Amid reforms to end fragmentation of the United Nations system, it was crucial to maintain sufficient funding for the Secretary‑General’s representatives working to make the Organization’s operational activities more efficient and effective at the country level, delegates said today as the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) examined the proposed 2018‑2019 cost‑sharing arrangement and financing of the Resident Coordinator system.
Funded and managed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), resident coordinators bring together the different United Nations development‑related entities in a country and work closely with national Governments to help them achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. At present, 129 resident coordinators lead the work of 131 country teams in support of 165 countries and territories.
Under a system‑wide cost‑sharing arrangement in place since January 2014, UNDP pays $90 million annually for the resident coordinators’ salaries and infrastructure supporting them, while the United Nations Development Group Office contributes approximately $35.9 million for core coordination capacity. The arrangement is intended to ensure resident coordinators and country teams have stable and predictable resources to fulfil their mandates. But an independent review of the cost‑sharing arrangement completed in August found that the overall coordination budget was well below spending and estimated needs.
That finding was cause for concern, said Elisa Ravasi (Switzerland), also speaking for Liechtenstein. The high level of fragmentation across the United Nations system was one of the most important obstacles for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, she said, underscoring that an adequately funded resident coordinator system was crucial to ensuring a better‑coordinated and more coherent United Nations. “The resident coordinator system is a key element in repositioning the United Nations development system to deliver on the 2030 Agenda”, she said.
The Secretariat relied heavily on the resident coordinators, and failure to fund its share for upkeeping the resident coordinator system could undermine its efficiency, she said, stressing the importance of maintaining the current level of financing until the Secretary‑General’s second report on the matter was completed.
The importance of the resident coordinator system and its key role within the development pillar of the United Nations was evident, said América Lourdes Pereira Sotomayor (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China. The Group understood that this was a special moment for the United Nations given the reform proposals currently being explored, and believed it was vital that a comprehensive system‑wide reform intended to facilitate full implementation of the 2030 Agenda be aligned with all of the Organization’s budget cycles and global strategic objectives, as laid out in the quadrennial comprehensive policy review.
In that context, the Group was disappointed that the Secretary‑General’s report had not fully presented a refined proposal on the resident coordinator cost‑sharing arrangement and the associated costs for the Secretariat’s participation in 2018‑2019, she said.
Introducing those reports on the proposed contribution of the United Nations Secretariat to the resident coordinator system (document A/72/337 and Corr. 1), Bettina Tucci Bartsiotas, Assistant Secretary‑General and Controller of the United Nations, noted that $13.32 million was proposed for the Secretariat’s contribution, under section 9, Economic and social affairs, of the 2018‑2019 programme budget. That amount was provisional and based on the 2016‑2017 figure because the analysis to support the refined proposal on the cost‑sharing arrangement was not yet completed, she said. The Deputy Secretary‑General was leading an ongoing second review of the system; its findings would be presented to the Economic and Social Council and subsequently the General Assembly in December.
In the meantime, to ensure the continuity of the resident coordinator system, the Secretary‑General was requesting an appropriation of $13.57 million — a $250,226 increase over the provisional amount in section 9 of the 2018‑2019 budget proposal. The Secretariat believed that the United Nations contribution to the resident coordinator system was vital to ensure the sustainability and continuity of the development pillar, she underlined.
Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, then introduced its corresponding report on the resident coordinator system (document A/72/7/Add.5). Considering that the Secretary‑General’s proposal might have an impact on cost‑sharing arrangements, the Advisory Committee was not in a position to recommend approval, he said. In its view, should the Economic and Social Council’s decision have financial implications for the biennium 2018‑2019, the Secretary‑General could submit revised estimates to the programme budget for that biennium, if necessary, for the General Assembly’s consideration.
Also today, the Committee discussed the 2018‑2019 budget for the International Trade Centre. Introducing the Secretary‑General’s report on the item (document A/72/6 (Sect. 13) and Corr. 1), Ms. Bartsiotas highlighted that the Centre — a joint development agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization — promoted sustainable, inclusive growth through trade in developing countries and economies in transition, with a focus on sub‑Saharan Africa, including least developed, landlocked developing, post‑conflict and fragile countries.
She said the overall level of resources proposed for 2018‑2019 for the Centre totalled 72.97 million Swiss francs; the United Nations share, at 50 per cent, amounted to 36.47 million Swiss francs, or $38 million, which was $406,500 less than the appropriation for 2016‑2017.
Introducing the Advisory Committee’s corresponding report (document A/72/7/Add.3), Mr. Ruiz said the Committee had requested, but was not provided with, a breakdown of the Centre’s travel requirements for 2018‑2019. The Advisory Committee trusted that the Secretary‑General would provide detailed information on the implementation of travel‑related measures to the General Assembly during its consideration of the present budget proposal. Overall, the Committee encouraged the Centre to continue to broaden its donor base and recommended approval of the Secretary‑General’s proposal under section 13, International Trade Centre, of the 2018‑2019 programme budget.
Given the significance of the Centre as a major contributor to sustainable development, Ms. Sotomayor said the Group of 77 and China would closely analyse the Secretary‑General’s proposed resource cuts in anticipation of expected gains that the Centre expected in 2018‑2019 due to Umoja efficiencies. The Centre must be provided with adequate resources to deliver its mandates and 2018‑2019 strategic priorities, she stressed, adding that during informal consultations the Group would seek to clarify issues pertaining to the Centre’s low rate of compliance with requirements for advance booking and purchase of air tickets in order to promote more efficient use of the Centre’s resources.
The Fifth Committee will meet again at a date and time to be announced in the Journal.