By 151 Votes in Favour to 2 Against, with 1 Abstention, Fifth Committee Approves $3.21 Billion Budget for 2021, Concluding Main Part of Seventy-Fifth Session

United States Speaker Says Funds Would Support Event Perpetuating Anti-Semitism, Delegates also Argue Over Outlays for Mechanism Investigating Serious Crimes in Syria

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) wrapped up the main part of its seventy-fifth session on Wednesday by approving resources of $3.21 billion for the 2021 regular budget, the Organization’s second annual budget in nearly 50 years.  After the United States’ representative’s request for a recorded vote, the budget was approved with 151 delegates voting in favour, the United States and Israel voting against, and one abstention by Sudan.

In calling for the vote, the United States representative explained he could not support a budget that perpetuates anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias and refuses to recognize the rightful re-imposition of sanctions on Iran.  While stressing continued support for the United Nations, which the United States has backed since the Organization’s inception, he objected to United States dollars being used to support a follow-up event to the Durban Conference, which the United States believes set back cooperation to combat racism and racial discrimination.

The Committee had already approved a comprehensive draft decision that authorized additional outlays for various programmes and activities in the 2020 programme budget.  This included more than $260,000 for follow-up activities related to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

The approved 2021 budget was greater than the $2.99 billion budget proposal unveiled by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in mid-October.  Up slightly from last year’s $3.07 billion appropriation, the 2021 budget keeps the Organization’s doors open and its staff working — many from their homes around the globe — amid a global pandemic and ongoing cash crunch.

The decision to include financing for the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria in the regular budget again drew opposition from some Member States, as it did in 2019.  The Committee rejected a draft resolution — by a recorded vote of 92 against to 21 in favour, with 45 abstentions — proposed by the Russian Federation that would delete all references to the Mechanism from the 2021 programme planning resolution.  In introducing the text, the Russian Federation’s representative said the inclusion of the Mechanism is a glaring violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations.

Echoing that sentiment, Syria’s delegate said the Mechanism is a flagrant violation of the Charter, particularly Article 12, and the United Nations did not receive consent from his Government to create it.

In calling for the vote, the representative of Switzerland said the Mechanism is an integral part of the United Nations regular budget, and the challenge by a small group of countries sets a bad precedent.

The Committee also approved a wide-ranging, 26-part text on special subjects related to the 2021 programme budget.  It earmarked $782.21 million for the 40 continuing special political missions authorized by the Assembly and/or Security Council and $1.41 million for the share of special political missions in the budget of the Regional Service Centre in Entebbe, Uganda.  It also set aside $34.07 million for the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan for 2021.

The massive document also allocated more than $25 million for Umoja, the Organization’s enterprise resource planning project, and set deadlines and funding for renovations to keep historic United Nations structures in Geneva and Addis Ababa open and operating safely.  It also appropriated funds to help make the Organization’s regional commission in Bangkok a safer, more efficient working space for more than 600 employees.

In addition, the Committee sent the Assembly texts on the systems governing staff pensions, salaries and benefits; the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS); the administration of justice system; and financing of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, among other things.

The Committee adopted its draft report on the proposed programme budget for 2021 and approved a draft decision to defer, until its resumed session in March, its review of Secretariat reports analysing the use of the contingency fund.  It also deferred, to the main part of its seventy-sixth session, Secretariat reports on budget procedures and practices surrounding the special political missions.

In closing remarks, Fifth Committee Chairman Carlos Amorín (Uruguay) voiced his appreciation for the contributions of all delegations and their flexibility. He also noted the Secretariat staff’s hard work.  The Committee’s resilience is demonstrated by the crucial agreements it has reached, he added.

The representative of Guyana, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” and China, said 2020 was one of the most difficult years in human history and within the United Nations.  This session showed that while important, the increased use of virtual platforms cannot replace the value of face-to-face meetings and relationships.  “These lie at the heart of all negotiations,” she said.

The representative of Mali, speaking for the African Group, associated himself with the Group of 77 and stressed the need to ensure the smooth functioning of the Organization’s mandated programmes and activities.  The speaker for the European Union said it was crucial to provide adequate financing for all the Organization’s mandates and avoid arbitrary decisions and politicizing the budget.

Also speaking today were representatives of Botswana, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Canada, China, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Mali, Qatar, United Kingdom and Venezuela.

Appointment of Member to Independent Audit Advisory Committee

The Fifth Committee first recommended by acclamation the appointment of Imran Vanker (South Africa) to fill a vacancy on the Independent Audit Advisory Committee created by the death of Thembekile Kimi Makwetu, also of South Africa. Mr. Vanker’s appointment will begin on 1 January 2021 and on end 31 December 2023.

Action on Drafts

The Committee Chair then took up the draft resolutions on issues considered during the main part of its seventy-fifth session.

It first approved, without a vote, a draft on the financial reports and audited financial statements, and reports of the Board of Auditors (document A/C.5/75/L.4).  By its terms, the General Assembly would take note of the audit opinions and findings and endorse the recommendations contained in the reports of the Board of Auditors as well as endorse the conclusions and recommendations contained in the report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).  The Assembly would also decide to consider further the Board’s report on the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals under the agenda item related to the Mechanism as well as the Board’s report on the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund under the agenda item related to the Pension Fund.

Next, the Committee took up a draft resolution titled “Programme planning” (document A/C.5/75/L.5), by which the Assembly would decide to delete all narratives and references regarding 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 from programme 6, Legal affairs, of the proposed programme budget for 2021.

Introducing the draft, the representative of the Russian Federation said it is opposed to the inclusion of the Mechanism concerning Syria in the 2021 regular budget, stressing that the creation and inclusion of the Mechanism in the draft documents are a glaring violation of international law, the Charter of the United Nations, the Assembly’s financial matters and its adopted rules and regulations regarding programme planning.  In 2020, the Secretary-General was dragged into a political adventure by a group of countries to grant this illegal structure greater legitimacy.  Calling the resolution null and void, he said the Russian Federation does not recognize the Mechanism and will take this into account during action on the text.  If a delegation abstains, this means it is supporting the initiative and jeopardizing the financial mandates that enjoy the full support of the 193 Member States, he said.

The representative of Switzerland said the Mechanism is an integral part of the United Nations regular budget and regretted that a small group of countries has challenged it.  This sets a bad precedent.  Switzerland will call for a vote and vote against “L.5”.

The representative of Qatar, explaining his position before the vote, said the Mechanism plays an important role and its reports demonstrate that progress is being made in carrying out its mandate.  The Mechanism should be granted a share of the regular budget, he said, adding that Qatar will vote against the text.

The representative of Germany, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the Fifth Committee should refrain from political discussions belonging to other United Nations forums.  Voicing regret that this vote has been called, he added that the Mechanism’s mandate was approved by the General Assembly, which called upon the Secretary-General to include the necessary funding for the entity in his budget proposals.  Therefore, it is the responsibility of the Committee to ensure that the resolution is fully and adequately executed.  The proposed resolution would lead to the deletion of all narratives and references to the Mechanism, he said, stressing that such deletion would be in direct violation of the decisions taken by the General Assembly.

The Committee then rejected “L.5” by a recorded vote of 92 against to 21 in favour, with 45 abstentions.

Explaining his position after the vote, the representative of Syria said that the resolution that established the Mechanism was not adopted by consensus in the General Assembly.  That text is a flagrant example of a violation of the United Nations Charter, particularly Article 12, he said, adding that his country did not request technical or legal assistance from the United Nations to create this Mechanism.  The United Nations did not receive consent from the Syrian Government to create the Mechanism, and the Assembly has exceeded its mandate, he said, also adding that the fifth report of the Mechanism contains no genuine legal content.  “It is simply repetition of assumptions and presumptions and a manipulation of legal facts,” he emphasized.

The Committee then turned to another resolution titled “Programme planning” (document A/C.5/75/L.7), by which the Assembly would stress that setting the priorities of the United Nations is the prerogative of the Member States, as reflected in legislative mandates.  Also by its terms, the Assembly would reaffirm that no changes to the budget methodology, established budgetary procedures and practices or the financial regulations may be implemented without its prior review and approval in accordance with established procedures.  It would recall its resolution 72/266 A, in which it approved the change from a biennial to an annual budget period on a trial basis, beginning with the programme budget for 2020.

By further terms, the Assembly would approve, on an exceptional basis and without creating a precedent, for programmes 3, 7, 13, 14, 20, 23 and 25 of the proposed programme budget for 2021, a programme narrative that is composed solely of the list of mandates at the programme level and the objectives approved by General Assembly in its resolution 71/6 and the deliverables for 2021 at the subprogramme level.  The Assembly would also approve, on an exceptional basis and without creating a precedent, in the case of the above programmes, where new mandates imply changes to the objectives at the subprogramme level as approved in their agreed formulation under its resolution 71/6, the relevant objectives as updated in the 2021 proposed programme budget.

The Assembly would reiterate its request to the Secretary-General to ensure that results and, where possible, performance measures reflect achievements and impacts in the implementation of the Organization’s programmes and not those of individual Member States.  It would also endorse the Committee for Programme and Coordination’s conclusions and recommendations on the proposed programme plan for 2021 and programme performance for 2019, contained in its report on the work of its sixtieth session, subject to the provisions of the present draft resolution, and on the United Nations system support for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, contained in its sixtieth session report, and would request the Secretary-General to ensure the timely implementation of the recommendations.

The representative of Qatar proposed an oral amendment by which a paragraph would be added to the draft.

The representative of the Russian Federation requested a vote on the amendment, calling on delegations to vote against it.

Explaining his position before the vote, the representative of the United States said that those familiar with this year’s negotiations in the Fifth Committee know that a small number of delegations have repeatedly insisted on depriving the Investigative Mechanism for crimes in Syria of the resources necessary to effectively complete its mandate.  Stressing her country’s commitment to accountability in Syria, she said that without accountability, the stable and enduring peace the Syrian people deserve will remain elusive.  Voicing support for the amendment, she called on all delegations who support the Mechanism and accountability efforts in Syria to vote in its favor.

The representative of Syria seconded the request for a vote and stressed that the Mechanism is a tool for political pressure against his country.

The oral amendment was then approved by a recorded vote of 89 in favour, to 17 against, with 48 abstentions.

The Committee then approved without a vote draft resolution “L.7” as a whole, as orally amended.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that, in order to preserve consensus, his delegation did not vote on the resolution as a whole.  He disassociated from paragraphs related to the Investigative Mechanism in Syria, which is illegitimate.

The representative of Myanmar, explaining his position on the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar referenced in “L.7”, said his country has repeatedly made clear that it does not recognize and will not cooperate with this body, due to the intent of its illegitimate mandate, which disrespects sovereignty.  The Human Rights Council does not have the authority to establish such a prosecutorial mandate.  He denounced its creation as an unwarranted attempt to turn the Council into quasi-judicial body, stressing that the ongoing activities of all such mechanisms are those of a prosecutor; they do not consider any actions taken by the Governments concerned.  Before the creation of the mechanism, Myanmar had established its own Independent Commission of Enquiry to investigate human rights violations, following several terrorist attacks.  A criminal and prosecution body is currently prosecuting crimes identified by this Commission, with 110 criminal cases already filed.

Myanmar is determined to pursue accountability measures, he said.  A court of enquiry has been created to investigate crimes by security forces, and a court-martial proceeding has been established.  Any attempt to externalize the accountability of a State could undermine judicial processes.  The Independent Investigative Mechanism undermines Myanmar’s domestic justice system.  Such a practice, along with double standards, will be exploited for political purposes. Such mechanisms should be created only upon request of the country concerned.  He said he is disappointed to see such a mechanism targeted against a country, spending millions.  “This is unacceptable,” he stressed, especially when the United Nations is in dire need of resources to overcome a pandemic.  Myanmar will not be in a position to cooperate with a mechanism that infringes on its sovereignty.  While he joined consensus on the package of programmes, he disassociated from plans to support the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar.

The representative of Syria joined the consensus on the programme budget but said her delegation disassociated completely from the Mechanism related to Syria included therein, as it does not concern Syria, but rather those sponsoring the Mechanism.

The representative of Cuba dissociated herself from the inclusion of the Mechanism.

The representative of Venezuela joined the consensus on the resolution, but made it clear that his delegation dissociates itself from the amendment on the Mechanism.

Likewise, the representative of Nicaragua joined the consensus on the resolution but dissociated her delegation from the language on the Mechanism.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea dissociated himself from the paragraph relating to the Mechanism for 2021 programme planning.

The representative of Iran joined the voices of the previous speakers and dissociated himself from programme planning for the Mechanism.

The representative of China supported adoption of the text by consensus and the statement made by the Russian Federation.  Regarding the creation of the Mechanism, he dissociated himself from that language, but supported the resolution as a whole.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution titled “Pattern of conferences” (document A/C.5/75/L.8) without a vote.  By its terms, the General Assembly would approve the draft revised calendar of conferences and meetings of the United Nations for 2021, as submitted by the Committee on Conferences, and would authorize it to make any adjustments that may become necessary due to actions and decisions taken by the Assembly at its seventy-fifth session.  It would also express concern regarding the recurring extension of the Fifth Committee’s work during the second part of the Assembly’s resumed session and the impact of such an extension on the services provided by the Secretariat, including the availability of conference rooms and language services.

Regarding the utilization of conference-servicing resources, the Assembly would commend the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management for ensuring continuity of the conference services during the COVID-19 pandemic, also noting with concern the impact of the measures in response to the liquidity situation and COVID-19 on the provision of language services and the management of meetings, including on the recruitment of new staff to fill vacant posts in the six official language services.  It would request the Secretary-General to continue to make efforts to ensure that multilingualism, as a fundamental value of the Organization, is not undermined by these measures.  The Assembly would recognize the Secretary-General’s proactive efforts to identify ways to enhance efficiency and effectiveness in conference services, commend the Department for its innovative approaches in providing support and in managing meetings and documents, and encourage it to continue efforts to preserve the high quality of its services while achieving efficiencies.

In terms of enhancing integrated global management, leveraging technology and measuring the quality of conference services, the draft would have the Assembly request the Secretary-General to continue to seek evaluation of the quality of the services provided by the Secretariat through meetings held at least once a year, guaranteeing that Member States are able to present their evaluations and seek information equally in any of the six official languages of the United Nations on any conference-related or language-specific matter.

In documentation and publications, the Assembly would emphasize the paramount importance of the equality of the six official languages and would underline that all the initiatives on the evolution of working methods, including those introduced on a trial basis, shall comply with the principle of parity with a view to preserving or enhancing the quality and scope of services provided by the Secretariat.  It would note with concern that only 80 per cent of the author departments reached the compliance rate of 90 per cent in the timely submission of their reports to the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, reiterate its request to the Secretary-General to enforce the slotting system more rigorously through a dedicated focus and to report to the General Assembly at its seventy-sixth session, urge author departments to fully adhere to deadlines for document submission, and request the Secretary-General to continue to report on concrete measures taken.

Further, the Assembly, recalling its resolution 74/252, would ask the Secretary-General to entrust the Department of Global Communications with presenting a proposal for the digitization of important older United Nations documents stored at the Dag Hammarskjöld Library for consideration by the General Assembly through the Committee on Information by no later than at the main part of its seventy-sixth session.  It would express concern that the anticipated lengthy digitization project may jeopardize the retention of historical knowledge and information in view of the delicate state and risk of breakage of many of the related documents, and would request the Secretary-General to seek additional voluntary contributions for the digitization of important older United Nations documents, including by broadening the donor base.

The Assembly would request the Secretary-General to continue to improve and strengthen his initiatives related to training and replenishing the Organization’s language capacity to ensure its ability to address its interpretation and translation requirements.  It would also request the Secretary-General to ensure that all language services are given equal treatment and are provided with equally favourable working conditions and resources, with a view to achieving the maximum quality of services, with full respect for the specificities of the six official languages and taking into account their respective workloads.

Next, the Committee approved, without a vote, the draft resolution titled “United Nations common system” (document A/C.5/75/L.12), by which the Assembly would reaffirm the authority of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) to establish post adjustment multipliers for duty stations in the common system.  It would request the Secretary-General to consult with the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund Board to review whether all participating organizations are observing the common system of salaries, allowances and other conditions of service, and to include the results of this review in his next report to the General Assembly.

On conditions of service of staff in the Professional and higher categories, the Assembly would approve, with effect from 1 January 2021, as recommended by the Commission in paragraph 55 of its report, the revised unified base/floor salary scale and updated pay protection points for staff in the Professional and higher categories, as contained in annex IV to the report.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution titled “United Nations pension system” (document A/C.5/75/L.10), without a vote.  By its terms, the Assembly would take note of the reports of: the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Board; the Secretary-General on the investments of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund and measures undertaken to increase the Fund’s diversification and on the administrative and financial implications arising from the Pension Board’s report; and the Chief Executive of Pension Administration and the Representative of the Secretary-General for the investment of the Fund’s assets on implementation of the Board of Auditors recommendations, contained in its report for the year ended 31 December 2019.

Further, the Assembly would endorse the conclusions and recommendations of the ACABQ and stress the need for the Fund to address all the recommendations identified by the Board of Auditors and the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) — including in relation to vacancies in key positions, risk management, investment management, management of external fund managers, benefits payments management and other administrative processes.  On actuarial matters, the Assembly would stress the importance of continuing to achieve the necessary 3.5 per cent annual real rate of return on a long-term basis for the future solvency of the Pension Fund.  On governance, the Assembly would stress that any change to the OIOS mandate remains the sole prerogative of the Assembly.

By other terms, the Assembly would recognize the need for the Governance Working Group to collaborate closely with the independent external entity, as appropriate, and for the Board to take into account governance best practices in providing its comments on the report of that entity.  Recalling paragraph 16 of its resolution 74/263, the Assembly would decide that the proposed amendment to Article 6 of the Regulations of the Pension Fund, as recommended by the Board, should be considered in the context of the review of the Board recommendations on the report of the independent external entity, and upon submission of further proposals, including changes to Regulations and Rules of the Pension Fund to ensure adherence to the code of conduct.

In relation to the Pension Board, the Assembly would request the Pension Administration to establish and fully implement a procedure for following up on cases with missing or invalid documents and to report thereon on statistics, the entities involved, along with progress made in the Assembly’s seventy-sixth session.  It would request the Pension Board to provide detailed updates for any recommendation of the Board of Auditors which has not been agreed upon or implemented; to clarify the functional responsibilities and reporting lines of the New York and Geneva offices; and to submit specific measures to ensure efficiency of the Geneva office in rendering services to clients.

For the Pension Administration, the Assembly would request that it continue to adhere to the target benchmark of 75 per cent of initial benefit processing in 15 business days and to eliminate the practice of postponing the benchmark for additional documentation requirements, according to the recommendation of the Board of Auditors report (document A/75/5/Add.16), and to report the actual time for completion of the processing of initial benefits.  It also would welcome the proposal to establish a new Business Transformation and Accountability Unit in the Pension Administration.

In terms Penson Fund investments, the Assembly would note the restructuring in the Office of Investments Management — including the change of reporting lines of the Risk Management and Compliance section and Operations Services to the Representative of the Secretary-General — and request the Secretary-General’s Representative to report on the achievements of these offices.  The Assembly would support all recommendations as contained in the OIOS report (document A/75/215), including the critical Recommendations 1 and 10, and request the Secretary-General to report on their implementation in detail at the main part of its seventy-sixth session.  It would also request that he address all matters related to preventing and addressing actual or perceived conflict of interest in all areas of the Fund.

Further, the Assembly would note the proposal of the Secretary-General’s Representative to engage, for the first time, in a range of derivative instruments available to the Pension Fund, to effectively manage the Fund’s investments and address the increasing complexity of the global capital markets environment.  In this context, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to submit more detailed proposals at its seventy-sixth session, including information on the use of derivative instruments, engagement in margin trading, participation in securities lending, as well as compliance measures.

The Assembly would decide to authorize the Secretary-General to conduct margin trading for the limited purpose set out in paragraphs 43 and 44 of his report (document A/C.5/75/2) on a trial basis for two years, and request that he report on the use of these expanded investment strategies in the context of his next report on the investments of the Pension Fund.  He would also be requested to report on the use of these expanded investment strategies at the Assembly’s seventy-seventh session and — as fiduciary for the investment of Pension Fund assets — to continue to diversify investments among developed, developing and emerging markets, wherever this serves the interests of the participants and beneficiaries.  In this context, the Assembly would note that emerging and frontier markets, including markets in Africa, are increasingly important to the Fund’s investment strategy.

On other matters, the Assembly would approve the admission of the Wassenaar Arrangement on the Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies to membership in the Fund, with effect from 1 January 2021; request the Pension Board to provide further analysis of and clarification on the proposed amendment to article 48 of the Regulations of the Pension Fund in the context of its next report; decide to approve the proposed amendments to articles 4 and 8 of the Regulations of the Fund as proposed by the Pension Board; and decide to defer consideration of Article 7 of the Regulations and paragraph 19 of the Pension Adjustment System of the Fund at its seventy-sixth session.

Again acting without a vote, the Committee approved a draft resolution titled “Report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services” (document A/C./75/L.13).  By its terms, the Assembly, recognizing the important roles and operational independence of the oversight bodies, including OIOS, in improving the Organization’s effectiveness, transparency and accountability, would ask the Secretary-General to ensure that the Office’s annual reports continue to include a brief description of any impairment of its independence.  Taking note of the OIOS report for 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020 and welcoming its reviewed approach towards recommendations, the Assembly would ask the Secretary-General to continue to increase efforts to ensure the full implementation of the Office’s accepted recommendations — including those related to accountability mechanisms, cost savings, recovery of overpayments, technological improvements, organizational efficiency and effectiveness and other improvements — and to provide detailed justifications in cases in which recommendations are not accepted.  It would ask the Secretary-General to implement outstanding and critical recommendations in a timely manner, as well as endorse the observations, comments and recommendations contained in the report of the Independent Audit Advisory Committee.

Next, the Committee approved, without a vote, the draft resolution titled “Administration of justice at the United Nations” (document A/C.5/75/L.9), which would have the Assembly endorse the conclusions and recommendations contained in the report of the ACABQ and stress the importance of ensuring access for all staff members to the system of administration of justice, regardless of their duty station.  The Assembly would request the Secretary-General to continue to ensure a strong culture of accountability throughout the Secretariat, in particular with proactive and transparent application of the United Nations three-pillared approach to the management of misconduct — prevention, enforcement and remedial action — and ensuring access to effective remedies for all categories of personnel.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution “Financing of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals” (document A/C.5/75/L.16), without a vote.  By its terms, the Assembly, taking note of the Secretary-General’s reports on its 2020 budget, would decide to appropriate to the Special Account for the Residual Mechanism $97.52 million gross ($88.43 million net) for 2021.  It would also decide that the total assessment for 2021 under the Special Account amounting to $87.44 million shall comprise $97.52 million — the estimated appropriation approved for the period — less $6.82 million, being the credit of the cancellation of prior period obligations corresponding to the biennium 2016-2017, and less $3.27 million, being the surplus resulting from the final expenditure for the budget for the biennium 2018-2019.  The Assembly would further decide to apportion $43.72 million gross ($40.21 million net) among Member States in accordance with the scale of assessments applicable to the regular budget of the United Nations for 2021, and to apportion a similar amount in accordance with the scale of assessments applicable to peacekeeping operations for 2021.

Next, the Committee took up the draft resolution titled “Financing of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon” (UNIFIL) (document A/C.5/75/L.3/Rev.1), by which the Assembly would decide to appropriate to the Force’s special account the amount of $480.64 million for the period from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021.

The representative of Guyana, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, who submitted the text, said that it called for Israel to be accountable for the incident in Qana in 1996 and for the commitment authority approved during the second resumed session to be converted to a proper appropriation.  She urged all delegations to support the resolution as tabled.

The representative of Israel reminded all Member States that during the Fifth Committee’s June 2020 session, UNIFIL’s financing resources were secured by a commitment authority through 30 June 2021.  “L.3/Rev.1” carries no extra financial implications and it is clear that it is nothing more than a political attempt to use the Fifth Committee as a platform to single out Israel.  Israel’s position has not changed; Israel maintains excellent relations with all Missions and objects to the politicizing of the financing mechanism for UNIFIL.  She deplored this bias against Israel and requested a vote on the third preambular paragraph and operative paragraphs 1, 2 and 3.

Speaking in explanation of position before vote, the representative of the Unites States said that the use of General Assembly resolutions to pursue claims against a Member State is not procedurally correct.  Previous resolutions that required Israel to pay for the costs of the Qana incident of 1996 were not consensus resolutions, she said, adding that using a funding resolution to legislate a settlement is inappropriate as it politicizes the work of the Fifth Committee.

The Committee then proceeded to vote on the third preambular paragraph, and operative paragraphs 1, 2, and 3 of “L.3/Rev.1”.

The representative of Ecuador said that that his vote did not register.

The representative of Cuba, raising a point of order, asked for a clarification on the outcome of the voting.  Committee Chair CARLOS AMORÍN (Uruguay) clarified that the amendment was rejected and the paragraphs will be retained.  The representative of Israel clarified that those delegates who are against the paragraphs should vote against during the recorded vote.

In light of the confusion among delegates, the Committee decided to conduct the vote again.

The representative of Guyana, speaking for the Group of 77 and China, once again urged delegates to vote in favour.

By a recorded vote of 95 in favour, to 3 against (Canada, Israel, United States), with 55 abstentions, the Committee decided to retain the third preambular paragraph, and operative paragraphs 1, 2, and 3 of draft resolution “L.3/Rev.1”.

The representative of Guyana, speaking again for the Group of 77 and China, thanked those calling for accountability on the part of Israel.

The representative of Israel said her delegation had requested a vote on draft resolution “L.3/Rev.1” as a whole.

The representative of Guyana said the Group of 77 and China, and friends, will vote in favour of the draft resolution.

The Committee then approved “L.3/Rev.1” by a recorded vote of 152 in favour, to 3 against (Canada, Israel, United States), with 1 abstention (Papua New Guinea).

The representative of Lebanon, noting that the draft resolution on UNIFIL had gone through “birth pains”, said that with support from Lebanon’s partners in the Group of 77, the text is united with all its components:  budgetary and political.  The draft would not have been possible without the help of leaders within the General Assembly and she particularly thanked the former Fifth Committee Chair and the Assembly President.  This text is important because it funds one of the oldest peacekeeping operations.  Describing UNIFIL as an exemplary peacekeeping force, she said it has contributed greatly to peace in south Lebanon, as well as supported peacebuilding, the environment and even culture.  Most important has been its contribution to a peaceful environment after years of war.  Recalling the Qana incident — an attack by Israel on a United Nations compound, which killed 106 civilians in 1996 — she said:  “This is really about protecting civilians in conflict and war.”  The draft sends an important message that “during war, civilians should be protected”.

The representative of Germany, speaking for the European Union, expressed his understanding that the commitment authority will be converted into a budget for the Interim Force’s financing.  He expressed concern that a recorded vote had been called, due to political elements, which were introduced.  Clarifying that the European Union abstained from the vote on preambular paragraph 3 and operative paragraphs 1,2 3 of “L.3/Rev.1”, as it considered such a course inappropriate, he said the broader political aspects to which the draft resolution refers were extensively debated in 1996.  At that time, the European Union made its position clear in a plenary statement and in its voting.  Consultations should have been confined to the budgetary aspects of UNIFIL.  The European Union voted in favour of the text, as it allows for the appropriation of resources that allow UNIFIL to fulfil its mandate.

Next, the Committee approved without a vote the draft resolution titled “Financing of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur” (document A/C.5/75/L.17), by which the Assembly would authorize the Secretary-General to enter into commitments for the Operation in an amount not exceeding $198.78 million for the period from 1 January to 30 June 2021.

The Committee then considered a draft decision titled “Programme budget implications relating to the programme budget for 2020” (document A/C.5/75/L.15), which contains implications for eight draft resolutions and decisions, submitted by the Secretary-General.

Should the Assembly adopt the draft decision titled “Problems arising from the accumulation of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus” (document A/C.1/75/L.67), $286,900 in additional resources would arise under section 2, General Assembly and Economic and Social Council affairs and conference management ($85,000), section 4, Disarmament ($198,400), and section 29E, Administration, Geneva ($3,500), representing a charge against the contingency fund.

If the draft resolution titled “The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects” (document A/C.1/75/L.44) is adopted by the Assembly, $203,100 would be required under section 2, General Assembly and Economic and Social Council affairs and conference management, representing a charge against the contingency fund.

If the Assembly adopts the draft resolution titled “Developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security” (document A/C.1/75/L.8/Rev.1), $269,900 would be required under section 2, General Assembly and Economic and Social Council affairs and conference management ($241,800), section 4, Disarmament ($25,100), and section 28, Global communications ($3,000), representing a charge against the contingency fund.

Should the Assembly adopt the draft decision titled “Open-ended Working Group on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security established pursuant to General Assembly resolution 73/27 of 5 December 2018” (document A/C.1/75/L.47), $187,500 would be required under section 2, General Assembly and Economic and Social Council affairs and conference management ($168,700) and section 4, Disarmament ($18,800), representing a charge against the contingency fund.

If the Assembly adopts the draft decision titled “Group of Governmental Experts on Advancing Responsible State Behaviour in Cyberspace in the Context of International Security established pursuant to General Assembly resolution 73/266 of 22 December 2018” (document A/C.1/75/L.60), $366,600 would be required under section 2, General Assembly and Economic and Social Council affairs and conference management ($176,600), and section 4, Disarmament ($190,000), representing a charge against the contingency fund.

Should the draft resolution titled “Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar” (document A/C.3/75/L.34) be adopted by the Assembly, $1.15 million, net of staff assessment, would be required for 2021 for the continuation of the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Myanmar.  Approval of those requirements is sought in the context of the proposed programme budget for 2021 for special political missions under section 3, Political affairs.

If the Assembly adopts the draft resolution “A global call for concrete action for the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action” (document A/C.3/75/L.50/Rev.1), $262,300 would be required under section 24, Human Rights ($23,300), and section 28, Global Communications ($239,000), representing a charge against the contingency fund.  In addition, $600 would be required under the staff assessment section, to be offset by an equivalent amount under income section 1, Income from staff assessment.

If the draft resolution titled “Oceans and the law of the sea” (document A/75/L.39) is adopted by the Assembly, it would result in the approval of the establishment of one new temporary post (P-2) in 2021 and the extension of two temporary posts (one P-3 and one GS-OL) from 2020 under section 8, Legal affairs, effective 1 January 2021.  Also, $1.21 million would be required under section 2, General Assembly and Economic and Social Council affairs and conference management ($623,900), and section 8, Legal affairs ($584,200), representing a charge against the contingency fund, together with $119,900 under the staff assessment section, to be offset by an equivalent amount under income section 1, Income from staff assessment.

The representative of the United States proposed an oral amendment by which the numerical figures in section G would be removed and the number zero would be inserted in their place.  He said the United States is committed to combat racism and racial discrimination in all its forms, but it cannot agree to the creation of an official event that commemorates the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and calling for its full implementation.  The United States will not celebrate restrictions on religious freedoms and anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli basis, he said, asking all Member States to support the proposed amendment.

The representative of Guyana supported section G and opposed any vote on the amendment proposed by the United States.  She urged all delegations to vote against the amendment.

The representative of Israel said she would vote in favour of the United States’ oral amendment.  The Durban Conference claims to advance human rights and combat racism, yet it promotes anti-Semitism and is anti-Israel.  It is inappropriate for the international community to support this, she stressed.

The oral amendment was rejected by a recorded vote of 2 in favour (Israel, United States) to 105 against, with 50 abstentions.

In explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of the United States said his delegation would dissociate itself from consensus on section G for the reasons previously stated.

The draft decision as a whole was then approved.

Speaking after the vote, the representative of Israel dissociated herself from consensus on section G.  Israel cannot embrace the Durban Declaration as the Conference was used as a platform to promote anti-Semitism.

Next, the Committee considered questions related to the proposed programme budget for 2021, taking up a draft resolution titled “Proposed Programme Budget for 2021: Section 8. Legal Affairs” (document A/C.5/75/L.6).  By its terms, the Assembly would decide to delete all narratives and references regarding 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 Syria since March 2011 from the proposed programme budget for 2021.  It would take note of paragraphs III.51, III.52, III.54 and III.55 of the related ACABQ report and decide not to approve any resources for the Mechanism.

The representative of the Russian Federation said the text proposes to delete references to the Investigative Mechanism on Syria from the Organization’s budget.  The inclusion of the Mechanism in the budget is a glaring violation of international law, including the Charter and the rules of procedure of the General Assembly on financial matters.  The Secretary-General was dragged by a group of States into a political adventure to grant this illegitimate mechanism legitimacy, he said, adding that the Mechanism that has no right to exist.

The representative of Germany, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Committee should refrain from political discussions belonging to other United Nations forums.  The Mechanism’s mandate makes it responsible for the most serious crimes under international law committed in Syria since March 2011 and was approved by the General Assembly.  The resolution under consideration would deprive the Mechanism of any funding; therefore, it is in direct violation of the decisions taken by the General Assembly, he said, calling on delegations to vote against the amendment.

The Committee then proceeded to take action on that draft resolution.

Speaking in explanation of position before the vote, the representative of Qatar stressed the importance of ensuring the implementation of the Mechanism’s mandate in Syria.  It must be provided with financing from the United Nations regular budget for 2021, he said.

That draft was rejected by a recorded vote of 18 in favour to 89 against, with 51 abstentions.

Explaining his vote after the vote, the representative of Syria voiced regret about the imbalanced approach seen in the action of some delegations this year.  By including the so-called Independent Impartial International Mechanism in the regular budget of the United Nations, these delegations are furthering political and financial polarization, he stressed, rejecting the Mechanism and its financing from the regular budget.

Next, the Committee took up a draft resolution titled “Revised estimates relating to the proposed programme budget for 2021 under section 11, United Nations support for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, and section 36, Staff assessment: Office of the Special Adviser on Africa” (document A/C.5/75/L.11).

The representative of Guyana, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, withdrew that draft.

The Committee then considered the report of the Fifth Committee (document A/C.5/75/L.22), which contains five draft resolutions recommended for the Assembly’s adoption.  First, the Committee considered draft resolution I titled “Questions relating to the proposed programme budget for 2021” (document A/C.5/75/L.14), which contains 12 parts comprising Assembly decisions pertaining to each section’s budget proposals.

By that text, the Assembly would express the need to receive detailed and consolidated information on the management of the liquidity situation and request the Secretary-General to periodically brief the General Assembly on the impact of this situation as well as to report in the next budget performance report on the impact of COVID-19 on the programme budget for 2020 and 2021.

The Assembly would also, among other things, decide to further reduce resources for experts by $2.8 million; resources for consultants by $2.6 million; resources for travel of staff by $5.3 million; and resources for hospitality by $350,000.  Further it would decide to reduce resources for supplies and materials by $600,000; resources for furniture and equipment $2.5 million; and resources for general operating expenditures by $1.6 million.

It would decide to establish two Chinese interpreter P-3 posts in the area of overall policymaking, direction and coordination.  Further terms would abolish the post of Staff Assistant that has been vacant for more than two years in the disarmament section.  The Assembly would also decide not to approve the establishment of one new P-3 position for general temporary assistance for Legal Officer in the legal affairs section.  The Assembly would approve one P-4 post and one P-3 post to support least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States and decide to establish two P-4 Programme Management Officers in Nairobi in the human settlements section.

Under human rights and humanitarian affairs, the Assembly would decide to approve the establishment of one general temporary assistance for Human Rights Officer (P-3) position.  It would decide not to abolish the P-5 in Subsection 29C of the Office of Information and Communications Technology and decide to abolish the long-vacant P-3 position in that section.

Under capital expenditures, the Assembly would decide to further reduce resources for alteration, improvement and major maintenance projects by $1.4 million, and under safety and security, it would decide to establish the P-5 post of Chief of Physical Security Section and the P-3 post of Compliance, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer.

The representative of Germany, speaking on behalf of the European Union, proposed an oral amendment to “L.14”, with wording that would take note of paragraph 354 of the related Advisory Committee report, and more broadly decide that budgetary resources relating to Syria would amount to $70 million before re-costing.

The representative of the Russian Federation called for a vote on the oral amendment, as there are various opinions concerning whether this is a political matter.  From a financial viewpoint, this is an entirely illegitimate way of posing the question and he urged delegates to vote against the proposed amendment.

The representative of the United States expressed support for funding the Investigative Mechanism on Syria through assessed contributions of the regular budget so that its work will be on firm financial footing.  He urged those to vote in favour of the amendment.

The representative of Syria expressed support for a recorded vote on the amendment, as Syria rejected the Mechanism, and further, has the ability to achieve justice, accountability and redress.  These activities will not be taken by a body based in Geneva, which is not subject to any procedural or criminal norms.  He called on delegates to vote against Germany’s oral amendment.

The Committee then approved the oral amendment by a recorded vote of 91 in favour to 16 against, with 50 abstentions.

The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.14” as a whole without a vote, as orally amended.

The representative of the Russian Federation said his delegation did not vote against the document as a whole.  Thanking the representative of Iraq for submitting the draft, he disassociated himself from paragraphs pertaining to the financing of the Mechanism for Syria.  He also welcomed that the recommendation was adopted by consensus concerning the financing of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and thanked all delegations for their constructive approach.  On the review of staff activities in support of the treaty bodies, he said treaty body staff should work purely on work mandated by the conventions and covenants.  He expressed the belief that this assessment will not lead to an increase in resources, but rather a reduction.

The representative of Myanmar opposed the funding in “L.14” for the Investigate Mechanism for Myanmar for the same reasons he stated regarding “L.7” on programme planning.  Myanmar dissociates itself from the approval of spending for any posts or non-posts for the Mechanism for 2021 under section 8 of the resolution.

The representative of China supported adoption of the resolution, however the international community should respect the territory of Syria and support a political solution.  The Investigative Mechanism for Syria was created without consulting Syria.  China does not support funding for the Mechanism in either programme planning or in the regular budget.  An undesirable precedent was set in 2019 when such funding was included in the regular budget.

The representative of Cuba dissociated herself from the inclusion of resources for the Mechanism for Syria.  Clearly, there is a lack of consensus to include this Mechanism in programme planning and the regular budget and the Committee should continue to look for consensus and other options.

The representative of Syria dissociates himself completely from funding for the Mechanism in the regular budget.

The representative of Israel dissociated himself from the recommendations of the ACABQ concerning UNRWA.

The representative of Nicaragua said a resolution to the Syrian conflict has to come from dialogue and respect for the people and Government in Syria, without international interference.  His delegation disassociates itself from funding for the Mechanism.

The representative of Cameroon, saying that the adoption of the regular budget was urgent to keep the Organization open, thanked all the colleagues who worked tirelessly and sought clarification on the budget appropriations for the regional centres.

The representative of Venezuela joined the consensus and dissociated himself from the paragraphs that refer to the Mechanism, which does not respect the sovereignty of Syria.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said the establishment of the Mechanism is a violation of the Charter.  The Syrian conflict should be addressed in a peaceful way.  His delegation dissociates itself from the programme budget portions relating to the Mechanism.

The representative of Iraq thanked all Member States, as well as members of the Bureau and the secretariat of the Fifth Committee, for their cooperation during the deliberation on the proposed programme budget.  Such cooperation made it possible to continue the work of the Fifth Committee during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, stressing that it was his honour to facilitate this vital agenda item for the second year.  “History will remember our solidarity,” he said.

The representative of Cameroon said that he had not yet received the clarification he sought earlier from the Secretariat.

The Fifth Committee then turned to draft resolution II titled “Special subjects relating to the proposed programme budget for 2021” (document A/C.5/75/L.18), which in 26  parts, took up the following:  Subvention to the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (I); Revised estimates resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted by the Economic and Social Council during  2020 (II); Revised estimates resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted by the Economic and Social Council during 2021 (III); Revised estimates resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted by the General Assembly at its seventy-fourth session (IV); Enterprise resource planning project, Umoja (V); Administrative and financial implications of the decisions and recommendations contained in the report of the International Civil Service Commission for 2020 (VI); Revised estimates resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted by the Human Rights Council at its forty-third, forty-fourth and forty-fifth sessions, as well as from decision OS/14/101, adopted at the organizational session for the fifteenth cycle of the Council (VII); and Revised estimates relating to the proposed programme budget for 2021 under sections 27, Humanitarian assistance, and 36, Staff assessment:  United Nations Monitoring Mechanism for the Syrian Arab Republic (VIII).

It also included:  Strategic heritage plan of the United Nations Office at Geneva (IX); Progress in the renovation of Africa Hall and the construction of new office facilities at the Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa (X); Progress on the renovation of the North Building at the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean in Santiago (XI); Seismic mitigation retrofit and life-cycle replacements project at the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific premises in Bangkok (XII); Progress on the implementation of a flexible workplace at United Nations Headquarters (XIII); Progress on the replacement of office blocks A to J at the United Nations Office at Nairobi (XIV); Global service delivery model for the United Nations Secretariat (XV); Request for a subvention to the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone (XVI); and International Trade Centre (XVII).

Also:  Estimates in respect of special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council (XVIII); Revised estimates relating to the United Nations Support for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development and Office of the Special Adviser on Africa (XIX); Request for a subvention to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (XX); Gross jointly financed budget of the Joint Inspection Unit (XXI); Gross jointly financed budget of the International Civil Service Commission (XXII); Gross jointly financed budget of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (XXIII); Gross jointly financed budget of the Department of Safety and Security (XXIV); Effects of changes in rates of exchange and inflation (XXV); and Contingency fund (XXVI).

By part V, on enterprise resource planning project, Umoja, the Assembly would approve the resource requirements of $25.4 million for 2021 for the Enterprise Resource Planning Solution Division; an amount of $3.8 million under the proposed programme budget for 2021 under subprogramme 1, component 1, Enterprise resource planning solution, of section 29A, Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, representing the regular budget share for the costs of the Division for 2021.  Further, the Assembly would approve the resource requirements of $3.6 million for 2021 for the business support activities, to be funded from the unused balance at the end of 2020.

By part VII, on revised estimates resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted by the Human Rights Council at its forty-third, forty-fourth and forty-fifth sessions, as well as resulting from decision OS/14/101, adopted at the organizational session for the fifteenth cycle of the Council, the Assembly would appropriate an additional amount of $25.04 million, comprising: $2.4 million under section 2 — General Assembly and Economic and Social Council affairs and conference management, $22.5 million under section 24 — Human rights, $9,300 under section 28 — Global communications, and $72,100 under section 29E — Administration, Geneva, of the proposed programme budget for 2021.  Further, it would also appropriate $2.2 million under section 36 — Staff assessment, to be offset by an equivalent amount under income section 1, Income from staff assessment, of the proposed programme budget for 2021.

By part VIII, on revised estimates relating to the proposed programme budget for 2021 under sections 27, Humanitarian assistance, and 36, Staff assessment: United Nations Monitoring Mechanism for the Syrian Arab Republic, the Assembly would approve the continuation of 19 positions under section 27, Humanitarian assistance, of the programme budget for 2021, for the period from 1 January to 31 December 2021 and would appropriate an additional amount of $1.92 million (net of staff assessment) for the United Nations Monitoring Mechanism for the Syrian Arab Republic for the period 1 January to 31 December 2021, under section 27, Humanitarian assistance, of the programme budget for 2021, which would represent a charge against the contingency fund.

By part IX, regarding the strategic heritage plan for the United Nations Office at Geneva, the Assembly would stress the importance of effective governance, oversight, transparency and accountability in the management of the project.  Further, it would note with concern that the full baseline scope is very unlikely to be achieved within the approved maximum overall cost and request the Secretary-General to make every effort to avoid budget increases.  The Assembly would decide to appropriate the amount of $53.1 million for 2021, under section 33, Construction, alteration, improvement and major maintenance, of the proposed programme budget for 2021.

By part XIII, concerning progress on the implementation of a flexible workplace at United Nations Headquarters, the Assembly would approve the continuation of two temporary positions for the project team in 2021 for 6 months and appropriate an amount of $145,700 for the project costs under section 29B, Department of Operational Support, of the proposed programme budget for 2021.

By part XVIII, concerning estimates in respect of special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or Security Council, the Assembly would approve $728.21 million for the 40 continuing special political missions authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council, and $1.41 million for the share of special political missions in the budget of the Regional Service Centre in Entebbe, Uganda, for 2021.  Further, it would decide to appropriate an additional amount of $34.07 million under section 3, Political affairs, of the programme budget for 2021, for the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan.

Lastly, the Assembly would note a balance of $653,200 remains in the contingency fund for 2021.

The representative of Cuba said there is no legal basis for activities relating to responsibilities to protect because there is no negotiated intergovernmentally agreed concept on this matter.  Proposing that the budgetary estimates and narratives relating to that must be considered only when the Assembly has reached agreement on the concept and scope of the responsibility to protect, she read out various amendments to the preambular and operative paragraphs.

The representative Canada requested a recorded vote on the oral amendment proposed by the representative of Cuba and called on delegations to vote against that.

In explanation of vote before the vote, the representative of Germany, speaking for the European Union, said that the Fifth Committee is entrusted with administrative and budgetary matters, and therefore it should refrain from political discussions.  The mandate of the Special Adviser for Prevention of Genocide was mandated by the General Assembly and therefore the Committee must uphold that.  The proposed amendment would prevent the execution of that mandate, therefore his delegation called on everyone to vote against the proposed amendment.

The representative of Nicaragua said that the principle of “responsibility to protect” is a concept that does not meet with consensus amongst United Nations members.  Therefore, the Fifth Committee should not assign resources to the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Responsibility to Protect and it certainly must not mix that up with the Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, she cautioned, calling upon the other delegates to vote in favor of this amendment.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea expressed support for the amendment to “L.18” proposed by Cuba, stressing that there is no consensus around the responsibility to protect, and as such, there is no legal basis for any activities carried out in its name.  He requested that budget estimates for the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Responsibility to Protect be eliminated from the regular budget and decided only when consensus is forged around the responsibility to protect concept.  His delegation will vote in favour of the amendment.

The representative of Venezuela expressed support for the amendment, reiterating his opposition to allocating resources for the Special Adviser.  The responsibility to protect is a concept that does not enjoy consensus.  Furthermore, there are no resources to allocate, especially at a time when the United Nations lacks liquidity.

The representative of Syria expressed support for the amendment on the Special Adviser, noting that the responsibility to protect is among the most controversial concepts.  “There is no consensus among Member States on this principle,” he said, stressing that the General Assembly has yet to adopt a resolution defining it.  Some delegations are taking advantage of this controversy, in violation of the United Nations Charter, as well as the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The Committee then rejected the oral amendment to “L.18” by a recorded vote of 80 against, to 18 in favour, with 55 abstentions.

The representative of the United States then proposed an oral amendment to Section XVIII of “L.18” titled “Estimates in respect of Special Political Missions”.  As his country had made clear in a September letter to the Security Council, previously lifted sanctions on Iran have been reimposed.  He expressed disappointment that, given this reinstatement, the Secretary-General has not taken steps to facilitate the snapback process by reducing resources to “the 2231 team” and facilitating the establishment of the panel of experts, per resolutions 1929 (2010) and 1737 (2006).  He proposed the addition of two paragraphs, the first requesting that the Secretary-General take all administrative and budgetary actions needed, including to facilitate the re-establishment of the expert panel and the sanctions committee.

He said a second paragraph would have the Assembly decide to reduce the staffing complement of the “2231 team” by one P-5 leader, one P-4 Political Affairs Officer and another such officer, and request the Secretary-General to reduce operational costs for “the 2231 team” accordingly.  Recalling that this was the language proposed at the outset of negotiations, he said such wording is also fully consistent with the United States decision to trigger the snapback and reimpose sanctions on Iran.  Its steps to reimpose such measures are “well within our rights”, he said, pointing to the snapback process outlined in resolution 2231 (2015), which the United States followed faithfully.  The language also would allow the Secretariat greater resources to monitor compliance with such measures, including an arms embargo extended through the snapback.  Explaining that these provisions will strengthen mechanisms that hold Iran accountable for its “malign actions” across the Middle East and the world, he urged all delegates to support this amendment.

The representative of the Russian Federation, objecting to the amendment introduced by the United States, requested a vote.  The United States proposal to include in the 2021 budget financing for the anti-Iran sanctions committee under the pretext of snapback is detached from reality and absurd.  While the Russian Federation does not want to rehash discussions made in the Security Council, these discussions did not trigger any snapback and the United States does not have the right to use this mechanism.  This matter is closed.  There is no mandate to implement the anti-Iran infrastructure.  He called on all delegations to vote against the amendment.

The representative of Iran expressed disappointed that a new proposal is being made by the United States delegation at this late date.  He requested a recorded vote on the oral amendment and asked all delegations to vote against it. The request is not related to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which helped end a decades-long crisis over Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities.  In May 2018, the United States unlawfully withdrew from that accord and negated all its commitments.  This is a repetition of an approach that was defeated in the Council earlier this year.  The proposal lacks the slightest legal basis and is in opposition to the Charter.  It would be unprecedented to include this proposal, he said, adding that the Assembly should not be permitted to be misused.  Iran invites all delegates to vote against the United States proposal.  It is not just a matter of any animosity.  It is an essential matter of principle and maintaining the credibility of the Charter as well as respect for and preservation of the Assembly’s legal decision-making process.

The representative of China said his delegation is against the United States amendment and requests a vote.  The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is legally binding and the United States has no right to request a reinstatement of sanctions.  The Fifth Committee is designed for budgetary matters.  This request put forward by the United States runs contrary to the working methods of this Committee.

The representative of Germany, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Fifth Committee should focus on budget and human resource matters and refrain from political issues.  He regretted that a vote has been called.  The Council endorsed the Plan of Action, he said, stressing that the decision adopted by the Organization’s primary organs should be respected.  Germany will vote against the amendment and it calls on other delegations to follow suit.

The representative of Syria voiced her delegation’s full rejection of the amendment, calling it a political attempt to target Iran and destabilize the region.

The representative of Venezuela said the proposed amendment contravenes the Charter and lacks any legal basis.  Further, the implementation of coercive unilateral measures against a sovereign country is alarming at a time when the planet is dealing with a lethal pandemic, he said.

The representative of Nicaragua voiced support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and expressed solidarity with the Government and people of Iran.

The representative of Cuba called on delegates to vote against the amendment, saying that the United States is using the Fifth Committee to impose sanctions on Iran after failing to do so in the Security Council.

The Committee then rejected the draft amendment proposed by the United States to Section XVIII of “L.18” by a recorded vote of 100 against to 10 in favour, with 32 abstentions.

The Committee then adopted “L.18” as a whole without a vote.

Speaking after the action, the representative of Israel disassociated himself from Section XVIII of that text.

The representative of Myanmar pointed to inconsistencies in applying budgetary resources and said that the task requested by the text is the same as the one assigned last year to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Calling for a holistic assessment of multiple mandates in country-specific situations, he said that there were multiple reporting mandates applied to his country which were clearly overlapping and producing redundant reports.

The representative of the United States said his delegation will disassociate from sections of “L.18” that include mention of Security Council resolution 2231 (2015) and from consensus on the draft resolution to the extent it does not consider measures that have been reimposed due to the United States re-initiation of the snap back process.

The representative of Syria said his delegation joined consensus on the draft but disassociated itself from funding Human Rights Council resolutions 28/43 and 21/44 on the human rights situation in his country.  He rejected the politicization of human rights to serve the interests of foreign countries that intervene in Syria’s internal affairs and the misuse of the United Nations in adopting country-specific resolutions, contradicting the principles of neutrality and objectivity, and perpetuating the use of double standards.  He thus expressed reservations about allocating resources to the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism on Syria.

The Committee then turned to the three-part draft resolution III titled “Programme budget for 2021” (document A/C.5/75/L.19), by which the Assembly would appropriate $3.21 billion for the 2021 programme budget.  Part A outlines the various purposes of the total appropriation.  Part B details the income estimates for 2021, which includes $19.08 million in general income and $283.47 million from staff assessments.  Part C outlines the financing of appropriations for 2021.  In accordance with regulations 3.1 and 3.2 of the Financial Regulations and Rules of the United Nations, $19.03 million would be derived from estimated income other than staff assessments and $3.19 billion would be derived from the assessment on Member States in accordance with Assembly resolution 73/271 of 22 December 2018 on the scale of assessments.

Updating the Committee on the technical updates to “L.19”, CHANDRAMOULI RAMANATHAN, Controller and United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Programme Planning, Finance and Budget, said adoption of the oral amendment to draft resolution “L.6” had resulted in an increase of $766,700 under the programme budget’s section 8 — legal affairs.  Accordingly, the total programme budget for 2021 will amount to $3.21 billion.  Therefore, parts A, B and C of resolution “L.19” will be technically adjusted to reflect these changes.

The representative of the United States then called for a recorded vote on “L.19”, explaining that his delegation cannot support a budget that perpetuates anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias, and refuses to recognize the rightful reimposition of sanctions on Iran.  “The United Nations is supposed to stand for peace, security, freedom,” he said, but the budget fails to take steps to hold Iran accountable for its actions.  In its seventy-fifth year, the Organization also is funding the twentieth commemoration of a conference outcome that has anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias at its core.  Quoting the 2017 remarks of a former United States official, he said the United States has clearly expressed its political sentiments about this “noxious” event that was a disgrace to the international community.   The objectionable political agenda that “seeks to revisit Durban” has now seeped into the Fifth Committee.  He recalled that his country has been the most reliable partner of the United Nations.  “That will not change,” he assured.  “But we will not stand quiet when United Nations falls short on its mission and its values.”

The representative of Guyana, speaking for the Group of 77 and China, said it is unfortunate that a recorded vote had been called on the regular budget, stressing that her delegation has always championed for the Secretariat to be adequately resourced in order to implement its mandate.  She said she would shudder to think of the repercussions on the Secretariat mandates if the budget should fail.

The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.19”, as technically updated, by a recorded vote of 151 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States).

The Committee then took up draft resolution IV titled “Unforeseen and extraordinary expenses for 2021” (document A/C.5/75/L.20), approving it without a vote.  By its terms, the Assembly would authorize the Secretary-General, with the prior concurrence of the ACABQ and subject to the Financial Regulations and Rules of the United Nations and the provisions of paragraph 3 of the draft, to enter into commitments in 2021 to meet unforeseen and extraordinary expenses arising either during or subsequent to the year, provided that the Advisory Committee’s concurrence shall not be necessary for commitments that do not exceed $8 million as the Secretary-General certifies relate to the maintenance of peace and security.

The Secretary-General would also be authorized to enter into commitments — provided the Advisory Committee’s concurrence is not needed beforehand — as the President of the International Court of Justice certifies relates to expenses occasioned by the designation of ad hoc judges not exceeding $100,000; the calling of witnesses and the appointment of experts and the appointment of assessors not exceeding $25,000; the maintenance in office for the completion of cases of judges who have not been re-elected not exceeding $20,000; and the payment of pensions and travel and removal expenses of retiring judges and travel and removal expenses and installation grants of members of the Court not exceeding a total of $205,000 and the work of the Court or its Chambers away from The Hague not exceeding a total of $12,500.

Concurrence of the Advisory Committee shall also not be necessary for such commitments not exceeding $500,000 in the year 2021 as the Secretary-General certifies are required for security measures pursuant to section XI, paragraph 6, of General Assembly resolution 59/276 of 23 December 2004.

Further to the draft’s provisions, the Assembly would decide that, for the year 2021, if a decision of the Security Council results in the need for the Secretary-General to enter into commitments relating to the maintenance of peace and security in an amount exceeding $10 million in respect of the decision, that matter shall be brought to the General Assembly, or, if the Assembly is suspended or not in session, a resumed or special session of the Assembly shall be convened by the Secretary-General to consider the matter.

The Committee then approved without a vote draft resolution V titled “Working Capital Fund for 2021” (document A/C.5/75/L.21), by which the Assembly would establish the Fund for 2021 in the amount of $150 million and Member States would make advances to it in accordance with their scale of assessments for 2021.  There shall be set off against this allocation the following advances:  credits to Member States resulting from transfers made in 1959 and 1960 from the surplus account to the Working Capital Fund in an adjusted amount of $1.03 million; and cash advances paid by Member States to the Working Capital Fund for the year 2020 in accordance with General Assembly resolution 74/266 of 27 December 2019.  Should the credits and advances paid by any Member State to the Working Capital Fund for the year 2020 exceed the amount of that Member State’s advance under the above provisions, the excess shall be set off against the amount of the contributions payable by the Member State in respect of the year 2021.

The Committee then approved, without a vote, the draft report of the Fifth Committee on the proposed programme budget for 2021 (document A/C.5/75/L.22, parts I and II), as technically updated.

Lastly, the Committee approved the draft decision titled “Questions deferred for future consideration” (document A/C.5/75/L.23) without a vote.  By its terms, the Assembly would decide to defer until the first part of its resumed seventy-fifth session consideration of reports of the Secretary-General and ACABQ on the review of the experience of the utilization of the contingency fund.  It would also decide to defer until the main part of its seventy-sixth session consideration of reports of the Secretary-General and ACABQ on shifting the management paradigm in the United Nations: budgetary procedures and practices and on estimates in respect of special political missions.

Closing Remarks

Mr. AMORÍN (Uruguay), Fifth Committee Chair, thanked the colleagues from the Bureau for their leadership qualities, all the coordinators of the various working groups and all delegations for their flexibility.  “This has been a terrible time and significant difficulties brought on by the pandemic,” he said, adding that the delegates should be satisfied with their results.

The representative of Guyana, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said this was one of the most difficult years in human history and within the United Nations.  The current session showed the increased use of virtual platforms are important, but they cannot replace the value of face-to-face meetings and relationships, which lie at the heart of all negotiations.  The absence of personal negotiations hampered the effective functioning of the Committee, yet it worked very hard and achieved results, approving a programme budget that lets the Organization deliver on all its mandates.  Stressing that the delivery of these mandates depends on a collective commitment by all Member States to pay their assessed contributions on time and in full, she regretted that the Committee could not reach consensus on issues surrounding management reform and the restructuring of the Organization’s peace and security architecture.

The representative of Mali, speaking for the African Group, associated himself with the Group of 77 and reaffirmed the importance of ensuring the smooth functioning and effective discharge of the mandated programmes and activities.  Commending the flexibility shown by delegations in these challenging times, he also expressed surprise regarding the unusual outcome on the budget for the special political missions.  Approving a text, regardless of the level of financial resources, and depriving the Member States of their ability to adopt policy paragraphs, sets an unexpected working method for the Committee, particularly on such an important agenda item, he said.  While the Group joined consensus on that text, that doesn’t imply any precedent concerning skeletal resolutions for special political missions, he said, also expressing regret at the breaking of consensus on the programme budget.

The representative of the European Union noted the unprecedented nature of a closing meeting this late, thanking all personnel and members of the Secretariat.  Stressing the need to be vigilant about providing adequate financing of all mandates across all pillars of the United Nations, especially the human rights and development pillars, he said that it is crucial to avoid arbitrary decisions, politicization and fragmentation of the budgets.  Further, the shorter budget cycle makes the United Nations budget “more efficient, nimble and agile”, he observed, adding that it has already improved the responsiveness of the Organization to the current pandemic.

The representative of the United States, sharing context for his country’s call for a vote and overview of the budget resolution, expressed regret that the Committee decided to retain funding in the budget that contravenes the principles of the United Nations Charter and against the sincere requests of the Organization’s most generous donor.  The United States objects strongly to United States dollars going to support a follow-up event to the Durban Conference, whose outcomes remain “as poisonous as ever”, setting back cooperation to combat racism and racial discrimination now for two decades.

He also expressed disappointment in response to proposed language supporting re-establishment of the United Nations 1737 sanctions committee on Iran and the 1929 panel of experts assisting implementation of its mandate — both important checks on sanctions violations by Iran and its allies in the region.  To those challenging the ability of the United States to trigger the reimposition of sanctions on Iran, he said:  “We followed the process outlined in United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 (2015) faithfully,” stressing that his country is not politicizing this matter, but rather, the Security Council, whose Member States continue to reject the rightful reimposition of sanctions, because it interferes with their political considerations outside of the Council.

More broadly, he said the United States recognizes that the budget includes several provisions that are essential to strengthen and implement reforms throughout the United Nations, while also maintaining efficiency and budget stewardship, including granting access to key accounting information — namely, total monthly expenditures and cash-on-hand by section.  The United States also shares the Secretariat’s concerns about liquidity, and the related provision will enable States to better evaluate the cause of the liquidity problem.  While discussions on construction — especially in the context of delays induced by COVID-19 — were difficult, he said his delegation appreciated that agreement was reached to facilitate “watchful oversight”, without micro-management.  Given that the annual budget is still in its pilot period, the United States is encouraged that the Committee protected this important reform from unnecessary changes — and appreciates that the total budget number came in below recommendations by the ACABQ.

He went on to welcome the agreement to carry out an assessment of tasks being performed by the staff of the treaty body mechanism, thanking the Fifth Committee Chair for facilitating the negotiations, as well as the Committee secretariat, the Under-Secretary-General for Management and the Controller for their engagement, particularly amid the logistical constraints imposed by COVID‑19.  Since its inception, there has been no more reliable partner for the United Nations than the United States, he said, adding:  “That will not change.”  However, the United States could not simply stand by and watch the Organization fail to live up to its core mission and values.

The representative of Botswana, associating himself with the statements delivered on behalf of the African Group as well as the Group of 77 and China, acknowledged the resilience of the Fifth Committee.  Despite the utilization of virtual meetings, there comes a time when physical presence matters, he said, expressing appreciation for the accomplishments of the session, including the approval of the regular budget and the budget for special political missions.  Reaffirming the importance of protecting the development pillar in all its aspects, he also called on the United Nations and its regional and subregional entities to engage in partnerships to tackle pressing peace and security issues in Africa.  That would enable the Organization to avoid duplication of efforts and maximize gains, he said.

The representative of China, associating himself with the Group of 77, expressed appreciation for the work of the Secretariat as well as that of the facilitators.  Reaffirming his country’s commitment to working with all Member States to ensure necessary resources for the Organization, he urged the main contributors to fulfil their financial obligations in time, in full and without conditions.  Underscoring the need to improve the efficiency and working methods of the Committee, he wished everyone a happy new year.

The representative of Japan commended delegates on their thorough discussions and welcomed the clear guidance provided to the Pension Fund for submitting concrete reform plans to address the long-standing governance issues of the Pension Board.  The Committee was able to adopt a programme budget that allows the United Nations to fully deliver its mandates in a more effective, efficient and sustainable manner, she said, also expressing the hope that the transparency and predictability of the budget proposal for 2022 will improve, inter alia, regarding the so-called “add-ons” of construction projects.  Stressing the importance of the long-established practice of achieving agreement by consensus in the Fifth Committee, she praised the spirit of compromise shown by negotiators and called on the Committee to continue to review its working methods.

The representative of the United Kingdom expressed appreciation for the efforts made by delegates to reach constructive compromises that demonstrated once again “the great pragmatism that underpins this Committee’s essential work”.  However, that spirit of compromise was not always universal, he said, noting the late conclusion of the session and the many divisions and indecisions that marked the negotiations.  “Our deliberations must be careful but they should not jeopardize the continuity of mandated activities,” he stressed, calling on the Committee to learn lessons from the past weeks and months.  Reiterating his delegation’s support for the Secretary-General’s reform agenda, he noted that they are already enabling a more agile and timely response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Voicing regret that delegations could not agree on new measures to help mitigate the liquidity pressures facing the Organization, he encouraged the ACABQ to continue to refine its working methods and collaborate with the Secretariat and the Fifth Committee.

Closing the meeting, Mr. AMORÍN (Uruguay), Committee Chair, once again voiced appreciation to all delegations for their contributions and their flexibility, also highlighting the hard work of the Secretariat staff.  Wishing everyone a good new year, he said that the important agreements reached by the Committee demonstrate its resilience.

 

Source: United Nations

Releated

Victory of Adwa Symbol of Freedom for Black People Globally: Ambassador Tizita

March 3/2021 ( ENA) The victory of Adwa is a paramount symbol of freedom and beacon of hope for black people globally, Ethiopian ambassador to India Tizita Mulugeta said. Ethiopian Embassy in New Delhi celebrated the 125th Anniversary of the Adwa Victory Day together with Ethiopian students in Marwadi University. Speaking at the occasion, Ambassador Tizita Mulugeta Adwa Victory […]

UN Agencies Appeal for 266 Mn USD to Feed Refugees in Eastern Africa

March 3/2021 ( ENA)  The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and the World Food Programme (WFP) are appealing for 266 million USD as they have been forced to cut food rations by up to 60 per cent. A funding shortfall is putting the lives of some three million refugees in eastern Africa at risk, two UN […]