United Nations Controller Briefs Fifth Committee on Proposed $5.39 Billion Programme Budget for Biennium 2014-2015
United Nations Controller Briefs Fifth Committee on Proposed $5.39 Billion Programme Budget for Biennium 2014-2015
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-seventh General Assembly
29th Meeting (AM)
United Nations Controller Briefs Fifth Committee on Proposed $5.39 Billion
Programme Budget for Biennium 2014-2015
Also Takes Up Peacekeeping Budgets for 8 Operations,
Logistics Base for Financial Period July 2013 to June 2014
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today was briefed by the United Nations Controller on the preparation of the 2014/2015 programme budget that would reflect a $100 million reduction to the $5.49 billion previously outlined by the Secretary-General.
“The preparations for the proposed budget for 2014/2015 continue to be guided by General Assembly resolutions,” María Eugenia Casar, Assistant Secretary-General and Controller, said, noting that programme managers had worked to determine how reductions would be best achieved without changing the ratio of post and non-post resources and had comprehensively reviewed staffing requirements to best allocate reductions in post resources.
Describing the reduction’s impact on mandate implementation, she said that the level of performance targets would be lowered in 3 per cent of all performance measures and the estimated volume of outputs needed to be adjusted by 0.2 per cent. But no outputs or performance measures would be discontinued fully, she added.
In formulating the proposed $5.39 billion budget, it was important to ensure the fair, equitable and non-selective treatment of all budget sections, she said, noting that, however, some sections were exempt from the $100 million cut, including such autonomous entities as the International Court of Justice, and such policy-making bodies as the Office of the President of the General Assembly, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) and the Board of Auditors. Also exempt were all areas of work in programme support, conference management, public information and capital projects for which reductions had already been proposed.
She said Member States would see some changes in the presentation of the proposed budget, including a new table for financial resources and the use of a single realized vacancy rate.
The representative of Fiji, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, expressed deep concern over what he had just heard in her presentation. He wondered why the preliminary estimate discussed during the budget outline negotiations had not been subsequently updated by the Secretariat to incorporate the delayed impact of all new and expanded mandated activities. The 2014-2015 proposed programme budget should be above the preliminary estimate indicated in paragraph 10, because of the delayed impact of new and expanded mandated activities approved by the Assembly last year.
He was also deeply concerned that the Secretariat was “completely reinventing” the budgetary process through new readings and creative interpretations of long-standing Assembly decisions, particularly resolutions 41/213 and 42/211. “The Group will not accept a disguised ‘mandate review’ exercise conducted through the budgetary process, as well as any change in the established budgetary procedure, its format and presentation,” he said.
In response, Ms. Casar said the Secretariat had complied with all resolutions and it was not deviating in any way from the budget review process. The budget presented was a “responsible exercise” to give more flexibility to managers and to share the impact on their activities, outputs and performance indicators.
The United States’ representative said the General Assembly’s decision on its budget level was clear and responsible. It had achieved its goal of encouraging the Secretariat to think creatively about how best to deliver mandates in the face of financial constraints. “The idea that any increase in mandates requires an increase in budget is misleading,” he said. Public and private organizations everywhere knew that truth, and by using different means they found ways to achieve greater ends with fewer resources. By approving a modest 1.8 per cent reduction for 2014-2015, the Assembly directed the United Nations to manage its resources by streamlining operations.
He hoped that the final 2014-2015 budget proposal would show those new ways of working, as well as the tangible benefits from Member States’ heavy investment in business transformation initiatives, such as Umoja, but was concerned that the 2014-2015 budget proposal may not be the final one, as there should be room to accommodate additional programme budget implications and needs that may arise during the budget cycle due to urgent and unforeseen requirements. It was also troubling that that number did not include anticipated recosting for the 2014-2015 period, which could increase the overall budget. He urged the Secretary-General to re-examine his proposal to ensure that the true 2014-2015 budget request was fully inclusive and in line with the Assembly-mandated outline. “Quite simply, a budget level is a ceiling, not a floor,” he said.
The delegates of Japan, Cuba, Mexico and Russian Federation also commented on her briefing, as did an observer of the European Union.
Prior to the briefing, the Fifth Committee discussed issues related to the financing of eight peacekeeping operations and the Logistics Base.
Following the introduction of the Secretary-General’s reports on the missions’ budget performance in the year ended 30 June 2012, and their proposed budget levels for the year through 30 June 2014, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), presented his body’s related reports.
He said that the Advisory Committee was recommending approval of the Secretary-General’s budget proposals for the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), but was recommending reductions for the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), United Nations Support Office for AMISON (UNSOA) and the United Nations Logistics Base.
In the ensuing discussion, the representative of Fiji, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said he was committed to work with all stakeholders to help the Secretariat fulfil the mandate of the United Nations Global Service Centre in Brindisi. But, he noted with regret the Secretary-General’s tendency to transfer more functions to Valencia, contrary to its original purpose.
Some delegates stressed the importance of avoiding across-the-board cuts and the need to ensure each mission’s budget was based on its needs.
Also speaking in the general debate were the representatives of Côte d’Ivoire (on behalf of the African Group), Syria, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Turkey and Cyprus.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. 10 May, to take up the issue of improving the financial situation of the United Nations and review reports on peacekeeping operations and programme budgets for special political missions.
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met today to discuss issues on the financing of the ongoing United Nations peacekeeping and support operations, including the missions’ budget performance for the 12-month period ended 30 June 2012, their proposed budgets for the financial year from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014, and recommendations made by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).
Under review today were reports on missions in Abyei(A/67/599, A/67/704, Corr.1, and A/67/780/Add.18); Cyprus (A/67/590, A/67/706, and A/67/780/Add.8); Kosovo (A/67/587, A/67/700, and A/67/780/Add.11); Syrian Golan Heights (A/67/589, A/67/705, and A/67/780/Add.1); Lebanon (A/67/631, A/67/747, and A/67/780/Add.9); South Sudan (A/67/610, Corr.1, A/67/716, and A/67/780/Add.17); and Western Sahara (A/67/612, A/67/731, and A/67/780/Add.4); as well as reports on the United Nations Support Office for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) (A/67/600, A/67/712, and A/67/780/Add.16) and the United Nations Logistics Base (A/67/582, A/67/722, and A/67/780/Add.10).
The Committee was also scheduled to hear a briefing by María Eugenia Casar, Assistant Secretary-General, Controller, on the efficiency of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations and on the programme budget for the biennium 2013-2014.
Financing Peacekeeping Operations
MARIA EUGENIA CASAR, Assistant Secretary-General and Controller, introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on the financing of the following peacekeeping operations: the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (documents A/67/599, A/67/704 and A/67/704/Corr.1); United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (documents A/67/590 and A/67/706); United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (documents A/67/587 and A/67/700); United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (documents A/67/589 and A/67/705); United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (documents A/67/631 and A/67/747); United Nations Mission in South Sudan (documents A/67/610, A/67/610/Corr.1 and A/67/716); United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (document A/67/612 and A/67/731); and the United Nations Support Office for AMISOM (documents A/67/600 and A/67/712), as well as of the United Nations Logistics Base (documents A/67/582 and A/67/722).
Regarding the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), Ms. CASAR said a note by the Secretary-General had been prepared and submitted to the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) requesting an additional $8 million for the current period to address the ongoing deterioration of Syria’s security situation, which had encroached on UNDOF’s operations. On 25 April 2013, the Council, in its resolution 2099 (2013), extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) for one year and supported the Secretary-General’s request for six more United Nations police officers to implement the expanded family visit programme.
Turning to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), she said it would transition to International Public Sector Accounting Standards and Umoja on 1 July 2013. All other peacekeeping operations would transition to the Standards on 1 July 2013 and to Umoja on 1 October 2013. All missions had been given special closing instructions to finalize their ending United Nations Standby Arrangements System balances, which would roll over to International Public Sector Accounting Standards as of 1 July 2013. Her Office had been working closely with colleagues in the missions, the Department of Field Support and Umoja to prepare for the upcoming roll out of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards and Umoja.
CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, introduced his body’s related reports.
He said that the Advisory Committee was recommending approval of the Secretary-General’s budget proposals for the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), UNIFIL and MINURSO, and was recommending reductions for the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), UNDOF, United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and United Nations Support Office for AMISON (UNSOA).
Regarding the mission for Abyei, he noted that the Advisory Committee recommended a reduction of $12.1 million to the proposed budget. The recommended cut arose under construction services. Citing the trend of low implementation of construction projects in the 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 periods, ACABQ recommended against the increase proposed by the Secretary-General so that resources for construction services for 2013/2014 would be maintained at the same level as for the current period. Any additional resources required in 2013/2014 for construction services should be reflected in the performance report.
On UNDOF, he said that the Advisory Committee noticed that the proposed resources for national staff for 2013/2014 reflected an increase of $1.75 million, or 65.8 per cent, over the apportionment for the current period. The increase was attributable to the denomination of national salary scales in United States dollars, effective 1 August 2012. ACABQ recommended that the General Assembly request the Secretary-General to carefully monitor developments in the mission area and to revert to the payment of salaries to national staff in the appropriate national currency as soon as economic conditions permit.
The Advisory Committee was also recommending a reduction of $3.9 million to the proposed budget for UNMISS, resulting from the application of a vacancy factor of 12 per cent for international staff, instead of the proposed 10 per cent, he said. Given the current vacancy rate of 16 per cent, ACABQ was of the view that the 10 per cent rate underlying the proposed cost estimates was overly optimistic.
As for UNSOA, the Advisory Committee recommended a reduction of $9.4 million to the proposed budget for the 2013/2014 period. The cut would come from construction services, maintenance services and consultants.
Turning to UNLB, the Advisory Committee was recommending a reduction of $368,600 under posts resulting from the abolishment of four posts in the Planning and Project Unit. The workload of the Unit was expected to decrease significantly upon the completion of the commissioning of the Communication and Information Service building in the current period, which was the last project under the Capital Master Plan of the United Nations Logistics Base. ACABQ was of the view that any remaining functions of the Unit, which was proposed to be transferred to the Engineering and Standardization and Design Centre, should be provided from within existing capacity of the Centre. In that regard, he recalled that the Centre had been recently been strengthened through the transfer of five posts from Headquarters.
SAI NAVOTI (Fiji), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” and China, welcomed the significant level of implementation in the 2012-2013 fiscal budget versus the previous year. He was committed to work with all stakeholders to help the Secretariat fulfil the mandate of the United Nations Global Service Centre in Brindisi. But, he noted with regret the Secretary-General’s tendency to transfer more functions to Valencia, contrary to its original purpose. He reiterated the Assembly’s responsibility concerning the Centre’s management and strongly supported all ACABQ’s related recommendations. He was also deeply concerned with the shortcomings and inconsistencies identified by the Board of Auditors in managing the Centre’s human and material resources. He called on the Secretary-General to take all appropriate steps to rectify that situation. During informal consultations, he would further seek clarification on that matter and work closely with all delegations to enhance the Centre’s ability to fulfil its mandate.
BROUZ RALPH COFFI (Cote d’Ivoire), speaking on behalf of the African Group, attached great importance to allocating adequate resources to all peacekeeping operations, particularly those in Africa, because of their unique role in maintaining international peace and security. Allocation of adequate resources was vital to ensure missions carried out their given mandates in full and on time. He noted a $110 million decrease in the 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014 budget from the previous period, even though peacekeeping missions had been maintained or expanded and faced increasingly complex challenges and operational circumstances. “The consideration of peacekeeping budgets should not be taken as cost-saving exercise, but rather a mandate-implementation resource-allocation-driven exercise,” he said, expressing regret at unjustified cost reductions and across-the-board cuts that could hinder mission operations and implementation of their mandates.
During the informal discussions, the Group would carefully scrutinize the budget proposals and seek specific details on each mission, he said. It would examine the budget for the new United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). He expected MINUSMA would receive adequate resources and logistical support in a timely manner to enable it to carry out its given mandate, particularly in the start-up phase. Therefore, he expected that the reports on MINUSMA be made available to Member States with due diligence. He also asked the Secretariat and ACABQ to provide tables outlining their respective current and proposed budget levels of the peacekeeping operations.
ISMAIL BASSEL AYZOUKI (Syria) said the creation and continuation of UNDOF was due to Israel’s occupation of the Syrian Golan since 1967 and its continued violation of international resolutions. Therefore, the Israeli aggressor party occupying Syria should be responsible for UNDOF’s financing. Israel’s practices blatantly violated UNDOF’s mandate and international law. Israel provided logistical support to terrorist groups, transferred wounded terrorists across the demarcation line to Israeli hospitals and then returned them to Syrian territory. Israel’s army and Deputy Prime Minister had publicly admitted that action. Israel’s support of terrorists was a blatant violation of the disengagement agreement and it endangered the lives of UNDOF personnel. That was illustrated on 6 March 2013, when one terrorist group kidnapped 21 UNDOF personnel, in addition to the four others kidnapped on 7 July 2012. On Sunday 5 May, Israeli jets launched missiles from Lebanese air space against three positions near Damascus, causing death and injury. That was a blatant violation of the mandates of UNDOF and UNIFIL. Israel’s continued acts of aggression had heightened tension in the region.
The Syrian Government had informed the Council about all of those violations, demanding that the latter carry out its responsibility in that regard, he said. Since UNDOF’s inception, Syria had fully respected the disengagement agreement, and its intended purpose of being of a transitional nature. He looked forward to creation of a just, comprehensive peace in the region and Israel’s withdrawal from it. Syria had always welcomed UNDOF and fully appreciated the noble tasks carried out by its personnel.
ADOU MOHAMED ALI (Djibouti) recalled that Council resolution 1863 (2009) had authorized UNSOA to provide a logistical support package for AMISOM and resolution 2036 (2012) expanded the package to include the reimbursement of contingent-owned equipment, including force enablers and multipliers. The Secretary-General had clearly stated in his report that UNSOA would continue its construction programme, which would include extra permanent infrastructure at critical operational locations, and it would expand its major support base in Mogadishu as well as the three sector logistics hubs in Kismaayo, Baidoa and Beledweyne to ensure timely support to AMISOM. In that regard, he welcomed the Secretary-General’s budget proposal for 2013/14 of $448.44 million, while expressing concern over the estimated unencumbered balance of $2.67 million for 2012/13, as well as the ACABQ reduction of $9.37 million for the 2013/14 budget, especially for construction and maintenance services and consultants.
As a troop contributor to AMISOM, Djibouti attached great importance to the above-mentioned areas and considered them as key sectors requiring adequate funding for AMISOM to fulfil its mandate, he said. Since being deployed in November 2012 in Beledweyne, Djibouti troops had faced extremely challenging conditions related to construction and maintenance services, spare parts, water and food, insufficient housing and medical care. His Government had brought those concerns to the attention of UNSOA and the Secretariat at Headquarters, but the response has been very slow. The situation must be addressed as soon as possible. He urged the Secretariat to assess and ensure the critical needs of the troops and expedite logistical support for AMISOM in a timely way. Djibouti was fully committed to working with the Somali Government and AMISOM to stabilize Somalia’s security situation.
AMAN HASSEN BAME (Ethiopia) said UNISFA had continued to maintain a stable security environment conducive to the voluntary return of displaced persons, the smooth delivery of humanitarian aid and the free movement of humanitarian personnel in the Abyei area. The withdrawal of Sudanese and South Sudanese forces from Abyei in 2012, in which UNISFA played a vital role, had helped achieve that result. UNISFA had facilitated the peaceful, orderly movement of Miseriya nomads and the return of displaced Ngok Dinka into Abyei, the latter increasing from 10,333 to 56,500 in the past two years. A further increase was expected during the 2013-2014 period. To facilitate the return of the displaced population and the movement of Miseriya and their cattle, UNIFSA had also continued to initiate conflict mitigation, peace and co-existence measures and mechanisms, as well as supported the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism in creating a safe, demilitarized zone. UNIFSA had not shied away from tackling very sensitive issues between the two parties. In close coordination with the African Union-designated facilitators and in line with the 20 June 2011 agreement between the parties, UNISFA had continued to help resolve disagreements over creation of the Abyei administration and police service.
Indeed there had been progress in building trust between communities, which had suffered some setbacks, including one a few days ago that resulted in the loss of life, he said. The way that tragedy had been handled so far was a good indication of how much both parties were committing to ensure that peace was maintained. UNISFA currently comprised a headquarters, 10 company operating bases, six temporary operating bases in the Abyei area and a logistics base in Kadugli. Seven of the ten operational locations were under construction or were to be constructed. According to the Secretary-General’s report, UNISFA was planning to complete the construction projects that were not finished during the 2012-2013 period. At the end of the reporting period construction was 60 per cent complete; construction had faced delays owing to the rainy season and other logistical challenges. He was concerned about repeated delays and asked the Secretary-General to redouble efforts to ensure completion on time. Considering all that, the budget cut proposed by ACABQ was unwise. As construction was progressing well, to recommend a cut now would hinder UNISFA’s overall performance.
HAKAN KARAÇAY (Turkey) said the reports on UNFICYP before the Committee made reference to tensions on the ground in Cyprus. Turkey understood that UNFICYP needed to adapt to realities on the ground, but at the same time it was disappointed that the mission was using such archaic practices as providing food aid to minorities in the north. He questioned whether there was still such a need for that, when several crossing points were already open for supplies to enter and there were millions of crossings of goods and people. He asked if the Council intended to renew UNFICYP’s overall mandate in its current form or if it would adapt to the current realities.
MELIVIA DEMETRIOU (Cyprus) said UNFICYP’s mandate had been discussed in the Council and was clearly set forth in Council resolution 186 (1964). That matter should not be discussed in the Fifth Committee.
Briefing on Proposed Programme Budget for Biennium 2014/2015
Next, the Controller, Ms. CASAR, briefed the Committee on the proposed $5.39 billion programme budget for the 2014/2015 biennium.
She said the proposed budget was in line with General Assembly resolutions, recalling that the Secretary-General had proposed a budget outline of $5.49 billion for 2014/2015, but the General Assembly had asked him to prepare a budget at a level about $100 million below his budget outline. By the terms of resolution 67/248, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to ensure the fair, equitable and non-selective treatment of all budget sections.
Sections or elements exempt from the $100 million cut included organizations that had a specific regulation or statute providing for a level of autonomy, such as the International Court of Justice, and policy-making organs, such as the Office of the President of the General Assembly, Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, Committee for Programme and Coordination, Board of Auditors and Committee on Contributions. Also exempt were activities for which financing was provided mostly by the agencies, funds and programmes, as well as newly established entities, such as the one on violence against children. Special expenses, such as banking fees, were also exempt, as were all areas of work pertaining to programme support, conference management, public information and capital projects for which reductions had already been proposed.
Describing the process leading to the proposed programme budget, she said that her office had received initial submission of programme managers in early January this year. A memorandum had been issued in mid-January, requesting programme managers to determine how reductions could best be achieved, maintaining a ratio between post and non-post resources. The managers had also been asked to conduct a comprehensive review of staffing requirements to best allocate reductions in post resources and explain the expected impact of the reductions, if any.
Continuing, she drew attention to some technical changes to the table used for the financial resources. In the previous biennium, the base had been set at the 2010/2011 appropriation. But, for the 2014/2015 biennium, the General Assembly asked the Secretary-General to prepare his proposed programme budget at the revised 2012/2013 rates, which incorporated the revised appropriation and deferred recosting.
The new table showed technical adjustments, such as delayed impact for posts established and removal of one-time costs approved for 2012/2013, and new mandates and inter-component changes, she said. The table also showed the changes stemming from resolution 67/248, requiring the Secretary-General to prepare a budget $100 million below his budget outline.
She recalled that the Secretary-General had told Member States that the $100 million cut would have an impact on mandate implementation. But, the $63 million cut that had already been identified in the budget outline would not impact effective mandate implementation.
Impact analyses for reductions focused on changes to the volume of outputs and performance targets, she said, noting that no outputs or performance measures would be discontinued fully under the proposed budget. The estimated volume of output was adjusted by 0.2 per cent, and the level of performance targets was lowered in 3 per cent of all performance measures, she added.
Lastly, she noted that the proposed budget included a single realized vacancy rate, in lieu of projected vacancy rates for continuing and new posts. In line with resolutions 66/246 and 67/246, that would allow better alignment of post requirements with actual expenditure experience. And vacancy rates would be updated yearly to match expenditure experience. Using a single vacancy rate would also annul the volatility in requirements for the subsequent biennium and add “much certainty” to the budget, she said.
Mr. NAVOTI ( Fiji), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, expressed deep concern over the information presented on the Secretary-General’s implementation of Assembly resolution 67/248. He recalled that when considering the 2014-2015 budget outline the Assembly was seized of several revised estimates and programme budget implications that after adoption significantly impacted the level of the proposed budget. He also recalled that, in line with established practice, the estimate indicated in paragraph 10 of resolution 67/248 did not include provisions for implementing new and expanded mandated activities under discussion by the Assembly and were adopted only at the same time as the budget outline. It was unknown to him as to why the preliminary estimate discussed during the budget outline negotiations had not been subsequently updated by the Secretariat to incorporate the delayed impact of all new and expanded mandated activities. The 2014-2015 proposed programme budget should be over and above the preliminary estimate indicated in paragraph 10 because of the delayed impact of new and expanded mandated activities approved by the Assembly last year.
He was deeply concerned that the Secretariat was completely reinventing the budgetary process through new readings and creative interpretations of long-standing Assembly decisions, particularly resolutions 41/213 and 42/211. Such changes had been made surreptitiously, in the absence of any justified proposal or adequate discussions on possible implications. As every mandate approved by an intergovernmental body was equally important and politically sensitive, it should be adequately funded. “The Group will not accept a disguised ‘mandate review’ exercise conducted through the budgetary process, as well as any change in the established budgetary procedure, its format and presentation,” he said. The Assembly had not considered or approved any initiatives to streamline the biennium budget and the change management. Therefore, the Group would not accept any backdoor attempts aimed at disrupting the established procedures and processes.
In response, Ms. CASAR said the Secretariat had complied with all resolutions and it was not deviating in any way from the budget review process. Where things differed was whether the new mandates were included in the budget proposal. Her Office had presented a proposal that was approximately $100 million less than the previous one. The budget presented was a “responsible exercise” to give more flexibility to managers and to share the impact on their activities, outputs and performance indicators.
CARMEL POWER, a representative of the European Union, said that when considering the budget proposal in detail during the fall it was important to consider it in the context in which the United Nations operated today, with continued demands to deliver in the face of budget restraints and reduced spending by many national Governments. In agreeing to the budget outline resolution on 24 December, the Assembly sought to give the Secretary-General the opportunity to examine how the Organization carried out its mandates. The European Union expected to see that opportunity truly grasped in the budget proposal, and to see that the Secretary-General, as Chief Administrative Officer, had looked to all sections of the budget to make savings and had reviewed possible obsolete activities, taken additional cost-effective steps and simplified procedures. The European Union also looked forward to proposals that reflected the outcomes of a review of the Organization’s staffing requirements.
By undertaking such measures, the Secretary-General would be able to prepare a robust proposal that matched the budget level which the Assembly decided on as being the suitable amount for fully implementing mandated programmes, he said. It was important to recall that the Assembly decided last December to further defer recosting of the 2012-2013 regular budget, which did not imply a mere delay. There should be no assumption by the Secretary-General that further funding for recosting would be agreed to when the budget was considered again at year’s end. Other tools, such as forward purchasing to reduce the impact of currency fluctuations, must be used as well. But a fundamental shift was needed across the Secretariat. Creative ways to more effectively deliver mandates and sustainably use resources were vital. Business as usual did not address the scope of the United Nations financial challenges.
MONDO YAMAMOTO (Japan) said it was imperative not only for Member States, but also for the Secretariat, to maintain the agreed $5.4 billion envelope stipulated in the resolution of the 2014-2015 budget outline to ensure the Organization moved sustainably into the future. While recognizing that the Organization must respond to new mandates given to it, the Assembly decided last year to set an agreed budget level, which the Assembly was strongly confident would be enough to fulfil all mandates. It was the Assembly’s strong expectation that the Secretariat would be able to deliver the mandates within that envelope. The Assembly had given the Secretariat tools, such as Umoja and the comprehensive review of staffing requirements, to accomplish that task. He strongly believed the Secretariat would be able to stay within the budget level by effectively using those tools.
YESSIKA COMESAÑA PERDOMO (Cuba) underscored the importance of financing peacekeeping operations because of its impact on mandates. She noted the serious deviation in implementation of resolution 41/213 in previous budget cycles and particularly during the current one. It was disturbing that the Assembly had contradicted its own decisions and validity of that important juridical instrument. She was concerned by the possible imbalance in the treatment of various sections of the budget, notably the development pillar, which was of vital importance for developing countries. She asked that detailed information be given to Member States on the impact of the budget cuts on programme and subprogramme mandates. Doing more with less should not be interpreted coldly. One could not speak about full efficiency without strict compliance with mandates. The budget was unbalanced; 22 per cent was given to special political missions. They should be financed by applying the peacekeeping scale. She reaffirmed the position of the Group of 77 and China concerning the financial consequences of the revised estimates made at the Rio+20 Conference and the decisions of the Human Rights Council, saying they should be duly reflected in the programme budget.
JOSEPH TORSELLA ( United States) said the Assembly’s decision on its budget level was clear and responsible. It had achieved its goal of encouraging the Secretariat to think creatively about how best to deliver mandates in the face of financial constraints. The idea that any increase in mandates required an increase in budget was misleading. Public and private organizations everywhere knew that truth, and by using different means they found ways to achieve greater ends with fewer resources. By approving a modest 1.8 per cent reduction for 2014-2015, the Assembly directed the United Nations to manage its resources by streamlining operations. He hoped that the final 2014-2015 budget proposal would show those new ways of working, as well as the tangible benefits from Member States’ heavy investment in business transformation initiatives, such as Umoja. He encouraged a continued focus in the budget presentation on how the United Nations would fulfil the mandates in its 2014-2015 strategic framework within the designated $5.39 billion envelope. The Committee should set levels and direction, give broad guidance and look at the key drivers of costs and results. It should not micromanage the professionals hired to administer the Organization or confuse outputs with outcomes.
He was concerned that the 2014-2015 budget proposal may not be the final proposal. The Committee must create room in the budget to accommodate additional programme budget implications and needs that may arise during the budget cycle due to urgent and unforeseen requirements. That number did not include anticipated recosting for the 2014-2015 period, which could increase the overall budget. That was deeply troubling. He urged the Secretary-General to re-examine his proposal to ensure that the true 2014-2015 budget request was fully inclusive and in line with the Assembly-mandated budget outline. “Quite simply, a budget level is a ceiling, not a floor,” he said. He stressed the need to reengage in real and significant budget reforms. That task had been delayed for far too long; it was time to end the cycle of ongoing changes to every budget.
NOEL GONZÁLEZ SEGURA (Mexico) said the Secretariat was making efforts to ensure savings in line with the Organization’s realities. It was a responsible take on the Organization’s financial situation and something that Member States could support. It was not necessary to go into the detailed work of those entrusted with preparing the Organization’s budget. The Committee’s responsibility was to judge the results and the output, and to see whether the Secretary-General’s proposal was in line with the Organization’s mandate and priorities. If the budget enabled the Secretariat to faithfully comply with established mandates, then it must be respected. Some new activities should not affect the Organization’s capacity to carry out its mandate in a balanced way in the areas of development and human rights. For now, the Committee should thank the Secretariat for the budget presented thus far.
SERGEY A. SAFRONOV (Russian Federation) said in December 2012, the Assembly made a decision to limit the 2013-2014 budget to $5.39 billion. The forthcoming budget should not in any way harm the activities of the Organization or change mandates approved by Member States. The proposed budget was a guide for the Secretariat. He stressed the importance of not forgetting the extra decisions made by the Assembly already and those to be made in the future. He asked the Secretariat whether current budget mechanisms were sufficient to enable the Organization to carry out all its current mandates in the event that there was a need for a further restriction on expenditures. He asked if any additional budget planning mechanisms would be presented to guarantee implementation of mandates during the 2013-2014 period.
In response, Ms. CASAR agreed with Mexico’s representative and said indeed Member States should wait to see the budget before suggesting the Secretariat was violating mandates. “We are putting much more discipline, strategic thinking and transparency into the budget,” she said. She was concerned about delegations’ critiques, such as that of last year’s recosting exercise. The Secretariat had no choice but to react to the recosting. The cuts proposed by the Secretary-General did not create an unbalanced budget. The Secretariat had tried to apply the cuts unselectively and keep the budget as it was, she said, adding that “you can’t argue that we are creating a less balanced budget.”
On Friday, her Office would present the staff cuts proposed by the General Assembly and Secretary-General. A total of 376 posts were to be cut. Arriving at that number had required a very thorough exercise. It had not been easy. A total of 115 new posts were proposed, resulting in a net reduction of 261 posts. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) would receive 85 of the new posts. In closing, she said that taking into account the new mandates, her Office was committed to showing exactly what it could do to contain the budget as recommended by Member States.
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