Press Releases

    GA/AB/3703
    3 November 2005

    Budget Committee Debates Role of Committee for Programme and Coordination

    NEW YORK, 2 November (UN Headquarters) -- The role of the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC) as the principal coordination, planning and evaluation body of the United Nations was debated in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning, with a number of delegations questioning its relevance, and others defending its function.

    Several speakers expressed disappointment over the absence of agreement on the working methods and "the procedural confusion" at the end of the CPC's forty-fifth session earlier this year.  Japan's representative said that the work of any body needed to be evaluated by actual results and impact delivered, and not only by the lofty original intentions.  While the Assembly had referred to the CPC as "the body whose central role and overall responsibilities are recognized", it was highly doubtful whether that description was correct under the current circumstances.

    Speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, the representative of the United Kingdom said that the CPC on a number of occasions had failed the test -- recommended by the Office of Internal Oversight Services and the Joint Inspection Unit -- for its recommendations to be action-oriented and enhance the relevance and effectiveness of United Nations programmes.

    While nominated by the Economic and Social Council for an additional term as a CPC member, Switzerland was currently reviewing its membership, that country's representative said.  The Committee had failed once again to achieve even the most tentative reforms in its working methods.  Given the overall efforts to reform the United Nations, it would be particularly crucial and urgent to enhance the effectiveness and relevance of the CPC.

    The United States' representative said that, given the value his country had previously attached to the CPC, it was of key concern that its forty-fifth session had devolved into a dispute over Committee reform and working methods.  As a result of the CPC's failure to carry out the mandate from the Assembly to improve its working methods, the United States had declined to approve the report of that body.

    India's representative, however, emphasized the Committee's importance in ensuring that the programmatic content of the budget conform to legislative mandates.  That was particularly important, in view of proposals for "wholesale deletion" of mandated programmes through the instrument of the budget.  The Committee had been prevented from adopting recommendations on its working methods on the basis of consensus, because some proposals had little to do with improving the working methods and more to do with reducing the length and number of sessions of the Committee.

    Numerous speakers in the ensuing debate, including the representative of Argentina (on behalf of the Rio Group), agreed with the representative of Jamaica, who, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said that time had been wasted at the CPC session, because, even before the session started, proposals had been made to cut the time of meetings in half.  If delegations understood the importance of the CPC, they would not have made such a suggestion.

    Also today, several speakers addressed the provision of conference services to Member States, emphasizing the importance of timely issuance of documents, quality translation and interpretation into all official languages and the need to ensure equal treatment of all duty stations.

    While noting the contents of the Committee on Conferences report, the United Kingdom (on behalf of the European Union) expressed disappointment that the Committee had been unable to make any substantive recommendations and had not agreed on a draft resolution for transmission to the Fifth Committee.  What he found deeply regrettable was the fact that the body tasked with reviewing conference management and reform had itself been unable to finish its work on time.  The way in which conference management was dealt with by the Assembly must be much more efficient and policy-oriented.

    The representative of Syria, however, expressed high appreciation for the work of the Committee on Conferences, saying that he was bewildered by the call to eliminate it earlier in the session.  In fact, he had expected calls to revitalize that Committee, which had an important role to play.  It needed to be provided with the necessary means to facilitate the work of various United Nations bodies.  The Committee's inability to present proposals to the Fifth Committee could be attributed to the short time allocated to its session.  It was puzzling that a speaker had criticized the Committee on Conferences, while the same delegation had objected to allowing it additional time to finish its work.

    Several speakers also spoke on the human resources management issue, focusing on such aspects as equitable geographic distribution, the gender balance in the Secretariat, current hiring practices and availability of skills in local labour markets.

    Statements were also made this morning by representatives of Egypt, Cuba, South Africa, China, Nigeria, Venezuela, Ukraine and Russian Federation.

    Additional comments on the report of the CPC were provided by its Chairman, Markiyan Kulyk, and a report was introduced by Inga-Britt Ahlenius, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services.  Answers to questions were provided by Angela Kane, Assistant Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management and Jan Beagle, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management.

    The Committee will hold elections to a number of subsidiary bodies at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, 3 November.

    Background

    The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning was expected to continue its general discussion on programme planning (for background information, see Press Release GA/AB/3695 ) and, as part of this agenda item, introduce and discuss the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) report on proposals to strengthen and monitor programme performance and evaluation.  The Fifth Committee also was expected to conclude its general discussions on the pattern of conferences.  (For background, see Press Release GA/AB/3702 .)

    Programme Planning

    As part of its discussion on programme planning, the Committee had before it a Committee for Programme and Coordination report (document A/60/16) and a letter dated 20 October 2005 from the President of the General Assembly addressed to the Chairman of the Fifth Committee (document A/C.5/60/11).

    OIOS Report

    The Committee had before it a report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services on proposals on the strengthening and monitoring of programme performance and evaluation (document A/60/73).  It was a response to a request by General Assembly resolution 58/269 that the Secretary-General entrust the OIOS to prepare the report in collaboration with the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU).

    The document contains the final report of the Secretariat-wide Working Group on Monitoring and Evaluation.  The group was created by OIOS to develop specific proposals and ensure broad support among departments and offices.  The document also includes the JIU's comments on the Working Group's report.

    The Working Group found that, despite recent progress, the current monitoring and evaluation system in the United Nations needs improvements to make a noticeable impact on future plans and decisions.  The report concluded that, in order to strengthen the monitoring and evaluation system, the roles of the three main stakeholder groups -- intergovernmental bodies, the OIOS and the programme and senior managers of the Secretariat -- needed to be clarified and their responsibilities enhanced.  The report urged the intergovernmental bodies to use monitoring and evaluation findings as a basis for making more action-oriented recommendations and decisions that will improve the usefulness of programmes.

    Programme planning, including monitoring and evaluation reports, should be included as a standing item on the agendas of the General Assembly, the Main Committees of the General Assembly and intergovernmental and other special intergovernmental bodies.  The General Assembly emphasized that requirement in its resolution 59/275.

    And, in order to strengthen the professional and methodological support given to monitoring and evaluation in the Secretariat, the Working Group proposed that OIOS strengthen its central monitoring and evaluation facility and enhance its reporting formats and procedures.  The Working Group also emphasized the need for managers and senior managers to increase their self-evaluation.  And finally, the Working Group emphasized the need to integrate and improve the existing results-based management tools and techniques.  Therefore, a new version of the Integrated Monitoring and Documentation Information System should be developed in consultation with programme managers to increase their use of the System as a management and monitoring tool.  In addition, continued funding of the System for that purpose should be identified.

    The JIU concurred with the proposals of the Working Group and stressed that the largest risk threatening the successful implementation of results-based management is the complexity of the performance-measurement system.  A burden was placed on managers for data collection and on the governing bodies for the analysis of such data.  Before this report, the Joint Inspection Unit issued a comprehensive series of reports on results-based management entitled "Managing for results in the United Nations system".  The findings and conclusions of the present report are in agreement with the unit's previous reports.

    Statements

    MARKIYAN KULYK, Chairman of the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC), focused on the Committee's recommendations concerning the review of efficiency and coordination issues, as the CPC Vice-Chairman had focused on programmatic and budgetary issues during a presentation made on 25 October.

    During the start of his speech, the representative of Jamaica interrupted and expressed her concern that the Chairman, unavailable when its report was presented as the programme budget for the biennium 2006-2007 was presented last week, would not address questions raised during that session.

    The Fifth Committee's Acting Chair, DARIUSZ MAŃCZYK ( Poland), said the CPC Chair was only presenting additional comments, not any reintroductions.

    Continuing, Mr. KULYK said the Committee held nine informal consultations and a number of "informal informals" on the issue of working methods and procedures during its forty-fifth session.  That gave the Committee enough time to achieve substantial and result-oriented recommendations on the improvement of its working methods.  He said it was his strong belief that they had an interesting exchange of views on the working methods that could lead towards substantial improvement in the procedures and effectiveness of the CPC.  Regrettably, lengthy negotiations on the matter did not result in agreed recommendations.

    As Chairman of the CPC at its forty-fifth session, he trusted that building on the work completed during the session, and acting in the spirit of flexibility and compromise, the Committee could move forward to improve its working methods and, thus, increase its effectiveness in the planning, evaluation and coordination process.

    He encouraged CPC members to continue negotiations at its next session on the improvement of working methods with a view to reaching consensus on a number of important recommendations.  The Committee should be not only practical and realistic, but also aware of the different cycles of the CPC in the budget and off-budget years.  The delegations should realize that "business as usual" should not be tolerated in the Committee, but far-reaching proposals, even those emanating from relevant United Nations General Assembly resolutions, needed time to be appreciated and implemented.

    On another issue closely related to the working methods, he said the situation surrounding the adoption of the CPC's final report at the end of its forty-fifth session showed the need to have clear and agreed interpretation of such rules as "adoption without a vote" or "adoption by consensus".  He encouraged the delegations to consider appropriate steps to alleviate the impact of discrepancies in the interpretation of the practical implementation of the rules.

    INGA-BRITT AHLENIUS, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, introduced the Report of her Office on proposals on the strengthening and monitoring of programme performance and evaluation (document A/60/73).

    She said the strengthening of monitoring and evaluation was a vital part of the Secretary-General's ongoing effort at United Nations reform, but despite recent progress, the current system required improvements if it was to have a noticeable impact on the relevance, effectiveness and efficiency of the Organization.  Since her arrival in the post in September of this year, she had concluded that the functions of monitoring and evaluation within the OIOS, along with audit and investigations, would benefit from an external and independent review.  The review would clarify the identity and value of those functions.

    WILLIAM LONGHURST ( United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, noted that in connection with the discussion of the biennial programme plan for safety and security, the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC) had not had any substantive amendments to propose during its forty-fifth session.  Also on the agenda were the first thematic evaluation by the OIOS, a review of best practices for poverty eradication in the framework of the Millennium Declaration, and a number of other items on review of efficiency, evaluation and coordination.  The Union noted the conclusions and recommendations that appeared in the report, being the consensus result of sometimes lengthy negotiations between the members.  However, those conclusions and recommendations on a number of occasions failed the test, recommended by the OIOS and the JIU, for CPC recommendations to be action-oriented and enhance relevance, usefulness and effectiveness of United Nations programmes and subprogrammes.

    He was also concerned about what was not in the report -- the working methods of the Committee, he said.  In 2004, the Committee itself had decided that it would deal with the issue as a matter of priority this year.  The Fifth Committee had also instructed the CPC to do so.  And yet, once again, there had been a failure to agree on conclusions and recommendations on the modus operandi of the CPC.  Furthermore, it was time to consider the continuation of the travel and subsistence allowances for CPC members that had been originally authorized on a trial basis in 1978.  He regretted the absence of consensus on the working methods and the procedural confusion at the end of the Committee's forty-fifth session.  That situation had led a number of Member States to review their membership in the CPC.  He, therefore, felt that, under the circumstances, the appropriate step would be to take note of the report of the forty-fifth session as a whole.

    He recalled that, in his report on the implementation of decisions from the 2005 World Summit Outcome, the Secretary-General had recommended that the CPC reschedule to August/September 2006 its consideration of the proposed strategic framework.  In that respect, the Union believed that the CPC must demonstrate its capability to provide recommendations that were action-oriented, relevant and useful.  As for the report on the strengthening and monitoring of programme evaluation, he welcomed the fact that programme managers were now to be asked to conduct preliminary performance assessments in the last quarter of the biennium and use them as reference for formulating the subsequent proposed Strategic Framework.  It was important to understand how well programmes were performing when planning for the next programme period.  He looked forward to hearing more in the future on the implementation of the plan of action annexed to the report for strengthening monitoring and evaluation.

    ANDREW HILLMAN ( United States) said that, since 1974, when his delegation first became a member of the CPC, it had relied on the Committee to ensure that the programme and budget aspects of United Nations activities were carefully scrutinized to minimize and eliminate duplication, overlap and inefficiencies.  Progress, which had been achieved in promoting results-based budgeting and programme evaluation, was attributable, at least in part, to the work of the CPC.  Given the value his country had previously attached to the CPC, it was of key concern that the forty-fifth session of that body earlier this year had devolved into a dispute over Committee reform and improved working methods. Proposals to institute constructive improvements in the functioning of the Committee were rejected by one or two delegations.

    As a result of the CPC's failure to carry out the mandate from the Assembly to improve its working methods, the United States had declined to approve the report of that body, he said.  Although his delegation clearly stated that it could not approve the report as drafted, however, the Chairman ignored its objection and gavelled the report anyway.  That act was in clear violation of the requirement, in resolution 41/213, for the Committee to decide by consensus.  Moreover, his delegation's attempt to have the report reflect its position was rejected.  Given that situation, the United States was not in a position to endorse the report.

    He added that, as the Committee considered the decision taken in September by Heads of State and Government concerning the need to reform the United Nations, it was of critical importance to have some form of central coordinating mechanism to guarantee efficiency in the approach to the myriad of problematic issues confronting the United Nations system today.  The dysfunctional nature of the CPC made him conclude that that was not the body to carry out that important task.

    HITOSHI KOZAKI ( Japan) said that the work of any body needed to be evaluated by actual results and impact delivered, and not only by the lofty original intentions.  Despite the tireless efforts of the bureau of the CPC at its forty-fifth session, that event had ended in disappointment, without a sense of accomplishment.  It was unfortunate that, yet again, that body had not lived up to what it had undertaken to do in paragraph 480 of its last year's report, as well as the mandates set out in resolutions 58/269 and 59/275.  In that connection, he recalled that, the Assembly had referred to the CPC as "the body whose central role and overall responsibilities are recognized".  Unfortunately, one would not find consensus on that among the members of the Assembly.  It was also highly doubtful whether that description was factually correct under the current circumstances.  It was only natural that a special exception to the CPC be discontinued with regard to the basic principle as set out in paragraph 2 of Assembly resolution 1798 (XVII) of 11 December 1962.

    While committed to the effort to make the CPC useful and meaningful for the membership as a whole and for the Organization, Japan, at this juncture, had difficulty in coming up with any good ideas, he continued.  Perhaps, it was time for those who attached great importance to the work of the CPC to come up with attractive and convincing suggestions on ways to improve the relevance of the Committee's work, to which his delegation would surely give serious and very careful consideration.

    Turning to the report of the OIOS on strengthening and monitoring of programme performance and evaluation, he welcomed the proposals made in the report and said that his delegation was ready to discuss ways of strengthening the evaluation mechanism for the Organization.

    ANJA ZOBRIST RENTENAAR ( Switzerland) said she shared many of the concerns raised by the previous speakers.  She regretted these developments, as she recognized the Committee's important role as the principal coordination, planning and evaluation body of the United Nations.  This year's session was not a very productive one and Members wasted valuable conference resources in lengthy debates over the programme of work.  She said the Committee failed, once again, to achieve even the most tentative reforms in its working methods, despite nine rounds of informal consultations to consider a number of very constructive proposals from around the table.

    Given the overall efforts to reform the United Nations, she said it would be particularly crucial and urgent to enhance the effectiveness and relevance of the CPC.   Switzerland, while nominated by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for an additional term as a CPC member, was currently reviewing its membership.

    SITARAM YECHURY ( India) aligned himself with the comments of Jamaica on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries.   India attached great importance to the role of the CPC as the main subsidiary body of the General Assembly and the ECOSOC for planning, programming and coordination.  Its importance in ensuring that the programmatic content of the budget conforms to legislative mandates is even more important as the Fifth Committee heard proposals for wholesale deletion of mandated programmes, using the budget as an instrument.

    Regarding the issue of improving the Committee's working methods, he said the Committee was prevented from adopting recommendations which had been agreed to on the basis of consensus.  That was justified by some on the grounds that the proposals that they were particularly attached to did not achieve consensus.  Those proposals had little to do with improving the working methods and more to do with reducing the length and number of sessions of the Committee.  That led one to the conclusion that the attempt was aimed at cost-cutting, rather than at improving the value of the Committee's output or making it more effective.  He urged delegations to reflect on the proposals before drawing any conclusions about the inability of the CPC to come up with any recommendations on improving its working methods.

    NORMA ELAINE TAYLOR ROBERTS (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said that the Group had made its comments at the time of the presentation of the budget last week.  She had not intended to speak again, but was forced to make a brief comment based on what she had heard today.  Comments had been made that time was wasted during the CPC's forty-fifth session.  That was because even before the meeting started, proposals had been made to cut the time of meetings in half.  If delegations understood the importance of the CPC, they would not have made such a suggestion.  That had contributed a great deal to the time being wasted.  The programmatic role of the Committee in the planning and budgetary process should be appreciated and understood.  There had been quite an effort on the part of some delegations to poison the whole approach to the CPC.  The strategic role of the Committee in the setting of the priorities of the Organization should be understood.

    YASSER ELNAGGAR ( Egypt) said that his delegation had not intended to speak, but some of today's statements had made an intervention necessary.  He associated with the position of the Group of 77 and China and endorsed the comments by India on the issue.  Resolution 58/269 had provided for an experiment in the budget cycle as far as the role of the CPC was concerned.  That body constituted one of the basic elements, on which the success of the experiment would be judged.  There had been a misinterpretation of the resolution, albeit intentional, by the Secretariat. The text itself was clear in reaffirming the programmatic role of the CPC.

    Regarding the issue of consensus, he reminded the delegations that advocated consensus that they were the same ones that often had a different definition of the word.  To break consensus was actually to ask for a vote -- that had not happened in the context of the CPC.  According to relevant resolutions, the CPC should continue its practice of acting by consensus, and explanatory views should be presented.  The explanatory views presented today would be taken into account.

    Every single day, the Fifth Committee heard a definition of reform, which was basically a pretext for cost-cutting.  He shared the views by India in that context.  If that was the case, then all needed to know that reform really meant cost-cutting.  That was something everybody should reflect on.  As for some references to document A/60/430 today, they had no formal bearing as the report had to be formally introduced before the Assembly reacted to it.

    PABLO BERTI OLIVA ( Cuba) said he did not intend to take the floor and asked that this agenda item be kept open, bearing in mind the observations that have made it possible for delegations to see the importance of the CPC's work.  He would fully rejected the criticisms of that body.

    KAREN LOCK ( South Africa) said she associated South Africa with the statement of Jamaica on behalf of the Group of 77, as well as India, Egypt and Cuba.  The discussion on reform showed the importance of adherence to legislative decisions and aligning resources with the priorities of the Organization.

    South Africa attached great importance to the CPC, which provided a useful forum to interact with programme management and coordination across the United Nations system, as well as strengthen the intergovernmental aspect of monitoring and evaluation.  She said the CPC was an important link between the General Assembly and ECOSOC for the consideration of programme evaluation and coordination issues that affected the entire United Nations system.  It was imperative to ensure that it was respected by the Secretariat and Member States alike.

    She said she was concerned by comments that the report was not adopted by consensus.  Those were misleading statements and the Committee followed proper procedures.  She was surprised by moves to reinterpret the decision.  She supported the CPC's intention to continue its consideration of ways to improve its working methods.

    ALEJANDRO TORRES LEPORI (Argentina), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, congratulated the CPC for its work and supported its last report, whose recommendations had been endorsed by the Economic and Social Council.  He also associated with Jamaica, which had spoken on behalf of the Group of 77.  The Group attached great importance to the CPC and his understanding was that no delegation wanted a vote and the CPC report had been adopted by consensus.

    SUN XUDONG ( China) supported the position of the Group of 77 and China and said that as a member of the CPC, China attached great importance to that intergovernmental body.  True, the CPC might need some improvement, but that should not cause people to doubt its value.   China would continue to participate actively in informals on the matter.

    NONYE UDO ( Nigeria) said that she wanted to make only preliminary remarks on the matter today as she wanted to analyse the points of view expressed in the debate.   Nigeria saw great merit in the CPC and associated itself with the position of the Group of 77 and China.  She supported several previous speakers, including representatives of South Africa, Cuba and others, regarding the important role of the CPC.  She particularly wanted to dwell on the remarks as far as the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and the report of the CPC were concerned.  She supported the recommendations in that respect, especially the need for the United Nations to work in a coordinated manner to support NEPAD.  Support for Africa was one of the priorities of the United Nations, and it was baffling that the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa continued to be vacant.  She wanted a clear explanation on the status of that office and what had impeded expeditious filling of that post.

    Regarding the letter from the Chairman of the Second Committee on the action taken on the recommendations of the CPC, she said that it demonstrated that the report of the CPC had already been acted upon by other intergovernmental bodies.  That emphasized the crucial role of the Committee.

    Mr. YAÑEZ ( Venezuela) said he did not intend to make a statement, but in view of the discussion he felt duty-bound to do so.  He supported the statements of Jamaica on behalf of the Group of 77 and Argentina on behalf of the Rio Group.  Regarding the issue of consensus, he said consensus should show agreement on the part of all delegations.  His Government openly disagreed with the proposals in the Summit Outcome, and some people were currently trying to implement those proposals through the Secretariat documents, where there was a trend to implement issues that had not been agreed to.

    He believed that additional discussion on the meaning of consensus was needed.  He said they needed to be sure that the Summit Outcome had not responded simply to the "hitting of a gavel," but something backed up by a genuine debate.

    NAJIB ELJI ( Syria) said Syria stressed the importance of the CPC's work during a previous statement.  But, in view of other statements made today, he voiced his support of the statements of Jamaica on behalf of the Group of 77, China, Egypt, Cuba, Venezuela and others who stressed the importance of the CPC.  He said the CPC was important as an intergovernmental body and one or two delegations were attempting to undermine and weaken its work.  During recent sessions, two delegations had hampered its efforts and wasted time by taking up issues of a procedural nature.

    He said he believed that such attempts continued today in the Fifth Committee, which should be aware of its time constraints as it considers a budget. He supported the request to keep the item open for discussion.

    In response to the delegates' comments, Mr. KULYK, CPC Chairman, said, after listening to the different views, he wished the delegates good luck in their next negotiations.  He urged that time not be wasted on the general exchange of views and instead to begin working immediately on practical work.  He urged the development of practical, results-oriented decisions.  He said he supported a cooperative approach, flexibility and the preservation of compromises.  He thanked the delegates for their kind words.

    As the Committee turned to the pattern of conferences, SIMON HORNER (United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that the provision of effective conference services, through the timely issuance of documentation, high standards of interpretation and translation, adequate meeting facilities and respect for the equality of all official languages, was instrumental to the success of the work of intergovernmental organs and expert bodies of the United Nations.  At the same time, the resources required represented a substantial share of the regular budget.  It was for all those reasons that the Union placed great value on the principles of effectiveness, efficiency and quality of conference services.

    While noting the contents of the Committee on Conference's report, he regretted that the Committee had been unable to make any substantive recommendations.  He shared Mr. Chen's regret that it could not agree on a draft resolution for transmission to the Fifth Committee.  What he found deeply regrettable was the fact that the body tasked with reviewing conference management and reform had itself been unable to finish its work on time.  The way in which conference management was dealt with by the Assembly must be much more efficient and policy-oriented.

    Turning to reform, he fully supported the ongoing reform measures, such as integrated management of conference services, E-meets and E-docs.  He encouraged the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management to proactively take forward those reforms and seek out additional measures that could be instituted.  He welcomed the benefits already derived from the reforms and expected visible additional benefits to emerge in the short term, flowing directly from the increased use of modern information and communication technology.  While welcoming the reform process, the Union was disappointed that the report of the Secretary-General did not comprehensively address all the options for the delivery of summary records.

    He said information was missing on possible digitalization of those records with full respect for multilingualism.  He was also surprised that the enormous advances in information and communication technology had failed to have an impact on the work of interpreters.  Indeed, document A/60/93 seemed to infer that advances in information and communication technology had made the job of interpreters more difficult.  He expected the Department to present a more reliable method for assessing workload standards, rather than presenting more "management data" in the form of a "balanced scorecard", as suggested.  What benchmarking exercises with outside professional companies had been carried out recently to ensure continued relevance of decades-old workload indicators? he asked.

    Regarding the meetings of regional and other major groupings, he said that the current system of providing meetings on an ad hoc basis had worked well and he supported its retention.  Timely issuance of documentation was vital, and he supported the slotting system as a tool to allow more accurate forecasting of when documents would be submitted and issued.  However, while in theory the system was good, in practice it was being undermined by late input from author departments.  The Fifth Committee should consider alternative ways of addressing that issue, such as reducing the six-week rule to four weeks.  Programme managers should be held more accountable for their departments submitting documents on time.

    Mr. DIAB ( Syria) supported the position of the Group of 77 and China and said that his delegation appreciated the work performed by the Department under the financial restrictions faced by the Organization.  Among other issues, he emphasized the importance of timely production of documents in six official languages and quality interpretation.

    Continuing, he said that he was bewildered by statements by one of the delegations regarding reducing expenses and placing time-limits on the meetings of the General Assembly and ECOSOC and their subsidiary bodies.  That call could not be accepted, for it represented a double standard in dealing with different bodies of the United Nations and sought to weaken the role of small and developing countries.  He was also bewildered by the call to eliminate the Committee on Conferences.  In fact, he had expected calls to revitalize that Committee, which had an important role to play.  It needed to be provided with the necessary means to facilitate the work of various United Nations bodies.  He highly appreciated the work of the Committee on Conferences and welcomed its useful and interesting report.  It was regrettable, however, that the Committee had been unable to present proposals for the Fifth Committee.  That could be attributed to the short time allocated to its session.  It was puzzling that a speaker had criticized the Committee on Conferences, while that same delegation had objected to allowing it additional time to finish its work.

    He also noted improvements in the conference services' utilization rates, particularly in Nairobi.  In that connection, he reiterated the importance of achieving equal treatment of all United Nations duty stations.  He was concerned over delays in applying modern technology to the work of Nairobi, saying that it was necessary to improve the situation.  It was also worth noting that vacancy rates there were extremely high, particularly in Arabic translation and interpretation services.  That had become a chronic problem.  The administration only resorted to temporary recruitment and that did not help stability.  The Secretariat had not responded positively to the Arab Group's initiative to deal with the situation.

    Emphasizing the importance of all official languages, he said that interpretation and translation should use the most accurate terminology.  It was also important to ensure coordination between translation and interpretation services to achieve unity of terminology.  He also noted a deterioration in the level of performance of interpretation, to the extent that speaking in languages other than English had become undesirable during meetings.  The situation required urgent and effective measures.

    Verbatim reports represented the institutional memory of the United Nations, and it was necessary to lay the time frame for their issuance, he said.  He noted that verbatim reports of the Security Council were not being issued in accordance with rules of procedures on the day of any given meeting.  Another concern was the fact that United Nations documents were sometimes placed on the website before they were issued in paper format.  It was important to adhere to the rules applicable in that regard on all official documents of the United Nations.  He welcomed information meetings with Member States in order to consult on language services and their improvement.  Finally, he welcomed the report on the improvement of the performance of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, with a view to achieving integrated management that all expected.

    Mr. OLIVA ( Cuba) said the Committee on Conferences was very important and he agreed with the statements made by Jamaica on behalf of the Group of 77, Kenya on behalf of the African Group, China and Syria.  He said there was no reason for abolishing the Committee on Conferences, as proposed by another delegation.

    Cuba noted the problems with documentation and would like to know what follow-up was being planned.  He added that documents on planning and budget were to be given priority.  Regarding the survey on conference services, he said that at the last formal meeting on the issue, some delegations had asked why the document was being circulated in only two languages of the Secretariat, rather than all the official languages, if the goal was to obtain the views of all Member States.  He asked why this document was again being circulated in only two languages.

    ANDRIY NIKITOV ( Ukraine) aligned himself with the representative of the United Kingdom on behalf of the European Union.  He fully endorsed the statement.

    ANGELA KANE, Assistant Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management, responded to the delegates' earlier concerns regarding the reports on the pattern of conferences.  Her remarks touched on accountability surrounding the submission and issuance of documents, the slotting system and page limits; the provision of services to regional and other major groupings of Member States; how security concerns are impacting the use of facilities at the Economic Commission for Africa; and technology issues at the United Nations Office in Nairobi.

    She also responded to concerns about vacancies and language examinations in the translation services; the backlog of summary records; workload standards; the reduction of meetings programme and possible subsequent savings; and integrated global management.

    ALEXANDER K. GOLOVANOV ( Russian Federation) said that his delegation would be unable to express its views in connection with a survey on the quality of conference services that had been circulated in the room, because it did not contain a single word in Russian.  He reminded the Committee that the issue had already been discussed during the second resumed session, when a number of delegations had made comments of a similar nature.  Yesterday, he had pointed out the need to take into account the views of Member States on the use of six official languages.  The views of Member States on the quality of conference services represented one of the main criteria for assessing the services of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management.  Their inability to respond to questionnaires cast doubts on the results achieved as a result of such surveys.  Member States that used the services of the Department in six official languages should be able to count on a more careful treatment of their views.

    He added that he would also like to avail himself of the presence of Department representatives to bring to their knowledge the fact that, in Conference Room 5, the wireless Internet signal was very weak.  He wanted to bring that issue to the attention of the services concerned.

    As the Committee resumed its discussion of human resources management, Mr. OLIVA ( Cuba) supported the position of the Group of 77 and China and agreed with the recommendations made by the JIU on host country agreements.  However, he had some questions for the Chief Executives Board (CEB) regarding their concerns in connection with recommendation 6.  He fully supported recommendation 7, which was relevant indeed, particularly in the view of recent incidents with visas for staff and JIU inspectors themselves.

    Turning to the report on the availability of skills in local labour markets, he wanted to know the link between the conclusions arrived at in the report and the recommendation regarding possible continuation of the study, if the General Assembly so decided.  He asked if the Office of Human Resources Management was absolutely certain about the results obtained in the report.

    From the report, he had learned that announcements and notices had been issued in various newspapers in the United States, he said.  A similar practice had been followed in the case of recruitment of the new Assistant Secretary-General, who was present in the room today.  In that connection, he wanted to know the mandate under which it had been done.  What resources had been used to pay for notices in the United States press?  How had the decision been made on which newspapers to choose to publicize the notices?  To be more specific, since the Assistant Secretary-General was in the room, he asked if she knew the results for the post she occupied.  Had any candidates been considered on the basis of such notices or ads?

    Regarding the report on geographical distribution, he said that he would ask questions in informals on the various options submitted to the Committee.  He also noticed a decrease in a number of posts for developing countries at the higher level.  He asked what measures had been adopted by the Secretary-General to comply with repeated requests by the Assembly to ensure equitable representation at those levels, in particular, representation of developing countries.  In that context, he supported Jamaica's request for information, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.

    Mr. UDO ( Nigeria) said the report on the composition of the Secretariat was important to the Nigerian delegation and she endorsed the statement made by the representative of Jamaica on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.

    She noted that the report contained tables demonstrating the breakdown of staff by age, gender, types of jobs and other categories.  She appreciated the information, but would like the Secretariat to prepare tables that reflected the contribution to some of those categories of staff members from various regions around the world.  She would like this information in the informal sessions.

    Regarding statistics on upcoming retirements among Secretariat staff, she said she would like more information showing how those retirements would affect the staffing levels of various Member States.  She noted with concern that several Member States from Africa would lose a large number of Secretariat staff by 2009 because of retirements.  One State, Chad, for example, will see all of its people retired.  She wanted to know how that development was affecting the Secretariat's recruiting efforts and whether Member States were informed about the situation.  She added that she would seek clarification on the report of the Joint Inspection Unit during the informal session.

    The representative of South Africa said he realized that it was not a year for discussion on human resources issues, but he had some questions in order to monitor developments in the area.  He noted that some departments were not meeting their targets on balancing geographic recruitment and female staff hires.  He asked what accountability measures were in place to insure that departments and their managers were meeting these targets.  And, if there was no accountability, what elements in the Secretariat were impeding accountability?  He also asked the Secretariat for a table detailing the number of female staff in categories at professional and higher levels that came from each of the five regional groups.

    JAN BEAGLE said that she would be ready to answer all questions in informal consultations.  She would also go into some detail regarding accountability mechanisms.

    Mr. DIAB ( Syria) noted that in the report on the composition of the Secretariat, Syria appeared on the list of countries whose representation would be affected by retirements.  What plan did the Secretariat have to avoid underrepresentation?  Equitable distribution of senior posts was very important.  He was worried that nationals of developing countries were effectively excluded from those positions.  Only one regional group was represented in a decision-making post.

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