The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today approved by consensus a draft resolution to provide nearly $50 million for the United Nations operations to control the Ebola outbreak.
The newly established United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) was already operating in West Africa with more than 50 staff members.
The $49.9 million earmarked for UNMEER, the Organization’s first-ever emergency health mission, would be provided until the end of December. The Mission was being guided by the Global Strategic Response Plan developed by the Office of the Special Envoy on Ebola, in consultation with the World Health Organization (WHO).
General Assembly President Sam Kutesa said the resolution demonstrated the Organization’s ability to deliver on pressing global issues and the fact that the Ebola outbreak carried serious economic, social and security consequences, particularly in West Africa.
The Committee then began its annual discussion of the scale of assessments, a complex methodology used to determine each Member State’s financial contributions to the United Nations budget and its “capacity to pay”. The scale’s methodology is periodically reviewed to reflect the concerns of Member States as well as shifting economic conditions.
The representative of the European Union said the current methodology produced a scale that no longer accurately reflected a country’s ability to pay. The low per capita income adjustment had become the most significant element for redistributing assessments. Yet it helped the poorest Member States, those in real need of the adjustment, to a limited extent.
China’s delegate said the methodology in use should strictly follow the “capacity to pay” principle, and her Government opposed any attempts to change the treatment of the low per capita income adjustment. China’s assessed contributions had doubled over the past decade, she noted.
Echoing that sentiment, Bolivia’s delegate, representing the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, rejected any changes to the methodology’s elements that aimed to increase the contributions of developing countries. The Group also emphasized that the core elements of the current methodology — such as base period, gross national income, conversion rates, low per capita income adjustment, and ceiling for least developed countries — were not negotiable.
Secretariat staff also introduced relevant reports on this financial issue. Bernardo Greiver, Chair of the Committee on Contributions, presented the report of his Committee, a technical body that prepares the scale of assessments for each Member State using reliable, verifiable and comparable data. In that report, the Committee reaffirmed its recommendation that the scale of assessments should be based on the most current, comprehensive and comparable data available for gross national income.
Lionel Berridge, Chief of Contributions and Policy Coordination Service, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on multi-year payment plans, which summed up the status of the payment plans as of 31 December 2013. Mr. Berridge said that Sao Tome and Principe had made a payment under its plan in May 2014, which was reported to the Committee on Contributions at its June 2014 session. No new payment plans had been submitted recently, though the issue was under consideration by several Member States.
The Committee then turned to budget issues. Ramadhan Mwinyi, Chair of the Committee for Programme and Coordination, introduced that body’s report on its June session.
Johannes Huisman, Director of Programme Planning and Budget Division at the Department of Management’s Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts, presented the framework for the biennial programme budget proposals for 2016-2017. Mario Baez, Chief of Policy and Oversight Coordination Service in the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management, presented the Secretariat report on the programme performance of the United Nations for the biennium 2012-2013. Prepared by the Department of Management, the report discussed implementation of the Organization’s 33,696 outputs and provided an overview of the results for 876 expected accomplishments.
Also speaking at today’s meeting were delegates of Japan and Malaysia.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 8 October, to discuss the administration and budgetary coordination of the United Nations specialized agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and to consider a draft resolution on the scale of assessments.
Scale of assessments for the apportionment of United Nations expenses
BERNARDO GREIVER, Chair of the Committee on Contributions, introduced the report of the Committee on Contributions on its seventy-fourth session (documents A/69/11 and Add. 1). In it, the Committee reaffirmed its recommendation that the scale of assessments should be based on the most current, comprehensive and comparable data available for gross national income. The gross national income data received from Member States in their national currencies had to be converted to a common monetary unit through the use of conversion rates. The Committee reaffirmed its recommendation that conversion rates based on market exchange rates should be used for the scale of assessments, except in cases where that would cause excessive fluctuations and distortions in the gross national income, expressed in United States dollars, of some Member States. In that case, price-adjusted rates of exchange or other appropriate conversion rates should be applied.
Income data expressed in United States dollars was to be averaged over a designated base period, the result of a compromise that used the average of data from both a three-year and six-year base period, he said. Based on its review, the Committee agreed that, once chosen, there were advantages in using the same base period for as long as possible. He noted that the current methodology included a maximum assessment rate, or ceiling, of 22 per cent; a maximum rate for the least developed countries, or LDC ceiling, of 0.010 per cent; and a minimum assessment rate, or floor, of 0.001 per cent. The Committee decided to further consider these elements in the light of guidance from the General Assembly.
LIONEL BERRIDGE, Chief of Contributions and Policy Coordination Service, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on multi-year payment plans (document A/69/70), which summarized the status of such plans as of 31 December 2013. When created, it was considered a useful tool for Member States to reduce their unpaid assessed contributions, and a way for them to demonstrate their commitment to meeting their financial obligations. Since the establishment of the system, six Member States had successfully implemented multi-year payment plans. The report contained the status of implementation of the remaining plan submitted by Sao Tome and Principe, which later made a payment. No new payment plans had been submitted in recent years, although several Member States had indicated that the matter was under consideration.
DAYANA ANGELA RIOS REQUENA (Bolivia), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, reaffirmed its long-standing position that all Member States should fulfil their legal obligations to bear the expenses of the Organization in accordance with the United Nations Charter and the requirement to pay their assessed contributions in full, on time and without conditions. The Group emphasized the importance of dealing with the issue of exemptions under Article 19 on an urgent basis, and had reviewed the requests by the Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe, and Somalia. The Group, convinced their inability to make the minimum payments on their assessed contributions was due to conditions beyond their control, endorsed the Committee’s recommendation to permit those countries to vote until the end of the sixty-ninth session.
The Group reaffirmed the “capacity to pay” as the fundamental criterion in the apportionment of the expenses of the United Nations and rejected any change to the elements of the current methodology for the preparation of the scale of assessments aimed at increasing the contributions of developing countries. The Group also emphasized that the core elements of current methodology — such as base period, gross national income, conversion rates, low per capita income adjustment, gradient, floor, ceiling for Least Developed Countries, and debt stock adjustment — had to be kept intact and were not negotiable.
FRANCESCO PRESUTTI, a representative of the European Union Delegation, argued that the current methodology resulted in a scale that no longer accurately reflected the capacity to pay, and that had been expressly recognized by General Assembly resolution 67/238 of 24 December 2012. The low per capita income adjustment had become the largest element for redistributing assessments among Member States, and benefited only to a limited extent the poorer Member States that were in real need of the adjustment.
Funding the Organization was the joint responsibility of its entire membership and was essential to its sustainability and effective functioning, he said. There was still room to improve the methodology, if it was to reflect a more equitable and balanced distribution of the financial responsibilities among Member States according to their capacity to pay. As for requests for exemption, the Union had constantly stressed that the payment of assessed contributions in full, on time and without conditions was a fundamental duty of all Member States.
SHIGETOSHI NAGAO (Japan) supported the basic principle that each Member State should pay its assessed contribution according to its capacity to pay. Taking into account the world’s changing economic situation, Japan believed it was necessary to find a methodology that would better reflect each Member State’s real and current capacity in a more equitable way, based on the most current, comprehensive and comparable data available. Japan would like to actively participate in the coming negotiation process so as to reach a consensus on how to maintain the Organization’s future sustainability. Japan endorsed the Committee’s recommendations regarding exemptions, and encouraged all Members States in arrears under Article 19 to consider submitting multi-year payment plans.
GUO ZHIQUI (China), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, stressed that the establishment of the scale of assessments should strictly follow the “capacity to pay” principle, which had been consistently observed in the Assembly. All proposals on methodology should conform to that principle. She opposed some delegations’ attempts to change the treatment of the low per capita income adjustment. China’s assessed contributions had doubled over the past decade to 5.148 per cent of the regular budget. While seeking to cut overhead expenditures of its own Government, China paid $134 million annually to the United Nations under the current rate.
HUSSEIN HANIFF (Malaysia) supported an equitable and balanced methodology of the scale of assessments and expressed his Government’s resolve to shoulder 0.281 per cent of the regular budget. He urged Member States to take advantage of the multi-year payment scheme as a way to reduce their unpaid assessments. While stressing the validity of the “capacity to pay” principle, he also supported the work of the Committee on Contributions in improving the current methodology, with the objective of collecting higher contributions from both developed and developing countries. The Committee should, however, consider the views of developing countries, which had limited capacity to pay. Some countries, such as Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe, and Somalia, were unable to share their budgetary responsibility due to prevailing security, political and economic challenges. Those nations should be allowed to vote in the Assembly’s current session.
United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response
The Committee then approved by consensus a draft resolution on the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) (document A/C.5/69/L.2), under its agenda item on the programme budget for the biennium 2014-2015.
SAM KUTESA (Uganda), President of the General Assembly, said the resolution sent a strong message that the Organization could effectively deliver on pressing global issues. The Ebola outbreak had serious economic, social and security consequences, particularly in West Africa. The crisis required bold action on the part of the international community to control the virus, contain its spread and prevent additional deaths. The virus had created grave dangers for the region and the community, and was an international crisis. The establishment of UNMEER was the first step in necessary action. More efforts were needed, including financial assistance and medical help. UNMEER would provide a way to coordinate actions and build momentum.
RAMADHAN MWINYI, Chair of the Committee for Programme and Coordination, introduced the report of the Committee for Programme and Coordination on its fifty-fourth session (document A/69/16), which summarized its activities during that session held in June. The Committee considered the report of the Secretary-General on the programme performance of the United Nations for the biennium 2012-2013 as well as part one, plan outline, of the proposed strategic framework for the period 2016-2017.
He said the Committee also considered the following documents: the report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) on the triennial review of the implementation of recommendations made by the Committee at its fifty-first session on the programme evaluation of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA); the annual overview report of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination for 2013; and the report of the Secretary-General on United Nations system support for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
JOHANNES HUISMAN, Director, Programme Planning and Budget Division, Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts, Department of Management, presented the proposed strategic framework for the period 2016-2017 (document A/69/6(Part One), which would serve as the framework for the biennial programme budget proposals for 2016-2017. Its two sections included: Part One: Plan Outline; Part Two: Biennial Programme Plans, which covered 28 programmes. The Plan Outline concentrated on the eight areas of priority work, previously identified by the Assembly in resolution 65/262, and the Secretary-General’s vision for responding to those challenges.
MARIO BAEZ, Chief of Policy and Oversight Coordination Service of the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the programme performance of the United Nations for the biennium 2012-2013 (document A/69/144). The report was prepared by the Department of Management, in accordance with an Assembly resolution that transferred that responsibility from the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). It contained information on the implementation of the Organization’s 33,696 outputs and provided an overview of the results for 876 expected accomplishments. The overall output implementation rate in the Secretariat increased from 90 per cent during 2010-2011 to 91 per cent in 2012-2013, with only three budget sections below 80 per cent — disarmament at 79 per cent, public information at 77 per cent, and safety and security at 70 per cent.
Ms. RIOS REQUNEA (Bolivia), speaking for the Group of 77 and China, stressed the Committee for Programme and Coordination’s important work as the main subsidiary organ of the Assembly and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for planning, programming and coordination. The Coordination Committee formed the core of the Assembly’s capacity to provide oversight in those key areas and the Group reaffirmed its commitment to strengthen that Committee’s work. The Group welcomed the Coordination Committee’s guidance on developing the proposed strategic framework for the 2016-2017 biennium and re-emphasized that setting the Organization’s priorities remained the sole prerogative of Member States.
She noted the outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Small Island Developing States and the ongoing deliberations on the post-2015 development agenda. The Group was committed to efforts to ensure the programme narratives of the proposed programme budget incorporated those new mandates. Turning to the Chief Executive Board (CEB), the Group urged the Secretary-General, in his capacity as Board Chairman, to keep taking steps to strengthen the Board’s transparency and accountability to Member States. The Group also reaffirmed its position for continued cooperation among the CEB, the International Civil Service Commission and the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU).
HIROSHI ONUMA (Japan) stressed the significant role of the Committee for Programme and Coordination in setting the United Nations regular budget. The conflicting schedules, however, of the Coordination Committee and the second resumed session of the Fifth Committee had imposed a heavy burden on Member States and the Secretariat, as they were obliged to address those meetings simultaneously. As a result, progress had been affected. Going forward, schedule overlaps should be avoided or minimized.