29 October 2003


NEW YORK, 28 October (UN Headquarters) -- This is the text of a statement by Secretary-General Kofi Annan today to the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) on the 2004-2005 budget of the United Nations:

Determining the budget of the United Nations is among our most important tasks.  The budget embodies both our great hopes for the Organization, and our carefully considered decisions of what to do in a world of finite and limited resources.  Each number, each item, each activity, each post, must deliver value to the world’s people and to you, the Member States.

The budget for the biennium 2004-2005 is especially significant.  It pushes forward the process of reform that I initiated upon taking office.  It reflects a major effort to align the activities of the Organization with the priorities agreed at the Millennium Summit and at major world conferences since then.  And its finalization comes at a time when the United Nations is wrestling with a number of fundamental issues of both principle and practice, in the wake of major events of the past year -– the war in Iraq, the development setback at Cancún, and the bombing of our headquarters in Baghdad. 

One year ago, I presented to the General Assembly an agenda for further change that promised a budget that would better align activities with priorities.  Following the guidance provided by the Assembly in its resolution 57/300, I am pleased to say that the document now before you delivers on that promise.

First, the budget allocates additional resources for financing for development and the special needs of Africa.  There are also modest yet necessary increases for drug control, crime prevention and human rights.

Second, I am proposing a significant reallocation of resources:  some $100 million shifted between subprogrammes, and a redeployment of 810 posts.

Third, the budget calls for more than 900 outputs to be discontinued -- the first real effort of this kind.  Our ability to give new issues the attention they deserve depends to an important extent on ending activities that are obsolete or of marginal utility.  Seen against a total of more than 50,000 outputs in the budget, the number of those to be discontinued may seem small.  But we all know how difficult it is to end United Nations activities once they have started.  So this is a good start, and I intend to maintain this momentum while bearing in mind the need to deliver fully on mandated programmes.

Fourth, the budget incorporates the results of comprehensive reviews of public information and human rights that were carried out at the request of the General Assembly, and reflects efforts to modernize conference-servicing and to strengthen the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Fifth, the budget sets out what is needed to implement the information and communications technology strategy, which will include improvements to the Web site, improved use of technology in servicing United Nations meetings, and other initiatives that will affect the entire Organization.

Sixth, the budget proposes more funds for training -- a critical investment if staff are to deal with new responsibilities and different methods of work.

The budget also represents the next stage in the implementation of results-based budgeting.  Based on the experience the Secretariat has gained, the results-based framework has been refined to provide quantitative performance measures.  For each programme, the document provides a clear statement of objective, the expected results and how they would be measured, and the relevant resource requirements.  As you know, and as the Assembly has approved, this approach emphasizes achieving results rather than simply delivering products and services.

Let me turn now to the numbers. 

First and foremost, let me stress that this budget represents the bare minimum for the tasks that Member States have entrusted to us.

I am proposing a budget of $2.9 billion before re-costing.  This is in accordance with the outline figure unanimously endorsed by the Assembly last year.  It reflects minimal real growth over the previous biennium -- just one half of 1 per cent, or $15 million.  Let me repeat, just one half of 1 per cent, or $15 million growth.  The budget projects a net increase of 117 new posts, predominantly at the P-2 and P-3 levels, so that we can undertake a task that is crucial for the Organization’s future:  the revitalization and rejuvenation of the Secretariat at the junior Professional levels.

As you know, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) has already offered its comments on my budget proposals.  I am concerned that some of the Committee’s recommendations put us under undue constraints, especially in terms of the reform effort.

In particular, I hope you will not reduce the overall level of the budget.  There is no getting around the need for a certain minimum level of resources.  Moreover, the Assembly itself has said that the reform effort must not become a pretext for further budget cuts.  It is worth recalling that we have been in a zero-growth or no-growth environment for most of the last decade.

I also hope you will not reject the two Assistant Secretary-General positions that have been requested for the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).  These are intended to provide vital new strength and vision in these key areas.

Having provided the numbers and the rationale behind them, I would like now to say a few words about the budget and planning process itself.

You will recall that last year I put forward several proposals to improve that process, which for many years has been unacceptably complex and unnecessarily labour-intensive.

One of those proposals is for a simpler, more strategic, less duplicative way to prepare and review the budget.  The budget documents that are now before you are a real step in that direction, and should allow the Fifth Committee to focus on the decisions it needs to make, while leaving the detailed review to the ACABQ.  That, in my view, is the proper division of labour between the two Committees.

The other proposals I have put forward involve changes to the Medium-term plan, the budget outline, the role of the Committee for Programme and Coordination, and our system of monitoring and evaluation.  Reports on these proposals have been given to the plenary.  You have not yet taken decisions on these changes, but I hope you will do so by the end of this year, so that we can move quickly to introduce them into the budgetary cycle for the 2006/2007 biennium.

Finally, the issue of staff security will demand further attention, beyond even the new budget allocations that you have agreed to for the current biennium.  I am still analysing the recommendations made by the Independent Panel on the Safety and Security of United Nations Personnel in Iraq.  And of course, this will also have global implications because we will be reviewing our security requirements globally.  But even an initial review indicates that significant increases in resources will be needed if the United Nations is to fulfil its paramount responsibility to protect its staff.  I will revert to you in due course with my recommendations.

I look forward to a budget discussion that is held in a spirit of collegiality and common purpose.  Most of all, I look forward to the adoption of a budget that is neither profligate nor stinting, but rather provides what the Organization needs to fulfil the expectations of the world’s peoples for peace, development and the renewal of the United Nations itself.

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