ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMISSION FOR ASIA AND THE PACIFIC
ACTIVITIES OF THE ADVISORY COMMITTEE OF PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVES AND OTHER REPRESENTATIVES DESIGNATED BY MEMBERS OF THE COMMISSION
(Item 11 of the provisional agenda)
1. During the period under review (May 1999-February 2000), the Advisory Committee of Permanent Representatives and Other Representatives Designated by Members of the Commission held eight regular sessions.
2. The Advisory Committee discussed various topics during these sessions, including the following:
3. His Excellency Mr Karunatilaka Amunugama, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka, who had been appointed Rapporteur, presented the draft report. The report was approved for submission to the Commission.
4. In its review of the fifty-fifth session of the Commission, held at Bangkok from 22 to 28 April 1999, the Advisory Committee considered the session to have been successful. It noted that a spirit of compromise was evident during the discussions of the draft resolutions which had resulted in the adoption of a realistic number of resolutions. Strong commitment was needed for those resolutions to be implemented. It was acknowledged that the topic of the informal panel session during the ministerial segment had perhaps been too technical, resulting in low participation of delegations in the discussions. The continuity of that activity would be further reviewed by ACPR, together with other aspects of the preparations for and the conduct of sessions, when the findings of the preliminary evaluation by heads of delegations would be assessed.
5. The representatives generally welcomed the new format introduced for the report on the implementation of the revised programme of work, 1998-1999, for the period January 1998 to June 1999. Many subprogrammes had experienced reduced regular budget staff resources because of vacancy rates, and the Commission at its fifty-fifth session had requested expeditious action to be taken to fill the long-term vacancies. More information was requested on that matter and on the following: the identification of existing constraints; the allocation of resources among the subprogrammes; problems encountered in implementing the work programme; the delays in finalizing publications; and the low rate of implementation of activities funded by extrabudgetary resources in some subprogrammes.
6. The Advisory Committee appreciated the quality of the documentation and the hard work which had gone into the successful organization of the second session of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources Development, held at Bangkok from 13 to 15 October 1999, which had focused on the area of sustainable development of natural resources.
7. The preparations for the second session of the Committee on Transport, Communications, Tourism and Infrastructure Development and the efficient and effective manner in which the session was held were acknowledged by the Advisory Committee. It was especially pleased to note that the majority of participants had been from the capitals, reflecting the interest of the members and associate members. It observed that, in the light of prevailing resource constraints, efforts made to highlight tangible results in the evaluation of activities would enhance the visibility and image of ESCAP.
8. The fourth session of the Special Body on Least Developed and Landlocked Developing Countries, held on 20 and 21 April 1999, had provided a good opportunity to learn the views of countries not normally represented at the sessions of ACPR on issues which had an impact on their development. The documentation submitted was precise and comprehensive. The Advisory Committee welcomed the Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia and requested that progress on the Programme be reported regularly.
9. The Advisory Committee noted that the sixth session of the Special Body on Pacific Island Developing Countries would be held at Bangkok on 30 and 31 May 2000 and would focus on (a) transport and tourism issues, and (b) children's welfare issues, as endorsed by the Commission at its fifty-fifth session with the concurrence of the Pacific island countries.
10. The Advisory Committee commended the achievements of the Second Ministerial Conference on Space Applications for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific, held at New Delhi from 15 to 20 November 1999 and, in particular, the adoption of the Delhi Declaration on Space Technology Applications in Asia and the Pacific for Improved Quality of Life in the New Millennium. The generous financial support, excellent facilities and hospitality which had been extended to all participants by the host government, India, were greatly appreciated.
11. The Advisory Committee noted that most of the participants in the Steering Group of the Committee on Regional Economic Cooperation, held at Bangkok from 27 to 29 September 1999, had been from the missions in Bangkok. It held the view that as the Steering Group was to function as a "think-tank", the national experts working in the technical areas should take part in the meetings.
12. The report on the outcome of the Regional Coordination Meeting, held at Bangkok on 2 June 1999, was considered to be brief. The Advisory Committee would have appreciated more details on the discussions which had taken place. It was noted that follow-up between ESCAP and the agencies would continue.
13. In considering the preparations for the medium-term plan for the period 2002-2005, the Advisory Committee generally recognized the importance of the overall orientation of the proposed medium-term plan in providing the framework for the biennial work programmes of ESCAP during the four-year period in the new millennium. It concurred with the guidelines calling for precise and measurable objectives to be identified for each subprogramme. More emphasis needed to be placed on information and communication technology in the light of its rapid advancement and increasing importance in development processes. The proposed medium-term plan for the period 2002-2005, some sections of which had been reviewed earlier by ACPR, the legislative committees and other intergovernmental bodies and had been revised based on those reviews, was re-examined by ACPR in its entirety and endorsed.
14. The Advisory Committee noted that the Regional Hearing in preparation for the Millennium Assembly, held in Tokyo on 9 and 10 September 1999, had been well attended by delegations from all sectors of the region and the outcome of the deliberations had been very positive. The main results of the discussions concerned the revitalization of the United Nations, peace and security, disarmament, involvement of all stakeholders, global public goods, human rights and good governance. The report of the Hearing would be consolidated by United Nations Headquarters as the report of the Secretary-General to the Millennium Assembly.
15. The Advisory Committee expressed disappointment in the continuously high vacancy rate in the secretariat. However, due note was taken of the continuing efforts to fill vacancies in the Professional and above categories and to the factors which had contributed to the delay in completing the recruitment process. The Advisory Committee advised on means to strengthen efforts to accelerate the filling of posts.
16. The Advisory Committee noted that regional advisory services were provided (a) by recruitment of full-time regional advisers on a year-to-year basis, and (b) by engagement of short-term consultants/experts. It also noted the efforts of the secretariat to provide more effective and timely services to meet the diverse needs of countries and the requests for expertise in the same areas at the same time, through maintaining an optimal combination of the services of both full-time regional advisers and short-term consultants or experts. While no established mechanism existed currently for the evaluation and assessment of the regional advisory services rendered by ESCAP, assessments could be made from the feedback of member governments and from the numerous requests for the same areas of expertise.
17. The Advisory Committee reviewed the preparations for the fifty-sixth session of the Commission, particularly, the theme study. It advised that specific issues in the theme study should be identified for the informal panel discussion. The dates of the session had been the subject of lengthy discussion in the ACPR sessions and agreement had finally been reached to hold the session from 1 to 7 June 2000. The Committee appreciated the considerate approach of some members on that issue.
18. The Advisory Committee noted the necessity for speedy delivery of Commission documents to members in order to attain the maximum benefit.
19. The Advisory Committee appreciated the secretariat's efforts to implement the resolutions and major decisions of the Commission. ACPR had advised that in the progress reporting on the implementation of resolutions and major decisions, reference should be made to feedback from the meetings and on the publications mandated by the Commission in those resolutions. The Committee also noted that the global review and planning bodies would consider more favourably budget requests based on activities mandated in resolutions than those pertaining to unmandated activities.
20. The Advisory Committee noted with satisfaction the progress of the work and welcomed the conclusions of the Open-ended Informal Working Group of ACPR which it had reconvened in May 1999 as an auxiliary mechanism to assist its work. During the review period, the Group had held nine sessions focusing on the four recommendations of ACPR that had been supported by the Commission at its fifty-fifth session, pertaining to the need to intensify efforts to focus the programme of work and to determine the Commission's strategic direction for future activities. The report of the Group when completed would be annexed to the addendum to the present report.
21. During his visit to Thailand, from 9 to 13 February 2000, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr Kofi Annan, addressed ACPR. An exchange of views took place on a fairly wide range of issues including the reform of the United Nations secretariat and of the Security Council; poverty alleviation; results-based budgeting; acceleration of the recruitment process; sharing of common services; strengthening cooperation between ESCAP and other United Nations agencies; the issue of governance; and the Millennium Summit of the United Nations to be held in September 2000, to be preceded by the Millennium Forum in May.
22. The present report covers the activities of ACPR for the period May 1999-February 2000. A report on activities during the period 1 March-May 2000 will be issued as an addendum.(click to open)