24 March 2009
General Assembly
GA/AB/3897

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-third General Assembly

Fifth Committee

37th Meeting (AM)


BUDGET COMMITTEE TAKES UP REQUEST FOR ADDITIONAL FINANCING


FOR UNITED NATIONS MISSION IN SUDAN


Also Begins Consideration of Revised Budgets for Four Special Political Missions


The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today took up the Secretary-General’s request for $56.1 million to meet funding shortfalls for the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) resulting mainly from higher personnel costs, and for an additional $15 million towards four special political missions whose operation had been extended or revised in some way.


The Secretary-General’s note on UNMIS was presented by the Controller, Jun Yamazaki, who said that the additional requirements came on top of $820 million already appropriated for 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009, and a large part of the requested amount would go towards meeting unexpected personnel costs that arose from vacancies being filled quicker than expected.  Additional costs had also arisen from higher fuel prices from several months ago, as well as higher air transportation costs and freight costs. 


Around $7 million had been offset through restructured aircraft arrangements and $4.6 million across a varied number of areas, ranging from communications to medical services.  The Secretary-General was requesting that the General Assembly approve a partial assessment of $46.8 million out of a total $65.1 million, with the remainder to be assessed later should the Mission’s mandate continue beyond its original end-date of 30 April.


The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions recommended its approval of the request, with Chair Susan McLurg saying that the sum was needed for UNMIS to conduct its planned activities.  That recommendation, however, was met by some reservation from the representative of Japan, who said a request for additional funds deviated from the established cycle of peacekeeping financing.


South Africa’s representative voiced agreement with the Advisory Committee, especially with its observations that the increased requirements grew largely from uncontrollable circumstances.  Speaking on behalf of the African Group, he noted that the Fifth Committee would have another chance to examine the matter later in the year, within the context of the Mission’s performance report.


On special political missions, Sharon Van Buerle, Director of Programme Planning and Budget Division, presented the Secretary-General’s report on the issue, saying that the proposed revised budgets for four special missions -- the United Nations Representative on the International Advisory and Monitoring Board of the Development Fund for Iraq, the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission, the United Nations Political Office for Somalia and the United Nations Mission in Nepal -- would bring additional requirements amounting to $39.7 million for the period 1 January to 31 December 2009.


She said once previously appropriated amounts were accounted for, the additional appropriations would amount to $15 million, which the Assembly would be requested to approve. 


In addition, she said the Secretary-General was also asking for the Assembly’s approval of a revised narrative and logical framework for the budget of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, tasked with implementing Security Council resolution 1559 (2004).  [Among other things, that resolution called upon foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon.]


The representative of Syria voiced some objection to the revised budget, saying he believed it included elements that might fall beyond the mandate of the Special Envoy.  He protested against a “lack of objectivity” in its presentation of expected accomplishments and achievements, saying they did not provide for the Council’s request that foreign forces withdraw from Lebanon.  Other indicators of achievement referred to the spread of authority of the Lebanese forces to the whole of the territory of Lebanon, including areas along the border.  That could be interpreted as the Special Envoy wishing to expand his mandate to demarcate the borders or to deal with the issues of arms smuggling.


Saying he harboured reservations against funding programmes that were not in accordance with relevant rules and procedures, he requested that the Secretariat issue a correction to the Secretary-General’s report to reflect Syria’s concerns.


Also speaking on the issue of special political missions were the representatives of Lebanon and the United States.


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


Background


The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to discuss financing of the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) and of special political missions.


The Secretary-General, in his report on the financing of the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) (document A/63/756), requests the General Assembly to approve an amount of about $56.17 million for the maintenance of the Mission from 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009, in addition to the amount of $820.72 million already appropriated under the provisions of resolution 62/267.  The additional requirement is the result of actual costs having exceeded budget forecasts, and are projected across three major areas:  personnel costs, aircraft rental and fuel.  Although initially projected at $65.1 million -- derived from $37 million in personnel costs; $14.7 in aircraft rental; and $13.4 million due to a rise in fuel costs -- those costs are partially offset by a projected unused balance of nearly $4.6 million for communications, medical services, special equipment, general temporary assistance, Government-provided personnel and information technology.  In addition, rental agreements on five aircraft have been terminated, making $7 million available to partially offset the additional air transportation costs. 


The report says UNMIS anticipates continued funding pressure as a result of the preparations for elections in the Sudan, security enhancements, rotation of contingents, reconfiguration of the Mission’s military force and increases in rations prices.  Also, the Mission has incurred additional costs of around $22.6 million in procurement and construction projects deferred from the 2007/08 financial period.


The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), in a related report (document A/63/777), recommends that the Assembly approve the appropriation of the full amount requested by the Secretary-General, with a partial assessment of $42.1 million for the period up to 30 April, and a further assessment of $8.4 million (at a monthly rate of $4.2 million) if the Security Council decides to continue the mandate of UNMIS beyond 30 April. 


A breakdown of the $37 million in personnel-related requirements reveals that the increase in cost is due in large part to vacancies being filled quicker than anticipated.  Also, many staff are opting to live outside of United Nations accommodation.  ACABQ encourages UNMIS to intensify its efforts to reduce vacancy rates, and also expresses trust that the construction of proper accommodations for civilian and military staff would proceed without delay, since the available temporary structures were “very basic”.  ACABQ expects an update on the matter when the proposed budget for UNMIS for 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011 comes up for discussion.


As for the $13.4 million in additional fuel requirements, ACABQ reports that it was due to higher global prices at the time the fuel was being imported.  The increase in $14.7 million in aircraft rental was due to newly negotiated contracts being higher priced than the budgeted amount. 


Finally, with regard to UNMIS’ cash position, ACABQ says that, as of 16 March, around $4 billion had been assessed on Member States since the inception of UNMIS.  Payments received as of that date amount to over $3.8 billion, leaving an outstanding balance of $189.1 million.  The Mission’s cash position was $209.3 million, which breaks down into a three-month operating reserve of $155.9 million and a cash balance of $53.3 million.  The report says that, as of 31 December 2008, around $9.9 million was owed for troop-cost reimbursements and $24.4 million was owed for contingent-owned equipment.  The next payments for troop-cost reimbursements and contingent-owned equipment are scheduled for the end of March.


The Secretary-General’s report on estimates in respect of special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council (document A/63/346/Add.6) places the additional requirements for those missions at an estimated $15.05 million net ($17.57 million gross).  It covers four missions:  the United Nations Representative on the International Advisory and Monitoring Board of the Development Fund for Iraq, United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC), United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) and the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN).


ACABQ’s related report is contained in document A/63/779.


Also before the Committee was a letter from the Permanent Representative of Syria on the budget for the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General (document A/63/760).  The letter recalls that the Special Envoy was tasked with helping implement Security Council resolution 1559 (2004) [which calls upon foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon], and was subsequently expanded to include elements introduced by Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) [which called on Israel and Lebanon to support a permanent ceasefire, after fighting erupted in July 2006].


The letter says that the logical framework for that particular special political mission uses indicators that were contrary to Charter rules prohibiting United Nations intervention in domestic matters.  Moreover, Syria had fulfilled its obligations under resolution 1559 (2004), and it was “unacceptable” that Syria’s name continue to be evoked in the context of that resolution.


United Nations Mission in Sudan


JUN YAMAZAKI, Controller, who presented the Secretary-General’s note on financing arrangements for UNMIS, reiterated that total additional requirements estimated at $65.1 million would be needed to cover funding shortfalls for the 2008-2009 period.  UNMIS had undertaken efforts to offset the shortfalls, to the tune of $7 million through restructured rental arrangements for aircraft and $4.6 million across a varied number of areas as explained the report.  He clarified that the additional appropriation would enable UNMIS to meet cash requirements for payment of personnel costs, to make payments for aircraft rental, fuel for generators, vehicles and aircraft, and to pay for inland freight of contingent-owned equipment.  UNMIS did not have the internal capacity to absorb the net additional costs of $56.2 million, representing 6.8 per cent of the approved budget.


In summary, he said actions to be taken by the Assembly were the appropriation of $56.2 million for the maintenance of UNMIS for 12 months from 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009, in addition to the amount of $820 million already appropriated for the same period; assessment of the amount of $46.8 million for the period of 1 July 2008 to 30 April 2009; and assessment of the amount of $9.4 million at a monthly rate of $4.7 million should UNMIS’ mandate be continued beyond 30 April.


Introducing the report of ACABQ, SUSAN McCLURG, Advisory Committee Chair, reiterated its main points, noting that the increased budgetary requirements stemmed primarily from circumstances beyond UNMIS’ direct control.  Additional information provided to ACABQ upon enquiry showed that efforts had been made to offset higher costs, by reviewing operational requirements, reprioritizing activities and delaying acquisitions and construction.  ACABQ trusted that, for the remainder of the financial period, UNMIS would strive to maximize the resources available and include in the performance report for the current period any further cost savings achieved.  In recommending that the additional appropriation and partial assessment be approved, UNMIS’ ability to fully implement its planned activities would not be compromised.


Statements


MOTOMISI TAWANA (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the African Group, recalled that about $858.77 million had been appropriated to the Special Account for UNMIS for 2008/09 by the terms of resolution 62/267.  Based on the current pattern of expenditure, major funding shortfalls were projected across three major areas of the Mission’s operations, including the costs of personnel, fuel and aircraft rental.  The Group was acutely aware that actual costs faced by the Mission had progressively exceeded budget forecasts and had resulted in the projected additional requirements, estimated at $65.1 million.  He recognized that UNMIS had made every effort to offset escalating prices, including reviewing its overall operational requirements, reprioritizing activities and delaying acquisitions and construction projects, where possible.


He also noted that rental agreements on five aircraft had been terminated, including four helicopters and one fixed-wing aircraft, and fuel rationing had been implemented.  The cancellation of aircraft rental agreements had made $7 million available to partially offset the additional air transportation costs.  In that connection, the Group would like to hear about the effect of that major step on the effectiveness of the Mission.  Owing to what appeared to be prudence in terms of mitigating the effects of the cost escalation, he noted that additional requirements had been partially offset by the stated reductions in expenditure.  Those steps had given rise to a net additional requirement of some $56.17 million in 2008/09.


The African Group concurred with the request for an additional appropriation, with assessment, to be exceptional, due to the requirements elaborated upon by the Secretary-General, he said.  He also concurred with ACABQ’s observations that increased requirements emanated largely from circumstances beyond the Mission’s control, in particular with respect to personnel-related costs.  The Group agreed with its recommendation for the appropriation of the full amount requested by the Secretary-General, with partial assessment.  He noted all the conclusions and recommendations of the Advisory Committee, mindful of the fact that the Committee would have an opportunity to reflect on those matters within the context of the Mission’s performance report, at an appropriate time later this year.  He trusted that the outcome of the Committee’s deliberations and resolution would meet UNMIS’ resource requirements.


JUN YAMADA ( Japan) emphasized the importance of the established cycle of peacekeeping financing, under which missions’ budgets were submitted on an annual basis prior to 1 July.  His delegation had reservations regarding the Secretary-General’s request for additional appropriations for UNMIS during the current financial period.  The request represented a deviation from the established cycle and he would like to seek further elaboration on the explanations provided in the documents before the Committee.


The Secretary-General’s note and the report of the Advisory Committee cited a number of unpredictable events on the ground, which had triggered additional expenditures during the current financial period, he continued.  During informals, he wanted to receive further explanations on each of the events described in the reports, as well as the most current cash balance of the Mission.


Special Political Missions


SHARON VAN BUERLE, Director, Programme Planning and Budget Division, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the issue, which contained the proposed revised budgets totalling about $39.7 million net (about $42.2 million gross) for the period 1 January to 31 December 2009 for the four special political missions listed in the report.  Once already appropriated amounts, as per Assembly resolutions 62/238, 62/245 and 63/263, were accounted for, net additional appropriations amount to $15 million under the line item “political affairs” and $2 million under “staff assessment”. 


She noted that the report also contained the revised narrative and logical framework for the budget of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004).


She recounted the mandate basis for the additional requirements.  Concerning the International Advisory and Monitoring Board for Iraq, the most recent extension and membership of the Board was contained in Security Council resolution 1859 (2008), which extended its mandate through 31 December 2009.  The mandate for UNIIIC was extended for two months until 28 February by Council resolution 1852 (2008), to enable it to continue its investigation and transfer operations, staff and assets to The Hague.  The two-month operation would be followed by a four-month liquidation period.


Continuing, she said the Assembly had been requested to initially approve a six-month requirement for UNPOS, which was intended to dispatch a security assessment mission to Somalia, and which would be reflected in a supplementary budget for the period from 1 July to 30 December 2009.  But since UNPOS could only proceed with a parallel deployment of an appropriate “security dynamic”, the originally planned relocation date of July 2009 must be delayed.  As such, the proposed revised budget was based on the assumption that UNPOS would remain in Nairobi until the end of the year.  The Council extended the scope for UNPOS through resolution 1863 (2009), the impact of which was still being assessed.  It might result in additional requirements.


Finally, on UNMIN, whose mandate was extended through Council resolution 1864 (2009) for six months until 23 July 2009, she said it would continue to monitor armed personnel in line with the 25 June agreement among the political parties involved.  The operation was set to end in July 2009, to be followed by a four-month liquidation period.


She said the General Assembly is requested to approve the revised budgets for the International Advisory and Monitoring Board, the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission, UNPOS and UNMIN for 2009 in the amount of $39.7 million net ($42.2 million gross).  It is also asked to take note of the balance of $24.6 million under the appropriation for those missions for the biennium 2008-2009 based on actual expenditures incurred in 2008.  It was requested to appropriate, under the provision of General Assembly resolution 41/213, an additional amount of just over $15 million under section 3, political affairs, and $2.5 million under “staff assessments”, to be completely offset by income from staff assessment of the programme budget for the biennium 2008-2009.  It was also called on to approve the revised narrative and logical framework for the budget of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004) for the period 1 January to 31 December 2009.


ACABQ’s report on the matter was introduced by Ms. McCLURG, who said that the Advisory Committee would recommend a slight reduction in the proposed revised budget for the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission related to the rental of armoured vehicles during the liquidation period.  In view of the small size of the mission, the liquidation period of the Commission could be expedited.  ACABQ expected that efforts would be made to reduce operational costs related to the liquidation period and that any resulting savings should be reflected in the second performance report for the 2008-2009 biennium.


She said with regard to UNPOS, ACABQ would recommend the establishment of four additional security personnel.  ACABQ noted that the proposal for UNPOS had not been updated to reflect recent political developments, including measures related to the implementation of Security Council resolution 1863 (2009).  ACABQ had been informed that the Secretary-General intended to submit revised budget proposals for UNPOS to the second resumed session of the General Assembly.  Therefore, ACABQ would recommend that the Assembly defer action, with the exception of the proposals for additional security staff.


With regard to the United Nations Mission in Nepal and the revised narrative and logical framework for the budget of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004), she said ACABQ would recommend approval of resources requested by the Secretary-General.


GABOR BRODI ( Hungary), Chair of the Fifth Committee, drew attention also to a letter from the Permanent Representative of Syria addressed to the Secretary-General.


YASSAR DIAB ( Syria) said that a recent expansion of the concept of special political missions and good offices to include subsidiary structures of the Security Council could put in question the validity of the approach to special political missions, which were financed from a special account.  He noted that budgets of special political missions had been prepared within the framework of results-based budgeting, but flaws in preparation of the budget had continued and even increased.  The sensitive nature of special political missions required that their budgets be completely consistent with provisions of relevant resolutions.  In particular, his delegation had often stressed the importance of such an approach with regard to the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004), drawing attention to the flaws and violations that had characterized that mission.


His delegation had explained that the budget for that mission included elements that fell outside the mandate of the Special Envoy, such as the establishment of diplomatic relations between Syria and Lebanon –- a bilateral matter between two sovereign States.  That inclusion constituted a violation of the United Nations Charter by the Secretariat.  The Charter prohibited any intervention by the Organization in matters within the domestic jurisdiction of any State.  The response of the Secretariat had been that resolution 1680 (2006) included encouragement of the Syrian Government to positively respond to the request by Lebanon to delineate their common borders and to establish full diplomatic relations.  That did not automatically give the Secretariat the right to monitor such “encouragement”.


The budget also lacked certain provisions of 1559, including the provisions of operative paragraph 2, which referred to the Council’s request that all remaining foreign forces withdraw from Lebanon, he continued.  That reflected the lack of objectivity of the authors of the budget, who only focused on bilateral issues to distract attention from real problems, namely the practices of Israel and its continued occupation of Arab lands.  It was necessary to include the withdrawal of foreign forces from Lebanon as an expected accomplishment in the logical framework.  The presentation of expected accomplishments and achievements was not consistent with the rules of programme planning and budgeting.  They also did not measure the performance of the Secretariat.


The General Assembly, in resolution 63/263, had requested the Secretary-General to revise the logical framework of the Special Envoy for the implementation of resolution 1559, taking into consideration the latest developments and concerns of Member States, he continued.  A revision of the narrative and logical framework had been conducted, but the budget still contained certain flaws.  That was surprising, especially since the Secretariat had consulted with his delegation.  Nevertheless, the budget still contained the follow-up of bilateral relations between Syria and Lebanon.  Some indicators of achievement also referred to the spread of authority of the Lebanese forces to the whole of the territory of Lebanon and the territory along the borders.  That could be interpreted as if the Special Envoy wished to expand his mandate to demarcate the borders and deal with the issues of arms smuggling, which were outside his mandate.  Such an expansion could lead to duplication with existing structures for the implementation of the Council’s other resolutions. 


In light of the above, his delegation requested the Secretariat to issue a correction to the Secretary-General’s report.  Results-based budgeting required the Secretariat to justify its efforts in implementation of the Organization’s programmes and needs, so that the Assembly would authorize the necessary funding.  He had reservations regarding funding of programmes that were not in accordance with relevant rules and procedures. 


Mr. KACHAB ( Lebanon) said his Government had reviewed the Secretary-General’s request for the liquidation of UNIIIC by the end of April, and had supported its extension in light of Council resolution 1815 (2008).  UNIIIC, like other political missions, needed to enjoy adequate funding and full support of the United Nations Membership to ensure adequate fulfilment of its mandate. 


As for the Special Envoy for the implementation of Council resolution 1559 (2004), he reiterated Lebanon’s appreciation for the support shown by delegations to its request for a provision in Assembly resolution 63/263, by which the Secretariat was requested to revise the narrative and logical framework for the budget of the Special Envoy.  He thanked the Secretariat for producing addendum 6 of the report on special political missions, and ACABQ for its recommendation with regard to it.  Lebanon’s long-standing position regarding Israel’s violation of Lebanon sovereignty fell within the Special Envoy’s mandate, and Israel’s continued Israeli occupation fell under the indicator of achievement regarding land, air and sea violations.  The question of withdrawal of all foreign troops ought to be addressed as such in future reports, given the matter’s importance. 


He said the revised indicators reflected the outcome of the national dialogue session, under Lebanon’s President, and recent developments in diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Syria.  It also reflected the Lebanese people’s desire for some resolution regarding the delineation of the two countries’ common border.  He said he looked forward to receiving the Secretary-General’s next report on the issue.


CHERITH NORMAN ( United States) said that her delegation strongly supported the efforts by the Secretary-General and his special representatives and envoys, along with the Department of Political Affairs, in conflict prevention, peacemaking and post-conflict peacebuilding.


Commenting on the requests for additional resources, she said that the United States continued to support the critical work of the International Advisory and Monitoring Board for Iraq, as well as its role in providing oversight to the Development Fund in Iraq.  She favourably noted the plan of the Secretary-General to fund 2009 requirements from 2008 unencumbered balances.


She said she was pleased to see the transition between the International Investigation Commission and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon proceeding.  It was crucial that the transition be a seamless one and there be no gaps in coverage between the two bodies.  She noted ACABQ comments on the resource requirements and possible ways to reduce costs during the liquidation period, and looked forward to gaining further clarifications during informals on those possible areas of savings.


The success of a political settlement in Somalia was of great interest to the United States and vital to regional stability, she continued.  Her delegation commended the work of the United Nations Political Office in Somalia under such difficult circumstances and their utilization of common support services available through the United Nations Office in Nairobi, as mentioned by ACABQ.  She noted that the reduction in the requirements for 2009 was mainly due to the inability of UNPOS to relocate to Somalia, as a result of the current security environment.  However, directly related to that issue, she noted the request for additional security officers and supported the Advisory Committee’s recommendations on that issue.


She was encouraged that the improved political situation in Nepal had resulted in a downsizing of the United Nations Mission there.  However, she noted that planning assumptions for UNMIN had had to be revised, due to the extension of the Mission’s mandate and the delayed plan for its liquidation.  She encouraged the Secretary-General to continue to explore cost savings during that further downsizing period.


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