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The Environment Fund budgets: revised proposals for 1996-1997 and proposals for 1998-1999 (decision 19/22)

74. At the same meeting, the Governing Council had before it a draft decision on this subject, which was introduced by the representative of Canada as Chairman of the working group on budgetary matters.

75. Amendments to the draft decision were introduced by the representatives of Australia and Pakistan.

76. The representative of the United States of America, while welcoming the spirit of cooperation that had been evident in the discussions on the draft decision, said that any increase in her country's contribution to the Environment Fund over its 1996 level would be contingent on its perception of how UNEP was addressing the institutional challenges before it. The United States of America supported the budget proposals in the draft decision but wished to make it clear that the difference between the $70 million level that the United States of America had originally advocated and the $75 million level that been agreed could not be made up by an increase in the United States of America contribution. She therefore urged other Governments to give serious consideration to increasing their own contributions. Finally, she said that, in the future, it was imperative for UNEP to base its programme of work on a scientific assessment of trends in the world environmental situation.

77. The representative of Canada said that her delegation supported the draft decision, which sent a message of support to UNEP but, at the same time, was realistic with regard to expected contributions. She hoped that the confidence was well founded. Expressing concern at the lack of a detailed discussion of the proposed programme of work at the current session, she urged that efforts should be made to avoid a repetition of such an omission at future sessions.

78. The representative of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that those delegations supported the draft decision and welcomed the spirit of cooperation shown in the negotiations.

79. The draft decision was adopted by consensus, with the amendments introduced by the representatives of Australia and Pakistan.

80. Following the adoption of the decision, the Executive Director said that, while the Governing Council had given the secretariat clearer guidance than at any time in the past, she had a number of concerns about the budgets that had been adopted. The greatest concern related to the cuts in information and public affairs, at a time when it was more essential than ever that UNEP should reach out to world public opinion. The allocation for the management and administrative support costs (MASC) budget was such that serious discussions with the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON) would be needed. The staffing cuts facing the Corporate Planning and Accountability Service would affect the development of unified databases, while those in Fund management were regrettable at a time when the Internal Auditors were calling for a strengthening of such activities. On the question of regional representation, where staff reductions would undoubtedly be needed, it was not yet clear whether such reductions should be spread over all regional offices or whether, in certain regions, some alternative formula would have to be found. She also feared that the cuts in other areas of the budget would severely curtail the ability of UNEP to service intergovernmental meetings. Finally, she said that fund-raising efforts would continue in order to achieve the target of $105 million for Fund programme activities.