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Delegates Support Proposals to Make United Nations More Accessible for Disabled People, as Fifth Committee Reviews Progress in Improving Conference Management

Delegates today expressed their strong support for the Joint Inspection Unit's proposals to make the United Nations premises more accessible for persons with disabilities, as the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) examined progress and challenges related to conference management services.

Outlining key findings of the report of the Joint Inspection Unit, titled Enhancing accessibility for persons with disabilities to conferences and meetings of the United Nations system, Inspector Gopinathan Achamkulangare said that formal policies on accessibility are lacking, with only three entities having a dedicated policy on accessibility or reasonable accommodation.

In headquarters locations, most organizations in the United Nations system are not providing many of the essential information and communications technology and other services that would make meetings and conferences more accessible, he said. At field offices, accessibility lags considerably behind that of headquarters owing to multiple factors. The Unit's report recommended that the executive heads of organizations develop a comprehensive policy and guidelines on accessibility and ensure that accessibility requirements are clearly stipulated in individual agreements concluded with the hosting entity for specific conferences and meetings.

The European Union's representative welcomed the extensive analysis by the Joint Inspection Unit and the quality of its report. For its part, the bloc adopted the European Accessibility Act this year, complying with key recommendations from the Committee on Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities. This, he noted, is one of the most advanced pieces of accessibility legislation in the world that will be enforceable in the European Union in six years, urging the United Nations to intensify its own efforts.

The Republic of Korea's delegate said that the United Nations must lead by example by ensuring accessibility to its premises, conferences and meetings, and information and communications. The Steering Committee on Accessibility, for which he served as Co Chair, presented 14 recommendations to enhance accessibility, including the introduction of accessible seating for delegates with disabilities, while also exploring the use of wayfinding technology to provide step by step directions at Headquarters for people with disabilities.

The United States believes that the United Nations can improve accessibility by fully implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act, said the host country's delegate, adding that she agreed with the Unit's recommendation that the Organization needs to take a more systematic approach to accessibility, including by creating a standardized system of receiving accessibility requests for each meeting.

Ecuador's delegate said that the 1.5 billion people in the world with disabilities need to be integrated into society and the good practices recommended by the Unit should be replicated throughout the United Nations system. The absence of proactive efforts in the United Nations on this matter could give the impression that the Organization is not equipped to ensure no one is left behind.

The representative of Antigua and Barbuda pointed out that implementing recommendations on improving accessibility requires resources, asking the Fifth Committee not to limit the rights of people with disabilities and calling on all to make the United Nations a leading example of accessibility.

Simona Petrova, Director of the Secretariat and Secretary of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), introduced the Secretary General's related note on the Unit's report.

Also today, Movses Abelian, Under Secretary General for General Assembly and Conference Management, introduced the Secretary General's report on the pattern of conferences, noting that the Department serviced about 35,000 meetings in 2018, up 3 per cent from 2017. Megayla Ulana Austin, Chair of the Committee on Conferences, introduced its related 2019 report. Mr. Abelian noted that non calendar events comprised 75 per cent of all meetings in New York and Geneva and placed heavy constraints on resources for servicing mandated calendar meetings.

An observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said the Group looks forward to learning more about the implementation of a cost recovery mechanism to address that issue. She added that the United Nations should continue to deliver quality conference services, with equal treatment in each of its six official languages � Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish � particularly in support of the work of the Organization's intergovernmental and expert bodies, notwithstanding liquidity challenges and austerity measures.

Qatar's delegate, expressing appreciation for the Secretariat's efforts to improve online access to United Nations documents, said that the digitalization of old documents is very important as is safeguarding the records and the institutional memory of the Organization. Qatar is making a new contribution of $2.2 million over the next five years for digitization projects, in addition to the $5 million already donated in previous years.

Turning to human resources management, delegates exchanged views on such issues as staff recruitment and performance management. Expressing regret that the Fifth Committee was unable to agree on a robust human resources management resolution in the last session, the representative of the United States noted with concern the slow pace of implementation of a proper performance management system that also should weed out and remove poor performing staff.

Japan's delegate, stressing that diversity is a defining feature of the United Nations, asked the Secretary General to redouble his efforts to address the underrepresentation of some Member States, including his own.

Delegates also discussed the ongoing renovation of the North Building at the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago, Chile. Johannes Huisman, Director of the Programme Planning and Budget Division of the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance's Office of Programme Planning, Finance and Budget, introducing the Secretary General's report, said the project is on track for completion by the end of 2023 with the estimated cost remaining unchanged at $14.2 million. Julia Maciel, Vice Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), presented its related report.

Elia Yi Armstrong, Director of the United Nations Ethics Office, introduced the Secretary General's report on the Office's activities for 2018. Ms. Maciel presented the Advisory Committee's related report.

Also speaking today were the representatives of New Zealand (also on behalf of Canada and Australia), China, Sri Lanka, Monaco, Kenya and Switzerland.

Pattern of Conferences

MEGAYLA ULANA AUSTIN, the Chair of the Committee on Conferences, introducing the report of that body for 2019 (document A/74/32), said that the Committee adopted the provisional calendar of conferences and meetings in the economic, social and related fields for 2020 and 2021 (document E/2019/53) and recommended it for adoption by the Economic and Social Council. Given the change from a biennial to an annual budget cycle on a trial basis, the Committee examined the draft biennial calendar of conferences and meetings and decided to adopt the calendar for 2020. The Committee reviewed the statistical data on the utilization of conference servicing resources and facilities. She went on to address some other issues, such as document management and staffing, also proposing that the General Assembly welcome the measures related to conference services for persons with disabilities and request the Secretary General to continue to address those issues as a priority. As for measuring the quality of conference services, the Committee was informed by the Secretariat on the feedback received from the global e survey.

MOVSES ABELIAN, Under Secretary General for General Assembly and Conference Management, introduced the Secretary General's report on the pattern of conferences (document A/74/121) and said that the Department serviced about 35,000 meetings in 2018, up 3 per cent from 2017. That number includes the increasing proportion of non calendar meetings, which make up 75 per cent of all meetings in New York and Geneva and place heavy constraints on the resources allocated to servicing mandated calendar meetings. The overall utilization rate of interpretation resources has increased slightly from 81 to 82 per cent and the percentage of meetings of regional and other major groups provided with interpretation services increased from 79 to 83 per cent. All duty stations continue to use the integrated global management rule.

Regarding documentation, the Department gives great importance to the timely submission and issuance of documents for all intergovernmental bodies, including the Fifth Committee, he said. In 2018, 90 per cent of documents were submitted by author departments on or before the deadlines. The Secretariat's compliance with documents that met the four week processing deadline for documents submitted on time and within word limits increased slightly from 97 per cent to 98 per cent. Compliance with issuance deadlines increased yet again to 94 per cent, continuing the upward trend from the 51 per cent recorded in 2013. Past issues with filling vacancies in the language services have been addressed. The use of fully remote combined examinations for translators, verbatim reporters and copy preparers/proofreaders has successfully attracted a record number of applicants, especially from less well represented regions. It has produced adequate numbers of candidates to meet anticipated staffing needs over the next three years. Regarding accessibility, all duty stations are actively supporting efforts to increase services such as sign language interpretation, live and remote captioning and accessible seating.

The Department's strategic priorities, as established by Member States, remain the same: continuous improvement of its products in terms of multilingualism, quality, timeliness, cost effectiveness, accessibility and sustainability, he said. These goals have been achieved with continued innovation in technology and organization of work, measures to attract and retain qualified professional and an emphasis on client orientation. Our focus, however, remains on the skills and knowledge of our staff, and artificial intelligence is effective only if it complements human intelligence, he said.

JULIA MACIEL, Vice Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introducing its related report (document A/74/538), noted the decentralized model of the Secretary General's proposals and trusted that, in terms of delegating authority, clear indicators of accountability will be established in a framework of key performance indicators to efficiently use resources and effectively implement mandates. The Advisory Committee encourages the Secretary General to ensure vacant posts are filled quickly. Regarding the internship programme, it notes the remote practicum agreements made with partner universities. Furthermore, the Advisory Committee encourages the Department to keep working on the geographical diversity of its language interns. It notes the outreach efforts to address the gap of qualified candidates from Africa and Latin America to increase the geographical diversity of language staff and welcomes the use of remote testing as a recruitment tool to increase the language staff's geographical diversity.

Joint Inspection Unit: Enhancing Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities

GOPINATHAN ACHAMKULANGARE, Inspector of the Joint Inspection Unit, introduced the Secretary General's note (document A/74/217) transmitting the report of the Joint Inspection Unit entitled Enhancing accessibility for persons with disabilities to conferences and meetings of the United Nations system (document JIU/REP/2018/6). Outlining key findings of the report, he said that formal policies on accessibility are lacking, with only three entities having a dedicated policy on accessibility or reasonable accommodation. In headquarters locations, most organizations are not providing many of the essential information and communications technology (ICT) and other services that would make meetings and conferences more accessible. At field offices, accessibility lags considerably behind that of headquarters owing to multiple factors.

The report recommends that the legislative bodies should include in their agendas the review of periodic reports on the state of accessibility for persons with disabilities to conferences and meetings of the entities of the United Nations system, he said. Also, nine recommendations are addressed to the executive heads of organizations, including developing a comprehensive policy and guidelines on accessibility and ensuring that accessibility requirements are clearly stipulated in individual agreements concluded with the hosting entity for specific conferences and meetings.

SIMONA PETROVA, Director of the Secretariat and Secretary of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), introduced the related note by the Secretary General (document A/74/217/Add.1) on the Unit's report, which conveys the comments of the Secretary General and CEB members. Organizations of the United Nations welcome the report, its findings and recommendations and appreciate the breadth of its scope, she said. They support the concept of addressing accessibility of persons with disabilities to United Nations meetings and conferences through a holistic approach that benefits all staff, visitors and beneficiaries with disabilities. Organizations note that country context should be taken into consideration when carrying out the proposed recommendations. The proposed recommendations should be considered and implemented in the context of the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy, led by the Secretary General and approved by CEB in May 2019, shortly after the release of the note. The organizations mostly support the proposed recommendations' provisions, stressing that implementation of some might carry cost implications and require an adequate time period, she said.

NADA TARBUSH, observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, stressed the need for the United Nations to continue to deliver quality conference services in accordance with the equal treatment of its six official languages, particularly in support of the work of the intergovernmental and expert bodies of the Organization, liquidity challenges and austerity measures notwithstanding. Noting the increase of non calendar meetings, she pointed out that it places constraints on the resources allocated to servicing otherwise mandated calendar meetings and looked forward to learning more about the implementation of a cost recovery mechanism to address that issue.

Noting the updated measures addressing the use of space for meetings and conferences at Headquarters in New York, she urged other conference serving duty stations to follow suit and update their respective information circulars so all duty stations manage conference services in an integrated manner. Expressing concern about the deteriorating conditions of the Nairobi conference centre, she welcomed the Secretary General's efforts to address those issues. Concerning conferencing facilities at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), she commended efforts to improve the carpeting and podiums in the conference centre and called for continued renovations and technological improvements there.

FINNIAN CHESHIRE (New Zealand), also speaking on behalf of Canada and Australia, said that his group places great importance on the mainstreaming of disability inclusion across the United Nations system. He also expressed appreciation for the comprehensive nature of the report, noting that its recommendations give the Secretariat, as well as the wider United Nations system, practical ways to improve accessibility and coordination on disability issues in the short term as well as guidance and improvement in the long term. He expected to see the recommendations implemented as part of the broader United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy and called on the Secretary General to have an ambitious implementation timeline. The Secretary General should aim to implement the recommendation on the appointment of focal points ahead of 2021, as the presence of focal points early on can act as a catalyst for accelerating other recommendations.

JAN DE PRETER, European Union delegation, acknowledged the efforts of the Secretariat aiming at improving the conference and language services of the Organization, welcoming the progress made in innovative approaches and modern technologies. The Union is ready to endorse the recommendations in the Committee on Conferences' report. Welcoming the extensive analysis by the Joint Inspection Unit and the quality of its report, he said that the Union advocates the rights of persons with disabilities. In adopting the European Accessibility Act this year, the Union is complying with the key recommendation received from the Committee on Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities. This, he noted, is one the most advanced pieces of accessibility legislation in the world that will be enforceable in the European Union in six years. He fully supported increasing access for persons with disabilities to United Nations conferences and meetings, and thus more inclusive decision making in United Nations fora.

Ms. AL-HAIL (Qatar), associating herself with the Group of 77, appreciated the Secretariat's efforts to improve online access to United Nations documents. The digitalization of old documents going back more than 70 years, to when the Organization was created, is very important as is safeguarding the records and the institutional memory of the Organization. Digitalization has many advantages, including improving access to the documents, not only for Member States, but for the broader public. It is important for documents, research tools, audio files and records of meetings. In 2013, Qatar announced a contribution of $5 million over five years for the digitalization of the Organization's materials and in 2018 it fulfilled its pledge. Qatar is making a new contribution of $2.2 million over the next five years. It aims to bolster the effective delivery of the mandates of the Organization, she said.

CHERITH NORMAN-CHALET (United States) said conference management support allows States to conduct negotiations effectively and commended the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management for implementing useful innovations, such as eLUNa and gMeets. Turning to the issue of accessibility, she welcomed the Unit's report on enhancing inclusion for people with disabilities, adding that she agreed with its recommendation that the United Nations needs to take a more systematic approach to accessibility, including creating a standardized system of receiving accessibility requests for each meeting. She observed that in New York the United Nations can improve accessibility by fully implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act and went on to emphasize that many accessibility improvements are cost neutral.

However, obstacles remain for full accessibility for United Nations delegates, she said. She outlined some of the challenges faced by her delegation daily, such as not being able to exit from a late night meeting because a turnstile was the only available exit after 9 p.m. or not being able to deliver a statement because there is no permanent solution for making the General Assembly podium accessible. Against this backdrop, she welcomed the revitalization resolution, as well as the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) resolution, which effectively address the needs of delegates.

RONG SICAI (China) expressed his delegation's appreciation for the efforts of the Chinese language professionals to improve translation and interpretation quality. His delegation hopes that the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management continues to strengthen quality control and enhance accountability to further raise the quality of services provided by the language professionals, particularly in contractual translation and freelance interpretation. He went on to express his serious concern about the policies of the United Nations Office at Geneva and some other duty stations, which permit non governmental organizations to apply directly for the use of United Nations premises for meetings. Such organizations should submit their applications through the sponsorship of a Member State for a United Nations entity, as required in the administrative instruction at Headquarters in New York, to avoid any risk and ensure accountability, he said, urging these duty stations to align their relevant rules of procedure with those of the New York Headquarters.

PARK CHULL-JOO (Republic of Korea) said that when it comes to rights of persons with disabilities, the United Nations must lead by example by ensuring accessibility to its premises, conferences and meetings, and information and communications. The Steering Committee on Accessibility, for which he served as Co Chair, presented 14 recommendations to enhance accessibility and is working towards implementing them. As one of the key recommendations, the Steering Committee worked with other Member States to introduce accessible seating for delegates with disabilities at United Nations meetings through Assembly resolution 73/341 on the revitalization of the General Assembly, and it is being implemented during the Assembly's seventy fourth session. The Steering Committee is also exploring the use of wayfinding technology to provide step by step directions at Headquarters for people with disabilities and introducing an accessibility clause in the United Nations registration form, in line with recommendations made by the Unit Inspector in his report.

AMRITH ROHAN PERERA (Sri Lanka), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that the Unit's report is comprehensive and informative. He recommended having a dedicated policy for persons with disabilities on accessibility to conferences and meetings of the United Nations system, and establishing a comprehensive approach to this end, in order to ensure that no one is left behind. The specific and time bound recommendations of the Unit's report, addressed to the legislative organs and executive heads of the United Nations, are of a practical nature. It would be appropriate for these recommendations to be examined and implemented by 2020/2021, while anticipating the effective implementation of the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy. While affirming its national commitments under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Sri Lanka welcomed the Unit's call on United Nations system organizations to respect and voluntarily assume obligations under its article 9. Inclusive development must be at the centre of all collective efforts in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, he added.

AMA�RICA LOURDES PEREIRA SOTOMAYOR (Ecuador), associating herself with the Group of 77, noted that 3 December is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. There are 1.5 billion people in the world with disabilities and they need to be integrated into society. Ecuador recognizes the Unit's review, which shows the impediments that people with disabilities must face. The good practices recommended by the Unit should be replicated throughout the United Nations system, she said, stressing that an inclusive system is needed to help persons with disabilities enjoy their rights. She expressed concern that resolutions regarding people with disabilities are not approved on a regular basis. These issues must be integrated into the entire United Nations system and barriers should not be created for the participation of people with disabilities in the Organization's work. The absence of proactive efforts in the United Nations could give the impression that the Organization is not capable of leaving no one behind. The rights of these people must be taken into account and the Unit's recommendations should be implemented. Ecuador will be paying attention to which recommendations can be implemented in the short and medium terms.

CA�DRIC BRAQUETTI (Monaco) stressed the importance of integrating the rights of persons with disabilities in the conference management services provided by the United Nations. He said that with 15 per cent of the world's population having some forms of disabilities, their full participation is critically important. Besides providing physical access to facilities, implementing relevant policies is a matter of justice. Removing any obstacles and attitude in a broader sense systemwide is key, he said, supporting initiatives to share best practices. His delegation subscribes to most of the recommendations made by the Joint Inspection Unit, he said, urging continued collective efforts.

ROSE MAKENA MUCHIRI (Kenya), aligning herself with the Group of 77, noted the important role played by the United Nations Office at Nairobi, as the only Headquarters in the global South, and host to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN HABITAT). Further, it provides a full range of conference facilities to various agencies, funds and programmes, based in Nairobi. The deteriorating condition and limited capacity of the conference centre are affecting the Secretariat's ability to service these bodies, she said, adding that the conference rooms are substandard and therefore underutilized. Also pointing to the increasing complexity of hosting the Environment Assembly which surpassed 5,000 accredited participants in its March session, she welcomed the report on Addressing the deteriorating conditions at the United Nations Office at Nairobi and its introduction in December 2019.

WALTON ALFONSO WEBSON (Antigua and Barbuda) said that this is an important moment and day for the United Nations as it makes strides towards equality and equity for persons with disabilities. He highlighted three ongoing initiatives, namely the work and report of the Joint Inspection Unit, the related strategic plan of the Secretary General, and the work of the related Steering Committee on Accessibility. Implementing recommendations on improving accessibility requires resources, he stressed, urging the Fifth Committee not to limit the rights of persons with disabilities and calling on all to make the United Nations a leading example of accessibility.

Mr. ACHAMKULANGARE, responding to a question posed by the representative of the Republic of Korea, said that the best way to implement recommendations is for Member States to request the Secretary General to do so. Simply put, it is in the hands of Member States, he said.

Proposed Programme Budget 2020: Economic Commission for Latin America/Caribbean

JOHANNES HUISMAN, Director of the Programme Planning and Budget Division of the Office of Programme Planning, Finance and Budget, Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, introduced the Secretary General's report on progress on the renovation of the North Building at the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago, Chile (document A/74/330). He said that upon completion of the renovation, the North Building will be a sustainable facility and afford accessibility to persons with disabilities. The use of solar energy to achieve net zero energy will serve as a regional example of the Organization's commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. During the reporting period, all positions on the project management team have been filled. The project is foreseen to be completed as planned by the end of 2023. The estimated cost remains unchanged at $14.33 million, as approved by the Assembly

Ms. MACIEL then introduced the Advisory Committee's related report (document A/74/7/Add.11), which recommends the approval of the actions proposed by the Secretary General. Noting the project is in its initial stages, the Advisory Committee trusts the Secretary General will closely monitor and mitigate project risks and take necessary measures to ensure the delivery of the project within the scope, budget and timeline approved by the Assembly. The Advisory Committee recommends that the Assembly ask the Secretary General to include an update on risk management and mitigation measures in the next progress report.

SAED KATKHUDA, observer for the State of Palestine, speaking again for the Group of 77, highlighted the importance of close cooperation between the United Nations and the host country throughout the planning and implementation of the project. His delegation is encouraged by the Secretary General's continued efforts to engage Member States to seek voluntary contributions and other forms of support for the project. ECLAC is not only a physical building; it has a historical presence as it has been an immeasurable source of debate, thought and criticism. It has been a regional think tank on a wide variety of development issues, generating evidence based knowledge for public policy in the Latin America and Caribbean region. The Group attaches importance to risk management and notes the Secretary General's report that there remains a relatively low level of confidence that the project will be completed within the approved budget. The Group urges the Secretary General to closely monitor the project and adopt the necessary measures to mitigate risk. The Group welcomes the Advisory Committee's recommendation and supports the Secretary General's proposal for the project in 2020.

Ms. PEREIRA SOTOMAYOR (Ecuador) also speaking on behalf of Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Paraguay, Uruguay and Peru, said that for more than seven decades Chile has provided support to ECLAC. Ecuador is grateful to Chile for its significant, constant support of the renovation project and encourages the Commission to work with local authorities on the project. Noting that the purpose of the project is to provide a working environment that fulfils and exceeds all norms, including greater energy efficiency and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, she said proper oversight and governance is necessary for its completion within deadlines and budget limits. Ecuador is very satisfied with the progress of the project, particularly plans to renovate the North Building to make it energy neutral. She expressed hope that the Secretary General's future progress reports will include detailed information about energy production and consumption, risk management and measures to keep the project within scope and budget and on time. She agreed with the Advisory Committee's recommendations and the Secretary General's proposed budget of $389,100 for the project in 2020.

Activities of Ethics Office

ELIA YI ARMSTRONG, Director of the United Nations Ethics Office, introduced the Secretary General's report on the Office's activities (document A/74/78), which covers the period 1 January to 31 December 2018 and includes information on the activities of the Ethics Panel of the United Nations. The Ethics Office received 1,966 requests for services in 2018, a significant increase from the 1,490 requests in 2017. The Ethics office managed the financial disclosure programme, which externally reviewed 5,937 confidential disclosure statements for the 2018 cycle and rolled out a new online platform. There were 119, or 78.3 per cent of 142 senior officials, whom participated in the 2018 Secretary General's voluntary public disclosure initiative.

In 2018, the Ethics Office received 136 requests about the strengthened policy on protection against retaliation for reporting wrongdoing and cooperating with audits and investigations, a 48 per cent increase over 2017, she continued. As requested by the Assembly, the Secretary General had proposed several measures to strengthen the independence of the Ethics Office in his 2016 2017 report. In response to the Advisory Committee's recommendation, the Secretary General's 2018 report succinctly highlights the rationale for the independence measures. The extent to which the Ethics Office is independent, and seen to be independent from the Organization's management, builds trust and confidence among staff, she said. This independence also assures staff that the Ethics Office reviews claims of protection against retaliation, free from political and hierarchical pressure, influence or interference.

Ms. MACIEL, introducing the Advisory Committee's related report (document A/74/539), said it trusts that the Secretary General will keep encouraging senior officials, who have not yet publicly disclosed a summary of their assets, to do so in future cycles. Regarding requests for advice concerning honours, decorations, favours and gifts or remuneration, the Advisory Committee notes the increase in requests for advice, the continued absence of a consolidated online gift registry and the need to analyse the benefits, lessons learned and developmental requirements of the pilot registry at Headquarters, before its development and roll out across the global Secretariat. If the Secretary General wishes to make a fully justified proposal concerning the independence of the Ethics Office, a detailed report would need to include matters such as the workload, structure and functions of the Office, as well as implications for other offices in the Secretariat and United Nations funds and programmes.

Ms. TARBUSH, observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, expressed support for the Secretary General's efforts to improve human resources management as well as to make the workforce more representative, multicultural and geographically broad. Voicing regret that no comprehensive proposals to that end are being presented to the Committee, she urged the Secretary General to implement such a strategy, which should increase the representation of developing countries � particularly at senior levels. Commending efforts by the Ethics Office to conduct briefings for groups and individuals at Headquarters and in the field, she hailed a marked decrease in the average number of days taken to conduct preliminary reviews in cases of protection against retaliation. She took note of the Secretary General's proposals for strengthening the independence of the Ethics Office and requested further clarification of related items in the Observations and Conclusions section of the report.

Mr. DE PRETER, European Union delegation, underlined continued firm support for progressive human resource policies. She welcomed the Secretary General's efforts to make the Organization more effective and efficient in a way that enables staff at all levels to reach their greatest potential. Underlining the importance of independence of the Ethics Office, she welcomed recent developments towards fostering a culture of integrity and accountability. Expressing regret over the lack of consensus in the Committee on human resources management, she reiterated support for the Secretary General's efforts to realize a new management paradigm through a global strategy. The proposed amendments to staff rules and regulations, in that context, are an opportunity to align policy with the overarching reforms agreed upon in the Committee. She reiterated the call for the timely submission of documents in all official languages, expressing concern over chronic delays in report submissions and looking forward to receiving all remaining ACABQ reports.

MIKE MARTIN AMMANN (Switzerland), also speaking on behalf of Liechtenstein, expressed regret that the reports before the Committee were not received in time for proper consideration during the main session. Stressing that the Organization's most valuable asset is its staff, he advocated for a modern, streamlined human resources management system that enables a high performing workforce and an effective, efficient, flexible and results oriented Organization. Welcoming the Secretary General's efforts, he said the United Nations leadership must lead by example and treat human resources management as a clear priority. Expressing support for the acquisition, development and retention of a mobile, field oriented, high performing, multilingual and diverse workforce, he called for special attention to gender equality � which remains inadequate in leadership positions � as well as for a credible, fair and transparent system of staff performance management.

DAISUKE WAKABAYASHI (Japan) underlined the importance of improving human resources management for the Organization's effective operation, and to acquire and retain the highest quality staff. Stressing also that diversity is a defining feature of the United Nations, he requested the Secretary General to redouble his efforts to address the underrepresentation of some Member States, including his own. Noting the various reports requesting action from the General Assembly, he pledged Japan's readiness to engage constructively in negotiations in order to reach consensus on better human resources management.

Ms. NORMAN CHALET (United States) voiced full support for efforts to address human resources management shortcomings and encouraged the Secretary General to continue implementing relevant changes within his authority. Emphasizing that the paramount consideration in the employment of staff must remain securing the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity in accordance with Article 101 of the Charter of the United Nations, she said staff members themselves are key to the successful implementation of reforms. Ensuring accountability for staff performance � in which good performance is recognized and underperformance is sanctioned � would be one of the most important steps. Expressing regret that the Committee was unable to agree on a robust human resources management resolution in the last session, she noted with concern the slow pace of implementation of a proper performance management system that also should weed out and remove poor performing staff. The United States also supports efforts to prevent and address sexual exploitation and abuse as well as sexual harassment and the protection of whistle blowers from retaliation, she said.

Source: United Nations

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