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    Press Release No:  UNIS/GA/AB/3362
    Release Date:  29 March 2000
     FIFTH COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS ASSEMBLY APPROVE CLOSE TO $6.2 MILLION FOR POLITICAL MISSIONS IN GUINEA-BISSAU AND CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC 
    The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning recommended the Assembly approve requirements of close to $6.2 million for political missions in Guinea-Bissau and the Central African Republic against the provision for special political missions in the programme budget for 2000-2001.

    By other terms of this text -- one of two approved today without a vote -- the Assembly would note that, following its decision, some $61.5 million of the amount budgeted for special political missions would have been used, leaving some $28.9 million unallocated from the regular budget’s provision of roughly $90.4 million for this purpose.

    This decision responded to requests from the Secretary-General to fund two missions. He had asked for some $2.7 million to fund the United Nations Peace-building Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS) until 31 March 2001, and some $3.4 million to pay for the United Nations Peace-Building Support Office in the Central African Republic (BONUCA) from 15 February 2000 to 14 February 2001.

    By the Committee’s other decision this morning, the Assembly would decide that reports on the status of all death and disability claims, commencing with the period ending 31 December 2000, should be submitted annually. Currently, reports on these claims are submitted quarterly.

    During discussion of the financing of political missions, Cuba’s representative suggested that the Committee explore means by which the Assembly could be directly involved in establishing offices that were financed through the regular budget.

    Noting an Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) suggestion that vehicles for the Guinea-Bissau office could come from the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA), the representative of Uganda said that, given the conditions in Africa, it might be more cost-effective to purchase new vehicles.

    The Committee also discussed use of personnel provided free to the United Nations by governments and other entities, in response to a Secretary-General’s status report.

    Statements were made by the representatives of Republic of Korea, Morocco, United States, China, Nigeria (for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), and Portugal (for the European Union). The Committee also heard from Conrad S.M. Mselle, Chairman of the ACABQ; Compton Persaud, Chief of Financial Management and Support Service of the Field Administration and Logistics Division of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations; Warren Sach, the Director of the Budget Division; and Denis Beissel, Acting Officer-in-Charge of the Office of Human Resources Management.

    The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, to consider the financing of peacekeeping operations in East Timor and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    Committee Work Programme

    The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to consider the Secretary-General's tenth progress report on the clearing of a 1997 backlog of death and disability claims by Member States, to consider estimated costs for two special political missions on matters of concern to the Security Council, and to consider a quarterly report on staff provided free to the United Nations by governments (gratis personnel).

    It had before it a note by the Secretary-General on death and disability benefits (document A/C.5/54/47) detailing the current status of a backlog of claims, about which the Assembly asked for quarterly reports.

    Since 28 October 1997, nine quarterly progress reports had been issued on claims up to 30 June 1997. In an annex to the present report the total number of claims received from troop-contributing countries as of 31 December 1999, identifying the number of claims received since 19 May 1997, is presented by country and by peacekeeping operation.

    As of 30 September 1999, a total of 317 claims were awaiting processing, but by 31 December 1999 this had been reduced by 54, to 263. Sixty-four claims had been processed from 1 October to 31 December 1999, and 10 new claims received. Nineteen of the newly processed claims were part of the backlog prior to 19 May 1997, with 45 received following 19 May 1997.

    Of the original backlog of 564 death and disability claims on 19 May 1997, only 19 remained, according to the report. Nine of these cases were from Austria, nine from Bangladesh and one from the Russian Federation. Regarding the Austrian claims, one had just been certified for settlement, three were awaiting further clarification, and additional justifications were required for the remaining five. Regarding those from Bangladesh, all nine cases pending had just been certified for settlement. Further justification was also pending for the one Russian claim

    Given that the original 564 backlog cases for which the General Assembly requested quarterly progress reports will be eliminated very shortly, the Secretary-General recommends that the present progress report be the last one submitted under General Assembly resolution 51/239 A.

    In related comments from the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) (document A/54/782), that body states that the quarterly notes provide valuable information to the General Assembly on the status of death and disability claims. Thus, it recommends that annual reports be submitted in future on the status of all such claims.

    The ACABQ also states that some of the information contained in the tables annexed to the note is confusing. The 4,833 incidents reported included all incidents reported, and it was likely that many of them would not result in claims. Some did not involve injuries that occurred in the performance of duties, but the ACABQ felt that it was important for the database to record all reported incidents. Accordingly, it recommends that a footnote be included to the effect that the figure includes all reported cases and that not all such cases will lead to claims. 

    It also states that the information in the tables annexed to the note could be more complete, and recommends that they should distinguish between accidents, injuries and deaths. Tables should also include information on the total number of claims, the number of claims being processed and the number of claims settled, as well as the dollar amounts involved. Some assessment could also be given regarding which incidents are expected to lead to claims.

    Also before the Committee was a report from the Secretary-General containing financial estimates for good offices, preventive diplomacy and post-conflict missions on matters with which the Security Council is seized (document A/C.5/54/52).

    The General Assembly's 2000-2001 budget resolution included some $90.39 million for special political missions, under the “Political affairs” part of the programme budget. At that time, the Assembly also noted that some $55.36 million had been used, leaving about $35.02 million unallocated. This report proposes resource requirements for two special political missions whose mandates have recently been approved. They are estimated to cost about $6.15 million, increasing the total amount from this budget item already committed to about $61.52 million, leaving about $28.87 million uncommitted.

    The two missions are the United Nations Peace-building Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS), and the United Nations Peace-building Support Office in the Central African Republic (BONUCA). The mandate for UNOGBIS has been extended through 31 March 2001 and the mission is estimated to cost about $2.72 million. The BONUCA is mandated until 14 February 2001 and is expected to cost about $3.43 million. Details of the missions and expenses, including breakdowns of staffing levels, are annexed to the report.

    Eleven Cubans, five Swiss and two Australians are the Organization's only remaining type II gratis personnel, according to the Secretary-General's latest quarterly report on staff provided by governments and other entities free of charge to the United Nations (document A/C.5.54/51). During the reporting period -- 1 October 1999 through 31 December 1999 –- the number of type II gratis went from 98 to 18 type II gratis personnel.

    Type I gratis personnel are those who serve under an established regime. They are the interns, associate experts, technical cooperation experts and gratis staff serving with the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), according to the text. Type II gratis personnel refers to all others.

    Death and Disability Benefits

    CONRAD S.M. MSELLE, Chairman of the ACABQ, introduced that body’s report. He recommended that an annual report on death and disability claims be submitted in the future. The ACABQ had also proposed some measures to refine the information to be provided. This information would include an account of all incidents, and an estimation of how many incidents were likely to lead to claims. This could be done using historical data comparing incidents to claims, thus, obviating the need for the Secretariat to predict whether any specific reported incident might lead to a claim.

    PARK HAE-YUN (Republic of Korea) said that the reports were very useful. While agreeing that there was no need to continue to report every quarter on the 1997 backlog of cases, he asked that annual reports be submitted on the status of all claims.

    ABDESALAM MEDINA (Morocco) said he would go along with any consensus on future reporting. He asked, concerning the total claims awaiting processing, how the situation had changed since the date of the data in the Secretary-General’s report -- 31 December 1999.

    ROYAL WHARTON (United States) asked for an explanation of the significance of the date, 30 June 1997, referred to in the tables on the backlogs of claims in the annexes to the Secretary-General’s report. 

    TANG GUANG TING (China) said he agreed with the ACABQ recommendation that the original backlog situation had been resolved and that only annual reports were now required. He also agreed with the ACABQ proposals to refine the information.

    COMPTON PERSAUD, Chief of Financial Management and Support Service of the Field Administration and Logistics Division of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, answered Member States’ questions. He said the Secretariat agreed with the proposed annual reporting requirement. The latest available figures showed 164 claims were awaiting processing. Claims had been processed since December, but new claims had also been received. The Secretariat aimed to seriously address the backlog in the next few months, and he believed that there would be substantial progress by 30 June.

    Responding to the United States question, he explained that the data from 30 June 1997 was data recorded in the peacekeeping database at that time. The information in the remaining annex items were either totals to 19 May 1997 -– the date to which the original Assembly instructions pertained -– or to 31 December 1999 –- the closing date for data in the latest report. 

    The Committee Chairman, PENNY WENSLEY (Australia), then proposed a draft decision as follows: 

    “The General Assembly, “Takes note of the note by the Secretary-general on death and disability benefits, as contained in document A/C.5/54/47, and of the progress made in clearing the backlog of claims for incidents, 
    “Takes note also of the related report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, contained in document A/54/782,  “Concurs with the observations of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions and decides that annual reports be submitted on the status of all death and disability claims, commencing with the period ending 31 December 2000.”

    The Committee then approved this decision without a vote.

    Programme Budget for 2000-2001

    Mr. MSELLE, Chairman of the ACABQ, said the full text of that body’s views on the Secretary-General’s report on estimates of matters of which the Security Council was seized had been circulated in the conference room. The report dealt with two political missions. The first was for UNOGBIS, for which the Secretary- General was requesting some $2.7 million through 31 March 2001. For BONUCA, the Secretary-General was requesting some $3.4 million for the period from 15 February 2000 through 14 February 2001. The ACABQ recommended accepting those requests. A total charge of some $6.2 million would be made against the provision of some $90.4 million for special political missions under section 3, Political affairs, of the programme budget for 2000-2001. That would bring the total charge to some $61.5 million, leaving a balance of roughly $28.9 million.

    HASSAN M. HASSAN (Nigeria), speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, supported the Secretary-General’s proposal for the two political missions and endorsed the views of the ACABQ.

    THOMAS REPASCH (United States) supported the recommendations of the ACABQ and agreed with that body’s views concerning the cost-effectiveness of the vehicle acquisition for the Guinea-Bissau office. He hoped the Secretariat would try to be as cost-effective as possible.

    DULCE MARÍA BUERGO RODRÍGUEZ (Cuba) agreed with approving the requirements for the two offices, and that those should be counted against amounts agreed upon by the Assembly last December for special political missions. Her delegation was concerned, however, that the proposals related to activities financed under the regular budget stemmed exclusively from Security Council decisions. The Committee should reflect on this issue and consider alternatives that would enable the Assembly to express its views on the establishment of activities that were financed through the regular budget, and not directly related to activities financed through the peacekeeping budget. In short, while she had no problem with the current decision, alternatives should be considered so the Assembly could be directly involved in establishing offices that were financed through the regular budget.

    EDUARDO RAMOS (Portugal), for the European Union, concurred with previous speakers on the financing proposal.

    NESTER ODAGA-JALOMAYO (Uganda) said he basically supported the views of the ACABQ and the Secretary-General. He noted, however, that the ACABQ had indicated that the six new vehicles required for the Guinea-Bissau office should possibly be obtained from the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA). The UNOGBIS already had seven vehicles with high mileage that it had received from the United Nations Mission in Angola (MONUA). Given the conditions in Africa, obtaining vehicles MINURCA might lead to more expense than savings. New vehicles should be obtained to augment the seven vehicles with high mileage obtained from MONUA.

    Regarding the peace-building office in the Central African Republic, he noted that money was available for staff training from the regular budget, in addition to voluntary contributions. Yet, in the case of UNOGBIS, those same activities were to be met exclusively from extrabudgetary resources. Given the Organization's history with such funds when it came to training in Africa, he was a bit concerned.

    Responding to Member States’ questions, WARREN SACH, Director of the Budget Division, said that the point raised concerning the acquisition of vehicles for Guinea-Bissau -- that the most cost-efficient means of providing transport should be employed -- was well taken. Whether that meant purchasing new vehicles or using vehicles from other missions had yet to be established. Should the outcome of the examination lead to economies, these would be set out in future reports.

    Regarding resources for training for Guinea-Bissau, about $390,000 in voluntary contributions was currently available for training government officials and non-governmental organizations. These were not prospective resources, but resources actually on-hand.

    The Chairman, Ms. WENSLEY (Australia) then proposed a draft decision. By its terms, the Assembly would approve the charge of total requirements of some $6.155 million for UNOGBIS and BONUCA against the provision for special political missions under section 3, Political affairs, of the programme budget for 2000-2001. It would note that, following the decisions, the utilization of the provision for special political missions would amount to some $61.518 million, and that an unallocated balance of $28.87 million remained against the provision of roughly $90.387 million for special political missions. The Assembly would also take note of the report of the Secretary-General and the related views of the ACABQ.

    Ms. BUERGO RODRÍGUEZ (Cuba) said that, in the first operative paragraph of the draft decision, the Assembly would be asked to take note of the report of the ACABQ. She asked what the process was regarding this, given that the ACABQ had made oral comments. She noted that the ACABQ comments would be issued later as an official document. She also remained concerned about the role of the Assembly.

    The Chairman, Ms. WENSLEY (Australia) explained that at the point at which the draft decision went to the Assembly, the presentation by the ACABQ would have been issued as an official document and would have a document number.

    She proposed that the Committee approve the draft decision, bearing in mind its revision to include a document number for the ACABQ comments, and the draft was then approved without a vote. 

    Gratis Personnel 

    DENIS BEISSEL, Acting Officer-in-Charge of the Office of Human Resources Management, then introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the status of gratis personnel. He drew attention to the reduction in numbers of type II gratis personnel in the period covered by the report.

    Mr. MSELLE, Chairman of the ACABQ, then orally introduced the ACABQ report. He said the ACABQ had learned that posts for infrastructure, such as electricity and water supply, for the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) had been budgeted and established, but that early in the mission these posts had not been available, and because these activities were considered crucial, Australian experts had been used.

    Regarding the Swiss and Cuban gratis personnel referred to in the Secretary- General’s report, all had left already or would leave soon, as none were authorized to stay for more than six months. 

    He noted that UNTAET included 20 medical officers who were United Nations Volunteers, charged with providing medical support for the mission’s civilian staff. He recalled that the ACABQ had requested a study on the wider use of United Nations Volunteers to meet field mission requirements, to be presented to the main session of the fifty-fifth General Assembly, and said he would return to this matter at that stage. The ACABQ recommended the Assembly take note of the report, he concluded.

    Mr. HASSAN (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that the Group’s position on the gratis personnel was that their use must be in accordance with the relevant Assembly resolutions.

    The Chairman, Ms. WENSLEY (Australia) then proposed that the matter be further considered in informal consultations, and it was so decided.

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