Budget Committee Holds Organizational Session

1 October 2009

Budget Committee Holds Organizational Session

1 October 2009
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fourth General Assembly

Fifth Committee

1st Meeting (AM)

Budget Committee Holds Organizational Session


The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), during its organizational meeting this morning, agreed on its provisional programme of work for the first week of the sixty-fourth session, on the understanding that necessary adjustments would be made in the course of the session, as required.

Opening the session, the Committee Chairperson, Peter Maurer ( Switzerland), said that the Administrative and Budgetary Committee was undertaking a voyage of about one year, with an ambitious programme ahead of it.  The Committee had to take action on issues of major importance, first of all on the budget of the United Nations for 2010-2011, as well as the scale of assessments for the apportionment of the expenses of the United Nations and the peacekeeping budget.  Further, key decisions would have to be taken on such issues as internal oversight, procurement for the United Nations and human resources management.

Progress would be possible if all demonstrated full trust, and he wanted to establish a frank and open exchange in the Committee, he continued.  Trying to reach the summit when climbing mountains, one tended to lose site of cliffs and barriers.  Well prepared and walking carefully, however, one could always reach the goal.  As a Chinese proverb said, a voyage of a thousand leagues always started with a first step.  The Committee would take such a step during its first substantive meeting next Monday.

The representative of the Sudan, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, expressed appreciation for recent improvements in the timely issuance of documents, but pointed out that the ability of Member States to consider the reports and prepare for negotiations continued to be undermined by the late issuance of reports.  Recognizing that the programme of work would be amended throughout the session, the Group of 77 was not prepared to accept the programme as presented beyond the first week, at this stage, he said.  It was imperative to ensure that adequate time and conference servicing were provided for the consideration of the reports.  He looked forward to a time when the programme of work would be determined by the importance of the issues to Member States and not by the date that documents were made available to them.

He emphasized the importance of conducting negotiations in an open, inclusive and transparent manner, reiterating his opposition to decision-making in small group configurations, especially on the scale of assessments.  The Committee had shown that it was able to deal with numerous and complex issues in an expeditious and considered manner, by respecting existing mechanisms for negotiations and the sovereign right of every State to pronounce on administrative and budgetary matters.  In that way, it had been able to adopt decisions that were in the interest of the Organization.  Among the many important items before the Committee, he enumerated the budget, the scale of assessments, the Capital Master Plan and the reports of the Committee on Conferences and the Committee for Programme and Coordination.  He stressed the need to act promptly on the requests of Member States for exemption under Article 19 of the United Nations Charter.

The representative of Sweden, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that, among many important issues before the Committee were the scale of assessments for the regular budget, under consideration for the first time in three years, and the scale of assessments for peacekeeping operations, for the first time in nine years.  A fair and more balanced way to share the Organization’s budgetary responsibilities was essential to its effective functioning.  Further, the Union supported the management reform process aimed at making use of the Organization’s resources in the most effective and efficient way, without preventing it from carrying out its mandates.

He said that the Committee should complete its work by the date designated in the programme of work without resorting to unnecessary night and weekend meetings.  To that end, he stressed the importance of having all documents, in all official languages, before the beginning of each session and before reports were introduced.  Noting some improvements in that regard, he said that, even so, important reports, such as those related to the budget, had not yet been issued or were issued very late.  The European Union would consider refusing to take up reports formally submitted on or after the official end date of the session.  He encouraged the Chairperson to continue the dialogue with the Secretariat and the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) regarding the timely issuance of reports.

Highlighting the 2010-2011 budget and the scale of assessments as among the main issues for the current session, the representative of Mexico, who spoke on behalf of the Rio Group, said that the budget of the United Nations should reflect the impact of the world’s economic and financial crisis on Member States, without hindering due implementation of all the mandates, making a more efficient and effective use of resources.  In the current context, it was necessary to promote economic and social development activities of the United Nations, making every effort to balance the budget for the Organization’s three pillars: peace and security; human rights; and development.

He said the Rio Group took note of the Secretary-General’s prudent approach in the elaboration of the budget outline for the next biennium.  However, some proposals with significant programmatic and budgetary impact had been omitted, such as safety and security, information and communications technology, associated costs for the Capital Master Plan, and implementation of the Enterprise Resource Planning for the introduction of International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) at the United Nations.  The Group had serious doubts about the urgency of allocating additional resources for those matters.

He reaffirmed the importance of formulating the budget outline in a comprehensive manner, taking resolution 62/236 as a basis, and reflecting the needs for the future bienniums.  He also recalled that the inclusion of new needs in the budget outline was subject to the General Assembly’s approval.  The outline should have included more information on administrative issues and structural changes affecting resource requirements.  The proposal should have included a clear link between recent initiatives regarding the reform of the Organization, resource requirements, efficiency gains and progress in attaining those objectives.

In connection with human resources management reform, he wanted to know the outcome of the evaluation carried out by the Office of Human Resources Management on recruitment, which had led to the postponement of the National Competitive Examination this year.  It was important to know the proposals of that Office to promote a better geographical distribution of professional posts, particularly above the P-5 level.  The Rio Group would be also closely following the study on the availability of resources for the Human Rights Council, particularly the situation that had led to the delay in translating 13 documents at the Universal Periodic Review.

He said the issue of procurement was of utmost importance to the Rio Group.  He expected that the necessary actions were being taken to strengthen international control mechanisms, and that developing countries and economies in transition reached a higher level of participation in the bidding processes of the United Nations.  He also emphasized the important work carried out by the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean.  The Rio Group reaffirmed its determination to expeditiously grant proper exemptions in the applications of Article 19 of the Charter, preferably during the first week of the session, since the affected delegations had not fulfilled their financial obligations for reasons beyond their will.

Supporting the position of the Group of 77, Pakistan’s representative said that the lack of compliance with resolutions on the issuance of documents, in all working languages, six weeks ahead of time, was now the norm, rather than exception.  Delays in issuance of important documents seriously impacted the quality of the Committee’s deliberations.  He would like to see early results on the measures that the Secretary-General envisaged to address the underlying reasons for that practice, and for improvement in planning documentation needs of the Fifth Committee.

He also underscored the need for frugal use of resources, saying that in that context, Member States might call for additional information only when it was absolutely essential, and rely more on informal consultations.  Recalling that in the past, the Committee had been called upon to deal with important issues at the last minute under tremendous pressure, he underlined the need for concluding the programme of work within the allocated time.  Adequate time should be provided for the consideration of each item, including such strategic issues as the budget and scale of assessments.  He also stressed the need to maintain the spirit of transparency and inclusiveness in the negotiations.   Pakistan was opposed to decision-making in small group configuration, especially on the budget, scales and reform issues, as well as imposition of any conditionalities in the negotiations.  The Committee’s heavy agenda called for flexibility, compromise and understanding.

The representative of the United States thanked all the newly appointed and returning officials of the Committee and ACABQ, and said the United States looked forward to the constructive work of the session.

The Committee will take up the scale of assessments for the apportionment of expenses of the United Nations at 10 a.m. Monday, 5 October.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.