|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
11th Meeting (AM)
Fifth Committee Speakers Say ‘Catchword’ of Zero Growth for UN Budget Having
Negative Impact on Programmes, Mandates, as Two-Day Discussion Concludes
Agree Resources Must Be Used Efficiently, but Stress $4.9 Billion for 2010-2011
Very Small Compared to Governmental Budgets of Some Leading Developed Countries
Concluding a discussion of the proposed budget for 2010-2011, several developing countries on the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) insisted that zero growth was not the solution for the Organization’s budget, and called for rectifying imbalances in funding budget priorities.
Member States must not make the mistake of being “penny wise, pound foolish”, said the representative of Singapore. Resources must be used effectively and efficiently, but that should not be confused with parsimony. With the growing complexity and intensity of the Organization’s activities, excessive constraints on budget growth seemed neither sustainable nor desirable. The proposed budget of $4.9 billion, even including subsequent “add-ons”, came to less than a dollar a day for each of the world’s inhabitants and was very small compared to the governmental budgets of the leading developed countries.
Calling for the allocation of resources to be commensurate with the mandates approved by Member States, the representative of Bangladesh said that artificial austerity measures in the budget would jeopardize the Organization’s proper functioning, while Cameroon’s delegate called zero-budget growth “a catchword” that had negatively affected the implementation of programme mandates, rather than a fact.
The representative of Syria was concerned over continued operation on the basis of zero growth, without an official resolution by the Assembly in that regard. That practice -- pursued by a limited number of States -- severely restricted the capacity of the Organization to implement its activities.
The representative of Algeria said that a zero-growth rate was neither desirable nor feasible, as it risked solidifying a detriment to development activities caused, among other things, by the enormous increase in resources required by the special political missions. While recognizing the importance of those missions, he deplored the pressure to accept large increases for them, while denying resources for development, although their goals were linked and complementary. Although extrabudgetary voluntary contributions were important to the Organization’s activities, the fact that they were subject to the priorities of their contributors, rather than of Member States, must not diminish reliable and predictable resources for development.
Angela Kane, Under-Secretary-General for Management, responded to comments from delegations, on behalf of the Secretary-General, and noted their special concerns at the growth of the special political missions; regarding the budgetary imbalance among the three pillars and between extrabudgetary and regular budget resources; as well as the need for greater allocation of resources to development.
Representatives of Brazil, Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey, Venezuela, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, India, Argentina, Viet Nam, Sudan (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China) and Angola (on behalf of the African Group) also participated in the debate.
The Chairman of the Fifth Committee also made a brief statement.
The Committee is next scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. Thursday, 5 November, to take up the administration of justice.
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met today to continue its consideration of the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2010-2011 (for background, see GA/AB/3925).
LOY HUI CHIEN ( Singapore) expressed support for the statement by the “Group of 77” developing countries and China. “Critics of the UN”, he said, “like to call the Organization inefficient, and some even go so far as to predict its growing irrelevance and possible demise. But, despite all of its shortcomings, the UN is still the world’s best guarantee for peace and security, development and human rights.” To remain capable of translating its priorities and goals into reality, it was essential for mandated activities to receive adequate and sustainable funding. Member States should take a long-term perspective on the budget and bear in mind the broader vision of reform for an efficient and effective Organization that could serve the collective needs of its Members.
Member States must not fall into the mistake of being “penny wise, pound foolish”, he said. Resources must be used effectively and efficiently, but that should not be confused with parsimony. With the growing complexity and intensity of the Organization’s activities, excessive constraints on budget growth seemed neither sustainable nor desirable. The proposed budget of $4.9 billion in 2008-2009 terms, representing growth of 0.5 per cent compared to the previous biennium, even including subsequent “add-ons”, came to less than a dollar a day for each of the world’s inhabitants and was very small compared to the governmental budgets of the leading developed countries. Member States should depart from incremental budgeting and scrutinize budget requests on their own merits.
The development pillar must not be relegated to a lower priority than the pillars of peace and security and human rights, he said, noting that those activities had largely been financed through extrabudgetary resources. He drew attention to the shortfall in the Development Fund, which was far from the goal of $200 million. As the organization that represented all the world’s inhabitants, more priority should be given to assist the poorest and most vulnerable, including to the special needs of African countries and the unique challenges faced by the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, and small island developing States.
In contrast to the inadequate funding for development activities, he pointed out that the budgets of the special political missions had grown tremendously over the last decade and now made up an estimated $1 billion, or one fifth, of the proposed budget. While he agreed that those missions were necessary to contain threats to world peace and security, he expressed concern that the disproportionate growth in their provisions had led to large distortions in the size of the budget, and engendered the false impression that the regular budget was spiralling out of control. For the sake of transparency and to facilitate meaningful discussions in the Committee, he urged that the special political missions be considered as a separate exercise during deliberations on the proposed programme budget.
REGINA MARIA CORDEIRO DUNLOP ( Brazil) said the United Nations could no longer have a regular budget that did not treat its three pillars -- peace and security, human rights, and development -- in a balanced manner. Unfortunately, the regular budget continued to not give due priority to development activities. But, two clear trends had emerged: a growing need for assessed contributions to finance special political missions; and an increasing reliance on extrabudgetary funds for priority activities. That situation was creating a schism without the Organization, with the decisions taken by the Security Council on peace and security matters counting on reliable assessed contributions, and those approved by the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and other intergovernmental organs on human rights and development were left to rely on less predictable extrabudgetary funds.
Extrabudgetary funds should not replace regular and predictable funds for the United Nations core activities. Welcoming voluntary funds, she said those resources should primarily seek to complement, not substitute, regular budget funding. In addition, extrabudgetary resources should be used to support and not reorient priorities agreed by Member States. There was a further need to strengthen the United Nations Secretariat’s role, capacity and effectiveness in the area of development and that it should have a greater share of its financing coming from the regular budget, which would ensure greater independence to the work of the Organization and more reliable and predictable funding. She stressed that providing more resources to the Development Account was an integral part of efforts towards consolidating the Secretariat’s development activities. Member States should seek to agree on a sustainable way to increase regular budget funds to that programme.
Over the past decade, Member States had been requesting more from the United Nations, but its role would not be able to broaden without providing commensurate additional resources. “We must not set up the Organization for failure by requesting it to take additional responsibilities and, at the same time, proposing across-the-board arbitrary cuts that would negatively affect all its substantive activities”, she said, noting that that was particularly true for development-related activities during the present financial crisis. “We want an efficient Organization not only at a time of financial and economic crisis, but always.” Brazil did not support proposals centred on “efficiency savings” aimed at curtailing funds to legitimately approved mandates. By providing adequate resources to all mandates, all Member States had the opportunity to reaffirm their commitment to the Organization.
MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE ( Iran) associated himself with the position of the Group of 77 and said that the level of resources should enable the Secretariat to effectively implement all the mandates without resorting to extrabudgetary funding. At the same time, he supported budgetary discipline and measures to achieve greater efficiency through the optimal use of available resources. Any attempt by the Secretary-General to ask for a cut or to put an arbitrary ceiling to the budget had no legislative mandate from the Assembly and constrained the Organization’s capacity to implement all its programmes, or might jeopardize the quality of implementation, especially under the development pillar. The 2010-2011 budget proposal was the third one that reflected 0.5 per cent real growth over the previous biennium. That repeating figure seemed to be more of a political wish of a few Member States than an accident. It was the prerogative of the General Assembly to set the level of resources, and that level must be commensurate with the Organization’s mandates and activities.
The proposed allocation of resources, once again, clearly demonstrated that strengthening the Organization’s capacity to implement its development agenda did not constitute a major priority for the drafters of the document, he continued. In each and every proposed budget, his delegation, along with the majority of Member States, had asked for putting an end to systemic discrimination towards development activities in the United Nations budget. The Assembly, in its resolution 63/260, had demonstrated its strong political will to strengthen the development pillar of the United Nations. It was a legitimate expectation to see the provisions of that resolutions translated into concrete proposals by the Secretary-General, but the proposed allocation of financial resources showed a 2.4 per cent increase for international cooperation for development, 0 per cent for the Development Account, against a 5.2 per cent increase for human rights and humanitarian affairs, and 3 per cent for political affairs.
Regarding the Development Account, he said that, once again, the budget proposal showed that efficiency gains over the last several bienniums had been used by programme managers to implement their own priorities, with nothing left for development. The main concentrations of the new proposed posts showed 9.37 per cent for human rights, 7.4 per cent for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), 3 per cent for political affairs, and 2.3 per cent for development. That was another deviation from the priority areas as defined by the Assembly. Another source of concern was the lack of transparency and accountability in the recruitment of staff, especially at senior levels. Equitable geographical representation was the best approach needed to preserve the universal character of the United Nations. Improved recruitment through National Competitive Examinations could rejuvenate the Organization and improve the current imbalances. His delegation was also concerned about the unprecedented use of consultants, with the Organization spending millions of regular budget dollars for those services.
He added that the Department of Public Information (DPI) should revitalize its role in promoting the Organization’s image through dissemination of its achievements in all fields. The Department’s role should transcend damage control and focus more on the benefits of multilateralism. On procurement, he said that, following the approval of additional resources to improve the process, he expected a genuine improvement in business opportunities for developing countries. The real measure of achievement, in that regard, was not the number of seminars, but a real increase in business between the United Nations and companies in the developing world. He did not accept the introduction of any new criteria in procurement without prior approval by the Assembly. Also, regional commissions should receive financial and human resources to enable them to implement their core mandates, without reliance on extrabudgetary resources.
ADE PETRANTO (Indonesia) associated himself with the position of the Group of 77 and said that, while the United Nations continued to be called to fulfil worldwide responsibilities to improve the lives of people who urgently needed its help, it had experienced an overall growth in its budget amounting to only $22.4 million, or a mere 0.5 per cent, compared to the previous biennium. While strongly advocating high efficiency in budgetary matters, his delegation was also realistic and supported results-oriented approaches. Efficiency must be accompanied by the ability to implement all mandated activities. Over the years, however, the consistent theme had been zero growth. That, as an aim in and of itself, could hardly be perceived as an impressive management strategy, especially if it left the United Nations open to continuous criticism that it was more committed to talk than concrete achievements. With a renewed appreciation among States of the value of multilateralism, there was every reason for the Organization to be properly endowed with the resources needed to meet the expectations of its membership.
Stressing the priority importance of internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, he said that, unfortunately, development was often treated lightly. It was one of the three main pillars on which the United Nations rested, and the Charter did not subordinate one pillar to another. Therefore, the Committee must be guided by the Charter in its budgetary decision-making. Regrettably, the budget did not entirely reflect that perspective. Most development-related activities were funded from extrabudgetary resources, for which the approval procedures, reporting requirements and accountability mechanisms often lacked transparency. It was, therefore, imperative to strike a balance in the distribution of limited budget resources among the three United Nations pillars.
Continuing, he recalled that the Assembly had requested the Secretary-General to avoid a piecemeal approach to the budget process, and the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) advised against such an approach, as well. It was emphasized that the budget must present an accurate picture of all mandated activities, along with the resources allocated to achieve them. Another important aspect was the appeal for a more results-based budgeting process. That involved changing institutional culture and was never easy. But, it was an important and necessary part of the reform process that the Organization had to undertake.
TOMMO MONTHE (Cameroon) expressed support for the statements by the Group of 77 and China and of the African Group and said that the proposed programme budget should be considered in the context of the relevant rules and regulations for programme planning, which stressed evaluation using the following tools: mid-term planning, budget programming, reports on programme implementation, and evaluation reports. All those tools contributed to decision-making and management and were meant to ensure that resources were used appropriately and in the most efficient and effective way possible. A representative of the Committee on Programming and Coordination (CPC) should always be available to explain specifics of the programme budget during Fifth Committee deliberations.
The budget proposals submitted by the Secretary-General should be examined in that context, he said. They related to important mandates of the General Assembly, among them, strengthening the Department of Political Affairs, development activities, management and human resources reform, moving to the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) and transferring from the Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) to the enterprise resource planning. The draft budget should have included specific information on how much would be allocated to each new initiative. The total proposed budget approached $5.5 billion, which might seem excessive. But, not if looked at in a world context, where so many resources were devoted to weapons and where smaller entities that had no relationship to peace and security, or human well-being, had huge budgets.
The financial crisis could not explain the parsimonious financing of the regular budget. The fact that extrabudgetary resources surpassed those of the regular budget, demonstrated that there was no equal political will to fund mandated activities among Member States. Further, while the growth rate of the budget had been given as 0.5 per cent compared to 2008-2009, that was not a realistic number, because there would be additional resource requests. He concurred with ACABQ’s rejection of that approach, as it destabilized the Member States’ ability to consider the budget or adequately prepare for paying contributions. Zero-budget growth was not a fact, but a catchword that had negatively affected the implementation of programme mandates.
Further, he said that there was a growing “culture of budget imbalance”: between regular and extrabudgetary resources; between the three pillars; and of geographic distribution in human resources. With regard to the regular and extrabudgetary resources proposed by the Secretary-General, he noted that the latter had risen to over $9.3 billion, as against the nearly $5 billion for the regular budget. Those figures indicated that voluntary contributions were necessary to implementing organizational mandates. However, the use of voluntary contributions must never challenge the prioritization of mandates approved by Member States, or influence the Secretariat in the implementation of those mandates. Otherwise, the Organization was headed towards becoming a United Nations “a la carte”, rather than one guided by the Charter. Once the General Assembly had adopted the mid-term programme plan, the Secretary-General should bring decisions on priorities to Member States and the administrative councils of the funds for voluntary contributions.
Expressing concern at the lack of resources dedicated to development in the budget, he said that the three pillars did not receive equal treatment. “If it was true that there could be no development without peace and security, it was also true that the amelioration of living conditions for people remained the most efficient way to realize peace and security, on the one hand, and respect for human rights, on the other”, he said. On equitable geographical distribution, he noted underrepresentation of those from the South in professional and higher positions.
He noted that the proposed programme budget foresaw a 7.4 per cent increase in allocations for NEPAD, in accordance with resolution 63/260. Expressing concern at how difficult it had been to raise extrabudgetary resources for that purpose during the current biennium, he said it was time to allocate budgetary resources to that end. Further, the Office of the Special Adviser for Africa was responsible for coordination of support from the international community to NEPAD. That Office must be able to function without hindrance, especially as Africa was the only continent that might not achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
He expressed satisfaction with the proposed $11.4 million increase in resource allocation for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in accordance with the decision by Member States to double that Office’s regular budget over the five years following 2005, but noted that the raise in that Office’s budget had not affected the human and financial resources of some of its regional offices, particularly the subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa. He expressed appreciation that the proposed budget for the Office of the High Commissioner foresaw both an increase in resources for the Centre, and the allocation of a separate subheading for it in future. As Cameroon was host to the Centre, it would provide all the necessary support to its proper functioning, he said.
ABDUL HAMEED ( Pakistan) aligned himself with the position of the Group of 77 and stressed that the budget document should present a complete picture of all mandated activities along with the resource requirements that needed approval. The Secretary-General had proposed a budget that not only exceeded the budget outline by 0.39 per cent, but also indicated that there were more requirements to be included at a later stage. The budget was a management tool, and it should reflect a complete picture of resources for the next biennium.
Extrabudgetary resources of $9.3 billion were anticipated for 2010-2011 for a variety of support, substantive and operational activities, he said, reflecting an increase of 7.8 per cent. The approval procedures, reporting requirements and accountability mechanisms of those resources should have greater transparency. Mandated activities should be financed through assessed contributions for a predictable source of funding.
He went on to say that the budget should reflect the priorities of Member States in the areas of development, peace and security, and human rights, but there was a disproportionate increase in some sections in the budget for the next biennium. There was a need for adequate allocation of resources for development activities. He also emphasized the need to reduce the high vacancy rates at all duty stations. According to the budget document, a uniform vacancy rate of 6.5 per cent for Professional staff and 3.5 per cent for General Services was proposed. On the other hand, the ACABQ had pointed out that the actual average vacancy rate now stood at 8.4 per cent for Professional staff. The high vacancy rate would certainly affect programme delivery. It should not be used to achieve savings.
Efficiency gains achieved over the last few years had not been diverted to the Development Account, as stipulated in the provisions of resolution 52/12B. The Secretary-General had proposed the establishment of that Account with an amount of $200 million, but the money in it remained at just $18.6 million. He wanted some explanation for not achieving the target of $200 million.
FARID DAHMANE (Algeria), associating himself with the statements of the Group of 77 and China and of the African Group, said that the proposed programme budget should reflect the vision of Member Sates for the Organization’s priorities, activities and functioning. Therefore, the primary role in determining the budget lay with intergovernmental bodies. The CPC was also essential to determining policy for budgetary priorities. The proposed budget, in future, should contain all proposed expenditures to allow for its most effective consideration.
He stressed the importance of balance among the three pillars, and the need to reinforce the development pillar. He further noted that the enormous increase in resources required by the special political missions was detrimental to other activities and distorted the regular budget. He said that a zero-growth rate was neither desirable nor feasible as it risked solidifying that detriment to development activities. While recognizing the importance of the special political missions, he deplored the pressure to accept large increases for them, while denying resources for development, although their goals were linked and complementary.
Extrabudgetary voluntary contributions were also important to the Organization’s activities, but must not subvert development activities by diminishing reliable, predictable resources to that end, he said. There was also a risk of a two-tier system in the United Nations, one for peace and security, which would receive stable resources, and one that would come under the funds and programmes, whose resources would be subject to the priorities of their contributors. The total of extrabudgetary resources for the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and for NEPAD illustrated the inconveniences of that type of financing, which was irregular and unpredictable. He called for resources to be allocated from the regular budget, for those entities, commensurate with the conscience of the international community.
The Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States was overburdened with responsibilities, and that prevented sufficient attention being given to the mission of the Special Adviser for Africa, he said. A lasting solution must be found that would enable all that Office’s responsibilities to be met. Several subsidiary entities within the Organization provided insufficient details on their staffing and resources, to the Fifth Committee, in conformity with mandates, and approved or projected resources. A tendency towards “self-bestowal” had not been accorded those bodies by the General Assembly and impinged on the prerogatives of the Assembly. The Assembly alone had the authority to approve any changes in the programme budget or planning.
A.K. ABDUL MOMEN ( Bangladesh) aligned himself with the statement of the Group of 77 and China and said, further, that the myriad challenges facing the world today presented the United Nations with the opportunity to play a dynamic and visionary role for the good of mankind. To that end, the Organization’s budget must reflect reality and include adequate provisions to address the development needs of developing countries, especially of least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States. He urged all Member States to pay their dues on time, in full and without preconditions. Despite its constraints, Bangladesh had regularly been paying its assessed contributions to the regular, peacekeeping, Tribunals and Capital Master Plan budgets, he said.
He said that presentation of the budget in a more user-friendly and precise manner would help Member States’ analysis, and he concurred with the ACABQ recommendations on the matter, as well as with the Advisory Committee’s recommendation that explanations be provided to explain why foreseeable requirements were not included in the proposed budget document. He stressed that the budget document was not a mere accounting statement, but should be a comprehensive document delineating the Secretary-General’s visionary strategy for attaining the mandates of Member States.
In that regard, the budget should provide more resources to development activities, striking a balance among the Organization’s three pillars. Sustainable development was inextricably linked to peace and security, and the three pillars were mutually reinforcing. He said that it was unfortunate that the Development Account represented only 0.38 per cent of the regular budget, which represented a proportional decrease from the biennium 2008-2009. The perennial shortfalls of the Development Account should be addressed through an appropriate mechanism under the regular budget.
Calling for the allocation of resources to be commensurate with the mandates approved by Member States, he said that artificial austerity measures in the budget would jeopardize the Organization’s proper functioning. In addition, the request to programme managers last year for a 2 per cent budget cut disregarded the merit of the mandated work and denigrated intergovernmental prerogatives, he said. Further, noting that extrabudgetary resources for 2010-2011 were almost double those of the regular budget, he said that an all-inclusive methodology should be devised so that the entire membership could participate in decision-making on those additional resource allocations.
On results-based budgeting, he noted that categorization and quantification of outputs had yet to be addressed fully and concurred with the ACABQ that full information on discontinuing outputs and proposed new outputs would be more useful. The bulk of the 4,541 outputs that would be discontinued in the proposed biennium involved economic, social and environmental programmes in developing countries, he said, and requested information on resources released and relocated from discontinued outputs not linked to the new ones.
He expressed concern at the continued lack of adequate attention to the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, which was comprised of three subprogrammes for least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States. Half the Organization’s membership belonged to those three groups. The least developed countries unit of the Office dealt with the 49 most vulnerable countries, where 12 per cent of the world’s population lived, around 50 per cent of them living on less than one dollar a day. Being on the verge of concluding the Brussels Programme of Action, and given how little progress had been made in that regard, also bearing in mind that the fourth Conference on the least developed countries would be convened in April/May 2011, a strong and effective role for the least developed countries unit was critically important. He called for strengthening that unit in terms of financing and human resources.
He further expressed deep concern at the organizational arrangements for dealing with three separate responsibilities of the High Representative, the acting Special Adviser for Africa, and the Representative to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and concurred with the ACABQ that the current arrangement could undermine the dedicated high-level attention necessary in respect of functions under programme budget sections 10, 11 and 12. In that regard, he noted that the designation of the High Representative as the focal point for the activities of UNCTAD at Headquarters without the Assembly’s approval went counter to Assembly resolution 62/236, and requested the Secretary-General to restore the mandate of the New York Office of UNCTAD.
Further, in that same resolution, the Assembly had requested the Secretary-General to urgently fill the position of the Under-Secretary-General and the Special Adviser for Africa as a matter of priority, and had decided not to abolish that post in resolution 63/260. Taking into consideration the extensive discussion on the matter since the Secretary-General had first announced the “merger” of the two offices in January 2007, the non-compliance with relevant Assembly resolutions was deeply regrettable. He requested an update from the Secretariat on the status of recruitment for the post of Special Adviser for Africa.
MOHAMED FATHI EDREES ( Egypt) supported the position of the Group of 77 and said that, with several add-ons expected to be presented to the Committee, the overall proposed budget level was not final and would be raised. However, any rise in the level of the budget should not lead to any cuts in the parts of the budget relating to the interests of developing countries. He noted the inequality concerning the allocation of resources in the budget proposal, with almost 20 per cent of resources (some $937 million) proposed for political affairs, while the level of the development pillar remained at only $18.65 million. His delegation was prepared to support any well-studied proposals aiming to develop and promote the performance of the Organization in the area of political affairs, but there should be a balance in the allocation of resources for the main pillars of the United Nations.
Moreover, the budget for special political missions would continue to constitute a burden on the regular budget of the United Nations. Those missions, established mainly by the Security Council, should have a separate account and should be dealt with in a way similar to peacekeeping missions. The allocations proposed for those missions (about $829 million) should not adversely affect different parts of the budget and should be treated as an extra amount, over and separate from the rest of it.
He supported the proposals concerning the organizational structure, functions and post distribution for the Peacebuilding Support Office, aiming to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the Office and promote its vital role. He also supported the recommendations regarding the Office for the Register of Damage caused by the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, welcoming the increase of $314,300 in the allocations to that body. To date, over 1,500 claim forms had been collected and delivered to the Office, and 50,000 to 60,000 claims were expected to be collected in 2010-2011.
On NEPAD, he said its proposed level of $375,000 was very disappointing for Egypt and other African States. That level, although increasing from the last biennium, would continue to lead to a low rate of implementation of extrabudgetary activities. Therefore, it was important for Member States to take that matter into consideration, while discussing the budget. Egypt also supported the recommendation of the ACABQ that regional commissions, together with the Office of Human Resources Management, had to develop a strategy to expedite recruitment and appointment for vacant posts established in 2008-2009. In carrying out their mandated activities, the regional commissions should strengthen their cooperation, in order to meet common challenges. Egypt also supported the proposal to upgrade the post of the head of the New York Office of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to the Assistant Secretary-General level.
He added that Egypt was closely following efforts to improve the geographical representation at the Office and requested the High Commissioner to continue to implement expeditiously the recommendations of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) regarding human resources management and efficiency in implementation of its mandate. His delegation realized the increase in the workload of the ACABQ and growing volume of documentation before it. Accordingly, he supported increasing the number of weeks allocated to the work of that Committee from four to eight per biennium. On the Secretary-General’s budgetary discretion, Egypt would study the consolidated report on the implementation of the experiment in that regard.
YASSAR DIAB ( Syria) said that the proposed budget must provide adequate resources to implement the mandates given to the United Nations by Member States. His delegation was concerned over continued operation on the basis of zero growth, without an official resolution by the Assembly in that regard. That practice -- pursued by a limited number of States -- severely restricted the capacity of the Organization to implement its activities. The proposed budget did not adequately cover all mandated programmes, activities and policies. He reaffirmed the role of the General Assembly, through the Fifth Committee, to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the resources and posts required. He commended the ACABQ for its useful observations on the budget, but had some concerns regarding its remarks on the logical framework and recommendations to change some expected achievements and performance indicators. The logical framework of the budget had been adopted by the Assembly on the basis of the recommendations of the CPC.
Despite the agreement of all Member States on the three pillars of the United Nations, there were significant distortions in the proposals before the Committee, with sustained growth in programmes relating to maintenance of peace and security and human rights, with no such growth in the programmes relating to development activities. The Assembly had decided on the priorities for 2010-2011, which included achievement of steady development and economic growth. He called on the Secretariat to address the distortion through equitable allocation of resources for all three pillars. He fully supported the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and its secretariat, which provided the necessary support to States in the area of development. He also supported regional commissions, which played an important and constructive role in integrating economic and social dimensions into national strategies and tried to reconcile global development concerns with national priorities. It was important to reinforce the Organization’s regional capabilities.
The General Assembly had stressed the importance of training, he continued. Therefore, it was important to promote training and recruit trainers from developing countries. Training resources should be fairly allocated among all departments and offices. He also emphasized the particular importance of training for language staff, given a large number of expected retirements in the next few years.
He also commented on the proposal to integrate most of United Nations Truce Supervision Organization’s (UNTSO)’s administrative and logistical support and related assets for the Observer Group Lebanon and Observer Group Golan into the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNFIL) and the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). That proposal had already been submitted twice, and the General Assembly had not supported that recommendation. It was surprising to him that the Secretariat was again submitting that proposal to the Assembly. Retabling that proposal for negotiations now would only waste the Fifth Committee’s precious time. Support should be given to the ACABQ recommendation, in that regard.
MEHMET YENER ( Turkey) said that the budget was an organizational plan stated in monetary terms. Therefore, the programme budget of the United Nations was a fundamental and strategic tool to achieve its mandates. The Organization should be provided with enough resources to meet its goals, yet it should be much more aware of its spending to be effective, thoughtful and efficient under the current tough economic conditions. All Member States had been affected by the global economic and financial crisis, and many of them faced fiscal deficits. It was important to keep those difficulties in mind.
The increase of 0.5 per cent in the proposed 2010-2011 budget was reasonable, yet the proposal did not present the whole picture, he continued. There would be some additional requests later on. That was contrary to the main budget principles. Budget resources and expenditures must be shown in a complete manner, for future proposed budgets. The United Nations should strictly comply with budgetary discipline, be cost-effective and try to fit proposed programme budget limits. The Organization should avoid any attempts to increase the budget expenditures, except urgent cases relating to peace and security. Some other necessary and urgent cases should be financed by the contingency fund. Member States’ share of the budget should reflect a fair and balanced distribution of financial responsibilities. The United Nations could not implement its mission, without sufficient resources. Thus, all Member States should meet their financial obligations and pay their contributions in full and on time.
JORGE VALERO ( Venezuela) supported the position of the Group of 77 and the Rio Group and said that the adoption of the budget was the prerogative of the 192 Member States of the United Nations. The budget should reflect a balanced picture of the priorities and interests of all the Member States. In that regard, he reaffirmed the role and authority of the General Assembly and the Fifth Committee on administrative and budgetary matters. The budget proposal before the Committee reflected blunt imbalances, which had been inherited from earlier periods, even more so taking into account the priorities established by the Assembly. While in some sections of the budget resources had more than doubled, or even tripled since 2000, the development sections remained virtually at the same level, in spite of the mandate put forth by the Assembly during its last session. The responsibility of the Secretariat was to fulfil the mandates by Member States and implement the mechanisms that ensured the financial soundness of the Organization.
On geographical representation and gender balance, he said that the situation was far from satisfactory. The Secretariat should be staffed with individuals from all countries and regions. It was also necessary to have more women in senior positions, in particular women from developing countries. He was also concerned over the current situation of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, where the imbalance was so high that it undermined the intergovernmental nature of that Office, as well as the high number of already budgeted posts that were vacant in areas designated for development. It was also disappointing that, more than 10 years after its establishment, the Development Account was still far from the originally proposed budget of $200 million, which was nothing more than a minimum aspiration. Building a development plan with a human face was essential, which required compliance with the responsibilities vested in Governments and in all sectors of societies. The United Nations could not be alien to those demands.
Strong support for development was an essential requirement, he stressed, especially at a time when the world was affected by the global crisis of capitalism, with its effects most strongly impacting the poor and excluded. Therefore, he would like to remind developed countries of the need to fulfil their commitments to transfer 0.7 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) to developing countries and help achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Various measures proposed by the Secretary-General should be aimed at eradicating poverty, benefiting the most vulnerable segments of the population and providing them with the goods and services to achieve a better quality of life. There was an urgent need to address serious social problems, especially poverty, unemployment, social exclusion, inequality and growing social division, which predominantly affected developing countries.
AUGUSTINE P. MAHIGA (United Republic of Tanzania) supported the position of the Group of 77 and the African Group and said that his country, like many African States, was facing many challenges beyond the financial and economic crises, including hunger, communicable diseases, severe drought and market access challenges. His country had expectations of commensurate assistance from the United Nations system through the country team, working in partnership with the Government to address those challenges in various development sectors. His country also counted on the United Nations system to continue facilitating development assistance from bilateral and multilateral sources. The attainment of the Millennium Development Goals in the next five years was a top priority for his Government. Peace, security and stability in Africa also represented a major concern. Therefore, the role of the United Nations in conflict resolution, especially in peacekeeping in Africa in partnership with the African Union, was highly appreciated and encouraged.
He reaffirmed his commitment to the intrinsic value of human rights and inclusion of human rights promotion as one of the three pillars of the United Nations. He was mindful of the fact that gross violations of human rights were among the root causes of conflicts in many regions, including Africa. He supported appropriate allocation of United Nations resources for human rights in a balanced manner, in relationship to the other pillars of development and peace and security.
While commending dedicated international efforts and initiatives in addressing Africa’s challenges, his delegation remained concerned over the Secretariat’s effort in the implementation of the mandates in support of those initiatives. Specifically, he was deeply concerned that the post of the Special Adviser for Africa had remained vacant for a long time. He concurred with the ACABQ that continued vacancy at the Under-Secretary-General level had had an impact on programme delivery, especially as the role of that official was to ensure a steady inflow of extrabudgetary resources to Africa. He sought clarification on the status of filling of the Special Adviser for Africa post.
LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE (Zambia), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, observed that the proposed 2010-2011 biennium budget must be considered in the context of the United Nations’ “serious financial situation” arising from unpaid assessed contributions. He appealed to countries that had the capacity to pay to do so, adding that the biennium budget should reflect the following priority areas: sustainable economic growth and sustainable development; peace and security; Africa’s development; human rights; humanitarian assistance; promotion of justice and international law; disarmament; and drug control and combating international terrorism.
He expressed concern that the 2010-2011 budget had only risen by 0.5 per cent compared to the previous biennium. Given the importance of the United Nations’ development agenda, the amount in the Development Account, which made up only about 0.38 per cent of the regular budget, needed to be increased. He noted, as well, that priorities decided by the General Assembly must be taken with the same seriousness as those arising from the Security Council. The budget was the very embodiment of those priorities, and needed to be administered efficiently and with more transparency. His Government also supported the notion of equitable geographic representation and gender balance at the United Nations and believed staff recruitment should be transparent. It was concerned that, although it had a quota of 14, only five spots had been filled. He ended by stressing the importance of States paying their assessed contributions on time and without preconditions.
SANJAY NIRUPAM (India), aligning his delegation with the statement made by the Sudan on behalf of the Group of 77, said that the regular budget was not just a financial statement of the United Nations’ revenue and expenditure, but an authoritative manifestation of the Organization’s priorities and programmes translated into financial terms. Therefore, the budget had to be dynamic and adapt to the emerging needs of the Organization as defined by the General Assembly. It was a “vision” document showing the path the United Nations wished to take in the next biennium.
However, he expressed disappointment that the proposed programme budget was fragmented and did not provide the full picture of the Organization’s programmes and activities and their financial implications in the forthcoming biennium. Moreover, the budget was static in not addressing the critical needs of developing countries. Rather, it was a “maintenance budget” for business as usual, in a turbulent period when the economic and financial crisis was directly affecting millions of lives in all parts of the world. While budgetary prudence was needed, “we cannot impose a dogmatic view of budgetary austerity that defeats the very purpose for which the United Nations was created”.
While criticizing the Secretariat for a piecemeal approach in budgetary presentation, he recognized that the Organization had been in a continuous state of reform since the 2005 World Summit. The reforms brought in had naturally had their attendant costs, but also brought with them savings through efficiencies that would be clearly visible in time. That was also the case with some forthcoming reforms, such as those on safety and security and the enterprise resource planning system which, though costly, were either unavoidable or promised rich dividends in terms of efficiency and savings for the future.
He endorsed the ACABQ’s recommendations that the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2012-2013 should provide a clearer picture of the reform measures that had been taken, their budgetary implications and efficiency gains derived from the implementation of those measures. That would be helpful in addressing the anxiety of those Member States that were anxious about the growing regular budget.
Additionally, on special political missions, he said the increase in budget -- a proposed $599 million for 2010 -- resulted in the feeling that the regular budget was growing rapidly. Consequently, austerity was prescribed and, given the sensitivity and importance of political mandates coming out of the Security Council and even the General Assembly, “the axe of austerity normally falls on development-related issues”. The argument was that development-related issues were already being addressed either bilaterally or through the funds and programmes.
Rejecting the above line of argumentation, he reiterated the belief that the Secretariat’s development pillar had its own place in the international development architecture, especially in terms of research and adviser services and normative analysis. While it was heartening that the proposed programme budget for 2010-2011 set a net decrease of 24 posts, in the long run, it would be preferable if more resources were allocated for programme delivery rather than programme support, administrative, and staff costs.
Furthermore, he said it would be useful to examine the phenomenon of extrabudgetary resources –- which accounted for a significant portion of United Nations expenditure –- in order to better understand why contributors were reluctant to pay for the assessed regular budget, but were generous towards voluntary funding. Endorsing the position of the ACABQ, he said that all extrabudgetary posts and non-post expenditures should be administered and managed with the same rigour as the regular budget.
CLAUDIA CORTI ( Argentina) said that the needs of the Organization must be met in a balanced way with regard to the three pillars of peace and security, development, and human rights. There must be more emphasis on development to reduce the growing number of global conflicts and to avoid costly peacekeeping missions. It was necessary to carefully plan exit strategies for all of the missions, to avoid a reoccurrence of the factors that made them necessary. Proposals for zero-growth must mean setting clear priorities. Section 7 listed the resource needs of the International Court of Justice. It must have material and human resources to better carry out its mandate. For that reason, she regretted that the ACABQ had deemed it unnecessary to create posts to assist judges.
On the environment, a P-4 post was solicited to help the secretariat of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, she said. That Committee had had to postpone its annual meeting, due to the fact that it only had one Professional. It was important that it had the human resources necessary to carry out its important functions. Sections 20 and 35 dealt with funds for the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and for the Development Account. As a developing country, Argentina understood that programmes aimed at improving living standards for people in need must be a priority for the Organization and should receive the resources deemed necessary. In section 23, the Secretariat called for reclassifying the head of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ New York Office as an Assistant Secretary-General. She shared the opinion of the OIOS that such a reclassification would be appropriate.
BUI THE GIANG ( Viet Nam), associating his delegation with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, commended the Secretariat for timely submission of the proposed programme budget for the 2010-2011 biennium. Viet Nam noted the level of resources proposed for the biennium amounted to $4.89 billion before recosting, which was only slightly higher than the total approved level of $4.871 billion set out in resolution 63/266. But, given the huge needs for financial support in recovering form the disastrous economic and financial crisis, as well as the chronic global food insecurity and the imminent adverse effects of climate change, his delegation felt the amount meant the Organization would face challenges in fulfilling its mandate. It was not a question of having enough money, but whether the money available was properly allocated and effectively spent.
He said the last few months had witnessed stimulus packages valued at trillions of dollars being disbursed overnight to rescue a handful of super-banks and super-companies. Several hundreds of billions of dollars had been promised, but never spent to rescue many hundreds of millions of people in dozens of countries struggling for survival under conditions they did not create. Within the United Nations, there were two resource flows: one constituted the regular budget, which had a disproportionately small amount dedicated to development; while the other comprised the extrabudgetary resources that are said to almost double the regular budget. Rather than heavily relying on extrabudgetary resources, mandated programmes and activities should be finance as instructed by Article 17 of the Charter, which says “The General Assembly shall consider and approve any financial and budgetary arrangements with specialized agencies referred to in Article 57, and shall examine the administrative budgets of such specialized agencies with a view to make recommendations to the agencies concerned.”
He went on to say that, without downplaying the role of the other two pillars of the United Nations, Viet Nam believed that all resource appropriations should be accompanied by reasonable justifications and that the Organization must be in a position to proceed from existing resources. It should also bear in mind the principle of matching available resources with actual requirements, while recognizing that, with limited resources, the entire system must work harder to drastically reduce administrative costs, make full use of information technology and devote more resources to development purposes to benefit developing countries. Those countries accounted for the majority of the Organization’s membership, as well as the bulk of the affected populations.
He underscored the central role of the General Assembly in planning, programming, budgeting, monitoring and evaluation. He commended the ACABQ for its valuable recommendations and particularly its use of a results-based approach in the budgeting process, to help the Assembly shift its attention to policy-setting and to focus on results expected from its resource investments. The Organization must move from theoretical to practical application of budgeting principles and performance-based management. He also emphasized the vital importance of openness and transparency in the Committee’s extremely delicate work. Constructiveness, mutual understanding and trust, as well as close cooperation, were the only choices in achieving solutions.
MAGID YUSIF YAHYA (Sudan), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that, while understanding the busy schedule of the Secretary-General, the Group would like to express its disappointment that the Secretary-General had decided not to listen to a single Member State on his own budget, which should be one of his main priorities during the current Assembly session. He hoped that the thrust of the statements delivered by all Member States was being duly conveyed by the Secretariat to the Secretary-General.
Finally, the Group took note of the Secretary-General’s statement that he had consulted with some delegation on the limited budgetary discretion. That was very worrisome, as such issues needed to be discussed in an open, transparent and inclusive manner among all Member States of the United Nations.
ELSA DE JESUS PATAKA (Angola), speaking on behalf of the African Group, joined the preceding speaker, saying that the African Group was equally disappointed that the Secretary-General had elected to leave the room prior to listening to one single Member State or major group statement. She hoped that the programme budget for 2010-2011 was among the foremost priorities for the Secretary-General and, in the future, that would be demonstrated by his presence as Member States spoke on his own budget, and any other priorities of the United Nations.
The Under-Secretary-General for Management, ANGELA KANE, said that, while she was a poor substitute for the Secretary-General, she was present in his stead. He had planned to be at the meeting but, unfortunately, as was well known, the meeting had convened shortly after the tragic events in Kabul and he had been required to attend to matters in that regard. That was not a sign of disrespect. She noted that many ambassadors had spoken and speakers had come long distances from their capitals.
It was well known that the Secretary-General was extremely interested in budget matters and had spoken on the subject several times, she said. He paid very close attention to budget discussions. She noted further there had been 34 speakers during the debate, of whom six had spoken on behalf of larger groups. She said that she would make sure the Secretary-General heard their views.
Those views were very important, particularly with regard to the Organization’s importance to the world and the central role of Member States, she continued. She had listened with great interest to Members’ positions on the growth of the special political missions, and also regarding the budgetary imbalance among the three pillars and, particularly, the need for greater allocation of resources to development.
She recognized the request for a more coherent budget, rather than the piecemeal approach, but noted that during the process of ongoing reforms it was not always possible to determine all needs in the available time frame. She also expressed appreciation for the emphasis on the large growth of extrabudgetary resources and agreed that no one area should be funded at the expense of others. Otherwise, the Organization would be unable to support its operational functions.
In conclusion, she thanked the Member States for their very thoughtful statements and noted the Secretariat’s willingness not only to work for them, but with them.
The Chair of the Committee, PETER MAURER ( Switzerland), said that he would not venture into summing up the discussion, but once informal consultations started, he would like to remind the delegates that Member States were the ones taking decisions on the budget. In many cases, those decisions entailed responsibilities. During negotiations, delegations could choose between an easier path of just reconfirming their individual or group positions, and a slightly more difficult road of making an additional effort to seek compromise. He encouraged members of the Committee, one and all, to look for possible solutions and find areas of common ground, in the best interests of the Organization.
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