Press Releases

    GA/AB/3504
    20 March 2002

    CONCLUDING RESUMED SESSION, FIFTH COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS RESTORATION OF INTERNET
    SERVICES FOR PERMANENT MISSIONS

    Approving 12 Texts without Vote, Committee Endorses Financing Levels for MONUC,
    Tribunals, but Defers Decision on Separation Age

    NEW YORK, 10 March (UN Headquarters) -- Concluding its first resumed session this morning, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) acted on 11 draft resolutions and one draft decision within its area of competence, on agenda items ranging from the financing of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) to the financing of the two International Tribunals. All texts were approved without a vote.

    The main issue of the session, however, turned out to be the reductions in services available to Member States, in particular conference services and Internet support for the Permanent Missions. The reduction were announced by the Secretary-General in his note verbale dated 28 February and by the Under-Secretary-General for Management in his information circular ST/IC/2002/13 of the same date.

    [Citing the $75 million reduction of the real level of resources available to the Organization under the budget adopted last December, the Secretary-General stated that "the Organization does not have sufficient financial resources to maintain services for meetings, facilities, management and information technology at existing levels". Under the new provisions, the Secretariat would no longer service any weekend and night meetings other than those of the Security Council and the Assembly plenary. Cuts were also announced in such areas as telephone support for software applications, elevator service and services provided by sound engineers and other contract personnel.]

    Today, approving a draft resolution on the matter, the Committee recommended that the Secretary-General be requested "to implement the budget resolutions in a way that does not adversely affect the services provided to Member States and to minimize the adverse effect of any changes in the established practice resulting from the announced cutbacks". Stressing the need for the Secretary-General to implement all resolutions in a transparent and non-selective manner, the Assembly would also note the importance of appropriate provision of conference services to the bodies and committees of the United Nations and regional groups.

    The Secretary-General would be further requested to immediately restore Internet services to Permanent Missions, utilizing resources released as a result of an action envisioned in another text approved today -- a reduction of honorariums payable to the members of the Organization’s organs and subsidiary bodies.

    Following informal consultations, the other text on the cutbacks (document A/C.5/56/L.47) was withdrawn by its sponsors.

    After the action on the draft, Warren Sach, Director of the Programme Planning and Budget Division, said that the measures affecting Internet services to Member States would be rescinded. As for the conference and other support services, every effort would be made to minimize the cutbacks’ adverse effects on Member States. The other announced measures would continue to be in effect within the present level of appropriations for 2002-2003.

    By the terms of the draft resolution on the comprehensive study of the question of honorariums, the Assembly would decide, with effect from 6 April, to set all honorariums currently payable on an exceptional basis to the members of the International Law Commission, the International Narcotics Control Board, the United Nations Administrative Tribunal, the Human Rights Committee, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Committee on the Rights of the Child at $1 (one dollar) per year.

    [According to the Secretary-General’s note on the matter (document A/56/311), the members of those organs had so far received annual honorariums ranging from $2,500 to $5,000 per annum. As the level of such payments was last revised in 1981, the document suggested that the Assembly may wish to increase them by 25 per cent and extend the payment of honorariums to the members of such bodies as the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Committee against Torture. Instead, the Fifth Committee recommended cutting them to $1. Under the new arrangements, the payment of members’ per diem allowances and travel expenses would not be discontinued.]

    The Committee also approved a draft resolution on the financing of MONUC. By its terms, the Assembly would appropriate $56.75 million gross for the maintenance of the Mission for 1 July 2001 to 30 June 2002, in addition to the $405.74 million gross appropriated for the period of 1 July 2001 to 31 March 2002.

    Having considered the report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) on a follow-up investigation of allegations of fee-splitting between defence counsel and indigent detainees at the two International Tribunals, the Committee approved a draft resolution whereby the Assembly would express concern at the OIOS findings and request the Secretary-General to ensure full and expeditious implementation of its recommendations. The Assembly would also request the Secretary-General to follow up on the investigation and ensure that errant officials were held accountable.

    [Among others, the report describes the case of a staff member of the Rwanda Tribunal who reportedly requested and received kickbacks from defence team members in order to process their claims in an expeditious manner. Also according to the document, one accused person at the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, who was represented by a defence team funded by the Tribunal for reasons of indigence, purchased real estate while in detention.]

    By another text, the Committee recommended that the Assembly approve resources for the continuation of oversight functions at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia for the remainder of the current biennium, in the amount of $430,300 gross, and would decide on a revised appropriation of a total amount of $248.93 million gross for that court.

    For the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the Assembly would decide on a revised appropriation of $197.13 million gross for 2002-2003.

    In other action, the Committee determined that the level of final appropriations for the biennium 2000-2001 amounted to $2.56 billion.

    Also this morning, the Committee addressed such issues as the availability of the United Nations documentation on the Web site in the six official languages, the documentation and publications of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, and the Organization’s public information activities.

    The Committee decided to defer until its second resumed session its consideration of several items on its agenda, including reports on the mandatory age of separation, the composition of the Secretariat, and the placement of staff serving in the Secretary-General's Executive Office.

    Background

    This morning, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) was expected to conclude the first part of its resumed session, acting on all the remaining drafts before it.

    The Committee had before it a draft resolution on the follow-up investigation into possible fee-splitting arrangements between defence counsel and indigent detainees at the International Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia (document A/C/5/56/L.44). By the terms of the text, the Assembly, taking note of the report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) on the issue, would express concern at the OIOS findings and request the Secretary-General to ensure the full and expeditious implementation of OIOS recommendations. The Assembly would also request OIOS to follow up on the investigation and ensure that errant officials were held accountable.

    By the draft resolution submitted by Venezuela on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China (document A/C.5/56/L.47), the Assembly would regret the implementation of the measures outlined in information circular ST/IC/2002/13, and in a note verbale from the Secretary-General dated 28 February, on service reductions in certain areas directly affecting Member States. Stressing that some of the measures are in contravention of the draft resolutions adopted last December, it would decide that they should not be implemented. The Secretary-General would be requested to restore the services that have been reduced, in particular conference services and Permanent Mission Internet support services. The Secretary-General would be requested to present a report containing proposals on the implementation of last December’s budget resolution 56/254, in a way that would not affect the services provided to Member States.

    In his statement on the programme budget implications of this text (document A/C.5/56/40), the Secretary-General points out that if the level of budget appropriations adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 56/254 is to be maintained at $2.625 billion, the measures envisioned in the draft cannot be implemented. Regarding the request for a report, the Secretary-General states that, given the areas in which the Assembly has decided to make reductions, it would not be possible to make proposals to implement the budget at the level decided without affecting the services provided to Member States.

    Before the Committee was a draft resolution on the comprehensive study of the question of honorariums payable to members of various United Nations and subsidiary organs (document A/C.5/56/L.55). By its terms, the Assembly would decide, with effect from 6 April, to set all honorariums currently payable on an exceptional basis to the members of the International Law Commission, the International Narcotics Control Board, the United Nations Administrative Tribunal, the Human Rights Committee, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Committee on the Rights of the Child at $1 per year. It would request the Secretary-General to report on the appropriation adjustments required as a consequence of this decision and the related transfers in respect of the provision of Internet services to Member States’ Missions, in the context of the first performance report on the programme budget for 2002-2003.

    By the terms of a related text (document A/C.5/56/L.56), the Committee recommends that the Assembly note with concern the implementation of the economy measures outlined in the Secretary-General’s note verbale of 28 February and information circular ST/IC/2002/13. By that text, the Secretary-General would be requested to implement the budget resolutions in a way that does not adversely affect the services provided to Member States, and to minimize the adverse effect of any changes in the established practice resulting from the announced cutbacks.

    Stressing the need for the Secretary-General to implement all resolutions in a transparent and non-selective manner, the Assembly would also note the importance of appropriate provision of conference services to the bodies and committees of the United Nations and regional groups. The Secretary-General would also be requested to immediately restore the Internet services to Permanent Missions, utilizing resources released as a result of the measures envisioned in draft resolution L.55 on the question of honorariums payable to members of the Organization’s subsidiary bodies and organs.

    On the subject of simultaneous documentation availability in six languages on the United Nations Web site, the Committee had before it draft resolution A/C.5/56/L.57, by whose terms the Assembly would take note of the Secretary-General’s report on the matter.

    By another draft resolution (document A/C.5/56/L.58), the Assembly would note the Secretary-General’s report on the review of public information activities outside the Department of Public Information (DPI). Looking forward to the outcome of the comprehensive review of information activities referred to in its resolution 56/253 of 24 December 2001, along with the conclusions and recommendations of the Committee on Information and the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), it would decide that the comprehensive review should also address the language versions of publications issued outside of the DPI.

    On the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) documents and publications, the Committee had before it draft resolution A/C.5/56/L.59. By its terms, the Assembly would urge the Commission to comply with all relevant provisions of resolution 44 (IV) of 1977, whereby ESCWA had decided that all documents submitted to it should, as far as possible, be drafted in Arabic. The Assembly would also take note of the Secretariat’s note on the languages used for preparation of ESCWA documentation, and look forward to the Secretary-General’s report on progress achieved on production of documents and publications in Arabic, which is to be submitted during the fifty-seventh session.

    Having considered the revised estimates resulting from the measures to strengthen the role of internal oversight at the two International Tribunals, the Committee also prepared two draft texts on the matter (document A/C.5/56/L.50 and A/C.5/56/L.51), by whose terms the Assembly would reaffirm the provisions of its latest resolutions on the financing of those courts -- resolution 56/247 on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and 56/248 on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, subject to the terms of the present text. Endorsing the recommendations of the ACABQ, both texts would have the Assembly request the Secretary-General to take all necessary steps to address accountability, management and efficiency problems at the respective Tribunals and report to it on the measures taken. It would also regret the delay in the issuance of the comprehensive report on the results of the review of the functioning of the Rwanda and former Yugoslavia Tribunals, and decide to review the assessments for the courts at its fifty-seventh session in the context of the first performance report.

    By its draft on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (document A/C.5/56/L.50), the Assembly would approve the Tribunal's staffing table for 2002-2003, except for the additional trial preparatory team. It would approve resources for the continuation of oversight functions at the Tribunal for the remainder of the current biennium in the amount of $430,300 gross ($312,700 net) and decide on a revised appropriation for the Special Account for the Tribunal of a total amount of $248.93 million gross ($223.32 million net) for 2002-2003.

    Regarding the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (document A/C.5/56/L.51), the Assembly would approve the staffing table for the court and request the Secretary-General to ensure completion of the report on the likely long-term financial obligations of the United Nations with regard to the enforcement of sentences by the fifty-seventh session. It would decide on a revised appropriation of $197.13 million gross ($177.74 million net) for the Tribunal for 2002-2003.

    The Committee also had before it a draft resolution on the financing of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) (document A/C.5/56/L.52). By the terms of the text, the Assembly would take note of the status of contributions to the Mission as of 31 January 2002, including outstanding contributions of $294.8 million -- about 75 per cent of the total assessed contributions. It would also express concern that only 2 per cent of Member States had paid their assessed contributions in full.

    By further terms of the text, the Assembly would endorse the recommendations of the ACABQ in its report and request the Secretary-General to ensure their full implementation. It would also request the Secretary-General to consider options referred to in the ACABQ's report to remedy the current situation involving a contract for the provision of airfield services. It would request him to submit a progress report thereon to the Assembly at its second part of the resumed session. The Assembly would also request the Secretary-General to submit the OIOS report on the audit it recently conducted on the award of the air-services contract to MONUC during the second part of the resumed session.

    Also according to the draft, the Assembly would decide to appropriate $56.75 million gross ($57.23 million net) for the maintenance of the Mission from 1 July 2001 to 30 June 2002, in addition to the $405.74 million gross ($396.68 million net) already appropriated for the maintenance of the Mission from 1 July 2001 to 31 March 2002. That amount would include $11.63 million gross ($10.26 million net) for the support account for peacekeeping operations and $862.91 million gross ($774.89 million net) for the United Nations Logistics Base.

    Another text before the Committee was a draft resolution on the final level of appropriations for the biennium 2000-2001 (document A/C.5/56/L.53). By its terms the Assembly would resolve that, for the biennium 2000-2001, the revised appropriation and commitment authority totalling $2,561,578,000, approved in its resolution 56/240, should be decreased by $391,100, resulting in a final appropriation of $2.56 billion. The required additional assessment of $32.21 million gross would be taken into account in the context of determining regular budget assessments for 2003 at the fifty-seventh session of the Assembly.

    The Board of Auditors, when auditing the accounts of the United Nations for the biennium 2000-2001, would be requested to pay particular attention to the sections of the budget with over-expenditures, as well as sections with large amounts of unliquidated obligations, to ensure their validity.

    The Committee also had before it a draft resolution on action taken on certain items (document A/C.5.56/L.54/Rev.1), by whose terms the Assembly would decide to defer consideration of several agenda items to the second resumed session of the Fifth Committee. The items deferred include: gratis personnel provided by governments and other entities, conditions of service for judges of the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunals, and the administration of justice at the United Nations. The Assembly would also decide to defer to the second resumed session its consideration of several reports under the agenda item on human resources management, including the reports of the Secretary-General on a monitoring capacity of the Office of Human Resources Management of all relevant activities in the Secretariat, regardless of source of funding.

    The Assembly would also decide to defer to its fifty-seventh session the reports of the Secretary-General on the mandatory age of separation, the composition of the Secretariat and the placement of staff members serving in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General.

    The last draft resolution before the Committee referred to standards of accommodation for air travel (document A/C.5/56/L.60). By that text, the Assembly would take note of the Secretary-General’s reports and endorse the recommendations of the ACABQ on the matter. It would request the Secretary-General to continue to submit his annual reports on air travel accommodation and call upon him to improve coordination among the various departments in order to expedite settlement of travel reimbursement claims. It would also emphasize that all travel reimbursement claims must, to the extent possible, be settled within 30 working days of their submission.

    Action on Drafts

    The Committee first took up the final appropriation for the 2000-2001 budget contained in draft resolution A/C.5/56/L.53.

    Guillermo Kendall (Argentina) introduced the draft, saying that consensus on the text, which was contained in document A/56/866, had been reached during informal consultations on the matter.

    The Committee approved the draft without a vote.

    The Committee then turned its attention to draft resolution A/C.5/56/L.55, on the issue of honorariums payable to members of organs and subsidiary organs of the United Nations.

    Oleksii Ivashchenko (Ukraine) introduced the draft, which was approved by the Committee without a vote.

    The Committee took up draft resolution A/C.5/56/L.60 on the standards of accommodation for air travel.

    The draft, introduced by Mr. Ivashchenko (Ukraine), was approved without a vote.

    The Committee then took up draft resolution A/C.5/56/L.56, submitted on behalf of the Chairman following informal consultations on draft resolution A/C.5/56/L.47 on service reductions in certain areas directly affecting Member States. That draft had been introduced by the representative of Cuba on behalf of the Group of 77 at the Committee’s fiftieth meeting on 14 March.

    The representative of Mexico, the coordinator of the informal consultations on draft resolution A/C.5/56/L.47, said that following constructive consultations, a consensus text had been put together. He asked the Committee to adopt draft resolution A/C.5/56/L.56 without a vote.

    The representative of Cuba asked if the adoption of draft resolution A/C.5/56/L.56 would render document A/C.5/56/40 -- the programme budget implications of draft resolution A/C.5/56/L.47 -- and that draft without effect.

    Acting Chairman JOHN ORR (Canada), Vice-Chairman of the Committee, said that draft resolution A/C.5/56/L.47 and the related statement of programme budget implications would be withdrawn by its sponsors.

    The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.

    WARREN SACH, Director of the Programme Planning and Budget Division, said that as a result of the adoption of A/C.5/56/L.56, the measures affecting Internet services to Member States would be rescinded. The costs associated with the provision of those services would be financed from savings resulting from changes to the level of honorariums paid to organs and subsidiary organs of the United Nations. Regarding the provision of conference services and other support services, every effort would continue to be made, as requested in operative paragraph 4 of the text, to minimize the adverse effects on Member States of the measures outlined in the Secretary-General’s note verbale dated 28 February and ST/IC/2002/13. The other measures would continue to be in effect within the present level of appropriation for 2002-2003. The requested report concerning the implementation of provisions of resolution 56/242 of 24 December 2001, within the resources specified in resolution 56/254, would be prepared for the second resumed session as requested.

    The representative of Cuba, on behalf of the Group of 77 , speaking in explanation of position, thanked the coordinator for his efforts to arrive at a consensus text on an issue that was important to all Member States. The Group would make an explanation of position in the plenary before the Assembly adopted the resolution. She hoped that in implementing the resolutions on the budget and the pattern of conferences, the Secretariat would do so in a way that had no negative effect on Member States.

    The representative of Syria thanked the coordinator of the item for his efforts to reach a consensus on the draft. He also thanked Mr. Sach for his great efforts in submitting information requested by the Committee. Mr. Sach had always been very cooperative and was dedicated to supporting Member States. Concerning paragraph 3 on the implementation of all General Assembly resolutions, the resolutions on the budget and the pattern of conferences should be dealt with on an equal footing and without double standards. Mandates must be implemented without discrimination. All committees -- not only the Fifth -- faced difficulties in obtaining conferences services. The question should be given due special attention.

    Communication was a basic need, and conference services must be provided for all meetings, he said. He looked forward to the Secretary-General’s report in the second resumed session. In section 27D of the budget it was necessary to determine the level of financial support for conference services. A survey of all additional services should be given due attention. The needs of those additional services should be reflected in the report.

    The sponsors of draft resolution A/C.5/56/L.47 then decided to withdraw that text.

    The Committee next considered draft resolution A/C.5/56/L.57 on the availability of documentation in six languages on the United Nations Web site; A/C.5/56/L.58 on ESCWA documents and publications; and A/C.5/56/L.59 on the review of public information activities.

    Thomas Schlessinger (Austria) introduced the three drafts.

    The representative of Cuba provided a correction to the Spanish version of draft resolution A/C.5/56/L.58.

    The Committee then approved the three draft resolutions without a vote.

    Explaining his position on several draft resolutions, the representative of Syria said that the report of the Secretary-General on documentation availability in the six languages of the United Nations was not clear enough. But in the spirit of flexibility, he had agreed to approval of the procedural draft before the Committee, for another report to be submitted later.

    As for the ESCWA text, he said that his delegation looked forward to the implementation of its provisions. He awaited the submission of the Secretary-General’s report on progress achieved in the production of documents and publications in Arabic, as stipulated in paragraph 3 of the draft. He hoped the report would be submitted during the fifty-seventh session of the Assembly, and not deferred until a resumed session.

    Next the Committee considered draft resolutions A/C.5/56/L.50, on the financing of the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia, and A/C.5/56/L.51 on the financing of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

    Anne Merchant (Norway) then introduced the draft resolutions, making a correction to the figure in operative paragraph 7 on the financing of the Tribunal for The Former Yugoslavia, which should have read: "$248,926,200 gross ($223,189,600 net)".

    The Committee approved the two draft resolutions without a vote.

    The Committee next took up draft resolution A/C/5/56/L.44 on the Office of Internal Oversight Services investigation into possible fee-splitting arrangements between defence counsel and indigent detainees at the Tribunals.

    Ms. Merchant (Norway) introduced the draft and noted an amendment to operative paragraph 3 of the text, which should read: "request the Secretary-General to further follow up…".

    The Committee approved the draft resolution without a vote.

    It then took up draft resolution A/C.5/56/L.52, on the financing of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC).

    Santiago Wins (Uruguay) introduced the draft, saying that several amendments had been made to the text. Paragraph 10 should include the phrase "any other options that might arrive" and paragraph 11 should include "as a matter of priority".

    Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management RAFIAH SALIM responded to a query by the delegate of the United States on the mission subsistence allowance for MONUC. In its audit report on the establishment and management of mission subsistence allowance rates, the OIOS had recommended that the Office of Human Resources Management review the rates for a number of peacekeeping operations, including MONUC, as OIOS was of the opinion that allowance rates were too high. The Office of Human Resources Management had conducted field surveys in two special missions in 2001 as well as questionnaire surveys for eight missions, including MONUC. As a result of that survey, the mission subsistence allowance rates for MONUC were revised. While the implementation of the new rates, which were revised upwards, would take effect immediately, those revised downwards -- which was the case for MONUC -- would take effect three months after promulgation, namely 1 February 2002. Following the announcement of the revised rates, a number of missions and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations had expressed concern on the outcome of the questionnaire survey. In consultation with the Peacekeeping Operations Department, it was agreed that the Office of Human Resources Management would conduct field surveys in selected missions, including MONUC, in the beginning of 2002.

    Regarding the methodology for establishing mission subsistence allowance rates, she said that under staff rule 103.21B, the Secretary-General had authority to set rates and conditions for allowance rates, payable on each assignment. The methodology was embodied in ST/AI/97/6, which came into effect on 1 November 1997. That instruction provided that mission allowance rates should be determined on long-term accommodation, food and miscellaneous expenses at each duty station. The mission subsistence allowance was intended to cover living expenses of personnel during the period of assignment. Under miscellaneous expenses, account was taken of the expenditures needed to maintain reasonable living conditions. For food and incidental expenses, Office of Human Resources Management took into account costs-of-living data and daily subsistence surveys. The data analysis and mission reports were completed last week, and the results of the MSA survey were conveyed to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. The implementation of revised rates for MONUC would be effective from 1 April 2002.

    The representative of India thanked Ms. Salim for her statement, and asked that it be distributed in writing. He also drew the Committee’s attention to the fact that the Spanish translation of draft resolution A/C.5/56/L.52 differed from the text agreed upon in informal consultations.

    The United States representative said that he would also like Ms. Salim’s statement to be circulated in writing.

    Acting without a vote, the Committee then approved the draft.

    The Committee then took up draft decision A/C.5/56/L.54/Rev.1, submitted on behalf of the Chairman, to defer consideration of several items to its second resumed fifty-sixth session.

    The draft decision was then approved without a vote.

    The representative of Syria stressed the need for the ACABQ to submit its related report on the Secretary-General’s report on equality in the United Nations before the next session. He was also waiting for the Human Resources to submit a report on the management of human resources, which he had expected during the current session. He hoped the report would be submitted at the second resumed session, together with the related report of the ACABQ.

    The representative of Cuba, on behalf of the Group of 77, said she attached special importance to the issue of human resources management and the follow-up to the resolution on that item. Unfortunately, it had not been possible to consider those agenda items during the current session. When the Committee did consider the item it should be given all necessary information and relevant reports ahead of time.

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