7 May 2014
General Assembly
GA/AB/4107

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

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

Fifth Committee

37th Meeting (AM)


United Nations Role in Haiti Crucial to Stability, Say Delegates


in Fifth Committee, Speaking out against Proposed Financial Cuts

 


Budget Proposals for Other Peacekeeping Operations also Discussed


Delegates expressed alarm today that proposed cuts to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti would thwart that struggling Caribbean nation’s gains towards stability and development, as the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Financial) examined the budgets for the previous and current cycles of that mission and three other peacekeeping operations.


Costa Rica’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) played a crucial role there and must have the requisite resources to help Haitian authorities bolster security, institute democratic governance and the rule of law, and combat cholera.


“MINUSTAH’s budget, like those of other peacekeeping missions, should be based on the situation on the ground and the mandate approved by the Security Council, and not by artificial budgetary ceilings,” she said, voicing concern over the Secretary-General’s proposal to revise the Mission’s budget downward by $64.58 million, or 11.2 per cent, in 2014/15.


Echoing that view, Brazil’s representative stressed the need for MINUSTAH law enforcement support in remote areas and said the Mission should be phased out responsibly.  He strongly opposed efficiency measures at the expense of the safety and security of Mission staff and would seek further clarification on existing arrangements to handle medical evacuation cases.


Similarly, Guatemala’s representative disapproved of any unjustified reductions, particularly considering the Mission’s essential role in helping Haiti hold legislative and local elections expected later this year.  Haiti’s representative warned of his Government’s financial woes and said the Mission needed a well-balanced budget to fight cholera, among other challenges.


Other speakers took issue with proposed cuts to the United Nations Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA).  Ethiopia’s representative said that mission had helped thousands of Sudanese return home safely and had helped prevent large-scale inter-communal violence.  He objected to the Secretary-General’s proposal to cut $898,000 from the budget for construction and equipment, saying that measure failed to fully consider that the Mission was operating in extremely difficult circumstances and with little infrastructure.


When the Committee turned its attention to the budget for the United Nations Logistics Base in Brindisi, Italy, Bolivia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, noted a lack of transparency in allocating resources to the Base and the facility in Valencia for hosting and providing Umoja support services.  The Group would seek further clarification on those items during informal consultations.


María Eugenia Casar, Assistant Secretary-General and United Nations Controller, introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on 2012/13 budget performance and his proposed 2014/15 budgets for MINUSTAH, UNISFA, United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) and the Logistics Base.  Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced that body’s related reports.


Also today the Committee examined the financial reports and audited financial statements of the Board of Auditors on peacekeeping operations for the fiscal year ending 30 June 2013.  Introducing the Board’s reports, Hugh O’Farrell, Director of External Audit and Chair of the Audit Operations Committee, said progress in implementing the Global Field Support Strategy, the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) and the new enterprise resource planning system known as Umoja would improve the way peacekeeping was managed and backstopped.  Ms. Casar and Mr. Ruiz Massieu introduced the corresponding reports of the Secretary-General and ACABQ, respectively.


In the discussion on those reports, the European Union’s representative, among other speakers, echoed the Advisory Committee’s call for greater clarity and details on the new peacekeeping service delivery model and how it would improve peacekeeping management.


Also speaking today were the representatives of Canada (also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand), Uganda (on behalf of the African Group), Sudan, Mexico, Turkey and Cyprus.


The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Friday, 9 May, to consider reimbursement rates for troop-contributing countries and financing of both active and closed missions.


Background


The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met today to consider financial reports and audited financial statements, and reports of the Board of Auditors (documents A/68/5 (Vol.II); A/68/751 and A/68/843); financing of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) (documents A/68/604, A/68/728 and A/68/782/Add.4), United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) (documents A/68/584, A/68/700 and A/68/782/Add.7), United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) (documents A/68/626, A/68/737 and A/68/782/Add.10), and United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) (documents A/68/608, A/68/699 and A/68/782/Add.3); as well as the budget of the United Nations Logistics Base at Brindisi, Italy (documents A/68/575, A/68/727 and A/68/782/Add.8).


Financial and Board of Auditors’ Reports


HUGH O’FARRELL, Director of External Audit and Chair of the Audit Operations Committee, introduced the Board’s report on peacekeeping operations from 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013 (document A/68/5 (Vol. II)), which recognized the Administration’s progress in addressing previous concerns and enhancing financial management control.  The report was the last for which peacekeeping statements were prepared under the United Nations system accounting standards, or UNSAS.  While work was ongoing and risks remained, there was increasing confidence in the Administration’s ability to produce for the first time financial statements that complied with the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS).  That reflected progress on preparing opening balances, continuing improvements in the verification and valuation of assets, enhanced monitoring of project progress, and greater accountability for implementing mission mandates.


He said the report also noted progress in embedding the Global Field Support Strategy, including by making service centre functions operational, refining the standardized funding model based on lessons from its initial application in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), and deploying several modular service packages in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).  He also pointed to improvements and existing challenges in terms of asset management, acquisition planning, the Regional Procurement Office in Entebbe, and budget formulation and management.  In the report, the Board concluded that progress in implementing the Strategy, IPSAS and the new enterprise resource planning system, known as Umoja, had created a major opportunity to improve the way peacekeeping was managed and backstopped and to make it more cost-effective.  To aid accountability and delivery, the Administration should more clearly elaborate on the benefits of the new peacekeeping service model and how they would be measured.


MARÍA EUGENIA CASAR, Assistant Secretary-General and Controller, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the recommendations of the Board of Auditors concerning United Nations peacekeeping operations for the financial period ended 30 June 2013.  The report included the priorities for and status of the implementation of recommendations and the department responsible.  The Board highlighted 28 out of 69 recommendations as under implementation.  Of those, 15 had been carried out as of January 2014, and there had been a major improvement in the implementation rate — 55 per cent in the 2011 to 2012 cycle compared to 45 per cent in the previous period.  The Secretary-General had taken note of the 20 main highlighted recommendations, which had been designated as high priority.


CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced the Committee’s report on the Board of Auditors’ report on the accounts of the United Nations peacekeeping operations for the period ended 30 June 2013 and the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the Board’s recommendations.  The former report provided valuable insight into the management of peacekeeping operations of the United Nations and the Committee had taken note of the Board’s audit opinion.  While noting the progress in preparation for the implementation of IPSAS, the Committee trusted that the outstanding tasks the Board highlighted would be addressed as a priority.  The Committee remained concerned with the instances of insufficient follow-up and lack of timely action in recovering the receivable amounts, he said.  Sustained efforts were required by the mission management and Headquarters in recovering those amounts.


DAYANA RIOS (Bolivia), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, welcomed improvements in the implementation of previous recommendations, and encouraged additional efforts be undertaken to ensure that all items were fully implemented.  The Group expected that reforms in areas including IPSAS and Umoja would present a major opportunity to improve the way in which United Nations peacekeeping operations were managed and backstopped, she said, highlighting the need for more clarity and elaboration on a new peacekeeping service delivery model.


She noted that despite some improvements on issues cited by the Board, the Organization continued to face similar problems in areas including procurement and contract management, budget formulation and human resource management.  With regard to the IPSAS implementation, the Group had taken note that while the first set of financial statements was due in a few weeks, challenges remained, including reaching agreement on an appropriate inventory accounting policy and better tailoring to meet each mission’s requirements.  In regard to the field strategy’s implementation, the Group was interested in learning the conclusion of the Board’s previous recommendation related to the movement of staff from missions to regional service centres.


GERTON VAN DEN AKKER, a representative of the European Union Delegation, noted that the implementation of IPSAS and progress in implementing Umoja and the Strategy were vital for improving peacekeeping’s effectiveness and efficiency.  The Union endorsed the Board’s view that the Administration must more clearly elaborate the new peacekeeping service delivery model, including a benefits’ realization plan.  He concurred with the Board’s analysis that improved procurement, the functioning of the Regional Procurement Office in Entebbe, improved budget formulation and review, and project management of the Strategy should be United Nations priorities.


He recognized the Administration’s improvement in the area of asset management, but said the potential for loss and waste was still too high and that there was considerable scope for improvement.  IPSAS would help individual missions strengthen overview and management, but missions must be managed properly to ensure all acquisitions were checked against existing stock, waste was minimized and key performance indicators complied with established asset management policies.  The challenges of the Organization in executing construction projects, which continued to be insufficiently assessed, lacked adequate control and required more monitoring by Headquarters.


Financing Peacekeeping Operations


Ms. CASAR introduced the Secretary-General’s budget performance reports for the period of 2012/13 and the budget reports for the period of 2014/15 for agenda items on UNISFA, UNFICYP, MINUSTAH, MINURSO and the United Nations Logistics Base (UNLB).  Providing an overview of the missions’ 2014/15 budget, she said MINUSTAH reflected a reduction of 1,249 military personnel, a proposed abolishment of 146 civilian posts and positions and a proposed establishment of four international temporary positions (one Assistant Secretary-General, one D-2 and two P-3) for the Integrated Support Solutions Unit.  The budget of MINURSO reflected six additional United Nations police officers and abolishment of 14 civilian posts and nationalization of four international posts.  With regard to the UNLB, the proposed budget was based on the continuation of the re-profiling of the Base as a Global Service Centre, in line with the vision of the global field support strategy.  The Centre would provide global information and communications technology, logistics and supply chain operation management.  It was proposed to centralize at the Centre the functions of the geospatial information services that were currently performed in field missions and to restructure the Communications and Information Technology Service.


Mr. RUIZ MASSIEU introduced ACABQ’s reports related to financing of UNISFA, UNFICYP, MINUSTAH and MINURSO (documents A/68/782 and Addenda 4, 7, 10 and 3, respectively).  For UNISFA, the Advisory Committee recommended a $1.04 million reduction to the proposed 2014/15 budget; a 45 per cent vacancy rate for United Nations Volunteers and a 50 per cent vacancy rate for temporary positions; and maintaining current official travel requirements.  For UNFICYP, it recommended approval of the proposed 2014/15 budget and staffing changes, and that the Secretary-General conduct a cost-benefit analysis for purchased versus rented vehicles.  For MINUSTAH, it recommended a $1.03 million reduction to the proposed 2014/15 budget to reflect ACABQ’s recommended reduction in travel and staffing resources.  The ACABQ did not object to the proposed abolition of 146 posts and positions in line with the Mission’s ongoing reconfiguration and drawdown or to the creation of a temporary position of Senior Coordinator for Cholera at the Assistant Secretary-General level with the Integrated Solutions Support Unit.  But it rejected the proposed creation of three temporary positions for the Unit.  For MINURSO, ACABQ recommended a $139,700 reduction to the proposed 2014/15 budget; a 5 per cent vacancy rate for national General Service staff; a delayed deployment rate of 15 per cent; and maintaining current official travel requirements.


Introducing ACABQ’s report on financing of the United Nations Logistics Base at Brindisi, Italy (document A/68/782/Add.8), he recommended a $1.15 million net reduction to the proposed 2014/15 budget.  Consolidation of the geospatial information system functions in the Global Service Centre should be considered a pilot initiative, and the Assembly should approve seven general temporary assistance positions for that purpose.  It rejected the proposal to centralize the global function of education grant processing at the Regional Service Centre in Entebbe.  The Global Service Centre should continue to carry out that function on behalf of missions that were not clients of the Regional Service Centre.  It also rejected approval of the proposed post of Conduct and Discipline Officer.  It stressed the need to ensure detailed, transparent accounting and reporting on the operation costs of the Enterprise Data Centres at Brindisi and Valencia in the United Nations Logistics Base’s future budget submissions and performance reports.


Ms. RIOS ( Bolivia), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, reaffirmed its commitment to help the Secretariat fulfil the mandate assigned to the United Nations Global Service Centre of Brindisi.  However, the Group noted with regret that despite the General Assembly decision, the Secretary-General continued to refer to Valencia as part of the Global Services Centre.  The Group was also concerned with the lack of transparency in the allocation of resources to the UNLB and the facility in Valencia for hosting and providing Umoja support services.  The Group would seek further clarification on those matters during informal consultations.


PAULA COTO-RAMÍREZ ( Costa Rica), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), acknowledged the crucial role the international community played in Haiti.  Despite MINUSTAH having made important progress to consolidate stability and the rule of law, Haiti still faced diverse challenges.  Since CELAC countries were contributing most of the uniformed personnel to the Mission, as well as other support, the Community opposed any arbitrary reductions in resources allocated to the Mission.  “MINUSTAH’s budget, like those of other peacekeeping missions, should be based on the situation on the ground and the mandate approved by the Security Council, and not by artificial budgetary ceilings,” she said.  The proposed budget reflected a decrease of $64.58 million, or 11.2 per cent and CELAC would thoroughly review the new proposals with a view to ensuring that the Mission would have the resources needed to deliver its mandate and to support the Government in areas including security, democratic governance, rule of law and humanitarian activities, such as combating cholera.


CELAC encouraged the Mission to make every effort to continue supporting Haiti’s reconstruction and development efforts.  Community violence reduction and quick impact projects had proven to be critical and effective tools to foster sustainable peace.  Among the positive results of quick-impact projects was the improvement in the relationship between the Mission and the local population.  CELAC members had been providing aid to Haiti before the Mission was established, and she urged other Member States to continue working for the reconstruction and future of Haiti.


CONRAD SHECK (Canada), speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, welcomed progress made with the assistance of MINUSTAH and Haiti’s partners in recovery and reconstruction after the 2010 earthquake.  Proposals for staff and budget reductions, which seemed to reflect a strong commitment by senior management in Haiti and New York to cost-effectiveness in the delivery of the Mission’s mandate, would be considered.  While progress had been steady, the most important benchmark for overall success must be justified confidence that achievements in improved security, rule of law and governance had a solid sustainable institutional foundation.


Aware of increasing pressures for resources to respond to new and continuing mandates, he shared concerns of other Member States regarding the growing peacekeeping budget and the need to ensure that all missions were created, maintained and eventually liquidated with a priority on efficiency in mandate delivery.  Supporting the recent Security Council debate on the potential for the accelerated transition of MINUSTAH, he looked forward to the strategic assessment that reflected conditions on the ground as a basis for decisions on the Mission’s mandate.  The report proposed only limited reductions and recommendations related to air assets, consultants and the office in Santo Domingo.  Decisions made during the current session should be guided by a collective commitment to ensuring that the Mission had the tools and resources needed to deliver its mandate.


BEATRICE PACUNEGA MANANO (Uganda), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the allocation of adequate resources was a key element to ensuring that peacekeeping missions delivered their mandates in full and on time.  Lessons learned showed that missions deserved the full support of Member States, instead of arbitrary budget cuts that negatively impacted operations.  The Group was concerned with the new form of cross-borrowing between active missions in the context of inter-mission cooperation and cautioned against any attempt to consider peacekeeping budgets as a compact.  Each mission’s budget must be approved on a stand-alone basis that considered its mandate and the situation on the ground.


Regarding cuts of $404 million, she stressed that peacekeeping budgets should not be viewed as a cost-saving exercise, but as a mandate-implementation resource-allocation exercise.  Unjustified reductions could endanger mandate implementation and the Group would scrutinize all budget proposals and seek details.  Emerging issues, including occasions when some United Nations officials took arbitrary decisions of cancelling flights or delaying the disbursement of funds, were also of concern.  The Group looked forward to examining the proposed budget for MINUSCA and expected that adequate resources and logistical support would be provided to the Mission in a timely manner, especially during the start-up phase.


IDREES MOHAMMED ALI MOHAMMED SAEED ( Sudan) said UNISFA’s mandate was appreciated, as it operated in the framework of cooperation with the countries of concern.  Concerning the previous period’s budget and current proposals, the proposed budget did not reflect details on national staff and information on filling Professional and General Service personnel was requested.  Quick-impact projects were welcomed as those efforts helped build confidence.  Turning to the environmental impact on resources and people, he said sanitation should be taken into consideration with construction projects.  It was hoped that the major construction project proposals, including an air strip and bridge, would be carried out.  The Mission was requested to engage local contractors, as such efforts would improve the local market and support national capacities in the field of construction.


FRITZNER GASPARD ( Haiti) said that the mandate of MINUSTAH was to help his country’s people along the path to social and sustainable development.  Progress was tangible, he said, pointing to some of the newly elected Government’s efforts.  In 2016, the national police would include 15,000 officers and recent initiatives included a planned municipal election.  The fight against cholera had progressed, with support from the Secretary-General.  But the Government faced financial challenges and a support group should be formed to find integrated solutions.  Welcoming the Mission’s efforts, he said that despite progress, challenges remained and, as a result, the Mission needed a well-balanced budget.


SÉRGIO RODRIGUES DOS SANTOS ( Brazil) said the MINUSTAH consolidation plan should include taking a responsible approach in the transition phase.  It should also be guided by the security situation and social and political dimensions and not by financial imperatives.  The Committee must make decisions that considered a mission’s unique mandate, complexities and operational conditions.  Efforts by MINUSTAH regarding uniformed personnel were key aspects of the current budget proposal and the Mission needed to rapidly respond in remote areas to support national police.  Community violence reduction and quick-impact projects were critical tools to foster sustainable peace and security and would become increasingly important as the Mission’s military footprint was reduced.  Brazil strongly opposed the adoption of efficiency measures at the expense of the safety and security of Mission staff and would seek further clarification on existing arrangements to handle medical evacuation cases.  Stability would only be achieved if issues of security, national reconciliation, human rights and development were addressed.


AMAN HASSEN BAME ( Ethiopia) said UNISFA had, over the previous budget period, successfully helped with the safe return of thousands of inhabitants, ensured civilian protection and supported the joint border verification and monitoring mechanism, maintaining a stable security environment.  However, the current proposal called for a reduction of $898,000, resulting from reduced requirements for construction and equipment, and failed to fully consider the Mission’s challenges, among them scant progress in completing construction projects.  As the Mission was operating in a difficult environment with little infrastructure, the proposed reduction for facilities should be reinstated and the current 2014/15 budget should be adjusted accordingly.


OMAR CASTAÑEDA SOLARES ( Guatemala), endorsing CELAC’s statement on MINUSTAH, said his country had participated actively in MINUSTAH and welcomed Haiti’s ongoing efforts.  The United Nations must maintain an appropriate presence there and its departure must be responsible and gradual to ensure that once the Mission left it never needed to return.  MINUSTAH forces still required operational support.  The Secretary-General’s proposed 2014/15 budget for MINUSTAH was 11.2 per cent less than for the last budget cycle.  The Mission must have the appropriate resources.  The MINUSTAH mandate should determine the budget, and not the reverse.  Noting that Haiti would hold legislative and local elections later this year, he expressed hope that no unjustified reductions to the MINUSTAH budget would be proposed.


GABRIELA COLÍN ORTEGA ( Mexico), endorsing CELAC’s statement on MINUSTAH, underscored Mexico’s support for Haiti.  The Mission’s support was a key element for guaranteeing Haiti’s sustainability.  MINUSTAH must have all the requisite resources in a timely, effective manner.  The optimal functioning of MINUSTAH must be guaranteed to enable it to respond to the situation on the ground.


HAKAN KARAÇAY ( Turkey) pointed to an increase in residential construction in the buffer zone patrolled by UNFICYP, saying their permanent nature threatened the status quo in the zone.  Permanent construction should not be considered an indication towards progress.  The Secretary-General’s report had noted 121 humanitarian visits to Greek Cypriot and Maronite communities in the north, but only six such visits to Turkish Cypriots in the south.  Moreover, no measures had been taken so far to address the unauthorized construction by Greek Cypriots of the university in Pile, located in the buffer zone, which threatened the demographic balance in the area.  The Turkish side had never agreed to its creation and asked why it was still operational.  Past fire-fighting experience in the buffer zone showed the need for cooperation by both sides.  Noting that 50 years had passed since UNFICYP’s deployment, he asked the Secretary-General to conduct a review of the mission.  He also asked for the total number of Greek and Turkish Cypriots employed by UNFICYP, noting a big discrepancy in ratio of Greek Cypriots to Turkish Cypriots.  UNFICYP must cooperate with both sides on equal footing.


MENELAOS MENELAOU ( Cyprus) said the UNFICYP budget should ensure that the mission’s mandate was fulfilled.  Responding to his counterpart from Turkey, he said he had hoped that Turkey would have abandoned that negative approach and replaced it with a focus on cooperation.  Noting that 40,000 military occupation troops were currently present in Cyprus, he said it was regrettable that certain countries were voicing positions that ran counter to the principles of the Organization.


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