Speaking on the budget section devoted to Palestine refugees, Syria's representative said that, since those persons needed the services of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the least that could be done was to approve funding for adequate posts for the Agency. Also, the activities of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and other Arabs of the occupied territories should be supported.
Committee Work Programme
DJAMEL MOKTEFI (Algeria) said that he was in favour of a global and consistent programme on human rights. He regretted the fact that the CPC had not been able to agree on the narrative on the right to development. He supported the comments of the ACABQ that steps should be taken to ensure that trust funds were audited more extensively. He also endorsed the view that the staffing of the New York Liaison Office should be reviewed. Its activities should be limited to coordination. He would welcome information on the restructuring process of the Human Rights Centre in Geneva.
He then said he supported the efforts being made by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which should be provided with the resources it needed on a regular and stable basis. What was the link between the proposed resources for that Office and its real needs? he asked. He shared the ACABQ's concern about inadequate resources for monitoring extrabudgetary funds, particularly in light of the size of those funds. The reduction of gratis personnel in the Section on human rights, from 12 to 10, was very limited, particularly in light of the General Assembly's resolution 51/243 of 15 September 1997, by which the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to expeditiously phase out such personnel.
ABDULLAH ABDULLATIF ABDULLAH (Bahrain) said that the proposed budget section on UNRWA had indicated that the number of posts would be 84 for the upcoming biennium. That number was a reduction by eight from the current biennium. He shared the ACABQ's opinion that such abolition of posts should be justified, particularly because those cuts might adversely affect the important activities of UNRWA, which must be carried out in full.
TAMMAM SULAIMAN (Syria) said his delegation placed the utmost importance to the work of UNRWA, whose capacity to help Palestine refugees depended mostly on voluntary contributions. Since the Assembly had decided that the salaries of UNRWA international staff be paid from the regular budget for some time, the amount allocated for such salaries should be sufficient to enable the Agency to implement its mandates. In that light, the proposal to eliminate some posts should be explained by the Secretariat. With the ACABQ pointing out that some posts in the Agency would be eliminated, such a move should be justified. Since refugees in Syria and Jordan needed services from UNRWA and since no solution had yet been found to the problem of refugees, the least that could be done would be to support such services by approving sufficient posts for UNRWA. The activities of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and other Arabs of the Occupied Territories should be supported.
PRAYONO ATIYANTO (Indonesia) said he attached great importance to the work of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The United Nations budget must support the right to development, as indicated in the Organization's medium-term plan. He noted that the CPC had been unable to reach agreement on the programme narrative of the Section on human rights. He further noted with concern that the UNRWA faced funding difficulties and that the proposed budget would cut 8 professional-level posts. UNRWA should be given the resources needed to fulfil its requirements.
THOMAS REPASCH (United States) said his views on the human rights Section of the budget were consistent with the statement made for the European Union earlier in the meeting. He reiterated his belief that the ACABQ should show the financial implications of its recommendations. Turning to section 24 of the proposed budget on Palestine refugees, and to UNRWA in particular, he recognized the Agency's vital role. The Section had not mentioned the Agency's efforts to streamline its working methods or its financial challenges. UNRWA's projected budgetary requirements must be in line with its operational expenses and its available resources.
AHMED DARWISH (Egypt) stressed the importance of support for Palestine refugees, particularly in light of its focus on education, health, social services and overall attempts to improve the daily lives of those refugees. He stressed the importance of providing the necessary resources for the Agency, either from the regular budget or other sources. Noting the abolition of 8 professional-level posts funded by the regular budget, he said he hoped that those cuts would not adversely affect the work of UNRWA. Reductions in staff should not result in a reduction of activities for the Agency.
SEYED MORTEZA MIR MOHAMMAD (Iran) asked for clarification on the conversion of some established posts within the Section on human rights. Responding to a delegate's comments that the cost of restructuring might dilute the prerogative of the Secretary-General, he noted that there were clear provisions on the Assembly's consideration of the ongoing process of restructuring. He also supported the statement made by the representative of Syria on Palestinian refugees.
JEAN-PIERRE HALBWACHS, United Nations Controller, addressing Section 22, on human rights, said that the restructuring of the Centre for Human Rights had been completed and an organizational chart had been included in the budget documents. The subprogramme on the right to development had been allocated some 24.9 per cent of the resources for the Section on human rights and the provisions for the right to development had been strengthened with more posts. As for work by country and thematic rapporteurs and working groups, the Secretariat could only try to propose funding in anticipation of special rapporteurs that might be appointed by the Commission for Human Rights.
On the use of new agency services, the Centre for Human Rights needed access to such reports to monitor developments in the field, he said. The Centre for Human Rights and the Office of Human Rights had not been moved from the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The reduction of posts in UNRWA had to do with the Secretariat's efforts to live within the budget approved by the Assembly. The contribution of the regular budget to the overall resources of UNRWA was quite small. Thus, he did not expect that the cuts would significantly affect the work of the Agency.
Mr. SULAIMAN (Syria) said he had heard nothing new from the Controller. He had expected him to say that the general cuts in the budget had forced the reductions at UNRWA. He still wanted answers that were specific to UNRWA and they should be provided in writing. Informal consultations on the matter would not be held until the specific answers he sought were provided in writing. The remarks of the Secretariat's officials should be confined to the documents on the proposed 1998-1999 budget, without reference to the Secretary-General's report on the implications of the proposed United Nations reforms (document A/52/303).