General Assembly adopts new $3.16 billion budget - no growth in real terms

24 December 2003

The United Nations General Assembly has adopted a $3.16 billion budget for 2004-2005 that shows no growth in real terms but rearranges priorities in favour of humanitarian activities and grants Secretary-General Kofi Annan new authority to transfer up to 50 posts among different parts of the budget.

The resource shifts to address new priorities, particularly to follow up on Mr. Annan's reform package, was "very much a cliff-hanger towards the end" of negotiations before the Assembly adopted it by consensus last night, UN budget director Warren Sach told a news briefing today.

"Although the resource is essentially as it was before this is the result of something of a tussle between different groups of countries and that was really a deal to ensure that there would be continuing reforms in operating processes," he said. The $270 billion increase over 2002-2003 is accounted for by currency and inflation adjustments. Mr. Annan had requested a 0.5 per cent increase in real terms.

"The new authorities to the Secretary-General to be able to move posts around, to change the budget and planning process were very much negotiating items and took a long time to arrive at agreements on," Mr. Sach added.

Calling the budget, 75 to 80 per cent of which goes on payroll, a vehicle for Mr. Annan's reform, he said the package "strengthens human rights, humanitarian activities and also to some extent the economic and social ones" as a follow up on financing activities agreed to at development conferences held in Monterrey and Johannesburg.

Agencies benefiting from extra resources include the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The budget includes increases of $65 million for the UN political mission in Afghanistan and $45 million for the UN mission in Iraq. It also allows for 64 new posts, compared with the 117 that Mr. Annan asked for, including 10 in economic and social affairs, 6 in the human rights area and 5 in UNRWA.

The budget also imposes a freeze on recruitment on general service staff to address concerns about staffing levels in the light of new technology and allots an extra $30 million for communications and technology for updating and modernizing operating methods of the Secretariat.

Assembly President Julian Hunte of Saint Lucia said last night's vote capped a substantive session, the body's 58th annual gathering, that was "nothing short of extraordinary."

He voiced satisfaction with the accomplishments overall but added that while many important issues had been addressed - including HIV/AIDS, financing for development and humanitarian assistance - much remains to be done for the remainder of the session.


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