Administrative and Budgetary
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At the 52nd session of the General Assembly, the Fifth Committee -- entrusted with the task of dealing with the administrative and budgetary matters -- will consider two important and major issues that will will occupy for the most part of its 52nd regular session. These are: items 120: The scale of assessments of the expenses of the United Nations, and 116: Proposed programme budget for the biennium 1998-1999.
Other items for consideration by the Fifth Committee are: Items 113: Financial reports and audited financial statements and reports of the Board of Auditors; 114: Review of efficiency of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations; 117: Improving the financial situation of the UN; 118: Joint Inspection Unit; 119: Pattern of Conferences; 121: United Nations Common System; the financing of fifteen individual peace keeping operations of the United Nations (items 122 to 141 and 154 respectively: UNDOF; UNIFIL; UNAVEM; UNIKOM; MINURSO; UNTAC; UNPROFOR; ONUMOZ, UNFICYP; UNOMIG, UNMIH, UNOMIL, UNAMIR, the two Criminal Tribunals in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, UNMOT, UNBIH; UNTAES; UNPREDEP; UNSMIH; and Military Observer Group in Guatemala); 142: Administrative and budgetary aspects of the financing of peace keeping operations; 143: Report of the Secretary-General on the activities of OIOS; and 153: Human resources management.
The Committee will consider in the context of the proposed programme budget for the biennium 1998-1999, the programmatic and financial aspects of the reform proposals and will also review the implementation of the programme budget for 1996-1997, in particular, the impact of approved savings on programme delivery.
In accordance with the budget cycles adopted by the General Assembly in resolution 49/233, the financing of a number of peace keeping operations will be dealt with at the end of the first half of 1998 when the Committee resumes its work for that particular purpose.
The second major item to be dealt with during the 52nd session of the General Assembly is the adoption of a new scale of assessments for the regular budget of the United Nations for the period 1998-2000. Resolution 51/212B, the General Assembly requested the Committee on Contributions to present eight proposals for a scale of assessments for the period 1998-2001 and to make appropriate recommendations thereon. The Committee, according to its programme of work will begin its consideration of the Report of the Committee on Contributions (A/51/11) on Monday, 20 October.
Under the item “Improving the financial situation of the United Nations,” the Fifth Committee will continue to consider the current financial crisis of the United Nations. Resolution 49/143, the General Assembly established a High Level Open-ended Working Group on the financial situation of the United Nations, which had met for several months in 1995, 1996 and 1997 in order to study the question and eventually propose realistic solutions to the financial situation of the Organization. In the draft decision submitted by the Working Group in its report (A/51/43), the General Assembly would note the work of the High Level Working Group on the financial situation of the United Nations on the understanding that the Working Group would be resumed, when appropriate, after consultations with Member States.
The administrative and budgetary aspects of the financing of the UN peace keeping operations will continue to receive some degree of attention during the 52nd session of the General Assembly. A number of reports from the 51st session on the item had been deferred to the 52nd session, such as, the question of support account, death and disability, mission management of peace keeping assets, peace keeping reserve fund, the United Nations Logistics Base in Brindisi, gratis personnel; rates of reimbursement to troop contributing states and performance reports.
As currently structured, the work programme of the Fifth Committee is scattered through the year and unlike the other Main Committees of the General Assembly, the Fifth Committee has become a standing Committee of the General Assembly.
The Fifth Committee began its substantive work on Tuesday, 30 September with the consideration of item 142: Administrative and budgetary aspects of the financing of the United Nations peace keeping operations, -- in particular, the question of United Nations Logistics Base in Brindisi, death and disability benefits, third party liability. A comprehensive draft resolution on the financing of the logistics Base in Brindisi is now under consideration in the Committee.
The Committee also considered under item 115: Programme budget for 1996-1997 the report of the Secretary-General on the impact of approved savings measures on the implementation of mandated programmes and activities. While all developing countries expressed concern at the negative impact of those savings measures, and thus agreed with the comments and observations of the ACABQ on that report, developed countries commended and complemented the Secretary-General and the staff for implementing mandated activities with finite resources. They found the Secretary-General’s report a useful insight of a new management culture in the United Nations. On his part, the representative of Japan said that the savings achieved which derived from administrative costs should be reinvested and redirected to development programmes of the Organization. However, he felt that the savings achieved from inflation and fluctuation of exchange rate should be refunded to Member States, in accordance with Financial Rules and Regulations.
The Committee will continue its consideration of that report on approved savings in conjunction with item 116: Proposed programme for the biennium 1998-1999" and in the context of the final performance report of the programme budget for 1996-1997.
On Friday, 3 October, the Committee heard an address by the Under-Secretary-General for Management on the current financial situation of the Organizations. He presented and updated the Committee on the cash flow projections for the periods ahead and the stark reality of where the UN stands and what it faces. He informed the Committee that the preliminary figures for unpaid assessments as at end September aggregated at U.S.$ 2,417 billion, for the regular budget, peacekeeping and the international tribunals. Due to the extent of deterioration in the UN’s financial situation exacerbated by the continuing arrearage, in assessment collections, continuing deficits in regular budget cash, extensive cross borrowing of peacekeeping cash, the Organization has slid down the slippery slope to a point where it has little if any financial flexibility, highly illiquid and on a precarious financial perch.
Weeks of 20 to 31 October
On Monday, 20 October, the Fifth Committee considered agenda item 120: Scale of assessments for the apportionment of the expenses of the United Nations. Nineteen (19) delegations intervened in the first two days of its general debate. All of them, except for the USA, maintained that the continuing financial difficulties of the United Nations were the direct consequences of the non-payment of substantial arrears and overdue contributions by some major contributors. They reiterated that the current financial crisis of the UN should not be linked to methodology of the scale of assessments and believed that any proposals or revisions to the current methodology could be counter productive as a reduction in one member state assessment would be an additional financial burden on other member states. They reaffirmed that the principle of capacity to pay should remain the cardinal principle in the apportionment of the Organization's expenses. The representative of Japan added the concept of "responsibility to pay" which should apply typically to the case of permanent members of the Security Council in view of their special responsibilities under the Charter. The representative of the United States indicated clearly that if the Fifth Committee failed to lower the scale of assessments for the United States, it would "damage" the relations between the United States and the United Nations.
General debate on this item will continue on Monday, 27 October 1997.
On Wednesday, 22 October, the Committee began its consideration of the proposed programme budget for the biennium 1998-1999 with an address by the Secretary-General who presented the Committee with his first programme budget. He emphasized that in formulating the proposed budget, efforts had been made to reduce administrative costs, to rationalize work programmes to reorganize structures and to redistribute responsibilities and functions. He briefly referred to the programmatic and financial implications of his reform proposals which, he insisted, were primarily of an organizational and managerial nature and did not affect mandated activities.
The Chairman of the ACABQ also presented the related report of the Advisory Committee on the proposed programme budget for the biennium 1998-1999. He criticized a number of management practices, such as net budgeting, result-based budgeting, or the concept of "charge back" being introduced to the Organization. He contended that whenever new management techniques involved a change in the relevant staff or financial regulations or a change in appropriation lines, it was incumbent upon the Secretariat to bring the matter to the attention of the General Assembly for consideration and action. He believed that the programme budget process and procedure must be restored so as to promote full consideration and discussion of each of the SG's proposals in an orderly and unhurried manner. He said that the Secretariat and all representatives of Member States in the Fifth Committee and in all other programme formulating bodies should respect all aspects of the budgetary process that the UN has adopted and that any change of that process should be made in accordance with agreed procedures.
The Vice-Chairman of the Committee for Programme and Coordination also introduced the report of that Committee on its work at its 37th session and at its 37th resumed session.
Seven delegations made statements on the item. The representatives of the United Republic of Tanzania (Group of 77 and China), Norway and Pakistan, Japan, Kenya, Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea.
The representative of United Republic of Tanzania (Group of 77 and China) believed that without the fulfillment of Member States of their financial obligations to the United Nations, the whole exercise of reform would be meaningless. He recalled the provisions of General Assembly resolution 41/213 and reiterated that the medium-term plan constitute the principal policy directive of the Organization and should continue to serve as the framework in the formulation of the programme budget.
The representative of Norway supported the proposal to allocate more resources to development and activities aimed at sustainable development, poverty eradication, population, education and health. He noted the proposed vacancy rates and explained that those rates were a management tool to ensure that the combined goals of fulfilling budgetary allocations and programmes of activity were met. They were, he added, an instrument the Secretary-General should be able to use at his discretion with the necessary flexibility.
The permanent representative of Japan noted and welcomed the negative nominal growth of the proposed budget for 1998-1999. He nevertheless cautioned that reduction in the level of the budget should not be an end in itself but as the result of "unceasing efforts" to achieve a truly efficient and effective United Nations. Though he supported the establishment of a development acount, its modality and the specific programmes to receive such funding should be agreed upon by Member States. He contended that proposal of the Secretary-General on any unused budgetary surplus at the end of the current biennium, particularly the surplus derived from fluctations of exchange rates should be refunded to Member States, in accordance with Financial Rules and Regulations and not transferred to development account.
The permanent representative of Kenya, the representatives of Papua New Guinea and Bangladesh associated themselves with the statement made by the Chairman of the Group of 77 and China. In addition, the permanent representative of Kenya expressed her concern at the uncertainties surrounding the proposed programme budget for the biennium 1998-1999 particularly on the impact the reform proposals might have on the budget. Though she recognized the urgent need of streamlining , she said, the zeal of reform should not be allowed to prevent the Organization from achieving its priority objectives. She pointed out that the reduction attained in the budget of 1996-1997 had drastically affected the operations of the UNEP, and HABITAT, and gravely expressed her concern at its continuing deterioration.
On his part, the permanent representative of Papua New Guinea noted with concern the staff reduction at the Decolonization Unit and the proposed transfer of its substantive conference servicing to General Assembly and Conference Services. To ensure an effective functioning of the Committee of 24, he insisted that the adequate capacity of the Unit and its substantive servicing of the Committee should be maintained in the Political Affairs Department.
The representative of Bangladesh focussed his concern on the savings and reduction of staff through drastic abolition of posts which he said had been the main thrust of the Organization for the past years and reflected in the proposed programme budget. Like others, he supported any reasonable initiative to effect savings in the expenditure of the UN but to deviate from the obligations to implement mandated programmes and activities could not be seen as savings. He cited document A/C.5/51/53 on the impact of approved savings measures on the implementaiton of mandated progarmmes and activities which clearly demonstrated that the impact of those savings measures have reduced the capacity of various departments of the Secretariat, especially affecting the timely delivery of activities in trade and promotion, women in development, environment and infrastructure development -- a vital concern to developing countries. Having gone through that experience, he questioned whether any productive gains could be achieved by aggressively pursuing the objective of more savings during the next biennium. He failed to understand the Secretary-General's justification on the process of staff reduction without affecting the programme delivery of the United Nations and found it contradictory the Secretary-General's proposal on reducing staff while requesting additional allocation for temporary assistance, contractual and expert services.
General debate on this item will continue on Monday, 27 October.
Also considered during this week was agenda item 118: Joint Inspection Unit whose reports on its two Annual Reports and on its implementation of recommendations were introduced by the Chairman of the Joint Inspection Unit. Three delegations spoke on this item, the representatives of Algeria, Russian Federation and the USA. All noted the improved format of the report. General discussion on this item will continue next week.
Agenda items 123: Financing of United Nations Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM) and 133: Financing of United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL) were considered and referred to informal consultations.
The Committee concluded its general discussion of agenda item 118: Joint Inspection Unit and a draft resolution on the item is currently under negotiations. The first reading, section by section of the proposed programme budget for the biennium 1998-1999 was the subject of discussion during these two weeks. The Committee also agreed that the consideration of the proposed programme budget will be based solely on the initial proposals of the Secretary-General contained in document A/52/6/Rev.1. It was understood that the Committee may revert to the consideration of the sections of the budget which are affected by the reform proposals at a later stage in the light of the decisions that the General Assembly may wish to take on the reform measures. A number of questions and concerns were raised on the various parts of the section. Delegations were satisfied that the Secretary-General reversed the decision on the proposed move of the Decolonization Unit from the Department of Political Affairs to the newly established department of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services. The Committee concluded the first reading of the proposed programme budget for the biennium 1998-1999 on 11 November 1997. However, certain delegations, namely, the representatives of Cuba, USA, Pakistan, and Syria Arab Republic requested not to conclude the first reading pending receipt of information, in writing, that they had requested from the Secretariat of the Advisory Committee and the Office of the Programme Planning Budgeting Accounts.
On Tuesday, the Committee concluded its general discussion on item 119: Pattern of Conferences and the item was referred to informal consultations.
The Committee resumed its consideration of agenda item 142 (a): (Administrative and budgetary aspects of the financing of the peacekeeping operations) and took action on the draft resolution on death and disability, and decided to defer consideration of the reform procedures for determining reimbursement to Member States for contingent owned-equipment to its resumed session in Spring 1998. With regard to draft resolution on Third Party Liability: temporal and financial limitations, the Committee, at the request of the US delegation, decided to further consider, during informal consultations, paragraph 12 of that draft resolution A/C.5/52/L.7.
The Committee also began its consideration of the annual report of OIOS under item 143: Report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the Office of the Internal Oversight Services and two of the thematic reports on the OIOS' Investigations Section, namely, report on the Alleged Conflict of Interst in teh United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (HABITAT) (A/52/339) and on the review of the programme and administrative practices of the secretariat of the International Trade Centre UNCTAD/WTO (ITC) A/52/933) under agenda item 114: Review of efficiency of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations. General discussion on the reports in question concluded today. Particular attention was drawn to document A/C.5/52/12 which contained a legal opinion on the interpretation of General Assembluy resolution 48/218B in which the Assembly established the Office of Internal Oversight Services and in particular, with respect to the implementation of recommendations of OIOS pursuant to the resolution. Informal consultations on the item are ongoing.
The Committee held its first round of informal consultations on the Scale of assessments for the apportionment of the expenses of the United Nations, under the Chairmanship of Ambassador Besley Maycock. The discussion during the first round of consultations was mainly devoted to procedural issues. The Committee will deal during the second round of consultations with issues that the Committee on Contributions had agreed on before moving to other recommendations. The Coordinator indicated that the Committee might also consider borrowing from the other options outlined in the Committee on Contribution's report. He mentioned that the Committee, during this exercise, might wish to provide guidance to the Committee on Contributions for longer term action with a view to developing a simplified scale of assessments.
The Committee began its consideration of the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Performance Appraisal System (A/C.5/51/55); the report on Family Leave (A/52/438); and report of the Secretary-General on behalf of and with the Approval of the members of the Administrative Committee on Coordination on the respect for privileges and immunities of officials of the United Nations and the specialized agencies and related organizations (A/C.5/52/2), under item 153: Human Resources Management. General discussion on the reports are continuing.
As planned, the Committee began its consideration of agenda item 113: Financial reports and audited financial statements of the Board of Auditors and heard an introductory statement by the Chairman of the Board, Sir John Bourn of the United Kingdom. General discussion on the item is continuing.
The Committee also held its elections and appointments to fill vacancies in subsidiary organs and other appointments. The Committee recommended for appointment/reappointment the following:
Members of the Advisory Committee for Administrative and Bdugetary Questions for a three year term beginning 1 January 1998: Mr. E. Besley Maycock (Barbados), Mr. Ioan Barac (Romania), Mr. C.S.M. Mselle (United Republic of Tanzania), Mahamane Amadou Maiga (Mali) and Mr. Hasan Jawarneh (Jordan).
Members of the Committee on Contributions for a three-year term beginning 1 January 1998), Mr. David Etuket (Uganda), Mr. Prakash Shah (India), Mr. Kazuo Watanabe (Japan), Mr. David A. Leis (USA), Mr. Uldis Blukis (Latvia), and Mr. Ihor Humenny (Ukraine).
The Comptroller and Auditor General of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and NOrthern Ireland was appointed as a member of the Board of Auditors for a three year term beginning 1 July 1998.
Members of the United Nations Administrative Tribunal for a three year term beginning 1 January 1998. Mr. Mikuin Leliel Balanda (Democratic Republic of Congo), Mr. Chittharanjan Felix Amerasinghe (Sri Lanka) and Mr. Hubert Thierry (France).
Confirmation of the appointment as members of the Investment Committee for a three year term beginning 1 January 1998. Mr. Ahmed Abdullatif (Saudi Arabia); Mr. J.Y. Pillay (Singapore) and Mr. Fernando G. Chico Pardo (Mexico).
Members of the International Civil Service Commission for a four-year term beginning 1 January 1998. Mr. Ku Tashiro (Japan), Mr. Joao Augusto de Medicis (Brazil), Mr. Mario Bettati (France) Ms. Lucretia Myers (USA) and Mr. Alexic Stephanou (Greece). Mr. Alexei Fedotov (Russian Federation) was also recommended for appointment to fill the unexpired portion of the term of office of Mr. Alexander V. Chepourin (Russian Federation), that is until 31 December 2000.
Members and alternate members of the United Nations Staff Pension Committee for a three year term beginning 1 January 1998. Mr. Carlo Riva (Argentina), Mr. Tadanori Inomata (Japan), Mr. Gerhard Kuntzle (Germany), Mr. Vladimir V. Kuznetsov (Russian Federation), Mr. Philip Richard Okanda Owade (Kenya), Ms. Susan Shearouse (USA). The nomination of two candidates, one to fill a vacant seat from the Group of African States and the other to fill a vacant seat from the Group of Asian States was postponed to a later date.
Informal consultations on the Scale of assessments is continuing while the first round of informal consultations on the Proposed programme budget for the biennium 1998-1999 began under the Chairmanship of Mr. Carlos Riva (Argentina). The Committee identified some of hte policy issues which needed in-depth discussion (a) Impact of the approved savings measures (b) vacancy rate (c) policy issues on special missions; (d) pilot projects (e) net budgeting and (f) overall level of resources. Other issues under consideration in the informal consultations are: 121: United Nations Common system; 143: Report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the Internal Oversight Services including the thematic reports of that office under agenda tem 114: Review of the efficiency of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations; 118: Joint Inspection Unit: 119: Pattern of Conferences; 153: Human resources Management and 113: Financial reports and audtied financial statements of the Board of Auditors.