76th Plenary Meeting of General Assembly 72nd Session Part 2

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24-Dec-2017 02:16:19
Concluding main part of 72nd session, General Assembly adopts $5.397 billion budget for 2018-2019, as recommended by Fifth Committee at 76th plenary meeting.

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Upon the recommendation of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), the General Assembly wrapped up the main part of its seventy-second session today, adopting a $5.397 billion budget for the United Nations for the 2018-2019 biennium and switching the Organization, on a trial basis, to a year-by-year budget cycle.

Describing progress made thus far, Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák (Slovakia) recalled that success was not measured by the number of resolutions adopted but rather the impact made on people’s lives. “Our work is not yet done,” he said, citing the need to finalize the Global Compact on migration and continue apace on Security Council reform. “We need to talk, and more importantly, listen to one another”.

The headline budget figure was 5 per cent less than the final budget approved for the 2016-2017 biennium, and $193 million below the $5.405 billion proposed 2018-2019 budget unveiled by the Secretary-General on 11 October, due among other things to across-the-board reductions in contractual services, furniture and equipment, consultants and travel, as well as reduced funding for special political missions.

Overall, the Assembly adopted 15 Fifth Committee resolutions and three decisions. Among the highlights, it approved, as part of the Secretary-General’s ambitious management reform agenda, his proposal to change the United Nations budget cycle from a biennial to an annual budget period on a trial basis, beginning with the programme budget for 2020, pending a final decision at its seventy-seventh session on whether to continue that practice. The Secretary-General’s proposal was aimed at simplifying and streamlining the Organization’s management.

The Assembly decided not to implement, at present, any changes regarding expansion of exceptional budgetary authorities, unforeseen and extraordinary expenses, or the Secretary‑General’s limited budgetary discretion. Nor did it alter the current level of commitment authority for additional resources requirements arising from Security Council decisions.

An omnibus text, “Special subjects relating to the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2016-2017,” was adopted after an oral amendment, proposed by Cuba’s delegate and focused on the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, was rejected by a recorded vote of 24 against to 76 in favour, with 44 abstentions.

By its terms, the Assembly approved $508.49 million for 34 special political missions authorized by itself and/or the Security Council. The Secretary-General, on 15 December, had requested $636.6 million.

The Assembly also approved financial and staff resources for the newly established Office of Counter-Terrorism and the Office of the Victims’ Rights Advocate; asked the Secretary-General to continue with the implementation of flexible workplace strategies at Headquarters in New York; approved $62.06 million in resource requirements until 31 December 2019 for the ongoing implementation of the Umoja enterprise resource management project; and expressed with serious concern the need to address myriad shortcomings at the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund.

Earlier in the meeting, the Assembly took action on outstanding reports containing drafts submitted by its First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) and Third Committee (Social Humanitarian and Cultural), as well as three plenary resolutions.

Among the highlights was a Third Committee resolution on the human rights situation in Myanmar, requesting the Secretary-General to appoint a special envoy to the country and calling for an end to Government military operations against the Rohingya community.

Myanmar’s delegate, before the Assembly’s adoption — by a recorded vote of 122 in favour to 10 against (Belarus, Cambodia, China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Philippines, Russian Federation, Syria, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe), with 24 abstentions — called the text subjective, politically motivated and intended to exert unwarranted political pressure on his country. It would not promote human rights or help solve the complex situation in Rakhine State.

Following up on the major migration issues which dominated 2016, the Assembly adopted a plenary text deciding that an intergovernmental conference to adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, would be held in Morocco on 10 and 11 December 2018.

By the terms of another plenary resolution, the Assembly decided to convene a conference to elaborate the text of an international legally binding instrument — under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea — on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.

The conference would meet for four sessions of 10 working days each, with the first taking place in the second half of 2018, the second and third in 2019, and the fourth in the first half of 2020. The Assembly requested the Secretary‑General to convene the first session from 4 to 17 September 2018.

Recalling that their countries were not party to the Convention, the representatives of Colombia, Venezuela and Turkey said that neither their participation in negotiations nor the outcome of those discussions could affect their positions on that framework or related agreements.

The Russian Federation’s delegate meanwhile stressed that consensus had not been reached on any possible elements of a draft text for a legally binding instrument, citing an unwillingness to strike a balance between the importance of sustainable economic activity and marine conservation.

In other action, the Assembly extended the terms of three ad litem judges of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal, whose term expires on 31 December 2017, for another year, from 1 January to 31 December 2018: Rowan Downing (Australia), Alessandra Greceanu (Romania) and Nkemdilim Amelia Izuako (Nigeria). It also took note of the President’s appointment of Iraq and Nepal to the Committee on Conferences for a three-year term beginning on 1 January 2018, as well as agenda items that remained open for consideration during the seventy-second session.

Also speaking were representatives of El Salvador, Sudan, Burundi, United States, Syria, Estonia (on behalf of the European Union), Iran, Nicaragua, Canada, Belarus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Cambodia.

The General Assembly will reconvene at a time and date to be announced.
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