27 December 2013
General Assembly
GA/11479

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

Plenary

72nd Meeting, resumed (PM)


General Assembly Adopts $5.53 Billion Budget to Fund Worldwide Operations

 

as Main Segment of Sixty-eighth Session Concludes

 


Speakers Disappointed over Lack of Agreement on Staff Mobility Proposal


Concluding the main segment of its sixty-eighth session today, the 193-member General Assembly adopted a $5.53 billion budget to finance United Nations activities over the next two years, including its judicial, humanitarian and peacekeeping operations worldwide.


The Assembly adopted more than 20 texts, mostly without a vote, on a range of issues, including the financing of international criminal tribunals, staffing, special political missions, the pattern of conferences and Umoja, the Organization’s enterprise resource planning project, as recommended by its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), which ended its negotiations earlier today.  (For details, see Press Release GA/AB/4096.)


Applauding the Fifth Committee for its tenacity, General Assembly President John Ashe ( Antigua and Barbuda) said collective efforts had enabled the world’s nations to voice their opinions and take action on issues concerning them and affecting their populations.  “This in itself is no small achievement, as the United Nations Charter calls for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of common ends,” he said.


He highlighted some of the session’s accomplishments, which included the recognition of the need to make space for persons with disabilities in development efforts, the inaugural meeting of the first High-Level Political Forum, the adoption of an outcome document paving the way for a universal and shared post-2015 development agenda, and the first ever high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament.


Reflecting the breadth of the sixty-eighth session’s reach, he said the Assembly had adopted a total of 259 resolutions and 66 decisions, covering broad areas from nuclear disarmament and the rule of law to financing for development and the peaceful use of outer space.  New resolutions on the right to privacy and the safety of journalists had been introduced, he noted.  “Let’s continue to work hard so that we can look back on our time here with a sense of pride and accomplishment.”


In a similar vein, Susana Malcorra, Chef de Cabinet to the Secretary-General, said that, in the present era of dramatic change and growing interconnectedness, the United Nations must meet ever higher standards of effectiveness and accountability.  Indeed, the world was increasingly turning to the world body for answers and help across a broad spectrum of issues.  With the approval of the new budget for 2014-2015 marking a collective achievement by all Member States, the Organization was ready to continue delivering for people worldwide, she said.


However, the budget proposal reflected a difficult new reality — ensuring that the United Nations continued to deliver as demands on the Organization continued to grow and funding continued to shrink, she cautioned.  Yet the Secretary-General was disappointed that the Assembly had failed to reach agreement on strengthened agreements for private-sector partnerships and on a managed mobility policy, she said.


Sharing that view, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, Fiji’s representative echoed the concerns of some delegates over the deferral of the Secretary-General’s managed mobility proposal.  Recalling Nelson Mandela’s message about the importance of opposing sides working together to overcome great challenges, he said that throughout the session, it had often been necessary to defend the integrity of the budget deal.  It was to be hoped that the negotiators would return in March, ready to find common ground on the mobility issue, which was key for the Organization’s future success.


In other business today, the Assembly adopted a number of resolutions and decisions recommended by its Main Committees.  On the basis of recommendations by its Second Committee (Economic and Financial), it adopted, without a vote, draft resolutions on follow-up to and implementation of the Mauritius Strategy for the further implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, and on the implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).


The Assembly adopted, also without a vote, draft resolutions recommended by its Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) on the Human Rights Committee and on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.  By a recorded vote of 132 in favour to 1 against ( Syria), with 1 abstention ( Ethiopia), it adopted a draft resolution on the United Nations Human Rights Training and Documentation Centre for South-West Asia and the Arab Region.


Acting without a vote, the Assembly also adopted a draft resolution on developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security, as recommended by its First Committee (Disarmament and International Security).


Before suspending its meeting on 23 December in order to authorize an extension of the Fifth Committee’s work, the Assembly adopted a decision on the “International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991” and a resolution on “Comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action”.


Delivering statements were representatives of Brazil, United States, Lithuania (on behalf of the European Union), Papua New Guinea (on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States), Singapore, Venezuela (on behalf of Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador and Nicaragua), Cuba, Iran, Russian Federation, Israel, Republic of Korea, Japan, Pakistan, Morocco and Samoa.


Also speaking today was an observer for the State of Palestine.


The General Assembly will meet again at a date and time to be announced.


Background


The General Assembly met this afternoon to take action on outstanding draft resolutions and decisions, including those contained in reports of Main Committees.


On the basis of recommendations by its Second Committee (Economic and Financial), the Assembly was expected to consider a report on “Follow-up to and implementation of the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States” (document A/68/438/Add.2), and on “Implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat)” (document A/68/439).


The Assembly was also expected to consider the following reports of its Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural):  “Implementation of human rights instruments” (document A/68/456/Add.1); “Human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms” (document A/68/456/Add.2*); and “Promotion and protection of human rights:  human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives” (document A/68/456/Add.3*).


It was also expected to consider a report of its First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) on “Developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security”, as well as reports of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).  (See Press Release GA/AB/4096 for more information.)


Plenary Meeting on 23 December


Before suspending its plenary meeting of 23 December in order to authorize an extension of the Fifth Committee’s work, it adopted, without a vote, a resolution titled “Comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (document A/68/L.34).


The representative of Brazil, speaking in explanation of position before that action, voiced her delegation’s support, pointing out that her country had the largest number of people of African descent outside the continent, and that they continued to face racism and intolerance inherited from a colonial past.  The International Decade for People of African Descent was an occasion to educate the public, she said.


The representative of the United States said that, in its fight against discrimination, her country had benefited from the contributions of minorities.  While welcoming the launch of the Decade on 1 January 2015, she emphasized the need for further examination of financing in the context of budget restraints.


The representative of Lithuania, speaking on behalf of the European Union, applauded the Decade and highlighted the importance of holding discussions among Member States ahead of the launch.


Also on 23 December, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a draft decision titled “International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991” (document A/68/L.35).  By that decision it extended terms of office for 17 permanent and ad litem judges of that Tribunal’s Trial and Appeals Chambers until 31 December 2014, or until the completion of the cases to which they were assigned, if sooner.


Plenary Meeting on 27 December


The Assembly had before it reports of its Main Committees and the draft resolutions and decisions contained therein.


Second Committee


Taking up the report “Sustainable development:  follow-up to and implementation of the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States” (document A/68/438/Add.2), the Assembly adopted a draft resolution contained therein, without a vote.


It then took up the report “Implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat)” (document A/68/439), adopting an eponymous draft resolution without a vote.


Third Committee


The Assembly then took up the report “Implementation of human rights instruments” (document A/68/456/Add.1) and adopted, without a vote, a draft resolution on the “Human Rights Committee”.


By a recorded vote of 132 in favour to 1 against (Syria), with 1 abstention, (Ethiopia), it then adopted draft resolution XXVII on the “United Nations Human Rights Training and Documentation Centre for South-West Asia and the Arab Region”, contained in the report “Human rights questions” (document A/68/456/Add.2).


The Assembly then took up the Third Committee’s report “Promotion and protection of human rights:  human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives” (document A/68/456/Add.3*), adopting the draft resolution “Situation of human rights in Myanmar”.


First Committee


Turning to First Committee’s report “Developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security” (document A/68/406), it adopted a synonymous draft resolution contained therein, without a vote.


The representative of Papua New Guinea, speaking on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States, said that, as the international community embarked on the road to Samoa for the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States in September 2014, much progress had been made towards attaining the relevant internationally agreed developing goals, although much work remained.  Countries were aware of the existing opportunities, challenges and vulnerabilities, and recognized the need for durable and genuine partnerships and cooperation from development partners.  The Pacific Small Island Developing States remained committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure that the outcome of the Samoa Conference built upon the solid foundation that already existed.


Fifth Committee


KEN SIAH ( Singapore), Rapporteur of the Fifth Committee, introduced that body’s reports.  (See Press Release GA/AB/4096.)


The Assembly first took up a report on “Programme budget for the biennium 2012-2013” (document A/68/688), adopting without a vote draft resolution I, “Managing after-service health insurance liabilities”, and draft resolution II, “Programme budget for the biennium 2012-2013”.


Turning to a report on the “Proposed programme budget for the biennium 2014-2015”, the Assembly took action on five draft resolutions contained therein.  It first adopted draft resolution I, “Questions relating to the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2014-2015”, without a vote.


As it turned to draft resolution II, “Special subjects relating to the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2014-2015”, a recorded vote was requested on Section 6 of the draft.


The representative of Venezuela, speaking on behalf of Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador and Nicaragua, said there was a lack of agreement regarding the concept of responsibility to protect.  The draft resolution undermined resolutions on programme planning and budgeting, as Member States had not yet negotiated the related texts, and there was, therefore, a lack of legal underpinning for the position of Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide.  As such, Cuba requested a recorded vote on the draft.


The Assembly then adopted section VI of draft resolution II by a recorded vote of 136 in favour to 7 against (Cuba, Ecuador, Iran, Nicaragua, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Venezuela), with 8 abstentions (Belarus, Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kyrgyzstan, Sri Lanka, Russian Federation).


The Assembly then adopted draft resolution II as a whole, without a vote.


Acting again without a vote, the Assembly then adopted draft resolution III, “Programme budget for the biennium 2014-2015”, draft resolution IV, “Unforeseen extraordinary expenses for the biennium 2014-2015”, and draft resolution V, “Working Capital Fund for the biennium 2014-2015”.


The representative of Cuba said the text covered a group of elements that were of great importance in relation to budgetary procedures, but lacked guidance on implementation of the budget for the next biennium.  The gap was a result of the difficult negotiating situation and should be considered exceptional and not used for future sessions.  The draft resolution undermined relations among countries and the spirit of cooperation that should prevail in the United Nations, he said, expressing hope that the staff affected would be placed in other areas and receive training for their new functions.


The representative of Iran said his delegation had always supported the work of the United Nations, provided it remained within the scope of international rules and law.  However, the position of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and the concept of responsibility to protect, including its definition, were still under consideration, and posts should, therefore, not be designated in cases where no mandate existed for such positions.


The representative of the Russia Federation asked that the record reflect his delegation’s vote in favour of the text.


The Assembly then decided to defer the agenda item “Improving the financial situation of the United Nations” until its sixty-ninth session.


Turning to its report “Patterns of conferences” (document A/68/673), the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a draft resolution contained therein.


The Assembly then took up a report titled “Scale of assessments for the apportionment of the expenses of the United Nations” (document A/68/504/Add.1) and adopted, without a vote, a draft decision contained therein.


The representative of Israel said his delegation regretted and objected to the use of the misleading terminology “State of Palestine”.  It was counterproductive to use that term when no such State existed, he added, emphasizing that such a State could only be established through negotiations.


Taking up a report titled “Human resources management” (document A/68/690), the Assembly adopted a draft resolution contained therein without a vote.


The representative of Lithuania, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the goal of making the United Nations more efficient was of great importance and an objective that his delegation supported fully.  The portions of the draft addressing performance management were of particular importance, although it was disappointing that the Fifth Committee had been unable to reach agreement on the proposal on managed mobility.  However, the failure to reach an agreement did not indicate a lack of interest in reaching agreement in due course, he said.


The representative of the Republic of Korea expressed his deep appreciation for the work of negotiators during the session, although agreement had regrettably not been reached on managed mobility.  The most valuable asset of the United Nations was its human resources, and the managed mobility process was necessary to ensure the Organization’s efficient functioning.


The representative of Japan said it was unfortunate that there had been no agreement on managed mobility, adding that his delegation planned to be actively involved in future negotiations on the issue.


Acting without a vote, the Assembly then adopted draft resolutions contained in reports on the “United Nations common system” (document A/68/684) and “Administration of justice at the United Nations” (document A/68/670).


Turning to international tribunals, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a draft resolution titled “Financing of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Genocide and Other Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of Rwanda and Rwanda Citizens Responsible for Genocide and Other Such Violations Committed in the Territory of Neighbouring States between 1 January and 31 December 1994”.


The Assembly then took up a report on “Financing of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991”.


The representative of the Russian Federation expressed regret that his delegation’s proposal to strengthen the budget discipline of the Tribunals had not been taken into consideration.  The effectiveness of the courts raised more questions with each passing year, as well as additional concerns regarding their accountability and transparency, he said, adding that his delegation would push for decisive steps on the courts in the future, including a full, independent analysis of their work.


Acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted that draft resolution.


Also acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted a draft resolution on “Financing of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals”.


Acting again without a vote, it then adopted the draft resolutions on financing of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali and United Nations peacekeeping forces in the Middle East.


Taking up the report “Review of the efficiency of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations”, the Assembly adopted a draft decision contained therein, without a vote.


The representative of Fiji, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the spirit of Nelson Mandela had been present in the General Assembly during the past session, as he recalled the late statesman’s message on the importance of opponents working together to overcome great challenges.  Throughout the session, it had often been necessary to defend the integrity of the budget deal, and that had been particularly true for the Group of 77 and the people of the developing world.  One element of the budget package related to the deferral of the Secretary-General’s proposal on managed mobility, despite the disappointment of many.  However, it was to be hoped that negotiators would return in March, ready to find common ground on the mobility issue, which was of key importance for the Organization’s future success.


The representative of the United States welcomed the first major step towards streamlining the Organization through a staffing reduction for the first time in many years.  The United States also applauded the decision to freeze United Nations pay and allowances.  The budget deal represented the recognition by Member States that “business as usual” was not sustainable, he said.  The important work of United Nations missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali and elsewhere would continue, although the General Assembly could have done more, including reaching a deal on the Secretary-General’s mobility proposal.  The United States reiterated its support for a managed mobility programme and looked forward to working with colleagues to reach a deal on that issue once the session resumed.


The representative of Pakistan said discussions had been tough and difficult in the past two weeks, although negotiators had worked tirelessly to reach common ground, including working through several nights over the Christmas holidays.  However, Pakistan was concerned that there had been inordinate delay in reaching agreement in the Fifth Committee.  The budget negotiations had been held in small configurations and behind closed doors, which must be rectified in future.  The Committee’s working methods should be reformed to meet deadlines, he said, adding that it was unfortunate that some issues had been postponed.  Hopefully, deals could be reached in March, particularly regarding the managed mobility proposal.


The representative of Morocco asked that the record reflect her delegation’s vote in favour of the draft “United Nations human rights training and documentation centre for South-West Asia and the Arab region”.


The representative of Samoa, associating himself with the Pacific Small Island Developing States, said his country appreciated the international support provided for the upcoming Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States, to be held in 2014.  The Conference was in fact a global event, which required worldwide support and attendance.


The representative of Brazil said there were no winners or losers in the budget deal, although it was a win for the Organization, which now had a budget.  Brazil favoured increasing the efficient use of United Nations resources, although measuring success in that area required much more than quantitative data.  He highlighted the importance of United Nations staff while expressing concern that the functioning of the Fifth Committee bordered on dysfunction.  Mutual trust among Member States, as well as the trust between the latter and the Secretariat, must be strengthened.


SUSANA MALCORRA, Chef de Cabinet to the Secretary-General, said the approval of the new budget for 2014-2015 was the collective achievement of all Member States.  With that accomplishment, the United Nations was ready to continue delivering for people worldwide.  All budget years were tough, but 2013 had been particularly difficult, she noted.  The budget proposal reflected a difficult new reality — how to ensure that the United Nations continued to deliver as demands on the Organization continued to grow, while funding continued to shrink.  The world was turning increasingly to the United Nations for answers and help across a broad spectrum of issues.


She expressed disappointment that the General Assembly had failed to reach agreement on two critically important reform proposals — a managed mobility policy and strengthened agreements for partnerships with the private sector.  It would be unrealistic to presume that any substantial budget reduction would not have an impact while mandates continued to grow.  The time had come to consider reviewing mandated activities that may have been fulfilled or overtaken by new developments, she emphasized.  In that era of dramatic change and growing interconnectedness, the United Nations must meet ever higher standards of effectiveness and accountability.


Concluding Statement


JOHN ASHE ( Antigua and Barbuda), President of the General Assembly, said the collective efforts seen during the sixty-eighth session had enabled the nations of world to voice their opinions and take action on issues that concerned them and affected their populations.  “This in itself is no small achievement, as the United Nations Charter calls for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of common ends.”  Highlighting some of the session’s accomplishments, he recalled the opening of the high-level week in September, recognizing the need to make space for persons with disabilities in development efforts.


Other achievements included the inaugural meeting of the first High-level Political Forum, the adoption of an outcome document paving the way for a universal and shared post-2015 development agenda and the first ever high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament.  In total, the Assembly had adopted 259 resolutions and 66 decisions covering a wide range of issues, from nuclear disarmament to the rule of law to financing for development and the peaceful use of outer space.  New resolutions had been introduced on the right to privacy and the safety of journalists, he added.


Today’s conclusion of the Fifth Committee’s work underscored the need to adopt the General Assembly’s methods to fit the challenging times ahead, he said.  “As the work of our Organization gets more challenging, so does its financial and administrative needs.  We, therefore, need to ensure that the ways in which we deal with these challenges have evolved and that the approaches of yesteryear also need to evolve if we are to have a fully functional organization.”  He suggested a dedicated session of the Fifth Committee on the process, and proposed introducing the budget at the outset of the Committee’s work, rather than in late October, as was the current practice.


Historic moments during the session ranged from the State of Palestine casting its first ballot and one Member State declining a seat on the Security Council, the latter being unprecedented at the United Nations, he said, recalling also last week’s moving tribute to Nelson Mandela.  Peacemakers were sorely needed, and the recent turmoil in Central African Republic and South Sudan, as well as the ongoing conflict in Syria were stark reminders.  Hopefully the Arms Trade Treaty adopted during the sixty-seventh session would enter into force during the sixty-eighth, he said.


Following up on his proposed theme for the general debate — “Post-2015 development agenda:  Setting the Stage” — he announced proposed dates for events.  Thematic debates on water, sanitation and sustainable energy would take place on 18-19 February; the role of partnerships and their contributions on 8-9 April; and on ensuring peaceful and stable societies on 24-25 April.  High-level events would be held on the contributions of women, the young and civil society, on 6-7 March; the contributions of South-South, North-South and triangular cooperation and information and communications technology for development on 20-21 May; and on human rights and the rule of law on 17-18 June.


A stock-taking event to assess progress would take place in September, he said, noting that information on the debates and events would be available on the General Assembly website in January, he said.  Other events taking place during the sixty-eighth session included the launch of the International Year of Small Island Developing States and the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States, to be held in Samoa.   “Let’s continue to work hard so that we can look back on our time here with a sense of pride and accomplishment,” he said.


An observer for the State of Palestine said the Assembly had passed many important resolutions during the session, and expressed his thanks to Member States for providing support for the funding of the State of Palestine.  Hopefully, its own contributions would constitute a positive step towards its becoming a fully fledged Member of the United Nations.


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For information media • not an official record