Speakers Approve Work Programme, Focus on United Nations First Annual Budget, as Fifth Committee Begins Session
Delegates at the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) opened their seventy fourth session with the election of Andreas D. Mavroyiannis of Cyprus as their chairman as they urged each other to collaborate to handle a heavy workload that includes preparing the Organization's first annual budget.
At today's organizational meeting, the Fifth Committee approved a wide ranging programme of work and discussed the scale of assessments, a complex methodology used to determine each Member State's contribution to the Organization's budget.
Speaking of behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, an observer for the State of Palestine said the Fifth Committee has faced chronic delays in the issuance of documents. Practical steps are essential to ensure crucial reports from the Secretariat and the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) are issued to delegates in all official languages in a timely manner.
The representative of Botswana, speaking on behalf of the African Group, urged delegates to carry out inclusive and transparent negotiations and work efficiently and effectively to end its session on time. It will watch closely as the pilot format of the annual budget is reviewed.
The representative of the United States said her delegation looks forward to improving the new budget format over time so the financial document focuses on results and the efficient delivery of the Organization's mandates. The United States is closely watching the budget, which includes a $79 million reduction from the 2019 appropriated amount. Yet her delegation is concerned with ongoing construction projects, recosting and other add ons that could increase the budget to more than $3 billion, $200 million more than 2019.
The speaker for the Russian Federation said his delegation expects a detailed discussion of the 2020 proposed budget. Noting that the Committee for Programme and Coordination was not able to reach a consensus this year, he said that the Fifth Committee now faces two challenges: It must deal with the new budget format, as well as questions surrounding the clear costs and benefits of the Organization's programmes.
Turing to the scale of assessments, Sri Lanka's representative, aligning herself with the Group of 77, said any changes to the elements of the current methodology for the scale aimed at increasing the contributions of developing countries is unacceptable. The Secretariat needs to use the resources received from Member States effectively and stay clear of politicization and double standards.
The observer for the State of Palestine, again speaking for the Group of 77, also rejected any changes to the elements of the current methodology that would increase the contributions of developing countries. She added that organizations with enhanced observer status at the United Nations have rights and privileges usually only applied to observer States, such as the right to speak at the Assembly's general debate and the right of reply. They should also bear the same financial obligations to the United Nations as observer States. She called on the Assembly to consider a decision on an assessment for such organizations.
During the meeting, Bernardo Greiver, Chair of the Committee on Contributions, introduced its report of its seventy ninth session, and Chandru Ramanathan, Controller and Assistant Secretary General for Programme Planning, Finance and Budget, introduced the Secretary General's report on multi year payment plans.
In other business, the Fifth Committee recommended the appointment of Donna Marie Chiurazzi Maxfield of the United States as a member of ACABQ to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of an Advisory Committee member.
Also speaking today were representatives of Turkey, Cyprus, Singapore (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), China, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Japan, United Kingdom, Norway and India, as well as the European Union.
The Fifth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m., on Tuesday, 8 October to discuss programme planning and the proposed programme budget for 2020.
Election of Officers
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) elected, by acclamation, Andreas D. Mavroyiannis (Cyprus) as its Chair for the seventy fourth session of the General Assembly.
The representative of Turkey said that the assumption of the Committee's chairmanship by Cyprus does not amount to her delegation's formal recognition of the Republic of Cyprus.
The representative of Cyprus said his delegation respects any interventions but the statement just made by Turkey's representative is not an appropriate issue to raise in the current context, and his delegation will conduct the work of its chairmanship in an inclusive manner.
Organization of Work
Mr. Mavroyiannis (Cyprus), Committee Chair, said he was deeply grateful for the Group of Asia Pacific States for endorsing his candidature to the challenging post and the confidence it showed. He extended his appreciation to his fellow Bureau members and his predecessor, Gillian Bird. He is genuinely committed to work with full respect with all Member States and hopes he can count on the support and cooperation of all Committee members. The United Nations is at a critical juncture and faces many challenges. He hopes they would assume all their responsibilities. There were several important issues for consideration, including the first annual budget for 2020 and programme planning. He vowed to work to preserve consensus as issues were deliberated and work in a spirit of multilateralism.
He said he plans to follow the practices of his predecessor and start meetings on time and set time limits on speeches, and urged the Committee to hold its meetings during regular working hours. Referring to the organization of work, he noted the Fifth Committee has a full agenda before it that must be completed before the session's end. He noted that the General Assembly decided its seventy fourth session will recess on 16 December and the date for the Fifth Committee's work will be 13 December.
FEDA ABDELHADY-NASSER, observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said that delays in the issuance of documents have been a chronic problem for the Committee and practical steps must be taken to ensure that reports from the Secretariat and the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) are issued in all official languages in a timely manner. On the proposed programme budget for 2020, she said that the level of resources to be approved by the General Assembly must be commensurate with all mandated programmes and activities. Mandates must determine budget proposals and not the other way around, she said.
The Group's other key priority is human resources management, especially the Secretary General's proposed global human resources strategy, including how to achieve gender parity and equitable geographical representation at all levels, she said. She went on to express the Group's regret that, despite repeated requests, no comprehensive proposals on this matter are being presented to the Committee, urging the Secretary General to implement a comprehensive strategy to ensure geographical representation in the Secretariat by increasing representation of developing countries, particularly at senior levels.
JAN DE PRETER, European Union, welcoming progress thus far toward United Nations reform, expressed hope that these efforts will improve the Organization and make it more responsive. Voicing concerns about the United Nations financial situation, particularly for peacekeeping operations, he urged Member States to pay their assessments in full and on time. The main priority should be to complete negotiations on the 2020 budget. He proposed some measures to improve the Committee's working method of the Committee. First, reports should be submitted on time in the Organization's six official languages. Second, the Committee should be able to reach decisions by consensus without having to resort to working nights or on weekends. Third, the Committee should strategically execute its work instead of micromanaging.
BURHAN GAFOOR (Singapore), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), aligned himself with the statement of the Group of 77, and said ASEAN was confident the Fifth Committee would complete its work in a timely fashion. He noted the many crucial issues facing the Committee this session and said the Association would be paying particular attention to the 2020 budget, programme planning, the special political missions and human resources management. While welcoming the Organization's progress on gender parity, he called for more focus on geographical distribution. Each year the Fifth Committee faces a complex agenda and all Secretariat departments should prepare and submit their documents in a timely manner. ASEAN will work together with all Committee members, he said.
KATLEGO BOASE MMALANE (Botswana), speaking on behalf of the African Group, notes the Fifth Committee will consider a significant number of documents related to many agenda items and faces a heavy workload this session. Documents need to be issued in a timely order to facilitate the Committee's packed programme. This year's important agenda items include the proposed programme budget for 2020, human resources management, the common system, construction and property management, and the financing of special political missions. Noting that the Assembly approved the introduction of an annual budget on a trial basis, he said that the African Group will engage keenly and transparently on this issue and pay close attention to the pilot format and its impact on the Group's interests.
Regarding the scale of assessments, the African Group stresses the need for expedited action on the issue to ensure the full participation of concerned Member States on the Assembly's work, he said. Regarding the Fifth Committee's work methods, the Group urges the Fifth Committee to be efficient with its time and effective with its output. The Group agrees that the extension of the programme of work beyond the official allocated timeframe should not be commonplace. All negotiations should be carried out in an open, inclusive and transparent manner, devoid of backroom dealings and closed group machinations.
CHERITH NORMAN CHALET (United States) said the Fifth Committee is facing a unique and critical session this fall as it considers some of the fruits of its reform decisions while considering the 2020 annual budget and human resources management reports. The United Nations is at a crucial phase of implementing reforms and the Fifth Committee has to be diligent in holding the Organization accountable. The global service delivery model is a key reform to streamline the way the Secretariat delivers administrative services. The model must stay grounded in a solid technical basis and not be co opted by political machinations, she said. Regarding the 2020 budget, the United States commends the Secretary General for preparing his first annual budget and the new budget format, and her delegation looks forward to improving the format over time so it focuses on results and efficient mandate delivery. However, the United States is carefully looking at a budget which notably proposes a $79 million reduction, compared to the 2019 appropriated budget. However, because of ongoing construction projects, recosting and other add ons, the budget could balloon to more than $3 billion, $200 million more than 2019. This is concerning.
FU DAOPENG (China) stressed the important functions of the Committee, citing Article 17 of the Charter of the United Nations, insisting that more attention should be paid to the budget performance. As the second largest contributor to the regular budget, China pays its dues in full and on time as an expression of its firm support for multilateralism. Every penny of taxpayers must be accounted for. The Committee has a heavy workload, including the issue of the global service delivery model. Therefore, Committee members should work constructively in a spirit of cooperation and comprise.
JESASS VELA�ZQUEZ CASTILLO (Mexico) highlighted the important work of the Committee in maintaining a clear vision for the Organization's future. It has a complex agenda and will discuss, for the first time, a yearly budget. The new budget should be realistic and balanced so that the Secretariat can fulfil its mandates. Drawing attention to the special political missions, he said that these operations should be given adequate financial resources. Missions in Haiti and Colombia are particularly important to the stability of Latin America. Other priority matters include the global service delivery model and the relevance of the model's proposed regional headquarters.
Ms. AL HAIDAN (United Arab Emirates) aligned herself with the statement by the State of Palestine on behalf of the Group of 77 and noted the Assembly's decision to shift to an annual budget. The United Arab Emirates intends to play an active role in this issue. The United Arab Emirates is also very interested in human resources management and is committed to supporting its nationals. It is preparing their participation at the United Nations through the Young Professional Programme. There are now four United Arab Emirates professionals in the Organization and she hoped this was just a starting point. She also called for the prompt issuance of reports so Fifth Committee members have time to adequately consider all issues. The United Arab Emirates hopes the Fifth Committee will conclude its work in a timely manner, she said.
TOSHIYA HOSHINO (Japan) said that his delegation will carefully examine the programme budget proposal for 2020, including its methodology, mindful that this is the first annual budget on a trial basis since the implementation phase of the reform started. He emphasized that genuine budgetary disciple is essential for the United Nations to operate and deliver its mandate in an efficient, effective and sustainable manner.
DMITRY S. CHUMAKOV (Russian Federation) said the agenda includes a robust array of issues and his delegation expects a detailed discussion of the proposed budget for 2020. He regrets that the Committee for Programme and Coordination was not able to reach a consensus. The Fifth Committee now faces two challenges: the new budget format and discussing questions on the Organization's programmes. The Russian Federation will insist that decisions on funding the programmes be made once the programmes have been approved. Member States must be informed about the clear costs and benefits of all programmes. This would prevent situations from occurring, such as what has happened with Umoja, where additional funding was needed. He also called for the timely presentation of documents in all six official languages.
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom), associating himself with the European Union, said that his country will leave the bloc on 31 October, but will continue to work closely with it in pursuit of shared interests and values. The United Kingdom will remain active in the Fifth Committee and continue to be among the strongest proponents of a strengthened, effective and efficient United Nations. His delegation hopes to see a return to action and decision making by consensus, in contrast to the previous session, when the Committee saw indecision and division. The Committee will consider an annual budget and it has the opportunity to enhance the Organization's most valuable assets � its people � through better human resources management policies and practices.
MONA JUUL (Norway) said Norway is strongly committed to United Nations reform and commends the Secretary General for his great leadership in this regard and notes the hard work that remains to be done by United Nations entities and Member States. The real litmus test for success will be a more coherent, effective and efficient UN at country level, she said. Norway welcomes a new budget proposal that reflects a simplified, integrated and transparent budget process and a shorter budget cycle.
Member States need to ensure that adequate resources are available to cover the mandates, including the United Nations human rights system, she said. The new Resident Coordinator system makes up the core of reform of the United Nations development system and sharing the burden of its funding remains a critical issue. Norway considers the Secretariat's financing of its share of the Resident Coordinator system a matter of principle that should continue. The Fifth Committee has a key role to play as it steers the Organization towards a strong culture of accountability, more transparency, effectiveness and efficiency.
MAHESH KUMAR (India) said that while discussing the budget figures for 2020, the Committee should also seek its alignment with established budgetary procedures and practices. Our ask has been that the reforms, while rationalizing processes and structures, should also strengthen the intergovernmental nature of the United Nations, he said, underscoring the need to preserve the prerogatives of the Committee for Programme and Coordination and the Advisory Committee. The proposed 2020 programme budget, which speaks of some productivity gains, would cut the budget of some bodies, such as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and regional economic commissions. This is a cause for concern, he said, also noting with concern that about $1.3 billion of assessments are outstanding.
Membership of Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions
The Fifth Committee by acclamation recommended to the Assembly the appointment of Donna Marie Chiurazzi Maxfield (United States) as a member of the Advisory Committee. This appointment would begin on the date of the Assembly's appointment until 31 December 2020. Ms. Chiurazzi Maxfield would fill the vacancy created by the resignation of David Traystan (United States).
Scale of Assessments
BERNARDO GREIVER, Chair of the Committee on Contributions, introduced its report of its seventy ninth session (document A/74/11). During the session, held from 3 June to 21June, the Committee reviewed the methodology of the scale of assessments, which is based on the most current, comprehensive and comparable data available for gross national income.
CHANDRU RAMANATHAN, Controller and Assistant Secretary General for Programme Planning, Finance and Budget, introduced the report of the Secretary General on Multi year payment plans (document A/74/68), which provides information on the payment plan submitted earlier by Sao Tome and Principe and on the status of implementation of that plan as of 31 December 2018.
NADA TARBUSH, observer for the State of Palestine, speaking for the Group of 77, reiterated its long standing position that the Organization has to be given sufficient financial resources to carry out its mandates. All Member States should fulfil their legal obligations to bear the Organization's expenses, in line with the Charter, and pay their assessed contributions in full, on time and without conditions. At the same time, the Group recognizes some developing countries face special and genuine difficulties that prevent them from temporarily meeting their financial obligations. It has reviewed the requests for exemptions under Article 19 by Comoros, Sao Tome and Principe and Somalia, and is convinced that their inability to make minimum contributions payments is due to factors beyond their control. Multi year payment plans should remain voluntary, she said, and encouraged Member States with significant arrears to consider such plans to meet their obligations.
The Group rejects any changes to the elements of the current methodology to prepare the scale of assessments aimed at increasing the contributions of developing countries, she said. The core elements of the current methodology must be kept intact and are not negotiable. She reminded the Committee that the current maximum assessment rates, or ceiling, has been fixed as a political compromise and is contrary to the capacity to pay principle. It is a fundamental source of distortion in the scale of assessments. The ceiling has led to a reduction in 5.982 percentage points and only one Member State has benefited. She urged the Assembly to review this arrangement. Organizations with enhanced observer status at the United Nations have rights and privileges usually only applied to observer States, such as the right to speak at the Assembly's general debate and the right of reply. They should also bear the same financial obligations to the United Nations as observer States. She called on the Assembly to consider a decision on an assessment for such organizations.
Mr. DE PRETER, European Union, said that this year the Fifth Committee is not tasked to prepare a decision on the methodology of the scale of assessments, but this year's review of some elements of the methodology by the Committee on Contributions is thorough and comprehensive and could provide valuable recommendations. Regarding arrears, the bloc endorses the recommendations of the Committee on Contributions permitting the countries that requested exemption under Article 19 to vote in the General Assembly until the end of the seventy fourth session. He also called on all partners to close the scale of assessments item as quickly as possible.
RENA AKATSUKA (Japan) said that her country, as a major financial contributor to the United Nations, attaches great importance to the scale of assessments, and believes that each Member State should pay its assessed contribution according to its capacity to pay. At the same time, taking fully into account the changing global economy, it is imperative to improve its methodology to better reflect each country's real capacity to pay in a more equitable manner, based on the most current, comprehensive and comparable data available. Japan endorses exemptions to Article 19 and encourages those exempted Member States to consider submitting multi year payment plans.
Ms. NORMAN CHALET (United States) said the Committee on Contributions has a long history of providing sound analysis and recommendations to the Assembly while its reports have improved the Fifth Committee's deliberations. The United States appreciates the Contributions Committee's decision to improve transparency by publishing historical scale of assessments and scales' data on its website. It encourages the Contributions Committee to keep improving the use of information on its website, particularly by providing formats more accessible than PDFs. Transparency, including data transparency, is fundamental to accountability at the United Nations, she said. The delegation is also pleased the Contributions Committee is interested in providing its experience on the peacekeeping scale of assessments. Assembly decisions will be better informed when provided with the Contributions Committee's recommendations on the peacekeeping scale methodology.
Ms. SENEWIRATNE (Sri Lanka), associating herself with the Group of 77, said that any change to the elements of the current methodology for the scale of assessments aimed at increasing the contributions of developing countries is unacceptable. It is important that the Secretariat uses the resources received from Member States effectively, staying clear of politicization and double standards. A unilateral decision was conveyed to her delegation by the Department of Peace Operations on the adjustment of Sri Lanka's contribution to a peacekeeping operation. This violates the provision of the related memorandum of understanding. The Department sought to link its decision of not replacing a contingent on rotation to an internal appointment made by Sri Lanka as a sovereign right, thus challenging the Head of State of a member country.
Source: United Nations