Before approving a programme of work for their seventy‑fifth session, delegates of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today vowed to work together as they tackle an ambitious agenda that embraces the Organization’s second annual budget and crucial reforms meant to expand efficiency and transparency.
Fifth Committee Chair Carlos Amorín (Uruguay) opened the session by urging delegates to aim for consensus and dialogue and work constructively in their available meeting space. He said the Committee’s last meeting for the regular session would be Friday, 11 December, and meetings would not continue beyond 6 p.m.
The representative of Guyana, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said it is pleased the improved circumstances in New York City have enabled the Fifth Committee to consider its important agenda items during formal meetings. Yet the Group is disappointed that security concerns had left some discussions without complete interpretation capabilities. Reports should be issued in all official languages in a timely manner, she said, noting that several remain outstanding and urging the Committee to give adequate consideration to all agenda items. Pointing out that unpaid contributions for the regular and peacekeeping budgets totalled more than $5.1 billion as of 30 September, with the majority owed by one Member State, she called on all Member States to fulfil their obligations on time and in full.
The representative of Mali, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the Organization’s approved mandates should dictate the budget levels approved by the General Assembly, and not the other way around. An adequate level of resources should be approved for such entities as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), least developed countries and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. He said the continued late release of reports in all official languages was frustrating the Committee’s work and the full participation of all 193 Member States.
Singapore’s delegate, associating himself with the statement of Guyana and speaking on behalf of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), noted the United Nations is commemorating the seventy‑fifth anniversary in the midst of a pandemic. The Organization is facing unprecedented circumstances that require creative adjustments.
Switzerland’s representative, speaking also for Liechtenstein, expressed alarm at the Organization’s liquidity crisis, which is more serious than in previous budget years. “With the pandemic still raging and innumerable people counting on the support of the United Nations, sufficient financial resources are of the utmost importance,” she said, calling on all Member States to pay their annual contributions in full and on time. The United Nations human rights pillar must be adequately funded and there must be accountability for the most serious crimes. She also highlighted the renovation of the Palais des Nations in Geneva, known as the Strategic Heritage Plan, saying it is not only a building conservation project, but also an investment in multilateralism. COVID‑19 will undoubtedly impact the Plan, yet work is progressing, she said, thanking Member States in advance for supporting this important project.
The representative of the European Union delegation said that Member States have a shared responsibility to find solutions to the Organization’s liquidity crisis and must pay their contributions in full and on time. He welcomed the Secretary‑General’s efforts to reform the Organization’s three pillars, stating that in the face of the pandemic, new structures have proved resilient and adaptable. “The world needs a revitalized multilateral system, but that will only come if everyone in the international community invests in it and the conditions are set for cooperation,” he said. The Committee should carry out its work in all of the United Nations official languages and use its limited time wisely and efficiently, avoiding duplication between items. “We should endeavour not to micro‑manage,” he said, emphasizing also the European Union’s strong commitment to reaching decisions by consensus.
The representative of the United States congratulated the Secretariat for leveraging technology to hold the meetings during the pandemic. Consensus is critical during an important session that includes the annual 2021 budget and reforms meant to help the Organization deliver meaningful results, she said.
China, associating himself the Group of 77 and China, said multilateralism is under pressure as the United Nations celebrates its seventy‑fifth anniversary. China will continue being a true practitioner of multilateralism and calls on all parties to work together. The Organization’s current financial situation is worrisome, he said, noting that unpaid assessments, regular and peacekeeping, total $5.1 billion as of 30 September. He added that $3.25 billion was owed by one Member State.
The representative of the Republic of Korea said the 2021 budget should reflect the impact of the pandemic and management reforms should produce a nimbler organization.
Norway’s delegate said the United Nations is facing persistent underfunding and the Fifth Committee has a key role to play in steering the Organization towards success.
The representative of Botswana, aligning himself with the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, urged the Fifth Committee to consider solutions that will help countries that needing reprieve because of financial problems. Japan’s delegate supported reforms that would promote more efficiency, accountability and responsiveness, calling for financial responsibility.
The representative of the United Kingdom said this was an extraordinary year and the Organization should work effectively and nimbly to meet upcoming challenges and serve people for the next 75 years.
Cuba’s representative said that the United States is abusing its host country status and preventing a Member States from meeting its obligations to the Organization. It is true, as the representative of the United States representative would probably affirm, that the United States Department of the Treasury granted a license so that Venezuela could pay its contribution through the United Nations Federal Credit Union. But what is the point of such a license, he asked, when Venezuela cannot draw upon its funds from international financial institutions, which fear they might be subject to United States sanctions if funds are transferred. “Today it is Venezuela, but tomorrow it could be any of you who are affected, just because you do not share the same ideology of the host country or simply because you exercise your right to bilaterally interact with whomever you choose based on sovereignty,” he said.
Also speaking today were the representatives of the Philippines, Jamaica, Guatemala, Peru and Mexico.
The Fifth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 7 October, to consider the scale of assessments for the apportionment of the expenses of the United Nations, under Article 19.