The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) took up a raft of reports from the Secretary-General today on topics as varied as the revised budget for the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) to the ongoing deployment of flexible workspace at Headquarters, in addition to the programme budget implications of several draft resolutions going before the General Assembly.
On UNAMID, Uganda’s representative, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the Group will fully support the Secretary-General’s proposal for total resource requirement of $727.52 million for 2018‑19, after the Security Council in July extended the Mission’s mandate until the end of June 2019 while reducing the number of troops deployed in the field with an eye towards an eventual exit.
Sudan’s delegate, associating himself with the African Group, said that, going forward, development projects which take into account the root causes of the conflict in Darfur must be established, and the harmful effects of climate change and natural disasters, including drought, must be addressed. He went on to restate the importance Sudan attaches to increasing cooperation between the United Nations and African Union, adding that his Government “will spare no effort to achieve peace and development”.
Several representatives took the floor to discuss the flexible workplace initiative, which aims to reduce costs by reconfiguring office space at Headquarters in a way that has enabled the Organization to vacate rented premises in other parts of New York City. So far, 14 floors of the 39‑storey Secretariat building have been reconfigured.
Noting that one of the reasons given for the introduction of flexible workplace was to achieve increased productivity and efficiency, Egypt’s delegate — on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China — said the Group supports a recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) for an independent evaluation of the flexible workplace project, including its impact on productivity and staff well-being and lessons learned.
The representative of the United States said her delegation remains a strong supporter of flexible workplace arrangements, highlighting that, “while the investment to date has been significant, the benefits have thus far outweighed our initial investment”. The United States remains committed to the implementation of the flexible workplace at Headquarters as a way to bring the Organization closer to the twenty-first century by accommodating smart, flexible work arrangements, she added.
The representative of Switzerland, speaking also on behalf of Liechtenstein, expressed deep concern about the chronic lack of resources allocated to United Nations human rights activities. “We firmly believe that the United Nations regular budget should at the very least cover all costs of activities mandated by the Human Rights Council and other relevant intergovernmental bodies,” she said, adding that adequate financial support for the Human Rights Council is essential for its success and effectiveness.
Myanmar’s representative, noting the Secretary-General’s request for a programme budget for multiple mechanisms arising from two Human Rights Council resolutions, said her country did not accept those resolutions “as they serve no purpose other than a political tool intended yet again to single out Myanmar”. Allocating a budget for multiple mechanisms on only one country means “a waste of scarce resources of the United Nations” to satisfy the political interests of the sponsors of those mandates.
The representative of the Russian Federation referred to a statement from the Secretary-General concerning the programme budget implications of a draft resolution titled “Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine”. He said his country’s Constitution stipulates that Crimea and Sevastopol are integral parts of the Russian Federation and therefore cannot form part of the mandate of an Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) mission. “If there is no intergovernmental decision to establish such a field mission, the Russian Federation sees no reason to allocate funds for it from the United Nations regular budget that is funded by all the United Nations Member States,” he said.
Chandramouli Ramanathan, Assistant Secretary-General and Acting Controller, presented the Secretary-General’s reports on the topics. Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Chair of the ACABQ, presented all its related reports, except the report regarding UNAMID, which was introduced by Babou Sene, Vice-Chair of the Advisory Committee.
The Fifth Committee will meet again at a date and time to be announced.
Financing of African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur
CHANDRAMOULI RAMANATHAN, Assistant Secretary-General and Acting Controller, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the revised budget for the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) for the period from 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019 (document A/73/488). The proposed 2018/2019 revised budget for the Operation amounts to $727.5 million, down 20.1 per cent from a year earlier, reflecting the repatriation of uniformed personnel and the abolishment of civilian personnel posts, in accordance with the Operation’s reconfiguration authorized in relevant Security Council resolutions. During 2018/2019, the Operation proposes to establish a new structure of the State liaison functions as part of a transition concept for the withdrawal of the Operation over a two-year period. Under the new structure, UNAMID will collaborate with the United Nations country team to sustain peace in Darfur and enable the Government of Sudan, the country team, civil society partners and international actors to prepare for the Operation’s envisaged exit. Considering the $385.7 million previously authorized to maintain the Operation from 1 July to 31 December 2018, an additional $341.8 million would need to be assessed for the following six-month period.
BABOU SENE, Vice-Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced its related report (document A/73/656), saying that its recommendations would reduce by $2 million the operational costs proposed by the Secretary-General. The Advisory Committee trusts that the drawdown of UNAMID’s civilian personnel will go ahead as swiftly possible and as planned, in line with Security Council resolutions 2429 (2018) and 2363 (2017). At the same time, it expects the Mission will undertake capacity-building activities to support national staff during the drawdown. UNAMID should also avail itself of the experience gained by closed peacekeeping missions, and strengthen efforts to reduce its overall environmental footprint, as requested in General Assembly resolutions 69/307 and 70/286.
CAROLINE NALWANGA (Uganda), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that having taken note of the abolishment of both military and civilian personnel posts, particularly the elimination of 1,183 civilian posts and positions, “our expectation would be that the 942 affected national staff would be assisted through capacity-building and conducting of job fairs, among other measures, to equip them for seeking gainful employment”. She called for the further nationalization of posts as well as a timely recruitment to fill all vacant posts.
She noted that the Advisory Committee has asked UNAMID to draw on the experience gained in the liquidation of other missions, such as the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). The Group also requests that the Secretary-General ensure UNAMID’s environmental footprint is reduced through adequate, timely treatment of contaminated soil, she said, welcoming the greening initiative involving the planting of some 500,000 trees. The Group will fully support the Secretary-General’s proposal for total resource requirement of $727.52 million for 2018/2019, she said.
MUSTAFA ABUALI AHMED MOHAMMED (Sudan), associating himself with the African Group, thanked the Security Council for its judicious consideration of UNAMID’s exit strategy and for ensuring it is a success story. Going forward, he said, the Government is aware of the importance of peacebuilding and increasing stability in Darfur. Development projects that take into account the root causes of the conflict must be set up, and the harmful effects of climate change and natural disasters, including drought, must be addressed. He encouraged the international community, the United Nations and donor countries to extend support that would help the Government carry out essential projects so as to consolidate peace in Darfur.
He stressed that the Government of Sudan assumes primary responsibility for protecting its citizens and ensuring sovereignty across the territory, a task made difficult by the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. Stating that UNAMID has yet to fulfil its environmental footprint obligations, he said Sudan calls for a joint mission — comprising the Operation and the Government — that would evaluate its environmental footprint. He called for a fresh evaluation of all UNAMID posts and requested that national posts be used to make savings. He also called for fewer international posts, in line with UNAMID’s drawdown. Many Sudanese have worked for the Operation for many years and they should assume international posts, he said, thus addressing the issue of capacity-building. He went on to restate the importance Sudan attaches to increasing cooperation between the United Nations and African Union, adding that his Government “will spare no effort to achieve peace and development”.
Flexible Workplace, 2018-2019 Revised Estimates/Programme Budget Implications
Mr. RAMANATHAN then introduced, in one intervention, a number of reports from the Secretary-General pertaining to the Organization’s programme budget for the biennium 2018-2019.
He first introduced the third annual progress report on the implementation of flexible workplace strategies at Headquarters (document A/73/730), stating that to date, 14 floors of the 39-storey Secretariat building have been reconfigured to flexible workplace, with one more floor currently being reconfigured. While adding capacity for 690 staff, the strategy has enabled the Secretariat to cut $16.3 million from its annual rental costs after vacating two leased buildings in midtown Manhattan. The progress report sets out a schedule and costs for completing the remaining floors in 2019 and 2020, and gives details of a 2018 staff survey that shows a higher level of satisfaction from the previous year.
Going forward, he said the Secretary-General is requesting the General Assembly to approve implementation of further phases of the flexible workplace strategies; to approve the continuation of three project team positions; to authorize the Secretary‑General to enter into commitments of up to $12.70 million for 2019 project costs; and to appropriate $6.59 million from the 2018-2019 programme budget.
He then turned to the Secretary-General’s report on the revised estimates relating to the Office of the Victims’ Rights Advocate (document A/73/412). Recalling that the General Assembly, through its resolution 72/262A, approved $665,000 for the office for 2018 only, he said the Secretary-General is proposing 2019 resource requirements of $836,100, representing a charge against the contingency fund, plus $94,100 to be offset from the income-from-staff-assessment section of the 2018-2019 programme budget. He added that the report proposes turning four general temporary assistance-funded positions in the Office into established posts.
He then introduced the Secretary-General’s report on revised estimates resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted by the Human Rights Council at its thirty-seventh, thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth sessions and twenty-eighth special session (document A/73/477). In support of the implementation of 55 resolutions adopted by the General Assembly, the Secretary-General is requesting an additional appropriation of $29.10 million, representing a charge against the contingency fund for 2018-2019. The Assembly’s approval is also requested for the establishment of one P-3 temporary post as well as an additional $60,000 from the staff assessment section of the 2018-2019 programme budget, to be offset by an equivalent amount from the income-from-staff-assessment section.
Next, he introduced nine statements submitted by the Secretary-General in accordance with rule 153 of the rules of procedure of the General Assembly on the programme budget implications for 2018-2019 of draft resolutions presented by several of the Assembly’s six main committees.
The first statement (document A/C.5/73/8) pertained to draft resolution A/C.4/73/L.9 titled “Effects of atomic radiation”. If adopted, that text would request the Secretary-General to strengthen support for the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation within existing resources. Doing so would, she said, require an additional $24,900 due to the proposed reclassification of a P-4 post to the P-5 level as Deputy Secretary, effective 1 January 2019. In addition, $4,400 would be required under the staff assessment section of the 2018–2019 budget, to be offset by a corresponding amount under the income from staff assessment section.
He then presented the statement (document A/C.5/73/9) regarding draft resolution A/C.1/73/L.37 titled “Advancing responsible State behaviour in cyberspace in the context of international security”. Among other things, that text would have the Assembly request the Secretary-General, with help from a group of governmental experts, to continue to study possible cooperative measures to address information security threats. That text would require an additional appropriation of $206,700 in 2018-2019, representing a charge against the contingency fund. Additional requirements of $763,800 and $325,100 would also be needed for meetings of the group of governmental experts in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
He then introduced the Secretary-General’s statement (documents A/C.5/73/10 and A/C.5/73/10/Corr.1) on draft decision A/C.1/73/L.22/Rev.1 pertaining to the convening — no later than 2019 for a duration of one week at Headquarters — of a conference on establishing a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. If adopted, the decision would require additional resource requirements for 2019 totalling $1,013,200 — a sum that would require an additional appropriation for 2018–2019 to be approved by the Assembly, representing a charge against the contingency fund.
The statement (document A/C.5/73/12) on draft resolution A/C.6/73/L.22 regarding the report of the International Law Commission on the work of its seventieth session was then introduced. In adopting that text, the General Assembly would decide that the Commission’s next session would be held in Geneva from 29 April to 7 June and from 8 July to 9 August 2019, requiring additional resources of $128,100 that would represent a charge against the contingency fund and, as such, would require additional appropriation for 2018–2019.
He then turned to the Secretary-General’s statement (document A/C.5/73/13) on draft resolution A/C.3/73/L.51 titled “Situation of human rights in Myanmar”. If adopted, the text would request the Secretary-General to extend the appointment of the Special Envoy on Myanmar and provide all assistance necessary to enable the Special Envoy to effectively discharge her mandate and brief Member States every six months, or as otherwise requested or warranted by the situation on the ground. The Special Envoy on Myanmar would continue to function on a when-actually-employed basis, supported by a small team based in Nay Pyi Taw and at Headquarters in New York.
If adopted, that text would require an additional resource requirement of $1.23 million, net of staff assessment, for the period from 1 January to 31 December 2019. The resources would cover the salaries of the Special Envoy (Under-Secretary-General), a Head of Office (D-1), two Political Affairs Officers (1 P-5 and 1 P-4), and one Assistant (Local level), as well as other operational requirements. Approval is being sought in the Secretary-General report titled “Estimates in respect of special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council” (A/73/352/Add.1), now before the Assembly.
Next, he introduced the statement (document A/C.5/73/14) on draft resolution A/C.3/73/L.48 titled “Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine”. If adopted by the Assembly, the text would provide additional resource requirements of $79,200 under section 24, Human rights, from the 2018-2019 programme budget and require the Assembly to approve an additional appropriation for the budget cycle, representing a charge against the contingency fund.
He also introduced the statement (document A/C.5/73/15) on draft resolution A/C.5/73/L.52/Rev.1 titled “A global call for concrete action for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action”. If adopted, the resolution would provide additional resource requirements of $447,500 ($292,200 recurrent and $155,300 non-recurrent) under the programme budget for the biennium 2018–2019. That would include $423,700 ($290,100 recurrent and $133,600 non-recurrent) under section 24, Human rights; $21,000 (non-recurrent) under section 28, Public information; and $2,800 ($2,100 recurrent and $700 non-recurrent) under section 29F, Administration, Geneva.
The $447,500 would require the Assembly to approve the appropriation for 2018–2019 as a charge against the contingency fund. The Assembly would also be requested to approve the establishment of one P-4 post under section 24, Human rights, effective 1 January 2019. An additional appropriation of $11,000 would be required under section 36, Staff assessment, of the biennium 2018–2019, to be offset by a corresponding amount under section 1, Income from staff assessment.
He also introduced the Secretary-General’s statement (document A/C.5/73/16) on draft resolution A/73/L.23 titled “Cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States”. If adopted, additional resources of $267,100 to provide for two posts and other operational needs would be required under section 3, Political affairs, of the 2018–2019 programme budget, and $20,300, under section 36, Staff assessment, to be offset by a corresponding amount under income section 1. In addition, two posts (1 P-5 and 1 Local level) would be established and based in Cairo.
He then turned to the statement (document A/C.5/73/17) on draft resolution A/C.2/73/L.49 titled “Report of the United Nations Environment Assembly of the United Nations Environment Programme”. If adopted, the text would require the Assembly to provide additional resource requirements of $323,400 under section 14, Environment, from biennium 2018–2019. The amount of $323,400 would require an additional appropriation for the biennium 2018–2019 to be approved by the General Assembly, representing a charge against the contingency fund.
Lastly, he introduced the Secretary-General’s report (document A/C.5/73/18) on the consolidated statement of programme budget implications and revised estimates charged against the contingency fund. He reminded the Fifth Committee that in its resolutions 71/274 and 71/262, the General Assembly approved charges totalling $39.4 million against the approved level of $40.5 million for the contingency fund — leaving a balance of $1.1 million in the fund. Potential new charges amount to $78.9 million, after taking the Advisory Committee’s recommendations into account. Despite efforts to absorb additional requirements, he said, their magnitude failed to allow for full absorption. Alternative options for reallocation or reduction of resources between high- and low-priority mandated programme elements will therefore require the Assembly’s approval, he explained.
CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Chair of the Advisory Committee, presented its related reports, starting with flexible workspace (document A/73/635). Noting that the Secretary-General, in his report, included no productivity assessment, and that workplace satisfaction is being used as a proxy for productivity, he said the ACABQ recommends that the General Assembly request an independent evaluation of the flexible workplace project, including its impact on productivity and staff well-being, as well as lessons learned, to be included in the next progress report. He added that the Advisory Committee recommends approval of the Secretary-General’s proposal that $18.81 million in rental savings be applied to project costs, with the remaining $6.59 million to be applied in 2019.
He turned next to the Advisory Committee’s report vis-à-vis the Office of the Victims’ Rights Advocate (document A/73/649), recommending approval of the Secretary-General’s proposals while emphasizing the need to strengthen coordination and harmonization, avoiding fragmentation and ensuring coherence between Headquarters and the field as well as among United Nations system entities.
On the revised estimates resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted by the Human Rights Council (document A/73/637), he said that, in view of the low implementation rate of expenditures during the current period, the Advisory Committee recommends a reduction of 5 per cent for resolution S 38/20 regarding technical assistance to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and accountability concerning events in the Kasai region; 5 per cent for resolution S-28-1 on violations of international law in the context of large-scale protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including East Jerusalem; and 10 per cent for resolution 37/31 on the situation of human rights in South Sudan.
He went on to introduce the ACABQ’s reports on the programme budget implications contained in the Secretary-General’s nine statements, stating that the Advisory Committee is not recommending any adjustments with respect to the draft resolutions on State behaviour in cyberspace (document A/73/639); the convening of a conference on a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons (document A/73/640); the report of the International Law Commission (document A/73/643); the situation of human rights in Myanmar (document A/73/638); a global call for concrete action for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (document A/73/648); and cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States (document A/73/647).
With respect to the programme budget implications of the draft resolution on the effects of atomic radiation, he said the Advisory Committee (document A/73/642) recommends against the proposed reclassification of one P-4 post to the P-5 level at this stage and encourages the Secretary-General to speed up the completion of the recruitment process of a Secretary of the Scientific Committee at the D-1 level.
Concerning the draft resolution on the situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, he said the ACABQ (document A/73/650) recommends a reduction under staff travel.
Turning to the draft resolution on the report of the United Nations Environment Assembly, he said the ACABQ (document A/73/646) questions whether a statement on programme budget implication should have been submitted, given that the draft resolution only refers to activities that have been ongoing since 2013. It therefore recommends against the related additional resource requirements for $323,400.
With respect to the list of potential changes to the contingency fund, the Advisory Committee (document A/73/655) trusts that there will be an update in the context of the Assembly’s consideration of the present report. It also recommends that the Assembly consider the potential charges related to new and expanded mandates against the contingency fund and offer appropriate guidance to the Secretary-General.
MOHAMED FOUAD AHMED (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, noted that 14 floors of the Secretariat building were reconfigured by the end of 2018 at an expected cost of $34 million. This has created additional space for 690 staff, enabling the Organization to terminate three leases in commercial buildings. The Group reiterates, however, that flexible workplace should never have been simply a matter of space management, but a holistic arrangement of physical space, information and communication technology, human resources and other support programmes. Noting that one of the reasons given for the introduction of flexible workplace was to achieve increased productivity and efficiency, he expressed concern that the most recent surveys and studies have shown discrepancies about team productivity between junior and senior managers. The Group supports the ACABQ recommendation for an independent evaluation of the flexible workplace project, including its impact on productivity and staff well-being and lessons learned.
The Group notes that the total cost was projected to be $45.6 million initially, but the actual expenditure through 31 July 2018 was $30.44 million and the total is estimated to reach $54.98 million, he said. The Group reiterates that a well-established, reliable and predictable business case is essential for the Fifth Committee’s consideration of costly major transformation initiatives. The Group further seeks information on the projected self-financing nature of this project. As the artificial time pressure of leases in non-United Nations buildings has eased with the termination of the lease in the Innovation Luggage building, and the respective rental savings are factored into the 2019 budget, the Group will consider the needs for this project against the backdrop of a holistic consideration of all construction projects amid the current financial constraints.
ALEXANDRA ELENA BAUMANN (Switzerland), also speaking on behalf of Liechtenstein, expressed deep concern about the chronic lack of resources allocated to United Nations human rights activities. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), as much as 10 per cent of officially mandated activities that ought to be financed by the regular budget are currently funded through voluntary contributions. “We firmly believe that the United Nations regular budget should at the very least cover all costs of activities mandated by the Human Rights Council and other relevant intergovernmental bodies,” she said. It should also allow the OHCHR to fulfil Member States’ requests for technical assistance and to ensure a proper field presence. Adequate financial support for the Human Rights Council is essential for its success and effectiveness.
SHAWN DUNCAN (United States) noted with appreciation the offices throughout the Organization that have already transitioned to new modes of working thanks to the implementation of flexible workspace arrangements. The United States is encouraged to see client feedback remains an integral part of the process and that the project team continues to address challenges in a timely, comprehensive way. She said her delegation remains a strong supporter of flexible workplace arrangements, highlighting that “while the investment to date has been significant, the benefits have thus far outweighed our initial investment”. These include implementing efficiencies and maximizing the utilization of space in one of the most expensive cities in the world. The United States also remains committed to the implementation of the flexible workplace at the United Nations Headquarters as a way to bring the Organization closer to the twenty-first century by accommodating smart, flexible work arrangements.
ZAR ZAR MIN THAW (Myanmar) noted that the Secretary-General has requested a programme budget for multiple mechanisms arising from Human Rights Council resolutions 37/32 and 39/2. “We did not accept these Human Rights Council resolutions as they serve no purpose other than a political tool intended yet again to single out Myanmar,” she said, explaining that her country is already under the scrutiny of at least seven United Nations mechanisms. The ongoing Independent Mechanism alone would require 62 staff headed by an Assistant Secretary-General with an annual budget of $26.73 million. Allocating a budget for multiple mechanisms on only one country means “a waste of scarce resources of the United Nations” to satisfy the political interests of the sponsors of those mandates. She expressed doubt that any political mission established without the consent or cooperation of the country concerned would produce any positive and tangible results. The duplication of work will place an enormous burden on Member States and waste their time and money. The United Nations should allocate its limited budget to the alleviation of poverty for millions of people and other development purposes to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
DMITRY S. CHUMAKOV (Russian Federation) said that his country’s Constitution stipulates that Crimea and Sevastopol are integral parts of the Russian Federation and thus could not form part of the OHCHR mission’s mandate. His country respects and protects human rights throughout its territory, including in Crimea and Sevastopol, whose inhabitants have freely chosen reunification with the Russian Federation in full compliance with international law. He requested an official text of the intergovernmental decision to create an OHCHR field mission in Ukraine. “If there is no intergovernmental decision to establish such a field mission, the Russian Federation sees no reason to allocate funds for it from the United Nations regular budget that is funded by all the United Nations Member States,” he said. Further, he asked the Secretariat to provide written answers to his delegation’s questions about the administration and budget of such a field mission, including its terms of reference, organizational chart, budget documents from 2014 to 2018, the list of donors with the amount of voluntary contributions from 2014 to 2018, and a comprehensive list of assets the mission possesses, including drones, surveillance systems, armoured vehicles, helicopters or other means of transportation for dignitaries. He hoped that after the answers are received, delegations will be able to objectively reconsider the draft resolution on financing an OHCHR Mission in Ukraine and reject the allocation from the regular budget. Regarding flexible workplace, he requested more details on the study into worker satisfaction.
GILLIAN BIRD (Australia), Committee Chair, recalled the General Assembly’s decision on 13 December to extend the work of the Fifth Committee to 21 December. She reminded delegations that the Committee must conclude its negotiations by 19 December prior to formal approval of all draft resolutions — and their adoption by the Assembly — on 21 December. Given the large number of items still open, “almost continuous negotiations” will be needed — including evenings and over the coming weekend — in order for the Committee to conclude its work.
She went on to thank Mr. Ruiz and Mr. Sene for their many years of service with the Advisory Committee, as today will be the last time that they appear before the Committee before leaving at year’s end to pursue other interests.
Mr. RUIZ thanked the Committee and its various Chairs over the years for their support. He also personally thanked Mr. Sene, whose support has been invaluable.