Sending 4 Drafts to General Assembly, Fifth Committee Approves Funding for Human Rights Council Mechanism, Support Mission in Libya, Concluding Resumed Session
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today wrapped up the first part of its resumed seventy-sixth session by sending the General Assembly three resolutions and one decision, yet still not giving the Secretary-General guidance on human resources or resolving the Organization’s ongoing liquidity problems.
Approving a text on special subjects relating to the United Nations 2022 programme budget, the Committee asked that the Secretary-General continue improving the Organization’s resilience management system and that he be authorized to commit $17.95 million for the operations of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) from 1 April to year’s end.
However, delegates disagreed over a section of the resolution which provided about $2.23 million in funding, known as revised estimates, for actions taken by the Human Rights Council during its thirty-third special session last year, before approving that section by a recorded vote of 78 in favour to 18 against with 40 abstentions.
A separate resolution on the matter introduced earlier by Ethiopia’s representative that would not provide resources for the Council’s revised estimates was rejected by a recorded vote of 27 in favour to 66 against, with 39 abstentions. Ethiopia’s delegate said that her Government did not recognize the mechanism established by the Council as it does not promote human rights, was “clearly political” and an abuse of the multilateral system “in the hands of the mighty”. For a year, Ethiopia has been grappling with an international crisis of unprecedent magnitude, which is worsened by outside interference, the politicization of humanitarian assistance and relentless propaganda campaigns against the State, she stressed.
However, some delegates took issue with that stance. The representative of the United Kingdom said the Fifth Committee’s role is not to challenge mandates that have been decided in other United Nations bodies, even though some Member States may not agree with them. Providing no resources is simply not credible if one believes in the Committee’s core mandate, he stressed, asking delegates to reject the text introduced by Ethiopia’s representative and instead support the compromise proposal.
The Committee also approved without a vote a text on progress on the implementation of a flexible workplace at United Nations Headquarters, which asked the Assembly to take note of the Secretary-General’s final report on the matter and a draft encouraging the Joint Inspection Unit to continue its efforts to improve the Organization’s accountability, oversight and governance.
Lastly, the Committee sent the Assembly a draft decision asking it to defer consideration of the improvement of the United Nations financial situation to the second part of its resumed seventy-sixth session.
In closing statements, delegates expressed their disappointment that Member States could not reach agreement on the crucial human resource management issues that help the Secretariat manage thousands of employees around the world.
The representative of Cameroon, speaking on behalf of the African Group, asked all delegations to redouble their efforts to end the deadlock. While recognizing agreements on other topics, such as revised estimates for UNSMIL, he also regretted the Committee could not agree on ways to bolster the United Nations financial situation or supply chain activities.
Echoing that sentiment, the United Kingdom’s delegate also voiced concern that the vote on the funding of the Human Rights Council’s resolution on the situation in Ethiopia was put to a vote today in the way that it was.
The speaker for the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said the Committee’s working methods had deteriorated and he was deeply concerned that its consensus decision-making — a cornerstone of the Committee’s work — is increasingly challenged.
Meantime, Pakistan’s delegate, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, noted the long road that lies ahead of the Committee as it tackles important issues such as geographical representation and desired ranges.
Also speaking today were the representatives of the United States, Argentina, France, Eritrea, Japan, Mexico, Russian Federation and China.
Action on Draft Resolutions and Decisions
The Fifth Committee first took up and approved the draft resolution titled “Progress on the implementation of a flexible workplace at United Nations Headquarters” (document A/C.5/76/L.26), without a vote. By its terms, the Assembly would take note of the Secretary-General’s final report on implementation of a flexible workplace (document A/76/669) and endorse the conclusions and recommendations in the eponymous report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) (document A/76/746).
LEMLEM FISEHA MINALE (Ethiopia), introducing her delegation’s draft resolution titled “Revised estimates resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted by the Human Rights Council at its thirty-third special session” (document A/C.5/76/L.24), said Ethiopia has repeatedly made clear that it does not recognize the mechanism established by the Human Rights Council. Acknowledging that the Fifth Committee has no ability to establish or roll back such mandates, she nevertheless said it has a responsibility to “err on the side of the Charter and principles of international law, especially when they are under blatant violation”. The mechanism under consideration has no intention of promoting human rights, she said, describing it as “clearly political” and an abuse of the multilateral system “in the hands of the mighty”. For a year, Ethiopia has been grappling with an international crisis of unprecedent magnitude, which is worsened by outside interference, the politicization of humanitarian assistance and relentless propaganda campaigns against the State.
She welcomed the good work of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Ethiopia, whose leadership has acted professionally despite being under great pressure to do otherwise. Its reports debunked many of the false allegations levelled against the Government, but nonetheless those false claims made their way to white papers that reached the Security Council. Emphasizing that Governments bear the responsibility to protect and promote the human rights of their populations, she called on delegates to help put an end to the abuse of the multilateral human rights framework for the pursuit of political ambitions, neo-colonial agendas and “saviour mentalities” by one bloc of States by voting in favour of “L.24”.
The representative of France, speaking on behalf of the European Union, asked that the draft resolution put forward by Ethiopia be subjected to a recorded vote. Noting that the Fifth Committee is entrusted with ensuring that all the bodies of the United Nations are provided with sufficient resources to fulfil their mandates, he stressed that it must respect the resolutions establishing such mandates. Today, the Committee is addressing the financing of a mandate that was established by the Human Rights Council in its resolution S/33/1, on the human rights situation in Ethiopia, which was adopted in December 2021. As such, the proposal before the Committee today is in direct violation of the decisions taken by the Human Rights Council. European Union member States will vote against it, he said, calling on other countries to do the same.
The representative of the United Kingdom said the Fifth Committee’s role is not to challenge mandates that have been decided in other United Nations bodies, even though some Member States may not agree with them. Providing no resources is simply not credible if one believes in the Committee’s core mandate, he stressed, noting that a compromise solution is currently before Member States in the form of a compromise text put forth by the Chair. As such, he asked delegates to vote against the text and instead support the compromise proposal.
The representative of the United States agreed that the mandates put forward by other bodies should not be undermined by the Committee, and said his delegation will vote against the draft put forward by Ethiopia.
The representative of Argentina underscored the importance of the Fifth Committee’s work and in making decisions by consensus, which helps provide it with legitimacy. She stressed that the Organization’s bodies need adequate and appropriate resources in order to fulfil their mandates effectively and efficiently. She praised the constructive spirit in which the Committee has worked during the current session, expressing hope that it would continue.
The Committee then rejected “L.24” by a recorded vote of 27 in favour to 66 against, with 39 abstentions.
Explaining his vote, the representative of France said his delegation was determined to ensure respect for all the bodies of the United Nations. France will support the compromise text that the Committee will now consider and the funding it provides for.
The Committee then took up the draft resolution titled “Special subjects relating to the programme budgets for 2022” (document A/C.5/76/L.27).
The representative of Eritrea said that, while his delegation supports Sections I and II of “L.27”, it is against the proposed budget laid out in section III. Eritrea’s longstanding position is to oppose country-specific mandates, which pose obstacles to the protection and promotion of human rights everywhere. Such politically motivated mandates “did not work in the past, and will not work in the future”, he said, adding that the resolution adopted on the situation in Ethiopia without the consent of the host State is in violation of the United Nations Charter. Instead of encouraging the concerned State to investigate all allegations and ensure accountability for crimes committed, the creation of a parallel mechanism through the Human Rights Council undermines national initiatives and infringes on State sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is also wasteful, he said, noting that it is irrational to allocate scarce resources to parallel mechanisms. For those reasons, Eritrea will vote no on both the mandate and the allocation of resources to it.
The Committee then approved Section III of resolution “L.27” by a recorded vote of 78 in favour to 18 against with 40 abstentions.
The representative of Ethiopia expressed her delegations’ disappointment about the results of the vote, stressing that it is wrong that the wishes of any bloc of countries continue to be legitimized with no regard for the concerns of others. Emphasizing that Ethiopia will continue to stand guard over its own sovereignty and territorial integrity and will strengthen national resources aimed at protecting and promoting human rights, she regretted that today’s vote will further complicate the relationship between her country and the Human Rights Council. For other Member States, she warned that there is a lesson to be learned from today’s outcome: “Think again before beginning to work with the [Human Rights Council], as you may be punished for it.”
The Committee then approved “L.27” as a whole without a vote, as technically updated. By the terms of Section I of the resolution, titled “Organizational resilience management system”, the Assembly would welcome the positive impact of the Secretary-General’s implementation of the system and its progress, which helped the Organization respond effectively to the pandemic. The Assembly would ask the Secretary-General to keep improving the system.
It would also reaffirm the importance of an agile and resilient workforce and ask the Secretary-General to work to improve the safety, security and well-being, including physical and mental health, of all United Nations personnel in all duty stations through the system, among them Headquarters, regional commissions and field missions.
Section II of the resolution is titled “Estimates in respect of special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the Assembly and/or the Security Council Thematic Cluster III: regional offices, offices in support of political processes and other missions United Nations Support Mission in Libya.” By its terms, the Assembly would underscore the important work of the ceasefire monitoring mechanism of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the need for adequate security and operational support and encourage the Secretary-General to take all necessary measures accordingly.
The Assembly would ask the Secretary-General to provide updated information on the commitment authority’s use during the Assembly’s consideration of the 2023 proposed budget, and report on the final expenditures during the main part of the seventy-eighth session, using the financial performance report on the programme budget for 2022.
Section III of the resolution is titled “Revised estimates resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted by the Human Rights Council at its thirty-third special session”. By its terms, the Assembly would appropriate an additional $2.23 million, compromising $34,800 under section 2, General Assembly and Economic and Social Council affairs and conference management; and nearly $2.2 million under section 24, human rights of the proposed programme budget for 2022. The Assembly would also appropriate $166,100 under section 36, staff assessment, to be offset by an equivalent amount under income section I, income from staff assessment, of the 2022 programme budget for 2022.
Next, the Fifth Committee approved the draft resolution titled “Joint Inspection Unit” document A/C.5/76/L.25) without a vote. By its terms, the Assembly - noting with appreciation the Unit’s 2021 report, 2022 programme of work and the Secretary-General’s note on the Unit’s 2021 report - would stress the importance of the Unit’s oversight functions in identifying concrete managerial, administrative and programming questions within the participating organizations and encourage the Unit to continue its efforts to enhance the Organization’s accountability, oversight and governance.
Welcoming the implementation of the Unit’s strategic framework for the period 2020–2029, the Assembly stressed the need to continuously update and improve it, taking into account dynamics and challenges including those related to the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing reform efforts. The Assembly asked the Unit to continue to provide the Secretariat with its reports in a timely manner and to request that the executive heads of participating organizations fully comply with the statutory procedures for consideration of the Unit’s reports.
The Fifth Committee then approved the draft decision “Questions deferred for future consideration” (document A/C.5/76/L.28) without a vote. By its terms, the Assembly would defer until the second part of its resumed seventy-sixth session its agenda item on improving the financial situation of the United Nations.
MHER MARGARYAN (Armenia), Committee Chairman, said common ground was reached on some items and he looked forward to working together in many areas, including human resources management. The work done so far provides a good basis for future work.
MUHAMMAD JAWAD AJMAL (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said he was pleased that consensus had been reached on many issues yet there was a long way ahead, as there was an inability to reach consensus on other issues, including human resources management. The silver lining is that there were many areas of convergence and this agreement can form a basis for future discussions. The Group looks forward to working together in an inclusive manner, he said, stressing that topics such as geographical representation and desired ranges are especially important.
FELIX-FILS EBOA EBONGUE (Cameroon), speaking on behalf of the African Group and associating himself with the Group of 77, welcomed concerted efforts on the parts of delegations and groups which helped the Fifth Committee reach consensus on such important matters as revised estimates on the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), thereby breaking a negative trend. Also welcoming other agreements reached during the resumed session, he nevertheless regretted that the Committee could not reach agreement on the topics of improving the United Nations financial situation or supply chain activities. He also regretted that efforts were not sufficient to agree on human resources management, asking all Member States to redouble their efforts to put an end to that deadlock. With regard to the human rights situation in Ethiopia, he expressed the Group’s disapproval of any mechanism imposed on a Member State in an obligatory manner and underlined the need to take a supportive approach rather than singling States out.
THIBAULT CAMELLI, speaking on behalf of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said over the past two years the United Nations was front and centre in the global fight against the COVID‑19 pandemic. The Fifth Committee made it possible for the Organization to continue its work, complying with its mandate while working remotely. However, its working methods deteriorated, he said, expressing deep concern that consensus decision-making — a cornerstone of the Committee’s work — is increasingly challenged. Many delegations demonstrated a remarkable eagerness to build a balanced compromise on the human resources management package, but Committee members bear responsibility for their inability to cast aside their differences and work together more broadly. It is most unfortunate that important reform topics were hindered by such inertia, he said, adding that the outcome of the current session “should be a wakeup call if we wish our Committee to remain relevant” and be able to carry out its mandate in the future.
KIMURA TETSUYA (Japan) said it is again regrettable that during the session no resolution had been adopted regarding human resources management and Member States failed to give the Secretary-General guidance on this issue. New approaches, including the discussion modality, must be explored to avoid repeating the same consequences. Noting that another important agenda item during the session was improving the Organization’s financial situation, he said that Member States had an opportunity to address the liquidity problem yet were one step short of an agreement. However, Japan is pleased that the Fifth Committee found common ground on important items such as the Joint Inspection Unit and UNSMIL. He reiterated the Committee’s critical importance as it is has responsibility for the Organization’s administrative and budgetary matters. He encouraged all Member States to maintain a positive spirit of constructive cooperation and consensus-building in the Committee’s upcoming second resumed session.
JESÚS VELÁZQUEZ CASTILLO (Mexico) noted that this session has been a complicated one, and its results do not necessarily correspond to the goals — essential to the future of the Organization — set out at the beginning of its work. While welcoming certain successes — including the approval of resources for the Human Rights Council so that it can fulfil its mandate — he spotlighted insufficient efforts to reach a decision on a package relating to human-resources management. This has postponed decisions necessary for the reform and modernization of the Organization, including matters concerning the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and after-service health insurance. This session’s outcome should prompt reflection, as delegations were unable to reach minimum agreements on matters important for the Organization’s future. Against that backdrop, he expressed hope that, during the next session, the Fifth Committee will be able to reach agreement on ensuring greater financial certainty for the United Nations, which will facilitate the implementation of its institutional mandates and programmes.
CHRISTOPHER P. LU (United States) welcomed consensus on several issues — including those relating to the Joint Inspection Unit, resilience management and a flexible workplace — but said that these changes, while long-overdue, are not sufficient to move the Organization into the twenty-first century. For five years, the Fifth Committee has failed to move forward on a resolution concerning human-resources management, which would transform the United Nations workforce. Today’s failure to act is notable as, around the world, organizations large and small are evaluating how to manage their workforces post-COVID. However, “the most important organization in the world is still stuck in the past”, he said. The Committee failed to reform the Organization’s procurement policies, stabilize its financial situation and ensure the viability of the health-insurance programme for its staff. Member States cannot expect the United Nations to effectively address emergency situations — like that in Ukraine — or make meaningful progress on the Sustainable Development Goals unless the Organization’s workforce and way of doing business is “turbo-charged”, he stressed. While most Member States considered proposals in good-faith, he highlighted some delegations’ tendency to make unreasonable last-minute demands and said that this kind of deal-making leads to bad policy outcomes, breeds ill will and reflects poorly on the Organization.
RICHARD CROKER (United Kingdom), echoing expressions of praise for the progress made on some items during the present session, agreed with other speakers that challenges remain. Committee members were not able to bridge their divisions on such issues as human resources management and supply chain management. Expressing concern over that inaction, he called for redoubled efforts in future sessions, while also voicing concern that the vote on the funding of the Human Rights Council’s resolution on the situation in Ethiopia was put to a vote today in the way that it was.
EVGENY V. KALUGIN (Russian Federation) also praised the compromises reached during the present session, but described it as regrettable that on other matters no consensus could be reached. His delegation is particularly concerned by the lack of agreement on human resources management and supply chain functioning, he said, stressing that the Russian Federation took part in those discussions constructively and proposed options for mutually acceptable compromises, including on the basis of past General Assembly resolutions and on language used by the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) and ACABQ. He added that the mandate of the Fifth Committee is not a political one, and as such assessments of world events should be left out of its work.
CHENG LIE (China), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and speaking in his national capacity, said it was regrettable that a resolution on human resources has not been adopted in years, expressing concern about the lack of resolve on this issue. The Committee needs to look deeper and harder at the Organization’s financial situation, he said, pointing out that there is a lack of political will and willingness to accommodate each other.
Mr. MARGARYAN thanked the facilitators and the United Nations Controller for their tireless efforts throughout the session, noting that the Assembly will take up the Committee’s issues at its 13 April session.