In our research on UN budgeting (results and early insights published for example here, here, here), we follow budget procedures throughout the UN system, in particular in the UN proper and in the Specialised Agencies of the UN. This post will be updated continuously throughout 2017 to help you follow UN’s regular budgeting like we do. We also follow the consequences of the Trump budget cuts on the UN for you.
Since UN budgets are under special scrutiny this year due to the Trump cuts announced earlier this month, I will help those of you interested to follow some of the procedures throughout this year.
The first and important insight from our ongoing research is that budget procedures in the UN system follow their own logic and timeline in each of the UN organisations, and few people actually follow them across the whole UN system.
Below you find some budget proposals from UN specialised agencies and the UN regular budget. These (preliminary) proposals or outlines are already published but not yet adopted. They are order by the expected month in which they’ll typically be adopted by the main assemblies of the respective UN organisations, usually for the next two years (= biennium):
- May (3rd week): World Health Organization (WHO) – 2018-19 budget proposal
- June (3rd week): International Labour Organization (ILO) – 2018-19 budget proposal; Director-General adjustments after the Governing Body debate in March
- June: UN Peacekeeping July 2017 to June 2018: proposed overall budget *
- June/July: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) - 2018-19 budget proposal
- September: World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) - 2018-19 draft budget (TBC)
- September (first half): Approval of Strategic Plans and Integrated Budgets 2018-21 of UN-Women, UNICEF, UNDP and UNFPA. Timeline
- November: UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) – 2018-21 preliminary draft budget; draft programme and budget (39 C/5, March 2017)
- December (first week): UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) – 2018-19 draft budget (TBC)
- December (last week): United Nations (UN regular budget) – 2018-19 UN Regular Budget outline;
Sections of the proposed UN Regular Budget (in order of mentioning in the UN Journal): Sec. 26 (UNRWA)* ; Sec. 25 (UNHCR)*, Sec. 17 (UN-Women)*, Sec. 10 (LDCs etc.)*, Sec. 7 (International Court of Justice)*, Sec.4 (Disarmament)*
I will update dates and add further organisations and additional documents in the coming weeks and months as these processes advance throughout 2017 and as I’m continuing our research.
Some organizations are missing because I simply haven’t added them to the list. Some of the organisations we study don’t actually provide updates on budgeting procedures on their websites. Others only provide final budgets or budget resolutions but not draft budgets, so it’s difficult to list those here.
One of the calls that I would have to the whole UN system is to make it easier for us, the public, to follow budgetary decision-making, for example by having dedicated budgeting and planning pages with all relevant documents, including for past years.
- on 29 March 2017 with the ILO budget adjustment document link
- on 12 April 2017 with the first section of the UN proposed budget for 2018-19 (UNRWA), on 20 April 2017 with the UNHCR budget section; on 21 April 2017 with the UN-Women budget section of the UN Regular Budget; on 22 April with Sec. 10; on 25 April with the ICJ and disarmament sections.
- on 19 April 2017 with the timeline for UN-Women, UNDP, UNICEF and UNFPA
- on 25 April 2017 with the UNESCO draft budget
- on 26 April 2017 with the UN peacekeeping budget proposal for July 2017 to June 2018
I’ve just read Jon Worth’s blog post about why he’s calm about the start of the Article 50 negotiations that will most likely lead to Brexit, even if these negotiations are heading to a fight. After spending the best of my last three years researching budgeting in international organisations, including the effects of budget cuts on the EU and UN organizations, I think it’s important for the EU to do some serious contingency-planning ahead of this fight.
Here’s the sentence from Jon’s article that made me write this:
There are essentially two paths for the negotiations as I see it: towards conflict, or towards fudge. The former seems to be the more likely at the moment, with both sides shaping up for a fight over financial contributions and access to the Single Market.
I guess Jon is right, and even if the European Council President Tusk tweeted today that the “EU27 … will not pursue [a] punitive approach”, this does not mean that this will not end up in a punitive situation and a major fight.
One lesson from studying cutback management at EU-level and the budget cuts in the UN system, especially the reactions to massive cuts in UNESCO, has been that international organisations seem to avoid pre-planning for massive cuts until they are actually about to happen.
When, in 2010, the EU negotiations for the 2011 budget were at risk to break down for the first time since the 1980s, the European Commission staff had only weeks to figure out how they would handle the effective budget restrictions under the monthly emergency budgets. When the USA threatened massive budget cuts to UNESCO in case it would admit Palestine as a member in late 2011, internally no contingency plans were made not to give a sign that one could actually live with such cuts. In the EU case, everything went fine in the end, but not being prepared in the UNESCO for what was about to happen made a bad situation worse, in my view.
What’s the lesson to draw from this?
It should be part of the EU strategy – and the European Commission’s budget department is key in helping with this – to make clear that to the UK that it is ready to handle even a very painful refusal of the UK to provide its legacy contributions. Some inside the institutions may say that this will give a bad signal to the UK, but experience shows that this may not prevent the worst from happening.
It’s better the Commission and especially the member states are ready to say to the UK: “If you don’t provide your legacy contributions, you will not have access to our single market. We are prepared to make our extra contributions to stabilise the EU budget or we are ready to make painful cuts to EU spending, but are you ready to have your market access cut, too?”
For this strong hand to happen, it needs to be agreed among EU member states who would step in on the side of the contributors with extra funds if the UK doesn’t pay, and/or who would accept budget cuts – especially in agriculture and in regional/structural spending, the largest parts of the EU budget – in case this happens.
The best thing about developing these worst case scenarios and doing the contingency planning is that, should the Article 50 process run smoothly, suffering a little from the re-arranged EU budget (because this will necessary anyway) will seem much less painful than what the contingency planning suggested. But if the cut is hard, the EU will be prepared in advance and not spend a year with budget crisis management at the same time as the new multiannual financial framework needs to be put in place during 2019 and 2020.