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GA/AB/4347
17 December 2019
Seventy-fourth Session, 18th Meeting (AM)

Delegate Concerned about Continual Increase of Programme Budget Implications, Revised Estimates, as Fifth Committee Reviews 2020 Contingency Fund

Speakers Also Discuss Financing for Hybrid Operation in Darfur

At today’s Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) meeting, Japan’s delegate expressed her concerns with a Secretariat request to approve $64.5 million in new charges against the contingency fund set aside for the Organization’s upcoming 2020 regular budget.

Member States are being asked to make a difficult decision, she said.  Japan is concerned that, since the 2012‑2013 biennium, the total amount of programme budget implications and revised estimates keep exceeding the approved level of each respective biennium’s contingency fund.  “The size of excess continues to grow over the years.  This shows that budgetary discipline at the UN is weakening,” she said.  Also troubling is that, for the upcoming 2020 annual budget, the amount in excess of the approved contingency fund level is more than in previous budget years, if compared on an annual basis.  “My delegation expresses its deep concern on the high pace at which budgetary discipline is loosening,” she stressed.

As part of its efforts to address this trend as it pertains to the Human Rights Council, Japan has called for better communication and coordination between New York and Geneva, she said.  She urged the Fifth Committee to ensure the contingency fund operates according to General Assembly resolutions 41/213 and 42/211.  Japan also calls on all Member States to seriously consider reviewing current practices surrounding the contingency fund and consider measures, such as not using the contingency fund to cover foreseeable expenditures, in order to restore budgetary discipline.

Chandramouli Ramanathan, United Nations Controller and Assistant Secretary‑General for Programme Planning, Finance and Budget in the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on revised estimates and said that, in the first performance report for the 2018‑2019 biennium, the Assembly decided to set the contingency fund at $21.8 million, or 0.75 per cent of the revised appropriation for that biennium.  Potential new charges to the contingency fund, presented in the report, total $64.5 million, and reflect information available as of 10 December 2019.

Cihan Terzi, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, introducing its related reports, noted that potential new charges against the contingency fund exceed the approved level by almost 300 per cent.  Emphasizing the need to adhere to the provisions of General Assembly resolutions 41/213 and 42/211 on its use, the Advisory Committee recommends that the Assembly give the Secretary-General guidance and approve his proposal to set the 2021 contingency fund at 0.75 per cent of the approved 2020 programme budget.

Also today, the Fifth Committee reviewed financing for the African Union‑United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).  In introducing the Secretariat reports, Mr. Ramanathan said the Secretary-General has proposed financing arrangements, for the three-month period that begins 1 January 2020, of $130.2 million.  This would give UNAMID enough resources to fulfil its mandate, pending Security Council decisions.

In introducing the Advisory Committee’s related reports, Mr. Terzi said the Secretary-General should have proposed a 12‑month budget from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020, instead of requesting successive commitment authorities based on the same assumptions.  The Advisory Committee repeated the need for capacity-building activities that support national staff during the mission’s downsizing.

The representative of Ghana, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the Organization is obliged to reduce the mission’s overall environmental footprint.  He asked the Secretariat to use the experience gained during recently closed missions, such as the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).

The representative of Sudan called for support for programme activities and the necessary funding to let the United Nations country team carry out its activities after the mission leaves.

In its first order of business, the Fifth Committee reviewed the programme budget implications of a draft resolution that would extend the investigation into the conditions and circumstances that led to the death of Dag Hammarskjöld and of the members of the party accompanying him.  Mr. Terzi introduced that body’s related report.

The Fifth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 18 December, to discuss the second performance report of the 2018‑2019 budget and financing of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals and peacekeeping missions.

Introduction of Reports

CHANDRAMOULI RAMANATHAN, United Nations Controller and Assistant Secretary‑General for Programme Planning, Finance and Budget in the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, introduced the programme budget implications of draft resolution A/74/L.20 titled “Investigation into the conditions and circumstances resulting in the tragic death of Dag Hammarskjöld and of the members of the party accompanying him” (document A/C.5/74/13).  By the terms of the draft resolution, the General Assembly would ask the Secretary-General to reappoint the Eminent Person appointed pursuant to Assembly resolution 72/252 to continue to review the information received and possible new information made available by Member States, and assess their probative value, draw conclusions from the investigation already conducted, and report on progress before the end of the Assembly’s seventy-fifth session.

To implement the request, additional resources of $145,700 would be required for the 2020 proposed programme budget under section 1, Overall policymaking, direction and coordination, representing a charge against the contingency fund, he said.  An extra requirement of $207,300 would be included in the 2021 proposed programme budget, including $97,600 under section 1, Overall policymaking, direction, and coordination and $109,700 under section 2, General Assembly and Economic and Social Council affairs and conference management.

He then introduced the Secretary-General’s report titled “Contingency fund:  consolidated statement of programme budget implications and revised estimates” (document A/C.5/74/14), recalling that, in the context of the first performance report for the biennium 2018‑2019, the Assembly decided to set the 2020 contingency fund at $21.8 million, or 0.75 per cent of the revised appropriation for that biennium.  Potential new charges to the contingency fund, presented in the report, total $64.5 million, and reflect information available as of 10 December 2019.

The Secretary-General is proposing establishment of the 2021 contingency fund level be set at 0.75 per cent of the approved 2020 programme budget.  He noted that, in previous budget years, there have been cases where the Assembly has approved appropriations that do not represent a charge against the contingency fund when the level is exceeded.

Since issuance of the consolidated statement report, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) has made its recommendations on the proposals that would represent a charge against the contingency fund, including those introduced today.  This balance will be adjusted to reflect the Fifth Committee's recommendations on the various proposals under its consideration.

He then introduced the Secretary-General’s report titled “Revised estimates:  effect of changes in rates of exchange and inflation” (document A/74/585), which reflects the impact of updated recosting parameters on the initial proposed programme budget, as well as the revised estimates and statements of programme budget implications for 2020.  These reflect improved revised projections enabled by Umoja Extension 2, which has increased the visibility of data relating to exchange rates and standard costs.  After these projections, the requirements under the 2020 expenditure sections would amount to $3.065 billion and estimates of income would total $290.8 million, if ACABQ’s recommendations were applied to the Secretary-General’s proposals.

Introducing the Secretary-General’s report titled “Revised estimates for the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals:  effect of changes in rates of exchange and inflation” (document A/74/586), he said that the 2020 resource requirements for the Mechanism, as proposed by the Secretary-General, would total $102.6 million gross.

Lastly, he introduced the Secretary-General’s note (document A/74/562) on the financing of African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).  The Secretary-General proposed financing arrangements, for the period from 1 January to 31 March 2020, of $130.2 million to provide UNAMID with adequate resources to continue to fulfil its mandates, pending the decisions of the Security Council.  A detailed budget proposal for the 2019/20 period, which will supersede the commitment authorities approved, will be prepared for consideration.

CIHAN TERZI, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, introduced that body’s related reports.  In its report on the programme budget implications of “L.20” (document A/74/7/Add.30), the Advisory Committee recommends that the Fifth Committee inform the Assembly that, should the draft resolution be adopted, an additional appropriation of $145,700 would be required under Overall policymaking, direction and coordination of the proposed programme budget for 2020, to be charged against the contingency fund.

Turning to its report on the contingency fund (document A/74/7/Add.29), he said that the Advisory Committee notes that the potential new charges against the contingency fund exceed the approved level by almost 300 per cent.  ACABQ emphasizes the need to adhere to the provisions of Assembly resolution 41/213 and 42/211 on its use.  The Advisory Committee recommends that the Assembly offer guidance to the Secretary-General, and approve the Secretary-General’s proposal that the 2021 contingency fund level be established at 0.75 per cent of the approved programme budget for 2020.

Regarding its report on the effect of changes in rates of exchange and inflation (document A/74/7/Add.31), the Advisory Committee notes that the recosting was prepared using expenditure analyses based on data gathered in Umoja to improve the assumptions applied to the recosting parameters, encouraging the Secretary-General to continue to refine his analysis.

Lastly, he said, the Advisory Committee’s report on financing of UNAMID (document A/74/592) states that the Secretary-General should have proposed a budget for a 12-month period from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020 rather than requesting successive commitment authorities based on the same assumptions.  The Advisory Committee reiterates the need for capacity-building activities to support national staff during the downsizing of the mission.  Regarding the programmatic activities, the Advisory Committee considers that additional clarification is needed and trusts that updated information will be provided to the Assembly at the time of its consideration of the present report.  The Advisory Committee believes that lessons learned from the closed peacekeeping operations with respect to environmental clearance activities should be applied to UNAMID.

Statements

THEODORE OPPONG YEBOAH (Ghana), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that the Organization is obliged to reduce UNAMID’s overall environmental footprint, calling on the Secretary-General to draw on the experience gained in the liquidation of recently closed missions such as the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) while using the liquidation manual as a guide during the drawdown phase.  The Group requests that staff affected by the abolition of posts be assisted through capacity‑building, job fairs and other measures to prepare them for a competitive job market.  The Group supports the three-month requirement of $139.22 million requested by the Secretary-General while stressing the importance of adequate and timely funding at such a critical phase of the mission’s life.

MUSTAFA ABUALI AHMED MOHAMMED (Sudan) noted that, in October, the Security Council adopted a resolution extending UNAMID’s mandate for 12 months.  The resolution calls for a strategic review of the mission by January 2020, with a recommendation to be made on the appropriate course of action regarding the mission’s drawdown.  The Government is also looking into options and developing visions to maintain peace and enhance development after the mission’s exit.  He called for support for programme activities and for allocating the necessary funding to enable the United Nations country team to carry out activities after UNAMID leaves.  He also called for a reduction of UNAMID’s environmental footprint and requested a comprehensive assessment, including safe disposal of wastes.  Lastly, he stressed the need to build capacity of local staff and convert international positions to national positions.

SAKURA OZAKI (Japan), noting that the new potential charges for the contingency fund in 2020 total $64.5 million and represent nearly 300 per cent of the approved level of the contingency fund for the year, said that Member States have been requested to make a difficult decision.  This is not the first time the contingency fund level has been exceeded and it is particularly concerning that, since the 2012‑2013 biennium, the total amount of programme budget implications and revised estimates have continually exceeded the approved level of the contingency fund for the respective biennia. “The size of excess continues to grow over the years.  This shows that budgetary discipline at the UN is weakening,” she said.

For 2020, the first year of the implementation of the annual budget cycle on a trial basis and a reduced time period to be covered by the contingency fund, the size of the excess over the approved level of the contingency fund is greater than that of previous years on an annual basis, she said, adding:  “My delegation expresses its deep concern on the high pace at which budgetary discipline is loosening.”

As part of its efforts to address this trend in the context of the Human Rights Council, Japan has called for enhanced communication and coordination between New York and Geneva, she said.  Not only between the secretariats of both duty stations, but also between Member State delegations.  Japan will discuss various fora of reform discussions in Geneva, including consultations on increasing the efficiency of the Human Rights Council, the 2020 review of human rights treaty bodies and the 2021 review of the Council, so Member States and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) can constructively discuss how to improve working methods and avoid duplications.

In addition to these individual efforts, the Fifth Committee must ensure that the contingency fund is operated in strict accordance with Assembly resolutions 41/213 and 42/211, she said.  Japan calls on all Member States to seriously consider reviewing the current practices pertaining to the contingency fund and consider measures, such as setting priorities of additional programmatic expenditures and not using the contingency fund to cover foreseeable expenditures, so that budgetary discipline is restored.

For information media. Not an official record.