$2.532 BILLION BUDGET FOR 1998-1999; SCALE OF ASSESSMENTS FOR 1998-2000 AMONG 17 TEXTS ADOPTED AS ASSEMBLY CONCLUDES CURRENT SEGMENT19971222 Scale Ceiling Set at 25 Per Cent, Floor at 0.001 Per Cent; 'Reform Process Has Become a Reality', Assembly President Says in Concluding Remarks
The General Assembly tonight adopted a scale of assessments for 1998- 2000 that maintains a ceiling rate of 25 per cent but lowers the floor rate to 0.001 per cent, and also appropriated $2.532 billion for the 1998-1999 budget, which incorporates elements of the Secretary-General's reform proposals. It took those decisions as it adopted, without a vote, 13 resolutions and four decisions at the conclusion of the current segment of its session.
In approving the scale, the Assembly also decided to consider reviewing the scale for 1999-2000 at the resumed session next year, based on factors such as the status of Member States' contributions to the regular budget.
That provision was an open door for revisiting the scale for 1999-2000, the United States representative said. The United States would work over the next months to bring about circumstances that made sure that its entrance through that door was welcomed by others.
The European Union would agree to reopen the scale discussions only after the United States had adopted legally binding provisions to clear its arrears in full and respect its financial obligations under the Charter, the representative of Luxembourg said. Any unilateral reduction of the amounts owed to the Organization by the United States could not be accepted.
Then, acting on the 1998-1999 budget, the Assembly approved an appropriation of some $2.532 billion, after adjusting mainly for currency fluctuations, down from the $2.583 billion which was initially proposed by the Secretary-General. It stressed that the reform proposals would be implemented with full respect for relevant mandates of the Assembly, particularly the medium-term plan for 1998-2001. The budgetary effects of some reform proposals were legislated on in the budget. It decided, among other measures, to provide for the post of Deputy Secretary-General and its salary and emoluments, and to increase the total in the development account to about $13 million.
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Further, the Assembly approved comments and recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) on the budget, which included the views that the new Department of Disarmament Affairs and the Office of Communications and Public Information should be led by Under-Secretaries-General. It also reaffirmed that United Nations reform and the reduction of posts must not entail involuntary separation of staff.
Acting on the 1996-1997 budget, the Assembly set final appropriations of some $2.542 billion for the biennium, reflecting a reduction of some $61.2 million from the revised appropriations of about $2.603 billion.
The Assembly also took action on the United Nations common system, human resources management, pattern of conferences, financial statements and the reports of the Board of Auditors, review of United Nations efficiency and the financing of the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia.
On the common system, it approved, effective 1 March 1998, a revised base scale of salaries and consequential amendments to the United Nations Staff Regulations. According to an annex to the text, gross base pay would start for Professional P-1 staff at $35,382; P-2, $46,458; P-3, $57,720; P-4, $70,619; and P-5, $85,685. The gross base salary for Principal Officer (D-1) would start at $97,119; Director (D-2), $109,741; Assistant Secretary-General, $133,994; and Under-Secretary-General, $147,420.
By other terms, the Assembly endorsed the principles and guidelines for appointments of limited duration contained in the report of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC).
In a separate five-part resolution on human resources management, the Assembly approved the introduction of a performance award system for United Nations staff and urged the Secretary-General to adopt a step-by-step approach to introducing that system. It also asked him to submit policy proposals on underperformance, to its next session. It also approved a recommendation to allow staff to use uncertified sick leave of up to seven days to attend to family related emergencies or for paternity leave. Partial conversion of maternity to paternity leave would be authorized in dual career families where both spouses work for the Secretariat.
On the pattern of conferences, the Assembly decided that Id al-Fitr and Id al-Adha shall be official holidays at United Nations Headquarters and other offices, where applicable.
Acting on the reports of the Board of Auditors, the Assembly requested the Executive Director of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to complete the implementation of Auditors' recommendations. It also recommended that the Office of the High Commissioner acquire goods and services on the widest possible geographical basis.
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Turning to financing of United Nations bodies, the Assembly appropriated about $125.6 million gross for the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and for the Former Yugoslavia for 1998. Of that, some $68.8 million is meant for the Yugoslavia Tribunal and about $56.7 million for the Rwanda Tribunal.
Acting on the review of United Nations administrative and financial efficiency, the Assembly approved the Fifth Committee's work programme for the fifty-third session: 16 items for 1998 and 14 for 1999. In another decision, it approved 30 agenda items for the Committee's resumed fifty-second session.
The Assembly also decided to admit the International Seabed Authority to membership in the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund, with effect from 1 January 1998.
Further, it decided to take note of relevant chapters of the report of the Economic and Social Council.
In closing remarks, the President of the Assembly, Hennadiy Udovenko, (Ukraine), said that the Assembly had adopted 270 resolutions, about 76 per cent by consensus, and 77 decisions on major issues facing the Organization. The different subjects reflected the breadth and scope of United Nations responsibilities at a time of renewal and new global challenges. The current session had been a special one, marked by consideration of the Secretary- General's reform proposals, and the Assembly had adopted two resolutions outlining further steps for implementing them.
A new format of open-ended informal consultations allowed both small and large delegations to contribute equally to the final results of the reform exercise, he said. Although many issues were still to be resolved, including action on setting up a revolving credit fund, re-examination of the role of United Nations agencies and establishment of "sunset provisions", the reform process had become a reality. The spirit of consensus would be invaluable in developing and completing the reform process and would help a more effective United Nations contribute to building a safer, healthier, more just and prosperous world.
Statements were made by the representatives of Liechtenstein, Netherlands, United Republic of Tanzania (for the "Group of 77" developing countries and China), Belgium (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Russian Federation, Uganda and Ukraine.
Assembly Work Programme
The Assembly met this afternoon to take action on the recommendations contained in the reports of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).
(For information on the scale of assessments and the 1998-1999 budget, see press releases GA/9389 and GA/AB/3210 issued today.)
Economic and Social Council
A report of the Committee on the Economic and Social Council (document A/52/729) recommends that the Assembly adopt a draft decision to take note of chapters I, V (section B) and VII of the Council report. Chapter I contains summaries of matters calling for action by the Assembly. Section B of Chapter V reviews the work done in the Council's general segment on coordination, programme and other questions, while Chapter VII covers the Council's actions and proceedings on organizational matters. The Committee approved the draft decision, without a vote, on 15 December.
Financial Statements and Auditors' Reports
The Committee's report on the financial statements and reports of the Board of Auditors (document A/52/732), contains a draft resolution which would have the Assembly ask the Executive Director of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to complete the implementation of the Board's recommendations. The Assembly would recommend that the Office of the High Commissioner take immediate steps to improve its contracting policy and would request it to fully implement established procurement procedures. The draft was approved, without a vote, on 15 December.
Review of United Nations Efficiency
The Assembly also had before it two draft decisions on the review of United Nations efficiency (document A/52/746).
By the first, the Assembly would decide that the Fifth Committee should continue its consideration of 30 agenda items and reports at its resumed fifty-second session. The text lists those items and reports. They include the programme budget for the 1998-1999 biennium; improving the United Nations financial situation; financing of the United Nations peacekeeping operations and special missions, and in some cases liquidation; report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services; human resources management; and appointments to fill vacancies in subsidiary organs and other appointments.
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By the provisions of the second draft decision, the Assembly would approve the Fifth Committee's programme of work for 1998-1999, annexed to the text, with 16 items for 1998 and 14 for 1999.
The Assembly had before it the Committee's report on aspects of the 1996-1997 budget (document A/52/743). It contained a draft resolution on the budget by which the Assembly would resolve that the appropriation for the biennium of some $2.603 billion would be reduced by $61.2 million, down to about $2.542 billion.
By other terms of the draft, the Assembly would ask the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) to examine the ninth progress report on the Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) and report to the resumed session. Pending consideration of the reports on the IMIS, the supplementary provision of $3 million for IMIS, provided in the final appropriation for 1996-1997, should not be encumbered without the prior approval of the ACABQ.
Pattern of Conferences
A report of the Committee on the pattern of conferences (document A/52/734) recommends a five-part draft resolution on the matter. The draft was approved, without a vote, on 16 December.
By the terms of part A, the Assembly would decide that the two holidays of Id al-Fitr and Id al-Adha shall be official holidays at Headquarters and at other duty stations where applicable. It would request the Secretary-General to provide all conference services required as a result of decisions taken at its fifty-second session and would decide that waivers to the headquarters rule shall be granted solely on the basis of the United Nations calendar of conferences and meetings. It would decide to include in the 1998-1999 budget the resources necessary to provide interpretation services for meetings of regional and other major groupings of Member States, on an ad hoc basis. It would also call for better utilization of conference facilities at the United Nations Office at Nairobi.
By part B, the Assembly would decide to keep under review the length and quality of all documents. Concerned about difficulties experienced by States because some publications had not been translated in all languages and because of the delay in the translation of official documents, the Assembly would request that the Secretary-General provide the resources necessary to reverse the situation. It would request that he take steps to improve the quality and accuracy of meeting records and improve the translation of documents into official languages; reinstate the post of reviser in six languages; continue
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his efforts to introduce new translation technologies; and present proposals for upgrading the conference rooms and interpretation booths.
Part C of the draft resolution would have the Assembly reiterate its request that the Secretary-General ensure that the text of all new public documents, in all six official languages, and information materials of the United Nations are made available through the United Nations Web site daily and are accessible to Member States without delay. It would also request that he continue working to provide access to the optical disk system in the six official languages on an equal basis.
Under the terms in part D of the draft text, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General, as a matter of priority, to expedite the development of the cost-accounting system for conference services in 1998 and to extend it to other areas of the Secretariat. It would encourage him to utilize in-house resources to implement that system. Part E of the draft would have the Assembly encourage all those who use United Nations conference facilities to refrain from smoking.
United Nations Common System
The Committee's report on the common system (document A/52/735) contains a three-part draft resolution on the conditions of service of staff in the Professional and higher categories, remuneration of General Service and other local staff, and conditions of service of all employees. The Committee approved the draft, without a vote, on 16 December.
By the terms of part I -- conditions of service of staff in the Professional and higher categories -- the Assembly would approve, with effect from 1 March 1998, a revised base scale of salaries and the consequential amendment to the United Nations Staff Regulations. According to an annex attached to the draft, gross base pay would start for Professional P-1 staff at $35,382; P-2, $46,458; P-3, $57,720; P-4, $70,619; and P-5, $85,685. The gross base pay for Principal Officer (D-1) would start at $97,119; Director (D-2), $109,741; Assistant Secretary-General, $133,994; and Under-Secretary-General, $147,420.
By the terms of part II -- remuneration of General Service and local staff -- the Assembly would endorse the conclusions of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) and the refinements to the methods of the surveys of best prevailing conditions of employment at Headquarters and non-Headquarters duty stations. It would reaffirm that the Flemming principle should remain the basis for determining the conditions of service of staff in the General Service and related categories.
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The Assembly would endorse the ICSC's modifications to the methods used to determine the education grant's level, by the terms of part III -- conditions of service for all staff categories. It would also note that the revised method would be considered beginning with the 1998 biennial review of the grant. It would decide that the report of the Secretary-General on a system of performance awards and bonuses would be considered under the agenda item on human resources management.
The Assembly would endorse the principles and guidelines in the ICSC report relating to appointments of limited duration. (According to those principles and guidelines, the independence and international character of the international civil service should be preserved; such appointments should neither be used abusively to extend the employment of staff nor at the expense of the core civil service; due regard should be paid to recruiting staff on wide geographical bases; and policies towards gender balance should not be compromised. The appointments should support the concept of the United Nations system as a good employer.)
Financing of Tribunals for Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda
Also before the Assembly was a report (document A/52/724) containing a draft resolution on the financing of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. By that draft, the Assembly would appropriate some $68.8 million gross ($62.3 million net) for the Tribunal for 1998. It would take into account an anticipated unencumbered balance of some $10.9 million gross ($10 million net) for 1997 and a surplus fund balance of $5.6 million gross and net in the Tribunal's account, as at 31 December 1995. After subtracting those sums, the remaining $52.4 million ($46.7 million net) would be assessed on Member States. Half of the amount would be assessed in accordance with the regular budget scale of assessments for 1998 and the other by the scale for peacekeeping operations. The draft was approved, without a vote, on 15 December
By the terms of another draft resolution, the Assembly would appropriate some $56.7 million gross ($50.9 million net) for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda for 1998 (document A/52/726). As in the case of the Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the amount would be apportioned among Member States according to the 50/50 formula. Therefore, some $28.4 million gross ($25.4 million net) would be apportioned according to the 1998 regular budget scale. Another $26.3 million gross ($23.9 million net) would be assessed according to the peacekeeping scale, after taking into account an unencumbered balance of some $2.1 million gross ($1.6 million net) in the account for the United Nations Assistance Missions for Rwanda (UNAMIR). The draft was approved, without a vote, on 15 December.
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Human Resources Management
Also before the Assembly is a five-part draft resolution on human resources management (document A/52/739), concerning family leave, performance appraisal system and performance awards, amendments to staff rules and implementation of General Assembly resolution 51/226, on recruitment.
By the draft's part I, the Assembly would approve the Secretary-General's recommendations on family leave. (By those recommendations, staff would be allowed to use uncertified sick leave up to a maximum of seven days to attend to family related emergencies or for paternity leave in the case of birth or adoption of a child. Also, the partial conversion of maternity to paternity leave would be authorized where both parents are employed by the Secretariat.) Under provisions in part II, the Assembly would encourage the Secretary-General to continue his efforts to refine and simplify the performance appraisal system.
By the terms of part III, on performance awards or bonuses, the Assembly would approve the introduction of a performance award system, and urge the Secretary-General to adopt a step-by-step approach to the introduction of that system. It would also request him to submit policy proposals to deal with under-performance, to the Assembly at its fifty-third session. Part IV, which contains no operative paragraphs, would have the Assembly note amendments to the 100 and 200 series of the Staff Rules.
By the provisions of Part V, on implementation of the Assembly's resolution 51/226 on recruitment, the Assembly would decide that restrictions which preclude staff appointed for less than a year against regular budget posts of a year or longer from applying for or being appointed to their current post within six months from the end of their current service, shall apply to staff appointed after 3 April 1997 only. Persons considered for internal vacancies within the Secretariat after 12 months of service would be in the Professional category or above, to serve against peacekeeping support account posts at Headquarters or in missions. The Assembly would decide to continue its consideration of the implementation of the resolution at its resumed session.
The Committee's report relating to the International Seabed Authority (document A/52/718) contains a draft decision recommending that the Assembly decide to admit the Authority to membership in the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund, with effect from 1 January 1998. The draft decision was approved, without a vote, on 8 December.
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Action on Report of Economic and Social Council
The Assembly decided, without a vote, to take note of the following chapters of the reports of the Economic and Social Council: I, on matters calling for action by the Assembly; II, high-level segment; III, operational activities; IV, coordination segment; four of the sections of Chapter V, general segment; VI, elections; and VII, organizational matters.
Action on Fifth Committee Reports
DJAMEL MOKTEFI (Algeria), Rapporteur of the Fifth Committee, introduced the Committee's reports in one intervention.
The Assembly adopted the following draft texts without a vote:
-- Draft decision contained in the Fifth Committee's report on the report of the Economic and Social Council (document A/52/729);
-- Draft resolution contained in the Committee's report on financial statements and reports of the Board of Auditors (document A/52/732);
-- Draft decisions on agenda items for the Committee's resumed session in 1998, and on its work programme for 1998 and 1999 contained in the report on the review of efficiency of the United Nations administrative and financial functioning (document A/52/746);
-- Two-part draft resolution contained in the Committee's report on aspects of the 1996-1997 budget on the final appropriations and income estimates for that biennium (document A/52/743); and
-- Five-part draft resolution contained in the Committee's report on the Organization's pattern of conferences (document A/52/734).
The General Assembly then turned to the Committee's report on the United Nations scale of assessments, used to share out the Organization's expenses.
ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) informed the Assembly, in his capacity as Chairman of the Fifth Committee, of a technical correction to the text.
CLAUDIA FRITSCHE (Liechtenstein) said its wish was to remain at the assessed contribution of 0.01 per cent, which was identical to the floor rate that had been abolished under the new scale of assessments. While it recognized the abolishment was a necessary step, said percentage reflected Liechtenstein's capacity to pay and was thus in accordance with the crucial criterion relevant for the elaboration of the scale of assessments. It had
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never been Liechtenstein's intention to act in any way unilaterally, as it believed no other country should.
She said Liechtenstein would join in the consensus on the new scale of assessments with the following understanding. It maintained its position that it should have been assessed at 0.01 per cent. Since the scale for the period 1998-2000 assessed Liechtenstein for 1998 at 0.005 per cent and at 0.006 per cent for the remaining two years, it envisaged to pay the difference between its assessed contribution and the 0.01 per cent assessment by way of voluntary contributions, to activities which would be announced later.
If the scale of assessment was re-opened during the upcoming years, in accordance with section D of the draft resolution, she said Liechtenstein would take the opportunity to come back to its concern and hope that it would then be possible to find a solution, to accommodate its interests and based on broad consultations and consensus among the membership.
PAUL MENKVELD (Netherlands) said that his country should be included in the scale of assessment contained in the draft resolution on the scale. It had been omitted.
The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, the draft resolution on the scale as orally revised.
Speaking after the action, BILL RICHARDSON (United States) said his country joined in the consensus on the scale but would comment on section D of the resolution. The provisions of that section could be described as an open door to permit a revisiting of the scale for the years 1999-2000. The United States wished to see an open door, and the resolution contained that door. His delegation would be working over the next weeks and months to bring about a set of circumstances that made sure that its entrance through that door received a welcome from the Members of the United Nations. The United States commitment to work with other Member States to restore the Organization's financial health was unequivocal.
JEAN LOUIS WOLZFELD (Luxembourg) spoke on behalf of the European Union and Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, Cyprus and Norway. He said negotiations on the scale of assessments were particularly difficult. Although the Union acknowledged the right of every delegation to defend its Government's interests, it regretted that, on a certain number of occasions, the eager pursuit of specific goals had won over the obligation to take into account the Organization's common interests.
He said the Union wished to make clear that it would agree to any reopening of the discussions only after the United States had adopted legally binding provisions enabling it to clear its arrears in full, and to respect
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its financial obligations under the Charter. The possible entry into force of any revised scale could not take place before payment of the owed monies had actually been received. Any unilateral reduction of the amounts owed to the Organization by the United States could not be accepted.
The scale of assessments for the regular budget was only one element of the European Union's proposal to ensure a sound financial basis for the United Nations, he continued. It was determined to come back on other important elements, which would have to be addressed at the right time, including measures aimed at accelerating the payment of arrears, reinforcing of the system of payment of contributions through incentives and disincentives, and reforming of the peacekeeping budget.
The General Assembly then adopted the following texts, without a vote:
-- Three-part draft resolution on the United Nations common system (document A/52/735);
-- Draft resolution on the financing of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (document A/52/724);
-- Draft resolution recommended by the Committee in its report on financing the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (document A/52/726);
-- Five-part draft resolution contained in the Committee's report on human resources management (document A/52/739); and
-- Draft decision recommended by the Fifth Committee on the International Seabed Authority (document A/52/718).
The Assembly then took up the five draft resolutions contained in the Committee's report on the proposed 1988-1999 budget.
Speaking before action, DAUDI NGELAUTWA MWAKAWAGO (United Republic of Tanzania) on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said that the resolution which was about to be adopted had been the result of a series of intense negotiations, in which both cost savings and reform had been considered. In meeting the savings targets, the United Nations had been forced to reduce its expenditures, particularly regarding posts, which, in turn, had hampered its ability to implement mandated activities. He trusted that in the budget that was about to be approved, such difficulties would be addressed. The Group welcomed the Secretary-General's reform proposals, which had brought additional dimensions to the Committee's deliberations on the budget.
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The Group of 77 and China had agreed to the level of resources of $2.532 billion on the understanding that the amount would allow the United Nations to implement in full its mandated activities, he said. That had always been the major determinant in the Group's position regarding the overall level of resources for the Organization. It had agreed with the budget on a net basis on the understanding that it changed only the budget's presentation and did not infringe on established budget rules and procedures. All aspects of net budgeting should be kept under review, including its impact on the functioning of the entities concerned.
The Group of 77 and China had joined the consensus on the Secretary-General's proposal for the abolition of posts with the understanding that those cuts should not adversely affect the work of the Organization. Also, the abolition of posts should not entail involuntary separation of staff. Newly approved posts should be filled promptly. Further, the current budgetary process should be respected, and any changes should be subject to the Assembly's approval. Having gone through a gruelling process to achieve consensus, the Group of 77 and China hoped that Member States would make sure that financial resources were remitted to the Organization.
The Assembly then adopted, acting without votes, the five draft resolutions in the Committee's report on the proposed programme budget for the 1998-1999 biennium -- on questions related to the proposed budget; programme budget for 1998-1999; special subjects related to the 1998-1999 budget; unforeseen expenses for the biennium; and working capital fund for the biennium.
Speaking after the action, PETER MADDENS (Belgium), speaking for the European Union, said he welcomed the effort to study how to improve the work of the Fifth Committee. The process of approving the budget could be improved by, for instance, proposing budgets based on results. He would welcome proposals from the Secretary-General on the matter.
Regarding human rights, he said he was not happy with efforts to remove some of the budgetary allocations for the programme. In the humanitarian field, he welcomed the fact that more attention would be paid to coordination and the advancement of the humanitarian issue. Humanitarian efforts should be geared towards sustainable solutions.
EVGUENI DEINEKO (Russian Federation) said the adoption of the budget was the result of the "titanic" efforts of the Chairman of the Fifth Committee and others who had worked diligently on it. The budget resolution called on the Secretary-General to take into account the views of Member States in implementing the reform of the United Nations. He expressed alarm, like the ACABQ, at the trend towards an increase in the number of high-level posts. In appointing the head of the new Department of Disarmament Affairs, the
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Secretary-General should take into account the views expressed by many Member States.
NESTER ODAGA-JALOMAYO (Uganda) said the budget had been adopted because of the great understanding and flexibility shown by Member States. He expressed disappointment that the negotiations fell short of the principles of open and candid discussions based on the equality of States. With the current budget and the adoption of the Secretary-General's proposed reform, it was time for action rather than further talks of reform.
The adoption of some $2.532 billion for the budget could be subject to several interpretations. Despite inflation, the budgets of the United Nations had been going down, even though those of other international organizations had been heading in the opposite direction. The Secretary-General should implement the budget approved strictly according to the mandates of the Assembly, particularly the priorities approved in the medium-term plan. Such priorities should have first claim to the savings accrued from administrative efficiencies. All Member States should provide the Secretary-General with the resources he needed to implement the mandates approved by the Assembly. With the adoption of the budget, the country that told the Fifth Committee that it had $160 million waiting in a safe across the street would allow the money to cross the street to the United Nations.
ANATOLI ZLENKO (Ukraine) said he shared the views just expressed regarding the post for the Department of Disarmament Affairs. He hoped the Secretary-General would take into account Ukraine's views as stated in the Fifth Committee.
HENNADIY UDOVENKO (Ukraine), President of the Assembly, expressed appreciation to all those who had contributed to the successful completion of the Committee's work, in particular the Committee Chairman, Anwarul Karim Chowdhury, of Bangladesh, and Carlos Dante Riva, of Argentina, who had coordinated consultations on the Organization's budget for 1998-1999.
The Assembly then decided on the agenda items to remain for consideration during its fifty-second session.
Concluding Statement by Assembly President
In his concluding statement, Mr. UDOVENKO, Assembly President, said during the last three months, the Assembly had considered all 160 agenda items, adopting 270 resolutions, about 76 per cent by consensus, and 77 decisions on the major issues facing the Organization. The different subjects reflected the breadth and scope of United Nations responsibilities at a time of renewal and new global challenges. It had been a special session, marked by consideration of institutional reform along the outlines suggested by the
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Secretary-General. Reform dominated the general debate and was also thoroughly discussed during plenary deliberations of the item and at informal meetings. Member States agreed on the need to reform the Organization to prepare it for new realities and challenges.
The new format of open-ended informal consultations allowed both big and small delegations to participate in discussions and contribute equally to the final results of the reform exercise, he said. The Assembly adopted two resolutions, outlining further steps for implementing the Secretary-General's proposals. The views and comments of Member States had been sent to the Secretary-General, with a request that he take them into full account when implementing reforms. Although many issues were still to be resolved, including action on setting up a revolving credit fund, re-examination of the role of United Nations agencies and establishment of "sunset provisions", the reform process had become a reality. The spirit of consensus would be invaluable in developing and completing the reform process and would help a more effective United Nations contribute to building a safer, healthier, more just and prosperous world.
Security Council reform also attracted considerable attention, he continued. During the general debate, almost 160 heads of delegations raised the issue, a clear indication of the membership's strong interest in it. Remarkably explicit and straightforward plenary discussions demonstrated that while all Members believed in the need for changes in the Council's composition and working methods, there was no clear consensus on how to arrange such changes. Although the Assembly had agreed not to take a decision at present, it would continue its work in the open-ended working group on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council in the second half of January. Realism and responsibility should govern any approach to United Nations reform, including that of the Security Council. Hopefully, the open-ended working group would succeed in finding out whether the so-called "magic formula" of Council enlargement really existed. By the end of the current session, hopefully, there would also be a clearer vision of the future Security Council.
The reform process had been taking place against the background of the Organization's precarious financial situation, he said. The seriousness of the situation had warranted the holding, at the Secretary-General's request, a meeting of the open-ended high-level working group on the financial situation of the United Nations, which would study the situation during upcoming months.
During the last three months there had been several important achievements in the field of international security and disarmament, he continued. The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) had an important exchange of views on anti-personal landmines, an issue which also received a great deal of public scrutiny. Against the backdrop of the
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successful conclusion of the "Ottawa process", the Assembly adopted a resolution on the Convention on the Prohibition of Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Landmines and on Their Destruction. The proposal for the establishment of Central Asia as a nuclear-weapon-free zone received support from all Member States. It also adopted the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings as a result of a compromise among the Member States.
He said the establishment of an international criminal court was closer than ever, with its draft statute obtaining its concrete contours at the current session. The Assembly also furthered cooperation on international economic cooperation and other important issues. Delegations ironed out differences on certain aspects of development, particularly on the concept of sustainable development. It established a process for convening, before the end of 2001, a high-level international forum on financing for development. Also significant was the decision on renewing dialogue on strengthening international economic cooperation for development through partnership. Other agenda items included the promotion of human rights and issues related to narcotic drugs. The Assembly made specific proposals regarding the preparatory work for its special session from 8 to 10 June 1998. It also decided to convene a world conference on racism and racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance not later than the year 2001.
The elaboration of a new scale of assessments was proposed and justified by many delegations on the grounds that any sound budget should be based on a proper taxation, he said. Deliberations on the issue were quite complex and most were conducted in the Fifth Committee. The adoption of a new scale of assessments would lead the Organization away from the brink of bankruptcy and open the possibility of financial stability in the future. The programme budget for the next biennium also reflected the Secretary-General's reform measures.
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