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Posted on on December 29th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (



The United States notes the conclusion of the 67th Main Session of the Fifth Committee and is pleased by the significant progress we were able to achieve toward advancing fiscal discipline during a period of significant global financial difficulty and setting the United Nations on the path of increased efficiency and accountability. The agreement adopted on Monday does the following:

Preserves the ceiling on U.S. contributions to the UN, protecting U.S. taxpayers from additional bills of at least $300 million annually. The United States successfully defeated proposals by the G77 bloc of developing countries to raise the ceiling on U.S. contributions to 25%, which would have resulted in at least an additional $300 million being assessed to U.S. taxpayers annually.

The United States continues to believe the methodology for determining rates of assessment should be reviewed, as it currently affords substantial discounts to a number of large developing countries capable of bearing a heavier burden.

Avoids a new bill to taxpayers for the costs of UN building program, the Capital Master Plan (CMP). Following the March 2012  Announcement by the UN of deeply troubling cost overruns to the Capital Master Plan, the United States, joined by other member  states, led successful efforts to mitigate those cost overruns by approving responsible financing options to enable the project to be completed with no additional funding and no new assessments to member states. In addition, the United States succeeded in gaining approval for strengthened governance and financial controls over the project as well as a directive to explore the benefits of 21st century private sector best practices on office space management such as flexible workspace arrangements.

Approves the first-ever UN pay freeze and comprehensive study of UN pay and benefits. Even though the salaries of UN staff are supposed to be based on those of the U.S. federal civil service, UN staff have received annual pay increases in the past few years, despite U.S. federal civil service salaries being frozen since 2010.

Over the past eighteen months, the United States has led a vigorous effort to approve a pay freeze for UN staff in New York. A year ago, we introduced, for the first time, the concept of an administrative pay freeze at the UN, and this year we were able to institute a six-month pay freeze, despite intense opposition by some countries. This responsible action by the UN General Assembly sends an important signal that business as usual cannot continue and sets the important precedent that UN staff salaries are not immune to the financial realities of the outside world. While the United States regrets that the pay freeze was only for six months, we are committed to continuing efforts to extend it further.

Approves a Zero-Nominal-Growth 2014-15 UN regular budget, reversing decades of budget increases. The United States, along with other allies, successfully negotiated a budget planning figure for 2014-2015 that instills real financial discipline by keeping the UN budget level constant over several years. The result establishes an initial 2014-2015 budget level that is below the final appropriation for the 2010-2011 biennium budget. This is a significant departure from the past practice of the UN adding more to the baseline each biennium rather than conducting a comprehensive review and reprioritization of activities to make the best use of existing resources. The United States and others were also able to secure approval or reaffirmation of key authorities for the Secretary-General that will allow him to seek further savings beyond the initial estimate by reviewing obsolete activities, instituting additional measures to increase effectiveness, and simplifying procedures. In addition, he is directed to quantify these savings so that member states can understand the outcome.

Maintains financial discipline by combating efforts to add $423 million to the current UN budget for 2012-2013 and increase the 2014-2015 budget to $5.5 billion. Secretariat and member state proposals would have added a total of $423 million to the current 2012-2013 UN Regular Budget and set the 2014-2015 Regular Budget planning figure at $5.5 billion.

The United States led efforts to minimize the increase in order to maximize financial discipline during the remainder of the current budget cycle and establish a zero-nominal-growth stance for the 2014-2015 biennium. In the end, an increase of $243 million was approved resulting in a revised total of almost $5.4B for 2012-2013, consisting of $152 million for new or expanded mandates explicitly approved by member states  (especially Special Political Missions in Syria, Libya, and Yemen) and $91 million of the $243 million requested for “recosting” to cover actual increases in 2012 due to inflation, exchange rate losses, and adjustments to staff costs. The 2014-2015 Regular Budget planning level was also set below $5.4B, $100 million below the Secretariat’s request. The United States regrets that the current budget was increased for any reason other than additional mandates, but is gratified to have prevented further increases and to have held the line for zero-nominal-growth across several biennia at the final 2010-2011 level of $5.4 billion.

Continues to reform the UN budget process. The United States and other allies led the effort to begin transforming the process of “recosting” from the current system where member states are assessed in advance for projected increases in costs from exchange rates, inflation and other adjustments to staff costs to a system of reviewing actual performance and then assessing the need for additional funds at the end of the fiscal period. This new approach increases the incentive for sound fiscal management. In addition to reforming the process, the United States and allies gained General Assembly approval for the first time to direct the Secretary-General to conduct a comprehensive staffing review which will examine UN Secretariat staffing levels to determine whether all are needed to fulfill the mandates entrusted to the United Nations.

Provides additional funding for war crimes tribunals critical to bringing war criminals to justice. The United States led efforts to approve continued financing for UN tribunals prosecuting accused war criminals in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia as well as the International Residual Mechanism while avoiding undue increases in appropriated funds and attempts by some to weaken the tribunals through defunding mechanisms.

Creates additional UN reform objectives across the UN. The agreement adopted on Monday ensures for the first time that those staff who commit fraud against the organization can have a portion of their pension benefits deducted to recover funds; approving a revised plan to bring one of the signature business transformation projects (UMOJA) back on track while stressing the need for greater efforts to minimize the additional funds needed; providing continued endorsement of conference management reforms such as flexible work time and paper smart initiatives; and reiterating the usefulness of external oversight mechanisms and that results based management is a central tool in improving performance and ensuring achievement of expected results.

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