Secretary-General Presents First Annual Budget in Over 45 Years to Fifth Committee, Proposing $2.87 Billion for 2020 Focused on Strategic Priorities, Reforms

GA/AB/4330
8 October 2019
Seventy-fourth Session, 2nd & 3rd Meetings (AM & PM)

Secretary-General Presents First Annual Budget in Over 45 Years to Fifth Committee, Proposing $2.87 Billion for 2020 Focused on Strategic Priorities, Reforms

Delegates in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today began discussing the proposed programme budget for 2020 totalling $2.87 billion, which represents no real-term growth from 2019 but reflects the strategic priorities and reforms of the United Nations.

Appearing before the Committee to present the first annual budget in more than 45 years, Secretary-General António Guterres said that the Organization’s efforts in 2020 will focus on implementing reforms of its peace and security pillar, development system and management.

Describing the move from a biennial to annual budget cycle as “a huge step forward to more realistic budgeting and a greater focus on results,” he emphasized that it will improve the accuracy of resource estimates and enable quicker adaptation to changes in mandates.  From 1974 to 2019, budgets were prepared every two years.

If preliminary recosting — adjusting the budget for currency exchange fluctuations, inflation and other unforeseen costs — is included, the overall budget will amount to $2.94 billion, he said.  The proposal includes $643.9 million for special political missions and calls for a net decrease of 96 posts.  To maximize support for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Secretary-General proposed to increase funding by $3.3 million, about 10 per cent, for technical cooperation projects.  He also called for expanding staff training and development by $2.4 million to support the culture change and capacity development that underpin the success of the reforms.

Further, he suggested outlays of $17.8 million, including 60 temporary posts, for the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria, as well as $18.2 million to support activities resulting from resolutions of the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council and Human Rights Council.  The Organization has also made reductions of $59.2 million that represent meaningful savings without affecting the full and effective implementation of mandates, Mr. Guterres stressed.

He went on to underscore that for the first time, the budget document includes the “plan outline” highlighting the policy orientation of the United Nations, the longer-term objectives and strategy — which revolve around the transformative agendas set by Member States — and future challenges.  Also for the first time, it incorporates both programme planning and performance, as well as post and non-post resource requirements, allowing the Secretariat to shorten the cycle by approximately two years and bringing its plans, budgets and performance reports closer to the point of implementation.

However, he warned against the increasing cash shortage plaguing the Organization, explaining that for the current biennium, budget implementation is no longer being driven by programme planning but by the availability of cash at hand.  In 2019, managers have been instructed to adjust their hiring and non-post expenditures owing to liquidity constraints.  This undermines mandate delivery, he warned, noting that the Organization is entering November without enough cash to cover payrolls.

Introducing the related report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), Committee Chairman Cihan Terzi said that the new budget format does not promote overall budgetary coherence in terms of drawing clear-cut explicit links between resource proposals and the mandated activities of the Secretariat.  There will be additional elements, not contained in the budget proposal, that will impact the overall level of resources required for 2020, he added.

In the ensuing discussion, an observer for the State of Palestine, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the Group regrets the lack of adherence to key established budgetary procedures and practices.  In particular, the sequential nature of the review processes conducted by the Committee for Programme and Coordination and the Advisory Committee was not preserved.  The proposed resource requirements are based on a programme plan that has not yet been approved by the Assembly, undermining the link between resource proposals and the Organization’s mandated activities, he said.

Acknowledging the 2030 target date for implementing the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he went on to reiterate the Group’s call for strengthening the development pillar, voicing concerns that the budget proposal contains cuts to bodies that are integral to the pillar, such as the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the regional commissions.

The United States — the largest financial contributor to the Organization —will shine a light on needed efficiencies in all parts of the budget, its representative said, declaring: “We will not limit or ringfence our review for efficiencies.”  Despite the realignment and creation of four new departments as part of the Secretary-General’s reform, few departments and offices embraced the opportunity to identify and eliminate duplication, she pointed out, also expressing hope that the Organization will shrink add-ons and end the practice of recosting.

The speaker from the European Union said that the bloc will seek to ensure that collective decisions will enable the Secretary-General to address threats to international peace and security, defend the principles of the rule of law as well as human rights, support the Sustainable Development Goals and take action against global warming.  “The brightest minds of the Secretariat should be focused on reform and mandate delivery, not on liquidity management and daily cash survival,” he said, urging all Member States to pay their full contributions in a timely manner to avoid making an overly rigid budget process even more inflexible.

Singapore’s delegate, speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the bloc firmly believes that the Organization’s resources must be commensurate with the mandates it has been tasked with delivering.  “Arbitrary cuts to the proposed budget or the deliberate withholding of resources should have no place in the United Nations, but it is a reality,” he said.

The representative of the Russian Federation said his delegation agrees with the Advisory Committee that the new budget format does not help Member States analyse the document.  The structure and format of the budget are very important and must provide more clarity, he pointed out.

Syria’s delegate rejected the proposal to fund temporary posts in the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria out of the regular budget, arguing that it is an illegal entity established by the General Assembly, which has no prerogative on the matters within the Security Council’s purview.

In a similar vein, Myanmar’s delegate expressed reservation about funding the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, as it rejected the mechanism’s creation since the beginning.  At least seven mechanisms focus on Myanmar with a total spending of more than $35 million from the precarious regular budget resources, he pointed out, adding that one of the Fifth Committee’s main responsibilities is to ensure adequate resources to implement delivery of mandates in the most effective and efficient way.

In other business, the Fifth Committee approved a draft resolution (document A/C.5/74/L.2) by which the General Assembly would agree that the failure of the Comoros, Sao Tome and Principe and Somalia to pay the full minimum amount necessary to avoid the application of Article 19 of the United Nations Charter was due to conditions beyond their control and thus decide that these Member States are permitted to vote in the Assembly until the end of its seventy-fourth session.

Collen Vixen Kelapile (Botswana), Chair of the fifty-ninth session of the Committee for Programme and Coordination, introduced the Committee’s report of the session, held in June.

Also speaking today were representatives of Switzerland (also on behalf of Liechtenstein), Canada, China, Qatar, Japan and Mexico.

The Fifth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Friday, 11 October, to hear a statement from the Secretariat on the Organization’s financial situation.  It will also discuss the reports on the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), the Independent Audit Advisory Committee and the United Nations Office for Partnerships.

Programme Planning and Proposed Programme Budget for 2020

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, introduced the Organization’s proposed programme budget for 2020, (documents A/74/6 (Plan Outline), A/74/6(Introduction) and Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and Corr. 1, 6, 7, 8 and Corr. 1, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 29A, 29B, 29C, 29E, 29F, 29G, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36 and Income Sections 1, 2, 3).  He stressed that the Organization’s efforts in 2020 will focus on implementing reforms of its peace and security pillar, development system and management, capturing the benefits and making adjustments if the reforms are not on track.  “To do this, we need adequate and sustained financing,” he said.  The peace and security reform is providing unified leadership that integrates peacebuilding more closely into all activities.  The reform of the United Nations development system is well advanced, aimed at strengthening the effectiveness, cohesion, accountability and capacities of the system to better support Member States and help countries expedite progress in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through the establishment of an independent and empowered development coordination system, centred on Resident Coordinators.

On management reform, new internal accountability frameworks are being put in place to improve, standardize and speed up processes, he said.  The new delegation of authority framework is operating, and various steps are being taken to support managers in the exercise of their new decision-making authority.  The Performance Management Board will convene soon to assess managers’ performance.  The new management dashboards will improve transparency in the use of resources and programme delivery.  The first Secretariat-wide evaluation policy will ensure that programme performance is assessed annually.  “To systematically measure our progress across the three reform streams, we are using an internal benefits management tracking register.  This will enable us to make course corrections and move away from focusing on structures and processes towards delivery and results,” he said.

In 2017, Member States approved the biggest change to the United Nations planning and budgeting process since the 1970s, he said.  “The move from a biennial to an annual programme budget is a huge step forward to more realistic budgeting and a greater focus on results.  It will improve the accuracy of resource estimates and enable more quick adaptation to changes in mandates,” he said.  The General Assembly decided on a trial period for the annual budget until 2022, and the 2020 budget has already benefited from thorough discussions in the Committee for Programme and Coordination and in the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).  The proposal for 2020 includes information on all three reform pillars and how they are expected to contribute to concrete results.

In resolution 72/266, the General Assembly decided to divide the proposed programme budget into three parts, including a plan outline, programme plan and post and non-post resource requirements.  The budget proposal for 2020 is directly aligned with the priorities established by the General Assembly.  For the first time, the document includes the plan outline, which highlights the policy orientation of the United Nations, the longer-term objectives and strategy — which revolve around the transformative agendas set by Member States — and future challenges.  Turning to the programme plan, he said that, for the first time, the budget document incorporates both programme planning and performance, as well as post and non-post resource requirements.  This has allowed the Secretariat to shorten the cycle by approximately two years, bringing its plans, budgets and performance reports closer to the point of implementation.  The proposal contains richer and more tangible information on the Organization’s work and on how the Organization contributes to results.

The third part details post and non-post resource requirements, he said.  “To do our work and achieve our planned results, we require $2.87 billion, which represents no growth in real terms compared to 2019, despite additional initiatives and newly mandated activities,” he said, explaining that this includes $71.6 million for preliminary recosting, resulting in total requirements of $2.94 billion.  The proposal calls for a net decrease of 96 posts.  It includes $643.9 million for special political missions.  To maximize support for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Secretary-General proposed to increase funding by $3.3 million, about 10 per cent, for technical cooperation projects.  These projects will meet the increased demands of Member States in a responsive and agile fashion and will complement the reformed Resident Coordinator system.  He also called for expanding staff training and development by $2.4 million to support the culture change and capacity development that underpin the success of the reforms.  “Investing in staff training and development will be crucial to achieve the required cultural shift towards results,” he said.

The United Nations is currently operating three investigative mechanisms covering Myanmar, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Syria, he continued.  He proposed a budget of $17.8 million, including 60 temporary posts, for the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria.  The General Assembly entrusted new and expanded mandates to the Organization, resulting in budgetary proposals totalling $18.2 million, to support activities resulting from resolutions of the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council and Human Rights Council.  The Organization has also made reductions of $59.2 million that represent meaningful savings without affecting the full and effective implementation of mandates.  And for the first time, the Organization has leveraged Umoja to prepare the proposed programme budget.  Indeed, Umoja is one of the enablers of an annual budget and will also facilitate the monitoring of implementation globally.

“This budget reflects profound reflection on the path ahead and deep commitment to our shared work,” he emphasized, warning however that the Organization is facing a severe financial crisis.  “The equation is simple: without cash, the budget cannot be properly implemented,” he said, explaining that for the current biennium, budget implementation is no longer being driven by programme planning but by the availability of cash at hand.  In 2019, managers have been instructed to adjust their hiring and non-post expenditures owing to liquidity constraints.  This undermines mandate delivery and goes against efforts to focus less on inputs and more on results, he said, urging Member States not to reduce the requirements for 2020 based on past expenditure patterns.  This would only worsen an already alarming situation.

This month, the Organization will reach the deepest deficit of the decade, he said.  “We risk exhausting the closed peacekeeping cash reserves and entering November without enough cash to cover payrolls,” he warned, adding that last week, he had to introduce extraordinary measures to cope with the record-level shortage of cash.  Vacant posts cannot be filled, travel will be limited to essential travel only, meetings may have to be cancelled or deferred, webcasting of non-mandated events will not be available and support to meetings will have to be adjusted.  The Secretariat will no longer be able to support any non-mandated events after 6 p.m.  These steps will affect operations in New York, Geneva, Vienna and Nairobi, and at the regional economic commissions.  “Our work and our reforms are at risk,” he warned, reiterating his call for paying financial obligations on time and in full.

CIHAN TERZI, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced the Advisory Committee’s first report on the proposed programme budget for 2020 (document A/74/7).  This document covers the estimated resource requirements for the United Nations Secretariat, except the detailed review of proposed resources for special political missions, which will be introduced separately, he said.  The Advisory Committee notes that there will be additional elements, not contained in the budget proposal being delivered today, that will impact the overall level of resources required for 2020.  The Advisory Committee believes further improvements are needed to enhance the clarity of resource changes included in future budget proposals, particularly resources arising from efficiency measures, productivity gains and/or technical improvements.  The Advisory Committee recommends the General Assembly request the Secretary-General to include clear, comprehensive explanations of the approved methodologies to be used in programme budget proposals to be submitted in the 2021 and 2022 budget periods.  Overall, the Advisory Committee considers that the new budget format does not promote overall budgetary coherence in terms of drawing clear-cut explicit linkages between resource proposals and the mandated activities of the Secretariat.

COLLEN VIXEN KELAPILE (Botswana), Chair of the fifty-ninth session of the Committee for Programme and Coordination, introduced the Committee’s report of the session, held from 3 June to 28 June 2019 (document A/74/16).  The report details its review of the Secretary-General’s proposed programme plans for 2020 and performance information for 2018, as well as evaluation reports issued by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).  The Programme and Coordination Committee particularly considered Part I: plan outline, and Part II: programme plans for programmes and subprogrammes for 2020 and programme performance information for 2018.  In view of the differences among Member States on some aspects of Part II, the Committee recommends the Assembly review all the programme plans (1-28) of the proposed programme budget for 2020 at its seventy-fourth session, under the agenda item “programme planning.”

MAJED S. F. BAMYA, observer for the State of Palestine, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said none of the new and complex tasks facing the Fifth Committee this year is as arduous as the first annual programme plan and budget in nearly 45 years.  Since the adoption of programme budgeting in 1974, the Group has repeatedly stated the importance of programme planning and, later, the role of the Committee for Programme and Coordination in enabling the Assembly to translate the mandates — agreed upon by Member States — into programmes that can be implemented.  As staunch defenders of the Committee for Programme and Coordination, the Group stresses the importance of its work as the main subsidiary organ of the Assembly and Economic and Social Council.

The Group is concerned with the description of the deliberations among the Programme and Coordination Committee members outlined in its report, he said, noting that the decisions the Assembly took in resolution 72/266 have not been followed by the Secretariat as expected.  Many tentative agreements were reached yet no agreement was made ultimately on the programme plan and the evaluation of entities submitted by OIOS.  This is the first time the entirety of the programme plan has been submitted to the Assembly without any recommendations, and the Group expects it will also be the last.  “We cannot help but overemphasize the need for the appropriate sequence of the programme plan and the programme budget,” he said.  He compared the process to any national government not having a national plan and priorities on which to create a budget.  Acknowledging the need for efficiency, the Group is willing to be flexible regarding the closely scheduled informal sessions on the programme plan and the budget.  While these items are closely related, they are not and cannot be viewed as the same.  “It is paramount that negotiations are kept on different tracks,” he said.

Turning to the 2020 proposed programme budget, he said the Group regrets the lack of adherence to key established budgetary procedures and practices.  In particular, the sequential nature of the review processes conducted by the Committee for Programme and Coordination and the Advisory Committee was not preserved.  This has affected the timeliness of the review process and the accuracy of related documents.  As the proposed resource requirements are based on a programme plan that has not yet been approved by the Assembly, it also undermines the link between resource proposals and the Organization’s mandated activities.  Acknowledging the 2030 target date for implementing the goals of the 2030 Agenda, the Group reiterates its call for strengthening the development pillar.  It is concerned that the budget proposal contains cuts to bodies that are integral to the development pillar, such as the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the regional commissions.  The Group also notes that growing imbalance between assessed and voluntary contributions.  It reiterates that all extrabudgetary posts must be administered and managed with the same rigor as regular budget posts.

JOÃO PEDRO VALE DE ALMEIDA, European Union, said that the programme budget under the annual cycle should reflect the rapidly changing world and the need for agility.  It should be strategic as well.  “The brightest minds of the Secretariat should be focused on reform and mandate delivery, not on liquidity management and daily cash survival,” he said, urging all Member States to pay their full contributions in a timely manner to avoid making an overly rigid budget process even more inflexible.  The bloc will seek to make sure that collective decisions will enable the Secretary-General to address threats to international peace and security, defend the principles of the rule of law as well as human rights, support the Sustainable Development Goals and take action against global warming.  “Our decisions should enable you to be flexible, responsive and nimble,” he said, highlighting the role of the Fifth Committee in assisting measures towards better support structures, smarter decentralization, more transparency and stronger accountability.

BURHAN GAFOOR (Singapore), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the transition from a biennial to an annual budget offers an opportunity for the United Nations to improves its budgeting process.  Yet the Organization should not lose sight of established and proven procedures that have created rigorous and healthy budget discussions over the past years.  ASEAN agrees with the Advisory Committee that there is room for improvement in the new budget format.  While acknowledging the complexity of the transition, ASEAN encourages the Secretariat to build upon best practices.

ASEAN reiterates its firm belief that the Organization’s resources must be commensurate with the mandates it has been tasked with delivering, he said.  “Arbitrary cuts to the proposed budget or the deliberate withholding of resources should have no place in the UN, but it is a reality we have been dealing with for years,” he said.  Member States should support the Secretary-General’s commitment to deliver results on the ground with their words and actions.  Regarding special political missions, ASEAN notes that the proposed amount for these missions is over $640 million, more than 22 per cent of the proposed 2020 programme budget.  The Assembly must seriously discuss funding arrangements for the missions vis-à-vis other development priorities, he stressed.

JÜRG LAUBER (Switzerland), also speaking on behalf of Liechtenstein, said a strong United Nations is capable of effectively implementing the mandates entrusted to it by Member States, and strives for the ambitious goals laid out in its founding Charter and other key documents, such as the 2030 Agenda.  The United Nations is facing a particularly difficult situation as its liquidity challenges persist, and Switzerland supports the empowerment of the Secretary-General in his role as chief administrative officer.  “This must go hand-in-hand with ensuring full accountability and the necessary transparency toward Member States,” he said, adding:  “This means Member States should not be micromanaging the Organization to the extent of creating or abolishing individual posts.”  Conflict prevention is crucial and rightly a central element in the Secretary-General’s reform agenda.  Both conflict prevention and mediation require adequate attention and funding in order to unlock their full potential.  The same approach applies to accountability, he said, strongly supporting the pursuit of accountability for the most serious crimes.  The United Nations needs a strong human-rights pillar to achieve its objectives.

MARC-ANDRÉ BLANCHARD (Canada) expressed his delegation’s support for the Secretary-General’s proposal to increase funding for technical cooperation by $3.3 million, noting he wished that the increase could have been bigger, but it is a right signal.  With people on the ground not seeing the results, the Secretary-General has sent an important signal.  He also supported the Secretary-General’s proposal to expand funding for staff training and development by $2.4 million and urged all Member States to pay their dues in a timely manner.  Cash liquidity issues should not weaken mandate delivery, he said.

CHERITH NORMAN-CHALET (United States) said that her delegation was pleased to see the Secretariat reformat the budget.  The change to an annual budget is an opportunity to reassess the requirements needed to fulfill mandates, particularly given the realignment and creation of four new departments as part of the Secretary-General’s reform.  However, few departments and offices embraced the opportunity to identify and eliminate duplication.  Her delegation will shine a light on needed efficiencies in all parts of the budget.  “We will not limit or ringfence our review for efficiencies,” she declared, also highlighting add-ons and the practice of recosting as another area of concern.  She noted that more than $200 million is anticipated to be added to the 2020 proposed budget.  Eventually, the United States expects the amount for add-ons to shrink within an annual budget and the practice of recosting to be eliminated.

AILONG XUE (China) said programme planning should always be Member State—owned and led as it is a concrete manifestation of United Nations mandates.  Its preparation should abide by the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter and respect the prerogatives of the Organization’s principal organs.  Programme planning should focus more on the 2030 Agenda, with a greater emphasis on priorities such as economic growth, sustainable development and African development.  The functions and role of the Committee for Programme and Coordination — the main body for reviewing United Nations programme planning and implementation — should be upheld, as it has important responsibilities in forming plan outline, setting priorities, specific programme planning, and overall business coordination.  The Programme and Coordination Committee has provided valuable suggestions to the Fifth Committee for a long time.  Turning to the trial annual budget, she said that it must strictly abide to Assembly resolutions and is an important part of the Secretary-General’s management reform.  The annual budget has important implications for the implementation of mandates during the trial period and the future direction of United Nations budget management.  As a responsible developing country and the second-largest contributor to the United Nations regular and peacekeeping budgets, China has fulfilled its financial obligations in full and on time, paying $1.4 billion in annual assessments.

HMWAY HMWAY KHYNE (Myanmar) expressed her delegation’s absolute reservation concerning the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar in the proposed programme budget for 2020.  Myanmar has rejected the mechanism’s creation since the beginning and will not cooperate with it, as the mechanism is another product of a series of highly polarized, partial and discriminative resolutions on Myanmar adopted by the Human Rights Council.  She rejected multiple unjust attempts to exert unwarranted political pressure on Myanmar with many groundless accusations under the pretext of human rights.  At least seven mechanisms focus on Myanmar with a total spending of more than $35 million from the precarious regular budget resources.  One of the Fifth Committee’s main responsibilities is to ensure adequate resources to implement delivery of mandates in the most effective and efficient way.  Her Government is not opposed to accountability for any wrongdoing and sympathizes with all those affected by the problems in Rakhine State.  The Government will not engage with the Mechanism because the country does not accept double standards and selective and discriminatory application of human rights, she stressed.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar), associating herself with the Group of 77, expressed support for the Secretary-General’s ambitious reform agenda, which aims to make the Organization fit for the current century.  Qatar supports the proposed 2020 programme budget, including the proposals for setting up programmes to facilitate implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and staff training.  It also supports the proposal for earmarking resources from the regular budget for the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria.

TOSHIYA HOSHINO (Japan) said that transparency and accountability are of critical importance to his delegation in assessing the 2020 budget proposal.  Japan will carefully review the employed methodology.  While expressing appreciation for the presentation of a single-year budget by the Secretary-General, he said Japan will pay attention to whether sufficient information has been included to justify programme budgeting.  The Secretary-General requested $2.87 billion for the 2020 regular budget.  Japan will assess this overall level as objectively as possible.  It will also seek a more comprehensive picture, which would include resources not included in the current proposal but would subsequently be added.

JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico) said the transition from a biennial budget to an annual budget is an important change and requires new methodologies to meet the goals and priorities of the Organization.  He recognized the efforts of the Secretary-General and the need to implement the Organization’s mandates in a more agile and coherent way.  It is necessary to speed up the reform process and make it more transparent.  He supported the role of the Sustainable Development Goals in building sustainable peace and said adequate resources must be provided for the development system.  Mexico takes the inputs of the Advisory Committee very seriously so the Organization can meet its development goals in a timely manner, and it looks forward to participating in the related negotiations.

DMITRY CHUMAKOV (Russian Federation) said he has many questions about the budget and its format.  His delegation, for example, does not understand the criteria by which some voluntary budget items are being transferred to the regular budget.  The needs of the Organization and its resources should be considered separately.  His delegation cannot consider financing for the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria until it has been approved as part of the programme planning process.  As other delegations, the Russian Federation agrees with the Advisory Committee that the new budget format does not help Member States analyse the document.  The structure and format of the budget are very important and must provide more clarity.  The expected practical results appear to be lower than previous budgets.  His delegation is ready to discuss these questions.  The burden on the Fifth Committee this year is unprecedented, he said, adding that his delegation can only approve the budget after the programmes are approved.

WISSAM AJEEB (Syria) said that his delegation rejects the establishment of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria.  It is an illegal entity as the General Assembly has no prerogative to establish such a body.  The prerogative belongs to the Security Council.  Syria rejects moves to fund this illegal body out of the United Nations regular budget.  The Government did not request such support from the United Nations.  It was created without consultation with and approval from Syria, which has established the Constitutional Assembly with help from the Russian Federation, Iran and the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy as part of the Syrian-led political process.  The United Nations must preserve its impartiality, he said, urging Member States to disassociate themselves from this illegal entity.

Making final comments, Mr. GUTERRES that he was elected in 2016 and assumed his functions in 2017.  He is now implementing the budget and programme planning that were decided almost three years ago.  Wondering if there is any top executive in the world who is implementing a programme decided three years earlier, he urged Member States not to go back to this absurd situation.

For information media. Not an official record.