Press Releases

                                                                GA/AB/3619
                                                                                                    24 May 2004

    African Group Voices Position, as Budget Committee Considers Financing of Peacekeeping Missions in Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo

    NEW YORK, 21 May (UN Headquarters) -- As the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning took up financing of peacekeeping missions in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the African Group made clear its position on the matter.

    Speaking on behalf of the African Group, Nigeria’s representative welcomed the fact that the Committee now had before it the first 12-month budget of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), which had been established by the Council last September. She joined the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) in commending the format of the budget proposal. The Mission had, within the short time since its inception, managed to quickly deploy troops and establish the presence on the ground -- at a faster pace than had been planned and budgeted.

    Close cooperation between UNMIL, the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) and other agencies working in the field had placed the Mission in good stead to forge ahead with the discharge of its mandate, she said. Continued support was required to sustain such high momentum in a large and complex mission such as UNMIL. Consequently, she recommended that the remaining balance of $114.5 million be apportioned among Member States to cover the period for 1 August 2003 to 30 June 2004.

    The Secretary-General had submitted a revised budget of some $834.16 million to provide the Mission with adequate financial and human resources as it developed, she said. The Group had taken note of the ACABQ’s recommendations and was ready to discuss them further in informal consultations. She was pleased that various mechanisms had been put in place for effective coordination and collaboration with United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, as well as regional and international partners. The Mission should continue building on those efforts.

    The Group was encouraged by the indication that UNMIL had carried out an initial review of its organizational structure and had made concrete proposals aimed at greater efficiency, she said. By the middle of the year, the Mission would conduct a further review, taking into account developments in the field, the progress made -- in particular, in the implementation of the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration, repatriation and resettlement measures -- and preparations for the elections in 2005. The tasks before the Mission were enormous, and it was understandable that the new operation was bound to have “teething problems”. However, high vacancy rates did not augur well for the effective discharge of its functions. The Mission had to date met the budgeted vacancy rates. The fact that the ACABQ had revised the vacancy rates used for the purposes of budgeting should in no way prevent the Secretariat from striving to achieve full deployment of all posts.

    The unit cost of rations had decreased from $6.40 to $4.74 per day, she noted, but such a reduction should in no way impact on the quality of food provided to the troops and personnel. She also wondered about the impact of a proposed reduction to the resource requirements for consultants and official travel, as reflected in paragraphs 28 and 30 of the ACABQ report.

    Welcoming the implementation of quick impact projects by the Mission, she added that as at 31 March, actual expenditures of $183,100 reflected a moderate pace of implementation. However, it was her understanding that the expenditure was not an accurate reflection of utilization of the funds. Therefore, the Group was encouraged that a significantly higher portion of the total budgeted funds had already been committed to quick-impact projects. 

    Turning to the financing of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), she welcomed the full deployment of military contingents that had produced positive results on the ground. The Mission was thus expected to fully utilize the appropriation provided by the Assembly for the current financial period. The balance of the approved resources would be required to ensure the continued success of the Mission. The Group supported the Secretary-General’s request to apportion the amount of $59.04 million among Member States, in keeping with Assembly resolution 58/259 of 23 December 2003.

    The documents before the Committee (see below) were introduced by the Director of Peacekeeping Financing Division, Catherine Pollard, and the Chairman of the ACABQ, Vladimir Kuznetsov.

    The Committee will continue its work at a date to be announced.

    Background

    The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning was expected to take up the financing of peacekeeping missions in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    The Committee had before it a report of the Secretary-General containing the budget for the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) for the period 1 July 2004 to 30 June 2005 (document A/58/744), which amounts to some $839.7 million, including budgeted voluntary contributions in kind amounting to some $120,000. The budget provides for the deployment of 215 military observers, 14,785 military contingents, 755 civilian police, 360 formed police units, 635 international staff, 798 national staff and 431 United Nations Volunteers.

    The total resources for UNMIL for the financial period have been linked to the Mission’s objective through a number of results-based frameworks, grouped by components: ceasefire, humanitarian and human rights, security reform, peace process and support. The Mission’s human resources in terms of number of personnel have been attributed to the individual components, with the exception of the Mission’s executive direction and management, which can be attributed to the Mission as a whole. The financial resources for operational items have been linked to the support component by identifying quantitative outputs for expenditure classes under operational costs.

    The General Assembly is asked to appropriate some $839.6 million for the Mission’s maintenance for the 12-month period from 1 July 2004 to 30 June 2005, and to assess that amount at a monthly rate of $69.96 million, should the Security Council decide to continue the Mission’s mandate.

    Also before the Committee was a note by the Secretary-General on financing arrangements for UNMIL for the period 1 August 2003 to 30 June 2004 (document A/58/792). It notes that by its resolution 58/261 of December 2003, the Assembly appropriated to the Special Account for UNMIL some $564.5 million gross ($559.3 million net) and apportioned among Member States the amount of $450 million for the period from 1 August 2003 to 30 June 2004.

    As of 30 March 2004, expenditures incurred by UNMIL amounted to some $237.84 million gross ($237.3 million net), including unliquidated obligations in the amount of some $112.15 million, representing 42 per cent of the appropriation provided by the assembly for the Mission’s maintenance for the 2003-2004 financial period. Based on the projected requirements for the April-June 2004 period, estimated at $326.65 million gross ($323.5 million net), it is anticipated that the Mission’s requirements for the 2003-2004 period will be some $564.5 million. The projected full use of resources is primarily attributable to the fact that liabilities relating to standard troop-cost reimbursement, contingent-owned equipment and self-sustainment, as well as for some operational costs, were not fully obligated as of 31 March 2004, and that procurement of equipment will be completed, for which additional purchase orders are in the process of being raised before 30 June 2004.

    As of 30 April 2004, 13,955 troops were deployed, the report notes. The deployment of troops took place at a faster pace than budgeted, and additional amounts need to be obligated to cover liabilities for standard troop-cost reimbursement, contingent-owned equipment and self-sustainment. The amount of some $114.5 million gross ($115.9 million net) represents the difference between the projected expenditures and amounts apportioned among Member States by the Assembly for the Mission’s maintenance for 2003-2004.

    To ensure timely reimbursement to troop-contributing Governments for troop costs, contingent-owned equipment and self-sustainment, payment of mission subsistence allowance to military observers, civilian police and international civilian staff, as well as to meet payroll costs and contractual obligations for the acquisition of equipment and for services rendered to UNMIL, it is essential that the Mission be provided with sufficient cash resources.

    The Assembly is requested, therefore, to apportion among Member States the additional amount of $114.5 million for the period from 1 August 2003 to 30 June 2004. It is also requested to approve the reduction in the estimated staff assessment income in the amount of some $1.45 million, from $5.2 million to $3.7 million.

    The report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) on the proposed 2004/2005 budget for UNMIL (document A/58/798) notes that its recommendations would entail a reduction of some $12.2 million to the proposed budget of $843.15 million.  The ACABQ recommends a budget of some $821.98 million. 

    The report notes that as of 31 March 2004, a total of some $446.2 million had been assessed on Member States in respect of the Mission since its inception. Payments received as of the same date amounted to about $284.76 million, leaving an outstanding balance of $161.42 million. As of 31 March 2004, the Mission’s cash position was $159.4 million. Reimbursement to Member States as of the same date totalled some $18.15 million.

    The Advisory Committee commends the Mission for the progress it has made in formulating its budget document using results-based techniques. Further improvements, however, could be made in several areas of the budget presentation in the results-based framework, including a better-defined linkage between proposed resources and programmed outputs and accomplishments.

    On resource requirements, the ACABQ expresses concern that at the beginning of May 2004, only three troop-contributing countries, out of 20 represented on the Mission, had signed memorandums of understanding and that pre-deployment inspections had been conducted in only five troop-contributing countries. It requests that urgent measures be taken to remedy the situation. It also recommends that vacancy rates of 5 per cent for military observers and 15 per cent for civilian police be used in the budget estimates. The requirements of some $419.5 million for military and police personnel should be reduced by about $4.82 million to reflect the delayed deployment factor.

    Regarding recommendations on posts, the report notes that, as a partial response to its previous recommendation, UNMIL has carried out an initial review of the Mission’s organizational structure and has proposed measures to streamline the structure. Further efforts should be made at streamlining the Mission’s organizational structure in the context of the more comprehensive review of the organizational structure planned for mid-2004. The ACABQ plans to monitor developments regarding the reform, including top-level positions.

    The increase of some $118.02 million in the estimated requirements for civilian personnel -- or 128.5 per cent -- compared with the appropriation of about $51.65 million for the current financial period is attributable mainly to the deployment of the Mission during the 12 months of the 2004-2005 financial period, rather than nine months during the current budget period, as well as to the establishment of 203 new posts. The estimate requirements were based on the assumption of 15 per cent vacancy rates for international staff and 10 per cent for General Service staff. The ACABQ is of the view that these vacancy rates do not adequately reflect the delayed recruitment of civilian personnel of UNMIL. Under the circumstances, it recommends that the estimated requirements of $118.02 million be reduced by some $6.8 million to reflect vacancy rates of 20 per cent for international staff and 15 per cent for national general service staff.

    The ACABQ recommends approving the Secretary-General’s staff proposals for UNMIL, the report states. The presentation of resource requirements for consultants needs to be significantly improved. The requested resources should be explained and justified in terms of programmatic needs. In the absence of detailed justification, the ACABQ was not in a position to determine whether the entire requested provision of $800,300 was necessary. Therefore, it recommends approving the amount of the rollover from the current financial period -- $454,400 and $100,900 for the electoral programme, namely, a reduction of $235,000 to the requested amount.

    On official travel, the Advisory Committee is of the view that the proposed increase in travel requirements cannot be justified simply by the anticipated higher level of civilian personnel. The Mission’s travel programme should better demonstrate its relationship with and impact on outputs and achievements planned for the Mission. The Mission should rely more on available communications and information technology and reduce its travel programme accordingly. It recommends a reduction of $300,000 from the requested provision of $2.27 million. 

    Regarding the request in the Secretary-General’s report on the financial arrangements for the Mission for the period 1 August 2003 to 30 June 2004, the ACABQ notes that it is for the Assembly to decide on the level of assessment for the Mission.  It seems fortuitous that the projection of total requirements for UNMIL exactly matches the total level of appropriation for 2003-2004. Increasing the level of assessment is not a solution for the problem of unpaid contributions, the report adds.

    Also before the Committee were financing arrangements for the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) for July 2003-June 2004.

    The Secretary-General, in his report on the matter (document A/58/772) recalls that last year, the Assembly, by its resolution 58/259 of 23 December 2003, decided to appropriate the amount of $59.04 million for the maintenance of that Mission in 2003/2004, in addition to the $582 million already appropriated and apportioned for the same period under the terms of resolution 57/335 of 18 June 2003. On the recommendation of the Advisory Committee, that additional amount was not assessed on Member States on the understanding that the ACABQ would review the situation when considering the estimates for 2004/2005.

    It is anticipated that the Mission will fully utilize the amount of $641.04 million appropriated by the Assembly, primarily due to the full deployment of military contingents. The Secretary-General therefore requests apportionment of the additional $59.04 million in order to ensure timely reimbursement of troop-contributing countries and payment of mission subsistence allowance to military observers, civilian police and international civilian staff.  The funding is also required to meet payroll costs and contractual obligations for equipment and services rendered to MONUC.

    The Advisory Committee, in a related report (document A/58/794) recommends that the amount of $59.04 million be assessed and apportioned among Member States.

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