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United Nations Budget 2020: Fifth Committee debate on 27 December 2019 (live blogging)

Update 1 (28 Dec 2019): Here’s the recording of the first part of the meeting (1h21m), and here the recording of the second part (2h25m). And this is the official UN press release on the Fifth Committee meeting of today.

Update 2 (7 Jan 2020): The draft resolution containing the detailed result of the negotiations on the budget appropriations is now public: A/C.5/74/L.23. I’ve compared the figures in the resolution to the Proposed Programme Budget (A/74/6(Introduction), Schedule 2, final column) – see the figure below (this is by Budget Section).

= = =

The following are live blogging notes from the UN General Assembly Fifth Committee Meeting, 27 December 2019, 10 am ET (4 pm CET), followed via UN web TV live stream.

Live notes may be wrong or only partially correct or incomplete, so check against delivery of speeches or final recording of the meeting published on UN Web TV later.

Contact me on Twitter (@ronpatz) for important corrections in this post.

Links to all Fifth Committee Agenda Items and documents under discussion. All draft  resolutions already published are available here.

Links to all UN budget 2020 documents under negotiation.

Chair (Cyprus): Best wishes to all of you, I hope you enjoyed the short break. I regret we had to bring you back today. We will have a long day, but I hope to finish at the end.

Draft resolutions before us. I am pleased to welcome the ASG Controller Chandramouli Ramanathan. USG Catherine Pollard also in the back of the president’s seats.

Draft resolutions are provisional, so versions are subject to editorial review. Resolutions only in English exceptionally.

Agenda Item 132 Financial Report and Audited Financial Statements. A/C.5./74/L11. Coordinated by Israel. Any comments? I see none. Without a vote adopted. Any statements after the adoption? No requested.

Agenda Item 134 Programme Budget for the Biennium 2018-19. Resolution A/C.5/74/L14. 2nd Performance Report. Coordinated by Poland. Any comments? No objections. Adopted. Any statements? None.

Agenda Item 136 Programme Planning. Draft Resolution A/C.5/74/L5 “Programme Planning”. Cosponsors Belarus, Venezuela, DPRK, China, Iran, Burundi, Russia, Syria, Equatorial Guinea et al..

Also Draft Resolution /74/L18 “Programme Planning”. On basis of informal consultations coordinated by Australia.

First decision on L5. 

Russian Federation (introducing the resolution): Delete from Programme 6, Legal Affairs, all references to investigative mechanisms for Syria (IIIM, “Triple-I M). Reasons: violation of UN Charter, rules of procedure of UNGA and programme planning rules. Reasons for inclusion in regular budget is not funding shortfall but to legitimise an illegitimate mechanisms. Russian Federation does not recognize the mechanisms. Abstaining for the resolution is supporting the mechanism; not voting in favor jeopardizes financing other mechanisms supported by all 193 states.

Switzerland (also on behalf of Liechtenstein): We regret this text, because it undermines the UNGA authority, which has supported financing Triple-I-M with a large majority. Thus in favor of L5, to support the integrity of the UNGA. Also supporting Resolution L6 (UN budget)

Syrian Arab Republic: I take the floor as country concerned by Triple-IM. Any vote will not mean Syria recognizes this mechanisms. (Refers to the Charter and the functions and powers of the UNGA.) UNGA does not have power to create an investigative team or judicial body. There is no “chain of custody“ to bring evidence to Switzerland where the body is based to investigate this issues at stake. Investigation cannot take place in Syria, which has not asked for “technical assistance”. Even ISIL crimes were investigated with support of Iraqi government; there was no consultation with Syria on the IIIM. The sponsors of IIIM try to force you, other countries, to finance this illegal organ. You [other countries] will be implicated, and you will entail further pressure on the UN in this critical time. We will not engage with an organ based in Geneva. We call on member states to reject such attempts to put financial pressure to. IIIM should be supported by sponsoring nations’ tax payers [= voluntary contributions]. Call to support the Russian Proposoal.

Chair: A recorded vote has been requested by Switzerland for the Resolution /L5. Any explanation of votes before the vote?

Finland (on behalf of the EU, also candidate countries Turkey, N.Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia, Ukraine and Georgia): The Fifth Committee is the main budgetary committee; the committee should focus on this, not on political discussions. We regret that this vote has been called instead of decision by consensus. IIIM was approved by Resolution in Resolution 71/248 + budget request for 2020 in Resolution 72/191. 5th Committee should support this. L5 would delete all references to IIIM. This is why we will vote against the amendment.

USA: Those familiar with IIIM know the critical nature of the. A small number of delegations have insisted to deprive the mechanism of the funding. L5 would require to delete all references to the mechanism, which is against the UNGA resolution

Chair: Before voting, reminder on Rule 21 of UNGA. 




18-88-47 => /L5 is rejected

Armenia: on L5+L6: support on the mechanisms of the UN to work impartially.

Sudan: Correct our vote to “in favor“.

[New final result should be 19-88?-47?]

Kazakhstan: We are aware that this is the worst budget crisis for the UN. We have always paid in full and in time. Given the seriousness of this situation, so requests for IIIM for 2020 budget is premature. Since IIIM establishment in 2016, it has been funded by voluntary contributions. Status quo would be the best decision in this financial situation. Hope that crisis will be resolved soon.

Chair: Now draft resolution /L18. Any comments?

Qatar: Oral amendment to /L18 including an operative paragraph: “Decides to approve the programme plan for Plan 6 “Legal Affairs” as contained in the report of the Secretary General”. [= inclusion of IIIM]

Chair: Any objections to oral amendment by Qatar?

Russia: Object to oral amendment.

Syria: Point of order. You said Finland requested requested recorded vote?

Chair: It was a mistake. No request by Finland on the oral amendment.

Russia: We are requesting a vote on the oral amendment by Qatar.

Syria: Support to Russian Federation. Request to vote against the amendment. IIIM was born dead. The countries who have voluntarily funded the mechanism try to force the rest of the membership to finance it at a critical time.

[weird fire/smoke announcement: The smoke conditions in 3B are resolved. All staff evacuated from 1st floor can return to offices.]

Syria (continued): We have provided documents that show from a legal and procedural perspective that IIIM cannot be a subsidiary organ of the UN. IIIM does not have a mandate to make agreements with member states. (number of points). States supporting the mechanism are biased against Syria; tax payers of those countries should finance the mechanism.

USA: Support of Qatar amendment to “Programme Planning” resolution.

Chair: Vote on amendment on inclusion of IIIM.

+ – – – Abs

86-20-48 => inclusion of amendment adopted

Chair: Explanations of votes? None. Adopt draft resolution /L18 as orally amended? Objections?

Syria: Apologize to take the floor for the 3rd time. My delegation cannot allow the consensual adoption of the draft resolution. We have explained our position. We have not been consulted. Our consent has not been requested for the establishment of the mechanism. UNGA encroached on UNSC. Requesting a vote on the resolution as a whole.

Chair: A recorded vote has been requested. Vote on /L18 as orally amended.

130-2-13 (Russia, China and number of countries not voting) [Sudan + Syria vote against]

Russia: We did not put the resolution as a whole after we had a process of discussion with regard to the mechanism. We wish to emphasize that the Russian Federation disassociates itself from the part that was amended. We consider this with regard to our obligations to the United Nations. [Might mean does not consider to pay for this through its regular budget contribution. Unclear from statement.]

Myanmar: On IIIM: we supported deletion. On III on Myanmar: dissociates itself from the resolution part on this.

Bahrain: correction of vote (in favor instead of abstaining)

Chair: Agenda Item 138 “Pattern of Conferences”. Coordinated by Cameroon. Any comments on draft resolution /L10? Adopted without vote.

Agenda Item 141 “Joint Inspection Unit”. Draft resolution /L19 on access to UN conferences for persons with disabilities. Consultations coordinated by Cameroon. Adoption of resolution without a vote.

Agenda Item 140 “Human Resources Management”. Draft resolution /L21 “seconded personnel”. Coordinated by Djibouti. Adopted without a vote.

Agenda Item 142 “United Nations Common System”. Draft Resolution /L3 and L4. Consultations coordinated by Guiana. Adopted without a vote.

Agenda Item 144 “Report of the Activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services”, Resolution on UN efficiency. Draft resolution /L12. Consultations coordinated by Ghana. Adopted without a vote.

Agenda Item ???. Draft resolution /L13 “Review of the implementation of General Assembly resolutions…??”. Consultations coordinated by Ghana. Adopted without a vote.

Agenda Item 146. Administration of Justice at the UN. Draft Resolution /L9. Consultations coordinated by Greece. Adopted without a vote.

Agenda Item 147. Financing of the International Residual Mechanisms for International Tribunals. Draft Resolution /L8. Coordinated by Philippines. Adopted without a vote.

Agenda Item 156. Financing of the UN Mission for Justice Support in ID(?). Draft Resolution /L16. Coordinated by Switzerland. Adopted without a vote.

Agenda Item … Financing of the AU-UN hybrid operation in Darfur. Draft Resolution /L15. Coordinated by Lithuania. Adopted without a vote.

Chair continues: Let me tell you a short story: In the 1960s, for those of you born at that time, you may remember. At the time, people enjoyed to go to open air movies. There was an intermission in the middle of the movie, where you could enjoy the evening. In Greece, 10% of population found their spouses during this time.


I propose an intermission of 1h, because we have a problem with budget documents that are not ready because of the holiday season. Restart in 1h, at 12.30 pm ET.


[Live blogging interrupted]

[Update 12:57 ET]

The 5th Committee session has not resumed yet. According to the UN WebTV schedule, the afternoon session is expected to last from 4-7 pm ET; the UNGA session would resume at 9 pm ET. This will be a(nother) long day for UN delegates and UN officials.


[Update 13:30 ET] 5th Committee morning session about to restart.


Chair: Excuses for delay, things happen “in live”.

Agenda Item 135 “Proposed Programme Budget 2020”. First Programme Budget implications of decisions, contained in draft resolution A/C.5/74/L17, including 3 draft. decisions. Consultations by Kuwait. Adopted without vote.

Now Proposed Programme Budget 2020.

Draft resolution A/C.5/74/L6 on IIIM. By Belarus, Burundi, China, Cuba, DPRK, Equat. Guinea, Iran, Kazakhstan, Mynamanr, Nicaragua, Russia, Venezuela. Section 8: Legal Affairs.

Draft Resolution /L7. on Palestine refugees.

Draft Resolution C.5./L20. Submitted on basis of coordination coordinated by Iraq.

Start with /L6.

Russia: Resolution 71/248 was adopted without Syria consent. Criminal investigations do not fall in the UNGA, but the UN Security Council. Everything done by the mechanism and UN bureaucracy activities fall outside intenrational law. The UNGA always laments the financial difficulties of the UN, but then he proposes the inclusion into the UN budget. Voluntary funding looks fine so far. 17.8 million US-$ on shoulders of UN, while other consensus mandates are not fully funded. Delays in payments will only worsen in this case. Abstention supports the mechanisms, so vote should be against.

Syria:  Our position has already been explained on the IIIM. We do not recognize this mechanism. This is counter to the UN charter. Member states will finance an illegal mechanism, will have a negative impact on the regular budget. Especially in times of UN financial crisis. All member states should support the resolution put forward by Russia.

Finland (for EU + others TUR, N.Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia, Liechtenstein, Ukraine, Georgia): Fifth Committee should stick to administrative and budgetary matters. 5th should refrain from political discussions in other fora. IIIM was approved by Resolution 71/248 + and budget support was requested by resolution 72/919. Adoption of L20 would be against these GA resolutions. We will call for a vote on L6 and vote against it and call on others to do so.

Nicaragua: Creation of this mechanism by UNGA was going beyond the Charter. It’s for the UNSC to do this.

DPRK: IIIM is intervention in internal affairs. Original resolution was non-transparent and non-consensual and against will of state concerned.

Finland: corrects number of countries supporting statement.

USA: Support to IIIM. We are here to decide on budgetary measures. Legal issues were already clarified before. Refers to “Assad Regime”.

Syria: Point of order. Chairman, we are here in the UN, aren’t we? My country officially is called the Syrian Arab Republic. There is no country called the “Assad Regime”, each delegation should be called by their official name.

Chair: Intervention duly noted.

USA: We reject the attempt to defund the mechanisms. USA will continue support holding perpetrators of crimes in Syria accountable.

Chair: Syria wants to speak. Proponents of draft resolution cannot speak in favor of resolution.

Syria: USA has just made clear what it wants to support with the IIIM. Talked about the “Syrian Regime”. You are using this mechanism to pressure my country. 

Chair: We move to vote /L6

+ – Abs

20-86-50 => rejected

Chair: Now draft resolution /L7 proposed by Russian Federation.

Russia: We take into account the request that came to us from the state of Palestine that chairs the G77. Its opinion is a defining one. Palestine was a good Chair of the G77. Only taking into account its message did we come up our draft resolution. We withdraw our draft resolution. But the financing of UNRWA remains an issue on the agenda.

Chair: Thanks for withdrawing the resolution and speed up the negotiations.

Draft resolution L20 based on informal consultations by Iraq.

Finland: We like to request to paragraphs to be add the following paragraph:

 “takes note of para III.47, 48, 49, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56 [?] of the report of the Advisory Committee”

“Decides that the IIIM … under Section 8 Legal Affairs amounts 17,806 million $ [?]”

Russia: We are against this amendment.

Chair: Finland has proposed amendments to L20. Any other delegations wishing to take the floor?

Russia: I would like to request a vote.

Chair: Vote requested. Any pre-vote comments?

USA: Amendment by Finland supported.

Syria: In our explanation of vote, we stress that the SAR will not support the IIIM. [Many arguments repeated from before] This would be a waste of UN resources.

Russia: The political discussion has passed, from a point of view of financing we don’t understand this amendment at all. We think that this undermines even the agreement with those member states with whom another understanding was reached. Therefore I would ask to vote against this amendment.

Chair: Vote is open on /L20 amendment proposed by Finland.

+ – Abs

84-22-37 => adopted

Chair: Can I assume that the Fifth Committee wants to adopt L20 without a vote?

Russia: Before we approve the budget, after a vote on the mechanism, I have a question with regard to Para 33 of L20. Agreement of our delegation and with other colleagues from other delegations was given to a cut in printing for formal meetings of the 5th Committee. The mandate is rather clear. However, as we understand it, the sum of 5 million US-$ doesn’t correspond to reality, the real expenditure of printing. How does the Secretariat intend to fulfil this paragraph?

UN Controller: Good morning, Mr. Chairman. The Secretariat will try to do its best to implement para 33, but it does not correspond to the expenditure needs. We will return to this in the performance report and the 2021 budget.

Chair: May I take that the Committee wants to adopt the L20 as orally amended, without a vote? Then it is adopted. Any statements on the vote?

Russia: We would like to underscore that we disassociate ourselves from the recognition of the budget in the part concerning the financing of the mechanisms, and we reserve the right to consider this in our financial obligations.

Syria: It is regrettable that the financing of the IIIM is included in the budget of 2020. We will disassociate from this decision, which will be reflected in our contributions.

China: On the question of the IIIM, no consensus was reached among the parties. Many countries including China are against the creation of this mechanisms. It is regrettable that the Committee included this through a vote. Adopting a programme budget through a vote undercuts the consensus of the Committee, undermining its future functioning. China hopes this committee will avoid such scenarios in the future.

Iran: IIIM is against the charter. Disassociates itself from the financing of the IIIM.

Myanmar: Our position on on these types of mechanisms is known. It has no impact and is a waste of taxpayers’ money. Dissociates itself from decisions on IIIMs.

Cuba: Disassociates itself from the IIIM.

DPRK: Disassociates itself from the IIIM.

Nicaragua: Given the differing opinions on the mechanism, we can’t go beyond the attributions of the UNGA, and that we need to disassociate us as it does not have consensus.

Venezuela: Disassociates itself.

Chair: Thanks coordinator from Iraq for coordination of the L20. Also thanks delegations for cooperation throughout the process.

Iraq: Thanks to your support to me, Chair, and to the Bureau and the 5th Committee Secretaraiat, and the General Secretariat (Controller, USG for Management, PPBD director) for supporting material. Thanks to G77, EU and others for cooperation.

[Adoption was at around 2.30 pm ET, with discussions on certain issues ongoing, especially an amendment by Cuba on unfunding the special advisor on R2P. Blogging ends here.]

My final comments:  The explanations of votes on the UN budget in the  Fifth Committee not to pay for the IIIM underline that there are now officially:

  • assessed contributions
  • voluntary contributions
  • non-wanted assessed contributions, basically reverse or negative voluntary contributions.

Multilateralism meets minilateralism meets UN finance technicalities.

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