323. The representative of the Secretariat said that, at the meeting of the General Council on 14 February 2012, the Director-General had shared, under "Other Business", information on the implementation of the recommendations for savings and more efficient use of resources made by the Budget Committee (WT/BFA/128) and adopted by the General Council. In providing an update on the Secretariat's work in implementing these decisions, he had sought Members' support and cooperation in carrying the work further.
324. The WTO's 2012-13 Budget, approved by the General Council in November 2011, provided for zero nominal growth in 2012. In December, the General Council had approved a number of recommendations for savings and more efficient use of resources made by the Committee on Budget, Finance and Administration, including the specific recommendations contained in paragraphs 29-31 of the Budget Committee's report circulated in document WT/BFA/128.
325. Highlighting just a few actions that immediately affect the Council's work, the representative of the Secretariat said that the decision provided for the discontinuance of the distribution of official documents, previously circulated in meeting rooms and at the document centre, as of the beginning of 2012. While all Members had already been informed about the implementation of this change, the Secretariat had sent a fax on 24 February reminding TRIPS delegates about this change. Otherwise the daily distribution of documents on paper and electronically on the Documents Online database would continue as before. Documents for this and future Council meetings could also be easily accessed through the "Documents for Meetings" module on the Members' site. The fax contained further information on this facility.
326. The recommendations also called for the reduction in the use of paper in particular as regards notifications. The Chair had already mentioned under item A one element of the implementation of these recommendations. While the Secretariat was continuing the circulation of base documents containing lists of notified laws and regulations and related explanations both in hard copy and electronic form, the actual texts of laws in the sub-series of documents would now only be circulated in an electronic form on the Documents Online database.
327. He suggested, in addition, that more consistent formats and submission methods for other lengthy reporting requirements - such as on technical cooperation and Article 66.2, which represented a major portion of the Council's formal documentation and thus its use of resources - could not only reduce costs significantly, but would also make the material thus reported more accessible and useful for its intended readership. The Secretariat would look into the technical aspects, with a view to advising Members subsequently on practical possibilities.
328. The decisions also called for the Chair to explore ways to further reduce the use of paper and to take steps to move towards the online submission and distribution of notifications. He said that the report that the Secretariat had provided for Members under item L went into more detail about proposed ways of developing its services, so as to make this material more easily accessible and thus more useful. The process was not only about cutting costs for the sake of it, although an important element as a component of maintaining zero growth nominal budget, but it also represented an opportunity to more effectively respond to the practical needs of the users of the system, principally WTO Members, and to find ways of servicing their needs more directly, efficiently and in line with the ways that they would choose to access and make use of that material as well as to prepare and submit it. Hence under the guidance of the Chair and in consultations with Members, the Secretariat would actively be looking to improve ways of making that material available. He encouraged interested delegations to consult with the Secretariat on how they preferred to work with those materials.