Delegates in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today threw their support behind the Secretary‑General’s efforts to bolster the Organization’s global resident coordinator system – an integral part of ongoing efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development - by backing his request for an appropriation of $13.57 million for 2019.
Speakers also endorsed the Secretary‑General’s request for a $2.9 million infusion to keep the Residual Special Court of Sierra Leone operating next year.
At its previous session, the General Assembly agreed to new funding techniques - which require a total investment of $281 million in 2019 - to help sustain a fully dedicated and independent resident coordinator system. This move is part of the Assembly’s decision to integrate the system into the Secretariat and make it more transparent and more accountable to Member States.
Chandramouli Ramanathan, Acting Controller, introducing the Secretary‑General’s report on the issue, said the Assembly decided to double the amount contributed to the resident coordinator system through the United Nations Sustainable Development Group’s cost‑sharing arrangements. This arrangement - one of three overall funding sources for the resident coordinator system - will tally $77.5 million for 2019. The Secretariat’s share totals $13.57 million. Babou Sene, Vice‑Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced the Advisory Committee’s related report.
The representative of the Philippines called for a more stable, robust, predictable and sustainable funding arrangement for the system that addresses the decline of core contributions while putting no additional burdens on programme countries. She asked for more details about the specific benefits of having a unified mechanism for intergovernmental oversight of cost‑sharing arrangements, as well as on ways to streamline staffing patterns and levels of certain positions that might become redundant.
Egypt’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that as the Organization repositions and reinvigorates the system, transparency and accountability to national Governments is essential. This is especially critical as the development system relies heavily on the resident coordinator system to fulfil the mandates of intergovernmentally agreed outcomes related to sustainable development.
The speaker for Pakistan agreed and said revamping the system is the Organization’s most comprehensive effort in decades to reinforce Member States’ capacity to achieve the 2030 Agenda. The eradication of poverty should remain the development system’s overarching goal as the Organization moves ahead.
Switzerland’s representative, also speaking for Liechtenstein, said that the Secretary‑General must provide full transparency to all stakeholders on the system’s expenditures, total costs of operations and results achieved. In that regard, she commended the Secretary‑General for proposing relevant mechanisms, including a dedicated website for Member States and partners.
Regarding the Secretary‑General’s $2.9 million funding request to keep the Residual Special Court of Sierra Leone operating - as set forth in the report introduced by Mr. Ramanathan - delegates agreed that the lack of a sustainable funding mechanism has undermined the Court’s work.
Uganda’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said it is in the best interest of international peace and security, particularly in West Africa, for the Court to be funded over the long term through assessed contributions from Member States, a position supported by Egypt’s delegate, speaking for the Group of 77. The Group is very concerned that contributions have been insufficient for the Court’s operations since 2015, he said. While supporting the approval of the full amount of the subventions from the regular budget to keep the Court up and running, the Group is mindful that the subvention is only a temporary measure.
The representative of Sierra Leone noted that despite concerted efforts, including intensified fundraising by his Government and others, the Court lacks sufficient funds from voluntary contributions to cover its operations in 2019. “Voluntary contributions, as the funding mechanism, has proven to be unreliable and unpredictable,” he said.
In its report on the subject, the Advisory Committee said that after four consecutive requests for subventions to fund the Court’s work, “reliance on the regular budget is no longer exceptional”.
Also today, the Fifth Committee discussed the Secretariat’s request for a 13.4 per cent increase, to $55.9 million in 2019, for funding of special political missions grouped under cluster I, and a 6.9 per cent increase, to $37.9 million in 2019, for the missions that are part of cluster II. Mr. Ramanathan introduced the Secretary‑General’s reports on the proposed 2019 resources for the missions. Mr. Sene introduced the Advisory Committee’s related reports.
Also speaking today were delegates from Cuba, Syria, China, Mexico and the Russian Federation.
The Fifth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 29 November to discuss the 2018‑2019 proposed programme budget for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).
Special Political Missions, Resident Coordinator System, Sierra Leone Court
CHANDRAMOULI RAMANATHAN, Acting Controller, introduced three Secretary‑General’s reports regarding estimates in respect of special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council, including on Thematic cluster I: Special and personal envoys, advisers and representatives of the Secretary‑General(document A/73/352/Add.1*); Thematic cluster II: sanctions monitoring teams, groups and panels, and other entities and mechanisms (document A/73/352/Add.2); and Thematic cluster II: sanctions monitoring teams, groups and panels, and other entities and mechanisms (document A/73/352/Add.2/Corr.1).
The proposed resources for 2019 for special political missions presented under thematic cluster I total $55.9 million, an overall increase of $6.6 million, or 13.4 per cent, compared to the approved resources for 2018, he said. The increase is primarily due to greater staff costs resulting from lower vacancy rates in 2019 than budgeted for 2018, and higher civilian personnel costs based on actual salary levels and entitlements of incumbents. He noted that the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary‑General for the Sudan and South Sudan will be renamed the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary‑General for the Horn of Africa and subsume its functions and proposed resources for 2019.
Turning to thematic cluster II, he said the proposed resources for 2019 for the 14 special political missions totalled $37.9 million, an overall increase of $2.4 million, or 6.9 per cent, compared to the approved resources for 2018. This increase relates primarily to higher requirements for staff costs based on actual salary levels and entitlements of incumbents. Other reasons are lower vacancy rates in 2019 than budgeted for new positions approved in 2018, higher fees for experts and the official travel of Close Protection Officers providing escort to the experts, as per the security risk assessment recommendations by the Department of Safety and Security Services.
He said that on 14 November 2018, the Security Council terminated the mandate of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, effective 16 December 2018, to establish the Panel of Experts on Somalia and Eritrea. Therefore, the related resources requirements of $2.3 million for 2019 for the Monitoring Group will not be required. The resources requirements for 2019 for the newly established Panel of Experts on Somalia will be presented to the Fifth Committee at its first resumed session. Accounting for the estimated combined overexpenditures of $3.4 million for 2018 for the 25 missions in clusters I and II - and excluding the requirements for the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (UNITAD) and the resources for 2019 for the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea - the General Assembly is asked to approve net additional requirements for these mission totalling $95 million.
He then introduced the Secretary‑General’s report titled “Revised estimates relating to the resident coordinator system under section 1, Overall policymaking, direction and coordination” (document A/73/424), which asks the Assembly to appropriate $13.57 million in the form of a grant under section 1 of the 2018‑2019 programme budget. To meet the ambition of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the reinvigorated resident coordinator system will require an investment of $281 million in 2019. This is less than the $290 million estimate shared with Member States during the intergovernmental negotiations that led to Assembly resolution 72/279 and reflects a significant effort to identify the most effective and efficient working arrangements for the new resident coordinator system. The Assembly decided to double the amount contributed to the resident coordinator system through the United Nations Sustainable Development Group’s cost‑sharing arrangements, he said. This cost‑sharing will tally $77.5 million for the 2019 costs of the system and the Secretariat’s share totals $13.57 million.
Lastly, he introduced the Secretary‑General’s report on the use of the commitment authority and request for a subvention to the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone (documents A/73/379 and A/73/379/Corr.1), which address the use of the commitment authority and the modalities for future support of the Residual Mechanism and includes a request for a subvention so the Court can carry out its mandate in 2019. Despite efforts of the Secretary‑General, the Sierra Leone Government, key donors of the Court, and intense fundraising efforts made by the Principals of the Court, voluntary resources are not adequate, he said. At this stage, there are no prospects for additional voluntary contributions. Given the lack of adequate and sustained voluntary contributions for the Court to fulfil its mandate, the Secretary‑General asks the Assembly to approve a subvention of $2.98 million to fund its activities in 2019.
BABOU SENE, Vice-Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), first introduced its reports on special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives (documents A/79/498/Add.1 and A/73/498/Add.2). Under thematic cluster I, the ACABQ recommends approval of the Secretary‑General’s proposed staffing changes, as well as prompt completion of the recruitment process for temporary assignments involving a special post allowance. It also recommended, under official travel, reductions to 8 of the 11 missions, as some of the estimated travel requirements look unrealistic.
Turning to thematic cluster II, he said the ACABQ recommended approval of the proposed resources requirements for 2019. In doing so, it notes that the proposed resources of $35.7 million – up $196,100 or 0.5 per cent from 2018 – would apply to 13 ongoing missions, given the termination of 16 December of the mandate of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea. Concerning experts, he recalled the Advisory Committee’s comments on the correlation between increased years of service from 7 to 10, as well as the potential for reduced security risks. He also reiterated its recommendation that the General Assembly extend the standard of accommodation of Secretariat staff members working with those experts.
He then introduced the Advisory Committee’s report on revised estimates relating to the resident coordinator system (document A/73/579), saying it recommends that the General Assembly approve the Secretary‑General’s request for an additional appropriation. Other comments in its report address, among other things, posts previously requested for the resident coordinator system and the review of overall resources for the system.
Next, he introduced the report of the ACABQ on the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone (document A/73/580). Noting the Court’s persistent funding challenges, and calling for more vigorous fundraising efforts, he said that after four consecutive requests for subventions, “reliance on the regular budget is no longer exceptional”. Appropriating the entire amount of the Court’s budget would undermine the voluntary nature of its current funding arrangements, he warned. Nevertheless, given the projected shortfall and need to ensure the continuity of operations, the Advisory Committee recommends the Secretary‑General be given authority to spend no more than $2.5 million for 2019 to supplement any voluntary financial resources. It also recommends that the General Assembly ask the Secretary‑General to return any unused balance of commitment authority funds and to report on the use of the subvention during the Assembly’s seventy‑fourth session.
MOHAMED FOUAD AHMED (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, reiterated its full support for the entire United Nations development system, particularly the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). As the Organization repositions the system, the Group recognizes the need to guarantee accountability to national Governments, transparency and strong leadership as a reinvigorated resident coordinator system is implemented, as outlined in General Assembly resolution 72/279. This is especially critical as the development system relies heavily on the resident coordinator system to fulfil the mandates of the 2030 Agenda and all other intergovernmentally agreed outcomes related to sustainable development. He said adequate mandates approved by United Nations intergovernmental bodies remain a core principle of the Group and it recognizes the need for the resident coordinators to have adequate, predictable funding to ensure the delivery of coherent, effective and accountable responses, as expected by Member States. He noted that the Secretariat’s share of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group’s cost‑sharing arrangement for 2019 is reported to be $13.6 million. The Group will carefully examine the assessed resources requirements requested by the Secretary‑General to support the new resident coordinator system.
KARIM ISMAIL (Egypt), also speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, said that it is very concerned that despite intensive fundraising endeavours, voluntary contributions have been insufficient for the Court’s operations since 2015. There is no prospect of predictable and reliable voluntary contributions in the current biennium. “We believe this situation poses serious challenges to the sustainability of the work of the Court, and the effective implementation of its mandate,” he added. While supporting the approval of the full amount of the subventions, the Group is mindful that the subvention is only a temporary measure. He reiterated the need for a long‑term sustainable funding mechanism for the Court, preferably through assessed contributions from Member States.
CAROLINE NALWANGA MAGAMBO (Uganda), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the role of the special political missions is very important to the United Nations efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts, sustain peace and lead to reconciliation and economic reconstruction and development. Sufficient resources are crucial for the effective discharge of their mandates and the Group will seek to ensure adequate funding is allocated to the Secretary‑General’s proposals. The Group will seek clarification on the cost‑sharing arrangements in the areas of transport, facilities and medical services and the application of best practices in the use of renewable energy for power generation. The Group notes the collaboration of various missions, good offices and other political initiatives, particularly those in Africa and relevant regional and subregional organizations. It notes that there are multiple United Nations entities involved in addressing conflict prevention and mediation in the region and reiterates its request to the Secretary‑General to continue consolidating efforts to bring about synergies and efficiencies.
Turning to the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone, she said that despite extensive fundraising activities, funding challenges for the Residual Court remain. This underscores the unpredictability and unreliability of the current funding mechanism of voluntary contributions to support the Court’s work. Since beginning operations in 2014 to succeed the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the Residual Court had to supervise the enforcement of sentences; review convictions and acquittals; conduct contempt of court proceedings, witness and victim protection activities; and support the maintenance and preservation and management of its predecessor Court’s archives. Lack of a durable funding mechanism would undermine the Residual Court’s implementation of its mandate. It is in the best interest of international peace and security in general, and particularly in the West African subregion, that the Residual Court have a long‑term means of sustained funding, such as assessed contributions from Member States. The Group supports the Secretary‑General’s proposed resources requirement of $2.98 million for 2019 to enable the Residual Court to carry out its mandate.
ALEXANDRA ELENA BAUMANN (Switzerland), also speaking on behalf of Liechtenstein, recalled the General Assembly’s endorsement, through resolution 72/279, of the Secretary‑General’s proposals for repositioning the United Nations development system around a reinvigorated and independent resident coordinator system and its funding mechanism. Noting the central importance of the Secretariat’s contribution to the resident coordinator system, she said Switzerland and Liechtenstein strongly support the appropriation of $13.6 million as a grant to the newly established Special Purpose Trust Fund in 2019. She emphasized the importance of accountability to Member States, adding that the Secretary‑General must provide full transparency to all stakeholders on expenditures, total costs of operations and results achieved. In that regard, she commended the Secretary‑General for proposing relevant mechanisms, including a dedicated website for Member States and partners.
YAIMA DE ARMAS BONCHANG (Cuba) said that while most special political missions are established by the Security Council, their financing comes out of the regular budget approved by the General Assembly – a practice that is “onerous and unsustainable”. Such missions should be financed in the same way as peacekeeping missions, using the latter’s scale of assessments. It remains alarming that the level of resources allocated to special political missions account for more than 20 per cent of the regular budget. She expressed Cuba’s full support for the functions of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide but disagreed with the Secretary‑General’s proposal to include activities and results relating to the responsibility to protect in the estimates of special political missions. The Assembly has not adopted a resolution to create the position of special adviser on the responsibility to protect, nor has it approved a concrete definition of that concept. The so‑called principle of the responsibility to protect is a source of serious concern for many small and developing countries, she said, pointing to “sad examples” from history when it was used to undermine the United Nations Charter and international law, risking the sovereignty of States and their primary responsibility for the welfare of their populations.
AMMAR AWAD (Syria) focused his remarks on references to the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary‑General to Syria contained in document A/73/352/Add.1. He said the success of the Special Envoy’s mission and the achievement of a political settlement required political will and pooled efforts to combat terrorism. At the same time, certain countries – including some represented in the Security Council – must be forced to halt destructive practices that undermine the Special Envoy’s efforts. He objected to the use of the term “armed opposition” in the Secretary‑General’s report and requested that the correct legal term “armed terrorist groups” be used instead. Syria also rejects the report’s reference to the League of Arab States, he said, emphasizing that there is no connection between the Special Envoy and that organization and that the Special Envoy is a staff member of the United Nations, not a joint envoy. He added that offices of the Special Envoy in Beirut and elsewhere are a waste of United Nations resources and incompatible with his mandate. He welcomed the report’s mention of the need to prevent and suppress terrorist acts by the Al‑Nusra Front, Al‑Qaida and others, but expressed Syria’s reservations about insinuations regarding close contacts between the Office of the Special Envoy and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Nothing justifies such contacts, he stated. He concluded by reiterating Syria’s wish that the Special Envoy’s mission is crowned with success, emphasizing that his role is only that of a facilitator in line with his mandate and the United Nations Charter.
FRANCIS MUSTAPHA KAI-KAI (Sierra Leone), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, spoke on the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone, emphasizing that to effectively carry out its important functions, it needs required resources. However, despite concerted efforts, including intensified fundraising by the Government of Sierra Leone and others, it lacks sufficient funds from voluntary contributions to cover its operations in 2019. “Voluntary contributions, as the funding mechanism, has proven to be unreliable and unpredictable,” he said. He called for robust mechanisms to be put in place that would ensure sustainable funding while maintaining the Court’s independence. In view of the current financial constraints, Sierra Leone entreats Fifth Committee delegates to consider and approve the Secretary‑General’s request, thus enabling the Court to continue to carry out its mandate in the coming year, he said.
HASEEB GOHAR (Pakistan), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that despite modest progress in reducing poverty, the fight against extreme poverty is far from over. In some ways, it is getting harder and harder, he said, citing a World Bank report that stated that nearly half the world’s population lives on less than $5.50 a day. Revamping the United Nations development system represents the most comprehensive effort in decades to strengthen the Organization’s capacity to support Member States in pursuing the 2030 Agenda and to address such challenges. Going forward, he said poverty eradication should remain the overarching goal of the United Nations development system, with an abiding commitment from all Member States, especially traditional donors, to deliver adequate, predictable and sustainable financing. He stressed the importance of accountability and transparency, as well as equitable geographic representation and gender balance in all appointments and the role of intergovernmental bodies.
WEN DONG (China), turning to the topic of special political missions, noted that the proportion of funds from the United Nations regular budget for these missions has continued to increase. The budget preparations should be reformed to be more precise and scientific, he said, and there should be better supervision of these budget matters and greater attention paid to performance and results. The Chinese delegation has noted the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on this issue.
HUIJUN GAO (China), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the funding of the resident coordinator system is an important issue of United Nations reform. Predictable and adequate resources should be provided. He noted the issues that the Advisory Committee has flagged and said his delegation will discuss them in the informal consultations. China hopes the Secretariat will improve its oversight of the resident coordinator system, he said, stressing that the new system should not compete with existing resources. Member States have the right to oversee the system and any hiring of staff should take into account geographical distribution.
KIRA CHRISTIANNE DANGANAN AZUCENA (Philippines), associating herself with the Group of 77, stressed the need for a more stable, robust, predictable and sustainable funding arrangement for a reinvigorated resident coordinator system. Such an arrangement must address the decline of core contributions while putting no additional burdens on programme countries. Funding should align with national development priorities and strategies with a view to reflecting national ownership of their development. She asked for more details about the specific benefits of having a unified mechanism for intergovernmental oversight of cost‑sharing arrangements, as well as on ways to streamline staffing patterns and levels of certain positions that might become redundant. She went on to say that the Philippines supports the Advisory Committee’s proposal for the next report from the Secretary‑General to include an update on efficiency gains achieved.
JESÚS VELÁZQUEZ CASTILLO (Mexico), on the resident coordinator system, said his country agrees that it should have adequate resources to provide Member States with high‑quality support for implementing the 2030 Agenda. Mexico hopes that the upcoming negotiations on the item will allow the requested $13.6 million to be appropriated.
EVGENY KALUGIN (Russian Federation), making a brief comment regarding the review of budget estimates for the resident coordinator system, reminded delegates that the procedural rules of the General Assembly were violated when resolution 72/279 was adopted. Given that it contained decisions with financial implications for the United Nations budget, it should have been discussed beforehand by the Fifth Committee and the ACABQ, he said, adding that the Russian Federation is ready to engage in constructive discussions on the topic during informal consultations.
GILLIAN BIRD (Australia), Fifth Committee Chair, updating the Committee on its work, congratulated delegates for reaching informal agreements on four items, but reminded them that a large volume of work remains to be completed before the current session is due to conclude on 14 December. She encouraged them to give their maximum efforts to have frank and open discussions on some of the less complex items in order to conclude as soon as possible. She added that she will be meeting this week with the coordinators of the various informal consultations to discuss how the Bureau can be of further assistance.