21 May 2009
Press Conference

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

press conference by senior United Nations management officials


on Organization’s financial situation

 


The top United Nations management official presented a “mixed picture” of the Organization’s financial health at a Headquarters press conference today, while noting some recent improvements in several areas.


Recalling her briefing last week to the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), Angela Kane, Under-Secretary-General for Management, said 16 Member States had paid all their dues to the Organization by 7 May, including assessments for the regular and peacekeeping budgets, the International Tribunals and the Capital Master Plan.  Australia had since joined that group.


While there had been progress in 2008, a negative trend had emerged in 2009, with a growing number of States not fully meeting their financial obligations, she said.  Of the $1.5 billion outstanding on 7 May, nine countries accounted for more than 94 per cent of that total.  For the regular budget, 76 Member States had paid in full as of 7 May, 10 fewer than a year before.  The world economic situation had definitely had an impact in that regard, with more countries finding it harder to meet their financial obligations to the United Nations, but the Organization’s financial health depended on Member States, including major contributors, paying their dues in full and on time.


Turning to peacekeeping, she pointed to a “significant improvement” as of 7 May, with 20 Member States having made all their payments and Australia having paid its dues since.  That was encouraging, particularly considering the entire peacekeeping budget, which now exceeded $8 billion per year.  Of the total owed as of 7 May, about 60 per cent was owed by just two Member States.  However, there were “very high expectations” that significant payments would be made by one of those countries, with encouraging comments having come not only from President Barack Obama, but also from members of his Government.


She went on to note that, while the financial positions of the International Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia had improved in 2008, the situation had worsened in the first four months of 2009.  As of 7 May, 49 Member States had paid their dues for the Tribunals in full ‑‑ 18 fewer than a year before, by which time unpaid assessments had stood at $158 million.  Again, six Member States had made their payments since 7 May.


As for the Capital Master Plan, for which the Assembly had approved $1.8 billion in 2006, she said that, while 12 Member States had opted for a one-time payment, 180 countries were under the multi-year payment system.  As of 7 May, 185 nations had paid a total of $1 billion and $139 million was currently outstanding.  As of now, 85 Member States had paid their Capital Master Plan assessments in full and one had made partial payments.


Asked for the names of the nine countries that owed the bulk of the debt to the United Nations budget, Ms. Kane listed the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Republic of Korea, China, Norway, Iran, Mexico and Brazil.  However, Brazil had paid $12.2 million since 7 May, reducing its outstanding arrears.  Another five Member States had also made payments after 7 May.


In response to a question about sanctions for non-payment of dues, she said the General Assembly could, under Article 19 of the United Nations Charter, suspend the voting rights of Member States that failed to pay up.


Accompanying Ms. Kane was United Nations Controller Jun Yamazaki, who pointed out that the Secretariat did not make any decisions in respect of the suspension of voting rights, but merely provided the Assembly with the numbers.  Having looked at the extenuating circumstances, the Assembly could decide to allow exemptions for non-paid-up Member States.


Regarding the Organization’s budget for conferences and meetings, he said the regular budget for the biennium 2008-2009 had provided more than $4 billion for that purpose.  Within that amount, there was a section that provided about $600 million for conference services at all duty stations during the biennium.


Responding to a question about “add-ons” to the 2008-2009 budget, he said that, having been revised by the General Assembly at the end of 2008, the budget now stood at more than $4.8 billion, the decision having been made on the basis of the Secretary-General’s proposals.  While the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) had recommended a reduction of some proposed amounts, Member States had accepted a considerable number of the Secretary-General’s requests.


Asked about a sole-source contract in Darfur, Ms. Kane said the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) had looked into the matter, which related to the start-up of operations in a hostile environment.  At the time, senior management had decided that awarding such a contract would be the best way to proceed.  In light of subsequent events, it was important to look at lessons learned and to consider the best way forward, particularly in view of the envisaged deployment in Somalia, where the environment was also very difficult.


Responding to a follow-up question, relating to information in the OIOS report that $4.3 million had been paid in Darfur to PAE Lockheed Martin for construction services that had not been provided, the Under-Secretary-General said the question would have to be directed to the Department of Field Support.  However, in addition to the OIOS report, there was also a report by the Secretary-General containing the responses of relevant departments.  There were different viewpoints on the matter, and both documents were on public record.


Regarding the National Competitive Examination (NCE), she said that, while a useful tool, it was hampered by a number of issues, the first of which concerned the thousands of candidates taking part and the mere handful of volunteers grading them.  Another problem was that the number of available P-2 positions had never been aligned with the number of successful candidates and, as a result, more than 400 people were now on the NCE roster, many of whom had no chance of ever being recruited because there were not enough vacancies.  The Secretariat wanted a “pause” to see whether the examination could be made a better instrument, both for Member States and for candidates.


In response to a question about security staff disciplined in connection with the December 2007 bombing of the United Nations compound in Algiers, Ms. Kane said she was unable to provide details since the matter was still under review.  An accountability report had been prepared on the issue, but due to its sensitive nature, parts of the report were highly confidential.  However, a thorough investigation had been conducted.


Asked about sexual harassment, she emphasized the Organization’s zero-tolerance policy, saying that mandatory training had been introduced for all staff to raise awareness of the issue in the Organization’s multicultural environment.  Sexual harassment was a matter of grave concern, and due to the efforts undertaken, there were fewer cases now than in the past.


To a question about internal investigations, she replied that, following a complaint, a departmental head was obligated to conduct an immediate preliminary investigation to determine whether there were sufficient grounds to proceed.  Following the preliminary investigation, the case proceeded to a formal internal inquiry.  Under the new administration of justice system, due to come into effect as of 1 July, proceedings would be professionalized and made quicker.  Each side would have legal advice and representation.  Once the case had gone through the Dispute Tribunal, a claimant could appeal to the new Administrative Tribunal, which would issue binding decisions.


Asked about an investigation of the use of pornographic sites by United Nations staff, the Under-Secretary-General said staff had been disciplined in a number of cases for forwarding pornographic e-mails they had received.  One staff member, who had been “very active in this realm”, had been dismissed.


She replied to a question about a recent OIOS investigation of the United Nations Medical Service by saying that the Service had been cleared of all wrongdoing.  As for the treatment of the “whistleblower” in that case, accountability “cut both ways”; sanctions were necessary for providing grossly misleading information.


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For information media • not an official record