Urging Fifth Committee to Support 2024 Budget, Secretary-General Says Proposals Demonstrate Commitment to United Nations’ Goals, Needs of Governments, Peoples

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), in New York today:

I welcome this opportunity to introduce the proposed programme budget for 2024.  This budget is being put forward as we face challenges on every front.  Conflicts are disrupting the lives and livelihoods of millions.

The nuclear threat is growing.  Human rights are under assault and humanitarian needs are at record levels.  Inequalities are growing wider and the prospects of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are growing more distant.  And climate disasters are becoming more frequent, more deadly and more costly.

One in three countries is at high risk of a fiscal crisis and almost half of those in extreme poverty live in countries with severe fiscal problems.  The role of the United Nations has never been more vital and we are stepping up our efforts.

We have put forward Our Common Agenda to help accelerate implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and build a more inclusive, networked and effective multilateralism for the twenty-first century.

I have proposed an SDG Stimulus to scale up affordable, long-term financing for developing countries to help rescue the SDGs and I want to pay tribute to all Member States for the consensus achieved in the SDG Declaration that I consider one of the most important documents ever adopted by the General Assembly.

We are advocating a Climate Solidarity Pact and Acceleration Agenda to help tackle the climate crisis before it is too late.  On these and so many other fronts, we are determined to advance peace, sustainable development and human rights.

The 2024 programme budget proposals reflect our commitment to improving people’s lives and ensuring a culture of continuous improvement to effectively and efficiently deliver on our mandates. Our investments in reform are reaping dividends.  The resident coordinator system is providing enhanced, concerted support to countries for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Fully 88 per cent of host Governments indicated that resident coordinators provide effective and strategic leadership in support of their national plans and priorities.  All least developed countries and landlocked developing countries surveyed said the UN’s activities were closely aligned with their needs and priorities.  And all small island developing States indicated that collaboration between UN entities has improved since the reforms.

However, the continued effectiveness of the entire UN development system will depend on the extent to which we can secure sufficient and predictable funding.  The peace and security reforms have allowed us to begin implementing comprehensive regional strategies, leading to greater harmonization of action with regional and subregional organizations and other stakeholders.

There is now a single point of contact for peacekeeping and special political missions operating in the same region, with distinct but complementary mandates.  A strengthened Peacebuilding Support Office now serves as a dedicated “hinge” with the development pillar.

These gains can be solidified with a favourable decision by this Committee on my request for predictable and sustained funding from assessed contributions to the Peacebuilding Fund.

And I would like to stress that all the countries that benefit from this fund are unanimous in recognizing the fund's effectiveness, the speed of its action, and above all, its multiplier effect, in particular by allowing other financial instruments, including international development banks, to also join the fund's efforts.  This multiplier effect is extremely important for developing countries that do not have easy access to other sources of financing.

Our management reforms are focused on continuous improvement efforts.  Policy and operational support are more targeted and tailored.  We have increased our field and results orientation — becoming ever more nimble and agile.  And we are simplifying our policies and processes.  We are also further strengthening internal controls and increasing transparency over the use of resources.

More information has been made available to Member States and the Advisory Committee through portals — namely the Budget Information Pilot and the Budget Results Dashboard [at] — with better capabilities to retrieve and analyse resource and programmatic information.

We have rolled out an integrated performance management and reporting capability that will in the future provide greater visibility to programme performance as we broaden its coverage and ensure consistent adoption.

Member States have access to more information on staff and demographics through the new UN Secretariat Workforce portal.  The Uniformed Capabilities Support Portal provides visibility to troop- and police-contributing countries over the payment of their reimbursements and conclusion of memoranda of understanding.

But, the success of our efforts to improve programme delivery depends on the availability of cash.  Our liquidity situation has worsened this year with lesser collections through the end of the third quarter.  Specifically, we have collected only 64 per cent this year compared to 71.9 per cent in 2022 and 82.7 per cent in 2021.

This starts to be a very worrying trend in which payments are made later in the year, which creates as you can imagine an extremely difficult management problem.  In August, we had to borrow the entire balance of the Working Capital Fund.  In October, we will have to borrow from the Special Account.  In November, we will come close to exhausting the surplus cash of Closed Tribunals, creating a crisis of payment unless collections improve.

To align cash outflows with reserves, temporary cash management measures were introduced in mid-July in the hope of discontinuing them by end of September.  Unfortunately, we had to introduce additional measures in September.

As in the recent past, programme managers will strive to minimize the negative impact on programme delivery.  But, protracted cash conservation measures, including the suspension of hiring, will impact the delivery of some mandates.  Even in the best-case scenario, we will be starting 2024 with less cash than 2023 because we have returned credits at the beginning of 2023.

This illustrates the absurdity of our budget rules — that we have to return money that we could not spend during the year because we did not receive it on time.  Therefore, unless the cash situation improves drastically before the end of the year, programme delivery in 2024 is likely to be impacted even more significantly.

I thank the 137 Member States that have paid their contributions in full.  I am encouraged that more Member States are paying earlier in full now than in the last 20 years, and appeal to all Member States to do so.

In December 2022, the General Assembly lifted the trial period and formalized the change to an annual budget period. We are grateful for the support and will continue to implement all the guidance from the General Assembly.

The format of the 2024 programme budget has stabilized. The programme plans for 2024 reflect our increased results-orientation.  Our 350 results frameworks continue to improve, moving further towards demonstrating the impact and positive change of our work on the ground.

More than 60 per cent of quantitative planned targets are now aiming to achieve a 10 per cent or more increase in performance.  This is an increase from 45 per cent in the 2023 plans. And from less than 30 per cent in the 2018-19 biennium.  We have reduced duplication in the strategies and deliverables, while maintaining the same level of information.

Our message is clear:  every programme manager must look carefully at every dollar spent and planned to be spent.  And they must constantly review and adjust programmatic activities to achieve planned results.  This will allow us to optimize resources for mandate delivery and focus even more effectively on results.

Let me now turn to the overall resource requirements in the proposed programme budget for 2024.  To fully implement our mandates, we will require a total of $3.3 billion.  This includes a total of 10,334 posts, a net increase of 199, excluding special political missions.  Most of the additional posts are required to implement new inter-governmental mandates.

We are also proposing the conversion of posts from extrabudgetary funding to provide appropriate, sustainable and predictable funding for mandated activities, mainly in the areas of counter-terrorism and human rights.

Further, you will consider later in the session, additional proposals for construction, revised estimates — including for our efforts to address racial discrimination in the Secretariat — and programme budget implications.

We have made every effort to find efficiencies that would enable us to allocate more resources towards direct implementation of mandated programmatic activities.  At the same time, resource requirements for support departments have reached the limit to ensure continued adequate policy, operation and communication support to programmatic areas.

Overall — excluding recosting, construction projects and new mandates — my proposed programme budget broadly remains at the 2023 level, and in real terms, below the 2019 budget level preceding my first annual programme budget.

I would like to highlight four specific elements.  First, we propose continued investment in sustainable development.  We are seeking an increase of $4 million for programmes in the development pillar. This is the fifth consecutive proposed increase for development.

As a result, resources for the Regular Programme of Technical Cooperation have increased by 30 per cent compared to the 2019 approved levels.

I have to say that I am a very strong supporter of this regular programme.  One thing is to spend money with our own posts; the other thing is to be able to spend money providing direct support to Governments in their action to promote development of their countries.  And I think that progressively we should have a budget organization in which this capacity to support Governments should increase in a substantial way.

And we are proposing a 25 per cent increase in the number of posts in OHRLLS [United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States] to increase our capacity to support least developed and landlocked countries, as well as small island developing States.

I am also seeking an increase of $700,000 for DESA [Department of Economic and Social Affairs] to implement the new mandate on enhancing global geospatial information management.  I am proposing a financing modality for the Development Account that will ensure that future resource levels will amount to 0.5 per cent of the approved budget of the prior year.  This will ensure more predictability and less fluctuation from year to year, which will support project planning and improve implementation rates.

Second, we seek to provide additional regular budget funding for human rights and UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East].  Based on last year’s guidance by the General Assembly, we are proposing an additional $15 million, to convert to regular budget funding, the operational costs related to executive and management functions of UNRWA, which has been reliant on extrabudgetary resources.  I cannot be more emphatic in relation to the needs of UNRWA.  We are all aware of how dramatically important it is for the Palestinian people and for peace and stability — the work of UNRWA.

Further, based on the Guidance from the General Assembly, we included new proposals for the consolidation of resources for mandates by the Human Rights Council in the proposed programme budget, to reduce fragmentation of budgetary proposals and allow for more predictability and better planning of resources used by the Office.

We are also including regular budget funding for growing demands under existing mandates, to support intergovernmental proceedings, to strengthen evaluation and to reduce the backlog of the treaty body process.

Third, we propose strengthening support to Member States to counter terrorism.  Our programme budget requests an additional $4.3 million, including 24 posts, for the Office of Counter-Terrorism, as a conversion from extrabudgetary resources, building on the proposals from last year.  This is in line with the guidance from the General Assembly.

And fourth, we need to strengthen data protection and privacy, and ensure the responsible flow, use and sharing of personal data by Secretariat entities in support of UN mandates.  As part of this effort, I am proposing the establishment of a small technical Office for Data Protection and Privacy to provide effective oversight, coordination and technical guidance on data protection and privacy management.

In addition, we are committed to strengthen multilingualism, as mandated by the General Assembly, by enabling simultaneous press releases in all six UN official languages.  This will allow us to amplify our voice, reach broader audiences and complement our social media and web presences.

Our 2024 budget demonstrates our commitment to strengthen our workforce and make it fit for purpose.  For instance, the rate of increase in the number of posts at the P-2 and P-3 levels is more than 10 times higher than the rate of increase of posts at the D-1 and above levels, which will help rejuvenate the Secretariat.

This is a significant reversal of past trends.  With this, the UN is also becoming increasingly less top-heavy.  Of the 10,334 total posts proposed in the 2024 budget, less than 5 per cent are proposed at the D-1 and above levels.

Our budget proposes a shift towards new skills, including in the areas of data, innovation, digital, foresight and behavioural science expertise, in line with my data strategy and the vision for a UN 2.0.

We are also sparing no effort to ensure that our workforce reflects the international character of the membership of the United Nations.  I commend the General Assembly’s decision to increase the number of geographical posts. This is critical to every dimension of our work.

We are currently revising our geographical representation strategy to focus on attracting more staff from countries that are un-or under-represented and this is, for me, an absolute priority in my guidance to our management department and to our managers in general.

Through our UN information centres, we are launching targeted outreach strategies in those countries.  In the same vein, we will strive to expand opportunities for recruitment from as wide a geographical basis as possible for all posts.  Let us not forget that the geographical posts have a specific indication, but the others have not.  And, so for the others we are really asking all our managers to have a clear priority in order to guarantee a balanced regional distribution, which to be honest, we have not inherited from the past.

We have maintained gender parity at senior levels, and based on current projections, we will be able to reach parity at an Organizational level by 2028, with some particular difficulties in relation to field operations.  And so, much work remains to achieve parity at every entity and every level.

Against this backdrop, I look forward to your support for the 2024 budget proposals, as we prepare our Organization to better respond to the needs and demands of governments and people.  I welcome this opportunity to engage with you today and assure you that our senior managers will continue to support your deliberations on these proposals.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.