Secretary-General Unveils $3.12 Billion Budget Proposal for 2022 to Fifth Committee, Stressing Organization Must Remain Flexible amid Recent Surges in COVID-19

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today began its line-by-line consideration of a proposed $3.12 billion regular budget for the United Nations in 2022, before recosting, which puts an accent on development and human rights in the final decade of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, while also drawing lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the Organization’s work.

Secretary-General António Guterres introduced the budget, saying it represents a net reduction of 2.8 per cent compared to the 2021 budget, despite additional activities and mandates. It includes a total of 10,005 staff posts, or a net increase of 46 posts, he said.

Among the proposals are a $2.8 million increase for development, including for programmes in support of Africa’s development, land-locked countries and small island developing States; $4.4 million to implement resolutions and decisions adopted by the Human Rights Council; $6.1 million to overcome chronic funding gaps at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA); and $6.3 million to upgrade the Organization’s ageing security infrastructure and to adapt its security posture to emerging threats.

It envisions $37 million to respond to new resolutions adopted by the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the Human Rights Council, he continued; a potential $22 million for special political missions in Colombia and Sudan, after their mandates were expanded by the Security Council; and $95 million is required for construction projects, including $69 million for the Strategic Heritage Plan to renovate the United Nations historic premises in Geneva.

The proposed budget was drawn up on the assumption that the pandemic’s trajectory and the deployment of vaccines will allow a return to a “new normal” in 2022, the Secretary-General explained. Recent surges in COVID-19 suggest a need to remain flexible, but he said he is confident in the United Nations ability to adapt to future changes.

The budget is the third to be presented to Member States for their approval after the Organization shifted to annual budget cycles in 2019, having run on biennial budgets since 1974. The pandemic and a liquidity crisis made 2020 a complex year for the Organization, but many lessons came out of that year which are incorporated in the 2022 budget proposals, the Secretary-General said. If biennial budgeting was still in place, those lessons would have been in the 2024-2025 budget, he said, adding: “Does that make any sense today?”

The Committee will give detailed consideration of the proposed programme budget over the coming weeks, aiming to reach consensus on a final budget that it will recommend to the General Assembly for adoption before the end of the year. [It considers the peacekeeping budget separately in May.] In their opening statements today, however, delegations raised a variety of issues and concerns.

The representative of the United States, the largest contributor to the United Nations, said the way in which the budget is presented gives an incomplete picture. The figure of $3.1 billion may look like a decrease from 2021, but in fact, on-going construction projects and easily anticipated add-ons will lift the total to $3.3 billion prior to recosting, he said. That said, “I hope we can seize this moment to build a better United Nations” in the pandemic’s wake, he stated.

Guinea’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, expressed concern that, with less than a decade to go to meet the 2030 deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals, the proposed budget includes cuts to bodies which are integral to the Organization’s development, including the Department of Economic and Social Affair; United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States; and the regional economic commissions. He also voiced concern about the Organization’s high reliance on voluntary contributions, stressing that extrabudgetary resources should be used in ways consistent with the Organization’s policies, aims and activities.

The European Union’s representative, speaking in its capacity as observer, said that the bloc remains concerned that the Organization’s financial situation continues to hamper its ability to fully carry out its mandate. Temporary solutions introduced so far have only helped to alleviate the consequences of the crisis, not solve it. Noting proposals by some delegations to pursue discussions of the Committee for Programme and Coordination in the Assembly’s Main Committees, he said that should not undermine the Programme and Coordination Committee’s key role or affect the principle of reaching decisions by consensus.

Ghana’s representative, speaking on behalf of the African Group, encouraged the Secretary-General to enhance the Organization’s support for vulnerable countries, “more so in these exceptional times when the United Nations is being called upon to do more”. Going forward, the Group will exert all efforts to ensure the required funding for the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA); least developed countries and landlocked developing countries; and economic and social development in Africa, among other things, he said.

The Russian Federation’s representative said that the three-year trial for annual budget cycles merits a cost-benefit analysis. “It is important to make a balanced and informed decision: keep the annual budget or return to a biennial one next year,” he said. He also stressed the need to rejuvenate the Organization’s staff, explaining that over the past five year, the average age of a staff member has risen from 44.6 years to 46.2 years, with only 10.4 per cent of all staff under the age of 35 at the end of 2019.

Singapore’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), warned that “arbitrary cuts to the proposed budget or deliberate withholding of contributions undermines the United Nations at a time when solidarity is needed to address global challenges”. She added that the Assembly needs to have a serious discussion on funding arrangements for special political missions, which account for more than 23 per cent of the budget, vis-à-vis other development priorities.

Abdallah Bachar Bong, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced that body’s first report on the 2022 programme budget which, among other things, features an analysis on the pandemic’s impact on the Organization’s liquidity situation. He said the Advisory Committee is not fully convinced by the proposed budget’s assumption that pandemic-related restrictions on the Secretariat’s work will no longer apply, and that it believes the pandemic will likely continue to impact certain activities.

Giovanni Battista Buttigieg, Chair of the sixty-first session of the Committee for Programme and Coordination, introduced that body’s report.

Also speaking today were representatives of Australia (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand), United Kingdom, Japan, Trinidad and Tobago, Egypt, Qatar, Mexico, Guyana, Bangladesh, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Philippines, Syria, Morocco, China, Zimbabwe, Switzerland, Sri Lanka, Botswana and Republic of Korea.

The Fifth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 19 October, to consider the Secretariat’s periodic report on improving the United Nations financial situation.

Programme Planning and Proposed Programme Budget for 2022

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, introduced the Organization’s proposed programme budget for 2022 (document A/76/6 (Introduction) and Sections 1, 2, 3 and Corr.1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and Corr. 1, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 and Corr. 1, 28, 29, 29A and Corr. 1, 29B, 29C, 29E, 29F, 29G, 30 and Corr. 1, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36 and Income Sections 1, 2 and 3), emphasizing that it is being presented in the context of a world upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. He reviewed the many ways in which the United Nations “stayed and delivered,” while also navigating a serious liquidity crisis. The pandemic has been an early test of the Organization’s reforms, enabling it to adjust its business operations and respond quickly to Member States’ needs. Unlike past emergencies, the Secretariat did not need to create new structures, as new reform structures already in place facilitated a unified and agile response to the pandemic, saving time and money. Citing independent surveys, he said that more than 90 per cent of Governments in developing countries agreed that Resident Coordinators helped ensure a coherent United Nations response. While more work remains on reforms, “I am proud that our reforms have allowed us not only to respond quickly and effectively to the challenges of an unprecedented global pandemic, but also enabled us to survive one of the worst financial crises in more than a decade,” he said.

The proposed programme budget for 2022 is the third since Member States approved, on a trial basis, a shift away from biennial budgets and it incorporates lessons drawn from the pandemic response, he said, adding that he is encouraged by the momentum that the annual budget is generating towards a more results-oriented culture. Part A of the proposed programme budget includes reporting on the performance of the Organization’s programmes in 2020, with adjustments to be made to ensure better results in 2022, in those areas where performance fell short. It also includes measurable planned results for 2021 and 2022 and measurable actual results for 2018, 2019 and 2020, providing a comprehensive picture of programme delivery over the past three years. He added that the Secretariat’s self-evaluation policy took effect this year, with every department and office required to carry out at least one evaluation a year, and to report the results through the budget process.

Turning to Part B, he said: “To fully implement the mandates entrusted to us, we will require a total of $3.12 billion before recosting, which represents a net reduction of 2.8 per cent per cent compared to 2021, despite additional activities and mandates”. That includes a total of 10,005 posts, or a net increase of 46 posts. The proposals include a $2.8 million increase for development, including for programmes in support of Africa’s development, land-locked countries and small island developing States. In the area of human rights, 16 general temporary positions would be converted into professional posts and $4.4 million earmarked to implement resolutions and decisions adopted by the Human Rights Council. To address the chronic funding gap at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), he proposed an increase of $6.1 million, including 43 additional posts to support education, healthcare and general assistance to Palestinian refugees. The budget proposal also includes $6.3 million to upgrade an ageing security infrastructure and to adapt the Organization’s security posture to emerging threats and improving accessibility.

GIOVANNI BUTTIGIEG, Chair of the Committee for Programme and Coordination, introduced the report of its sixty-first session held from 1 to 25 June (document A/76/16), which contains conclusions and recommendations, reflecting the Committee’s responsibility to review the Secretary-General’s work programme and to assist the Economic and Social Council in the performance of its co-ordination functions within the United Nations system. Under the agenda item “Programme questions”, the Committee examined 28 programmes of the proposed programme budget for 2022, made specific recommendations on 18 of them and recommended that the Assembly review the plans of the remaining 10 during its seventy-sixth session. Regarding the biennial report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), on strengthening the role of evaluation and the application of evaluation findings on programme design, delivery and policy directives, the Committee expressed concern about its findings on shortfalls, such as highly uneven evaluation practice, weak evaluation use and tracking systems, and the long-standing lack of evaluation capacity in the Secretariat. The Committee recommended that the General Assembly ask the Secretary-General to take further action to strengthen the role of evaluation in order to improve programmes, enhance performance and strengthen accountability, transparency and internal controls. The Committee also recommended that the Assembly endorse the Office’s results, conclusions and recommendations, including those contained in paragraphs 85 to 88 of the report.

Under the agenda item entitled “Coordination question”, the Committee reviewed the annual overview report of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), recommended that the Assembly take note of the report for 2020 and made additional specific recommendations. Under the same agenda item, the Committee also considered the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations system support for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and recommended that the Assembly endorse the conclusions and recommendations contained in paragraphs 68 to 72. Turning to the Joint Inspection Unit on the review of management and administration in the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Committee recommended the Assembly endorse the four recommendations in the report and ask the Secretary-General to ensure their full, timely implementation.

ABDALLAH BACHAR BONG, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced the Advisory Committee’s report, titled “First report on the proposed programme budget for 2022” (document A/76/7). The Secretary-General proposes a 2022 budget of $3.12 million before recosting, including $730.7 million for special political missions, which is a reduction of $88.4 million, or 2.8 per cent, compared with the 2021 appropriation. The Advisory Committee notes there will be additional elements, to be introduced later in the seventy-sixth session, that will impact the overall level of resources required for 2022, including for ongoing construction projects. The Advisory Committee’s report provides its analysis on the impact of the pandemic on the liquidity situation. Informed that the budget proposal assumes restrictions imposed by the pandemic on the Secretariat’s activities will no longer apply, he said the Advisory Committee is not fully convinced by this budgetary assumption and it believes the pandemic will likely continue to impact certain activities.

Nor is the Advisory Committee fully convinced that the difference in actual vacancy rates in individual sections of the programme budget is justified and is concerned about the difference in recruitment efforts in individual sections, he said. It trusts the Assembly will receive detailed explanations and information on the recruitment process. Turning to post and non-post matters, he stressed the importance of equal treatment of the Organization’s six official languages and expected greater efforts toward that end. On staffing, 10,069 posts are proposed for 2022, reflecting a net increase of 45 posts, compared with the approved staffing level for 2021, he said. The proposed staffing changes include the establishment of 34 new posts, the conversion of 37 and the abolishment of 26. The Advisory Committee was informed that 1,190 posts were vacant as of 30 June 2021 and trusts that the Secretary-General will give the Assembly a detailed update on vacant posts when it considers the present report. He also noted that vacant posts have been encumbered through the granting of special post allowance, including for periods longer than one year. The Secretariat should carry out an assessment of the use of special post allowance, long vacancies and the use and duration of liens on posts, to identify a solution to manage vacancies, including potential policy correction, he said.

Turning to extrabudgetary resources, he noted the total for 2022 is estimated at $12.8 billion, reflecting a net decrease of $17.9 million, or 0.1 per cent, compared with 2021 estimates, he said. The Advisory Committee reiterates its recommendation that the Assembly ask the Secretary-General to include in future proposed programme budgets, detailed information and tables, by section and subsection, on the use of extrabudgetary resources, as compared with regular budget resources. This would include variances and the functions of posts funded by extrabudgetary resources, including updates on vacant posts.

MHER MARGARYAN (Armenia), Committee Chair, then drew the Committee’s attention to the reports of the OIOS titled “Strengthening the role of evaluation and the application of evaluation findings on programme design, delivery and policy directives” (document A/76/69) and “Audit of the activities, performance and results of staff support provided to the human rights treaty body system by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights” (document A/76/197); and the report of the Internal Audit Advisory Committee titled “Internal oversight: proposed programme budget for 2022” (document A/76/81).

Also before the Committee, he said, was the Secretary-General’s note (document A/75/730) drawing the General Assembly’s attention to the report of the Joint Inspection Unit titled “United Nations common premises: current practices and future prospects” (document JIU/REP/2020/3), as well as the Secretary-General’s comments and those of CEB on that report (document A/75/730/Add.1). In addition, the Committee had before it the Secretary-General’s note (document A/76/325) drawing the General Assembly’s attention to the report of the Joint Inspection Unit titled “Blockchain applications in the United Nations system: towards a state of readiness” (document JIU/REP/2020/7), together with the Secretary-General’s comments and those of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination on that report (document A/76/325/Add.1).

Statements

BOUBACAR DIALLO (Guinea), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the Group is gravely troubled by the timeline under which the programme budget was prepared by the Secretariat, analysed by the ACABQ and then presented to the Fifth Committee without an inter-governmentally agreed programme plan, as stipulated in the Regulations and Rules Governing Programme Planning. Such planning must remain the cornerstone of the entire programme budget process, as only with sufficient time can mandates be translated into implementable programmes. “We need to ensure that programme managers as well as the Organization at large are not in a constant cycle of programme budget preparation, but actively pursuing the implementation of the agreed programmes,” he said. Hopefully, the rest of the Committee will come to see the benefits of ensuring that the programme budget is developed based on a solid and consensus-based programme plan. He added that, due to a lack of consensus, 10 programmes have been left without recommendations from the Committee for Programme and Coordination. It is evident that if that Committee fails to provide conclusions and recommendations on a given programme or subprogramme, then the matter must go to the Assembly or the relevant Main Committee to provide conclusions and recommendations to the Fifth Committee.

Turning to the proposed programme budget, he requested that the Secretariat and Member States make no changes to the established budget methodology, procedures and practices or financial regulations, without the Assembly’s review and approval. Noting that this is final year of the annual budget’s trial period, he said that, for the third year running, there is a lack of adherence to key established budgetary procedures and practices, including the sequential nature of the review processes conducted by the Committee for Programme and Coordination and the ACABQ. The Group of 77 will address this matter in greater detail during consultations.

On the programme budget itself, he said that the Group shares the ACABQ’s concern over the difference in recruitment efforts in individual sections. Vacant posts should be filled as expeditiously as possible, taking into consideration equitable geographical distribution. The Group is concerned that, with less than a decade to go for fulfilling the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the proposed budget includes cuts to bodies which are integral to the Organization’s development, including the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, and the regional economic commissions. The Group will be seeking detailed explanations about those cuts during informal consultations. In addition, the Group is concerned by the Organization’s high reliance on voluntary contributions. Adequate resources must be provided for the United Nations to fulfil its mandates, he said, adding that extrabudgetary resources should be used in ways consistent with the Organization’s policies, aims and activities.

AXEL VON SCHWERIN, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, supported Our Common Agenda and the Secretary-General’s call to ensure sustainable financing of the Organization. While committed to providing the necessary resources to the Organization so it can fulfil its mandate, the European Union remains concerned that the Organization’s financial situation continues to hamper its ability to fully do so. The temporary solutions introduced so far have only helped to alleviate the consequences of the crisis, not solve it. He noted certain delegations’ proposal to re-enact Committee for Programme and Coordination discussions in the Assembly’s Main Committees. While this is a matter for the committees to decide, this should not undermine the Committee for Programme and Coordination’s key role, nor affect the principle of consensus-based decisions and the Fifth Committee’s primary responsibility for planning. Some of the roles of the Main Committees remain distinct and deliberations in the other committees should not preclude negotiating the related agenda items in the Fifth Committee in parallel. The outcome of such deliberations in other committees must be provided to the Fifth Committee as soon as possible, in order not to jeopardize the timely adoption of the programme budget. When the Fifth Committee considers the proposed programme plans and programme budgets in detail, it will work to ensure its collective decisions allow the Organization to meet its mandates, he said, adding that the European Union member States are concerned the United Nations is not fully delivering on these mandates.

FELICIA CHUA (Singapore) speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), supported the Secretary-General’s efforts to better equip the United Nations to address global challenges, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. A prerequisite for an effective and responsive Organization is a realistic and results-oriented budgeting procedure. “We cannot expect the United Nations to do more, while giving it less,” she said, adding that “arbitrary cuts to the proposed budget or deliberate withholding of contributions undermines the United Nations at a time when solidarity is needed to address global challenges”. She encouraged the Secretary-General to continue his efforts to improve the presentation of the programme budget. Her delegation is looking forward to the dashboards and analytics capabilities that the Secretariat is developing, which would provide human resource and other data, that will enhance transparency on issues such as equitable geographical representation and gender parity.

She noted that the initial estimates to finance special political missions in the proposed budget for 2022 are more than $730 million, which is over 23 per cent of the total budget for next year, she said. “We believe that it is time this Assembly had a serious discussion on the funding arrangements for special political missions vis-à-vis other development priorities. This is pertinent in view of the ongoing reform of the United Nations peace and security architecture,” she said. ASEAN looks forward to further discussing this topic during the session, when the Fifth Committee considers funding and backstopping of the special political missions.

MITCHELL FIFIELD (Australia), speaking also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand, said his group will carefully consider proposals to increase regular budget funding for some entities, which are primarily funded through voluntary contributions. While adequate and sustainable resourcing is essential to mandate delivery, not everything can be funded from the regular budget and innovative financing mechanisms should be encouraged. He acknowledged that all Member States, including the group’s own, are facing increased fiscal constraints following the pandemic. The group is committed to working with other Member States to identify savings to offset increases in other budget areas.

The group appreciates the financial discipline shown by the Secretary-General in maintaining a similar budget bottom line to 2021 and welcomes the efficiencies learned from the pandemic, he said. This includes virtual meetings and training, which reduces the need for travel and allows broader participation. The group remains concerned by the Committee for Programme and Coordination’s lack of consensus on some programme plans and is interested in the views of other Member States on how to ensure that Committee is able to complete its mandated work as a subsidiary body. If open programme plans are considered by the relevant Assembly’s Main Committees for consideration, it is crucial that they are considered early, so any conclusions and recommendations can be given to the Fifth Committee in a timely manner. Otherwise, there could be delays in adopting the 2022 budget, he said.

JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) said programmes must use resources efficiently and effectively, applying innovation, data and constant improvement to enhance performance and mandate delivery. The United Kingdom holds the Organization accountable for how it has utilized, and will utilize, resources to deliver tangible results. “The UN must demonstrate how it is using taxpayers’ money to make a difference,” he added. In Our Common Agenda, the Secretary-General argues for more predictable and sustainable funding for United Nations work. While supporting this goal, he said simply shifting more activity onto the regular budget is not the solution. Especially at a time when nearly all Member States’ national budgets are under pressure, due to the pandemic, and with the systemic budgetary shortfalls facing the Organization for decades. He called on all Member States to pay their assessed contributions on time and in full and reminded them to focus the Organization’s work on the areas of most importance, including the Assembly’s revitalisation.

HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), speaking for the African Group and aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that COVID-19 response and recovery efforts in many African countries remain mixed due to lack of solidarity, especially as a result of inequitable vaccine access. He encouraged the Secretary-General to enhance the Organization’s support for vulnerable countries, urging that the Secretary-General allocate the resources required to execute the mandate prescribed by the General Assembly — “more so in these exceptional times when the United Nations is being called upon to do more”. For its part, the African Group will exert all effort to appropriate the required funding for all relevant items, including the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), least developed countries and landlocked developing countries, NEPAD, economic and social development in Africa, and construction and property management.

He also said that adequate human and financial resources should be given to the Office of the Special Advisor for Africa, and expressed concern over the decreasing percentage share of the Development Account, in relation to the overall budget, pointing out that Assembly resolution 52/12 B encourages the Secretary-General to identify savings resulting from efficiency measures to be transferred to the Account. Noting that special political missions serve as early warning mechanisms in conflict situations, he stressed the importance of adequately resourcing such missions to lessen the need to fund peacekeeping operations. Turning to the Fifth Committee’s working methods, he called for more in-person meetings — especially for budget discussions — as the African Group’s involvement is hampered by virtual meetings that lack interpretation services. To this end, the Committee must use every possible slot in its programme of work to hold in-person meetings for the introduction of agenda items, question-and-answer segments, and the drafting of resolutions.

ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan), underscoring his country’s strong support for the overall direction of the Secretary-General’s reform initiatives, said that the proposed programme budget for 2022 could further reflect COVID-19’s impact in the context of the annual budget cycle. During this session, Japan would like to discuss how to improve the budget methodology, including the use of add-ons which undermine budget transparency and predictability. Noting that the proposed budget is about $100 million more than the approved budget for 2021, he said that given the current economic situation, which has been severely affected by the pandemic, it is ever more critical to ensure the accountability of the Organization’s budget to national fiscal authorities. In particular, Japan will keep a close eye on post resources, as some of the 48 additional posts do not seem to take into account the Organization’s rejuvenation strategy. A thorough review of long-vacant posts is also required. Turning to programme planning, he said that, regardless of decisions taken by other Main Committees about open programmes, the Fifth Committee should begin discussions promptly on related agenda items.

PATRICK KENNEDY (United States), noting that the proposed budget comes amidst a challenging and changing time, said: “I hope we can seize this moment to build a better United Nations”. While the United States supports greater budget and financing transparency, the current presentation of the regular budget presents an incomplete picture of the costs that factor into it. For example, the 2022 proposed regular budget is $3.1 billion before recosting, which appears to be a decrease from the previous year. However, on-going construction projects and easily anticipated add-ons will increase the 2022 proposed budget to $3.3 billion before recosting. The budget presentation can be improved so that Member States can make well-informed decisions about how best to resource the Organization, he said. He expressed serious concern that the ACABQ is recommending upgrading its own Secretariat, absent a proposal by the Secretary-General. Its most recent expansion followed a vote in the General Assembly, not through a consensus resolution in the Fifth Committee. At the very least, the qualifications and merits of staff upgrades must be reviewed before upgrades can be proposed. He also underscored the ACABQ’s weak rationale for rejecting two additional posts for the OIOS, emphasizing that the United States fully supports efforts to strengthen inspection and evaluation efforts.

This past year, the United States committed more than $360 million to various programmes in support to the Palestinian people, he said. It is also the single largest donor to UNRWA. Last year’s ACABQ recommendation regarding regular budget funding for UNRWA rested its case on Assembly resolution 65/272, which also called upon the Agency to reform its management processes. “We want to see more reform efforts alongside any efforts to increase the assessed financing of UNRWA,” he said. He went on to say that the United States looks forward to engaging with all other Member States to find a consensus-based approach to address programme plans that remain open this session and to ensure that the 2022 programme budget is approved in a timely and expeditious manner. Given the breadth and complexity of issues before the Fifth Committee, its delegation is ready to discuss the 18 already-approved programme plans now and looks forward to the remaining plans coming to the Committee as quickly as possible. “We are mindful that the review of the annual budget will take place next year, and strongly believe that is the appropriate opportunity to agree to a long-term solution, including on the essential work of the Committee for Programme and Coordination,” he said.

DENNIS FRANCIS (Trinidad and Tobago) aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, welcomed the allocation of additional resources to better support the expanded mandates, established by the SAMOA Pathway, and its mid-term review, facilitated by the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States. The allocation of resources to the Small Island Developing States’ Unit in that Office and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs must be predictable and reliable; over dependence on voluntary contributions presents a real challenge to the execution of their respective mandates. He commended the work of ECLAC, stressing that Trinidad and Tobago relies on the policy leadership and substantive research of the United Nations Regional Commissions and they should remain adequately resourced. He recognized the role of the global network of United Nations Information Centres and noted with interest the Secretary-General’s proposal to numerically expand the scope of the Port of Spain Office. As a member of the Working Group on the financing of UNRWA, he noted that the proposal to move the funding of certain staff posts to the regular budget would significantly address the Agency’s precarious financial situation. Considering the comprehensiveness of the budget proposal, he asked the Fifth Committee Bureau to ensure that adequate time is allocated to properly review this item in the programme of work.

OSAMA MAHMOUD ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt) aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China as well as the African Group, said that the proposed budget must be given all the required resources to enable the United Nations to execute its mandate, especially in supporting African countries. Since 2021 is the last year in the annual budget trial, he asked the Secretary General to share his views on the trial period. Concerning the role of the Committee for Programme and Coordination regarding programme planning, he stated that due process must be ensured based on paragraph 9 of Assembly resolution 75/243. Egypt remains open to discussing any suggestions, however, “we cannot tackle issues by remaining silent and expect they will disappear,” he stressed. Member States’ supervision of programmes is just as important as their supervision of the budget, he said, highlighting that his delegation will not accept a fragmented approach, leading to the weakness over time of the Committee for Programme and Coordination.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar), associating herself with the Group of 77, said that her country concurs with the recommendations contained in the 2022 proposed programme budget. In particular, Qatar supports its proposals for funding the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011. It also welcomes efforts to ensure that UNRWA can implement its mandate through regular resources, thus contributing to greater predictability while also addressing the budget shortfalls of past years. She added that Qatar is committed to upholding its financial obligations to the Organization.

JESÚS VELÁZQUEZ CASTILLO (Mexico), noting that this is the third year of the trial annual budget, said it is a realistic proposal that aims to ensure the United Nations can respond nimbly and flexibly to challenges, as it meets its mandates. The report shows the lessons the Organization has learned from the pandemic and the importance of developing strategies to respond to emergencies. It also shows the value of ongoing reforms and invites Member States to make headway on revitalising the United Nations, he said, noting that the approval of a balanced budget is necessary for fulfilling mandates. Mexico is grateful for the Secretary-General’s report on programme planning, and trusts that the Committee for Programme and Coordination’s lack of agreement and substantive recommendations on 10 programmes will lead to a satisfactory solution as soon as possible. This fact might complicate the programme budget debate in the Fifth Committee and delay a timely decision on the regular budget, he noted, adding that Mexico takes the recommendation of ACABQ very seriously and welcomes their inputs.

CAROLYN RODRIGUES-BIRKETT (Guyana), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said that while small and susceptible to external and internal shocks, and still in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, her country is committed to fulfilling its financial obligations, she said, urging all Member States to do the same by paying their assessed contributions in full, on time and without conditions. She registered her concern about arbitrary cuts to the programme budget which results in compromised mandates. She welcomed the reported $4.5 million gain in the Organization’s resources, due to more cost-effective ways of implementing mandates and the $2.8 million increase in allocation to strengthen the development pillar, to advance progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Her delegation is content with the positive prediction on the liquidity situation for 2022, she said. Noting that 2021 is the third and final year of the trial period for the annual budget cycle, she said the benefits and challenges of this reform are becoming clearer. She encouraged the Secretary-General to continue his efforts to improve the presentation of the programme budget, so that it is results-based and accurately reflects existing mandates, as well as on how those mandates are carried out.

Mr. ALMA (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Group of 77, welcomed the proposed $420,500 increase in resources for the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, as well as an enhanced allocation of resources for the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Myanmar. Those two mechanisms are critical for ensuring justice and accountability, which are key to resolving the Rohingya crisis. Speaking to the wider proposed programme budget, he said the Fifth Committee must consider the pandemic’s impact on resource allocation. Equitable geographical representation at all levels must be ensured and efforts to reconfigure and rejuvenate the Organization enhanced. The introduction of annual budgeting is a significant step towards establishing budgetary discipline, he added.

RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) said a critical step in the budgetary process is the approval of the programme plans. The accurate fulfilment of the mandates assigned to the Organization depends on the thorough review of these programmes. Once again, the Committee for Programme and Coordination could not reach consensus on all the programmes, which means the Assembly must review them. The Assembly must address this issue in a timely manner to avoid delays in the budget approval process, he said. The early engagement of all Main Committees, and their substantive expertise, is paramount to successfully conclude the budget process. The proposed 2022 programme budget is very important, as it is the final year of the trial period of the annual budgetary cycle. The experiences gathered in 2019, 2020 and 2021 will give Member States sufficient knowledge to review the results of the reform, when the Fifth Committee addresses the reform during its seventy-seventh session.

ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia), associating himself with the Group of 77, welcomed the proposed integration of parts of UNRWA) into the regular budget, as it will led to more stable and predictable funding for its work. Saudi Arabia is among the top contributors to UNRWA, he noted. It is also pleased with the proposed increase for the Organization’s development pillar, but it is concerned about budget cuts for regional commissions, including the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA). Saudi Arabia is encouraged by the Organization’s improved liquidity situation, the lifting of the hiring freeze, and progress on gender parity and disability inclusion. However, it is disappointed that the geographical diversity strategy has not achieved more progress and it will seek clarification during informal discussions, he said.

MARIA ROSENY BALTAZAR FANGCO (Philippines) aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China and ASEAN, stated that the proposed programme budget must provide adequate resources to implement all the Organization’s mandates. Member States must pay their contributions in full and on time. He noted that the Secretary-General’s budget proposal for 2022 is a 2.8 per cent reduction from the General Assembly’s 2021 appropriations. “We trust that the proposed level of resources is adequate for the full, efficient and effective implementation of mandates, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. He reiterated the importance of the sequence of the review processes, conducted by the Committee for Programme and Coordination and the ACABQ, in the programme planning and budgeting process. He looked forward to the General Assembly conducting a thorough review of the sequential process of the budgetary cycle on the implementation of the annual programme budget at its seventy-seventh session. Acknowledging the Secretariat’s efforts to improve the budget presentation and to seek the views of Member States, he stressed the importance of comparability of information in the budget presentations. Member States must be given reasonable time to properly reflect on the proposals and be provided timely written responses to written questions, he said.

ESSAM ALSHAHIN (Syria) reiterated his Government’s position against the establishment and funding of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism and called on Member States to disassociate themselves from such illegal mechanisms, which only serve the agenda of a few States. He also expressed reservations about mechanisms which cannot verify the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Syria, including aid that goes to terrorist organizations in the north-west. Funds allocated for such mechanisms should be used instead to increase aid deliveries to Syrians with the Government’s cooperation. He underscored the impact of unilateral coercive measures imposed by the United States and the European Union on the Syrian people, saying it limits the Government’s ability to respond to the pandemic. He added that the Government is always open to any genuine and impartial initiative to end the country’s crisis, including efforts by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria to facilitate a Syrian-owned and Syrian-led political process that upholds the country’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said the Fifth Committee is at a critical moment as the world is facing a pandemic. Adapting swiftly to this situation is a difficult and necessary challenge, whether in the United Nations peacekeeping work or its development work. Morocco supports the Secretary-General’s efforts to guarantee the Organization’s work and fully supports his requested resources. The budget is a cornerstone of the United Nations and its Member States must provide the necessary resources so it can fulfil its mandates, he said. The shift to an annual budget is a great step to a more responsible and balanced budget. It is the last year of a three-year trial period and an annual budget will breathe new life into the Organization, and make it more accountable, efficient, effective and better able to respond challenges. He called for greater resources for economic and social development in Africa to support the continent’s development.

CHENG LIE (China) called for strengthening the role of the Committee for Programme and Coordination to improve its effectiveness. Regarding the proposed 2022 budget, the priority must be to enable the recovery “for the better” of Member States. Priority must also be given to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. “We must not cut for the sake of cutting,” he said, calling for transparent budgetary management. He underlined that the United Nations must be able to implement its mandate. Noting the lack of consensus at the last Committee for Programme and Coordination meeting, he expressed hope that the General Assembly will find a solution. Concluding, he called on the major contributors to special political missions and peacekeeping operations to pay their assessed contributions in full and on time.

ALBERT RANGANAI CHIMBINDI (Zimbabwe), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, said it is imperative to provide the United Nations with adequate resources so it can deliver on its ever-expanding mandate. The resources must be used judiciously and responsibly. Noting that leaders from the developing South bemoaned the existing inequities over access to and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, he said the United Nations mantra of “leaving no one behind” needs the provision of adequate resources if it is not to remain a pious hope. His country has been fighting many challenges, such as climate change-induced disasters like Cyclone Idai in March 2019 and now the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as unilateral coercive measures over the last two decades, which have severely constrained the country’s economic recovery efforts, including implementation of the 2030 Agenda. He supported the Secretary-General’s principled call for the suspension of debt and unilateral coercive measures to enable affected countries to build back better. He also expressed concern over the spread of international terrorism into new areas on the African continent, asking the Secretary-General to share some of the envisaged United Nations counter-terrorism responses.

PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) said that the annual budget has shortened the Organization’s budgetary procedures, allowing it to respond in a more timely manner to current challenges. By paying contributions in full and on time, Member States take responsibility and play their part in enabling the United Nations to fulfil its various mandates. Conflict prevention and mediation are crucial and require adequate attention and funding to unlock their full potential. She supported the pursuit of accountability for the most serious crimes and welcomed the inclusion funding of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism on Syria in the regular budget. Another key component is the need for a robust human rights pillar, which will strengthen links with the Organization’s other pillars. She concluded by highlighting the importance of the Strategic Heritage Plan, which is a contribution to multilateralism to ensure a modern and efficient Organization that respects its people, its environment and its financial resources.

PETER MOHAN MAITHRI PIERIS (Sri Lanka), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, noted that 2021 is the final year of the trial period for the annual budget cycle and highlighted the importance of preserving programme planning as the cornerstone of the programme budget for the Organization. Ten programmes have been left without recommendations by the Committee for Programme and Coordination, and the General Assembly and related Main Committees must play their role in reviewing and acting on these open programmes. The United Nations must have adequate resources to deliver its mandates, he said, calling on the Secretariat to follow the established budget methodology, procedures and practices, in line with financial regulations. He added that, in light of the ongoing, multifaceted impacts of the pandemic, the limited resources of Member States and the Organization must be used in an effective manner “where the actual requirements are”.

DMITRY S. CHUMAKOV (Russian Federation) said he again regretted that the long-standing practice of approving the regular budget by consensus was violated in 2019. The reason is the inclusion of the illegal so-called “investigative mechanisms for Syria and Myanmar” in the regular budget. Unfortunately, the proposal to finance through the regular budget illegal structures, which several Member States do not recognize in principle, will once again challenge the Committee’s discussion. The Russian Federation is convinced that after the expiration of the annual budget trial in 2022, Member States will need a cost-benefit analysis. “It is important to make a balanced and informed decision: keep the annual budget or return to a biennial one next year,” he said. He emphasized that the regular budget of $3.12 billion, proposed by the Secretary-General, once again does not include funding for construction projects. He asked the Secretariat to include estimated construction costs.

The Organization’s most important asset is human resources, which comprise over 70 per cent of regular budget expenses, he said. It is necessary to rejuvenate United Nations staff, as over the past five years, the average age of staff members has increased from 44.6 years to 46.2 years. The share of employees under the age of 35 was only 10.4 per cent at year-end 2019. He supported the ACABQ’s position on the Secretary-General’s initiative to rejuvenate the Secretariat. The programme planning items identified systemic problems and programmes in how the Secretariat interprets the mandates established by Member States. The Committee for Programme and Coordination is doing its job very well and its work continues to be very important, he stressed.

KATLEGO BOASE MMALANE (Botswana), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China as well as the African Group, expressed his concern that the budget proposal for 2022 is not only less then funds appropriated in 2021, but contains cuts to bodies that are integral to the development pillar, in particular the Regional Commissions. Rather than sustaining the status quo, the budget must be sound and equitable to the challenges and developmental needs at hand. He appreciated the Secretary General’s plans for Africa at both the regional and sub-regional level, as expressed by Member States when adopting the 2021 budget last December. He sought details on how reform of the peace and security pillar have helped to increase collaboration and coordination between the United Nations and the African Union, with the aim of delivering on the 2030 Agenda and the African Union’s Agenda 2063. Further, his delegation would like to discuss how the Organization continues to support Africa in its quest for digital transformation and a knowledge-based economy, and to gain an understanding of how the Development Account and its Regular Programme of Technical Cooperation are utilized.

YUN JIYOUNG (Republic of Korea) supported the Secretary-General’s report and stressed the need for the efficient and accountable use of the Organization’s resources. The pandemic has imposed significant economic and social challenges on the Organization and its Member States, which face their own fiscal constraints. The Republic of Korea would like to see the lessons learned during the pandemic applied in the development of the 2022 budget. Budget discipline is necessary to best use the Organization’s resources. Regarding programme planning, she stressed the Fifth Committee is responsible for the adoption of the 2022 programme budget in a timely manner so it can deliver its mandates. The budget should not be delayed, she said, adding that Republic of Korea looks forward to working with all Member States on this matter during the session.

Mr. GUTERRES, thanking Member States for a rich discussion, said that many statements focused on issues that he personally considers important priorities, including development, gender parity and equitable geographical distribution of staff. One issue that will require more serious analysis and discussion is the possible contradiction between the annual budget and the role of the Committee for Planning and Coordination, whose recommendations are extremely important. He added that it would make no sense to return to biennial budgets. “I mean, if there is something obvious, it is that time runs much faster today than in 1974,” when the biennial budget cycle was adopted. The pandemic and difficult financial situation made 2020 a complex year for the Organization, but many lessons came out of that year which are incorporated in the proposed programme budget for 2022. If biannual budgeting was still in place, those lessons would have been in the 2024-2025 budget. “Does that make any sense today?” he asked. He went on to say that mandates must be the source of planning, and planning the source of budget allocations, through a process that is adapted to contemporary realities and without losing the enormous benefits of an annual budget cycle.

Source: United Nations

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