Permanent Mission of Australia
to the United Nations
New York

221003 - CANZ Statement at UN General Assembly - First Formal Meeting of the Fifth Committee


3 October 2022

Statement by H.E. Mitch Fifield, Ambassador and Permanent Representative, Australian Mission to the United Nations

Thank you Mr Chair. Good morning colleagues. I have the honour today to speak on behalf of Canada, New Zealand and, my own country, Australia.

Mr Chair, congratulations on your appointment. It is not an easy job, but you have the right style for the role. We look forward to working with you and the new Bureau to ensure the efficient, effective, accountable, and timely resourcing of UN mandates.

In particular, we appreciate Belgium’s publication of the Fifth Committee Manual to help guide new delegates, and your focus on improving the Committee’s working methods.

This year the 2023 programme budget is being negotiated in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its consequences for the global economy. The Secretary-General has made it clear and I quote, “The impact of the war in Ukraine on food security, energy and finance is systemic, severe and speeding up”, end quote. This has security, economic and humanitarian ramifications for Member States and puts the UN under immense strain. CANZ strongly supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. And we call on Russia to immediately withdraw its forces.

Under the Secretary-General’s management reforms, we moved from a biennial to an annual budget on a trial basis. Over the last three years we have witnessed greater financial agility, more concrete results and improved accountability. This was particularly valuable in navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and now the war in Ukraine. We strongly support the continuation of the annual budget.

And we welcome the Secretary-General’s proposed programme budget for 2023. We acknowledge the delicate balance between new or expanded mandates and containing growth. And we recognise that recosting is being exacerbated by inflation, high food and energy costs, and fluctuating currency exchange rates.

We support the Secretary-General’s proposal to “frontload” resource requirements for ongoing Human Rights Council mandates for budget efficiency. The proposal responds to a recommendation by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions. However, we are dismayed that the ACABQ has subsequently recommended against it. Putting at risk $35 million of human rights funding. We remain deeply concerned about the chronic underfunding of the UN’s human rights pillar.

Following the GA Plenary’s resolution on peacebuilding financing, CANZ looks forward to returning to this item to find consensus in the Fifth Committee. Investing in peace now, reduces costlier responses to crises and conflicts later. The Peacebuilding Fund has delivered impressive results around the world, driven by its flexibility and responsiveness. But, a critical funding gap now exists between Member States’ requests and the voluntary funding available. We consider some assessed funding for the Peacebuilding Fund would provide a valuable contribution to delivering the UN’s core mandate of conflict prevention.

There are a growing list of competing demands for regular budget funding. But, unfortunately, not everything can be included. We will need to carefully consider each proposal on its merits, noting that moving 95 posts, from extrabudgetary to regular budget funding, is a large request.

We acknowledge that all Member States, including our own, are facing increased fiscal constraints following the global impact of COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine. We are committed to working with other Member States to identify savings to offset increases in other areas of the budget.

The Fifth Committee looks to the ACABQ to provide critical advice on budget matters to help us assess proposals. It is vital that we do everything we can to ensure it remains a technical and transparent body. When we consider ACABQ conditions of service, it would be pertinent to also review ACABQ’s work more broadly, including its working methods and expert qualifications.

Finally, while the regular budget is often considered the ideal solution, it does not always receive adequate and predictable funding from its Member States. While CANZ continues to pay in full, on time and without conditions, only two-thirds of Member States have paid their regular budget contributions in full. We urge all Member States with outstanding assessments to prioritise these payments and advise the Secretariat on timing. The later Member States pay, the less likely the money can be committed. And the less likely the UN can deliver on the mandates we have set it.

We look forward to working constructively with all Member States to achieve a timely adoption of the 2023 budget with adequate resources for efficient, effective, relevant, and accountable mandate implementation.