23 October 1996
Mr. Morteza Mirmohammad
Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran
to the Fifth Committee
Agenda Item 116:
Programme Budget for the Biennium 1996-1997
New York, October 23, 1996
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
I thank the distinguished Controller for his statement on the report of the Secretary-General contained in document A/C.5/50/57/Add.1. I would also like to thank Ambassador Mselle for having introduced the second report of the ACABQ (A/51/7/Add.1).
My delegation strongly supports the statement made by Costa Rica on behalf of the G 77 and China. We share all the comments made in that comprehensive statement and we are looking for detailed responses to the essential queries posed to the Secretariat which are of paramount importance for the whole membership of the group in addressing the critical issue of possible savings in the programme budget 1996-1997.
These queries do not, in any way, constitute the micro-management of the Secretariat on the part of Member States. While it is unquestionably the prerogative of the Secretary-General to administer the Secretariat as envisaged in article 99 of the Charter, it is equqlly the prerogetive of Member States to set prioroties which then must guide the Secretary- General in carrying out his responsibilities. This distinction must be clearly understood and borne in mind. Therefore,it is not justifiable to try to put an arbitrary ceiling on the budget and to ask other Member States not to engage in the required process of scrutinizing the resultant programme and personnel reductions.
Member States adopted the programme budget in pursuit of intensive consultations in accordance with the budgetary process , provided in resolution 41/213 , and expected to have a clear picture on the proposals of the Secretariat, in the normal budgetary format, for savings without affecting the full implementation of mandated programmes and activities. The contribution of the Secretariat in continuing with that process was obviously desirable. The Advisory Committee in paragraph 41 of it’s previous report made it clear that a dialogue must ensue and both the Secretariat and the relevant legislative bodies must know what to expect from each other if the debate is to produce real results. It , therefore, proposed that ” relevant intergovernmental bodies should review the programme of work for the biennium 1996-1997 with a view to providing the Secretary-General with clear guidance for inclusion in his next report “.
The General Assembly resolution 50/230, in endorsing the conclusions and recommendations of the ACABQ in its report A/50/Add.16, requested the Secretary-General to submit a report containing proposals for achieving savings as called for in resolution 50/214, in the manner indicated in para. 16 of the report of the ACABQ and also requested the Secretary- General to ensure that, until his report is considered by the General Assembly all mandated programmes and activities are implemented in full.
The final report of the Secretary-General in document A/C.5/50/57/Add. 1 , does not contain much changes from his earlier one and raises more questions than it answers. The theme of the Secretary-General’s report as observed by the ACABQ, is indicative of the fact that in order to achieve the substantial savings requested, there should be great changes in programmes and reductions in staff which consequently affect the quality of programme delivery. But the report is short of addressing major issues specified in paragraph 6 of the report of the Advisory Committee ( A/51/7/Add.1). In fact, the intent of the document , as stated in it’s paragraph 12, is not to provide among others , the programmatic impact of the savings claimed. Rather, the Secretary-General has decided to provide such information in the context of his first performance report. It should, therefore, be very difficult for Member States to analyze, in detail , the programme implications of the cuts made.
In reviewing this document we will find that the savings have been identified without a prior determination of programme priorities and their endorsement by the General Assembly. As a result, decisions have been made by programme managers to discontinue certain programme activities and delay yet others without weighing legislative mandates or consulting Member States about their requirements and interests.
It is a matter of concern that mostly programmes supported by developing countries have received disproportional share of cost-cutting. One glaring example are savings imposed against the Economic and Social Commission in Western Asia and the impact on the work of the Economic and Social Commission for East Asia and the Pacific. The Economic Commission in Africa has, in the course of the last few years, suffered greatly from a persistent high vacancy rate in critical areas. Given the presence of so many agencies and bodies in Europe, is it not surprising that the Economic Commission in Europe (ECE) has endured little sacrifice? We also share the concern raised in paragraph 14 of the ACABQ report that ” under the UNCTAD for which savings of nearly $7.7 million are projected , no explanation at all is provided of how this reduction was arrived at or of its potential impact on programme “.
Equally alarming is the intention of the Secretariat to maintain a high vacancy rate in the professional category and to proceed with the dismissal of staff holding permanent contracts – the very core of people constituting the institutional memory of the Organization. Since every post now targeted for abolition has been approved by the General Assembly along with their precise functions, the General Assembly should be apprised of the reasons for elimination of these functions. Moreover, we endorse the view of the Advisory Committee , in paragraph 28 of it’s report that the Secretary-General should not carry out any involuntary separations of staff solely to achieve budgetary savings since no decision has been taken by the Assembly to abolish posts.
It is also important to learn how many consultants and short-term individuals – and from which countries – are engaged today in the delivery of mandated programmes in the Secretariat. Increasing use of such type of employees is hiding the substantial shifts in the equitable geographical representation of staff at the Secretariat. Replacement of permanent staff by short-term workers undermines the institutional memory of the Organization and arguably affects the delivery of work programmes.
Furthermore, it must be pointed out that despite a pledge to freeze recruitment in the face of the financial crisis, recruitment has continued at various levels as have promotions to higher level posts vacated by nationals from developing countries. These trends may have some detrimental effects. Firstly, under the pretext of emergency measures, the relative representation of developing countries staff in the global Secretariat seems to be deteriorating. Also, the measures adopted have the effect of reducing opportunities for the redeployment of professional staff left without a post.
We thank Assistant-Secretary-General for Human Resources Management for updating the figures on the whole staff subject to placement. Accordingly, we appreciate him if he furnishes us with the information on their contractual status, gender, nationality, titles and ranks and duration of service. Additional information would be appreciated on the reason of placing 8 staffers against extra-budgetary resources, their functions under the regular budget and the current status of their regular budget posts.
Finally, we endorse the conclusion of the Advisory Committee’s report, supported by the G 77 and China , requesting the General Assembly not to take action on revising appropriations at this point. There is a requirement for the Secretary-General to provide the details requested by the General Assembly resolution 50/214 . Until such requirement can be met and the General Assembly considers and approves the programmatic impact of proposals on possible savings, the Secretary-General is requested not to proceed with involuntary separation of staff in the context of the programme budget 1996-1997.