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Source:
11 December 2006


General Assembly
GA/AB/3779

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-first General Assembly
Fifth Committee
28th & 29th Meetings (AM & PM)

FIFTH COMMITTEE CONSIDERS BUDGET IMPLICATIONS OF GENERAL ASSEMBLY TEXTS

ON DAMAGE REGISTER, DISABILITIES CONVENTION, LAW OF SEA
 
Vote Required – 116–6–1 – for Budget Statement on Register
Of Damage Caused by Construction of Wall in Palestinian Territory

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Background

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today was expected to take up programme budget implications of several resolutions before the Assembly.

According to the statement on programme budget implications of draft resolution A/ES-10/L.20 on the establishment of the United Nations register of damage caused by the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (document A/C.5/61/13), an additional appropriation in the amount of some $3.1 million would be required, should the text be adopted.  No provision has been made in the 2006-2007 budget in relation to the activities that would be requested under the draft and, at the current stage, it is not possible to identify activities that could be eliminated, deferred, curtailed or modified in order to absorb the additional requirements.

The additional requirements relate to the establishment and maintenance of the Register of Damage, as requested in the draft, for a one-year period from 1 January to 31 December 2007.  The amount of almost $3.1 million would cover the salaries and common staff costs for members of the Board, to be engaged on a “when actually employed” basis, and 14 Professional and 11 General Service staff, as well as official travel of the members, requirements for facilities and infrastructure, a community outreach programme, and equipment and communications charges.

The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), in a related report (document A/61/614) notes the additional estimated requirements for the programme budget for 2006-2007 in connection with the draft.  According to the report, the ACABQ was informed that these cost estimates reflect the application of a 50 per cent vacancy factor for 2007.  Upon request, it was provided additional information on the estimated annual requirements at full cost, which are currently estimated at some $3.92 million.  The Advisory Committee also received additional information on the proposed organizational structure and, in this regard, the resources for the Verification and Assessment Unit, the rationale for the establishment of a position of a Coordination Officer at the P-4 level in the Office of the Executive Director and the need for a P-4 level post in the Claims Processing Unit.

Since information on the assumptions as to how soon the Verification and Assessment Unit could become operational, and justification of each Professional post, as well as confirmation of whether the functions to be established had been classified by the Office of Human Resources Management, could not be provided in time for the issuance of the ACABQ report, the Advisory Committee requests that it be provided to the Fifth Committee at the time of its consideration of the budget implications statement.  The ACABQ trusts that staff will be brought on board consistent with operational requirements as they arise.

In connection with the estimate of 2007 non-staff costs totalling $799,300, the Advisory Committee states that every effort should be made to draw upon existing available resources to the maximum extent possible.  Such savings in respect of 2006-2007 as may be identified should be reflected in the performance report for the biennium.  The Advisory Committee proposes that ongoing requirements, including the numbers and grade levels of posts, as well as the need for non-staff resources, be fully justified in the 2008-2009 budget proposal.

The Advisory Committee recommends that the Fifth Committee report to the Assembly that, should it adopt draft resolution A/ES-10/L.20, an additional appropriation of up to $3.1 million would be required under section 3, Political affairs ($2,812,000), and section 35, Staff assessment ($286,700), to be offset by the same amount under Income section 1, Income from staff assessment, of the programme budget for the biennium 2006-2007, for the establishment and maintenance of the Register of Damage.

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Introduction of Documents

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Presenting related oral reports of the ACABQ, RAJAT SAHA, Chairman of the Advisory Committee, ...

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On draft resolution A-ES-10/L.20, he recalled that, in document A/61/614, the ACABQ recommended that the Fifth Committee report to the Assembly that, should it adopt the draft, an additional appropriation of up to some $3.1 million would be required for 2006-2007.

Statements

HITOSHI KOZAKI ( Japan) ...

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As for the statement on the Register of Damage contained in document A/ES-10/L.20, he said that he was aware of the ongoing discussion on the Register and of the fact that the outcome of that discussion might have repercussions for establishing the Register.  He also had to carefully analyse the just provided information, on which he might need guidance.

IAN FLUSS ( Israel) said resolution A/ES-10/L.20 was an expansion of the contents of the Secretary-General’s report A/ES-10/361, which was a politicization of the issue.  The security fence, however, was not a political issue, but one of security, as Palestinian terror was the issue.  The fence saved lives.  The moment there was no longer terror, the fence would no longer be necessary.  Compensation was already regulated by the Israeli judicial system.  The resolution was inconsistent with the intention of “uniting for peace”.

The meeting recessed for consultations.

When the meeting resumed almost two hours later, the Secretary of the Committee, MOVSES ABELIAN, informed the Committee that copies were being made of the latest proposed draft decision on the Register of Damage, by the terms of which the Committee would endorse the observations and recommendations of the Advisory Committee and reaffirm rule 153 of the rules of procedure of the General Assembly (which states that no resolution in respect of which expenditures are anticipated shall be voted by the Assembly until the Fifth Committee has had an opportunity to state the effect of the proposal upon the budget of the United Nations).

It would further appropriate up to $3.1 million under section 3, Political affairs ($2.81 million), and section 35, Staff assessment ($286,700), to be offset by the same amount under Income section 1, Income from staff assessment, of the programme budget for the biennium 2006-2007, for the establishment and maintenance of the Register of Damage.

KAREN LOCK (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, asked that copies of the draft be distributed in the room prior to the suspension of the meeting, which would resume at 3 p.m. to take action on all three budget implication statements.

The meeting was then adjourned until 3 p.m.

Action

The Committee turned to the oral draft decision on A/ES-10/L.20.

In asking for a vote on the draft decision, DANIEL CARMON ( Israel) stressed it had not been an easy request, as Israel firmly believed in the process of consensus.  The technical character of the Committee had been tainted by politics, however, as the current draft statement on programme budget implications was a political resolution.  That political agenda could be seen in the startlingly detailed description of the Register, as well as the exorbitant figure and large staffing asked for.

He said a mechanism for compensation already existed in Israel, with 140 cases reviewed and more than $1.5 million paid by Israel to individuals and organizations.  Another mechanism, paid for by the taxpayers of the Member States, would be a waste of money.  As the United Nations underwent a process of reform, it was counterproductive to demand financing of such a costly mechanism.  Millions of dollars were already expended on resolutions on the Palestinian issue coming out of the “automatic majority”.  More than 20 resolutions on the issue were adopted annually.  A whole division in the Secretariat was dedicated to manipulating the Palestinian cause, rather than seeking peace.  A solution of the conflict would only be settled through negotiations of the two parties.  If the technical Fifth Committee had not accepted the infiltration of politics in its debate, the current debate would not have been necessary.

The Committee then approved the oral draft decision on the budget implications of draft resolution A/ES-10/L.20 by a recorded vote of 116 in favour to 6 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 1 abstention (Republic of Moldova).  (See annex.)

The representative of the Niger said that she had pressed the green button, but the machine was already locked.  She wanted it to be noted that she had voted in favour of the draft.

Armenia’s representative also asked for her vote to be registered as a positive one.

Japan’s representative, in explanation of vote, said that the decision had been taken while discussion on draft resolution L.20 was ongoing and should not be used by delegations for political purposes.  Should the need arise, the Fifth Committee would act in accordance with established procedure.

The representative of Finland, speaking in explanation of position on behalf of the European Union, said that the Union had supported the draft decision on the budget implications statement submitted by the Secretary-General.  It also supported the comments by the ACABQ, particularly in paragraphs 6 and 7 of its report (document A/61/614).  The Union noted that the discussions on the substance of L.20 were still ongoing, and the position on the budget implications was without prejudice to those deliberations.  Any substantive changes to the text would give rise to the application of rule 153 of the rules of procedure.  She added that it was time to restore the working methods of the Fifth and reaffirmed the consensus principle in the Committee.

The representative of the United States said that his country consistently opposed the Register as contemplated by A/ES-10/L.20.  That clearly political mandate came at a destructive time and diverted attention from practical efforts for achieving peace and security for both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.  Moreover, the draft decision before the Committee today supported a resolution that went well beyond what had been requested in A/ES-10/15.  The Assembly’s resolution called upon the Secretary-General to establish a Register of Damage.  Now the Committee sought to approve funding for a draft resolution that included the components of verification and assessment that both further politicized the matter and would cost substantial sums to all Member States.

As the report of the Secretary-General stated, the act of registration of damage, as such, would not entail an evaluation or an assessment of the loss or damage claimed, he continued.  In addition to his delegation’s continuing opposition to the establishment of any Register, he strongly opposed the expansion of the mandate of the registry by the action the Committee was taking today.  At nearly $4 million per year, with no provision for the mandate to be either reviewed or concluded, it was committing scarce financial resources for a political statement.  Today’s action continued to raise questions regarding the efficacy of the United Nations at a time when it was failing to institute reform and the world faced so many challenges that went unaddressed.

In conclusion, he said that his delegation voted against the draft decision because the United States opposed the establishment of the Register, the expansion of its mandate in today’s action, and concerns about the large and open-ended financial commitment to that politically charged mandate.

The representative of Australia said her country had opposed the draft resolution on the legal consequences of the building of the wall and continued to oppose the Assembly’s treatment of the matter.  Israel already had a mechanism for settling damages as a result of the construction of the wall.  The proposed registry would not advance the issue of peace.  As Australia did not support the draft resolution, it also did not support the required resources.

The representative of South Africa, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, thanked the Committee’s Chairman and all delegations who had made today’s action on the budget implication statement possible.  The Group of 77 had the longstanding position that the Committee was a technical, not a political body.  As a rule, the Group supported the budget implication statement before it.  The Group also strongly supported rule 153 of the rules of procedure, whereby the Committee had to report to the Assembly on resource requirements as a result of draft resolutions.  The Group of 77 and China had supported the current statement on budget implications as it would any other budget implication statement.

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ANNEX

Vote on Budget Implications of United Nations Register

The oral draft decision on the budget implications of a draft resolution on the establishment of the United Nations Register of Damage caused by the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was approved by a recorded vote of 116 in favour to 6 against, with 1 abstention, as follows:

In favour:  Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Against:  Australia, Canada, Israel, Nauru, Palau, United States.

Abstain:  Moldova.

Absent:  Afghanistan, Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominica, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Kazakhstan, Kiribati, Latvia, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Mozambique, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Suriname, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu.


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For information media • not an official record

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