Secretary-General’s Proposal Inadequate, Speakers Say as Fifth Committee Examines Suggested Budget for Realizing Sustainable Development Agenda

Delegates in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) criticized the United Nations Secretary-General today for what they viewed as his failure to present a comprehensive budget proposal to support implementation of the Organization’s ambitious Sustainable Development Goals, while voicing strong concern over the Secretariat’s handling of programme budget assessments for regional commissions.

David Nabarro, Special Adviser on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, presented the Secretary General’s report on supporting and financing the 2030 Agenda — a global blueprint for eliminating extreme poverty, reducing inequality and tackling climate change — and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda for financing those goals.  The report outlined resource requirements for the implementation of the two Agendas, including $3.48 million for revised estimates resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted in the Economic and Social Council, $5.9 million for realizing mandates of the two Agendas in 2017 and $12.5 million for strengthening the Development Account and the regular programme of technical cooperation.

Thailand’s representative, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said she was disappointed with the report, expecting the Secretary-General to present a more thorough budget proposal.  “We are perplexed that even after two resolutions, 70/247 and 70/248 C, the Secretary-General does not appear to fully comprehend the intentions of this Assembly,” she said.

That disappointment was shared by many other delegations.  The representative of the Dominican Republic, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, said the Secretary-General’s report had neither provided sufficient details on how regional commissions would deliver their development mandates, nor acknowledged how the capacity of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) would be strengthened.

Switzerland’s representative, also speaking for Lichtenstein, said that the report demonstrated that old structures and concepts were still in place, leaving little evidence that the Secretary-General had established new mechanisms allowing the Secretariat to work more cohesively.

Furthering that argument, the representative of the European Union warned that neither the Development Account nor the regular programme for technical cooperation were effective mechanisms to strengthen United Nations support for  implementation of the two Agendas, as that would divert much-needed funds from other, more effective delivery mechanisms.

Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), who presented ACABQ’s related report on the matter, noted that the Secretary-General had not provided sufficient information on how proposed enhanced resources for the Development Account and the regular programme for technical cooperation would be utilized, and would therefore not recommend an approval of those resources. 

Representing the African Group, Chad’s representative also requested clarification on how the Secretariat would strengthen the United Nations Statistical Commission in order to bolster the capacity of national statistical offices to ensure access to reliable and disaggregated data to implement development mandates.

In a related matter, Member States specifically discussed revised budget estimates arising from resolutions and decisions adopted by the Economic and Social Council in 2016.  Several delegates said the Secretariat had not abided by the common rules of procedure in its presentation of programme budget implications for the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

Bettina Tucci Bartsiotas, Assistant Secretary-General and Controller, in introducing the Secretary-General’s report on that topic, said that the total additional resource requirements for the biennium 2016‑2017 were estimated at $3.43 million, which would be charged against the contingency fund. 

Japan’s representative regretted that oral explanations of the programme budget implications for the work of ESCWA and ESCAP had been made under “unacceptable irregular circumstances”.  He noted that no statements about programme budget implications had been made upon adoption of previous ESCWA resolutions, and that the ESCAP resolutions had been adopted on the basis of guidance from the Secretariat that they had no programme budget implications.  Issuing statements on the budget implications in such a manner should be considered a violation of the rules of procedure, he said.

Voicing that same concern, the delegate of the European Union said future draft resolutions should speak to the adoption, and not the endorsement, by the Council of decisions and resolutions by the regional commissions.  The Council had the right to adopt or reject — not just endorse — the regional commissions’ decisions, he stressed.

Also speaking today were the representatives of the United States, Singapore, Republic of Korea, China, Brazil and Bangladesh.

Mr. Ruiz also presented the report of the Advisory Committee on revised estimates resulting from the Economic and Social Council decisions and resolutions.

The Fifth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m., on Friday, 2 December, to discuss the proposed programme budget outline for the Organization in 2018‑2019 and revised programme budget estimates for 2016‑2017 for the International Court of Justice.

Revised Estimates Due to Economic and Social Council Decisions/Resolutions 

BETTINA TUCCI BARTSIOTAS, Assistant Secretary-General, Controller, introduced the Secretary-General’s report titled “Revised estimates resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted by the Economic and Social Council during 2016” (documents A/71/401 and A/71/401/Add.1).  During 2016, the Economic and Social Council had adopted five resolutions, two decisions and one ministerial declaration with programme budget implications.  Of those eight items, seven contained activities related 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.  The activities mandated by the Council created programme budget implications under section 2, General Assembly and Economic and Social Council affairs and conference management; section 9, Economics and social affairs; section 19, Economic and social development in Asia and the Pacific; section 21, Economic and social development in Latin American and the Caribbean; and section 22, Economic and social development in Western Asia.

The total additional resource requirements for the biennium 2016‑2017 were estimated at $3.43 million ($2.87 million detailed in document A/71/401 and $556,000 detailed in document A/71/401/Add.1) and would require an additional appropriation and represent a charge against the contingency fund, she said.  The requirements for the biennium 2018‑2019 would be considered in the context of the proposed programme budget for that biennium.

CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) introduced the Advisory Committee’s eponymous report (document A/71/633).  He said that during its 2016 and 2017 sessions, the Council had adopted five resolutions, two decisions and one ministerial declaration in which the Secretary-General had requested resources totalling $3.48 million.  The Advisory Committee recommended approval of the proposed resources, as well as the proposed establishment of six temporary posts, effective from 1 January 2017 to 31 December 2030.

SIRITHON WAIRATPANIJ (Thailand), speaking for “Group of 77” developing countries and China, reaffirmed its support to the work of the Economic and Social Council, and especially the mandates of the regional commissions in the effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.  She noted that the additional requirements related to the resolutions adopted by the Council  during its 2016 and 2017 sessions, estimated at $2.87 million and $556,000 would require an additional appropriation to be charged against the contingency fund.  

The “Group of 77” supported the provision of the required resources to finance the resolutions, decisions, and the ministerial declaration adopted by the Council, she said.  Noting that, in view of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the proposal on the revised estimates did not encompass the work of all regional commissions in supporting the two Agendas, the Group would in informal consultations seek detailed explanation on the rational of that arrangement by the Secretary-General.     

JAN DE PRETER, European Union, said that on 25 July, Union member States had expressed serious concern about some of the revised estimates contained in Economic and Social Council resolutions 2016/10 on the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), 2016/11 on the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), and 2016/12 on the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).  The considerations made at the time were still valid and would guide the delegation through the informal consultations on those items.  It was crucial to abide by common rules of procedure and that had not been done on the revised estimates for ESCWA and ESCAP, relating to their respective strategies and plans of action for the 2030 Agenda.  For that reason, the Union decided to call for a vote on the resolution adopted by the Council.

The Union understood that regarding the adoption of the ESCWA revised estimates, the regional commission members were not given an estimate of the programme budget implications of carrying out the proposal under their consideration, as the Programme Planning and Budget Division provided only general information stating the resolutions would most likely have programme budget implications, he said.  “There is no justification for such a clear breach of UN Rules and Regulations, such as rule 28 of the rules of procedure of functional commissions, rule 153 of the rules of procedure of the General Assembly and regulation 2.10 of the United Nations Financial Rules and Regulations, as operating paragraphs 4 and 5 of Assembly resolution 69/262,” he said.

Regarding the resolution on ESCAP, the Secretariat had issued a clear statement to the effect that none of the Commission’s resolutions had any programme budget implications, he said.  That statement was the basis for the adoption of that resolution.  As the oral statement had been drastically altered by the Secretariat between the adoption of the text by ESCAP and its consideration by ECOSOC in July, the Union could no longer support the resolution as adopted in Bangkok earlier this year.  On the revised estimates for ECLAC, the Union was led to believe by the ECLAC secretariat during the consultation process, that any costs arising from the text for the period 2016‑2017 would be covered from extra-budgetary sources mobilized by that secretariat.  The Union was surprised to learn that despite the ECLAC secretariat’s assurance that would not, in fact, be the case, the programme budget implications statement would be issued to that end.

The Union noted that revised estimates were only agreed and negotiated by a limited number of Member States, but all were being asked to adopt resolutions that carried heavy budgetary implications and carried consequences for a limited number of countries, he said.  The Union therefore believed future draft resolutions of ECOSOC should speak to the adoption, and not the endorsement, by the Council of decisions/resolutions made by the regional commissions.  The Council was a higher oversight body of the regional commission and, as was the case with functional commissions and expert committees, had the right to adopt or reject — not merely endorse — the regional commissions’ decisions.

KATSUHIKO IMADA (Japan) expressed regret that oral explanations of the programme budget implications of the resolutions regarding ESCWA and ESCAP adopted on 25 July were made under “unacceptable irregular circumstances”.  He noted that no statements about programme budget implications had been made upon adoption of previous ESCWA resolutions, and the ESCAP resolutions had been adopted on the basis of guidance from the Secretariat that they had no programme budget implications.  Issuing statements on programme budget implications in such a manner should be considered a violation of the rules of procedure, he said, while requesting an explanation from the Secretariat as well as a commitment not to issue oral statements regarding programme budget implications in the future.

CHERITH A. NORMAN CHALET (United States) said her delegation recognized the work of the regional commissions.  Yet decisions regarding the financial sustainability of the organizations should be made following proper and informed decision-making procedures.  While the United States supported the substantive context of the ESCAP and ESCWA resolutions, it could not support the resolutions given the large programme budget implications and the non-transparent manner of the process.  It hoped those practices would be avoided in the future.

Supporting Implementation of 2030 Agenda and Addis Ababa Action Agenda

DAVID NABARRO, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, presented the Secretary General’s report titled “Supporting the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development” (document A/71/534).  To implement the new Economic and Social Council mandates, he said, an additional appropriation had been sought through the revised estimates report (document A/71/401) and its addendum (document A/71/401/Add.1).  Mandated activities and their revised estimates had been incorporated in the present report, which also sought additional appropriation for the Development Account and the regular programme of technical cooperation.

A strengthened Development Account would increase support to the development pillars while also re-orienting the Secretariat’s activities, he said.  With the additional resources, new features would be added to the Development Account; a broader set of entities would be allowed to access the account, a new rationale for selection of projects would be introduced and a new stewardship of the account by the Secretary-General would be established.  Those changes would provide a sizeable amount to the development pillar while introducing an element of competition and reward proposals best aligned with the new agendas.  The proposed additional resources for the regular programme of technical cooperation had been intended to complement the Development Account by providing short-term, demand‑driven and specific interventions responding to urgent and not easily predictable national development needs.  The Secretariat would identify and approve additional projects and activities, including consultations with Member States, which would subsequently be shared with the ACABQ in writing.  

Mr. RUIZ MASSIEU, in introducing the Advisory Committee’s eponymous report (document A/71/633), said that the Secretary-General had presented three categories of resource requirements for supporting implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Action Agenda.  The first category set out the requirements related to the mandates from the Economic and Social Council.  The second category related to the requirements for the mandates in the two Agendas, for which the Advisory Committee approved $5.75 million for 2017.  For the third category, on the requirements for strengthening the Development Account and the regular programme of technical cooperation, the Secretary-General proposed an increase of $7.5 million and $5 million, respectively, for 2017.  The Advisory Committee noted that the proposal did not provide information on how the proposed resources would be utilized.  Considering the lack of information, the Advisory Committee was not in a position to recommend approval of those proposed resources.  The Advisory Committee further recommended that the General Assembly request the Secretary-General to submit a comprehensive proposal during the first part of the resumed session that would address the effective delivery of mandates in support of the two development Agendas.         

Ms. WAIRATPANIJ (Thailand), speaking again for the Group of 77, said it was concerned and disappointed that the Secretary-General’s report did not fully respond to the General Assembly’s repeated requests for a comprehensive proposal.  “We are perplexed that even after two resolutions, 70/247 and 70/248 C, the Secretary-General does not appear to fully comprehend the intentions of this Assembly,” she said, adding that her Group would work for the approval of an appropriate level of resources for the implementation of the two Agendas, including strengthening of the regional commissions and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) that the report had failed to comprehensively address.    

OLIVIO FERMIN (Dominican Republic), speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), underscored the important role of official development assistance in achieving internationally agreed sustainable development goals and in sustaining development financing in developing countries.  CELAC concurred with the Advisory Committee’s observation that the Secretary-General’s report did not contain a comprehensive proposal, as had initially been requested by the General Assembly.  “It is instead a completely new proposal with a different narrative,” he said, expressing serious concern over the lack of a comprehensive proposal addressing the effective and efficient delivery of mandates in support of the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.

The Community emphasized the important role of the United Nations regional commissions in supporting the implementation of the two Agendas, he said.  However, the Secretary-General’s report had not provided sufficient details on their mandate delivery, in particular regarding the work of the ECLAC.  Also recognizing that the UNCTAD was a key institution in implementation and monitoring of the two Agendas, he said that the Secretary-General’s report had not considered specific proposals to strengthen that entity’s capacity.

ALEXANDRA BAUMANN (Switzerland), also speaking on behalf of Liechtenstein, said she was not convinced that the budget proposal for the 2030 Agenda reflected the strategic vision and integrated approach called for by Member States.  Old structures and concepts were still in place and were unsuitable to meet future challenges. Furthermore, there was little evidence that the Secretary-General had created mechanisms to allow the Secretariat to work more cohesively.  She therefore called on Member States to provide the support needed to ensure the follow-up and review mechanisms worked properly.  In that vein, she considered the United Nations independent, system-wide evaluation mechanism an important instrument to be strengthened.  Looking ahead, she was interested in exploring how the Development Account could serve as a tool for change and sustainable development.

JOSEPH TEO CHOON HENG (Singapore), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and aligning himself with the Group of 77, recalled the formal establishment of the ASEAN Community in 2015 and the adoption of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.  His Group strongly supported the role envisaged by the United Nations for regional organizations to share best practices and discuss shared targets and regional mechanisms.  During the Eighth ASEAN-United Nations Summit held in September, the Group’s Foreign Ministers and the Secretary-General had recognized the importance of promoting complementarities in international and regional efforts to achieve sustainable development.

Turning to Secretary-General’s report of supporting implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, he expressed concern that the report had yet to adequately address the need to strengthen regional commissions.  Further, the report had not fully responded to the General Assembly’s request in its resolutions 70/247 and 70/248.  Nevertheless, ASEAN stood ready to work with the relevant parties to obtain the approval of an appropriate level of resources to deliver on the mandates of the two Agendas.

ABDALLAH BACHAR BONG (Chad), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that despite the long period of time since the adoption of the two Agendas and the 1 January 2016 implementation date, the United Nations system appeared to be struggling to understand its critical and recognized role in helping Member States weave the Agendas into their national and regional development plans.  The Group had closely monitored the different approaches put forward by the Secretary‑General since his first report and expressed its serious concerns regarding the lack of a comprehensive plan and clear direction on the way forward.  “Instead we are faced with uncertainty and delays in delivering on key intergovernmental mandates,” he said.  The Group believed the core activities related to United Nations support for the mandates of the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Plan needed clear and well-reasoned elaboration in the Secretary-General’s budget proposals.  The Group also noted that the Agendas were to be incorporated across all the activities of the Organization and the budget proposal should not be seen as exhaustive or once-off in nature.

The Group was concerned with the lack of coherent funding proposals for the regional commissions, particularly the absence of any proposal for countries in special situations, the Regional Commission for Africa, as well as the absence of the UNCTAD in the latest reports, he said.  The Group also wanted to clarify how the Secretariat would strengthen the United Nations Statistical Commission in order to bolster the capacity of national statistical offices and data systems to ensure access to high-quality, timely, reliable and disaggregated data.  “To achieve our joint goals, we underline the importance of an adequately resourced, coherent, efficient and effective United Nations system in the support for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda,” he said.

JAN DE PRETER, European Union, said that bloc’s members were determined to implement the 2030 Agenda at home and by contributing to international efforts to support others.  In that regard, the Secretariat had an important role  in terms of monitoring, accountability, follow-up and review, but should not seek to play an implementation role because that would lead to more duplication and competition for scarce resources within the development pillar.  Neither the Development Account nor the regular programme for technical cooperation were effective mechanisms to strengthen United Nations support for 2030 Agenda implementation.  He warned against diverting much-needed funds from more effective United Nations delivery mechanisms and also against creating more fragmentation within the system.

He noted that the upcoming Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review would help set the tone and make specific requests on reform, adding that the European Union wanted to see the system acting upon requests that Member States had already made.  It was unacceptable that two clear mandates emerging from General Assembly resolution 70/299 and 67/226, as well as requests from the Economic and Social Council, were being ignored.  In reviewing the Secretary-General’s report on the 2030 Agenda and Addis Ababa Action Agenda and its proposals, he pointed out the lack of an overview of the Secretariat’s existing capacities and capabilities and their perceived link to existing mandates.  With that baseline, additional resource needs to support monitoring and accountability could be discussed, but without such benchmarks, it was impossible to properly assess budgetary tasks.  Furthermore, the report made no attempt to consider possibly redeploying existing resources.  He went on to ask the Secretary-General to more thoroughly consider ways of ensuring the Secretariat’s coherent and effective alignment with the new 2030 Agenda, urging him to make bold efforts to reprioritize mandates and reorganize structures. 

Ms. NORMAN CHALET (United States) said the agreements reached last year were transformative and provided a framework for the Member States, the private sector and civil society, with support from the United Nations, to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  While there had been some attempt to reorient how the Organization supported development, it appeared there still had been no attempt to reform the Secretariat to deliver more effectively on the Goals or to orient existing activities to address the Goals comprehensively.  “Instead, the report again requests resources with no clear mandate,” she said.  The international community must embrace a different approach that did not simply add resources to the existing bureaucracy.

OH YOUNGJU (Republic of Korea) stressed the importance of implementing the 2030 Agenda in a timely manner and encouraged Member States to be open-minded in reaching an agreement during the current session.   The use of the Organization’s regular budget for implementing the 2030 Agenda should be limited to the implementation of the Secretariat’s mandate as approved by the General Assembly.   He also expressed concern about the Secretariat’s resource request for the Development Account and the regular programme of technical cooperation.  While the United Nations should play a role in assisting developing countries with capacity-building, the Secretary-General’s current proposal had not provided sufficient information on selection criteria, resource disbursement, and oversight mechanisms, as well as possible duplications with United Nations funds and activities.  In that context, he would seek clarification on the details of the request in informal discussions.

YANG LIYANG (China) said that the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda was a core task of the United Nations and adequate, predictable financial resources needed to be provided for both Agendas.  She expressed hope that the Committee would reach consensus on the issue as soon as possible to send a positive signal.  She also expressed hope that the Secretariat would enhance the relevant work of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the UNCTAD and regional economic commissions, and focus on helping developing countries to improve livelihoods and eradicate poverty.   She hoped the Secretariat would strengthen budget management and use resources more efficiently.

MAURO LUIZ IECKER VIEIRA (Brazil), associating himself with the statements of the Group of 77 and CELAC, said the Organization must be provided with adequate resources to fulfil the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.  While the Secretary-General’s report contained blueprints for approaching certain issues, it was not comprehensive in its approach to the regional commissions and to UNCTAD, which needed to be strengthened if the Agendas were to be realized.

TAREQ MD. ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh) associated himself with the statement made by the Group of 77, expressing concern over the UNCTAD budget.  The issue of additional resource mobilization to support and strengthen the UNCTAD’s ability to implement the Sustainable Development Goals was not adequately addressed in the Secretary-General’s report.  He said that failure must be addressed to ensure that UNCTAD received the additional resources it needed and asked Member States to positively consider the issue.

Mr. NABARRO said that as he absorbed the different opinions of the Member States, he felt there was a real wish that the United Nations organize itself to provide all the Member States and their people with the support provided by the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Agenda.  He said he had felt all year during his work as a special advisor — including during meetings at Headquarters and at regional conferences — that Member States wanted to support the plan.  He acknowledged the different views presented at the meeting and said it was the work of the United Nations to find a common position that addressed all their needs.  It was the Secretariat’s job to work with Member States, and if it did not succeed initially, it would keep trying again and again.

He acknowledged Member States’ support to strengthen the United Nations development pillar while ensuring the Organization worked more efficiently and effectively.  The Secretariat looked forward to more fruitful and constructive discussions on the report and the underlying issues.

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