Everything you wanted to know about documentation, but were afraid to ask!
William Bunch, ONU
On 15 May, the newly issued Guidelines for the Preparation and Submission of Documentation were launched at a Secretariat-wide briefing, which was attended by representatives of most UNOG departments. Mr. Serguei Ordzhonokidze, the Director- General, and Ms. Monique Corvington, Director of the Conference Services Division, made opening remarks.
The Guidelines represent the result of a long effort by the staff members of the Documents Management Section, Central Planning and Coordination Service, under the leadership of Ms. Tatiana Romanova, Chief of the Section, and are the first up-to-date compilation of existing directives of the General Assembly on control and limitation of documentation. In addition, they present the first codification, at any UN duty station, of standard practices and rules for submission of parliamentary documentation and of publications. It has long been recognized that preparation of documentation requires a large percentage of the time and energy of UNOG staff members. In order for those efforts to have the greatest effect and to be the most efficient, the Guidelines give important information on forms of the different kinds of documents and detailed instructions on such tricky points as document symbols, mastheads and cover presentation. They are to serve as a manual for all those involved in documents creation.
Mrs. Tatiana Romanova, Mr. William Bunch
and Mrs. Angela Alemán, the drafting team.
Inherent in the preparation of the Guide- lines is the understanding that all involved in the documentation chain from drafters to submitting officers, from translators to the end-users have a role in the process of creating meaningful documents. And the subtext of the effort is the belief that documentation usually the bête noire of the parliamentary process can be professionally managed. In his reform report, the Secretary-General acknowledged that the Organization is in danger of being overwhelmed by a flood of documents. All involved in any step of the documentation process, including the Member States, have shared a sense of frustration that can be summed up in a single phrase too many, too long and too late. In order for documentation to serve its original purpose as the basis of meaningful intergovernmental deliberations, it needs to be clearly focussed, comprehensible and timely.
Mr. Serguei Ordzhonokidze, the Director-General
and Mrs. Tatiana Romanova, Chief, Documents
Management Section during the presentation of
There is also the simple matter of cost. Were you aware that the cost of one page of an official UN document processed at UNOG, including editing, referencing, translation, text-processing, reproduction and distribution, is $1300? A more neatly managed document process results clearly in savings to our hard-pressed Organization.
How are we to do a better job of documents management? One way is simple enforcement of the page limits set down by the General Assembly 16 pages for a report prepared by the Secretariat and 20 pages for all other reports. Another way is strict adherence to regulations on timing of submission of documents 10 weeks in advance of the session, with an issuance date of 6 weeks in advance to give representatives of Member States sufficient time to study the reports prior to their consideration. Still another, as explained in the Guidelines, is documents forecasting, which should result in better advance planning and more timely submission and issuance of documents. Accurate forecasting also allows all involved in the downstream process to gauge more clearly the staffing that will be required to complete their work and, thus, allow better use of human and financial resources. Following the initial launch, the Guide- lines have been presented to a number of UNOG departments and intergovernmental bodies. In that manner, all involved which is to say, almost everyone who works or who attends meetings in the Palais des Nations(!) are coming to a clearer understanding both of their role in the documentation process and of the value of better management of documentation.
For the electronically inclined, they are available at http://conf-serv.unog.ch. They will be updated periodically as required.
The ultimate goal of the Guidelines is for everyone to be on the same page (pardon the pun) in regards to documentation preparation and submission.
The author is Chief, Central Planning and
Coordination Service, Conference Services Division.