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Source: General Assembly
17 November 2006


General Assembly
GA/AB/3774

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

Sixty-first General Assembly
Fifth Committee
22nd & 23rd Meetings (AM, PM & Night)

FIFTH COMMITTEE REQUIRES VOTE TO ADVISE ON IMPLICATIONS
 
OF GENERAL ASSEMBLY DRAFT RESOLUTION
 
Decision Approved 143-5-2;
Also takes up Resources for Commitment Authorities for Timor-Leste Mission


Following extended procedural discussions, numerous questions to the Secretariat and several suspensions of its two meetings today, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) decided to inform the General Assembly that, should it adopt a draft resolution at the conclusion of its emergency session on the question of Palestine this evening, calling for the dispatching of a fact-finding mission, there would be no additional requirements under the Organization’s 2006-2007 budget at the present stage.

By the terms of a draft decision that was approved by a recorded vote of 143 in favour to 5 against (Australia, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Palau, United States), with 2 abstentions (Canada, Kenya) (see annex), any additional resources, as may be necessary, would be reported in the context of the second performance report for the biennium.

The vote was requested by the representatives of the United States and Israel, who said that they could not support the draft resolution before the special session.  They also could not, thus, support the resources to implement that resolution.  Both believed that the draft was one-sided and biased against Israel.

Australia’s representative, explaining his negative vote on the draft decision, said the fact-finding mission that the Assembly would set up by its text would not serve any useful purpose in resolving the conflict in the Middle East.  Therefore, the inquiry should not be funded, even if from existing resources.  He had also voted against an inquiry that had already been set up by the Human Rights Council.  Thus, if he disagreed on the inquiry in the first place, he would certainly object to two such inquiries

The representatives of Finland (on behalf of the European Union) and Japan regretted that the practice of the Fifth Committee to take decisions by consensus had been deviated from, and South Africa’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, stressed the importance of the Committee acting as a technical body, and regretted that not all could join it in doing so.  He was not satisfied with the recommendations, but was of the view that, because of the time constraints, it was necessary to move ahead on the issue.

Action on the programme budget implications statement had been held up by a several-hour wait for the report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), which, in turn, was waiting for responses to its questions from Secretariat officials.  Once the report of the Advisory Committee became available, the United States representative raised several questions to the Chairman of the Advisory Committee, in particular wondering about possible overlap with a recent decision by the Human Rights Council to dispatch a similar fact-finding mission.

“We have waited all day for this, and we need to take action on the matter,” the representative of South Africa said on behalf of the Group of 77, urging quick action on the programme budget implications statement, for which the plenary was waiting.  During the wait for the ACABQ report presentation, he also said that ACABQ seemed to be resorting to a deliberate trick “to run the clock”, so that the special session would expire and the issue become moot.  He expressed regret that the Advisory Committee was becoming politicized, saying that, as a technical body, it should deal with the task at hand in a technical way.

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Background

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Programme Budget Implications of Assembly Draft

The Committee then turned to a statement of programme budget implications of draft resolution A/ES-10/L.19 on illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (document A/C.5/61/12), according to which the estimated costs of the fact-finding mission, as requested in operative paragraph 3 of the draft, would amount to $131,200.

Reporting to the Committee on the status of the ACABQ report on the matter, Mr. SAHA said that the Advisory Committee had begun its consideration of the matter this morning, posing a number of questions to the Secretariat.  While it had received some of the answers, the Secretariat was now preparing some additional information for ACABQ.  In the meantime, the Advisory Committee had not suspended its meeting and, as soon as the required information was compiled, it would resume its consideration on the matter.

KAREN LOCK (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, was very concerned that the Committee had been unable to act on the statement of programme budget implications that would soon be introduced.  She asked for a clarification on the timelines, which would also have an impact on the work of the plenary.  She asked if ACABQ would continue its work through lunchtime and wanted to know when the response would be submitted to the Fifth.

Mr. SAHA assured the Committee that the Advisory Committee would definitely look at the additional information, for which it was still waiting.  Upon receipt of the information they were waiting for, members of the Advisory Committee needed time to read the document and express their opinion on it.  Thus, he found it difficult to provide the time line.

Ms. LOCK said that it was not the intention of the Fifth Committee to get involved in the internal workings of ACABQ.  However, the General Assembly needed that response urgently, and she wanted assurances that ACABQ would be able to rise to the expectations.  The Group believed that the Committee was being placed in a difficult position, as it needed to take action by 3 p.m. to allow the plenary to take action on the draft before it.

However, she added, it was not the first time the Committee was asked to provide a statement of programme budget implications in a very short time.  On previous occasions, on a request from Member States, certain such statements of programme budget implications had been acted on quickly, some of them as oral decisions.  She hoped that, in this case, the Committee would be able to act in the same way.  The Committee had a report on the budget implications statement before it.  If ACABQ was unable able to provide its report, the Chairman of the Advisory Committee should inform the Fifth Committee of that situation and then it was up to the Assembly to decide on how to proceed.

KATJA PEHRMAN ( Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, stressed that it was normal practice for the Committee to have an ACABQ report before action was taken.  The practice should be respected in this case, as well.

MARK WALLACE ( United States) underscored the importance of relying on opinions of the experts from ACABQ.  It would be inappropriate to put pressure on the Advisory Committee before it could vet the subject carefully.

Mr. SAHA noted the concern expressed and comments made, and assured the delegates that they would be brought to the attention of the members of ACABQ.

Ms. LOCK ( South Africa) said that she appreciated the positive response and, as always, assured ACABQ of the full support of the Group of 77, which respected the guidance from the Advisory Committee.  The practice of the Committee should be respected -– and the practice was that, if the Assembly asked for the Advisory Committee’s guidance, it responded accordingly.  She stood ready to do what was needed to ensure action in the plenary today.

The Committee then adjourned the meeting, deciding to resume its work at 3 p.m.

At the opening of the afternoon session, the Committee was informed that no communication had been received from ACABQ on the status of its work.

Ms. LOCK (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, reiterated her concern regarding the time constraints faced by the Committee, as 3 p.m. had been set as the deadline for the Fifth Committee to provide its opinion on the matter.

The Secretary of the Committee said that the matter was in the hands of Member States.  A representative of the General Assembly and Economic and Social Council Affairs Division confirmed that the plenary had 10 more speakers for the afternoon, and it was scheduled to begin its session at 4 p.m.  Responding to another query from South Africa, the Secretary said that, depending on the decision of the Committee, at least 15 to 20 minutes would be needed for the preparation of a provisional Fifth Committee report.

Ms. LOCK reiterated that the Committee had a very tight time line and she wanted the urgency of the matter to be brought to the attention of the ACABQ.

( Canada) said that she had missed what the exact deadline before the Committee was and asked if ACABQ had been afforded the time to give the matter a thorough review.

Ms. LOCK said that she was surprised that questions were being asked about the urgency of the matter.  Purely based on the technical matter within the purview of the Fifth Committee, it had to consider a statement on programme budget implications so that the plenary could take action on the resolution before it at the end of the Assembly’s special session today.  The Committee had a responsibility, like with many other urgent budget statements, to respond to the Assembly’s request and conclude its consideration of the matter as quickly as possible.

The meeting was then suspended for 15 minutes.

Mr. SAHA, the Chairman of ACABQ, noted that he had suspended the meeting of the Advisory Committee to present a status report.  He said that, in the morning session, the Advisory Committee had asked for additional information on a variety of issues: the status of expenditures for the Department of Political Affairs; cost estimates; information on the Human Rights Council’s resolution on a fact-finding mission; the membership of the proposed fact-finding mission; and information on other entities in the region that could contribute to the mission by sharing assets.

The Department of Political Affairs expenditure information had been given.  As for Department of Political Affairs staff travel, it had already overspent by $25.5 million, so there was no question of absorbing the cost of the mission from within the existing budget.  Additionally, it was not safe to assume that one third of the Department of Political Affairs’ budget was available for that purpose, as its obligation monies had not been acquired.  Cost estimates had been provided.  A copy of the resolution passed by the Human Rights Council had not yet been supplied, although ACABQ had been given a copy of a letter from the President of the Human Rights Council to the President of the General Assembly.  A list of other entities in the region had been supplied, but sufficient information was not available on resources.  Additionally, the Advisory Committee had discovered a defect in the request, as the programme budget implications statement for the mission had proposed covering four locations, while the detailed expenditures said five.  That needed to be clarified, because the draft resolution referred to four locations.

He said the Advisory Committee was in an advanced stage of consideration of the proposal, but emphasized that, because ACABQ was a technical committee, it considered it a priority to get the technical details correct.  He insisted on that in all instances, and not only the current one.  ACABQ was awaiting more information from a representative of the Secretary-General.

Ms. LOCK ( South Africa) said it was rather unusual for the Committee to have such an in-depth discussion of the activities inside ACABQ, but it showed the urgency of the matter.  She was now struck that the Committee had so little time to receive the information of ACABQ before the deadlines it faced with the pending conclusion of the plenary of the General Assembly’s special session, especially bearing in mind the fact that ACABQ must come to a considered opinion based on consensus.  She fully supported ACABQ, but found it difficult to understand why so much scrutiny was being given to the current issue dealing with only $130,000, when other much larger amounts had been dealt with in very short time frames.  She wanted to know if there was any possibility that ACABQ could reach a consensus in time.

Mr. SAHA, the Chairman of ACABQ, then placed on the record two statements.  First, he said ACABQ had repeatedly asked for progressive expenditure statements and obligations to get a clear opinion of the availability or non-availability of funds.  If they detected a discrepancy in four or five locations, it altered the budgetary allocation.  He also wanted to place on record his assurance to the General Assembly of the Advisory Committee’s mindfulness of the urgency of the matter.  But, unlike the Fifth Committee or the General Assembly, the Advisory Committee had to have consensus in all cases.  He then added that, unless an oral statement could be given in one language, it would add difficulty to the time problem.

Ms. LOCK then assured the Chairman that she had no objection to an oral report, and was happy to receive any report at the current stage.  She said the Committee found itself at the end of a road, and was looking to ACABQ to do its task, or the Committee would need to take action in accordance with rule 153 of the rules of procedure.

The meeting was then again suspended.

When the Committee resumed, the Chairman of the Fifth Committee, YOUCEF YOUSFI ( Algeria) suggested that, since no information had been received from ACABQ, the Fifth Committee should request the Chairman of the Advisory Committee to report on the progress to the Committee.

DUMISANI KUMALO ( South Africa) said that ACABQ seemed to be resorting to a deliberate trick “to run the clock”, so that the special session expired and the issue became moot.  It was very unfortunate that ACABQ was becoming politicized.  As a technical body, it should deal with the task at hand in a technical way.  He also requested the Chairman to ask the President of the General Assembly, in light of the delay in the Fifth Committee, to also delay the proceedings in the plenary.

The Secretary of the Committee informed the delegates that ACABQ had concluded its consideration of the matter and was now considering its report to the Fifth Committee.

The meeting was then again suspended.

Action on text

The Chairman informed the Committee that the General Assembly was considering resolution A/ES-10/L.19:  Illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

SHARON VAN BUEHRLE, Director of the Programme Planning and Budget Division, introduced a statement of programme budget implication on the resolution, stating that the estimated costs of the fact-finding mission on the attack in Beit Hanoun, as requested in operative paragraph 3 of the draft resolution, would amount to $131,200.

Mr. SAHA, the Chairman of ACABQ, next orally introduced the report of the Advisory Committee, noting that a consensus text had been achieved, and that he appreciated the understanding of the Fifth Committee.  The Advisory Committee was of the opinion that, taking into account the possibility of obtaining assistance from other United Nations entities in the area where feasible, the requirements related to the draft resolution should be absorbed to the extent possible and reflected in the performance report on the programme budget for 2006-2007.

As the Secretary of the Committee started reading an oral draft decision proposed by the Chairman on the matter, the United States representative sought an actual text of the draft decision, and requested that action should not be taken until that was circulated.

South Africa’s representative next said there was a great time constraint, and it was the practice of the Committee to act on oral decisions, and requested a read out of the decision.

The United States representative responded that he was only asking a few minutes to read the draft, and noted that his colleagues had earlier requested that the Committee should not be bound by artificial time constraints.

The meeting was again suspended to allow the draft to be circulated.

Upon resumption of the meeting, the Chairman of the Committee next introduced an oral draft decision, by the terms of which the Committee decided to inform the General Assembly that, should the General Assembly adopt draft resolution A/ES-10/L.19, it would not give rise to any additional requirements under section 3, Political Affairs, for the programme budget for the biennium 2006-2007, at the present stage, and also that any additional resources, as may be necessary, will be reported in the context of the second performance report.

The United States representative asked what the overlap was with the fact-finding mission between this resolution and the Human Rights Council.

VLADIMIR GORYAYEV, Deputy Director of the Asia and Pacific Division of the Department of Political Affairs, explained that the action of the Human Rights Council provided for the dispatch of a fact-finding mission with the objectives of the Human Rights Council’s resolution, and sought to assess the situation of victims, to address the needs of survivors and make recommendations on ways and means to protect Palestinian civilians against any further Israeli assaults.  With regard to the terms of reference of the fact-finding mission discussed in the draft General Assembly resolution, the Secretariat’s fact-finding mission, if and when adopted by the General Assembly, would look at all circumstances related to that particular tragic incident, which had taken place on 8 November.

The United States representative next asked to what extent other resources in the area would be drawn upon if the action was adopted.

Ms. VAN BUEHRLE said that, in all operations where it was practical to draw on activities on the ground and in the vicinity, it was the practice of the Secretariat to do so, and the same modality would be applied.

The United States representative next pointed to ACABQ’s language, and said that he was unaware of the meaning of the language on absorbing requirements “to the extent possible” and sought to know the implications of it.

South Africa’s representative next requested clarification to know if the Secretariat would be able to implement the Assembly’s draft resolution unhindered based on ACABQ’s language.  To facilitate work, she called on all delegations to ask their questions to meet the request of the Assembly.

Mr. SAHA next said that the programme budget implications statement had been adopted in less than 24 hours, and they did not have the wherewithal to communicate with all entities in the area.  He added that the list of United Nations entities had been provided by the Secretariat.

Ms. VAN BUEHRLE then added that the Secretariat should use the appropriation approved and, where not fully feasible, the Secretariat had been given authority to report back in the second performance report, which was usually approved of by the Committee.

The representative of Australia next said it was strange that the United Nations would send two missions to do the same thing, especially because of the Fifth Committee’s concern with issues of finance.  He wanted to know if the Human Rights Council’s budget would come back here and go through ACABQ, and questioned if that would be a factor in those budgetary considerations.

South Africa’s representative next said he respected the right of delegations to ask questions, but said the budget statement was now being caught up in political, rather than financial issues.  He said that the Committee could not speculate on why the Human Rights Council did what it did, but a draft decision was before the Committee, and he called on the Chairman to rule on the matter.

Mr. GORYAYEV next said he had to admit the subject was the same, and these were both fact-finding missions into the same tragic incident, with one element of difference being the clear parameters of the Human Rights Council’s mission.  But, the United Nations fact-finding mission’s terms of reference were not yet defined and the draft resolution did not contain substantive elements, so it was difficult to say if there would be absolute overlap or not.  He added that the fact-finding mission of the Human Rights Council would be composed of eminent personalities, and the United Nations mission would be carried out at more of a working-level.

The representative of Finland, on behalf of the European Union, said that it was very important for all the answers to be provided.  In accordance with practice, the Fifth Committee was going to take decision on the basis of ACABQ report. The Union would be able to proceed on the basis of the draft before the Committee.

The United States representative said that the Secretariat had specified that the missions would be exactly the same.  If that was the case, how then would the costs be determined?

Mr. SAHA said that the Advisory Committee did not have the budgetary implications of the decision taken by the Human Rights Council.

Ms. VAN-BUERLE clarified that both fact-finding missions would be taking the trip, but their purposes were slightly different. The draft before the plenary was of a wider nature, while the Human Rights Council resolution was more specific.  At the time when the Human Rights Council had taken the decision, there had been insufficient time to give a full statement of budget implications.  However, the Secretariat had specified that it would determine the needs and revert to the question as to whether the requirements could be absorbed.

Speaking prior to action on the text, the United States representative sought a vote on the draft, saying that he could not support the resolution that had resulted in the statement of programme budget implications being considered by the Committee.  The text was one-sided and unbalanced and would not advance the aspirations of the Palestinian and Israeli people. Therefore, he could not support resources to implement that resolution.

His delegation also noted that the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) had adopted a draft that stressed the need to avoid politically motivated and biased country-specific resolutions. Yet, today, the General Assembly was considering a resolution that was politically motivated and biased towards Israel. The draft answered a significant question -- that of relevance and utility of the United Nations in the twenty-first century.  He questioned whether pursuing such types of resolutions furthered the goals of the Charter and whether it was a good use of resources.  His delegation strongly believed in the principle of consensus, but, in the light of the underlying resolution, he could not join consensus today.

Israel’s representative said that he strongly believed in the principle of consensus but, unfortunately, the circumstances impelled him to call for a vote.  The reconvening of the tenth emergency special session of the Assembly was another example of Member States misusing and abusing the procedures of the General Assembly.  The draft decision before the Fifth Committee paved the way for a one-sided and biased draft to be presented to the Assembly.  It ignored the fact that Palestinian actions had forced Israel to defend itself.  It also did not call on the Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel and curb violence.  If the United Nations was to be useful in the area, the real issue should be tackled.  Genuine negotiations between the parties represented the only way to settle the issue.  In that connection, it was important not to confuse speeches with progress.

Israel could not support expanding additional financial resources for the implementation of political agendas, he continued.  He respected the fact that the Fifth was a non-political professional Committee, but he could not ignore the fact that the very headline of the resolution to be debated in the Assembly “Illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of Occupied Palestinian Territory” was pre-judging in a very political manner the consequences and the result even before the fact-finding mission was initiated.  The draft was also talking about occupied territories, when the actions had taken place in the territory that Israel had left over a year ago.

The Committee then proceeded to take a recorded vote on the draft decision of the Fifth Committee.  The draft was approved by 143 votes in favour to 5 against ( Australia, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Palau, United States), with 2 abstentions ( Canada, Kenya).  (See annex.)

Speaking in explanation of position, Australia’s representative said that he had voted against the draft, as he did not believe that the inquiry would serve any useful purpose in resolving the conflict in the Middle East.  However, the text before the Committee was on funding, and he did not believe that the mission should be funded, even if from existing resources. T he emphasis of the United Nations should be on bringing the parties together towards a peaceful settlement, rather than further inflaming the situation.  He had also voted against, as an inquiry had already been set up by the Human Rights Council.  Thus, if he disagreed on the inquiry in the first place, he would certainly object to two such inquiries.

Finland’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union regretted that the Committee had deviated from its customary practice of consensus.  It was desirable that the Fifth Committee, before submitting its recommendations, continue to make all possible efforts to establish broader agreement.  She agreed with the technical elements of the proposal, and said all efforts had to be made to return to the consensus principle within the Committee.

South Africa’s representative said that the Group of 77 consented with the manner of dealing with the programme budget implications.  He said it was important that the Committee act as at technical body, and regretted that not all could join it in doing so.  He was not satisfied with the recommendations, but was of the view that, because of the time constraints, it was necessary to move ahead on the issue.

Japan’s representative regretted that the decision was not in line with the consensus principle, and trusted that the Secretary-General would make its utmost effort to absorb resources.

ANNEX

Vote on Fifth Committee Decision

The draft decision containing the programme budget implications of the special session draft resolution (document A/ES-10/L.19) was adopted by a recorded vote of 143 in favour to 5 against, with 2 abstentions, as follows:

In favour:  Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Against:  Australia, Israel, Micronesia (Federated States of), Palau, United States.

Abstain:  Canada, Kenya.

Absent:  Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Fiji, Grenada, Guinea-Bissau, Kazakhstan, Kiribati, Liberia, Madagascar, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Nauru, Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu.


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For information media • not an official record

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