SPEAKERS STRESS NEED FOR AFRICA-RELATED DEVELOPMENT PROVISIONS IN 2002-2003 BUDGET

19 October 2001
GA/AB/3466

SPEAKERS STRESS NEED FOR AFRICA-RELATED DEVELOPMENT PROVISIONS IN 2002-2003 BUDGET

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fifty-sixth General Assembly                                GA/AB/3466

Fifth Committee                                             19 October 2001

14th Meeting (AM)

 

 

SPEAKERS STRESS NEED FOR AFRICA-RELATED DEVELOPMENT PROVISIONS

IN 2002-2003 BUDGET

 

 

Concerns Reiterated over Use

Of Extrabudgetary Resources, Recourse to Outside Consultants

 

 

      As the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) continued its general discussion of the 2002-2003 proposed programme budget this morning, several speakers stressed the need to provide adequate resources for programmes related to the development of Africa.

 

Recalling pledges of support to Africa in the Millennium Declaration, the representative of Kenya said that directing more resources towards the needs of that continent could reduce the budget for peacekeeping, peace-building and humanitarian assistance.  Echoing other speakers’ concerns over heavy reliance on extrabudgetary resources, he supported the proposal to strengthen the regular budget component of the United Nations Office in Nairobi.  Both the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat) -– the two United Nations bodies in Nairobi -- are funded predominantly from extrabudgetary resources, reimbursing the Nairobi Office for services provided to them.  Such financing had severely constricted their ability to plan, leading to opaque financial management and an increased downward spiral.

 

Speaking on behalf of the African Group, the representative of Mozambique said that the implementation of the programme of action on small arms was the biggest challenge before the Organization.  The Department for Disarmament Affairs should play a critical role in implementing that decision.  The enormity of the tasks assigned to that Department -- the smallest in the Secretariat -- required additional resources.  Failure to accord sufficient resources towards that end would undermine the implementation of the programme of action and perpetuate the suffering of the African people.

 

The representative of the Sudan also stressed that the priorities established in the Millennium Declaration should be the true basis for guiding the work of the Organization.  The Committee should not endorse the financing of activities not considered in the Declaration.  Turning to the issue of human resources, he also opposed the use of consultants, as there were enough competent officials within the Organization to carry out its programmes and activities.  If consultants were used, however, the pattern of equitable geographical distribution should be followed.

 

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Fifth Committee                     - 1a -            Press Release GA/AB/3466

14th Meeting (AM)                                      19 October 2001

 

 

On that issue, several speakers stressed the need to avoid reclassification as a promotion tool, and reiterated the need to observe the principle of equitable geographical distribution.  While many speakers regarded the implementation of an information technology strategy as a positive step, they also cautioned against abandoning traditional means of communication, such as publications and the United Nations Radio.  Several delegates also welcomed the inclusion of provision for special political missions in the proposed programme budget, and asked that more attention and resources be devoted to the promotion of sustainable development and sustained economic growth.

 

Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Chile (on behalf of the Rio Group), Brazil, Morocco, Kuwait, Kazakhstan, Israel, Ukraine, Syria, Libya and Belarus.

 

The Committee will meet again on Monday, 22 October, at 10 a.m. to continue its discussion on the 2002-2003 proposed programme budget and take up financial reports and reports of the Board of Auditors, and the question of honorariums to members of the International Narcotics Control Board.

 

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      Background

 

      The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to continue its discussion of the 2002-2003 proposed programme budget.  For background information, see Press Release GA/AB/3458 of 12 October.

 

      Statements

 

      JUAN GABRIEL VALDES (Chile), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said the proposed programme budget was a good starting point for negotiation.  The responsibility for determining the political and financial aspects of the budget lay with Member States, which over the course of negotiations should achieve a balanced combination of priorities and available resources.  The Rio Group was satisfied, both with the timely submission of the proposed budget and the clarity of its sections.  Noting its results-based format, he said there was room for future improvement and he urged the Secretariat to take necessary measures to that end.

 

      The Rio Group also welcomed the inclusion of expenditures for special political missions in the proposed programme, he continued.  Noting the increase in the number of D-1 and higher-level posts, he supported the view that career prospects and promotion of staff were issues that could not normally be handled through the reclassification of posts.  The Rio Group regretted that the estimate for the Development Account for the next biennium remained at $13.1 million.  That meant that no new proposals for transfers for this section had been made, and that it remained at the same budgetary level as 1998-1999.  The Rio Group had also expressed concern over the low level of expenditures in the previous two bienniums.  He urged the Secretariat to fully implement projects pending from previous bienniums.

 

      ENIO CORDEIRO (Brazil) said that if adequately applied, the new budget format would contribute to the modernization of the United Nations budgetary process and improve programme outputs.  It was in the interest of the Organization that every dollar be spent efficiently.  Many of the objectives and expected accomplishments were too vague, however.  He welcomed the growth in resources allocated for priority areas, such as the coordination of humanitarian assistance and the maintenance of international peace and security.  It was also necessary, however, to ensure that United Nations programmes and activities for the promotion of sustained economic growth and sustainable development were adequately funded. 

 

      The Committee’s deliberations should have two main objectives, he continued.  The first was to ensure that the Organization’s priorities were properly funded, and the second was to approve a budget document that contributed to increased efficiency and strengthened control over expenditures.  While investments in information technology had resulted in increased efficiency and productivity, additional improvements were necessary.  Information on the impact of information technology was emerging as an important management tool.  Technological innovations such as video-conferencing and the Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) must be used whenever their use was cost-effective.

     

Budgetary constraints must not be pursued at any price, he said.  The Assembly must approve resources necessary for the United Nations to discharge its functions and implement mandated activities.  There came a point where scarcity of resources could imperil the discharge of tasks entrusted to the Organization.  Approval of the programme budget should be preceded by a thorough examination of the allocation of resources.  Money saved by reducing expenditures for publications and travel, for example, should be transferred to substantive activities.  Resources must also be redeployed from low- to high-priority areas.  Some 80 per cent of resources were spent on salaries and common staff costs.  Any reclassification of posts should be justified in terms of a change in the nature of work, and should not be motivated by the need to enhance the prospects for recruitment or to provide a promotion for an incumbent.  The proposals for reclassification would distort the already “top-heavy” structure of the Organization.  Brazil attached particular importance to the budget sections on international and regional cooperation for development as well as for the eradication of poverty, the Forum on Forests and the services of the United Nations Radio in Portuguese.

 

      MOHAMED LOULICHKI (Morocco) supported the position of the Group of 77.  He said that the end-of-year projections looked hopeful, and the Organization should be able to enjoy a certain level of financial stability.  Having received the Nobel Peace Prize, the Organization was now receiving additional international respect.  Nevertheless, even with the planned improvements, the United Nations still suffered from financial restrictions, and it was important to address that situation.  All Member States must pay their contributions under the Charter in full, on time and without conditions.  It was also necessary to take into account the difficult situation of certain countries, especially the developing ones.

 

      The zero-growth budget of preceding years had led to severe cost cuts and had had a serious impact on the Organization’s functioning, he continued.  Lately, inflation had increased and the exchange rates were unfavourable, but the Secretary-General should have the necessary resources for full implementation of mandated activities.  To that end, it was important to adopt an adequate budget.  The approved mandates should be financed primarily through the regular budget, and the Organization should not become overly dependent on the extrabudgetary resources.

 

He appreciated the inclusion in the proposed budget of $93.7 million for special political missions, he said.  His delegation had also noted with satisfaction the earlier than usual submission of budget documents, but in accordance with the relevant rules, he stressed that all documents should be made available within set deadlines.  As for the results-based budgeting, it was a completely new practice which should be applied in accordance with all the rules and regulations of the United Nations.  He noted that both the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) and the Committee on Programmes and Coordination (CPC) had stated that, in many cases, formulation of expected accomplishments and achievements was too vague.  It was necessary to clearly formulate those indicators in accordance with the priorities set in the medium-term plan, which must be fully respected.

 

Certain sections of the budget clearly deviated from the objectives set in the medium-term plan, however, and he hoped that the next proposals would be submitted in full conformity with it.  He recalled the recent adoption of the human resources management resolution, which should become the basis for future efforts in that respect.  The priority areas indicated in the medium-term plan and the proposed budget should be allotted sufficient resources, and should be considered with the greatest care.  Adequate resources should also go to the development of Africa, and close attention should be paid to the implementation of the Brahimi recommendations on peacekeeping.

 

      MESHAL A.M.A. AL-MANSOUR (Kuwait) aligned himself with the position of the Group of 77 and China and reiterated the importance of the medium-term plan, which determined the Organization’s policy.  It should be taken into account when preparing the programme budget.  There was also a close connection between the budget and prompt and unconditional payment of dues by Member States.  As for the delegation of authority, it should be implemented in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly.  Responsibilities should be determined before delegating authority.  It was necessary to stress the role of oversight bodies.  Also of great importance was training within the United Nations.

 

      Continuing, he underlined the importance of modern information technology and said that the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) should be provided with sufficient resources.  A high number of vacancies remained a source of concern, despite a slight improvement.  Regarding human resources management, he noted a reduction in unrepresented and underrepresented States, which should receive priority.  The principle of equitable geographical distribution should be respected.

 

      MADINA B. JARBUSSYNOVA (Kazakhstan) welcomed the proposed budget’s new presentation.  Since 1995-1996, budgetary resources had remained at the same level.  Further budgetary constraints would not be useful and would, in fact, negatively affect the Secretariat’s work.  It was important to follow the objectives spelled out by the medium-term plan and allocate resources for priority areas.  Kazakhstan supported the proposals for budget increases in areas such as sustained economic growth and sustainable development, international law, and the development of Africa.

 

Indicators of expected achievements would measure not only the implementation of mandates but would determine the effectiveness of programmes, she said.  Continued investment in information technology would ensure transparency and efficiency.  She supported the position of the ACABQ on defining terms and principles.  The proposed programme budget must be considered a new approach to implement the mandated tasks of the Millennium Declaration.  She hoped approval of the proposed budget would be a step towards reaching that goal.

 

      CARLOS DOS SANTOS (Mozambique), speaking also on behalf of the African Group, said the excellent quality of the first-ever results-based budget provided a unique opportunity for the Organization to carry out its mandates, particularly the implementation of the Millennium Declaration goals.  The Organization must be provided with funds commensurate with the tasks at hand.  He drew the Committee’s attention to global implementation of the programme of action to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects.  Last July, the international community reached a landmark decision when it adopted that programme of action by consensus.  Through its realistic approach, the programme of action provided the best tool for concerted international action.  The biggest challenge was to ensure the speedy implementation of the strategy.  In that regard, the Department of Disarmament Affairs should play a critical role.

 

The enormity of the task assigned to the Department for Disarmament Affairs required the provision of additional resources, he said.  The African Group was fully aware of the severe shortage of resources under which the Department –- the smallest in the Secretariat -– operated.  For the Department to implement the programme of action it must be endowed with additional resources, as requested in the relevant section of the proposed budget.  The African Group fully endorsed the modest increases in resources proposed, and encouraged all Member States to show the same political will displayed during the negotiations on the programme of action.  Failure to accord sufficient resources would undermine the implementation of the programme, perpetuating the current suffering of women, children and the elderly.  For Africans, the implementation of the programme represented a major step towards ensuring peace, stability, economic growth, sustainable development and eradication of poverty.

 

      RON ADAM (Israel) said the proposed 2002-2003 budget would present a major challenge for Member States in view of the important issues on the agenda of the United Nations.  Every biennum, the task of formulating the budget became increasingly complicated and delicate as the challenges of the world Organization became larger and riskier.  Concurring with the list of priorities included in the budget proposal, he said that more attention and resources should be devoted to the promotion of sustainable development and sustained economic growth; maintenance of international peace and security; and combating terrorism.  Projects to address the digital divide, hunger, famine, disease and environmental problems should be better reflected in the resource allocations of the Secretariat. 

 

He went on to say that Israel supported strengthening the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women to enhance gender equality in the United Nations, particularly in peacekeeping operations.  He supported the required increase in the workforce of the United Nations Administrative Tribunal.  His country also attached great importance to the recommendations of the panel on United Nations peace operations.  He would like to see improvements in the work of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, along with a comprehensive review of the structure, recruitment process and personnel of the Department, as described in the budget proposal.

 

In the light of recent events, he said that United Nations anti-terrorism programmes should be enhanced.  Israel favoured increasing the funds and the number of posts devoted to ensuring security of United Nations staff.  He also supported strengthening the Department for Disarmament Affairs.  Special attention should be given to efforts to ensure the lowest growth of the new budget, especially in view of the precarious financial situation of the United Nations.

 

When deciding on the budget, Member States should take cash flow problems into account, he continued.  It was necessary to find ways of reallocating resources and posts between sections and programmes within the Secretariat, rather than increasing the proposed appropriations.  The General Assembly, through its Fifth Committee, should have a greater role in making decisions on the next biennium budget and change what needed to be changed in order for the budget to reflect the needs and priorities of Member States.

 

MARKIYAN KULYK (Ukraine) said the preparation of the new budget had begun with the adoption of the 2002-2005 medium-term plan  It would become the road map for the Organization’s activities and, to a large extent, the source of its success or failure in carrying out its mandates.  In that respect, he stressed the need to ensure full and effective programme delivery, and said that Ukraine would support the level and the breakdown of resources within the budget towards that end.  More relative weight should be given to high-priority programme areas determined by Member States.  He also appreciated the efforts to absorb the provisions for funding special political missions during the coming biennium. 

 

Any redistribution of resources should be balanced with efficiency gains, he continued  In that regard, he was concerned over apparent lack of progress in applying efficiency measures throughout the Secretariat.  The results of painstaking negotiations in the Fifth Committee on the modalities of operating the Development Account should not be wasted. 

 

Welcoming the results-based format of the budget presentation, he said its techniques needed continuous refinement.  As for the staffing structure, his delegation shared the concerns of others regarding the top-heaviness of the Organization’s staff and the lack of justification for upward reclassifications.  Reclassification should not be used as a tool for promotion.  Important steps had already been taken in the field of human resources management reform, and the changes to the system of recruitment contained in resolution 55/258 should enable the Secretariat to achieve proper vacancy management and attract the best staff.

 

Continuing, he supported the recommendations of the Committee on Programme and Coordination with regard to the narratives of the budget sections.  He regretted, however, that the Committee had been unable to deliver its judgement on the human rights programme.  Also, it was hard to overestimate the importance of oversight, and the proposed strengthening of the Office of Internal Oversight Services.  In conclusion, he expressed hope that the pattern of negotiations on the previous budget would not be repeated.  The introduction of new elements directly in the Fifth Committee, without scrutinizing them under established procedures, should be avoided.  He looked forward to transparent and efficient negotiations on the budget.

 

      ANAS ELTAYEB ELGAILANI MUSTAFA (Sudan) said the discussions this year were particularly important as it was the first time the budget was being presented in a results-based format.  The Secretariat had made commendable efforts in preparing the budget.  While it had done its utmost in setting priorities, he believed that the priorities established in the Millennium Declaration should be the true basis for guiding the work of the Organization.  The Committee should not endorse the financing of activities not considered therein.  Strict monitoring of expenditures was necessary.  He did not recommend the use of extrabudgetary resources.  On the issue of consultants in the Organization, there were enough competent officials within the Organization.  He also supported equitable geographical distribution and measures to modernize the Organization and create an electronic United Nations.

 

The strategy for information technology would have an administrative and financial impact, he said.  Further costs would be incurred to implement that strategy, for example for training.  Perhaps there could be a separate budget which specified all the sources of funding needed for that strategy.  The strict control of financing of programmes and in-depth review of expenditures would help to avoid duplication of activities and would yield good results. 

 

      BASSAM BARABANDY (Syria) said the implementation of United Nations policies and programmes was the cornerstone of the budget.  The budget should faithfully reflect the medium-term plan.  He noted that many sections, however, did not coincide with the medium-term plan and sometimes ignored it outright.  He expected the Secretariat to remedy that shortcoming in the next budget presentation.  Noting an unequal distribution of resources, he asked why more funds had been allocated to sections that had not been considered priorities in the plan.  Syria reaffirmed the priority sections of the plan, in particular sustainable development, international cooperation for development and the New Agenda for African Development.  Necessary resources must be allocated to achieve those programmes. 

 

Syria attached great importance to the Departments of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services and Public Information, as well as to programmes for Palestinian refugees, he said.  While he agreed with the Secretary-General on the need to create an electronic United Nations, the universal nature of the Organization meant that conventional means of public outreach in developing countries should be maintained.  Many people lagged behind in the information technology revolution, and an electronic United Nations would further deprive them.  The traditional means of information must be preserved, while at the same time respecting the cultural and linguistic diversity of the Organization.  He was surprised to see a reduction in the resources of the Department of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services.  He noted the increasing gap regarding the use of the six official languages on the Organization’s Web site.

 

      At the current stage, he said the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was suffering serious difficulties.  All necessary resources must be provided to enable UNRWA to discharge its mandate.  The universal character of the Organization and respect for diversity gave particular relevance to the work of the Department of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services.  It was necessary to ensure resources for all duty stations.  The Department of Public Information should be supported so that it could continue to implement the United Nations Radio Pilot Project.   The publication system of ESCWA must be strengthened.  He was disturbed to see the increasing use of

extrabudetary resources.  Given the Organization’s increased role in the international arena, he could not support setting an artificial ceiling on the Organization’s resources.

 

      KHALIFA AL ATRASH (Libya) endorsed the statement of the representative of Iran on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, and welcomed the new formula for budget presentation.  Results-based budgeting would enable Member States to measure the Organization’s progress and achievements, but it should be examined in greater depth to determine the outputs and results.  The medium-term plan should represent the overall framework of the proposed budget, and he regretted that some sections had not taken its priorities into account. 

 

Stressing the importance of devoting sufficient resources to economic and social development, which included the development of Africa, he said that such budgeting would reduce the negative effects of the difficult economic situation in the developing countries.  It was also necessary to strengthen oversight bodies to allow them to carry out their mandates in a more effective way.  Setting an artificial ceiling on the budget could have a negative effect on the functioning of the Organization, and priority areas should receive adequate financing. 

 

Putting the Organization on a stable financial base was a responsibility of all Member States, he continued.  It was necessary to fund mandated activities and programmes from the regular budget, rather than relying on extrabudgetary resources.  Combating international terrorism should receive special importance, particularly in the light of the September events.  Given the Organization’s limited resources, it was necessary to adopt all possible measures for streamlining expenditures, and he supported the efforts of the Secretary-General to improve the effectiveness of the Organization. 

 

He went on to welcome the improvement in the financial situation of the United Nations, and stressed the need for Member States to pay their assessed contribution on time, in full and without conditions.  He also endorsed the views of many delegations concerning the reclassification of posts, which should be carried out in accordance with objective criteria.  He expressed concern over under-representation of many developing States, and stressed the need to apply the principle of equitable geographical distribution of posts. 

 

      MARX G.N. KAHENDE (Kenya) associated himself with the position of the

Group of 77 and noted that the proposed budget was the first one prepared within the framework of the medium-term plan for 2002-2005 using the recently adopted results-based budgeting format.  He commended the Secretary-General for making it possible to present a budget proposal reflecting virtually the same level of resources as the current budget.  He appreciated that the New Agenda for the Development of Africa was one of the priority areas, for which an increase of resources was requested.  There was a need to advance a comprehensive approach to assist Africa in its struggle for peace, poverty eradication and sustainable development, thereby bringing it into the mainstream of the world economy.

 

      Continuing, he said that the main causes and threats to peace and security in the world were poverty and inequality.  He hoped that the international community would honour its Millennium Declaration pledge of support to Africa.  More resources should be directed to addressing the needs of that continent in order to reduce the current heavy budget for peacekeeping, peace-building and humanitarian assistance.  He fully supported the call for increased funding under Section 10 of the proposed programme budget. 

 

He supported the proposal to strengthen the regular budget component of the United Nations Office in Nairobi, he said.  Both the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) were funded predominantly from extrabudgetary resources, and out of those, they reimbursed the United Nations Office at Nairobi for services provided to them.  The major contributing factor to the financial shortcomings of UNEP and Habitat, which had emerged during the 1990s, was heavy reliance on extrabudgetary funding for financing their core activities.  That severely constricted their ability to plan, leading to opaque financial management and an increased downward spiral.  Kenya, therefore, called for increased funding for those two organizations from the regular budget, as that would facilitate predictable and credible planning and execution of their mandates.

 

      OLEG LAPTENOK (Belarus) said that programme priorities must be adapted to new realities.  He supported the recommendations of the CPC to bring resources in line with the priorities established by the medium-term plan.  Changes in priorities should occur only if Member States so wished.  He stressed the need to increase the resources of the Department for Disarmament Affairs and for programmes aimed at the needs of developing countries.  In a situation of

zero-budget growth, an expansion in the use of extrabudgetary resources was an important factor.  He shared concern at the disproportion between the two sources of financing.  Extrabudgetary financing should not lead to a distortion of

priorities set out by the General Assembly.  Financing from the regular budget should be observed. 

 

The budget’s new format was positive and would facilitate staff evaluation, he said.  He was not satisfied that staff costs were eating up 80 per cent of the budget.  Efforts in that area should continue.  There was need to enhance the Secretariat’s efficiency through the recruitment of highly qualified staff.  New staff should have the necessary training, making it possible to save money for retraining.  While the practice of using external experts had shortcomings, if experts were recruited it should be on the basis of balanced geographical distribution.  Belarus was also concerned about the trend towards unilateral reclassification of senior posts, which led to a top-heavy structure. 

 

 

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