I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The countries of Central and Eastern Europe associated with the European Union Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, and the Associated Countries – Cyprus, Malta and Turkey, as well as the EFTA Countries of the European Economic Area – Iceland and Liechtenstein, align themselves with this statement.
We would like to thank the Secretary-General for his report and the Committee for Programme and Coordination for its recommendations regarding the proposed programme budget outline for the biennium 2004/05. We would also like to thank the ACABQ for its report on this important matter.
The European Union supports the priorities outlined in the report of the Secretary General. We welcome the review of the Medium Term Plan carried out by the CPC and in particular the high priority being given to the implementation of the Millennium Declaration.
It is a primary goal of the European Union to strengthen the implementation capacity and effectiveness of the United Nations, in particular at country level in developing countries, so the Organization can better assist Member States in implementing the Millennium Declaration and other mandates, including the follow-up to the Monterrey and Johannesburg Summits.
In the 2004/05 budget, it must be reflected that notable political developments in Africa call for a continued strong and focused co-operation between the UN system and Member States. The Organizations stronger policy focus on Africa must be clearly reflected and we must strengthen the United Nations commitment towards supporting NEPAD, which should materialize in specific proposals for reprioritization within DESA. In this connection, it is important that the division of labour between Headquarters and the UNs field stations is clarified, in order to achieve efficiency gains and especially improved technical cooperation at country level.
Continued high priority must be given to the Special Political Missions, which has become one of the most important features in the regular budget. The European Union fully concurs with the observations and recommendations of the ACABQ on this question.
Over the last 10 years, the budget of the United Nations has remained at more or less the same level. At the same time, we, the Member States, have added more priority-areas to the Medium Term Plan. The workload of the Organization has increased significantly, partly because we have not been able to phase out a sufficient number of low priority activities.
Last year, the General Assembly acknowledged that in 2002/03 some modest growth was needed to allow the Secretary-General to cope with new mandates. We recognize that this trend is likely to continue and will need to be reflected in the programme budget for the next biennium.
At the same time, the General Assembly emphasized the continuing importance of reform and enhanced efficiency in the Organization. This must go hand in hand with agreement on new priorities for the United Nations. We commend the Secretary-General for having responded promptly to our requests in that regard. He has already submitted a report containing important proposals for further strengthening the Organization. We expect to see tangible outputs from these efforts, including in the shape of efficiency gains, identified in the coming biennial budget proposals.
Strict budgetary discipline remains a key requirement to contain the rate of the budget growth. We can only ensure that all funds are well spent through full implementation of results-based budgeting and the identification and discontinuation of obsolete program activities. Where the Secretary-General has recommended in his budget outline the restoration of funding proposals rejected by the General Assembly in December 2001, this will only be possible if there is evidence of justified need. The General Assembly will have to review this during its 58th session.
Furthermore, in our view, all programmatic activities including those given our highest priority such as for instance the special political missions will require scrutiny before funding can be agreed to in the context of the 2004/05 budget. In this regard, we propose that the Secretary-General, when presenting new activities in the next biennial budget, submits indications of their expected duration.
We request the Secretary-General to enforce existing budgetary rules in order to make specific proposals for offsetting low priority activities and in order to give maximum concentration on the new priorities of the Organization.
We acknowledge that most of the increases in the 2002/03 budget, such as the currency and inflation fluctuations, are largely outside the Secretariats control. There are other budgetary add-ons like extra costs for improved security, which could not have been foreseen in last years budget proposals. In that regard, the 2002/03 budget and the sharp increases in the budget level, which have been required during the course of the biennial period, are exceptional and must not be seen as a precedent.
Against this background, the European Union stands ready to take note of Secretary Generals report and the preliminary estimate regarding the budget level for 2004/05 contained therein. In this context, we emphasize that we, the Member States, and the Secretary-General have to find ways to better match resources and priorities. This will be a key point during next years strategic review of the Secretary-Generals budget proposal.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman.