Fifth Committee Concludes Discussion on Proposed Programme Budget for 2012-2013 with Several Speakers Saying Proposals Short-Change Development Agenda
Fifth Committee Concludes Discussion on Proposed Programme Budget for 2012-2013 with Several Speakers Saying Proposals Short-Change Development Agenda
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
14th Meeting (AM)
Fifth Committee Concludes Discussion on Proposed Programme Budget for 2012-2013
with Several Speakers Saying Proposals Short-Change Development Agenda
Nigeria Says Budget Cuts on Programmes Aimed at Alleviating Misery Not Justified;
Japan Notes Member State Financial Struggles, Commends Call to ‘Do More with Less’
As the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today wrapped up its debate on the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2012-2013, several delegates criticized the budget for short-changing the Organization’s development agenda, at the expense of developing countries.
Nigeria’s representative said the budget was weighted too much in favour of peacekeeping operations and peace and security mandates, while funds were cut for programmes to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Imposing the 3 per cent cut called for by the Secretary-General to programmes aimed at alleviating misery was “unconscionable”, nor was it justifiable under the guise of strict fiscal discipline, add-ons and efficiency gains. Resources should be applied equitably, and any cuts should be based on effective multilateralism and equity, not on injustice and double standards.
Echoing those concerns, Senegal’s representative lamented the paltry amount of funds, just 0.3 per cent of the proposed budget, earmarked for the Development Account. Africa and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) remained a priority area for the United Nations and should be funded accordingly, as should the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
Pakistan’s representative called for strengthening the Organization at a time of global economic crisis by bolstering funding of programmes for universal primary education, basic health services and other high priority areas. He also expressed deep concern over the perennial imbalance between assessed and voluntary contributions, as well as over-reliance on the latter. Only 344 posts in the proposed budget would be funded by regular contributions, versus 765 posts by extrabudgetary resources. Moreover, voluntary contributions should be subjected to the same level of intergovernmental scrutiny and oversight as assessed contributions, in order to enable the Assembly to monitor and evaluate programme results and improvements.
Japan’s delegate, however, highly commended the Secretary-General’s proposed 3 per cent budget reduction and call to “do more with less”. The Organization’s finances were finite, particularly for Member States struggling with severe domestic financial conditions. During negotiations on the regular budget, Member States must carefully examine each request and approve funding only for high-priority activities. He also lauded the Secretary-General for setting up a change management team and said he should give priority to completing ongoing reform initiatives, as well as show the results of reforms already instituted.
Norway’s delegate said the Committee had a key role in helping the Secretary-General reach his reform targets. It must avoid excessive micromanagement and instead give strategic advice, direction and oversight. Success should not be measured by whether budget cuts were 3, 5 or 7 per cent, but whether Member States had moved towards a budget that supported reform and left the Organization in better shape to face current challenges. The Committee must adopt a long-term approach to its work on the proposed programme budget, while the Secretariat should have enough space to manage its resources effectively and move them in response to urgent needs. “We should give more, not less flexibility, to the executive level and subsequently hold them accountable for the actual results delivered,” he said.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Brazil, Thailand, Republic of Korea, Côte d’Ivoire, China, Russian Federation, Algeria, Kuwait, Singapore, Cuba, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and the United States.
The representative of the European Union also spoke.
Angela Kane, Under-Secretary-General for Management, responded to delegates’ questions and concerns in the areas of the budget process, special political missions and add-ons. María Eugenia Casar Perez, Assistant Secretary-General and United Nations Controller, and Collen Kelapile, Chairman of the Advisory Committee, also spoke.
The Fifth Committee will reconvene on Tuesday, 1 November, at 10 a.m., to discuss administration of justice and revised estimates/subvention of the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2012-2013.
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met today to continue its debate on the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2012-2013. (For background see Press Release GA/AB/4008 of 27 October.)
SÉRGIO RODRIGUES DOS SANTOS ( Brazil) said the regular budget must reflect, in a balanced manner, the Organization’s three pillars: peace and security; human rights; and development. “We cannot agree with the view that peace and security should be financed by assessed contributions, and that human rights and development should be funded by voluntary contributions. Brazil was also convinced of the need to further strengthen the role, capacity, and effectiveness of the Secretariat in the area of development, including the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the regional commission and the Development Account, and a greater share of its financing through the regular budget,” he said.
Unfortunately, the proposed budget did not give priority to development activities. “We are deeply concerned with the reductions proposed in almost all the budget sections strengthened in 2009 on the basis of the report on development-related activities. We are particularly troubled by the proposed abolition of a number of posts in the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, some of which will directly impact programmatic areas,” he said.
Furthermore, Brazil was concerned with the current funding arrangements of special political missions, which were integrated into the level of the regular budget and had increased 10-fold in the past decade. It constituted 20 per cent of the regular budget, with two of the United Nations largest missions, in Afghanistan and Iraq, representing half that amount. “This has caused a large distortion to the regular budget to the detriment of other activities, especially in the area of development,” he said. It would make sense to separate the budget of special political missions from the regular budget and to fund them through the peacekeeping scale of assessments, since the General Assembly had reaffirmed the special responsibilities of the permanent members of the Security Council for maintenance of peace and security should be connected to their contributions to the financing of peace and security operations.
Moreover, he said, it was undeniable that the current arrangements for backstopping special political missions were cumbersome, duplicative, inefficient and impaired the ability of the Secretariat to deploy them on the ground in a timely manner. “It is our duty to tackle this issue as a matter of priority,” he said. The budget document displayed an evident contradiction: despite the overall increase, cuts were being proposed in activities funded through assessed contributions. The cuts proposed, therefore, represented a movement towards greater dependency on voluntary contributions, which were an important source of funding but should not replace regular and predictable funds for core activities, nor be used to reorient priorities agreed by Member States. “We must equip the United Nations with the necessary governance mechanisms to ensure proper oversight and accountability over a budget that is increasingly reliant on voluntary contributions,” he said.
The Secretariat could be more efficient and effective in its business, with increased transparency and accountability towards the membership, but Brazil shared the concerns of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) that the cuts proposed were not based on an in-depth analysis of the programmes. The budget failed to provide sufficient assurances that mandate implementation, particularly on the area of development, would not be adversely impacted by the reduction.
TSUNEO NISHIDA ( Japan), while acknowledging the need to approve the resources required for implementing the Organization’s mandate, said its finances were finite, particularly for Member States struggling with severe domestic financial conditions. During negotiations on the regular budget, Member States must carefully examine each request and provide funding only to high-priority activities. Japan would constructively engage in budget negotiations to reach an agreement that would allocate resources in a balanced, sensible way. To do so, Member States should not hesitate to discontinue or defer activities that had lost priority in accordance with established budgetary mechanisms. He highly commended the Secretary-General’s attempt to reduce the budget by 3 per cent and supported his call to “do more with less”. He expected that the Secretary-General and his staff would stay fully accountable for the proposed programme budget throughout the negotiations and that the 3 per cent decrease for the next budget would be maintained. He lauded the Secretary-General for setting up a change management team and initiating other reforms for the Organization. The Secretary-General should give priority to completing ongoing reform initiatives and show the results of reforms already made.
JAKKRIT SRIVALI (Thailand), associating with the statement made on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, expressed concern at the overall 3 per cent reduction below the approved budget outline for the biennium 2012-2013. Budget allocations must enable the Organization to fulfil its mandates, particularly as regarded development activities, which must receive predictable and adequate funding. Especially to fulfil the needs of vulnerable economies, including Africa, least developed and landlocked developing countries and small island developing States in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Stressing the crucial contributions made by the regional commissions towards achieving agreed development goals, and noting that the Asia-Pacific region was the fastest growing in the world, he said that much remained to be done to ensure sustainable development for its 4.1 billion inhabitants, which comprised over 60 per cent of the world’s population. The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) had produced high-impact results in combating poverty, enhancing regional connectivity, improving access to water and energy resources, and promoting sustainable development, gender equality and women’s empowerment. Hence he was concerned at the cuts to the Commission’s budget. He said that Member States had a collective responsibility to provide resources adequate to fully implementing the Organization’s mandates.
ABDOU SALAM DIALLO ( Senegal) thanked the Secretary-General for his skilled leadership and management and took note of his proposed budget. He regretted the lack of balance in resource allocations for the Organization’s three pillars, to the detriment of the development agenda. He supported the Secretary-General’s proposal to strengthen the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), pursuant to Assembly resolutions 64/293 and 65/272. He expressed concerned over the low level of budgetary allocations listed in chapters 10 and 18 of the proposed budget, which were lower than the amount approved for the previous budget.
Africa and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) remained a priority area for the United Nations, he said. The Secretary-General should ensure that programme remained at the heart of his agenda and should give greater attention to support the capacity of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the Office of Special Adviser on Africa in order to enhance NEPAD activities. He lauded the Assembly decision to double the regular budget of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He called on Member States to increase its institutional and operational resources to enable it to carry out its important duties. He lauded steps to enhance multilingualism. To build on that, the Secretary-General should think ahead about proposals to compensate for the fact that a significant number of interpreters and translators would retire in the next five years. He lamented the paltry amount of funds, just 0.3 per cent of the proposed budget, earmarked for the Development Account.
KIM SOOK ( Republic of Korea) said that, in the last decade, the regular United Nations budget had grown from $2.6 billion for the biennium 2001-2002 to $5.4 billion for 2010-2011. The Republic of Korea was of the view that a substantive portion of that expansion was attributable to the “current inefficient budget” process. Drawing attention to the issue of recosting, he said that automatic adjustment of the budget to inflation and exchange-rate fluctuations had been one of the main contributors to the continuous budget increase. Many member States did not have that adjustment practice in their own budget system. Moreover, 37 per cent of the budget consisted of currencies other than United States dollars, exposing the United Nations budget to exchange-rate fluctuations.
Like any other Government or institution facing financial difficulties, the United Nations should also make strenuous effort to make both ends meet. Stressing the importance of the Secretariat’s ability to respond to unforeseen and emergency situations, he stated that the Republic of Korea supported the Security Council’s initiative to reform the budgetary process. The Limited Budgetary Discretion mechanism needed to be institutionalized. Further, timely investments in information and communications technology would bring efficiency in the long run and strengthen the credibility of the overall United Nations system.
JOSEPH YOUSSOUFOU BAMBA ( Côte d’Ivoire) said the current global crisis had plunged the world economy into a recession, which had deteriorated the finances of Member States. Corrective measures were needed to produce lasting solutions. In the meantime, his delegation believed it would be expedient to have a United Nations mechanism that could use the resources of the United Nations more effectively. It could harness existing structures to ensure the United Nations was not paralysed and could carry out its mandates, especially in the areas of peace and security, human rights and development.
One of the aims of the reform of the United Nations budget process should be to anticipate the consequences of any international crisis and enhance United Nations resilience, he said. For example, the audit functions could be improved, using the International Public Sector Accounting Standards, and provide more transparency. Greater transparency could also be provided through improved procurement methods. An improvement of the Organization’s working methods would also strengthen its resilience. Another way to enhance its resilience in a financial crisis was for the United Nations to have a stronger voice in the world economy.
REN YISHENG ( China) said that stable and sustained financial support should be maintained to ensure the effective implementation of all programme activities of the United Nations. As the international community was taking concerted actions to tackle the global economic crisis, the Organization should fully leverage available resources and maximize its output and efficiency. Adopting measures such as management reform, and using a greater part of the savings thereof for development-related projects and activities would enable the Organization to enhance efficiency in resource utilization.
Further, budget discipline should be strictly enforced, he stated, and results-based budgeting should be effectively improved. The Secretariat should comply with all financial disciplines, strengthen accountability, and strive for savings in preparing the budget. Also, the principle of matching practical needs with available resources should be abided by and the budget should be kept at a “rational and appropriate level”.
He said that China noted that the proposed biennial programme budget of the United Nations for 2012-2013 stood at $5.197 billion, a reduction of 3.7 per cent from the budget outline approved by the General Assembly. If additional items were included, the final budget was likely to exceed $5.5 billion. Therefore, he hoped, Member States, through serious consideration, would finally arrive at a rational and appropriate level of the United Nations budget which would guarantee sufficient resources for the Organization.
MORTEN WETLAND ( Norway) said his delegation was committed to the operational effectiveness of the United Nations, which remained indispensable for solving global and regional challenges. “The UN needs to move with the speed of our time,” he added. Norway remained convinced of the Fifth Committee’s strategic importance for the Organization’s future and its key role in ensuring progress on necessary reforms. “This Committee should assist the Secretary-General in reaching his reform targets”, he said, adding that the Secretariat should be given sufficient space to manage its resources effectively and move resources in response to urgent needs. “We should give more, not less flexibility, to the executive level and subsequently hold them accountable for the actual results delivered.”
The Fifth Committee should avoid excessive micromanagement and its task should be to give strategic advice and direction, as well as provide oversight. While ensuring that the United Nations had the resources and flexibility to deliver according to reasonable expectations, Member States had to feel confident that resources were spent to provide the “best possible value for money”. Therefore, the measure of the Committee’s success this autumn should not be whether budget cuts were 3, 5 or 7 per cent, he said. It should measure its success on whether Member States had moved towards a budget that supported reform and left the United Nations in better shape to face current and future challenges. That meant the Committee had to adopt a long-term approach to its work on the proposed programme budget.
ALEXANDER A. PANKIN ( Russian Federation) said a good budget should result in progress in the Organization’s goals, such as peace and security, as reform was carried out. His Government’s position remained unchanged — the United Nations should apply responsible budget policy and needed to live within its means. His Government’s budget spending had been successfully optimized in a number of budget lines, and he supported finding a balanced approach to increased spending.
Even though the $5.19 billion budget was 3.7 per cent below the approved budget outline, the budget amount was not final, he said. It did not take into account recosting, which would be included in the budget at a later time. There also were increases in certain budget lines. He shared the concerns of the ACABQ that there was a lack of information on resource needs, and he asked the Secretariat to avoid a piecemeal approach to developing the budget. Reform in human resources should produce greater flexibility. The Secretariat had to justify its spending on the procurement of external consultants and more frugally use its own expert capacity. The United Nations had to prevent an unjustified growth in spending and use budget discipline.
ZAMIR AKRAM ( Pakistan) said the Organization’s programmes related to poverty alleviation, promotion of universal primary education, basic health services and other high-priority areas should receive adequate financial and human resources. He expressed concern over the 3 per cent budget cuts imposed on programme managers, saying that “an arbitrary and indiscriminate approach toward this issue would only jeopardize the interests of developing countries and exacerbate their existing socio-economic problems”. He called for strengthening the United Nations at a time of economic and financial crisis by bolstering financing for its development role and efforts to help the world’s poorest. He expressed deep concern over the perennial imbalance between assessed and voluntary contributions, which was particularly evident in section 24 on human rights of the Secretary-General’s report. The Secretary-General’s proposed resources for human rights for the biennium 2012-2013 totalled $147 million, whereas projected extrabudgetary resources were $257 million. His proposed budget indicated that 344 posts would be funded by the regular budget, versus 765 posts by extrabudgetary resources.
Too much reliance on extrabudgetary and non-post resources had a detrimental effect on the implementation of mandates approved by legislative bodies, he said. The authority and flexibility granted by the Secretary-General for deploying and redeploying human and financial resources should not be used to undermine Member States’ priorities. Voluntary contributions should be subjected to the same level of intergovernmental scrutiny and oversight as assessed contributions in order to enable the Assembly to monitor and evaluate programme results and improvements. He called for more information on progress in implementing the organizational effectiveness programme of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Any internal review of OHCHR’s work processes should fully conform with the Charter and budgetary and management rules and regulations.
MOURAD BENMEHIDI ( Algeria) associated his statement with those delivered earlier on behalf of the Group of 77 and China and the African Group. Algeria believed that consideration of the budget was the highest priority of the Committee’s current session. Resource levels should enable the effective and efficient implementation of all mandates and activities of the Secretariat, he stressed, adding that, in that regard, Algeria supported budget discipline and the optimal use of resources. However, the delegation expressed its concern about the “arbitrary” 3 per cent cut imposed on programme managers. The proposed allocation of resources for the budget did not address as a matter of priority the necessity of strengthening the Organization’s capacity to implement the development agenda. With every proposed programme budget, Algeria, along with the majority of Member States, had called for the end of “systematic discrimination towards development activities” in the United Nations budget. Indeed, the current proposed allocation of resources seemed to be another disappointment for developing countries.
“Development is the cornerstone of this Organization”, he declared, adding that the political will of Member States to strengthen development had been demonstrated in General Assembly resolution A/63/260. It was, therefore, a legitimate expectation to see in each proposed budget how the provisions of that resolution had been translated into concrete proposals. Regional Commissions play an important role in implementing the development agenda, he said, and for that reason the allocation of financial and human resources to those commissions should be in a manner to enable them to implement their core mandates without reliance on extrabudgetary resources. Finally, he said, the urgent filling of the post of Special Adviser for Africa was a matter of priority for his delegation.
Mr. AL-SAID ( Kuwait) said the proposed budget had room for improvement. That could be achieved by enhancing transparency in order to reflect the Assembly’s priorities in terms of peace and security, human rights and development. He called for stepped-up attention to development in developing countries and due regard to the role of regional commissions. Member States must pay their assessments on time without conditions and they must pay their arrears in full. That would enable the Organization to implement its mandate effectively. He called for administrative reform at various levels. He strongly supported the fair geographic distribution of posts among Member States and giving attention to unrepresented States. During the informal negotiations on the proposed budget, he would follow with interest its various programme aspects.
CRAIG LIM ( Singapore) said that little had changed since the biennial budget had been debated two years ago. The world still grappled with serious economic and financial challenges. There were still calls for improving the Organization’s efficiency. It also continued to be true that the United Nations was still the world’s best guarantee for peace and security, development and other important issues. Member States must ensure that the Organization could deliver on all its mandates. For the long term, the development pillar was critical to that mission. While much had been achieved, those efforts had largely been financed through extrabudgetary resources. More must be done with respect to the regular budget, particularly in addressing unique challenges faced by least developed and landlocked developing countries, and small island developing States.
While funding for development remained inadequate, he noted that, over the past decade, the budgets of special political missions had grown to represent one fifth of the 2010-2011 programme budget. That disproportionate growth in provisions for those missions had led to distortions in the size of the regular budget and given the false impression that the regular budget was spiralling out of control. That discrepancy needed “immediate, urgent correction”. He was encouraged that Assembly resolution 65/259 had requested the Secretary-General to review current funding arrangements for those missions with a view to finding alternative solutions and he looked forward to deliberations on the matter. He also said that the Organization must ensure that all resources allocated to it were used appropriately, effectively and efficiently.
Endorsing the statements of the Group of 77 and China and Rio Group, OSCAR LEÓN GONZÁLEZ ( Cuba) said the clear imbalance in the Organization’s priorities was reflected in its budget lines. He was fearful that the 3 per cent reduction in the regular budget would negatively impact the development pillar. He noted that, of the 34 Professional-level posts being proposed for abolition, 20 came from three regional economic commissions. The worst part was that many of those posts were not currently vacant. Budget Section 10, which related to the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, and small island developing states, had sustained a 10 per cent reduction. That meant the type of developing countries most in need of the Organization’s cooperation were suffering the largest budget cuts, he said.
Meanwhile, special political missions consumed about 25 per cent of the regular budget and their ultimate cost for the biennium was unknown. The doctrines of powerful countries, that impose financial burdens on countries which refuse to partake in their military adventures and interventionist doctrines, were imposed through the frameworks of the special political missions. That was done without a true, transparent and democratic Assembly debate on the matter. It was unacceptable that the Secretariat undermined the principles and purposes of the treaty that brought this Organization into being, he said.
DOCTOR MASHABANE (South Africa), noting that NEPAD had been streamlined into six priority areas, said it was important for the United Nations to align its programmes and adopt ones that would take into account Africa’s priorities. He called on the Secretary-General to abide by the Assembly’s mandate and fill the post of the Special Adviser on Africa. Member States had rejected the Secretary-General’s proposal to abolish or merge that post. He strongly urged the Secretary-General to heed their call and act in Africa’s best interest. He stood ready with the African Group to help the Secretary-General implement that important Assembly decision. He lamented that more than 90 per cent of the Organization’s budget was allocated to peace and security and human rights, at the expense of development priorities mandated by the Assembly. He called on the Secretary-General to develop a clear plan to address those imbalances. He was ready to engage constructively on any proposal that sought to improve the Organization’s budget. The current financial crisis was rightly challenging the United Nations to re-examine its budget and focus on achieving more with less. He expressed concern over the proposed reduction on entry-level Professional posts for the proposed budget and its impact on development activities.
FELIX AYIBANUAH DATUOWEI ( Nigeria) called for equity and balance in resource allocation. He expressed concern that most of the budget went towards peacekeeping operations at the expense of development, and that budget cuts focused on programmes that would benefit developing economies. Insufficient funds had seriously diminished programmes to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Budget cuts must be based on effective multilateralism and equity, not on injustice and double standards. The regular budget should make sufficient resources available for NEPAD and the Millennium targets. Extending the 3 per cent budget cuts to programmes to alleviate misery and death was “unconscionable”. “The use of coded phrases such as ‘strict fiscal discipline’, ‘add-ons’, ‘efficiency gains’ and ‘most effective and efficient’ in the parlance of budgetary processes to justify budget cuts for development was flawed,” he said. Staff demographic distribution in the United Nations was lopsided to the disadvantage of developing countries and women and recommendations to abolish posts were skewed to favour certain interest groups. No effort should be spared to create equitable geographic distribution and gender balance. Further, the Secretary-General’s failure to fill the post of the Special Adviser on Africa was of grave concern.
He supported the Group of 77 and China’s call to webcast live all plenary meetings of the Committee, not just selective ones to suit the whims of powerful interest groups. He asked if the webcasting was free of charge or could be absorbed within existing resources and its cost implications. The paper-smart concept should take into account some Member States’ limited levels of technological development. There must be adequate funding to firmly set up UN Women. He expressed concern that the Peacebuilding Commission was undergoing difficulties due to inadequate regular budgetary allocations, and unless that Commission was well-funded, peacekeeping operation gains would be lost.
Associating itself with the Group of 77 and China, Saudi Arabia said the budget proposal had been made with care to achieve the Organization’s goals and the need for austerity during the financial crisis that had impacted Member States. But the delegation was concerned that intentions to reduce the budget would hurt the Organization’s ability to uphold its mandates, particularly in developing countries that had no part in the financial crisis. He agreed with the ACABQ that it was time to start results-based budgeting by improving the management and provide more accountability in the Secretariat.
Saudi Arabia welcomed the use of more resources for information and communications technology in a way that showed its increasing importance to the Organization. The Office of Central Support Services should play a greater role. He also praised the Secretariat’s efforts to enhance UNRWA with additional resources.
ANGELA KANE, Under-Secretary-General for Management, responded to delegates’ concerns in the areas of the budget process, special political missions and add-ons. She noted Member States’ concerns with the budget process and said the Secretariat followed important intergovernmental processes, rules and regulations when formulating the budget. The budget process had started last year, when many aspects were not known. She noted the large amount of information before the Fifth Committee and she hoped “We do not lose sight of where we want to go.”
Regarding the special political missions, she noted the concerns of Member States that these missions made up 20 per cent of the regular budget. She noted that there were no earmarked resources for these missions and their funding had to be absorbed in the regular budget. A detailed budget for the missions would be presented soon to the Committee.
Regarding the size of the budget, she said its growth primarily resulted from inflation and the weakening of the United States dollar over the past decade.
Regarding the add-ons, she said that, over the last several years, including last year, the Secretariat had given the Committee a preview of what budget costs could be foreseen at that time. It was not a static situation and she pointed to the requests made by Member States. “We are in your hands […] as to what you want to do in terms of add-ons and in terms of the budget.”
The Secretariat was working very hard to answer the concerns of Member States. She noted that 70 per cent and 80 per cent of the budget’s fixed costs were in personnel. Either posts had to be reduced, or other parts of the budget had to be looked at for reductions.
MARÍA EUGENIA CASAR PEREZ, newly appointed Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations Controller, said she was taking note of Member States’ concerns. Ready to work with all delegations, she said the number one priority was that the budget met the Organization’s mandates. Some reports would address those issues, such as reports on missions. The recosting issue would be addressed in the upcoming budget performance report. She and her team were ready to work with the Fifth Committee.
COLLEN KELAPILE, Chairman of the Advisory Committee, acknowledged the positive sentiments from the Member States and said the decisions on the budget rested with them. He was encouraged that Member States found the ACABQ reports informative. He noted that the budget proposal was not a complete story and that proposal would not be the same one placed before the Committee for its endorsement.
The representative of the United States, noting that 74 per cent of the budget was related to personnel costs, wanted to know if the United Nations could more affordably meet its employee health-care cost obligations. He asked for data on the actual annual cost for employee health care in the regular budget and where Member States could find that information. He asked who in the United Nations was responsible for managing the costs and how often health-care plans were bid on and reviewed for their effectiveness.
In response, Ms. KANE said she did not have all the detailed answers and would respond later. In addition to salaries and health-care benefits, personnel costs included travel, educational grants and other benefits that were part of a total compensation package, as well as the Organization’s administrative costs to deal with judgements against it from employees. Regarding bidding on health-care plans, she said two years ago the Assembly asked the Organization to present a plan for the unfunded liabilities for after-service health insurance, but the Assembly made no decision on it at that time. Malicious acts insurance was covered under the Insurance Section in the Department of Management and the Controller’s Office.
The representative of the European Union asked about measures to reduce the use of add-ons to future budgets and about the long-term strategy for an ideal grading structure in the Secretariat and how that was reflected in the next budget. She asked why there had not been any progress in presenting the effects of reform in the 2012-2013 budget. She asked the Secretary-General to update delegates today on steps the Organization had taken since the proposed budget was prepared to create more cost-effective methods of delivery.
Other delegates, including Japan, Cuba and Nicaragua, asked questions or provided additional comments. Japan’s delegate gave great importance to the methodology of recosting and said he would like to receive a separate report on that issue, separate from the performance report.
Ms. Kane said the Secretariat had been listening to the Member States’ concerns regarding add-ons and had been working to reduce or eliminate these additions.
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