Press Releases

    GA/AB/3673
    6 May 2005

    In Fifth Committee, African Group Supports Proposed Budgets for UN Operations in Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire

    Management of Both Peacekeeping Operations Commended, but Concerns Raised over High Vacancy Rates in Mission Staffing

    NEW YORK, 5 May (UN Headquarters) -- Assessing the financial requirements of two African peace operations one year into their respective mandates, the African Group this morning supported the Secretary-General’s proposed budgets of $296.65 million for the United Nations Operation in Burundi (UNOB) and $371.83 million for the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), as the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) began its consideration of the financing of the two complex and multidimensional missions.

    Noting that ONUB was tasked with overseeing a wide range of activities, South Africa’s representative, on behalf of the African Group, said it was imperative that the Committee took a decision that would build on the good foundation set by the Operation in the first year of its mandate.  The Secretary-General’s budget proposal reflected the financial and human resources needed to successfully implement the mission’s complex mandate.  The ONUB had undertaken major military operational activities, including monitoring ceasefire agreements, assisting with election preparations and protecting refugee camps.  Such operations had deterred foreign combatants from infiltrating the country’s border and had curtailed the flow of illegal weapons.  A decisive donor response was critical to collective efforts to consolidate peace after the country’s elections.

    Regarding the proposed budget for UNOCI, she said that Operation had also been assigned a wide range of tasks, including assisting the Government of National Reconciliation with the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration, repatriation and resettlement of combatants and re-establishing the authority of the judiciary and the rule of law throughout the country.  The crisis in November 2004 had affected the build-up of the Operation’s staffing and logistics and had also impacted efforts to fill international civilian vacancies.  The political process was back on track, however, and the parties had committed themselves to an unequivocal and immediate seizure of all hostilities.  It was, therefore, imperative that Member States provide the mission with the required financial and human resources, as Ivorians took the final steps towards the holding of elections in a peaceful and secure environment.

    Describing the deepening fragile humanitarian situation in Côte d’Ivoire, she recalled that the country still hosted tens of thousands of refugees, primarily from Liberia.  The Group was, therefore, deeply concerned by the international community’s lacklustre response to the 2005 consolidated appeals in response to the humanitarian needs of over 3.5 million vulnerable persons affected by the humanitarian crisis.  In that regard, she urged the United Nations to intensify its efforts to resolve the dire situation.

    Addressing general issues, she commended the management of both peacekeeping operations for undertaking extensive reviews of their mission structures.  That commitment was evident from the revisions proposed and justifications provided for the Operations’ respective staffing proposals.  Both Operations should continue to assess their staffing needs in order to effectively respond to changing realities on the ground.

    Noting high vacancy rates at UNOCI, which seemed to be a recurring problem in African peacekeeping operations, she said the Secretariat would have to make a concerted effort to recruit and retain staff, bearing in mind the competing efforts by operations in the same region.  While welcoming efforts to ensure greater synergies between peacekeeping operations in the same region, she cautioned that regional cooperation should not impede the ability of individual operations to implement their mandates.  Each operation should remain responsible for preparing and overseeing its own budget, as well as for controlling its own assets and logistical operations.

    Syria’s representative also expressed concern at the high vacancy rates in the two missions, as well as in other African peacekeeping operations.  While he was pleased with efforts to provide for greater cooperation among regional missions, he also stressed the need for each mission to maintain administrative autonomy.  Cooperation was needed, but not by means of merging the missions’ various resources.

    The representative of Uganda said that, as Chair of the Burundi peace process, his country fully supported the Secretary-General’s realistic budget proposal for the mission there, which duly reflected the situation on the ground.  In spite of general progress, there were slippages in the electoral calendar in Burundi.  On 22 April, a summit had been held in Entebbe to consider the road map for elections in that country, as proposed by the Independent Electoral Commission.  The summit had agreed to extend the duration of the transitional government from 22 April to 26 August 2005, when a post-transitional government was expected to take over.  That development highlighted the Secretary-General’s argument that events caused by parties or situations external to the United Nations were among the largest contributing factors of each resource variance.

    He added that the resources for disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation would need to focus on a comprehensive and holistic approach to the sore spots, which harboured negative forces in the region, in particular in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Commending the international community for its response after the tsunami, he also expressed hope that the same spirit would be applied to resolve the perennial conflicts in the Great Lakes region.

    Introducing the reports before the Committee (documents A/59/748, A/59/750 and A/59/736/Adds.12 and 15) were the United Nations Controller, Warren Sach, and the Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), Vladimir Kuznetsov.

    The Committee will meet again on Monday, 9 May, at 10 a.m. to take up the financing of the United Nations operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Haiti.

    Background

    The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to begin its consideration of the financing of the United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB) and the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (ONUCI).

    The Committee had before it a report of the Secretary-General on the budget for ONUB for the period 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006 and expenditure report for the period 21 April to 30 June 2004 (document A/59/748).  ONUB’s budget, which amounts to some $296.65 million, provides for the deployment of 200 military observers, 5,450 military contingent personnel, 120 civilian police, 406 international staff, 446 national staff, including 45 National Officers, and 198 United Nations Volunteers.

    The report notes that total resource requirements for ONUB for the financial period from 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006 have been linked to the Operation’s objective through a number of results-based frameworks, namely, political process, security sector reform, security environment, human rights and humanitarian assistance, as well as support.  In its resolution 59/15 of 29 October 2004 on the financing of ONUB, the General Assembly asked the Secretary-General to rejustify certain posts, including proposed grade level adjustments, where applicable.

    By its resolution 58/312 of 18 June 2004, the Assembly approved -- for the Operation’s establishment -- commitment authority with assessment in the amount of $49.71 million gross ($49.46 million net) for the period 21 April to 30 June 2004.  This amount has been assessed on Member States.  The total expenditure for the period amounted to $40.25 million gross ($40.12 million net).

    The Secretary-General asks the Assembly to appropriate some $49.71 million previously authorized by the Assembly under the terms of resolution 58/312 of June 2004 for the establishment of the Operation for the period 21 April to 30 June 2004.  The Assembly is also asked to appropriate some $296.65 million for the Operation’s maintenance for the 12-month period from 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006 and to assess that amount at a monthly rate of $24.72 million, should the Council decide to extend the Operation’s mandate.  He also asks the Assembly to decide on the treatment of the unspent balance of $9.46 million with respect to the period from 21 April to 30 June 2005, and to decide also on the treatment of interest income for the period ending 30 June 2004 in the amount of $7,000.

    In a related report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) (document A/59/736/Add.12), that body recommends a reduction to the proposed budget of ONUB for 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006 from $296.65 million to $292.35 million gross ($284.05 million net).  The Advisory Committee also makes several observations and recommendations regarding the administration and management of the Operation and opportunities for further savings.

    Regarding the expenditure report for the period from 21 April to 30 June 2004, the report notes that expenditure for that period totalled $40.25 million gross, which is $9.46 million gross or 19 per cent lower than the appropriation of $49.71 million gross.  The unused balance of $9.46 million resulted from the mission start-up operations from 21 April to 30 June 2004.  The Secretariat submitted an expenditure report for that period rather than a financial performance report due to the fact that ONUB was operational for only some two months before the start of the 2004/2005 budget period.  The ACABQ recognizes the overall savings of $9.46 million gross achieved by the Operation for the period from 21 April to 30 June 2004.

    Concerning the proposed budget for 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006, the report notes that the ACABQ made a number of recommendations on the ONUB staffing establishment.  Those recommendations, however, have not been fully implemented.  The ACABQ notes with concern a concentration of functions, leading to organizational top-heaviness in the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General.  The ACABQ urges the Operation to reassess its staffing levels in that respect and cautions against replicating functions to the detriment of overall operational efficiency, accountability and cost-effectiveness.

    Regarding recommendations on posts, the report notes that, in its resolution 59/15 of October 2004, the Assembly authorized the Secretary-General to fill a number of posts in ONUB, at appropriate grades, until 30 June 2005.  The Secretary-General was requested to rejustify those posts in his next budget with additional information on appropriate grades.  The report outlines its views on the posts being rejustified, including the D-1 level post of Director of the Office of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General at the Assistant Secretary-General level.

    Also before the Committee was a Secretary-General’s report on the budget for the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) for 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006 and expenditure report for the period from 4 April to 30 June 2004 (document A/59/750).  The budget for the Operation, which amounts to some $371.83 million, provides for the deployment of 200 military observers and 6,040 contingent personnel, including 120 force headquarters staff officers, 345 civilian police, 425 international and 474 national staff, including 21 national officers, as well as 225 United Nations Volunteers.

    The total resource requirements for UNOCI for the financial period from 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006 have been linked to the mission’s objective through a number of results-based frameworks, grouped by components: ceasefire; disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration, repatriation and resettlement; humanitarian and human rights; peace process; and law and order, as well as support.  Pursuant to Assembly resolution 59/16 of October 2004, the report includes the rejustification, under the executive direction and management and relevant frameworks components, of posts identified in the resolution, including proposed grade-level adjustments.

    By its resolution 58/301 of June 2004, the Assembly appropriated an amount of $96.34 million for the period from 4 April to 30 June 2004 for the mission’s establishment.  That amount has been assessed on Member States.  The total expenditure for the period amounted to some $83.1 million gross ($82.51 million net).

    The Secretary-General asks the Assembly to appropriate some $371.83 million for the Operation’s maintenance for the 12-month period from 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006 and to assess that amount at monthly rate of $30.98 million, should the Council decide to continue its mandate.  The Assembly is also asked to decide on the treatment of the unspent balance of $31.30 million with respect to the period from 4 April to 30 June 2004 and to decide on the treatment of other income for the period ended 30 June 2004 amounting to some $24,000 from interest income ($9,000) and other income ($15,000).

    In a related report (document A/59/736/Add.15), the ACABQ recommends that the estimated budget requirement be reduced from $371.83 million to $367.61 million, a reduction of some $4.22 million in the mission’s proposed budget for the period from 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006.

    The report notes that UNOCI has made a serious effort to address the recommendations on posts made in its previous report and that the review of the functions of the posts identified for rejustification has led to proposals for the downgrading and abolition of certain posts.  The ACABQ encourages UNOCI to undertake this type of review as an ongoing exercise and to determine the level of posts whenever possible according to changing operational requirements, as well as actual responsibilities performed.

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