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Statement on Behalf of the Group of 77 and China on Agenda Item 134: Programme Budget for the Biennium 2016-2017, standards of accommodation for air travel

March 10

Madame Chair,

1. I have the honor to speak on behalf of the Group of 77 and China on agenda item 134: Programme budget for the biennium 2016-2017 - Standards of accommodation for air travel.

2. The Group would like to thank Mr. Stephen Cutts, Assistant Secretary-General, Office of Central Support Services, for introducing the report of the Secretary-General on standards of accommodation for air travel. We also thank Mr. Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), for introducing the related report of the Committee.

3. The Group attaches great importance to the effective and efficient utilization of resources for air travel in the United Nations. In this regard, the General Assembly, in its resolutions 67/254 A and 69/271 A, endorsed substative changes in the standards of accommodation of air travel in the United Nations.

4. The Group has carefully studied the Secretary-General's report. We welcome the efforts taken by the Secretary-General to improve the information provided to Member States, so that we can have a better understanding of the resources being utilized for air travel.

Madame Chair,

5. Let me highlight four issues.

6. First, the Group concurs with the recommendations of the ACABQ on the issue of First Class travel. Today's Business Class is now functionally equivalent to yesterday's First Class. First Class sections have also been eliminated by many airlines. It is therefore time to have a review of the Organization's policy on entitlements to First Class travel.

7. Second, on the issue of frequent flyer miles, the Group understands the challenges faced in implementing a FFM program at the corporate level. We would not insist on having such an uneconomical program when the report of the Secretary-General clearly states that the costs of managing such a program more than outweigh any associated benefits, and would require the deployment of significant additional resources.

8. Third, the report of the Secretary-General appears to attribute the spike in exceptions authorized by the Secretary-General to changes endorsed by the General Assembly on the standards of accommodation for air travel. The Group notes this point with concern, and will seek specific clarification on the issue of travel for members of organs and subsidiary organs, committees, councils, and commissions of the United Nations, and why such travel has been treated as exceptions, when paragraph 20 of resolution 67/254 A clearly mandates stipulated standards of accommodation for air travel.

9. Four, the Group notes with concern the low compliance rate with the advance purchase policy directive. We agree with the ACABQ that the Secretariat should be encouraged to make stronger efforts in this regard.

Madame Chair,

10. The Group reiterates that any policy changes or new formulations in the area of standards of accommodation for air travel, like other management and financial issues, continue to remain the exclusive prerogative of the Fifth Committee and the General Assembly. To this end, we reiterate our readiness to engage constructively in the upcoming discussions, with the aim of concluding this agenda item in a timely fashion.

I thank you, Madame Chair.


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