28 May 2009
General Assembly
GA/AB/3909

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

Budget committee takes up 2009/10 financing for interim force in lebanon


Also Considers Final Performance Report for Closed Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea


The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today took up the financing of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which is projected to require $646.58 million for its maintenance in the upcoming financial year, beginning 1 July.


Jun Yamazaki, Controller, explained that the proposed budget for UNIFIL was 0.6 per cent less than what was approved in the previous year, owing to projected delays in the deployment of military contingents, and the need for fewer vehicles.  Equipment needs were also less in 2009/10, especially with major communications equipment having been acquired in the 2006/07 and 2008/09 financial periods.


However, he said the new UNIFIL budget contained additional requirements not in the previous budget, relating to facilities and infrastructure, due to plans to relocate and expand the Force headquarters.  The budget for staff costs had also risen, whose amounts are derived from actual expenditure incurred during the 2007/08 period.  In addition, the salary for national staff had been revised, which also contributed to the variance in this year’s budget compared to the last.


He told the Committee that UNIFIL had an unencumbered balance of $122 million from the previous financial year, because of delayed deployment, delayed recruitment of staff, lower requirements for construction services, and fewer naval vessels and helicopters needed by the Maritime Task Force, which was reconfigured in March 2008.  The Assembly was asked to decide on the treatment of that balance, and that of $32.29 million in “other income”, derived from interest income, other/miscellaneous income and cancellation of prior-period adjustments.


Introducing the report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), Susan McLurg, Chair of the Advisory Committee, said that it was possible to reduce the 2009/10 budget for UNIFIL by $36.8 million.


She added that, during the course of its hearings on the financing of that mission, the Advisory Committee was given a revised deployment schedule reflecting the current status of negotiations with troop contributors.  It was determined that deployment would be delayed much further than was estimated, translating into a reduction in the budget of $8.4 million.  There would be a related reduction of $8.6 million in requirements for contingent-owned equipment.


Similarly, by applying a more realistic delayed deployment factor for civilian personnel would result in a reduction of $2.8 million, she continued.  In addition, the Advisory Committee recommended a 20 per cent reduction in estimated requirements for naval transportation, in view of the delayed deployment of vessels and aircraft, and that average fuel costs from January to March be used as a basis for estimating fuel requirements, which would reduce the budget by a further $2 million.  Also, Ms. McLurg made an oral correction to a figure cited n paragraph 21 of the ACABQ’s report, saying it should read $2.794 million and not $2.704 million.


The subject of UNIFIL prompted an exchange between the representative of Syria and Ms. McLurg on the Advisory Committee’s reference, in paragraph 16 of its UNIFIL report, to a recommendation it had made previously -- for a review of the financing and administrative support arrangements of the observer groups with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) and UNIFIL.  The representative of Syria wanted to know why the Advisory Committee repeatedly referred to that recommendation, when, in fact, the General Assembly had rejected it in two resolutions.  Also, in the penultimate sentence of paragraph 16, the Advisory Committee “requested the Secretary-General to carry out a review”.  However, the ACABQ had no mandate to make such requests.  Rather, it should make recommendations to the Secretary-General.


Responding to those queries, Ms. McLurg said that administrative and logistical arrangements for military observer groups that provided support to UNIFIL and UNDOF warranted some scrutiny, and that the recommendation of the Advisory Committee had been made from a purely budgetary perspective.  Without passing any judgement, the Advisory Committee had wanted the Secretary-General to review those arrangements and to report on that issue in the context of his proposed programme budget for 2010-2011.  Long-standing recommendations should be provided on the status of those observer groups.


As for the repeated question, she added that the General Assembly had not agreed with the Advisory Committee’s recommendation, as stated in two relevant resolutions.  But, the ACABQ still thought that there was merit in the Secretary-General’s reporting on the administrative arrangements for supporting those groups, and that the ACABQ and the General Assembly needed a better understanding of those long-standing arrangements in UNIFIL and UNDOF.


Also today, the Fifth Committee took up the performance report for the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), whose mandate was terminated by the Security Council effective 31 July 2008.


Mr. Yamazaki, who presented a summary of the final performance report for that Mission, explained that there was an unencumbered balance of about $7.4 million to be returned to Member States, but that a cash shortfall in the amount of $1.46 million would not permit that to happen.


The Advisory Committee’s recommendation, as relayed by Ms. McLurg, was for the General Assembly to visit that issue at its sixty-fourth session.


The Committee will meet again at a time to be announced, to continue its consideration of peacekeeping financing.


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