Press Releases

                                                                GA/AB/3614
                                                                                        5 May 2004

    UN Financial Status “Good, But Only in Parts”, Under-Secretary-General for Management Tells Budget Committee

    Cash Situation Remains Precarious, She Says, as Committee Continues Discussion of Peacekeeping Financing, Related Issues

    NEW YORK, 4 May (UN Headquarters) -- While for 2003, the financial situation of the United Nations had been “good, but only in parts”, this year, it had not changed dramatically, Under-Secretary-General for Management Catherine Bertini told the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning.

    Making her presentation, as she does twice each year, on the financial health of the Organization, she said that there was hope to end 2004 with a positive cash balance for the regular budget, but the situation remained precarious. Peacekeeping cash was expected to stay at a comfortable level, but cash shortages persisted in the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), and debt owed to Member States was expected to increase.  From past experience, assessments for new missions were not forthcoming for up to 120 days and the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund, as a source of liquidity, was likely to be fully used. The continuing operation of the Tribunals, moreover, was endangered by a substantial projected cash deficit.

    However, the solution to the problem was simple and rested in the hands of Member States, which needed to pay their financial obligations in full and on time, she emphasized.  A strong financial base was a prerequisite for the Organization in carrying out its many important tasks.

    Expected to take up the discussion of the overall financial picture of the United Nations next Wednesday, the Committee this morning also continued its consideration of the administrative and budgetary aspects of the United Nations peacekeeping.

    Numerous speakers in the debate emphasized the importance of adequate funding for both the existing and projected missions in various parts of the world.  Serious concern was expressed over the fact that presentation of definite and revised estimates for the missions in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Haiti, as well as the budget of the operation in Côte d’Ivoire and the costs of a relocation of the Ethiopia and Eritrea headquarters, would significantly increase the peacekeeping budget, which -- not taking those factors into consideration -- had been prepared at the level of some $2.65 billion.  With anticipated deployment of missions in Burundi and the Sudan, the total costs of peacekeeping could reach $4.5 billion -- an amount unprecedented in history.

    In that connection, Japan’s representative said that continuing creation and deployment of missions on an unprecedented scale was beginning to cast a grim shadow over the recent revival of peacekeeping. Should the peacekeeping budget reach its new highs, Japan would be expected to shoulder approximately $900 million of that burden. That was an enormous figure surpassing Japan’s current annual bilateral official development assistance (ODA) to the African countries. While there was no price tag on peace, it was also true that Member States’ resources were not unlimited.

    In that connection, he questioned the need for peacekeeping operations to carry out tasks such as those related to development and human rights, saying that Member States must seriously consider whether continuation of current practices was truly beneficial for the international community as a whole. 

    Several speakers also emphasized the importance of information sharing and learning lessons from past peacekeeping experiences and noted the importance of preparing exit strategies when formulating individual missions’ mandates. The Organization was urged to retain qualified individuals from closed missions and re-assign them to other operations in order to preserve their expertise.

    Several members of the Committee drew attention to the need to ensure efficient management and internal controls. In that connection, the United States said that as the Committee contemplated a peacekeeping budget that might grow to historic proportions, it must be mindful that every dollar counted and that fiscal discipline would be maintained no matter how many new missions were actually initiated in the coming year. He recognized the difficulties caused by late or incomplete payment, and was pleased to note that the United States had made its payments to assessment letters with a minimum delay compared to other periods. 

    India’s representative was one of several speakers who expressed amazement at the fact that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) took an average of 347 days to recruit professional staff. Unless there was drastic improvement in that area, upcoming missions might be jeopardized, he said.  Now the Committee had been told that the Galaxy system, which was to have solved the problem, was in itself the real problem. The Office of Human Resource Management (OHRM) target of 120 days was reasonable and should be adhered to.

    Uruguay’s representative drew the Committee’s attention to the fact that the Organizations’ debt for his country’s troops in Cambodia was entering its tenth year. Another operation where troop contributors had not been reimbursed for more than a decade was the United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM). Proposals needed to be introduced to find a solution to that issue. For example, was it possible to use accumulated interest on the reserve fund to cancel the Organization’s debts to Member States for closed missions? he asked.

    Also participating in the debate were representatives of South Africa (on behalf of the African Group), Saudi Arabia, Republic of Korea, China, Pakistan,

    Iran, Gabon (on behalf of the African Group), Serbia and Montenegro, Nigeria (on behalf of the African Group) and Syria.

    Israel and Syria’s representatives exercised their right of reply.

    Responses to comments and questions from the floor were provided by the United Nations Controller, Jean-Pierre Halbwachs.

    The Committee will meet at a time to be announced.

    Background

    The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to continue its discussion on various aspects of the financing of United Nations peacekeeping operations, including the budgets of individual peacekeeping missions. It was also expected to hear a statement by the Under-Secretary-General for Management on the financial situation of the Organization. [For background information, see Press Release GA/AB/3613 of 3 May.]

    Statements

    SANTIAGO WINS (Uruguay) said his delegation was pleased with the 23 per cent reduction in the level of the pending payments with respect to ongoing operations, as the reduction had improved the terms of payment to the troop-contributing countries.  However, he regretted that finalized operations had less cash, and the cash-flow situation had worsened. The amount of time for unpaid assessments and the uncertainty regarding the possibility of having them paid had an impact on the Organization’s capacity to face its financial obligations, in particular, given the fact that the Organization had not foreseen the difficulty in receiving the amounts owed by Member States.

    The Organization’s debt for Uruguay’s troops in Cambodia was entering its tenth year, he noted.  The report of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations had invited the Fifth Committee to find practical solutions to the pending matter, referring to two operations, which had not been reimbursed for more than a decade, namely, the United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM) and the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). He agreed with the Board of Auditors’ observation that the financial status of peacekeeping operations included too many pending issues. The administration had the chance of introducing some proposals, which it had not done so far. In that respect, he wished to know the Secretariat’s opinion on finding a solution to the issue. For example, was it possible to use accumulated interest on the reserve fund to cancel the Organization’s debts to Member States for closed missions? he asked.

    Regarding procurement in the field, he expressed appreciation for the task of the Procurement Section and the comprehensive information made available on the Web site.  There was still a clear lack of participation among developing countries in that activity. As a troop-contributing country, Uruguay was concerned by the status of the rations contracts and the conditions in which food reached the troops, which was essential for maintaining staff morale. It was important to bear in mind the eating habits of personnel when engaging firms that would provide food. An alternative would be to consider purveyors and contingents of the same nationality or geographical region.

    He said he also wished to highlight the many positive elements achieved by the Secretariat in preparing the budget, including the results-based format with clear indicators.  Another example was the new management for air transportation arrangements. 

    CHRISTOPHER WITTMANN (United States) said the Board of Auditors’ task was a critical one. Its report on peacekeeping accounts provided Member States with a comprehensive overview of the financial condition and operations of peacekeeping missions, which had grown in size, complexity and cost over the last several years. The work of the auditors on the ground also contributed to the building of a culture of accountability in the United Nations, which had the responsibility for ensuring that regulations were complied with and that the funds provided by Member States were not wasted. The accountants and auditors also provided valuable advice for programme managers to use in refining and improving their operations. Indeed, the Board’s role as the external oversight body for the United Nations was an essential component of the ongoing efforts to improve financial management and accountability throughout all levels of the Organization.

    He said his delegation was pleased to learn about the many improvements to the management of peacekeeping operations that were based largely on the implementation of previous audit recommendations. At the same time, however, his delegation had been disappointed to read about the continuing instances of mismanagement, lengthy procurement delays and lack of compliance with regulations across the spectrum of peacekeeping missions. While peacekeeping operations functioned under highly dynamic and often difficult circumstances, there were no excuses for lapses in management and internal controls.  If anything, United Nations managers should use difficult conditions to forcefully pursue good management practices.

    He urged that the auditor’s findings be considered seriously, that the recommendations be endorsed and that steps be taken to implement the recommendations that had not already been implemented. Property write-offs continued to be prolonged. While he was pleased that last year’s inventory write-offs were handled more quickly than those of the previous year, he was concerned that the majority of items written off by 30 June 2003 had been pending for close to a year. Also, in 25 out of 61 accounts payable selected by the Board, funds totalling some $66.8 million remained outstanding.  Many of the payables had remained outstanding for some time. While the administration, under the current legislative framework, did not have the ability to pay long outstanding amounts to Member States until corresponding unpaid assessments were settled, what steps could be taken to settle long outstanding amounts? he asked.

    Noting that some $6.4 million in voluntary contributions receivable for the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) had remained unpaid as of  30 June 2003, and that that amount had been outstanding for more than eight years, he wondered if the Secretariat planned to make proposals to the General Assembly in that regard, as recommended by the Board. Regarding some $188.8 million in unrecorded cumulative obligations, while the Secretary-General was not authorized to use any funds other than the voluntary contributions pledged by Member States to finance UNFICYP, his delegation would like to learn about the Secretariat’s efforts to resolve the issue. 

    He noted that of the $141.5 million appropriated for the strategic deployment stocks (SDS), expenditures had amounted to only $88.9 million during the year ended last June.  While many factors had caused the high level of unencumbered balances, a main reason was that the Procurement Division did not have the capacity to deal with the increased workload, resulting in excessive lead times. He wanted to know about steps taken to ensure that the Procurement Division was capable of supporting the strategic deployment stocks. The auditors had also pointed out significant lapses in replenishment.  Of $3 million worth of stocks shipped to the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), United Nations Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq (UNOHCI), United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), United Nations Mission in Côte d’Ivoire (MINUCI), Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq (OSRSGI), United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission (UNIKOM), United Nations Mission in Angola (UNMA) and the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), only some 10 per cent had been replenished as planned by 30 June 2003.  The United States was also concerned that no written agreements had been drawn up to formally hold the missions liable for the timely repayment of agreed costs.  Procurements had continued to be a problem, at times taking a whole year to obtain supplies and materials, he said.

    KAREN LOCK (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the African Group, addressed the report of the Board of Auditors. The Group attached great importance to the oversight functions of the United Nations and reiterated its full support to the Board. With regard to the implementation rate of the recommendations made by the Board for previous financial periods, the Group was pleased to note the increasing compliance of the Administration with those recommendations and shared the view of the Advisory Committee that the Board may wish to continue to monitor not only the rate, but also the quality of implementation.  The Group also concurred with the main findings and recommendations of the Board for the period ended on 30 June 2003, and urged the Secretariat to fix responsibility and set time frames for the implementation of the recommendations that had not been complied with.

    She welcomed the assurances by the Board that the financial position of United Nations peacekeeping had remained fairly stable since the previous financial period. The Organization had also been able to improve the settlement of debts owed to Member States. However, she remained concerned over the impact that the ageing of unpaid assessments was having on the ability of the United Nations to meet its financial obligations. The shortfall of cash in several active and completed missions was impacting the ability of the Organization to settle outstanding liabilities and reimburse troop contributors, many of whom were from Africa.  Therefore, she urged all Member States to pay their dues in full, on time and without conditions.

    Turning to the management issues covered in the Board’s report, she welcomed detailed information on the strategic deployment stocks, noting that non-payment of assessments had impacted the ability of the Organization to fully establish the stocks.  That meant that the Secretariat had been unable to achieve the capability to support rapid deployment of a complex mission before the envisaged date of 1 July 2003. For a variety of other reasons, the Organization had also been unable to expend the total amount that had been set aside for SDS in the previous financial period.  She trusted that the Secretariat would take the necessary measures to address the factors hampering the acquisition and replenishment of the stocks. The Secretariat also needed to ensure the timely funding and replenishing of the stocks, proper recording of transactions and shipments and the rotation of stocks before they reached critical levels, especially in view of the envisaged deployment of new missions.

    Noting measures related to aviation safety, she said the Group looked forward to receiving, at the appropriate time, the proposed assessment regarding compliance with the newly developed aviation standards, as well as their contribution towards improving the management of air assets and air safety. However, she noted that some missions were not always completing liability waiver forms or conducting aviation surveys, thereby placing the Organization at risk. It was necessary to take all necessary measures to ensure that contractors met the necessary technical requirements to ensure the safety and cost-effectiveness of air operations.

    On procurement and contract management, she stressed the importance of expediting the promulgation and implementation of a code of ethics and supported the recommendations aimed at reducing excessive lead times in the procurement cycle.  It was also important to pre-qualify vendors before registering them on the computer roster. She trusted that increased delegation of authority to missions would expedite the procurement process and empower procurement officers to increase procurement from local and regional economies.

    In conclusion, she joined the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) in welcoming the coordination and collaboration between the oversight bodies in the planning and audit activities.  Such interaction would ensure the optimal use of audit resources and ensure better complementarity of effort and wider coverage of audit areas.

    AHMED FARID (Saudi Arabia) commended the observations of the ACABQ regarding the need for coordination among oversight bodies and welcomed the fact that the budget proposals for 2004/2005 contained more measurable indicators of achievement. However, he was concerned that many costs could not be attributed, monitored and recorded automatically under results-based budgeting for each mission. That issue needed to be addressed. He concurred that there was absolute necessity to develop a comprehensive system to ensure that requests for resources could be directly attributed to outputs.

    He also expressed concern over the observations that in some missions indicators of achievements were not precisely stated. Clarifications were needed regarding the financial implications of the proposed conversion of posts from 300 to 100 series and the current recruiting policy of not opening posts for competition, as well as the possible change of application of the 300 series that might be needed to implement the proposal. He also wanted to know the source of authority of the Secretariat were it to implement such a transfer. Another question was how the proposal would impact the geographical distribution of posts.

    He also concurred with the Advisory Committee’s observation that missions using executive jets should keep the use of such aircraft under review and avoid conflict of interest in the procurement cycle. He was concerned that staff associated with procurement were not familiar with procurement guidelines.  What was being done about that? His other concern was that in several missions vendors had been placed on computer rosters without being pre-qualified in accordance with proper procedure. He also had questions regarding different methods of replenishing strategic deployment stocks that had been mentioned in the reports.

    Responding to comments from the floor, the Assistant Secretary-General for Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts and United Nations Controller, JEAN-PIERRE HALBWACHS, said the Secretariat took the Board of Auditors seriously and valued its work greatly.  Regarding the question of debt to Member States, he said the issue had been a source of irritation for the Secretariat for many years. The solution was prompt and full payment by Member States. There was no other magic solution to the issue. The issue of accounts payable related to missions where there was no money because there had been no assessments.  Another aspect of accounts payable was that a number of items were credits owed to Member States that the Secretariat could pay, but had pending instructions on how to apply them. The Secretariat awaited replies in that regard. The Secretariat had written to Member States regarding the question of Cyprus. There was nothing the Secretariat could do about recorded liabilities in that respect.

    Regarding delays in write-offs, he noted that a new inventory system called Galileo had been implemented. He hoped the new system would speed up the process. That remained to be seen, however. Quarterly reports had now been introduced. The Secretariat would provide more detailed responses to other matters raised during the informal consultations, he said.

    PARK YOON-JUNE (Republic of Korea) said that in examining the financial status of United Nations peacekeeping operations, the Board’s report provided useful means for monitoring one of the Organization’s most important functions. He joined the ACABQ in commending the Board on the clear nature of its report. He hoped to see full implementation of the Board’s recommendations.  Noting that some 41 per cent of its recommendations from its previous report had been implemented, he encouraged the Secretariat and the Board to continue to follow up on the recommendations.

    He noted the relative stability of the financial situation of the United Nations peacekeeping operations. He was concerned, however, regarding the long-standing nature of certain outstanding assessed contributions. The fact that many outstanding contributions had been allocated for completed missions reinforced the uncertainty of recovering funds and further complicated the financing of peacekeeping operations. 

    He said his delegation attached great importance to the safety and cost effectiveness of peacekeeping air operations. He took note of the Board’s discovery of under-expenditure in the air operations project. The Secretariat should formulate the air operations budget to be more reflective of actual air operations. He was also concerned by the continued protraction of the process of property write-off and disposal. In that regard, he said the Secretariat should examine its policy on asset management with an emphasis on the timely replacement of assets.  The Secretariat should also take appropriate action to remedy the factors causing delays in the write-off and disposal process.

    He also noted the absence of written agreements for the transfer from the SDS to the various agencies and encouraged the Secretariat to take measures in that regard. The Republic of Korea was dismayed to hear that eight cases of fraud had been reported to the Board during the financial period in question. He hoped all allegations would be cleared in a timely manner.

    As the Committee turned from the Board of Auditors report to the financial and budgetary aspects of peacekeeping operations, TOSHIRO OZAWA (Japan) said that the revival of peacekeeping operations was of benefit to the entire world.  Ironically, however, the continuing creation and deployment of missions on an unprecedented scale was beginning to cast a grim shadow over that revival. There was a possibility that the total budget for peacekeeping this year could rise to $4.5 billion, an amount unprecedented in history. Under such circumstances, Japan would be expected to shoulder approximately $900 million of that burden. That was an enormous figure surpassing Japan’s current annual bilateral official development assistance (ODA) to the African countries. While there was no price tag on peace, it was also true that Member States’ resources were not unlimited.

    Should Member States face up to the fact that increased peacekeeping budgets consumed resources that might otherwise flow into development and poverty alleviation activities? he asked. Should they ask whether it made sense for peacekeeping operations to carry out such tasks as development and human rights? Member States must give more serious thought to the question whether continuation of current practices was truly beneficial for the international community as a whole. “We cannot just sit back and watch the peacekeeping operations fail again”, he said.

    When deciding to establish a mission, the Security Council should also formulate its exit strategy, he said.  Such strategies should set concrete benchmarks to measure how much progress had been made in the execution of the mandates. Progress should be reviewed periodically after that. Missions needed to be liquidated when it was judged that their mandates had been fully fulfilled.  Without appropriate exit strategies, it was probably impossible to rationalize peacekeeping budgets. From that standpoint, his delegation appreciated the work of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, which argued in its report this year that “when a new mission is being planned, full account must be taken of the exit strategy”.

    With large-scale missions expected to be established in Burundi and the Sudan, following those in Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire and Haiti, the lessons learned from rapid deployment should be compiled and analysed, he continued. Among the measures that needed to be assessed, he listed the strategic deployment stocks, the Reserve Fund and pre-mandate authority granted to the Secretary-General. It was also important to continue to press forward vigorously with the reform of the Secretariat, which played an essential role in the establishment and deployment of peacekeeping missions. It was necessary to strengthen the linkage between the budget process and the Security Council reporting process. A serious remaining problem was the fact that staff composition of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) did not reflect equitable geographical representation. 

    It was also necessary to consider rationalizing the reimbursements of peacekeeping expenses, he said, in order to avoid a situation in which rapidly-growing peacekeeping budgets would become unaffordable for Member States and begin to consume resources that could otherwise be used for other purposes. As a troop-contributing country, Japan was ready to discuss that issue. 

    Ms. LOCK (South Africa), again speaking on behalf of the African Group, urged provision of sufficient funding for peacekeeping and efficient management of approved resources.  Commenting on the budget proposal for the next financial year and anticipated submissions for new and expanded missions, she said that the African Group would continue to consider the resource requirements for each mission, as well as the Support Account and the United Nations Logistics Base in Brindisi (UNLB), according to the justifications contained in the respective budget submissions for 2004/2005 and the merits thereto. 

    She welcomed the refinements made in the budget presentation with the use of results-based methodology. However, the Group shared the concerns noted by the Board of Auditors and the ACABQ regarding the inadequacy of the Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) to fully adapt to the requirements of the results-based budgeting. Budget documents should reflect mission-specific objectives that responded to their individual mandates.

    On human resources, the Group continued to be disappointed by the performance of the Secretariat in the area of recruitment, she said. Despite the assurances given last year that the use of the Galaxy system would reduce recruitment and deployment time from 180 to 95 days, the time for recruitment in peacekeeping missions continued to be delayed. The average time frame for recruiting such staff was 347 days, and she would appreciate an update in that respect. The Group also recalled its consistent advocacy for recruitment of qualified international candidates from the regions where the missions were located. The Group also noted that recruitment of a number of civilian personnel had taken place at levels lower than had been authorized. Regarding the proposed conversion of peacekeeping staff from 300 to 100 series, she noted the view of the ACABQ that such an action implied a policy change, which should be reported to the Assembly for further direction.

    Turning to procurement, she expressed concern that a code of ethics had not been promulgated regarding staff involved in that process. The risks of possible conflict of interest were real, and she urged speedy action on that matter. The Group also supported training for staff involved in procurement and looked forward to arrangements being developed by the DPKO and the Department of Management to finalize new field procurement arrangements.

    Member States had a shared responsibility to ensure that the United Nations had adequate personnel, material readiness and funding to deploy peacekeeping within the agreed time frames for rapid deployment, she said. Several recent missions had clearly illustrated the benefits of SDS. She also trusted that the Secretariat would explore the establishment of regional management structures to fully realize the potential of regionalization of support. Additional human and financial resources needed to be provided, if needed, to those missions that could act as regional supply facilities.

    In conclusion, she expressed the Group’s support for the efforts to further improve internal control mechanisms over peacekeeping resources, the training of staff and utilization of information technology. Among other welcome measures, she listed expeditious processing of claims for troop costs contingent-owned equipment reimbursement and the shortening of the liquidation process for closed missions.

    JAIDEEP MAZUMDAR (India) noted that the total proposed budget for peacekeeping operations for 2004-2005 amounted to some $2.7 billion, representing a marginal decline from the budget of $2.8 billion approved for the previous year. He expressed appreciation to the Secretariat for the improvements in the results-based budgeting format, including the increase in the number of quantifiable targets and indicators of achievement presented in the budget documents. Also appreciated was the increased compliance with the Board’s recommendations on peacekeeping issues. In the Committee’s last peacekeeping session in 2003, the Committee had initiated a resolution on cross-cutting peacekeeping issues. In that resolution, reports had been sought on issues, including the functional requirements of communications and information technology for field missions. He was deeply disappointed that the reports had not been presented to the Committee at the current session.

    Regarding support account posts, he expected that adequate justification would be provided for posts that had remained unfilled for 12 months as of 1 May, so that the Committee could take a decision on their continuance. Such justification should also include information on how the functions of the posts were provided during the time that the posts were vacant. He noted with concern that in several missions, especially in Africa, vacancy rates continued to be much higher than planned. Timely recruitment was critical.  It was incomprehensible how DPKO would take an average of 347 days to recruit professional staff. Unless there was drastic improvement in that area, upcoming missions might be jeopardized. Now the Committee had been told that the Galaxy system, which was to have solved the problem, was in itself the real problem.  The Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM) target of 120 days was reasonable and should be adhered to.

    He said his delegation shared the concern of the ACABQ regarding the proposed conversion of as many as 1,600 professional and 5,000 national staff from the 300 to the 100 series. Such policy decisions on staff issues should not be taken without specific authorization from the General Assembly. For staff that would be completing four years service during 2004, he would favour suspension of all such conversion until the General Assembly had the opportunity to consider all its complications. The appointment of staff at levels lower than authorized and over long periods of time raised the questions as to whether the Committee was approving posts at the right level and whether functions could not be performed at levels lower than sought.

    While he welcomed DPKO’s efforts to promote information sharing on best practices and lessons learned, he said he would be more confident of their usefulness if established United Nations policies and procedures were uniformly followed in all missions. He regretted that the comprehensive report on procurement and contract management had not been submitted. He noted ACABQ’s request that the Secretariat look into the feasibility of extending the time between rotations of contingents from the existing six months.  While that would result in some savings, the matter should first be discussed in the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations before any recommendation was made. He agreed that financial considerations should not be the predominant factor in decisions on matters such as the provision of hard-walled accommodations for troops. The same applied for provisions of rations to troops where the primary consideration should be the provision of fresh, high quality food to contingents, in accordance with established standards.

    The acquisition for and the replenishment of SDS took on added importance this year on account of several new missions that were expected in the start-up phase over the next few months, he said. He shared the concern of the ACABQ at the transfer to the United Nations Logistics Base at Brindisi of vehicles that might no longer be operational or useful in other missions and the possibility that excessive maintenance costs might be incurred in respect of those vehicles. India concurred with the recommendation that the DPKO ensure that all missions implement an assets replacement programme in a cost-effective manner and in strict compliance with the guidelines on life expectancy of assets. He also questioned the rationale for the transfer of vehicles with high mileage from missions in Europe to Africa where operation conditions would be more demanding.

    While he appreciated progress made by the Secretariat during 2003 in reducing the outstanding payments due on account of liabilities for troops, contingent-owned equipment payments and self-sustainment, he noted that the situation with regard to troop-cost liabilities had improved only marginally as compared to contingent-owned equipment and self-sustainment. He deeply regretted the serious situation created by the non-payment of assessed contributions for current missions by some Member States, which had resulted in non-payment for contingents on the ground for nearly three years. India welcomed the recommendation that the Secretariat continue efforts to search for avenues to settle amounts owned to Member States that had remained unpaid for long periods of time.  He regretted that the Secretariat had been unable to prepare the report on consolidation of accounts that had been sought by the General Assembly last year.

    He expressed deep disappointment that the Contingent-owned Equipment Working Group had been unable to arrive at a consensus on important issues such as rates of reimbursement for contingent-owned equipment and self-sustainment, as well as on the methodology for revision of rates of reimbursement of troop costs. 

    WANG XINXIA (China) said that in the past year, United Nations peacekeeping had seen some positive developments and played an important role in containing conflicts, stabilizing situations and averting humanitarian crises. The effectiveness of operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone and Timor-Leste had been remarkable.  Meanwhile, constant increasing demand for new missions had brought about unprecedented challenges to peacekeeping. The 11 active missions and several more that were expected to be deployed in the near future would push the financial requirements for peacekeeping in 2004/2005 to a new high, imposing a heavy financial burden on Member States. How to balance increasing demand, on the one hand, and insufficient capacity, on the other, and how to ensure the sustainability of peacekeeping operations were, indeed, questions that needed to be carefully studied and resolved.

    The Chinese delegation believed that peacekeeping was an effective way for the United Nations to monitor international peace and security, she continued.  China supported the enhancement of the Organization’s peacekeeping capacity and effectiveness. For that purpose, Member States needed to continue to honour their financial obligations and provide the necessary financial and personnel support to peacekeeping. Strengthening of regional and subregional capacity was also an effective way of complementing the inadequacies of the United Nations in that regard.

    In view of the fact that, today, most of missions were concentrated in Africa, she said that the top priority should be helping that continent to enhance its regional peacekeeping capacity. Furthermore, peacekeeping operations in areas where the situation had been stabilized should be downsized and liquidated in time, so as to ensure that limited resources could be used in the most needed places.

    SHOZAB ABBAS (Pakistan) said his country was currently the largest contributor of troops to United Nations peacekeeping operations. Peacekeeping was an expensive task requiring careful planning.  He had full confidence in the Secretariat fulfilling its tasks in that regard. The reports before the Committee provided a useful overview of trends of the financial aspects of peacekeeping operations. He was pleased to see improvements in the budget process and welcomed the new results-based approach. The total proposed resources for 2004-2005 amounted to some $2.7 billion, or 5 per cent less than the approved budget.  As the Council authorized new missions, however, that amount would increase. All missions would require additional resources. In that regard, he urged the Secretariat to use its resources more efficiently without compromising the quality of field operations.

    In the wake of new missions, he encouraged the Secretariat to improve the performance of the Galaxy system and speed up the recruitment process in a timely manner.  In the context of peacekeeping operations, the cost of equipping, training and sustaining troops was constantly on the rise. Unfortunately, the meeting of the Contingent-owned Equipment Working Group had not yielded results. The reimbursement system had further aggravated the situation facing troop-contributing countries. Indecision and delays had negative repercussions on the overall performance of peacekeeping operations.

    He said the most expensive component of peacekeeping operations was air transportation, which accounted for some 12.8 per cent of the total peacekeeping budget. While he welcomed the new cost structure approach introduced by the DPKO, he hoped it would not be at the expense of crucial factors such as air safety. He noted with concern the decline in the level of resources for the training component of the various missions. 

    Mr. WITTMANN (United States) said his delegation was encouraged that the results-based budgeting format continued to develop. He noted a significant improvement in the information provided in budget documents. He commended the Secretariat on the progress shown and hoped it would continue. He agreed with the ACABQ’s recommendation that more clear mission-specific objectives be used in budget documents.  He asked the Secretariat if it planned, in future performance reports, to identify what objectives were not achieved that affected the final performance for the mission year.

    Noting that much of the information previously provided with the results-based budgeting format was no longer contained in the reports, he supported the exclusion of repetitive or less important material in the formal sessions. He hoped that delegations recognized the expertise of the ACABQ, which in many cases had already considered much of the detailed information the Committee sometimes requested. He appreciated that ACABQ reports were more clearly focused. Given the number of items to be considered during the session, delegates should make an effort to ask for clarification only if it was not reflected in the documents before the Committee. While he recognized that additional information might be needed, sufficient detail was found in most ACABQ reports.

    He also commended DPKO’s Best Practices Unit for the quality and range of its work.  As more lessons were collected and disseminated, he expected to see savings through greater efficiency. He was also impressed with the Unit’s foresight in identifying new issues that peacekeepers might be tasked with. One of his delegation’s key concerns was trafficking in persons. He welcomed the focus in peacekeeping missions on that reprehensible abuse.  He supported the Secretary-General’s October 2003 bulletin on the subject, and looked forward to the further development of a framework to address the issue. 

    He took note of the increase in peacekeeping mission requests and the likelihood that some missions would be further downsized over the next year. He strongly urged Member States and the Organization to seek to retain qualified individuals and re-assign them to other missions in order to preserve their expertise.  Regarding the plan to convert 300 series employees to 100 series, he welcomed the Secretary-General’s decision to suspend the practice until the General Assembly had examined the question in greater detail.  His delegation noted that some employees affected would have reached their four-year limit before that could happen and was willing to consider measures to ensure that they were not disadvantaged pending such a decision.

    He also supported the ACABQ’s observation that there was a larger than expected occurrence of lower level staff being recruited and filling higher level positions. In that regard, he asked the Secretariat to examine the need for higher classifications if a lower level employee was performing the duties satisfactorily. The status of the strategic deployment stocks was troublesome in that replenishment seemed to still have a few problems, which he hoped would be worked out with the help of the SDS Steering Group.  He was sympathetic to the idea of regional logistical hubs and was willing to consider further proposals.

    As the Committee contemplated a peacekeeping budget that might grow to historic proportions, it must be mindful that every dollar counted and that fiscal discipline would be maintained no matter how many new missions were actually initiated in the coming year. He recognized the difficulties caused by late or incomplete payment, and was pleased to note that the United States had made its payments to assessment letters with a minimum delay compared to other periods.

    ALIREZA TOOTOONCHIAN (Iran) said that the crucial task of peacekeeping required sound administrative and budgetary arrangements to ensure that each mission was well equipped to carry out its mandate. Member States should strengthen their oversight mechanisms and efforts to fulfil their commitment in support of peacekeeping. His country stood ready, as in the past, to further extend its cooperation in that respect.

    The Fifth Committee needed to allocate adequate time for its consideration of peacekeeping financing and keep the overall balance of appropriations for all mandated activities, he continued. Last year’s report on the feasibility of consolidating the accounts of various operations had presented both advantages and disadvantages of such a measure. That issue required further careful consideration. Any endeavour in developing the management of financial resources of peacekeeping operations would prove to be insufficient if they were not accompanied by efforts to improve the human resources management, which was of vital importance for the Organization.

    The figure of the budget proposed for 2004/2005 did not include the requirements for new operations, which were expected to increase the total level of resources to more than $4 billion, he said. During the current session, the Secretariat needed to provide the Committee with updated information on the budgets for those new missions.

    A total of 10,652 posts had been proposed for staff in peacekeeping missions for 2004/2005, he continued, compared with 12,043 posts for 2003/2004 –- a reduction of 11.6 per cent. However, the number of posts for the UNLB and Support Account had increased.  As for the conversion of staff in peacekeeping missions from the 300 to 100 series, he concurred with the Advisory Committee that such issues should be decided upon by the General Assembly. It was the Assembly’s prerogative to act with regard to policy issues pertaining to human resources management.

    Turning to the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund, he said that it had been established to serve as a cash-flow mechanism to ensure rapid deployment of operations. The utilization of the Fund was limited to the start-up phase of new missions, expansion of existing ones and extraordinary expenditures related to peacekeeping. As a number of missions were expected to be established in 2004, he not only agreed that the level of the Fund should be maintained at $150 million, but also believed that the balance in excess of the level of the Fund could be retained in it to ensure that the requirements of new missions would be met.

    Mr. PARK (Republic of Korea) said that the total budget for peacekeeping operations had been projected to be $2.7 billion, a slight decrease from the current appropriation.  However, a number of anticipated complex missions would also need to be funded. That would raise the total to over $4 billion. In that connection, he emphasized the importance of preparing exit plans for missions and stressed the need for improved planning and budgeting of individual missions. His delegation also stressed the value of collaboration among Member States on peacekeeping and reiterated the need for consultation between the Council and major troop contributors. Now it was more urgent than ever to mobilize support of major peacekeeping stakeholders.

    His delegation supported the comments by the ACABQ on conversion from the 300 series without prior consultation with the Assembly, he said. He hoped the Secretariat would be more transparent in the future, in particular, as far as human resources were concerned.  The composition of the DPKO needed to reflect proper geographical distribution. It was also important to effectively manage training programmes. He endorsed the recommendation of the ACABQ and the Board of Auditors that the staff appraisal system be used to indicate achievements of individual peacekeeping staff members. Also, as more staff were trained, the training costs should decrease, especially in the missions, which were no longer growing or downsizing.

    Improving Financial Situation of United Nations

    Under-Secretary-General for Management CATHERINE BERTINI said that while the Organization’s overall situation had not changed dramatically, some elements were cause for concern. While the Organization hoped to end 2004 with a positive cash balance for the regular budget, the situation remained precarious.  Peacekeeping cash was expected to stay at a comfortable level, but cash shortages persisted in UNMIK and the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). Debt owed to Member States was expected to increase. From past experience, assessments for new missions were not forthcoming for up to 120 days and the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund, as a source of liquidity, was likely to be fully used.  Indeed, as the balance of the Fund was only some $155 million, the situation was very fragile. The continuing operation of the tribunals, moreover, was endangered by a substantial projected cash deficit.

    The solution to the problem, she said, was simple and rested in the hands of Member States, namely, to pay their financial obligations in full and on time. A strong financial base was a prerequisite for the Organization in carrying out the many important tasks entrusted to it by Member States. Improving the United Nations financial situation remained a high priority for the Secretary-General. Taken together, three main indicators, namely, available cash, the level of assessments and payments of assessed contributions, and the amount owed by the United Nations to Member States, indicated the Organization’s success in improving its financial base.

    The overall picture for 2003 was good, but only in parts, she said.  Cash balances had fallen from some $1,397 million at the end of 2002 to about $1,352 million at 31 December 2003. The outcome for some accounts had differed sharply, however, from that relatively healthy overall result. The second indicator, assessments and payments, was modestly encouraging with total unpaid assessed contributions falling by some $81 million to a still large $1,603 million. That was the lowest total since 1993. That encouraging outcome, however, did not reflect the problems faced with some accounts. Debt to Member States also showed an improvement. The total owed at 31 December 2003 was some $439 million, a reduction of about $264 million. 

    Within the overall cash balance, the regular budget and related reserves had some $23 million of net cash; the Capital Master Plan had some $16 million; net balances of peacekeeping accounts totalled some $1,386 million; and the two International Tribunals had a cash deficit of about $73 million. She added that the cash position of the International Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia had continued to deteriorate, as contributions continued to fall short of assessments. At the end of 2002, the Tribunals had had a small cash deficit. By the end of 2003, that amount had grown to $73 million. A continuation of that trend would threaten the future work of the Tribunals. 

    Addressing unpaid assessments, she said total assessments in 2003 had increased to some $3.9 billion. A small decrease of some $24 million for peacekeeping was more than offset by increases of $260 million for the regular budget, $18 million for the Tribunals and $26 million for the Capital Master Plan. The net result of those changes was a small reduction in total unpaid assessments of $81 million to $1,603 million.

    She noted that 131 Member States had paid their regular budget assessments in full by the end of 2003, breaking the negative trend since the number had peaked at 141 in 2000.  Unpaid assessed contributions for the regular budget had increased to $442 million at the end of 2003. Of the total amount outstanding, the United States had owed 61 per cent, Brazil 12 per cent, Argentina 9 per cent and Japan 4 per cent. Together, 56 Member States owed 14 per cent of the total.

    Outstanding peacekeeping assessments at the end of 2003, at some $1,066 million, had been $269 million lower than at the end of 2002, she said. Of the reduced total, the United States had owed 45 per cent. Eight of the other 15 major contributors together had owed 25 per cent, with other Member States owing 30 per cent.

    Unpaid assessments for the Tribunals had more than doubled to $88 million in 2003, she said, adding that there had been a much higher cash deficit at the end of 2003. Japan had owed 46 per cent of the total, the United States 14 per cent, the Russian Federation 12 per cent, Brazil 11 per cent and Argentina 5 per cent.

    Regarding debt to Member States, she said the total debt to Member States for troop and equipment costs at 31 December 2003 had fallen from $703 million at the beginning of the year to $439 million. Actual new obligations for contingent-owned equipment had been significantly lower than had been expected earlier due to the delayed deployment of the Task Force and troops in MONUC and the faster than originally planned drawdown of UNAMSIL.  Payments for troop costs had also been higher than expected. The Secretary-General remained fully committed to reducing the level of debt to Member States to the maximum extent possible, given the operational requirements for each mission.

    Turning to prospects for 2004, she said the regular budget assessment for 2004 was over $73 million higher than the assessment for 2003. By 30 April 2004, contributions of some $661 million had been received, an increase of $26 million compared with the same period in 2003. Regrettably, current cash projections indicated the need for some cross borrowing later in the year.  She currently expected to end the year with a cash deficit for the regular budget and related reserve accounts of some $7 million. 

    It was estimated that peacekeeping cash would end the year at around $931 million, she said, reflecting the return of $84 million to Member States from cash balances in closed accounts by June 2004.  In addition, the Assembly would be requested to take action during the current session on some $94 million. The composition of the total cash balance was of critical importance since the Organization was not permitted to borrow from active peacekeeping missions, and the peacekeeping reserve fund could only be used for new and expanded missions. The return of cash balances of some $84 million and $94 million from closed missions to Member States would result in total liabilities for closed missions exceeding total cash in those missions. That would create serious problems if borrowing were needed to tide over other activities, including active missions, the regular budget and the Tribunals.

    The financial prospects for the two Tribunals remained very bleak, she continued. The tribunal accounts had had to borrow in January and February and would have to do so again from July, ending 2004 with a cash deficit of $100 million. The Organization had taken steps to freeze recruitment and scale down operations. Unless Member States made significant new payments for the Tribunals in the very near future, further steps would be necessary. She could not overemphasize the magnitude of the financial crisis facing the Tribunals or the importance of Member States meeting their financial obligations. 

    Regarding debt to Member States, she expected a significant increase in new obligations for troop and equipment costs in 2004 to some $949 million, as compared with $607 million in 2003. That was due to the phasing in of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and full deployment of MONUC, which more than offset the downsizing of UNMISET and UNAMSIL. At the same time, payments to Member States for troop costs were expected to increase from $454 million in 2003 to $567 million in 2004.  While the Secretary-General was committed to doing everything possible to meet obligations to troop and equipment providers, his ability to do so depended on all Member States meeting their obligations in full and on time.

    Comments on Individual Missions

    As the Committee returned to peacekeeping financing, CHRISTIAN OBAME (Gabon), speaking on behalf of the African Group, addressed the budgetary requirements of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC). Given the vastness of the territory and the complexity of that operation, the Assembly had a responsibility to provide the Mission with adequate resources. Taking note of MONUC’s financial performance report for 2002/2003, the Group was fully aware of the fact that the Mission’s performance had been affected by such factors as the delay in the deployment of troops and a slower-than-anticipated pace of the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration, repatriation and resettlement (DDRRR) programmes. 

    In addition, the outbreak of hostilities in various parts of the country had resulted in the reconfiguration of the Mission and subsequent revision of its mandate last July, he said.  During the current financial period, MONUC had overcome some of the difficulties that had resulted in under-expenditure in previous financial periods, he continued. The Group stood ready to consider additional funds for the Mission for the remainder of the 2003/2004 period.

    Turning to the Mission’s financial requirements for 2004/2005, he noted  that the proposed requirements amounted to $718.3 million –- an increase of $7.3 million, mainly due to the full deployment of personnel, civilian police and aircraft components. The Group remained concerned with the prevailing high vacancy rates recorded for the international staff component. That situation affected the effectiveness of the Mission, and he trusted the Secretariat would make every effort to fill vacant posts.  He also hoped the Mission would be able to achieve greater delegation of authority for recruitment purposes.

    He went on to say that the Mission had contributed to the attainment of a political settlement, improvement of human conditions, protection of children and other vulnerable persons, women’s participation in the society, increased respect for human rights and progress towards voluntary DDRRR. Additional posts requested by the Secretary-General would be needed by MONUC to assist the country with the organization of the constitutional referendum and national elections.  Planned indicators of achievements for 2004/2005 ranged from the voluntary repatriation of all remaining foreign combatants to the reunification of governmental and administrative institutions. The Group shared most of the views expressed by the ACABQ and was very interested in further consideration of several issues, including the efforts of the Secretariat to improve the formulation of the air operations budget. 

    KATARINA LALIC SMAJEVIC (Serbia and Montenegro) said that according to Security Council resolution 1244, the international civil presence was mandated to maintain civil law and order, protect and promote human rights and assure safe and unimpeded return of all refugees and displaced persons to their homes. By the same text, the international security presence in Kosovo and Metohija was mandated to establish a secure environment to which refugees and displaced persons could return in safety. Unfortunately, the outbreak of orchestrated violence, intimidation and ethnic cleansing that Kosovo Albanian extremists and terrorists had committed in March in the presence of UNMIK and the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR) had demonstrated that both had failed to fulfil those obligations.

    Her delegation was aware that the budget proposal for UNMIK had been prepared prior to the tragic events in March, she continued. Nonetheless, as the Mission continued to shoulder the major share of responsibilities in the most important segments of administration of the Province, she believed that the anticipated reductions in the proposed budget should be reconsidered in the light of the latest tragic events, so as not to jeopardize in any way the implementation of resolution 1244. Reductions should not affect the financial resources envisaged for security and the protection of minority rights, including freedom of movement and the right of return. On the contrary, it was necessary to increase those resources to fulfil the mandates in those areas.

    An increase of 80 per cent was anticipated under component 2, the rule of law, in the number of cases of murders and serious assaults committed against minorities to be tried by local prosecutors and judges, she said. For her delegation, such an increase, especially now after the latest events in Kosovo, was unacceptable. At this moment, when the confidence of the Serbian community in the international administration had been seriously undermined, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General should stop the process of transfer from international entities of those responsibilities that had an impact on the security and the rights of minorities in the Province. Such a transfer should be carried out in accordance with the capacities, the level of demonstrated responsibility and taking into account the results achieved so far by local authorities.

    In conclusion, she drew the Committee’s attention to some inappropriate references in documents A/58/638 and A/58/592, which directly challenged the sovereignty of Serbia and Montenegro in Kosovo and Metohija. Some of the language used in the reports was inconsistent with the language of resolution 1244. Her delegation requested the issuance of corrigenda to those documents.

    NONYE UDO (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group, focused on the financing of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), which had begun a very crucial phase of its mandate -- the drawdown. The Group believed that the human and financial resources that had been expended on that Mission must not be allowed to go to waste.  In that connection, the United Nations needed to exercise extra care in implementing its exit strategy of adjustment, drawdown and withdrawal that was now in progress. She also wanted to know how the reduction in the military strength of the Mission had impacted the essential services performed by UNAMSIL, including its support to the Special Court on Sierra Leone.

    She recalled that, in connection with the consideration of UNAMSIL’s budget proposal last year, the Group had expressed its concern over the accelerated pace of the drawdown.  As UNAMSIL embarked on the last phase of its mission, some concerns had persisted, notably the security challenges that Sierra Leone and the subregion would face after the withdrawal of the force in December 2004, as was scheduled at that time. The slow pace of reconstruction, the continuing poor economic performance and increasing hardship on the people in the absence of sustained development and political plans could present difficulties for the peace process. Such legitimate concerns had underpinned the Council’s decision to extend the Mission for another six months.

    The extension of the Mission would be beneficial to other missions in the region, which received support from UNAMSIL. The Mission should be enabled to continue providing protection and support services to the Special Court of Sierra Leone, particularly as there was an anticipation of crisis during the forthcoming elections. The African Group had always called for an effective mechanism for harnessing best practices and hoped that other missions would draw lessons from UNAMSIL, in particular through the ongoing efforts to coordinate activities in the subregion.

    The financial resources outlined in the budget document for UNAMSIL did not reflect the latest Security Council mandate for the Mission, she said. The Group stood ready to consider any revised estimates for the Mission’s 2004/2005 budget that the Secretary-General could present to the Assembly during the fifty-ninth session. That was particularly important in view of the fact that out of the proposed budget of $199.8 million, the ACABQ had recommended a reduction of $2.8 million. She took note of the Advisory Committee’s comment that it would not be pursuing its recommendation for the 3 per cent reduction to the estimate for the Mission’s military component. She also hoped that the added mandate, by which the Council had asked the Mission to share its experience with the missions in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire, would not be carried out in a manner that would have a negative impact on UNAMSIL. The gains made would be better secured it efforts were made to build upon the regional economies that would sustain the hard-earned peace and stability. 

    While it was premature to pronounce a final verdict on UNAMSIL, the Group wished to note the excellent presentation of the budget document before the Committee. She joined the ACABQ in commending the Mission for the way it had used results-based techniques.  Also commendable were UNAMSIL’s ongoing efforts to streamline and improve its inventory control practices and efficiently manage its air assets.

    Ms. LOCK (South Africa) said that as a core task of the United Nations, peacekeeping operations continued to make an important and valuable contribution to the maintenance of international peace and security. South Africa would continue to pay its peacekeeping contributions in full, on time and without conditions. Significant progress had been made to enhance the capacity of the United Nations Headquarters to plan and manage peacekeeping operations. Her delegation fully supported the resource requirements for the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), MINURSO, UNAMSIL and MONUC. She trusted that the Secretariat would be able to provide a detailed explanation of the potential impact that any proposed reductions might have on the ability of the four missions to fulfil their respective mandates.

    While South Africa was encouraged by the Secretary-General’s efforts to reduce the vacancy rate for international and national staff in the four missions, the levels remained too high, she said. She trusted that the Secretariat would take the necessary steps to increase recruitment and improve the vacancy situation. The proposed staffing establishment for MONUC reflected the mission’s expanding mandate and the complexities of the operation.  Her delegation had taken note of the ACABQ’s recommendation to approve 17 of 34 posts required in the Office of Public Information. In that regard, she recalled that the United Nations was reinforcing its public information campaigns in that country in order to maximize support for MONUC activities and the transition in the run-up to elections.  Public information activities would become even more relevant during the run-up to the elections. 

    MHD. NAJIB ELJY (Syria) addressed the financing of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), saying that the establishment of the Force was due to the occupation by Israel of the Syrian Arab Golan and its defiance of international resolutions calling on it to withdraw completely. Since its establishment, Syria had respected the implementation of UNDOF’s mandate.  In the past year, the Force had witnessed two Israeli violations. A Syrian police officer had been killed and another kidnapped. Israel had carried out an attack on a peaceful Syrian village and had destroyed a residential building in a dangerous escalation of the situation in the region. The report on the Force’s budget, however, had only registered one serious violation and had ignored that Israel had been the aggressive party.

    He had taken note of the reports of the Secretary-General and the ACABQ. His delegation welcomed the progress achieved by the Mission in preparing the budget document following a results-based approach.  In the future, the security coordinator must be appointed at the P-3 level. The proposed budget had enough analysis to upgrade the Chief Administrative Officer to the D-1 level. He supported the regularization of 14 employees to be converted to local posts. Noting that the ACABQ had asked UNDOF to resort to outsourcing, he said that was not in accordance with the General Assembly resolutions. He was concerned that the ACABQ had not taken the General Assembly’s wisdom into account concerning the regrouping of staff in central points. Syria appreciated the Mission’s noble cause.

    Statements in Exercise of Right of Reply

    Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, Israel’s representative said that it was the Committee’s policy not to contaminate its professional debate with political issues.  Sometimes, however, his country had to respond to the allegations made. Today, after the last speaker’s statement, he had no choice. 

    He reminded the Committee that Security Council resolutions contained direct obligations for both parties of conflict -- not just the Israeli side. The fact was that Israel’s actions referred to in last speaker’s statement were defensive measures in response to terrorist acts, the directives and leadership for which had come from the Syrian territory. He found it astonishing that the previous speaker had completely ignored the fact that if, indeed, it was an “escalation”, then those who financed and supported terrorist organizations were definitely responsible for it.

    Syria’s representative said that his delegation was committed to the professional aspect of the discussion in the Committee. Hence, his statement had focused on the facts verified by the United Nations itself. His delegation now found it necessary to allude to the lies in the statement by Israel’s representative. As far as Israel’s attack on the Syrian policemen was concerned, those were senior citizens carrying out household tasks on the Syrian side. Despite Israel’s fabrications, they were not armed when they were hit by Israel’s treacherous bullets. As for the attack against a civilian building in Syria, the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force’s (UNDOF) report indicated that Syria respected the disengagement of forces. No act had been carried on the Syrian side in defiance of disengagement measures, according to United Nations reports, which confirmed the aggressive nature of Israel.

    Syria had resorted to the policy of restraint, he said, and Israel’s actions had led to further escalation of the situation. The Palestinian presence in Syria amounted to about 0.5 million people. It was the result of Israel’s terrorism, practised for many decades after they had expelled Palestinians from their homes. Israel’s lies were well known all over the world, and Security Council resolutions condemned those fabrications.

    The representative of Israel said the Syrian delegate had claimed that Israel had acted against a civilian site.  Syria was on the wrong side of the war against terror. Nothing could change that. The Syrian delegation had not clarified why if the facility was a civilian site that the media had been prohibited from accessing it. He did not blame the Syrian delegate personally. All delegations acted on instructions. He urged delegates, however, to use the information available in the host country or in Israel, so as to reach their own conclusions on repeated allegations. He hoped the Committee could return to the important items on its agenda, without wasting time and resources on such an exchange.

    Syria’s representative said it seemed that Israel and its representatives were well trained in lying and fabricating misrepresentations. Syria had only told the truth. If speaking about terrorism, one only had to go to the not-so-distant past.  Israel was based on terrorism. The United Nations was one of the parties that had suffered from Israeli terrorism. Even the Qana incident and the resolution adopted every year thereon was evidence of Israeli terrorism. He would not even mention the killing of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) officials and other events. Talking about Israeli terrorism would take days. Israeli democracy was about the killing of peace activities. Syria was on the right side in the war against terrorism. The whole world knew how Syria had suffered from terrorism in the past few years. While each delegation had its instructions, he was speaking out of his own conviction. The Palestinians living in Syria had the right to express themselves.

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