22/05/2003
Press Release
GA/AB/3568



Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Fifth Committee

54th Meeting (AM)


IN FIFTH COMMITTEE, DELEGATES ADVOCATE PROVISION OF ADEQUATE RESOURCES

FOR INSTRAW, FILLING OF VACANT DIRECTOR POST


Strongly supporting the unique role of the United Nations International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), representatives of the region that hosts the Institute advocated the provision of sufficient resources for that body in this morning’s meeting of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).


Noting that the necessary funds were available for the appointment of a Director of the Institute, speakers unanimously requested that the post be filled expeditiously, stressing that the appointment would fill the leadership void that had affected the Institute’s ability to maintain a strong donor base. 


[In view of budget shortages, last year, the Committee debated the provision of regular budget funds for INSTRAW, as the statute of the Institute stipulates that it has to be funded through voluntary contributions.  In December 2002, by the terms of its resolution 57/580, the General Assembly approved a charge of $250,000 against the contingency fund to finance the Institute’s core activities.  It also decided to set aside some $250,000 as an additional provision, pending receipt of new pledges.  According to the Secretary-General, another $100,000 is needed to allow the Institute to function through the end of 2003 at this point.]


Voluntary contributions had been forthcoming from several countries, including Spain, Venezuela, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, the representative of Peru said on behalf of the Rio Group.  Because of contributions made by Member States, and in order to accomplish one of the conditions of resolution 57/580, the Assembly must approve the release of those resources.  That would allow INSTRAW to continue its operations in the context of the revitalization process that it was currently undergoing. 


As one of few United Nations institutions in a developing country, and the only devoted entirely to the advancement of women, INSTRAW had his country’s unconditional support, the representative of the Dominican Republic said.  As host country, the Dominican Republic provided both logistical and financial resources for the Institute.  This year, it had pledged to provide $110,000 by the end of June, with a matching contribution by the end of the year.  He hoped the Committee would welcome, without political debate, the General Assembly’s decision to provide an additional $250,000 against the contingency fund to ensure that the Institute could continue to perform its duties. 


Expressing concern over the slowness in appointing the Director, Venezuela’s representative, who serves as Vice-Chairman of the working group established by the General Assembly in 1991 to make recommendations on the Institute’s future operations, noted that, while Secretariat officials had agreed on the need to fill the post, the appointment had not yet been made.  The Government of Spain had put forward a fully qualified candidate, yet the Secretariat had said that it was unable to fill the post at the D-2 level because the candidate was only 48 years old.


Describing the Institute’s situation as the “chicken and egg” syndrome, Cuba’s representative said she had been puzzled by the rejection of the 48-year-old candidate, given the Organization’s emphasis on the need to rejuvenate its staff.  She would not have thought that age would have been used as a discriminating factor.


Also this morning, the Committee discussed the financing of the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission (UNIKOM).  The United Nations Controller, Jean-Pierre Halbwachs, introducing the Secretary-General’s reports, informed the Committee that the budget prepared for the Mission for 2004-2005 had been overtaken by events.  In March, the Council had decided to maintain the Mission at an appropriate level until 6 July, subject to any further decisions regarding the Mission’s mandate.  The Secretary-General was requesting some $12 million as an interim arrangement to cover the cost of the Mission for four months.


Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Kuwait, Morocco (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Mexico, the United States, Norway and Japan.


The Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), Conrad S.M. Mselle, introduced that body’s report on the financing of UNIKOM.  Warren Sach, Director of the Programme Planning and Budget Division, and Esther Stern, Director of the Internal Audit Division of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), responded to delegates questions and comments.


The Committee will meet again at a date and time to be announced.


Background


This morning, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) was scheduled to take up the budget and financial performance of the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission (UNIKOM) and continue its consideration of the situation of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) and budget outline for the International Trade Centre (ITC)/United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)/World Trade Organization (WTO).  (For background information on the latter two, see Press Releases GA/AB/3566 of 19 May and GA/AB/3567 of 20 May.)


As presented in documents A/57/664 and Corr.1, the proposed budget of UNIKOM for the 2003/2004 financial period amounts to some $54 million, inclusive of budgeted voluntary contributions in kind in the amount of $25,000.  It provides for deployment of 198 military observers, 909 military contingent personnel, and 71 international and 175 national staff. 


Following recent developments in Iraq, however, the future of the Mission now needs to be decided by the Security Council.  In his letter dated 3 April (document S/2003/400), the president of the Security Council informed the Secretary-General that members of the Council had reviewed whether or not to terminate the Mission, noting that it was currently unable to fulfill its mandate as a result of the situation on the ground.  The members of the Council concurred with the Secretary-General’s recommendation that a peacekeeping presence be retained at an appropriate level until 6 July, subject to any further decisions the Council might take regarding the mandate of the Mission.


As for the period ending on 30 June 2002 (document A/57/665), the Assembly needs to take a decision on the treatment of the unencumbered balance of some $2.47 million and other income and adjustments amounting to $3.97 million.  The last amount includes interest income and savings on or cancellation of prior-period obligations.


A note by the Secretary-General on the financing of UNIKOM for the period from 1 July 2003 to 30 June 2004 (document A/57/811) contains a proposal for the interim financing of the Mission for a four-month period (1 July to 31 October).  In June 2003, the Secretary-General will report on the status of UNIKOM and make a recommendation on the Mission’s future.  The UNIKOM’s proposed budget for the period from 1 July 2003 to 30 June 2004, submitted to the General Assembly in anticipation of the Mission’s continuation, is no longer relevant. 


Pending the Council’s decision, interim financing arrangements are required for the four-month period from July to October, the Secretary-General notes.  The Secretary-General will submit a revised budget proposal for July 2003 to June 2004 to the Assembly during the main part of its fifty-eighth session. 


On the basis of the current level of UNIKOM expenditures, the Secretary-General is seeking an appropriation of some $12 million for the period from 1 July to 31 October.  The General Assembly is requested to appropriate that amount, including $8 million, representing two thirds of the total amount to be funded, through voluntary contributions from the Government of Kuwait.  It is also asked to apportion some $4 million among Member States for the same period.


In its related report (document A/57/813), the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) notes that as of 14 May, existing cash available in the UNIKOM Special Account was some $46.2 million.  Under the circumstances, the ACABQ recommends that, in lieu of an appropriation, commitment authority be granted to use the available cash balance to cover the requirements for the maintenance of the Mission for the four-month period from 1 July to 31 October. 


The Advisory Committee had intended to report on the Secretary-General’s performance report for UNIKOM for July 2001 to June 2002 before the end of May 2003, together with recommendations on how to deal with the requirements for the period after 1 July 2003.  In view of the fact that a revised budget will be presented to the Assembly at its fifty-eight session, the ACABQ plans to issue its report on the financial performance in conjunction with its report on the revised budget.


WARREN SACH, Director of the Programme Planning and Budget Division, responded to questions posed at the Committee’s last meeting on the outline of the 2004-2005 proposed programme budget for the International Trade Centre (ITC)/United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)/World Trade Organization (WTO).


On the first issue, the overall growth of resources and the treatment of programme priorities, he said there were queries on why the proposal had included an increase of some 5.4 per cent in real terms and how that would be handled in the context of the programme’s priorities.  The increase fit within the overall priority of the regular budget and had been accorded a priority rate of growth comparable to other economic and social items.  The relative programme priority for the ITC, included in the budget proposals, was comparable to all other economic and social items.  The Secretariat had been assured by the ITC that it would go through the same discipline that all other programme managers were going through to identify obsolete outcomes and identify activities that should be discontinued in the new biennium in light of other emerging needs. 


Regarding the second issue, the procedural review of joint administrative arrangements, he said there had not been a specific deadline for the submission of the report on those arrangements.  They had to be jointly negotiated with other parties and had to be equally acceptable on the WTO side.  Nevertheless, consultations with WTO officials were being held on how to streamline the administrative arrangements and would continue this year with a view to submitting a report during the fifty-eighth session.  It was unlikely, however, that the report would be submitted in the first part of the session, as one crucial element, in cooperation between the United Nations and the WTO, was that the WTO followed an annual budget procedure.  The WTO finance and budget committee was considering going from an annual to a biennial cycle. 


On the issue of the official languages for the Joint Advisory Group, he said the Group was currently entitled to the use of four official languages.  At present, the necessary mandate to include Chinese and Arabic was not yet in place and would require General Assembly approval.  From a legal point of view, the ITC’s recommendation to include the two languages did not provide a basis for budgeting for the languages, which would amount to some 80,000 Swiss francs per biennium for the United Nations.  The Secretariat had not, at the initial stage of compiling the outline, made provision for the inclusion of the languages. 


It would be possible, when formulating the detailed budget, to provide for the additional languages, he said.  It would facilitate the process if the Committee considered the evolving needs regarding the additional languages.  If the Fifth Committee requested the Secretary-General take into account the likely requirements for the two additional languages, it would streamline the process and limit documentation to be submitted in the fall.


Introduction of Reports


As the Committee turned to the financing of the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission (UNIKOM), JEAN-PIERRE HALBWACHS, United Nations Controller, introduced the reports of the Secretary-General before the Committee.  He said the implementation rate for the Mission amounted to some 90 per cent, which was not a bad result of the Mission’s activities.  The budget had been prepared for 2004-2005, but it had been overtaken by events.  In March, the Secretary-General had informed the Council of the situation and had recommended maintaining the Mission for another three months. 


The Council had agreed with his recommendation, that a peacekeeping presence be retained at an appropriate level until 6 July, subject to any further decisions the Council might take regarding the mandate of the Mission.  He said the status report on UNIKOM would be prepared in June.  Pending a decision on the future of UNIKOM by the Council, interim financing arrangements were needed, and based on the current level of expenditures, an amount of $12 million was requested to cover the cost of the Mission for four months.


Presenting a related report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), Chairman of that body, CONRAD S.M. MSELLE, said that, while agreeing with the recommended amount, the Advisory Committee had recommended using existing cash available in the UNIKOM Special Account in the amount of some $46.2 million.  Under the circumstances, in lieu of an appropriation, commitment authority should be granted to the Secretary-General to use the available cash balance to cover the requirements for the maintenance of the Mission for the four-month period from 1 July to 31 October.  With respect to the Mission’s performance report, the Advisory Committee would report on it in the context of the review of the next budget submission.


Statements


MESHAL A.M.A. AL-MANSOUR (Kuwait) said he was looking forward to discussing the matter in informal consultations.  He would also seek some clarifications.  The Secretary-General had requested $12 million for the maintenance of the Mission through the end of October, and $8 million had been provided as a voluntary contribution by his country.  He wanted to receive a written response regarding exact expenditures that would be financed from that amount.


JEAN-PIERRE HALBWACHS, United Nations Controller, said that the breakdown of the $12 million would be provided during informal consultations.


INSTRAW


AICHA AFIFI (Morocco), on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing nations and China, said the Group of 77 attached great importance to the promotion of gender equality and the advancement of women.  The Group of 77 fully supported INSTRAW’s work and supported the working group’s recommendations as contained in the report.  The Group of 77 took note of the Secretary-General’s report and regretted that the nomination to appoint a Director, at the D-2 level, for the Institute had not taken place although there were enough resources for that appointment.  She requested the Secretary-General to appoint without delay the Director so the Institute could effectively resume its work. 


She expressed appreciation to all Member States who, through voluntary contributions, sent a clear signal that INSTRAW could make a valuable contribution to the advancement of women within the United Nations system, and would do more so if provided with the necessary financial support.  The Institute was the only United Nations entity located in developing countries with the mandate to carry out research and training on gender issues.  In that regard, she called for the release of some $250,000 in conformity with General Assembly decision 57/580 of December 2002, thus, enabling the Institute to continue its core activities in 2003.


On INSTRAW, MARIA ARCE DE GABAY (Peru), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, supported the Institute and the performance of the working group, particularly on the revitalization of INSTRAW.  The Group had examined the Secretary-General’s report (document A/57/797), which stated that the Institute had the necessary resources to pay for eight officials, including a Director at the D-2 level.  It was regrettable that resolution 57/175, which asked for immediate appointment of a Director, had not yet been implemented.  The Secretariat should undertake urgent action in accordance with the decision of the General Assembly.


The efforts of various governments to contribute to INSTRAW clearly confirmed that the Institute could continue making important contributions to the advancement of women within the United Nations system, she continued.  It was the only organ of the United Nations dedicated to the research and training of women.  The Rio Group wanted to express its gratitude to the Member States that had made voluntary contributions, especially Spain, which had contributed $100,000.  That country had also pledged to make another contribution once the Director had been appointed.  Also, a contribution had been also pledged by Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic had announced a pledge of $110,000 for the middle of 2003, and a similar amount before the end of the year.  As a host country, the latter also had provided the building and paid the energy, water and security expenses of the Institute.  The Rio Group encouraged other Member States to make voluntary contributions to finance the Institute.


Regarding the Office of Internal Oversight Services report, she said that the working group had stated that the OIOS recognized that some difficulties in coordinating with the Secretariat had been caused by the delay in the appointment of the Director of the Institute.  That situation had affected the credibility of INSTRAW, leading to a decline in voluntary contributions.  As the working group, in preparing its recommendations, had taken into account the views of the OIOS, the Rio Group encouraged the members of the Committee to consider the recommendations of the working group as the guidelines in their deliberations on the matter. 


In conclusion, she said that the Assembly had approved the amount of $250,000 in the 2002-2003 budget against the contingency fund to finance the basic activities of the Institute.  An additional amount of $250,000 had been put aside as supplementary credit for INSTRAW, provided there were contributions pledges.  Because of contributions made by Member States, and in order to accomplish one of the conditions of resolution 57/580, the Assembly must approve the release of those resources.  That would allow INSTRAW to continue its basic and operational activities in the process of revitalization that it was currently undergoing.  It would also allow INSTRAW to obtain additional contributions in accordance with the recommendations of the working group.


ERNESTO HERRERA (MEXICO) acknowledged INSTRAW’s important work, in particular its contribution to developing countries.  In line with the need to strengthen the Institute’s financial base, Mexico pledged to double its pledge from $10,000 to $20,000 a year.


JOSE RAFAEL PIMENTEL (Dominican Republic) said the Dominican Republic, the Institute’s host country, supported INSTRAW, which was one of the few institutes in the United Nations system in a developing country, and the only one devoted to the research and training of women.  His Government had pledged, at the working group meeting in 2003, to contribute some $110,000 at the end of June 2003 and a matching pledge at the end of the year. 


His country unconditionally supported INSTRAW both in logistical and financial terms, providing energy, water, security and other related services.  It had also donated the grounds for the Institute.  He trusted that the Committee would welcome, without political debate, the General Assembly’s decision, which indicated that an additional earmarked fund against the contingency fund be paid out at $250,000 to ensure that the Institute could continue to perform its duties. 


He requested the Secretary-General to appoint a Director for the Institute at the D-2 level as stipulated in General Assembly resolution 57/175, as the Secretary-General had indicated in his report that there were sufficient funds for the appointment.  He urged Member States to make voluntary contributions to INSTRAW, thereby providing continuity and support so that the working group’s recommendations could be implemented in compliance with Assembly resolution 56/125 adopted in 2001.


ASDRUBAL PULIDO LEON (Venezuela) associated himself with the position of the Group of 77 and Rio Group and said he wanted to make some comments as a member and Vice-Chairman of the working group, which had considered the situation in INSTRAW.  While the OIOS report described the problems surrounding INSTRAW, it did not fully reflect the situation at the time it was issued.  One of the most serious issues that the Institute was facing was the lack of communication and poor political orientation on behalf of the Secretariat.  Following the publication of the OIOS report, the working group had invited the Office to exchange views on the matter, and comment was made that, indeed, there were some difficulties in the coordination between the Institute and the Secretariat. 


He also expressed concern over the slowness in the appointment of the Director, as called for by the General Assembly.  The working group had met frequently with Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Nitin Desai, who had agreed that the post of Director needed to be filled immediately.  That had taken place in February, but so far, the Director had still not been appointed.  In the meantime, the Government of Spain had made a pledge of $100,000 on the understanding that, once the vacancy had been filled, another pledge would be made.  The Dominican Republic had also made a pledge.  That meant that there was enough money for the recruitment of the Director. 


This month, Mr. Desai had said that a six-month contract would be offered to a candidate.  The Government of Spain had also put forward a candidate who met all the requirements for the job, yet the Secretariat had stated that it would be unable to fill the post at the D-2 level, because the candidate was only 48 years old.  The age was not among the requirements for the job, however.  Despite Mr. Desai’s readiness to take action on the matter, the requirements had not been implemented.  He called upon the Secretary-General to look at the implementation of the recommendations of the working group and the decision of the General Assembly. 


When recommending immediate appointment of the Director, the working group had hoped that such an official would be able to implement a financing campaign and promote increased pledges for the functioning of the Institute, he continued.  It was significant that even in the absence of the Director, significant contributions had been made.  Currently, money was available for INSTRAW to function through the end of November.  Since the Institute had been able to get together resources at a certain level, it should be able to continue its work.  He thanked all the States that had shown support for the Institute and urged all others to follow their example.  His delegation attached great importance to the advancement of women and work of the Institute.


MELANIE ATTWOOLL (United States) said that her delegation was pleased to see that INSTRAW had enough funds to last until the end of November and potentially through the end of the year.  She believed that the OIOS audit was a well-written, but disturbing report.  Some of its major findings included the lack of effort to reform the Institute; the failure to really show effectiveness in impact and cost; and ineffective management at the time of the audit.  The final result culminated in the lack of donor confidence, which had declined considerably.  She hoped the OIOS recommendations were being addressed, and she wanted to receive an update on that matter.  


She said the Institute had been lacking its leadership lately, but she hoped there was some progress, regardless.  Appointment of the Director was a key matter.  Upon approval of a $250,000 subsidy to the Institute, it was understood that a Director would be appointed by the time of further discussion on the matter, and she regretted that Director had not been appointed.  As a member of the working group, she had been particularly frustrated by the long process of appointment and the lack of transparency.  Currently, the second or third candidate was being considered, and there was also a discrepancy of the level of the post, which had now been downgraded from D-2 to D-1.  She wanted to know the reason for such a decision.  She also wanted to know when the Director would be in place to make some changes at INSTRAW.


Mr. HONNINGSTAD (Norway) supported the interventions of previous speakers, and stressed the need to appoint a Director.  The OIOS report had shown that the INSTRAW house needed to be set in order so that donors could gain confidence in its activities.  The most efficient way to do that was to get a Director in place.  The Assembly’s wise decision, contained in resolution 57/580, should be set in motion and the $250,000 released.  The Secretary-General’s report showed that, from a budgetary point of view, INSTRAW could make it to the end of November.  Still, sufficient financing was critical, and more steady contributions were needed.  Mexico’s intervention was useful in that respect. 


SHINICHI YAMANAKA (Japan) said his delegation had noted the Institute’s current financial situation.  In that respect, he associated himself with the statement made by the representative of the United States.


Ms. GOICOCHEA (Cuba) supported those who had spoken in favour of the release of the $250,000 and the appointment of a Director.  The Institute had not been able to function well because it lacked the direction it needed.  It seemed to be a “chicken and egg” scenario.  In that respect, every effort should be made to appoint a Director.  She agreed with the representative of Venezuela regarding the procedure to appoint a director.  She had been somewhat amused by the fact that a 48-year-old candidate had been rejected for the post, given the Organization’s emphasis on the need to rejuvenate its staff.  She would not have thought that age would have been used as a discriminating factor.  A stable solution for the INSTRAW problem had to be found.


ESTHER STERN, Director of Internal Audit Division of the OIOS, said the report before the Committee reflected the situation at the time of the audit in 2001.  She was glad the recommendations of the Office had been taken seriously.  Since the audit, the OIOS had not gone back to the Dominican Republic, but the Board of Auditors had been examining the situation on the ground over the last year and a half.  The Office was also following up with the working group and the Secretariat regarding the progress on each of the recommendations, as well as the communications between the Institute and the Secretariat. 


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