Press Releases

    GA/AB/3686
    12 October 2005

    Fifth Committee Takes up Revised Budget for UN Haiti Mission

    NEW YORK, 11 October (UN Headquarters) -- The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning took up the budget of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) for the financial period of 1 July 2005 through 30 June 2006, which has been revised, due to the temporary increase in the Mission's strength in order to facilitate the country's elections and subsequent political transition.  Local elections in Haiti are scheduled for 9 October, and the first round of presidential and parliamentary elections for 13 November.

    The Secretary-General's revised budget proposal for the Mission, introduced today by Director of the Peacekeeping Financing Division, Catherine Pollard, amounts to about $518.83 million and represents a 10.4 per cent increase ($48.8 million) over the amount already appropriated for the same period in June.  It provides for a total revised strength of 7,500 military contingent personnel and 1,897 civilian police.  It also provides for the temporary recruitment of 17 international staff, 30 national staff and 18 United Nations volunteers.

    Commenting on that proposal, the Acting Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), Rajat Saha, who introduced that body's report, said that the ACABQ was recommending reducing the proposed budget of $2.3 million.  The Advisory Committee recommended that the proposal to add $2.5 million for temporary recruitment of additional personnel be reduced to $1.5 million.  Also, taking into account delays in the implementation of projects funded under operational costs, including the delayed implementation of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, another reduction of $1.1 million should be applied.

    Several speakers, including the representatives of the Bahamas, on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and Brazil, emphasized the essential role of MINUSTAH, which was indispensable for achieving progress in the country.  Argentina's delegate, who spoke on behalf of the Rio Group, said that Haiti was the only Latin American issue on the Committee's agenda, and the countries of the region had a "primordial interest" in that item.  The people of Haiti should be provided with an opportunity to define their own future by their own means and in accordance to their own popular will.

    In that connection, Nigeria's representative commended the Secretary-General for submitting what seemed to be a modest increase of $48.8 million for the Mission.  Her delegation noted that the Secretary-General linked the revised requirements to the Mission's objectives and still kept his request to the barest minimum.  The representative of South Africa stressed that the Mission was at a crucial stage and it was imperative that the Assembly played its role in ensuring that it received the necessary financial and human resources to successfully implement and conclude its mandate.

    Turning to the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, she recalled that the Secretary-General had recently informed the Security Council that the security situation in Haiti would remain uncertain unless real progress could be achieved in that programme.  She had also reported that there was a funding gap of nearly $15 million for the programme and urged the international community to assist in securing the necessary funds to successfully implement it.  She trusted that every effort would be made to secure funding for that aspect and improve the disbursement of funds pledged under the Interim Cooperation Framework.

    While supportive of increased United Nations presence as authorized by Security Council resolution 1608 of 22 June, the representative of the United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of European Union and associated States, shared the concerns of the Advisory Committee in connection with requests for additional civilian personnel.  The apparent lack of implementation of previously approved recommendations, combined with a relatively high vacancy rate, called into question whether an accurate needs assessment of staffing had been carried out by the Mission before the submission of yet another request for additional civilian staff.  During the post-election period, the Union expected to see a progressive reduction in MINUSTAH's personnel and financial requirements, taking due account of the situation on the ground.  The Mission's budget for 2006-2007 should be based on soundly justified proposals following a comprehensive review of requirements.

    Statements on MINUSTAH were also made by representatives of Venezuela and Japan.  The representatives of Jordan, United States and Cuba also took the floor, as the Committee concluded its debate on the report of the Joint Inspection Unit.

    The Committee will continue its work at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 12 October, when it is scheduled to take up a series of report on its "Review of Efficiency" item, as well as a report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).  The Committee will also continue its debate on the Board of Auditors' reports.

    Background

    The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to take up the budget of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

    The first document before the Committee was the Secretary-General's report presenting the budget for MINUSTAH (document A/60/176 and Corr. 1), which has been revised due to the temporary increase in the Mission's strength in order to facilitate the country's elections and subsequent political transition.  Local elections in Haiti were scheduled for 9 October, and the first round of presidential and parliamentary elections for 13 November.

    The revised budget for MINUSTAH for the period from 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006 amounts to about $518.83 million and represents an increase of some $48.75 million from the amount already appropriated for the same period in June. The revised budget provides for the deployment of an additional 800 military contingent personnel and 275 civilian police officers including one formed unit, for a total revised strength of 7,500 military contingent personnel and 1,897 civilian police.  It also provides for the temporary recruitment of 17 international staff, 30 national staff and 18 United Nations volunteers.

    In a related report (document A/60/386), the ACABQ recommended a reduction of $2.34 million in the MINUSTAH revised budget and recommended the Assembly instead appropriate an increase of nearly $46.42 million for the period of 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006.

    Among its proposals to reduce expenses, the Advisory Committee recommended that the proposal to add $2.5 million under general temporary assistance -- which related to the temporary recruitment of 17 additional international staff and 30 national personnel -- be reduced to $1.5 million.  And taking into account delays in the implementation of projects funded under operational costs, including the delayed implementation of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, the Advisory Committee is of the view that another reduction of $1.1 million should be applied to the revised budget.

    The Advisory Committee also asked that detailed information on the factors behind the significant jump in the volume of interpretation/translation services and their related costs be provided to the Fifth Committee.  The additional requirements of $1.2 million under other supplies, services and equipment included $960,000 for contracting 85 additional interpreters/translators in French and Creole for the additional civilian police and military personnel.

    On the issue of personnel, the Advisory Committee said that savings realized as a result of delays in deployment or recruitment should be reflected in the performance report.  The Mission had a high vacancy rate among its civilian personnel, for example, that exceeded the vacancy parameters used in the budget for the current financial period.  The Advisory Committee also expected that the increased presence of United Nations Volunteers -- its report recommended the creation of 18 volunteer positions -- would be taken into account when estimating future requirements for international staff.

    Introduction

    CATHERINE POLLARD, Director, Peacekeeping Financing Division, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on the revised budget for MINUSTAH (A/60/176 and Corr. 1) for the period from 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006.  She said the proposed revised budget reflected a 10.4 per cent increase of about $48 million, to $518 million.

    RAJAT SAHA, acting chairman of the ACABQ, introduced a related report (A/60/386) that included a revised budget, which he said should be read in conjunction with the report of the Secretary-General on the initial estimates.  He said the current revised budget did not reflect action taken on any of the concerns raised by the Advisory Committee and the Committee had been assured that those would be addressed in the next budget submission for MINUSTAH.  The Advisory Committee pointed out that, had the Administration been able to fully implement the measures called for by the General Assembly, the revised estimate of requirements might well have been reduced.

    He said he did not believe it would be difficult for the Mission to make the reductions, especially in view of the flexibility the Secretary-General has, to administer the budget as one expenditure line.

    Statements

    SIMON HORNER (United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that given the volatility of the situation in Haiti and the approaching elections, the Union was supportive of increased United Nations presence as authorized by Security Council resolution 1608 of 22 June.  In that context, he noted that the majority of additional resources requested were a direct result of temporary increase in military personnel.  As for requests for additional civilian personnel, he shared fully the views and concerns of the ACABQ in its report.

    The apparent lack of implementation of previously approved recommendations, combined with a relatively high vacancy rate, called into question whether an accurate needs assessment of staffing had been carried out by the Mission before the submission of yet another request for additional civilian staff, he said.  During the post-election period, the Union expected to see a progressive reduction in MINUSTAH's personnel and financial requirements, taking due account of the situation on the ground.  The Mission's budget for 2006-2007 should be based on soundly justified proposals following a comprehensive review of requirements.

    ALEJANDRO TORRES LEPORI (Argentina), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said that Haiti was the only Latin American issue on the Committee's agenda, and the countries of the region had a "primordial interest" in that item.  The people of Haiti should be provided with an opportunity to define their own future by their own means and in accordance to their own popular will.  They should take ownership for the process of reconstructing the country's institutions. The Rio Group hoped to be able to contribute to development, stability and the achievement of social justice in the country.

    He said a lasting solution to the crisis in Haiti should address the roots of the situation, and economic development of the country was essential in that regard.  Political dialogue in the country should be open and inclusive, and conducting fair and transparent elections constituted a key priority.  In that spirit, the Group would participate in the discussion on the revised budget of the Mission in the Fifth Committee.

    PAULETTE BETHEL (Bahamas), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said Haiti was at a critical juncture and the sustained assistance of the international community -- through MINUSTAH -- was indispensable for progress to take place.  She attached great importance to the role of MINUSTAH and she endorsed the proposal of the Secretary-General to present a revised budget.  She took note of the Advisory Committees' recommendations and urged the Secretariat to provide the information requested by advisory committee in a timely manner.

    RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil) said MINUSTAH's role was essential to enhance the security environment within which the country's long-term reconstruction efforts could take place.  It was essential for MINUSTAH to be provided with all the financial and budgetary resources it needed to carry out the mandate granted by resolution 1542 and renewed by resolutions 1576 and 1608, and to achieve simultaneous advance in the fields of security, political dialogue and institutional, social and economic development.

    KAREN LOCK (South Africa) said that the Committee, at the current stage, should focus on the revisions to the budget and not re-open areas that it had already considered and approved.  The Mission was at a crucial stage and it was imperative that the Assembly play its role in ensuring that it received the necessary financial and human resources to successfully implement and conclude its mandate. 

    The implementation of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme had experienced some delays, she continued.  The ACABQ had consequently proposed a reduction of $1.1 million to the revised budget.  Her delegation would appreciate it if the Secretariat provided the Committee with an indication of the impact that those reductions could have on that crucial aspect of MINUSTAH's mandate.  She also wanted to receive an elaboration of the reasoning for the recommendation, as she expected any reductions of that nature to be reflected in the context of the performance report.

    The Secretary-General had recently informed the Security Council that the security situation would remain uncertain unless real progress could be achieved in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, she added.  He had also reported that there was a funding gap of nearly $15 million for the programme and urged the international community to assist in securing the necessary funds to successfully implement the programme.  She trusted that every effort would be made to secure funding for that aspect and improve the disbursement of funds pledged under the Interim Cooperation Framework.  The United Nations and the international community had an obligation to the people of Haiti to ensure an inclusive, peaceful and lasting solution in that country.

    RODRIGO YAÑEZ (Venezuela) said that MINUSTAH must be provided the resources needed to implement its mandate.  Despite reservations as to the origin of the most recent political crisis in Haiti, Venezuela was committed to assisting that country, as it could not close its eyes to the hunger and suffering of innocent individuals in that country.  Venezuela was providing assistance to Haiti and was considering an agreement to sell fuel to that country at preferential prices.  He hoped the Mission would contribute to the re-establishment of peace and security.  Any international efforts in Haiti should not undermine the ultimate right of the people to determine their political future based on their own political will.  Further development to overcome poverty was also important.

    HITOSHI KOZAKI (Japan) said the recommendations of ACABQ, as well as General Assembly resolutions on individual missions and cross-cutting issues, needed to be implemented without any delay.  He requested more information about the request for 85 additional interpreters/translators, a 63 per cent increase from the existing 135 interpreters/translators; while the budget request for additional military and police personnel represented a 10 to 20 per cent increase and the request for civilian personnel represented a 3 to 10 percent jump.  He also questioned why the interpreter/translators were budgeted for a 12-month period from 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006, while according to Security Council resolution 1608, the current expansion is a "temporary increase during the electoral period and subsequent political transition".

    NONYE UDO (Nigeria) said she joined other speakers in commending the Secretary-General for submitting what seems to be a modest increase of $48.8 million in his revised budget for this important mission.  The Nigerian delegation noted that the Secretary-General linked the revised requirements to the Mission's objectives and still kept his request to the barest minimum.  She would like to know if the Mission was making progress in the implementation of its objectives, in light of the additional staff request of 65.  She considered the request modest, as 30 of the staff were locally recruited and only 17 were international and 18 were United Nations volunteers.  She would also like to hear the explanations for the rather high vacancy rates that persist in the Mission.

    Ms. POLLARD noted that concerns had been expressed in the debate regarding the structure of the Mission, but in view of the timing of the Security Council resolution, the revised budget submission had been prepared in May and June to allow adequate time for reproduction and translation.  Regretfully, the Secretariat had not been in position to review in detail all the recommendations of the ACABQ -- which it took very seriously -- and include them in the current budget.  Those recommendations would be taken into account in the preparation of the next budget.

    The review of additional civilian staffing had been implemented, she continued, and the proposal before the Committee presented a bare minimum in that regard.  The Secretariat would try to respond fully to the Assembly resolution and the ACABQ recommendations in the next budget submission.  As for the impact of the ACABQ recommendations, updated information would be provided in informal consultations regarding the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme.

    Regarding delayed deployments, she said that the Mission intended to rectify recent slippage, utilizing the budge as a whole.  On the deployment of personnel, indeed, some delays had taken place in the first part of the financial year when the Mission had experienced a nearly 14 per cent vacancy rate.  As of now, the vacancy rate stood at 8.2 per cent, because the Department of Peacekeeping Operations had worked very hard to intensify recruitment for several missions, including MINUSTAH.

    Responding to a point made by the representative of Japan regarding interpreters, she said that according to the information provided by the Mission, both police and military components had requested interpretation, because they often had interactions with the local population, who spoke Creole.  Additional information in that regard would be provided in informals.  As for the basis of the budget proposals, the requirements had been budgeted through 30 June 2006 -- for the remainder of the current financial period.  The financing would be further reviewed next year, depending on the next Council decision, which would determine if there were any savings in the current financial period and if the Mission would continue.  For now, the Secretariat had budgeted for the continuation of the Mission.

    Regarding the Advisory Committee's recommendations in paragraph 22 of its report on potential savings under operational costs as a result of delayed implementation of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, Mr. SAHA said that it was a technical adjustment.  Taking into account the expenditure pattern as of 31 August, it should not be difficult for the Mission to introduce those reductions.  Having received updated information from the Secretariat, he would be glad to elaborate further during informal consultations.

    As the Committee turned to the topic of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), KHUSHALI PARIKH SHAH (United States) said security concerns in the United States had created delays in the travel system.  She urged applicants to submit their information for visas at the earliest possible date, as visas were being processed within 15 to 20 days.

    MOHAMMAD TAL (Jordan) said he agreed with the statement made by the representative of Jamaica on behalf of the Group of 77 and China on the issue.  Jordan placed great importance on the need for oversight, so the resources of the United Nations could be used in the most transparent and effective manner.  He welcomed the JIU report and the progress the Unit had made on reform.

    As the only independent oversight body of the United Nations, the Unit must be sure that its efficiency was maximized.  He said reform of the JIU was an ongoing process and more emphasis should be given to follow-up mechanisms.  These mechanisms should provide qualitative and quantitative indicators of the Unit's work.  He said members of the Unit should receive the necessary training and tools, so they remained current with auditing and results-based management procedures.  He also supported the continued coordination among all the United Nations oversight bodies.

    PABLO BERTI OLIVA (Cuba), referring to the statement by the representative of the United States, expressed hope that the Committee would receive information on the visa situation in informal consultations.  Given new security measures, because of threats around the world, he hoped the host countries would not make it harder for the JIU and other organizations of the United Nations system to carry out their work.

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