Fifty-seventh General Assembly
1st Meeting (AM)
FIFTH COMMITTEE ELECTS OFFICERS, APPROVES PROGRAMME OF WORK
During its organizational meeting this morning -– the first one of the fifty-seventh Assembly session -- the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) completed its Bureau by electing Guillermo Kendall (Argentina), Bogdan Dragulescu (Romania) and Michel Tilemans (Belguim) as the Committee’s Vice-Chairmen, by acclamation. It also elected Haile Selassie Getachew (Ethiopia) to the post of Rapporteur.
Also this morning, the Committee approved its programme of work for the session, on the understanding that adjustments would be made during the course of the session as needed. In accordance with its biennial cycle of work, the focus this year will be placed on personnel-related issues. Under the agenda item on the United Nations common system, the Committee will consider a report by the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) containing the results of its review of the Organization’s pay and benefit system and take up ways of strengthening the international civil service.
Among the issues to be considered in connection with human resources management, the Committee will continue its consideration of employees’ mandatory age of separation; delegation of authority; young professionals; and the use of consultants and individual contractors. Also on the Committee’s agenda are items on financial reports, audited financial statements and related reports of the Board of Auditors; the financial situation of the Organization; the scale of assessments; the capital master plan; the first performance report for the current 2002-2003 budget; and financing of peacekeeping operations.
The representatives of Denmark (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Venezuela (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), United States, Cuba and Syria commented on the programme of work and made suggestions regarding the allocation of meetings. While some delegations emphasized the importance of the agenda item on the pattern of conferences, others wanted more meetings devoted to the capital master plan and personnel matters. Several speakers emphasized the need to ensure timely issuance of documentation needed for the work of the Committee, saying that late submission of reports affected the delegates’ work.
In his opening statement, the Committee’s incoming Chairman, Murari Raj Sharma (Nepal), urged the Committee to make optimal use of meetings during this session, prioritizing the time allocated to various items. Emphasizing the need to preserve the Committee’s “glorious tradition of team work”, he said that it was necessary to try to ensure consensus on all items on its agenda. As the
Committee’s workload was heavy and subject matter complicated, he appealed to Member States to rise to the challenges and “sail the Committee’s ship smoothly through choppy waters”.
The representative of Mexico expressed concern over “serious deterioration” and poor quality of Spanish translation services. To rectify the situation, there should be a broad review of translation in all official languages, and he requested a report to be submitted at the fifty-eighth session to assess the present situation with the translation and interpretation services, including their workload, staffing and the quality of work. The document should include specific proposals to improve the quality and efficiency of those services.
Also this morning, the Committee took up requests from Burundi, Comoros, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Republic of Moldova, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia and Tajikistan for exemption under Article 19 of the Charter. Under this rule, Member States lose their voting rights when the level of their arrears equals or exceeds two years’ assessed contributions, unless the Assembly decides that non-payment is a consequence of factors beyond a State’s control. Having considered the requests, the Committee on Contributions recommended granting exception to the Comoros, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Republic of Moldova, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia and Tajikistan (document A/C.5/56/46). The Committee on Contributions took no action on Burundi’s request as that country had not presented its request within the prescribed time frame.
Citing the dire economic situation in his country, the representative of Burundi pleaded for an exception. Despite the fact that Burundi was one of the poorest nations in the world, in the throes of civil war, it made sincere efforts to pay its contributions to the United Nations. The situation in the country was exacerbated by a strike of teachers, who constituted about 50 per cent of Burundi’s civil servants. Burundi’s request for exemption had been delayed, because the Permanent Mission was still involved in discussions with the capital to find out what steps were being taken to see how the country might make a contribution.
While Denmark (on behalf of the European Union and associated States) supported the recommendations of the Committee on Contributions as contained in the document before the Committee, the representatives of Venezuela (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), Cameroon, Mali, South Africa, Libya, Uganda, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Pakistan, Sudan and Algeria endorsed the request of Burundi to be exempt under Article 19, as the substantive reasons that were given by the Committee on Contributions for the other seven countries were also applicable in Burundi’s case.
Also this morning, the Committee took note of the General Assembly’s recommendation that “a mandatory deadline, not later than 1 December, be established for the submission to the Fifth Committee of all draft resolutions with financial implications”. In light of the Assembly decision that the Fifth Committee complete its work on 6 December, the Committee appealed to the Chairmen of all Main Committees to complete consideration of all draft resolutions having programme budget implications by 22 November.
The Committee will continue its consideration of exemptions under Article 19 at 5 p.m. today.