STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF THE GROUP OF 77 AND CHINA BY MR. RICHARD TUR, SECOND SECRETARY, PERMANENT MISSION OF CUBA TO THE UNITED NATIONS, ON AGENDA ITEM 138: PROGRAMME BUDGET FOR 2023: STANDARDS OF ACCOMMODATION FOR AIR TRAVEL, FOR THE FIRST PART OF THE RESUMED SEVENTY-SEVENTH SESSION OF THE FIFTH COMMITTEE OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY (New York, 9 March 2023)
1. I have the honor to deliver this statement on behalf of the Group of 77 and China on the Agenda item 138: Programme budget for 2023: Standards of accommodation for air travel, for the first part of the resumed 77th session of the Fifth Committee.
2. Our Group wishes to thank ASG. Martha Helena López, for the introduction of the Secretary General's report on standards of air accommodation for air travel. We would also like to thank Mr. Abdallah Bachar Bong, Chairperson of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) for introducing its related report.
The Group has carefully examined the report of the Secretary General as well as the related report of the Advisory Committee, and I would like to highlight few points in this regard:
- Firstly, the Group welcomes the decreasing trend of exceptions of standard of accommodation for air travel authorized by the Secretary General in line with relevant General Assembly resolutions. We note that the decrease is attributed in part to the general reduction in air travel that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. In this regard, we encourage the Secretary General to further intensify his efforts to minimize the use of exceptions and to make the administrative process for the official travel of eminent and prominent persons more effective.
- Secondly, with regard to adherence to the Advance purchase policy, the Group reiterates its disappointment with its low compliance rate. In the current reporting period, which saw significantly lower travel volumes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the compliance rate however is said to have decreased to 33 per cent from 38 per cent reported in the previous period. This is particularly regrettable in areas where travel can be better planned, such as entitlement travel. The Group underlines that the Secretariat should redouble its efforts on this issue and we will seek clarification in the ensuing informal consultation regarding the challenges encountered by the Secretariat that have hindered the full implementation of the General Assembly resolutions in this regard.
- Thirdly, the Group underlines the need to hold managers accountable for the judicious use of travel resources. In this respect, we also notice the feedback received by the Secretary-General from United Nations entities regarding the lessons learned from COVID-19-related travel restrictions and air travel management. We therefore encourage the Secretariat to study in detail these experiences and identify in what extent they could contribute to a more cost-effective use of the allocations for air travel, while upholding the quality of work.
- Fourthly, the Group attaches great importance to ensuring that the procurement process for all air travel management services contracts is conducted in full compliance with general procurement principles as set out in financial regulation 5.12. The Group will seek detailed information during the informal consultations regarding the specific measures taken by the Secretariat to realize this objective.
- Fifthly, the Group takes note of the Secretary General`s proposal to discontinue the remaining part of the interim measure, whereby the lump-sum payment is set at 70 per cent of the least restrictive economy ticket, and to revert to the normal 75 per cent for the lump-sum option, consistent with the International Civil Service Commission`s decision to encourage the harmonization of the lump-sum option across the United Nations common system. The Group will engage during the discussions of this proposal, looking forward to ensuring the cost-effective utilization of resources allocated to air travel.
The Group of 77 and China reiterates that any policy changes or new formulations in the area of standards of accommodation for air travel remain the exclusive prerogative of the Fifth Committee and the General Assembly. To this end, we reiterate our readiness to engage constructively in the upcoming discussions, with the aim of concluding this agenda item in a timely manner.
I thank you.