The UNGA, in meetings of its Fifth Committee and plenary on 23 and 24 December 2017, approved parts of the Secretary-General’s management reform agenda, including a change in the UN budget cycle from a biennial to an annual budget period.
It also adopted a US$5.397 billion budget for the UN's work in the 2018-2019 biennium, which is 5% less than the budget approved for the 2016-2017 biennium.
23 December 2017: The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) concluded the main part of its 72nd session, recommending that the UNGA adopt a US$5.397 billion budget for the UN’s work in the 2018-2019 biennium. Overall, 17 draft texts, including with regard to the programme budget implications for the intergovernmental conference on global migration, were forwarded to the UNGA and adopted.
The concluding meeting of the Fifth Committee took place on 23 December 2017, at UN Headquarters in New York, US, followed by the Assembly’s final plenary on 24 December. The budget adopted is 5% less than the final budget approved for the 2016-2017 biennium. The change is due to, among other things, reduced funding for special political missions and a 10% reduction of resources for contractual services, furniture and equipment, consultants, supplies and material, and hospitality.
From the management reforms proposed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the UNGA approved the proposal to change the UN budget cycle from a biennial to an annual budget period on a trial basis, beginning with the programme budget for 2020, pending a final decision at the 77th UNGA session on whether to continue that practice. The Secretary-General’s proposal was aimed at simplifying and streamlining UN’s management. The Assembly also approved financial and staff resources for the newly established Office of Counter-Terrorism and the Office of the Victims’ Rights Advocate.
With regard to other proposals on management reform, the UNGA decided not to expand exceptional budgetary authorities, unforeseen and extraordinary expenses, or the Secretary‑General’s limited budgetary discretion. The Assembly also decided not to alter the current level of commitment authority for additional resources requirements arising from UN Security Council decisions related to the maintenance of international peace and security.
In a meeting with the Fifth Committee on 4 December, Guterres had explained that, without the ability to redeploy resources through expanded budgetary discretion, the UN might not be able to respond to requests from the UNGA or respond within 24 hours to natural disasters. Guterres had also informed Member States that a Change Management team is working on a comprehensive, costed proposal on the proposed management structure to be presented to the Fifth Committee in May 2018.
Upon the closing of the Fifth Committee’s work on 23 December, UNGA President Miroslav Lajcak said governments had taken “crucial” decisions for the UN’s functioning, including on management reform, by “approving the Secretary-General to continue his efforts to make the UN more effective, accountable and efficient.”
On the migration conference, at the plenary meeting on 24 December governments adopted the resolution on the ‘Modalities for the Intergovernmental Conference to adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration’ (document A/72/L.9). By this resolution, the Assembly: decides to hold the Conference in Morocco, from 10-11 December 2018; reaffirms that the Conference will result in the adoption of an intergovernmentally negotiated and agreed outcome, titled ‘Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration,’ with the scope defined by the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants; and sets out the format for the Conference, including eight consecutive plenary meetings and two dialogues held in parallel with the plenary meetings. Commenting on the decision, El Salvador said it would have preferred the Conference to take place in New York to facilitate participation by all delegations, and countries lacking permanent representation in Morocco must receive trust fund support.
Lajcak closed the plenary session noting that during northern spring 2018, the Fifth Committee will have two resumed sessions “with heavy agendas.” [UN Meeting Summary, Fifth Committee, 23 December] [UNGA President’s Remarks on Fifth Committee Outcome] [UN Meeting Summary, UNGA Plenary, 24 December] [UNGA President’s Remarks at UNGA Closing Plenary] [UN Press Release] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Fifth Committee Meeting, 4 December]