FIFTH COMMITTEE TO BEGIN REVIEW OF DRAFT UN PROGRAMME BUDGET FOR 2002-2003, MONDAY, 15 OCTOBER

12 October 2001
GA/AB/3458

FIFTH COMMITTEE TO BEGIN REVIEW OF DRAFT UN PROGRAMME BUDGET FOR 2002-2003, MONDAY, 15 OCTOBER

12/10/2001
Press ReleaseGA/AB/3458

Background Release

FIFTH COMMITTEE TO BEGIN REVIEW OF DRAFT UN PROGRAMME BUDGET

FOR 2002-2003, MONDAY, 15 OCTOBER

At its afternoon meeting on Monday, 15 October, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) will begin review of the United Nations proposed programme budget for 2002-2003 (documents A/56/6 and fascicles 1-33).

The Secretary-General's proposal involves the so-called "regular" budget of the Organization, which is used to finance most of its core activities other than peacekeeping missions.  The budget amount eventually approved by the General Assembly is then apportioned among the Member States in accordance with the scale of assessments formula. 

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 the period 2002-2005 in the amount of $2,515.3 million at revised

2000-2001 rates, as well as revised budget appropriations and income estimates for 2000-2001.

For the first time this year, the budget is being presented on the basis of a results-oriented format, which was approved by the General Assembly in its resolution 55/231 of 23 December 2000.  The new approach is meant to shift the budgetary process from a mainly quantitative focus on resources to a more qualitative one, which is based on expected accomplishments, programme delivery and measurement of the effectiveness of the Organization’s activities.

The level of proposed resources amounts to $2,519.4 million before recosting (varying just 0.2 per cent from the approved outline of $2,515.3 million). [Recosting involves adjusting the budget figure to account for inflation and currency exchange rate fluctuations.  In accordance with the established practice, the proposed budget will be recosted again prior to its adoption by the Assembly in December 2001.]  The proposed amount includes a provision of $93.7 million at revised 2000-2001 rates for special political missions.  Additional requirements for special political missions, should they become necessary, shall be considered in accordance with relevant General Assembly resolutions.  The recosted resources of $2,648.7 million have been determined on a preliminary basis.

Estimates of income for the biennium 2002-2003 amount to $400.2 million, compared with estimates of $380.8 million for 2000-2001 -- an increase of

$19.3 million.  The programme budget shows a 0.5 per cent real resource reduction before recosting.  The distribution of resources by budget part, compared with the appropriation for the biennium 2000-2001, is as follows:

Part

Title

2000-01

$ million

Change

per cent

2002-2003

$ million*

1.

Overall policy-making, direction and coordination

1. Overall policy making, direction and coordination

2. General Assembly affairs and conference services

 463.39

  48.01

 415.38

  1.7

  (1.4)

2

 471.18

 47.32

 423.86

2.

Political affairs

3. Political Affairs

4. Disarmament

5. Peacekeeping Operations

6. Peaceful uses of outer space

 259.86

 167.84

  13.82

  74.88

   3.31

  (8.8)

 (12.3)

  4.2

  (4.2)

  11.4

 237.04

 147.20

  14.40

  71.74

   3.7

3.

International justice and law

7. International Court of Justice

8. Legal Affairs

  54.49

  20.61

  33.88

   4.2

  11

 -

  56.77

  22.87

  33.9

4.

International cooperation for development

9.      Economic and Social Affairs

10.   Africa: New Agenda for Development

11A. Trade and Development

11B. International Trade Centre UNCTAD/WTO

12.      Environment

13.      Human Settlements

14.      Crime prevention and criminal justice

15.      International drug control 

 253.42

 112.43

   5.86

  81.37

  17.01

   6.81

  11.40

   4.82

  13.72

   1.7

   0.4

  10.8

   0.3

   3.7

   10.9

   3.4

  10.2

   4.7

 257.78

 112.97

   6.49

  81.65

  17.65

   7.56

  11.78

   5.31

  14.37

5.

Regional cooperation for development

16.      Economic and social development in Africa

17.      Economic and social development in Asia and the Pacific

18.      Economic development in Europe

19.      Economic and social development in Latin America and the Caribbean

20.      Economic and Social Development in Western Asia

21.      Regular programme of technical cooperation

 337.89

  80.64

  54.41

  37.41

  75.59

  48.59

  41.25

   1.1

   1.7

   1.5

   1.2

   0.8

   1.0

 _

 341.63

  82.00

  55.20

  37.88

  76.21

  49.10

  41.25

6.

Human rights and humanitarian affairs

22.      Human rights

23.      Protection of and assistance to refugees

24.      Palestine refugees

25.      Humanitarian assistance

 119.53

  39.10

  38.84

  23.18

  18.45

   5.0

   5.2

   5.1

   3.8

   5.7

 125.51

  41.10

  40.84

  24.07

  19.50

7.

26.   Public information

 142.53

  (2.2)

 139.35

8.

27.   Common Support Services

 429.41

   0.1

 429.99

9.

28.   Internal oversight

  18.75

   4.0

  19.51

10.

Jointly financed administrative expenses and special activities

29. Jointly financed administrative activities

30. Special Expenses

  62.53

   8. 02

  54.51

   3.7

  (1.1)

   4.4

  64.87

   7.93

  56.94

11.

Capital expenditures

31. Construction, alteration, improvement and major maintenance

  49.77

  49.77

 (11.5)

 (11.5)

  44.05

  44.05

12.

32. Staff assessment

 328.48

  (3.0)

 318.67

13.

33.  Development account

  13.06

-

  13.06

TOTAL

2,533.13

   (0.5)

2,519.40

* Before recosting

In formulating the proposals, special attention was given to the priorities set in the medium-term plan for 2002-2005.  Introducing the budget, the Secretary-General identifies nine areas for which real growth is envisaged, including peace and security, as well as humanitarian, developmental, environmental, social, legal and human rights issues, which are intricately interconnected.  Among the largest increases are those proposed for the New Agenda for Development in Africa

(10.8 per cent), crime prevention and criminal justice (10.2 per cent), humanitarian assistance (5.7 per cent) and human rights (5.2 per cent).  Such issues as peace operations and staff security will be addressed at a later stage.

Also according to the budget introduction, while many of the activities described in the proposed budget reflect continuity of the Organization's work, several areas receive special emphasis.  Follow-up activities, for example, will be undertaken for the major conferences held in the current biennium (including the Millennium Assembly and conferences on women, social development, prevention of crime, trade, Habitat, racism, least developed countries, and small arms).  In addition, several important international events are planned for 2002.  Efforts will also be made to reduce the “digital divide" among countries.

The proposals also reflect several internal reviews undertaken by a number of departments and offices to improve their efficiency in the coming biennium.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, for example, has reconfigured a number of its units to provide better support to its field offices and improve its coordination of humanitarian assistance.  The Office of Legal Affairs is planning to enhance the use of information technology, and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) has already begun implementing the recommendations of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations (the Brahimi panel) and the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations.  At the same time, the DPKO is undergoing a comprehensive review of its management, structure and recruitment processes.  Another change in the budget for 2002-2003 relates to the recent restructuring of the office in Nairobi.

Since the Organization has been expected for a number of years now "to do more with less", the new budget proposal reflects virtually the same level of real resources as the budget for 2000-2001.  The Secretary-General states that this has been made possible through realignment of resources and drawing on past investments in staff training and information technology.

With respect to posts, a staffing level of 8,895 is proposed in the new budget, which compares with 10,021 in 1996-1997; 8,741 in 1998-1999; and 8,989 in 2000-2001.  There are 142 proposed new established posts, but this increase is more than offset by the abolition of 19 General Service posts and the conversion of 218 posts from the regular budget to funding from grants and contributions.  Most of the converted posts are located in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).  Thus, the 2002-2003 level represents a net decrease of 94 posts against the staffing level approved for 2000-2001.  The proposals reflect a reduction in the proportion of General Service to Professional posts.

The change in the number of Professional posts and above (from 3,782 to 3,792) reflects a relative strengthening at the P-2/1 and D-2 and higher levels. As concerns P-2/1 posts, the document emphasizes continuing efforts to rejuvenate the Secretariat.  Two new Assistant Secretary-General posts are also included (one in the Office of the Director-General in Vienna and the other for a Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator) and reclassification of the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator post from the D-2 to the Assistant Secretary-General level.

In addition to the established posts, 96 temporary positions are to be funded from the regular budget in 2002-2003, and a further 124 posts will be charged to Income, section 3.  The number of posts to be funded from extra-budgetary resources is 7,580 (2,601 in the Professional and higher categories, and 4,979 in the General Service and other categories), as compared with 6,816 posts (2,372 and 4,444 respectively) in 2000-2001.  Of the 764 additional posts,

683 will be for the protection of and assistance to refugees.

Also during the new biennium, estimated extrabudgetary resources of

$3.8 billion (a decrease of approximately $96.5 million) will be used in such areas as conflict resolution, peacemaking, electoral assistance, mine action, dissemination of international law, central support services and activities at regional disarmament centres.  The exact level of such resources cannot be determined with accuracy owing to the nature of voluntary contributions. 

Also according to the proposal, resources in the amount of $19.4 million cover Secretariat-wide training.  Of that amount, $5.8 million relates to language training.  In accordance with the Secretary-General's plan of action on information technology, substantial investment in that area will continue in the new biennium. 

In a related report (document A/56/7), the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) notes that the difference (before recosting) between the estimates for 2002-2003 and the revised estimates for

2000-2001 amounts to a nominal decrease of 0.5 per cent (some $13.7 million).  For this reason, the Advisory Committee has, except for proposals relating to new posts and reclassifications, refrained, in most cases, from making specific recommendations for reductions or additions. 

Many of the Advisory Committee’s comments are directed at this year’s major innovation -- results-based budgeting.  Commending the Secretariat for the improved timeliness and clarity of the budget submission, the ACABQ points out that it is important to link outputs to the attainment of stated objectives.  With regard to objectives, expected accomplishments and indicators of achievement, the Advisory Committee notes numerous cases in which they are too vague.  When using such phrases as “an increase in” or “an improvement of”, it is essential to specify the benchmarks against activities to be measured. 

As an essential element in results-based budgeting -- a system for costing outputs -- is not yet in place, the Advisory Committee is of the opinion that progress in the control of outputs and formulation of precise indicators of achievement will inevitably be tied to the development of a comprehensive programme information system, linked to the United Nations financial systems.  The ACABQ recommends reviewing such linkage and reporting on the results in the interim progress report on the budget.  The ACABQ also concurs with the Secretary-General’s view that efficiency measures and performance measurement do not necessarily yield immediate savings and that they sometimes require new investment, particularly in information technology.

Regarding the proposed post structure, the ACABQ reiterates its

“oft-repeated caution against grade creep” in connection with the increasing proportion of posts at D-1 level and above.  It also says that it is imperative to bear in mind that reclassification proposals should be made only in exceptional circumstances.  Moreover, from time to time, senior-level grades should be reviewed and, if called for, reclassified downward.  Also pointed out is the need to eliminate the practice of encumbering a post at a higher level in the expectation that it will be subsequently upgraded in order to accommodate the incumbent.  Effective recruitment, vacancy and mobility management and planning are the proper human resources instruments, rather than the ineffective and sporadic reclassification of posts.

Turning to the issue of young professionals, the report notes that it is not mentioned among the outputs to be delivered by the Office of Human Resources Management during the biennium 2002-2003.  This is particularly surprising in view of the growing importance of information technology and of the obvious expertise of young professionals in this field. 

As for the use of consultants, the Advisory Committee questions the utility of using desirable ranges in procuring this type of expertise.  Still important in this respect is a system of accurate data collection, analysis and reporting on the use of consultants and contractors.  At the very beginning of a financial period, it is also necessary to establish areas where consultants will be required.  Thus, the estimates for 2002-2003 should have contained more precise information on requirements and full justification for outside expertise.  The Advisory Committee also urges a speedy completion of the much-delayed project to establish an inventory of skills.

Also important for the discussion of the proposed budget is a report of the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC)(document A/56/16) on its forty-first session, which was held from 11 June to 6 July 2001.

[The CPC is a subsidiary organ of the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly for planning, programming and coordination.  It reviews the programmes of the United Nations and assists the Economic and Social Council in its coordination functions.  Its conclusions and recommendations play a key role in the adoption of the programme budget by the General Assembly.]

Having considered the 2002-2003 proposed programme budget, the CPC was pleased with the new results-based format and noted the Secretary-General's efforts to formulate required objectives, expected accomplishments, and indicators of achievement.  While many of those seemed appropriate, others needed to be more measurable, realistic and time-bound.  Results-based budgeting was not an end in itself and measures should be implemented gradually, bearing in mind the intergovernmental nature of the Organization, the Committee concluded.

Some of the proposed programme budget sections were not consistent with the 2002-2005 medium-term plan, the report says.  The medium-term plan was the Organization's main political guideline and the basis for the proposed programme budget.  On the distribution of resources, the CPC found that some of the mandates of the medium-term plan had not been taken into account.  While resource growth was proposed for some areas of non-priority activities, only minimal growth was proposed for international cooperation for development.

The Committee recommended that the Assembly approve the narrative part of the foreword and the introduction to the programme budget.  Noting shortcomings, however, it asked programme managers to comply with provisions of the medium-term plan in budget preparation, in particular regarding expected accomplishments, indicators of achievement and mandates specific to the biennium.  The Secretary-General should also apply objectives, expected accomplishments and indicators of achievement to activities relating to executive direction and management.  The Registrar of the International Court of Justice should be asked to do the same.

Expected accomplishments and indicators of achievement should measure achievements in the implementation of the Organization's programmes, and not those of individual Member States, the report says.  They should also reflect what is achievable during the forthcoming biennium.  More specific references to the role of information technology in delivering programmed activity should be included in the budget.   The Secretary-General should study the feasibility of best practices for support services among United Nations duty stations. 

On the issue of documentation for the fifty-sixth session, the report says the Committee was concerned that only some 25 per cent of anticipated documentation would be available in time for the Assembly's consideration.  It recommended that the Assembly request the Secretary-General to strengthen accountability and responsibility measures to correct the situation concerning submission of documentation.  The Secretary-General should ensure that documentation is available in accordance with the six-week rule for the distribution of resources simultaneously in the six official languages of the Assembly.

The CPC also notes increased use of extrabudgetary funds for activities that should be funded under the regular budget.  The distribution of resources among the different sections of the budget should comply with the priorities established in the medium-term plan.  The Committee recommended that the Secretary-General present an updated study on additional expenditures resulting from inflation and currency fluctuations for consideration at its resumed fifty-sixth session.

In its part-by-part consideration of the 33 sections of the proposed programme budget, the CPC recommended approving most sections with some modification.  Concerning the Office of Legal Affairs, section 8, the Committee requested that the Secretary-General realign expected accomplishments and indicators of achievement in conformity with the medium-term plan, and that he submit the revised section to the Assembly during the current session.  The Committee also recommended that the Assembly review section 22 of the programme budget, human rights.

Regarding section 27, management and central support services, the Committee reviewed parts A through G of that section and recommended that the Assembly review the question of the ombudsman post, including the location and level of that post.  The Secretary-General should also be asked to reformulate the programme narrative of section 27 C, Office of Human Resources Management, in accordance with its resolution 55/258 of 14 June 2001 on human resources management.  Concern was expressed that the programme narrative did not sufficiently indicate measures by the Office of Human Resources Management for establishing a clear link between increased responsibilities of programme managers and their accountability for decisions taken. 

On jointly financed administrative activities -- section 29 -- the Committee took note of the narrative part of that section and recommended that activities be presented in terms of objectives, expected accomplishments and indicators of achievement where possible.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.