Seventy-eighth Session,
34th Meeting (AM)

Sending 7 Drafts to General Assembly, Fifth Committee Approves Funding for New Mechanism on Missing Persons in Syria, Liquidating Sudan Peacekeeping Mission

Several Speakers Call for Return to Four-Week Cycle, Better Time Management, as First Part of Resumed Session Concludes

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today concluded the first part of its resumed seventy-eighth session by sending the General Assembly seven decisions and resolutions, including its approval of funding a new institution tasked with finding the fate and whereabouts of all missing persons in Syria.

The Committee had before it several texts, including a draft resolution titled “Revised estimates relating to the Independent Institution on Missing Persons in the Syrian Arab Republic” (document A/C.5/78/L.30).  The Albania-led draft would have the Assembly appropriate nearly $3 million for the mechanism, including for the establishment of 28 posts, for the period of 1 April to 31 December 2024.

However, Syria’s representative insisted that launching such an institution is blatant interference in its internal affairs, and tabled a counter-proposal (document A/C.5/78/L.29) by which the Assembly would reject the allocation of any resources to the mechanism.

The representative of Belgium, speaking for the European Union, expressed regret that “L.29” was introduced despite the Assembly approval of the institution, calling on all delegations to block the draft.

The Committee then rejected “L.29” by a recorded vote of 13 in favour to 70 against, with 43 abstentions, and adopted “L.30” by a recorded vote of 71 in favour to 12 against, with 46 abstentions.

Speaking after the votes, the representative of Syria said that the institution only concerns the States that established it.  “So, it is unacceptable to force other States to finance this institution,” he said, disassociating his country from the adoption of “L.30”.  

“These funds aren’t necessary and could be used in a better fashion to support humanitarian efforts and development efforts rather than wasting them on politicized entities that serve the interests of certain Member States,” said Venezuela’s delegate. 

China’s representative said that funding the institution from the regular budget would only aggravate the liquidity crisis of the United Nations, stating:  “This amount of money should be used in supporting the capacity building-of the Syrian Arab Republic rather than establishing a fully controversial mechanism.”

Several other delegations, including Iran, Nicaragua, Cuba, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea, Belarus and the Russian Federation, also disassociated themselves from “L.30”, arguing that the establishment of the mechanism contravened Syria’s sovereignty.

Moving along, the Committee then adopted, without a vote, a draft resolution (document A/C.5/78/L.32), by which the Assembly would approve $22.16 million for the transition and liquidation of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in the Sudan (UNITAMS), which would supersede previously approved $21.5 million in commitment authority.

The Committee also adopted without a vote a draft resolution titled “Joint Inspection Unit” (document A/C.5/78/L.34), which would have the Assembly invite the Executive Heads of participating United Nations system organizations to implement accepted recommendations of the Unit in a timely manner. 

Also acting without a vote, the Committee adopted a draft resolution titled “Amendments to the Staff Regulations and Rules” (document A/C.5/78/L.35), by which the Assembly would decide not to approve the proposed amendments to the Staff Regulations and direct that the provisional Staff Rules be withdrawn in accordance with Regulation 12.3.

Further, the Committee adopted two draft decisions (document A/C.5/78/L.33) without a vote, informing the Assembly about programme budget implications related to the Agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas beyond National Jurisdiction and Ad Hoc Committee to Elaborate a Comprehensive International Convention on Countering the Use of Information and Communications Technologies for Criminal Purposes.

The Committee also adopted, without a vote, a draft decision titled “Questions deferred for future consideration” (document A/C.5/78/L.36), by which the Assembly would decide to defer consideration of some issues, including supply chain management.

In closing, Committee members shared their reflections on the five-week session.  Many advocated for a return to a four-week session, saying that a one-week extension was unnecessary and wasteful.  

“Our output from the past five weeks has been dismal,” said the representative of the United States, citing failures to exercise meaningful oversight of personnel compensation, which is the largest cost driver; extend measures for seconding active-duty military staff to the United Nations; address the mental health needs and well-being of the UN workforce; and guide the Organization’s procurement policies and supply chain management.

In the same vein, the representative of Uganda, speaking on behalf of Group of 77 and China, noted that the Committee has failed for 10 years to adopt a resolution on supply chain and procurement. 

The very low number of negotiated outcomes and deferral of most items to future sessions should serve as a reminder of the need to better utilize time, said the representative of Ethiopia, who spoke for the African Group.

Japan’s representative expressed regret that the Committee could not reach a consensus to adopt a comprehensive resolution on human resource management this time, thus failing to give solid guidance to the Secretary-General.

The United Kingdom’s delegate proposed to shorten the length of this session, biannualize and triannualize selected items, progress the timeline for publication of reports, and improve access to supplementary information. 

China’s representative attributed the difficulty in completing deliberations to the delayed issuance of reports. 

“Our Committee is notorious for our poor time management and late-night negotiations,” said the representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer.  “Yet, at the same time, we are exemplary as being one of the last main bodies of the General Assembly that still decide by consensus."

For information media. Not an official record.