7 May 2003
Budget Committee Continues Review of Peacekeeping Financing, Addressing Need for Timely Reimbursement of Troop Contributor
Staff Recruitment, Consolidation of Peacekeeping Accounts among Issues Discussed
NEW YORK, 6 May (UN Headquarters) -- Continuing its review of peacekeeping and financing this morning, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) considered, among other things, the need for timely reimbursement of Member States for their contributions of troops and equipment. Related to this, concern was also expressed about the importance of timely recruitment of staff and a proposal to consolidate peacekeeping accounts to make the financing of operations more predictable.
Many speakers also noted the 16 per cent reduction in the overall estimated budget level for the next budget year, which begins on 1 July. Compared with the appropriations of some $2.6 billion for 2001-2002, the cost of financing 11 active peacekeeping missions for 2003-2004 would come to some $2.3 billion. An increase in staff resources at Headquarters was one of the main trends presented by the United Nations Controller at the beginning of the Committee's session on Monday, along with the a reduction in the level of resources, the number of missions, troops, police monitors and mission staff.
In this regard, India's representative said that logically the number of posts at Headquarters to support a drawdown of the number of peacekeeping missions and personnel would also come down, but quite the opposite had happened, as civilian staff posts at Headquarters had been projected to increase from 700 to 761. Even if 27 posts for resident auditors were excluded, the net requirement for backstopping at Headquarters would be 734 -- in effect, an increase of 32 posts.
South Africa's representative (on behalf of the African Group) welcomed the fact that the financial situation of peacekeeping operations had improved, with total unpaid contributions at the lowest level in five years and available cash almost equal to liabilities. However, she also shared the Board of Auditors' concern that substantial amounts of obligations to Member States for reimbursement of troops and contingent-owned equipment remained unpaid, due to the lack of available cash in individual peacekeeping missions. Noting that many of those States were from Africa, she urged Member States to pay their contributions in full, on time and without conditions.
Although noting some improvement in reimbursement to Member States, Uruguay's representative highlighted the persistence of late payments for contingent-owned equipment. As most developing countries contributing troops, Uruguay's participation depended on timely reimbursements, given its limited financial capacity, particularly during the current severe economic crisis. Also, while the participation of developing countries was highly accepted in the field, when filling high-level posts, they were not considered with the same priority.
Addressing the issue of recruitment, the representative of Greece, on behalf of the European Union, said that reducing the time needed for recruiting civilian staff in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and field missions was absolutely crucial to operating effectiveness. In that regard, he welcomed the target of 95 days from the posting of the vacancy announcement. Investments in training and information technology should also ultimately lead to significant efficiency savings and operational benefits for the Organization, which needed to be reflected in future budgets. As the requirements for training in 2003/2004 amounted to some $8.2 million, he asked for clearer analysis of that amount.
Several speakers agreed that the proposed consolidation of peacekeeping accounts should be carefully studied, as such a step would make peacekeeping financing more predictable and delink it from the continuation of mandates by the Security Council, resulting in only one assessment on Member States at the beginning of the budget year. Pakistan's representative said the pooling of accounts should be given serious thought if it could solve the problem of reimbursement to countries participating in peacekeeping.
The representative of China, however, stressed that the authority of the Security Council should in no way be compromised. In general, she believed that consolidation of accounts would lead to more problems than it could solve. Maintaining a separate account for each mission could prevent the unauthorized flow of resources between missions and facilitate monitoring by Member States.
Also not inclined to support the consolidation proposal in its present form was the United States' representative, who said such action would not be in keeping with existing United Nations financial rules. There was also a concern that consolidation could undermine the ability of the General Assembly to exercise its responsibilities over individual missions.
Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Botswana (on behalf of the African Group), Serbia and Montenegro, Australia (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand), Japan, Indonesia, Syria and Iran.
Responding to delegates' comments were: Alain Gilette, Chairman of the Audit Operations Committee and Director of External Audit of France; Jean-Pierre Halbwachs, Assistant-Secretary-General and Controller, Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts; and Conrad S.M. Mselle, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).
The Committee will meet again tomorrow, 8 May, at 10 a.m. to hear a presentation on the financial situation of the United Nations.
During its second resumed session, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) was expected to continue its consideration of peacekeeping financing this morning. For more detailed information, see Press Release GA/AB/3560 of 5 May.
Speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, DIMITRIOS ZEVELAKIS (Greece) said that the Union concurred with the recommendations of the Board of Auditors, while fully sharing the opinion of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) regarding the quality of its report in a streamlined format. Concerning the findings of the report, he welcomed the decrease by approximately 47 per cent of the total outstanding assessed contributions of Member States for the current financial period, compared with 2000/2001. While that was an encouraging trend, the Board had also noted the failure of a number of States to pay their assessed contributions in full and on time, which affected the ability of the Organization to meet its financial obligations, necessitating borrowing from and among peacekeeping funds and delaying payments to troop contributors. The Union reiterated its call to all Member States to fulfill their financial obligations to the Organization fully, punctually and unconditionally.
Noting the excess level of the Reserve Fund as of 30 June 2002, he agreed with the Board that the administration should review its level. The Union looked forward to further discussion of that issue during the current session. He also noted with concern that two major trust funds were inactive and wanted to know what was being done regarding the management of those funds. He agreed with the ACABQ that effective interaction with donor countries should be established concerning the disposition of their assets.
The European Union welcomed the steps to improve the system of reimbursement for contingent-owned equipment and fully supported the recommendation that the administration pursue ways in which to apply and optimize the benefits obtained from pre-deployment visits, he said. It also supported such visits becoming mandatory. As air operations accounted for a large portion of the cost of peacekeeping, it was unacceptable that non-United Nations personnel and cargo continued to be transported by the United Nations without appropriate reimbursement. He urged the administration to address that immediately. He also noted with concern the deficiencies in the provision of airfield services at United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) and welcomed the efforts taken to date to correct those.
Safety was of primary importance, he continued, and it was unsatisfactory that approximately 44 per cent of the recommendations by the Technical Cooperation Bureau of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) had not been implemented. A timeframe for that purpose must be established. He also urged the administration to fully implement the Board's recommendations on procurement activities. He was concerned that in some cases, contracts had been extended and renewed without supplier performance reports being completed.
The European Union noted with interest the recommendation of the Board on the development of a formal fraud-prevention policy, as well as the administration's response that it would review the matter and take appropriate action. The recommendation on the promulgation of a code of ethics and the signing of a declaration of independence, as well as the view of the Procurement Division thereon were also duly noted. Finally, he shared the opinion of the Board that progress achieved in implementation of results-based budgeting must continue.
Speaking on behalf of the African Group regarding the reports of the Board of Auditors, KAREN LOCK (South Africa) said that the Group attached great importance to the oversight functions in the United Nations and fully supported the work of the Board. The Group also appreciated the Board's continued efforts to ensure that the principles of fair presentation and full disclosure of financial statements were being adhered to, and concurred with the main findings and recommendations of the Board.
She expressed regret over the low implementation rate of the recommendations of the Board for the period ending 30 June 2001 and urged the Secretariat to pursue their implementation. She was encouraged, however, that the Board had been able to present an unqualified audit opinion for the period ended on 30 June 2002. The African Group welcomed the fact that the financial situation of peacekeeping operations had improved, with total unpaid contributions at the lowest level in five years and available cash almost equal to liabilities.
At the same time, it shared the Board's concern that substantial amounts of obligations to Member States for reimbursement of troops and contingent-owned equipment remained unpaid, due to the lack of available cash in individual peacekeeping missions. Many of those States were from Africa. Therefore, she urged all Member States to pay their contributions in full, on time and without conditions, in order to ensure the effective operation of all peacekeeping missions and timely reimbursement.
Regarding the provision of airfield services at MONUC, she noted with concern the findings of the Board that pointed towards the shortcomings in the performance of the contractor in such areas as computer applications system for passenger services and the lack of maintenance of equipment. She regretted that relevant departments of the Secretariat had not availed themselves of the provisions of the contract to activate penalties against the contractor for non-performance.
The Group was particularly concerned that non-delivery of essential services could impact on the performance of that important mission, and she urged the Secretariat to closely monitor the performance of service providers of all missions and impose penalties, as appropriate.
The African Group also shared the concerns over the fact that four out of nine recommendations pertaining to aviation safety, made by ICAO's Technical Cooperation Bureau in 2000, had not been implemented by June 2002, she said. The Secretariat should expedite full implementation of the remaining recommendations and ensure the safety of air operations in peacekeeping missions. The African Group also concurred with the recommendations of the Board with regard to the implementation of results-based budgeting and affirmed the view that the use of the new format should better focus on the achievement of clearly defined objectives, for which the resources sought must be adequately justified and, when implemented, fully evaluated.
Regarding procurement, she stressed the importance of further rationalization of peacekeeping procurement practices, implementing a code of ethics, providing adequate training, reviewing acquisition and reducing excessive lead times. She trusted that the implementation of the new fund management system, accompanied by increased delegation of authority to missions would not only expedite the procurement process, but also empower procurement officers to increase procurement from local and regional economies.
Turning to human resources management she noted a number of instances where staff members had been appointed without any reference checks. That practice could compromise the credibility of the missions and the Organization as a whole. The African group was also concerned over the continuing high vacancy rates in several peacekeeping operations, including those in Africa.
COLLEN V. KELAPILE (Botswana), speaking on behalf of the African Group on the administrative and budgetary aspects of peacekeeping financing, said the Group attached great importance to the role of peacekeeping operations in the maintenance of global peace and security. Once the Security Council had determined the mandate of a mission, the General Assembly must also ensure that adequate resources were authorized to enable the smooth implementation of those mandates. He agreed with the comments of the Secretary-General in his overview report that the ability of Member States to make fully informed decisions was key to their continued support for peacekeeping operations. The Group also agreed with the ACABQ that the report could have included several other cross-cutting issues, such as procurement and inventory management.
He said the Group was ready to consider the resource requirements for each mission for 2003-2004 and the requirements for the support account, as well as the Brindisi Logistics Base. Regarding the question of human resources, he noted the Secretariat's plans to use the Galaxy system in the recruitment and deployment of civilian staff in peacekeeping missions, with a view to reducing from 180 to 95 days the time for recruitment and placement of candidates. He agreed with the ACABQ that the several statements of intent by the Secretariat to address remaining deficiencies in the recruitment process should be brought to fruition. Persistent high vacancy rates in peacekeeping missions could hamper their effective and efficient functioning. He hoped that the Secretariat's plans to widen the pool of candidates in the occupational groups with skills shortages would ensure recruitment opportunities of candidates from regions where the missions were located.
He said the various oversight bodies had paid particular attention to the question of air transportation in peacekeeping operations, identifying common shortcomings in air safety and procurement and contract management issues. He was particularly concerned about the apparent lack of enforcement of the relevant procurement rules and regulations, and the established rules governing those operating air services in peacekeeping missions. Regarding staff members who had left the Organization to work with contractors they had worked with as United Nations staff, he agreed with the Board of Auditors that, in order to avoid conflict of interest, there was a need to promulgate a code of ethics and declaration of independence by all those involved in the procurement process.
He commended the Secretariat for streamlining the peacekeeping budget documents to make them reader-friendly. The streamlining of documents, however, should not result in denying pertinent information required by Member States to make informed decisions. As results-based budgeting was relatively new in the United Nations, further training was needed to acquaint Secretariat staff at all levels with results-based budgeting concepts.
KATARINA LALIC-SMAJEVIC (Serbia and Montenegro) said that in the first three months of 2003, a process of transferring further responsibilities to the Kosovo Provisional Institutions of Self-Government had been launched with the assurances that it would be conducted in a phased manner consistent with the Security Council resolution 1244. It had been made clear that the responsibilities being transferred were only those outlined in Chapter 5 of the Constitutional Framework, and that the Secretary-General's Special Representative would retain responsibilities reserved for him under Chapter 8. According to the principles of Council resolution 1244, conferring elements of statehood on the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government was unacceptable.
The willingness of the Provisional Institutions to implement the Special Representative's benchmarks for further transfer of responsibilities was of crucial importance, she said. Disregarding that necessary conditionality in the name of a speedy handover of authority would only further endanger the stability and security of the region. The United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) would continue to shoulder a major share of responsibilities in the most important segments of the Province's administration, for which appropriate financial resources must be provided. She agreed with the ACABQ that the implementation of the transition plan on the estimates for 2003-2004 was not clearly described. Clear information should be provided on matters for which responsibility could be transferred to the Kosovo Provisional Institutions and those for which the international community would continue to be responsible.
JAIDEEP MAZUMDAR (India) noted with appreciation the presentation of an overview report on peacekeeping financing and commented on the extent of detail in the information provided in the reports before the Committee. While it was true that it was difficult to determine how much information was adequate for Member States to make informed decisions, the fact that the ACABQ had been provoked to comment on the inadequacy of detail regarding expenditure or savings variances indicated that more rather than less information should be prescribed, especially in the case of budget documents. While welcoming the new results-based approach in the presentation of peacekeeping budgets, he agreed with the ACABQ on mandate objectives and results-based budgeting used for peacekeeping missions.
Commenting on the projected decline in peacekeeping activities in 2003-2004, he said that curiously, in the case of civilian staff posts at Headquarters, there was a projected increase in post requirements from 700 to 761. Even if 27 posts for resident auditors were excluded, the net requirement for backstopping at Headquarters would be 734 -- in effect, an increase of 32 posts. One would have assumed that in the logic of things, the number of posts required at Headquarters to support a drawdown of the number of missions and personnel in the field, would also come down. Quite the opposite had happened, however.
Turning to training, he said that the focus should be on training to upgrade skills and not routine training for the sake of training. He was happy to note that the Advisory Committee had made very pertinent observations on both the appropriateness and effectiveness of training in its general report. He also noted with concern the delays and deficiencies that continued to plague recruitment and placement activities, as well as the high vacancy rates in certain categories. In that regard, he fully agreed with the Advisory Committee's recommendation that in the future, any posts that remained vacant and new posts not filled for 12 months, should be deemed to have lapsed.
Improved communications should bring about lower travel costs and greater efficiency, he continued. The budget for communication activities should not show an ever-increasing trend. Similarly, global procurement and increase in the number of systems contracts should results in a decrease in the workload of the procurement department. Planned logistics support should reduce the time and cost of mobilization. In the case of expenditure on Information Technology, he hoped that the proposals would be fully dovetailed with the Organization-wide information technology strategy.
The perpetuation of peacekeeping should not be an end in itself, he said, and security infrastructure was essential, but not enough. According to the Secretary-General's report, out of $2.18 billion budgeted for peacekeeping in 2003-2004, only $240,000 had been allocated for quick-impact projects. Development was the best guarantee for peace, and he would like to see peacekeeping budgets come down over time, freeing funds for development.
On reimbursement to Member States for their participation in peacekeeping operations, he said that a marked reduction in outstanding liabilities for troop payments by 25 per cent in 2002 did not show how long it had taken to pay those dues. In the case of contingent-owned equipment reimbursement and self-sustainment, the situation had deteriorated quite dramatically and outstanding liabilities had actually gone up by as much as 77 per cent.
Non-payment of assessed contributions by some States was the oft-cited reason for the delay of payment, but there were instances when even the processing of claims had taken more than two years.
Also, he said, it was strange that on the question of consolidation of accounts of peacekeeping mission, only a half-hearted attempt had been made to present a case for reform of what was, frankly, "quite a ridiculous situation", where Member States received assessments in bits and pieces throughout the year. Such consolidation would not only result in rationalization and greater predictability, but would also ameliorate the present anomalous situation in which some missions were "more equal than others". It would also free the United Nations from its "paralyzing dependence on the unpredictable payment of individual missions' assessments when making disbursements of dues owed to Member States" for their participation in peacekeeping operations.
DAVID DUTTON (Australia), also speaking on behalf of Canada and New Zealand, said the proposed budget for 2003-2004 covered what was expected to be the last year of United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET)'s operations, and it was critical that the United Nations made the best use of the remaining time to ensure that it left behind solid and sustainable indigenous capacity in civil administration, law and justice, and in defence and security. The budget should help focus the energy on achieving the results mandated by the Council and provide the necessary resources. The proposed budget did appear to set a good basis for the remainder of UNMISET's work, and the ACABQ had made some good recommendations, which would aid the Committee's considerations.
He agreed with the ACABQ that there might be scope to focus the planned results contained in the budget document more closely on the Mission's mandate. He also supported the ACABQ's recommendation that the Assembly approve the proposed increase in resources for the Serious Crimes Unit. That was fully consistent with the Mission's mandate.
In closing, he recalled that the Security Council's recent resolution amending the drawdown of UNMISET was likely to mean an increase in the budget beyond the level proposed in the documentation currently before the Committee. He supported the Council's resolution, since it would help to maintain a secure framework for the work still ahead and ensure a smooth handover of important security functions from UNMISET to the Government of East Timor. He noted the Controller's advice that a revised budget would be submitted at the main part of the fifty-eighth session to address the additional resource requirements.
SHOBAZ ABBAS (Pakistan) said the consolidation of peacekeeping accounts was an important matter and would receive due consideration. Several benefits could accrue if the consolidation were to occur, including the need to cross borrow between missions. The reimbursement of all peacekeeping mission dues was also an important issue. Due to untimely reimbursements, the amounts owed to Pakistan by the United Nations were rising. If the pooling of accounts could solve the problem of reimbursement, the proposal should be given serious thought. Further information from the Secretary-General on the implication of each of the possible option would be needed, including the applicability of Article 19 of the United Nations Charter. The consolidation of peacekeeping accounts could also streamline the legislative and administrative processes for peacekeeping financing.
SHINICHI YAMANAKA (Japan) said he supported the further strengthening of peacekeeping operations. Regarding the overall level of the peacekeeping budget, the General Assembly and the Security Council needed to take into consideration the affordability of Member States. Proper estimates for proposed budgets and implementation of approved budgets was also necessary. He commended the Secretariat's efforts to close inactive trust funds and invited it to continue such efforts. Attention should be given to all inactive trust funds. The Member States concerned must take the final decision regarding the closure of trust funds.
On the financing of peacekeeping operations, he said Japan supported the ACABQ's recommendation on the establishment of Deputy Force Commander posts and the need for proper explanation for authorizing such steps. On information and communications technology, the Committee had not been provided with analysis of the functional requirements of the missions. He commended the Secretariat's efforts to present the proposed budget in a results-based budgeting format and looked forward to future improvements. He was concerned about some of the ACABQ's conclusions, including the increase in air operation costs. The Secretariat had accumulated much experience, which should be used in contracting for air services.
On the consolidation of accounts of the various peacekeeping operations, he noted that the consolidation could have both merits and demerits. The consolidation of peacekeeping accounts, however, was not compatible with current financial practices. Regarding the delinking of assessments from the continuation of Security Council mandates, he said assessment was not appropriate beyond the mandates confirmed by the Council. Further examination was needed regarding the transfer of funds between missions. Member States must ensure transparency in peacekeeping financing, and performance reports must be submitted concerning closed missions. It would be difficult to go along with the suggestion that if peacekeeping accounts were consolidated, final performance reports would not be required for such missions. More clarification was needed in that regard.
On the administrative and budgetary aspects of peacekeeping, ADAMANTIOS TH. VASSILAKIS (Greece), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, noted that the overall estimated budget level for 2003/2004 was some 16 per cent less than the previous year, which -- the European Union hoped -- would enable Member States to pay their contributions in full and on time. The priority of peacekeeping as one of the core United Nations activities was undiminished, however, as was the importance of its effective implementation.
Concerning the performance for 2001/2002, he welcomed the small improvement in the overall budget implementation rate. However, the Union still considered that the amount of unencumbered funds could be even further reduced, helped by a more rigorous application of results-based budgeting. He was satisfied with the efforts made, in the proposed mission budgets for the 2003/2004 period, to improve objective setting, and noted the attempt to have a uniform framework of planned results for all missions.
In general, the Union encouraged the Secretariat to take further steps to strengthen the budgeting techniques used for missions, including by engaging senior management in devising objectives and milestones, and by linking them closely to the relevant mandates of each mission. He added that objectives must be linked to requests for resources, and measurements of accomplishments must be based on specific indicators of achievement.
Reducing the time needed for recruiting civilian staff in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and field missions was absolutely crucial to operating effectiveness, he continued. He welcomed the target of 95 days from the posting of the vacancy announcement. Also, investments in training and information technology should, ultimately, lead to significant and measurable efficiency savings and operational benefits for the Organization, which need to be reflected in future budgets. As the requirements for training in 2003/2004 amounted to $8.2 million, he would like to see a clearer analysis of that amount.
As for information technology, he said it was necessary to avoid duplication of databases. He agreed with the ACABQ that a review needed to be undertaken to that effect. The Organization's information and communication technology strategy should integrate already existing infrastructures across the system as a whole and, in particular, peacekeeping missions, to ensure full inter-connectivity. As for air services, he welcomed the request for the Board of Auditors to ascertain whether an effective and adequate capacity existed to plan, manage and monitor the configuration and utilization of air assets.
Turning to the proposal on a consolidation of accounts of peacekeeping operations, he said that as far as he understood, if accounts of active missions were consolidated retroactively, while separate accounts were maintained for closed missions, unencumbered balances would not be apportioned among Member States. Instead, they would be offset against the next appropriations for peacekeeping. The assessment for peacekeeping would then be delinked from Security Council mandates and take place once a year.
The proposed changes raised a number of questions, including those of a legislative nature, he said. If the overall objective was to increase the total cash flow in peacekeeping, the Assembly would have to be requested to give authorization to the Secretary-General to transfer funds between active operations. That would require a change in current rules and regulations. The Union would like to hear more arguments explaining the merits of that proposal, as well as other alternatives to simplify the assessments process.
CHRISTOPHER WITTMANN (United States) said the Board of Auditors performed an invaluable task in auditing the financial statements of United Nations bodies and identifying ways to improve the Organization. More work needed to be done, and he encouraged the Secretariat to continue its efforts to reform managerial practices identified as deficient by the Board. Common sense practices were still identified by the Board as not being standard practices in the United Nations. Concepts such as negotiation and signing of memoranda of understanding between the United Nations and troop-contributing members, including the provision of contingent-owned equipment, must be concluded in a timelier manner.
He stressed the need to critically examine the utility of trust funds that had achieved their purpose, with the objective of releasing dormant funds so that they might be returned to contributors or be made available for transfer to other important projects. He noted the recommendation to review the level of the peacekeeping reserve fund, given its surplus relevant to its ceiling. He supported the Board's recommendation that mission staff strictly respect liquidation timetables and tasks required to close missions. The United States was deeply concerned at reports that peacekeeping missions continued to have problems with maintaining adequate records of property acquisition, storage and disposal. Greater efforts should be made to determine accountability for property in missions.
He agreed with the Board's recommendation that the Administration promulgate and implement a code of ethics encompassing a declaration of independence to ensure that members of the Procurement Division were protected from untoward pressures as they performed their duties. The provision of air services, both passenger and cargo, was of particular concern. Deficiencies in safety, including but not limited to performance of air crews, had reportedly contributed to a rise in the amount of air accidents and incidents. That was contrary to the record of civil aviation, in general, and should be rectified as soon as possible. Given the fact that, in many cases, United Nations air operations were among the few to access certain areas, the United Nations must ensure that costs for transportation of non-mission personnel and equipment were recovered from the benefiting parties.
Turning to the item on the administrative and budgetary aspects of peacekeeping financing, he said peacekeeping missions for the period 2001-2002 had an average variance of some 8.1 per cent between apportionment and expenditure. In many cases, the variance might result from unintended consequences than in the quality of Secretariat's budget forecasting. As variances had been high in recent years, he trusted that the Secretariat conducted analyses to better calculate budgets. Holding surpluses for excessive periods was not a practice that made efficient use of the Organization's resources.
Vacancy rates continued to be a problem, both in individual missions and in support account funded positions, he said. He hoped the Galaxy system proved more capable in assisting the Secretariat in their efforts to fill positions as soon as possible. He welcomed the idea that mission staff in the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH) and other recently closed missions be considered for reassignment to active missions. The United States strongly supported Secretariat efforts in results-based budgeting and was pleased that they formed the bulk of budget formats for the upcoming year. He noted the ACABQ's concern that some objectives appeared to be beyond reasonable expectations or might seem to exceed the mission mandate.
He also welcomed the Secretariat's efforts to use improved information and communications technologies and looked forward to reports on the utilities of integrating those systems in United Nations planning. He shared the concerns of other delegations on the processing of contingent-owned equipment and noted that increased resources in the past year had enabled the Secretariat to close the gap between claims and payments. Regarding the proposal to consolidate peacekeeping accounts, such action would not be in keeping with existing United Nations financial rules. Given the concern that a consolidation could undermine the ability of the General Assembly to exercise its responsibilities over individual missions, the United States was not inclined to support the proposal in its present form.
WANG XINXIA (China) addressed the proposed consolidation of peacekeeping accounts, saying that that issue needed to be approached with caution. The total peacekeeping budget comprised various peacekeeping missions, the support account, the capacity at Headquarters and the United Nations Logistics Base (UNLB) in Brindisi, Italy. Only after specific mandates and duration of the missions had been approved by the Security Council could the Member States be assessed for resources. Maintaining a separate account for each mission could prevent unauthorized flow of resources between missions and facilitate monitoring by Member States.
Among the important issues that needed to be addressed were elimination of cross-borrowing, reimbursement to Member States participating in peacekeeping operations and streamlining of payment, she said. While certain benefits were cited in justification of the proposed consolidation, delinking peacekeeping financing from the decisions by the Council raised a number of questions. The authority of the Council should in no way be compromised.
Another aspect of the issue was the ability of Member States to pay their assessed contributions, she said. Legitimization of cross-borrowing could also lead to questions regarding the budgeting for peacekeeping. In short, consolidation would give rise to more questions than it could solve. The failure of some Member States to pay on time, in full and without conditions had plunged the United Nations into frequent financial crises in the past and had hindered its ability to pay countries for their participation in peacekeeping. The cause of payment delays was the United Nations' lack of adequate resources, and a simple consolidation of peacekeeping accounts would not resolve the problem at its root.
SIGIT WARDONO (Indonesia) said peacekeeping operations remained crucial instruments at the disposal of the international community. As a fundamental pillar of the Organization, adequate financing for peacekeeping operations was imperative. Indonesia supported the Organization's work in contributing to international efforts to uphold peace and security. Regarding the signing of memoranda of understanding, he emphasized the importance of signing such memoranda before the deployment of contingent-owned equipment and troops. Memoranda of understanding and status-of-forces agreements were essential instruments that must be signed before the commencement of missions. In 2002, some 96.5 per cent of memoranda of understanding were signed after troop and equipment deployment. Efforts must be made to correct the situation.
On the feasibility of consolidating accounts, he said the likely advantages of the proposal included the streamlining of accounts. The practice, however, would run counter to established financial procedures. Many elements of the proposal needed further clarification, including the full implication for Member States concerning the application of Article 19. As more information was required, the Committee should not take a hasty decision on such a sensitive issue.
He said Security Council resolution 1410 of 2002 had stipulated that UNMISET's broad mandate was to provide international assistance for the task of nation-building. Indonesia had supported the work of UNMISET in carrying out its objectives, and the Mission had made progress so far -- East Timor had made efforts to become part of the international and regional community.
Regarding the Mission's proposed programme budget, he could go along with most of the ACABQ's recommendations. However, regarding the proposed increase in the staffing of the Serious Crime Unit of some 69 posts -- bringing the total number to 129 -- the Secretary-General's report did not clarify the objectives for the increase. He would like to know why that Unit needed to be enlarged to that extent. Increasing the number of staff in the Unit ran counter to the plan to gradually decrease its operations.
The international community should work to support the steady exit rather than building up one of the mission's operations, he said. The Unit's efforts had been assigned to support the Government of East Timor at the international level, and the Mission should focus on increasing capacity-building and improving human resources management. The Unit should remain an office with a national jurisdiction. In East Timor's first year of independence, there had been increasingly strong bilateral relations between the two countries.
HUSSEIN SABBAGH (Syria) spoke on the financing of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). The maintenance of international peace and security was one of the primary tasks of the United Nations, and the clearest picture of such commitment was seen in dispatching peacekeeping operations to various parts of the world, which were collectively financed by Member States. His delegation believed, however, that the financing of UNDOF should be borne by the aggressor.
His delegation had read with interest the reports on the matter, he said. Of particular interest was the information regarding repeated requests of the Assembly to improve the conditions of work of local staff, which had been affected by the transfer of the mission's headquarters from Damascus to Camp Faouar. He noted that those requests had been satisfactorily resolved. He also noted the fact that a productive dialogue between the Force administration and local staff was continuing. Such a dialogue represented a more efficient and transparent means of addressing any future concerns. His delegation also noted the Secretary-General's proposals regarding creation and reclassification of several posts, including a P-5 for the Office of the Force Commander and reclassification of the Chief Administrative Officer to the D-1 level. In that connection, he said that the ACABQ's recommendations against approval of new posts needed further clarification, which he would seek in informal consultations.
He said the new style, where local staff were referred to as "national staff", was incorrect. The staff of the Force were not only Syrian nationals, and he hoped that it would be possible to return to the previous terminology. Another question concerned the application of the vacancy rate of 5 per cent, although there were no circumstances for its implementation.
He also noted the request by the Advisory Committee that information on the progress of implementation of the modernization plan be included in the report on the budget estimates for 2003/2004, as well as the ACABQ's comments on the matter. The report of the Advisory Committee had also referred to integration of two teams of military observers from the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) and UNDOF. Syria would not accept any integration, for it ran counter to the mandates of the two missions. He would not mind secondment of UNTSO staff to UNDOF, however. He would also follow up on the issue of secondment of local staff to other missions. All supporting circumstances needed to be provided for the successful completion of the mandate of the mission.
ALIREZA TOOTOONCHIAN (Iran) said peacekeeping operations were one of the Organization's core functions for maintaining international peace and security. The crucial task required sound administrative and budgetary arrangements. Member States should intensify their efforts to deliver their commitments for peacekeeping operations to further help the objectives of the various missions. Regarding the consolidation of peacekeeping accounts, informed decisions by Member States required thorough consideration of the Secretary-General's report to ascertain its potential benefits, including more consistent reimbursement to troop-contributing countries. There was a need to avoid the risk of increasing the number of Member States whose right for full participation in the Organization's activities might be undermined as a result of the new procedure.
The need for balanced appropriation of resources for all United Nations mandated activities should be taken into account, he continued. The "overview" report had provided useful information on trends in financial and human resources management of recent peacekeeping operations, as well as overall information on budget proposals for 2003-2004. It described efforts being introduced for mission budgets and global approaches to the operational aspects of peacekeeping costs. The total proposed resources for peacekeeping operations for 2003-2004, inclusive of the support account and the Logistics Base in Brindisi, amounted to some $2.2 billion, compared with $2.6 billion for the previous biennium -- a reduction of some 16 per cent.
The support account budget, however, had increased by about 15 per cent partly due to changes in standard operating costs and the inclusion of 27 resident auditors, he added. He agreed that not all factors contributing to the increase for the support account had to be adopted at the current stage. The proposed increase for the Logistics Base could be reassessed due to the adequate amount allocated to the strategic deployment stocks in 2002. On human resources, he hoped the implementation of the Galaxy system would empower the Secretariat to select qualified candidates from around the world.
SANTIAGO WINS (Uruguay) said his country was strongly committed to the difficult task of keeping and re-establishing peace in regions in conflict. Currently, Uruguay was among the main troop-contributing countries, ranking first in the Americas, with more than 1,800 troops in nine operations. His country had been able to negotiate the memorandum of understanding within 30 days, and it had regularly done so before deployment. Customarily, the staff from the Secretariat were invited to pre-deployment visits where the equipment was presented. Therefore, Uruguay was ready to collaborate with the ACABQ proposal concerning the preparation of a paper involving relevant lessons learned. However, it was necessary to admit that even though the participation of developing countries was highly accepted in the field, when filling high-level posts, they were not considered with the same priority.
As most developing countries contributing troops, participation of Uruguay depended on timely reimbursements, given its limited financial capacity, particularly during the current severe economic crisis, he said. Although there had been some improvements in the performance of the Secretariat on that issue, his delegation was still concerned over late reimbursement of contingent-owned equipment. Also, once again, he had to refer to the issue of old arrears of the United Nations to the troop contributors, particularly regarding their participation in Cambodia more than nine years ago.
Turning to the proposal on the consolidation of peacekeeping accounts, he added that the information provided so far was not sufficient. His delegation had an open mind on the initiative, and it would request additional information on its eventual operative modalities. As a matter of principle, he believed in the need of a change of current practices. In the case of closed missions, where there had been arrears for many years, a serious problem existed. That was why he believed that if the Assembly decided that the proposal of consolidating accounts was a positive action, it should undertake it retroactively.
Regarding resident investigators and the request for additional posts for investigation and resident auditors, he supported the need of a careful administration and evaluation of resources in the field. However, the information provided by the Office of Internal Oversight Services on the needs of personnel was contradictory. He also pointed out that the Oversight Office had been especially slow in the process of filling posts, and he hoped that it would make efficient use of the Galaxy system to improve its performance in that regard. He supported the comments by the ACABQ on the deadline of a year in filling vacancies.
ALAIN GILETTE, Chairman of the Audit Operations Committee, Director of External Audit of France, noted the importance attached by the Committee to the Board of Auditors' work. Regarding a question on a contract for air operations in MONUC, there had been no performance report. Since the contract's renewal, however, they were now provided on a monthly basis. The Board would follow up on the issue in its next report.
JEAN-PIERRE HALBWACHS, Assistant-Secretary-General and Controller, Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts, thanked the delegations for their comments and suggestions during the debate. They would be taken into account both in efforts to improve performance and in the preparation of documents next year. All budget documents, he noted, had been issued well in advance of the Committee's session. Regarding the question on trust funds, they had closed one of the two already mentioned. The Secretariat was not singling out any one trust fund, but was working to review all trust funds, not only peacekeeping-related ones. On the issue of the consolidation of peacekeeping accounts, he noted that under current financial practices it was not feasible. A number of elements for reflection had been provided to the Committee. Further guidance would be needed on whether to proceed with the matter.
On individual peacekeeping missions, he would reply in informal consultations.
As the Committee turned to the reform of the field service category of personnel in United Nations peace operations, THOMAS A. REPASCH (United States) said the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) report before the Committee provided a comprehensive and accurate overview of the situation. However, most of the issues had already been addressed by the Secretariat, and he wondered why the JIU had undertaken its study. The resources of the Unit could be better used in other areas. He wondered why the Unit continued to ignore repeated requests of the Assembly to focus its efforts on well-defined issues and provide useful recommendations.
He did not object to most recommendations as the Secretariat was already dealing with most of them, as demonstrated by the Secretary-General's report on the subject. However, he took note of the recommendation that said that it was necessary to allocate additional resources to carry out the reform of the field service. He asked the Inspector for a copy of the technical analysis, carried out by the JIU before it came up with the recommendation that two Professional staff members were needed to carry out the recommendations of the Unit. He also wanted to see the Advisory Committee's analysis, which had led to its endorsement of that recommendation.
JIU Inspector ION GORITA recalled that the report of the Unit had been finalized 18 months prior to its presentation. That was the reason why some of the recommendations had already been taken up by the Secretariat. He would inquire why the report had not been taken up earlier. At the same time, taking into account the recommendations of the ACABQ in the context of the overall reform of field services, the Unit's recommendations in their entirety were still valid. It was necessary to speed up the reform, taking into account the recommendations of the ACABQ. As for the technical analysis in connection with recommendation 7, the report had been prepared by the inspector who had finished his mandate, and he would check the technical recommendations, which the representative of the United States had requested.
CONRAD S.M. MSELLE, Chairman of the ACABQ, said that paragraph 4 of the ACABQ's report might have given the impression that it had recommended the establishment of the two Professional posts. The issue of establishing those posts had not been discussed in the Advisory committee. The ACABQ had not recommended the approval of additional posts.
Mr. REPASCH (United States) asked if recommendation 7, which recommended the devotion of adequate resources for two Professional posts for 18 months, had been endorsed by the ACABQ.
Mr. MSELLE said that the recommendation had not been endorsed for immediate implementation. The ACABQ had not presented to the Assembly a proposal to establish the two Professional posts.
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