STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF THE GROUP OF 77 AND CHINA BY MS. MEGAYLA AUSTIN, MINISTER COUNSELLOR OF THE PERMANENT MISSION OF THE COOPERATIVE REPUBLIC OF GUYANA TO THE UNITED NATIONS, ON AGENDA ITEM 141: PROPOSED PROGRAMME BUDGET FOR 2021, AT THE MAIN PART OF THE FIFTH COMMITTEE DURING THE SEVENTY-FIFTH SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY (New York, 12 October 2020)

Mr. Chair,

1. I have the honour to speak on behalf of the Group of 77 and China on agenda item 141: Proposed Programme Budget for 2021.

2. The Group of 77 and China would like to thank Mr Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, for the presentation of his proposed programme budget for 2021. We also thank Mr Abdallah Bachar Bong, Chairman of the Advisory Committee, for introducing the Committee's related report.

Mr. Chair,

3. The programme budget is one of the most important agenda items under consideration during this session. It serves as the resource base for the United Nations to fulfil its role and execute its legislated mandates. The programme budget document is not just a financial and accounting tool. It is an authoritative statement that should reflect the strategic vision of the Secretary-General in delivering the mandates and priorities agreed upon by Member States. The Group reiterates its request to the Secretariat and to all Member States to strictly abide by the consistent decisions of the General Assembly, that no changes to the established budget methodology, procedures and practices or to the financial regulations should be implemented without prior review and approval by the General Assembly.

Mr. Chair,

4. We are now in the second year of the trial period for an annual budget. The Group notes that for the second year running, there is a lack of adherence to key established budgetary procedures and practices, in particular, the sequential nature of the review processes conducted by the Committee for Programme and Coordination and the ACABQ. We will address this in greater detail during our deliberations on budgetary procedures and practices.

5. While the Group recognises the Secretary-General's efforts to improve the presentation of the programme budget, the Group is concerned that in many respects, the proposed programme budget appears to replicate the same text and amounts as in the previous proposed programme budget. This raises questions as to whether there is a clear link between resources and a results-based management framework. The Group agrees with the Advisory Committee that further improvements to the presentation are required to accurately reflect mandates and the measures to achieve them, and the impact on the priorities of member states.

Mr. Chair,

6. On the budget methodology, the Group notes, over the years, an increasingly wider gap between the budgeted and the actual vacancy rates. The Group stresses that vacancy rates should not be used as a tool to achieve artificial savings in the budget, at the expense of mandate delivery. We recall the previous decisions of the General Assembly that a high vacancy rate hampers the delivery of mandated programmes and activities, and that deliberate management decisions to keep a certain number of posts vacant make the budget process less transparent and management of staff resources more difficult.

Mr. Chair,

7. The United Nations adopted the Agenda for Sustainable Development five years ago. We are now just a decade away from our target date of 2030. International peace and security and development are two sides of the same coin. The ground conditions for peace and stability will not be laid if the development agenda is not realised.

8. In this regard, the Group reiterates its call for the strengthening of the development pillar. We are therefore concerned that the budget proposal contains cuts to bodies that are integral to the development pillar, in particular the Regional Commissions including ECA, ESCAP, ECLAC, and ESCWA. The Group will seek detailed explanations about the proposed cuts during the informal consultations.

Mr. Chair,

9. The Group also notes with concern the growing reliance on voluntary contributions. We stress that extrabudgetary resources must be used in a manner consistent with the policies, aims and activities of the Organisation, and that all extrabudgetary posts must be administered with the same rigour as regular budget posts. This is to ensure that functions covered by extrabudgetary resources do not have an impact on mandate implementation. The Group firmly rejects any manipulation of the Organisation's delivery of mandates by skewing priorities towards specific areas that receive more voluntary funding. We reiterate our long-standing position that adequate resources must be provided for the Organisation to fulfil its mandates.

Mr. Chair,

10. The Group is committed to working constructively with you and all delegations on this item. We encourage all delegations to engage in budget deliberations with a spirit of flexibility and responsibility, in order to reach an agreement that is in the best interest of the Organisation.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.