Encouraged that Budget of Asia-Pacific Commission Upgrade Remains Unchanged, Fifth Committee Delegates Say Risk Mitigation Key to Prevent Cost Overruns
Member States in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today supported the Secretariat's ongoing efforts to complete a $40.2 million construction project by 2023 that will make the headquarters of the Organization's regional commission in Bangkok a safer and more efficient working space for more than 600 employees.
The first phase of construction of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) will begin in January 2020 as employees are moved to on-site swing space. In introducing the Secretary-General's report, 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 project has the potential to make the site home to the largest United Nations presence in the region. The Economic Commission is the Organization's largest regional intergovernmental platform with 53 Member States and 9 associate members.
Singapore's delegate, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the Association is encouraged that the 2023 completion date remains in place, despite delays in the construction start date, and that the project budget remains unchanged at $40.02 million. He expressed concern, however, that the second Monte Carlo risk analysis report, issued in May 2019, warns the project could go over budget. It is imperative for the Secretary-General to ensure that the relevant risk-mitigating measures are adopted in a timely manner, he said.
Thailand's delegate said his country has been proud to host the Economic Commission for seven decades. The project dovetails with Thailand's policy to expand the United Nations presence in the country and promote Bangkok as the Geneva of Asia.
The observer for the State of Palestine, speaking for the Group of 77, noted the Economic Commission's crucial role in advancing the Organization's sustainable and inclusive development agenda over the past seven decades. At the same time, the headquarters has served as a platform for sharing knowledge and ideas on critical regional issues.
Along with Singapore's representative, he urged Member States to support ongoing construction and property management projects at the Organization's other regional sites, including the United Nations Office at Nairobi, the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Addis Ababa and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago, Chile.
Cihan Terzi, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced the body's related report and noted concerns about successive delays in the start of construction. The Advisory Committee backs the Secretary-General's proposals for post and non-post resources for 2020, including three local-level positions.
Mr. Ramanathan said the Secretary-General is asking the Assembly to approve $6.41 million for use in 2020 for the construction project and the creation of three temporary positions, effective 1 January 2020.
In other business, Mr. Ramanathan introduced the Chapeau of the Secretary-General's reports on the proposed programme budget for 2020 for special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council. Resources proposed for 2020 tallied $643.9 million for 37 special political missions, down $11.7 million from the approved budget of $655.6 million for 2019.
Mr. Terzi took the floor again to introduce the Advisory Committee's related reports and noted the proposed net increase of 34 positions in staffing requirements for the 37 missions for 2020, excluding the proposed 11 general temporary assistance positions for electoral support for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM). The proposed resources for operational costs amount to $229.1 million for 2020.
The Fifth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Friday, 1 November, to recommend appointments to fill vacancies in subsidiary organs and other entities.
Construction and Property Management
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 progress report on the seismic mitigation and life-cycle replacements project at the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)(document A/74/317) and said the project is on track with a 2023 completion date and an overall maximum estimated cost of $40.02 million. During the reporting period, the Economic Commission successfully completed the project's design phase and ensured all key mandates � including � seismic code compliance and fire and life safety requirements � were addressed. ESCAP has closely cooperated with the host country, and its project team worked with the Thai Council of Engineers and Local Technical Advisory Group on local best practices and key issues such as local laws, building codes and occupational health and safety standards. Project objectives, such as a 16 per cent to 18 per cent reduction in energy consumption, have been maintained and a 20 per cent efficiency gain in the use of space achieved.
The Economic Commission premises have not undergone a construction project of this scale since their initial construction, and the project has the potential to become home to the largest United Nations presence in the region, he said. It would be able to meet the future requirements of its occupants and the Organization to effectively support the delivery of shared goals and mandates. The Assembly is asked to take note of the revised cost plan, approve the creation of three temporary positions, effective 1 January 2020, and appropriate $6.41 million for project activities in 2020. The approval of the resources would let the project proceed with the construction phase beginning in 2020.
CIHAN TERZI, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced the body's related report A/74/7/Add.8) and expressed concern about successive delays in starting construction work, as reported in the current and previous reports. He said the Advisory Committee recommends that the General Assembly request that the Secretary-General take necessary measures to complete the project on time and within the approved budget. On the removal of hazardous materials, the Advisory Committee stresses the need to incorporate into the project scope the outcome of the second survey to be conducted to inform the full extent of abatement works required prior to the start of main construction work.
The Advisory Committee also recommends that the Assembly ask the Secretary-General to include in his next progress report details on the utilization and expected future income from swing space rental, he said, adding that the ACABQ trusts that the Secretary-General will provide an update on the accessibility features being introduced at ESCAP. The Advisory Committee recommends approval of the Secretary-General's proposals for post and non-post resources for the project in 2020, including three local-level positions.
SAED KATKHUDA, observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said that over the past seven decades, ESCAP has played a crucial role in advancing sustainable and inclusive development agenda while serving as a platform for knowledge-sharing and dialogue on issues critical to the region. As the demands of Member States grow, it is imperative to complete the project on time to ensure the continuity of the Economic Commission's activities. The Group notes that according to the Secretary-General's report, there remains a relatively low level of confidence that the project will be completed within the approved budget. The Group urges the Secretary-General to closely monitor the project and mitigate risk.
Project governance, oversight, cost-effectiveness and accountability are key drivers to ensure proper management and achieve the overall goal of the construction project, he said. The consideration of capital projects in the United Nations duty stations remains a top priority for the Group, he said, pointing to the need to continue addressing health and safety issues across all United Nations premises. It is imperative to support successful implementation of other construction and property management projects, including those for the United Nations Office at Nairobi, the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Addis Ababa and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago, Chile.
TSU TANG TERRENCE TEO (Singapore), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and aligning himself with the Group of 77, said the need to provide all United Nations regional commissions with safe, suitable and accessible workplaces cannot be overstated. ESCAP serves the largest number of countries: 53 Member States and 9 associate members. Noting the importance of good governance, he said the Economic Commission has addressed all recommendations from the 2018 audit of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and is implementing the recommendations of the Office's 2019 report. ASEAN supports the Secretary-General's proposal to establish three temporary positions, effective from 2020, and commends efforts to carry out environmental management strategies.
He reiterated that special attention should be given to using local knowledge, materials, technology and in-house capacity when carrying out this project. He urged the Fifth Committee and the Assembly to support the project's timely and complete implementation. Even with the delay in the start of construction work, ASEAN is encouraged by the Secretariat's assurance that the 2023 completion date remains on target and the project budget remains unchanged at $40.02 million, inclusive of contingency funding. Yet he expressed concern about the report on the second Monte Carlo risk analysis in May 2019, which concludes that the project carries significant risk of going over budget. It is imperative for the Secretary-General to ensure that the relevant risk-mitigating measures are adopted in a timely manner, he said. Capital projects at the United Nations regional commissions meant to enhance the Organization's efficiency and effectiveness are a priority for ASEAN. He strongly supported other projects, such as the replacement of office blocks at the United Nations Office at Nairobi, renovation works at ECA in Addis Ababa and the renovation of ECLAC in Santiago.
VITAVAS SRIVIHOK (Thailand), associating himself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, said ESCAP is an important regional arm of the United Nations and Thailand has been proud to serve as host for seven decades. The Economic Commission plays a crucial role as a regional platform for intergovernmental cooperation and the sharing of knowledge and dialogues that advance sustainable and inclusive development, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Thailand supports ESCAP's work to address health and safety issues by implementing a seismic mitigation retrofit and life-cycle replacement project, and it has worked closely with the Economic Commission to successfully complete the project. The Thai Ministry for Foreign Affairs has supported the project through in-kind contributions, enabling various meetings between the Economic Commission and local authorities and stakeholders. The project team has benefited from a broad range of local expertise, best practices and knowledge of procedures.
Thailand looks forward to the completion of the on-site swing space in time to begin the first phase of the main construction work in 2020, he said. He also welcomed efforts to comply with all seismic building codes and industry norms and commended ESCAP for measures on energy efficiency and sustainability, accessibility and space efficiency. The open-plan workspace solutions will let the complex accommodate more United Nations entities in the future. This aligns with Thailand's policy to expand the United Nations presence in the country and promote Bangkok as a hub of international organizations, reaffirming its position as the Geneva of Asia.
Proposed 2020 Programme Budget for Special Political Missions
Mr. RAMANATHAN introduced the Chapeau of the reports of the Secretary-General on the proposed programme budget for 2020 in respect of special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council (document A/74/6(Sect.3)/Add.1). He said the total proposed resources for 2020 amount to $643.9 million for 37 special political missions, down $11.7 million from the approved budget of $655.6 million for 2019. The overall amount includes $1.4 million to finance the Regional Service Centre in Entebbe. The decreases come primarily from reduced payment to the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia (UNVMC).
He said the decreases were partially offset by increases totalling $7.1 million, which mainly result from resolutions of intergovernmental bodies for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da'esh/ISIL (UNITAD) and the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen. Resource requirements for the United Nations Mission to Support the Hudaydah Agreement (UNMHA) and the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) will be presented separately at a later date. Given the liquidity crisis facing the regular budget operations of the Organization, special political missions have been requested to adjust hiring and non-post expenditures, he said.
Mr. TERZI introduced the ACABQ's related second report in respect of the special political missions (document A/74/7/Add.1), drawing attention to a net increase of 34 positions in staffing requirements proposed for the 37 missions for 2020, excluding the proposed 11 general temporary assistance positions for electoral support for UNSOM. The Advisory Committee's recommendations and comments are contained in its related reports: third report on thematic cluster I: special and personal envoys, advisers and representatives of the Secretary-General (document A/74/7/Add.2); fourth report on thematic cluster II: sanctions monitoring teams, groups and panels, and other entities and mechanisms (document A/74/7/Add.3); fifth report on thematic cluster III: regional offices, offices in support of political processes and other missions (document A/74/7/Add.4); sixth report on UNAMA (document A/74/7/Add.5); and seventh report on UNAMI (document A/74/7/Add.6). The proposed resources for operational costs amount to $229.1 million for 2020. The Advisory Committee has made specific comments and recommendations on operational costs for individual missions in those reports. Regarding the support capacity in six structurally integrated special political missions, the Advisory Committee notes that only UNAMA has proposed abolishing positions. The ACABQ is not convinced of maintaining the existing support capacity levels in the other five missions, particularly UNAMI.
Source: United Nations