22 March 2006
Budget Committee Takes up Issues of UN Internal Justice System, Financing for 29 Special Political Missions
Ombudsman Presents First Report
NEW YORK, 21 March (UN Headquarters) -- Strengthening the system of internal justice in the United Nations would not only help to improve the relationship between staff and management, but also enhance overall transparency and accountability in terms of human resources management, the representative of Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, told the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning.
As the Committee returned to its consideration of the administration of justice within the United Nations -- an item that had been on its agenda for a long time -- several speakers looked forward to the outcome of the work of the "Redesign Panel" tasked with coming up with proposals to improve the current system, which the representative of Syria characterized as obsolete, slow and very costly.
While expecting to receive a report on the work of the panel in time for a comprehensive review of the issue by the Committee at its sixty-first session, the representative of South Africa, who spoke on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said that awaiting the conclusion of the panel's work should not delay immediate action to reform the system, including interim measures adopted in resolution 59/283. Far-reaching changes were required to avoid duplication and ensure more transparent, impartial and effective administration of justice.
Also today, following the introduction of a first-ever report by the Organization's Ombudsman, M. Patricia Durrant, most speakers agreed that this recently introduced mechanism of informal dispute resolution could play a critical role in making internal justice more effective. Among other things, Ms. Durrant addressed a reduction in the number of cases submitted to the Joint Appeals Board as one of possible indicators of the Office's impact. Feedback from staff indicated that the overwhelming majority had been satisfied with the process. In most cases, staff interaction with the Ombudsman seemed to have an immediate effect, as her Office represented a unique mechanism available to all staff.
The Ombudsman's report also highlighted a number of systemic issues and challenges, including the need for dissemination of clear and accurate information, concerns about the multiplicity of contractual arrangements, the need for heightened transparency and excellence in managerial practices, further needs for training and recognition of outstanding performances, the strengthening of the conflict resolution system and the need for a whistle-blower policy. Some of the recommendations had already been implemented, she said.
In connection with this report, the Group of 77 and China recalled that in 2005 the Assembly had requested the Office of the Ombudsman to expand its outreach activities as a means of enhancing accessibility for staff outside of Headquarters. Consequently, the Group supported the establishment of regional branches to assist the Ombudsman in discharging her duties. Additional measures should be required to improve staff access and, through that, strengthen the Office.
The United States representative also welcomed the fact that the Office of the Ombudsman continued to expand its outreach activities and that the Office had presented proposals to ensure improved access for staff serving in different locations. In that regard, he concurred with the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) -- whose report was introduced by its Chairman, Rajat Saha -- that the proposal for the establishment of three branch offices, each headed by a D-1, be reviewed after the report of the Redesign Panel.
Also addressed in the debate was the proposal regarding the separation of functions of the Administrative Law Unit to avoid a conflict of interest, through redeployment of resources, as requested in resolution 59/283. Several speakers noted that the issues involved would be reviewed in a systemic way by the Redesign Panel and that such a review would contribute to the efforts to improve of the administration of justice system.
While agreeing with that, the Officer-in-Charge, Division for Organizational Development, Office of Human Resources Management, Georgette Miller, who introduced the Secretary-General's report on the matter, said that, according to that document, no conflict of interest existed in the functioning of the Administrative Law Unit, which discharged review functions, on the one hand, and appeals functions, on the other. The Unit acted on behalf of the administration at all stages of the appeals process, and that was made clear to all parties throughout the process. Appellants were represented by the Panel of Counsel or other counsel of their choice.
In that connection, Syria's representative said that, regrettably, the Secretariat had failed to implement the measures required by the Assembly. It had, among other things, not reconsidered the posts in the Administrative Law Unit. The problems in the administration of justice were decades-old and the ACABQ report had mentioned that all required measures by the Assembly had not led to any improvements. He, therefore, requested the Secretariat to inform the Committee of all measures taken to implement the resolutions on the matter.
Also this morning, the Committee considered funding requests for the first half of the biennium 2006-2007 for 29 special political missions, totalling $303.35 million. In its report on the matter, the Advisory Committee noted that for the whole biennium, an amount of about $355.95 million had been included in the budget, and that, if the requirements were funded, there would be a balance of approximately $52.6 million as at 31 December 2006. Last December, a charge of $100 million had been approved in order to allow the missions to function until the end of April. The ACABQ also suggested a review of the Department of Political Affairs on its ability to carry out the management and direction of special political missions.
The Committee will continue its discussion of the special political missions at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 22 March.
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to take up the requirements for special political missions and administration of justice within the United Nations.
The first report before the Committee seeks funding for the first year of the biennium 2006-2007 for 26 special political missions in connection with actions taken or expected to be taken by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council (document A/60/585). With the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) -- the largest one -- expected to change substantially in March 2006, the budget for this mission is proposed for the first three months of the year. As it is anticipated that the United Nations Office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL) will complete its mandate, the budget for this mission is proposed for only 4.7 months. Total estimated requirements of the missions amount to some $297.5 million gross and would be charged against the provision for special political missions of the 2006-2007 budget.
The mission-by-mission information on those operations is contained in an addendum to that report (document A/60/585/Add.1).
Contained in addendum 2 to the report (document A/60/585/Add.2) are the budgets of the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the future status process for Kosovo (UNOSEK), which was established in December 2005 in Vienna; the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004); and the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) concerning the 14 February 2005 killing of Rafik Hariri in Lebanon. The report contains the proposed resource requirements for the period from 1 January to 31 December 2006, except for UNIIIC, for which the budget is proposed for the period from 1 January to 15 June 2006, as its mandate is anticipated to end or change. The total estimated requirements of the three missions amount to some $25.02 million gross.
Annex I, to a related report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), contains a summary of the estimated costs of the activities of all 29 special political missions, with the periods covered in the proposed budget and mandates and expiry dates. A summary of the requirements, broken down by major component, are provided in annex II.
According to the document, total estimated requirements for 2006 amount to some $303.35 million. Compared to the amount of about $355.95 million included by the General Assembly in its resolution 59/278 for the biennium 2006-2007, as at 31 December 2006, there would be a balance of approximately $52.6 million (excluding estimated resources for the remaining period of the biennium in 2007). The Advisory Committee further notes that most of the missions' mandates have been or are expected to be extended into the biennium 2006-2007. In addition, six missions have been discontinued for 2006, having been transformed into peacekeeping missions or reached completion.
The resource requirements proposed by the Secretary-General would provide funding up to 31 December 2006 for all political missions except three: UNAMA, UNOTIL, and UNIIIC-Lebanon, whose budgets are proposed for 3 months, 4.7 months and 5.5 months, respectively, as it is anticipated that the mandate of UNAMA will change substantially in March 2006, the mandate of UNOTIL would not be extended after the completion of its current mandate, and the mandate of the Investigation Commission concludes in June 2006.
Subject to the cost-cutting recommendations contained in its mission-by-mission analysis, the Advisory Committee recommends approval of an amount of some $302.5 million as a charge against the provision for special political missions of the 2006-2007 budget.
Insisting that full justification should be included in future submissions in order to allow more informed consideration of the resources proposed, the ACABQ is also of the view that information analysing the growth or decrease in proposed resources, as compared to both the previous biennium and the previous year, should be included and variances should be explained.
Among the Advisory Committee's other comments is the opinion that interaction of the newly established Peacebuilding Commission and its support office with special political missions could give rise to complementarities and synergies, resulting in enhanced policy coherence, as well as possible gains and savings. Information in this regard should be included in the next submission, as well as information on the policy and managerial guidance provided to the missions by the Department of Political Affairs, as well as related oversight and accountability mechanisms. Information on staffing reviews or internal assessments is also needed. The Assembly could consider requesting a management review of the Department of Political Affairs on its ability to carry out the management and direction of special political missions with a view to ensuring efficient use of both post and non-post resources.
Administration of Justice
On this agenda item, the Committee had before it the first report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the Ombudsman (document A/60/376), which was established in 2002 to consider conflicts related to employment by the United Nations, including matters pertaining to conditions of service, benefits, managerial practices and staff relations matters. The Ombudsman is independent, neutral and maintains strict confidentiality. With a branch established in Vienna as a pilot project, the Ombudsman now proposes establishment of regional branches as a successor to that project.
According to the report, since its commencement, the Office has provided assistance to a total of 1,386 staff members, including 316 cases linked to issues of promotion or career, 161 cases to separation or termination of contract, 148 to interpersonal conflicts, 119 to entitlement claims, 119 to implementation of staff rules and regulations, 103 to conditions of service, and 83 to standards of conduct. Since the establishment of the Office, there has been a significant decline in the number of cases submitted to the Joint Appeals Board at Headquarters.
Among outreach and communication activities, the report lists the launch of a website in all six official languages, desk-to-desk distribution of material with information on how to contact the Office, and panels organized in New York and Geneva on the role of the Ombudsman. A seven-minute video -- "Meet the Ombudsman" -- in English and French has been sent to all offices outside New York and to most peacekeeping missions. In addition to regular briefings with the Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General, the Ombudsman has held periodic meetings with heads and senior officials of departments and has participated in town hall meetings. The Ombudsman has also maintained regular contacts with all units dealing with conflict resolution, had formal meetings with the ombudsmen of the Bretton Woods institutions, and maintained a close relationship with the Ombudsman Association.
According to the report, a number of systemic issues and challenges have been identified through the review of cases, encompassing: dissemination of clear and accurate information; contractual arrangements; heightened transparency; fostering managerial excellence; training; recognition of outstanding performance; strengthening the conflict resolution system; whistle-blowing protection policy; discrimination; overall administration of justice; mission readiness; and locally recruited staff. Based on lessons learned, the Office of the Ombudsman has included in its work plan for the biennium 2006-2007 activities regarding communication and outreach; improved access to staff; conflict management and systemic efficiency; and monitoring of performance.
Document A/C.5/60/10 contains a letter from the President of the United Nations Administrative Tribunal (UNAT) addressed to the President of the fifty-ninth session of the Assembly, taking up recent changes in the Tribunal's statute and the proposal to align compensation of the members of UNAT and judges of the International Labour Organization Administrative Tribunal (ILOAT).
In his 2004 note on the matter (document A/C.5/59/12), the Secretary-General suggested that, should the Assembly decide that UNAT members are to be compensated in a manner comparable to ILOAT judges, it may wish to consider the following honorariums: the UNAT member drafting a judgement would receive $1,000; the two members signing the judgement would receive $250 for each case. However, in its resolution 59/283, the Assembly decided to amend article 3, paragraph 1, of the statute of the Tribunal, with effect from 1 January 2006, requiring that "[m]embers shall possess judicial experience in the field of administrative law or its equivalent within their national jurisdiction", and decided that proposals on compensation would be submitted "once all its members meet the criteria set out in article 3 of the statute as amended in the present resolution".
In the current letter, the Tribunal expresses its disappointment over this decision, particularly with the postponement of consideration of remuneration of the members until the new criteria have been met by all. The President of the Tribunal calls the decision "demeaning to the present incumbents" and states that it "somehow implies that they are unworthy of monetary reward". Moreover, the Tribunal considers it somewhat inconsistent that new members with "judicial experience in the field of administrative law or its equivalent within their national jurisdiction" would be better qualified and, therefore, more deserving of compensation than judges who have experience in international administrative law.
Another report (document A/60/72) presents the outcome of the work of the Joint Appeals Board in 2003 and 2004 and statistics on the disposition of cases and the work of the Panel of Counsel.
According to the document, in 2004, there was a noticeable decrease in the number of appeals filed with the Joint Appeals Board: 47 fewer appeals were filed in New York (a decrease of 53 per cent); 11 fewer appeals were filed in Geneva (a decrease of 31 per cent); seven fewer appeals in Vienna (a decrease of 78 per cent); and six fewer appeals in Nairobi (a decrease of 50 per cent). However, one of the appeals filed in New York comprises 232 cases contesting the same administrative decision. As for the cases disposed, in 2004 the New York Board disposed of 28 per cent more cases than in 2003; the Geneva Board of 46 per cent more cases; there was no change for the Nairobi Board; and a decrease of 53 per cent in the number of cases disposed of by the Vienna Board.
Disciplinary cases are also handled by the secretariats of the Joint Appeals Board -- on priority basis. In 2004, the New York Joint Disciplinary Committee considered six disciplinary cases, the Geneva Committee considered four, and the Nairobi Committee considered one. No cases were submitted to the Vienna Committee in 2004.
Regarding the percentage of rejections of the Board's unanimous recommendations favourable to the appellants by the Secretary-General, the report states that it amounted to 17 per cent in 2003 and 12 per cent in 2004. This pattern is in line with the stated policy of the Secretary-General, which is normally to accept unanimous recommendations, unless there is a compelling reason not to do so. In all such instances, the Secretary-General provides detailed reasons for such rejection, which in most cases is attributable to incorrect application of law or policy by the Joint Appeals Board or inadequate fact-finding that is not supported by evidence.
On the Panel of Counsel, the report states that in 2004, it had 224 new cases. Most of those cases concerned promotion (14 per cent); non-renewal and/or termination of contracts (23 per cent); and disciplinary matters (17 per cent). Owing to the high number of staff requesting assistance from the Panel and limited resources available to it, the quality of its representation and advice necessarily suffers, and this is particularly true for staff in the field. For the same reason, opportunities for conciliation and settlement may not be pursued to the fullest extent. It is expected that with the addition of a P-4 legal officer post, a higher number of cases will be settled informally.
A report on the practice of the Secretary-General in disciplinary matters and cases of criminal behaviour, 1 January 2004-30 June 2005 (document A/60/315) contains information on all actions taken in cases of established misconduct and/or criminal behaviour, as well as appropriate disciplinary and legal action taken in accordance with established procedures and regulations. The document lists 24 cases that led to the imposition of one or more disciplinary measures, including one case involving theft and misappropriation; nine cases of fraud and misrepresentation; three cases of assault; six cases of sexual exploitation and abuse; and five miscellaneous cases, such as an accident involving a United Nations vehicle.
When an investigation shows that criminal activity may have occurred on the part of staff members or other United Nations-related personnel over whom the Secretary-General does not have disciplinary authority, the Secretary-General may refer these cases to relevant national authorities. According to the report, the Secretary-General referred 32 such cases to national authorities, including 17 cases against identified individuals and 15 cases in which criminal behaviour was identified, but the responsible individuals were not.
Another report before the Committee (document A/59/883) deals with a request of the Assembly, in its resolution 59/283, for the Secretary-General to present proposals to separate the function of the Administrative Law Unit in order to avoid conflict of interest, taking into account, among other things, the need to provide the necessary means to collect evidence, advise both the appellant and the respondent, and ensure uniform application of administrative decisions.
The Secretary-General comes to the conclusion that it would not be in the interests of the Organization to separate the functions of the Administrative Law Unit. Also, the issues raised will be reviewed in a systematic way by the Redesign Panel, which would be seeking a comprehensive solution to ensure the most effective United Nations administration of justice system.
The Secretary-General does not share the view that there is a conflict of interest when the same unit handles the request for administrative review, prepares the respondent's reply, and represents the respondent in the same case. The Unit, "while functionally assigned the execution of responsibilities related to appeal matters", is an integral part of the Office of Human Resources Management. "It acts on behalf of the Administration at all times and at all stages in the appeal process. This role is made clear to all parties from the initiation of the appeals process."
The Secretary-General also points out that, should the Assembly decide that the review functions should no longer be discharged by the Administrative Law Unit, a decision would have to be made as to where these functions should be located in future. Options could include the Office of Legal Affairs or the Executive Office of the Secretary-General. Given the similarity in the functions performed by the Unit before the Joint Appeals Board and the functions performed by the Office of Legal Affairs before the Administrative Tribunal, placement of the functions in the Office of Legal Affairs would not address the Assembly's view that there is a conflict of interest when one office performs both review and appeals functions. The conflict of interest issue would also arise if the review functions were placed in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, since the Secretary-General is the final authority on all administrative decisions.
Commenting on those documents, the ACABQ, in a related report (document A/60/7/Add.1), notes that a comprehensive report on the administration of justice was to be submitted by the newly established panel of external and independent experts. The so-called "Redesign Panel" was called for in General Assembly resolution 59/283. Because of this, the Advisory Committee believed that several proposals made in four Secretary-General's reports with regard to the administration of justice are, in fact, piecemeal at this stage and would need to be revisited in the light of the panel's review.
Regarding the Panel of Counsel, the Advisory Committee did not see the need for an additional appropriation of $31,500 at this time for travel costs to increase the Panel's outreach activities. Additional requirements, if any, should be reflected in the first performance report for 2006-2007.
In connection with the report on the activities of the Ombudsman, the Advisory Committee expressed hope that it will serve as a useful information resource for the work of the Redesign Panel. The ACABQ also trusted that the Redesign Panel will thoroughly examine and evaluate the Administrative Law Unit's role and functions with a view to avoiding potential conflicts of interest and ensuring staff confidence in the internal justice process.
Regarding the Secretary-General's practice in disciplinary matters and cases of criminal behaviour, the Advisory Committee trusted that both the Office of the Secretary-General and the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) will collaborate to develop one jointly administered database, keeping in mind matters of confidentially.
Special Political Missions
DENNIS THATCHAICHAWALIT, Chief of the Political, Legal and Humanitarian Service of the Programme Planning and Budget Division, introduced the Secretary-General's reports on the budgets of 29 special political missions. He recalled that a charge of $100 million had been approved against the provision for special political missions under the 2006-2007 budget last December. The Assembly had also decided to resume its consideration of the matter this month. The budgets of 29 missions were before the Committee now. While the budgets of most missions were being presented for the whole year, the proposals for several missions (UNAMA, UNOTIL and UNIIIC) were being presented for only several months, pending decisions by legislative bodies. Any additional requirements of those missions for periods beyond the end of their current mandates would be presented to the Assembly on the basis of the decision by the Security Council.
Regarding staffing resources, a total of 3,317 positions were being requested for 2006, he continued. The number of positions requested included a net reduction of 34 positions, reflecting the requirements for new and expansion of continuing missions and the discontinuation of six missions, which had been completed in 2004-2005.
RAJAT SAHA, Chairman of the ACABQ, introducing that body's related report, noted that 62 per cent of the total proposed resources were accounted for by the special political missions in Iraq (United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI)) and Afghanistan (UNAMA). The Advisory Committee was recommending acceptance of the resources proposed, pending submission of the Secretary-General's requirements related to the new mandate for the Afghanistan Mission. As for UNAMI, he noted that savings may be achieved, as full deployment depended on security conditions in the Mission area.
The Advisory Committee was recommending a reduction of $882,100 to the estimates for special political missions, he said. The reduction related to the recommendations against acceptance of three additional positions proposed, and a reduction in the requirements proposed for consultants and travel. Regarding consultants, he pointed out the tendency to request that type of funding, as if little or no experience and capacity existed in the Secretariat itself or the United Nations system as a whole. The ACABQ also believed that the requests for travel funds should be rationalized and better justified.
He added that the Advisory Committee was requesting that information on the policy and managerial guidance provided by the Department of Political Affairs to special political missions and the related oversight and accountability mechanisms, as well as on staffing reviews or internal assessments, be provided in the next budget submission. The Assembly should consider requesting a management review of the Department of Political Affairs on its ability to carry out the management and direction of special political missions, with a view to ensuring efficient use of both post and non-post resources.
KAREN LOCK (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, recalled that last December the Fifth Committee had decided to defer its consideration of the budget proposal for 26 special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the Assembly and the Security Council until March 2006. In the interim, a charge of $100 million had been approved against the provision for special political missions under the 2006-2007 budget. That decision had enabled continued functioning of the missions until the end of April and had allowed the Secretariat to improve on the quality of financial and programme information submitted to Member States in support of the budget proposal for 2006.
The Group had joined that consensus decision following assurances from the Secretariat that the interim funding arrangement would be sufficient. It had shared the concern of the Advisory Committee regarding "the submission of a proposal of such magnitude so close to the end of the year". The late submission had prevented the Member States from embarking on a detailed consideration of a substantial portion of the resources of the 2006-2007 budget. The budget proposal received in December lacked the detailed information requested by the Assembly in its resolution 59/276 and programmatic aspects of each operation.
Continuing, she noted that the results-based logical framework had been applied to all but one of the operations. Given the sensitive nature of some of the missions, she trusted that every effort would be made to ensure that submissions adhered strictly to the relevant provisions of resolution 55/231 on results-based budgeting and, in particular, to ensuring that expected accomplishments and indicators of achievement were used to measure the achievements in the implementation of programmes of the United Nations and not those of individual Member States. She also expected the Secretariat to ensure that budget proposals for special political missions were submitted on time and with the requisite motivations and detailed information.
The Group recognized the need to agree on the narratives and resources related to special political missions in a timely manner, she said. Therefore, it looked forward to a constructive consideration of the narratives, with a view to ensuring that they were in conformity with the mandates originating from the Assembly and the Security Council.
The Group largely supported the recommendations of the Advisory Committee, because they might improve the presentation of future budgets and enable Member States to better assess the requirements, she said. It also looked forward to further consultations on the scope of the management review called for by the ACABQ and would appreciate an indication as to how the Secretariat intended to implement the recommendations in paragraphs 12 and 13 of the report.
Turning to the resource level requested by the Secretary-General, she noted that it had increased significantly over the past few years. The provisional amount set aside for special political missions in the current and previous budget outlines had not provided an accurate forecast of the overall requirements for those operations. While recognizing that estimated resource requirements were subject to the extension of mandates, consideration should be given to ensuring a more accurate forecast for the entire two-year period of the budget. She also noted the reductions proposed by the ACABQ. In that context, the Group would appreciate an indication as to whether the reductions to travel and consultancy services would be applied across the board to all operations. It also wanted to know how that would impact on the smaller operations. The use of experts and consultants for operations financed as a charge against the provision for special political missions should be in full compliance with relevant resolutions.
In conclusion, she reiterated the importance that the Group attached to the special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and the Security Council. The Group also attached great importance to the Charter-mandated role of the Assembly in considering the administrative and budgetary matters, including those related to special political missions. It also attached importance to the accountability of the Secretariat to the Assembly as the primary oversight organ. Therefore, she voiced concern over the tendency of the Security Council to discuss matters that fell within the purview of the Assembly and to request the Secretary-General to establish Secretariat structures without the prior approval of the Assembly.
ENNO DROFENIK (Austria), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the Union recognized the importance of the various special political missions, but emphasized that it expected the presentation and justification of resource requests to be of the same standard as for those for peacekeeping missions and other regular budget items. While commending the use of results-based framework and efforts to provide information on actual and potential synergies and complementarities, the Union was of the opinion that more could be done in that area.
He said the Union supported the repeated requests of the ACABQ that larger missions be treated in a manner suitable to their size and complexity. Thought should be given to reorganizing the report in order to present missions or offices in clusters on the basis of thematic or regional considerations. It saw merit in the ACABQ's suggestion of a management review of the missions in relation to the Department of Political Affairs. That review should complement the ongoing OIOS evaluation of the Department of Political Affairs requested by the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC).
MELANIE ATTWOOLL (United States), while welcoming the efforts to find areas of synergy and complementarity among special political missions and other United Nations activities, strongly encouraged the Secretary-General to intensify those efforts, particularly in light of the many activities that shared geographic and/or substantive similarities. She said greater efforts should be made to focus expertise and resources, so as to maximize the impact of the United Nations' good work and to reduce duplication.
She said the average yearly rate of expenditure for all special political missions in 2004 and 2005 was $167.4 million. The resource requirement of $303.3 million for 2006 represented an annual increase of approximately $136 million, some 80 per cent. The reasons for that jump were not entirely clear. The special political mission account, if left unchecked, could rise to over $600 million for the biennium. She also requested clarification for the significant under-expenditure in relation to the 2004-2005 appropriations of UNAMA and UNAMI.
Addressing the linkage made by the Secretary-General between the Peacebuilding Support Office and special political missions, she said her country had already questioned whether the Secretary-General's proposal for the Peacebuilding Support Office did, in fact, satisfy the request to fund that Office "within existing resources". Given the number and level of posts financed under the missions, as well as the range of expertise among the many United Nations staff members working in them, she questioned why the resources for the Office could not have been found from the deep pool of the resources of the special political missions, and asked for additional information.
Regarding the report of the ACABQ, she said she was struck by the Committee's tendency to question the justifications for many missions, only to then recommend their approval. One would expect a more thorough and critical analysis of the Secretariat's proposals. While noting the Committee's recommendation to reduce non-post resources by a small amount, she could not help but think that the resources for posts should have been given similar treatment.
HITOSHI KOZAKI (Japan) asked for clarification on the way the budgets for special political missions had been formulated, as many missions had made resource requests for 2006 that were often fairly close to their expenditure levels for the previous biennium without specific explanations. While fully understanding the difficult and special circumstances under which some political missions operated, he said it was important for The Secretary-General to propose realistic budgets, so that the finite resources of the Member States could be allocated in the most optimal manner.
He said he would like to see if the budget for the special political missions for 2006 had been adjusted, taking into account the more realistic vacancy rate and of the experience gained during the course of the previous biennium. In general, he supported the recommendations contained in the report of ACABQ.
FRANCIS MUMBEY-WAFULA (Uganda) said that, in broad terms, his delegation aligned itself with the position of the Group of 77 and China. He then recalled that on 19 December, he had expressed some of his delegation's persistent concerns, including the one regarding the Office on the Great Lakes Conference. In particular, he had expressed concern about the absence of staff with local knowledge and asked for an appraisal of the efforts to address that problem. He, therefore, expected an answer to that question. He had also touched on the panel of experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In particular, in the light of concerns regarding its composition and considering the progress made bilaterally, he had questioned the continued relevance of that panel. He, therefore, sought an appraisal as to whether the mandate of that panel had been expanded and for how long, to enable the Committee to consider the budget, based on his conviction that the panel had outlived its role. He believed its resources could be better channelled somewhere else.
FERNANDO DE OLIVEIRA SENA (Brazil) associated himself with the position of the Group of 77 and China and said that he attached great importance to the effective functioning of the special political missions. He also wanted to touch on one issue: it was high time for the international community to reconfirm its commitment to peace and stability in Guinea-Bissau through reinforcement of the United Nations Office there. The Office had done an excellent job so far, but lacked sufficient resources. There should be an increase in the security sector reform, with sufficient technical and financial support. The Office could help identify projects of social and economic impact that would be visible to the population of the country.
NONYE UDO (Nigeria) said her country attached great importance to the work of the Secretary-General in the context of his good offices and other political initiatives. She also expressed support for the statement of Brazil regarding Guinea-Bissau. She appreciated the improvements made in the presentation of the result-based budgets. She asked for clarification on the implementation of the recommendation contained in paragraph 10 of the ACABQ report.
Although she supported the concept of deriving synergies and complementarities, she said careful attention should be given to the peculiarities of each mission. She added that it was unclear how some of the ACABQ recommendations would be implemented by the Secretariat.
NAJIB ELJI (Syria) requested that informal consultations be delayed, as the reports had been issued late, and he had not yet received instructions from his capital.
After a debate on the request, in which the representatives of Japan, Syria, Egypt, Austria (on behalf of the European Union), United States, South Africa (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China) and Yemen participated, the Committee decided to hold a plenary meeting tomorrow.
Administration of Justice
M. PATRICIA DURRANT, United Nations Ombudsman, introducing that body's report on its activities from its launch on 25 October 2005 to 31 August 2005 (document A/60/376), said the resolution of most cases required several consultations with all parties concerned. In most cases, there seemed to be an immediate effect from the interaction with the Ombudsman, as the Office represented a unique mechanism available to all staff. The report gave an analysis of data and listed the type of issues brought to the Ombudsman's attention.
She said the year 2005 had seen an important increase in the number of cases. Out of 633 new cases, up from 420 in 2004, 318 had already been closed. That increment was no doubt linked to the extended outreach efforts of the Office. The report also described efforts under way to harmonize practices and procedures through the establishment of a network of ombudsmen and mediators of the United Nations system and Bretton Woods institutions. The report also discussed possible indicators of the Office's impact, such as the reduction in the number of cases submitted to the Joint Appeals Board in New York. Feedback from staff indicated that the overwhelming majority had been satisfied with the process.
The report also highlighted a number of systemic issues and challenges identified, including the need for dissemination of clear and accurate information, concerns about the multiplicity of contractual arrangements, the need for heightened transparency and excellence in managerial practices, further needs for training and recognition of outstanding performances, the strengthening of the conflict resolution system and the need for a whistle-blower policy. Some of the recommendations had already been implemented. The Office had had initial meetings with the members of the panel of external and independent experts (the Redesign Panel).
She said the mid-term review mentioned in the report had been completed. As a result, the Office intended, among other things, to improve the triage of cases and complete standard operating procedures for the automatic follow-up of all cases. Mediation -- a developing part of the Office's activities -- had shown very positive results. Additional resources provided to the Office in the regular budget for the biennium 2006-2007 would allow it to upgrade its case tracing system and better review and analyse the systemic trends. It would also allow the Office to improve its outreach functions, including to staff outside the main United Nations locations.
ANTIGONI AXENIDOU, Senior Legal Adviser of the Office of the Under- Secretary-General for Management, introduced the report on the outcome of the work of the Joint Appeals Board during 2003 and 2004 (documents A/60/72 and Corr.1).
GEORGETTE MILLER, Officer-in-Charge, Division for Organizational Development of the Office of Human Resources Management, introduced the reports on the practice of the Secretary-General in disciplinary matters and cases of criminal behaviour (document A/60/315) and the administration of justice in the Secretariat (document A/59/883). On the latter, she said that the report clarified that no conflict of interest existed in the discharge by the Administrative Law Unit of its review functions, on the one hand, and of its appeals functions, on the other. The Unit acted on behalf of the administration at all stages of the appeals process, and that was made clear to all parties throughout the process. Appellants were represented by the panel of counsel or other counsel of their choice. Substantively, informal resolution efforts could be initiated either by the Unit or by the staff member or his or her counsel. If no mutually acceptable solution could be found, the staff member's right to proceed to a formal appeal remained unimpeded.
The Secretary-General also considered that the current combination of functions discharged by the Unit met the needs identified by the Assembly and resulted in significant economy of resources when establishing the facts of each case and the legal issues involved, she said. Indeed, separating the functions of the Unit would result in a duplication of work, as the facts of each case would have to be established and the legal issues understood and addressed at the review stage and then again at the litigation stage. That would result in the need for additional resources.
On redeployment of resources from the Unit, she said that the report explained that due to the limited resources and heavy workload, all Professional staff of the Unit were required to handle multiple cases at the same time at all stages of the review and appeals process. They also handled disciplinary matters and appeared before the Joint Appeals Board and the Joint Disciplinary Committee as necessary. It would, therefore, not be possible to redeploy resources from the Unit without introducing substantial delays in its work.
The issues raised by the Assembly might be reviewed best by the Redesign Panel, she concluded. She was also pleased to note that the ACABQ also recognized the value of awaiting the Panel's results.
On the second report, she said that it was the first one of its kind. It was a broad overview of the administrative machinery in disciplinary matters. The Secretariat had noted the Advisory Committee's concerns with regard to the format and content of the report and would ensure that the next report on the subject would contain the requested information. The Department of Management would also work with the OIOS on the possibility of developing a jointly administered database, keeping in mind matters of confidentiality.
She added that the Assembly had requested that all staff be provided with relevant information. It had, in fact, been a practice of the Secretariat since 2002 to provide such data in an information circular so that all staff were aware of sanctions imposed for misconduct. That was an integral part of the Secretary-General's accountability framework.
The Chairman of the ACABQ, RAJAT SAHA, recalled that that body's report on the matter had been prepared in September 2005 and introduced last October. With regard to the Office of the Ombudsman, the Advisory Committee was of the opinion that the matter needed to be considered further in the light of the work of the Redesign Panel. Thought should be given to finding creative ways and means to provide access to staff without automatically creating new offices and/or establishing new posts.
On the Administrative Tribunal, the ACABQ had questioned the requirement to establish two additional posts to carry out executive office functions for a Tribunal Secretariat of only four posts. The Advisory Committee was recommending against the establishment of an additional P-3 and a GS-level post. It did, however, support the request for additional general temporary assistance to help clear the Tribunal's backlogs. The ACABQ was recommending against an additional appropriation at this time for travel of the Panel of Counsel. Part III of the ACABQ's report concerned the Administrative Law Unit. Recognizing the value of awaiting the Redesign Panel's results, the Committee trusted that in considering resolution 59/283, the Panel would thoroughly examine and evaluate the Administrative Law Unit's role and functions, with a view to avoiding potential conflicts of interest and ensuring staff confidence in the internal justice process.
Speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, Ms. LOCK (South Africa) said that the issue of the administration of justice could not be divorced from the process of reform. With the issue on the Committee's agenda for years, problems relating to the lack of accountability and transparency and chronic delays in the consideration of review cases were long-standing. It was regrettable that the Committee had been unable to address the agenda item during the main part of the session, due to late issuance of reports.
While looking forward to the outcome of the Redesign Panel's work in time for the Committee's comprehensive review of the issue at the sixty-first session, she believed that it should not delay concrete and immediate action to reform the system, including interim measures adopted in resolution 59/283. Far-reaching changes were required to avoid duplication and ensure more transparent, impartial and effective administration of justice. She wondered about the situation with the establishment of the panel and said that it would be useful if the Committee could have an opportunity to interact with the panel.
The Group reiterated the importance it attached to the Office of the Ombudsman as the primary means of informal dispute resolution, she continued. She strongly supported the independence of the Office and stressed the need to ensure that it acted in a neutral manner. It was critical for the Office to play a proactive role in making the system of internal justice more effective. She recalled that in 2005 the Assembly had requested the Office of the Ombudsman to continue with and expand its outreach activities as a means of enhancing accessibility for staff outside of Headquarters. Those outreach activities should be beneficial for all the staff, including national and General Service staff. Consequently, the Group supported the proposed expansion of the pilot project in Vienna and other localities through the establishment of regional branches to assist the Ombudsman in discharging her duties. Additional measures should be taken to improve staff access and, through that, strengthen the Office.
She also noted reference in paragraph 37 of the report to a number of systemic issues and challenges identified through the review of cases. The Group looked forward to a more detailed consideration of those issues in informal consultations. It would further be interested in an assessment of the contribution made to date by the Office in rationalizing the system of internal justice. For example, information on the impact in reducing the length of the appeals process and the number of cases filed in the formal justice mechanisms would be useful.
It was not clear how the conclusion in paragraph 9 of the Secretary-General's report on the administration of justice (document A/59/883) responded to the spirit and letter of resolution 59/283, she continued. Paragraphs 29 and 30 of that resolution addressed the separation of functions of the Administrative Law Unit and redeployment of resources in order to avoid a conflict of interest. She believed that the consideration of the Redesign Panel on that issue would form part of the Assembly's efforts to reform the system of administration of justice over the medium and longer term. The Assembly had recognized, however, that immediate measures were required, as stated in paragraph 30 of the resolution. It would have been useful if the report under discussion had addressed the matter in more concrete terms and provided further solutions to a well-known concern.
An effective system of the administration of justice was imperative to ensure due process for and just treatment of staff, she stressed. It would also increase accountability and transparency by holding managers accountable for their actions, in accordance with relevant resolutions of the Assembly. To that end, she welcomed the introduction of the report on the practices of the Secretary-General in disciplinary and criminal cases, as well as the comments of the ACABQ thereon. It was clear that further work was required to strengthen the accountability framework, in particular at the senior management level.
She also said that the Group would appreciate receiving information on the implementation of the mandatory time limits within the appeals process, as well as information from staff representatives on the implementation of paragraph 26 of section III of resolution 59/283.
Mr. DROFENIK (Austria), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that the Union remained convinced of the need to strengthen the system of internal justice in the United Nations. That should help not only to improve the relationship between staff and management, but also enhance overall transparency and accountability in terms of human resources management. He would refrain from commenting in detail, at this stage, other than to express his support for the work of the Ombudsman. The report detailing her activities since the inception of her Office showed what an invaluable tool that informal dispute resolution mechanism could be. Although, as the report stated, the work of the Ombudsman was perhaps difficult to quantify or qualify, he was convinced that such an informal mechanism could be key to quickly and sensibly dealing with problems that arose between staff and management.
He also noted that the resource aspects of the administration and justice had been addressed in the context of the discussions on the 2006-2007 budget. The next step, therefore, was to await the comprehensive report of the Redesign Panel, requested in resolution 59/283, which should provide a blueprint for the United Nations' future internal system of justice. As such, the Union would support the deferral of that agenda item to the sixty-first session.
BENJAMIN A. GARCIA (United States) said his delegation, like others, was eagerly waiting for the Redesign Panel's completion of its work on a redesigning of the system of administration of justice. He welcomed the fact that the Office of the Ombudsman continued to expand its outreach activities and that the Office had presented proposals for strengthening it through improved access for staff serving in different locations. In that regard, he concurred with the ACABQ that the proposal for the establishment of three branch offices, each headed by a D-1, be reviewed after the report of the Redesign Panel.
He noted that the systemic issues and challenges in the report had been raised in a variety of settings and reports, including in the Secretary-General's report on "Investing in the United Nations: for a stronger Organization worldwide". He said his delegation remained deeply concerned about the acts of misconduct and criminal behaviour listed in the Secretary-General's report and called on all parties to support ongoing efforts for a transparent, impartial, efficient and effective system of accountability in the Organization.
Ms. UDO (Nigeria) said the administration of justice was an issue of great concern to all. Over the years, the Committee had grappled with the issue and had deferred it, often because of the late issuance of reports. More timely consideration of the item was needed and she hoped that today's meeting would demonstrate the Committee's commitment to the item. She reiterated the fact that, for various reform initiatives to be meaningful, energy and time should be paid to the system of administration of justice, so that it could be seen as a system of "justice for all".
She said the first report of the Ombudsman clearly illustrated that the issue was at the core of reforming the Organization's human resources. The number one issue raised by staff seeking the services of the Ombudsman had been promotion and career related. That fact underlined the existence of a real problem that must be dealt with, she said and asked for further comments and details. She also asked why 30 per cent of staff had not been satisfied with the Ombudsman's services after their case was closed, and wanted more details on proposals to ensure greater and improved access to the Office for all staff.
Trusting that the work of the Redesign Panel would be completed as soon as possible, she asked for feedback on the initial meeting the Ombudsman had had with the Panel.
Mr. ELJI (Syria) said that the system of justice was "was obsolete, slow and very costly" and had not been improved for years. Last year, the Assembly had considered the item in order to identify the system's weaknesses and to improve it. In that regard, the Assembly had adopted a two-phased approach. The first phase included immediate measures to improve transparency. The second phase established the expert panel to restructure the system, improve it and make it a "source of pride" for the system.
He said that, regrettably, the Secretariat had failed to implement the measures required by the Assembly. It had, among other things, not reconsidered the posts in the Administrative Law Unit. The problems in the administration of justice were decades-old and the ACABQ report had mentioned that all required measures by the Assembly had not led to any improvements. He, therefore, requested the Secretariat to inform the Committee of all measures taken to implement the resolutions.
He said his delegation would positively consider the request to allow for the possibility of compensation of judges at an early stage. He asked the Secretariat why there had not been annual reports on the item of Administration of Justice, as had been required by previous resolutions. There was, for instance, no Secretariat's report on the Office of the Ombudsman, only the report of the Ombudsman herself.
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