FIFTH COMMITTEE BEGINS CONSIDERATION OF UN PENSION FUND EXPENSES, BUDGET IMPLICATIONS OF SEVERAL GENERAL ASSEMBLY DRAFT TEXTS
FIFTH COMMITTEE BEGINS CONSIDERATION OF UN PENSION FUND EXPENSES, BUDGET IMPLICATIONS OF SEVERAL GENERAL ASSEMBLY DRAFT TEXTS
Fifty-sixth General Assembly
31st Meeting (AM)
FIFTH COMMITTEE BEGINS CONSIDERATION OF UN PENSION FUND EXPENSES,
BUDGET IMPLICATIONS OF SEVERAL GENERAL ASSEMBLY DRAFT TEXTS
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning took up the administrative expenses of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund, as well as revised estimates concerning recent Economic and Social Council decisions and the budget implications of several draft resolutions before the General Assembly. It also considered a subvention request for the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research.
Introducing the report of the Standing Committee of the Staff Pension Board, its Chairman, Jean Lariviere, said that the revised budget estimates of the Fund for 2000-2001 amounted to some $59.2 million, representing total savings of more than $3.1 million. He also drew attention to the growing size and scope of the Fund’s operations, which now comprised 19 organizations and more than 122,500 active participants and beneficiaries. The benefit payouts currently exceeded
$1 billion per annum. The market value of the assets of the Fund, which had reached its record high of $26.3 billion on 27 March 2000, currently stood at about $22 billion.
Turning to the future needs of the Fund, he said that if approved by the Assembly, the proposed administrative expenses chargeable to the Fund for 2002-2003 would amount to some $74.3 million, consisting of administrative costs of
$29.9 million, investment costs of $43.4 million and audit costs of $973,500. He regretted that the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) had recommended that eight posts requested to fulfil the computer needs of the Fund should be established on a temporary basis. In that connection, he pointed out the difficulties in recruiting expert staff on a temporary basis, particularly in the information technology area.
Responding to those concerns, Chairman of the ACABQ, Conrad S. M. Mselle, said that the Advisory Committee had questioned the approach followed in the establishment of the posts. The ACABQ believed that the project should have a dedicated level of staff and that, once completed, an evaluation should be carried out to identify which of those posts should be retained. It was possible that, as a result of such an evaluation, all eight posts would be recommended for extension.
The Committee also began its consideration of programme budget implications of draft resolutions on: the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons; the preparations for the Second World Assembly on Ageing; and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women; mercenaries; and the special session of the General Assembly on children.
Several speakers in the debate, however, expressed concern over the delay in the work of the Fifth Committee and questioned the feasibility of discussing the programme budget implications of each draft separately. The representative of Belgium, on behalf of the European Union and associated States, suggested that the Secretariat should prepare a list of all drafts with programme budget implications, which should be considered within the framework of the discussion of the regular budget of the Organization.
Speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, the representative of Iran said that budget statements should be submitted in due course, as substantive bodies concluded their consideration of the texts. Following the completion of their programme of work by other bodies, the budget implications of their decisions came to the Fifth Committee. The Fifth Committee should consider them in a timely manner, without delaying its work.
In response to questions, Director of the Programme, Planning and Budget Division, Warren Sach, said that such a list could not be prepared until the third week of December, for discussion of several items in the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) had not yet been completed, and two items were yet to be presented to the plenary.
Regarding the draft on the Second World Assembly on Ageing, to be held in 2002, the representative of Japan stressed the importance of the issue of ageing, but said that his delegation was not convinced that additional requirements for public information activities were needed in preparation for that event. Last year, the Assembly had adopted a resolution relating to the information campaign for the Assembly and the database for that purpose. The Department of Public Information had been given a mandate to conduct an information campaign, and some resources were already available this year. The Department had already undertaken some information activities based on that resolution.
On another draft text, several speakers expressed support for the small arms initiatives contained in the First Committee draft. The representative of South Africa said that the text was particularly relevant for African States, which attached particular importance to the matter of small arms. The representative of the United States stressed the need to prioritize the Organization’s activities in order to carry out additional activities within existing resources, as indicated in the draft.
On a request for a subvention by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, several speakers, while strongly supporting the goals and objectives of the Institute, questioned the “long-term”, annual nature of the request, which they said seemed to have become embedded in its budget. Subvention requests were appropriate in the early stages of an organization’s work. Other speakers, however, noted that the amount of the subvention request had not changed and supported approving the request.
In other business, the Committee took up the revised estimates resulting from recent Economic and Social Council decisions, including additional requirements for the United Nations Forum on Forests, and took note of the chapters of the report of the Economic and Social Council that were allocated to the Fifth Committee.
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Statements were also made by the representatives of Australia, Canada, China, Cuba, India, Mexico and Norway.
The Committee will meet at 10 a.m. Friday, 7 December, to begin its consideration of the financing of International Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
This morning, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met to consider the proposed budget for the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund, as well as revised estimates in connection with recent decisions by the Economic and Social Council. Also before the Committee were documents on the programme budget implications of several drafts before the Assembly and a subvention request by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR).
The first report before the Committee concerns the administrative expenses of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Board (document A/56/289). The report, from the Board’s Standing Committee, contains the revised budget estimates for the biennium 2000-2001, the budget proposal for 2002-2003 and a request for authorization for a contribution to the Emergency Fund for the biennium 2002-2003.
[Established by the General Assembly in 1949, the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund provides retirement, death, disability and related benefits for United Nations staff. The Fund currently has 19 member organizations and the combined number of active participants and beneficiaries exceeds 122,500. The Fund is administered by a 33-member United Nations Staff Joint Pension Board, a staff pension committee for each member organization and a secretariat of the Board. The Board reports to the Assembly on the operations of the Fund and on the investment of its assets.]
On revised budget estimates for 2000-2001, the report says the Assembly approved appropriations amounting to some $62.3 million chargeable to the Fund, including $18.5 million for administrative costs, $43 million for investment costs and $797,800 for audit costs. Additional resources of some $596,000 are requested under administrative costs for phase 1 of a re-engineering project (which began in 1999), and savings of $3.7 million are realized under investment costs. Net savings of some $3.1 million may be realized against the approved appropriations of $62 million for the Fund as a whole. Consequently, the revised estimates would be some $59 million, comprising $19 million for administrative costs,
$39.3 million for investment costs and $797,800 for audit costs.
The proposed budget estimate for 2002-2003 against the resources of the Fund (i.e. excluding the United Nations regular budget share of some $10.8 million) amounts to $74.3 million, comprising administrative costs of some $29.9 million, investment costs of $43.4 million and audit costs of $973,500. The Fund’s post requirements for the biennium are projected at 163 positions (158 established and 5 temporary), reflecting an increase of 13 established and one temporary posts. All additional posts are requested for the Fund’s administrative operations.
The report says that in 1998, the Committee of Actuaries had recommended that the administrative costs of the Fund be included in the actuarial valuations not as a fixed percentage of pensionable remuneration, but rather at the level of resources actually required for the administration of the Fund, as reflected in its approved budgets. The recommendation had been made on the basis of the fact that the Fund was maturing, and administrative expenses were expected to increase as a percentage of pensionable remuneration. In June 2001, the Committee agreed that the provision to be included in the next actuarial valuation should be based on one half of the approved budget for the biennium 2002-2003, divided by the total pensionable remuneration as of 31 December 2001.
The report also includes the programme of work for 2002-2003 and provides information on the activities of the Emergency Fund, which was established by the Fund in 1973 to alleviate the distress of recipients of small pensions caused by currency fluctuations and cost-of-living increases. Attached to the report are several annexes, including one on discussions in the Standing Committee on upcoming projects having major budgetary implications and details of the budget proposal for 2002-2003.
In a related report (document A/56/7/Add.1), the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) states that the presentation of the budget document on the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund is confusing and should be streamlined. In the future, such reports should be reorganized and made user-friendly, with greater transparency in the estimates. While the budget of the Pension Fund might be constructed on the basis of results-based budgeting techniques, the ACABQ cautions against artificially constructing a results-based budget merely to comply with the new format. If it is not possible to formulate indicators of achievement in some activities of the Fund, such as investment operations, there is no need to attempt to create them, it states.
The Advisory Committee recommends that the revised estimates for the biennium 2000-2001 and the proposed appropriation for the biennium 2002-2003 be approved for the administrative expenses of the Fund, as submitted by the Standing Committee, in the amounts of some $59.2 million and $74.3 million, respectively. Furthermore, it has no objection to the proposal by the Standing Committee to supplement the voluntary contributions to the Emergency Fund by an amount not exceeding $200,000 for the biennium 2002-2003.
Also according to the document, the Advisory Committee states that it was informed that the Fund was maturing; that is, that the ongoing benefit payments would continue to exceed the incoming contributions -- a trend that started in 1994 and is growing. In 2000, the excess of ongoing benefitpayments over incoming contributions reached some $174.6 million compared with $11.2 million in 1995. The ACABQ notes this development and trusts that the Committee of Actuaries will continue to monitor the evolution of the Fund. All efforts should be made to ensure that every element of its operation, including the management of its assets and liabilities, is carried out, to the maximum extent possible, with due regard to efficiency and productivity.
The ACABQ further stresses that the budget for the administrative expenses of the Fund should be formulated and justified on a full-cost basis, that is, including the share of total administrative expenses covered by the United Nations. The United Nations regular budget portion should be identified only after such justification. That procedure should be followed in future budget presentations for the three major components of the Fund’s operations, namely administrative, investment and audit costs. The ACABQ also recommends that an effective mechanism should be in place to evaluate performance, and payments to vendors should be subject to verification of the quality of the products delivered.
Regarding the re-engineering and computer needs of the Fund, the ACABQ expresses concern with the apparent lack of transparency in disclosing the total cost of the re-engineering project and is of the opinion that the proposed delivery schedule for the project appears overly ambitious. The Committee’s experience with information technology budgets in United Nations secretariats indicates that there is a noticeable tendency to underestimate the costs of such projects, which often show large cost overruns due largely to extensive delays in their implementation. The ACABQ recommends that eight new posts be established for the re-engineering project on a temporary basis.
By his note contained in document A/C.5/56/2, the Secretary-General transmits to the General Assembly a recommendation of the Board of Trustees of United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research for a subvention of $213,000 for the year 2002 from the regular budget of the United Nations. A provision to finance this subvention has already been incorporated into section 4, Disarmament, of the proposed programme budget for 2002-2003. Should the Assembly decide to approve the recommendation, no additional provision would be required under that section.
Reporting on the financial situation of the Institute, the Secretary-General informs the Assembly that funds available at the beginning of 2001 amounted to $850,600, including $162,300 operating cash reserve for that year. Total income for 2001 is estimated at some $2.04 million from voluntary and inter-organizational contributions, public donations, interest and miscellaneous sources. At the same time, total revised estimated expenditures amounts to about $1.35 million, including a provision of $54,100 for programme support costs. Requirements for 2002 are estimated at some $1.4 million, inclusive of $56,600 for programme support costs. Available funds at the beginning of 2002 are estimated at some $1.54 million, including $169,700 that would be required as operating cash reserve.
In its report on the matter, the Advisory Committee (document A/56/511) states that it was informed that the subvention, which is used to cover the costs of the Director and administration, is important not only economically, but also to ensure the independence of the Institute. The subvention, which used to cover the costs of three positions, now covers one and a half posts. For several years, the subvention had not been adjusted for inflation, while salaries had been so adjusted. The ACABQ notes that the Secretary-General’s note does not contain a request to review the level of the subvention.
Also before the Committee was a report of the Secretary-General on the revised estimates resulting from resolutions and decisions of the Economic and Social Council at its substantive session in 2001 (document A/C.5/56/4), according to which the net estimated additional requirements for the biennium 2002-2003 amount to some $1.96 million. The estimated additional requirements relate to: Economic and Social Council decisions 2001/218, 2001/292 and 2001/293 on the United Nations Forum on Forests; decision 2001/316 on the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; the extract from the report of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at its twenty-fifth session concerning the outcome of the review of its methods of work (E/2001/L.8). No additional conference-servicing resources would be required, as relevant provisions are already made in section 2, General Assembly affairs and conference services, of the proposed programme budget.
Regarding the Forum on Forests, the ACABQ in its report on the matter (document A/56/518) notes that the secretariat of the United Nations Forum on Forests will form part of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and will report directly to the Under-Secretary-General. It consists of eight posts, currently funded through extrabudgetary resources. The proposal is for the Secretariat of the Forum to comprise six established posts: 1 D-2, 1 P-5, 1 P-4, 1 P-3 and 2 General Service to be funded from the regular budget under section 9, Economic and social affairs, beginning in the biennium 2002-2003, at an estimated cost of $754,300.
The Secretariat is expected to be strengthened through secondments from international and regional organizations, institutions and instruments, as well as voluntary contributions, the report states. Upon enquiry, the ACABQ was informed that staff secondments were expected to total five for the biennium. The estimate under section 9 also provides for $256,000 for consultants, $253,600 for expert group meetings, $232,300 for travel of staff, $44,200 for general operating expenses, $5,400 for supplies and materials and $27,000 to replace office automation equipment.
The Advisory Committee notes that resource requirements of $119,900 were included in the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2002-2003 for the travel of representatives of Member States of the Forum that are also members of the Commission on Sustainable Development and that no additional requirements were expected to arise in that regard. The Committee also notes that travel support is envisaged for representatives of least developed countries not members of the Commission to participate in the sessions of the Forum and that such support would be provided from available extrabudgetary resources.
Further according to the report, under section 27D, Office of Central Support Services, estimates total $519,800, of which $238,000 relates to non-recurrent costs for office alterations and acquisition of furniture and fixtures, and $281,800 relates to recurrent costs for rental of premises. The Committee is of the opinion that the current arrangements for financing accommodations for the Forum Secretariat should continue in the biennium 2002-2003; such additional requirements as may arise should be indicated in the performance reports for 2002-2003.
Regarding the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) decision on the first annual session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, to be convened at United Nations Headquarters next May, the Advisory Committee states that previously it had been assumed in the proposed programme budget for 2002-2003 that the Forum would meet in Geneva. Accordingly, additional requirements of $54,800 would arise for the differential cost of travel and subsistence of members of the Forum ($44,000) and for the travel of two staff members to New York ($10,800).
The Advisory Committee also notes that provisions have been made for the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to hold three three-week sessions and three one-week meetings of the pre-sessional working group annually. As the result of a review undertaken by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on its methods of work, however, a decision was made to hold only two sessions per year for an experimental period of two years. The resulting reduction in costs under section 22 is estimated at $340,800, and includes reductions for travel and daily subsistence allowance for members of the Committee ($323,200) and for daily subsistence allowance for members of the pre-sessional working group ($17,600). The net reduction of the proposed programme budget resulting from the decision amounts to $286,000.
The Advisory Committee is of the opinion that the requirements under section 27D, Office of Central Support Services ($519,800) should continue to be met in 2002-2003 in the same manner as in the current biennium. Accordingly, the Committee recommends that the Fifth Committee take note of the estimate of
$1.4 million, on the understanding that such appropriations as may be necessary will be requested by the Secretary-General in the context of a consolidated statement of programme budget implications and revised estimates to be submitted to the General Assembly.
Also before the Committee were several chapters of the report of ECOSOC for 2001 (document A/56/3). Chapter I contains a list of matters calling for action or brought to the attention of the Assembly. Sections B and C of Chapter VII summarize the discussion of the reports of coordinating bodies and describe action taken by the ECOSOC in that respect. Chapter IX contains information about the organizational matters pertaining to the work of ECOSOC.
Also before the Committee was a document on programme budget implications of draft resolution A/C.1/56/L.47 (document A/C.5/56/13). By the terms of the draft, the Assembly would, among other things, decide to convene, not later than 2006, a conference to review progress made in the implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, the date and venue to be decided at its fifty-eighth session. The Assembly would also decide to convene a meeting of States on a biennial basis, commencing in 2003, to consider national, regional and global implementation of the Programme of Action.
According to the document, should the Assembly adopt the text additional requirements of $559,800 for the biennium 2002-2003 would be required. It is not possible at this stage to identify activities within section 4 that could be terminated, deferred, curtailed or modified during the biennium. Consequently, an additional provision of $559,800 would be required over and above the resources proposed in the draft programme budget for 2002-2003. That provision would represent a charge against the contingency fund and, as such, would require appropriations for the biennium in the amount of $456,100 under section 4, Disarmament; $59,900 under Section 27D, Office of Central Support Services; and $43,800 under section 32, staff assessment.
In a related report (document A/56/644), the Advisory Committee recommends that the Fifth Committee should inform the Assembly that an additional appropriation of $559,800 would be required for the biennium 2002-2003, as indicated in the statement on programme budget implications.
Another statement of programme budget implications concerns the preparations for the Second World Assembly on Ageing (document A/C.5/56/15). According to the document, by the terms of draft resolution A/C.3/56/L.6/Rev.1, the Assembly would invite the Department of Public Information to continue, in cooperation with the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the host country, the information campaign for that event. That decision would entail the use of general temporary assistance in the amount of $45,000, equivalent to four work-months for one P-3 and one General Service post for writing and preparing public information products, such as press kits, background articles and brochures.
The statement goes on to say that other requirements in the amount of $150,000 would provide for conversion of public information material to HTML for Web sites in six official languages ($30,000); television and radio products ($20,000); translation into the official languages and events at national level ($30,000); follow-up to the outcome of the Assembly ($20,000); updating of the ageing exhibit and production of several banners on the Assembly site ($20,000). Accordingly, should the draft resolution be adopted, an additional requirement of $195,000 would arise under section 26, Public information, of the proposed programme budget for 2002-2003.
Another statement of programme budget implications before the Committee concerned a draft resolution on the use of mercenaries (document A/C.5/56/21). The Third Committee adopted the draft (document A/C.3/56/L.31) by the terms of which the Assembly would request the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to convene, before the fifty-ninth session of the Commission on Human Rights, a second expert meeting to update international legislation and make recommendations for a clearer legal definition of mercenaries, thereby making the prevention and punishment of mercenary activities more efficient.
According to the statement, should the Assembly adopt the draft, that decision would give rise to additional requirements of some $64,100 for 2002-
2003 under section 22 of the budget, Human Rights. As it is not possible to identify activities within section 22 that could be terminated, deferred or curtailed during the biennium, an additional provision of $64,100 would be required over and above the proposed resources under that section. The provision would require a charge against the contingency fund and, as such, would require an increase in appropriations for 2002-2003.
Also before the Committee was a statement of programme budget implications concerning a draft resolution on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (document A/C.5/56/16). It explains that the Third Committee adopted the draft (document A/C.5/56/L.26), by the terms of which the Assembly would decide to authorize the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women to hold, on an exceptional basis, an extraordinary three-week session in 2002 to consider reports of States’ parties, thereby reducing the backlog of reports.
Should the Assembly adopt the draft, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women would hold an additional session in August 2002 for 15 working days. The additional costs arising from the additional session and the enlargement of its pre-sessional working groups amount to $252,900 under section 9, Economic and social affairs, of the 2002-2003 proposed programme budget. The additional requirements would represent a charge against the contingency fund for 2002-2003, which will be adopted by the General Assembly at its fifty-sixth session.
Also before the Committee was a statement of programme budget implications on the Special Session of the General Assembly on children (document A/C.5/56/18), which states that, according to the terms of draft resolution A/56/L.7, the Assembly would decide to convene the special session from 8 to 10 May 2002. Should the Assembly adopt that draft, the estimated cost of convening the special session would amount to some $539,400, subject to established procedures for the use of the contingency fund.
Introduction of Reports and Statements
First, the Committee took note of chapters I, VII (B and C) and IX of the
Economic and Social Council report (document A/56/3), which were allocated to the
It then turned to the items under the budget for 2000-2001 and the proposed budget for 2002-2003, and began its consideration of the report of the Standing Committee of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Board (document A/56/289) and the related report of the Advisory Committee (document A/56/7/Add.1).
JEAN LARIVIERE, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Board, introduced the first of those documents, saying that due to the work programme of the Fifth Committee, the agenda item on the pension system was considered only in even-numbered years. The Pension Board therefore met biennially. He drew the Committee’s attention to the growth of the size and scope of the operations of the Fund, which now comprised 19 organizations and more than 122,500 active participants and beneficiaries. The benefit payouts currently exceeded $1 billion per annum. The market value of the assets of the Fund, which had reached its record high of $26.3 billion on 27 March 2000, currently stood at about $22 billion.
Regarding the proposed revised budget estimates of the Fund for 2000-2001, he said that they amounted to some $59.2 million. The revised budget represented total savings of over $3 million over the estimates approved last year. That reflected savings of $3.7 million under investment costs that were offset partially by additional resource requirements in the amount of $596,000 relating to administrative costs for phase I of the Fund’s re-engineering project. As for the budget proposals for 2002-2003, he said that they followed, as much as possible, the United Nations budget presentation format. If approved by the Assembly, the proposed administrative expenses chargeable to the Fund for 2002-2003, would amount to some $74.3 million, consisting of administrative costs of $29.9 million, investment costs of $43.4 million and audit costs of $973,500.
Regarding the report of the Advisory Committee, he noted the observations and recommendations of that body relating to the presentation of the Fund’s budget and the request for a more streamlined report in the future. He also noted, with particular satisfaction, the Advisory Committee’s recognition of the deficiencies associated with any attempt to strictly follow the format of the Organization’s programme budget, rather than focus on the more essential need to present data that was relevant and specific to the Fund’s operation and requirements.
Continuing, he expressed regret that the ACABQ had recommended that all the eight posts requested to fulfil the computer needs of the Fund should be established on a temporary basis. Perhaps the Advisory Committee had not given enough attention to the difficulties in recruiting expert staff on a temporary basis, particularly in the information technology area, he said. In that connection, he noted that, as a portion of the costs for the re-engineering project would be requested for appropriation in the biennium 2004-2005, the contractual arrangements for a number of posts would likely extend beyond 2002-2003 before a decision could be made as to whether they should be changed into established posts.
The report of the ACABQ was introduced by its Chairman, CONRAD S.M. MSELLE. He described its contents and noted that the Chairman of the Standing Committee had expressed regret over the recommendation that eight posts for the re-engineering project should be established on a temporary basis. In that respect, the Advisory Committee had questioned the approach followed in the establishment of the posts. The ACABQ believed that the project should have a dedicated level of staff and that, once completed, an evaluation should be carried out to identify which of those posts should be retained. It was possible that as a result of such an evaluation, all eight posts would be recommended for extension.
As for the contractual arrangements for the staff concerned, they should not represent a problem. The ACABQ had recommended in the past that a flexible approach should be adopted, with a view to retaining staff performing information technology services. He did not see why such flexibility could not be followed with respect to the eight posts in question. As for the presentation of the Fund’s budget, he said that the ACABQ trusted that the next presentation would be much more transparent and streamlined.
THOMAS A. REPASCH (United States) said that the growth of the size and the scope of Fund’s operations was impressive, although there had been some downturn from the record highs of a short time ago. He had a number of questions on the matter, which he would refer to in the informals. One important question, though, concerned the statement in paragraph 28 of the ACABQ report, according to which the Advisory Committee was not convinced that increase in the provisions for travel was warranted. He shared that view and wondered why the ACABQ was recommending the appropriation in the amount proposed.
Mr. MSELLE replied that indeed, the Committee was not fully convinced that the travel provisions could not be subjected to further economies. At the end of the day, however, the ACABQ had decided not to change the overall requirements contained in the report before the Committee. The Secretariat should make sure however, that extra care be used in administering the travel funds. The ACABQ was following such an approach, because sometimes it found it very difficult to identify the particular level of reductions. It was preferable to let the Secretariat administer the resources in light of the comments of the ACABQ.
Proposed Programme Budget for 2002-2003
The Committee then turned to the request for a subvention to the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research and revised estimates resulting from resolutions and decision of the Economic and Social Council.
On the request for a subvention, Mr. MSELLE said the amounts which were reflected in the report had been included in the proposed budget for 2002-2003. The ACABQ recommended the acceptance of the amounts requested, even though the amounts were for two years. The Statute for the Institute required that an annual subvention be approved by the General Assembly on the basis of a request from the Board of Trustees. The ACABQ recommended the approval of some $213,000 for the subvention to the Institute for 2002. There had been discussion as to the adequacy of that amount, both within the Advisory Committee and the Board. In that regard, the position of the ACABQ was outlined in paragraph 5 of its report. A change in the level of the subvention should be proposed in accordance with the Institute’s Statute.
Mr. REPASCH (United States) said the United States supported the goals of the Institute and looked forward to its continued success. The request for the subvention was an annual process. Generally, the United States had taken a similar position to that of the Secretary-General in opposition to the subvention from the regular budget for such activities. That had no reflection on the goals and objectives of the Institute. He was pleased to see that the Institute’s financial situation had improved over last year. He wondered why the request was being made for a subvention, as they were most appropriate in the first few years of an Organization’s development, to get on its feet so to speak. That was not the case with the Institute. It was a long-term subvention embedded in its budget. He recommended that the request for the subvention not be approved.
KJERSTI RODSMOEN (Norway) also firmly supported the Institute. Pointing out that the amount had not changed, she recommended approval of the formal request for the subvention as in earlier years.
ERNESTO HERRERA (Mexico) said the work of the Institute was important and that it would be good for it to proceed as in the past. Mexico agreed with the proposal to grant the subvention.
HENRY FOX (Australia) said Australia was also a strong supporter of the Institute. He had questions, however, regarding the annual nature of the subvention. The purpose of the subvention was not to be granted on an annual basis. He would prefer that the question be referred to informal consultations.
RAMESH CHANDRA (India) said India supported the work of the Institute and would continue to do so. The ACABQ had noted that the subvention that used to cover three post, now covered one and a half posts. The amount involved had not changed, however. He wondered whether that was due to a drop in the receipt of voluntary contributions to the Institute.
Mr. MSELLE said the value of the subvention had declined in relation to what it had been able to finance at the time it was initially authorized. It was a simple fact of economics. One of the reasons there had been comments about increasing the subvention was to restore the value of the subvention to what it had been at the time the General Assembly had first authorized it.
SEYED MORTEZA MIRMOHAMMAD (Iran), speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77” developing countries and China on document A/56/518, supported the work programme of the United Nations Forum on Forests and the resources proposed for it. He noted that in paragraph 13 of the ACABQ’s report, it was of the opinion that the requirements under section 27D, the Office of Central Support Services, should continue to be met in 2002-2003 in the same manner as in the current biennium. In paragraph 9 of the report, the ACABQ was of the opinion that current arrangements for financing accommodations for the Forum Secretariat should continue in 2002-2003. What would be the impact of those opinions on the implementation of the statement of programme budget implications?
WARREN SACH, Director, Programme Planning and Budget Division, said as a result of there not being free space within the Headquarters building, it was necessary to rent accommodations when the new posts were approved. As a matter of policy, when proposing new posts, the rental of space at Headquarters was also being proposed. The ACABQ had distinguished the situation from when posts were entirely new. As accommodation had been located in Headquarters, on that basis, he believed it would be possible to accommodate staff within existing space. If that were not the case, it would be reported in the first performance report for the 2002-2003 programme budget.
The Committee then turned to the programme budget implications of several drafts before the Assembly, which were introduced by the Chairman of the Committee.
Mr. MSELLE introduced the ACABQ’s reports on the statements of programme budget implications.
On the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, he said the Secretary-General’s proposals related to the initial review by the Advisory Committee in its first report on the proposed programme budget 2002-2003, in which the Committee recommended approval of a P-4 post and the related General Service post. A number of questions had been raised. The ACABQ noted that the Secretary-General was proposing the posts that were included in his initial proposal for the programme budget for 2002-2003. The ACABQ, on the basis of its review, recommended approval of the Secretary-General’s proposals. The additional appropriations -- $559,800
-- would be subject to procedures established for the use of the Contingency Fund.
He then noted that his oral report on the other statement of programme budget implications before the Committee had been distributed.
On the Second World Assembly on Ageing, he noted that the Secretary-General proposed an estimate of some $195,000 comprising four work-months of general temporary assistance at the P-3 level ($45,000) and $150,000 for public information activities. When the ACABQ examined section 26, Department of Public Information, of the proposed programme budget for 2002-2003, it noted that no resources had been included in the proposed estimate for the Department for the information activities of special meetings and conferences scheduled for 2002-2003 and that additional requirements would be dealt with in the context of related statements of programme budget implications.
While acknowledging the importance of publicity for the Second World Assembly, since the amount proposed is small relative to the resources available for the Department of Public Information and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the ACABQ recommends that the Committee inform the General Assembly that, should it adopt the draft resolution recommended by the Third Committee, the Secretary-General should be authorized to carry out fully the related public information activities set out in his statement. Such additional appropriation as may be required would be considered by the General Assembly in the context of the first budget performance report for 2002-2003.
On the special session of the General Assembly on children, the ACABQ notes the cost of the special session is estimated at $564,100 for conference servicing. It also notes the observation in paragraph 3 of the statement on programme budget implications, that convening the special session in May 2002 would be accommodated by conference services with considerable difficulty, due to the tight calendar of meetings in 2002, which would affect other bodies scheduled to meet around the same time. As additional costs might also arise, the Advisory Committee requests that related information and explanation should be included in the first performance report for the biennium 2002-2003.
The ACABQ recommends that the Committee inform the Assembly that adopting the draft resolution would give rise to non-conference costs not exceeding $539,400 and that additional appropriation would be considered by the Assembly in accordance with the procedure set out in resolutions 41/213 and 42/211 for use and operation of the Contingency Fund.
Regarding the use of mercenaries, the ACABQ recommends that the Committee inform the Assembly that adoption of the draft resolution recommended by the Third Committee would give rise to expenditure not exceeding $64,100 and that additional appropriation would be considered by the Assembly, also in accordance with the procedures for the use and operation of the Contingency Fund.
Turning to the draft resolution on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the ACABQ notes that the additional session of the Committee and the enlargement of its pre-sessional working group would give rise to additional requirements under section 9, Economic and Social Affairs, of the 2002-2003 proposed programme budget of $236,700 for the travel and per diem costs for the 23 members of the Committee and $16,200 for per diem costs of the additional members of the pre-sessional working group.
Conference-servicing requirements were estimated, on a full-cost basis, at $3 million, the ACABQ notes. Provision for conference services was made under section 2, General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services, of the 2002-2003 proposed programme budget not only for meetings programmed at the time of the budget preparation, but also for meetings subsequently authorized, provided that the number and distribution of meetings were consistent with the pattern of meetings of past years. No additional appropriation would be required under section 2.
On the backlog of reports of States parties, the Advisory Committee had been informed that reports often exceeded 100 pages and that the time for the Committee to examine the reports was limited to two weeks a year under article 20 of the Convention. In the opinion of the ACABQ, the expected elimination of the backlog might be temporary, unless the Committee reformed its working methods, including its reporting procedures. The Committee and the States parties could limit the length of reports and streamline their structure and content. The ACABQ recommended that if additional meeting time proved necessary in the future, the Committee should consider extending sessions, rather than holding additional sessions.
With that in mind, the ACABQ recommends that the Fifth Committee inform the General Assembly that, should it adopt draft resolution A/C.3/56/L.26, expenditures not exceeding $252,900 would arise under section 9, Economic and Social Affairs, of the 2002-2003 proposed programme budget and that additional appropriations would be considered by the Assembly in accordance with procedures set out in resolutions on the use of the Contingency Fund.
Concerning the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, Mr. REPASCH (United States) asked why the Secretariat had not implemented the language of the draft resolution which explicitly stated that the activities in question should be carried out “within existing resources”. The First Committee had agreed on that language, for it was important to carefully prioritize resources. Some less important activities could be reviewed or dispensed with, to provide resources for what the Assembly deemed important.
ZHOU QIANGWU (China) said that his Government attached great importance to the question of the illicit trade in light arms and small weapons. China supported the establishment of one P-4 and one General Service posts to be created in implementation of the draft and was appreciative of the ACABQ reports on the matter. His Government had expressed its position regarding those posts during the discussion of the proposed programme budget for 2002-2003. In the days to come, he would continue to provide support for those posts in the context of future budget discussions. As for the resources, he supported the recommendations of the ACABQ contained in paragraph 10 of its report. In the programme budget for 2002-2003, an additional amount of $559,800 should be allocated, should the Assembly adopt draft resolution A/C.1/56/L.47.
JOHN ORR (Canada) said that the support of the Government of Canada for the small arms initiatives was well known. He did have several questions about the statement on programme budget implications before the Committee, however. The first question concerned the envisioned common services costs of some $59,000, which required further explanation. He also noted from paragraph 2 of document A/C.5/56/13 that the Secretary-General had been requested to ensure that resources and expertise should be made available to the Secretariat to promote the implementation of the Programme of Action, but no resources had been requested for the activities of the Department of Public Information in that connection. It was not clear if the Department had expressed its readiness to carry out the activities requested without additional allocations.
EVA SILOT BRAVO (Cuba) said that the oral reports of the ACABQ, which had been presented in the statement by its Chairman, should be published as official documents to be considered by the Committee. Regarding the proposal to attribute the additional appropriations to the Contingency Fund, she said that it was a bit odd. The Fifth Committee was the only body to make decisions on the budgetary matters, and it was up to that Committee to decide exactly from which sources the activities were to be financed.
Mr. HERRERA (Mexico) agreed with the representative of Cuba that the oral reports of the ACABQ should be presented to the Committee as official documents.
THEODORE ALBRECHT (South Africa) thanked the States that had supported the recommendations of the First Committee contained in its draft resolution on small arms and light weapons. The text was particularly relevant for African States, which attached particular importance to the matter of small arms. He noted the Secretary-General’s statement contained in document A/C.5/56/13 that, at this stage, it was not possible to identify the exact activities under section 4 of the proposed programme budget. He supported the position that the needed funds should be made available under the Contingency Fund.
Responding to a question about the wording “within existing resources” in draft resolution A/C.5/56/L.47, Mr. SACH said that the issue had been discussed several times in the context of several previous proposals. The conclusion was that the question of resources were up to the Fifth Committee and it was not appropriate for the texts coming from other Committees to determine how the funds were to be provided.
It would not be possible to both carry out the Programme of Action and remain within the existing resources, he continued. That matter had been brought to the attention of both the First and Fifth Committees. The statement on programme budget implications reflected that position. Clearly, if the implementation of the proposals could be carried out within existing resources, that should be done so. To avoid disappointment in the future, however, it was necessary to indicate from the outset when it would not be possible to stay within the existing resources.
Regarding the expenses under section 27 D of the budget, Office of Central Support Services, he said that the proposed amount of some $59,000 referred mainly to space, but also for telephone connections and furnishings requirements. As for the public information component sought for the Second World Assembly on Ageing, it was his understanding that the Department of Public Information would begin its activities and if it could not carry them out within existing resources, the additional funds would be sought within the context of the first performance report.
Mr. REPASCH (United States) said every part of the resolution had to be respected. He wished to refer to the matter again in the context of the discussions on the proposed programme budget.
Mr. ORR (Canada) said he did not hear the answer to the question on the Department of Public Information because he was still shocked regarding the answer on common service costs. Even at New York rates, it seemed that the rent was very expensive, especially in light of the Joint Inspection Unit report received earlier by the Committee on irrational space allocation within the Secretariat.
MICHEL TILEMANS (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said it was the urgent request of the Union that consideration of the statements on programme budget implications not be handled in informal consultations until all of them were in hand and ready for consideration by the Committee.
Mr. MSELLE said there were two ways to proceed on the statements. The procedure that the Committee had followed in the past was not to delay General Assembly action on the work of its various committees. The Fifth Committee informed the General Assembly that if the Assembly were to accept a resolution, the expenses involved would amount to a certain level of potential appropriations. The actual appropriation would then be considered by the General Assembly, in light of a consolidated statement prepared by the Secretary-General. That statement would come to the Fifth Committee, then go to the General Assembly in the context of the Fifth Committee’s report on the budget itself. That allowed the General Assembly to approve the reports of the various committees and defer approval of the ultimate level of resources to be appropriated.
If the Fifth Committee were to consider all the statements together, that decision would have to be taken after due information to the President of the General Assembly as to the timing of the review of the various reports, he added. A number of committees had already concluded their work. It would not be appropriate for word to go around that the Fifth Committee was delaying acceptance by the General Assembly of the reports of the various committees.
Mr. TILEMANS (Belgium) said he had a firm mandate from his group. They had some difficulties with the way in which the other Committees had put the Fifth Committee in embarrassing situations. It was important to point out that the Fifth Committee take its responsibility seriously. All the statements should be submitted before entering into informal consultations on them. He reassured the Chairman of the ACABQ that colleagues in other committees would see no lag on the part of the Fifth Committee if it wanted to proceed rigorously.
EVA SILOT BRAVO (Cuba) shared the opinion not to unduly hold up the work of the Committee. It was already 3 December and a number of subjects were in the early stages of discussion. If the Committee waited to consider the statements together, it would work to the detriment of the other Committees, as well as to the Fifth Committee itself, given the little time it had left.
Mr. MIRMOHAMMAD (Iran) recalled the statement by the Group of 77 and China on the programme budget. The position of the Group was that the statements on programme budget implications should be submitted in due course after the substantial bodies had concluded their consideration of the texts. Following the completion of programme of work by other bodies, the budget implications of their decisions came to the Fifth Committee. The Fifth Committee should consider them in a timely manner, without delaying its work. As a result of pushing things to the end of the session, the work of the Committee had already been delayed. The statements should be scheduled in the work of the Committee. He also stressed that the Fifth Committee had the prerogative of considering budgetary matters, and that other Committees should not consider the financing of mandated activities.
Mr. ORR (Canada) said that the review of documents by the Fifth Committee could lead to some delays, but the consideration of the budgetary implications of certain decisions also depended on the pace of work by other Committees. The Committee could evaluate all the statements in the context of the proposed budget later this week. That document should be considered as a whole, not in piecemeal.
Mr. ALBRECHT (South Africa) asked when the Committee could expect a consolidated list of statements on budgeting implications from the Secretary-General. As it was the beginning of December and some groups of States were indicating that they would not be able to take part in the informal consultations later this month, it was important to do the job as soon as possible.
Mr. TILEMANS (Belgium) said that he resented the fact that some delegations were not taking Mr. Mselle’s advice as seriously as they should. He found it difficult to look at statements of programme budget implications without having them on the table. He hoped that in the future the Secretariat would present them as soon as they were received. The Fifth Committee had a deadline of its own to meet. It would be counterproductive to look at the statements at this stage.
Mr. ZHOU (China) said that his delegation supported the statement by Iran on behalf of the Group of 77 and China. The discussion on statements of programme budget implications should not be delayed. He also wanted to know when all the statements could be received.
Ms. SILOT BRAVO (Cuba) expressed concern over the proposal to postpone consideration of the statements on programme budget implications before the Committee. That could compromise the study of other decisions with budgetary implications, having an impact on such drafts as the one on the Brahimi report, for example. That could lead to the lack of predictability in the work of the Committee.
Mr. SACH said the date of the submission of statements on programme budget implications depended on the work of other Committees and the plenary. The discussion of several items in the Second Committee had not yet been completed, and two items were yet to be presented to the plenary -- Afghanistan and the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala -– budget statements on those matters would not be ready until the third week of December. Obviously, statements could not be presented prior to action on the draft resolutions.
The Chairman of the Committee, NANA EFFAH-APENTENG (Ghana) said that the best course of action would be to go through the budget statements with other texts. The Bureau would consider this matter and present its views to the Committee.
As the Committee turned to the draft on the Second World Assembly on Ageing, Mr. TILEMANS (Belgium) said that it was not only the Fifth Committee that was being put in an awkward situation -- other Committees also found themselves in an awkward position. Regarding the budgetary implications of the draft on the World Assembly on Ageing, he said that strong concern had been expressed during the consideration of that item in the Third Committee regarding its priorities and what should be done with regard to the publicity campaign connected to that. As usual, the European Union would consider that budget statement with all the necessary strictness.
Mr. REPASCH (United States) said his delegation attached great importance to the World Assembly. However, he was at a loss to understand why the amounts required in connection with the draft had not been included in the regular budget. That indicated a lack of transparency in the budgeting process and should be corrected. The amount indicated was relatively small, and he believed that the activities should be carried out within the available resources. The budget statement indicated the need for the Secretariat to prioritize, giving preference to the more important activities at the expense of the less important ones.
SHINICHI YAMANAKA (Japan) stressed the importance of the issue of ageing and supported the Second Assembly to be held in 2002. Last year, the Assembly had adopted resolution 55/58 relating to the information campaign for the Assembly and the database for that purpose. Based on that resolution, the Department of Public Information had already undertaken some information activities, having, in particular, published a pamphlet on the matter. It had also disseminated relevant information on the Web site. Thus, the Department had been given a mandate to conduct an information campaign and some resources were already available this year. He was not convinced that additional requirements for public information activities were needed and requested additional information in that regard.
Mr. FOX (Australia) said that the budget statement on small arms contained a section on potential for absorption. Such a section was missing in the document on ageing. He wondered if the Secretariat could comment on that matter.
Responding to comments and questions, Mr. SACH said that the fascicle on public information of the proposed programme budget indicated a reduction of some $1.3 million in respect of resources for special meetings and conferences. Also, it was indicated that the resource requirements did not include provisions for future events of that kind. Thus, should the Department of Public Information carry out promotional and information activities in connection with the Assembly, the necessary requirements would be sought through the presentation of a budget statement. That was the basis for the programme budget implications provided in connection with the draft on the Second World Assembly on Ageing relating to the public information activities by the Department of Public Information, in cooperation with Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the host country.
As for the absorption potential, he did not see such a possibility at the present stage, for no particular resources had been earmarked for information activities. However, as it had been noted that the matter should be an object of an attempt to absorb the requirements under the programme budget, the matter would be further considered, and he would report later if that was possible.
Mr. ORR (Canada) said that the question was why the substantive department did not require any additional resources in connection with the World Assembly, but the Department of Public Information did. If resources were put into the budget for the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and not for the Department of Public Information, why were the two treated differently? His reading of the budget section on the Department of Public Information showed that its activities included preparation of public information products. In particular, it was already producing television and radio products and doing a good job in putting additional information on the Web. The requirements of $20,000 for the production of two banners at the Assembly site seemed somewhat expensive. Wasn’t promotion of the goals of the Organization part of the everyday work of the Department of Public Information? Those activities were very important, and the Department should determine its own priorities.
Mr. SACH replied that, basically the question was why the information requirements could not be absorbed in the regular budget. The approach of budget statement presentation was used regarding the Department of Public Information, and a regular budget approach was used for other activities. In terms of itemizing what individual conferences would require in terms of public information, that seemed a correct approach. As for support for the substantive areas, a general mandate had been provided for the Secretary-General to prepare for the Conference, and those activities were treated within that context. That was not the case with regard to public information activities that needed a specific mandate, which had been now provided by the draft under consideration.
Mr. YAMANAKA (Japan) said operative paragraph 8 of the draft resolution on the Second World Conference on Ageing used the same language as paragraph 6 of the resolution adopted last year by the General Assembly. He asked for clarification on operative paragraph 8.
The Committee then took up the statements of programme budget implications on the use of mercenaries and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
Mr. REPASCH (United States) noted his agreement with the ACABQ’s conclusion that the implementation of the resolution would not lead to the elimination of the backlog of States’ parties reports, which was the reason for the resolution and the budget statement to begin with. He fully agreed that the Committee needed to first reform its methods of work. Additional meetings using the same methods of work would not resolve the matter.
Mr. CHANDRA (India) invited the Committee to better streamline its work. He hoped that the extraordinary session would be a one-time exception. He noted a disconcerting development in which other committees sometimes pronounced themselves on budgetary considerations. He asked the Committee’s Chairman to relay that concern to the President of the General Assembly. A formal initiative was warranted. On the other hand, however, he also noted a trend in the Fifth Committee to request particular bodies to undertake additional activities, while depriving it of the necessary funds. On ageing, for example, one could not say that brochures were extremely useful and then not provide the necessary of funds.
Mr. YAMANAKA (Japan) said that Japan supported the activities of the Women’s Anti-Discrimination Committee and considered it necessary to reduce backlog in reports. He wanted clarification, however, on how the General Assembly could provide resources for an extraordinary session, when according to its Convention the Committee was authorized to hold a two-week session.
Mr. SACH said the Convention currently provided for one two-week meeting per year. However, an earlier General Assembly decision of 1996 provided an agreement for two two-week meetings. The arrangements followed were pending amendment to the Convention. He believed the same mechanism was in place this time, should the General Assembly adopt resolution to hold a third session.
The Committee then took up the budget statement on the Special Session on Children.
Mr. REPASCH (United States) said the United States supported United Nations’ efforts regarding children. He wanted to know how much of the work done for the session originally scheduled for September had been completed before the meeting had been postponed. How much public information material and security supplies would be available for the conference to take place next year? What was the reason for the differences in some of the amounts in the statement, for example regarding the rental of cell phones?
Mr. ZHOU (China) said his delegation supported the convening of the Special Session on Children. He noted, however, that there was a concern that the postponement of the session had created problems for conference servicing. Would the postponement also result in budgetary problems? He also wished to know about voluntary contributions for the Special Session.
Mr. ORR (Canada) said that Canada attached high priority to the Special Session. He noted a laundry list of requirements, however, a number of which stretched the imagination, such as the rental of scooters. “For whom does the cell phone ring with respect to additional phone and fax lines”? he asked. For whom was a chauffeur being provided? He found it hard to understand why minor additions were being asked for, such as additional phone lines that would be used for only one week. He also asked for clarification on the requirement for Information Centres to receive seed money of some $10,000. That amount did not seem significant enough to produce results and he wondered if it would actually end up being used for the Special Session.
Responding to queries, Mr. SACH said he was aware during the current biennium of strains in the capacity of General Assembly Affairs to meet the needs of the Organization. As it stood, he did not believe that they would need additional language resources in 2002-2003 in connection with the meeting in May. However, other non- language costs were real, especially regarding security. Scooters were being requested to assure the mobility of security staff during the time of increased risk, when many heads of States would be present. On cell phones, he would try to get more detailed information on the varying rates.
Regarding public information provisions, he said the great bulk of the $147,000 related to coverage during the Special Session to ensure adequate media outreach. The amount for promotion activities was calculated against the backdrop of work already undertaken and support from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) operations. Those resources, however, were not directly available to the Department of Public Information. On voluntary contributions, UNICEF had received between $1.1 million and $1.6 million in additional resources, not available for items requested in draft resolutions, including public information and protocol requirements. The pattern of resources being sought was based on recent experience in connection with the Millennium Assembly. A large part of the needs related to public information.
Mr. MIRMOHAMMAD (Iran) speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 said the Group thought it necessary to go along with proposed programme of work. They had already entered into consideration of certain budget statements. Several informal consultations had been held on others. The statements should not be treated separately. He emphasized that the Group could go along with consideration of others, as well.
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