2 November 2005

Fifth Committee Takes up Budget Implications of Proposed Holocaust Remembrance

(Issued on 1 November 2005.)

NEW YORK, 31 October (UN Headquarters) -- The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning decided to inform the General Assembly that, should it adopt its draft resolution on Holocaust remembrance, additional resources in the amount of $345,200 would be required under section 27, Public information, of the proposed budget for 2006-2007.  That would represent a charge against the contingency fund and, as such, would require appropriation for the biennium 2006-2007.

Draft resolution A/60/L.12 envisages the establishment of a programme of outreach activities on "Holocaust and the United Nations" within six months from the adoption of the text.  It is also foreseen that an annual two-day seminar on the "Lessons of the Holocaust" would be held in New York.

The estimate of $345,200 was contained in the Secretary-General's statement on the matter (document A/60/526), which was introduced by Sharon Van Buerle, Acting Director of the Programme and Budget Division.  According to the document, to implement the decision, the Department for Public Information would need one Professional (P-3) and one General Service staff position under general temporary assistance.

Presenting a related report (document (A/60/7/Add.6, to be issued), member of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) Besley Maycock said that the ACABQ had consistently cautioned against "the Secretariat's inclination to request additional resources for each and every new activity instead of maximizing the existing potential".  Surely, in a budget the size of that of the Department of Public Information, the envisaged activities could be carried out without requesting additional resources.  (Under the budget proposal, an amount of $172.8 million would be provided for public information, with 747 regular budget posts in the Department.  According to information received by the Advisory Committee, the Department would also have over $4.7 million in general temporary assistance, not counting nearly $1 million for overtime and personal service contracts.)

Accordingly, the Advisory Committee recommended that the Assembly be informed that the adoption of the draft would involve no additional appropriations at this time, he said.  Should any requirement materialize, it could be presented in the first performance report for the coming biennium.

While Japan and New Zealand (also on behalf of Australia and Canada) supported the recommendations of the Advisory Committee, Jamaica's representative, speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, supported the Secretary-General's request for $345,200, "considering numerous demands on the budget of DPI".  The requested amount should be provided from the contingency fund, she said.

When the Committee resumed its work, following a suspension to hold informal consultations, it decided to inform the Assembly that $345,200 would be required to implement the draft resolution on Holocaust remembrance, should it be adopted.  It also requested the Secretary-General to report on actual expenditures incurred in connection with the implementation of the text in the context of his second performance report for 2006-2007.

Following the adoption of the decision, delegates of the United Kingdom (on behalf of the European Union) and the United States said that the countries they represented were among the co-sponsors of draft resolution A/60/L.12 and believed it was important for the envisioned activities to be properly implemented.  Otherwise, they were in full agreement with the Advisory Committee, but had not opposed the Committee's decision in the interest of reaching agreement.  That did not obviate the need for the Department to seek ways to reprioritize its activities and implement its mandate in the most efficient manner.  That position was supported by the representative of Japan.

Jamaica's representative, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that she was happy that that consensus had been reached.  However, the Group did not share the view of the ACBAQ about the Secretariat's "inclination to add resources for every new activity".  That approach would not be setting the right precedent.

While supporting the draft before the Assembly, the representative of India said that the premise that newer mandates should be financed through displacement of older ones was not acceptable to his delegation.  He also disagreed with the position that the Department could absorb new mandates, because its budget amounted to $172.8 million.  In fact, the Department's, budget had been pared down over the years, and it was time to augment it.

Argentina's representative, speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, also supported the draft resolution on Holocaust remembrance, as well as the decision taken by the Fifth Committee.  However, he was concerned over the rushed manner in which the budgetary implications of the draft had been presented to the Committee.  The procedure followed in presenting the statement to the Committee today was also counter to the practice of taking up all such statements as a whole.

In that connection, several speakers agreed with the Advisory Committee's comments on "the extraordinary nature of the proceeding now before us".  While the draft resolution bore the date of 26 October, the Advisory Committee had received it but two hours before the meeting.  The ACABQ was of the opinion that such a method of proceeding called into question the validity of procedures for the consideration of administrative and budgetary matters.  Members of the Committee expressed hope that such a situation could be avoided in the future.

The Committee will hold its next meeting at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, 1 November, when it is scheduled to take a series of reports on human resources management and the pattern of conferences, as well as financing of the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS).

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