SECRETARY-GENERAL, 2002-2003 BUDGET, WARNS THAT FURTHER REDUCTIONS WOULD COMPROMISE ORGANIZATION’S ABILITY TO FULFIL ITS MANDATES
SECRETARY-GENERAL, 2002-2003 BUDGET, WARNS THAT FURTHER REDUCTIONS WOULD COMPROMISE ORGANIZATION’S ABILITY TO FULFIL ITS MANDATES
Fifty-sixth General Assembly
9th Meeting (PM)
SECRETARY-GENERAL, 2002-2003 BUDGET, WARNS THAT FURTHER REDUCTIONS
WOULD COMPROMISE ORGANIZATION’S ABILITY TO FULFIL ITS MANDATES
Speakers Voice Concern over Increased Dependency
On Extrabudgetary Resources, Increase in High-Level Posts
Presenting his $2.52 billion budget proposal for the next biennium this afternoon, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) that it represented a 0.5 per cent real resource reduction -- virtually the same level as the last biennium. Further budgetary constraints would seriously compromise the Organization's ability to deliver the services expected of it.
As the Committee took up the Organization’s proposed regular budget for 2002-2003 -- its main agenda item for the current session -- he said that the Organization could do more with less, but only to a point. Sooner or later, the quality of work would suffer.
Despite the difficulties in coping with stagnant budgets and late payment of dues, the Organization had served the Member States and the peoples of the world, he added. Although the total budget was lower today than it was in 1994-1995, the United Nations had been able to absorb the effects of inflation and a large number of unfunded mandates, through careful management of resources and prioritization.
The Secretary-General’s proposal involves the so-called regular budget of the United Nations, which is used to finance most of its core activities other than peacekeeping missions. As the regular budget cycle is biennial, the budget for 2000-2001 was considered by the Fifth Committee during the fifty-fourth session of the Assembly in 1999. During its fifty-fifth session, the Assembly adopted the medium-term plan for 2002-2005, which sets the main priorities for that period, as well as revised budget appropriations and income estimates for 2000-2001.
Introducing the related report of the ACABQ, the Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), Conrad S.M. Mselle, said that during the coming debate, he expected to hear demands for greater budget discipline, efficiency, redeployment of resources and elimination of marginal and obsolete activities. However, the budget process had already been subjected to those actions in recent years. The General Assembly had frozen regular budget
expenditures since the 1996-1997 biennium, but without a corresponding freeze on demand for more activities. Despite the redeployment of staff and other resources, the consequence had, in some cases, been an overload past the capacity to absorb.
The Advisory Committee had, nevertheless, pointed to many areas where productivity and efficiency gains could be achieved, he said. Up to 80 per cent of regular budget expenditure was on staff costs, including those for 9,019 proposed posts on the staffing table, and the cost of temporary short-term employees, experts and consultants. Monitoring staff expenditures was therefore a critical element in the management of the regular budget. Full implementation of the proposals on human resources management reform, as approved by the Assembly, could lead to more efficiency gains.
The proposed budget should be based on effective programme planning, results-based budgeting, monitoring and evaluation, the United States representative said. Advocating the principles of budgetary discipline and “value for money”, he added that it was necessary to identify efficiencies by using newer technologies and simplified procedures in all areas. Resources, including posts, should be re-deployed from low- to high-priority ones, and obsolete programmes must be eliminated. Determinations of achievement needed to be specific, measurable, realistic and time-bound.
Speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, the representative of Iran stressed the need to adhere to the approved budgetary process, saying that the proposed budget must be considered in the context of the Organization’s financial situation and the payment of assessed contributions. Although resource allocation should better reflect the priorities of the medium-term plan, resource growth had been proposed for some sections which were not in conformity with it. More resources should be approved for sections related to economic and social development.
Belgium’s representative (on behalf of the European Union and associated States) said that the programme budget must include time-sensitive reviews or evaluation of project performance. The European Union would rigorously examine each programme on its own merits, including those in areas which it regarded as a priority, such as human rights, humanitarian questions, the environment, sustainable development and the fight against terrorism, drugs and crime. Efforts to provide figures on efficiency gains should continue, as would clarification on workload indicators, productivity standards and temporary assistance.
Several speakers in the debate also opposed the proposed reclassification and establishment of several senior-level posts, saying that the hierarchical structure of the Organization was top-heavy and there was a need to rejuvenate the Secretariat. They also commented on an alarming trend of using extrabudgetary funds for activities that should be funded under the regular budget. Among other issues mentioned in the debate were equitable geographical representation, as well as the need to further clarify the expected accomplishments and outputs within the budget methodology and to finance projects relevant to the developing countries.
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Also speaking this afternoon were representatives of Canada (also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand), Algeria, Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, Norway, Republic of Korea and Zambia. The report of the Committee for Programme and Coordination was introduced by its Chairperson, Sharon Brennen-Haylock.
The Committee will continue its work at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 16 October, when it is scheduled to continue its general discussion of its agenda item on the scale of assessments.
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this afternoon to take up the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2002-2003. [For background information, see Press Release GA/AB/3458 of 12 October 2001.]
KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General of the United Nations, introduced his proposed budget for 2002-2003.
He was proposing a budget of some $2,519 million, which represented a
0.5 per cent real resource reduction -- virtually the same level, in dollars, as the last biennium. His proposals called for small but important increases in certain priority areas, including international peace and security; the promotion of sustained economic growth and sustainable development; the development of Africa; the promotion of human rights; the coordination of humanitarian assistance efforts; the promotion of justice and international law; disarmament; drug control; crime prevention; and combating international terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Internal oversight would also receive a modest increase and provision had been made for expenditures for special political missions, which would be extended or approved in the course of the next biennium.
As in previous programme budgets, resources had been included for learning and training programmes to ensure that staff and managers had the skills and knowledge they needed to do their jobs, he said. Substantial investments would continue to be made to improve the information technology infrastructure and capacity to make the United Nations more effective in an increasingly connected world. Money had also been allocated for activities relating to events to be held in 2002, notably the United Nations Conference on Financing for Development. If properly managed, that Conference could make a crucial difference to the achievement of the millennium development targets.
The budget also reflected ongoing reform effort, including, for the first time, indicators of expected achievements, he continued. He appealed to the Committee to consider, positively and without delay, his request for resources to implement the second phase of the peacekeeping reform process. While welcoming the steps already taken to respond to the recommendations of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations, he said that more must be done to make the Organization more effective in its primary task of keeping the peace.
Another fundamental requirement for the effective functioning of United Nations operations was staff security, a matter to which he personally attached great importance. He had presented the Committee with a set of proposals. Agreement had been reached on the cost-sharing formula, and he had provided the further information requested by the Committee. He hoped that the Committee would now make a final decision on the security management system and related resources, including the appointment of a full-time Security Coordinator.
He also appealed to delegates to ensure that the Organization continued to have a home worthy of it. To refurbish the Headquarters complex while meeting modern security standards -- the urgency of which had been cruelly emphasized by the events of 11 September -- the Organization would have to rely heavily on Member States' support. The conceptual design plan and cost analysis for the capital master planshould be completed in February 2002. He intended to submit a comprehensive report to the Committee in the spring.
At the Millennium Summit last September, world leaders had given the Organization a clear agenda, he said. The priorities set out were no less important today than they were before the tragic events of 11 September. Over the past five years, he had striven to make the United Nations better able to achieve objectives and to respond to the increasing demands placed upon it. Management procedures had been streamlined, the structure of the Secretariat improved, cabinet-style management had been introduced, and coordination among the Members of the United Nations family –- particularly through the establishment of a common development assistance framework at the country level -- had been improved. The establishment of the Executive Committees for Peace and Security, Development, Economic and Social Affairs, and Humanitarian Affairs, with Human Rights as a cross-cutting factor, had also ensured inter-agency coordination at all levels. Human resources management reform, modernization of procedures, and more efficient use of information technology would remain priorities.
While much had been done, he said there was also the need to be realistic. During the last six years, the United Nations had had absolutely no budgetary growth. Even in dollars, the total budget was lower today than it was in 1994-1995. The Organization had been able, so far, to absorb the effects of inflation and a large number of unfunded mandates, through careful management of resources and prioritization. With various reforms, efficiency measures and new technologies, more had been done with less. Despite difficulties in coping with stagnant budgets and late-payment of dues, the Organization had served the Member States and the peoples of the world.
While more could be done with less, sooner or later the quality of work would suffer, he added. Further budgetary constraints would seriously compromise the Organization's ability to deliver the services expected of it, particularly when Member States imposed new mandates without adding new resources. It was time to review in detail the programme of work. Were all the meetings being held indispensable? Did some of the reports requested duplicate others? Were resources allocated in the most productive way? Could not resources be applied more usefully to the priorities of the Millennium Declaration? Member States should ask themselves whether all the mandates entrusted to the Organization were really important. Resources must be available for what the Member States considered high-priority areas.
To further facilitate the strategic redeployment of resources, he had proposed time limits or "sunset provisions" for new initiatives involving organizational structures or major commitments of funds, he said. As the General Assembly had not yet accepted that proposal, he urged Member States to give it serious thought. The Organization must be capable of playing the role that the world's peoples expected of it. It had to become a more effective instrument for pursuing the priorities outlined by governments. The Secretariat would continue to do its best to serve Member States' interests with professionalism and efficiency. Ultimately, however, having the strong organization that the world needed depended on the willingness of Member State governments to give the Organization the means to do what was expected of it.
The Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), CONRAD S.M. MSELLE, said that the revised appropriation for the current biennium was some $2.53 billion, and the initial estimate for 2002-2003 was some $2.65 billion -– slightly less than a zero-real-growth budget. The nominal increase was 4.6 per cent. The anticipated revision to take account of currency fluctuations, inflation and some decisions of intergovernmental bodies, peacekeeping support costs and security needs could increase the initial estimates to some $2.7 billion.
During the coming debate, it was likely that demands would be made for greater budget discipline, efficiency, redeployment of resources and elimination of marginal and obsolete activities, he continued. In recent years, the regular budget process had already been subjected to those actions. The General Assembly had frozen regular budget expenditures since the 1996-1997 biennium, but without a corresponding freeze on demand for more activities. Despite the redeployment of staff and other resources, the consequence had, in some cases, been an overload past the capacity to absorb.
In its first report on the budget, the Advisory Committee had, nevertheless, pointed to many areas with great potential for more productivity and efficiency gains. Up to 80 per cent of regular budget expenditure was on staff costs, including the cost of the 9,019 proposed posts on the staffing table, and the cost of temporary short-term employees, experts and consultants. Monitoring staff costs was, therefore, a critical element in the management of regular budget expenditure. Full implementation of the proposals on human resources management reform, as approved by the Assembly, could lead to more efficiency gains.
However, in a climate of static budget growth, there was a limit to more efficiency and productivity without additional investment and policy decisions to address increasing demands for more programmes and activities, he said. Investment in new technology could, for example, produce tangible increases in productivity. It did not appear possible any longer to accomplish more with less. In that respect, the Secretary-General had stated that he had adhered to that request in preparing the estimates for 2002-2003, but added that “adhering to such a course was becoming increasingly untenable”.
The level of the regular budget was ultimately set by the Assembly based on the advice of the Fifth Committee, he continued. That political decision was often arbitrary, in spite of the agreed budgetary process. Sometimes, such regular budget decisions could appear to be motivated by budgetary and economic trends in national governments or by what Member States were contributing. In the absence of a policy decision by the Assembly, the ACABQ had refrained from getting involved in the political debate about whether zero or zero-nominal growth should be the benchmark for setting the level of the regular budget.
While the effort to prepare the proposals using the results-based budgeting techniques was commendable, he said, much work remained to refine such presentation. Until progress was made to define results more clearly in relation to proposed resources, it might not be possible for Member States to accept the shift from inputs and resources. Accountability of programme managers would be facilitated when States adopted clear and verifiable objectives.
In conclusion, he added that to facilitate the work of the Committee, the ACABQ had also included in its budget report comments and recommendations on several reports submitted by the Secretariat and the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU). It had also decided to report orally on the report on the payment of honorariums to members of organs and subsidiary organs of the United Nations.
SHARON BRENNEN-HAYLOCK (Bahamas), Chairperson of the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC), said it had not been possible to conclude the review of section 22 (human rights) of the proposed programme budget, which did not conform to the medium-term plan. If that section had been in conformity, she was confident that consensus would have been reached when the CPC met in June. While the Committee could have commented on the resource level of the budget, it had opted not to make a pronouncement on the proposed level of resources. It did debate, however, the increasing reliance on extrabudgetary funds for activities that should be funded under the regular budget. On the issue of priorities, the Committee noted that distribution of resources should comply fully with the priorities established by the medium-term plan.
Noting that it was the first budget in a results-based format, she said that provision for external factors that might impede expected accomplishments had been included. While noting that indicators of achievement should be more specific and timebound, the CPC also acknowledged that it did not expect the proposed budget in a results-based format to be perfect. The Committee had approved all of the budget sections except for section 22, on human rights. The Committee had also requested that section 8 (legal affairs) be rewritten to conform to the language of the medium-term plan. The CPC welcomed the strong gender component of the proposed budget. On a non-budget issue, she said the Committee, in light of a legal opinion, considered that the terms “take note of” and “notes” were neutral and constituted neither approval or disapproval.
JEAN DE RUYT (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, described the agenda in the Millennium Declaration as wide-ranging and ambitious. It could not be implemented without a highly qualified and productive staff working in an efficient and coordinated organization, able to provide high-quality services at the lowest possible cost, capable of making strategic choices which removed obsolete activities and duplications. Sound budgeting, based on prioritization in each programme, which all Member States were obliged to apply to their national finances, remained an essential element.
Available resources to implement agreed objectives, mandates and programmes remained inseparable from the search for new savings and redeployment of resources, and from the pursuit of budgetary discipline, efficiency and the general principle of value for money. He stressed the need for the programme budget to include time-sensitive reviews or evaluation of performance of projects and activities. The European Union would rigorously examine each programme on its own merits, including those in areas which it regarded as a priority, such as human rights, humanitarian questions, the environment, sustainable development and the fight against terrorism, drugs and crime. Of the pending issues that needed to be addressed, two were of particular concern: financing the comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping; and increasing the safety and security of United Nations and associated personnel.
He reiterated the European Union’s objective of including in the Organization’s regular budget all programmes that corresponded to the core activities of the United Nations as set out in the Charter. The Union noted with interest the recommendations of the ACABQ, which contained some excellent principles, particularly on reclassification, publications, information technology, the cumbersome structure of some secretariats and the ratio between staff in the General Service and Professional categories. It would be for the Fifth Committee to apply those principles consistently in the sections of the budget. He also noted with interest the CPC report, particularly the recommendations on the review of the relevance and effectiveness of outputs and on the application of best practices regarding support services among United Nations duty stations.
He congratulated the Secretariat for the improved timeliness of the submission of a clear and readable programme budget, founded on results-based budgeting. The current format was only a first step. The second step would be the mid-biennium presentation of the Secretary-General’s interim report on progress made regarding the collection of data for indicators of achievement. Those would be decisive in redefining, quantifying and evaluating achievement, which should measure the results of the Secretariat and not those of Member States. The third stage, namely, the completion of results-based budgeting, should be achieved in time for the presentation of the next programme budget in 2003.
The European Union hoped that efforts to provide figures on efficiency gains would continue, and also that clarification on workload indicators, productivity standards and temporary assistance would be maintained. The Union would be very attentive to possible duplication of activities within the United Nations system and would examine carefully justifications given on all posts and costs. The Union was pleased with efforts to promote gender mainstreaming in the programmes.
A major effort, he said, should be made to develop technologies related to Assembly affairs and conference services to improve the programme and reduce the workload of its staff. The Union had clear reservations on reclassification, which could not be used as a tool for promotion, he said. The hierarchical structure of the Organization was top-heavy, and there was a need to rejuvenate the Secretariat. The Union requested a comprehensive review of those questions in the budget for 2002-2003.
BAGHER ASADI (Iran), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, commended the Secretariat for its excellent work, including improved timeliness in submitting the proposed programme budget. He noted with satisfaction the clarity of the introduction of the budget through the provision of organizational charts. He endorsed the opinion of the ACABQ that care be taken to ensure that complete information on proposals for additional posts and reclassifications was reflected. The 2002-2003 proposed programme budget must be considered in the context of the Organization’s financial situation and the payment of assessed contributions. Member States must honour their legal and contractual obligations under the Charter in full, on time and without conditions. Consideration should continue to be given to Member States, in particular developing countries, which were experiencing genuine economic difficulties.
Noting the new presentation of the proposed programme budget, the Group believed that results-based budgeting was not an end in itself, he said. Measures approved by the Assembly should be implemented in a gradual and incremental manner. Indicators of achievement should be used, where appropriate, to measure the performance of the Secretariat and not of Member States. The medium-term plan was the principal policy directive of the Organization and the basis for the elaboration of the proposed programme budget. Some of the proposed budget sections were not consistent with the 2002-2005 medium-term plan. The Group requested the Secretary-General to ensure that programme managers fully comply with the provisions of the medium-term plan, in particular with regard to expected accomplishments and indicators of achievement.
Resources approved by the Assembly should be commensurate with mandated programmes and activities, he said. There was strong need to review the budget proposal in light of the approved budget outline, taking into account the legislative mandates approved for 2002-2003. The budgetary process, approved by various Assembly resolutions, should be fully adhered to. The inclusion of the phrase “within existing resources” was in violation of current budgetary practices and General Assembly resolutions. The Group reaffirmed the role of the Fifth Committee; all other Main Committees should refrain from the inclusion of that phrase in their decisions and resolutions. The Group did not accept the inclusion of that phrase in the proposed programme budget by the Secretariat, and requested that it be avoided in the future.
The Group welcomed inclusion of expenditures for special political missions in the budget, he said. The current provision for the treatment of exchange rates and inflation should be maintained. The level of the contingency fund should be maintained at 0.75 per cent over and above the level of the budget approved for the biennium. He noted an alarming trend in the use of extrabudgetary funds for activities that should be funded under the regular budget. The Group expressed concern at the number of reclassifications and new posts at the senior levels. While some justification could be found for supporting increases in the number and reclassifications at the P-2 level, it was difficult to support similar proposals at higher levels. Any reclassification of posts should be justified in terms of a change in the nature of the work, and should not be motivated by the need to enhance prospects for recruitment or to provide promotion for incumbents.
Resource allocation should better reflect the priorities established in the medium-term plan, he said. Resource growth had been proposed for some sections which were not in conformity with the plan. More resources should be approved for sections related to economic and social development. Vacancy rates should not be used as an instrument to achieve savings or to decrease the level of the budget. The Group agreed that overall vacancy rates should not exceed 5 per cent for Professional posts and 2 per cent for General Service. The use of consultants should only be resorted to where in-house expertise was not available. When used, they should reflect the international character of the Organization. Any delegation of authority should comply with General Assembly resolutions. There was need for a system of responsibility and accountability before delegating such authority, including the necessary internal monitoring, control procedures and training.
PAUL HEINBECKER (Canada), speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand (CANZ), said he was pleased to see that the Secretary-General had attempted to provide strategic focus. At the same time, he would have welcomed proposals from the Secretariat to redeploy more resources to higher-priority tasks. He understood the political difficulties in the Secretariat in merely making such realignments as would be done routinely in many, probably most, national administrations. That was why he believed the Secretariat should propose such changes to the Committee and thereby put the burden on the membership to affect the changes.
He recommended that the Secretariat consider ways to standardize expected accomplishments and performance indicators across divisions and departments where similar functions were performed. Areas where action was needed included advocacy, substantive meeting support, and technical cooperation. The United Nations could learn from other organizations, such as the International Labour Organization (ILO), which had much more precise indicators and targets, particularly in the area of executive direction, administration and support.
He said there were a number of significant concerns on the specifics of the proposed budget. Scrutiny of the budget was taking place at the margins, but not at the core. The ACABQ review was thorough with respect to additions, but did not adequately address the base resources. Also, programme priorities were not reflected in the allocation of funding. For example, the $8.5 million in resource growth for Assembly Affairs and Conference Services was greater than the
$8.2 million total increase for the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, New Agenda for Africa, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Human Settlements, Crime and Drug Programmes, and all five regional commissions combined. There was also concern over the Secretariat’s approach to improving efficiency and productivity. The budget document and related reports made little mention of the efficiency savings that were still possible.
A number of examples raised questions about the Secretariat’s commitment to becoming a more efficient organization. He said the $150 million proposed for the translation division of Conference Services showed almost the same number of Professional posts and same output as 20 years ago, despite substantial technological improvements. Translation Services’ productivity appeared to be at least 25 per cent lower than minimum standards in Canada, for example. It was also difficult to reconcile the idea that the Organization aspired to become an “E” organization with the fact that it still maintained 1,700 pieces of Dictaphone equipment. Also, concerns remained about the level of resources provided to the public information function in the Organization. Some communication activities were a luxury the United Nations could ill afford.
He was disappointed that several key requests in the last budget resolution were not incorporated into the current budget document, citing in particular the review to address the top-heavy nature of the Organization. The budget was, in fact, now proposing more senior posts and 54 reclassifications, all upward. The previous resolution also requested that staff assessment be presented in a more accurate way. He added that the three countries would oppose any proposals for add-ons to the budget that had not been proposed by the Secretary-General nor scrutinized by the ACABQ.
JOHN D. NEGROPONTE (United States) said that the Fifth Committee must ensure that the proposed budget reflected the weight given to essential activities approved for the medium-term plan last year. The proposed budget should be based on effective programme planning, results-based budgeting, monitoring and evaluation. It was also necessary to find a budget level that would allow for implementing priority United Nations activities in the most efficient way.
Advocating the principles of budgetary discipline and “value for money”, he added that it was necessary to identify efficiencies by using newer technologies and simplified procedures in all areas. New resource demands must be weighed against continuing priority commitments. He fully expected that resources -– including posts -– from lower priority areas would be redeployed to higher priority ones. Programmes related to earlier periods, when the United Nations had different priorities, must be eliminated, unless their continuing relevance and effectiveness could be clearly demonstrated via programme evaluations. Determinations of achievement needed to be specific, measurable, realistic and time-bound.
His delegation’s review of the budget had concluded that it was basically consistent with the priorities of the medium-term plan for 2002-2005, he said. He supported the agreed priorities, including regional development activities, which remained the largest share of the total budget. Improvements to peacekeeping management and the safety and security of personnel deserved the Committee’s highest consideration. He also supported such areas as maintenance of peace and security, human rights and humanitarian affairs.
He strongly supported the new results-based budget format and said that the introduction of sunset provisions for activities would provide the necessary impetus for programme managers and Member States to regularly review mandates for relevance and effectiveness. The results-based format also established a basis for improved evaluations -– including self-evaluations. The United Nations Evaluation Manual, published in 1986, had lost much of its relevance and usefulness and should be updated as a matter of priority.
The proposal for additional posts, particularly increases and upgrades at the most senior levels, struck him as unjustified, he said. They would make the Organization even more top heavy at a time when a more flexible and less hierarchical structure was needed. A comprehensive and coherent plan was needed to allocate resources to those areas that would most dramatically increase productivity. Unfortunately, the current information technology strategy did not hit the mark, for it did not contain timetables for achieving goals, cost estimates, or indication of economies.
Public information was essential to supporting the work of the United Nations, he continued, but the structure and approach of the Department of Public Information (DPI) did not take full advantage of either technology gains or modern management techniques. It was necessary to take a careful look at the Department’s budget and reconcile it with an increasing trend to allocate resources to public information in other budget sections. The situation with publications was unacceptable, for there was little evidence that the publications programme had received rigorous examination, despite repeated requests to do so.
There were almost 27,000 outputs programmed in the current budget, but only 26 had been proposed for elimination. That demonstrated once again that the long-standing requirement to identify obsolete and irrelevant programmes had been ignored. About 20 per cent of the proposed resources went to Conference Services. Innovation and productivity improvements should be sought there. Regrettably, the proposed budget included little to show how it was possible to increase the efficiency of translation, interpretation and publishing services.
In conclusion, he stated that his country was fully committed to providing the resources necessary to carry out the priority mandates of Member States in a disciplined manner. That commitment must be balanced, however, by continuing progress in creating a modernized and effective Organization that delivered full value for money.
ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) supported the position of the Group of 77 and China, and said that the proposed budget should correspond to the priorities set in the medium-term plan. Clearly, that was the main concern before the Committee. The implementation of the programmes and activities endorsed by the Assembly should receive the attention of Member States, which should seek consensus solutions for the problems arising in the debate. In that respect, he stressed the need to strictly adhere to the rules, regulations and procedures of the United Nations. The practice of closed consultations within small groups of countries, which had taken place during the scale of assessments negotiations last year, was not appropriate, for it violated the principle of transparency.
The narrative parts of some sections of the proposal were too vague and sometimes even deviated from the priorities set in the medium-term plan, he continued. For the results-based format to become a valuable budgeting tool, it was important to improve the use of that method. With regard to the principle of budgetary discipline, he said that it should not impede implementation of the programmes and activities of the Organization. In real terms, the proposed budget did not significantly deviate from the previous biennium, and it was difficult to find new areas of economy.
Continuing, he endorsed the recommendations of the ACABQ and the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC) regarding the use of consultants. In particular, he strongly supported the recommendation to request the Secretary-General to carry out the skills inventory and make the consolidated database available to managers. Development of information technology to replace the consultants’ travel requirements was also important.
The proposed reclassification and establishment of posts at senior levels was difficult to justify, he said. That could bring a distortion in the staffing pyramid and make the Organization top heavy. It would not be possible for his delegation to accept any reclassification without clear mechanisms establishing the reasons for reclassification. He hoped that the trend for reduction of the vacancy rates would continue, particularly in view of the recent human resources management resolution. As more than 70 per cent of the budget went to cover staffing requirements, such matters should receive particular attention.
Regarding equitable geographical representation, he said that there was a dangerous trend of giving posts to nationals of certain countries of the North. The composition of the Secretariat should reflect the universal character of the Organization. Currently, though, it seemed that there was no respect for the requirement that nationals of a particular Member State should not succeed nationals of the same State in a high post. Recruitment and assignments and promotions at the Department of Peacekeeping Operations were not carried out with full transparency, and that was a source of concern, particularly in view of the proposed increase in the number of posts there.
Although the contents of the narratives of various budget sections were supposed to respect the guidelines of the medium-term plan, that was not the case with sections on human rights and legal affairs, he said. Expected accomplishments and indicators of achievement there should be brought in line with that plan. His delegation also supported other priorities set in the proposal, including maintenance of international peace and security, humanitarian assistance, development, combating drugs and crime prevention.
With regard to combating terrorism, it was strange, particularly in view of the September events in New York, that the Organization was not coming to grips with that phenomenon. Although it should be one of the priorities of the new budget, it occupied a negligible portion of the relevant section of the budget. It was important to provide sufficient human and material resources for the fight against terrorism.
Continuing, he expressed concern over the Organization’s great dependence on extrabudgetary resources in financing such activities as human settlements and the environment. Also, after reviewing the budgetary sections related to Africa, he noted a certain increase in budgetary resources, but said that it was not sufficient in view of the magnitude of the needs.
AIZAZ AHMAD CHAUDHRY (Pakistan) said the proposed programme budget was of special significance in that it was being presented for the first time in a results-based format. The new format was intended to shift the emphasis from focus on inputs to results achieved. Pakistan supported measures to infuse efficiency in implementing United Nations programmes. Value for money was a recognized budgetary principle. However, the international character of the United Nations and the links between inputs and outputs should be kept in mind. The medium-term plan was the Organization’s principal policy directive, and should be the primary guide in preparation and approval of the budget. While he agreed that the budget was a management tool that should enhance responsibility and accountability, he cautioned against its use as an instrument to cut resources for the approved programmes.
He noted with concern a growing reliance on extrabudgetary resources. That was not prudent budgetary practice, and violated the principle of collective and shared responsibility to finance approved mandates. The activities funded from extrabudgetary resources tended to be donor-driven. It was his understanding that the results-based budgeting format was essentially intended to build upon and improve the existing programme planning, budgeting, monitoring and evaluation framework. On the reclassification of posts at the senior level, it was not in the interests of Member States to build a top-heavy organization. A pyramid-style staffing structure was far more productive. Bloated bureaucracies only entailed excess baggage.
SHEN GUOFANG (China) said that his delegation agreed in principle with the conclusions and recommendations of the CPC reached at its forty-first session, but noted that the Committee had been unable to arrive at a consensus on some issues. Fully concurring with the statement by the representative of Iran on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, he added that his country supported any budget format that could improve the efficiency and quality of the work of the Organization. The new budget format was an innovation, a complex system project, which called for a gradual approach. Results-based budgeting was still at an exploratory stage, and neither the Member States nor the Secretariat were yet familiar with it. There were so far no authoritative explanations for the terms and concepts involved. It was, therefore, necessary for the Organization to constantly learn from experience, separating the wheat from the chaff.
Certain areas of United Nations work should be measured by uniform standards, and there was no need for programme managers to come up with “expected accomplishments” for activities that were difficult to measure and forecast, he continued. Whatever the budget format, the proposed programme budget could not exceed the medium-term plan for 2002-2005. On the whole, the objectives and expected accomplishments included in the proposal were in conformity with the medium-term plan, but the narratives were somewhat vague and at times even departed from it.
He said that his delegation had always believed that the United Nations programme budget should be prepared on the basis of ensuring adequate resources for mandated programmes and activities. Hence, the need to fully consider and reflect their actual requirements for the biennium. He fully agreed with the ongoing reforms and economy measures undertaken by the Organization, but those measures should not be taken at the expense of full implementation of programmes. Instead, such measures should facilitate and deepen the reforms so as to ensure that programmes and activities of the Organization would never face the dilemma of having to stop halfway due to lack of funds. As the controversy regarding the general level of the budget had not died down, he called upon all countries concerned to take a pragmatic approach and try to resolve that important question rationally and realistically.
Turning to the distribution of resources, he said that it was necessary to set priorities, based on which resources should be distributed. That process must be in conformity with the interests and requirements of the general membership. Some questions of vital interest to developing countries, such as the environment, crime prevention, development of Africa and economic development and regional cooperation, had not been given adequate resources or increase in resources compared with 2000-2001. Expressing his concern about that, he stressed that, while it was necessary to try to strike a balance in the resource input to peacekeeping and development, it was also necessary to take more effective measures to ensure that priority programmes relating to the economic development of developing countries received all the necessary attention and financing.
FAWZI BIN ABDUL MAJEED SHOBOKSHI (Saudi Arabia) urged all Member States to pay their assessed contributions to both the regular and peacekeeping budgets in accordance with the agreed scale of assessments in full, on time and without condition. In regard to the scale of assessments, he noted that the bulk of financial burdens had been borne by developing countries. He supported the medium-term plan for 2002-2005 for establishing priorities for the proposed programme budget. Saudi Arabia also supported the work of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and implementing resolutions on the basis of recommendations of the Panel on Peace Operations. He welcomed any additional proposals from the Secretary-General to achieve further streamlining in the Secretariat and throughout the United Nations system regarding the areas of armed conflict and peace.
Saudi Arabia supported the proposed budget’s results-based budgeting format and the use of indicators of achievement, he continued. He also supported efforts by the Secretariat regarding the implementation of training programmes to encourage basic skills, as well as management and technical skills, especially in the area of information technology. Saudi Arabia supported efforts of both external and internal oversight services and called for the tightening of internal oversight systems to ensure sound management of funds provided by Member States. Improvement of human resources was a priority. The Office of Human Resources Management must make further efforts to ensure that un- and under-represented States were assigned their fair share of staff.
YUKIO SATOH (Japan) said priority should be given to allocation of resources to the following areas: development of developing countries, particularly those in Africa; humanitarian issues, including refugees and internally displaced persons; and the security and safety of United Nations personnel. The new systems for determining scales of assessment, result-based budgeting, and progress in reforming human resources management, which were achieved during the fifty-fifth session of the General Assembly, were particularly important for the administrative and budgetary reform of the Organization. Consequently, prospects for the improvement of the Organization's financial situation were growing, he stated.
His Government believed that the introduction of the results-based budgeting format would enable programme managers to implement their mandates effectively and would, at the same time, enhance transparency and accountability. The United Nations must continue to enhance its efficiency to ensure the continued support of its Member States and their taxpayers. It must relentlessly pursue reform to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century.
He said discussion of the budget should include the resource requirement proposals related to the comprehensive review of peacekeeping operations and the safety of United Nations personnel, which were prepared separately. It would be inappropriate for specific proposals to be discussed apart from the other proposed items of the budget. The high-level posts requested were not justifiable in the context of the strengthening of the Secretariat. The requirement might run counter to the policy of rejuvenation of the Secretariat, which the Secretary-General himself had been advocating.
He said the staffing costs for a number of the posts for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator had been included under different items. Such a way of presenting a budget proposal weakened the ability of the General Assembly to monitor organizational and operational matters relating to offices and institutions, and reduced transparency with respect to human resource management.
On the question of equitable geographical distribution –- which continued to be of great concern to Japan -- he said the number of Japanese staff members at the Secretariat still indicated extreme under-representation. It was vastly disproportionate to Japan's financial contribution to the United Nations, and was consequently arousing growing concern in Japan. He acknowledged the efforts made by the Secretary-General and his staff to improve the situation, but a conspicuous improvement had yet to be achieved. It was critically important for the number to be increased for the Organization to receive political support in Japan.
CHEONG MING FOONG (Singapore) said the budget, prepared under the results-based budgeting system, was an important step in enhancing accountability. Many of the indicators, however, had been described in vague terms, as had been noted by the ACABQ. His delegation expected appropriate adjustments to be made and hoped that, through the continued application of results-based budgeting, the larger goal of entrenchment of accountability and effective programme delivery would be achieved.
Increased use of information and communications technology throughout the Organization was another major area where better value for money could be attained, he stated. Video-conferencing could be a valuable tool in cutting down travel and associated costs, and he encouraged its wider use. More resources should be committed to it. His delegation shared the concern expressed by the ACABQ that it was not clear from the Secretary-General's proposals whether the $148 million requested for information and communications technology included investments for future efficiency, or merely the consolidation of current requirements. He urged Member States to resist the temptation to reduce the budget requested for the sector.
He also called for the strengthening of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), observing that its investigations had served as an effective deterrent to fraud, waste and abuse of authority throughout the Organization. The OIOS was one of the key offices within the United Nations system that ensured that Member States got value for their money. The Office had proposed the merger of relevant units within it to form the new Monitoring, Evaluation and Consulting Division, responsible for carrying out four distinct functions in an integrated manner.
He observed that the OIOS had, since 1995, exposed waste and fraud in the Organization totalling some $200 million. Its regular budget was only $19 million, which was also less than 1 per cent of the overall proposed programme budget. It, therefore, represented one of the best value-for-money units within the Organization and deserved full support.
His delegation believed that a moderate increase in the proposed budget was reasonable, given the increased demands Member States were making on the Organization, he said. There should not be a blind adherence to an artificial ceiling, adding that, at the same time, the Secretariat must look for efficiency and enhance accountability within the Organization.
MAKMUR WIDODO (Indonesia) said that the budget proposal clearly outlined the road map towards the implementation of all the mandated programmes and activities, including the Millennium Declaration. It also determined to what extent the Organization could deliver services to Member States. Taking note of the new results-based format, he said that any means to measure the delivery of services should not be viewed as an end in itself. In that regard, he stressed the importance of the provisions of resolution 55/231, which underlined the need to apply the new format in a gradual and incremental manner.
The allocation of resources should be commensurate with the need to achieve full implementation of all mandated activities, he said. Any attempt to reduce the budget level would seriously compromise the Organization’s ability to carry out the services expected by States. Noting a moderate increase in the proposed appropriation, he said that his delegation would like to be assured that the resources would be sufficient for the effective implementation of all mandated programmes and activities. Distribution of resources should strictly follow the priorities approved in General Assembly resolution 55/233. However, he was concerned that some areas of activity not in accordance with the priorities had grown, while international cooperation for development -- one of the most important priorities -- had obtained only a modest increase.
In view of the tragic events of 11 September, he supported efforts to address the root causes of terrorism. Among the immediate problems were international system imbalances, marginalization and excessive poverty. In that connection, it was important to strengthen international cooperation and constructive engagement from all stakeholders leading to inclusive globalization. He wanted to know how the Organization envisaged its efforts to address the problem in terms of budget allocations.
Continuing, he expressed concern over a decrease of about $96.5 million due to lower-level resources from institutional donors and excessive reliance on extrabudgetary resources. Once the Assembly approved the mandates of programmes and activities, the principle of Member States’ collective and shared responsibility for their financing prevailed. Regarding the new posts at senior levels, he said that any reclassifications should be justified solely in relation to the post itself and without reference to the promotion of the incumbent. Reclassification also should not be used as a means for improving career prospects and promotion.
OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) welcomed the first budget presented in a results-based budgeting format. The current format was a first stage. Budgeting was about setting priorities. That was particularly true in a situation characterized by resource restraints. The proposed programme budget met that challenge to a large extent, while fully respecting the priorities established by the 2002-2005 medium-term plan. He welcomed the Secretary-General’s proposal to enhance sustained economic growth and sustainable development. Norway fully supported the increased priority for Africa. The New Africa Initiative launched by the African countries themselves provided an improved basis for increased United Nations efforts to support country-led social and economic development in Africa. The Initiative also promised to provide a much better basis for practical, country-led mechanisms for the work of the United Nations in Africa.
Human rights also merited a larger proportion of regular budget funding, he continued. That was a priority area that should be part of all core activities by the Organization. The resources for that priority activity still remained at the level of less than 2 per cent of the total budget. Norway also expressed its support for the important activities of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Norway was a major contributor of funds for humanitarian assistance. It was concerned about the balance between the regular budget and extrabudgetary resources for personnel in that Office, and the use of extrabudgetary resources to finance core coordinated activities. It shared the same concern for the funding of the UNHCR.
Norway fully supported the Secretary-General’s efforts to ensure that the priorities of the Organization were appropriately funded from the regular budget, he said. He supported the proposed budget increase in the area of internal oversight. The leveling off and subsequent decline in the real value of the United Nations budget over the last years had been accompanied by increased resources to extrabudgetary funding. Priority activities should not depend on voluntary contributions, which made planning and management more difficult and time-consuming. Extrabudgetary funding undermined the principle of collective responsibility for common global tasks. Norway attached great importance to the Organization’s ability to prevent and manage conflicts and to strengthening of the safety and security of staff.
Member States should allow for real budget growth, he said. The programme budget should provide the United Nations with the resources it needed to carry out the mandates assigned to it. Norway favoured the introduction of periodic reviews of the achievements of projects and activities, without which it would be difficult to shed past baggage.
SUN JOUN-YUNG (Republic of Korea) said that the function of the budget was not limited to providing resources for programmes and activities. The budget was also a blueprint for action and an indication of the way in which the Organization intended to meet the challenges that lay ahead, including the need to combat terrorism and to enhance the capacity of the Organization in the field of peacekeeping. There was also an increasing need to strengthen the safety and security of United Nations personnel and to make humanitarian assistance more efficient than ever.
The budget proposals also reflected the ongoing reform efforts in the United Nations, he continued. Given the limited resources available, the only way to maintain the relevance and vibrancy of the Organization was to continuously reform and revitalize it. In that regard, he paid tribute to the Secretary-General for his achievements in that area in the past years.
Continuing, he noted with satisfaction that the budget proposals were generally consistent with the provisions of the medium-term plan for 2002-2005, as well as the priorities set in the budget outline approved last year by the Assembly. He also welcomed the new results-based budget, aimed at shifting the budget towards accountability. However, in many cases, the objectives and expected accomplishments were vaguely defined. While many of the indicators were appropriate and useful, others needed to be further refined to become more specific, measurable, realistic and time-bound. In order to evaluate the continued relevance of particular programmes, a comprehensive review should be conducted, especially with regard to the programmes that were being rolled over from one budget period to the next. In that regard, his delegation supported the early introduction of “sunset provisions” as a built-in review mechanism.
Stressing the importance of strict budgetary discipline, he noted that the proposed budget represented an increase of 4.6 per cent in nominal terms. He also noted that requirements relating to staff security and the outcome of the comprehensive review of peacekeeping had not been reflected in the proposals. Further cost efficiencies could be realized in many sections, and the overall level of the proposed budget could be significantly reduced. He believed that
zero nominal growth could be attainable through redeployment of resources from low- to high-priority areas. Regarding the proposed staffing level, he said that an increase in senior-level posts would reinforce the already top-heavy post structure of the Secretariat and militate against the need to rejuvenate the Organization. He also supported continued investment in information technology as a means to increase efficiency.
MWELWA C. MUSAMBACHIME (Zambia) said the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2002-2003 must be considered in the context of the serious financial situation facing the United Nations, arising from non-payment of assessed contributions by some Member States, resulting in a continuous borrowing from the peacekeeping operations budget. That trend had led to the United Nations owing the troop contributors large amounts of money. He called upon all Member States, especially major contributors, to pay their assessed contributions on time and without preconditions.
Noting the increased use of extrabudgetary resources for mandated programmes and activities, he said most extrabudgetary resources had conditions attached to them. He was also concerned with the perennial occurrence of high vacancy rates. Unless the recruitment process was streamlined and the recruitment period shortened, high vacancy rates would remain. He was also deeply concerned about the imbalance in the composition of the staff in the Secretariat.
He said Zambia attached great importance to the economic and social development sections of the budget, which were aimed at reducing poverty, particularly in developing countries. Although the revival and development of Africa were primarily the responsibility of its governments and peoples, Africa needed the assistance of the international community, including the United Nations. It was for that reason that he requested increased resources for programmes and activities for African development.
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