|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-second General Assembly
10th Meeting (AM)
PRESENTING $4.2 BILLION BUDGET FOR 2008-2009 TO ASSEMBLY’S FIFTH COMMITTEE,
SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS UN RESOURCES ‘NEVER STRETCHED SO THIN’
Delegates Differ on Priorities; Some Seek More Funds for Development,
Others Argue for Zero Growth in Spending with End to Obsolete Programmes
“Never has the world so needed a strong United Nations, yet never have our resources been stretched so thin”, said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, presenting his $4.2 billion budget proposal for 2008-2009 to the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today.
The requested amount was “not much, considering the demands upon us”, he said, pointing out that it represented real growth of $23 million over the current, 2006-2007, biennium, or just half a percentage point.
With the coming year being one of the most challenging in the Organization’s history, the Secretary-General listed "difficult diplomatic and security challenges" in the Sudan, Lebanon, Somalia, Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as longer-term tasks of combating poverty, dealing with humanitarian crises, climate change and HIV/AIDS, and defending human rights. He said it was time to shift the focus to conflict prevention and peacebuilding, especially in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. "Strengthening the U.N.’s capacity to step in -- to resolve conflicts earlier rather than later -- is among the smartest investments we can make", he said.
Expressing his determination to strengthen the Organization, so that it could do the job expected of it, the Secretary-General said it required careful fiscal management and balancing varied and often conflicting priorities. It demanded, absolutely, that the Organization change from within -- to make the United Nations faster, more flexible and efficient in delivering better results with the limited assets at its disposal. In doing all that, it was necessary to bear in mind the fundamental principle that there was an unbreakable link between peace, human rights and development.
The Organization’s chief administrative officer stressed the need to modernize the United Nations, thinking “more freshly about our work and how we get it done” and expressed his desire to continue the process of reform and strengthen internal oversight. He also outlined his vision of “a strong and empowered Secretariat -- pragmatic, accountable, focused on results, representing pride and excellence in serving the global public good”.
Many speakers in the ensuing debate emphasized the need to ensure adequate funding for the implementation of the Organization’s mandates, while also promoting sound management and strict budgetary discipline, as well as effective use of resources. However, delegates also expressed concern over the fact that with a number of requirements, including those for the administration of justice reform and decisions of the Human Rights Council, to be presented to the Committee in separate reports later in the session, the total figure of the budget could rise as high as $4.7 million.
In that connection, Canada’s representative, speaking also for Australia and New Zealand, said that even if different accounts were appropriated separately, they were all still paid by the same taxpayer. Assessed budgets from all United Nations accounts would be close to $9 billion for 2008, and even in the regular budget, increases were higher than presented. Two bienniums ago, the prospect of a $3 billion budget had quickened heartbeats. Today, the Committee was staring at $4.2 billion, and significant “add-ons” loomed.
While recognizing the difficulty of fitting new initiatives within the biennial budget process, many speakers expressed concern over such a “piecemeal” approach to the budget, agreeing with the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) that the 2008-2009 proposal failed to present the fullest possible picture of the Organization’s needs in several important areas. “Budgeting by instalment” did a disservice to Member States in their consideration of the budget and in determining priority requirements, they said.
The position of the European Union -- collectively, the largest contributor to the United Nations budget -- was presented by the representative of Portugal, who said that financing of new activities under fiscal discipline implied serious consideration of redeployment and finding cross-cutting economies. The best way of doing that was to ensure that the budgetary debate was expanded, so as to include a close scrutiny of recurrent expenditures. To reach the objective of an efficient programme budget, cost reductions should also be considered. Furthermore, he saw merit in striving towards proper implementation of results-based management.
The representatives of the United States and Japan were in favour of the principle of zero-nominal growth, which, the United States representative said, did not appear to be an option in this case, however. It was necessary to seek to control growth, while ensuring that there were sufficient funds to implement the mandates.
“We have to keep in mind what the overall assessed amount will be and whether Member States are ready to pay such an amount”, Japan’s representative said, stressing the need to subject the budget proposals to critical scrutiny and judgement. Japan advocated the principle of meeting new requirements through redeployment from activities that were obsolete and no longer required.
Speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developed countries and China, the representative of Pakistan expressed concern over the application of the principle of zero-nominal real growth, without any formal decision of the Assembly. In fact, the Group might put forward proposals for additional resources in programmes of critical importance to it.
In that regard, the representative of Nicaragua echoed the Group’s concern over an evident imbalance, where development had become “the Cinderella” of the regular budget. It was inconceivable that the Development Account represented only 0.37 per cent of the budget proposal. With the allocation of some $16.5 million, it was far from the target that had been set.
South Africa’s representative, speaking on behalf of the African Group, agreed that development issues were not given enough attention in the proposed budget and that adequate resources needed to be allocated to this priority area. He also supported efforts to fully address the root causes of conflicts that continued to impede economic growth and sustainable development goals of many African countries, and stressed an imperative need to assist Africa in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.
Statements were also made this morning by representatives of the Dominican Republic (on behalf of the Rio Group), Republic of Korea, Bangladesh, Venezuela, Mexico, Thailand, Botswana, Switzerland and Iceland.
The Committee will continue its debate on the budget proposal at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 26 October.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was expected to present his budget proposal for 2008-2009 to the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today.
Formulated to meet the priorities and mandates set by Member States, the proposed programme budget for the biennium (documents A/62/6, Introduction and Sections 1-35, Income Sections 1-3) amounts to some $4.2 billion before recosting and reaches almost $4.4 billion at preliminary 2008-2009 rates. The proposal shows overall real budget growth of $21.3 million (0.5 per cent).
As a result of revisions in strategies for 2008-2009, the resource proposals and staffing tables would be significantly adjusted to strengthen activities in a number of critical areas, including human resources capacity and mobility, subregional offices of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), programmes in Nairobi, training to enhance the skills of staff, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, capacity to coordinate humanitarian assistance, crisis management in safety and security, and the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).
Total positive growth amounts to $63.3 million for 27 sections, which is offset by reductions of $42 million in 5 sections. The distribution of resources, compared with the revised appropriation for 2006-2007, by budget part, is as follows (before recosting):
2006-2007 revised appropriation
Overall policymaking, direction and coordination
International justice and law
International cooperation for development
Regional cooperation for development
Human rights and humanitarian affairs
Common support services
Jointly financed administrative activities and special expenses
Safety and security
4 173 895.9
4 195 243.0
In accordance with established practice, the proposed budget will be adjusted again prior to its adoption by the Assembly in December. The income sections of the proposal amount to some $515.34 million.
The 9,896 staffing level envisioned for 2008-2009 provides for a net increase of 220 posts (150 Professional and 70 General Service), compared with 2006-2007. A total of 35 posts would be abolished, 248 new posts added and seven positions previously funded by general temporary assistance (GTA) converted to established posts. In addition, two temporary positions would be converted to established posts, reflecting a change in status with no net effect on the number of posts. Six posts are proposed for reclassification.
The proposed budget does not include provisions for a number of other requirements that will be addressed in separate reports. Those potential “add-ons” include strengthening of the Organization’s peacekeeping capacity, introduction of a new system of administration of justice, implementation of an enterprise resource planning system (ERP), arrangements for business continuity and disaster recovery, and revised estimates related to the decisions of the Human Rights Council. Furthermore, while the budget proposal includes provisions for a substantial strengthening of OIOS, a full assessment of possible related revisions within departments and offices has not as yet been made.
In line with the reform agenda and the strategy to implement further efficiency measures, the budget section on management and support services includes proposals to enhance efficiency in the areas of finance, human resources and support services, providing support services to the intergovernmental processes of the Organization, and securing financing for mandated activities. Resources budgeted for management and support services amount to $537.3 million, reflecting an increase of $9.3 million.
While the level of extrabudgetary resources for the biennium cannot be determined with complete precision, the report presents an estimate of some $6.6 billion for 2008-2009 (a net increase of approximately $708 million), to be utilized for a variety of activities in the areas of conflict resolution, peacemaking, electoral assistance mine action, dissemination of international law, central support services, and outreach activities at regional disarmament centres, among others. Extrabudgetary resources are projected to finance a total of 10,255 posts in 2008-2009.
Another Secretary-General’s report (document A/62/91) relates to the proposed reclassification of the post of deputy to the Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security from D-2 to the Assistant Secretary-General level. According to the report, should the D-2 be upgraded effective 1 January 2007, additional requirements for 2006-2007 would amount to $33,400. Should the Assembly approve the proposal, those requirements would be adjusted in accordance with current costing parameters and reflected in the initial appropriation for 2008-2009.
The recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) (document A/62/7), would entail a budget reduction of some $11.55 million.
With total personnel costs for 2008-2009 amounting to some $5.5 billion (over $2.7 billion for regular budget posts and another $2.75 billion to be financed with extrabudgetary resources), the Advisory Committee makes numerous recommendations on staff-related matters. In particular, it insists that new post requests should be justified by relating the new or expanded tasks to existing staffing, to demonstrate that those tasks cannot be absorbed, and requests that updated information in that regard be provided to the Assembly in November/December 2007 to assist it in its consideration of requests for the continuation of existing, sometimes long-vacant, posts and creation of new ones. Also pointed out in the report is the need to clearly distinguish between proposed conversions and new posts, with information provided as to the appropriate costing basis. Proposals for the conversion of general temporary assistance positions to established posts should be accompanied by a corresponding reduction of general temporary assistance costs.
The Advisory Committee emphasizes the importance of recruitment in attaining goals for geographical, gender balance and multilingualism goals, as well as the importance of recruiting more multi-skilled staff to handle the complex and evolving needs of the Organization. The report also notes a tendency for “grade creep” -- an upward shift in the grade structure of the staffing table. In filling posts, ACABQ recommends applying the lessons learned from the experience of the Organization’s Vienna Office, where positions are filled more expeditiously. It also expresses concern about particular delays in filling P-2 posts stemming from the national competitive and G to P examinations.
With a number of requirements to be addressed in separate reports, ACABQ points out that the 2008-2009 proposal fails to present the fullest possible picture of the Organization’s needs in several important areas. While recognizing the difficulty of fitting new initiatives within the biennial budget process, it states that “budgeting by instalment” does a disservice to Member States in their consideration of the budget and in determining priority requirements. In the future, revised estimates in respect of requirements that were foreseeable at the time of budget preparation should include justification of why they were not included in the proposal.
Welcoming information on 2,111 outputs that are to be discontinued, ACABQ says attempts should be made to identify resources released and made available for redeployment. It is also important to identify objectives and expected accomplishments that are more specific to each programme. The Advisory Committee further recommends that future budgets provide the full cost of budgetary proposals for each section. New mandates almost inevitably lead to requests for additional resources without sufficient effort to redeploy resources or achieve efficiency gains. ACABQ also emphasizes the need to continue to improve information on extrabudgetary resources to Member States during their review of budget proposals.
To avoid duplication and overlap, the Advisory Committee points out the need for consistency and common approaches across the system. It also reiterates its view that future budget submissions should clearly indicate the role and contributions of other programmes, funds and agencies. While acknowledging the importance of networking and face-to-face consultations within a global organization, the Advisory Committee reiterates that travel could be reduced considerably through electronic means of communication. Programme managers need to subject the travel budget to greater scrutiny. Consultants should be used only for specific time-limited projects and should not be subject to repeated extensions as a way of getting around the established procedures for selecting staff.
Regarding the training provisions, totalling some $36.21 million (an increase of approximately 15 per cent), the Advisory Committee requests that a breakdown of training provisions be provided in the future and emphasizes that every effort should be made to ensure value for money in the increasing amounts spent on staff training.
The Committee also had before it a consolidated report on changes to the Organization’s programme plan (document A/62/80), which reflects new and/or revised mandates that affect the programme narratives of the approved biennial plan and priorities for the period 2008-2009 under 10 programmes. The programme plan has been revised for each of the affected programmes.
The Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC), in its report (document A/62/16), recommends approval of the narratives of most sections of the budget. However, it notes that in sections 2 (political affairs), 4 (peacekeeping operations), 6 (legal affairs), 7 (economic and social affairs), 10 (trade and development), 11 (environment), 12 (human settlements), 14 (economic and social development in Africa), 24 (management and support services) and 25 (internal oversight), the programmatic narratives in the budget proposal (as presented in the consolidated report on programme changes), in particular the overview parts, were different from the overall orientation parts of the biennial programme plan for 2008-2009. In its consideration of the budget, the Assembly should ensure that the narratives are identical to respective programmes of the plan, including their overall orientation parts.
The CPC expressed regret over late issuance of some reports and the fact that not all of the budget fascicles were available when it made its analysis. While the Committee also acknowledged the utility of the consolidated report on changes to the biennial programme plan, it emphasized that consideration of that document did not replace CPC’s programmatic responsibility to review the budget.
According to the Secretary-General’s report on the experience of the utilization of the contingency fund (document A/62/229), careful consideration should be given to whether the level of the contingency fund -- set at $31.46 million (0.75 per cent of the preliminary estimate for the biennium 2008-2009) by resolution 61/254 -- should be increased. The report explains that no predetermined level exists for the contingency fund; instead, when approving the budget, the Assembly also approves a certain percentage of the budget outline, thereby determining the level of the contingency fund.
A review of recent experience demonstrates an increasing number of situations, when potential charges exceed the balance available within the contingency fund, the report states. The utilization of the contingency fund has ranged from 19.5 per cent in 1998-1999 to almost full utilization in 2002-2003. The fund’s utilization in 2004-2005 was 63.4 per cent. For the biennium 2006-2007, the balance available in the contingency fund amounts to $637,300, reflecting a utilization factor of 97.8 per cent. While no additional charges to the contingency fund have been approved since the end of the sixtieth session, a significant level of additional requirements that normally would have been chargeable to the contingency fund are being accommodated outside the provisions of the fund, such as $44.3 million relating to the 2005 World Summit Outcome.
Depending on the decisions to be taken by the Assembly, potential charges to the contingency fund for the biennium 2008-2009 may exceed the level of $31.5 million established in resolution 61/254. In this connection, the Secretary-General suggests that in 2008-2009, the fund might be set at 1.35 per cent.
The Advisory Committee, in its related report (document A/62/349), states that increasing the level of the contingency fund would not contribute to budget discipline, as envisaged in relevant provisions of resolutions 41/213 and 42/211, which established the Organization’s current system of planning, programming and budgetary governance and fixed the procedures for determining the level of the fund. Those arrangements have stood the test of time, and there is no evidence that they need to be revised. Past experience has shown that the level of the contingency fund has almost never been exceeded. Furthermore, the Assembly, in its resolution 60/283, authorized the Secretary-General a limited discretion for budgetary implementation for 2006-2007 and 2008-2009, to enter into commitments of up to $20 million in each biennium for the purpose of meeting the evolving needs of the Organization.
On another point, the Advisory Committee says that at least some of the additional requirements for 2006-2007 should have been dealt with in the context of the proposed programme budget, thus avoiding a piecemeal approach to the budget process. For example, the proposal that related to the renovation of the Secretary-General’s residence should have been submitted as part of the budget for 2006-2007.
In connection with the “unprecedented magnitude of the resources” required for the implementation of the World Summit Outcome, the Advisory Committee points out that the estimates in that regard exceeded the level of the contingency fund for 2006-2007. ACABQ had previously suggested that the estimates be treated, as an exception, outside the procedures for the use of the contingency fund; it also recommended that the exception should not create a precedent for the consideration of the financial implications of future legislative actions. That recommendation was endorsed in paragraph 5 of resolution 60/246.
Introduction of Budget
Presenting his budget proposal, Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON said he expected the year ahead to be among the most challenging in the Organization’s history. “I am confident that, together, we can also make it one of the most successful”, he said. “Our work begins, in earnest, with this proposed programme budget of $4.2 billion, broadly in line with what the General Assembly has approved”, and representing real growth of $23 million over the previous biennium. That was not much, considering the demands upon the Organization.
In the coming year, Darfur peace talks would open in Libya, in advance of yet another major peacekeeping deployment. The United Nations faced diplomatic and security challenges in Lebanon, Somalia, Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- to name just a few. And, of course, there were longer-term challenges: alleviating global poverty, especially in Africa; ongoing humanitarian crises; human rights violations; the global fight against climate change; and HIV/AIDS. Never had the world so needed a strong United Nations. Yet, never had the Organization’s resources been stretched so thin.
The Secretary-General said that, as the chief administrative officer, he was committed to doing everything in his power to strengthen the Organization, so that it could do the job expected of it. That required careful fiscal management and meant balancing varied and often conflicting priorities. It demanded, absolutely, that the Organization change from within -- to make the United Nations faster, more flexible and efficient in delivering better results with the limited assets at its disposal. In doing all that, it was necessary to bear in mind the fundamental principle that there was an unbreakable link between peace, human rights and development. “If we lose sight of this fact, we cannot hope to achieve our goals”, he said.
Everybody understood the importance of a strong, empowered Secretariat -- pragmatic, accountable, focused on results, representing pride and excellence in serving the global public good, he continued. To deliver on that vision, it was necessary to modernize the Organization, thinking “freshly about our work and how we get it done”. The difficult work of institutional strengthening and reform had already begun. The Organization had reorganized its worldwide peacekeeping operations. Now, it was time to turn attention to conflict prevention and peacebuilding, with special emphasis on Africa, Asia and the Middle East. It was necessary to rethink the approach to preventive diplomacy, exploit to the fullest the potential for good offices and international mediation -- in the broadest spirit of the Charter. Strengthening the United Nations’ capacity to step in -- to resolve conflicts earlier rather than later -- was among the smartest investments that could be made.
“I ask you to support my plan for strengthening the Department of Political Affairs by authorizing $18 million for this purpose”, he said. He was also pleased to report that the proposed budget included stable funding for the newly created Peacebuilding Support Office, as mandated by the Assembly and Security Council. The link between security and development was clear. Peace was “the child of their union”. Issues of economic advancement and social equity could not be geopolitical afterthoughts.
He noted that the Organization was at the midpoint of its 2015 time line for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Millions of people looked to the United Nations for a better, healthier, more decent future. The scale of the programmes was impressive, by any measure. Tremendous progress had been achieved over the past decade in shifting the United Nations from too heavy focus on security to a broader development agenda. The annual value of contributions to various United Nations agencies and programmes, largely extrabudgetary, totalled more than $415 billion, yet clearly the Organization had far to go. He expected the Africa Millennium Development Goals Steering Group to help set the agenda. Many international commitments were made at conferences in places like Gleneagles and Heiligendamm. It was necessary to move beyond promises and put up the money for those in need.
That was not to say that the United Nations should do what developing nations could and should do on their own, he continued. But the ways of providing aid and development assistance should be adapted to new realities. South-South cooperation, for example, had emerged as a new force in international economics. Today, developing countries accounted for nearly 40 per cent of global exports, and about 50 per cent of that trade was among themselves. Some countries of the South had even emerged as new donors. Therefore, he would seek to reinforce work on South-South issues with full involvement of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the regional commissions. It was necessary to bolster research and monitoring capabilities, particularly in tackling the problems of the world’s “bottom billion” -- those left behind by global economic growth. Special attention should be devoted to the needs of the least developed, landlocked and small island nations. He proposed to reorganize the Secretariat to better serve their interests.
With the coming year marking the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he noted with pleasure that the budget reflected the decision by Member States to double the resources earmarked for human rights. But it was time to think more expansively about traditional definitions of human rights, including the responsibility to protect -- and to speak out. Development was a human right, “integral to our moral mandate”.
“We have focused on the three pillars of the UN -- development, peace and security, human rights”, he said. But those pillars could only stand as strong as their foundation, and the Organization must ensure that that foundation was firm and well-maintained. That related, of course, to issues of management and United Nations reform. Reform was a process and not a one-time project. As suggested by many ambassadors, the Secretary-General would keep engaging himself with the general membership on the reform of the Department of Political Affairs, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and other departments. He also agreed that the Secretariat should continue to streamline and rationalize its work to avoid duplication and save costs. He said the Organization must place results before process. That required it to streamline rules and work patterns, in line with the best public and private practices. To that end, the Secretary-General had set up a new change-management task force, whose work would focus on human resources, budget and finance, and procurement. The goal was to consolidate rules in each area according to the clear criteria of simplification, rationalization, transparency and accountability. To the extent that real improvements required legislative changes by the Assembly, recommendations would be prepared accordingly.
The budget also provided for stiffer internal oversight, he said. The Committee was already considering proposals for a comprehensive revision of the United Nations’ administration of justice. It was necessary to extend the vital work of the Procurement Task Force for another year, even as work continued towards more permanent independent auditing and investigative capabilities. The Organization would also be adopting new accounting practices, set forth under the protocols of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards.
In meeting the changing demands of today’s global environment, he continued, it was necessary to better manage the Organization’s human resources, its most vital asset. “We need an internal climate change at the United Nations”, he said. It was necessary to build a more skilled and mobile workforce. Streamlining the arrangements “anchored in a vanished past”, particularly those governing contracts and conditions of service, would boost efficiency, flexibility and equity in the workplace. Bringing more women into senior management remained a top priority.
Regarding the capital master plan (for the refurbishing of New York Headquarters), he said that the United Nations would “go green” -- carbon neutral and energy efficient. The plans had been completed; work was poised to begin next fall. It would be a fitting symbol of “all we can accomplish together”.
In closing, he said that considerable work had gone into the budget. The proposals before the Committee reflected strict budgetary discipline, balancing growth in some areas with reallocations in others. The Secretary-General would be submitting separately a number of initiatives, which would involve “add-ons” to the budget. Among those were the plans for a revamped, responsive and professional internal justice system, as well as a detailed proposal for an integrated global resource management system and certain human resources reforms. Before the end of the year, he would also submit a series of reports on frameworks for accountability, enterprise, risk management and results-based management. The budget was not only a financial document. It was a compact of understanding between the Secretary-General and Member States. It detailed in concrete terms how they intended to realize the goals for the United Nations and how the Secretary-General intended to exercise the authority entrusted to him.
The Chairman of ACABQ, RAJAT SAHA, introducing a related Advisory Committee’s report, said that at revised 2006-2007 rates, the budget proposal, at about $4.2 billion, reflected a real growth of 0.5 per cent. At initial 2008-2009 rates, the proposals reflected actual growth of 5.3 per cent in dollar terms. The Advisory Committee noted, however, that new posts proposed for the coming biennium would have an estimated delayed impact of more than $34 million in subsequent bienniums and recommended that future budgets should include that information in the interest of greater transparency.
Among the issues considered by ACABQ in connection with a number of significant items of expenditure not included in the budget proposal, he said, were the establishment of a new system of administration of justice and preparedness measures for an influenza pandemic. The Committee was awaiting further proposals on business continuity and disaster recovery, and a new system of enterprise, resource and planning, as well as resolutions adopted by the Human Rights Council. Other proposals might also be forthcoming. He said the Advisory Committee was concerned about “the piecemeal approach” evident in the budget for 2008-2009, which undermined the budgetary system and discipline.
Among other things, the Advisory Committee also re-emphasized the need for systematic efforts to foster deeper cooperation and coordination across the United Nations to bring about synergy, enhance complementarity and remove avoidable redundancies. A number of recommendations had been made by the Committee concerning improvements in the format and information to be presented in future budgets.
FARUKH AMIL ( Pakistan), speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said resources requested in the programme budget should conform to the legislative mandates established by principal and subsidiary organs. A piecemeal approach undermined the budgetary process and budget discipline, and made it difficult for Member States in determining resource requirements for priority activities. He said he agreed with the need for further improvements in the presentation of the budget, especially the full cost of budgetary proposals for each section. Efforts should also continue to identify objectives and expected accomplishments that are more specific to each programme.
The Group of 77, he said, was still concerned about the implementation of zero-nominal real growth in the resource level of the budget, without any formal decision of the General Assembly. The practice was a desire of only a few Member States, and severely constrained the Organization’s capacity to implement all mandated programmes and activities. Although the programme budget seeks considerable growth in resources for peace and security, humanitarian affairs and human rights, international justice and law, international drug control, and crime and terrorism prevention and criminal justice, he was concerned that only a nominal increase of 0.5 per cent had been proposed in the development budget. Without allocation of sufficient resources to the relevant departments, including conflict prevention, in the Departments of Political Affairs and Peacekeeping Operations, the larger objective of peace and security might also be jeopardized.
He said he opposed the lack of a meaningful increase in the development budget, in light of important upcoming development activities in 2008, and expressed further concern over efforts to consolidate activities which would diminish their development component. The Secretary-General should initiate a process of comprehensive strengthening of the development and economic machinery of the Organization; he asked for the submission of proposals for the allocation of adequate resources for enhancement of development related to programme in the current budget.
He said he had serious questions about the administration and budgeting of special political missions. The Organization must develop well-defined policies for their efficient and accountable management, proper scrutiny of their budgets and performance.
Noting the 220 new posts in the programme budget for 2008-2009, mainly concentrated in the programmes for Political Affairs, International Justice and Law, the Office of Internal Oversight Services and Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, he said lack of transparency and accountability in the recruitment of staff at the United Nations, especially in senior positions in developing countries, continued to be a concern to the Group of 77. He attached great importance to equitable geographic and gender representation in all recruitment, as well as the rotation of senior positions. He asked for clarification with regard to the appointment of Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Field Support, which the Group believed should be from a developing country.
He said he awaited the report on implementation of reforms approved last year to improve governance, management and the procurement process. He was concerned with the limited share of developing countries in procurement opportunities, which should be addressed as one of the key aspects of procurement reform. He supported the operational independence of OIOS and the provision of adequate resources. Geographic representation and the highest professional qualification should be considered in the recruitment for that Office, while following the decisions of the Assembly. There should be appropriate incentives to reduce high vacancy rates in duty stations. Failure to fill posts should not be used as an argument in refusing new posts for different functions.
He said he was particularly concerned that the efficiency gains achieved over the last several bienniums had not been diverted to the Development Account, as stipulated in the provisions of paragraph 24 of Assembly resolution 52/12 B, but had been used by programme managers to implement their own priorities.
Asserting that extrabudgetary resources were critical for the Organization’s operational activities, he said that the reporting requirements and accountability mechanisms of such resources often lacked transparency. Discrepancies and anomalies in the use of those resources should be addressed in a systematic manner. The role of the Board of Auditors, as well as information on the activities and posts financed from extrabudgetary resources, should be included in performance reports.
He said regional economic commissions had an important role in implementing the developmental agenda, and should, therefore, be ensured adequate resources to do so, without undue dependence on extrabudgetary resources. There should be the provision of equal quality of service to all organs of the Organization; he said he was concerned over the priority and supremacy accorded to the work of the Security Council, while keeping a tight tab on conference servicing for Main Committees of the General Assembly, intergovernmental bodies and regional groups. He spoke of the important work of the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC) and said he was concerned that not all sections of the budget were submitted to that Committee for consideration. Although, he said, some of the ACABQ recommendations on the budget did not fall within its mandate, the Advisory Committee was to be thanked for its report. He stressed the role of the Committee as an independent, impartial, and technical expert body. He called for more staff support for the Committee, given the exponential growth in its workload throughout the last few years.
JOAO MANUEL GUERRA SALGUEIRO (Portugal), speaking also for the European Union, said he was ready for a constructive approach to the Secretary-General’s proposed programme budget; in his examination, he would be guided by the following principles: ensuring that the Secretary-General had adequate funding for the implementation of all mandates, and also promoting sound management and strict budgetary and fiscal discipline, and the effective use of resources and a results-based approach.
He described the increased in the budget to $4.2 billion as “very modest”, compared to the revised appropriation for the current biennium, but less so as against the budget agreed in December 2005. He said it was not complete, since it left out the preliminary estimates for recosting and did not include a number of initiatives that would be under consideration by the Assembly or other proposals likely to be presented in the near future, not to mention the budget implications of decisions from the Main Committees.
All in all, he said, the budget total could be expected to be close to $4.8 billion. That figure was a very substantial increase that could not simply be underwritten in its entirety. It needed to be carefully considered, taking into account budgetary constraints and cost effectiveness. Collectively, the European Union was the largest contributor to the United Nations in terms of assessed contributions, currently at a record high. The Organization must exercise the same budgetary discipline required of its Member States. He acknowledged that the budget increase was only partially due to new mandates; a significant part was also the result of inflation and exchange rate fluctuation beyond the Organization’s control.
Commending the Secretariat for its efforts in presenting a full and transparent picture of amounts involved, he stressed that some of the current “add-ons” to the budget could have been included in the Secretary-General’s initial submission. Some others, however, could not be fully justified by referring to standing mandates, and so would have to be prioritized. He said he concurred with ACABQ that this piecemeal approach to budgeting undermined the budgetary system and budget discipline. In the future, the current budgetary process, as set out in Assembly resolutions 41/213 and 42/211, should be fully implemented.
He said financing of new activities under fiscal discipline implied serious consideration of redeployment and finding cross-cutting economies. The best way of doing that was to ensure that the budgetary debate was expanded, so as to include a close scrutiny of recurrent expenditures. To reach the objective of an efficient programme budget, cost reductions should also be considered. Furthermore, he saw merit in striving towards proper implementation of results-based management. He said that the European Union would actively pursue, in the course of informal consultations, ways to find cross-cutting economies while seeking to ensure that the established mandates were properly resourced and fiscal discipline observed, in the effort to bring the final appropriation to a manageable figure.
ENRIQUILLO A. DEL ROSARIO CEBALLOS (Dominican Republic), speaking for the Rio Group, said that the Organization’s obligations, in addition to the needs of peacekeeping operations, international tribunals and other activities dependent on the budget, required responsible management and emphasis on accountability. The Rio Group reaffirmed the importance of meeting the priorities and mandates of the United Nations in an effective and balanced manner, on the Organization’s three pillars: peace, development, and human rights, watching strictly over the effective and efficient use of resources.
He said he was concerned that the budget proposal did not represent a final total of costs, and would be completed with a series of additional requests. That was not a good budgetary technique; the Group hoped that future budgets be presented in an integral form. There were areas to which the Group would pay special attention during the budget negotiations, such as political affairs, disarmament, peacekeeping, economic and social affairs (including the Forum for Indigenous Peoples), the fight against hunger and poverty, trade and development, environment, the work of regional commissions, human rights and humanitarian affairs.
He said the reality in which members of the Group lived -– all of them developing countries -– urgently required the strengthening of the programmes aimed to achieve better living conditions for their peoples. They, therefore, attached special importance to the budget sections relating to development and regional cooperation for development, in which connection they highlighted the importance of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). They welcomed the creation of a Division for Women’s Affairs there. They also looked positively at the work towards economic and social development in the region.
Turning to the Development Account, he said the amount for the 2008-2009 biennium had not even been modified to the adjusted figures to reflect the effects of inflation and exchange rates. The Group noted with concern that the Development Account represented only 0.34 per cent of the proposed budget. He also addressed a failed attempt to fill a vacancy for the Forum for Indigenous Peoples, a post that was part of the main activities of the Organization. He asked to be informed about that matter in writing.
On the reform proposals, including the Secretary-General’s intention to reform the Department of Political Affairs, he said those had been presented without taking into account the usual procedures and through a disjointed approach, which prevented Member States from evaluating the reform as a whole. There should be an integrated approach to the reform measures, to include the restructuring and strengthening of the United Nations architecture in terms of development as a whole. The only reform implemented in the last years in that sphere had been the reform of the Economic and Social Council, which had been implemented through existing resources.
Emphasizing the importance of efficient management of human resources, he said equitable geographical distribution, particularly at the senior and professional levels, must continue to be encouraged. In that connection, he asked for a complete list of the nationalities of the people working in the Office of the Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General. In particular, he wanted to know how the Latin American and Caribbean Group was represented.
He said the Group supported the incorporation of a gender perspective in the budget and towards due allocation of sufficient human and financial resources, in accordance with the institutional objectives of gender equality, with particular focus on women from developing countries. The Group also reaffirmed the need to continue the policy against fraud and corruption at the United Nations, and its member had always supported measures to reinforce transparency, accountability and institutional integrity.
As for the financial consequences of the budget proposal, the Group felt that all the programme budget implications should be considered as a whole. It also believed that the ACABQ secretariat should be strengthened.
JOHN MCNEE ( Canada), speaking also for Australia and New Zealand, said the budget proposal before the Committee contained few surprises. It put into effect, for example, earlier decisions concerning budgetary support for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, enhancing the capacity of ECA and its subregional offices, putting the United Nations Office at Nairobi on a solid budgetary footing, and establishing continuing capacity for the Peacebuilding Support Office.
However, in a real sense, he said, much of the budget “action” was contained not in the budget document, but in a stream of parallel proposals. Regardless of the merit of any of those individual proposals, the presentation of the budget in that manner was of great concern to his country, and Australia and New Zealand -- and they would like to echo ACABQ’s reservations about that piecemeal approach to the budget, an approach which condemned budget discipline, obscured the full requirements, and made prioritization of resources more difficult for Member States.
He said the level of growth of United Nations budgets also remained a serious concern. Even if different accounts were appropriated separately, they were all still paid by the same taxpayer. Assessed budgets from all United Nations accounts would be close to $9 billion for 2008, and even in the regular budget increases were higher than presented. Two bienniums ago, the prospect of a $3 billion budget had quickened heartbeats. Today, the Committee was staring at $4.2 billion, and significant “add-ons” loomed. The delegations he represented would work closely with others to contain the proposed growth by identifying outdated activities and examining the scope for absorption of new requirements. Public support for spending on this scale hinged on confidence that funds were effectively utilized for the intended purposes.
He said that, while progress had been made in developing policies and structures to support ethical conduct and integrity, independent oversight and personal accountability, more remained to be done. Strengthening the system of internal controls, improving the procurement regime, improving the identification and management of risks, and improving internal oversight, all needed early action. Effective management improvements could require additional resources, not least because the United Nations had sometimes under-invested both in people and in systems. But there must be another side to that equation, the side that would bring identifiable efficiency and productivity gains. Absent demonstrable results on those fronts, the appetite for increased expenditure in the name of management reform would diminish.
On the budget presentation, he pointed out the need to move beyond the practice of incremental budgeting, where only new resources were justified and simply added to the base. The budget base itself needed to be reviewed to determine whether programmes and activities remained relevant going forward, and the budget document needed to reflect such examination. “How else can one be satisfied that the opportunities to respond to new needs through the redeployment of existing resources haven’t been exhausted?” he asked. It was also necessary to further strengthen transparency and accountability.
He said Member States should be told the full cost of proposals, as current techniques did not make clear what it would cost to sustain new initiatives into the future. Results-based budgeting, a key feature in a system of accountability, seemed to be a paper exercise to meet the needs of the budget process, rather than a managerial tool. Indeed, feedback on the performance of past budgets did not seem in any way to inform the development of future budgets or work plans.
In the administrative area, the three delegations for whom he spoke had often expressed concern that administrative efficiency was so rarely measured, either through cost information or benchmarking. Any good manager should want to know how his or her efficiency was changing over time, or how it compared with others; in the United Nations, however, progress in the development and use of relevant tools and techniques had been slow. A wide range of organizational and management improvements was being developed or implemented, partly in response to decisions taken after the 2005 Summit. Complex projects, such as the capital master plan and envisaged renewal of information technology, required organization-wide commitment and unified leadership that transcended the departmental stovepipes that had often impeded unity of purpose. The ACABQ had drawn attention to that issue. He knew the Secretary-General was equipped to provide that unifying leadership.
MOTUMISI TAWANA (South Africa), speaking for the African Group, aligned himself with the statement on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, and said that in the proposed budget, development issues were not given enough attention; adequate resources needed to be allocated to this priority area. He supported efforts to fully address the root causes of conflicts that continued to impede the economic growth and sustainable development goals of many African countries; it was imperative that Africa be assisted to attain the targets of the Millennium Development Goals.
He said he believed there was an inextricable link between peace and security, development and human rights, and that neither was a substitute for another, and should not be pursued at the expense of the other. It was in that spirit that the Group considered the Secretary-General’s recent proposals on revamping the Organization’s capacity to enhance peacekeeping operations.
Expressing concern that most activities in the proposed budget were funded from extrabudgetary resources, he said he supported the ongoing repositioning of the activities of ECA, in line with efforts to enhance the capacity of subregional offices. He concurred with ACABQ that the initiatives under way at ECA would better facilitate the fulfilment of its regional development mandate. He noted that the United Nations Office at Nairobi was the only one to receive financial and administrative support from extrabudgetary resources, and asked that it be given due consideration in conformity with the relevant Assembly resolutions. Underlining the importance of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the Group also welcomed the establishment of the Office of the Special Adviser for Africa. It was a matter of grave concern that at a time when Africa was the only region not meeting Millennium Development Goals targets, the Special Adviser’s Office was not operating at its full strength. The Secretary-General should fill the position and allocate resources for NEPAD-related activities.
He said he supported the “leveraging” of the advantages brought by information and communications technology, and welcomed the appointment of the Chief Information Technology Officer, who could harmonize the information and communication technology sector, and eliminate redundancy and duplication across the Secretariat. He called for agreement on the budget, through a transparent consultation process that would preserve a balance in the funding of the core pillars, namely, peace and security, human rights and development.
PARK HEE-KWON ( Republic of Korea) said that a budget was more than a collection of numbers. It was a reflection of an organization’s priorities, needs and commitments. His delegation noted with concern that the rate of increase in the proposed budget, after recosting and incorporating reform initiatives, was likely to exceed 20 per cent, when compared with the initial amount of $3.8 billion for 2006-2007. Providing the Secretary-General with the financial means to fulfil the mandates set by Member States was both a right and an inevitable obligation of Member States. However, given the astonishing growth of the peacekeeping budget, the overall assessment was becoming a serious burden on Member States. Therefore, they needed to seek an appropriate and acceptable scale of the budget, and enhance productivity of budget expenditures.
As pointed out by ACABQ, his delegation regretted not seeing any dramatic change in the methodology of budget formulation, he continued. The Secretariat had sustained a piecemeal and incremental approach to the budget formulation for 2008-2009. In the long run, that approach impaired budgetary discipline. It was one of the main factors that prevented Member States from prioritizing budgetary programmes and removing redundant budget items. The Secretariat should make a greater effort to explore innovative ways to thoroughly justify budget expenditures. The mandate review was a powerful instrument for eliminating outdated or unnecessary items from the budget. However, it had not produced any meaningful outcome yet. If Member States could not carry out an effective mandate review, the only alternative to ensure effective implementation of such urgent mandates as the reform agenda was to allow the Secretary-General to prioritize the streamline of the work programmes, based on actual needs and priorities. If Member States were unable to proceed with that task in a serious way, while not giving the Secretary-General the authority to reallocate human resources based on needs, that would add up to a rapid growth of the budget, while underutilizing available human resources.
He would be pleased to receive detailed information on how well the budgetary project was being implemented and to what extent planned goals were being achieved, he said. There was an urgent need to enhance the effectiveness of budgetary programme evaluation and strengthen feedback procedures accordingly, so that the evaluation could be taken into account in the process of determining appropriations. His Government was a strong advocate of the Secretary-General’s reform initiatives. Since the reform agenda inevitably had financial implications, he looked forward to seeing a careful cost-benefit analysis. However, he understood that a quantitative approach could not be applied to the entire reform agenda. Nevertheless, while reviewing the quantitative and qualitative effects, it was important to clarity the goals and targets by initiating reforms.
The budgeting structure of the United Nations was unique in that only the expenditure side was taken into account, without paying attention to forecasting tax revenues. That structure was, therefore, less susceptible to the rate of increase of budget expenditures than the usual national budget process. That being the case, a stronger trusteeship of the Secretariat, in particular the Secretary-General, was required to address that structural weakness. He hoped the Secretary-General would pay more attention to removing hidden inefficiencies caused by overlapping responsibilities and duplication. A collection of small savings could, in the aggregate, produce large effects. He agreed with ACABQ that there was room for cost-saving in the areas of travel, consultant hires, translations, publications, and so forth. In the long run, what appeared minor efforts could impact the efficiency and effectiveness of the entire budgeting system. The best budget could be produced by a combination of an appropriate budget methodology, the strong will of the participants, and the will and skill of the Secretary-General to effectively manage the Organization.
MUHAMMED MUHITH ( Bangladesh) said that, in order for the United Nations to address important challenges, ranging from hunger to disarmament, it was important that dues be paid in time, in full and without preconditions. He said he welcomed the submission of the budget, in a format which reflected the better presentation of the multifaceted issue. While he concurred with ACABQ with regard to the requirement of further improvement in certain areas, he expected that innovative ideas would be used to make future presentations more user-friendly and precise.
He said it was, indeed, a challenge to go through a voluminous budget in a short period of time, while making informed decisions. It was, therefore, necessary that future documents contain information on the full cost of budgetary proposals for each section. The continuous practice of sticking to a “zero growth” budget raised concerns about the possibility of shrinking resources needed for development-related mandates. He noted the net increase of 12 per cent in the allocation of extrabudgetary resources, with an increase in manpower of 428 staff members. A methodology needed to be devised so that the totality of membership could participate in decision- and policy-making with regard to additional resources.
In regard to results-based budgeting, he said he was uneasy that the issue of categorization and quantification of “output” still needed to be fully addressed, noting that of the 2,111 outputs up for elimination, the bulk involved programmes in developing countries. He asked for information on the released resources against the discontinued outputs, which had not yet been linked to new outputs.
He said he regretted the continued lack of attention over the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, three groups which comprised 91 countries, around half the membership of the United Nations. Since inception of the Office, he said strong calls had been made to strengthen it for its better delivery of services as mandated by Assembly resolution 56/227. As for the Least Developed Countries Unit, he said its strong and effective role was critical, given that it dealt with 50 of the most vulnerable countries, where 12 per cent of the world’s population lived and that the Brussels Programme of Action needed to be concluded in three years, with little progress made thus far.
On the question of public information, he commended the role of the Department of Public Information in telling the United Nations story and continuing to try to bridge the digital divide, but said he was concerned over the perennial resource constraints of the Department. He was frustrated that a meagre 0.3 per cent increase in resources had been requested by the Secretary-General. He considered the United Nations information centres to be vital for effective dissemination of information and promoting public awareness in developing countries where communications technology was still at a developmental stage. He believed that the United Nations information centres located in the developing countries should be adequately funded, and disagreed with the ACABQ’s recommendation with regard to the preferential rental of premises in those countries.
MARIA MEDAL GARRIDO ( Nicaragua) said that never before had the United Nations played such an important role in the world. It remained the only competent international organization to effectively respond to today’s challenges. Peace and security, development and human rights were the three pillars for action. Accordingly, she said, she was surprised with an evident budget imbalance, where development had become “the Cinderella” of the regular budget. On many occasions, the leaders of the world had reiterated the need to attain Millennium Development Goals, yet there was a total disconnect between rhetoric and action. It was inconceivable that the Development Account represented only 0.37 per cent of the budget proposal. With little less than $16.5 million, it was far from the target that had been set.
“Development of our peoples is too important to continue with the philosophy of financing with crumbs”, she said. Such an approach reflected the lack of a global vision on behalf of the Organization. The budget must be true reflection of the mandates, and not the will of the Secretariat. She wanted to receive a proposal on the Department of Economic and Social Affairs restructuring, which would involve significant strengthening of the Organization’s impact in developing countries. That mandate had been given to the Secretariat in 2005.
She also commented on the presentation of the partial budget proposal, with many “add-ons” expected. That showed a piecemeal approach to the budgeting process. The “imaginary budget” of $4.2 billion presented to the Assembly would end up at $5 billion. She said Nicaragua firmly believed in the need to strengthen multilateralism and reject any imposed artificial limits, which hindered the work of the United Nations. Zero-nominal growth should not be the guideline for budget preparation. Resources would grow with the introduction of new mandates. It was also important to look at the impressive level of extrabudgetary contributions.
While welcoming the generosity of the States that contributed beyond their financial obligations, she said she believed that, gradually, such contributions should be incorporated in the regular budget. The use of voluntary contributions had also led to the creation of posts beyond the mandate of the General Assembly, aggravating inequality in geographical distribution in the Secretariat. Welcoming the efforts to seek gender equality within the Organization, she called for all efforts to recruit women from developing countries.
AURA MAHUAMPI RODRIGUEZ DE ORTIZ ( Venezuela) said her country’s Foreign Minister had expressed the need for the United Nations to be radically reorganized, and to move towards democratization of the Security Council, in accordance with the new functions of the General Assembly and the strengthening of the Secretariat. Adoption of the regular budget was a priority to reflect a balanced picture and the interests of all Members States. She affirmed the important role of the Assembly and the Fifth Committee on deliberating administration and budgetary issues.
She said there were outright imbalances reflected in the current budget proposal, which continued from other sessions; there were sections of budget where resources had doubled, yet other sections concerning matters of development were kept at the same levels. She said she was concerned that the budget had not included the impact of reform measures recently adopted by the Assembly, which made it difficult to consider the budget, and hindered transparency of the budgetary process. Of “outputs” proposed for elimination, she said 80 per cent were in the area of development. That would be a significant reduction in development tasks, which would affect development in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean.
It should be a priority, she said, for the Secretariat to have staff from all countries and regions of the world and a number of women in high posts, in particular from developing countries. In the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, she said, there was an excessive imbalance, which undermined the intergovernmental nature of the Office.
CLAUDE HELLER ( Mexico) associated himself with the position of the Rio Group and said that the budget proposal was based on the mandates given by the Assembly, and priorities assigned by Member States. It also reflected the vision of the Secretary-General as to the financial needs of the Organization. He was certain that, on the basis of the proposal and recommendations of ACABQ, Member States would achieve a successful result. However, he wanted to share some concerns of his delegation, including those relating to the piecemeal presentation of the budget, which -- as pointed out by ACABQ -- made it difficult for Member States to carry out budget analysis and determine the resources for priority activities.
There was no doubt that there were tasks that were outdated, and it was necessary to conduct a thorough review of resources, he continued. The high level of the real budget proposal -- exceeding $4.6 billion -- was clearly far from the preliminary estimate contained in resolution 61/254. He was also concerned that the proposed budget did not provide details for increasing efficiency. Mexico was the tenth contributor to the regular budget, providing more than 50 per cent of funds from Latin America and the Caribbean. That meant a heavy responsibility for his country and reflected its commitment to provide the necessary resources for the Organization’s mandated activities. It was essential to ensure efficient management of resources.
On the Department of Political Affairs reform, he said he would like to thank the Secretary-General for sharing elements of his proposal, which his delegation would examine carefully. However, he would have preferred to receive a comprehensive proposal for restructuring of the Organization as a whole, including what had already been restructured in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Department of Political Affairs and other departments, including the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. As had been noted by others, there was a need to have a balanced financing of the three pillars of the Organization. Unfortunately, the proposed budget did not reflect that balance.
CHIRACHAI PUNKRASIN ( Thailand) associated himself with the statement on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, and said efforts to improve the management of the Organization and budgetary process should be encouraged, in particular through the continuation of briefings by senior officials to Member States on important budgetary and management issues. He called for increased understanding between Member States and the Secretariat on the Organization’s budgetary needs and related matters. This would lead to a greater balancing of mandates and resources and an approved level of expenditures commensurate with the mandated programmes and activities.
He noted that, together with Chile, Sweden and South Africa, his country had put forth the “Four Nations Initiative” proposals for improved governance and management of the Secretariat. Among other things, their report presented practical measures to increase planning, to the phase of implementation, and then to monitoring and evaluation in order to help build a strong and efficient Organization better equipped to respond to present and future challenges.
He told the Committee that effectiveness, transparency and accountability were mutually reinforcing and represented the hallmark qualities of good management. Results-based budgeting and management offered practical ways to improve accountability and transparency. There should be particular emphasis on improving indicators of achievements, monitoring performance, better evaluations and feedback, and training of staff involved in results-based tools. Member States should consider investing in those approaches.
He referred to the important contributions of regional commissions towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and other relative mandates, and said those commissions should continue to play a vital role, as a comprehensive regional forum dedicated to economic and social development in their respective regions. The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) served as a regional hub for countries to learn from one another and exchange views on policy options, and good strategies and practices in an integrated and inclusive manner. Its work ensured the effective implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action of Least Developed Countries, the Almaty Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries, and the Mauritius Strategy for Small Island Developing States. He supported ESCAP’s request for posts, including the post for natural disaster prevention and mitigation, and the two national officer posts for building management and host country relations.
YUKIO TAKASU ( Japan) noted that the budget proposal currently stood at about $4.39 billion at preliminary 2008-2009 rates -- an increase of 15 per cent over the initial appropriation for the 2006-2007 biennium. It was expected that substantial additional requests would be presented to the Assembly. With everything factored in, that suggested that the budget would exceed $4.6 billion. He was deeply concerned over such an excessive budget increase -- of over 22 per cent -- compared with the initial appropriate for 2006-2007. Discussing the proposal, he could not ignore the high level of total financial responsibilities of Member States. The peacekeeping budget for the period beginning in July 2007 was expected to exceed $5 billion, on top of an unprecedented increase in the regular budget. The capital master plan budget for 2008-2009 alone was $690 million.
“We have to keep in mind always what the overall assessed amount will be and whether Member States are ready to pay such an amount”, he said. In light of the sharp increase in peacekeeping and capital master plan assessments, it was necessary to subject the regular budget proposals to critical scrutiny and judgement. In that context, Japan advocated the principle of meeting new requirements through redeployment from activities that were obsolete and no longer required. He supported the principle of zero-nominal growth in the budgets of international organizations. He would examine the Secretary-General’s proposal from that standpoint, constructively but carefully, strictly on the merit basis. The programme budget was an important means to establish a contract between Member States and the Secretary-General.
As pointed out by ACABQ it was incumbent on the Secretary-General to present an overall picture of anticipated needs of the Organization for the next two years, he continued. A piecemeal approach to the budget process and submission of requests on an ad hoc basis was not conducive to the approval of the budget. In that connection, he requested additional information on the activities to be streamlined, and the outcomes intended of those proposals. He also insisted that established procedures and methodology be followed, based on relevant Assembly resolutions. The overall level of the budget, the main priorities, and the contingency fund must be submitted in conformity with the approved budget outline. Additional expenditures emanating from programme budget implications and revised estimates must be contained within the level of the contingency fund. Those established practices and principles should be maintained by abiding by Assembly resolutions. His delegation would find it difficult to deviate from the established practice. He supported the recommendation of ACABQ to keep the level of the contingency fund at 0.75 per cent of the budget outline. Maximum budgetary discipline was needed.
He added that his delegation supported the efforts to modernize and streamline the work of the Secretariat; he was disappointed that the Secretariat had not taken full advantage of the flexibility provided to the Secretary-General to reallocate up to $20 million to meet the Organization’s evolving needs. He had seen only limited efforts to utilize such flexibility and redeployment. Japan would like a strong request that the Secretary-General use all additional efforts to utilize existing resources through redeployment before asking for additional money.
He said another step that might be taken was to identify posts to be downgraded after the incumbent retired, to alleviate the top-heavy structure of the Secretariat. The number of P-2 and P-3 posts should be increased, taking into consideration a large number of expected retirements. Mandate review represented another useful step to review cost-effectiveness of activities. His delegation was aware of the importance of reallocating limited resources across the areas of security, development and human rights. It was also important to maximize delivery of services to meet high expectations of States.
SAMUEL OUTLULE ( Botswana) urged that decisions on the budget be all-inclusive and reflect the “broadest possible agreement” of Member States. Once the budget was approved, Charter obligations required assessed contributions being fully paid, on time and without conditions. Predictability of resources was also desirable to ensure that the Secretary-General could effectively implement the mandates entrusted to him. He said he concurred with the observation of ACABQ that for Member States to make fully informed decisions on the budget, complete information was essential; a “piecemeal” approach to the budget was not in the interest of Member States and would delay the decision-making process and the work of the Secretariat. He said ongoing management reforms were an indispensable process; every organization needed to continuously revitalize itself and adapt to emerging challenges. However, it was essential that reforms be implemented in a fair balanced manner. Member States should strive to maintain a sense of partnership, multilateralism and commonality of interests.
He said he approved the progress made in the first year of the work of the Peacebuilding Commission and supported the proposed resources for the Peacebuilding Support Office, which should enable the Office to contribute in no small measure to the objectives of the Commission. However, the maintenance of peace and security should not be at the expense of development. The budget should reflect the balanced implementation of all outcomes of summits and major international conferences. The development of Africa was correctly one of the main priorities of the Organization.
The Office of the Under-Secretary General, Special Adviser on Africa, was vital in coordinating the support of the international community to Africa, he continued. It needed continued support to fulfil its mandate, and he regretted that it was five staff short of its approved total complement, including the absence of the head of the Office. It was urgent that an appointment be made. If there were problems that prevent the Secretariat from filling those posts, what were the nature of the problems and when could they expect to be filled?
He spoke of the critical role of the ECA in promoting and enhancing international cooperation and development, and welcomed the work of the Executive-Secretary in implementing the recommendation of OIOS aimed at refocusing the Commission’s work. The needs of the least developed, landlocked developing and small island developing States were important, he went on, and required the unwavering support of the international community to attain their goals. In that connection, he fully supported the resources requested for the Office of the High Representative for the three groups.
MARK D. WALLACE ( United States) said his delegation appreciated the difficulty in preparing the budget cycle, given that it began before the Secretary-General had taken office. e noted that the preliminary estimate amounted to $4.19 billion, prior to recosting, which was likely to add to the current figure. With a significant number of “add-ons” expected, the actual budget could be in the region of $4.7 billion, or even in excess of that amount --an increase of 15 per cent beyond the 2006-2007 level. Such growth was not sustainable. When considering the budget, Member States must insist on the identification of savings and reallocation of resources. The budgetary discipline was good management, and that was in everyone’s best interests.
The United States expected efficient use of resources in carrying out the Organization’s mandates, he continued. His delegation consistently advocated zero growth in the budget. That did not appear to be an option in this case, but it was necessary to seek to control growth, while ensuring that there were sufficient funds to implement the mandates. It was important to prioritize and reprogramme to cut back on redundant and less relevant programmes. The future of the Organization depended on sound management and governance. The Advisory Committee had played an important role over the years in bringing some discipline to the budget, and he shared its concern over the piecemeal approach to the budget presentation.
As pointed out by ACABQ, it was the responsibility of the Secretariat to ensure that the budget presented the fullest possible picture of the Organization’s needs. He said it was important to avoid budgeting by instalment, which prevented Member States from carrying out their budgeting responsibilities. He was disappointed that ACABQ had been able to identify only some $11 million in savings. It was necessary to identify even greater savings without undermining the achievement of the goals. He suggested careful scrutiny of “add-on” proposals and prioritization, keeping in mind the realities of the budget. Efficient budgeting and implementation were key. He looked forward to approving a budget that would reflect sound management and discipline, while supporting mandated activities. He hoped the consideration of the budget would be concluded in a timely manner.
THOMAS GUERBER ( Switzerland) noted that the Committee was not talking about a “zero real growth” budget, since the budget increased from $3.8 billion in 2006-2007 to $4.2 billion in 2008-2009. In fact, he said it was a 9 per cent real growth budget over a period of two years. With upcoming “add-ons” not yet included in the proposed budget, he noted that the budget could increase by another $250 million to $350 million, which would bring the growth rate up to 25 per cent. He called the growth rate “disturbingly high” and denounced the piecemeal approach to budgeting as an impediment to Member States’ ability to effectively manage the budget process. He called for a timely and comprehensive presentation of the budget.
He said that among priorities for his delegation in the proposed budget would be doubling the regular budget of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) over five years, as decided at the 2005 World Summit; strengthening the Peacebuilding Support Office; funding human rights and humanitarian affairs programmes in a more balanced and predictable way and, therefore, welcoming the conversion of extrabudgetary posts to posts funded through the regular budget.
Furthermore, he said, funding must be provided to support the Secretary-General in a wide range of management-reform projects. To do this, the overall governance framework, including accountability, transparency and strengthening the oversight function, should be improved; progress made so far in the field of enterprise risk management and results-based management had been insufficient.
On human resources, he said he favoured a new system of administration of justice that was independent, transparent, professional, decentralized and endowed with adequate resources. And there should be rapid improvements to the procurement system, which were crucial to the image of the United Nations as an efficient and trustworthy organization when it came to the spending of Member States’ assessed contributions.
He said he supported the appointment of a Chief Information Technology Officer to further the implementation of an integrated, system-wide strategy. All of those suggestions had the potential for considerable cost-savings. Each organization should also have a process in place to allow it to discontinue activities that had become obsolete or less relevant.
He said that, in order for the mandate of the Human Rights Council to be carried out, adequate funding had to be provided through the regular budget. Core activities of the Organization should not depend on voluntary contributions.
HJALMAR W. HANNESSON ( Iceland) said that during the budget negotiations, it was necessary to “put the puzzles together” and address collectively the different mandates and responsibilities of the United Nations, taking into account the complementarities and the necessary trade-offs within a restricted budget envelope. The final aim of those negotiations should be to ensure that the Secretary-General had the necessary resources to fulfil the mandates he had been entrusted with. In its totality, the proposed budget entailed a considerable increase and, when broken down, it included a number of important individual proposals.
He said Iceland wanted to emphasize the central importance of having a balanced approach to the budget proposals, as between the resources available and resources allocated. Budgetary and fiscal discipline needed to be respected and should be a balance between the emphasis given to different mandates within the budget, taking into account the fundamental priorities of the United Nations, as reflected in the Organization’s main pillars and the mandates provided by the Assembly.
It was Iceland’s sincere wish, he added, that, guided by a balanced approach, the Committee’s deliberations would lead to a successful conclusion of the budget session -- both on time and by consensus -- thereby providing the United Nations with strong support for its work in the coming years.
* *** *For information media • not an official record