I have the honour to speak on behalf of the Member States of the European Union.
The acceding country Croatia*, the candidate countries the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Iceland** and Serbia*, the countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
At the outset, let me thank Ambassador Michel Tommo Monthe for opening this 26th formal meeting of the Fifth Committee, his introductory remarks on the organisation of work and for his wise stewardship during the previous and the current session.
The Member States of the European Union are looking forward to a session that will be constructive and will adhere to the Programme of Work. In the spirit of the recent brainstorming session on the working methods of the Fifth Committee, we hope that we can collectively make this session as efficient and effective as possible, without resorting to a-typical hours and that we will work in the spirit of collegiality and true and real consensus, that is, not a default outcome due to lack of time, but a result that can be fully endorsed by all actors around the table.
Allow me, Mr. Chairman, to look back and reflect briefly on the outcome of the main session of the 66th General Assembly. The Member States of the European Union would like to thank all Member States for their constructive efforts and flexibility shown in trying to reach a consensual outcome. We believe that the programme budget we approved for 2012-2013 reflects the fact that the UN is more relevant and needed than ever, while it at the same time acknowledges the pressure and increasing constraints that currently affect national budgets.
These are indeed austere times and our national budgets feel the effects of the economic crisis very strongly. The approval of the budget is not a one-off event, but requires continued effort and deserves our continued attention. The much needed consolidation and restructuring of the UN’s programme budget has to be taken forward this calendar year. Given the current financial climate that affects the membership of the United Nations at large, it is important to ensure that the resources of the Organisation are used in the most effective and efficient way and that strict budgetary discipline is applied. From this perspective, we would like once more to welcome the Secretary General’s leadership in this regard as he continues to streamline and prioritise funding requests and identify areas for savings. We continue to urge the Secretariat to keep its business methods in every one of the departments and programmes under constant review – and apply business plans – in order to closely scrutinise recurrent expenditures. We must go beyond incremental budgeting.
As you know, the Member States of the European Union are, and will remain, staunch supporters of the UN System; above all, we are true supporters of effective multilateralism and therefore in favour of a more effective, efficient and leaner Organisation. EU Member States support the need to ensure a more effective delivery of mandates through innovation and change management. We welcome the clear position of the Secretary General in this regard, as expressed at the closing of the main session in December. We appreciate his ongoing efforts and fully endorse his 5 year action agenda as presented to the General Assembly on 25 January. Let me add, Mr Chairman, it is my understanding that these positions are also shared by our like-minded partners. We stand fully behind the goals of the Change Management Team to achieve a modern, engaged and efficient Secretariat, which is transparent and accountable in its work and responsibly stewards resources to deliver high-quality results, thereby building confidence in the UN and its ideals. Enhancing trust and confidence, engaging staff, improving working methods and rationalising structures and functions are key in this regard.
With respect to this first resumed session, the Member States of the European Union are looking forward to discussing the important items ahead of us. The scale of assessments is obviously one of them, as we are asked to review the methodology and come to an agreement on the future scale by the end of the year. Effective financing of the UN is as important as its effective management. A more equitable financing according to member states’ actual capacity to pay is crucial for the functioning of the UN. Securing a sustainable financing architecture of the UN System – which is vital for its future work – should therefore be the top priority of all member states.
Unfortunately, there was a deadlock in the Fifth Committee last December on proposals to review the methodology in line with Resolution 64/248. To bridge the gap, the Member States of the European Union therefore proposed language to establish a high level group of eminent persons to review the matter, based in fact on a successful 1994 precedent. The report of this group would then be considered later in the year by the Committee on Contributions and by the Fifth Committee when it takes decisions on this matter in December.
We believe that such a process would safeguard the competences and prerogatives of this Committee. Since the item was not decided upon in the main session but deferred to this session, our proposal is – in our view – realistically the only sensible option to adequately prepare the discussion in the fall. The Member States of the European Union repeat their call that this Committee agrees to create this working group without delay. The status quo is not an option.
Other important topics that deserve our full attention are – amongst other items to be discussed – the Capital Master Plan and Accountability.
We have been and continue to be strong supporters of the Capital Master Plan and its mission to manage the historic and much needed renovation of the United Nations Headquarters complex in order to create a modern, safe and sustainable work environment. We acknowledge the progress made on the renovation work so far on the Secretariat and Conference buildings, as well as the sustainability approach incorporated in the Capital Master Plan. Some of us will have the opportunity to see the progress tomorrow with our own eyes during the tour of the Secretariat building. We however remain concerned about the issues of timing, budget and governance of the CMP, as we have indicated many times before. And let us be clear: the Member States of the European Union are not in a position to accept new assessments of member states. We are confident that the associated costs of the CMP can and will be absorbed within the budgets approved.
An effective accountability system, another important topic to be discussed during this session, depends on mutual trust, effective cooperation, common objectives, reliable measurements, and associated sanctions and incentives. Mainstreaming the culture of accountability, including in the day-to-day functioning and activities of all UN staff members – who are in fact the Organisation’s greatest asset – is a key priority for us. We commend the work that has been undertaken by the Department of Management in this regard and are happy to learn that a foundation of Enterprise Risk Management has been laid. The biggest challenge now is to link overall institutional and organisational performance to personal accountability and results-based management. You can count on our support for this important task.
We will also focus on the other important issues before us, such as standards of accommodation for air travel, where we still need to find the right balance between effective delivery and the efficient use of resources, and the question of how to ensure that adequate and timely funding is provided for decisions of the Human Rights Council.
To conclude, Mr. Chairman, let me reiterate that the Member States of the European Union remain committed to working closely with all partners in a spirit of openness, transparency, and collegiality in order to reach tangible results at the end of the first resumed session of the 66th General Assembly.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman.
*Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
** Iceland continues to be a member of EFTA and the European Economic Area.