Concerned by Fragmentation of United Nations Common System, Delegates Call for Unified Framework, as Fifth Committee Reviews Secretary-General’s Proposals for Consistency
Expressing concern over the fragmentation of standards and arrangements in the employment conditions and compensation of United Nations staff worldwide, delegates reiterated their commitment to a single, unified common system and called for solutions, as the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) reviewed the Secretary-General’s proposals to promote consistency.
Since its inception in 1975, the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) has constantly established post adjustment multipliers for United Nations duty stations worldwide in accordance with articles 10 and 11 of its Statute, the representative of Pakistan pointed out on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China. Judgements 4134 to 4138 of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Administrative Tribunal threaten the very existence of the common system since they allow for two post adjustment multipliers for Geneva, he stressed.
While Member States did not create the current challenge, they are the only ones who hold the key to a sustainable solution, the representative of Switzerland emphasized in speaking also on behalf of Liechtenstein. The balance between the effective delivery of mandates and the efficient use of resources — as well as the ability to attract and retain the right staff in an increasingly competitive market — must be maintained, she urged.
The united and resolute actions of the General Assembly can finally establish system-wide cohesion and end several years of turbulence, the United States’ representative encouraged. Although she expressed her support for the proposals to establish a joint chamber and amend the ICSC Statute, she also cautioned that such decisions should not be taken lightly. Her colleague from the Russian Federation called for appeal powers to prevent the joint chamber from becoming yet another coordination mechanism whose judgments are ignored.
Catherine Pollard, Under-Secretary-General for Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, introduced the Secretary-General’s report which presents three detailed proposals to promote consistency in the system-wide implementation of ICSC decisions and recommendations. Proposals 1 and 2 are situated within the existing legal framework, do not require any further work, reflect best practice and present no additional costs. Proposal 3, on the other hand, requires changes to the legal framework which would directly address the issue at hand without jeopardizing the coexistence and independence of the two tribunal systems.
Abdallah Bachar Bong, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced the Advisory Committee’s related report which requested further clarifications on the legal authority of the proposed types of rulings and recommended the approval of $505,000 for 2023 for the further review of the system’s jurisdictional set-up.
In other personnel-related matters, Miguel Mourato Gordo, Director of the Global Strategy and Policy Division of the Office of Human Resources, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the conditions of service and compensation for members of the International Court of Justice and the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. He noted that there are no financial implications as the Court has reiterated its strong preference for no changes. Mr. Bachar Bong, ACABQ Chair, introduced the Advisory Committee’s eponymous report.
Also today, the Committee took stock of progress on the renovations of the North Building of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago, with Pakistan’s delegate emphasizing the importance of effective governance, oversight, internal control and accountability on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.
In introducing the Secretary-General’s report, Maria Costa, Director of the Finance Division of the Office of Programme Planning, Finance and Budget, said the renovations are expected to be completed by the end of 2024. The one-year delay, she noted, reflects a new bidding process and the unforeseen cancellation of tender. Mr. Bachar Bong, ACABQ Chair, introduced his related report and requested the Assembly to appropriate $640,400 for the project in 2023.
Also before the Committee was a statistical report of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) on the budgetary and financial situation of United Nations organizations presented by Federica Pietracci, Senior Programme Management Officer of the CEB Secretariat.
Representative of the United Kingdom and Chile (on behalf of a group of Latin American and Caribbean States) also spoke today.
The Fifth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 4 November, to consider appointments, including to fill vacancies in subsidiary organs.
Conditions of Service: Judges
MIGUEL MOURATO GORDO, Director of the Global Strategy and Policy Division of the Office of Human Resources, introduced the Secretary-General’s eponymous report (document A/77/346). He said Part I focuses on salaries and other conditions of service and has been prepared in accordance with General Assembly resolution 65/258 which re-established a three-year review cycle. Since the Secretary-General is proposing no changes to the current conditions of service, there are no financial implications, he noted.
Part II, he continued, provides a refined review of the pension scheme options for members as requested by the Assembly in resolution 75/253B. It also provides updated information on estimated cashflows for projected benefits up to 2061 and includes some of the considerations expressed by the Court in favour of preserving the current pension scheme. In line with the Court’s Statute, any changes to the scheme will not impact the pensions of serving or retired judges if those changes are less favourable than the current arrangements, he noted. The Court reiterated its strong preference for the option of no change, stating that the current scheme is satisfactory and in accordance with its Statute and the principles of equality and independence.
ABDALLAH BACHAR BONG, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced the Advisory Committee’s related report on the conditions of service and compensation for members of the Court and the President and judges of the Residual Mechanism (document A/77/7/Add.7). The Advisory Committee recommends the Assembly maintain the current remuneration system and other conditions of service.
The report, he noted, indicates that the Court has expressed a strong preference for the option of no change. Upon enquiry, the Advisory Committee was provided with details on the annuity variation presented under Option B — a lump‑sum payment from payroll to a retiring judge, in lieu of providing any pension benefits — and was informed that those details were not considered by the Court. In recommending that the current pension scheme of the judges be maintained, the Advisory Committee encourages the Assembly to request the Secretary-General to continue to refine the review of the pension scheme, including the use of the lump sum to purchase an annuity in the open market from a life insurer, he said. The Secretary-General should provide a report to the Assembly at its eightieth session.
JIBRAN KHAN DURRANI (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, spotlighted several changes which have been implemented to improve the overall conditions of service of the members of the International Court of Justice and the International Residual Mechanism. Such changes include a revised education grant scheme for members and updated language on applicable travel and subsistence regulations in line with the new relocation package for staff in the Professional and higher categories. In noting that the four retirement options were conducted mainly with in‑house expertise, he encouraged the Secretary-General to utilize in-house expertise whenever possible. He then reaffirmed his support for the Assembly to fix the salary and allowances of judges. Equality among judges is a basic principle of the system of international adjudication of disputes among States, he emphasized.
Construction and Property Management
MARIA COSTA, Director of the Finance Division of the Office of Programme Planning, Finance and Budget, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the progress of the renovation of the North Building of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Chile (document A/77/315). She said the report provides an update on progress, actions taken to achieve a “net-zero” building and an explanation for the cancellation of tender for the main renovation works. The report also details ECLAC’s actions to launch a rebidding tendering exercise under a multistage request for proposals methodology, with the competitive dialogue stage expected to start in the first week of this month.
The project, she continued, is progressing according to its objectives regarding seismic mitigation measures, energy efficiency and compliance with codes and health and safety standards. The updated anticipated completion date — the end of 2024 — reflects the one-year delay due to the unforeseen cancellation of tender. The project management team is monitoring issues which could potentially impact the project to identify and discuss mitigation measures as part of the competitive dialogue. The latest Monte Carlo analysis indicates that the confidence level of the project being completed within the approved budget has decreased to 14 per cent, she noted. The report also sets out proposed actions for the Assembly in section VIII.
Mr. BACHAR BONG, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, introduced that body’s eponymous report on renovation progress (document A/77/7/Add.8). He said the Advisory Committee recommends the Assembly appropriate an amount of $640,400 for the project in 2023 — comprising $24,800 under section 21 (Economic and social development in Latin America and the Caribbean) and $615,600 under section 33 (Construction, alteration, improvement and major maintenance) — which would represent a charge against the contingency fund.
In expressing concern over the one-year completion delay, the Advisory Committee requests the Secretary-General to provide further information thereon to the Assembly at the time of its consideration of the present report and in the next progress report, he said. The Secretary-General should also include information on the cost-effectiveness of the advance purchase of materials and the measures taken to address their deterioration over time. Turning to the proactive measures of the ECLAC project management team, he said the Advisory Committee trusts that the Secretary-General will continue to monitor and mitigate the escalation level and project risks to ensure the timely delivery of the project within its scope and budget. The Secretary-General should also continue to engage with other Member States on voluntary contributions, in-kind contributions and other forms of support for the project, he added.
Mr. KHAN DURRANI (Pakistan), speaking again for the Group of 77 and China, emphasized the importance of close cooperation between the Organization and the host country. To ensure success for the project, the Secretary-General must continue to engage the local government, he said. As a physical presence with historical significance, ECLAC promotes the sustainable development of the Latin America and Caribbean region and serves as a hub for development cooperation, the gathering of information and the creation of ideations. It has been relentlessly active through various political movements in the region and has been a bastion for the developing countries that give life to it, he pointed out. In noting that the new building will consume 41 to 48 per cent less energy, he encouraged the Secretary-General to continue knowledge-sharing practices amongst other construction projects.
Effective governance, oversight, internal control and accountability are vital to ensuring that the project is implemented within the approved budget and timetable, he stressed. As such, the Secretary-General must abide by the project’s approved scope, budget and timeline for completion by the end of 2024. The Secretary-General should also undertake all efforts to mitigate the risks related to the ongoing tendering process and the construction planning phase, he added.
JOSÉ ANTONIO GONZÁLEZ SESE (Chile), speaking also on behalf of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Santa Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela, highlighted ECLAC’s continuous efforts to enhance the region’s economic and social development. In noting his Government’s in-kind contributions, he encouraged ECLAC to work closely with its host country and local authorities. The objective of the North Building renovation project is to provide ECLAC with a fully renovated, code-compliant space in a seismically and functionally safe building that meets or exceeds industry standards, contributes to a more productive and sustainable working environment and provides an additional 40 to 50 years of use. The project, he continued, will result in reduced greenhouse‑gas emissions and operational cost savings. The final design also addresses the implementation of a comprehensive strategy for the inclusion of people with disabilities, he noted.
In expressing hope that the new bidding process will be successful, he encouraged the Secretary-General to mitigate the risks related to this process and the project’s construction phase. The Secretary-General should provide updates on risk management and mitigation measures in future progress reports, he added while concurring with the recommendation of the Advisory Committee to allocate $640,400 for the project in 2023. He also supported the proposal to continue the temporary Procurement Officer (P3) position for the period from January to April 2023.
United Nations Common System — Jurisdictional Setup
CATHERINE POLLARD, Under-Secretary-General for Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the review of the jurisdictional setup of the United Nations common system (document A/77/222). She said the report presents detailed proposals and an analysis of practical options to promote consistency in the system-wide implementation of decisions and recommendations of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC). In stressing that this is not an academic exercise, she spotlighted the many financial, administrative and legal challenges created by the divergent jurisprudence of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Administrative Tribunal and the United Nations Appeals Tribunal concerning the ICSC’s authority to establish post-adjustment multipliers. The reports proposals aim to avoid a similar scenario in the future which undermines the integrity and cohesion of the common system as a whole.
Proposal 1, she noted, sets out certain steps that responding legal offices should take during the litigation of cases involving ICSC recommendations or decisions. Proposal 2 sets out the steps to be taken when a tribunal issues a decision in such a case, including guidance from ICSC. Both proposals, she pointed out, are situated in the existing legal framework, do not require any further work, reflect best practice and do not entail additional costs. The Assembly should encourage all organizations and ICSC to implement them, she emphasized.
Proposal 3 provides the key elements of a joint chamber, she said. Comprising judges from both tribunals, it would be empowered to issue one or more types of rulings on matters concerning the recommendations and decisions of ICSC. While this proposal requires changes to the legal framework, it nevertheless directly addresses the issue at hand without jeopardizing the coexistence of the two tribunal systems and their independence. A joint chamber providing clarity and consistency would minimize the risks inherent to having dual jurisdiction ruling on matters that concern the common system, she explained. As maintaining the status quo is not tenable, she recommended that the proposal be finalized in time for the Assembly’s seventy-eighth session. The required further preparatory work, she noted, would occur through close cooperation with ILO and relevant stakeholders, and would require a continuation of existing temporary resources.
Mr. BACHAR BONG, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, introduced that body’s related report on the review of the jurisdictional set-up of the United Nations common system (document A/77/531). In recalling the respective roles of the Assembly and ICSC in approving, regulating and coordinating conditions of service and entitlements for all staff, he said the Advisory Committee stressed the importance of preserving a single, unified and coherent common system.
Regarding proposal 1 on facilitating submissions of ICSC to the tribunals during litigation, the Advisory Committee recalled that Assembly resolution 76/240 requested the Secretary-General to review the legal expertise available to the Commission and report thereon at the Assembly’s seventy-seventh session. On proposal 2 to facilitate guidance of ICSC following tribunal judgements, the Advisory Committee further recalled Assembly resolution 74/255 A which requested that the executive heads of organizations within the common system consult with the Commission in cases involving its recommendations and decisions before the tribunals.
Turning to proposal 3 on establishing a joint chamber to issue interpretive, preliminary and/or appellate rulings in cases involving ICSC recommendations or decisions, he reiterated the Advisory Committee’s view that greater exchanges between the tribunals would be beneficial. The Assembly should receive further clarifications on the legal authority of the proposed types of rulings, he noted. The Secretary-General should also provide detailed cost estimates for the three proposals in his next report. Concerning the proposed resources for the further review of the jurisdictional set-up of the system, he said the Advisory Committee recommends the approval of $505,000 for 2023. The Assembly, he continued, should receive an update on the timeline for the finalization of the proposals.
Mr. KHAN DURRANI (Pakistan), speaking again the Group of 77 and China, reiterated his commitment to a single, unified common system. ICSC, he continued, has crucial role as a cornerstone for the regulation and coordination of the conditions of service of the common system. Since its inception in 1975, ICSC has constantly established post adjustment multipliers for duty stations worldwide in accordance with articles 10 and 11 of its Statute. Judgements 4134 to 4138 of the ILO Administrative Tribunal on the post adjustment for Geneva therefore threaten the very existence of the common system, he emphasized. How did the Tribunal arrive at a ruling that ICSC “did not have the power to decide, by itself, the level of post adjustments for a duty station”, he wondered with perplexity. In reaffirming the ICSC mandate to continue to establish post adjustment multipliers, he said discussions should further clarify and enhance the ICSC Statute to deliver in full independence. Enhanced consultations with stakeholders will help ICSC in reaching its decisions, he encouraged.
GINA ANDREA SCHMIED (Switzerland), speaking also on behalf of Liechtenstein, expressed regret over the current fragmentation of the common system due to the conflicting rulings of the two tribunals. A strong and unified common system, she noted, ensures consistency and equity in the working conditions and remuneration for all employees. The Assembly’s clarifications and affirmations on the post adjustment multiplier have not resolved the problem, she lamented. While Member States did not create the current challenge of the common system, they are the only ones who hold the key to a sustainable solution. To that end, the Fifth Committee and Assembly must have the necessary legal clarifications and must consult with all involved parties, she said.
Turning to proposals 1 and 2, she expressed her support and suggested that closer interactions between the tribunals would be beneficial. On the development of a joint chamber in proposal 3, she requested legal, procedural and financial clarifications. As staff are the most valuable asset of the common system, the balance between the effective delivery of mandates and the efficient use of resources, as well as the ability to attract and retain the right staff in an increasingly competitive market must be maintained, she emphasized.
REBECCA VINEY (United Kingdom) expressed her concern over the continued application of two concurrent multipliers in Geneva, its discrepancies in the terms of conditions of empowerment for staff and its effects on the stability of the common system of salaries and allowances. Since ICSC has the statutory authority to establish post adjustment multipliers, all organizations must implement its multipliers, she said. In the short term, Member States must find a solution which resolves the current divergence. Any proposal — including solutions which more explicitly state the statutory authority of ICSC — must enjoy support from all organizations of the common system, she noted. In the long term, Member States must ensure the solution prevents this from happening again, she urged.
DANIIL A. DEVYATKIN (Russian Federation), in highlighting that Member States have been discussing the system-wide impacts of ILO’s debatable judgements for more than three years, underlined the growing number of questions and concerns. If the issue of the post adjustment multiplier can be so smoothly and easily solved through a clarification of ICSC’s status, why was this not proposed earlier, he asked. Don’t such changes legitimize the practice of providing alternative multipliers to organizations which disagree with the results of ICSC’s cost‑of‑living surveys, he wondered. The recent decisions by the governing bodies of a number of specialized agencies provide excellent food for thought, he said before expressing his doubts over the productivity of changing ICSC’s status. On the issue of jurisdictional set-up, he expressed his support to the Secretary-General and called for appeal powers. Otherwise, this chamber will turn into yet another coordination mechanism with highly restrictive advisory functions whose interpretive and preliminary judgments would be ignored, he cautioned. There must also be a review of restrictive measures for organizations which do not fully implement the ICSC’s decisions and rulings, he added.
OLGA ROMANOVA (United States) noted that her country sees merit in the proposal to amend the ICSC Statute to eliminate any perceived legal ambiguity regarding its authority and to clearly align the Statute with current practice. Such a decision, however, should not be taken lightly, she cautioned. All stakeholders must proactively engage in a robust, due‑diligence process to build confidence in the proposed way forward. The united and resolute actions of the Assembly can finally establish system-wide cohesion and end several years of turbulence on United Nations compensation, she encouraged. On the issue of jurisdictional set-up, she reiterated her support for the Secretary-General’s proposal to establish a joint chamber. All elements must be considered carefully and weighed against potential costs, she urged before expressing her concern over what seems to be an uncollaborative tone of some respondents. All parties must affirm their fullest intent to support the efforts concerning divergent jurisprudence, she emphasized.
Budgetary and Financial Situation of Organizations of United Nations System
FEDERICA PIETRACCI, Senior Programme Management Officer of the Secretariat of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), introduced that body’s statistical report on the budgetary and financial situation of the organizations of the United Nations system (document A/77/507). As the only system-wide source of financial statistics, the report bases its figures on official data from entities’ audited financial statements and presents data covering the period from 2015 to 2021 with a focus on revenues and expenses for the years 2020 to 2021.
She said the report responds to Assembly resolutions 61/611 and 71/243 by introducing and incorporating six new standards (United Nations entity, system function, geographic location, grant financing instruments, Sustainable Development Goals and contributor) to provide quality, timely and relevant data. The report also includes two additional entities: the International Seabed Authority and United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa. In noting that the Department of Economic and Social Affairs is using the data the CEB collected for its own report on operational activities for development, she highlighted the reduced reporting burden on organizations.
In preparing the report, the CEB Secretariat provided greater details on the revenue received from non-Member State donors, she said. Table 2B reflects a column to separately disclose the amounts reported as contributions from inter‑agency pooled funds. There have also been significant advances in the granularity of reporting, she noted, as 77 per cent of expenses in 2021 were reported at the country or regional level and under the Sustainable Development Goals standard. Both respectively provide greater transparency in where resources are being used and on how financial flowers are delivering on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, she said. A detailed breakdown of expenses by geographic location and goal will be pushed on the CEB Secretariat’s website, she indicated. Turning to the report’s data, she noted their alignment with the financial statements of each organization. Revenue is reported by four major categories (assessed contributions; voluntary contributions, not specified; voluntary contributions, specified; and revenue from other activities), as are expenses (development assistance; humanitarian assistance; peace operations; and global agenda and specialized assistance).
Going forward, the Board will aim to increase users’ ability to access raw data and perform analyses by providing downloadable tables on the CEB Secretariat website, she said. This would improve the wealth of data available to Member States and other stakeholders while concurrently improving transparency, accessibility and readability, she emphasized.