BUDGET COMMITTEE TAKES UP $51.85 MILLION FINANCING PROPOSAL FOR FIVE SPECIAL POLITICAL MISSIONS

26 March 2008
GA/AB/3843

BUDGET COMMITTEE TAKES UP $51.85 MILLION FINANCING PROPOSAL FOR FIVE SPECIAL POLITICAL MISSIONS

26 March 2008
General Assembly
GA/AB/3843
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-second General Assembly

Fifth Committee

35th Meeting (AM)

Budget committee takes up $51.85 Million financing proposal

For five special political missions

 

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning took up a $51.85 million 2008 budget proposal for five special political missions, including the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Lord’s Resistance Army-affected areas, the United Nations Representative to the International Advisory and Monitoring Board and the Office of the Special Envoy for the future status process for Kosovo, as well as revised 2008 budgets for the United Nations Mission in Nepal and the Political Office for Somalia.

According to the Secretary-General’s report on the matter (document A/62/512/Add.6), which was introduced by the Director of the Programme Planning and Budget Division, Sharon Van Buerle, taking into account the balance of about $17.32 million in the overall provision for special political missions within the programme budget for 2008-2009, an additional appropriation of some $34.53 million net would be required under section 3, Political affairs.

She explained that proposed staffing requirements for 2008 for the Envoy for LRA-affected areas comprised a total of 10 positions, with total proposed resource requirements amounting to some $2.54 million net.  The total 2008 requirements for the International Advisory and Monitoring Board would amount to $64,600 for non-post requirements.  The proposed staffing resources for Nepal amounted to 887 positions, and total additional resource requirements for 2008 amounted to about $40.24 million net.

She also said that, given recent developments, it had been decided not to extend the United Nations Office of the Special Envoy for the future status of Kosovo beyond 31 March 2008, with the month of April for liquidation.  Its proposed staffing resources comprised a total of 11 positions, and total proposed requirements amounted to $620,800 net for three months of operation and one month of liquidation.

On the United Nations Political Office in Somalia (UNPOS), she said that the staffing proposal for the Office for 2008 comprised a total of 72 positions, in addition to 33 positions over the approved budget for 2008.  The total additional resource requirements for the Office for 2008 amounted to some $8.39 million net.

Commenting on the Secretary-General’s proposals, the Chairperson of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), Susan McLurg, said that the Advisory Committee’s recommendations would involve a reduction of $154,300 from the total proposal of $51.85 million net.  That reduction was related to the recommendation regarding four out of the 15 new positions proposed for the United Nations Mission in Nepal.  The ACABQ, in its report (document A/62/7/Add.37), questioned the need for new positions at this juncture, given the current vacancy situation and the length of time it normally took to recruit personnel.  Elections were scheduled to take place in mid-April, following which the Mission planned to completely phase out the substantive component by the end of July.  In view of that, the Advisory Committee was recommending that some of the new positions proposed be accommodated through redeployment and flexible use of vacant positions.

The Advisory Committee was recommending acceptance of the resources proposed by the Secretary-General for the United Nations Representative for the International Advisory and Monitoring Board, as well as the Office of the Special Envoy for the future status process for Kosovo, and the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Lord’s Resistance Army-affected areas.

The Advisory Committee had no objection to the budgetary proposals for the United Nations Political Office in Somalia (UNPOS), she said, but it was unlikely that the totality of resources requested could be utilized.  The ACABQ was recommending that the Secretary-General provide directly to the General Assembly, at the time of the consideration of his report, updated information on the financial requirements for 2008, so as to enable it to make a fully informed decision on the level of resources required.  ACABQ trusted that the structure of the Mission would be kept under review in light of experience gained, the recruitment of new staff would be evaluated in the context of the security situation in Somalia and deployment of staff would be based on operational requirements.

In connection with the Advisory Committee’s comments, Ms. Van Buerle said that the ACABQ recommendation against approval of four positions for Nepal would entail a reduction of $154,000 net ($183,200 gross).  Further information would be provided during informal consultations.

Japan’s representative expressed concern regarding the late introduction of the reports before the Committee and said that rapid growth of the special political mission budget had been one of the driving forces for increasing the United Nations regular budget in recent years.  Constant expansion of the special political mission budget could nurture a misguided conception that the expansion of the regular budget was inevitable.  She would like to examine the proposal carefully, to pursue a lean and efficient budget.

Regarding the Nepal Mission, she expressed condolences to the families and colleagues of the staff members who had lost their lives in a recent accident. As to the Mission’s proposed budget, elections were scheduled to take place in mid-April, and the Mission’s substantive component would be drawn down by the end of July.  Further rationale for new positions at this juncture had not yet been made available to the Committee.  Given the vacancy situation of 159 positions and the length of time of recruitment, new proposed posts should be accommodated through redeployment and flexible use of vacancies.  She also requested detailed information concerning the Mission’s facilities and infrastructure to ensure sound planning and mitigation of future risks.

On the Special Envoy for the LRA-affected areas, her delegation intended to consider the proposed budget, fully taking into account the role that the United Nations might play following the signing of the final agreement and would like to receive detailed information in that regard.  In connection with the Somalia Office, as the ACABQ had pointed out, recruitment of new staff should be evaluated in the context of the security situation, and deployment of staff should be based on operational requirements.  Recruitment and deployment of staff should be carefully planned and phased on the basis of realistic assumptions and accurate understanding of each stage during and after a conflict situation.  An integrated approach might not be an optimal solution for every situation.  Her delegation would like to be assured that the activities currently undertaken by other entities of the United Nations system in Somalia would in no way be hindered by a premature deployment of the Mission.

Uganda’s representative supported the efforts of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) Affected Areas for the important role he was playing in the peace talks between the Government of Uganda and the LRA, under the mediation of the Vice-President of the Government of the Sudan.   Uganda welcomed the principle of ensuring proper funding for the mission and noted the proposed financial and staffing requirements, as well as comments of the ACABQ thereon.  It, however, wanted clarification on a number of issues in order to enable it to make an informed decision.

Since the talks had almost concluded and what remained would be the implementation of the final agreement, Uganda wanted the present skeletal staff to be maintained for the time being, he stated.  Additional posts sought could be deployed as and when the need arose and after the necessary consultations with the host Government.  Furthermore, the Kampala Liaison Office should be under the Office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator.

He noted that, since the Juba talks began, following the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement in Juba in August 2006, considerable progress had been made.  Indeed, Uganda expected the signing of the final peace agreement by the end of this month.  It hoped that the LRA leadership would show total commitment to the peace process by signing that agreement.  His Government was fully committed to ensuring that the process bore fruit and to implementing all aspects of previous accords, particularly the agreement on principles of accountability and reconciliation signed in June 2006.

Regarding the United Nations Office in Somalia, he reiterated the importance Uganda attached to peace, security and stability in Somalia.  The deployment of a United Nations force in that country could go a long way in addressing some of the challenges mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report.  The United Nations should move quickly to finalize plans for deployment of peacekeepers to replace the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).  In the meantime, it should support AMISOM by extending the necessary financial and logistical support.  Member States that pledged troops to AMISOM should fulfil their pledges.

While expressing readiness to work constructively on the issues before the Committee, the representative of Egypt expressed serious concern regarding late issuance of the reports on the special political missions -- a situation that the Committee faced during every session.  The present report of the Secretary-General was dated 26 February and, as such, raised concern in respect of the six-week rule.   Egypt was aware of the heavy load on the ACABQ, but its report was dated 24 March, which was officially four days before the end of the resumed session.  With some 135 reports to be presented to the Committee during the main part of the sixty-third session, Egypt would be putting forward some proposals to address the situation.

Under other matters, the Sudan’s representative recalled that, at the beginning of the resumed session, the Chef de Cabinet had provided a response to some delegations’ questions about the appointment of Edward C. Luck as Special Adviser at the Assistant Secretary-General level.  In particular, he referred to the Chef de Cabinet’s statement that there had been an error in the press release on the appointment.  He asked if the mistake had been corrected by a subsequent press release and, if so, whether it had been done by the same people and offices that had made the mistake.  His delegation also asked the Secretariat to provide Member States with a copy of the appointment letter for Mr. Luck, making clear his exact title, post, step, rank and mandate.

The Committee is expected to hold a formal meeting at 3 p.m. on Friday, 28 March, to conclude its work for the first resumed session.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.