13 December 2019
Seventy-fourth Session, 16th Meeting (AM)

Delegates Call for Investment in State-of-the-Art Technology, More Seating Capacity, as Fifth Committee Reviews Deteriorating Conditions at Nairobi Conference Centre

United Nations conference facilities in Kenya’s capital badly need upgrading and expansion as a centre for multilateralism, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) heard today, as it also examined the required financial resources to implement resolutions and decisions adopted by the Human Rights Council.

Kenya’s delegate expressed concern that the deteriorating conditions and limited capacity of the conference centre at the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON) ‑ home to the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat) ‑ is greatly affecting the Secretariat’s ability to service the regular calendar meetings and other international conferences held there.

“It is important to highlight the risk and potential reputational loss that the United Nations faces by continuing to try to support conferences of that magnitude using the existing, ageing and inadequate conference facilities,” he added, further emphasizing the need to expand the facilities’ seating capacity from the current 2,000 and bring them up to date.  As the United Nations is committed to promoting the equal participation of persons with disabilities, it must “walk the talk” and its premises must set an example in accessibility, he said.

The observer for the State of Palestine, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that attendance at the fourth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly in March 2019 surpassed the 5,000 accredited participants and 109 meetings were held.  Recalling that the Nairobi Office has responded to this demand by using and converting corridors, walkways and car parks; and installing temporary tented structures across the complex, he warned:  “This is unsustainable and creates unacceptable risk and additional cost to the conference organizers.”

These conditions also risk successful outcomes for the meetings and do not uphold the prestige and dignity on which the United Nations is premised, he added, lamenting that Member States have been forced to conduct informal negotiations in substandard and inaccessible rooftop rooms in which the interpretation and audio‑visual equipment is outdated and prone to failure.

Botswana’s delegate, speaking for the African Group, said the facilities should be upgraded to a centre for multilateralism on par with other headquarters locations, namely New York, Geneva and Vienna, with full compliance with building and safety codes, in a manner that allows modern and multipurpose conferencing.  Investment in state-of-the-art technology is urgently needed as the conference management and simultaneous interpretation systems, dating from 2009, have been experiencing failures.  In that regard, the Group looks forward to receiving a detailed needs assessment and an expanded analysis of the options for the consideration of the General Assembly, he stated.

The Fifth Committee also reviewed budgeting for the implementation of Human Rights Council resolutions.  The Philippines’ delegate stressed that the United Nations, in its current financial crisis, should carefully spend money, questioning whether the proposed $331,300 to implement Human Rights Council Resolution 41/2 on the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines would make a difference on the ground.

She insisted that the resolution was adopted by 18 members, less than half of the Human Rights Council’s total membership, and calls for a so-called “comprehensive report on the human rights situation in the Philippines” with “no intention of generating an objective assessment of the real situation on the ground but speaks to the real motive of the authors to name and shame, for which no amount of money will ever be enough.”  The Assembly should carefully consider whether it will allow itself to advance the political agenda of a few, she said.

At the outset of today’s meeting, Chandramouli Ramanathan, Controller and Assistant Secretary‑General for Programme Planning, Finance and Budget in the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on revised estimates resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted by the Human Rights Council (document A/74/529), the conference services facilities at the United Nations Office at Nairobi (document A/74/471) and the programme budget implications of draft resolution on the situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar (document A/C.5/74/11).

He noted that the Human Rights Council adopted 65 resolutions with financial implications.  In support of implementation of these texts, the report requests an additional appropriation of $22.54 million representing a charge against the contingency fund for the year 2020.  Approval is requested for the establishment of 18 posts for 2020, including 12 posts for the establishment of the country office in Sudan.

As for the Nairobi Office, the General Assembly is requested to approve the proposed next steps, appropriate $470,000 for 2020, and ask the Secretary‑General to submit a report on the results of a detailed needs assessment and expanded options analysis at the Assembly’s seventy-fifth session.

Should the draft resolution on the situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar be approved, required resources will amount to $1.07 million.

Julia Machiel, Vice-Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced that body’s related reports (documents A/74/7/Add.26, A/74/7/Add.22, and A/74/7/Add.25).

In other business, Thiago Poggia Padua (Brazil), Fifth Committee Vice-Chair, announced that the committee bureau ‑ due to the packed agenda and limited time left for negotiations ‑ decided not to introduce reports on the capital master plan, information and communications technology strategy, conditions of service of judges, and the human resources composition in the current main session.  These items will be taken up at the resumed session.

The Fifth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m., Monday, 16 December to discuss the 2020 proposed programme budget of special political missions, revised estimates for the Office of the United Nations Emergency Ebola Response Coordinator, the programme budget implications of a draft resolution on countering the use of information and communications technologies for criminal purposes, and seconded active-duty military and police personnel.

For information media. Not an official record.