30 May 2012
General Assembly
GA/AB/4033

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

Sixty-sixth General Assembly

Fifth Committee

37th Meeting (AM)


Budget Committee Takes Up Recommendation from International Civil Service

 

Commission on Revision of Rest, Recuperation Framework Approved Last Year

 


Commission Chair Describes Framework’s Serious Operational Implications;

Also Considers Sierra Leone Court, Peacekeeping Finance, Staff Pension Committee


Taking up a number of issues dealing with the financing of peacekeeping operations, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today also heard a request on behalf of United Nations field-based organizations to reconsider the four-week rest and recuperation cycle agreed in 2011 for staff at duty stations where “danger pay” applied.


Presenting an “urgent and immediate” request from the organizations of the United Nations common system, in particular the Department of Field Support, Kingston Papie Rhodes, Chairman of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC), introduced an addendum to the Commission’s 2011 report, requesting the General Assembly to consider a revised framework for granting rest periods and corresponding travel for staff working at very dangerous locations, or where they were directly targeted because they were employed by the United Nations.


He explained that, under the framework approved by the Assembly last December, duty stations designated for danger pay (formerly “hazard pay”) automatically triggered a four-week rest and recuperation cycle for staff.  The Commission had made its initial recommendation based on data available in May 2011.  Given the strict criteria for danger pay, the ICSC had believed the number of duty stations that would meet those conditions would be significantly reduced. 


Further, it was not possible at the time to accurately assess potential operational implications of linking the rest and recuperation cycle to the locations approved for danger pay.   Once the Assembly had reached its conclusions on the criteria for danger pay, the United Nations Department of Safety and Security (DSS) had requested a thorough review of the locations that would be covered by that allowance.  However, he said that by the time that review was completed in February and the recommendations were made to ICSC, the situation on the ground in the respective locations and regions had changed dramatically.


“Unfortunately, no one was able to predict that the world would become more volatile,” he said, explaining that many new duty stations had been affected by events in the spring and summer of 2011.  For example, South Sudan had become a new country and new duty stations had been created.  Moreover, conflict in North Africa and the Middle East had increased, with the security situation in Syria having deteriorated during that period.  He noted that danger pay locations were reviewed every three months, so the number of affected locations was not static and might change in July.


The consequence of all this, he said, was that automatic triggering of the rest and recuperation travel cycle in all duty stations now approved for danger pay presented “serious operational implications” for field organizations and might adversely impact programme delivery.  Therefore, at the request of United Nations and field-based organizations, ICSC had decided to delay implementation of the rest and recuperation framework until 1 July and was submitting a revised plan to the General Assembly.


“The proposed framework would not include a four-week travel cycle and would not have any linkage to danger pay,” he said, adding however that in exceptional cases, the Chair of the Commission could approve the travel cycle on the recommendation of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination Human Resources Network.  “These cases would be very limited,” he said; for example, at present, only 16 duty stations in three countries — Kandahar, in Afghanistan; Baghdad, Basra and Kirkuk, in Iraq; and 12 duty stations in Somalia — were under the travel cycle.


Should the Assembly decide not to follow the Commission’s recommendation, there would be operational implications for duty stations where danger pay was applicable as of 1 July, he said, stressing that the issue before the Fifth Committee was not danger pay; the Assembly had already approved that framework in an earlier resolution and it was based on solid criteria.  The issue was that of the unintended consequences of linking danger pay to the rest and recuperation four-week travel cycle.  He also stressed that all of the Commission’s recommendations were based on very sound technical information available at the time of its deliberations, in this case from DSS and input from organizations.  


Following that presentation, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Vice-chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) weighed in with that body’s recommendations, including that Member States should note that should the Assembly adopt the Commission’s recommendations, there would be no additional resource requirements under the United Nations programme budget for the biennium 2012-2013; the budget for peacekeeping operations; or the budget for the support account for peacekeeping operations for the period from 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013.


At the same time, he said that because the number of locations identified for danger pay was significantly higher than anticipated, ACABQ had sought clarification on the estimated financial impact in terms of requirements for danger pay as compared with previous requirements for “hazard pay”, and requested a full explanation to the General Assembly on the underlying causes for divergence between the anticipated and actual number of danger pay duty stations, as well as information on the application of the criteria approved by the General Assembly in December 2011.


A representative of the delegation of the European Union also took the floor, saying that his delegations was concerned that the information used to reach a decision at the end of last year did not seem to be accurate with regard to the potential financial implications of the introduction of danger pay and its effect on the rest and recuperation framework.  To that end, he noted that the 2011 report of the Commission had clearly stipulated that the danger pay framework would result in savings of approximately $19.6 million, owning to a reduction in eligible duty stations when compared with duty stations that were eligible for the former hazard pay.


It was under that assumption that European Union member States had joined consensus on Assembly resolution 66/235 that had set up the new framework.  But, in light of the information presented today, the European Union would request detailed and comprehensive financial implications in case the Assembly decided to adopt the conclusions and recommendations by the Secretary-General.  It was very unfortunate that the Assembly had to work with incomplete information and, therefore, find itself in this situation.


[The Secretary-General’s statement on the issue (document A/66/394/Add.1) notes that if the Assembly decided not to adopt the Commission’s recommendation, there will be operational implications for duty stations where danger pay is applicable.  Considering that at any given time about 25 per cent of international staff at these duty stations will be absent on rest and recuperation, compounded by high vacancy rates in those duty stations, a decrease in operational productivity is to be expected.  The precise operational impact and the subsequent need for increases and/or realignment of staff resources could only be determined based on actual experience in each duty station on a case-by-case basis.]


In other business today, the Fifth Committee approved an oral decision whereby it would recommend the General Assembly “report on the implementation of the subvention to the Special Court for Sierra Leone in the context of the performance report on the programme budget for the biennium 2012-2013.”


The Committee also decided, by acclamation, to recommend to the Assembly the appointment of Hitoshi Kozaki of Japan as a member of United Nations Staff Pension Committee to fill the vacancy arising from the resignation of Jun Yamada, also of Japan.  Mr. Kozaki would serve as a member of the Committee for the remainder of Mr. Yamada’s term, which would expire on 31 December 2012.


Finally, the Committee decided to continue negotiations on financing of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).


The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) will meet again at a time and date to be announced.


Background


The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to discuss several agenda items, including appointment of members and alternate members of the United Nations Staff Pension Committee; programme budget for the biennium 2012-2013 concerning the Special Court for Sierra Leone; financing for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK); and the United Nations common system.


On the first item, the Committee had before it the Secretary-General’s note on appointment of members and alternate members of the United Nations Staff Pension Committee (document A/66/531/Add.1).


For the second item it had an Assembly President’s letter to the Committee Chair concerning the extension of the implementation period for the subvention grant for the Special Court for Sierra Leone (document A/C.5/66/16).


On the next items it had before it a draft resolution on financing UNIFIL (document A/C.5/66/L.35) and the Secretary-General’s notes on financing arrangements for UNMIK for the 12 months from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012 (document A/66/777), as well as the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions’ related report (A/66/718/Add.20).


On the common system it had for its consideration three documents:  an addendum to the Report of the International Civil Service Commission for 2011 (document A/66/30/Add.1), the Secretary-General’s statement on administrative and financial implications of the proposed revision (document A/66/394/Add.1); and ACABQ’s related report (document A/66/7/Add.26).


Financing Peacekeeping Operations


When the Committee took up matters related to the financing of United Nations peacekeeping operations, PAUL BALLANTYNE (New Zealand) informed delegations that during informal consultations, the Committee had been unable to reach consensus on a text dealing with the financial arrangements for UNIFIL.


MOURAD BENMEHIDI (Algeria), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, introduced the draft resolution on UNIFIL (document A/C.5/66/L.35) and said the text consisted of two parts:  the first concerned financing the operations, and the second related to the language on the situation of the Southern Lebanon village of Qana, where a United Nations compound was hit by artillery shells fired by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in 1996.  He said that Israel had not responded to requests for payments for repairs.  


Fifth Committee Vice-Chair MARIAM SAIF ABDULLA AL-SHAMISI announced that issue would be taken up again at a later date.


Next, CHANDRAMOULI RAMANATHAN, Deputy Controller, introduced the Secretary-General’s note on the financing arrangements for United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) (document A/66/777), which notes the Assembly’s approval last June of $44.9 million for the maintenance of that mission for the 2011/12 period.  According to the Secretary-General, there were projected increased requirements primarily due to the classification of Field Service staff and national staff posts effective 1 March 2011; higher average actual post adjustment multiplier than budgeted for international staff; lower than budgeted projected average vacancy rate for international staff; implementation of two consecutive revised national staff salary scales effective 1 February 2011 and 1 February 2012; as well as higher than budgeted actual average grade level of national General Service staff.


The overall increased requirements were partly offset by reduced requirements under operational costs and military and police personnel.  He said that as UNMIK was not in a position to absorb additional requirements within its approved 2011/12 budget, the Assembly was requested to appropriate and assess on Member States the additional amount to $3.39 million in respect of the same budgetary period.


Introducing the related report on financing arrangements for UNMIK (document A/66/718/Add.20), CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Vice-Chair of the ACABQ, said that the Committee had no objection to an appropriation, however without assessment, of the requested amount of $3.39 million for the maintenance of that Mission from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012.  That would be in addition to the $44.9 million already appropriated and assessed for the same period under General Assembly resolution 65/300.


He said that the Secretary-General’s report indicated that the projected increase was due to the classification of Field Service and national staff posts, among other factors.  In its report, ACABQ expressed concern at the budgetary consequences of the classification exercise, in particular its retroactive implementation.  The Committee also noted with concern the late submission of the request for an additional appropriation.


United Nations Common System


The Committee then resumed its consideration of matters related to the United Nations common system.


KINGSTON PAPIE RHODES, Chairman of the International Civil Service Commission, introduced the addendum to the Commission’s 2011 report (document A/66/30/Add/1), saying that the addendum responded to an “urgent and immediate” request from the organizations of the United Nations common system, in particular the Department of Field Support, requesting the Commission to reconsider the rest and recuperation framework the Commission proposed in the report and which the Assembly had approved in its resolution 66/235.


The addendum took into account the recommendation from the United Nations Department of Safety and Security (DSS) in regard to “danger pay” locations and information from the organizations that had not been available when the Assembly had reached its conclusion on the matter in December 2011.  The Commission had made its recommendation on the rest and recuperation framework to the General Assembly in its 2011 report based on information and data available in May 2011.  The Commission’s proposal regarding the 4-week rest and recuperation cycle was that such cycle applied in “extreme emergency situations” and “where danger pay is authorized by the Chair of the International Civil Service Commission”.


He said that the Commission noted that, based on that criteria, danger pay would apply only in extraordinary situations where staff were at high risk of becoming collateral damage, namely locations where very dangerous conditions prevailed and in situations where they were direct targets of violence, such as acts of terror committed against staff precisely because of their employment by the United Nation system.  Given the stricter criteria for danger pay versus the former hazard pay the Commission believed that the number of duty stations that would meet the criteria for danger pay would be significantly reduced.  Furthermore, it was not possible at the time to accurately assess potential operational implications and impact on programme delivery of linking the 4-week rest and recuperation cycle to locations approved for danger pay.


In deciding on the locations that should receive danger pay, he said the Commission had relied on the recommendations of DSS to make its decision.  When that Department had forwarded those recommendations, the number of duty stations had been significantly greater than anticipated.  Once the Assembly had reached its conclusions on the criteria for danger pay in December 2011, DSS had requested that submissions for danger pay be in strict conformity with the established International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) criteria, be supported by an updated security risk assessment, a clear list of areas by name and region with a map delineating exactly the areas proposed to be covered by the danger pay, and a thorough and detailed analysis of the prevailing security situation.


He said that once that review was completed in February and the recommendations were made to the Commission on the locations deemed eligible for danger pay, the situation on the ground in the respective locations and regions had changed dramatically since the preliminary assessments had been made.  “Unfortunately, no one was able to predict that the world would become more volatile,” he said, explaining that many new duty stations had been affected by events in the spring and summer of 2011.


During that period, for example, South Sudan had become a new nation and new duty stations had been created.  Moreover, conflict in North Africa and the Middle East had increased, particularly the security situation in Syria had deteriorated during that period and that country continued to face “serious conflicts”.  He noted however that the number of danger pay locations was still lower than “hazard pay” locations — a drop to 13 from 18 countries and a corresponding decrease to some 140 duty stations, down from 180.  He added that, as was the case with hazard pay, danger pay locations were reviewed every three months, so the number of affected locations was not static and might change in July.


The consequences of all that, he continued, was that the automatic triggering of a 4-week rest and recuperation travel cycle in all duty stations now approved for danger pay presented “serious operational implications” for field organizations and might adversely impact programme delivery.  Therefore, at the request of the United Nations and field-based organizations, the ICSC had decided to delay implementation of the rest and recuperation framework until 1 July and was submitting a revised plan to the General Assembly.


“The proposed framework would not include a 4-week travel cycle and would not have any linkage to danger pay,” he said, adding however that in exceptional cases, a 4-week travel cycle could be approved by the Chair of the ICSC on the recommendation of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination Human Resources Network.  “These cases would be very limited,” he said, for example, at present, only 16 duty stations in three countries — Kandahar, in Afghanistan; Baghdad, Basra and Kirkuk, in Iraq; and 12 duty stations in Somalia — were under the 4-week travel cycle.  


Should the Assembly decide not to follow the Commission’s recommendation, there would be operational implications for duty stations where danger pay was applicable as of 1 July, he said, stressing that the issue before the Fifth Committee was not about danger pay; the Assembly had already approved that framework in an earlier resolution and it was based on solid criteria.  The issue was that of the unintended consequences of linking danger pay to the rest and recuperation 4-week travel cycle.  He also stressed that all of the Commission’s recommendations were based on very sound technical information available at the time of its deliberations, in this case from DSS and input from organizations.  


Following that presentation Mr. RAMANATHAN also introduced a statement submitted by the Secretary-General on the administrative and financial implications of the decisions and recommendations contained in addendum to the report of the International Civil Service Commission for 2011 (document A/66/394/Add.1), arising from the recommendations contained in the addendum to the Commission’s 2011 report, namely to approve the revised criteria for the granting of rest and recuperation travel and the corresponding frequencies of travel.


As included in section II of the statement, should the recommendation of the Commission be adopted, there would be no additional resource requirements under the programme budget for the biennium 2012-20113, the peacekeeping budget, or the support account for peacekeeping operations for the period 2012/2013. 


Mr. MASSIEU introduced the related ACABQ report (document A/66/7/Add.26) and recommended the General Assembly to take note that, should the recommendations of the Commission be adopted, there would be no additional resource requirements under the United Nations programme budget for the biennium 2012-2013; the budget for peacekeeping operations; or the budget for the support account for peacekeeping operations for the period from 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013.


He said that because the Secretary-General’s statement indicated that the number of locations identified for danger pay was significantly higher than anticipated, ACABQ had sought clarification on the estimated financial impact in terms of requirements for danger pay as compared with previous requirements for hazard pay and requested a full explanation to the General Assembly on the underlying causes for divergence between the anticipated and actual number of danger pay duty stations, as well as information on the application of the criteria approved by the General Assembly in its resolution 65/235.


The Committee continued to emphasize the need for accurate and reliable data to support informed-decision making on proposals and implementation of measures with significant financial and administrative implications, he said.


Statement


GERTON VAN DEN AKKER, representative of the European Union, expressed the group’s surprise at finding this item on the agenda of today’s session.  The bloc’s member States were concerned by the fact that the information used to reach a decision at the end of last year did not seem to be accurate with regard to the potential financial implications of the introduction of danger pay and its effect on the rest and recuperation framework.


He said paragraph 56 in the summary section of the International Civil Service Commission’s report for 2011 (A/66/30) stipulated clearly that “the financial implications of the Commission’s recommendations with respect to the payment of danger pay resulted in savings of approximately 19.6 million dollars, owning to a reduction in eligible duty stations when compared with duty stations that were eligible for the former hazard pay.”


It was, among others, under this assumption that European Union member States joined the consensus on resolution 66/235, which took note of the financial implications specified in paragraph 56, he noted.  The European Union requested detailed and comprehensive financial implications should the Assembly decide to adopt the conclusions and recommendations by the Secretary-General.  It was very unfortunate that the Assembly had to work with incomplete information and therefore find itself in this situation.


In response, Mr. RHODES said his Commission would provide more information, but stressed that the Commission made a clear distinction between danger pay and hazard pay.  He said it would not be danger pay, but the link to danger pay that would change.


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For information media • not an official record