Press Releases

                                                                GA/AB/3622
                                                                                        27 May 2004

    Speakers in Fifth Committee Express Support for Funding Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission, Concern over Setting Precedent in Funding ICJ Decisions

    NEW YORK, 26 May (UN Headquarters) -- Under its agenda item on special political missions, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning took up the estimates in respect of the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission, which was established to implement the ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the border dispute between those two countries.

    In a statement on behalf of the African Group, South Africa’s representative fully supported the Secretary-General’s request for about $6.9 million to ensure functioning of the Commission for a seven-month period, from 1 June to 31 December 2004, insisting that every effort should be made to assist Nigeria and Cameroon to stay the course of a conciliatory settlement. There was no doubt that, with political will, the dispute could be fully resolved.

    Overall, she added, the modest support of the United Nations had contributed significantly to the positive achievements so far and should be encouraged. The United Nations spent large sums of money on peacekeeping operations in various countries, but in this case, it had an ample opportunity to assist the peaceful resolution of a long-standing dispute for a much lesser amount.

    Jamaica’s representative said that the Mixed Commission should not be seen as a routine event, as it denoted faith in the multilateral process. Both countries, following the Court’s ruling, had renewed their commitment to renounce the use of force in their bilateral relations and to pursue peaceful means for the settlement of their boundary differences. Member States should encourage and support that process. She hoped that, with a successful resolution, the Commission could serve as a best-practice example to other countries.

    The representatives of both Cameroon and Nigeria appealed to the Committee to support the funding of the Mixed Commission. Cameroon’s representative emphasized that in supporting the Commission’s financing, the Committee would be making its contribution to preventive diplomacy, which was vital to the work of the United Nations. It would also be contributing to peacekeeping, not by approving credits to a United Nations mission but by making resources available to the Secretary-General to help two brotherly and friendly countries peacefully implement the ICJ’s decision.

    Nigeria’s representative agreed that the Organization should spare no effort to eradicate the root causes of conflict, before they could flourish. The origin of many conflicts could be traced to a much less delicate matter than the one between Nigeria and Cameroon. As pointed out by other speakers, the Mixed Commission was a model approach to conflict resolution, and the facts on the ground testified that it had a real potential to resolve the dispute. Provision of needed resources would allow it to attain the required outcome.

    Several speakers agreed with the African Group, recognizing the importance of the Mixed Commission’s work and concurring with the Secretary-General’s assessment that the progress made since its establishment in 2002 was commendable. The Commission had successfully completed the withdrawal and transfer of authority from the civil administration and military and police forces in the economic, communications and energy spheres by both parties. Other achievements included a plan to construct highways connecting the southern part of Nigeria with Cameroon and joint efforts to salvage the Lake Chad basin. To consolidate the transfer of authority in the Lake Chad area, the Mixed Commission had decided to establish an observer personnel group there for a period of one year.

    However, most speakers also expressed serious disappointment over the very late submission of the estimates for the Commission, especially in view of the fact that the issue had been before the Security Council in March. They were also concerned about the precedent of using regular budget funds for implementing the rulings of the International Court of Justice, especially given the number of judgments issued by the ICJ each year.

    Also speaking this morning were representatives of Ireland (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Syria, United States, Cuba, Australia, Canada and Japan.  The documents before the Committee were introduced by the Director of the Office of Programme Planning and Budget Division, Warren Sach, and the Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), Vladimir Kuznetsov.

    The Committee will continue its work at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 27 June.

    Background

    When the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning, it was expected to take up estimates in respect of special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council.

    The report of the Secretary-General on the topic (document A/C.5/58/20/Add.1) is submitted in the context of action taken by the Security Council regarding support for the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission, which was established to implement the ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the Cameroon-Nigeria border dispute. In his letter of 17 March 2004 to the President of the Council, the Secretary-General informed the Council of the activities taken regarding the implementation of the Court’s ruling and indicated that in order to ensure the ruling’s successful implementation, it was vital to secure the necessary funding to enable the United Nations to continue to support the Mixed Commission. He also indicated his intention to seek such funding from the regular budget.  In his reply dated 15 April 2004, the Council President informed the Secretary-General that the Council had taken note of the information.

    The report states that the General Assembly, in its resolution 58/271 A of December 2003, appropriated a total of some $169.43 million for special political missions under section 3, Political Affairs, of the 2004-2005 programme budget. Of that amount, some $142.5 million was approved during the first part of the fifty-eighth session as a charge against the provision for special political missions for 21 such missions authorized by the Assembly or the Council. The resulting unallocated budget at that time in the provision for special political missions was some $26.95 million. Subsequently, in the context of implementing Council resolution 1526 (2004) on the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team and resolutions 1527 (2004) and 1528 (2004) on the rollover of the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Côte d’Ivoire, an additional amount of some $5.6 million was charged against the provision for special political missions. Currently, the unallocated balance in the provision for special political missions for the 2004-2005 biennium stands at $21.35 million.

    The report contains the proposed resource requirements for the provision of support to the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission for a seven-month period, from 1 June to 31 December 2004. The estimated requirements of some $6.9 million with the Assembly’s approval would be charged against the unallocated balance in the provision for special political missions for 2004-2005.

    Introduction of Reports

    WARREN SACH, Director of the Office of the Programme Planning and Budget Division, introduced the Secretary-General’s report.

    Orally introducing the related report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), its Chairman, VLADIMIR KUZNETSOV, noted that the Secretary-General had indicated that the total amount of resources required for the demarcation exercise and for the funding of the activities of the United Nations support team to the Mixed Commission until the end of 2005 was estimated at some $25 million, including $12 million for the demarcation and about $13 million for support to the Commission. A separate Trust Fund had been established for the demarcation of the Cameroon-Nigeria boundary, which had received some $6.5 million in contributions and pledges.  While a second fundraising exercise was to take place at the end of June 2004, so far contributions had been forthcoming for the purpose of the demarcation Trust Fund only. The level of resources now proposed for 1 June to 31 December -- some $6.9 million -- reflected the fact that the Commission’s initial activities were more in the form of confidence-building, whereas the parties were now gaining momentum towards completing the implementation of the ruling by the end of 2005.

    Noting that the ACABQ had only received the Secretary-General’s report on 24 May, he said there had not been enough time to give the matter detailed consideration. The Advisory Committee was not satisfied with what appeared to be an increased frequency of last minute submissions. The Secretary-General’s report gave rise to a number of questions that would require detailed analysis, including the extent to which charging the regular budget for all or part of the expenses of implementing a decision of the International Court of Justice was precedent-setting and the potential impact that might have on the United Nations budget for implementing future decisions of the ICJ and other legal bodies.  Other questions included the staffing structure, the involvement of regional entities, and plans to intensify efforts to obtain voluntary contributions.

    While some of the information was now being made available, at the current stage, there was not enough time for either the ACABQ or the Fifth Committee to properly consider the matter, he said. Therefore, the proposal should be resubmitted incorporating the information and clarification being sought. Pending consideration of the new submission in early fall, the ACABQ recommended that instead of authorizing the Secretary-General to charge some $6.9 million against the unallocated balance of the provision for special political missions under the 2004-2005 programme budget, commitment authority be granted of up to $6.9 million.

    Statements

    In a statement on behalf of the African Group, KAREN LOCK (South Africa) stressed the importance of the issue under consideration, which related to the peaceful resolution of the delicate issue of demarcation of borders between the two countries in a manner that would ensure stability in the subregion, create an enabling environment for sustainable economic development and guarantee the security and welfare of the populations involved.

    The African Group concurred with the Secretary-General’s assessment that the progress made since the first meeting of the Mixed Commission was commendable, she continued. The Commission had successfully completed the withdrawal and transfer of authority from the civil administration and military and police forces in the economic, communications and energy spheres by both parties. There was already a plan in place to construct modern highways connecting the southern part of Nigeria with Cameroon.  Joint efforts were being made to salvage the Lake Chad basin, which had been reduced from 30,000 to barely 3,000 square metres. To consolidate the transfer of authority in the Lake Chad area, the Mixed Commission had decided to establish an observer personnel group there for a period of one year.

    She fully supported the Secretary-General’s request for about $6.9 million to support the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission for a seven-month period, from 1 June to 31 December 2004. Overall, the modest support of the United Nations had contributed significantly to the positive achievements so far and should be encouraged. There was no doubt that with political will and leadership by all parties concerned, the dispute could be fully resolved. The United Nations spent large sums of money on peacekeeping operations in various countries, but in this case, it had an ample opportunity to assist the peaceful resolution of a long-standing dispute for a much lesser amount. Every effort should be made to assist the two countries to stay the course of a conciliatory settlement, by a quick and positive response from the Organization to assist the Mixed Commission.

    Noting the comments of the Advisory Committee on the matter, she stressed that the role of the United Nations, within the good offices of the Secretary-General, should not be impeded. That role would ensure the successful completion of the work of the Mixed Commission. She also commended those countries that had made voluntary contributions to the Trust Fund for the financing of the demarcation process, estimated to cost $12 million, including Cameroon and Nigeria, which had given $3 million each. 

    NORMA TAYLOR ROBERTS (Jamaica) said that the Mixed Commission should not be seen as a routine event. It was an action which denoted faith in the multilateral process.  The Presidents of both countries, subsequent to the ruling of the ICJ, had renewed their commitment to renounce the use of force in their bilateral relations and to pursue peaceful means for the settlement of their boundary differences.  That was a process which Member States should encourage and support.  Nigeria and Cameroon were two countries in Africa (and in the Commonwealth grouping, to which Jamaica belonged) that had played leadership roles in international diplomacy, and she hoped that, with a successful resolution, the issue could serve as one of the best practices to which other countries could relate in the resolution of similar disputes.

    Her delegation was aware of the tensions that had built up along the border of both countries and to some extent still existed, she added. It was for that reason that she was very pleased to learn of the successful completion of the withdrawal and transfer of authority of the civil administration and military and police forces in the Lake Chad area.  There were still many challenges ahead, but she hoped that with the tremendous political will displayed by both countries and the commendable diplomatic initiative of the Secretary-General, the support provided by the United Nations and the resources committed by Member States would not be in vain.

    In conclusion, she recalled remarks by a head of State from the Latin American and Caribbean Group, who had said that countries should not see their borders as barriers to keep their neighbours out, but rather as gateways, through which they could cooperate to the mutual benefit of their people.

    MARGARET STANLEY (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, recognized the importance of the Mixed Commission’s work. A number of European Union sources had contributed to the Trust Fund.  However, she was concerned at the very late submission of the report to the ACABQ and the Fifth Committee, especially in view of the fact that the issue had been before the Security Council in March.  She was also concerned about the precedent of using regular budget funds for implementing the rulings of the International Court of Justice, especially given the number of judgments issued by the ICJ each year.

    MHD. NAJIB ELJY (Syria) supported the statement by South Africa and emphasized the importance of the United Nations supporting the work of the Mixed Commission, especially in response to the ruling of the ICJ.  The Mixed Commission was extremely important.  Supporting it would contribute to the stability of the region. In that regard, he supported the Secretary-General’s proposal. He believed that support by the United Nations to peaceful settlements in different parts of the world, particularly Africa, was very important.

    IYA TIDJANI (Cameroon) expressed appreciation for the Secretary-General’s proposal.  In supporting the report, the Fifth Committee would be making its contribution to the application of preventive diplomacy, which was vital to the work of the United Nations. It would also be making its contribution to peacekeeping, not by approving credits to a United Nations mission but by making available to the Secretary-General resources to help two brotherly and friendly countries to peacefully implement the ICJ’s decision. He hoped that his delegation’s appeal would be heeded in the course of the informal consultations on the matter. Giving the Secretary-General the means he requested to enable the two countries to implement the ICJ ruling would contribute to securing an environment conducive to regional stability and development. He hoped that the Secretary-General’s report, despite the concerns raised, would receive the Committee’s support.

    MELANIE ATTWOOLL (United States) also expressed support for the progress made by the Mixed Commission and hoped it would lead to a successful conclusion of the matter.  She was concerned about the lateness of the report’s submission, which meant that the Committee had not had adequate time to discuss the issue. Her delegation was also concerned with what precedent might be set with regard to ICJ rulings. She hoped there would be adequate time to consider the issue in an informal context and reiterated her delegation’s concern that the matter was coming to the Committee at such a late stage.

    NORMA GOICOCHEA (Cuba) supported the statements by the representatives of South Africa, Jamaica, Syria and Cameroon, stressing the importance of providing the necessary resources to the Mixed Commission. Various options for providing those resources needed to be carefully considered. However, she also shared the concerns expressed by some delegations about the fact that the Secretary-General’s report should have been presented earlier. As correctly stated by the ACABQ, it was not right to have budgetary proposals submitted at the last moment, as it affected the Committee’s decision-making process.

    DAVID DUTTON (Australia) expressed disappointment at the late submission of the documentation, for it had, in fact, deprived the Committee of the opportunity to take a decision on the matter. He would like to hear an explanation from the Secretariat in that regard.

    NONYE UDO (Nigeria) thanked the Secretary-General for his personal dedication to global peace, which had also manifested itself in his contribution to the creation of the Mixed Commission. The origin of many conflicts could be traced to a much less delicate matter than the one between Nigeria and Cameroon. The establishment of the Commission had created an atmosphere conducive for a peaceful resolution of the dispute, and such an approach should be encouraged. As pointed out by Ireland, the Mixed Commission was a model approach to conflict resolution. The facts on the ground testified to the fact that it had a real potential to resolve the dispute.

    The provision of needed resources would allow the Commission to attain the required outcome, she continued. She thanked every delegation that had taken the floor for their support. The international community should spare no effort to eradicate the root causes of conflicts before they could flourish.  Nigeria played an active role in peacekeeping around the globe. It had also already paid $3 million for the Mixed Commission. While sharing other delegations’ concern over the late submission of the documents, she asked the Fifth Committee to show maximum support to the Secretary-General, giving him the needed flexibility to continue and conclude his good offices regarding the Commission.

    JERRY KRAMER (Canada) said the work of the Mixed Commission was critical to the ICJ’s decision on the Nigeria-Cameroon boundary. Canada had directly supported its work. It was an important example of the United Nations acting successfully in a crisis prevention mode. He did, however, share the concerns raised by the Chairman of the ACABQ and other delegations on procedure and the timing of information. It was important for the Committee to be able to discharge its responsibilities with complete information in a timely way.

    HITOSHI KOZAKI (Japan) commended the progress made by the Mixed Commission.  At the same time, he had noted the ACABQ’s recommendation. He too shared the concerns raised by its Chairman in terms of substance and the late issuance of the report. He also took note of the letter from the President of the Council to the Secretary-General.

    Ms. LOCKE (South Africa) said that whilst she shared the concern of delegations regarding the late issuance of the document, she trusted that it would not impede the Committee from acting on the matter. She trusted that the Secretariat would be able to respond to the questions posed by delegations and hoped that adequate time would be given to consider the matter so that a successful conclusion could be reached.

    Responding to questions and comments from the floor, Mr. SACH said he empathized on the question of timing. The matter had first come to the Security Council in mid-March.  It had been mid-April before that body had made a determination. Following that, consultations between the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Department of Political Affairs, the United Nations Office in West Africa, and the Office of Programme Planning and Budget Division had taken place. Those parties had worked rapidly to put together a substantive proposal.  The Secretariat had only received a proposal on 6 May. It had felt that further fine-tuning had been necessary as it was in all budgetary matters to distinguish between what was desirable and what was essential. The $6.9 million request was the result of thorough analysis of the requirements and represented an amount less than the Departments had initially proposed.

    The ACABQ, he continued, had been advised late last week that a presentation would need to be made.  He was pleased that it had been possible for the ACABQ to fit within its schedule a three-hour hearing on the subject. A 19-page answer had been provided on Monday evening in response to questions raised then. An alternative procedure would have been to go directly to the ACABQ when the Fifth Committee was not in session. The Secretariat had not wanted to go that way, as it would not have been proper, he said.

    Regarding questions on the trust fund, he noted that two trust funds were involved.  One was in support of peacemaking activities, which had supported the Mixed Commission in 2003 prior to the Security Council’s mandate. The other trust fund was in support of special missions. Contributions to that trust fund had been received by Cameroon and Nigeria. That trust fund supported the technical work being taken in parallel for the boundary demarcation. None of the proposals for charging the regular budget for the political component related to technical work. 

    Commenting on questions regarding the precedent-setting nature of the issue, he said he did not think it was a financing issue, but an issue for the Security Council in its examination of the ICJ’s decisions. It was a substantive issue, beyond the bounds of what was to be considered by the Assembly, which had the role to determine the financing of decisions made by the Council. Action to support a peaceful settlement of a boundary dispute was a good precedent and far cheaper when alternative means were used, he said.

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