BUDGET COMMITTEE TAKES UP FINANCING OF PEACEKEEPING MISSIONS IN CYPRUS, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

15 May 2008
GA/AB/3849

BUDGET COMMITTEE TAKES UP FINANCING OF PEACEKEEPING MISSIONS IN CYPRUS, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

15 May 2008
General Assembly
GA/AB/3849
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-second General Assembly

Fifth Committee

41st Meeting (AM)

Budget committee takes up financing of peacekeeping missions

in Cyprus, Democratic Republic of Congo

As the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) took up the $1.19 billion 2008-2009 budget proposal for the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), the African Group stressed the importance of providing adequate financing for the Mission, which played a key role in the stability of the country and the Great Lakes region as a whole.

Speaking on behalf of the Group, Angola’s representative pointed out that one of the main issues reflected in the budget was the need to provide funds to enable MONUC to support local elections later this year, as mandated by the Security Council.  Most of the net increase of 1,019 civilian posts proposed related to that function, and a number of them were temporary in nature.

She also emphasized the need to address the Mission’s high turnover rate:  each month MONUC recruited an average of 30 new staff, with 25 staff leaving.  If the problem persisted, it would not only cause the Mission to continue to incur training-related costs, but would also affect its effectiveness.  Unfortunately, the Committee had lost an opportunity during its first resumed session to address the harmonization of the conditions of service, which could have helped in addressing that problem.  The Group agreed with the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) on the need for full analysis of the causes of that situation.

In that connection, South Africa’s representative said the resource requirements for the upcoming elections were an investment in the long-term peace and stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes region.  He noted that, with 200,000 candidates in 6,000 constituencies, the upcoming elections would be much more complex than the last ones -- which had been the largest-ever elections held under the supervision of the United Nations, and in which MONUC had played a central role.

As explained by the Chairperson of the ACABQ, Susan McLurg, further factors affecting the estimates included the priority placed by the Mission, in accordance with Council resolution 1794 (2007), on addressing the security challenges posed by armed groups in the eastern part of the country, and the decision by the Mission to consolidate its three regional offices into two in order to strengthen decentralization in the eastern part of the country.

In connection with the financing of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), whose proposed 2008-2009 budget amounts to about $56.49 million, Argentina’s representative expressed concern about delays in making payments to the troop contributors and posed questions about the accommodations for members of the Force and rotation of one contingent by commercial flights.

Also taking the floor today were representatives of Uganda, Brazil and Egypt.  The Secretary-General’s reports before the Committee were introduced by United Nations Controller, Warren Sach.  Ms. McLurg introduced the ACABQ reports.

The Committee’s next meeting will be announced.

Background

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to consider financing of United Nations peacekeeping missions in Cyprus and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

By the performance report on the budget of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for the period from 1 July 2006 to 30 June 2007 (document A/62/649), the Assembly is requested to appropriate and assess an additional amount of $2.52 million for the maintenance of the Force with respect to the period in question.  It also needs to decide on the treatment of other income for the period ended 30 June 2007 amounting to $1.21 million from interest income ($286,300), other/miscellaneous income ($266,000) and savings on or cancellation of prior-period obligations ($660,400).

The additional requirements were attributable to the rotation of one contingent by commercial means owing to the unavailability of aircraft from the troop-contributing country, an increase in the mission subsistence allowances, revisions of the national staff salary scale, as well as the 6.5 per cent appreciation of the Cyprus pound against the United States dollar.

The unspent balance was attributable mainly to the non-utilization of the approved provisions for the Conduct and Discipline Team, owing to the establishment of the Regional Conduct and Discipline Team in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL); favourable rates charged by the mobile phone service provider; lower requirements for spare parts for microwave links and facsimile machines; and reduced procurement of information technology equipment.

The Committee also had before it a report on the financial arrangements for the Mission for the 2007-2008 period (document A/62/779).  According to this document, the total amount appropriated for this period amounts to some $48.85 million.  However, in its resolution 61/276, the Assembly endorsed revised support arrangements for staff officers, which resulted in additional requirements for the 2007-2008 period, for which no related provisions were made in the approved budget.  Additional requirements are also attributable to the change in support arrangements for United Nations police, revision of the salary scale for national staff effective 1 January 2008 and fluctuations in the currency exchange rates.

The additional requirements related to those changes are currently estimated at $4.03 million, of which $381,200 can be accommodated through currently approved resources, resulting in additional requirements of $3.65 million gross.  That amount includes some $1.17 million that would be funded through voluntary contributions from the Government of Cyprus, in addition to the $46.59 million already appropriated for the same period.  Thus, an amount of $2.48 million would be assessed on Member States, representing the balance of the additional appropriation, including the amount of $2.38 million for 2007-2008 and $103,325 for the period from 15 to 30 June 2008, should the Council extend the mandate of UNFICYP.

UNFICYP’s proposed budget for the period from 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009 (document A/62/718) amounts to about $56.49 million, inclusive of budgeted voluntary contributions in kind in the amount of $1.55 million.  The budget provides for the deployment of 860 military contingent personnel, 69 United Nations police officers, 40 international staff and 113 national staff.

According to the performance report on the budget of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for the period from 1 July 2006 to 30 June 2007 (document A/62/737), the Assembly needs to decide on the treatment of the unencumbered balance of $6.1 million with respect to the period from 1 July 2006 to 30 June 2007, as well as on the treatment of other income/adjustments for the period ended 30 June 2007 amounting to $55.46 million from interest income ($11.76 million), other/miscellaneous income ($2.19 million) and savings on or cancellation of prior-period obligations ($41.5 million), offset by prior period adjustments ($1,200).

The budget request for the maintenance of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) for the period from 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009 (document A/62/755) amounts to some $1.195 billion, providing for the deployment of 760 military observers, 17,030 military contingent personnel, 391 United Nations police officers, 750 formed police units personnel, 1,273 international staff, 2,866 national staff, and 795 United Nations Volunteers, including temporary positions.

Introduction

WARREN SACH, United Nations Controller, introduced the reports of the Secretary-General on the financing of UNFICYP (documents A/62/649, A/62/718 and Corr.1, and A/62/779) and on MONUC (documents A/62/737 and A/62/755).

SUSAN McLURG, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced the advisory committee’s report on UNFICYP (document A/62/781/Add.9), saying that, for the current period, the Secretary-General projected an over-expenditure of approximately $3.6 million.  The Secretary-General also indicated that the budget of UNFICYP did not have the capacity to absorb the additional requirements, which represented 7.8 per cent of its total budget for the 2007-2008 period and, therefore, requested appropriation and assessment of the amount of $3.6 million on an exceptional basis.  Under the circumstances, the Advisory Committee had recommended approval of the Secretary-General’s request.

The Committee also recommended the approval of the Secretary-General’s proposed budget of UNFICYP for 2008-2009 period, with the exception of a minor reduction relating to the establishment of a post for a P-5 senior legal adviser and the upward reclassification of three posts, she continued.  While the Committee agreed that provision should be made for legal advice for the mission, it considered that the envisaged functions of the senior legal adviser could be performed at the P-4 level.  As to the reclassifications, the Committee pointed out that UNFICYP’s mandate had remained stable since its inception in 1964.  It, therefore, did not consider that the upward reclassifications were required at this time.

Turning to the Advisory Committee’s report on MONUC (document A/62/781/Add.8), Ms. McLurg, said that the Committee was recommending that the proposed budget be reduced by $3.69 million to an amount of $1.187 billion.

She said that one of the  major factors impacting on the budget proposal was the planned support by MONUC, in accordance with Security Council resolution 1797 (2008), to the local elections, which were to be held during the 2008-2009 financial period.  The associated cost of MONUC support was estimated at $88.3 million.  The Advisory Committee noted that the estimates were predicated on the assumption that the elections would be held in the second half of 2008 and that a delay would have an impact on the requirements.  The Committee expected that developments in that regard would be carefully monitored and that the expenditure of such resources would be closely aligned with the objective of carrying out the elections.

Further factors affecting the estimates included the priority placed by the mission, in accordance with Security Council resolution 1794 (2007), on addressing the security challenges posed by armed groups in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the decision by the Mission to consolidate its three regional offices into two in order to strengthen decentralization in the eastern part of the country, she continued.  The Committee had requested the Secretariat to monitor the impact of the restructuring on the implementation by the Mission of its mandate and to report thereon in the next budget submission for MONUC, including efficiencies achieved and any economies realized.

She noted that the Secretary-General proposed a net increase of 1,019 posts and positions for the 2008-2009 period, with the bulk relating to temporary positions to support local elections and to the regularization of individual contractors and casual daily workers who were performing skilled functions that were core activities required on a continuing basis, mainly in the Security and Safety Section and Integrated Support Services.  The Advisory Committee had recommended the approval of both the electoral positions and the posts requested for regularization of individual contractors and daily casual workers.  With regard to the proposed electoral positions, the Committee noted that those would contribute to national capacity-building.

With regard to the proposal to establish a Strategic Planning Cell in the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, which would, among other things, develop benchmarks, as well as an indicative timeline for a gradual drawdown of the Mission, she said that the Committee acknowledged the requirement for the Mission to enhance coordination and realign activities with the country team in the transitional phased.  It, therefore, did not object to designating an entity in the Office of the Special Representative for that important function.  Also, in view of the increased emphasis on security sector reform in the Mission’s new post-election mandate, as adopted by the Security Council in its resolution 1756 (2007), the Committee recommended approval of the establishment and proposed staffing of a new Security Reform Unit that had been proposed.

Because the Committee considered it important to support the analytical capabilities of the Mission, it recommended approval of the staffing changes proposed by the Secretary-General for both the Joint Operations Centre and the Joint Mission Analysis Cell, she continued.  Also, in view of the existing staffing in the immediate Office of the Special Representative, the Committee recommended approval of the requested P-4 post for an administrative officer, but against the requested P-3 post.  Similarly, taking into account existing staffing in the office of the Deputy Special Representative, which consisted of nine posts, the Committee recommended approval of a United Nations Volunteer for an administrative assistant, but not the requested field service post for a coordination assistant.

With regard to the request for three new temporary petitions for conduct and discipline officers for Bunia, Goma and Bukavu, Ms. McLurg said that the Committee noted that the Conduct and Discipline Team currently consisted of 13 staff and, in its view, it was logical to move some conduct and discipline personnel to the east, together with the staff and contingent personnel that were being redeployed.  The Committee, therefore, recommended that some existing staff of the Team be redeployed to Bunia, Goma and Bukavu.  Should the need for additional conduct and discipline staff arise subsequently, it should be requested and fully justified in the next budget.

She also noted that the Secretary-General had proposed a layer increase for training-related travel and that requirements for training, including travel, had increased from an estimated $1.6 million for 5,373 staff and military personnel in 2007-2008 to $4.36 million for 9,446 personnel in 2008-2009.  The Advisory Committee was not provided with adequate justification for those large increases.  It, therefore, recommended, on the basis of the current level of expenditure, that the estimates be reduced to $673,700 for training and $640,400 for training-related travel.

Statements

ELSA CRISTINA DE JESUS PATACA (Angola), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that peace and security in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was an important cornerstone for the stability of the entire Great Lakes region.  The Group welcomed the Secretary-General’s proposed budget for the Mission in the amount of $1.191 billion and called for sufficient funding for all peacekeeping missions, to ensure that they were able to fulfil their mandates.

The Secretary-General’s report included a number of structural adjustments to make the Mission more efficient, and there had been a review of the organizational structure of three regional offices into two, in order to strengthen the decentralization in the eastern part of the country, she said.  She further noted the proposed establishment of a Strategic Planning Cell, a new Security Sector Reform Unit, the consolidation of the Contingent-Owned Equipment Section and the Property Management Section into one section, as well as establishment of a small workshop at Entebbe to perform inspection, maintenance and repair functions.

Council resolution 1797 had authorized MONUC to provide assistance in the organization of local elections, she continued.  Accordingly, she was pleased that one of the main issues reflected in the Secretary-General’s report was the need to provide funds to enable MONUC to provide logistical and technical support to the Government and electoral authorities.  Most of the net increase of 1,019 civilian posts proposed related to that function, and a number of them were temporary in nature.

In connection with the high vacancy rate projected for international staff and United Nations police, she said it was regrettable that the Mission recruited an average of 30 new staff each month and experienced a turnover rate of 25 staff leaving every month.  If the problem persisted, it would not only cause the Mission to continue to incur training-related costs, but would also affect its effectiveness.  Unfortunately, the Committee had lost an opportunity during its first resumed session to address the harmonization of conditions of service, which could have helped in addressing that problem.  The Group agreed with ACABQ on the need for full analysis of the causes of the high turnover rate.

The Group was encouraged that the Secretariat was taking measures to reduce costs, she said.  The proposed budget took into account efficiency gains of some $23 million to be realized, among others, in the areas of facilities and infrastructure, air transportation and communication.  It was a noble idea that the Mission should strive to achieve, but the Group cautioned that the pursuit of efficiency gains should not in any way be to the detriment of the work of the Mission.  She also noted that an assessment of quick-impact projects had determined the need for their continued existence.  The Group believed that the issues identified in paragraph 139 of document A/62/755 were important and fell within the purview of quick-impact projects.

JOSIEL MOTUMISI TAWANA ( South Africa) supported the position of the African Group and expressed his gratitude for the critical role that MONUC was playing.  The Mission was also mandated to attach the highest priority to addressing the ongoing situation in the eastern provinces and to play a critical role in the Kivus.  It ought to attend to the crisis in the Kivus in all its dimensions and protect the civilian population.  He shared the Secretary-General’s concern about the concentration of 90 per cent of the Mission’s forces in the eastern area and stressed that the Mission should not let that situation lead to security vacuums and expose it to weaknesses in other areas of potential and rising tension.

By its resolution 1797 (2008), the Council had authorized the Mission to provide assistance in the organization and conduct of local elections, he continued.  South Africa noted the good work that the Mission continued to do in helping rebuild democratic institutions and welcomed the key role played by other African States in that process.  MONUC had played a central role during the last elections -- the largest-ever elections under the supervision of the United Nations.  He noted with satisfaction that the resource requirements for MONUC in 2008-2009 were inclusive of further planned elections.  The last election had faced significant challenges, including a poor road and transportation network, the absence of a national identification system, as well as the fact that no multiparty elections had been held for 40 years.  The upcoming elections would be much more complex, involving 200,000 candidates in 6,000 constituencies.

The resource requirements for the upcoming elections were an investment in long-term peace and stability in the country and the Great Lakes region, he said.  The proposed resource requirements, inclusive of the conversion of posts for the elections, needed Member States’ unreserved support.  South Africa noted that the proposal submitted by the Secretary-General was $1.19 billion and that the ACABQ had recommended a slight reduction by $3.7 million.  He hoped that proposed reduction would not impact on MONUC’s ability to meet its huge mandate.

L.B. LUKWIYA ( Uganda) aligned himself with the position of the African Group and said that adequate funding for peacekeeping operations was not only desirable, but also necessary to ensure that the missions could fulfil their mandates.  He noted that the Advisory Committee had recommended a reduction for MONUC of some $3.7 million from the $1.19 billion proposed for 2008-2009.  Most of the Secretary-General’s budget proposal was a response to the provisions of Security Council resolutions 1794 (2007) and 1797 (2008), which had requested the Mission, among other things, to address security challenges posed by armed groups in the eastern part of the country and authorized it to provide assistance in the organization and conduct of local elections.  His delegation welcomed the inclusion in the budget of financial and human resources to address those issues.  Electoral assistance would further contribute to the strengthening of democratic institutions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Pacification and continued stability in the country, especially its eastern frontier, was a requirement for greater stability in the entire Great Lakes region.

Regarding the Entebbe Support Base, his delegation welcomed the proposals for its enhanced use, as a cost-cutting measure.  He particularly noted the proposed establishment of a small workshop to perform equipment inspection, maintenance and repairs in lieu of the current practice of sending all unserviceable communications and equipment to Kinshasa, as well as the establishment of a third heavy-vehicle team to enhance capacity of the Heavy Vehicle Transport Unit to move cargo from Entebbe to MONUC installations.  He also noted the information technology and communications workshop to provide more responsible and timely support to the eastern area of the country.

Also welcome was ongoing coordination between MONUC and other peacekeeping and support missions in the region (mostly the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) and the United Nations Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB)), for determining the scope and requirements for common support facilities.  MONUC was expanding the base, and there had been cooperation between missions with a view to exploring the concept of a regional support base in Entebbe.  That idea would ultimately bring about more efficiency gains to the Organization.  In document A/61/767, the Secretary-General had reported that the evaluation of activities and support functions to determine those that needed to be relocated in a shift towards a major eastern logistics hub in Entebbe was an ongoing process.  The conclusion of that process would ensure that Entebbe was utilized to its full potential.  The Government of Uganda was committed to peace and security in the region and supported the Entebbe Base for the use of not only MONUC, but also other peacekeeping and peacebuilding initiatives in the region.

ALEJANDRO TORRES LEPORI ( Argentina) said that his delegation shared the comments and concerns that had been expressed on MONUC, particularly with regard to the issue of the high rate of vacancies.

On UNFICYP, Argentina had always supported without restriction its mandate to return the situation in Cyprus to normality, he continued.  As a troop contributor to the Force, it was concerned about the delays in making payments to the troops.  During the Committee’s informal discussions, his delegation would be putting forward questions on that issue, since those delays were quite significant.  The troops needed to receive their pay in a timely manner.  He would also seek answers to questions on the issue of improving accommodations for the members of the Force, particularly with regard to the various stages that had been completed and how things would be shaping up in 2009.  He also had questions about troop rotations.  The troops had been rotated with commercial flights.  In that regard, Argentina would like to know the pros and cons of using charter flights.

FERNANDO DE OLIVEIRA SENA ( Brazil) expressed support for the mandate of UNFICYP and said that his country also shared the concern expressed by Argentina about delays in reimbursement to troops.  It was also concerned about conditions of service of the troops.

Turning to MONUC, he said that Brazil supported the statement made by the representative of Angola on behalf of the Africa Group.  The Fifth Committee should provide adequate resources to enable the mission to fulfil its mandate, including the mandate created by the Security Council resolution requiring it to provide assistance for the local elections.  Funds must be provided to enable MONUC to provide that assistance.  Brazil also supported making adequate resources available for quick-impact projects.  The Secretary-General’s report indicated a continuing strong need for such projects.

He also expressed Brazil’s support for resources for the disarmament and reinsertion programmes in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Those resources represented operational resources for the demobilization of ex-combatants, children in armed groups and repatriation to their countries of origin of ex-combatants in the eastern part of the country.

HESHAM MOHAMED EMAN AFIFI ( Egypt) said that he shared the concerns expressed by the representatives of Argentina and Brazil on the reimbursement of troops.  It was important to find a solution to that problem.  He also expressed his country’s continuing support to MONUC and said his delegation would work with others to ensure that the Mission had the resources it needed for effective functioning.

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