By J Nastranis
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is far from satisfied with a budget of $5.4 billion the 193-member General Assembly adopted on December 23 for the United Nations to carry out its vital work in 2016 and 2017. This two-year budget is less than 7% of the $77.7 billion preliminary budget New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed for 2016 in February 2015.
While admitting that the approved budget “reflects the difficult global financial reality we have faced for a number of years,” he told the General Assembly: “Funding continues to shrink – while demands on the United Nations grow,” he noted.
The General Assembly approved the budget, wrapping up its work for the main part of its historic 70th anniversary session by taking action on a number of texts recommended by the Fifth Committee, which focuses on administrative and budgetary issues.
Initially, the UN chief had presented a budget outline level of $5.74 billion dollars to the General Assembly, which then invited him to prepare the proposed budget on the basis of a preliminary estimate of $5.56 billion.
The UN Chief said: “Through it all, we are doing everything possible to fulfil the mandates you give us. We are guided by two pressing obligations: First, our duty to respond to the needs of the world’s people. And second: our responsibility to make the most of the resources you entrust to us. Through creativity, hard work and diligence, we are rising to the challenge.”
While complaining about the gap between what might be required and what is endorsed by the General Assembly, Ban went on to say that the Assembly had “wisely” decided to add resources to strengthen the very important pillar of development, commending its decision to support the follow-up and review of the world body’s efforts to reach the Sustainable Development Goals and carry out the financing for development agenda.
The Assembly also decided to reduce resources under Public Information and Common Support Services even more than the efficiencies he identified, the Secretary-General pointed out.
“This presents some challenges, especially at this critical juncture. We are carrying out the important initiatives the Assembly has approved, including Umoja (the Swahili word for ‘unity’), mobility and the development of the Global Service Delivery Model,” he said. “Nevertheless, we remain committed to exert our best efforts to deliver on these transformational initiatives and all other mandates you have given us.”
Ban also applauded the consensus decisions taken on the revised scale of assessments for Member States for sharing the costs of the regular budget and peacekeeping operations, which is reviewed every three years, as well as the approval of a mobility framework for UN staff.
“Today’s consensus action is a strong sign of our ability to work together,” he stated. “We need this spirit of global solidarity more than ever.”
The President of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft of Denmark, said he was very satisfied that the negotiations on the budget and other administrative items were concluded in such good spirit.
“With the adoption of the UN budget and the conclusion of the work of the Fifth Committee we come to the end of what has been a remarkable year for multilateralism,” he added.
The initial budget level
Introducing his proposed $5.5 billion budget for the work of the United Nations over the next two years, Ban said on October 12, 2015 that it encompasses the Organization’s “vision and commitment to budget discipline and strict financial management”.
“My proposals for the 2016-2017 programme budget are built on our progress,” Ban told delegates in the UN General Assembly’s Fifth Committee. “In formulating the proposal before you, I continued to challenge my senior managers to find new and better ways of delivering mandates more effectively and efficiently. I urged them to rethink our business practices and embrace innovative synergies,” he added.
The UN chief explained that he had presented a budget outline level of $5.74 billion dollars to the General Assembly, which then invited him to prepare the proposed budget on the basis of a preliminary estimate of $5.56 billion.
“I am now proposing a budget level of $5.57 billion, before recosting,” he announced. “This is 1.6 per cent – or $90.8 million – below the appropriation for the current biennium, and is $10.2 million – or 0.2 per cent – above the budget outline figure set by the General Assembly.”
Ban explained that the increase of 0.2 per cent over the budget outline figure is mainly due to adjustments in light of recent General Assembly decisions on a new administrative online platform, called Umoja, which is being rolled out.
He also indicated that the proposal reflects a net decrease of 56 posts [job positions] compared to the current budget, primarily related to the “freezing of posts”.
Ban further underlined that with UN Member States adopting the Addis Ababa Action Agenda last July and the landmark 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in September, in addition to commitments made to achieve a universal climate agreement in Paris in December, some costs haven’t been taken into account.
“My budget proposals do not yet reflect any possible financial implications required for the Organization to support Member States in achieving these goals,” Ban explained. “We are working towards the most appropriate implementation framework for the UN system and the Secretariat. As we assess financial implications arising from this framework, I will present any cost estimates to the Assembly.”
He recalled that with the end of his ten-year tenure as Secretary-General, half the executions for the budget period will have to be carried by his successor.
“I have felt a sense of responsibility to make sure that my successor, whoever it may be, will be able to carry out his or her duties smoothly and with sufficient resources,” he said. “That is my commitment, and that spirit is reflected in this programme budget.”
In conclusion, he called for collaboration to ensure that the United Nations “makes the best possible use of our resources in the service of humanity.”