Fifty-seventh General Assembly
38th Meeting (PM)
APPROVING SEVERAL DRAFT RESOLUTIONS, DECISIONS, FIFTH COMMITTEE COMPLETES
ITS WORK FOR MAIN PART OF FIFTY-SEVENTH SESSION
Taking a decision on a preliminary outline of the Organization’s requirements for the next biennium, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) recommended this afternoon that the Secretary-General prepare the budget proposals for 2004-2005 on the basis of an estimated $2.88 billion, providing resource levels commensurate with the United Nations mandates for their full, efficient and effective implementation.
Further by that draft decision, which was approved without a vote as the Committee concluded its work for the main part of the fifty-seventh session, the Assembly would reaffirm that the outline should provide a greater level of predictability of resources and promote greater involvement of Member States in the budgetary process. In the next budget, the Secretary-General would be requested to make appropriate provisions for special peace and security missions, expected to be extended or approved in the course of the biennium, as well as the need to minimize adverse budgetary impacts on the conference and related services.
The Assembly would also decide to consider an additional amount of
$29.8 million for information technology and common services facilities infrastructure. The Secretary-General would be requested to resubmit the proposed information technology strategy, in accordance with resolution 56/239 of 24 December 2001, during the resumed fifty-seventh session.
By another text, taking note of the first performance report on the 2002-2003 budget and endorsing the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), the Assembly would approve a net increase of some $176.86 million in the appropriation approved for 2002-2003 and a net increase of some $2.81 million in the estimates of income for the biennium.
[The report is submitted in the first year of the biennium in order to identify adjustments for inflation and exchange rate variations, as well as additional mandates that the Assembly and the Security Council have approved after the adoption of the budget.]
In particular, the Assembly would decide to appropriate some $6.89 million to support the meeting requirements of the Counter-Terrorism Committee for the period 1 January 2002 through March 2003, and approve some $9.9 million for 2002 realized vacancy rates. It would also note with deep concern the serious and continuing deterioration in the business of the United Nations Postal Administration.
The Committee also took up a consolidated statement of programme budget implications and revised estimates for the Organization’s contingency fund, which contains resources for previously unscheduled activities. Set at $18.9 million for the current budget, at the beginning of the current session, the fund had a balance of $1.52 million. Potential new charges amount to some $1.49 million, including $44,700 in connection with the 2002 resolutions and decisions of the Economic and Social Council; $250,000 for future operations of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) (an additional amount of $250,000 would be set aside for a possible additional provision in 2003 for INSTRAW); $455,800 for the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; $286,500 for strengthening the Secretariat's terrorism prevention branch; and $203.200 for ensuring effective secretarial support for the follow-up to the International Conference on Financing for Development.
By a draft resolution on the pattern of conferences, the Committee recommended that the Assembly approve the revised 2003 calendar of United Nations conferences and meetings, authorizing the Committee on Conferences to make adjustments to reflect the Assembly’s actions and decisions at its fifty-seventh session.
Speaking in explanation of position following action on that draft, several delegates expressed disappointment that due to the lack of agreement in informal consultations, the text failed to reflect important provisions that had traditionally been included in it. Several aspects of the issue remained to be agreed upon at the resumed session of the Fifth Committee. Many speakers emphasized that administrative instructions relating to the proposed reform of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management should not be implemented without the Assembly's clear-cut approval.
Also speaking on that item were the representatives of the Russian Federation, Costa Rica, Singapore, Mexico, Cuba, Syria, Denmark (on behalf of the European Union), New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States.
Following the Committee's approval of a draft resolution on the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), the sponsors of an initial text (Venezuela on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China) withdrew a draft resolution by which the Assembly would have decided to provide the Institute with office space free of rent and maintenance charges starting with the biennium 2004-2005, providing an amount of $305,400 in future budgets for that purpose.
Instead, it was recommended that the Assembly would emphasize the need to find a viable financial solution to ensure UNITAR’s future effective functioning. It would note with concern the Institute’s debt to the United Nations and to the Fondation Immobilière pour Organisations Internationales due to lack of payment of rent and maintenance for its offices in New York and Geneva. Based on consultations with UNITAR's Executive Director, the Secretary-General would be requested to report at the next session on the Institute's financial viability, and to address specific proposals regarding the treatment of Institute’s past and future maintenance and rental costs, drawing on provisions made for other United Nations-associated organizations.
Also recommended today was approval of an additional appropriation of $60.04 million for the 19 special political missions presented in the report of the Secretary-General under section 3, Political affairs, of the programme budget for the biennium 2002-2003.
In other action, the Committee approved its draft report on the current budget, containing a summary of its recommendations made during the fifty-seventh session. Also approved was the Committee’s biennial programme of work, according to which, in 2003, it would focus mainly on the programme budget for the next biennium (2004-2005) and on human resources management and programme planning. Some items -- like improvement of the Organization’s financial situation; review of the efficiency of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations; pattern of conferences; and financing of United Nations peacekeeping operations -- are to be considered by the Fifth Committee in 2003 and 2004.
Finally, the Committee decided by another draft decision to defer consideration of some of its agenda items until its resumed fifty-seventh session. Among those items are human resources management, administration of justice at the United Nations, and financing of various peacekeeping missions.
Also speaking in explanation of position this afternoon were the representatives of Cuba, Japan and South Africa.
In his closing statement, Committee Chairman Murari Raj Sharma (Nepal) stressed that, for the first time in many years, the Fifth Committee had concluded its work a week before Christmas. In many cases, the delegations’ perceptions had varied as widely as the globe itself, but in the end the interests of common humanity and shared commitment to the United Nations had prevailed.
At the conclusion of the meeting, on behalf of the Committee, he bade farewell to Under-Secretary-General for Management Joseph E. Connor and Assistant-Secretary-General for Human Resources Management Rafiah Salim, who are departing from the Organization.
Mr. Connor and Ms. Salim made short statements in response, expressing their gratitude to Committee members.
The Committee was also informed that the first resumed session of the Committee would take place from 3 to 28 March and the second from 5 to 30 May, 2003.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the Committee heard closing statements by the representatives of Armenia (on behalf of the Group of Eastern European States), the United States, Venezuela (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), Sweden (on behalf of the Western European and Other States) and Japan (on behalf of the Group of Asian States).
Action on Drafts
The Committee first took up a draft resolution on the pattern of conferences (document A/C.5/57/L.52), introduced by Gerard Ho of Singapore, by which the General Assembly would approve the revised 2003 calendar of United Nations conferences and meetings. It would authorize the Committee on Conferences to make any adjustments to that calendar that may become necessary as a result of actions and decisions taken by the Assembly at its fifty-seventh session.
By other terms of the draft, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to ensure that any modification to the calendar be implemented strictly in accordance with the mandate of the Committee on Conferences. It would also decide to continue consideration of the pattern of conferences at the first resumed fifty-seventh session and to resume consideration of the related reports of the Secretary-General in order to act on them.
Acting without a vote, the Committee approved that text.
The representative of the Russian Federation said that due to some difficulties during consultations on the draft, the text failed to reflect important provisions that were traditionally included in it. Russia had participated in those consultations and had highlighted the need for them to end productively. The draft approved a revised pattern of conferences for 2000, resolved to review the Secretary-General’s report and to improve the work of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management Affairs. The Member States had unequivocally confirmed their intent to express clearly their position on the proposed reforms of conference services, in particular the concept of universality of conference services, which needed further clarification from the Secretariat and some adjustment on the part of Member States. The draft contained separate elements such as excessive centralization and the review of the division of power that ran counter to the ideology of delegating power and authority. Certain measures of the report should become part of a constructive internal dialogue within the Secretariat to look at the specifics of work in the Department.
He said the Committee on Conferences had requested clarification on how the reform of the main types of services had been thought out and noted that the ACABQ had criticized the proposed revision of the budgetary powers of the various sections of the Department. He confirmed his understanding that the implementation of such measures, in particular the review of the administrative bulletins, would not begin without the clear-cut approval of the General Assembly, which had not yet happened.
Also referring to the text on the pattern of conferences, the representative of Costa Rica agreed with the representative of the Russian Federation, saying that his understanding from informal consultations was that no administrative instructions would be implemented until they had been studied by the Fifth Committee.
Singapore’s representative reiterated his understanding that the consideration of several aspects of the item on the pattern conferences would continue with the aim of adopting a resolution on the matter at the resumed session.
The representative of Mexico (on behalf of Spanish-speaking countries) reaffirmed his commitment to multilingualism, saying that members of the group had expressed their concern over the poor quality of Spanish translations. The situation in the Spanish translation section resulted from the fact that there were 16 vacancies there, covered by temporary staff. The Section had also been given a lower number of posts than other official languages. Until the resumed session, it was possible to prepare a draft, that would address all aspects of the pattern of conferences item. He asked the Department to provide information regarding the situation in the Spanish translation section at the resumed session.
Cuba's representative welcomed the delegates’ efforts to formalize the draft so that it would meet the concerns of all Member States. She expressed regret that the Committee had failed to reach an agreement on the important item before it, which had particular importance in view of the negative impact of cost-cutting measures adopted this year. Efficient conference services were essential, and Cuba hoped that a resolution reflecting that need would be adopted at a resumed session. She also reiterated her understanding that the Secretariat would not take action on the issues under consideration until the General Assembly had expressed its will.
The representative of Syria said that the way in which the Committee had worked on the draft had been extraordinary. He had expressed his readiness to cooperate so as not to create the precedent of deferring the item to the Committee’s next session. The Committee was faced with the reality that one delegate was not ready to negotiate and that a condition had been put on the basis of a “take it or leave it” approach. The Committee was adopting the draft resolution provided that it would not be understood that the Secretariat had a free hand to implement the reform measures without a distinction to the fact that some issues were the prerogative of the Secretary-General and others of the General Assembly. Sometimes there was a misunderstanding as to what fell within the purview of the Secretariat. Expressing the hope that not a single measure would be acted on prior to the General Assembly’s approval, he said he would join the consensus on the basis of that understanding.
The representative of Denmark, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Union would have liked to see a more finished draft resolution, and was ready to work on finalizing a more substantial resolution as soon as possible. He hoped to adopt such a draft at the resumed session and was ready to work with all delegations to find a solution. There were a number of important issues pertaining to the agenda item which should be addressed in due course.
The representative of New Zealand agreed that in terms of outstanding issues, the Secretary-General could not implement all the measures in the report. Any measures that affected mandates required the General Assembly’s agreement. However, in line with the Charter authority of the Secretary-General, she looked forward to further deliberation on the range of reports as outlined by the coordinator of the item.
The representative of Australia supported the statements by two preceding speakers.
Canada’s representative said the reason for so much time being spent on the pattern of conferences item was that it was an important service, to which a large share of the budget was allocated. Most elements of the Secretary-General’s report on the reform of the Department were within the purview of the Secretary-General as the Organization’s chief administrator, he stressed.
The representative of the United States representative said that any actions within the Department must await the Fifth Committee’s action next year.
Also before the Committee was a draft resolution on estimates in respect of matters of which the Security Council is seized (document A/C.5/57/L.43), introduced by Ayman Elgammal of Egypt, by which the Assembly would take note of the related report of the Secretary-General. It would also approve an additional appropriation of $60.04 million for the 19 special political missions presented in the report of the Secretary-General under section 3, Political affairs, of the programme budget for the biennium 2002-2003, and approve an appropriation under section 32, Staff assessment, to be offset by a corresponding amount under Income section 1, Income from staff assessment, of the programme budget for the biennium 2002-2003.
The Committee approved the draft without a vote.
Also before the Committee was a draft resolution on the first performance report on the 2002-2003 programme budget (document A/C.5/57/L.48), by which the Assembly would take note of the Secretary-General's first performance report and endorse the recommendations of the ACABQ. It would decide to appropriate some $6.89 million to support the meeting requirements of the Counter-Terrorism Committee for the period 1 January 2002 through March 2003, under the following sections of the 2002-2003 programme budget: $6.53 million under section 2, General Assembly affairs and conference services, and $364,200 under section 27D, Office of Central Support Services.
The Assembly would also note the continued unpredictability of the service requirements for the Counter-Terrorism Committee's activity and the scope of absorption of some or all of the costs for servicing the Committee. It would decide to further consider the 2003 conference and support servicing in light of the Security Council's review of the Committee.
By further terms of the text, the Assembly would decide to approve some
$9.9 million for 2002 realized vacancy rates and to consider the actual realized vacancy rates for 2003 in the context of the second performance report.
Also by that text, the Assembly would note with deep concern the serious and continuing deterioration in the business of the United Nations Postal Administration. It would request the Secretary-General to ensure, as a matter of priority, that the continuing downward trend in the business of that Administration is reversed, considering all possible courses of action for the future conduct of its business.
By further terms, the Assembly would approve a net increase of some
$176.86 million in the appropriation approved for the 2002-2003 biennium and a net increase of some $2.81 million in the estimates of income for the biennium, to be apportioned among expenditure and income sections.
The Committee approved the text without a vote.
Also before the Committee was a consolidated statement of programme budget implications and revised estimates for the Organization’s contingency fund (document A/C.5/57/33). Potential new charges amounting to some $1.49 million are detailed in the annex to the report. Those include $44,700 in connection with ECOSOC’s 2002 resolutions and decisions; $250,000 for future operations of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (an additional amount of $250,000 would be set aside for a possible additional provision in 2003 for the Institute); $455,800 for the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; $286,500 for strengthening the terrorism prevention branch of the Secretariat; and $203,200 for ensuring effective secretarial support for the follow-up to the International Conference on Financing for Development.
The report explains that the level of the contingency fund has been set at $18.9 million, and the fund’s available balance as of the fifty-seventh session, was $1.52 million. Thus, the new and potential charges of $1.49 million are within the available balance of the contingency fund. The Fifth Committee may proceed to recommend to the Assembly the appropriation of the required amounts under the relevant sections of the programme budget, leaving a balance of
$31,200 in the contingency fund.
CONRAD S.M. MSELLE, Chairman of the ACABQ, orally introduced the report.
The Committee then decided to recommend that the General Assembly note that a balance of $31,200 remains in the contingency fund.
The representative of Cuba noted that the balance of some $31,200 was very small. Member States must be informed of that balance.
WARREN SACH, Director of the Office of Programme Planning and Budget Division, said that in draft resolution A/C.5/57/L.50, operative paragraph four, the Secretary-General was requested to address various issues including the question of rental costs. Specific queries had been made on how that would be interpreted and he had indicated that it would be interpreted to include UNIDIR and UNRISD.
The representative of Cuba said her delegation had asked that all bodies be informed of the balance of the contingency fund, even if it were a very small balance.
By a draft resolution contained in document A/C.5/57/L.45, the Committee presented to the Assembly a proposed programme budget outline for the next biennium (2004-2005). By the terms of the text, the Assembly would invite the Secretary-General to prepare his budget proposals on the basis of a preliminary estimate of some $2.88 billion at revised 2002-2003 rates. It would also decide that the priorities for the coming biennium would include the maintenance of international peace and security, promotion of economic growth and sustainable development, development of Africa, promotion of human rights, disarmament, effective coordination of humanitarian assistance, promotion of justice and international law, and combating international terrorism.
The Assembly would also reaffirm that the budget outline should provide a greater level of predictability of resources and promote greater involvement of Member States in the budgetary process. It would also reaffirm that the Secretary-General's budget proposals should reflect resource levels commensurate with mandates for their full, efficient and effective implementation. In the next programme budget, the Secretary-General would be further requested to make appropriate provisions for special peace and security missions, which could be expected to be extended or approved in the course of the biennium. By another request, the Assembly would address the need to make appropriate provisions in the next budget to minimize adverse impacts on conference and related services, while also drawing on the improvements in the management of conference services.
In addition to the preliminary estimate, the Assembly would decide to consider provisions for information technology and common services facilities infrastructure in the amount of $29.8 million. The Secretary-General would be requested to resubmit the proposed information technology strategy in accordance with resolution 56/239 of 24 December 2001 during the resumed fifty-seventh session. Also to be included in the proposed budget are provisions for recosting on the basis of existing methodology. The contingency fund would be set at the level of 0.75 per cent of the preliminary estimate of $21.6 million. That amount would be in addition to the overall level of the preliminary estimate.
The Committee approved the draft without a vote.
The representative of Cuba referred to operative paragraph 8 of the text, expressing the hope that the Secretariat would provide the necessary resources in the financial year to compensate for the negative impact of budgetary cuts in keeping with the relevant resolution.
The representative of Japan said that the Fifth Committee was entrusted with dealing with administrative and budgetary matters. By Section VI of resolution 45/248 B, the Assembly had expressed concern over the fact that other substantive committees were getting involved in those matters. During the current session, there had been several cases of pre-allocation of budget by the substantive committees. In that connection, he reiterated that no resolution with financial implications should be voted upon, until the Fifth Committee had stated its position regarding its consequences for the budget. In some cases, however, programme budget implications were issued, but the Fifth Committee had no opportunity to express itself on them.
One such case was the draft on INSTRAW, he said. Although the Fifth Committee had decided to approve a charge of $250,000 against the contingency fund and to set aside another $250,000 for possible allocation in 2003, the basis for that decision was a draft resolution by the Third Committee, which endorsed the recommendations of the working group on the Institute's future functioning, including a request for $500,000 from the regular budget to finance its core activities. Such a resolution clearly went against the spirit of resolution 45/248 B. Another point was the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, for which the programme budget implications had been issued upon approval of a related draft in the Third Committee. So far, the Fifth Committee had not had an opportunity to express itself on the matter. He found it questionable in terms of procedure if the Assembly were to proceed with the adoption of that resolution.
By a draft decision on the biennial programme of work of the Fifth Committee (document A/C.5/57/L.41), which was approved by the Committee without a vote, the Assembly would decide to address in 2003 such issues as the Organization’s programme budget for the next biennium (2004-2005). The programme of work for 2004 includes human resources management and programme planning. Some items, such as improving the Organization’s financial situation, review of the efficiency of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations, pattern of conferences, and financing of the United Nations peacekeeping operations, are to be considered by the Fifth Committee both in 2003 and in 2004.
The representative of South Africa said her delegation had reiterated the importance of peacekeeping in Africa and the developing world. It had also condemned sexual exploitation by humanitarian and peacekeeping personnel serving in mission areas. South Africa had conveyed concern that the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) had been unable to complete its investigation of such allegations in a peacekeeping mission in Africa due to a lack of resources and had requested an indication of when the investigation would be completed. The Fifth Committee had been unable to complete its deliberations on the issue, however. It was hoped that the OIOS would be able to provide the requested information, particularly on the status of the investigation, at the resumed session.
By yet another draft decision (document A/C.5/57/L.42), the Committee decided to defer consideration of some of its agenda items to its resumed fifty-seventh session. Among those are pattern of conferences, human resources management, administration of justice at the United Nations and financing of various peacekeeping missions.
The Committee also approved, without a vote, a draft resolution on UNITAR (document A/C.5/57/L.50), by which the Assembly would emphasize the need to find a viable financial solution to ensure the Institute's future effective functioning. It would note with concern that the Institute has accumulated a debt to the United Nations and to the Fondation Immobilière pour Organisations Internationales due to lack of payment of rent and maintenance for its liaison offices in New York and Geneva.
By further terms of the draft, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General, based on consultations with UNITAR's Executive Director, report at its next session on the Institute's financial viability, including the status of all voluntary contributions and the payment of the Institute's accumulated debt, as well as on provisions offered to other comparable organizations. In the context of the 2004-2005 programme budget, the Secretary-General would also be requested to address specific proposals and options on how best to address the issue of its past and future maintenance and rental costs, drawing on provisions made for other United Nations-associated organizations.
MICHEL TILEMANS (Belgium), Committee Vice-Chairman, said the Committee had reached agreement on the UNITAR draft. Given the agreement reached in informal consultations, he recommended that the Committee approve draft resolution A/C.5/57/L.50.
The representative of Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, then withdrew draft resolution A/C.5/57/L.38/Rev.1.
The representative of Nigeria said the Group of 77 supported and joined in the consensus on the UNITAR draft. The demands made on UNITAR were enormous and the Group was flexible in agreeing to the text considered this afternoon. UNITAR had been doing an excellent job and its programmes contributed tremendously to enlightening both new and old delegates. She would have preferred that UNITAR be accorded its request for free rent of its office space, but in the spirit of
cooperation, she would go along with that text. In due course, it was hoped that all parties would be on board to resolve the issue permanently.
The Committee then turned to the draft report of the Fifth Committee (document A/C.5/57/L.49). The text includes draft resolution I, which contains the recommendations made by the Committee during the fifty-seventh session on the revised estimates submitted by the Secretary-General and on the programme budget implications of resolutions before the Assembly. The sections of that draft have been adopted at previous meetings of the Committee.
The Committee then adopted draft resolution II entitled “Programme budget for the biennium 2002-2003”, which is divided into three sections. Acting on section A, the Committee recommended, inter alia, that the Assembly adjust the amount of some $2.7 billion appropriated for the biennium by $191.55 million to take account of new decisions, changes in mandates and other factors.
Under section B, on revised income estimates, the Assembly would resolve that the estimates of income would be increased by $4.39 million. Section C contains provisions relating to financing of the appropriations for 2003.
MURARI RAJ SHARMA (Nepal), Committee Chairman, said it was the first time in many years that the Fifth Committee had concluded its regular session several days before Christmas. It was incredible, but the Fifth Committee had wrapped up its work on 16 December and had worked hard to make that possible. On many issues, perceptions had varied as widely as the globe itself, but at the end of the day, the interest of common humanity and the Committee’s shared commitment to the United Nations had prevailed. He expressed his gratitude to the Bureau and coordinators of the various agenda items for their time in taking up the challenge of coordinating various agenda items on his behalf.
Regarding the schedule for the two resumed sessions, he said the first would take place from 3 to 28 March 2003 and the second from 5 to 30 May. In addition, the forty-third session of the Committee for Programme Coordination would take place from 9 June to 3 July 2003.
He then made a statement on the retirement of Under-Secretary-General Joseph Connor and Assistant Secretary-General Rafiah Salim. Both had made an indelible mark on the United Nations and would long be remembered. Mr. Connor’s presence and objectivity had always been reassuring and when he said the United Nations was in a healthy financial state, the Committee believed him. When he said the United Nations was in bad shape, it sent chills down the spine. Ms. Salim had handled complex issues with a high degree of competence. The Committee would miss them tremendously.
Mr. CONNOR said the affection and levity dominating the room was an accomplishment for the Fifth Committee. Noting that he had enjoyed the last eight years more than any other, he thanked the Committee for being such a “reform committee”.
Ms. Salim thanked the members of the Committee for their support in her five years at the United Nations. There had been ups and downs, as in any close relationship, but on the whole, the relationship had been productive. The Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM) was now in the process of implementing of
what the Committee had blessed it to do. She hoped the support given to her would be given to her replacement.
The representative of Armenia, on behalf of the Group of Eastern Europe States, said the Committee had benefited from the skilled leadership of the Chairman in meeting its demanding workload. The results achieved would pave the way for the Committee’s future success.
The representative of the United States thanked the Chairman for his leadership. He also addressed Mr. Connor and Ms. Salim, saying they had had difficult jobs to perform, but had done so with the greatest diplomacy.
The representative of Venezuela, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China and the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, also thanked the Chairman and wished Mr. Connor and Ms. Salim “calm seas” in their future endeavours.
The representative of Sweden, on behalf of the Western European and Other States Group, said the spirit of cooperation and “fun” was due largely to the Chairmanship of the Committee. He expressed sincere appreciation to Mr. Connor and Ms. Salim for their outstanding work. Japan’s representative, on behalf of the Asian Group, also expressed his appreciation for the Chairman’s handling of the Committee’s work.
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