08/04/2004
Press Release
GA/10235



Fifty-eighth General Assembly                              

Plenary                                                    

83rd Meeting (AM)


GENERAL ASSEMBLY ADOPTS NINE BUDGET COMMITTEE TEXTS; JOINT INSPECTION UNIT,

 

PEACEKEEPING FINANCE AMONG ISSUES ADDRESSED

Decides Recognizing Term ‘Domestic Partnership’

For Staff Entitlement Purposes Will Require Assembly Action


The General Assembly this morning adopted without a vote nine texts recommended by its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).


Adopting a text on human resources management, the Assembly invited the Secretary-General to reissue a staff bulletin that he issued at the beginning of the year to clarify the family status of staff for the purpose of United Nations entitlements.  In particular, it noted that the terms contained in paragraph 4 of the bulletin were not included in existing Staff Regulations and Rules and decided that inclusion of those terms would require the consideration of and necessary action by the Assembly.


At issue is language according to which “a legally recognized domestic partnership contracted by a staff member under the law of the country of his or her nationality will also qualify that staff member to receive the entitlements provided for eligible family members”.


By the same text, the Assembly reaffirmed the Secretary-General’s authority as chief administrative officer and noted the Organization’s practice of determining personal status for the purpose of entitlements by reference to the law of nationality of the staff member concerned.


The Assembly also adopted texts relating to the programme budget for the biennium 2002-2003; the programme budget for the biennium 2004-2005; the Joint Inspection Unit; financing of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia; administrative and budgetary aspects of the financing of United Nations peacekeeping operations; and review of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations.


Following those actions, the Assembly decided to include an additional item in its current agenda on financing of the United Nations operation in Côte d’Ivoire, and to allocate it to the Fifth Committee.


At the outset of the meeting, General Assembly President Julian R. Hunte (Saint Lucia) notified delegates that Kenya and Venezuela had made the necessary payments to reduce their arrears below the amount specified in Article 19 of the United Nations Charter.


Prior to the start of this morning’s business, the Assembly observed a minute’s silence in memory of Boris Trajkovski, the late President of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, who died in a plane crash in February.


The representatives of Uganda (African Group), Viet Nam (Asian States) and Serbia and Montenegro (Eastern European States) paid tribute to the late statesman on behalf of their respective regional groups.  The United States delegate spoke on behalf of the host country.


The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 14 April, when it is expected to take up the global road safety crisis.


Background


The General Assembly met this morning to consider the reports of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), as well as the request for the inclusion of an additional item on its current agenda.


Action on Texts


The Assembly first took up the report of the Fifth Committee entitled “Programme budget for the biennium 2002-2003” (document A/58/572/Add.2).


By the terms of the draft resolution contained in that report on the report of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) on support costs related to extrabudgetary activities in organizations of the United Nations system, the Assembly would concur with the observations and recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) on the matter and endorse the recommendations contained in the JIU report, to the extent that they applied to the United Nations.


[In the light of frozen or falling core resources, effective use of extrabudgetary resources in support of mandated programmes has become increasingly important.  The original JIU report (documents A/57/442 and Add.1) reviewed formulation and application of extrabudgetary support-cost policies within the United Nations system and proposed measures to harmonize a wide range of arrangements in various programmes and financial management structures of the Organization.]


Recognizing that most recommendations are directed at executive heads of various agencies, the Assembly would further invite them to consider those recommendations.


[JIU recommendations address the need to precisely define the role of extrabudgetary financing in the overall structure of the United Nations, to refine approval and control mechanisms, and explain the role of extrabudgetary financing in relation to core programme activities.  Also supported by the Unit is consistent application of rules, clear justification of exceptional support-cost rates and improved efficiency of administrative services.]


Taking note of recommendation 1, which advocates integrating extrabudgetary and core resources in budget presentations, subjecting them to legislative approval and aligning them with the main priorities of the Organization, the Assembly would agree with the JIU that governing bodies should take steps to ensure that extrabudgetary resources are accepted for purposes that are consistent with programme priorities and approved mandates.


The text also addresses recommendation 4, in accordance with which legislative bodies would consider permitting various organizations to retain the interest earned on extrabudgetary resources contributed to multi-donor activities, where donor-specific accounting is not possible.  In this connection, the Assembly would draw attention to the practice of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) of retaining interest earned on supplementary resources and of using this income to offset support costs, and invite legislative organs to consider its applicability or relevance to their organizations.


Taking note of recommendation 9, which calls for harmonization of the policy principles upon which support-cost rates are established, the Assembly would agree with the Unit that legislative organs should enact support-cost policies to ensure effective mobilization and deployment of extrabudgetary resources in order to further mandated activities in developmental, humanitarian and other substantive areas.  It would also agree that those policies should be straightforward, transparent and easy to administer, providing a consistent and equitable approach to special arrangements.


The Assembly adopted the resolution without a vote.


Next, the Assembly turned to the report of the Fifth Committee entitled “Programme budget for the biennium 2004-2005” (document A/58/573/Add.1).


By the terms of the draft resolution contained in paragraph 10 of that report on the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the Assembly would authorize the Secretary-General, as an exceptional measure, to enter into commitments in an amount not to exceed $16.7 million to supplement the financial resources for the Court for the period from 1 July to 31 December 2004.  Any regular budget funds appropriated for the tribunal would be refunded to the United Nations upon liquidation of the Court, should sufficient voluntary contributions be received.


The Secretary-General, in concert with the Management Committee, would be requested to redouble efforts to raise voluntary contributions for the Court and report at the fifty-ninth session on the progress made in that respect.  As a matter of urgency, the Assembly would also appeal to Member States to make voluntary contributions in support of the Court and to honour existing pledges.


Noting that the Court is expected to complete its work by the end of 2005, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to invite the Court to adopt a completion strategy.  The Management Committee would be requested to review the structure of the Court with a view to minimizing the cost of completing its work, without adversely affecting the implementation of the legal agreement between the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone.


That text was adopted without a vote, as was the draft decision contained in paragraph 11 of the same report, by which the Assembly would decide to postpone consideration of financing of the Capital Master Plan to the second part of its resumed session in May, requesting the Secretary-General to submit during that time all outstanding reports on the matter.


Following that, the Assembly took up the report of the Fifth Committee entitled “Human resources management” (document A/58/750) to take action on the draft resolution contained in paragraph 9 of that report.


By the terms of that text, the Assembly -- reaffirming that the Secretary-General, as the Organization’s chief administrative officer, shall provide and enforce staff rules consistent with the broad principles of personnel policy for the Secretariat’s staffing and administration, and that all provisional rules and/or amendments to the Staff Rules shall be consistent with the intent and purposes of the Staff Regulations and should be reported to the Assembly in accordance with regulation 12.3 –- would note the Organization’s practice of determining personal status for the purpose of entitlements as are set out in the Staff Regulations and Rules by reference to the law of nationality of the staff member concerned.


The Assembly would, by further terms, invite the Secretary-General to reissue the Secretary-General’s bulletin ST/SGB/2004/4 after reviewing its contents, taking into account the views and concerns expressed by Member States.  It would also note the absence of terms referred to in paragraph 4 of the bulletin in the context of the existing Staff Regulations and Rules and decide that the inclusion of these terms shall require the consideration of and necessary action by the Assembly.


[Paragraph 4 of the bulletin states that a legally recognized domestic partnership contracted by a staff member of the law of the country of his or her nationality will also qualify that staff member to receive the entitlements provided for eligible family members.]


Explaining his country’s position before action, FAWZI BIN ABDUL MAJEED SHOBOKSHI (Saudi Arabia) said that same-sex marriage was a taboo in all religions and a great evil that alienated the agreed principles of society.  Such an approach gave unbridled liberty to violate all sacred thoughts and threaten family unity.


The Assembly adopted the draft resolution without a vote.


Explaining his position after the action, YASSER ALNAGGAR (Egypt) said that the resolution ought to reflect the positive and constructive spirit that should prevail among Member States no matter where they stood on various issues.  Many countries had been dismayed by the bulletin, which included concepts and terms that were not commensurate with the Staff Rules and Regulations concerning the family.


He rejected any new or coined terms that ran counter to the established consensus.  Any amendments to the Staff Rules and Regulations should be submitted to agreement by the Assembly, and Member States should be informed of any interpretation before they took effect.


Mr. DANESH-YAZDI (Iran) said that his delegation had joined the consensus and attached great importance to human resources management and the ability to deliver efficient and effective services.  However, any changes or amendments to the Staff Rules and Regulations should be considered by the General Assembly, and all interpretations should be brought to its attention regularly.


He said the bulletin had caused serious concern to Iran.  While no General Assembly decision had been made, the contents of the bulletin introduced new terms that were alien to the Staff Rules and Regulations.  Determining the status of staff for the purpose of entitlements should not deviate from the principle that marriage was between man and woman.


AIZAZ AHMAD CHAUDHRY (Pakistan) said that his delegation considered the family and marriage, as a union between man and woman, to be sacrosanct.  Concepts such as domestic partnership did not enjoy consensus in the international community.  Pakistan had joined the consensus on the understanding that any such bulletin on such matters would not contain any controversial terms.


The Assembly then turned to the draft resolution contained in paragraph 6 of the report of the Fifth Committee entitled “Joint Inspection Unit” (document A/58/751).  By the terms of that text, the Assembly would take note of the JIU’s 2002 report, 2003 programme of work and preliminary listing of reports for potential inclusion in the 2004 work programme.  It would further take note of the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the Unit’s recommendations, and take note with appreciation of the JIU’s active contribution to the review of its statute and working method.


By further terms, the Assembly would welcome the internal reform process undertaken by the Unit, including its strategic framework and its internal working procedures, and urge it to continue those efforts.  The Secretariat of the United Nations and those of all participating organizations would be requested to facilitate the Unit’s work, in particular, through offering full access to all required information, and request executive heads to take necessary steps to facilitate action on the system of follow-up to the Unit’s reports.  The Assembly would decide to revert to the issue of the JIU’s reform at its fifty-ninth session.


The Assembly adopted the text without a vote.


It then took up the report of the Fifth Committee on the Financing of the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia (document A/58/752). 


By the terms of the draft resolution, contained in paragraph 6 of that report, entitled “Review of the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia”, the Assembly would take note of the report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services on the review of the Office of the Prosecutor at the Rwanda and former Yugoslavia Tribunals.  That text was adopted without a vote. 


Next, the Assembly took up the report of the Fifth Committee entitled “Administrative and budgetary aspects of the financing of the United Nations peacekeeping operations” (document A/58/582/Add.1)


By the terms of the draft resolution on implementation of paragraph 3 of General Assembly resolution 57/323, contained in paragraph 8 of the report, the Assembly would postpone until 30 June the return of the remaining 50 per cent (some $84.45 million) of the amount available for credit to Member States as of 30 June 2002 from cash balances of several closed peacekeeping missions.  The Assembly would also decide that credits or disbursements to individual countries may be made at the discretion of the Member States concerned as from 1 July 2004.  Member States owed credits for closed missions would be encouraged to apply those credits towards their outstanding assessed contributions.


That text was adopted without a vote, as was a draft decision contained in paragraph 9 of the same report, by which the Assembly would defer to its fifty-ninth session consideration of the Secretary-General’s report on the participation of United Nations volunteers in peacekeeping operations and a related report of the Advisory Committee.


Lastly, the Assembly turned to the report of the Fifth Committee entitled “Review of the efficiency of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations” (document A/58/571/Add.2). 


By the terms of the draft decision, contained in paragraph 7 of the report, on questions deferred for future consideration, the Assembly would decide to defer to its fifty-ninth session consideration of items on the report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services on strengthening investigation functions in the United Nations; implementation of the Oversight Office recommendations on the Investment Management Service of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund; and the United Nations common system services at Geneva.  It would also decide to defer the Secretary-General’s reports on the composition of the Secretariat and the list of United Nations Secretariat staff.


The draft decision was adopted without a vote.


* *** *