1. How is the Bureau elected?
2. What is the process used for submitting draft resolutions?
3. How does the Fifth Committee reach agreement?
4. How is the work of the Fifth Committee structured?
5. Why does the Fifth Committee have three sessions?
6. What is the relationship between the Fifth Committee and the ACABQ?
7. How does the Fifth Committee work with the GA and its other Main Committees?
8. What is a PBI?
9. What is a revised estimate?
10. What elections take place in the Fifth Committee?
Each Main Committee elects a Chairman, three Vice-Chairmen and a Rapporteur. These officers shall be elected on the basis of equitable geographical distribution, experience and personal competence (rule 103 of the rules of procedure of the General Assembly).
The Chair of the Fifth Committee is elected by the General Assembly on the basis of regional rotation. The Rapporteur comes from the regional group that held the chair of the Committee the previous year. The three remaining regional groups take the positions of Vice-Chairs.
In its decision 68/505 of 1 October 2013, the General Assembly decided on the interim arrangement on the pattern for the rotation of the chairs of the Main Committees of the General Assembly (A/68/PV.24).
Accordingly, the Chairmanship of the Fifth Committee for the five forthcoming sessions is – without prejudice to the possibility for regional groups to swap chairmanships among each other – as follows:
69th session: Eastern European States
70th session: Asia-Pacific States
71st session: Latin American and Caribbean States
72nd session: African States
73rd session: Western European and other States
Rule 30 of the rules of procedure of the General Assembly specifies that the General Assembly shall hold elections at least three months before the opening of the session over which they are to preside.
Once the general discussion of an item has finished in formal meetings, the Committee holds informal consultations (with interpretation) under the chairmanship of a designated coordinator. Informal consultations begin with question-and-answers with the relevant Secretariat officials. The coordinator then distributes a skeletal draft proposal for consideration by Member States.
The coordinator requests delegations to provide their contributions for inclusion in the text by a deadline. The Committee subsequently considers the draft prepared by the coordinator – which compiles all contributions received from groups and delegations – in informal consultations. Some items require lengthy negotiations and, where difficulties arise, the Committee resorts to "informal informals" (without interpretation). Once consensus is reached, it is "adopted" in an informal meeting and only thereafter issued in the "L" series for action by the Committee. After draft resolutions or decisions are issued as "L" documents, they are adopted at a formal meeting of the Committee, before being taken up at the plenary of the General Assembly.
In paragraph 7 of section II of its resolution 41/213 of 19 December 1986, the General Assembly considered it "desirable that the Fifth Committee…. should continue to make all possible efforts with a view to establishing the broadest possible agreement" on the outline of the programme budget before submitting its recommendations to the General Assembly.
In considering agenda items and questions every effort is made to reach consensus before resorting to a vote. For political considerations this is applied not only to the outline of the programme budget but also to all other draft resolutions and decisions. This process often requires lengthy negotiations. Only on a few occasions does the Fifth Committee adopt a proposal by vote.
In keeping with General Assembly resolution 46/220, the Fifth Committee has biennialized a number of items: Odd years (e.g. 2009/2011/2013) are ‘budget years’ where the biennial programme budget is discussed. In off-budget years the Committee considers the Programme Plan. Off-budget years are informally also referred to as ‘human resources years’ as the Committee takes up the biennial report on progress of the human resources reform efforts.
The work of the Fifth Committee is very fluid; it often has to accommodate last minute additions of urgent reports. While the Committee follows the guidelines given by the General Assembly, it cannot always complete its work within the ascribed time frame. Its ability to complete its work in a timely fashion is also subject to the completion of work by the other Main Committees so that the Fifth Committee is able to consider any PBIs arising from their work.
The Fifth Committee hold three sessions a year. During the main part of the session of the General Assembly the Committee considers items that are time bound. A number of issues that do not require immediate consideration often remain on the agenda and are postponed to the first part of the resumed session, which is normally held for a period of three or four weeks in March, depending on the workload.
According to the timetable endorsed by the General Assembly in its resolution 49/233A of 23 December 1994, the Committee resumes its work annually for a period of four weeks in May to consider the administrative and budgetary aspects of the financing of peacekeeping operations and any other questions or items that the Committee needs to consider.
The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) is a subsidiary body of the General Assembly. Rule 157 of the Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly explains the role of ACABQ:
"The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions shall be responsible for expert examination of the programme budget of the United Nations and shall assist the Administrative and Budgetary Committee (Fifth Committee)".
In budget years, ACABQ submits to the General Assembly a detailed report on the proposed programme budget for the biennium. In addition, it submits reports on the accounts of the United Nations and all United Nations entities for which the Secretary-General has administrative responsibility.
ACABQ makes observations, conclusions and recommendations on the proposals made by the Secretary-General. It also examines, on behalf of the General Assembly, the administrative budgets of the specialized agencies and proposals for financial arrangements with such agencies and considers and reports to the General Assembly on the auditors' reports on the accounts of the United Nations and of the specialized agencies. The programme of work of the Committee is determined by the requirements of the General Assembly and the other legislative bodies to which the Committee reports.
The Fifth Committee may accept, curtail or reject the recommendations of ACABQ. The conclusions and recommendations of ACABQ often form the basis of the draft resolutions and decisions recommended by the Fifth Committee.
Rule 153 of the Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly explains the relationship between the General Assembly and the Fifth Committee:
"No resolution involving expenditure shall be recommended by a committee for approval by the General Assembly unless it is accompanied by an estimate of expenditures prepared by the Secretary-General. No resolution in respect of which expenditures are anticipated by the Secretary-General shall be voted by the General Assembly until the Administrative and Budgetary Committee (Fifth Committee) has had an opportunity of stating the effect of the proposal upon the budget estimates of the United Nations."
Regulation 5.9 of the Regulations and Rules Governing Programme Planning, the Programme Aspects of the Budget and Evaluation also states that no body can take a decision involving either a change in the budget approved by the General Assembly or possible expenditure unless it has taken account of the a report from the Secretary-General on the budget implications of the proposal.
On certain occasions Main Committees draft resolutions use the phrase "within available resources". ACABQ, in its report A/54/7, expressed concern about the use of this phrase and its potential impact on the use of resources. In the same report, ACABQ also stressed that the Secretariat should accurately inform the General Assembly and its Main Committees about whether there are enough resources to implement any new activity.
PBI stands for programme budget implication. A PBI is a statement detailing the administrative, financial and programmatic changes that the adoption of a draft resolution would entail. Once a PBI is issued, ACABQ will also provide its observations for the Fifth Committee to consider.
At least 48 hours are required before action can be taken on a draft resolution containing budgetary implications so that the Secretary-General can prepare the PBI and ACABQ can consider it. For this reason, there is a deadline of no later than 1 December for draft resolutions with financial implications to be submitted to the Fifth Committee (see paragraphs 12 and 13 of decision 34/401).
This is an estimate of additional resources submitted by the Secretary-General. According to rule 102.4 of the Financial Regulations and Rules of the United Nations, revised and supplementary programme budget proposals may be submitted in the following instances:
- When, in the interest of peace and security, urgent approval is required;
- When they include activities which the Secretary-General considers to be of the highest urgency and which could not have been foreseen at the time the initial programme budget proposals were prepared;
- In respect of decisions taken by the General Assembly;
- In respect of decisions taken by the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council or the Trusteeship Council;
- When they cover activities mentioned in earlier programme budget proposals as items for which later submissions would be made;
- When they involve changes in expenditure requirements associated with inflation and currency fluctuations.
Appointments or confirmation of appointments to the following subsidiary bodies and committees takes place in the Fifth Committee:
- The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions
- The Board of Auditors
- The Committee on Contributions
- The Investments Committee
- United Nations International Civil Service Commission
- United Nations Staff Pension Committee
- Independent Audit Advisory Committee
Vacancies are usually announced in early March. Announcements are contained in notes issued by the Secretary-General under the agenda item Appointments to fill vacancies m subsidiary organs and other appointments.
Member States then propose candidates and inform the Secretary-General. The bureau of the incoming session will propose a date for the elections to be held (usually the first Friday in November) and a deadline for submission of candidatures.