Approving Work Programme, Fifth Committee Speakers Urge Collective Approach to Tackling Financing for New Blueprint of 2030 Agenda

Members of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today urged each other to work together during the current session as they tackled a complex and ambitious agenda that included forming an outline for the Organization’s two-year multi-billion-dollar budget for 2018-2019 and financing of the new blueprint for global advancement known as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

At its organizational meeting, the Fifth Committee approved a wide-ranging programme of work that enveloped crucial financial and human resources issues meant to help to manage the Organization’s thousands of employees and keep it financially sustainable and running smoothly. The Committee would also examine the Organization’s execution since January of its $5.4 billion budget for 2016-2017 before wrapping its work on 9 December.

As in previous years, delegates urged the Secretariat to issue its reports in a timely manner so Member States had sufficient time to make well-informed decisions. Speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Antigua and Barbuda’s representative said he trusted the work programme would reflect the interests of the collective General Assembly membership and that negotiations would be carried out in an open, inclusive and transparent manner, rather than in small group configurations.

He and the Dominican Republic’s representative, speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), expressed dismay that the Secretary-General’s comprehensive proposal on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda as well as the global framework for financing development in the post-2015 era, known as the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, had still not been issued. That proposal was important for the region and its issuance should be prioritized, they stressed.

The European Union’s speaker said budgetary discipline was crucial, particularly given the Organization’s ever-growing number of mandates and functions. Increases in the agreed-to programme budget must be avoided, he said. China’s representative called for “a reasonable budget outline” for the 2018-2019 biennium.

Delegates then took up the agenda item on the scale of assessments, the complex methodology used to determine Member States’ contributions to United Nations regular budget expenses and its peacekeeping operations. The methodology was reviewed every three years, most recently in 2015, and used to assess the financial contributions each Member State makes. Japan’s delegate said that, given the changing global economic situation, a more equitable methodology was needed to better reflect each Member State’s real and current capacity to pay its assessments.

Presenting another perspective, Thailand’s representative, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, rejected any change in the current methodology that would increase contributions for developing countries. The current maximum rate had been “fixed as a political compromise”, she said, and was a fundamental source of distortion. She went on to say that organizations that held an enhanced observer status at the United Nations should have the same financial obligations as observer States.

Some speakers endorsed the Committee on Contributions’ recommendations concerning countries that were facing financial woes, which made full, timely payment of their dues difficult. Those countries should be permitted under Article 19 of the United Nations Charter to vote until the end of the current Assembly session, some delegates said. In 2016, those countries included Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Somalia and Sao Tome and Principe.

During the meeting, Bernardo Greiver, Chair of the Committee on Contributions, introduced the report of that body’s seventy-sixth session, held 6 to 24 June in New York.

Lionel Berridge, Chief of the Contributions and Policy Coordination Service, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on multi-year payment plans.

At the outset of the meeting, the Committee elected Inga Rhonda King (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) as the Chair and Marina Nikodijevic (Serbia) as Vice-Chair of its seventy-first session.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Singapore (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Chad (on behalf of the African Group), United States, Pakistan, Norway, Angola and the Russian Federation.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Friday, 30 September, to discuss programme planning, reports on the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and the review of efficiency.

Organization of Work

CHULAMANEE CHARTSUWAN (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, attached high priorities to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development. Other issues high on the Group of 77’s agenda were human resources management reform and construction and property management proposals pertaining to the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

BURHAN GAFOOR (Singapore), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said he would pay close attention to deliberations on the 2030 Agenda, human resource management, special political missions and the 2018-2019 biennium budget outline. ASEAN also placed great emphasis on supporting ESCAP, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia and the work of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).

FRANCISCO ANTONIO CORTORREAL (Dominican Republic), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the programme of work introduced many issues of importance, including the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, scale of assessments, 2018-2019 biennium programme budget, support for the Special Political Mission in Colombia and human resources management. In addition, CELAC would be paying great attention to the programme budget implications of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, the operational conditions of service of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) and the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations response to sexual exploitation and abuse cases in the Central African Republic. Expressing concern over the delay of a comprehensive proposal by the Secretary-General on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and Addis Ababa Action Agenda, he also regretted to note that the Committee had been unable to fulfil its commitment to decide on reforming the funding and backstopping for special political missions.

BACHAR BONG ABDALLAH (Chad), speaking on behalf of the African Group and associating himself with the Group of 77, underscored the Committee’s heavy workload and encouraged all stakeholders to ensure that reports were issued on time. Human resources management must be given top priority during the current session. The African Group would also pay close attention to pensions and the common system, financing for the 2030 Agenda and Addis Ababa Action Agenda, implementation of business transformation and capital projects, including the Africa Hall at ECA, and financing for special political missions, including a proposal to strengthen the United Nations Office to the African Union. In addition, the Group would examine financing for peacekeeping missions and oversight matters under the Board of Auditors, OIOS and the Joint Inspection Unit.

Timely conclusion of the Committee’s work depended heavily the behaviour of delegates and delegations, he said. The African Group had been closely following the discussions of some delegations on the Committee’s working methods. While agreeing that the Committee faced challenges, he did not agree with the approach taken by some colleagues, including those who had written to the Chair or to the Office of the President of the General Assembly. Collective hard work, constructive engagement, dedication and sacrifice were part of the solution to the Committee’s challenges, he said, stressing the African Group’s longstanding view that negotiations be conducted in an open, inclusive and transparent manner within the official allocated timeframe.

WALTON ALFONSO WEBSON (Antigua and Barbuda), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), stressed the need for the timely issuance of ACABQ official documents and for the Secretariat to ensure the Committee’s work was efficient, concise and well-informed and could conclude on time. The date of the documents’ issuance, however, should not determine the work programme. Instead, Member States should determine the importance of each agenda item. CARICOM was gravely concerned over the delay in issuing the Secretary-General’s comprehensive proposal on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. That proposal was important for the region and its issuance should be prioritized. He trusted that the Bureau would continue to strive towards ensuring that the work programme reflected the interests of the collective General Assembly membership and that negotiations were carried out in an open, inclusive and transparent manner rather than in small configurations.

JAN DE PRETER, of the European Union Delegation, said the current session was heavy and called for effective negotiations. Reiterating the importance of the timely and simultaneous submission of all mandated documentation in all official languages, he said work should be concluded during regular business hours and working beyond them must be the exception. The Committee had a key role in maintaining the Organization’s effectiveness and transparency. Time management for the introduction of items remained a concern, he said, calling for better coordination and improved working methods.

Budgetary discipline was also crucial for the Organization, he said, especially with an ever-growing number of mandates and functions. Increases in the already-agreed-to programme budget must be avoided, he said, calling on all delegations to strictly adhere to rule 153 of the rules of procedure of the General Assembly and all other budgetary procedures related to the adoption of programme budget implications. He confirmed the European Union’s commitment to provide the necessary resources for the Organization’s work.

GUO XUEJUN (China), associating himself with the Group of 77, said he expected the Committee to continue supporting the work of the United Nations, particularly the 2030 Agenda. Expressing hope that it would formulate “a reasonable budget outline” for the 2018-2019 biennium, he called on Member States to embrace a spirit of partnership and reach consensus on various items. The late issuance of documents, however, remained a problem, he said, noting that most items had not yet been submitted to Member States. In that regard, he hoped to see the Secretariat and ACABQ expedite their work.

ISOBEL COLEMAN (United States) commended the Secretary-General’s efforts to streamline activities, increase accountability and transparency and promote efficiency, including exercising budget discipline and embarking on a long-overdue modernization plan. The implementation of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) and the Umoja enterprise resource planning system were beginning to deliver transparency and accountability with regard to resource allocation decisions, she said, highlighting that Member States had invested heavily in those initiatives and expected to see a commensurate return. “The work of the United Nations – delivering life-saving services and resolving conflicts around the world – is simply too important not to strive for the greatest efficiencies possible so that resources can flow to where they are most needed,” she said.

The current session, she said, was an opportunity to consider several important reforms. With personnel accounting for more than 70 per cent of costs, it was imperative for the Organization to shift towards “a modern talent management system” in order to attract and keep the best talent possible. With Umoja in place, the United Nations needed to re-evaluate how it was delivering services. Governments around the world had already realized huge efficiency gains by moving to shared services in more cost-effective locations and the United Nations should be no different. In addition, reform would never be achieved without addressing the issue of overdue, redundant and obsolete processes and mandates, she said, underlining that too many parts of the United Nations were competing with each other for resources. The Organization needed to prioritize in order to shift resources from activities that had run their course or failed to those that deserved more investment.

KATSUHIKO IMADA (Japan) said the Committee had many important items before it, including the 2018-2019 biennium budget outline and human resources management. Member States should express their positions regarding human resources management in the form of a General Assembly resolution, considering the upcoming election of a new Secretary-General. Calling on delegations to observe the scheduled conclusion of the session, he said Japan would engage in the Committee’s discussions in a constructive manner with a view to achieving consensus decisions.

NABEEL MUNIR (Pakistan), associating himself with the Group of 77, stressed the need to make decisions on the timelines for concluding informal consultations and on the deferral of non-time-bound agenda items in an open, transparent and inclusive manner. The most important item on the Committee’s agenda was supporting the early implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda with adequate financing. Next was human resources management, with a particular focus on reform, amendments to the Staff Rules and Regulations and the implementation of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) compensation package. Regretting to note the delay in the issuance of documents, he said the Committee must address that long-standing problem as part of efforts to improve its working methods. For its part, Pakistan stood ready to contribute to discussions and solutions on the matter.

GEIR O. PEDERSEN (Norway) urged all delegations to proceed in a constructive manner to provide the Secretariat with the necessary resources to make the United Nations agile and effective. Noting that the Organization had entered a period of transition and change, he highlighted three issues that had been deferred from previous sessions: special political missions, financing the Secretariat’s share of the resident coordinator system and restructuring the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Norway was concerned about insufficient funding and backstopping for special political missions. Noting that financing of the Resident Coordinators was critical for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, he also drew attention to the benefits of a regional restructuring of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Restructuring would have no budgetary implications and would result in, among other things, strengthened local engagement, he said.

MARCIO SANDRO ALEIXO PEREIRA BURITY (Angola), noting that the ability of Member States to assess reports that had been submitted by the Secretariat had been undermined by the late issuance of documents, expressed hope that the current session would see fewer delays. During the session, all negotiations and deliberations among Member States should be conducted in a transparent manner. He emphasized that a final decision on the scale of assessments was required for Member States to be able to effectively continue their work.

SERGEY V. KHALIZOV (Russian Federation) said the Committee’s agenda contained a series of challenges, with an increase in the need for resources to fund a number of new mandates. As such, the Committee must observe budget discipline, effectiveness and transparency. The Russian Federation was very worried that the Committee had not been able to receive further information on the Secretariat’s mobility policy. Voicing another concern, he said among the main reasons for delays in the Committee’s work was the late presentation of reports by the Secretariat, which had only resulted in a workload increase for Member States.

Scale of Assessments for Apportionment of United Nations Expenses

BERNARDO GREIVER, Chair of the Committee on Contributions, introduced that body’s report (document A/71/11), which covered its seventy-sixth session held in New York from 6 June to 24 June. The Contributions Committee’s latest review of the elements of methodology of the scale of assessments, undertaken to reflect Member States’ capacity to pay, was detailed in chapter III, part A, of the report. The Contributions Committee affirmed its recommendation that the scale of assessments be based on the most current, comprehensive and comparable data available for gross national income (GNI) and supported ongoing efforts by the United Nations Statistical Division to enable Member States to submit national accounts data on a timely basis.

He said Committee members had agreed that, once chosen, there were advantages in using the same base period for income for as long as possible. They had held divergent views on the debt-burden adjustment, which had been an element of the scale methodology since 1986, and had decided to consider the issue at future sessions. They had also agreed that the low per capita income adjustment continued to be an essential element in the scale’s methodology. Committee members considered various options and had different views on the merits of various alternatives. It agreed that an alternative approach could be the world average per capita debt-adjusted GNI, rather than the unadjusted per capita GNI used in the current methodology. An inflation-adjusted threshold was another approach. The Contributions Committee decided to consider the element further in the light of guidance from the Assembly.

The current methodology, he said, included a maximum assessment rate, or ceiling, of 22 per cent; a maximum rate for the least developed countries of 0.010 per cent; and a minimum assessment rate, or floor, of 0.001 per cent. The Contributions Committee had considered other suggestions and possible elements of the scale methodology, including large scale-to-scale changes in the rates of assessment and discontinuity, which were detailed in chapter III B. It had decided to further consider those elements in the light of the General Assembly’s guidance.

Its review of the Secretary-General’s latest report on multi-year payment plans, he said, was detailed in chapter IV, which contained updated information, as of 24 June, on the status of implementing the remaining plans. As indicated in chapter V of the report, the Contributions Committee had concluded that the failure of four Member States – the Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe and Somalia – to pay the full minimum amount to avoid the use of Article 19 had been due to conditions beyond their control. It had recommended that those States be permitted to vote until the end of the current session.

LIONEL BERRIDGE, Chief of the Contributions and Policy Coordination Service, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on multi-year payment plans (document A/71/73), the fourteenth annual report on the issue. To date, six Member States had successfully submitted multi-year plans. The system had given due consideration to the economic position of Member States, he said, which was the reason why participation in multi-year plans was voluntary. The remaining plan in the report had been submitted by Sao Tome and Principe in 2002. Although no new payment plans had been submitted in recent years, he said, several Member States were considering the matter.

SIRITHON WAIRATPANIJ (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, said all Member States must bear the expenses of the Organization. However, she recognized the genuine difficulties some developing countries had faced in paying their assessed contributions. She endorsed the recommendations of a report by the Committee on Contributions that Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe, and Somalia would be permitted to vote until the end of the current Assembly session.

The Group of 77 appreciated the efforts of Member States who had submitted multi-year plans. However, participating in that programme should remain voluntary and not be used as “a means to exert pressure on Member States under difficult circumstances”, she said. Reaffirming the principle of “capacity to pay”, she rejected any change in the current methodology that would increase the contributions of developing countries. That included current elements such as base period, gross national income (GNI), conversion rates, low per capita income adjustment, gradient, floor, ceiling for least developed countries and debt stock adjustment. Furthermore, the current maximum rate had been “fixed as a political compromise”, she said, adding that it was “a fundamental source of distortion”. Organizations that held an enhanced observer status at the United Nations should have the same financial obligations as observer States, she concluded.

CARMEN CSERNELHAZI, of the European Union Delegation, said the review of the elements of the methodology for the scale of assessments had provided valuable recommendations. The Committee on Contributions’ current review was both comprehensive and thorough. Financing the United Nations was a joint responsibility, yet, there was room to improve the methodology in order to make it more equitable. She looked forward to further discussing that goal. Regarding the request for exemptions under Article 19, the European Union had always maintained that the payment of assessed contributions should be in full, on time and without condition. At the same time, as some Member States faced temporary difficulties, multi-year payment plans were effective for alleviating that burden. The European Union was content to approve the request by countries that had asked for an exemption. Given the heavy agenda during the Committee’s session, she called upon all partners to close the scale of assessment items as quickly as possible. Proposals that would deviate from that should not be discussed, she concluded.

KATSUHIKO IMADA (Japan) said his Government, a major contributor to the United Nations, attached great importance to the scale of assessments and had always paid its dues faithfully despite national economic and financial difficulties. The “capacity to pay” principle should be maintained. Given the world’s changing economic situation, it was necessary to find a methodology that better reflected each Member State’s real and current capacity to pay in a more equitable way, based on the most current, comprehensive comparable data available. Japan would actively participate in upcoming negotiations so that consensus could be reached on how to continue to sustain the Organization. Regarding exemptions to the application of Article 19, he endorsed the recommendations of the Committee on Contributions while encouraging those Member States that had requested exemptions to consider submitting multi-year payment plans.

Source: United Nations.