Fifth Committee Approves Eight Texts as It Concludes First Part of Resumed Sixty-Eighth Session

28 March 2014
GA/AB/4104

Fifth Committee Approves Eight Texts as It Concludes First Part of Resumed Sixty-Eighth Session

28 March 2014
General Assembly
GA/AB/4104
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

Fifth Committee

34th Meeting (PM)

Fifth Committee Approves Eight Texts as It Concludes First Part

Of Resumed Sixty-Eighth Session

 

Members Tackle Staff Mobility, UN Accountability System, among Other Topics

Acting without a vote as it concluded the first part of its resumed sixty-eighth session this evening, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) approved eight draft texts relating to the Capital Master Plan, a new staff mobility framework and progress towards establishing an accountability system for the United Nations, among other things.

By one text, the General Assembly would approve the Organization’s refined managed mobility framework, emphasizing that it should ensure a fair sharing among staff of service in hardship duty stations.  It would authorize the Secretary-General to implement it with a view to commencing mobility for one job network in 2016 and one in 2017, followed by two job networks for each year thereafter.  The Assembly would also set guidelines for geographical staff moves in 2016 and 2017, and minimum and maximum occupancy limits for duty stations.  It would request the Secretary-General to include, in his first annual report on the subject, current staff mobility statistics and an analysis of trends on costs, vacancy rates and the placement of external and internal candidates.

Taking up another text, the Committee informed the Assembly that implementation of the terms of draft resolution A/68/L.37, on strengthening and enhancing the effective functioning of the United Nations human rights treaty body system, would require an extra $194,300 and the creation of 38 posts (one P-4, 33 P-3, one P-2 and three GS-OL), effective from 1 January 2015, in the 2014-2015 programme budget.

According to another text, the Assembly, emphasizing the importance of promoting a culture of accountability, results-based management, enterprise risk management an internal control system-wide, would request the Secretary-General to take steps to that end, and urge him to complete the current Secretariat-wide risk assessment as a matter of priority, noting that the current appraisal system lacked credibility.

By an eight-part draft on special subjects relating to the programme budget for the biennium 2014-2015, the Assembly would endorse the conclusions and recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) on the Capital Master Plan.  It would authorize the Secretary-General, on an exceptional basis, to access the Working Capital Fund and the Special Account as a bridging mechanism to address possible cash flow challenges arising from the project during the time remaining until its completion.  It would decide that the mechanism would be replenished through the established budget assessment in order to maintain the Organization’s robust liquidity.

That text also contained provisions relating to the organizational resilience management system, progress in implementing the recommendations from the after-action review of storm Sandy, implementation of a flexible workplace at United Nations Headquarters, and the strategic capital review, among other things.

The Committee sent consensus texts to the Assembly on procurement, the Joint Inspection Unit and construction of the Arusha branch of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals.

By a draft decision, the Committee deferred action, until the second part of its resumed sixty-eighth session, on the reports of the Secretary-General and ACABQ on civilian capacity in the aftermath of conflict.  Items deferred until the sixty-ninth session included the Secretary-General’s report on the study on long-term accommodation needs at United Nations Headquarters for the period from 2014-2034, and on the United Nations Office for Partnerships.

Yukio Takasu, Under-Secretary-General for Management, presented the Secretary-General’s study on housing needs at Headquarters for the period 2014-2034 involving more than 9,500 staff and offices of the Secretariat and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), laying out six new options.  “The accommodation needs beyond 2023 will cause a serious challenge for the United Nations and require responsible advanced planning,” he declared.  “We need clear guidance from Member States as soon as possible as to which option we should focus on.”

Of the six new options, three were deemed viable and advantageous, he said, with option 3 — creating a new high-rise office tower called DC-5 on the plot of land south of the Headquarters campus, at a cost of $4.08 billion, considered the best.  Noting that the host city and the United Nations Development Corp, which would construct the building, had already invested more than $14 million in design costs, he emphasized that an Assembly decision was needed as soon as possible.

Pavel Chernikov, Vice-Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced that body’s related report, stressing that none of the six new options was feasible, and that the Secretary-General should have given adequate consideration to other options and alternative financing opportunities.  ACABQ was not in a position to recommend any of the options for consideration, he added.

Delegates expressed regret over the late issuance of reports on the subject, saying that, as a result, they were not ready to air their views.  The representative of the United States expressed concern that the lateness could cost the Committee an opportunity to take advantage of the most cost-effective options.  While the Secretary-General’s report provided convincing justifications for approving the DC-5 option, questions remained, including the percentage of staff that could be housed in United Nations-owned buildings, the risk to Member States of incurring more expenses and delays if either the DC-5 or North Lawn option was chosen, and how the Organization was working to change the terms of the memorandum of understanding between the host city and host country, as required for the DC-1 and DC-2 leases.

Also speaking today were representatives of Bolivia (speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), European Union Delegation, Australia (speaking also for Canada and New Zealand), Japan, Russian Federation, Singapore (on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations) and the Republic of Korea.

Background

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this afternoon to conclude the first part of its resumed sixty-eighth session while taking action on outstanding draft resolutions and discussing the feasibility study on long-term accommodation needs at United Nations Headquarters for the period 2014-2034 (documents A/68/734 and A/68/798).

By a draft text on the mobility framework (document A/C.5/68/L.30), the General Assembly would approve the refined managed mobility framework, emphasizing that it should ensure a fair sharing of the burden of service in hardship duty stations, and authorize the Secretary-General to implement it, with a view to commencing mobility for one job network in 2016 and one in 2017, followed by two job networks for each year thereafter.  The number of geographical moves for the 2016 and 2017 networks would be no greater than the average number of moves in 2014 and 2015.  Staff members having reached the maximum occupancy limit when managed mobility took effect for their job network would not be subject to reassignment in the first year of network’s operation.

Also, the Assembly would decide that one year would be the minimum post occupancy limit for duty stations classified as D and E, and two years for all other duty stations, with exceptions for staff with health and safety concerns.  Each job network board would have a staff representative in an observer capacity.  The Assembly would request the Secretary-General to include current staff mobility statistics in his first annual report on the subject, as well as an analysis of trends, including the tracking of actual costs related to geographic and non-geographic moves and vacancy rates by job network and other potential costs; the number of posts open to external candidates and the number selected in 2013 and the first quarter of 2014, as well as the number of staff moves within and among duty stations and the direct and indirect costs of each move by job network over the same period.

Furthermore, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to provide, his second annual report, to similar data relating to external candidates, staff moves and their costs in 2014 and the first quarter of 2015.  He would provide, in his regular and peacekeeping-related budget requests for 2016 and 2017, a full estimate of and rationale for the financing required for mobility, including requests for any extra geographic moves needed to achieve the strategic aims of mobility.

By a draft resolution on the Joint Inspection Unit (document A/C.5/68/L.33) the Assembly would reaffirm that oversight was a shared responsibility among Member States, the Organization, as well as internal and external oversight bodies.  It also would stress the importance of the Joint Inspection Unit’s oversight functions in identifying concrete managerial, administrative and programming questions within the participating organizations, and in providing practical and action-oriented recommendations to improve the governance of the United Nations as a whole.

A draft resolution on special subjects relating to the programme budget for the biennium 2014-2015 (document A/C.5/68/L.28) was divided into eight parts.  By its terms, the Assembly would endorse the conclusions and recommendations of the report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (document A/68/797) on the Capital Master Plan, authorize the Secretary-General to access the Working Capital Fund and the Special Account, on an exceptional basis, as a bridging mechanism to address possible cash-flow challenges during the time remaining until the project’s completion, and decide that the mechanism would be replenished through the established budget assessment in order to maintain the Organization’s robust liquidity during the main part of its sixty-ninth session.

The text also contained the following subjects for the Assembly’s action:  subvention to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia; estimates in respect of political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the Assembly and/or the Security Council:  Thematic cluster II:  Panel of Experts on the Central Africa Republic; organizational resilience management system and progress in the implementation of the recommendations from the after-action review of storm Sandy; implementation of a flexible workplace at United Nations Headquarters; and strategic capital review.

Other subjects included:  revised estimate relating to the programme budget for the biennium 2014-2015 under section 22, Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, and section 33, Construction, alteration, improvement and major maintenance; and terms of reference for the representative of the Secretary-General for the investment of the assets of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund.

By draft decision A/C.5/68/L.34, concerning programme budget implications for the 2014-2015 biennium relating to draft resolution A/68/L.37 — “Strengthening and enhancing the effective functioning of the human rights treaty body system” — the Committee would decide to inform the Assembly that approval of the text would require an extra $194,300 and the creation of 38 posts (one P-4, 33 P-3, one P-2 and three GS-OL), effective from 1 January 2015.

A text on procurement (document A/C.5/68/L.31), would have the Secretary-General submit a comprehensive report on United Nations procurement activities for consideration during the Assembly’s sixty-ninth session.

By a draft resolution on construction of a new facility for the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, Arusha branch (document A/C.5/68/L.29) the Assembly would endorse ACABQ’s conclusions and recommendations in document A/68/777, and the Secretary-General would take all necessary risk-mitigating steps to ensure close and complete monitoring of the project within the approved timeline and resources.  He would also continue to ensure the procurement of goods and services in strict compliance with existing regulations, rules and relevant provisions of General Assembly resolutions, and submit his progress report on the project’s implementation during the first part of the Assembly’s sixty-ninth session.

A text on progress towards an accountability system in the United Nations Secretariat (document A/C.5/68/L.32) would have the Assembly endorse ACABQ’s recommendations and conclusions in document A/68/783, while emphasizing the importance of promoting a culture of accountability, results-based management, enterprise risk management and an internal control system-wide.  It would request the Secretary-General to take steps toward that end and report on them in his next progress report.  It would urge him to complete the current Secretariat-wide risk assessment as a matter of priority, noting that the current appraisal system lacked credibility.

By a draft decision on questions deferred for future consideration (document A/C.5/68/L.35), the Assembly would decide to defer, until the second part of its resumed sixty-eighth session, consideration of the Secretary-General’s report on civilian capacity in the aftermath of conflict and ACABQ’s related report.  It would defer until its sixty-ninth session his report on the study on the long-term accommodation needs at United Nations Headquarters for the period 2014-2034, ACABQ’s related report, the report on the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2014-2015:  Section 1 Overall policymaking, direction and coordination:  United Nations Partnerships Facility, ACABQ’s related report and the Secretary-General’s related report on the United Nations Office for Partnerships.

Long-term Accommodation Needs at Headquarters (2014-2034)

YUKIO TAKASU, Under-Secretary-General for Management, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the study of accommodation needs at Headquarters from 2014 to 2034 (document A/68/734), saying it provided updates on the Secretariat’s population requirements and those of the funds and programmes expected to co-locate with it, the impact of implementing flexible workplace strategies, and financing alternatives for each option.  Since the Secretary-General’s February 2013 report on the matter, the population of participating funds and programmes had been revised to include only the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  Under a no-growth scenario, the total population in 2018 would be 9,593, including 850 from UNDP.  The planning figure for implementing flexible workplace strategies had been revised to a 20 per cent decrease in office space requirements per person, he said, adding that the off-campus space requirement would total more than 1.1 million square feet.  But, even after the Capital Master Plan was completed and flexible workplace strategies applied, Headquarters would still house 3,278 staff in 2018, in leased off-campus premises subject to rent fluctuations.  “I can hardly overemphasize that this is a major policy issue for the Organization to address urgently.”

Six options had been examined, in addition to the four previously considered, he continued, noting that three of the six were deemed viable and advantageous.  The North Lawn option was the least costly, at $3.53 billion because it was financed by assessments from Member States and entailed no interest payments.  Creating UNDC-5 would be the next-least-costly option, at $4.08 billion.  The status quo, at $4.55 billion, depended on commercial leases and was the most expensive in the long run, because the preferential rate of the leases on DC-1 and DC-2 would expire in 2023, when UNDC intended either to sell or refinance the property.  The North Lawn and the proposed UNDC-5, which would consolidate staff in an integrated campus, would offer greater safety and security, as well as more stable office space requirements and better-quality work environments while saving the time for moving between locations.  The current own-to-lease ratio of 52:48 was not economically prudent in the long term, he said, recommending a target ration of 80:20, which both the North Lawn and UNDC-5 met.

“The accommodation needs beyond 2023 will cause a serious challenge for the United Nations and require responsible advanced planning, he said.  “We need clear guidance from Member States as soon as possible as to which option we should focus on.”  The North Lawn and status quo options did not require an immediate Assembly decision, thus they would not solve accommodation needs in 2023.  The UNDC-5 option was time-sensitive, requiring amendment of the October 2011 memorandum of understanding in order to extend its expiry date beyond 2015, and removing the Organization’s obligation to continue leasing DC-1 and DC-2.  Since the host city and UNDC had already invested more than $14 million in design costs for UNDC-5, it was understandable that before considering amendments to the memorandum of understanding, they had asked the United Nations to approve the UNDC-5 option during the Fifth Committee’s current resumed session.  In any case, the UNDC-5 option required an Assembly decision as soon as possible, he said.

PAVEL CHERNIKOV, Vice-Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced that body’s report (document A/68/798), noting that the Secretary-General’s latest report (document A/68/734) presented six options, in addition to the four contained in his previous one (document A/67/720).  Three of those latter options were considered viable, but none of the newer six was feasible, he said.  The Secretary-General should have given adequate consideration to the additional options and alternative financing opportunities, some of which, or a combination of which, might prove viable.  ACABQ was, therefore, not in a position to recommend any of the options for consideration by the Assembly.

He said, however, that given the time-sensitivity of option 3, ACABQ recommended that the Assembly express explicit willingness to allow the Secretary-General to keep negotiating with the United Nations Development Corporation, so as to ensure its continuing viability.  If granted, his negotiating authority should apply to all the options with a view to serving the best interests of the Organization.  ACABQ had discussed key factors and assumptions that would affect the projected demand for office space at Headquarters, including population analysis, office space allowance and flexible workplace strategy, as well as an appropriate ratio of owned-versus-leased, he said.

The impact of major initiatives — such as Umoja and a proposed global service delivery model, if approved by the Assembly — should be factored into all major capital projects, he continued.  As for the sequencing of capital projects, the Assembly might wish to confirm whether the Secretariat’s understanding was consistent with its definition of major capital expenditure projects.  Further clarification and analysis were needed for many questions relating to cost comparisons, financing options and resource requirements, including issues of land ownership, architectural integrity, security-related requirements, interest rates, third-party financing and arrangements with other United Nations entities that might participate in long-term accommodation.

DAYANA RIOS (Bolivia), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, expressed regret over the delayed issuance of reports, which were presented on the last scheduled day of the first part of the Committee’s resumed session.  Therefore, the Group was not ready to present its view on that topic, she said, calling for the timely issuance of reports in all official languages based on the six-week rule.

GERTON VAN DEN AKKER, European Union Delegation, also expressed regret over the lack of time to discuss the issue.  The intricacies of the viable and non-viable options presented in the Secretary-General’s document and their related underlying financial mechanisms and budgetary consequences needed to be carefully scrutinized by the Committee.  “There is simply not enough time to give this important topic the appropriate attention it deserves,” he said.

EMIL STOJANOVSKI ( Australia), speaking also for Canada and New Zealand, said those delegations attached great importance to the issue, which required careful study and deliberations.  It was with regret that the Committee had to defer the consideration of that item.

SHO ONO ( Japan) said that the late issuance of the documents could ultimately have a negative impact on the Organization as one of the options presented by the Secretary-General was said to be time-bound.  It was time to explore structural solutions to the late issuance of documents.  The Secretariat should spare no effort to keep all options viable by taking necessary measures until the Committee had thoroughly considered the item, he said, calling for a briefing to deepen Member States’ understanding on each option at the experts’ and higher levels.

CHERITH NORMAN ( United States) expressed extreme concern that such a far-reaching and time-sensitive agenda item was being introduced so late, leaving little time to review it.  The United States delegation was very concerned that the Committee’s inability to conclude the agenda item could cost it an opportunity to choose the most cost-effective options.  The previous reports of the Secretary-General did not adequately address the projected staff level at Headquarters, and not all feasible alternatives had been considered, she noted, adding that the current one, however, addressed many of her delegation’s concerns in terms of the definition of space requirements based on staffing projections; the cost, financing arrangements and risks of various options; and the range of options explored.  The current report also answered many of her delegation’s questions about risk, cost and financing.  It provided convincing justifications for approving the DC-5 option, although questions remained.  It was not necessary to explore more options, she emphasized.  Rather, the focus should be on getting answers to delegates’ questions.

She asked about the level at which all staff members could be accommodated in United Nations-owned buildings with no requirement for commercially leased space or excess space, under the DC-5 and North Lawn options.  Given that the North Lawn option entailed high risks in terms of timing and financing, was it worthy of further analysis, or whether, in reality, only the DC-5 option and the status quo were viable.  The United States sought the Secretary-General’s assessment of the risk to Member States of incurring additional expenses and delays if either the DC-5 or North Lawn options was chosen, and his assessment of the risk of increased costs arising from those two options if there were further delays in choosing which option to pursue.  She also asked how the United Nations was working to change the terms of the memorandum of understanding between the host city and the host state in order to alter the lease requirements for DC-1 and DC-2.

Mr. TAKASU, responding to the delegates, said that in a no-growth scenario, the off-campus population would decline from 3,700 to 3,200, plus 850 people from UNDP, adding that more than 95 per cent of staff could be accommodated in United Nations-owned buildings.  The North Lawn building option was viable in principle, but there was the question was timing, since it could only be constructed after 2023.  Secondly, construction costs in New York City were always rising, he pointed out, stressing that a scenario of 50 per cent owned and 50 per cent rented space did not make sense for the Organization.  Construction costs for the North Lawn option would be locked in early, he said, noting that interest rates were a major factor.  An interest rate of 1 per cent would immediately raise costs by more than $1 million.

Action on Drafts

The Committee adopted L.30 on mobility without a vote.

The representative of the Russian Federation said the adoption of the text was the fruit of negotiations and compromises.  His delegation viewed it as important as it would help diversify work experiences of staff and ensured a fair burden sharing of service in hardship duty stations.  However, many questions had yet to be answered regarding financial implications, the hiring of external candidates, geographical representation and gender balance, among others.  The Secretary-General should provide more thorough answers in his future report.  The scheme was not an end in itself but should yield real benefits.

Also acting without a vote, the Committee adopted L.33 on joint inspection unit, L. 29 on construction of a new facility for the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, Arusha branch, and L.28 on Capital Master Plan and other special subjects.

The representative of Bolivia, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, drew attention to operative paragraph 11 that invited the Secretary-General to provide adequate office space for the Group in the Secretariat building, with at least the same square footage it had before the initiation of the Capital Master Plan, with due regard to its functional needs.

The Committee then adopted L.34 on the programme budget implications during the 2014-2015 biennium relating to the draft resolution on strengthening and enhancing the effective functioning of the human rights treaty body system.

The representative of Singapore, speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), noted that the draft established the requirement for capacity-building for regional offices of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to be undertaken “in consultation with and with the consent of the State concerned”, and “upon the request of the State parties”.  The recruitment of staff should take into account the equitable geographical representation and gender balance.

The Committee then adopted L.31 on procurement, L.32 on progress towards an accountability system in the United Nations Secretariat, and L.35 on questions deferred for future consideration, all without a vote.

The representative of the Republic of Korea welcomed the conclusion of the Committee’s work, but expressed regret that some “no-less important” items, such as partnership facility, had been deferred.  She supported the managed mobility framework, urging the Secretariat to strive to build a strong Organization.

The Committee then concluded the first part of its resumed session.

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