Press Releases

    GA/AB/3508
    21 May 2002

    Several Speakers in Fifth Committee Question Increase in Proposed Support Account Budget for 2002-2003

    NEW YORK, 20 May (UN Headquarters) -- In a short meeting this morning, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) took up the issues of the support account, contingent-owned equipment and entitlement of restitution as part of its consideration of the administrative and budgetary aspects of peacekeeping.

    Regarding the support account, the representative of India said that it was proving to be one of the most important issues considered by the Committee each May. [The peacekeeping support account was introduced in the 1990s to enhance the capacities of the Secretariat to conceive, plan, deploy and support such operations in a coordinated manner. The account is financed through assessments on all active peacekeeping missions, according to their size.]

    In the last two years, no other department of the Secretariat except the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) had increased its staff by over 60 per cent, the representative of India continued. The resources proposed for the account for the next budget cycle were 71 per cent higher than in 2000-2001. Adequate resources had been provided for the Peacekeeping Department, and now it was time to increase efficiency. Tens of millions of dollars spent on upgrading the peacekeeping capacity of the Organization should result in savings based on efficiencies.

    For the 2001-2002 budget cycle, the increase was in large part attributed for the full 12-month costing for 121 additional posts, he said. However, out of the 533 currently approved posts, many remained unfilled. It was even more interesting that out of the 91 additional posts approved under resolution 56/241, only 58 were occupied as of March. It would also be useful to note that during its 13-day second resumed session, the Fifth Committee was to approve the United Nations peacekeeping budget of over $7 billion. The Committee had spent a full 12 weeks on the regular budget, which was half that amount. It was important to consider such an imbalance.

    He also complimented the Secretariat for the speedy introduction of the new results-based budgeting format, which would facilitate adequate consideration of requirements.

    The representative of Algeria said the Fifth Committee should stop being an echo chamber of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ). While appreciating the high-quality work of the ACABQ, delegations should not merely be content with rubber-stamping its recommendations.

    As a decision-making body, the Committee should be the only critical forum on all administrative and budgetary questions.

    He also welcomed the new, results-based budgeting format of the proposed support account budget as an important step in rationalizing its presentation in the context of the restructuring of peacekeeping operations. Expressing support for the ACABQ's recommendations on the budget, he wanted to know why the Secretariat had not been able to respond to its previous recommendations regarding the need not only to provide statistics regarding the volume of work, but also present analytical data. He believed that, in the light of the recommendations in the Brahimi report on peace operations, better coordination among the stakeholders should be emphasized. He asked for clarification about the ACABQ's reservations regarding classification of the two requested D-1 posts proposed for the support account.

    The representative of Singapore wanted to know if 16 General Service posts for the support account were related to the resident auditor function. As the formula for hiring resident auditors had been approved, he asked how many resident auditors had been hired according to that formula.

    The Chairman of the ACABQ, Conrad S. M. Mselle, said he fully agreed with the representative of Algeria that the Fifth Committee should not serve as a rubber stamp for ACABQ recommendations. In his experience, however, it had never done that. For example, as far as the regular budget was concerned, it was quite obvious that the Fifth Committee had not gone along with the ACABQ recommendations. As for the position of the ACABQ on two D-1 posts, the Advisory Committee was not recommending their approval.

    The documents before the Committee were introduced by United Nations Controller Jean-Pierre Halbwachs and the Chairman of the ACABQ.

    Also this morning, following a report on the outcome of informal consultations on the financing of peacekeeping in the Middle East by Committee Vice-Chairman Durga Bhattari (Nepal), a draft resolution on the financing of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)was introduced by the representative of Venezuela (on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China).

    Documents before Committee

    In his financial performance report of the peacekeeping support account for the 2000-2001 budget cycle (document A/56/882), the Secretary-General recommends that the General Assembly approve additional requirements of some $2.14 million gross ($1.39 million net) for that time, applying some $2.17 million from various sources of income and savings to cover those additional requirements.

    According to the report, the additional requirements have resulted mainly from under-budgeted resources for post and staff-assessment costs for 2000-2001. By its resolutions 54/245 B and 55/238, the Assembly had authorized an amount of $59.89 million gross and 562 posts for the support account for the period under review. At the same time, the overall peacekeeping budget level increased from $1.5 billion for the period ending on 30 June 2000 to some $2.6 billion for the 2000-2001 budget cycle.

    The support account's proposed budget for June 2002-July 2003 (document A/56/885) amounts to some $102.32 million gross and envisions financing for 711 posts. It includes a request for an additional 12 posts for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, three posts for the Medical Services Division, six posts for the Information Technology Services Division, one for the Procurement Division and two for the Department of Public Information. The increase of some $12.57 million gross over the current appropriation includes full costs for 121 additional posts approved in General Assembly resolution 56/241, and four posts for the Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator, which were approved by resolution 56/255. The budget proposal reflects a vacancy factor of 8 per cent in the Professional and higher categories and 2.5 per cent for the General Service posts.

    The proposal reflects a shift towards the new results-based budgeting format, linking the established objectives of the medium-term plan to expected accomplishments, with a specific set of indicators of success and outputs, in relation to the required budget resources. Among the expected accomplishments outlined in the document are increased efficiency; improved ability to make informed decisions in response to Security Council peacekeeping mandates; and reorientation of management culture to enhance the Organization's ability to carry out core peacekeeping functions.

    The Secretary-General recommends that the Assembly approve his $102.32-million budget proposal and apply miscellaneous income of $127,800 from the 2000-2001 period to the resources required for 2002-2003. Also suggested in the report is prorating the amount required for 2002-2003 among individual active peacekeeping mission budgets.

    In its related report (document A/56/941), the Advisory Committee recommends approval of the action proposed by the Secretary-General regarding the support account's performance report for 2000-2001 and welcomes the efforts to streamline the budget presentation for 2002-2003. The ACABQ is of the view, however, that adequate justification of the proposed estimates should be maintained, and that accurate workload data and analysis should become an integral part of the budget proposals. In the future, objectives and expected results should be defined more clearly, and the budget process should ensure that the indicators are relevant and can be used as elements to measure the achievement of the expected results. Rather than attempt to mirror the presentation of the regular budget, the presentation of peacekeeping budgets should be realistic and tailored to the circumstances of peacekeeping operations.

    In order to promote accountability, the responsibility of each unit and programme manager in the delivery of services should be obvious and stated more clearly, the Advisory Committee states. To this end, the level of aggregation of objectives and expected results should be re-examined. As to the non-staff cost tables, the Advisory Committee recommends that those include amounts appropriated and spent during the past two periods, in order to allow better analysis of the resources proposed. In addition, information should be included in future reports as to the action taken to implement the ACABQ's recommendations.

    Further according to the report, the overall resources under posts (some $68.29 million) include the establishment of the 24 additional support account posts. The ACABQ remarks that an increase in workload should not automatically lead to additional posts. In the belief that the increase should be accommodated through enhanced productivity and efficiency before additional posts are requested, the Advisory Committee does not recommend approval of all posts requested for the support account, and the document contains detailed explanations of the ACABQ's views in that regard. In view of the ongoing comprehensive review of the management and operations of the Department of Public Information, the ACABQ also recommends delaying a decision on the requested additional public information posts.

    Given the significant and increasing amounts spent on training related to peacekeeping operations, the ACABQ maintains that the time has come for the Secretariat to develop a methodology and monitoring system to evaluate the results of that training, as well as to increase its effectiveness by making it more mission-specific, where appropriate.

    On the whole, for the 2002-2003 budget cycle, the Advisory Committee recommends that the Assembly approve total staffing and non-staffing requirements of some $100.55 million gross ($86.87 million net) for the support account. It also recommends that the miscellaneous income of $127,800 from the period from 1 July 2000 to 30 June 2001 be applied to the resources required for the 2002-2003 period and the balance of some $100.43 million gross ($86.74 million net) be prorated among the individual peacekeeping operation budgets to meet the requirements of the support account.

    The Committee also had a report of the Secretary-General on instances for which the United Nations is entitled to restitution as the result of non-compliance with status-of-forces or other agreements (document A/56/789), submitted pursuant to a request from the ABACQ. In the report, violation of status-of-forces or status-of-mission agreement by a host country is qualified as non-compliance with the terms and conditions of the agreement by the host country as a result of which the Organization incurs costs or financial obligations for which there may not have been a budgetary provision (and which, otherwise, it was under no legal obligation to incur), in order to enable the mission to continue to function. Such costs include duties, tolls, fees, rent and taxes, including sales taxes.

    Based on data collected from all peacekeeping missions covering the period from January 1993 to August 2001, the report noted that violations of status-of-forces or other agreements have been found in 13 peacekeeping missions: the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA); United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO); United Nations Mission in Angola (MONUA); United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC); United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL); United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE);United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP); United Nations Mission of Observers in Tajikistan (UNMOT); and United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO). The total costs incurred ran to $144.37 million. Of this amount, payments exacted by Croatia, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Yugoslavia comprise 88 per cent of the total.

    The Secretary-General recommends that the General Assembly take note of the information contained in the report and endorse the efforts made by the Secretariat and the peacekeeping missions to obtain reimbursement of the amounts paid by the United Nations.

    In paragraph 31 of the ACABQ's report on administrative and budgetary aspects of the financing of United Nations peacekeeping operations (document A/56/887), the Advisory Committee recommends that the Assembly take note of the Secretary-General's report.

    The Secretary-General's note submitting the progress report on the write-off of contingent-owned equipment at liquidated missions (document A/C.5/56/43) summarizes the progress made between July 2001 and April 2002 in processing and settlement of contingent-owned equipment written off at seven liquidated missions -- United Nations Support Mission in Haiti (UNSMIH), United Nations Operation in Mozambique (ONUMOZ), United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), United Nations Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM)/United Nations Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA), United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM), United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) and United Nations Transitional Administration in Cambodia (UNTAC).

    As reported in the support account budget for 2001-2002, a total of 1,356 cases pertaining to write-offs of contingent-owned equipment for 36 Member States were pending, with some States having cases at more than one mission. One thousand three hundred twenty six cases have been processed during the period under review, and respective Member States have been requested to concur with the proposed reimbursable amounts. Fifteen countries have consented, and an amount of some $7.29 million has been placed in account payable for settlement of the write-offs when funds become available. Some 40 cases (among them the most complicated) are currently being processed, and it is expected that all of them will be concluded by the end of 2002.

    The total amount to be appropriated for the maintenance of the UNIFIL is still to be filled out in the draft on the financing of this mission (document A/C.5/56/L.70). By the terms of the text, the Assembly would decide that Member States that have fulfilled their financial obligations to the Force should receive their respective shares of the unencumbered balance of some $23.34 million and other income of over $12.48 million for the period ended on 30 June 2001. The share of the Member States that have not fulfilled their financial obligations to the mission shall be set off against their outstanding obligations. The decrease in the staff assessment income of $420,200 shall be set off against the credits from the unencumbered balance.

    Emphasizing that no peacekeeping mission shall be financed by borrowing funds from other active missions, the Assembly would also encourage the Secretary-General to continue to take additional measures to ensure the safety and security of all personnel under the auspices of the United Nations participating in the Force.

    By other terms of the text, expressing its deep concern that Israel did not comply with several previous resolutions on the matter, the latest of which is resolution 56/214 of 21 December 2001, the Assembly would stress that that country should strictly abide by them.

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