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GA/AB/4194
24 March 2016
Seventieth Session, 32nd Meeting (PM)

Budget Committee Approves Five Texts as It Concludes First Part of Resumed Seventieth Session

Taking action without a vote as it concluded the first part of its resumed seventieth session this afternoon, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) approved five texts relating to Staff Regulations and Rules, special subjects in the 2016-2017 biennium programme budget, the accountability system, the Joint Inspection Unit, and questions deferred for future consideration.

In its first action, the Committee approved a draft resolution that would have the General Assembly decide that Staff Regulation 5.3 on the home leave and Annex IV on the repatriation grant be amended.

Among the items addressed in a draft resolution on special subjects relating to the programme budget for the 2016-2017 biennium was the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, for which the Assembly would decide to establish 33 positions for the year 2016 and reduce by 10 per cent the allocation for official travel for the Special Adviser on Conflict Prevention, including in Burundi. 

Further by that text, it would also approve $3.18 million for the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team and the implementation of resolution 2231 (2015), endorsing the comprehensive joint action plan on Iran’s nuclear programme, as well as $4.32 million (net of staff assessment) for the United Nations Monitoring Mechanism on humanitarian assistance for Syria.

Another draft, on accountability, would have the Assembly stress the indispensable roles of external and internal oversight and reaffirm the zero tolerance approach to fraudulent acts and corruption, noting with concern the delay in revising the policy against retaliation and urging the Secretary-General to finalize it.  It would also request him to develop a clear, transparent and precise set of guidelines and parameters, aimed at defining areas of responsibility, particularly for senior managers. 

Another draft 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 within the participating organizations and in providing the Assembly with action-oriented recommendations to improve governance at the United Nations. 

In a final decision, approved by consensus, the Assembly would decide to defer a number of questions related to the programme budget for the biennium 2016-2017 and human resources management until its seventy-first session.

Also today, the Committee appointed, by acclamation, Carmel Power (United Kingdom) to fill the vacancy on the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) created by the resignation of Richard Moon, also of the United Kingdom.

In closing remarks, speakers expressed appreciation that the Committee had been able to conclude its session in a timely fashion, but acknowledged that it had been unable to conclude several important agenda items, including those related to the Joint Inspection Unit, accountability of the United Nations system, flexible work arrangements and financing for development.  Some noted the late submission of reports to the Committee, as well as the insufficient information contained within some reports, which had seriously hampered its work.

For his part, Committee Chair Durga Prasad Bhattarai (Nepal) noted that while the Committee might not have achieved all it wished, he was confident that it had not left any stone unturned.  He cautioned that the Committee’s upcoming workload would be hectic, stressing:  “We should not waste a single minute in the second resumed session if we mean business”.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Syria, Turkey, Thailand (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), United Republic of Tanzania (on behalf of the African Group), United States and Mexico, as well as the European Union.

Action on Drafts

The Committee first considered the provisional draft resolution (document A/C.5/70/L.28) on amendments to the Staff Regulations and Rules, whereby it took note of the report of the Secretary-General by the same name and endorsed the conclusions and recommendations contained in the related report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).  By the text, the General Assembly would decide that Staff Regulation 5.3 on the home leave would be amended whereby eligible staff would be granted leave every 24 months, however the Secretary-General may grant leave every 12 months to staff in duty stations with the most difficult conditions of life and work, as approved by the Assembly.  Further, the Assembly would decide to amend Annex IV on the repatriation grant whereby the grant shall be payable to eligible staff members after five years of qualifying service.  It would not be paid to staff members that had been dismissed.

The Committee approved the text without a vote.

The Committee then turned to a provisional draft resolution on the Joint Inspection Unit (document A/C.5/69/L.29), submitted by the Chair, which would have the Assembly take note of the Unit’s report for 2015 and work programme for 2016.  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.

Next, the Committee turned to a provisional draft resolution on special subjects relating to the programme budget for the biennium 2016-2017 (document A/C.5/70/L.31), consisting of six parts.

By the terms of the text in Part I, strengthening property management at the United Nations Secretariat, the Assembly would take note of the Secretary-General’s report by that name and endorse the conclusions and recommendations in ACABQ’s related report.

By Part II, on progress in the implementation of the organizational resilience management system, the Assembly would endorse the Advisory Committee’s recommendations, reiterating in resolution 68/247 the importance of full implementation of the system in offices away from Headquarters, regional commissions and elsewhere, emphasizing the importance of a holistic approach to emergency management across the United Nations system.  The Secretary-General would be requested to submit to the Assembly, not later than the first resumed part of its seventy-third session, a progress report on implementation of the organizational resilience management system.

By Part III, managing after-service health insurance liabilities, the Assembly would take note of the Secretary-General’s report by the same name, and endorse the related conclusions of the Advisory Committee. 

By the terms of Part IV — Revised estimates relating to the programme budget for the biennium 2016-2017 under sections 27, Humanitarian assistance, and 36, Staff assessment:  United Nations Monitoring Mechanism — the Assembly would approve $4.32 million in additional resources (net of staff assessment).  Further, it would approve $4.32 million (net of staff assessment), under section 27, and $341,300 under section 36, to be offset by an equivalent amount under income section 1, Income from staff assessment.

By the text in Part V — 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 take note of the Secretary-General’s related reports and endorse the Advisory Committee’s conclusions.  It would recall its commitment to consider the review of the arrangements on the funding and backstopping of special political missions, noting that no decision had been reached at the first resumed part of the seventieth session.  It would express its commitment to consider the matter, with a view to making a decision no later than the main session of the Assembly’s seventy-first session.

Under thematic cluster I, Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, the Assembly would decide to establish for the year 2016 the 33 positions under Cluster-1, and request the Secretary-General to keep the structure of the Office under review.  It would decide to reduce the allocation for official travel for the Office of the Special Adviser on Conflict Prevention, including in Burundi, by 10 per cent, and approve $7.76 million net ($8.17 million gross) for the Office of the Special Adviser for the January to December period. 

Under thematic cluster II, sanctions monitoring teams, groups and panels, the Assembly would decide to apply 40 per cent vacancy rate for the professional staff and 50 per cent rate for general services in 2016, with regard to Security Council resolution 2231 (2015).  Further, it would approve a total $3.18 million additional resources for: the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team ($1.89 million net/$2 million gross) and the implementation of resolution 2231 (2015) ($1.29 million net/$1.42 million gross).  It would approve a total $8.62 million (net of staff assessment) against the provision for special political missions appropriated under section 3, Political affairs, of the programme budget for the biennium 2016-2017.

Finally, under the draft’s Part VI — Strategic capital review — the Assembly would take note of the Secretary-General’s report and endorse the Advisory Committee’s recommendations, encouraging the Secretary-General to continue to incorporate best practices from the implementation of capital projects and emphasizing the central role of coordination and oversight by the Office of Central Support Services of the Department of Management.

Speaking after action, the representative of Syria, referring to the draft’s fourth section, on the monitoring mechanism, reaffirmed a commitment to an unfailing principle that humanitarian assistance should be given to all, stressing the importance of cooperation with the United Nations and its agencies for providing aid in emergencies.  The principle was outlined in Assembly resolution 46/182.  The role by the country concerned should not be political, but rather objective.

In that context, he reaffirmed the importance of humanitarian assistance delivery in Syria, with 4 million recipients growing by 4,000 a month.  He noted increased participation by the Resident Coordinator and that more people had received humanitarian aid across the borders, showing that United Nations measures to implement the two resolutions had not been effective in some cases.  Some countries had exploited those provisions to provide weapons to terrorists.

For its part, Syria had cooperated with the Resident Coordinator, he said, informing him of a new mechanism.  It would have been useful to spend the large amounts mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report to increase humanitarian assistance in coordination with organizations working in Syria, in order to ensure that aid did not fall into the wrong hands.  He outlined several reservations, notably on the monitoring mechanism and the oversight mechanism.  In paragraph 10 of document A/70/726, he noted that the figures were estimates taken from 2016 humanitarian relief.  The obstacles hindering aid provision showed that the mandate of the monitoring mechanism was unstable.  Use of the term “local authorities” referred to non-authorized agents.  There were imprecise figures in other parts of the report.  Other reservations related to the objective of the oversight body and the entry of trucks.

The representative of Iran, referring to the draft’s section V, said Council resolution 2231 (2015) and document S/2015/44, containing a note of the Security Council President, served as the basis for practical arrangements and procedures related to implementation of the resolution.  There was no mandate in those documents for establishing any new structure.  Therefore, there should not be any new structure in place.  It was clear that tasks entrusted to the Secretariat were administrative, intended to support the Council’s work.

The Security Council Affairs Division job description had gone beyond the said mandate, he pointed out, stressing that the mandate did not authorize the Division to conduct substantive functions like monitoring or fact-finding missions, regarding resolution 2231 (2015).  Many travels envisaged in relation to that were unnecessary and would squander financial resources.  As such, Iran disassociated from consensus on that paragraph allocating resources to such unnecessary travel.

Further, he said, Iran’s consensus should not be interpreted as agreeing to the description provided by the Secretariat for the implementation of resolution 2231 (2015).  This was new and unprecedented for the Division, the Council and the Assembly, especially as the Assembly would have to decide on the creation of a “capacity” whose workload was unknown to it.  Therefore, the Fifth Committee must ensure that capacity had the necessary human and financial resources, and that there was enough work for the people the Secretary-General had proposed to recruit.  Iran had raised substantial questions during the informal consultations and would continue to monitor performance in order to ensure the best use of resources.  He urged the Secretariat to “adapt to new realities” and to the fundamental shift of the Council in considering Iran’s peaceful nuclear programme.

ZEYNEP ERŞAHIN AŞIK (Turkey) said she would take the floor to respond to the “baseless allegations” made by the Syrian regime.  She did not accept the unfounded claims made by the Syrian delegate and the Fifth Committee was not the place to discuss such issues. 

AMMAR AWAD (Syrian Arab Republic) said it was odd that the representative of Turkey wanted to comment on his statement as it only reflected the position of his country and he had not mentioned any other State.  He knew the Fifth Committee was not the place for such discussions.  He had only mentioned statistics provided by United Nations agencies, which delegates could go back to for further verification.

Ms. AŞIK (Turkey) said that everyone knew what the resolution included, including how humanitarian assistance passed to the Syrian regime, and it was very easy to understand the real content of the Syrian delegate’s statement.

The Committee then adopted the provisional text without a vote.

By a provisional draft resolution on progress towards an accountability system in the United Nations Secretariat (document A/C.5/70/L.30), the Assembly would note the fifth progress report of the Secretary-General by the same name and endorse the related ACABQ report’s conclusions and recommendations.  By the text, among other actions, the Assembly would stress the indispensable roles of external and internal oversight and reaffirm the zero tolerance approach to fraudulent acts and corruption, to be included in the anti-fraud framework.  The Assembly would note with concern the delay in revision of the policy against retaliation and urge the Secretary-General to finalize it.  The Assembly would also request an update on steps to implement results-based management and programme monitoring and reiterate its request that the Secretary-General include in his next progress report on accountability a detailed plan, with a fixed timeframe, for implementation.  It would also emphasize that a strong evaluation function continued to be a critical tool for assessing the Organization’s performance and request the Secretary-General to develop a clear, transparent and precise set of guidelines and parameters, aimed at defining areas of responsibility, particularly for senior managers. 

Further, the text would request that the Secretary-General take a more strategic approach and concrete actions to implement the accountability framework.  The Secretary-General would be asked to report to the Assembly at the first part of its resumed seventy-first session on the implementation of the accountability framework and decide to revert the question of the frequency of future progress reports on accountability.

The text was approved without a vote.

By a provisional draft decision on questions deferred for future consideration (document A/C.5/70/L.32), the Assembly would decide to defer to its seventy-first session several questions related to the programme budget for the biennium 2016-2017, including estimates in respect of special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council, operational arrangements and conditions of service of the Advisory Committee, the proposed United Nations Secretariat contribution to the United Nations Development Group cost-sharing arrangement for the resident coordinator system, and construction and property management, as well questions related to the Joint Inspection Unit, under the human resources management item.

The text was approved without a vote.

Closing remarks

DURGA PRASAD BHATTARAI (Nepal), Fifth Committee Chair, thanked all delegations that had contributed over the last month, as well as officials from the Advisory Committee and Secretariat, interpreters and technical staff.  “You have proved our success was not an aberration, but a product of diligence, confidence and spirt of flexibility and consensus on the part of all,” he said.  While the Committee might not have achieved all it wished, he was confident that it had not left any stone unturned.  

Indeed, he said, there had been some wasted days in the beginning, as well as difficulties in keeping time and feelings that the Committee had fallen victim to its own deficiencies.  Those features held lessons for working together on diverse issues that were important to the Organization, and the Bureau was determined to make improvements in the second part of the resumed session.  The workload would be hectic.  “We should not waste a single minute in the second session if we mean business,” he said.  All reports must be introduced in the first week.  Ruling out an extension of the session, the Committee should be prepared to work extra hours and finish on time.  “I know we will rise to the challenge together and succeed with distinction,” he concluded.

SIRITHON WAIRATPANIJ (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, expressed appreciation that the Committee had been able to conclude its session in a timely fashion, but acknowledged that it had been unable to conclude several important agenda items, including those related to the Joint Inspection Unit, accountability of the United Nations system, and others.  She expressed serious concern about the delay in the submission of reports and the insufficient information contained within some reports, which represented major obstacles in the Committee’s ability to efficiently conclude its work.  It was unfortunate that there had not been agreement reached on several agenda items, including those related to the Addis Ababa Agenda.

JUSTIN KISOKA (United Republic of Tanzania), speaking on behalf of the African Group, associated himself with the Group of 77.  He noted with appreciation the outcome reached after extensive negotiations on issues related to Burundi, although it was unfortunate that the Committee was unable to finalize all items allocated in this part of the session.  The Group was also disappointed about the failure of the Secretary-General to present proposals on important agenda items, including those related to financing for development and the 2030 Agenda for Development.

The representative of the European Union said even though the Committee had finished its session on time, improving work methods was a shared responsibility that required full attention.  He regretted that a number of items did not get the time and attention they deserved, and particularly that the Committee did not conclude cost-sharing arrangements for the resident coordinator system.  He also regretted it had not had substantive discussions, due to the late issuance of documents, and that there had been no solution on the issue of a flexible workplace, despite information that the issue had hampered well-being and could lead to more costs for the Office of Central Support Services.

Calling on all to engage in a spirit of compromise on all agenda items, he said the second resumed session would see a top-heavy agenda, urging delegations to consider that for several years, the Committee had not abided by the allotted time.  As such, the focus should be on time-bound issues related to the financing of peacekeeping missions and related issues, and the importance of related mandates, including recommendations of the peacekeeping review.  It was neither feasible nor conducive to negotiate without support of the Committee’s support services and secretariat.

The representative of the United States was disappointed at the Committee’s failure to approve resources to create a flexible workplace, which was “penny wise and pound foolish”, as it had deferred the use of Headquarters space in a more cost-effective manner, leaving the Organization dependent on expensive commercial leases for staff who could not be accommodated on the main campus.  It had shown that, despite better working practices, sound decision-making could be trumped by other interests.  The United States would continue to push for collaborative efforts and full consideration of items related to peacekeeping, including the timeliness of documentation as it worked towards achieving consensus.

The representative of Mexico expressed concern that the Assembly had not considered and decided upon reforms for the funding and backstopping of special political missions.  The current administrative and budgetary arrangements for those missions were inadequate and adversely affected the regular budget, as well as the accountability, governance and transparency of the Organization.  Mexico looked forward to correcting the deficiencies of the current arrangements, finally responding to the urgent calls of the Secretariat, Advisory Committee and the Board of Auditors.  His delegation would return to that item during discussion of the recommendations of the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations.

For information media. Not an official record.