5 May 2011
General Assembly
GA/AB/3987

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

Sixty-fifth General Assembly

Fifth Committee

34th Meeting (AM)


Fifth Committee Considers Financing for 13 Peacekeeping Missions, Hears Proposals


for Disposition of Unspent Funds, Deficits from 23 Closed Operations

 


The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning heard the budgetary reports of 13 United Nations peacekeeping missions, as well as proposals for the disposition of $230.7 million of unspent funds from 18 closed operations and deficits of $86.7 million from 5 others.


In reports on closed missions, the Secretary-General requested the General Assembly to approve retention of $50 million of the cash balances of closed peacekeeping missions to cover cash requirements, with the remaining $180.7 million to be returned to Member States.  The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), however, recommended holding back $75 million, while calling for an in-depth study to achieve balance between the interests of Member States that had fulfilled their financial obligations and the need to reimburse troop-contributing countries in a timely manner.


The Secretary-General’s report on those issues was introduced by Assistant Secretary-General Jun Yamazaki, United Nations Controller.  Collen Kelapile, Chair of ACABQ, introduced their recommendations.


Commenting on the unspent funds of closed missions, some speakers said that all unencumbered funds should be returned forthwith, while affirming that assessments should be paid in full, on time and without conditions, and that troop contributors should be reimbursed in a timely manner.  The representative of Hungary, on behalf of the European Union, said that the withholding of a given percentage of cash surpluses of closed missions was not justified under the financial rules and regulations of the United Nations.


The representative of Argentina, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, expressed the Group’s readiness, during the current session, to explore options to achieve a fair solution to that longstanding problem.  Switzerland’s representative welcomed the Secretary-General’s proposals to return to Member States a share of the cash surpluses, but concurred with the Advisory Committee’s recommendation to carefully analyse the exact level of funds that could be returned. “We do want our money back, but only if this does not jeopardize the cash requirements of the Organization,” he said.


Also speaking on that issue were representatives of New Zealand (also on behalf of Canada and Australia), Republic of Korea and Japan.


Also this morning, Mr. Yamazaki introduced the Secretary-General’s reports that present the proposed 2011/12 budget for nine missions, totalling some $3.4 billion.  That included missions in Côte d’Ivoire ($485.8 million), Cyprus ($55.7 million), Democratic Republic of the Congo ($1.42 billion), Timor-Leste ($196.7 million), Kosovo ($44.9 million), Liberia ($540.8 million), Lebanon ($542.8 million) and Western Sahara ($61.4 million), as well as the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force ($49.6 million).  Mr. Yamazaki also introduced performance reports, comparing budgets with actual expenditures, for those missions for the fiscal year 2009/10.


In addition, he introduced the performance reports for missions that have recently been closed, including the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) and the Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG).  The performance report for the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) was presented separately from that of its successor mission, known as the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).  In regard to the terminated Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), he presented a report on the final disposition of $57 million in inventory assets.  Mr. Kelapile introduced the related ACABQ reports on all those operations.


Following those presentations, representatives of major groups and individual countries commented on the budgetary aspects.  The representative of the Côte d’Ivoire, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the proposed budget of each mission should reflect the resources required to fully carry out their mandates, which should not suffer arbitrary cuts.  He expressed the Group’s intention to carefully study each set of proposals.


The representative of the United States, noting that the proposed budgets were nearly identical to those for the previous budget cycle, said that the Committee should carefully scrutinize those to seek greater efficiencies, owing to the difficult global economic climate and financial constraints facing Governments.  He stressed the Secretary-General’s responsibility, as the United Nations Chief Administrative Officer, to direct managers to seek such efficiencies.


Also speaking on that issue were the representatives of New Zealand (also on behalf of Canada and Australia) and Brazil.


The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 10 May.


Background


In its consideration of the administrative and budgetary aspects of the financing of the United Nations peacekeeping operations, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) had before it reports on missions in Central African Republic and Chad (documents A/65/638, A/65/743/Add.11), Côte d’Ivoire (documents A/65/615, A/65/736 and Corr.1, A/65/743/Add.14), Cyprus (documents A/65/625, A/65/706, A/65/743/Add.2), Democratic Republic of the Congo (documents A/65/682, A/65/744, A/65/743 Add.8), Timor-Leste (documents A/65/687, A/65/746, A/65/743/Add.6), Ethiopia and Eritrea (documents A/65/678, A/65/748), Georgia (documents A/65/681, A/65/743/Add.1), Kosovo (documents A/65/621, A/65/711, A/65/743/Add.4), Liberia (documents A/65/620, A/65/727, A/65/743/Add.7), Lebanon (documents A/65/608 and Corr.1, A/65/756, A/65/743/Add.9) and Western Sahara (A/65/665, A/65/720 and Corr.1, A/65/743/Add.5); as well as on the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (documents A/65/596, A/65/710, A/65/743/Add.3).


On the updated financial position of closed peacekeeping missions, the Committee had before it two reports.  The first, the report of the Secretary-General (document A/65/556), considers the updated financial position of 23 closed peacekeeping missions as at 30 June 2010.  The report states that five missions had cash deficits owing to outstanding payments of assessed contributions, while 18 had cash surpluses available for credit to Member States totalling $230.7 million.  For the 18 missions with cash surpluses, the Secretary-General recommends the retention of $50 million in 4 of them and intends to return the balance of $180.7 million to Member States, subject to a decision of the General Assembly.  Options regarding the five missions with cash deficits are also set out.  In the report, the Secretary-General also recommends expanding the terms and increasing the level of the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund, which is currently limited to the start-up phase of new missions.


In the related report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (document A/65/775), the Advisory Committee affirms that surpluses should be refunded to the Member States that have duly paid their assessed contribution, but also that obligations to Governments providing troops, formed police units, logistical support and other resources should be settled in a timely manner.  Recommending that $75 million, instead of $50 million, be retained to cover the cash requirements of the Organization, the Advisory Committee says that the balance, $155.7 million, should be either returned to Member States or be applied as credit against outstanding contributions where appropriate.


In regard to expanded utilization of the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund, the Advisory Committee objects to multiple reporting on the subject, which it feels creates a “piecemeal approach”.  It expresses concern over “the apparent lack of coordination on this matter within the Secretariat”, and says it is not clear why it is discussed in the current report, particularly since related issues were recently presented in other reports for the Assembly’s consideration.  Requesting more information, the Committee advises against the expansion, expressing concern that it could have an impact on the Organization’s capacity to effectively launch new missions and meet the needs of expanding missions.


Finally, the Advisory Committee recommends authorizing the Secretary-General to return to the Government of Kuwait the amount of $70,600 reflecting two thirds of the adjusted net credits available in the account of the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission (UNIKOM).


Statements


BROUZ RALPH COFFI (C ôte d’Ivoire), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the proposed budget of each mission should reflect the resources required to fully carry out their mandates.  The Group would consider each such proposal, particularly those with proposed reductions, to be certain that no arbitrary cuts were made.  It would also study the proposed abolition or nationalization of mission posts, in the context of implementing Assembly resolution 65/248, as well as address issues that impeded full implementation of mission mandates, such as vacancy rates, staff turnover rates and difficulties in procurement.  The Group would fully examine the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions’ (ACABQ) recommendations to reduce requested resources to ensure such cuts were justified.


He said that the Group believed it was very important to continue adequately funding the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), which grappled with huge challenges in projecting strength, consolidating peace and stability, and protecting civilians in that country.  The Mission, which was authorized by the Security Council to give technical and logistical aid to support the upcoming elections, must be better equipped to stabilize conflict-affected areas and consolidate peace throughout that country. 


BERNADETTE CAVANAGH (New Zealand), also speaking on behalf of Canada and Australia (CANZ), noted the Secretary-General’s proposed resources, particularly for 27 temporary posts, to support next year’s parliamentary and presidential elections in Timor-Leste.  Credible and transparent elections were vital for continued development of peace and stability in that country.  She looked forward to receiving more information during informal consultations on those posts, including the proposed time frame for their recruitment and deployment.


She said that as the National Police of Timor-Leste resumed primary policing responsibilities, the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) must remain focused on building the capacity of the security sector to ensure the National Police had the tools and expertise to carry out police functions.  She welcomed the creation of a high-level steering group to oversee the Mission’s transition and trusted that it would ensure that gradual reductions during the budget period would be consistent with the Government’s wishes and realities on the ground.


STEPHEN LIEBERMAN (United States) noted that the proposed budgets were nearly identical to those for the previous budget cycle, discounting the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT), which had closed.  Owing to the difficult global economic climate and financial restraints facing Governments, the Committee should carefully scrutinize the proposed budgets to seek greater efficiencies.  He welcomed the Secretary-General’s efforts to continue the trend towards fiscally responsible and realistic budgets, and stressed that it was his responsibility as the United Nations Chief Administrative Officer to direct managers to seek efficiencies.


BRUNO BRANT (Brazil) said UNMIT must be given all the resources needed to carry out its mandate of supporting preparations for the 2012 parliamentary and presidential elections in Timor-Leste.  As Timor-Leste’s National Police were expected to resume primary policing responsibilities in all 13 districts by June 2011, UNMIT must continue to focus on building police capacity through specialized training, mentoring and monitoring.  Any decrease in the number of UNMIT police officers should reflect the realities on the ground rather than follow fixed or artificial deadlines, and it should be thoroughly discussed with the Timorese authorities.  UNMIT should adapt to Timor-Leste’s new circumstances and help its Government address challenges in socio-economic development, institution-building and security.


In that context, he supported the national staff capacity-building project launched in early 2010 as essential to the Mission’s overall transition plan.  He noted that UNMIT’s $196 million proposed budget for the period 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012 was 4.6 per cent less than the budget for the previous period, due in part to the reduction of 41 international staff posts to offset the cost of harmonization pursuant to Assembly resolution 65/248.  He recalled that that resolution clearly stated that harmonization of the conditions of service must not impact operational costs or undermine implementation of mandated programmes.  He thus would seek clarification on the current level of resources proposed by the Secretary-General.


SEBASTIÁN DI LUCA (Argentina), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, fully supported the intention of the Secretary-General to return the recommended sum to Kuwait.  As for the unpaid assessments, accounts payable and other liabilities of closed peacekeeping missions, he expressed the Group’s readiness, during the current session, to explore options to achieve a fair solution to that longstanding problem.


ANNA REICH (Hungary), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said she regretted that the cash surpluses of closed missions had not yet been returned in full to Member States in line with the financial rules and regulations of the United Nations.  She noted with satisfaction that the liquidity of the missions had improved and cross-borrowing had declined, but expressed concern over the significant time lag between the issuance of notifications to Member States and the receipt of assessed contributions.


She stressed, at the same time, that the unpredictability of receipts as a result of Member States not paying their assessed contributions in full, on time and without conditions was no justification for cross-borrowing between missions.  She underlined that liquidity shortfalls might endanger the effective fulfilment of mission mandates and stressed that Member States should comply with their obligations to pay their contributions in full, on time and without conditions.  In that respect, she shared the concern of troop-contributing countries that had not been compensated for their services.


She also shared the concerns expressed by ACABQ on expanding the terms and increasing the level of the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund to cover operational requirements of ongoing missions.  Such proposals regarding the Fund should be dealt within in the framework of the global field support strategy.  The European Union believed that withholding a given percentage of cash surpluses of closed missions was not justified by the financial rules and regulations of the United Nations.  The return of unencumbered balances in full to Member States was long overdue and should now happen.  She reiterated the Union’s readiness to engage in constructive dialogue on all such matters.


PAUL BALLANTYNE (New Zealand), speaking also on behalf of Canada and Australia (CANZ), noted that five of the closed missions had cash deficits of $86.7 million.  To address that, Member States should pay their assessments in full, on time and without conditions.  He welcomed the improved liquidity in peacekeeping missions in recent years, resulting in a decline in cross-borrowing between active and closed missions.  He looked forward to receiving during informal consultations the most up-to-date figures on cross-borrowing, as the Committee must carefully consider whether cross-borrowing was an appropriate and sustainable way to manage liquidity problems.


In that regard, he noted the Secretary-General’s observation on expanding the terms of the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund.  Other options also could be explored.  He stressed the importance of reaching agreement during the current session on closed peacekeeping missions.  He had reservations about some aspects of the Secretary-General’s proposal on that matter, but strongly believed it was time to settle differences and find a solution acceptable to all delegations. 


MARCEL KAEGI (Switzerland) said that in accordance with the United Nations financial regulations, cash surpluses should be surrendered and returned to Member States.  Cross-borrowing, which was linked to cash-flow problems of active peacekeeping missions, must stop, and accounts with cash deficits and outstanding liabilities owed to troop-contributing countries must be addressed.  He welcomed the Secretary-General’s proposals to return to Member States a share of the cash surpluses, but concurred with the ACABQ critique of that, which showed the need to carefully analyse the exact level of funds that could be returned. “We do want our money back, but only if this does not jeopardize the cash requirements of the Organization,” he said.


He said that not all available money could be returned if cross-borrowing continued.  He lamented that the Secretary-General’s report only briefly discussed that problem; it suggested using the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund to cover ongoing missions’ operational requirements, but gave no analysis of the possible consequences.  It was unclear how that proposal went together with projects such as the global field support strategy, which foresaw changes to the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund.  The report also was silent on the issue of accounts with cash deficits.  The proposal was a “promising starting point” for discussion on closed peacekeeping missions, but it did not address the issue entirely.


PARK CHULL-JOO (Republic of Korea) said the $230.7 million in cash surpluses available to Member States as at 30 June 2010 was a substantial, significant cash balance by any standard.  The different interests of Member States should be considered in a balanced way.  Cash surpluses in closed peacekeeping missions should be returned to Member States that had duly paid their contributions.  Troop- and police-contributing countries should also be reimbursed in a timely manner.  He welcomed the Secretary-General’s proposal to return $180.7 million of the cash balances of closed missions and noted with appreciation the ACABQ recommendation that $155.7 million be returned to Member States that had duly paid their contributions.


He said that, owing to the recent decline in cross-borrowing, Member States’ economic woes and the recommendations of the Secretary-General and ACABQ, now was the time to find a balanced solution.  He supported returning two thirds of the credit available in the UNIKOM account.  Credits from closed peacekeeping missions should be first applied against outstanding contributions for closed missions with cash deficits and for other field missions.   It was not a question of whether to refund the cash surpluses in closed missions; it was a question of how to do so.


JUN YAMADA (Japan) said the status of closed peacekeeping missions should be viewed in the light of the fact that Member States were obliged under the United Nations Charter to pay their assessed contributions and that unencumbered appropriations should be returned to them in accordance with the Organization’s financial regulations and rules.  It was essential to abide by those established principles.  Credits available from closed peacekeeping missions with cash surpluses should be returned to Member States.  Cash deficits of closed missions should be addressed through the timely and full payment of assessments by Member States.  He welcomed the Secretary-General’s proposal to return $180.7 million of the cash balances of closed missions.  That proposal was a good basis for discussion.   He strongly hoped Member States would engage in a constructive manner to reach a satisfactory outcome in that regard. 


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