Remarks by Stephen Lieberman, Minister Counselor for UN Management and Reform, on Agenda Item 137: Pattern of Conferences before the Fifth Committee, November 6, 2013

Stephen Lieberman
Minister Counselor for UN Management and Reform 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
November 6, 2013


Thank you Mr. Chairman. The United States thanks the Chair of the Committee on Conferences, Ms. Chamithri Jayanika Rambukwella for presenting the Committee on Conferences report. We also thank Under Secretary General for General Assembly and Conference Management, Mr. Tegegnework Gettu, for introducing the reports of the Secretary General on Pattern of Conferences and on the PaperSmart concept and the Vice-Chair of the ACABQ, Mr. Jean Christian Obame, for introducing his Committee’s report related to this agenda item.

Mr. Chairman, we note that many issues were debated during the last session of the Committee on Conferences, but one issue my delegation continues to strongly support is the implementation of PaperSmart. We believe it is time for the General Assembly to endorse the overall concept of PaperSmart. But with our call for endorsement, we also acknowledge there are important safeguards and accountability measures that should be discussed. We commend the Secretary- General for laying out the parameters of the program as well as describing its benefits. In its simplest form, PaperSmart enhances transparency and accessibility that never existed before and is a great benefit for our taxpayers. By using the electronic portal, documents are available to anyone with an internet connection in near real-time. Today, rather than stay late losing valuable time with our families to fax another lengthy Fifth Committee report to our capital or have the report mailed there, we can simply send our colleagues a link to the newest Fifth Committee report; better yet, our colleagues can now check the portal themselves. Those outside of the UN may be surprised to learn that the UN is only now adopting a business practice that those in the private sector have been utilizing for years. But in fact, even now as we become accustomed to this practice at the UN, some would still like to delay progress.

Other than the ease of having electronic availability of documents, there are other benefits of PaperSmart. For example, PaperSmart has drastically reduced the amount of paper that the UN uses each year. This not only has significant financial benefits, but reduces the impact on the environment. The output of DGACM’s printing operations has been reduced from 300 million impressions in 2009 to 40 million in 2012. As we all strive to maintain fiscal responsibility at the UN while implementing new mandates, the budget of the Meetings and Publishing Services in New York declined from over $103 million in 2010-2011 to under $98 million in the 2012-2013 biennium; not only was PaperSmart implemented within existing resources, it actually resulted in cost savings while providing an additional benefit rather than taking anything away.

In response to a request by the Secretary-General to move towards a PaperSmart UN system, UN Women conducted their Executive Board session from 28-30 November 2012 in a PaperSmart session. Others have followed suit. The savings from the UN Women session alone was $100,000 and was redirected to improving lives of women and girls around the world. This is a story that all of us in the room should share and one that we can tell our respective citizens to demonstrate we are in fact working to make better use of our taxpayers’ dollars.

As I mentioned before, we want to be clear that we do not view PaperSmart as only for those with the technological infrastructure to support the use of documents through the electronic portal. While I am reading this report on an electronic reader, there are those within my own mission who continue to use paper copies of documents and mark them with a pen or highlighter – and that’s okay. PaperSmart does not mean paperless. In fact, one of the guiding principles of PaperSmart is to ensure that paper copies of documents are always available. My delegation strongly supports the continued availability of paper documents and guaranteeing that member states continue to have the same access to paper documents that they have always had. The simple fact is that if fewer people request paper copies of documents, our efficiency will improve and our carbon footprint will continue to decrease.

Mr. Chairman, my delegation believes that the PaperSmart program has been well managed and well implemented. However, to date, the program is only implemented on a trial basis. How many of us in the room really think that the PaperSmart concept is not a good idea? Various delegations may have different concerns with PaperSmart and we stand ready to engage constructively to address these issues. The PaperSmart system is effective, but like everything else within the UN and within our own governments, it is not perfect. It’s time to for us to officially endorse PaperSmart and give the Secretary-General the authority he needs to advance the project and continue to improve it, within existing resources.

Thank you.


PRN: 2013/226