|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-seventh General Assembly
24th & 25th Meetings (AM & PM)
Budget Committee Takes Up Recommendations of Senior Advisory Group on Reimbursement
Rates for Troop Contributors to Peacekeeping Operations
Also Begins Consideration of Reports on Accountability;
Information and Communications Technology; Construction of Residual Mechanism
Recommendations from a group of senior peacekeeping experts to craft a more equitable, predictable system for reimbursing troop contributors to United Nations peacekeeping operations drew much praise, as well as some concerns, from the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today, as it examined several reports on that subject.
Several delegates applauded the Senior Advisory Group set up by the Secretary-General early last year for presenting an “integral package” to address the challenges of contemporary peacekeeping. They noted that, while the demand for peacekeeping had expanded markedly since 1990, the system for paying Member States for contributing military personnel and formed police units remained largely unchanged since 1973.
Japan’s representative said the Group’s ideas were well balanced, particularly the suggestion to set up a reimbursement system based on actual data of the common and essential additional costs of peacekeeping. He called on the Committee to adopt a text endorsing the proposed steps. Canada’s representative, also speaking on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, praised the Group’s “excellent judgement” in devising a practical, comprehensive plan. “The [Group] had done its part. It is now up to us, the Member States, to do ours,” he said.
But the delegate of Peru, a troop-contributing country, objected to the proposed 12-month rotations for peacekeepers under the “doing more with less” principle, because longer deployments could harm the states of mind of peacekeepers and, therefore, their work. Moreover, the idea of proportional reimbursement was a “serious mistake”, as human contingents in the field should not be punished for equipment failure.
Similarly, the delegate of Pakistan, also a troop contributor, warned that matters such as rotation of troops, contingent-owned equipment and the survey mechanism could cause operational difficulties in their implementation. The contents of the Group’s report required further deliberation to “fine-tune some of its recommendations, to make it acceptable to all stakeholders”.
Committee Chair Miguel Berger ( Germany) drew delegates’ attention to the Group’s 27-page report, which describes its specific recommendations in detail. Ameerah Haq, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, then introduced the Secretary-General’s report on implementing those recommendations, which indicates it would cost $17.7 million during the July 2012-June 2013 period and $42.2 million from July 2013 to June 2014. Weighing in with its own report, introduced by its Chair, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) said it had no objection to those expenditures, or to approving the extra funds required for the support account for peacekeeping operations.
Following the debate on reimbursement rates, the Committee took stock of the Organization’s success in strengthening accountability throughout the Secretariat. Yukio Takasu, Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Management, introduced the Secretary-General’s second progress report on that topic. Mr. Ruiz Massieu introduced ACABQ’s related report, which noted positive developments in some areas, particularly achieving results-based management, but lamented the lack of a clearly defined plan with clear objectives for achieving specific goals. Several delegates expressed similar concerns.
Also today, the Committee heard the introduction of reports on handling of information and communications technology affairs in the Secretariat and throughout United Nations system organizations. Hugh O’Farrell, Director of External Audit and chair of the Audit Operations Committee, introduced the Board of Auditors’ report. Mr. Takasu presented the Secretary-General’s report on implementing the Board’s recommendations to streamline information and communications technology governance and operations; Mr. Ruiz Massieu weighed in with ACABQ’s related report; and Susanne Frueh, Executive Secretary of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), presented that body’s report, as well as that of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB).
Lastly, the Committee considered reports on financing the construction of a facility in Arusha to house the International Residual Mechanism for the Organization’s Criminal Tribunals. Johannes Huisman, Director of the Programme Planning and Budget Division, introduced the Secretary-General’s progress report on the project. Mr. Ruiz Massieu presented ACABQ’s related report.
The representative of Fiji (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), United States, India, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Ecuador, Norway, New Zealand (also on behalf of Australia and Canada), Switzerland, Côte d’Ivoire (on behalf of the African Group) and the United Republic of Tanzania also addressed the meeting.
The European Union’s representative also made a statement.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 14 March, to discuss the feasibility study on the United Nations Headquarters accommodation needs during the 2014-2034 period.
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to discuss the reports on: rates of reimbursement to troop-contributing countries; the accountability system; information and communications technology; and financing for the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals.
Report of Senior Advisory Group
MIGUEL BERGER (Germany), Chair of the Committee, drew delegates’ attention to a letter dated 9 November 2012 from the President of the General Assembly to the Chair of the Fifth Committee (document A/C.5/67/10) in which the Secretary-General transmitted a letter dated 11 October 2012 from the Chair of the Senior Advisory Group, conveying that body’s report on rates of reimbursement to troop-contributing countries and other related issues. The report set forth the Group’s specific recommendations to create a credible, predictable and equitable reimbursement system.
AMEERAH HAQ, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, then introduced the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of the report of the Senior Advisory Group on rates of reimbursement to troop-contributing countries and other related issues (document A/67/713). In the report, the Secretary-General states that, should the Senior Advisory Group’s recommendations be approved, the Assembly should take note that implementation of the immediate steps recommended by the Group would result in peacekeeping expenditures of $17.7 million for the period from 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013 and $42.4 million for the period from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014. The Assembly was also asked to approve an extra $534,900 for the period from 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013 and $1.37 million from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014 for the support account for peacekeeping operations to fund two general temporary assistance positions. It would also discontinue the administration of the questionnaire mandated by Assembly resolution 63/285.
She said reimbursement was vital to the United Nations peacekeeping partnership, as uniformed personnel were “the backbone of our operations”. With peacekeepers’ roles and functions growing beyond traditional expectations, she stressed her support for the Senior Advisory Group’s emphasis on the establishment of a “compact” to strengthen the peacekeeping partnership between the Security Council, the Member States and the Secretariat. For its part, the Department of Field Support would improve systems for force generation and logistical support.
She underlined that fact that the Senior Advisory Group’s report represented a consensus with its recommendations on reimbursement offering an opportunity to address an issue that had “vexed” the Fifth Committee for some years. Sustainability of reimbursements needed to be based on “actual data on the common and essential additional costs involved in deploying uniformed personnel to peacekeeping”, and the Senior Advisory Group had proposed an information gathering approach that would enable the General Assembly to make a decision on the rate of reimbursement in 2014, during its sixty-eighth session. It had been many years since any revision has been made to the rates of reimbursement, she said, stressing that changes were necessary to meet the new challenges that peacekeepers faced today.
She said the Secretary-General’s report proposed a revised questionnaire to improve effectiveness in gathering reliable cost data. However, the revisions built on the existing questionnaire, which had already been approved by the General Assembly, and the proposed changes related primarily to the administration of the survey. Some immediate steps had also been proposed, she said. Until the new rates of reimbursement entered into effect, the General Assembly should continue its dual-track approach of making supplemental payments on account of troop costs, while also identifying savings in peacekeeping budgets. Such savings would include standardization of troop rotation periods to 12 months and the proportional reduction of personnel reimbursement to troop-contributing countries in the case of absent or non-functioning major equipment that affected a contingent’s ability to fulfil its responsibilities. She said that measure would act as an incentive for full compliance and was likely to enhance performance and efficiency. Nonetheless, she noted that a directly proportional reduction could be quite considerable to some troop-contributing countries and said it would be important to ensure that it did not become a barrier to increased compliance.
She was conscious that the recommendations represented a departure from the previous management of reimbursement. She further noted that changes to the structure of reimbursement could also improve support for generation and deployment of the enabling capacities and expertise needed for effective peacekeeping. To that end, the Senior Advisory Group had recommended two premiums that would be introduced, along with the new rate of reimbursement, in July 2014. The first was a premium for key enablers allowing a more capability-driven approach to deployment. The reimbursement system should support the goal of improving mandate implementation and development of operational capabilities. A second premium should be applied to contingents taking higher risks, she said, adding that the timing and sequencing of the Senior Advisory Group’s recommendations meant that the premiums would not apply until after new data had been collected and a decision had been made about a revised rate of reimbursement in 2014.
Introducing the report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) on the recommendations contained in the report of the Senior Advisory Group on rates of reimbursement to troop-contributing countries and other related issues (document A/67/749), CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Chair of the Advisory Committee, said it would be for the General Assembly to pronounce itself on the recommendations. He added that if the General Assembly endorsed the recommendations, the Committee had no objection to the course of action set out in paragraph 57 of the Secretary-General’s report.
PETER THOMSON (Fiji), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said over the years troop-contributing countries had helped to maintain global peace and security in a cost-effective way by participating in peacekeeping operations. At the same time, they had endured huge costs and sacrifices to send their troops abroad. He recognized and appreciated the Senior Advisory Group’s efforts to examine reimbursement rates for troop-contributing countries and other related issues. He had serious questions on some comments and recommendations in the Senior Advisory Group’s report on troop cost and looked forward to discussing the matter during informal consultations. He was ready to engage constructively with all partners on the issue of reimbursement rates in order to find an acceptable solution for all.
THOMAS MAYR-HARTING, Head of the Delegation of the European Union, said the issues in the Senior Advisory Group’s report were important and sensitive. He welcomed the constructive and positive spirit of the Group’s discussions and the fact that the Group’s Chair was able to present a final text whose analysis and recommendations reflected the Group’s full consensus. He hoped the Committee could take forward the deliberations in the same spirit of partnership. As most European Union members were important financial contributors to peacekeeping and had uniformed troops and other personnel on the ground, they had a specific interest in supporting strong, effective peacekeeping. As a regional organization, the Union had a well-established role to play in advancing peace and security, which translated into daily cooperation with the United Nations and other regional organizations like the African Union.
In light of the Senior Advisory Group’s report, he called upon all peacekeeping actors to revitalize the partnership. He stressed the independent nature of the report’s various recommendations. The report was “an integral package”. It was an important reflection of the peacekeeping partnership and it presented an opportunity to renew that partnership. “We firmly believe it represents our best and only chance of finding a sustainable, long-term solution to this issue and of avoiding a return to the difficult debates of the past,” he said, stating his readiness to endorse it.
NICOLAS CHAPDELAINE ( Canada), also speaking on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, welcomed the Senior Advisory Group’s report. It was a “significant agreement” among senior experts for an equitable, predictable and sustainable system for reimbursing troop costs and a valuable contribution to strengthening the broader partnership that must exist between the United Nations and Member States and those providing troops and police. The Group had fulfilled the mandate given to it in resolution 65/289 through clear and well-supported recommendations that attempted to reflect the complex realities of contemporary peacekeeping. The report suggested solutions for dealing with pressing concerns in a creative, practical and feasible way. Recommendations included changes that would be relatively simple to administer and rapidly implement. Member States frequently warned against the dangers of adopting a piecemeal approach. The report’s recommendations sought to deal with a series of interconnected and interrelated challenges at the heart of modern peacekeeping. They deserved serious consideration.
“The [Senior Advisory Group] has demonstrated excellent judgement in seeking to deal holistically with the issues within its mandate, has identified key issues and has produced a strong, well-argued, and perhaps, most important, useful report,” he said. The report represented a consensus effort by a diverse, representative cross-section of senior experts. The Group conducted its work in a positive, results-oriented spirit and completed its deliberations in a timely way. He hoped that would inspire Committee members in their consideration of the report. Maintaining global peace and security remained the cornerstone of the United Nations mission. “The [Group] had done its part. It is now up to us, the Member States, to do ours,” he said.
ENRIQUE ROMÁN-MOREY (Peru) aligned himself with the Group of 77 and China, stressing the great importance of the report to countries such as his, as well as the United Nations as a whole, because of the role peacekeeping contingents played in upholding the United Nations Charter. Each Member State was responsible for upholding the Charter and, in keeping with it, Peru had maintained a prominent presence in peacekeeping operations since 1958. Currently, 366 Peruvians were deployed as peacekeepers, with a further 40 military observers in several United Nations missions. Though that was a comparatively small number, it was still an important contribution, with men and women making sacrifices to work in harsh conditions and to put their lives in jeopardy. There was a solid foundation for an equitable, sustainable and predictable system for proper reimbursement and the recommendations contained in the report needed in-depth analysis. Economic factors should not be the primary motivators for approval of the report, because human lives were at stake.
He argued against 12-month rotations on the basis that “doing more with less” could have detrimental effects on international peace and security. Longer deployments could negatively affect the states of mind of peacekeepers and, therefore, their work, he said, adding that maintaining well-being and relaxation were considered to play a positive role in peacekeepers’ abilities to do their jobs effectively. Implementation of longer rotations represented “managerial inconsistency”, he said, and meant that peacekeeping operations would not operate as effectively as could otherwise be expected. He also said that proportional reimbursement was a “serious mistake”, calling for the human contingents in the field not to be punished for equipment failure. Nonetheless, in situations where equipment did not work because of something to do with the contributor, there should be “no gifts”. As a package, he said, he could not support the report, because he placed greater emphasis on human lives than on cutting costs. Nonetheless, he assured the Committee that he would remain objective in discussions, aiming to achieve the best result for the United Nations.
STEPHEN LIEBERMAN ( United States) recalled the events that led to the Group’s creation, including Assembly resolution 63/285 that established a new process for determining reimbursement rates, which many troop-contributing countries later criticized as cumbersome and unworkable. While the Group was created to break that deadlock, the subsequent peacekeeping budget negotiations in the Committee, in which troop reimbursement once again emerged as an obstacle to consensus, confirmed the need for an external solution. The Group’s recommendations aimed to comprehensively address troop reimbursement and recognized the links between continuing transitional payments and efforts to find efficiencies in peacekeeping. The Group recommended a more streamlined survey to determine reimbursement rates on the basis of common, essential additional costs, and it had specified a review of rates every four years. It recommended premiums for performance under exceptional levels of risk, provisions of key enabling capabilities and incentives to fully deploy contingent-owned equipment. It changed the standard for deployments, but did not mandate 12-month deployments, and it provided troop contributors an interim supplementary payment as a transitional measure.
Although not fully satisfied with the Group’s recommendations, he believed they were balanced as a whole and that considering any of them separately would compromise that balance. Adopting them as a package gave the Committee a chance to resolve the contentious question of troop reimbursement, while improving peacekeeping’s effectiveness and providing a solid foundation for peacekeeping missions in future. A lack of agreement would perpetuate and exacerbate deadlock and acrimony over peacekeeping budgets and put the operations, which were the Organization’s flagship activity, at risk. The United States was ready to work with all partners to secure a positive outcome and avoid arduous negotiations during the Committee’s May session.
TOSHIHIRO AIKI (Japan), recalling that the Group was set up to find a solution acceptable to all over the long-standing issue of troop reimbursement, said it should be enjoying wide support from Member States as it strove to reflect their views and positions. It was in the collective interest of Member States to respect the Group’s work as an integrated package. “The Committee should expeditiously adopt a resolution that endorses the recommendations of the report of the [Group] in its entirety,” he said. The Group’s report had well-balanced recommendations, based on fair reimbursement and promotion of better conditions for troop performance. The recommendations set forth “solid ground” for an equitable, predictable and sustainable system to reimburse troop costs. He lauded its recommendation to set up a reimbursement system based on actual data of the common and essential additional costs of peacekeeping. He hoped than an interactive data collection process from a representative sample of troop-contributing and police-contributing countries would result in better quality and more quickly obtained data. It was important that the Committee endorse the Group’s report during the first resumed session, since the document’s recommendations were time-bound and the timing and sequencing of their implementation must be kept in mind.
MANJEEV SINGH PURI ( India) said India was among several troop-contributing countries selected by the Secretary-General to be members of the Group. The United Nations had dealt with troop reimbursement rates for decades in phases, ranging from informal methods before 1973, proactive engagement thereafter until 1991, a deliberative phase from 1991 to 2001, and a passive phase thereafter. Creation of the Group was the sole attempt in the United Nations to address troop-cost reimbursement rates comprehensively. The Group’s recommendations presented an opportunity to resolve the issue. Postponing it further was not an option. Every effort must be made to consolidate the peacekeeping partnership. All peacekeeping stakeholders today had a duty and responsibility to “preserve this vital instrumentality” by rising above national concerns, as peacekeepers had done for decades. Today, the Committee not only faced a financial challenge. It must show the political will and express commitment to United Nations peacekeeping. He stressed India’s commitment to that end.
NOEL GONZÁLEZ SEGURA ( Mexico) associated itself with Cuba’s 4 March statement on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). He acknowledged the efforts of all participants of the Senior Advisory Group, including major troop-contributing countries and financial contributors. He particularly thanked the efforts by the Latin American and Caribbean Group, Brazil and Uruguay. He agreed with the meaning and objectives of the recommendations and understood that they sought to create incentives for all parties participating in peacekeeping over the long-term and medium-term. He trusted the goal of the report was to maximize the human and operational capabilities of peacekeeping operations and to implement their mandates. He took into account the Senior Advisory Group’s recommendations presented in the Secretary-General’s note. Mexico supported their implementation. The main goal of the Committee’s discussion must be to give the Organization the means to carry out its mandate. All parties had a responsibility and an obligation to honour the Peacekeeping Compact. He trusted all stakeholders would engage in discussions in a pragmatic, constructive way.
MASOOD KHAN (Pakistan) aligned himself with the Group of 77 and China, saying there was a “general feeling” that the contents of the Special Advisory Group’s report required further deliberation to “fine-tune some of its recommendations, to make it acceptable to all stakeholders”. He saw an important opportunity to resolve long-standing issues related to the subject, saying he did not believe the report had been presented as a “take it or leave it” document and adding that such an approach was not the way to deal with critical issues like United Nations peacekeeping. Matters such as rotation of troops, contingent-owned equipment and the survey mechanism could cause operational difficulties in their implementation, he warned, suggesting that the concerns of Member States be taken into account. With the collective wisdom and understanding of the concerns of all, the Committee had a chance to make a decision that would be of benefit to future discussions on peacekeeping budgets and other cross-cutting issues.
SUL KYUNG-HOON ( Republic of Korea) said the Senior Advisory Group had presented a “sensible proposal to the long-standing issue of the troop reimbursement rate of peacekeeping operations, with its report serving as a solid foundation for building an equitable, predictable and sustainable mechanism for reimbursements. He said that “fresh ideas” like the 12-month rotation period, reduced payment on absent and non-functional contingent-owned equipment and the proposed premiums could all contribute to enhancing peacekeeping operations. He concurred with the Senior Advisory Group that the new reimbursements should have a firm empirical basis, as peacekeeping was a collaboration between Member States. Troop contributions and financial contributions were to be viewed equally, he said, recalling the great importance of collecting the actual information regarding costs and calling on the Secretariat to conduct an objective and expeditious survey and analysis in line with the Senior Advisory Group’s recommendations. He said funding for supplementary payments should be financed through efficiency and cost-savings, pointing to implementation of the 12-month rotation and the Global Field Support Strategy as ways to achieve the goal. He also added his support to the idea of the report’s recommendations being endorsed as a package.
PATRICIO TROYA ( Ecuador) aligned himself with the Group of 77 and China, attaching the highest importance to the issue of troop costs. He acknowledged and valued the association between troop-contributing countries and countries that provided financing to support those missions, stressing that he saw no difference between funders and troop contributors, with each providing identical value. Noting that the report contained many conclusions that would be useful as the Committee formulated a resolution, he said he wished to be clear that the purpose of the Special Advisory Group was to provide advice to the Fifth Committee, not to replace it. That meant that the report’s conclusions were in no way binding on Member States. The Fifth Committee was the only United Nations body able to analyse and take decisions on budgetary and administrative matters submitted to the General Assembly for consideration and no consultative group or high-level committee could assume that role. Negotiation was the essential factor in agreements on resolutions and they needed to remain constructive, participatory, respectful and be carried out in good faith. There was no alternative “magic formula”, he said. He looked forward to negotiations on the report, especially as there remained some recommendations in the report that his delegation was currently unable to support.
JULIE MEINICH JACOBSEN TAKAHASHI ( Norway) supported the statement made by Canada, also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, saying the report’s recommendations were an integral package that represented the best opportunity to move forward and tackle a very difficult issue.
YUKIO TAKASU, Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Management, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the second progress report on the accountability system in the United Nations Secretariat (document A/67/714), which highlighted progress in the past year in areas of specific interest to Member States and proposed an immediate action plan to strengthen accountability, with a focus on implementing enterprise risk management and a conceptual framework for results-based management. As it was crucial to create a culture of accountability as a core value throughout the Secretariat, ethics and integrity now featured prominently in the induction programme for senior leaders. The Secretary-General required all managers to discuss the meaning of international civil service with their staff. The Management Committee, a high-level body aiming to strengthen executive management, held quarterly meetings on oversight issues and invited a different oversight body to participate in each meeting. Mr. Takasu regularly participated in the meetings and met with the oversight bodies to discuss their findings and recommendations in detail. The increased attention to oversight issues and monitoring of recommendations had led to their greater implementation.
More personal accountability was needed in the United Nations, in parallel with institutional accountability, he said. The 2013 senior managers’ compacts with the Secretary-General had been strengthened and made more strategic by better aligning them with management priorities and key transformational reform initiatives such as Umoja and the International Public Sector Accounting Standards. The Organization also had developed work programmes for staff below the level of Assistant Secretary-General in line with the senior managers’ compacts. It had strengthened the performance appraisal system of all staff. To support the roll-out of the new Performance Management and Development System, the Secretary-General introduced a mandatory learning programme for managers and supervisors; as of November 2012, more than half of managers had been trained.
Mr. Takasu cited the Secretariat’s steps to prevent and manage personal conflicts of interest and strengthen accountability in field missions. Despite resource constraints, the Organization was making progress gradually in enterprise risk management and internal control through pilot projects, an e-learning programme to understand basic risk management concepts, and a Secretariat-wide risk assessment to be conducted in the spring. The conceptual framework presented by the Secretary-General included a governance structure that set clear lines of responsibility and accountability for senior managers, and designated the Under-Secretary-General for Management as the senior official responsible for implementing results-based management. It comprised an integrated approach that included all elements of results-based budgeting, including programme planning, budgeting, monitoring and reporting, as well as a human resources and a “lessons learned” element.
The Secretariat recognized the importance of developing a clearly defined action plan with specific, practical steps to improve accountability, as recommended by ACABQ, he said. To do so, it must first establish an agreed framework of results-based management to guide the Organization, and then mobilize all process owners through the results-based management Task Force to identify specific, practical measures within the agreed framework. He hoped the Assembly would approve the proposed conceptual framework, thus enabling the Organization to become more results-oriented. It would also provide a basis for the blueprint and baseline configuration to extend Umoja.
Mr. RUIZ MASSIEU, Chair of the ACABQ, introduced the second progress report on the accountability system in the United Nations Secretariat (document A/67/776). He noted positive developments in some areas, but called for more steps to identify specific, practical steps to improve accountability and meaningfully impact the Secretariat’s capacity to operate efficiently and effectively. There remained no clearly defined, well-documented plan with clear objectives, responsibilities and a timeline for accomplishing specific actions. He said Umoja needed to embed key principles of accountability in its design and that the monitoring, oversight and corrective actions taken by the Management Performance Board needed to be included in future progress reports of the Secretary-General. He also noted the progress made in developing a framework for the implementation of results-based management. He said it was not yet clear how that framework would improve accountability and performance in concrete terms and how that would help to shift the focus from the delivering of outputs to the delivery of results. Therefore, he said, the Advisory Committee was not in a position to recommend endorsement of the framework to the General Assembly.
Mr. THOMSON (Fiji), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, agreed with the ACABQ, which had noted with concern that the Secretary-General’s second progress report did not contain the plan referred to by General Assembly resolution 66/257 (2012). Neither the first nor the second progress report had fully implemented that resolution or resolution 64/259 (2010), an issue requiring the Secretariat’s commitment. He also voiced deep concern that 59 staff had been held responsible for misconduct or falling below standards expected of international civil servants, agreeing with the ACABQ that those standards were applicable to all staff, including senior managers.
The Secretary-General’s report stated that only 1 per cent of Secretariat staff did not meet performance expectations during 2011-2012, he continued, stressing that that percentage fell “short of what reality shows us” and urging the Secretary-General to address the appraisal system’s lack of credibility. He would have preferred to have received information on efforts to improve the role of senior management teams, among other issues — contained in the Secretary-General’s report — in the context of the current progress report, considering the extensive time the Secretary-General had to prepare it.
He went on to say that “very slight” progress had been made with regard to two essential pillars of any comprehensive accountability framework — performance reporting and results-based management — a serious shortcoming. The Group was all the more concerned that the Secretary-General had not fulfilled the Assembly’s request as regards the development of a clearly defined, well-documented plan that included clear objectives, responsibilities, and a timeline for accomplishing actions to enhance accountability. Further, he voiced deep concern the Secretary-General had not prioritized efforts to update the current “delegation of authority” system. In sum, he confirmed the Group’s initial position that an annual report should be submitted on progress made in implementing the accountability framework for the Assembly’s consideration, noting that it remained strongly committed to seeing the implementation of a comprehensive system.
GERTON VAN DEN AKKER, a representative of the European Union Delegation, noted that progress had been made in the implementation of an effective accountability system, saying “many different aspects of accountability are now being mainstreamed throughout the Organization”. However, more needed to be done to promote a culture of accountability, demonstrate commitment at the most senior levels and embed that in the core values of the Organization. Regarding the quality of the Secretary-General’s second progress report on the United Nations Secretariat’s accountability system, his delegation concurred with the ACABQ that future reports could be improved by including more practical examples, performance indicators and statistical details on specific accountability measures and their impact. Further, the Union looked forward to learning more about progress on enterprise risk management (Umoja), and the proposed conceptual framework for results-based management in the coming days.
PAUL BALLANTYNE (New Zealand), speaking also for Canada and Australia, welcomed the measures taken by the Secretary-General, including through the development of a “leadership dialogues” programme, aimed at promoting the commitment of managers to ethical leadership, and highlighting the direct relationship between individual actions and the overall reputation of the Organization. The delegations looked forward to receiving information on the specific impact of such measures in the Secretary-General’s next progress report.
He also welcomed the completion of the Secretary-General undertaking the comprehensive review and mapping of the current authority-delegation system, and went on to take note of the Secretary-General’s intention to further revise and adjust those mappings under the new common business models to be used across the Secretariat globally, following the implementation of Umoja. He, however, remained concerned about the lack of concrete details, namely the absence of a clear timeline for the completion of that work. Without such information, it was difficult to hold the Secretariat accountable for the completion of that important work.
The performance appraisal system of the Organization was another area of concern, he said. As the ACABQ had pointed out, “a system whereby only 1 per cent of staff either do not meet or only partially meet performance expectations, and where salary increments have only been withheld due to poor performance in 10 instances since 2007, simply cannot be taken seriously”. It was the delegations’ sincere hope that the Staff-Management Working Group would produce concrete proposals which would ultimately result in a revised rewards and recognition framework, and in a robust system of sanctions on underperformance that had the confidence of all stakeholders, he said.
MATTHIAS DETTLING ( Switzerland) said that an organization applying accountability standards made itself better able to manage its relations with its partners. Accountability meant better predictability and performance and enhanced organizational legitimacy, and improving accountability should be a key objective of both the United Nations administration and of the Member States. He said the General Assembly had adopted a definition of accountability that gave clear guidance to the Secretariat on implementation of the principle across the Organization. He said the Secretary-General’s report illustrated progress made, but also the gaps that remained, and there were many, he said. The principle still needed translation into concrete measures that had tangible impacts. The Secretariat had still not presented a plan with objectives, a division of responsibilities and a timetable for implementation to strengthen the implementation of the principle. A plan was vital for Member States to better understand and support efforts by the Secretary-General. He had also hoped to find some new thrusts that would promote more analytical discussion of accountability, discussing the current situation and its shortcomings, as well as comparing the United Nations’ situation to that of other organizations.
He also welcomed the conceptual framework and governance structure, sharing the ACABQ’s analysis that the project needed fine-tuning. He said implementation of results-based management was a key challenge and its complexity should not be underestimated. That required performance indicators, follow-up and analysis of the consequences of implementation. Allocation of resources needed to be based on priorities, including the cost factor, he said, calling on the Secretariat to rework its proposal by drawing on expertise that already existed in other bodies, such as the Board of Auditors. In addition, he welcomed risk assessment across the Secretariat, as well as risk management and internal oversight. That amounted to a significant step in the implementation of accountability.
Mr. GONZÁLEZ SEGURA ( Mexico) favoured the plan of action described in the Secretary-General’s report, saying that responsibility lay with the Under-Secretary-General for Management. He also believed that the comments and recommendations of the ACABQ required a great deal of work from delegations. Agreeing that the Secretary-General needed to give detailed information on the specific measures needed for building a true culture of accountability, he called for a move beyond the statement of general principles. Promoting a genuine and effective culture of responsibility required support for the Ethics Office, he said, adding that strengthening the systems of personal verification and protection of whistleblowers would improve the Organization’s ability to catch corruption. He added a call for risk assessment to focus on such matters, and to take into account the individual work of personnel beyond their financial affairs.
Responding to the delegates’ comments, Mr. TAKASU acknowledged their concern over the absence of a concrete plan of action. It had been only a few years since the United Nations had agreed on a definition of accountability. There was now a larger scale of results-based management. Integrating it in the budget was a challenge. His Office was keenly aware of the need to come up with a detailed action plan with a timeline. To do that, a true understanding of the framework and what was meant by results-based management was needed. His Office had tried to present a conceptual framework. He welcomed delegates’ suggestions and feedback as to whether it was more or less in line with what they expected. His Office had presented a multi-step process for creating and implementing the framework. Several steps and actors were needed for full implementation and not everything was standardized. That was why the task force, and the process owners that participated in the task force, were so vital. He acknowledged delegates’ disappointment over the delegation of authority. It was necessary to standardize, simplify and streamline the delegation of authority. Through implementation of Umoja, the United Nations was embarking on that process.
Information and Communications Technology in Secretariat
HUGH O’FARRELL ( United Kingdom), Director of External Audit and chair of the Audit Operations Committee, introduced the Secretary-General’s note (document A/67/651) transmitting the Report of the Board of Auditors on the handling of information and communications technology affairs in the Secretariat. The report followed an audit conducted in October 2012 which stemmed from concerns in the General Assembly about progress towards delivery of information and communications technology reform and the United Nations strategy approved in 2008. Also prompting the audit were serious governance problems and progress in implementation of Umoja.
While noting some important progress in effective use of information and communications technology, the key overall message was that there had been “a failure to deliver a more corporate and coherent ICT strategy”. He called for a “fundamental rethink” of how the United Nations information and communications technology strategy was shaped and delivered. It needed to be based on an in-depth understanding of the current and future United Nations delivery model and of its key business objectives and priorities, as well as the decentralized nature of the Organization. Any new strategy also needed to prioritize delivery of Umoja and embed the benefits that could accrue from streamlined business processes.
One of the Board’s main findings was that the information and communications technology strategy approved by the General Assembly in 2008 was incomplete and its objectives had not been achieved due mainly to a lack of clear direction and funding. The aim of delivering a globally consistent operating model had been hamstrung by a lack of understanding of aspects of the United Nations culture and business practices that needed to change in advance of such large-scale changes. Business transformation was also hampered by the fact that the role of the Chief Information Technology Officer was largely seen as operational, reducing the amount of attention the Officer was able to give to business transformation and strategic leadership.
The Board also found a failure to align the United Nations’ governance and accountability framework with the administration’s ambitions for transformation enabled by information and communications technology. Funding was fragmented and short-term across the Secretariat and the governance structure had proven ineffective in setting strategic direction or prioritizing issues. The Office of Information and Communications Technology remained geared towards running day-to-day operations, rather than leading business transformation and an area that was found particularly lacking was that of information security. That needed to be addressed urgently, in order to meet the standards of a modern, global organization, he said, while also noting the Board’s calls for an overall software application strategy.
All of the Board’s recommendations had been accepted by the administration, he said, noting the urgency with which efforts to improve information and communications technology security had been made. However, he added that the Board was yet to see the detailed actions underlying the general proposals that had been set out. He emphasized that it would take time to re-establish a strategy and that it would be unrealistic to expect the administration to have resolved all its problems by today.
Mr. TAKASU, taking the floor a second time, introduced the Secretary-General’s addendum to the report on implementation of the recommendations of the Board of Auditors contained in its report on the handling of information and communications technology affairs in the Secretariat (document A/67/651/Add.1). In it, the Secretary-General states that the Administration agreed with all of the Board’s recommendations and was duly working to implement them. The report, the first report to the Committee on issues related to information and communications technology since the Office of Information and Communications Technology was moved to the Department of Management, was relevant and timely. The Secretariat would review comprehensively the Office’s information and communications technology strategy and governance, its operations and structure, and resource allocation. It would submit a report of its findings during the Assembly’s sixty-eighth session.
The 2008 information and communications technology strategy must be revised to clearly align it with the Organization’s business support strategies, he continued. Designing a suitable strategy would be a challenge as the United Nations was a complex organization comprising multiple autonomous and independent entities. The Secretariat was working closely with heads of departments and offices to develop a governance structure that was directly linked to the Organization’s business model. The present report also gave an update on the administration’s actions to strengthen, as a mater of urgency, information and system security across the Secretariat. Immediate short-term steps were under way to address the most urgent shortcomings. A long-term strategy was also in effect.
Mr. RUIZ MASSEIU, speaking again, introduced the ACABQ’s related report (document A/67/770), on the report of the Board of Auditors on the handling of information and communications technology affairs in the Secretariat. ACABQ commended the Board for the continued high quality of its work. ACABQ had frequently stressed the need for a coherent, coordinated and accountable plan to manage information and communications technology activities — a goal the 2008 strategy aimed to address. ACABQ, therefore, was disappointed to note the Board’s overall conclusion that a more centralized strategy that eliminated the current high level of information and communications technology fragmentation remained elusive. ACABQ fully concurred with the Board’s conclusion that the current information and communications technology strategy did not sufficiently emphasize the enterprise resourcing planning system, nor adequately cover information security issues or peacekeeping activities, which accounted for 75 per cent of overall information and communications technology expenditures.
Given the large number of major business transformation and management reform initiatives under way, the Secretary-General should prioritize efforts, develop a practical course of action and, to the extent possible, adopt a sequential approach to implement the information and communications technology strategy, he said. Top priority should be given to identify and put in place the steps needed for Umoja’s full implementation, including an application management strategy to address the decommissioning of the 700 applications to be replaced by Umoja and centralized standards for desktops interfacing with the enterprise resource planning system. The Secretary-General should be asked to implement his action plan as a matter of priority; take steps to eliminate obstacles to implementing the plan or information security policies throughout the Secretariat; and consider all options for prioritizing and redeploying resources to avoid new resource requests. Moreover, the Secretary-General should not further delay in filling the position of Chief Information Technology Officer, which had been vacant since July 2012.
SUSANNE FRUEH, introduced the Secretary-General’s note (document A/67/119) that transmitted the report of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) titled information and communications technology governance in the United Nations system organizations. She also introduced another Secretary-General’s note (document A/67/119/Add.1) containing his comments and those of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) on the JIU report. She said that CEB members largely supported its analysis and conclusions and noted that it provided useful benchmarking information and advocated a “best practice” approach to information and communications technology governance. They were pleased that most of the report’s commendations had been implemented already.
There were very few comments from agencies, she said, testimony to the extremely close working relationship, during the report preparation process, between the CEB and the JIU, including with the JIU inspectors’ participation in two sessions of the Inter-Agency ICT Network. Acceptance of the report and its conclusions highlighted the importance placed by agencies on the information and communications technology governance role, as well as an acknowledgement that effective information and communications technology governance provided a mechanism whereby organizations could harness its power, maximize their investments and mitigate the risks they faced that were associated with information and communications technology.
Mr. THOMSON ( Fiji), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said his delegation had always supported management reforms that would increase efficiency, effectiveness, transparency, credibility and accountability within the United Nations. A sound information and communications technology infrastructure was essential for facilitating the creation and dissemination of accurate information, which was crucial to decision-making. With that in mind, he noted with serious concern that, more than four years after receiving Assembly approval, the Organization had failed to implement a workable information and communications technology strategy.
In revising its approach, the Secretariat must learn from mistakes made, he said, noting that the current strategy had not achieved its three goals because it failed to describe how changes in information and communications technology were essential to business needs. Going forward, it should be aligned with business objectives and take into account the specific data requirements of peacekeeping operations. He also noted with deep concern the absence of “serious” collaboration among the Office of Information and Communication Technology, Umoja and the Department of Field Support. The Secretary-General should also seek opportunities for the adoption of common standards across the Organization, as a balance must be struck between centralized information and communications technology activities and those to remain delegated.
He went on to say that the “fragmented” operational framework for information and communications technology, security, business continuity and disaster recovery involved an estimated 1,994 software applications across the Secretariat, exposing the United Nations to considerable information and communications technology security risks. He called for a thorough implementation of the Secretary-General’s action plan to address security concerns and adoption of the information security charter. He awaited an update on the action plan’s implementation during the Assembly’s sixty-eighth session.
Noting with concern that the position of Chief Information Officer had been vacant since July 2012, he drew attention to the Board’s recommendations related to the strategic priorities of a senior officer. The post of Head of Strategic Management Service also had been vacant for 18 months and the Group would seek clarity on that long vacancy period. Welcoming the plan to review the Secretariat’s operating model, he looked forward to the report on global service delivery models to be submitted to the Assembly in 2013. In sum, he hoped the full potential of information and communications technology would be realized through the formulation of a practical information strategy that was aligned with the major business transformation initiatives currently under way.
Mr. DETTLING ( Switzerland) lauded the Board of Auditor’s report and particularly welcomed its call for a new information and communications technology strategy to address shortcomings stated in the report. He recognized that a new information strategy was complex and required some time. A discussion on that subject during the next main session of the Committee seemed a bit premature. A gradual approach would be more realistic than trying to implement different aspects simultaneously. Priority should be given to strengthen information security at the United Nations; develop and quickly implement a broad strategy to govern the different software processes in the Secretariat; and ensure transparency of information and communications technology expenditures. Concrete measures should be presented to the Assembly as soon as possible, so it could act on those three fronts.
He stressed the need for an optimal balance between centralized control and decentralized operational freedom concerning different processes, as well as an extensive analysis of the environments in which that should be deployed. He called for integrating information and communications technology into a broader United Nations communications strategy. It was worthwhile to conduct an analysis of how information and communications technology enhanced the United Nations overall efficiency. Information and communications technology was not just a support tool for administrative processes. It was a key enabler for the Organization’s modernization and deserved Member States’ attention. Information and communications technologies were important in implementing the Organization’s substantive mandates. Switzerland would participate actively in the Committee’s discussion on the topic.
Residual Mechanism in Arusha
JOHANNES HUISMAN, Director, Programme Planning and Budget Division, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on construction of a new facility for the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, Arusha Branch (document A/67/696), which gave an update on the project’s “considerable progress” since issuance of the previous report. It noted that a suitable building site had been identified, the project team had concluded the conceptual design, and detailed cost estimates had been made. He added that the Mechanism had intensified cooperation with the Office of Central Support Services, which was providing guidance and support in all aspects of project implementation, drawing from experiences and lessons learned from recent capital projects, including the Capital Master Plan in New York and the new office facilities in Addis Ababa and Nairobi.
RICHARD MOON, Vice-Chair, ACABQ, weighed in with the Advisory Committee’s related report (document A/67/768). He commended the shorter project schedule and the savings resulting from the use of in-house capacity for development of the conceptual design. The Committee also examined the provision of a contingency in the cost estimate and the project’s associated costs. He reiterated that the contingency existed “as safeguard against unforeseen cost overruns”, with cost overruns to be met first by reductions associated with efficiency measures in order to prevent a drawdown from contingency provisions. He noted that potential associated costs for new furniture were not included in the current cost estimate, recommending that the General Assembly request the Secretary-General to include information on associated costs as part of overall costs of future construction and refurbishment projects. He also recommended that the General Assembly authorize the activities related to all phases of the project and approve an additional assessment in the amount of $1.5 million, of the $3 million originally appropriated for the facility’s construction.
SAINIVALATI NAVOTI (Fiji), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, appreciated the effort made in responding to the General Assembly’s requests on the completion of the conceptual design, project plan and overall cost estimate of the project, as well as reduction in the construction time. He encouraged the Secretary-General to explore additional measures to further reduce the project’s construction time, applying lessons learned from other construction projects, including the United Nations Office in Nairobi and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Addis Ababa. He was pleased that local knowledge had been used in the design stage and hoped that it would also be used at other stages in the process, too.
He regretted that the Secretary-General’s report did not include information on the assessment of the remaining $1.5 million for the year. He said the omission had “serious implications” for implementation of the mandate as approved and that the Group would seek clarification on the matter. He also raised the issue of the co-location of the African Court of Human and People’s Rights in Arusha, noting that the two bodies would share some economies of location, but raising a question over the potentially negative impact their different mandates could have on project implementation.
He called for full support for the project within approved budget levels to avoid possible project overrun, with reviews of associated costs by the Fifth Committee. Accountability and oversight were essential, he said, encouraging the Secretary-General to put oversight mechanisms in place to mitigate risks and challenges arising from project implementation. He hoped the Secretary-General would continue to update Member States on the project, adding that Member States were responsible for approving any changes to the project’s scope.
BROUZ COFFI ( Côte d’Ivoire) spoke on behalf of the African Group, stressing the Group’s interest in seeing effective and timely implementation of the project. He welcomed steps taken to implement General Assembly resolutions on the matter, particularly the completion of the conceptual design plan, project plan, and overall cost estimates, as well as shortening of the time for construction of the project. He encouraged the Secretary-General to continue his efforts to ensure the project was completed on time and within resources assigned to it. Thanking the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania for land and other resources, he emphasized the importance of the host country in project implementation, encouraging the Secretary-General to continue his cooperation with the hosts.
He was concerned by the decision to defer the assessment of $1.5 million, pending consideration of the report. He underlined the importance of implementing mandates given by intergovernmental bodies and would seek clarification on the matter during informal consultations. He concurred with ACABQ on the matter of oversight, calling on the Office of Internal Oversight Services to oversee the project, as had happened with the United Nations Office in Nairobi and the Office of the ECA. He believed that, should the Committee recommend approval of the $8.79 million budget for the project, the Secretary-General would be provided with clear guidance on the available resources for project implementation. Any variations should result in the Secretary-General reverting back to the General Assembly as per existing practice, he said, while also expressing his support for establishment of the multi-year account to facilitate expenditures of the project.
TUVAKO N. MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania) associated himself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, stressing his commitment to support and facilitate the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Residual Mechanism. By hosting the two bodies, his country was playing a vital role in helping them implement their mandates, he said, reiterating his commitment to the speedy implementation of the construction project. A close relationship and regular consultations between the host country and the project management team was essential to smooth implementation of the project, he said, looking forward to playing a role in that regard.
He welcomed the reduced construction time, the completion of the conceptual design and revision of the cost estimates, encouraging the Secretariat to continue exploring additional measures by which the construction time could be further reduced. He noted that local knowledge had been applied in the design stage in keeping with best practices and lessons learned from other projects in the region and he encouraged the Secretariat also to take advantage of the available pool of local knowledge in the country’s construction sector. He was concerned that the assessment of $1.5 million for the project had been deferred and was keen to learn the rationale for the omission of what he called a “key element”. Noting the revised estimate of $8.79 million, he stressed the need for approval of the proposed budget to enable the Secretary-General to take the necessary actions. The efficient and timely delivery of the project required accountability and oversight, he said, welcoming the views expressed by the ACABQ on the need for continued oversight of the project, including by the Office of Internal Oversight Services.
* *** *For information media • not an official record