Concluding Main Part of Seventieth Session, General Assembly Approves $5.4 Billion Budget for 2016-2017 Biennium, as Recommended by Fifth Committee

GA/11747
23 December 2015
Seventieth Session, 82nd Meeting (PM & Night)

Concluding Main Part of Seventieth Session, General Assembly Approves $5.4 Billion Budget for 2016-2017 Biennium, as Recommended by Fifth Committee

It Also Takes Action on Outstanding Drafts Submitted by Other Main Committees

Upon the recommendation of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), the General Assembly tonight approved a budget of $5.4 billion for the 2016-2017 biennium as it concluded the main part of its seventieth session.

The figure was $170 million less than the $5.57 billion proposed budget unveiled by the Secretary-General in October and roughly $400 million lower than the $5.8 billion final appropriations for 2014-2015.

In addition, the Assembly adopted 13 draft resolutions and two draft decisions, including a text setting the new mandatory retirement age for staff recruited before 2014 at 65 years, effective by 1 January 2018 the latest.  It also approved the first reassessment of the staff compensation package in 26 years, and decided that new provisions should come into force on 1 July 2016.  The changes, proposed by the International Civil Service Commission, included a unified base/floor salary scale structure, replacing the dual scales for staff without dependents and staff with dependents.

The new package also included the establishment of a dependent spouse allowance at 6 per cent of net remuneration, with single parents to receive an allowance for the first dependent child at 6 per cent of net remuneration in lieu of the child allowance.  The revised education grant scheme should be introduced from the school year in progress as of 1 January 2018.

By other texts, the Assembly adopted the new scale of assessments, which determines how much Member States must contribute to the United Nations regular and peacekeeping budgets.  According to the new scales, China, with a 7.92 per cent of the total, would become the third-largest contributor to the regular budget after the United States (22 per cent) and Japan (9.68 per cent).

Under “special subjects”, the Assembly approved $567.25 million for the 36 special political missions in the biennium 2016-2017 and $8.14 million for the Umoja project.  It authorized the Secretary-General to enter into commitments of up to $7.55 million in 2016 to implement decisions in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The Assembly also noted that a balance of $24.01 million remained in the contingency fund.

However, delegates failed to reach agreement on reform of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), a subsidiary body of the Assembly examining the budget proposals and efficiency of resource utilization, deferring the matter until March.

Further, the Assembly took action on programme budget implications resulting from the actions of its other Main Committees.  It approved 11 drafts, among them texts on implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples; the human rights situations in Myanmar and Syria, and the rights of indigenous peoples.

It also adopted texts on the financing of the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia, as well as their International Residual Mechanism, among other things.

Before turning to the Fifth Committee reports, the Assembly took action on outstanding reports containing drafts submitted by its First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), Second Committee (Economic and Financial), Third Committee (Social Humanitarian and Cultural), Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) and Sixth Committee (Legal).

In other business today, The Assembly took action on two plenary draft resolutions without a vote.

It adopted the text “The impacts of the 2015/16 El Niño phenomenon”, deciding to convene a plenary meeting during its seventy-first session in 2016, to discuss action-oriented recommendations to address the socioeconomic and environmental impacts of El Niño.

It also adopted a text extending the terms of office of 17 judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

On a separate agenda item, the Assembly took note of a note by the Secretary-General on “Appointment of members of the Committee on Conferences by which it appointed Hungary and Iran to the Committee on Conferences for three-year terms beginning on 1 January 2016.

In concluding remarks, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, expressed happiness that the budget had been approved, saying it reflected the difficult global financial realty whereby funding was shrinking and mandates were growing.  The United Nations would continue to respond to the needs of the world’s people, and to make the most of the resources entrusted to it, he said.  While the Assembly had decided to add resources to development but reduce resources to areas including public information, the United Nations was nevertheless committed to implementing transformational initiatives such as Umoja and all other mandates.  He noted that this was the last regular budget adopted during his tenure, and expressed gratitude for the collaboration he had enjoyed over the past nine years.

Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft (Denmark), said 2016 would be about kick-starting implementation of the “incredible breakthroughs” that the Organization had brought about in 2015 – the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement.  The upcoming year must also be about finding lasting solutions to ongoing conflicts, reviewing the global humanitarian system and addressing the current refugee crisis, he added.

Presenting reports and texts for the Assembly’s consideration and action were the representative of South Africa and the Rapporteurs of the Fifth Committee.

Also speaking today were representatives of Syria, United Arab Emirates, Iran, China, Venezuela, Turkey, El Salvador, Japan, Cuba, Luxembourg (on behalf of the European Union), Canada (also for Australia and New Zealand) and Nicaragua.

The General Assembly will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.

Action on Drafts

First, the Assembly acted on draft resolutions containing programme budget implications relating to the programme budget for the biennium 2016-2017.

Acting without a vote, it adopted the draft (document A/70/L.38) on the organization of the 2016 High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS Programme, allowing for an extra $118,200 in resource requirements for the biennium, under section 2, General Assembly and Economic and Social Council affairs and conference management, as a charge against the contingency fund.

The representative of the United States said her country was pleased to join the consensus on that text and strongly supported the event, which would review progress made and provide recommendations on meeting the goal of ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030.  Emphasizing that the participation of civil society in high-level meetings and panels was essential, he said they and other stakeholders played a key role on issues relating to HIV/AIDS, and in that regard, fairness and transparency were important in compiling lists of non-governmental organizations to participate in high-level meetings and other United Nations summits.  According to operative paragraph 12 and footnote 11, both the list proposed by the Assembly President and the final list of non-governmental organization and other participants would be sent to the Assembly for its consideration, he noted.  It was in comparing those lists that Member States would evaluate any possible objections by other countries, and the source and basis of any objections should be made available to the Assembly for any meaningful consideration to take place.

The representative of Canada expressed concern about the restrictions on civil society’s representation at United Nations events, saying that if Member States objected to a particular non-governmental organization’s participation, they should inform the Assembly President about their reasons.  Going forward, a predictable process for the participation of non-governmental organizations not accredited to the Economic and Social Council should be developed, he said.

The representative of the European Union expressed deep concern about the reticence of some Member States with regard to transparency on participation by representatives of civil society in high-level United Nations events, and the arbitrary means used to limit them.

The Assembly then took up the report of its Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) on social development (document A/70/481), and adopted, without a vote, draft resolution IV contained therein, titled “Persons with Albinism”.  By that text it approved an extra $50,900 under section 2, General Assembly and Economic and Social Council affairs and conference management, and charged against the contingency fund.

Turning to reports of its Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), the Assembly took up one on “International cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space” (document A/70/495) adopting, without a vote, draft II contained therein, on matters relating to activities under the United Nations Programme on Space Applications in 2016.  By that text, the Assembly approved an extra $197,800 under section 6, Peaceful uses of outer space, of the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2016-2017 as a charge against the contingency fund.

Next, it adopted without a vote draft resolution VII on implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, contained in document A/70/505, approving an additional $238,339 in the biennium, under section 2, General Assembly and Economic and Social Council affairs and conference management, as a charge against the contingency fund to cover additional costs of annual mission visits.

Returning to the reports of the Third Committee, it adopted without a vote a text contained in document A/70/486 on the rights of indigenous peoples, which resulted in an extra $50,900 in resource requirements for the biennium, under section 2, General Assembly and Economic and Social Council affairs and conference management, as a charge against the contingency fund.  It decided that efforts would be made to absorb that amount within the 2016-2017 programme budget and the additional expenditures would be reported in the context of the relevant performance report for the same biennium.

Next, the Assembly took up the report on the human rights situation and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives (document A/70/489/Add.3) and adopted, without a vote draft II on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.  By that text, it approved an extra $1.13 million net of staff assessment from 1 January to 31 December 2016 to continue the Secretary-General’s good offices relating to that situation.  Those requirements would be charged against the provision for special political missions included under section 3, Political affairs, of the 2016-2017 programme budget.

Taking up draft IV, also contained in that report, on the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic, the Assembly approved $50,900 in extra resources in the biennium, under section 2, General Assembly and Economic and Social Council affairs and conference management, as a charge against the contingency fund.  It adopted that text by a recorded vote of 104 in favour to 13 against, with 37 abstentions.

The representative of Syria expressed deep sadness that some delegations, including members of the Non-Aligned Movement, were trying to exploit the work of the Third Committee.  It was strange that some countries with neither a constitution nor a parliament nor respect for the rights of the elderly or women or children were talking about human rights in Syria.  Addressing his counterpart from Saudi Arabia, he said he would neither forget nor forgive.

The representative of the United Arab Emirates, a co-sponsor of the draft resolution, said the tragedy of Syria should be put to an end, noting that more than 60 countries had co-sponsored that text.

The representative of Iran said she had wanted to make an explanation of position before the vote and wished the record to reflect that.  Paragraph 14 of the text was abhorrent because it denied the right of Member States to establish peace and order.  Paragraph 16 “sinisterly” lumped together those fighting Da’esh, Al Nusra and their affiliates, she said, adding that the paragraphs in question blurred the line between terrorists and those fighting them.  It was unfortunate that a United Nations human rights mechanism could have such an absurd draft resolution passed.

The representative of China said in regard to the draft on the situation of human rights in Myanmar that his delegation had not been able to participate in the consensus on that text.

Next, the Assembly took up the draft resolution on oceans and law of the sea (document A/70/L.22), approving extra resource requirements of $525,400 under section 8, Legal affairs ($378,400), section 29D, Office of Central Support Services ($147,000), and section 36, Staff assessment ($38,400), to be offset by the same amount under income section 1, Income from staff assessment, of the 2016-2017 proposed programme budget, as a charge against the contingency fund.

It adopted that text by a recorded vote of 143 in favour to 1 against (Turkey), with 4 abstentions (El Salvador, Central African Republic, Mali, Venezuela).

The representative of Venezuela, speaking in explanation of position, said his country was not a party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.  The instrument was not universal and its terms should be reviewed, and Venezuela would abstain from the vote.

The representative of Turkey also said his country was not party to the Convention, adding that while Turkey agreed with its general intent, it could not be a signatory.

The representative of El Salvador said his delegation was aware of the importance of oceans and of the need to exploit them in a sustainable manner, but El Salvador was not a party to the Convention.  All States should continue to protect oceans because that would strengthen international peace and security, he emphasized.  Its resources must be shared in a fair manner, taking into account the needs of developing countries.

Moving on to the reports of its Sixth Committee (Legal), the Assembly took up its report of the International Law Commission on the work of its sixty-seventh session (document A/70/509), adopting, without a vote, the draft resolution contained therein, for which no additional resources would be required.

The Assembly then took up the reports of its First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), the Assembly first considered its report on developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security (document A//70/455), adopting a text contained therein without a vote.  By that text, the Assembly approved an additional $1.32 million in the biennium, under section 2, General Assembly and Economic and Social Council affairs and conference management, and under section 4, Disarmament, as a charge against the contingency fund.

It then took up the Committee’s report on general and complete disarmament (document A/70/460) and considered the draft contained therein, relating to the open-ended Working Group on the Fourth Special Session of the General Assembly Devoted to Disarmament Programme (document A/70/L.26).  Implementation of that text would result in an extra $392,900 for the biennium under section 2, General Assembly and Economic and Social Council affairs and conference management, as a charge against the contingency fund.

The Assembly then adopted that text by a recorded vote of 149 in favour to none against, with 5 abstentions (Central African Republic, France, Netherlands, Germany, Israel).

The representative of Cuba said there was no negotiated intergovernmental agreement on the definition of the “responsibility to protect”.  Budget estimates presented by the Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect should be deleted and only be taken into account when the General Assembly took a decision on that concept.  He proposed two preambular paragraphs as an amendment to draft resolution A/70/C.5/L.19, one of which called for the elimination of all references to the responsibility to protect and related narratives of the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide.

The representative of Luxembourg, speaking on behalf of the European Union, pointed out that the mandate of the Office of Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide had been approved by the Security Council, and that the General Assembly’s responsibility was to ensure that the office was adequately funded.  The preambular paragraphs under consideration would greatly reduce the capacity of the office to implement its mandate.

The representative of Iran said he had asked for the floor to explain his delegation’s vote on amendments proposed by Cuba.  Although Iran supported the expeditious and immediate response of the United Nations in the prevention of genocide, there was no inter-governmental consensus on the responsibility to protect and Iran therefore found it unacceptable that the Organization’s resources should be allocated to an office without agreed terms of reference.

The representative of Nicaragua said his delegation was in favour of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide.

The representative of Syria said that, since there was no consensus on the concept of responsibility to protect, his delegation supported Cuba’s proposal.

The General Assembly then began the voting process.

The representative of Cuba, speaking on a point of order, interrupted the voting process to point out that when a motion was introduced, two delegations must speak in its favour, and two against.  He asked that the vote be delayed until clarity could be established as to whether that requirement had been fulfilled.

Mr. LYKKETOFT (Denmark), Assembly President, said that since Cuba’s changes were not a proposal but an amendment, the voting could go on.

The representative of Cuba read out the relevant rules of procedure to the assembled delegations, requesting that the Secretariat clarify the situation.

Mr. LYKKETOFT (Denmark), Assembly President, read out rule 90 of the General Assembly’s Rules of Procedure, saying the voting would go on.

The representative of Cuba said the issue was not that he disagreed with the President, but that he was simply putting a question to the Secretariat with regard to a point of order.  The question related to rule 89, not rule 90, he said, again seeking clarification on that point.

Mr. LYKKETOFT (Denmark), Assembly President, conferred with members of the Secretariat before asking whether there were any Member States who, together with Cuba, challenged his interpretation of the Rules of Procedure.  Seeing none, he called for the voting to continue, saying the Assembly could vote in another President for the next session.

By a recorded vote of 12 votes in favour to 74 against, with 58 abstentions, the Assembly then rejected Cuba’s amendment.

Moving on, the Assembly then took a decision on draft resolution II as a whole, unanimously adopting the text.

The representative of Iran, reverting to resolution A/70/C.5/L.19, said he wished to disassociate his delegation from part 20 of the text where it allocated budgetary resources to the Panel of Experts on Iran.  He said Security Council sanctions against his country were unlawful and targeted the civilian population.  Sanctions derived from political motivations by some countries, he said, adding that it was on the same basis that his delegation rejected funding the Panel.

The representative of Cambodia, speaking in explanation of position, said the draft resolution to be adopted under agenda item 134 would give way to voluntary financial commitments for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.  Over the past two years, the Government had covered more than 50 per cent of national staff salaries, in addition to substantial operational costs.  To date, Cambodia had contributed approximately $30.6 million, making it the second largest contributor to the Chambers after Japan.  The Government had made a renewed commitment of $4.15 million for 2016, to cover national salaries and operational costs equivalent to 62.5 per cent of the proposed 2016 budget under the national component.  He called upon principal donors to “fill the gap” by paying national salaries for another six months.

GERT AUVAART (Estonia), Rapporteur of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) introduced that body’s reports.  (For background, see Press Release GA/AB/4185).

MOGENS LYKKETOFT (Denmark), President of the General Assembly, informed delegations that as the Fifth Committee had just concluded its work, most of its reports were only available in English and would be issued in the other official languages as soon as possible.

First, the Assembly, took up the Fifth Committee’s report titled “Financial reports and audited financial statements, and reports of the Board of Auditors,” (document A/70/624), and adopted an eponymous draft contained therein by which it accepted those documents for numerous entities in the United Nations system, including funds and programmes.  The Assembly also approved the conclusions and recommendations contained in the reports of the Board of Auditors, endorsed those contained the report of the ACABQ and decided to consider further the Board’s reports on the Rwanda Tribunal, the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal and their Residual Mechanism under the respective agenda items.

Further by the text, the Assembly reiterated its request that the Secretary-General and the executive heads of United Nations funds and programmes ensure the full implementation of the Board of Auditors’ recommendations and the Advisory Committee’s related recommendations in a prompt and timely manner, to continue to hold programme managers accountable for lack of implementation of recommendations and to effectively address the root causes of the problems highlighted by the Board.  It decided that the Secretary-General’s reports on implementation of the Board’s recommendations should include a full explanation for the delays in the implementation, in particular those not yet fully implemented that were two or more years old, as well as an expected timeframe for implementation.  The Assembly expressed concern about the Organization’s continued deficiencies and weaknesses identified by the Board, and in that regard asked the Secretary-General to address those weaknesses as a matter of priority.  Similarly, the cross-cutting and systemic risks identified by the Board in the other United Nations entities should be addressed by the heads of those entities.

The Assembly also noted with concern the general deficiencies identified by the Board with respect to control and fraud prevention, activities that are particularly necessary given the high-risk environments in which the United Nations and all its entities operate, and stressed the need for them to take measures to address these deficiencies, including through the development of comprehensive fraud risk assessments and counter-fraud strategies, the issuance of a standard definition of fraud for application across the United Nations system and standard operating procedures for fraud prevention.  The Assembly also stressed that the Board’s report on the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund should be submitted separately to the Assembly, and decided that a copy should continue to be annexed to the report of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Board.

Next, the Assembly took up the report on the programme budget for the biennium 2014-2015 (document A//70/631).  It first adopted, without a vote, draft I contained therein on the Capital Master Plan, approving the 2014 report of the Board of Auditors on the Plan and accepted its recommendations.  The Assembly also asked the Secretary-General to ensure the demolition of the temporary North Lawn building without further delay and to report thereon in his next report on the subject.  The Secretary-General was asked to submit to the Assembly for its consideration and approval future proposals relating to the renovation of the Dag Hammarskjöld Library and South Annex Buildings as separate projects outside the scope of the Plan, and to ensure the timely conclusion of the procurement process as well as the completion of the security-related work at 42nd and 48th Streets before the end of 2016.  Further, the Assembly expressed regret that data on utility consumption had not been made available to benchmark the benefits achieved by the Plan, and thus asked the Secretary-General to provide in his fourteenth annual progress report data on current utility consumption, including consumption patterns prior to the Plan.

Next, the Assembly adopted, again without a vote, the draft titled “Programme budget for the biennium 2014-2015”.  It resolved, by the terms of that document, that the final budget appropriations for 2014-2015 totalling $5.83 billion should be decreased by $23.35 million and the final income estimates totalling $546.833 million should be increased by $27.82 million.

The Assembly then turned to a report on the financing of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Genocide and Other Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of Rwanda and Rwandan Citizens Responsible for Genocide and Other Such Violations Committed in the Territory of Neighbouring States between 1 January and 31 December 1994 (document A//70/632).  It adopted the related resolution contained therein, resolving that, for the 2014-2015 biennium, $94.89 million gross ($88.32 million net) approved in its resolution 69/254 to finance the Tribunal would be adjusted upward by $11.19 million gross ($9.16 million net), for a total amount of $106.07 million gross ($97.47 million net).

Further, by that text, the Assembly decided to appropriate $2.09 million gross ($1.98 million net) for 2016-2017 to the Special Account for the Tribunal, as detailed in the annex, and that the total assessment for 2016 under the Special Account would amount to $13.27 million, comprising $2.09 million for the estimated appropriation approved for 2016-2017 and a $11.18 million increase in the final appropriation for 2014-2015 approved by the Assembly in paragraph 4 of section I.  The Assembly also decided to apportion $6.64 million gross ($5.57 million net) among Member States in accordance with the scale of assessments applicable to the United Nations 2016 regular budget.  Further, it decided to set off against the apportionment among Member States their respective shares in the Tax Equalization Fund of the estimated staff assessment income of $2.14 million approved for the Tribunal for 2016.

Next, the Committee adopted, without a vote, an draft contained in the report on the financing of the International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991 document A/70/633).  By that text, the Assembly resolved that, for the 2014-2015 biennium, $201.05 million gross ($179.07 million net) approved in its resolution 69/255 for the financing of the Tribunal would be adjusted downward by $11.88 million gross ($9.95 million net), for a total of $191.11 million gross ($167.20 million net).  The Assembly also decide to appropriate $95.75 million gross ($85.02 million net) for 2016-2017 to the Special Account for the Tribunal, as detailed in the annex and that the total assessment for 2016 under the Special Account would amount to $37.55 million, consisting of $47.78 million, or half of the estimated appropriation approved for 2016-2017 and $10.23 million, representing the decrease in the final appropriation for 2014-2015 approved by the Assembly in paragraph 3 of section I.  Further, the Assembly decided to apportion $18.78 million gross ($15.27 million net) among Member States in accordance with the scale of assessments applicable to the 2016 regular budget and to set off against the apportionment among Member States their respective shares in the Tax Equalization Fund of the estimated staff assessment income of $7 million approved for the Tribunal for 2016.

Moving on, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a draft contained in the the report on financing of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (document A//70/634).  By its terms, the Assembly endorsed the conclusions and recommendations contained in the Advisory Committee’s report and resolved that, for the biennium 2014-2015, the amount of $115.52 million gross ($108.35 million net) approved in its resolution 69/256 for the financing of the Mechanism would be adjusted by the amount of $43.93 million gross ($41.73 million net), for a total amount of $71.59 million gross ($66.61 million net).

Also by the text, the Assembly decided to appropriate for the biennium 2016-2017 an extra $2.63 million corresponding to the requirement for the pensions of retired judges and surviving spouses of the Rwanda Tribunal and $881,000 corresponding to the requirement for the after-service health insurance benefits to the body’s former staff.  It also decided to appropriate to the Special Account for the Mechanism $137.40 million gross ($126.95 million net) for the biennium 2016-2017, as detailed in the annex and that the 2016 total assessment for the Special Account of $24.77 million, should consist of:  $68.70 million, or half of the estimated appropriation approved for 2016-2017, and $43.93 million, representing the decrease in the final appropriation for 2014-2015 approved by the Assembly in paragraph 3 of section I.  It further decided to apportion $12.38 million gross ($10.87 million net) among Member States, in accordance with the scale of assessments applicable to the 2016 regular budget, and to set off against the apportionment among Member States their respective share in the Tax Equalization Fund of the estimated staff assessment income of $3.03 million approved for the Tribunal for 2016.

Next, the Committee considered the report of the “United Nations common system” (document A//70/635), adopting a related draft contained therein, by which the Assembly, among other things, decided that the mandatory age of separation for staff recruited before 1 January 2014 should be raised by the organizations of the United Nations common system to 65 years at the latest by 1 January 2018, taking into account the acquired rights of staff.  The Assembly also approved the revised base/floor scale of gross and net salaries for staff in the Professional and higher categories from 1 January 2016, as recommended by the International Civil Service Commission, and it approved the proposals on the common system compensation package proposed by the Commission and decided that those provisions should come into force on 1 July 2016.

Further by the text, the Assembly approved the proposed unified base/floor salary scale structure, replacing the dual scales for staff without dependents and staff with dependents.  It approved the establishment of a dependent spouse allowance at the level of 6 per cent of net remuneration, with single parents to receive an allowance for the first dependent child at 6 per cent of net remuneration in lieu of the child allowance.  It also decided that for P-1 through P-5 staff, an increment would be granted annually from step I to VII with the same grade and biennially thereafter.  For D-1 and D-2 staff, biennial increments were maintained.  The Assembly also decided to revise the criteria covering post-secondary education to make the grant payable up to the end of the school year in which the child completed four years of post-secondary studies or attained a first post-secondary degree, whichever came first, subject to the upper age limit of 25 years.  The revised education grant scheme, which included other changes, would be introduced from the school year in progress as of 1 January 2018.

The Assembly then took up the report on the scale of assessments for the apportionment of the expenses of the United Nations (document A/70/416/Add.1), adopting a draft therein by which it resolved that the scale of Member States’ assessed contributions to the United Nations regular budget for 2016, 2017 and 2018 would follow the percentages in the draft and decided that those assessments were based on estimates of gross national income and the average statistical base period of three and six years, among other factors.  Further, the Assembly decided that, in accordance with financial regulation 3.9, the State of Palestine and the Holy See, which were not members of the United Nations but which participated in certain of its activities, should be called upon to contribute towards the Organization’s expenses, on the basis of a notional assessment rate of 0.007 per cent and 0.001 per cent, respectively, for 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Next, the Assembly turned to the report on the scale of assessments for the apportionment of the expenses of the United Nations peacekeeping operations (document A//70/636) and adopted a draft in the report by the same name.  By its terms, the Assembly recognized the need to reform the current methodology for apportioning the expenses of peacekeeping operations, and decided that, as of 1 January 2016, the rates of assessment should be based on 10 levels of contributions and parameters, including least developed countries and Member States with lower rates of per capita gross national income.   The Assembly also endorsed the updated composition of levels to be applied in adjusting regular budget scale rates to establish Member States’ 2016-2018 rates for peacekeeping operations and decided to review the structure of the levels of the scale of assessment for such operations during its seventy-third session.

Moving on, the Assembly considered the report on the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2016-2017 (document A/70/648), which contained five draft resolutions.  First it adopted draft I on questions relating to that budget, which it, among other things, stressed that all Member States should fulfil their financial obligations as set out in the United Nations Charter.  The Assembly also requested the Secretary-General to recruit staff to fill the posts approved in the 2016-2017 budget with a view to improving geographical representation and gender balance in the Secretariat and to fill vacancies expeditiously.  It decided to abolish the remaining 67 posts proposed for freezing, immediately or upon the starting date of the proposed freeze, and reduce the proposed resources for consultants by 10 per cent.

By other terms, the Assembly decided to reduce by 5 per cent resources for supplies, materials, other staff costs, furniture, equipment and staff travel.  On overall policymaking, direction and coordination, the Assembly stressed the importance of strengthened accountability in the Organization and of ensuring greater accountability of the Secretary-General to Member States, requesting that he submit, in the context of the proposed 2018-2019 programme budget, proposals to review the budget allocation to the Office of the Assembly President in accordance with existing procedures.

The Assembly also approved a number of posts, and decided not to abolish nor reclassify several others, in the areas of political affairs, peacekeeping operations, economic and social affairs, trade and development, environment, Palestine refugees, the Office of Information and Communications Technology and administration in Geneva.  It decided to abolish posts in the area of public information and at the International Court of Justice and the Economic Commission for Europe, and to reclassify posts in the Office of Human Resources Management.

Further by the text, the Assembly asked the Secretary-General to review the level of regular budget funding in light of the growth in the administrative budget of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.  On property management projects, the Assembly decided to allocate $550,000 for the feasibility study in Nairobi, $50,800 for renovation of the North Building at the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and $400,000 for the cafeteria and library renovation at the Economic Commission for Africa.

Next, it considered draft II titled “Special subjects relating to the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2016-2017”, which covered 26 topics, among them International Public Sector Accounting Standards; Information and communications technology strategy; the Umoja enterprise resource planning project; framework for a global service delivery model; the post-2015 development and Addis Ababa Action Agendas; budget estimates for special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives; contingency fund; and property projects, including renovation of facilities at the United Nations campus in Geneva.

By its terms, the Assembly, among other things, would approve $567.25 million for the 36 special political missions in the biennium 2016-2017, under section 3, Political affairs; approve $8.14 million under section 29A, Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management, for the Umoja project; and authorize the Secretary-General to enter into commitments of up to $7.55 million in 2016 to implement decisions in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the 2030 Agenda.  The Assembly would also note that a balance of $24.01 million remained in the contingency fund.

By a recorded vote of 12 votes in favour to 74 against, with 58 abstentions, the Assembly then rejected Cuba’s amendment.  It then adopted draft resolution II without a vote.

Next, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, draft resolution III titled “Proposed programme budget for the biennium 2016-2017”, which included revised budget appropriations for the biennium 2016-2017; revised income estimates for the biennium 2016-2017; and financing of the appropriations for 2016.

By part A, on the revised budget appropriations for the biennium 2016-2017, the Assembly approved $5.4 billion for disbursement in the following categories:  $7.36 million for Overall policymaking, direction and coordination (Part I); $1.38 million for Political Affairs (Part II); $94.82 million for International justice and law (Part III); $464.6 million International cooperation for development (Part IV); $542.6 million for Regional cooperation for development (Part V); $359.78 million for Human rights and humanitarian affairs (Part VI); $1.88 million for Public information (Part VII); $598.12 million for Common support services (Part VIII); $40.21 million for Internal oversight (Part IX); $164.69 million for Jointly financed administrative activities and special expenses (Part X); $97.1 million for Capital expenditures (Part XI); $234.29 million for Safety and security (Part XII); $28.4 million for the Development Account (Part XIII); and $482.08 million for Staff assessment (Part XIV).

By part B, on revised income estimates for the biennium 2016-2017, the Assembly resolved to approve those estimates, totalling $5.31 billion as follows:  Income from staff assessment - $486.41 million; General income - $41.23 million; and Services to the public - $3.71 million.

By part C, the Assembly resolved that for the year 2016, budget appropriations would consist of $2.92 billion, being half of the appropriation of $2.70 billion approved for the biennium 2016-2017 by the Assembly in paragraph 1 of resolution A above, plus $218.92 million, being the net increase in appropriations for the biennium 2014-2015 approved by the Assembly.  Also by the draft, the Assembly decided to set off against the assessment on Member States their respective share in the Tax Equalization Fund of $252.04 million.

The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, draft IV on unforeseen and extraordinary expenses for the biennium 2016-2017).  By that text, the Assembly authorized the Secretary-General, with the prior concurrence of ACABQ and in line with the Organization’s financial regulations and rules, to enter into commitments in the coming biennium to meet unforeseen and extraordinary expenses arising either during or subsequent to the biennium, provided that the concurrence of ACABQ not be necessary for:  commitments exceeding $8 million in any one year of the biennium, as certified by the Secretary-General in relation to the maintenance of peace and security; and commitments certified by the President of the International Court of Justice as relating to expenses arising from several items detailed in the text, among them, the designation of ad hoc judges, and the calling of witnesses and experts. 

Further, it decided that in 2016-2017, if a Security Council decision resulted in the need for more than $10 million in commitment authority, the matter should be brought to the Assembly’s attention.

Finally on that report, the Assembly adopted without a vote draft V on the Working Capital Fund for the biennium 2016-2017 (document A/C.5/70/L.22), by which it established the fund for 2016-2017 in the amount of $150 million, and that Member States would make advances to it in accordance with their scale of assessments for 2016.  It decided those would be set off against the following allocations of advances:  credits to Member States resulting from transfers made in 1959 and 1960 from the surplus account to the Working Capital Fund in an adjusted amount of $1.03 million; and cash advances paid by Member States to the Fund for the biennium 2014-2015, in accordance with Assembly resolution 68/250 of 27 December 2013.

Lastly, the Assembly took up the report on the review of the efficiency and of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations (document A/70/649), and adopted without a vote a draft decision contained therein on questions deferred for future consideration.  By its terms, the Assembly decided to defer consideration until the first part of its resumed seventieth session of the Secretary-General’s note on operational arrangements and conditions of service of ACABQ, as well as his report and that of ACABQ of the review of arrangements for funding and backstopping special political missions.  Also by the text, the Assembly deferred until its seventy-first session consideration of reports of the Secretary-General and ACABQ on the review of the recent experience of the utilization of the contingency fund.

Statement on Programme Budget for Biennium 2016-2017

The representative of South Africa, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that as a result of intensive negotiations over the past few months, a budget of $5.4 billion had been adopted.  It was focused on enhancing the Organization’s ability to deliver more effectively and efficiently on its mandates.  “It always seems impossible, until it is done,” he said, quoting former President Nelson Mandela.

The representative of India expressed happiness that the budget had been passed.

Concluding Remarks

BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, expressed happiness that the budget had been passed, saying it reflected the difficult global financial realty whereby funding was shrinking and mandates were growing.  The United Nations would continue to respond to the needs of the world’s people, and to make the most of the resources entrusted to it.

He went on to note that the Assembly had decided to add resources to development but reduce resources to areas including public information, which presented challenges for the United Nations.  Nevertheless, the Organization was committed to implementing transformational initiatives such as Umoja and all other mandates.  Noting that this was the last regular budget adopted during his tenure, he said he was grateful for the collaboration he had enjoyed over the past nine years.

Mr. LYKKETOFT (Denmark), Assembly President, said 2016 would be about kick-starting implementation of the “incredible breakthroughs” that the Organization had brought about in 2015, namely the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement.  The upcoming year must also be about finding lasting solutions to ongoing conflicts, reviewing the global humanitarian system and addressing the current refugee crisis, he added.

For information media. Not an official record.