve than to conceive.  It was, therefore, gratifying that the reform had been making progress.  The transition from conference servicing to conference management was well under way, and two conference management systems, for meetings and documentation, respectively, were gradually taking shape as part of the Department’s proactive approach.  Integration was being enhanced within the Department, between technical secretariat support and conference management, among operational units on meetings and documentation chains and also across various duty stations.  Information technology continued to play a vital role, and related strategy had been geared towards the priorities of the reform.  He also noted a better budgetary position for the Department, a greater sense of accountability and increasing user-friendliness of the services.

    Regarding the unsatisfactory availability of documentation for the Fifth Committee this year, he said that the Department was only part of the problem, and it could, at best, be only part of the solution.  The success of the Department depended, to a significant extent, on joining efforts with the rest of the Secretariat and MemberStates.  Clearer encouragement from the Assembly was needed on the control and limitation of documentation, a stronger endorsement of the 20-page limit for reports not within the purview of the Secretariat, greater support for the drafting guidelines and an earnest request for Member States to exercise restraint in their communications.  There should be better interaction with meetings planning to coordinate the programmes of work of various bodies with documentation processing needs.  Also needed were continued support for the efforts to create an integrated global management, guidance on the direction to take in handling summary records and endorsement for continuing the study on workload standards and performance measurement.

    LOUIS DOMINIQUE OUEDRAOGO, Inspector of the JIU, introduced the report on the ODS (document A/58/435), saying that eight recommendations of the report focused on both general policy and management issues.  A coherent and coordinated approach was needed in the ODS.

    JESSIE ROSE MABUTAS, Director of the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management, introduced the comments of the Secretary-General on the JIU report (document A/58/435/Add.1).  She emphasized that the recommendations had been well received by the Secretariat and that further development of the ODS had been integrated into the information and communication technology of the United Nations.  She also recounted the latest developments in connection with the development of the ODS at various duty stations.  Regarding free public access, she said that additional equipment had been installed, configured and tested that would increase the capacity of the System.  A new web interface would provide access to the general public ODS documents without the need for user identification and/or password.  Those improvements were targeted for implementation by the end of the year.

    PARTICIA AZARIAS, Director of the Internal Audit Division, Office of Internal Oversight Services, introduced the report on the integration of global management of conference services (documents A/59/133 and Corr.1).  She said that the OIOS team had facilitated workshops in all four duty stations in order to identify impediments to full integration of conference services.  Essentially, the OIOS had found that there were inconsistencies in the determination of where authority for conference services resided.  Due to that lack of clarity, diverse management practices and policies had developed across the United Nations system.  To overcome that, the Oversight Office had proposed a collaborative model in which policies and practices were developed jointly.  The final result envisioned would be a Department-wide manual of practices and procedures.  There were also several suggestions for closer collaboration between the Under-Secretary-General for the Department and the local Directors-General.  The Department had fully endorsed the recommendations of the report and had begun to implement many of them.

    Related ACABQ reports (documents A/59/418 and A/58/620) were presented by E. BESLEY MAYCOCK (Barbados), Member of the Advisory Committee.

    Statements

    RONALD ELKHUIZEN (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, commended the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management for the excellent arrangements made for the general debate at the beginning of this year’s General Assembly and looked forward to comparably good service during the remainder of the session.  The provision of conference services was instrumental in the success of the Organization’s work, whose universal character required equal treatment for all official languages -- which the Union considered a high priority.

    He welcomed the report of the Committee on Conferences and the annexed draft resolution, and expressed confidence that that draft resolution would substantially facilitate the work of the Fifth Committee on that issue during this session.  Among the many positive elements outlined in the report was the consultations of the Chairman of the Committee with those bodies that consistently under-utilize their allocated resources, which was a useful mechanism for ensuring better use of available conference services.

    The Union also welcomed the progress made by the Secretariat with regard to reform of the Department.  The introduction of e-meets and the progress made with e-doc were valuable steps in the right direction.  The Union looked forward to the completion of the global study of integrated management of conference services and the study on workload standards and performance measurements.  With a view towards enhancing the provision of summary records, they supported the formulation of pilot projects for more efficient and cost-effective delivery.

    The Secretariat has made much progress in improving the management of documentation, particularly through the strict implementation of the slotting system, the electronic transmission of documents, and printing on demand. However, the Union urged the Secretariat to do more to ensure the timely issuance of documents.  The negative impact of the lateness or non-availability of key documentation on the functioning of intergovernmental and expert bodies could not be underestimated.

    The Union attached great importance to the revitalization of the General Assembly, and appreciated that the Department had been particularly active in that regard.  Under General Assembly resolution 58/316, the Main Committees were mandated to give specific attention to the rationalization of their agendas.  In view of this mandate, the Union considered carefully the proposed biennialization of the agenda item on the “Pattern of Conferences”.  The risks associated with that step seemed minimal, while great advantages regarding the sensible division of labour and reducing the work load in the Fifth Committee could be achieved.

    The Union stood ready to consider positively the adoption of the draft resolution elaborated by the Committee on Conferences, expecting that it would guide the Department to become an even more responsive, productive, efficient, and useful partner to all MemberStates and entities of the Organization.

    MISHAL MOHAMMED AL-ANSARI (Qatar), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, was satisfied with the increase in the use of conference services in different duty stations, as mentioned in the report of the Secretary-General. The Group also looked forward to the oral presentation by the Committee on Conferences Chairman on the use of conference servicing resources and facilities.

    The Group recalled the General Assembly’s conclusion about the importance of meetings of regional and other major groupings of Member States for the smooth functioning of the sessions of intergovernmental bodies.  The Group regretted the continuous decrease in meetings provided with interpretation to regional groups, and was unable to understand the failure in responding to their requests.  The Group endorsed the recommendation of the Committee to review the current provision of interpretation services for meetings of major regional groupings of Member States at Headquarters and other duty stations, with a view towards improving those services.  The Group was deeply concerned about the findings contained in the Committee report indicating that the vacancy rate in translation ranged from 7.79 per cent at Geneva to 25 per cent at Nairobi, while the vacancy rate in interpretation ranged from 3.65 per cent at Geneva to 26.3 per cent at Nairobi.  The Group emphasized the importance of ensuring equal treatment of all duty stations and called on the Secretary-General to take necessary steps to bring services at Nairobi to a level similar to other duty stations.

    The Group also expressed deep concern over the chronic problem of late issuance of documentation, regretting its negative impact on the legislative process.  Such problems had greatly intensified during this session, suggesting that the time had come to give the issue more formal consideration.  The Group stressed the importance of complying with existing rules for documentation --including the 10-week rule for the author departments to submit documents and the six-week rule for their issuance -- but called upon the Department to redouble its efforts to improve coordination with the author departments to identify and resolve the problems.  The Group recalled that the Secretariat had not yet submitted the comprehensive report requested on this issue by General Assembly resolution 58/250.

    The Group emphasized that timely, easy, and rapid access to documents in the six official languages of the United Nations was an essential element for the success of the intergovernmental process.

    CANDICE EBBESEN (United States) said that her delegation generally endorsed the conclusions of the Committee on Conferences, the provisions of the draft resolution on the pattern of conferences, and the conclusions of the ACABQ.  As a member of the Committee on Conferences, her country had taken an active part in the negotiations on the draft.  She supported considering the item biennially, in order to promote better working practices, while also allocating sufficient time for the topic.  The proposal made sense, particularly as statistical trends regarding documentation and meeting utilization needed longer time to be noticeable.  Reporting annually on such matters could not reveal changes over time.

    Late issuance of documentation was a serious problem, she continued.  Although, in most cases, author departments were responsible for the delays, as noted by the ACABQ, the slotting system lacked needed flexibility and the ability to respond to surge requirements.  Her delegation fully agreed with the assertion that the scheduling of programmes of work in the Main Committees needed to be better coordinated with documentation-processing needs.  Committees themselves should do a better job of limiting requests for documents.

    Regarding summary records, she fully supported the language of the draft requesting the Secretary-General to consult bodies with entitlements to summary records to assess the continued need for those records, given the financial implications of production and diminishing utility due to delays in issuance.  She agreed that the Secretariat should concentrate précis writing in the English section to reduce, to some extent, delays in translation.  Since the conference rooms were now wired for sound, her delegation strongly endorsed exploring the possibility of replacing summary records with digital records.

    Continuing, she noted the report of the Task Force on Workload Standards and Performance Measures and remained concerned over the lack of progress in the Task Force.  She fully agreed with the Advisory Committee, which was “not convinced that the Department has made sufficient efforts to raise the performance of individual staff members by, inter alia, linking its staff training programmes with workload standards and performance measurement”.  The Department had been successful in achieving efficiency gains and efficiency operations through the application of information technology.  However, efficiency gains could never be fully realized until appropriate performance standards and measurements were introduced.  On a more positive note, she noted with appreciation the positive achievement among the four duty stations in developing a system of integrated global management, as well as the advent of printing on demand, which had led to a reduction of 13 posts and paper usage.

    VLADIMIR A. IOSIFOV (Russian Federation) stressed the importance of the reform of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management and commended the introduction of electronic systems designed to radically improve documents processing and meeting management.  However, any innovations should be subjected to careful analysis.  For example, introduction of new technologies should fully take into account the unique nature of many services.  On many occasions, his delegations had cautioned against rash steps that could do away of existing methods in the absence of reliable alternatives.

    Bold experiments of the Secretariat –- most of which he supported -- should be tried out on a restricted scale, before being widely introduced, he said.  For example, the introduction of the slotting system had become a hindrance to timely issuance of documentation and negatively affected the current session of the Committee.  Unfortunately, many other conclusions of the ACABQ had also corroborated his fears.  Particular caution should be exercised when reforming language services.  According to the documents before the Committee, introduction of new technologies had not led to an automatic increase in the productivity of editors and translators, due to the unique nature of their functions.

    The quality of translation continued to be a serious problem, he stressed.  The documents issued in Russian were full of inaccuracies and distortions, for example.  The failure to agree on uniform terminology and geographical names in the documentation on the same subject also remained a chronic problem.  Interpretation into English was yet another source of concern.  The lack of knowledge of the terminology of the Main Committees on the part of certain interpreters was really surprising.  The management of interpretation services needed to draw the interpreters’ attention to the need to prepare for meetings in advance, and at least look through the documents to be taken up by the Member States.

    In the absence of effective qualitative and quantitative indicators of achievement of the language services, the satisfaction of Member States with the quality of those services remained the only means of assessment.  The Department should work out a mechanism to systematically track the level of client satisfaction.  As a realistic measure, he suggested that the Department should hold briefings on the problems of language services not once a year, but every six months, and the outcome of such meetings should not be buried in the sand.  He welcomed the intention to create a web site where Member States could place their comments on the terminology and quality of services provided.

    One factor that defined quality was the establishment of equal working conditions for all language services and making sure they had commensurate resources, he continued.  His delegation was concerned over the unequal allocation of human and financial resources among the language services and called on the Secretariat to remedy that situation.  As for the global management project, success could be ensured not through strict centralization of authority, but through balanced division of labour among the Headquarters and the duty stations, where the coordinating role of the Department could promote better use of the capacities of the Organization.  Reform needed to proceed along an evolutionary path, replacing outmoded methods and technologies with new ones. The effectiveness of the measures introduced should be beyond question.

    V.K. MADHAVAN KUTTY (India), commending the Committee on Conferences for its work, noted that for the second year in a row the Conferences Committee had proposed a draft resolution for the approval of the General Assembly which his delegation believed would facilitate the work of the Committee on the issue of “Pattern of Conferences”.

    While consolidation of reports and reduction in the number of reports originating in the Secretariat were legitimate issues, Member States also needed to consider how to deal with the 70 per cent of documentation that did not, in fact, originate in the Secretariat.  However, given the workload as it stands, the Secretariat’s responsibility was to deliver documentation on time through increased efficiency and by projecting the resources required to handle the workload.

    Regarding the slotting system, his delegation called upon the Department to institute greater consultations with secretariats of the intergovernmental bodies and author departments to introduce some flexibility into the system.  He hoped that the interdepartmental task force being set up would address this problem.  He also proposed that urgent and time-bound reports due to come before the Fourth Committee would be subject to similar establishment of priorities as Security Council documentation.  The Department should also plan to set aside some capacity for meeting the requirements of issuance of reports sought in the two resumed sessions of the Fifth Committee.

    His delegation believed that greater use of information technology in the work of the Department had the potential to improve efficiency, although that was not yet apparent.  The introduction of such innovations as e-flow, e-processing, and the e-folder system should have been preceded by adequate training and testing.

    On the servicing of meetings of regional and other major groups, his delegation did not agree with the proposal to include utilization statistics in future reports, as such statistics tracked utilization of conference services actually allocated to the relevant body.  Until such time as there was separate allocation of conference services for meetings of regional and other major groups, it would be illogical to calculate utilization statistics for them.

    The issue of summary records and their non-availability in a timely manner had festered for too long, and his delegation welcomed the options proposed by the Secretariat in document A/59/172.  The relevant provisions of the draft resolution proposed by the Committee on Conferences could provide a way forward.

    The representative of Syria associated itself with the statement made by Qatar, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, noting that it attached special importance to the subject of “Pattern of Conferences”.  The Secretariat must balance the timely issuance of quality documents, granting full equality to all languages by providing reliable and quality interpretation services.

    Measures to provide adequate services to the Member States had yet to bear the expected results due to many factors, most importantly the failure by different departments to cooperate with the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, as well as the weak system of accountability at the United Nations.  The delay in issuance of reports had been a cause of concern at the United Nations and in the capitals, yet the Secretariat had repeatedly failed to explain the reasons for delay and appeared to lay the blame on Member States.

    His delegation was concerned that the slotting system had many shortcomings, and seemed to be obstructing the issuance of documents, instead of assisting the process.  He agreed with the conclusions of the ACABQ in paragraph 3 of its report that “printing on demand” was supposed to be an important aspect of reform, but was not an alternative to the traditional printing system.  He objected to the Secretariat’s claim that there were insufficient resources to produce the summary records requested and wondered why the administration had sung the praises of the many technologies in use, when it was not able to implement new modes that would preserve those summary records in hard copy.  He stressed that using modern technology could not be an objective in itself, and questioned measures taken by the administration to use voice-recognition systems, as well as digital systems for dictation and translation for the work of the Secretariat.

    He recalled the recommendations of the Committee on Information, concluding that there was an imbalance when addressing some official languages, such as Arabic.  Despite repeated requests from the General Assembly over the years, there remained a laxity in filling vacancies in interpretation services in Nairobi that was totally unjustified.  Noting that decisive measures were needed, he asked the Secretariat to provide information on the actions being taken to address the problem.

    He noted that the issuance of some documents violated the rule of simultaneous issuance of documents in all official languages, and asked the Secretariat to explain the delay in producing translations of an addendum to one report that was first available in English.

    He supported the JIU and ACABQ reports regarding the ODS, but asked what was meant by the statement to provide free access to the public to the ODS with regard to “general nature” documents.  His delegation had understood that all documents would be available for free, and would like that matter to be clarified.

    Responding to comments and questions from the floor, Mr. CHEN, Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management, noted that there were many questions raised regarding the value of the slotting system.  He believed that the questions were due not to any major difference of opinion among the delegates, but to the failure of the Secretariat to explain clearly what the slotting system was about.  The slotting system was a planning tool, and did nothing more or less than allow for planning the submission of documents and the capacity within the Department to process them, taking into account the needs of intergovernmental bodies.  The Department was the coordinator of an effort that brought together three major actors:  the submitting or author departments; the processing department; and the intergovernmental bodies.  The primary aim of the slotting system was to ensure that submitting departments were fully aware of when an item would be taken up and what was the time needed by the Department to process documents, and that intergovernmental bodies, through their secretariats, were aware of the process that preceded the final issuance of documents.

    That system responded to what delegates had been calling for, an enhanced accountability system.  This year was the first year in which the slotting system was fully implemented, covering both the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly.  To encourage accountability, it was decided not to entertain reslotting.  The question was raised, in that regard, as to the “inflexibility” of the slotting system.  But the slotting system was built on the General Assembly request that documents be submitted 10 weeks before the beginning of the session, and to allow a certain period for processing.  The rigidity is there. The slotting system built on those requirements did have certain inflexibility, but, in actual implementation, the Department tried to accommodate the actual needs.

    He noted that only 40per cent of current workload was actually “slottable”.  The Department, therefore, planned its capacity based on the slotted documents, as well as forecast of the other 60 per cent.  That forecast was based on historical experience.  There was a need to improve those forecasting efforts, but the Department could never ensure 100 per cent compliance with the 10-week rule, given various factors over which there was little control.

    Introduction of Further Documents

    CATHERINE POLLARD, Director, Peacekeeping Financing Division, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on the budget of the United Nations Office in Burundi (UNOB) (document A/59/300).

    A related report of the Advisory Committee was introduced by Mr. MAYCOCK.

    Statements on ONUB Financing

    EELKE POSTEMA (Netherlands), on behalf of the European Union and associated States, supported the comments of the ACABQ on the mission and commended the Secretariat for its use of the results-based budgeting framework for the mission.  He urged the Secretariat to further utilize that format in order to facilitate improvement in measuring indicators of achievements and outputs.  He also commended the high degree of cooperation between the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) and ONUB, and welcomed further exploration of ways to improve cooperation between missions in the region.

    Continuing, he expressed concern about the vacancy rate for national staff, which was more than 60 per cent and urged the Secretariat to address that issue in the coming budgeting period.  He was also concerned over the replication of functions in other offices in the Mission and in the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General.  The Union fully supported the ACABQ comments on the number of posts and recognized the requirements of the missions, as well as the need for the Special Representative to have staff at the appropriate level to perform the functions facing the Mission.  He sought further justification from the Secretariat on that issue.

    KAREN LOCK (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the African Group, welcomed the budget proposal of the Secretary-General for $333.2 million for ONUB, which reflected the financial and human resources required for the mission to successfully implement its complex and multidimensional mandate.  It was imperative that the Committee take a decision that would provide a solid foundation for the work of the Operation and contribute to lasting peace in the region.  The Group took note of the recommendations of the Advisory Committee and stood ready to consider them further during the informal consultations, trusting that the Secretariat would, at that time, provide delegates with a detailed explanation of the potential impact any proposed reductions might have on the work of ONUB.

    The Group inferred from comments made by the Advisory Committee in its report that the ACABQ was proposing similar reductions to the staffing table of ONUB as was proposed for that of MINUSTAH.  The two missions, however, had very distinct mandates, operated in very different environments and faced unique challenges.  Recognizing that both missions were multidimensional, the Secretariat had applied a broad model to determine what type of structure the operations would require.  Even as the Group expected the Secretariat to apply the model in a flexible manner, they also expected the ACABQ to consider the resource requirements on a case-by-case basis.  That would provide the necessary assurances that any reductions would not impede the deployment and functioning of the mission at such a crucial juncture.

    The African Group noted that the majority of adjustments to the staffing establishment in ONUB proposed by the ACABQ were in the Offices of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the two Deputy Special Representatives.  The Group recalled that the Special Representative also acted as the Chairperson of the Implementation Monitoring Committee (IMC), which was established by the Arusha Agreement to follow up, monitor, supervise, and coordinate the implementation of that accord.  The Group cautioned against a decision that might weaken those offices at the early and crucial stages of ONUB’s deployment and operations.  The Group was also unclear as to the reasoning behind the ACABQ’s proposal to downgrade one of the two Deputy Special Representatives of the Secretary-General to a D-2 level.

    The Group shared the ACABQ’s view about the importance of quick-impact projects to promote and facilitate peacekeeping efforts, and believed the projects identified in the budget proposal would enhance public confidence and goodwill towards the mission.  The Group also shared the concern of the ACABQ about the slow pace of recruitment of national staff and expected that urgent steps would be taken to address the situation.

    Recognizing that sustainable peace in Burundi was necessary for long-term stability in the Great Lakes region, the Group was encouraged by the close cooperation between ONUB and MONUC and trusted that those efforts would continue.  Also, given the geographic vastness of the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the expanded role for MONUC provided for in Security Council resolution 1565, it was particularly important to assist ONUB in further developing its own capacity.

    MARC NTETURUYE (Burundi) associated his delegation with the statement made by the representative of South Africa, on behalf of the African Group, and thanked her sincerely for pointing out ONUB’s real needs.  The ONUB had a crucial role to play in pursuing and completing the peace process in Burundi.

    Representatives must bear in mind that ONUB’s needs were being identified from two standpoints:  internal, as seen by ONUB, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and the United Nations system; and external, as perceived by beneficiary countries, and the Burundian population.  From both perspectives, ONUB needed sufficient resources to carry out its work.  Priorities included the restoration of security throughout Burundi, assistance to refugees and externally displaced person, and success of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process, which would determine the future of whole peace process.  All that was a precondition for holding future elections. Sufficient resources were also required to allow ONUB to provide support for election, including activities before elections, such as a census, printing of national identity cards, and ballots.

    The people of Burundi would judge ONUB by the direct action taken to assist them.  It was a population faced with the harsh reality of poverty and lack of basic infrastructure, which had been destroyed by war.  The ONUB needed support to carry out quick-impact projects, such as the rehabilitation of bridges, construction of schools, building of wells, water pumps, and mills.  Those small projects would have an important impact on ONUB’s acceptance and overall image.  He noted that the $1 million envisaged for those quick-impact projects was insufficient.

    The ONUB could help address the problem of unemployment in Burundi by hiring more national staff, and giving priority to those who were without work.  Such efforts would enhance the image of ONUB and might also reduce the cost of international personnel, who were more expensive.

    Because the conflict in Burundi was connected to the situation in all its neighbours, dialogue among the leaders of those neighbouring countries, among capitals, and among border forces must be pursued.  It should not be forgotten that the United Nations needed to burnish its image in that part of Africa, and the best way to do that was not to cut the budget of ONUB just as the mission was getting off the ground.  He asked representatives to support ONUB and grant the full amount requested, in the interest of Burundi and the international community.

    NICHOLAS SHALITA (Rwanda) associated himself with the position of the African Group and added that the situation in Burundi was unique and complex, with the conflict continuing for over a decade.  In his first report on the mission to the Security Council, the Secretary-General had observed the negative growth of the economy, which exacerbated the already dire economic situation and poverty in the country.  Compounding the situation was the fact that the transitional process was at a critical stage.  Despite ongoing negotiations on the electoral process and post-transitional power-sharing, the parties had yet to reach agreement on delicate issues.  One of the armed groups remained outside the transition process.

    The work of the mission was complex and multidimensional, and the mission should be provided with sufficient resources to complete its mandate, he said.  He supported the proposed budget for the mission and welcomed the civilian staffing proposals, recognizing the importance of placing the right people in crucial positions.  The post of Special Representative was an important “multi-hatted” post, and he believed that weakening that office could undermine the mission’s ability to effectively discharge its functions.  It would not be advisable to adopt a “one size fits all” approach to the structure of various missions.  However, the ACABQ had referred to its report on MINUSTAH when making similar recommendations on ONUB.  The structure of each mission should be dictated by the decisions of the Council and the situation on the ground.  The challenges of the conflict in Burundi were unique and, so too, should be the staffing structure of the mission.  He favoured an approach where mission structures were determined on a case-by-case basis.

    He then addressed the recommendations of the ACABQ relating to downward adjustment or elimination of several posts, insisting that it was critical to maintain those posts at the recommended level.  He shared the opinion of the ACABQ regarding the need for the mission to undertake quick-impact projects.  And finally, he expressed concern over the slow pace of national staff recruitment and said that his delegation expected urgent steps to be taken to address that problem.  Welcoming cooperation with the Democratic Republic of the Congo Mission, he insisted on the need for ONUB to develop and enhance its own capacity.  The mission was of crucial importance for the Great Lakes region and should be granted adequate resources to discharge its mandate.

    FRANCIS MUMBEY-WAFULA (Uganda) also associated himself with the position of the African Group, as well as Burundi and Rwanda.  He said that the conflict in the Great Lakes region had drawn serious international attention.  His country had been affected by the negative developments in the region and was involved in the efforts to reach peace there.  Therefore, he welcomed the efforts of the Secretary-General and broadly supported the proposed budget and staffing levels of the mission.  He objected to the downgrading of the Deputy Special Representative post, due to the importance of his duties.  He also wanted to further pursue the matter of generalized proposals on the uniformity of structures in peacekeeping missions.  The representative of South Africa had touched upon all critical issues, but he wanted clarification on a critical area in keeping the momentum of peace process –- funding of personal protection of the functions involved in the transition process.  He believed funding of that aspect was very important.

    JOHN J. NG’ONGOLO (United Republic of Tanzania) commended the Secretary-General for his swift action in implementing Security Council resolution 1545, which established the mandate of UNOB.  He noted that the budget proposal had been prepared in the results-based format and was directed at full realization of the Operation’s objective of restoring lasting peace and brining national reconciliation to Burundi.

    Associating himself with the position of the African Group, he welcomed the budget proposal of $333.17 million, which had been prepared on the basis of a clear understanding of the unique situation in Burundi.  He also thanked all Member States, which had paid their contributions to the mission on time and without conditions, demonstrating their strong political will to execute the resolution on Burundi.  He hoped that other countries would follow their example.  Tanzania was committed to fully meeting its financial obligations for UNOB and establishing closer cooperation with UNOB in accordance with the United Nations and regional peace initiatives. 

    Peace in Burundi meant peace and stability for Tanzania, the entire Great Lakes region, and Africa as a whole, he stressed.  His country had become a haven for refugees from Burundi, even before it had gained independence in 1961.  He was pleased that, according to the Mission, as of 30 July more than 65,000 refugees had returned since the beginning of the year, bringing the total since 2002 to 200,000.  It was estimated that 777,000 Burundian refugees still remained in Tanzania, however, including 287,000 in camps, 170,000 in settlements, and 300,000 in villages.  His people wondered how long it would continue shouldering the burden.  Therefore, his delegation attached great importance to the operation in Burundi and was ready to support any proposal that would enhance the ability of the mission to implement its mandate effectively and expeditiously.

    KARLA GABRIELA SAMAYOA-RECARI (Guatemala) fully associated her delegation with the statement made by South Africa on behalf of the African Group.

    NAJIB ELJY (Syria) supported the statement by the representative of South Africa, including the concerns she expressed and also supported the concerns expressed by the representative of Burundi.  He supported the recommendation of the Secretary-General, noting that ONUB, as a new mission, required full technical and financial support.

    Regarding the templates proposed by the Secretariat for peacekeeping missions, there appeared to be a new policy from the ACABQ, in that regard.  The issue should be considered in detail when the Committee considered cross-cutting issues next year.  For now, the Committee should focus on the needs of ONUB.

    CAIO MARIO RENAULT (Brazil) fully supported the statement made by the representative of South Africa.

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