The rules applying to the UN budgetary procedure are derived to a large extent from the successive resolutions adopted by the General Assembly, which have been gradually codified into regulations.
The UN Charter does not in fact say much about the organization’s financial framework, and merely specifies the competencies of the main organs (Article 17 for the General Assembly and 97 with respect to the Secretary-General) as well as the rules applied in the event of non-payment by a member state of its contribution (Article 19).
It was therefore up to the General Assembly to establish a body of rules. In this respect there are three resolutions that are worth mentioning:
Resolution 41/213 of December 19, 1986: This resolution was adopted on the basis of the conclusions of the report by an intergovernmental panel in order to put an end to the budgetary crisis that shook the organization in the middle of the 1980s and set out the major principles of the planning, programming and budgeting process. Annex I describes in particular the modalities of the biennial cycle as well as the existence of a contingency fund to cover additional expenses arising from decisions taken by the legislative bodies.
Resolution 42/211 of December 21, 1987: This resolution which derives from resolution 41/213 specifies the criteria for the use and operation of the contingency fund.
Resolution 45/248 of December 21, 1990: This resolution, which marked the start of a long series of similar resolutions, reaffirms that the Fifth Committee of the General Assembly “is entrusted with responsibilities for administrative and budgetary issues.”
The principles laid down by these resolutions were gradually compiled into regulations, which are regularly updated in the form of bulletins:
The financial regulations and rules governing financial management are published in bulletin ST/SGB/2013/4.
The budget negotiations involve a wide range of actors, reflecting not just the skill required to address the budget problems, but also the inherently intergovernmental nature of the process.
The process of drawing up the budget first of all involves the Secretariat. Indeed, it is the responsibility of the Office of Program Planning, Budget and Accounts, within the Department of Management, to prepare, in collaboration with all the other departments of the organization, all of the budgetary documents to be examined later by the General Assembly, namely the proposed strategic framework, the proposed program budget, the first and second performance reports on the program budget, the program performance report as well as the financial report and the financial statements.
The documents created by the Secretariat are then reviewed by two intergovernmental bodies of a more technical nature.
The Committee for Program and Co-ordination (CPC): established as a subsidiary organ by the Economic Council in its resolution 920 (XXXIV) of August 3, 1962, as the Special Coordination Committee, then renamed in its resolution 1171 (XLI) of August 5, 1966; its mandate is included in the Economic Council’s resolution 2008 (LX) of May 14, 1976. It is composed of 34 members appointed by ESOC for election by the General Assembly and primarily focuses on the programmatic aspect of the regular budget. In this respect, it rules on the proposed strategic framework as well as the program performance report. Its work results in a final yearly report which is submitted for examination by the Fifth Committee.
The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ): subsidiary organ of the General Assembly, whose membership increased from 13 to 17 in 1977. Its functions and responsibilities are governed by the provisions contained in resolutions 14 (I) of February 13, 1946, and 32/103 of December 14, 1977, as well as by Rules 155 to 157 of the rules of procedure of the General Assembly. Its major functions are as follows: o To examine the Secretary General’s proposed budget and present a report on it to the General Assembly; o To advise on any administrative and budgetary matters referred to it, o To examine on behalf of the General Assembly the administrative budgets of the specialized agencies and proposals for financial arrangements with such agencies; o To consider and report to the General Assembly on the auditors’ reports on the accounts of the United Nations and of the specialized agencies. The program of work of the Committee is determined by the requirements of the General Assembly and the other legislative bodies to which the Committee reports.
Based on the work of these two groups, it then falls to the 193 member states of the General Assembly “to examine and approve the organization’s budget” (Article 17 of the Charter). As in most national parliaments, this review is carried out by a specific committee, the Fifth Committee (rule 98 of the rules of procedure of the General Assembly), the composition of which is the same as the General Assembly. Its work leads to the adoption of resolutions.
The committee meets during the main part of the regular session of the General Assembly (September to December), as well as during the resumed sessions in March and May the following year.
During the second resumed session in May, it only deals with the administrative and budgetary aspects of the peacekeeping operations. However, it may at any time examine any urgent matter relating to the financing of a peacekeeping operation authorized by the Security Council.
Lastly, retrospective analyses, which could apply retroactively to the debates carried out in the Fifth Committee, are carried out at various levels:
The United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) was established in 1994 in order to standardize the internal control mechanisms within the Secretariat. It carries out the standard internal control functions, i.e. audit and performance review, evaluation of programs and activities, monitoring the implementation of rules governing planning and the budget, inspection and investigation. Its reports are sent to the General Assembly for information and possible action.
The Board of Auditors (UNBOA) was established by General Assembly resolution 74 (I) of December 7, 1946. It provides external audit functions for the UN and its funds and programs. It is composed of Auditors-General from three member states (currently the United Kingdom, Tanzania and China); it conducts its own audits and reports its findings to the General Assembly.
The Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) is the only independent system-wide inspection, evaluation and investigation body. It was created on an experimental basis in 1968 and formalized in 1978. It is made up of 11 inspectors elected by the General Assembly and its main objective is to analyze and compare the various UN-related institutions.
In accordance with resolution 41/213, articles 2.1 to 2.11 of the financial regulations as well as article 3.2 of the regulations and rules governing program planning, the program aspects of the budget, the monitoring of implementation and the methods of evaluation (ST/SGB/2000/8), the procedure for drafting the regular budget has three phases: programming, the adoption of the program budget and implementation.
The programming process has two dimensions; it involves on the one hand defining the Organization’s framework for action, which takes the form of a plan outline reflecting the longer-term objectives of the Organization as well as a biennial program plan, and, on the other hand, budget programming which results in the adoption by the Fifth Committee in December n-2 of an outline.
On the basis of this outline, as well as the adopted strategic framework, the Secretariat prepares a draft program budget, which is sent in spring n-1 to the CPC as well as to the ACABQ. This budget and the reports pertaining to the intergovernmental bodies are examined in fall n-1 by the Fifth Committee, before being formally adopted - by consensus since 1990 - for entry into force on January 1 of year n.
Responsibility for budget implementation lies, in accordance with rule 105.5 of the financial regulations, with each of the certifying agents, who are equivalent to authorizing officers under French budgetary law, under the control of the Under-Secretary-General for Management. The Fifth Committee reviews this implementation process on two occasions:
During the main part of the session of year n (in the fall), when it examines the first performance report. This generally focuses on the level of overall implementation as well as the appropriations required for the adoption of new mandates (“Program budget implication”);
During the main part of the session of year n+1, when it examines the second performance report. This report is adopted at the same time as the program budget of the following biennium and presents the final level of budgetary performance; it provides a link between the two budgetary periods.
Lastly, in the fall of n+2, the General Assembly receives the report of the Auditor, who in accordance with g of resolution 74 (I), signs off the accounts of the biennium that has just ended.
The procedure for the peacekeeping operations budget is very close in spirit to that of the regular budget (preparation by the Secretariat and adoption by the Fifth Committee), although there are 2 differences: the budgets of the various operations are annual in nature and therefore cover the period from July 1 of year n to June 30 of year n+1; secondly, a mostly budgetary approach to programming is applied at the level of each mission, under the control of the Budget and Finances Division of the Departement of Field support and the Office of Program Planning, Budget and Accounts. The CPC is therefore not involved in the budgetary procedure of the PKOs.
Please visit the UN website on the budget for detailed information on the contributions of the member states
Please visit the website of the Fifth Committee of the UN General Assembly which deals with administrative and budgetary matters