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General Assembly: Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary)

Note: Owing to the liquidity crisis impacting our Organization, only a partial summary of statements made in this morning’s meeting of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) is available at this time.  The complete summary will be issued later as Press Release GA/AB/4350.

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 the Independent Investigative 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 the 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.

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