UNITAR Launches Course for New Delegates on the Fifth Committee

Fifth Committee5 September 2017 New York, USA – The United Nations Institute for Research and Training (UNITAR) organized a training course with the sponsorship of the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations,entitled “Orientation Course for New Delegates on the 5th Committee”. The course is comprised of several sessions across four days and introduces delegates to the work, rules, and procedures of the 5th Committee and the United Nations budget system. The course opened with welcome remarks delivered by His Excellency Mr. Oliver Zehnder, Deputy Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the United Nations, and Mr. Marco Suazo, Acting Head of UNITAR New York Office. Both speakers emphasized the importance and uniqueness of the 5th Committee’s role within the United Nations System and the upcoming reform programmes in the United Nations Agenda.

The first day of the course was divided into three sessions. In the first session, Mr. Omar Castaneda Solares, Deputy Permanent Representative of Guatemala and former Vice-Chair of the 5th Committee for the 70th Session, shared an overview of the 5th Committee’s structure and key tasks as well as his observations and recommendations based on his years serving on the Committee. These insights included noting that the 5th Committee does not exist in a vacuum and must be considered within the larger context of the work of the United Nations; stressing that the purview of the 5th Committee is limited to budgetary items; and observing that the methods of work, while unique to the 5th Committee, are a form of organizing the work in a manner that leads to consensus. Mr. Castaneda Solares recommended that delegates prioritize items based on their country mission’s interests, contribute to the work of the Chair and Committee as a whole, and maintain a global perspective when working in the 5th Committee. Mr. Castaneda Solares also responded to several questions from the course participants, clarifying the responsibilities and time commitment expected of delegates participating in the 5th Committee, the interconnectedness of resolutions, and the role of the 5th Committee in relation to the resolutions of other Committees.

Fifth committeeThe second speaker, Ms. Shari Klugman, Executive Secretary of Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), provided a briefing on the background, work, and processes of the ACABQ and its relation to the 5th Committee. Ms. Klugman clarified that the ACABQ serves as an independent body between the Secretary-General and the 5th Committee that brings a unique historical perspective to its reports. The ACABQ prepares a report that verifies the reasonableness of proposed items. They rely on data from the Controller’s Office and Board of Auditors, and reviews past historical evidence of ability and capability to spend funds wisely. Ms. Klugman provided insights into the process of report writing, including taking 4 to 6 weeks to research each item and closed sessions to adopt the language of the report. Participants also had the opportunity to ask questions. These included gaining a deeper understanding of where the ACABQ fit within the Secretariat, the role of the ACABQ after producing the report, and insights into how politics relates to the ACABQ.

Fifth CommitteeThe final session of the day was led by Mr. Pedro Guazo, Deputy Controller of the Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts. Mr. Guazo provided a broad perspective on financial issues of the United Nations, noting that more detailed clarifications would be provided on the second day of the training. Mr. Guazo clarified from a financial perspective the definition of the Secretariat, which included 9 reporting entities and 12 financial statements. Briefly, Mr. Guazo outlined what information was included in each of the nine reports and provided insights into differences in timelines for fiscal year and peacekeeping budgets. Mr. Guazo also provided clarification on the differences between budgets and financial statements, and the implications of these differences in terms of reporting. The key difference highlighted was that budgets were based on cash flow while financial statements were based on international accounting standards (IPSAS) which include ledgers and asset accounts. Clarifications were also provided regarding responsibilities of management versus the Board of Auditors, and how this relates to reports produced by the Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts. Finally, Mr. Guazo provided sample information that is included in financial statements, providing clarification and insights into what is included in each category (assets and liabilities, revenue and expenses). To close the session, the floor was opened for questions, and participants received clarification and insights into how assets are managed and flexibility produced by voluntary contributions. Mr. Marco Suazo closed the first day of the training, which will resume on 6 September 2017.

Photos: Speakers and participants of the course