21 June 2006
Fifth Committee Presented with Secretary-General Request for Expenditure Authorization for Remainder of 2006-2007 Biennium
According to Current Pattern, "Last Dollar Available" Will Be Spent before Mid-July, Says Controller
NEW YORK, 20 June (UN Headquarters) -- As it considered the $950 million spending cap that could significantly disrupt the work of the United Nations, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning was presented with the Secretary-General's request for an expenditure authorization for the remainder of the current biennium.
Introducing that request, as contained in document A/60/889, United Nations Controller Warren Sach stressed its timeliness, saying that, according to the current expenditure pattern, absent the authorization, "the last dollar available" would be spent before the middle of July and that, even before that, some United Nations activities would suffer disruption.
Last December, the Assembly adopted the Organization's budget for the 2006-2007 biennium in the amount of $3.79 billion, adding a proviso that would, "as an exceptional measure", limit the first portion of the Secretary-General's expenditures for 2006 to $950 million. Further, it also decided that "in order to ensure the availability of resources for programme delivery, [it] will act in response to a request from the Secretary-General, at an appropriate time, for expenditure of the remaining funds".
When the Assembly adopted the budget on 23 December, the United States representative welcomed those arrangements, saying that they would permit ongoing United Nations operations and activities, while Member States continued discussions on implementing the reforms agreed at the 2005 World Summit. He hoped that progress on reform measures would be more than sufficient to support a continuation of the budget for the remainder of 2006.
Commenting on today's request, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), in a report (document A/60/7/Add.40) that was introduced by its Chairman, Rajat Saha, stated that as of 31 May, some $728.8 million had been expended and a further $151 million was expected to be spent in June. On the basis of those figures, it was clear that under the present circumstances, the Secretary-General would reach the limit of his spending authority before the end of July. The Assembly might wish to take that into account when it considers any further action under the terms of resolution 60/247A.
"The Group of 77 and China is ready to endorse a decision to authorize the expenditure and lift the spending cap without restriction", said the representative of South Africa, who spoke on behalf of the 132-member bloc of developing nations. He called on the Assembly "to respond decisively and expeditiously" to the Secretary-General's request. Joining consensus would lift the cloud of doubt that had been hanging over the Organization for the past six months and demonstrate commitment to ensuring that it remained financially solvent.
He said the imposition of the spending cap had placed the Organization in a very difficult position and had become "an obstacle to the trust among Member States". The development resolution, for instance, had been held up, and, recently, there had even been a reluctance to act on other matters that had nothing to do with the spending cap. That had, perhaps unintentionally, led to numerous debates of the equal rights of all Member States to participate in decision-making in the United Nations, irrespective of the size of Members' contributions. It unfortunately had raised serious concerns among Member States over the financial solvency of the United Nations. "I, therefore, am encouraged that we have finally reached the stage where Member States can unequivocally lay these questions to rest once and for all and allow the Organization to function proficiently by removing the spending cap", he said.
At the time of the adoption of the budget, the Group had not recognized any link between the unprecedented decision to introduce a spending cap and collective efforts to reform the Organization, he continued. During negotiations, the Group had been assured that the spending cap was not intended to harm the Organization and that the Secretary-General would be able to request the lifting of the cap when he required the funds to be released. The time to do so was now.
He said the special ministerial meeting of the Group in Putrajaya, Malaysia, of 29 May had reaffirmed that efforts to use the size of financial contributions to push for the adoption of certain proposals were counterproductive and violated the obligations of Member States to provide resources for the Organization as enshrined in its Charter. The meeting had also reaffirmed that, in order to avoid a crisis, the limit on the expenditure of the Organization should be automatically lifted. He reaffirmed the Group's commitment to the reform of the United Nations while stating clearly that the reform must not be linked to the issue of the spending cap.
In conclusion, he said that Secretary-General Kofi Annan had, for the past 10 years, served the Organization with distinction, courage and vision. "In his last few months of service to this Organization, it would be unfortunate if his ability to complete his mandate bestowed upon him by this General Assembly will be interrupted and frustrated by the imposition of a spending cap that has never before been imposed. We, the Member States, have long approved the budget for the biennium of 2006-2007. The least we can do is allow the Secretary-General to go on with his work by unanimously approving the lifting of this cap. This is the least we can do."
The representative of the Russian Federation said his delegation was ready to permit the Secretary-General to spend resources in the full amount within the framework of the approved appropriations of the 2006-2007 budget.
Following a statement by the Committee's Chairman, John W. Ashe (Antigua and Barbuda), that he had been requested by some delegations and groups of delegations that a decision on the matter be taken at a later date, South Africa's representative wanted to know which delegations had asked for the item to be kept open. The Group was "bending over backwards" to try and work with others and did not mind if consultations were held on the matter, but it needed transparency in that regard.
Responding to that question, Austria's representative (speaking on behalf of the European Union) said that, while South Africa's representative suspected that the European Union and others were "hiding in secrecy", the Union was motivated by transparency, openness and frankness. Above all, it was important to bring down the feelings of suspicion and mistrust. The Committee was "in a very good way", and the Union wanted to join the consensus, but a little more time was needed "to come to an agreement where everyone is happy". Member States needed to join forces to make the United Nations stronger.
Japan's representative said that his delegation had no intention to hide. Last Wednesday, his delegation had had "good informal discussions", when the Chair of the Group of 77 had invited the United States, the European Union and Japan to a meeting. In those discussions, the spending cap had come up and the participants were very clear in their expectations that the spending cap would be lifted by 30 June, "one way or another". He had a strong desire for that action to be made by consensus. For that, a constructive spirit was needed. For its part, Japan would be doing everything possible to make that real.
The United States representative agreed that "the spirit of cooperation and compromise" was in the air, but added that a number of States would like an opportunity to consult further to avoid a precipitous decision.
Another delegation that "simply wanted to be identified as one of the countries that thought consultations would be worthwhile" was that of Australia, whose representative said that the Committee traditionally operated by consensus, and reasonable time should be allowed to achieve that objective.
The Chairman concluded that he would consult with all delegations and groups of delegations and update the Committee on the status of consultations this Friday.
The Committee will continue its consideration of the spending cap and take up the financing of United Nations missions in Congo, Burundi, Western Sahara and Afghanistan at 10 a.m. Friday, 23 June.
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