5 May 2014
General Assembly
GA/AB/4105

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

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

Fifth Committee

35th Meeting (AM)


Fifth Committee Considers Ways to Improve Management of Peacekeeping Funds

 

as It Opens Resumed Sixty-Eighth Session

 


Troop Reimbursement Rates, Cash Deficits among Primary Topics Discussed


Delegates discussed strategies to better manage the United Nations budget for both active and closed peacekeeping missions, as the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) opened the second part of its resumed sixty-eighth session this morning and adopted its programme of work.


Several speakers voiced their concern that peacekeeping operations were being considered as a package and subjected to arbitrary, across-the-board cuts, rather than on each mission’s approved mandate and the situation on the ground.  Some speakers called for an urgent solution to alleviate the crippling impact of inflation on troop-contributors, while others presented options to resolve unpaid assessments, accounts payable and other liabilities of closed operations.


Costa Rica’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, pointed to the October 2012 survey by the Secretary-General’s Senior Advisory Group which revealed that the current standard rates for reimbursing troop contributors, in place since 2002, was too low.  He said the Committee must adopt a decision this session to adjust the rate upwards in line with actual personnel costs.


Japan’s representative warned, however, that increases resulting from higher troop reimbursement rates and more robust peacekeeping mandates in South Sudan and the Central African Republic could cause the peacekeeping budget, now set for $7.4 billion for the July 2014 to July 2015 period, to exceed $8 billion for the first time.  The aim should be to strike a balance between fairly reimbursing troops and financially sustaining peacekeeping operations as a whole by closely scrutinizing staff and operational costs and ensuring resources were used efficiently.


Bolivia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, expressed concern over the cash deficits in several closed peacekeeping missions due to failure by some Member States to pay their outstanding assessments.  He said the only feasible solution was for countries to pay in full and on time, a view echoed by the European Union’s delegation.  The latter also called for ensuring the Global Field Support Strategy, now in its final phase of implementation, improved service delivery in the field, economies of scale and accountability.


María Eugenia Casar, Assistant Secretary-General and United Nations Controller, introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on the financing of peacekeeping missions under liquidation, namely the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) and the United Nations Supervision Mission the Syrian Arab Republic (UNSMIS).  Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced that body’s related reports.


Ms. Casar also introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the updated financial position of closed missions as of 30 June 2013, while Mr. Ruiz Massieu presented the Advisory Committee’s eponymous report.


Also today, the Committee recommended that the Assembly appoint Fu Daopeng ( China) and Kunal Khatri ( United Kingdom) to the Committee on Contributions through 31 December 2014, to replace Sun Xudong ( China) and Thomas David Smith ( United Kingdom), respectively, who had resigned recently.


At the beginning of the meeting, the Committee observed a moment of silence for the recent passing of Alan Shaw ( United Kingdom), a Committee member.  Corinne Kitsell ( United Kingdom) and Janne Taalas ( Finland), Committee Chair, made statements of condolences, as did several Committee members.


Also speaking today were representatives of Uganda (on behalf of the African Group), United States, Pakistan and the United Republic of Tanzania.


The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 6 May, to discuss improving the financial situation of the United Nations.


Background


The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to appoint a member to the Committee on Contributions (document A/68/102/Add.2) and to discuss its organization of work (document A/C.5/68/L.36), and the financing of peacekeeping missions, including the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) (documents A/68/607 and A/68/782/Add.2) and the United Nations Supervision Mission in the Syrian Arab Republic (UNSMIS) (documents A/68/597, Corr.1, and A/68/782/Add.1), as well as the administrative and budgetary aspects of closed missions (documents A/68/666 and A/68/837).


Programme of Work


DAYANA ANGELA RIOS REQUENA (Bolivia), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, expressed concern over the late issuance of reports of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) to Member States and said it should take steps to ensure their timely submission.  She asked for a formal Committee meeting on the matter with ACABQ’s Chairman and the Secretariat during the current second resumed session.  The Secretary-General’s report on implementing resolution 67/261 clearly showed the deficit between the current reimbursement rate and the financial costs of troop-contributing countries.  The Assembly must adopt a decision that would increase the standard rate in line with the results of the survey conducted.  The Group would closely follow up the question of intermission cooperation and its impact on peacekeeping budgets and administration, to be discussed in the Committee’s debate on cross-cutting issues.


During the session, several key areas must be tackled, she said.  The Committee must consider an increase in the standard reimbursement rate and comprehensively address the systemic, unresolved issues and differences faced by troop-contributing countries, including their underrepresentation in Secretariat departments involved in peacekeeping.  It must explore options to resolve fairly unpaid assessments, accounts payable and other liabilities of closed peacekeeping missions.  It must ensure that peacekeeping budgets were formed, presented and approved based on their mandates and the situation on the ground, not on arbitrary, across-the-board cuts.  Lastly, the Committee must assess the progress and challenges to implement the Global Field Support Strategy.


PAULA COTO-RAMÍREZ ( Costa Rica), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, said the regional bloc was of the view that the General Assembly must take a decision on increasing the rates of reimbursement to troop-contributing countries, in line with the survey findings.  It was concerned about the recent trend of considering peacekeeping budgets as a package.  Each peacekeeping operation had a stand-alone budget, which was planned and approved according to its mandate and specific needs.  The Secretariat must take the necessary remedial actions to respond to the demands of Members States for the timely submission of reports in all six languages.


BEATRICE PACUNEGA (Uganda), speaking on behalf of the African Group and associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said all proposals to ensure the missions were provided with adequate resources to deliver their mandates would be examined.  The field trip undertaken by the Fifth Committee in February was an opportunity to understand the harsh environment in which peacekeeping missions operated.  Deliberating on peacekeeping budgets as a package and the idea of generalization would not receive the Group’s support.  It would carefully review the performance and proposals for all the active peacekeeping operations, United Nations support to the African Union missions, and the Regional Service Centre in Uganda.  The time had come to be fair by approving a new rate of personnel reimbursement to troop-contributing countries that matched actual costs.  The Group discouraged negotiations in small configurations behind closed doors.


IOANNIS VRAILAS, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union, said the Union, the largest financial contributor to peacekeeping operations, funding 36.8 per cent of their work, would closely examine the budgets of all missions and their support functions to ensure their adequate financing.  While the Secretary-General had proposed a $7.4 billion budget for such missions for the 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015 period, the overall budget for that period could exceed a record $8 million.  Strict budgetary discipline was vital to ensure resources were used efficiently and transparently.  He welcomed the recent agreement by the Working Group on Contingent-Owned Equipment and looked forward to discussing its recommendations, as well as progress in implementing resolution 67/261 on reimbursement rates of troop-contributing countries in light of the survey.


He supported implementation of the final phase of the Global Field Support Strategy and ensuring that it resulted in improved service delivery in the field and in economies of scale, as well as savings and strengthened accountability.  It also must be aligned with the United Nations system-wide business processes such as Umoja, Inspira and the International Public Sector Accounting Standards.  The cross-cutting issue of sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations personnel must be addressed.  Noting the increase in 2013 in allegations of such abuse, the continued implementation of the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy was welcomed.  The Secretary-General should return to Member States all cash surpluses from closed peacekeeping missions, and a satisfactory, sustainable solution to closed missions with cash deficits was long overdue.  In that regard, he called upon all Member States to pay their assessed contributions.  He expressed concern over the late submission of documents and agreed with ACABQ’s Chairman that structural response was needed.


JUN YAMAZAKI ( Japan) called on the Committee to finish its current session on time.  Japan was committed to reaching agreement on peacekeeping budgets that neither exceeded nor fell short of what was required to implement each mission’s mandate, particularly by examining the levels of civilian staff and operational costs and steps towards efficiency.  He regretted that the overall 2014-2015 peacekeeping budget would not be clear until the Committee’s sixty-ninth session, as a result of the half-year budget requests by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).  The potential increase in troop reimbursement costs, coupled with increases requested by UNMISS and MINUSCA, could cause the 2014-2015 budget to exceed its historic high of $8 billion.  Regarding implementation of the Senior Advisory Group’s recommendations, it was necessary to strike a balance between fairly reimbursing troops and financially sustaining peacekeeping operations as a whole.  As the huge potential budgetary surge would not be compatible with sustainability, Member States must address the question of managing budgets reasonably.  They must carefully assess current missions’ requirements, especially those in a drawdown phase.


STEPHEN LIEBERMAN ( United States) noted that despite cost reductions in peacekeeping missions, which largely stemmed from the downsizing of missions, those savings were offset by increased requirements for missions in Mali and Somalia.  Further, requirements associated with the situation in South Sudan and the authorization of a new mission in the Central African Republic were not included in the Secretary-General’s budget request.  While the request showed an overall decrease of $400 million from the previous year to $7.4 billion, the actual peacekeeping requirements in the coming year would, for the first time ever, exceed $8 billion.


He went on to stress the importance of the Committee’s responsibility to scrutinize the Secretary-General’s request to ensure that the budgets reflected actual requirements and real resource constraints, and were driven by realistic planning assumptions and prudent management initiatives.  On reimbursement to troop-contributing countries, his Government noted their concerns, but hoped that all delegations understood the fiscal realities.


AHMAD NASEEM WARRAICH ( Pakistan), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, underlined the collective responsibility of Member States to address budgetary matters.  The lack of openness would lead to mistrust and negatively impact the credibility of the Committee, and it must make an information-based decision on the question of reimbursement to troop-contributing countries.


JUSTIN KISOKA (United Republic of Tanzania), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said his delegation would closely follow all administrative and budgetary aspects of peacekeeping operations, as well as the work of the Board of Auditors and proposals related to peacekeeping.  He encouraged other delegations to engage in constructive, inclusive dialogue within the allocated time frame on issues before the Committee so it would be able to sustain the gains made during the first resumed session.


Administrative and Budgetary Aspects of Closed Peacekeeping Missions


Ms. CASAR introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the updated financial position of closed peacekeeping missions as of 30 June 2013 (document A/68/666).  Pursuant to Assembly resolution 65/293, the Secretary-General had proposed ways to address outstanding dues owed to Member States that had contributed to peacekeeping missions now closed.  The Secretary-General was refining a scenario set forth by the Committee during its sixty-seventh session to use the $88.4 million in available cash to reimburse each Member State 55 per cent of the amount owed.  The Secretary-General recognized that the liquidity of active peacekeeping operations was not directly linked to the cash surpluses of closed missions.  But if the Assembly approved the proposal, it would authorize temporary borrowing between active missions of up to $100 million, or 1.3 per cent of the total approved resources for peacekeeping operations, subject to limitations as authorized.  Such borrowing was not permitted at present.  An alternative proposal was to establish a capital fund to address the cash requirements of active missions.  For that to take effect, the Assembly would have to approve an amendment to the United Nations Financial Rules and Regulations.


Mr. RUIZ MASSIEU noted that the Assembly had twice deferred consideration of the reports by the Secretary-General and ACABQ on the financial position of closed missions to its sixty-eight session.  In that context, the ACABQ reiterated all its previous observations and recommendations related to the proposals in the Secretary-General’s reports to the sixty-sixth and sixty-seventh sessions so the Assembly could examine them in conjunction with ACABQ’s observations and recommendations in its present report.  The ACABQ noted the Secretary-General’s proposal to use the $88.4 million in available cash balances to partially settle the amounts due to Member States.  While that could help mitigate the long-standing issue of unpaid claims to troop-contributing countries, it would still entail using cash surpluses, which, in principle, should be returned in full to Member States.  The Secretary-General’s proposal to authorize borrowing between active missions could be an inducement to the late payment of assessed contributions.  Moreover, the proposal did not address the Committee’s reservations about using resources owed to Member States that had paid their assessed contributions in full to meet the financial obligations of those that had not.  The Secretary-General should not cite as justifications for his proposals recommendations that had not been endorsed by the Assembly.


Ms. RIOS REQUENA (Bolivia), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, expressed concern over the cash deficit situation in several closed peacekeeping missions that stemmed from the non-payment of arrears by some Member States, which in turn had resulted in substantial long outstanding dues owned by the United Nations to troop-contributing countries that had fulfilled their financial obligations to the Organization.  While the Group appreciated the Secretary-General’s recent proposal on the matter, it viewed any recommendation other than the full payment of those outstanding dues to troop-contributing countries as unfeasible.


* *** *


For information media • not an official record