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GA/AB/4163
9 October 2015
Seventieth Session, 2nd Meeting (AM)

Budget Committee Examines United Nations Programme Planning, Retains General Assembly Voting Rights for Five Countries in Arrears

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today began examining the United Nations’ programme planning, a critical process in the Organization’s regular budget formulation, while approving a recommendation that five Member States in arrears on dues payment be allowed to vote in the General Assembly.

On programme planning, delegates had before them several documents, including the report of the Committee for Programme and Coordination (document A/70/16), as well as the report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) (document A/70/72), which examined ways to strengthen performance evaluation and better apply evaluation findings on programme design, delivery and policy directives.

The representative of the United States said her delegation highly valued the Programme and Coordination Committee as “the only intergovernmental body within the United Nations with the mandate to examine the totality of the Secretary-General’s work programme.”  The Committee was uniquely placed to hold the Secretariat accountable for results; determine which programmes, sub-programmes or programme elements were obsolete; and recommend their curtailment or termination.

She added, however, that the body’s recommendations too often lacked critical programme analysis, deliberations were duplicative of discussions in other forums, and decisions failed to provide meaningful improvements to the Organization’s strategic framework.

Japan’s delegate said the United Nations should consider strengthening the role and functions of that Committee in order to make the regular budget process more efficient and cost-effective.  The body should be given the role of identifying duplications and obsolete functions throughout the United Nations system.

The representative of South Africa, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the Group echoed the Committee’s recommendations that the Secretariat ensure programme managers keep improving the creation of objectives, expected accomplishments and indicators of achievement in order to allow for better evaluation results.  On the implementation of results-based budgeting, she said it was crucial to understand that the objectives of the Organization may not be realized in one biennial cycle.

As for the annual overview report of the United Nations Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), the Group encouraged the Board to keep enhancing collaboration on procurement activities, including increasing opportunities for vendors from developing countries.  It also stressed the Committee on Programme and Coordination’s key role in ensuring coordinated support and follow-up throughout the United Nations for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

At the outset, delegates unanimously endorsed draft resolution A/C.5/70/L.2, by which the Assembly would permit five countries in arrears — the Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia and Yemen — to vote in the 193-nation body until the end of its seventieth session, recognizing that their failure to pay the minimum amount were “due to conditions beyond their control”.

The Budget Committee also continued its discussion on the scale of assessments for the regular and peacekeeping budgets.

The representative of the Republic of Korea said there was still room for making the current scale methodology more equitable, sustainable and simple.  The gap between the scale of assessment assigned to a Member State and its share in world gross national income (GNI) — after being adjusted for factors such as low per capita income, high debt burden and a maximum assessment rate or ceiling — should be within a reasonable range.  The gap due to those factors was intended to take into account the different economic situations of Member States, but if the gap continued to widen then it could further make the scale of assessments misrepresentative of the true ability of Member States to pay.

The Budget Committee also recommended that the General Assembly take note of the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Office for Partnerships (document A/70/202), introduced by Ann De La Roche, Officer-in-Charge of that body.

Also speaking today on the topic of scale of assessments were the representatives of Iraq and the United Arab Emirates.  Bernardo Greiver, Chairman of the Committee on Contributions, also made concluding remarks.

The Fifth Committee will meet again at 11:15 a.m., Monday, 12 October, to hear a statement by Mogens Lykketoft (Denmark), General Assembly President, and discuss the Organization’s programme budget for the 2016-2017 biennium.

Scale of Assessments — Requests under Article 19 of the Charter

The Fifth Committee approved without a vote draft resolution A/C.5/70/L.2, by which the General Assembly would decide to permit the Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia and Yemen to vote in the 193-nation body until the end of its seventieth session by acknowledging that their failures to pay the full minimum amount required to avoid the application of Article 19 of the Charter were “due to conditions beyond their control”.

Scale of Assessments

MR. SALIH (Iraq) associated his country with the statement of the Group of 77 made on Thursday on the scale of assessments, and reaffirmed that the present methodology used to prepare the scale of assessments reflected the actual situation of Member States.  The basic elements, such as the base period, Gross National Income (GNI), rate of exchange and others, should remain the same and not be subject to any negotiations.  Iraq affirmed the “capacity to pay” principle and resisted any changes in the elements of the scale of assessments that targeted increases in the contribution of developing countries.  The situation in Iraq and the war on terrorism had created significant economic and social costs for the country.

JAESIN KO (Republic of Korea) said there was still room for making the current scale methodology more equitable, sustainable and simple.  The gap between the scale of assessment assigned to a Member State and its share in world GNI — after being adjusted for factors such as low per capita income, high debt burden and a maximum assessment rate or ceiling — should be within a reasonable range.  The gap due to those factors was intended to take into account the different economic situations of Member States, but if the gap continued to widen then it could further make the scale of assessments misrepresentative of the true ability of Member States to pay.  To improve the application of the debt burden adjustment and the accuracy of adjustment rates, the Contributions Committee had proposed using actual data based on Member States’ respective debt flows and public debt instead of theoretical or hypothetical assumptions.  That would determine “capacity to pay” in a more accurate and equitable manner.  Also, fair attention should be given to discussions on the possible use of world average per capita debt-adjusted GNI or an inflation-adjusted threshold to revise the low per capita income adjustment.

KHALIFA MOHAMMED AL MUSFARI (United Arab Emirates) stressed the importance of applying the general principles of financing peacekeeping operations approved in General Assembly resolution 55/235 as the basis for any discussion on the scale of assessments.  The permanent members of the Security Council should fulfil their responsibilities for peacekeeping operations.  He also called for compliance with the Ministerial Declaration signed by Foreign Ministers of member countries of the Group of 77 on 28 September 2012.  That Declaration stated that no member of the Group that was not a permanent Council member should be classified higher than Level C, pointing out that the current discount rates had moved some countries to Level B.

BERNARDO GREIVER, Chairman of the Committee on Contributions, thanked all the delegations that had made statements and said the Contributions Committee had taken notes on all the comments.  All the questions from last year were answered in present documents and the Committee would continue to work to address Member States’ comments and concerns.  The Contributions Committee now had more information and data than ever before, which would help it make better estimates and forecasts.  The body had to take into account the interests of all delegations as well as those of the Organization.  There were countries with a lower or higher population, or higher or lower per capita income, and all their interests were different.  The world was changing very rapidly and there was more data to be included in the process.

Programme Planning

In the absence of the Chair of the Committee for Programme and Coordination, Fifth Committee Chairman DURGA PRASAD BHATTARAI (Nepal) drew the delegates’ attention to several reports.  They included:

The report of the Committee for Programme and Coordination on its fifty-fifth session (document A/70/16) Chapters I, II.A (relevant parts), II.B, III and IV);

The report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) on “Strengthening the role of evaluation and the application of evaluation findings on programme design, delivery and policy directives” (document A/70/72);

The report of the Secretary-General on “Consolidated changes to the biennial programme plan as reflected in the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2016-2017 and proposals to improve the implementation of results-based budgeting” (document A/70/80 (Chapter II);

The report of the Secretary-General on “Proposed revisions to the Regulations and Rules Governing Programme Planning, the Programme Aspects of the Budget, Monitoring of Implementation and the Methods of Evaluation” (document A/68/74 and  Corr. 1).

Statements

KAREN LINGENFELDER (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, endorsed the recommendations and conclusions contained in the fifty-fifth report of the Committee on Programme and Coordination.  The Group stressed the importance of the work related to proposed revisions to the regulations and rules governing programme planning, the programme aspects of the budget, the Monitoring of Implementation and the Methods of Evaluation, usually known as PPBME.  The Group agreed with the conclusion of the Committee on Programme and Coordination that the current set of the PPBME should be periodically updated.

Concerning the consolidated changes to the biennial programme plan as reflected in the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2016-2017, she said the Group echoed the Committee on Programme and Coordination’s recommendations that asked the Secretariat to ensure programme mangers keep improving the creation of objectives, expected accomplishments and indicators of achievement in order to allow for better evaluation results.  Regarding the improvement of the implementation of results-based budgeting, the Group said it was crucial to understand that the objectives of the Organization may not be realized in one biennial cycle.

Turning to evaluation, the Group shared the Committee on Programme and Coordination’s concern that there were still major obstacles to strengthening evaluation functions, she said.  The Group emphasized the need for Secretariat entities to allocate appropriate resources for evaluation activities and encouraging evaluation throughout the Organization by strengthening senior management support and staff buy-in.  Regarding the annual overview report of the United Nations Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), the Group encouraged the Board to keep enhancing collaboration on procurement activities, including increasing opportunities for vendors from developing countries.  It also stressed the Committee on Programme and Coordination’s key role in ensuring coordinated support and follow-up throughout the United Nations for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

CHERITH A. NORMAN CHALET (United States) said her delegation highly valued the Programme and Coordination Committee as the only intergovernmental body within the United Nations with the mandate to examine the totality of the Secretary-General’s work programme.  It was uniquely placed to hold the Secretariat accountable for results; determine which programmes, sub-programmes or programme elements were obsolete; and recommend their curtailment or termination.  The body’s recommendations too often lacked critical programme analysis, deliberations were duplicative of discussions in other forums, and decisions failed to provide meaningful improvements to the Organization’s strategic framework.  The report from the most recent fifty-fifth session of the Programme and Coordination Committee marked a turning point as it reflected a renewed commitment to promoting accountability for programme results and ensuring the efficient use of resources.

HIROSHI ONUMA (Japan) noted the significant role the Committee for Programme and Coordination played in drawing up the regular budget of the United Nations.  Japan would continue to actively participate in its deliberations.  Japan believed the United Nations should consider strengthening the role and functions of the Committee for Programme and Coordination in order to make the regular budget process more efficient and cost-effective.  It was important that the body be given the role of identifying overlap, duplications and obsolete functions throughout the United Nations system.  Japan noted that once again conflicts between the schedules of the Committee for Programme and Coordination and the second resumed session of the Fifth Committee in June meant several Member States, and Secretariat officials, had difficulty addressing both sessions.  He urged Member States and the Secretariat to work to avoid, or minimize, any overlap between the two important functions.

United Nations Office for Partnerships

ANN DE LA ROCHE, Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Office for Partnerships, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on that body (document A/70/202), noting that the Office was established in 2006, comprising the United Nations Fund for International Partnerships (UNFIP) and the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF).

UNFIP, which was created in 1998, served as the interface between the United Nations Foundation and the United Nations system.  In October 2014, the United Nations and the United Nations Foundation signed a new relationship agreement, renewing their partnership for an additional 10 years.  By the end of 2014, the cumulative allocations provided by the United Nations Foundation through UNFIP totaled about $1.36 billion, which was used to support 563 projects by 43 United Nations entities in 124 countries.  Last year, the Foundation continued to provide significant support towards global health initiatives, women’s and girls’ empowerment, sustainable energy and climate change.

During 2014, UNDEF, which was established in 2005, began its eighth round of funding, she said.  A total of 49 new projects were funded at a total cost of just under $10 million.  A large majority of the projects went to local civil society organizations in countries in transition and consolidation phases of democratization.  The Fund received 2331 project proposals for its ninth round of funding.  By the end of 2014, the Fund had supported 600 projects in more than 120 countries.

There were no comments from the floor on her presentation.

The Fifth Committee then approved a draft decision, by which the Assembly would take note of the report.

For information media. Not an official record.