Delegates Clash over Funding for Mechanism Investigating Serious Crimes in Syria
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) concluded the main part of its seventy‑fourth session on Friday, approving resources totalling $3.07 billion for 2020, its first annual budget since 1973 and $200 million more than the $2.87 billion outlay proposed by Secretary‑General António Guterres in early October.
With the new one‑year fiscal cycle for its regular budget, the Organization temporarily leaves behind more than four decades of biennium budgets and a year in which it grappled with a severe liquidity crunch. The cash crisis has forced the Organization to limit staff hiring and travel, the hours of operation at the New York Headquarters and carry out other cost‑saving emergency measures.
At the close of the day‑long and at times contentious meeting, Fifth Committee Chairman Andreas D. Mavroyiannis (Cyprus) thanked the delegates and the Secretariat staff for their dedication and hard work. The Secretariat handled more than 1,300 questions submitted in writing by Fifth Committee members scrutinizing an initial proposed programme budget resolution with more than 500 paragraphs.
During the meeting, Chandramouli Ramanathan, United Nations Controller and Assistant Secretary‑General for Programme Planning, Finance and Budget in the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, said that approval of an oral amendment introduced by Finland — to add $7.68 million under Section 8, Legal affairs, and $632,200 under Section 36, Staff Assessment, after recosting and cross‑cutting reductions — had pushed the budget from $3.065, as set forth in the original resolution, to $3.07 billion.
The decision to include $17.81 million for the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria in the 2020 regular budget drew sustained remarks from delegates opposed to the funding and those supporting its inclusion.
The speaker for Syria repeatedly said any discussion of the Mechanism should not be interpreted as recognition of the entity or its mandate, which it termed illegal. He criticized the Secretariat for using the regular budget, during a time of financial crisis, to pay for an illegitimate mechanism, stressing that doing so would create a poor precedent.
Endorsing that view and stressing that creation of criminal investigations and mechanisms are the purview of the Security Council — and not the Assembly — the Russian Federation’s delegate proposed two drafts in an effort to remove references to the Mechanism from the 2020 programme planning and regular budget documents.
The texts garnered support from the representatives of Cuba, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran and Venezuela, among others, but were rejected in the end by recorded votes. In light of that outcome, the representatives of Syria and the Russian Federation said that they would consider the matter when discharging their own financial obligations to the United Nations.
Prior to the vote, the representative of Finland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the resolution proposed by the Russian Federation would leave the Mechanism without any financial backing. Echoing that concern and adding that the lack of funding would undermine the work of the United Nations, the United States delegate said her country’s Government is committed to ensuring perpetrators of serious crimes in Syria are held accountable.
Delegates also expressed discord over funding in the 2020 budget for the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar and the Office of Special Envoy for the Secretary‑General. The representative of Myanmar said that the Committee’s approval of resources for implementing two selective Human Rights Council resolutions concerning his country offer no help. United Nations resources should be used more effectively, he stressed.
The Committee also approved a text on special subjects relating to the 2020 programme budget, asking the Assembly to earmark $710.2 million for 39 continuing special political missions as well as $1.42 million for the share of special political missions enveloped in the budget of the Regional Service Centre in Entebbe, Uganda for the upcoming year.
The expansive 24‑part document would also provide for infusions of cash to the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research and to special courts prosecuting war crimes in Sierra Leone and Cambodia. It also set deadlines and funding for renovations to keep historic United Nations structures in Geneva and Addis Ababa open and operating safely while making the Organization’s regional commission in Bangkok a safer, more efficient working space for more than 600 employees.
In Part IX, the Fifth Committee zeroed in on the ongoing flexible workspace strategy at United Nations Headquarters and asked the Assembly to ensure the Secretary‑General closely monitor the remaining work to ensure the project’s completion in the third quarter of 2020. The text asked the Assembly to appropriate $6.8 million for the project costs under section 29B — Department of Operational Support.
The Committee also sent the Assembly a resolution urging the Secretary‑General to implement the Joint Inspection Unit’s 10 suggestions to make the United Nations premises more accessible for persons with disabilities.
Lastly, the Committee approved a draft decision to defer several issues, including the Capital Master Plan and human resources management issues to March, when it is expected to begin the first part of its resumed seventy‑fourth session.
In closing remarks, several delegates voiced their concerns about a new budget format that did not follow the usual sequential nature of the budget review processes, by which evaluation are made first by the Committee for Programme and Coordination and then the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).
The observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the role of the Committee for Programme and Coordination should be preserved and strengthened. While disappointed that the Fifth Committee did not consider human resources management during the current session, he said the 2020 programme budget ensures an adequate level of resources for all mandated programmes and activities, voicing full support for Organization’s development pillar, including the budget of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the Economic and Regional Commissions.
The representative of Botswana, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said this was the first session in which the entire programme plan was submitted for the Assembly’s consideration and decision without any specific recommendations. Despite the challenges of shifting to an annual programme plan and budget, the Assembly has succeeded in concluding deliberations on such important matters as the Joint Inspection Unit, United Nations common system and the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund, and adopting a programme budget ensuring adequate resources to fully deliver on the Organization’s mandated programmes and activities.
Also speaking today were representatives of Switzerland (speaking on behalf of Liechtenstein), Armenia, Sudan, Kazakhstan, Qatar, Bahrain, Nicaragua, China, Canada, Israel, Algeria, Philippines, Georgia and India, as well as the European Union.
Action on Drafts
The Fifth Committee first approved, without a vote, the draft resolution on the financial reports and audited financial statements, and reports of the Board of Auditors (document A/C.5/74/L.11). By its terms, the General Assembly would take note of the audit opinions and findings and endorse the recommendations contained in the reports of the Board of Auditors. It also would endorse the conclusions and recommendations contained in the report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).
The Fifth Committee then approved, without a vote, the draft resolution titled “Programme budget for the biennium 2018‑2019” (document A/C.5/74/L.14), which is known as the second performance report, by which the Assembly would resolve the breakdown of the final budget appropriations for 2018‑2019 totalling $5.87 billion; authorize the Secretary‑General to transfer credits between sections of the budget, with ACABQ’s concurrence; decide not to approve a temporary suspension of the surrender of the unspent appropriations for the 2016‑2017 regular budget for the 2020 financial year; and ask the Secretary‑General to return $25.19 million to Member States in accordance with regulation 3.2 (d) and 5.4 of the United Nations Financial Regulations and Rules.
The Assembly would also ask the Secretary‑General to consult delegations on possible austerity measures that could have an impact on their work in the main United Nations organs and to make every effort to mitigate their impact. The Assembly would resolve that the final income estimates for the biennium totalling $563.4 million should be increased by $8.65 million.
Next, the representative of the Russian Federation introduced a draft resolution titled “Programme planning” (document A/C.5/74/L.5), by which the Assembly would decide to delete all narratives and references regarding the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011 from programme 6, Legal affairs, of the proposed programme budget for 2020.
He has asked that all narratives and references pertaining to the Mechanism be deleted from the text because their inclusion in the regular budget is an egregious violation of international law as well as the United Nations mandates and its financial matters. The reasons for including this matter in the regular budget is not because of a funding shortfall but to legitimatize an illegitimate mechanism. He trusted that each delegate would support the draft and asked all delegates to vote in favour. An abstention means support of the mechanism and undermines the core principals of the United Nations and its financing mechanisms.
The representative of Switzerland, also speaking on behalf of Liechtenstein, said the presentation of the text undermines the will to support the authority of the General Assembly to finance the Mechanism through the regular budget. He called for a vote on the text and for Member States to vote against it in order to support the integrity of the Assembly.
The representative of Syria said his country is concerned that any discussion of the matter will never be interpreted as a recognition by Syria of the Mechanism or its mandate. Articles 10, 11, 12 and 22 of the United Nations Charter clearly detail the functions of the Assembly and they do not give it the functions or powers to create an investigative team or mechanism of any sort. The Security Council has the mandate to maintain matters of international peace and security and the Assembly did not seek its approval. Syria has sent multiple letters to the Assembly and Council to explain that the creation of the Mechanism was an encroachment of the Council’s mandate. His delegation rejects attempts to put additional financial pressures on the United Nations. The sponsors of the Mechanism should finance it from their own taxpayers. He asked delegates to support the Russian proposal, stressing that the United Nations should not foot the bill for this illegal action and put further pressure on the Organization this critical financial juncture.
The representative of Finland, speaking on behalf of the European Union before the vote, said the discussion in the Fifth Committee should focus on administrative and budgetary matters and decisions should be made by consensus. It is regrettable that a vote was requested. Political discussion should take place in other forums. The Mechanism and its requisite budget were approved by the General Assembly. The deletion of narratives and references to the Mechanism is a violation of Assembly resolutions and Finland will vote against “L.5”.
The representative of the United States said that the Mechanism performs critical work and a small number of delegations are seeking to deprive the body of necessary resources to complete its mandate, calling all delegations to vote against the text.
The Committee rejected the draft by a vote of 18 in favour to 88 against, with 47 abstentions.
The representative of Armenia said his country supports all activities of mandated United Nations bodies that carry out their work in accordance with the principles of independence and impartiality.
The representative of Sudan asked to correct his delegation’s vote, saying he wished to vote in favour.
The representative of Kazakhstan said his delegation voted in favour of the text because it believes that funding the Mechanism from the regular budget is premature and voluntary funding is the best course of action.
The Fifth Committee then turned its attention to another text titled, “Programme planning” (document A/C.5/74/L.18), by which the Assembly would request the Secretary‑General to present a report as early as practicable for the Assembly’s consideration at its seventy‑fourth session, on the impact of the changes to the budgetary cycle on the established budgetary procedures and practices as they pertain to the agreed sequential nature of the review processes of the proposed programme budget.
Reaffirming that no changes to the budget methodology, established budgetary procedures and practices or the financial regulations may be implemented without its prior review and approval, the Assembly would ask the Secretary‑General to clearly identify those provisions and rules that are proposed to be formally suspended or no longer applied during the trial period.
By further terms, the Assembly would ask the Secretary‑General to apply various guidelines when preparing the next proposed programme plan and programme performance documents for the remainder of the approved trial period 2021 and 2022. Among the guidelines indicated by the text are the inclusion of clear, comprehensive explanations of the approved methodologies to be applied in the context of the programme budget proposals to be submitted; incorporating more general information on programmes and subprogrammes by showing not only examples of actual planned results but also an overview of activities and general strategy; presenting performance information on a comprehensive set of results, which would allow for enhanced oversight and accountability; and replacing the proposed section on “Alignment with Sustainable Development Goals” with concrete information regarding contributions to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals by relevant programmes and subprogrammes.
The text would also have the Assembly decide to approve on an exceptional basis and without creating a precedent, for programmes 5, 8, 10, 12, 13, 16, 17, 19, 22, 27, 28, of the 2020 proposed programme budget, the programme narrative that is composed solely of: the “mandates and background”, “recent developments”, “strategy and external factors for 2020” and “evaluation activities” sections at programme level and by objective, at subprogramme level. Other terms would have the Assembly decide to approve on an exceptional basis, and without creating a precedent, for programmes 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 9, 11, 14, 15, 18, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25 and 26, a programme narrative that is composed solely of: list of mandates at the programme level, the objectives approved by the General Assembly in its resolution 71/6 and the deliverables for 2020 at the subprogramme level. The Assembly would also approve, in the case of the latter programmes, where new mandates imply changes to the objectives at the subprogramme level, on an exceptional basis and without creating a precedent, the relevant objectives as updated in the Proposed Programme Budget for 2020.
Finally, the text would endorse the conclusions and recommendations of the Committee for Programme and Coordination on evaluation, contained in its report on the work of its fifty ninth session, as well as the Committee’s conclusions and recommendations on the annual overview report of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination for 2018. The Assembly would request the Secretary‑General to ensure the timely implementation of the recommendations.
The representative of Qatar proposed an oral amendment to “L.18” that would decide to approve the programme plan for programme 6, Legal affairs, of the proposed programme budget for 2020, as contained in the report of the Secretary‑General A/74/6 (Sect.8) and a/74/6 (Sect.8/Corr.1).
The representative of the Russian Federation requested a vote on the oral amendment.
The representative of Syria, speaking before the vote, joined his counterpart from the Russian Federation in requesting a vote, asking delegates to vote against the oral amendment. Describing the Mechanism as an illegal organ, he said it was born dead and will always remain so, adding that the multiple legal documents that Syria submitted on the issue provide the proof. The United Nations should not finance the Mechanism through the regular budget, he added.
The representative of the United States expressed support for the Mechanism and its funding from the regular budget, calling upon delegations to vote in favour.
The Committee approved the amendment by a recorded vote of 86 in favour to 20 against, with 48 abstentions.
The Committee then turned its attention to the amended draft “L. 18” in its entirety. The representative of Syria requested a recorded vote, saying that, unfortunately, his delegation cannot allow consensual adoption of the entire text because it was not consulted. The establishment of the Mechanism is a violation of the Charter and the Assembly has encroached on the Council’s mandate, he said.
The Committee then approved draft “L.18” by a recorded vote of 130 in favour to 2 against, with 13 abstentions.
The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking after the vote, said he had proposed a process for voting on the draft and issues relating to the Mechanism, emphasizing that his delegation dissociates itself from the adopted text, particularly the portion referring to the Mechanism.
The representative of Myanmar also dissociated himself from the Mechanism, saying it should not be funded from the regular budget. Non‑consensual issues should not be placed before all Member States, especially during the present financial crisis, he added.
Regarding the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, he said that his delegation has made clear that its position remains the same and it does not support the Mechanism’s funding since it rejected its creation from the beginning. Recalling that this Mechanism was established by the Human Rights Council in September 2018 through resolution 39/2, he said that the Human Rights Council had no such mandate. Whereas Myanmar is not opposed to accountability for any wrongdoing, it dissociates itself from the section of the text relating to programme planning and to funding this Mechanism.
The representative of Bahrain corrected his delegation’s vote on “L.18”, noting that it wished to vote in favour rather than abstaining.
Then, acting without a vote, the Fifth Committee approved a draft resolution on “The pattern of conferences” (document A/C.5/74/L.10). By its terms, the Assembly would approve the draft revised calendar of United Nations conferences and meetings for 2020, as submitted by the Committee on Conferences, and authorize the Committee on Conferences to make any adjustments to that calendar that might become necessary as a result of Assembly actions and decisions at its seventy‑fourth session.
Also by the text, the Assembly would note that the overall interpretation utilization factor at the four main duty stations was 82 per cent in 2018, 81 per cent in 2017, and 80 per cent in 2016, 2015 and 2014, thus meeting the established benchmark. It would urge secretariats and bureaux of bodies that underutilize their conference‑servicing resources to work more closely with the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management and to consider changes to their work programme, as well as encourage the Secretary‑General to enhance the efficiency of conference servicing and to report thereon to the General Assembly at its seventy‑fifth session.
The Assembly would also look forward to receiving the proposal aimed at addressing the deteriorating conditions and the limited capacity of the conference services facility at the United Nations Office at Nairobi.
Regarding access for persons with disabilities, the text would have the Assembly welcome the measures taken to ensure access to and use of conference services and facilities for such persons, including the establishment of the Accessibility Centre, and would request the Secretary‑General to continue to address issues related to the accessibility of conference facilities as a matter of priority. The Assembly would also welcome the integrated global management rule as an efficient approach, where feasible, to servicing meetings away from duty stations, and request the Secretary‑General to continue his efforts to realize further efficiencies by rigorously applying the rule to applicable meetings, without jeopardizing the quality of services.
In documentation and publications, the Assembly would emphasize the paramount importance of the equality of the six official languages and of multilingualism and request the Secretary‑General to continue his efforts in ensuring full parity in line with Assembly resolution 71/328. It would note with concern that only 76 per cent of the author departments reached the 90 per cent compliance rate for timely submission of their reports to the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management and would reiterate its request to the Secretary‑General to enforce the slotting system more rigorously.
On the topic of digitalization, the text would have the Assembly welcome the modernization of the Official Document System, including the introduction of a portable system, and its accessibility in all six official languages of the United Nations. It would ask the Secretary‑General to take all measures necessary to ensure the timely completion of digitization of key documents in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library and in the main duty stations and to entrust the Department of Global Communications with presenting a proposal for the digitization of important older United Nations documents at that Library no later than at the main part of the Assembly’s seventy‑fifth session. The Assembly would also ask the Secretary‑General to seek additional voluntary contributions for the digitization of important older United Nations documents, including by broadening the donor base.
The Fifth Committee then approved, without a vote, a draft resolution titled “Enhancing accessibility for persons with disabilities to conferences and meetings of the United Nations system” (document A/C.5/74/L.19), by which the Assembly would urge the Secretary‑General to implement all 10 recommendations contained in the relevant report of the Joint Inspection Unit, in all United Nations facilities, conferences and meetings, in a timely manner, and invite the executive heads and legislative bodies of the United Nations system organizations to address the relevant recommendations. The Secretary‑General would also be asked to submit a progress report on implementation of the resolution, at the main part of the Assembly’s seventy‑fifth session,
Next, the Fifth Committee also approved, without a vote, a draft on Seconded active‑duty military and police personnel (document A/C.5/74/L.21), by which the Assembly would express serious regret that the Secretary‑General has not been able to identify solutions for addressing conflicts between national legislation and the Staff Regulations and Rules of the United Nations regarding the secondment of such personnel since 2013. It would also request the Secretary‑General to intensify his efforts to engage with Member States, report on the matter to the Assembly at the first resumed part of its seventy‑fourth session and decide to authorize the Secretary‑General to extend the exceptional measures regarding such personnel to 30 June 2020.
The Committee approved, without a vote, the draft resolution titled, “United Nations common system” (document A/C.5/74/L.3), by which the Assembly would reaffirm the authority of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) to establish post adjustment multipliers for duty stations in the common system. It would also urge member organizations of the common system to cooperate with the Commission to restore consistency and unity to the post adjustment system as early as practicable.
It then approved, also without a vote, a second text also titled, “the United Nations common system” (document A/C.5/74/L.4), by which the Assembly, taking note of ICSC’s 2019 report (document A/74/30), would reaffirm its role in approving conditions of services and entitlements for all staff serving in the organizations of the common system. The Assembly would reiterate its request to the Commission to recommend appropriate measures to deal with those organizations not in compliance with the Commission’s decisions and recommendations and to report at the Assembly’s seventy‑fifth session.
Acting without a vote, the Fifth Committee approved a draft resolution on the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) (document A/C./74/L.12). By that text, the Assembly, reaffirming the Office’s authority to initiate, carry out and report on any action to fulfil its oversight functions, would request the Secretary‑General to continue to ensure the full implementation of the Office’s accepted recommendations in a prompt and timely manner, and to justify in detail those cases in which its recommendations were not accepted. It would take note of the OIOS report on its activities for the period from 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019, noting with concern delays in implementation of its recommendations and asking the Secretary‑General to implement outstanding and critical recommendations in a timely manner. It would also endorse the report of the Independent Audit Advisory Committee for the period from 1 August 2018 to 31 July 2019 (document A/74/280).
Next, the Committee, acting without a vote, approved the draft resolution titled “Review of the implementation of General Assembly resolutions 48/218B, 54/544, 64/263 and 69/253” (document A/C.5/74/L.13). Through that text, the Assembly would recognize the important roles and operational independence of OIOS and other oversight bodies in improving the Organization’s effectiveness, transparency and accountability. It would welcome the Office’s efforts to promote the Organization’s zero tolerance approach to fraud, corruption, sexual harassment, and sexual exploitation and abuse, and request the Secretary‑General to take all measures necessary to ensure that the credibility of the Organization and its staff is protected.
The Committee then approved a draft resolution on the administration of justice at the United Nations (document A/C./74/L.9), without a vote. By its terms, the Assembly would endorse the conclusions and recommendations contained in ACABQ’s related report (document A/74/7/Add.10) and stress the importance of ensuring access for all staff members to the system of administration of justice, regardless of their duty station. It would request the Secretary‑General to continue to ensure the accountability of managers whose decisions have been established to be grossly negligent leading to litigation and financial loss. It would also note with concern the dual presidency of the Dispute Tribunal and its impact on case disposal, stress that body’s independence, and request the Secretary‑General to examine recommendations from the Internal Justice Council with a view to improving its accountability.
Also approved, without a vote, was the draft resolution on financing of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (document A/C.5/74/L.8), which would have the Assembly take note of the second performance report of the Secretary‑General on the budget of the Residual Mechanism for the biennium 2018‑2019. That text would also have the Assembly decide on a revised appropriation to the Special Account for the Residual Mechanism of $96.92 million gross ($86.91 million net) for 2020, less $10.29 million, being the decrease in the final appropriation for the biennium 2018‑2019. It would further apportion the amount of $43.32 million gross ($39.12 million net) among Member States in accordance with the scale of assessments applicable to the regular budget of the United Nations for 2020, and to apportion a similar amount in accordance with the scale of assessments applicable to peacekeeping operations for 2020.
The Committee then approved, without a vote, a draft titled, “Financing of the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti” (document A/C/5/74/L.16). By the terms of that text, on budget estimates for 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020, the Assembly would decide to appropriate to the Special Account for the Mission a total of $49.12 million for that period, which supersedes the authority of the Secretary‑General to enter into commitments not exceeding $49.45 million previously authorized for the Mission from 1 July to 31 December 2019 under the terms of its resolution 73/317.
Next the Fifth Committee approved, without a vote, a draft resolution on financing of the African Union‑United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (document A/C.5/74/L.15), by which the Assembly would authorize the Secretary‑General to enter into commitments for the Operation in an amount not exceeding $130.27 million for the period from 1 January to 31 March 2020.
The Fifth Committee then took up a draft decision submitted by Committee Chair ANDREAS D. MAVROYIANNIS (Cyprus) on programme budget implications relating to the 2020 programme budget (document A/C.5/74/L.17), which contained implications for three draft resolutions.
Should the Assembly adopt the draft titled “Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar” (document A/C.3/74/L.29), resources of $1.07 million, net of staff assessment, would be required for 2020 for the continuation of the Office of the Special Envoy for the Secretary‑General on Myanmar.
If the draft resolution titled, “Countering the use of information and communications technologies for criminal purposes” (document A/C.3/74/L.11/Rev.1) is adopted by the Assembly, $197,700 in additional resources would arise under section 2, General Assembly and Economic and Social Council affairs and conference management ($138,300), and section 16, International Drug Control, crime and terrorism prevention and criminal justice ($55,000), representing a charge against the contingency fund. In addition, $4,400 would be required under the staff assessment section, to be offset by an equivalent amount under the income from the staff assessment section.
Should the Assembly adopt the draft 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/74/L.20), additional resources for 2020 totalling $145,700 would be required.
The Committee approved the draft decision without a vote.
The Fifth Committee then turned to the draft resolution on “Proposed programme budget for 2020: Section 8. Legal affairs” (document A/C.5/74/L.6), tabled by the Russian Federation.
By the text, the Assembly would have decided to delete from the proposed 2020 programme budget all narratives and references regarding the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011.
The representative of the Russian Federation said that the resolution on the creation of that Mechanism was planted in the Assembly without the approval of Syria’s Government. Criminal investigations and mechanisms are to be created by the Security Council. Creation of a mechanism for a criminal investigation went beyond the Council’s purview in violation of Articles 10, 11, 12 and 22 of the United Nations Charter. The Secretary‑General laments the financial difficulties of the United Nations yet places financing for this Mechanism in the regular budget, and in doing so, negatively impacts the delivery of mandates and assistance to developing countries. He noted that the Mechanism had a surplus of more than $4 million at the end of November. The Russian Federation does not recognize the entity. He expressed hope that all delegations would vote for the draft resolution, stressing that an abstention would mean support for the initiative and undermine cooperation in the United Nations.
The representative of Syria said its position has already been explained and his delegation does not recognize the Mechanism, which is illegal. Nor does it recognize the Assembly decision which created the entity, he said, adding that Syria had not given its consent. In funding the Mechanism through the regular budget, Member States would be financing an illegitimate mechanism and negatively impacting the regular budget, at a time when the Organization has been facing a real financial crisis. Funding the Mechanism would impact the delivery of the Organization’s mandates and create a poor precedent.
The representative of Finland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Committee should refrain from political discussions and strive for consensus. The Union regrets that the resolution tabled by the Russian Federation has been proposed. The Mechanism was created by the Assembly and it asked the Secretary‑General to include the appropriate funding for 2020. The resolution would leave the Mechanism without any funding, he said, calling for a vote on the text.
The representative of Nicaragua expressed his delegation’s support for “L.6”. The establishment of the Mechanism went beyond the Assembly’s responsibility and was a non‑friendly act that encroached on the sovereignty of Syria.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said his delegation opposes the regular budget funding of the Mechanism, as the establishment of the entity was not transparent. His delegation will vote in favour of “L.6”.
Speaking before the vote, the representative of the United States said that the adoption of “L.6” would result in a lack of funding for the Mechanism and undermine the work of the United Nations. Her delegation is committed to holding accountable the perpetrators of serious crimes in Syria and will vote against the draft, calling on all delegations to do the same.
On a point of order, the representative of Syria requested that his counterpart from the United States not use the term “regime” to refer to Syria, and instead use the official name of his country. The United States was behind the creation of the ill‑intended Mechanism and is using it to put pressure on his country.
“L.6” was rejected by a recorded vote of 20 in favour to 86 against with 50 abstentions.
The Committee also had it before the draft resolution titled “Proposed programme budget for 2020: Section 26. Palestine refugees” (document A/C.5/74/L.7), by which the Assembly would recall that, as a result of the chronic funding shortfalls of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the Secretary‑General, in his report on strengthening the management capacity of the Agency, proposed increasing funding for the Agency on an incremental basis, starting with $5 million more for the biennium 2012‑2013, which was subsequently approved by the Assembly in its resolution 65/272 of 18 April 2011. The Assembly would then decide to appropriate $27.76 million, as proposed by the Secretary‑General for 2020, and additionally appropriate, for the same period, $17.5 million.
The representative of the Russian Federation said that it had introduced “L.7”, which takes into consideration a request by the State of Palestine, Chair of the Group of 77 and China. The State of Palestine has been a good Chair, taking into account the Group’s interests. The Russian Federation is withdrawing “L.7”. However, his delegation believes that the lack of financing for the Palestine refugee agency is a question that needs attention.
The Fifth Committee Chair thanked the Russian Federation’s delegate for withdrawing the resolution and moving the meeting forward.
The Committee then turned its attention to the draft resolution entitled “Questions related to the proposed programme budget for 2020” (document A/C.5/74/L.20), which contains Assembly decisions pertaining to each section’s budget proposals.
The representative of Finland offered an oral amendment to this document, by which the Assembly, taking note of paragraphs III.47, III.48, III.49, III.52, III.53, III.54, III.55 and III56 of the report of the Advisory Committee, would decide that the regular budget resources, under section 8, Legal affairs, for the Mechanism for 2020 amounts to $17.81 million before recosting.
The representative of the Russian Federation said he was against this amendment, requesting a vote on the matter.
The representative of the United States supported the amendment as proposed by Finland. The funding for the Mechanism was mandated by the Assembly, she said, calling on all delegates to vote in favour of the amendment.
The representative of Syria said that his country would not vote for the amendment. The Assembly went beyond its prerogative in establishing this entity. The United States and other delegations want to get rid of the burden of financing the Mechanism and give it to Member States.
The representative of the Russian Federation said that political discussion on the matter has ended, but from a financing viewpoint, he did not understand the amendment at all. The amendment undermined the understanding reached by Member States. He asked for delegates to vote against the amendment.
The oral amendment was approved by a recorded vote of 84 in favour to 27 against and 47 abstentions.
The representative of the Russian Federation, referring to operative paragraph 33 of “L.20”, sought clarification from the Secretariat about a cut in resources for printing for formal meetings of Fifth Committee. The $5 million allotted does not correspond to the reality of the expenditure for printing documents.
CHANDRAMOULI RAMANATHAN, United Nations Controller and Assistant Secretary‑General for Programme Planning, Finance and Budget in the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, said the Secretariat will try its best to implement operative paragraph 33. It would be difficult as the amount does not correspond to the needs of the Department of the General Assembly and Conference Management. The Secretariat will address the issue in the performance report for 2020 and the proposed programme budget for 2021.
Then, “L.20” was approved, as orally amended, without a vote.
The representative of the Russian Federation disassociated his delegation from consensus concerning the financing of the Mechanism, adding that his country’s Government reserves the right to consider the matter in discharging its financial obligation.
The representative of Syria disassociated his delegation from consensus on the financing of the Mechanism and said that this position will be reflected in the discharging of Syria’s financial obligation. Financing of the Mechanism is a waste of United Nations resources.
The representative of China said that consensus was not reached on the creation of the Mechanism. It is regrettable that the Fifth Committee approved the budget through a vote, setting an undesirable precedent. The Committee should avoid this kind of scenario in the future.
The representative of Iran said the establishment of the Mechanism was in violation of the United Nations Charter and therefore his delegation disassociates itself from recognition of the budget for the Mechanism.
The representative of Myanmar said that resources should be used more meaningfully and impactfully. Taxpayer money from Member States should be used judiciously for the wider United Nations membership. His delegation disassociates itself from the Fifth Committee decision to appropriate resources for the Mechanism.
The representative of Cuba said that the regular budget should not be used for a mandate which lacks intergovernmental consensus.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea also disassociated his delegation from a decision on financing the Mechanism.
The representative of Nicaragua also disassociated his delegation from the decision, saying that the Mechanism does not have consensus, and especially the consent of the concerned party, Syria.
The representative of Venezuela disassociated his delegation from the financing of the Mechanism, which was created without the consent of the country concerned.
The Fifth Committee then turned to a draft titled “Special subjects relating to the proposed programme budget for 2020” (document A/C.5/74/L.22), which in 24 parts, took up the following: Subvention to the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (I); Revised estimates resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted by the Economic and Social Council during 2019 (II); International Trade Centre (III); Administrative and financial implications of the decisions and recommendations contained in the report of the International Civil Service Commission for 2019 (IV); Subvention to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (V); Subvention to the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone (VI); Strategic heritage plan for the United Nations Office at Geneva (VII); and Administrative expenses of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund (VIII).
Also: progress in the implementation of a flexible workspace at United Nations Headquarters (IX); Progress in the renovation of Africa Hall and the construction of new office facilities at the Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa (X); Progress on the renovation of the North Building at the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean in Santiago, Chile (XI); Seismic mitigation retrofit and life‑cycle replacements project at the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific premises in Bangkok (XII); Progress on the replacement of office blocks A to J at the United Nations Office at Nairobi (XIII); addressing the deteriorating conditions and limited capacity of the conference services facilities at the United Nations Office at Nairobi (XIV); and Revised estimates resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted by the Human Rights Council at its fortieth, forty‑first and forty‑second sessions (XV).
Also: Revised estimates relating to the programme budget for 2020 under section 27, Humanitarian assistance, and section 36, Staff assessment Office of the United Nations — Emergency Ebola Response Coordinator (XVI); Enterprise resource planning project, Umoja (XVII); Estimates in respect of special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council (XVIII); Gross jointly financed budget of the Joint Inspection Unit (XIX); Gross jointly financed budget of the International Civil Service Commission (XX); Gross jointly financed budget of the United Nations System of Chief Executives Board for Coordination (XXI); Gross jointly financed budget of the Department of Safety and Security (XXII); Effects of changes in rates of exchange and inflation (XXIII); and Contingency fund (XXIV).
By part VII, regarding the strategic heritage plan for the United Nations Office at Geneva, the Assembly would request the Secretary‑General to ensure that the plan is fully completed within the project scope and overall cost approved in resolution 70/248 A without further delays. Further, it would express concern about the six‑month delay, increased costs and risks to the project schedule and cost plan as well as the decreasing level of confidence. Requesting the Secretary‑General to ensure rigorous risk management, the Assembly would decide to appropriate the amount of $36.8 million for 2020, under section 33 — Construction, alteration, improvement and major maintenance, of the programme budget for 2020.
By part VIII, concerning the Joint Staff Pension Fund, the Assembly would recall paragraph 13 of its resolution 73/274 and decide that the head of the pension administration shall be named Chief Executive of Pension Administration and stress that the Secretary of the Pension Board shall be fully independent from the Chief Executive of the Pension Administration and the Representative of the Secretary‑General. In this regard, it would decide that the Secretary of the Pension Board shall be selected and evaluated by the Board’s Succession Planning Committee. By further terms, the Assembly would approve the revised estimates of $184.91 million for 2018‑2019 for the administration of the Fund and expenses, chargeable directly to the Fund, totalling $92.9 million net for 2020.
Part IX, on progress on the implementation of a flexible workspace at the United Nations Headquarters, would reaffirm that flexible workplace strategies in the United Nations should be aimed at improving the overall productivity and efficiency of the Organization as well as the staff workplace environment, and request the Secretary‑General to continue implementing such strategies in New York in 2020, with full utilization of maximum occupancy per floor, and to report thereon at the main part of the Assembly’s seventy‑fifth session. Further, asking the Secretary‑General to closely monitor and manage the remaining works to ensure the completion of the flexible workspace project in the third quarter of 2020, the Assembly would appropriate $6.8 million for the project costs under section 29B — Department of Operational Support, of 2020 proposed programme budget.
By part XV on revised estimates resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted by the Human Rights Council at its fortieth, forty‑first and forty‑second sessions, the Assembly would approve the establishment, effective from 1 January 2020, of 18 posts under section 24 — Human rights, of the proposed programme budget for 2020, comprising 6 posts to support the activities mandated by the Council in its resolutions 40/13, 42/20, 42/22 and 42/23 and 12 posts for the establishment of the country office in the Sudan, as mandated in resolution 42/35. Further terms would appropriate an additional amount of $20.2 million comprising $1.7 million under section 2 — General Assembly and Economic and Social Council affairs and conference management, $18.5 million under section 24 — Human rights, and $8400 under section 29E — Administration, Geneva, of the proposed programme budget for 2020.
Further, by part XVII of the text regarding the enterprise resource planning project, Umoja, the Assembly would approve $34.32 million in resource requirements for the completion of the project in 2020.
Part XVIII, concerning estimates in respect of special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or Security Council, the Assembly — affirming that such missions play a critical role in the maintenance of international peace and security — would express concern about the late consideration of their budgets, particularly as part of the annual budgeting, and reiterate the importance of the Advisory Committee considering the missions’ budgets in sufficient time to allow the Assembly the necessary time to make considered decisions. The Assembly would approve $710.2 million for the 39 continuing special political missions and $1.42 million for the share of such missions in the budget of the Regional Service Centre in Entebbe, Uganda, for 2020, of which $639.88 million has been included under Section 3 of the proposed programme budget for 2020.
The Assembly would also decide to appropriate an additional $71.76 million under section 3, Political affairs, of the programme budget for 2020, for the United Nations Mission to Support the Hudaydah Agreement and the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti, under the procedures provided for in paragraph 11 of annex I to resolution 41/213 of 19 December 1986.
Lastly, the Assembly would note that a balance of $8,200 remains in the contingency fund.
The representative of Cuba proposed oral amendments to the draft, noting that there is no legal basis for the establishment of a Special Adviser on the responsibility to protect. There is no agreement among Member States on that concept, she said, calling for the deletion of references to the Special Adviser, in Section XVIII of the text.
The representative of Nicaragua supported Cuba’s proposed amendments, saying that resources should not be given to the activities of the Special Adviser while asking other delegations to vote in favour of the amendments.
The representative of Iran said that the mandate of the Special Adviser on the responsibility to protect was established by the Secretary‑General and the Security Council. There was also no consensus on the inclusion of “responsibility to protect” in the Assembly’s agenda. Iran will vote for the amendments.
The representative of Syria also supported the amendments, noting that the responsibility‑to‑protect concept is controversial and has no consensus.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea supported the amendments as the concept has not been agreed by all Member States and includes dangerous elements which may be exploited by some Member States for their own political interests.
The representative of the Russian Federation said his delegation will vote in favour of the amendments.
Also supporting the amendments was the representative of Venezuela, who said the Assembly has not taken a decision on the concept.
The representative of Finland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that discussion in the Fifth Committee should focus on budgetary matters, and delegations should refrain from political discussion that belongs in other fora. The Special Adviser on the responsibility to protect was approved by the Security Council and the Special Adviser’s Office should adequately be funded, he said, calling for a vote against the amendments.
The representative of Canada opposed the amendments, urging all delegations to vote against them.
The amendments were rejected by a recorded vote of 18 in favour to 79 against with 52 abstentions.
Then, the representative of Israel proposed oral amendments under Section XV regarding the resources for implementing Human Rights Council resolution 40/13, entitled “Ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.”
The representative of Algeria, speaking on behalf of the Arab States, urged all delegations to vote against the amendments.
The amendments were rejected by a recorded vote of 3 in favour to 128 against with 13 abstentions.
Then, “L.22”, as a whole, was approved without a vote.
Speaking after the action, the representative of the Philippines disassociated his delegation from financing the Human Rights Council resolution on his country, explaining that the text was adopted by only 18 of the Council’s 47 members. Its validity is questionable. Allocating resources for implementing this resolution is misguided and irresponsible.
The representative of Georgia, referring to the Geneva International Discussions on the conflict between his country and the Russian Federation, said that related language deviated from facts on the ground and must be addressed in future texts.
The representative of Myanmar disassociated his delegation from the Fifth Committee decision to approve resources for implementing two Human Rights Council resolutions concerning his country. These selective resolutions offer no help, he said, proposing a more effective use of resources. His country’s Government has requested the replacement of the current Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar as she makes inappropriate remarks.
The representative of Iran disassociated his delegation from approval of resources for implementing Security Council resolution 2231 (2015) on the Iran nuclear issue, under Section XVIII of the text.
The representative of Syria disassociated his delegation from approval of resources for implementing Human Rights Council resolutions on Syria, which do not have consensus.
The representative of the Russian Federation said that his delegation does not share the view of Georgia, expressing support for the United Nations representative to the Geneva International Discussions in line with the existing mandate.
The representative of Canada expressed support for the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on Protests in Gaza, welcoming the approval by the Fifth Committee of “L.22” as a package by consensus.
The Committee then turned to a draft entitled “Proposed programme budget for 2020” (document A/C.5/74/L.23), which comprises three sections: Section A concerning the budget appropriations; Section B on the revised income estimates; and Section C regarding the financing of appropriations.
Mr. Ramanathan said that the adoption of Finland’s oral amendment on “L.23”, which applies to Part A, has resulted in an increase to the appropriation by $7.68 million dollars under Section 8, Legal affairs, and by $632,200 under Section 36, Staff Assessment, after recosting and cross‑cutting reductions. The grand total appropriation under Part A of the resolution will total $3.07 billion. Corresponding adjustments will be made under Part B, income from staff assessment, and Part C, the assessment on Member States.
The text in the original resolution, released before the necessary technical updates provided by Mr. Ramanathan, would have the Assembly resolve that budget appropriations of $3.065 billion would be approved for 2020. The text also included the addition of $61.85 million to reflect an increase in appropriations for the biennium 2018‑2019, which were approved by the Assembly in resolutions 73/279 B of 6 April 2019 and 73/306 of 3 July 2019. The text noted that the assessment on Member States would be nearly $3.08 billion, in accordance with Assembly resolution 73/271 of 22 December 2018 on the scale of assessments for the apportionment of the expenses of the United Nations.
The draft resolution, as technically updated, was approved without a vote.
The Committee then approved, without a vote, a draft titled “Unforeseen and extraordinary expenses for 2020” (document A/C.5/74/L.24), by which the Assembly would authorize the Secretary‑General, with the prior concurrence of the ACABQ and subject to the Financial Regulations and Rules of the United Nations, to enter into commitments in the year 2020 to meet unforeseen and extraordinary expenses arising either during or subsequent to the biennium.
Concurrence of the Advisory Committee for such expenses shall not be necessary for commitments not exceeding a total of $8 million as the Secretary General certifies relate to the maintenance of peace and security; and commitments as the President of the International Court of Justice certifies relate to expenses occasioned by the designation of ad hoc judges not exceeding a total of $100,000, or the payment of pensions, travel and removal expenses of retiring judges and travel and removal expenses as well as installation grants of members of the Court not exceeding a total of $205,000. Concurrence of the Advisory Committee shall also not be necessary for such commitments not exceeding $500,000 in the year 2020 as the Secretary—General certifies are required for security measures pursuant to section XI, paragraph 6, of General Assembly resolution 59/276 of 23 December 2004.
Further to the text, the Assembly would decide that, for the year 2020, if a decision of the Security Council results in the need for the Secretary‑General to enter into commitments relating to the maintenance of peace and security in an amount exceeding $10 million, that matter shall be brought to the Assembly, or, if the Assembly is suspended or not in session, a resumed or special session of the Assembly shall be convened by the Secretary‑General to consider the matter.
Next, the Committee approved a draft on the Working Capital Fund for 2020 (document A/C.5/74/L.25). By that text, the Assembly would establish the Fund for 2020 in the amount of $150 million, and Member States would make advances to it in accordance with their scale of assessments for 2020. There shall be set off against this allocation the following advances: Credits to Member States resulting from transfers made in 1959 and 1960 from the surplus account to the Working Capital Fund in an adjusted amount of $1.03 million; and cash advances paid by Member States to the Fund for the biennium 2018‑2019, in accordance with Assembly resolution 70/251 of 17 February 2016. Should credits and advances paid by any Member State to the Fund exceed that State’s advance, the excess would be set off against the amount of contributions payable in respect of the year 2020.
The Committee then approved the draft report of the Fifth Committee titled “Proposed programme budget for 2020” (document A/C.5/74/L.26, parts I and II), as technically updated. Mr. Ramanathan again said that the impact of the adoption of the oral amendment presented by Finland’s representative on “L.26”, which applies to Part A, is an adjustment by the Fifth Committee to increase the appropriation by $7.68 million dollars under Section 8, Legal affairs, and by $632,200 under Section 36, Staff Assessment, after recosting and cross‑cutting reductions. The total appropriation under Part A of the resolution will tally $3.07 billion. Corresponding adjustments will be made under Part B, income from staff assessment, and Part C, the assessment on Member States.
Finally, the Fifth Committee approved a draft decision titled “Questions deferred for future consideration” (document A/C.5/74/L.27). By that text, the Assembly would decide to defer until the first part of its resumed seventy‑fourth session consideration of reports of the Secretary‑General, ACABQ and Board of Auditors on the Capital Master Plan; reports of the Secretary‑General and ACABQ on human resources management; and the Secretary‑General’s notes transmitting his comments and those of the United Nations Chief Executives Board on reports of the Joint Inspection Unit.
The Assembly would decide to defer until the main part of its seventy‑fifth session consideration of the Secretary‑General’s reports on the United Nations Office for Partnerships. Also deferred would be his reports and those of the Advisory Committee on estimates in respect of special political mission, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or Security Council, and on the review of the experience of the utilization of the contingency fund.
An observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, highlighted the Fifth Committee’s achievement in adopting, amidst the challenges of moving to the first annual programme plan and budget in almost 45 years, a programme budget that ensures an adequate level of resources for all mandated programmes and activities. Stressing the Organization’s role as an enabler of the development agenda, he noted the Group’s support for the development pillar in all its aspects, including the budget of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the Economic and Regional Commissions. The international community wants to see an effective and fit‑for‑purpose United Nations that can fully deliver its mandates, he said, adding, “reforms are accompanied by teething pains.”
Noting that this was the first time that the sequential nature of the review processes of the proposed programme budget conducted by the Advisory Committee and Committee for Programme and Coordination was not preserved, she said that the latter Committee’s role should be preserved and strengthened. Voicing the hope that the Secretariat and Member States, guided by the resolution adopted today, will work hand in hand towards a better implementation of the ongoing management reforms, she expressed disappointment that the Fifth Committee was unable to consider human resources management, an area prioritized by the Group.
KATLEGO BOASE MMALANE (Botswana), speaking on behalf of the African Group, noted that 2019 represented the first phase of transiting from a biennial to annual year. It was the first session that the entire programme plan was submitted for the Assembly’s consideration and decision without any specific recommendations, and the first time the proposed programme budget’s sequential‑type review process, conducted by the Committee for Programme and Coordination and the Advisory Committee, went unpreserved. Lauding the Fifth Committee for successfully concluding deliberations on other important agenda items, he said these included the Joint Inspection Unit, United Nations common system, construction and property management, administration of justice and the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund. Despite the challenges of moving to the first annual programme plan and budget, he added, the Assembly has succeeded in adopting a programme budget ensuring adequate United Nations resources to fully deliver on all mandated programmes and activities.
JAN DE PRETER, European Union delegation, said that the texts approved confirm the direction that the United Nations is taking in terms of budget and management reforms. The consensus reached on programme planning demonstrates the Fifth Committee’s capacity to find agreement on technical issues with important political ramifications. The time has come for the Committee to reconsider its working methods with a view to making its discussions more efficient and productive. The European Union is pleased to see that the Organization’s first annual budget has been approved with a level of resources that will enable all mandates to be fulfilled in a cross‑cutting manner. The Committee’s deliberations should always be based on requests from the Secretary‑General and aimed at avoiding arbitrary decisions, greater politicization and budget fragmentation. The Fifth Committee should discuss the functioning and composition of the Advisory Committee and that issues related to that body can never be subject to arbitrary decisions imposed on Member States at large, he said.
CHERITH NORMAN‑CHALET (United States), noted that discussions have not always been easy, but the Fifth Committee has nonetheless successfully adopted a budget ensuring greater effectiveness and efficiency in United Nations functioning. Adding that it must now consider human resource management in the budget, she said her delegation looks forward to programme planning that focuses on results and achievements.
FU DAOPENG (China) said the Fifth Committee has considered and approved United Nations programme planning for 2020 along with other important agenda items, thus providing secured resources for its effective functioning. The Committee must in the future reach consensus in approving United Nations reform proposals aimed at providing better services for Member States.
MAYANK SINGH (India), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said he hoped the Fifth Committee was successful in ensuring adequate resources in the 2020 budget for the effective functioning of United Nations programmes and activities. Expressing disappointment that today’s proceedings were side‑tracked by political issues, he said the Committee must ensure that it does not go beyond its mandate.