Concluding Session, Budget Committee Approves 6 Texts as Delegates Agree Funding for Syria Missions, Welcome New Whistle-blower Protection Policy

GA/AB/4229
31 March 2017
Seventy-first Session, 28th Meeting (AM)

Concluding Session, Budget Committee Approves 6 Texts as Delegates Agree Funding for Syria Missions, Welcome New Whistle-blower Protection Policy

Concluding the first part of its resumed seventy-first session, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today approved — without a vote — six draft texts relating to, among other things, funding for three special political missions and protection from retaliation of whistle-blowers who report serious misconduct.

It first approved a draft resolution on special subjects relating to the programme budget for the 2016-2017 biennium.  It asked the Assembly to approve more than $5 million in 2017 to operate the United Nations Monitoring Mechanism for the Syrian Arab Republic; nearly $3.2 million from April to the end of October for the United Nations-Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ Joint Investigative Mechanism; and $5.4 million, net of staff assessment, in 2017 for the Panel of Experts on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Among other parts of the text, the Assembly would ask the Secretary-General for updates on the Umoja enterprise management system, a refined proposal on Resident Coordinator system cost-sharing and a comprehensive report on standards of accommodation of air travel for United Nations staff members.

By the terms of another draft text approved today, the Assembly would appropriate $975,000 in connection with modalities for intergovernmental negotiations of the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.

A draft resolution on the Joint Inspection Unit would have the Assembly stress the importance of the Unit’s oversight functions in identifying managerial, administrative and programming questions, and invite the Unit to develop indicators to measure system-wide efficiency.

Among other texts approved today, the Assembly would adopt a draft resolution on construction of a new facility for the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, Arusha branch.

It would also request that the Secretary-General enhance the Organization’s processes to ensure that it encouraged the reporting of serious misconduct, protected whistle-blowers from retaliation and intervened to prevent retaliation from occurring.

In a final decision, the Assembly would decide to defer to the main part of its seventy-second session the Secretary-General’s report on the review of the experience of the utilization of the contingency fund, together with a related report from the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).

In closing remarks, some speakers welcomed the progress that had been made since the first part of its resumed session began on 6 March.  Others, however, regretted the Committee’s inability to agree in such areas as management of air travel.

The representative of the United States said that, with the approach of the second resumed session on 1 May, her country would pay close attention to peacekeeping-related agenda items with a view to significantly increasing efficiency and cost-savings.

Inga Rhonda King (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), Chair of the Fifth Committee, said the Assembly would take up the approved draft resolutions next week.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Ecuador (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Chad (on behalf of the African Group), China, Japan, Angola, Russian Federation and Mexico, as well as the European Union.

Action on Drafts

The Committee first considered a provisional draft resolution on special subjects relating to the programme budget for the biennium 2016-2017 (document A/C.5/71/L.27), consisting of seven parts.

By the terms of the text in Part I, on revised estimates relating to the 2016-2017 programme budget under section 27, Humanitarian assistance, and 36, Staff assessment, United Nations Monitoring Mechanism for the Syrian Arab Republic, the Assembly would take note of the Secretary-General’s report and endorse the conclusions and recommendations in the related report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).  It would also approve additional resources totalling $3.21 million for the period from 11 January to 31 December 2017; $2.03 million under section 27, Humanitarian assistance; and $172,300 under section 36, Staff assessment, to be offset by an equivalent amount under section 1, Income from staff assessment, charged against the contingency fund.

By Part II, on the lessons learned exercise on the coordination activities of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), the Assembly would emphasize that lessons should be considered by the United Nations system to effectively work together to respond to health crises taking into account the mandates and comparative advantage of United Nations entities and partners.  It would also encourage greater coordination, including the full potential of existing mechanisms, among the relevant United Nations bodies, regional and subregional organizations and national and local partners during health crises.

By Part III, on the status of implementation of the information and communications technology (ICT) strategy for the United Nations, the Assembly would underscore the importance of ICT in meeting the Organization’s growing demands and stress the importance of full, timely implementation of the ICT strategy across the Organization.

By other terms, the Assembly would reiterate the importance of ensuring a smooth and timely transfer of responsibilities from the Umoja project to corresponding entities within the Secretariat and would ask the Secretary-General to provide in his next progress report updates on what had been achieved to that effect.  It would also welcome the completion of the five-year budget projection for the Secretariat and ask the Secretary-General to continue to refine planning assumptions and present in his progress report to the Assembly’s seventy-third session an updated budget projection, including the requirements of peacekeeping and non-peacekeeping entities as well as actual expenditures.

By the terms of Part IV, on managing after-service health insurance, the Assembly would take note of the Secretary-General’s related report and endorse the conclusions and recommendations contained in ACABQ’s corresponding report.

By the text in Part V, on the proposed United Nations Secretariat contribution to the United Nations Development Group cost-sharing arrangement for the Resident Coordinator system, the Assembly would take note of the Secretary-General’s related reports and endorse the Advisory Committee’s corresponding conclusions.  It would also take note of paragraph 25 (b) of that report underlining the importance of the Resident Coordinator system and ask the Secretary-General to present to the Assembly at its next session a refined proposal on the cost-sharing arrangement and management of finances.

By the terms of Part VI, regarding standards of accommodation of air travel, the Assembly would ask the Secretary-General to submit a comprehensive report on those standards for consideration by the Assembly at the first part of its resumed seventy-second session.

By terms of Part VII, on estimates in respect of special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council, the Assembly would approve $3.19 million for the United Nations-Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ Joint Investigative Mechanism for the period 1 April to 31 October 2017 (net of staff assessment), and decide that the requirements of the Mechanism for the period 1 November to 31 December 2016, as well as from the period from 1 January to 31 March 2017, would be $93,000 and $868,900, respectively. 

Under the subtext on the Panel of Experts on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Assembly would decide not to establish one proposed Senior Political Affairs Officer position and would approve $5.4 million, net of staff assessment, for the Panel for 2017.  It would also decide to appropriate, under the procedures provided for in paragraph 11 of annex 1 to General Assembly resolution 41/213, an additional $2.59 million (net of staff assessment) under section 3, Political affairs, of the 2016-2017 programme budget, after taking into account the approved commitment authority totalling $961,100.

The Committee approved the text as orally amended.

The Committee then considered a draft decision on the 2016-2017 programme budget implications of draft resolution A/71/L.58 regarding the modalities for the intergovernmental negotiations of the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration (document A/C.5/71/L.26).  Should the draft on modalities be adopted, an additional $975,700 would be required.

The Committee approved the text without a vote.

The Committee then turned to a draft resolution on the Joint Inspection Unit (document A/C.5/71/L.25), submitted by the Chair, which would have the Assembly take note of the Unit’s report for 2016 and work programme for 2017.  It would reiterate its request to the executive heads of the participating organizations to comply with statutory procedures for consideration of the Unit’s reports, and in particular, to submit their comments — including information on what they intended to do regarding the Unit’s recommendations — distribute their reports in time for consideration by legislative organs, and provide information on steps to be taken to implement recommendations accepted by those organs.

Further, the Assembly would stress the importance of the Unit’s oversight functions in identifying managerial, administrative and programming questions within the participating organizations and in providing the Assembly with action-oriented recommendations to improve governance at the United Nations.  The heads of participating organizations would be requested to make use of the Unit’s web-based system and analyse how the Unit’s recommendations were being implemented.  The Unit would be invited to develop indicators to measure system-wide efficiency.

The Committee then approved the draft without a vote.

The Committee then took action on a draft resolution on construction of a new facility for the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, Arusha branch (document A/C.5/71/L.23).  By its terms, the Assembly would take note of the Secretary-General’s related report and endorse the conclusions and recommendations contained in the Advisory Committee’s corresponding report.

The Committee approved the text without a vote.

It then turned to a draft resolution titled “Progress towards an accountability system in the United Nations Secretariat” (document A/C.5/71/L.24).  That text would have the Assembly request from the Secretary-General a comprehensive fraud risk assessment by mid-year to better implement internal controls and policies on fraud at Headquarters and in field missions.  It would also ask the Secretary-General to update legal instruments for engaging third parties, such as vendors and implementing partners, with particular attention to anti-fraud clauses and provisions.  Welcoming an updated protection against retaliation policy, the Assembly would go on to request that the Secretary-General enhance the Organization’s processes to ensure that it encourages the reporting of serious misconduct, protects whistle-blowers from retaliation and intervenes to prevent retaliation from occurring.

The Committee approved the text without a vote.

By a draft decision on questions deferred for future consideration (document A/C.5/71/L.28), the Assembly would decide to defer to the main part of its seventy-second session the Secretary-General’s report on the review of the experience of the utilization of the contingency fund (document A/70/395) and ACABQ’s related report (document A/70/7/Add.7).

That text was approved without a vote.

Closing Remarks

AMÉRICA LOURDES PEREIRA SOTOMAYOR (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, welcomed the consensus reached on all items, particularly on areas of special interest to the Group.  Open and transparent dialogue helped contribute to the adoption of the texts, she added, reiterating the Group’s eagerness to continue to work in that spirit during the next session. 

BACHAR BONG ABDALLAH (Chad), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that during the session, the Committee had reviewed many issues relevant to the continent, including coordination of the Ebola emergency response.  In addition to mobilizing human and financial resources, information exchange between local and global actors had also been critical.  It was vital to support national institutions to empower stakeholders on the ground.  Concerning progress in constructing a new facility for the Arusha branch of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, he commended the Government and people of the United Republic of Tanzania for finalizing connections to the Internet and electrical work and for providing such services to the Organization without cost.

On other matters, he said “I believe we have what we need to prevent fraud” and attached great importance to combating sexual exploitation and abuse.  In regard to the Resident Coordinator system, the Group expressed interest in finding a common approach and also reiterated that it would not associate itself with any solution regarding air travel which did not apply to everyone equally and fully take into account the length of travel.  Once again, the Committee had proved that improving working methods was vital, he added, underscoring the importance of the spirit of cooperation and managing time.

JAN DE PRETER, European Union, said the last four weeks had demonstrated the need to improve the Committee’s working methods.  He expressed concern that the consensus reached on the Panel of Experts on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea barely met its staffing requirements.  He also deeply regretted that the Secretariat was the only member of the United Nations Development Group not paying its agreed share to the Resident Coordinator system.  That reflected poorly on the seriousness of the Committee and might affect implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the country level, he said.

He expressed regret that the Committee was unable to reach agreement on the management of air travel, saying the insistence by some delegations on first-class travel entitlements for particular groups, and resistance to more judicious use of business class, was not fitting for a modern, accountable and efficient United Nations.  On procurement, he encouraged the Secretariat to promote greater understanding of the benefits of sustainable procurement practices.  In conclusions, he said preparations should begin immediately for the Committee’s second resumed session in May, which had a “daunting” agenda.

FU DAOPENG (China), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the Committee had achieved positive results on a number of important items.  Noting that sound financial management was a pillar of United Nations governance, he said Member States were looking for ways to improve financial efficiency.  China would join others in strengthening cooperation in the Committee’s work.

MAURA CONNELLY (United States) said the Committee had reached agreement on several important items.  Her delegation looked forward to learning more about the Organization’s efforts in results-based management.  While welcoming a revised whistle-blower protection policy, she said the Secretariat must do more to ensure a culture of protection for those who reported misconduct.

She noted that the Committee had failed to reach agreement on several issues, including procurement, the contingency fund and Resident Coordinator system.  It was also unable to agree on greater efficiency and cost-saving measures on air travel.  With the approach of the Committee’s second resumed session, the United States would pay close attention to important agenda items relating to peacekeeping with a view to significantly increasing efficiency and cost-savings, she said, adding that it would also underscore and promote the importance of a consensus-based approach.

KATSUHIKO IMADA (Japan) said he hoped that the spirit of constructive engagement and flexibility demonstrated by Member States during the first resumed session would continue through the remainder of the year.  Noting that the second resumed session would begin in a just a few weeks, he encouraged further collaborative efforts towards an adequate and full consideration of peacekeeping-related agenda items.  In that regard, he emphasized the great importance his delegation attached to ensuring the effective and efficient use of resources and cost-saving measures.

MARCIO SANDRO ALEIXO PEREIRA BURITY (Angola), Committee Vice-Chair, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, said the Committee had proved once again that it was possible to achieve maximum results when experts were empowered.  He underscored the importance of mutual respect and detachment from tactics that may pollute discussions and negotiations. 

SERGEY V. KHALIZOV (Russian Federation) said that even though the agenda during the current session comprised a relatively small number of issues, the Committee had been unable to reach agreement on all of them.  The lack of a decision on procurement meant a lack of a mandate from the General Assembly to implement any new reform initiatives on the matter.  Welcoming consensus reached on other issues, he said the Russian Federation would continue to participate in a spirit of flexibility.

FELIPE GARCÍA LANDA (Mexico) commended the openness delegations demonstrated regarding the financial implications related to the world pact for safe, orderly and regular migration.

For information media. Not an official record.