|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-eighth General Assembly
21st Meeting (AM)
Fifth Committee Delegates Voice Frustration at Cost Overruns,
Delays in Umoja/Enterprise Resource Planning Project
Reports on Budgets for International Trade Centre,
Peacekeeping Missions, Office of Special Adviser on Africa also Considered
During today’s meeting, Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) delegates once again voiced their frustrations with cost overruns and delays that had plagued the Secretariat’s efforts to carry out a major enterprise resource planning project aimed at streamlining administrative practices and boosting efficiency throughout the United Nations.
Known as Umoja, the massive business transformation project would help integrate administrative and support functions in five areas: finance, supply chain and procurement, human resources, central support services, and programme and project management. It would envelop more than 90 different entities around the world, including peacekeeping missions.
Yukio Takasu, Under-Secretary-General for Management, said the Secretariat was aware of Member States’ significant financial and political investment in Umoja. The project’s overall financial outlay was estimated to tally $360.9 million by year-end, up $12.8 million from the $348.1 million projected in last year’s annual progress report. That increase had been caused by the need for additional contractual services and readiness activities.
Hugh O’Farrell, Director of External Audit and Chair of the Audit Operations Committee, Board of Auditors, acknowledged the project’s history of delays and budget overruns. However, he stressed that, if carried out successfully, the project would be an opportunity to modernize the Organization’s business administration. Introducing the report of the Board of Auditors, he said that the Administration had already spent 55 per cent, or $208.8 million, of its budget. As the Board report was being finalized, two thirds of the Umoja design had been completed and the system had been half built, but not yet fully deployed.
Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced that body’s fifth progress report on Umoja. While welcoming progress made in the last year, the Advisory Committee had noted the significant challenges and risks that remained, and had underscored the need for rigorous project planning and management, close monitoring and risk mitigation, and the prompt resolution of issues to avoid further delays and cost increases.
Speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, Fiji’s delegate welcomed the progress made in implementing the Umoja Foundation at the pilot sites, at peacekeeping operations and the Regional Service Centre at Entebbe. He agreed with the Advisory Committee and the Board that a detailed benefits realization plan was necessary. Member States needed comprehensive and timely information to help them make decisions on administrative and budget issues.
The representative of the Russian Federation also appreciated the Administration’s progress, but pointed out that the same risks that had existed last year still remained. He regretted the cost overruns and the impact the project’s delay would have on the Organization’s image.
Cameroon’s delegate, also expressing concerns about increased costs and delays, pointed out that another risk of avoiding a definite timetable was obsolescence as technology advanced. That could turn into additional investments in advanced technology.
Maria Eugenia Casar, Assistant Secretary-General and United Nations Controller, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on Strengthening the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, which detailed the budget needed to help the Office carry out its expanded mandates. Additional requirements were estimated at $5.13 million (gross) for the proposed programme budget for the upcoming 2014-2015 budget cycle. That spending would be allocated for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development and the Office of Central Support Services.
She also introduced the Secretariat report on the International Trade Centre, found in Section 13 of the Proposed Programme Budget for 2014-2015. The Geneva-based Centre, jointly funded by the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, was mandated to help developing countries and economies in transition integrate into the global trading system. The proposed United Nations share for the Centre’s 2014-2015 budget cycle totalled $38.98 million, before recosting, a drop of $1.16 million, or 2.9 per cent.
Speaking on behalf of the African Group, Côte d’Ivoire’s delegate said that the United Nations support for Africa was crucial as the continent passed through a social, political and economic transformation. The Group fully supported the Secretary-General’s proposals for staff and non-staff resources.
Turning to peacekeeping finance issues, Ms. Casar also introduced the Secretary-General’s revised budget report for the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei for the 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014 budget year. The $339.3 million budget included in the report was a 16.7 per cent, or $48.7 million, increase over the $290.6 million appropriated by General Assembly resolution 67/270. The revised budget also adhered to Security Council resolution 2104 (2013), and enabled deployment of a force protection unit of 1,126 troops for the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism.
She then introduced the Secretariat report on the revised budget for the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force for the same 2013/2014 budget year. That report laid out a $60.8 million budget, up 12.8 million or 26.6 per cent, from the $48 million appropriated by the Assembly in its resolution 67/278. The revised budget provided for the deployment of an additional 203 military contingent personnel and their equipment, as well as the creation of 10 international temporary positions. Following her presentation, Mr. Ruiz Massieu introduced the Advisory Committee’s accompanying reports on peacekeeping missions.
Ethiopia’s delegate said he supported the Secretary-General’s new $339.31 million budget for the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei and was concerned with the Advisory Committee’s recommendation to curb the budget by $10.2 million. The recommended cut would compromise the Mission’s mandate and did not account for its challenging environment, he added.
Representatives from Switzerland (on behalf of Lichtenstein), Japan, Sudan, and Syria also spoke today. A representative from the European Union Delegation also spoke.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday, 9 December, to discuss the agenda item, Programme budget: biennium 2012-2013, and the second performance report.
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met today to discuss four issues: Umoja/Enterprise Resource Planning; the strengthening of the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa; the financing of the International Trade Centre; and the financing of peacekeeping activities for both the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) and the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). Those topics would be included in its agenda item, proposed programme budget for the biennium 2014-2015.
For its discussion on Umoja, the Organization’s enterprise resource planning system, the Committee would consider the Secretary-General’s Fifth progress report on the enterprise resource planning project (document A/68/375) and the addendum (document A/68/375/Add.1). It would also consider a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the Second annual progress report of the Board of Auditors on the implementation of the United Nations enterprise resource planning system (document A/68/151) as well as another Secretariat note transmitting the Joint Inspection Unit report Review of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems in United Nations organizations (document A/68/344) and its addendum (document A/68/344/Add.1). The accompanying report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) (document A/68/7/Add.7) also was before it.
For its discussion on Africa, the Committee would consider the Secretariat report Strengthening the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa (document A/68/506) and the Advisory Committee’s accompanying document (document A/68/7/Add.8).
In order to consider funding for the International Trade Centre for the 2014-2015 biennium, the Committee would consider Section 13, International Trade Centre, which is within Part IV — International cooperation for development of the Proposed programme budget for the biennium 2014-2015 (document A/68/6(Sect.13)/Add.1) and the Seventh report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions on the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2014-2015 Section 13, International Trade Centre (document A/68/7/Add.6)
Regarding financing of the peacekeeping missions, the Committee had before it the Secretariat report Revised budget for the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei for the period from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014 (document A/68/519)and (document A/68/620). It would also consider the Secretary-General’s report, Revised budget for the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force for the period from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014 (document A/68/505) and the eponymous report of the Advisory Committee (document A/68/617).
Umoja/Enterprise Resource Planning
YUKIO TAKASU, Under-Secretary-General for Management, introduced the Secretary-General’s fifth progress report on Umoja, the Organization’s enterprise resource planning initiative, and its accompanying addendum (document A/68/375 and Add.1). He noted significant progress since the Assembly had approved the project’s revised deployment strategy and timetable at its last session. The Umoja Foundation was successfully deployed on 1 July this year at its pilot locations: United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon (UNSCOL). The successful rollout on 1 November of Cluster 1, including at 12 peacekeeping operations, the Regional Service Centre in Entebbe, and the Global Service Centre in Brindisi, was a major milestone. Umoja, now a fully operational live system, covering 3,000 staff worldwide, was at the centre of the Secretary-General’s management reform initiatives.
“As the project owner, I assure you that Umoja is receiving the highest attention throughout the Secretariat,” he said. Through it, the Organization was harmonizing administrative processes; building standardized, integrated service delivery; and creating opportunities for improved oversight. The implementation strategy had proved highly valuable. Lessons learned from the pilot in July had supported the successful go-live in peacekeeping missions in November. Notably, the business readiness activities associated with migrating from disparate operating models to a single, common operating model proved more challenging than expected; data reconciliation and data cleansing were extremely complex.
As noted in the addendum, he continued, the Steering Committee had decided this past August that deployment would occur in Cluster 1 (peacekeeping operations) on 1 November, this year, and in Cluster 2 (special political missions) on 1 February 2014. That decision was based on the experience of the recent pilot at UNIFIL in July, particularly with business readiness activities. However, when more areas were identified in need of adjustment following the Cluster 1 rollout in November, the Steering Committee decided to deploy Cluster 2 on 1 March 2014, together with Extension 1 pilot at the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). In the past year, governance, including the concept of “process ownership”, was considerably strengthened. To expedite engagement of non-peacekeeping entities, a business re-engineering group was set up to help departments and offices prepare for and deploy Clusters 3 and 4.
He went on to say that Umoja’s successful implementation would lead to some immediate qualitative benefits. Still, quantitative benefits would not occur until the project was fully stabilized and the Secretariat was in a position to fully implement all the related organizational adjustments. For peacekeeping operations, benefits would start in the 2016/2017 budget cycle; for all entities under the regular budget, benefits would start in 2017. “In line with last year’s projections, the Secretary-General is fully committed to delivering quantitative benefits ranging from $140 million to $220 million by 2019,” he emphasized.
The Secretary-General was mindful of Member States’ significant financial and political investment in Umoja, he noted. Overall requirements were currently projected at $360.9 million, a $12.8 million increase over the $348.1 million projected in last year’s annual progress report. The increase was due to higher requirements for additional contractual services and readiness activities. At this stage, however, the Secretary-General was not seeking funding for the extra amount. Instead, all efforts were being made to contain costs through 2014. Update requirements for 2015, as well as projected resource requirements for 2016 and 2017, would be presented in the sixth annual progress report.
The report outlined a plan to re-profile the Umoja project team to meet changing needs in implementation, he said, stressing the Organization’s intention to ensure that the project’s skills requirements were met increasingly by internal rather than external resources. In the next two years, the Umoja team expected to face “far larger and more complex and challenging” tasks to implementation at Headquarters and offices away from Headquarters in Clusters 3 and 4. The proposed upgrade of the post of the Project Deputy Director from D-1 to D-2 level would strengthen day-to-day management and allow the Deputy Director to focus on engagement with senior management to drive organizational readiness.
HUGH O’FARRELL, Director of External Audit and Chair of the Audit Operations Committee, Board of Auditors, introduced the Secretary-General’s note transmitting the Board of Auditor’s second annual progress report on the implementation of the United Nations enterprise resource planning system (document A/68/151). He said the proposed $378 million project would span administrative and support functions in five areas — finance, supply chain and procurement, human resources, central support services, and programme and project management — and would envelop more than 90 different entities. It was a challenging and complex project and the Organization’s most important business transformation.
While noting the history of delays and cost increases, he said that the project, if implemented successfully, was an essential opportunity to modernize the Organization’s business administration. The Administration had responded positively to the recommendations of the Board’s last report and had taken actions that placed the project on sounder footing. Yet, such progress had left the project team overstretched and severely fatigued at a point where the challenges were about to increase exponentially.
The Administration had spent 55 per cent, or $208.8 million, of its budget, he continued. When the report was being prepared, two thirds of the design was complete and the system was half built, but not yet fully deployed. There was still no integrated plan linking spending to deliverables, which made it difficult to judge what progress should have been achieved for the $208.8 million invested to date.
“We cannot at this point provide assurance that the ERP [enterprise resource planning] project will successfully deliver its full functionality within the existing forecasts of time or cost,” he said. Regarding the procurement of services, the Board concluded that the lack of an overall commercial strategy at Umoja’s inception had led to difficulties in engaging the market to secure optimal value for money from vendors. Since the audit, the Administration had informed the Board that it had given the Steering Committee a plan to develop a commercial strategy for remaining procurements. The Board would return to the issue during its next audit.
The wider Administration, he said, needed to keep developing benefit realization plans that would pinpoint the type of benefits, and exactly how and when the estimated annual financial benefits of $140 million to $220 million would be achieved, whether through streamlined processes requiring less staff, or the use of improved management information to improve decision-making. The Administration was urged to articulate the financial, quantitative and qualitative improvements to service delivery brought about by the new enterprise resource planning. Thus, it was important to have a future “target operating model” of the United Nations that the project, and other transformation initiatives, would support. That would help secure support by stakeholders, avoid expensive retooling and enhance accountability for delivery.
CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, introduced that body’s fifth progress report on Umoja (document A/68/7/Add.7). He welcomed the advancement during the reporting period, commending all involved in deploying the Umoja Foundation at the pilot sites and the peacekeeping missions in Cluster 1. That initial deployment was a “key milestone” in the project’s life cycle and should assure Member States of the effectiveness of the project’s viability and leadership. Noting the significant remaining challenges and risks, he stressed the need for rigorous project planning and management, close monitoring and risk mitigation, and prompt resolution of issues in order to avoid further delays and cost escalation. Also important were the roles and responsibilities of the project owner and the Steering Committee in guiding and overseeing the management of implementing the project, fostering cooperation with relevant Secretariat departments/offices and facilitating decision-making.
The report had stressed the importance of setting benefits realization targets, he said. It had recommended that the Assembly ask the Secretary-General to ensure that heads of implementing departments/offices were fully engaged in the process and that the project enjoyed high levels of collaboration and cooperation throughout the Secretariat. The project owner and process owners must be granted the requisite level of authority to implement the changes to Umoja business processes and working methods. Concrete information on Umoja’s quantitative and qualitative benefits needed to be provided in upcoming budget proposals as well as the performance reports for peacekeeping operations as early as possible, but no later than the 2016/2017 period. Further, the Assembly should ask the Secretary-General to ensure that the enterprise resource planning system give Member States comprehensive, high-quality, accurate and timely information to facilitate decision-making on administrative and budgetary proposals.
The full scope and functionality of the Umoja Foundation’s Extension 1 and 2 phases must be delivered in order to protect Member States’ investment and realize Umoja’s expected benefits, he said. He cautioned against any approach that would result in any de-scoping of the project, particularly Umoja Extension 2, which comprised some of the key functions to be automated, such as planning and programming, supply chain management and budget formulation. As previously recommended, the project team should be maintained until completion of Extension 2. Premature dismantling could cause Extension 2 not to be effectively implemented. Still, maintaining the team did not preclude the need to adjust the team’s size and composition or to contain costs and provide the most required expertise in-house.
In that regard, he welcomed the steps taken to strengthen in-house skills in the enterprise resource planning software and encouraged their further development. Also welcomed and encouraged was increased coordination and cooperation between the Umoja project and the Office of Information and Communications Technology as well as with the Department of Field Support’s Information and Communications Technology Division. The Secretary-General’s pragmatic approach to address indirect costs and to clearly establish the roles and responsibilities of implementing departments/offices as well as the methods for funding preparatory activities was welcomed, as well. He recalled that the Assembly had been recommended to ask the Secretary-General to capture information and report on the level and nature of indirect costs of preparatory activities. In addition, there was a need to bolster collaboration between the Secretariat and other United Nations entities using the enterprise resource planning solution.
JOANNA FIODOROW, Fifth Committee Vice-Chair, then drew the Committee’s attention to the Secretary-General’s note (document A/68/344) that transmitted the Joint Inspection Unit report titled “Review of enterprise resource planning (ERP) system in the United Nations organizations) as well as the Joint Inspection Unit’s introductory statement. Also brought before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s note (document A/68/344/Add.1) transmitting his comments and those of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination on the Joint Inspection Unit’s report and corresponding introductory statement.
LUKE DAUNIVALU (Fiji), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77”, developing countries and China, welcomed the progress in implementing the Umoja Foundation at the pilot sites, peacekeeping operations, and the Regional Service Centre at Entebbe. Such achievements were particularly notable considering the difficult situation the project had faced since its inception. He also noted the actions to strengthen the project’s governance arrangements in response to Assembly resolution 66/246. However, despite good progress, he cited issues concerning organizational readiness, handling of procurement contracts, possible delays in implementing the project schedule, building the necessary in-house expertise, adequacy of the information and communications technology structure, and resources in the Organization. He looked forward to receiving more information on those and other issues from the Secretariat during the informal sessions, as well as details on the rollout of the Umoja Foundation at all peacekeeping missions and an update on the status of preparatory activities for implementation at special political missions in February 2014. Lessons learned from those initial steps were fundamental for strengthening project implementation.
He concurred with ACABQ and the Board on the importance of a detailed benefits realization plan. More clarity on the use of data from enterprise resource planning and on the potential impact of more efficient administrative processes was vital to better understand the implications of Umoja implementation. He supported ACABQ’s recommendation of providing Member States with comprehensive, high-quality, accurate and timely information to facilitate consideration and decision-making on administrative and budgetary proposals. Still, there was concern regarding the considerable weaknesses in the project’s initial phases that had led to inefficient resource use. Management failures had caused implementation delays and cost overruns. The Group would follow that issue closely and seek assurances that similar problems did to occur in Umoja or other initiatives. Strong leadership was essential for successfully managing and delivering such a complex, organization-wide business transformation. In that regard, he welcomed the information on the future Umoja support team, but shared ACABQ’s concern on the risks of dismantling the project team prematurely.
FRANCESCO PRESUTTI, a representative of the European Union Delegation, expressed his continued support of Umoja and its potential for business transformation within the United Nations system. He welcomed the progress achieved thus far and commended all those involved for their commitment. The Secretary-General should closely monitor the design and deployment of Umoja and ensure strict management of the implementation timetable and costs of the project. Current projections that showed an increase in the overall requirements was a worrisome trend. Oversight and risk management of the project should continue to be adequate and senior management in all departments of the Secretariat should be fully committed to the project’s deployment. As well, process owners should be granted the authority to implement changes. Umoja could only succeed if the project was fully implemented, thus protecting the investment already made by Member States and enabling the expected benefits of the system to be fully realized.
Ms. SCHWEIZER (Switzerland), also speaking for Lichtenstein, emphasized the importance of ensuring that every experience in implementing Umoja received proper analysis in order to draw useful lessons for subsequent phases. The transition to new working methods and new information and communication technologies systems made the deployment of Umoja highly complex. Every unanticipated event during its implementation had repercussions. As well, subsequent problems during future phases could not be overlooked. Furthermore, the transition to Umoja would have a significant impact on the day-to-day management of peacekeeping operations. It was important that the essential mandates of those operations not be affected by Umoja’s execution. On another note, other problems remained, including the risk of schedule and budget overruns, and a lack of acceptance on the project. As the United Nations Board of Auditors has stressed, it was disconcerting that no detailed project plan and no clarity regarding the utilized budget and project stages has been achieved, especially considering that 55 per cent of the financial resources for Umoja had already been spent. A detailed project plan and a methodology that would facilitate clear links between the budget and defined project stages were urgently needed.
SHO ONO ( Japan) welcomed the progress achieved over the past year, including the successful launch of Umoja at the pilot sites and their supporting offices at Headquarters, and later at peacekeeping missions and the Regional Service Centre in Entebbe. Acknowledging the work of all staff on the endeavour, he said he looked forward to receiving updated information on the project’s roll-out in peacekeeping missions and the status of preparation activities for its implementation in special political missions, which was to be rolled out on 1 February 2014.
He went on to say that the project’s full scope should be delivered while adhering to the timetable and costs. Close attention had to be paid to coordinating the Organization’s readiness at each implementation location to ensure a smooth deployment of systems, limit the burdens on end-users and avoid disrupting operational activities. Echoing the Advisory Committee, he urged the Secretariat to explore ways to reflect, in the budget, the expected savings stemming from implementing Umoja. That should be reported in relevant Secretariat reports as soon as possible. The project’s overall costs by 2015 had increased by about $12.7 million since the last Secretary-General report, mainly due to increases in contractual services and furniture and equipment. He again agreed with the Advisory Committee that a detailed implementation plan was needed to determine what work remained and the accompanying costs.
“With such a fundamental tool, the risks of incremental increases and unpredictability of costs could be resolved,” he said. He requested that details of the timeline and the total costs incurred to complete the design of the Umoja Foundation, Extensions 1 and 2, as well as an assessment of how delays in finalizing the Umoja design affected the overall timeline and budget, be included in the Secretary-General’s next report.
SERGEY A. SAFRONOV ( Russian Federation), thanking the Administration for its reports, noted that some progress had been made in the Umoja project, which had helped boost the confidence of Member States. Yet, the risks that existed last year still existed. Work would be carried out at the same time in each cluster of the project. He regretfully noted that the project’s cost level would reach $360 million through December of this year. The cost was not to go above $248.3 million, and he expressed his opposition to additional project increases. In addition, the associated costs issue was still open. That was a concern for Member States. He supported the recommendations of the Board of Auditors. The impact of Umoja’s progress on the Organization’s image also was a concern. Any changes had to take place with the agreement of Member States.
MICHEL TOMMO MONTHE ( Cameroon) reiterated the encouragement that his delegation had made to Secretariat officials after Umoja had been derailed. He noted that project teams had been reconstructed, moving the project forward. That showed a spirit of togetherness. Observing that there had been a phase when Member States and the Administration had been very discouraged, he stressed that a firm and clear timeline needed to be developed. A vague timetable without definite goals would lead to increased costs and Member States would tire of that situation. Between now and 2015, very tangible results had to be achieved so that Member States could support the project. Another risk of not following a definite timetable was that Umoja could become obsolete because of technological advancements, thus making it necessary for the Secretariat to buy more technology. In addition, the Organization had to know what information and technology was being left behind, and what information was being taken forward. The United Nations was a very complex organization and it needed to engage the very best technicians and work with people whom had institutional memory. It had to adapt to technological change.
Office of Special Adviser on Africa/International Trade Centre
MARÍA EUGENIA CASAR, Assistant Secretary-General and United Nations Controller, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the Strengthening of the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa (document A/68/506). The report detailed the budgetary requirements for strengthening the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa to enable the Office to implement its expanded mandates. Additional requirements were estimated at $5.13 million (gross) or $4.76 million (net of staff assessment) for the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2014-2015. That spending would be allocated for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development and the Office of Central Support Services.
Also in the report, she pointed out, the Secretary-General proposed the establishment of 10 new posts, comprising six programme officers at the P-5, P-4 and P-3 levels; two Economic Affairs officers at the P-3 and P-2 levels; one communications officer at the P-4 level; and one senior staff assistant (General Service). In addition, the Office required resources for organizing consultative meetings relating to the United Nations monitoring mechanism mandated by the General Assembly in its resolution 66/293 in the amount of $338,000. It also required resources for travel to reinforce its capacity in advocacy and communications in the amount of $293,600.
She then introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the Proposed Programme Budget for 2014-2015 for Section 13 on the International Trade Centre (document A/68/6 (Sect. 13)/Add.1). That centre was responsible for the implementation of subprogramme 6, Operational aspects of trade promotion and export development; and of programme 10, Trade and development, of the strategic framework for the period 2014-2015. The United Nations and the World Trade Organization equally shared the funding of the International Trade Centre’s regular budget, as the Centre was a joint body of both Organizations, mandated to provide technical assistance to facilitate the integration of developing countries and economies in transition. It was particularly responsible with assisting least developed countries entering the multilateral trading system through export promotion and international business development.
The proposed overall level of resources for the biennium 2014-2015 for the Centre amounted to 73,209,300 Swiss francs, before recosting. The proposed United Nations share for the biennium 2014-2015 for the Centre, amounted to $38.98 million, before recosting, reflecting a decrease of $1.16 million or 2.9 per cent as compared to the revised appropriation for the biennium 2012-2013, which amounted to $40.14 million.
Mr. RUIZ MASSIEU took the floor again to introduce the Advisory Committee’s reports on Strengthening the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa (document A/68/7/Add.8) and the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2014-2015 for the International Trade Centre (A/68/6 (Sect. 13/Add.1).
In regards to the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, he said the Advisory Committee regretted that no action had been taken to appropriately reallocate resources within the regular budget, during the 2012-2013 biennium, to let the Office fulfil its mandate effectively. There was no objection to the new posts proposed by the Secretary-General, with the exception of the one post of senior staff assistant (General Service (Principal level)). The functions of that post could be performed with the Office’s existing staff. The Office was expected to keep controlling costs associated with holding consulting meetings with various stakeholders, including such meetings at the Economic Commission on Africa conference centre in Addis Ababa. Also recommended was a 5 per cent reduction in staff travel requirements, which was in line with its recommendations for all other budget sections in 2014-2015.
Turning to the International Trade Centre budget issues, Mr. Ruiz Massieu commended the efficiency measures that had produced a reduction in the Centre’s staff requirements by two administrative posts at the General Service level. Regarding the P-5 post, the report recommended that pertinent recruitment, rules and regulations be applied as if it were a new post, since the post had not been approved under the regular budget. Also recommended was the same 5 per cent reduction in staff travel requirements for the Centre. The Secretary-General was urged as well to intensify his efforts to simplify the administrative arrangements under which the Committee reviewed the Centre’s budget, so that just one review would be completed by the Committee in the year preceding the financial period.
Mr. DAUNIVALU (Fiji), taking the floor again on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that in the last decade Africa had undergone significant social, political and economic changes, including high economic growth, strengthened democracy and a significant reduction in conflicts. Still, among its continued challenges, the continent had not experienced meaningful employment creation or substantial poverty reduction. Thus, he fully supported the Secretary-General’s proposal to strengthen the Office to enable it to implement its existing and new expanded mandate more effectively. The Office’s very limited resources were not enough to implement its new additional mandate as staff was fully engaged in implementing the existing mandate.
The Group attached as much importance to the International Trade Centre as it did the Office, he said. The Centre’s mandated activities of fostering sustainable economic development and helping to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in developing countries and countries with economies in transition through international trade and business had proven very effective. The Centre should be given the appropriate resources to continue performing its mandate uninterrupted. He also said that the Group would closely analyze the Secretary-General’s proposed reductions in post and non-post resources for the biennium 2014-2015, and seek explanations for the Centre’s high vacancy rate. As well, the Centre’s management was encouraged to step up efforts to reduce the gender and nationality gap among senior managers in order to improve representation from the developing world.
BROUZ RALPH ENNERIC COFFI, (Côte d’Ivoire), speaking on behalf of the African Group, noted that, since the establishment of the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa 10 years ago, the continent had undergone a significant transformation marked by major social, political and economic changes. The support of the United Nations was of key importance as it would further enhance the current rapid transformation of Africa. Such changes would, in turn, present new opportunities and challenges requiring the Office to expand, strengthen its activities and broaden its engagement. He also noted that the Office had suffered negatively from the lack of senior leadership in recent years and he welcomed the initiative taken by the Secretary General to respond to Member States mandates and calls from experts and intergovernmental bodies on strengthening the activities of the Office.
He went on to say he fully supported the Secretary-General’s proposal on post and non-post resources for strengthening the Office in the areas of policy analysis, monitoring and research, intergovernmental support, advocacy and inter-agency coordination. The Secretary-General’s proposal for establishing 10 additional posts in the Office was also welcomed. Strengthening the Office should be commensurate with the mandates entrusted to it and all posts requested and approved must be filled as a matter of priority and in full compliance with existing provisions, including geographical and gender balances. Noting that no meaningful progress had been made with regard to technology transfer in recent years, he urged the Office to continue it efforts in that area. He also said that the Group would scrutinize comments, observations and recommendations of the Advisory Committee with the aim of making an informed decision and will further analyze how all previous mandates have been incorporated in the current proposal.
Mr. MONTHE ( Cameroon) said that the Under-Secretary-General responsible for the Office and other top management officials had always been very attentive and well meaning. He also noted ACABQ’s support in that regard. A look at the Office’s evolution since its inception showed that it had reached its lowest point when the Secretary-General had considered merging it with the Office of the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small island Developing States. Wise counsel had prompted him to re-launch the Africa Office in a way that enabled it to reach its highest point. He called for a strong focal point to address Africa issues and consider how major United Nations bodies dealt with them. That was crucial as structural changes in the 1980s had put several African countries in a difficult situation and subsequent processes had to be implemented to assist Africa. He was pleased that the Secretary-General had kept his word and had stressed the need to bolster the Africa Office. The Committee should support the recommendations of ACABQ and the Secretary-General regarding the requisite material, financial and human resource materials to strengthen the Office and ask for accountability in return. He expected tangible results in that regard.
Financing of Peacekeeping Operations
Ms. CASAR then took the floor again and introduced the Secretary-General’s revised budget report for the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) for the period from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014 (document A/68/519). She said that the budget amounted to $339.3 million dollars, representing an increase of $48.7 million (16.7 per cent) from the amount of $290.6 million appropriated by the General Assembly in its resolution 67/270 for the maintenance of the mission for the same period. Pursuit to Security Council resolution 2104 (2013), the revised 2013/14 budget provided for the deployment of a force protection unit of 1,126 troops for the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism and reflected an increase in assets and construction expense in line with the deployment of additional personnel to four locations.
She then introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the revised budget for the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) for the period from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014 (A/68/617), saying that the budget amounted to $60.8 million, representing an increase of $12.8 million (26.6 per cent) from the amount of $48 million appropriated by the General Assembly in its resolution 67/278. Pursuant to the Security Council resolution 2108 (2013), the revised 2013/14 budget provided for the deployment of an additional 203 military contingent personnel and their equipment, as well as the related proposed establishment of 10 international temporary positions.
Mr. RUIZ MASSIEU, taking the floor again for ACABQ, introduced that body’s reports on the revised budget for UNISFA (document A/68/620) and for UNDOF (document A/68/617), both for the period from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2012. Regarding UNISFA, ACABQ recommended a $10.2 million reduction to the proposed revised budget for the 2013/2104 period due to vacancy rates for new international staff posts and military observers and contingents, as well as under the construction category. Specifically, it recommended a 30 per cent vacancy rate for new and continuing international staff posts, and adjustment to the proposed revised budget to reflect expenditure for military observers and contingents for the first half of the 2013/2014 period based on actual average vacancy rates. Further, it recommended a $5.9 million reduction in the construction category due to performance in the current period and the magnitude of the increase requested for this period.
On UNDOF, he said ACABQ had no objection to the resources proposed by the Secretary-General for deploying additional military contingent personnel and enhancing UNDOF’s security and safety. However, some of the proposed requirements could have been partially offset by under-expenditure under the appropriation for national staff due to the actual higher-than-budgeted vacancy rate. ACABQ therefore recommended that the Secretary-General be asked to adjust budgetary resources for national staff on the basis of a 9 per cent vacancy rate in the 2013/2014 period.
Mr. COFFI ( Côte d'Ivoire), speaking on behalf of the African Group, expressed concern over recent attacks against United Nations peacekeepers. He then took note of the Secretary-General’s proposal on revised estimates for the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei as well as for the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, noting also the Advisory Committee’s comments, observations and recommendations. Reassuring the Group’s intention to carefully examine the proposals and to ensure that adequate resources would be allocated to effectively deliver respective mandates, he reiterated that body’s willingness to engage in negotiations with the aim to achieve a positive outcome in a timely manner.
AMAN HASSEN (Ethiopia), recalling Security Council resolution 2104 (2013) which authorized the increment of troops from 4,200 to 5,326, said that in addition, 34 civilian personnel had been requested to support the increase in troop strength and the deployment of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism to four locations. Further, it was imperative to acquire vehicles and a helicopter to enable the Joint Border sector headquarters to operate self-sufficiently, especially given the difficulty of sharing support equipment. The deployment of personnel would also necessitate an increase in requirements for construction services. Therefore, he supported the Secretary-General’s revised resources proposal amounting to $339.31 million and noted with concern ACABQ’s recommendation for a reduction of $10.2 million. The recommended cut compromised the mandate delivery of the Mission and did not take into account the challenging environment it faced.
ARWA ANWAR MOHAMED SALIH ( Sudan), aligning herself with the African Group, regretted the long-standing crisis related to the delay in releasing documents on the agenda item for discussion. Her delegation was coordinating with the Office of Human Resources Management to ensure the accuracy of its data in the related reports. She noted that UNISFA’s mandate had been extended until 30 May 2014 per Security Council resolution 2126 (2013), and she paid tribute to Ethiopia for the outstanding performance of its air force in the Mission. She also thanked the African Union for seeking a sustainable solution to the situation in Abyei. Increased funds were needed to create new civilian posts to support military personnel in UNISFA and to carry out pressing construction work in four locations. In view of the region’s poor infrastructure, she called on Member States to provide the necessary resources so that UNISFA could fulfil its mandate properly. Therefore, she rejected the proposed reductions in ACABQ’s report and called for a painstaking study on those recommendations. As well, she was concerned over the high vacancy rate for civilian and military posts and would request clarification on that during the Committee’s informal session.
ISMAIL BASSEL AYZOUKI ( Syria) said the inception of UNDOF was related to Israel’s 1967 occupation of the Golan. Israel was the occupier and the aggressor and refused to withdraw from the occupied territory. In addition, the Israeli occupation was an active aggression against the Untied Nations forces. He emphasized that Israel’s actions were in violation of international law and had threatened the life of Mission staff. His country had continued to respect the separation of forces, as it wanted to achieve a fair and just peace that followed all relevant resolutions. He pointed out that Syria had recommended the creation of the Mission and fully supported it.
* *** *For information media • not an official record