Budget Committee Takes up 2009/10 Financing for Peacekeeping Missions in Côte d’Ivoire, Haiti, Timor-Leste

26 May 2009
GA/AB/3908

Budget Committee Takes up 2009/10 Financing for Peacekeeping Missions in Côte d’Ivoire, Haiti, Timor-Leste

26 May 2009
General Assembly
GA/AB/3908
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-third General Assembly

Fifth Committee

48th Meeting (AM)

BUDGET COMMITTEE TAKES UP 2009/10 FINANCING FOR PEACEKEEPING MISSIONS

IN CÔTE D’IVOIRE, HAITI, TIMOR-LESTE

Report Providing Updated Financial Position of Closed Missions Also Introduced

Stressing the need to provide adequate financing for United Nations peacekeeping missions in Côte d’Ivoire, Haiti and Timor-Leste, several speakers in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning had questions about the cuts in their proposed budgets for 2009/10, which had been recommended by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).

The representative of Angola, who spoke on behalf of the African Group, was concerned about a $9.5 million proposed reduction for the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI).  She recalled, in that regard, that the Secretary-General had proposed a 6.4 per cent increase in the mission’s budget in 2009/10, mainly owing to the human resources management reform for international staff, troop camp construction expenses, requirements for contractors in air transportation, replacement of information technology equipment and official travel.  She added that continued implementation of all 124 quick impact projects proposed by the Secretary-General was crucial to confidence-building, reconciliation and social cohesion in Côte d’Ivoire.

The representative of Mexico, speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, was among the speakers who stressed the need to ensure sufficient financing for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), which needed to receive resources commensurate with its complex mandate.  Speakers noted that the improvements in Haiti’s security were fragile and could be undermined by the worsening conditions, particularly due to last year’s storms and the negative impact of the world financial crisis.

In addition, the Rio Group was concerned at the lack of balance in the make-up of civilian personnel versus military personnel in the Haiti Mission.  Around 60 per cent of military personnel came from Latin American countries, yet those same countries had only a small presence of professionals in the civilian teams.

In light of MINUSTAH’s complex mandate and increased activities, Brazil’s representative was concerned that the cuts proposed by ACABQ would negatively affect its operations.  The proposed reduction of $2.8 million in fuel requirements, for instance, did not seem prudent, given the recent increase in oil prices and current volatility of the market.  He was also concerned with the proposed cut in resources for official travel by 20 per cent.  The Mission’s current budget shortfall of $21 million was a strong indication that any reduction to the level of the proposed budget might hamper the ability of the Mission to implement its mandate.

The representative of New Zealand, also speaking on behalf of Australia and Canada, urged caution when planning for the future of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), including any possible drawdown of its police component.  The underlying situation remained fragile, and security gains should be consolidated.  The phased transfer of policing responsibilities from UNMIT to the national police was an immediate challenge that needed to be undertaken with close monitoring and support from the Mission.

That position was supported by the representative of Brazil, who said it was necessary to be careful not to engage in an early downsizing process that might later on prove to be unsustainable.  It was important to provide UNMIT with sufficient resources to plan and implement a comprehensive training programme for police and other uniformed groups, such as customs, immigration, prisons and coast guard, with a view to transfer capacities to the local authorities.  It was equally important for UNMIT to continue to support the drafting of local laws and training of judiciary personnel.

He also commented on the Advisory Committee’s recommendation against the approval of any additional support staff, as well as suggested reductions in fuel costs and air transportation.  Considering the Mission’s increased operational needs because of the local elections, such reductions might impair the ability of the Mission to implement its mandate.  The Secretary-General’s original budget did not contain provisions for the support of the local elections, which would amount to $3 million for the deployment of additional staff and United Nations Volunteers, which the Secretary-General intended to absorb from his proposed budget.  The cuts suggested by ACABQ, however, might make that impossible.

As the Committee turned to closed peacekeeping missions, United Nations Controller Jun Yamazaki updated the delegates on the anticipated need for continued cross-borrowing for the needs of active operations, which might actually increase in 2009/10, owing to the decisions taken by the Security Council regarding continued deployment of the increased strength of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) and the transfer of authority between the European Union and United Nations military component of the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT). Moreover, a request to the General Assembly was currently being finalized to ensure availability of financial resources for continuing support to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) during the 2009/10 period.  Pending receipt of assessed contributions, any shortfall related to those operations might have to be met from loans from closed peacekeeping missions.

Switzerland’s representative said that, actually, there would be a simple solution to that problem: all Member States should honour their obligations under the Charter, paying their assessed contributions in full, on time and without conditions.  While there might be legitimate reasons why a country was temporarily unable to fulfil its obligations, the reference to national legislation as an excuse for withholding contributions was unjustifiable.

At the moment, Member States that had fulfilled all their financial obligations with regard to closed missions were providing liquidity for active missions, because others were withholding their payments to some closed missions, he added.  That situation was neither fair, nor sustainable.  The cash balance of about $186.3 million available in the closed missions’ accounts should be returned to Member States according to financial regulation 5.3.  Doing so would also create an opportunity to satisfy, at least partly, the justified claims of troop- and police-contributing countries.

Also speaking this morning were representatives of Canada (also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand), Argentina (also on behalf of Uruguay), Côte d’Ivoire, Chile, Haiti and Bangladesh.  The reports before the Committee were introduced by Mr. Yamazaki, Susan McLurg, Chair of ACABQ, and Inga-Britt Ahlenius, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services.

The Committee will continue its work on peacekeeping financing at 10 a.m. Thursday, 28 May.

Background

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to consider financing of United Nations peacekeeping missions in Côte d’Ivoire, Haiti and Timor-Leste, and take up the financial reports in connection with closed missions.

According to the Secretary-General’s report on the performance report on the budget of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) for the period from 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008 (document A/63/610), the 2007/08 budget for UNOCI was $474.33 million gross.  It provided for 200 military observers; 7,915 military contingents; 1,200 police personnel, including 750 in formed units; 478 international staff; 631 national staff; and 288 United Nations Volunteers.  The final appropriated figure was $470.86 million gross.

The report asks the Assembly to decide on the treatment of an unencumbered balance of $5.58 million, and $13.92 million of “other income”, derived from $6.22 million in interest income, $666,100 in other/miscellaneous income and $7.04 million in cancellation of prior-period obligations, offset by prior-period adjustments ($3,700).

According to the Secretary-General’s report on the budget for UNOCI for the period from 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010 (document A/63/724), the proposed 2009/10 budget for UNOCI is $505.79 million, reflecting an increase of 6.4 per cent compared with the 2008/09 period.  The increase is attributable primarily to additional resources for salaries; increased requirements for recurrent operational costs; and the acquisition of prefabricated materials in the areas of facilities and infrastructure, air transportation, information technology and other supplies, and services and equipment to sustain the Operation’s deployment.  The increase is partly offset by the drawdown of the Operation’s authorized military troop personnel and by reduced non-recurrent costs, including acquisition of equipment, freight, services and related costs, as the Operation moves progressively towards the fulfilment of its mandated tasks.

The report says that a key event in the budget period is the holding of legislative elections, expected to take place 45 days after the presidential elections.  UNOCI will assist this process by contributing to the establishment and maintenance of a secure environment for the elections, providing technical and logistical support for the electoral process and monitoring the progress made in the various processes leading to credible and transparent elections.  In support of the elections, UNOCI will also consult with the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) on inter-mission arrangements in the form of military and air capability support.

Among other things, the report says that outstanding refurbishment on buildings and infrastructure which commenced in 2008/09 will continue, in particular the upgrade and restoration of airfields, landing sites and aviation fuel farms.

A report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) on programme evaluation of the performance and the achievement of results by the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (document A/63/713) says UNOCI’s presence remains critical to the peace process, although aspects of the Ouagadougou Agreement are creating an impact on the mission’s “achievement of results”.

OIOS observed substantial progress on mandated elements over which the mission has direct operational control, but limited progress on tasks where UNOCI plays a supporting role.  Many of the targets established in Security Council resolutions and the political accords signed by the Ivorian parties, such as elections and disarmament, have either not been achieved or postponed.  OIOS further observed that, while the Ouagadougou Agreement, signed in 2007, addresses key issues that were hindering the implementation of the peace process in Côte d’Ivoire, it had resulted in some contradiction with the UNOCI mandate and had added a degree of ambiguity to the mission’s role.  While the Council continued to renew all previous mandates, it also requested UNOCI to limit its role to supporting the full implementation of the Ouagadougou Agreement, while the Ivorian parties assumed the lead role.

According to a local population survey carried out by OIOS, the population of Côte d’Ivoire holds a positive view of UNOCI and appreciates its role in the peace process.  The mission’s operations are considered to be extremely necessary to ensuring stability and a secure environment for the elections, post-conflict development and lasting peace in the region.  The survey noted strong regional trends in attitudes about how long UNOCI should stay in the country after the elections.  The population in the centre/north-west of the country and in the confidence zone believes that UNOCI should stay on well after the elections, while that in the south and east shows less interest in a prolonged role for UNOCI.

OIOS says strategic planning at UNOCI needs strengthening.  The mission implementation plan is not updated regularly, which has resulted in inadequate guidance for mission priorities.  Integrated planning is lacking at the mission’s operational levels and with key partners.  Additionally, OIOS finds that UNOCI lacks an exit strategy that addresses consolidation, drawdown and withdrawal.

The organization of elections in Côte d’Ivoire risks being compromised by logistical and technical problems, the report says, including the identification and registration of voters.  Additionally, there are insufficient financial resources for the elections.  Postponing the elections presents UNOCI with an opportunity to use its experience and capacity by enabling the national authorities to determine a credible electoral calendar, and to address conditions that must be established prior to elections.  However, the dual role of certification and supporting the elections could put the mission’s credibility at risk, if it is not diligently managed.

The report says limited progress in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, and disarmament and dismantling of militias programme, and the absence of a formal mechanism for coordinating security sector reform in Côte d’Ivoire pose risks to the peace process.  The disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, and disarmament and dismantling of militias programme in Côte d’Ivoire is a nationally driven process led by the Ivorian parties and supported by UNOCI.  Planning and coordination at the mission requires strengthening.  Likewise, the national integrated command centre, which is responsible for planning and implementing the programme, lacks institutional capacity and needs strengthening.

Despite limited progress in implementing the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, and disarmament and dismantling of militias programme, some progress has been made in addressing short-term needs of ex-combatants, as seen in reinsertion programmes, such as the “1,000 micro-projects” initiative.  However, OIOS could not determine if a formal needs assessment had been undertaken to determine actual requirements and preferences of beneficiaries.  The report also points to the need to strengthen coordination with regional partners.  There is a threat of violence erupting during and after the elections that endangers the safety of United Nations personnel and institutions, and that needs to be closely managed and mitigated by senior management.  The report contains 16 recommendations to UNOCI to address these challenges, improve its performance and promote the achievement of results.

OIOS says its report has been reviewed by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Department of Field Support and UNOCI.  The mission has provided specific comments and additional information on each of the recommendations, which have been incorporated throughout the report.  The Department of Peacekeeping Operations has taken note of the comments of the mission.

According to the performance report on the budget for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) for the period from 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008 (document A/63/549), $535.37 million gross was appropriated for the maintenance of the Mission for 2007/08.  The Mission spent more than was budgeted for military contingents, United Nations police, international staff, general temporary assistance, ground transportation and naval transportation.  But, it spent less on national staff, United Nations Volunteers, consultants, facilities and infrastructure, air transportation, communications, information technology, medical needs and special equipment.  The Assembly is asked to decide on the treatment of the unencumbered balance of $1.30 million and of $17.72 million in other income (derived from $3.82 million in interest income, $644,800 in other/miscellaneous income and $13.25 million from cancellation of prior-period obligations, offset by $1,300 in prior-period adjustments).

According to the Secretary-General’s budget for MINUSTAH for the period from 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010 (document A/63/709), the Mission will require $618.62 million in 2009/10, an increase of 7.6 per cent compared with 2008/09.  The budget provides for the deployment of 7,060 military contingent personnel, 951 United Nations police officers, 1,140 formed police personnel, 24 Government-provided personnel, 552 international staff, 1,293 national staff and 231 United Nations Volunteers, including temporary positions.

According to the performance report on the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) (document A/63/607), the General Assembly appropriated a total amount of about $169.6 million gross for the maintenance of the Mission for the period from 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008.  Expenditures for the period totalled some $162.63 million gross, resulting in an unencumbered balance of $6.96 million gross (4.1 per cent of the appropriation).

As presented in the report, the underexpenditures for the period are mainly attributable to the lower reimbursement for the formed police-unit equipment, based on the signed memorandums of understanding; lower than projected average number of staff, owing to the high turnover and difficulties in attracting candidates; the postponement of elections; non-deployment of the medical evacuation and search-and-rescue helicopter; and delayed establishment of a medical facility.  Those underexpenditures were partially offset by increased requirements due to the retention of 220 United Nations Volunteers, as compared to the budgeted provision of 131 Volunteers, owing to the postponement of the elections; and acquisition of 71 vehicles in partial replacement of the United Nations Office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL) vehicles that had reached their maximum operational life.

The Committee also had before it the proposed $210.61 million budget for UNMIT for 2009/10 (document A/63/710), which represents an increase of about $37.77 million, or 21.9 per cent, compared with the appropriation for 2008/09.  Major increases are under United Nations police ($5.9 million), international staff ($15.4 million), official travel ($3.2 million) and air transportation ($12.1 million).  The proposed budget provides for planned deployment of 34 military observers, 1,605 United Nations police personnel (1,045 police officers and 560 formed police unit personnel), 455 international staff, 996 national staff and 146 United Nations Volunteers.  It also reflects a phased drawdown of United Nations police personnel, from the authorized strength of 1,605 to 1,229.

The Committee also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the updated financial position of closed peacekeeping missions (document A/63/581), which indicates that some $186.3 million remained in the accounts of closed peacekeeping missions with cash surpluses as at 30 June 2008.  That amount is net of loans that had not been repaid, totalling $37.82 million, owed by several closed and active missions.  Five of the twenty-one closed peacekeeping missions had cash deficits totalling $86.71 million, owing to outstanding payments of assessments.

The Secretary-General indicates that, as a result of the high level of unpaid assessments to the budgets of active missions, there is a continuing need to borrow from closed missions.  The need to resort to cross-borrowing from closed missions may actually increase during the 2009/10 financial period, owing in particular to the expected increase in strength of the missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic and Chad, as well as the establishment of a mission in Somalia.  Among other factors contributing to missions’ cash shortfalls, the Secretary-General also mentions a significant time lag, often ranging from 60 to 120 days, between the issuance of notifications to Member States and the receipt of assessed contributions.

The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), in a related report (document A/63/856), reiterates that it is for the General Assembly to decide on the disposition of balances from closed missions, which now total almost $186.3 million.

Introduction of Reports

JUN YAMAZAKI, Controller, introduced the Secretary-General’s 2007/08 performance reports and 2009/10 budget reports for three peacekeeping operations: UNOCI (documents A/63/10 and A/63/724); MINUSTAH (documents A/63/549, A/63/549/Corr.1, and A/63/709); and UNMIT (documents A/63/607, A/63/710 and A/63/710/Add.1).

SUSAN McLURG, Chair of ACABQ, introduced the reports of that Committee on each peacekeeping operation.  On UNOCI, she said ACABQ recommended changes to the proposed 2009/10 budget that would entail a reduction of $9.49 million.  ACABQ recommended approval of the Secretary-General’s staffing proposals, except for the upward reclassification of the post of Special Assistant to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General from P-3 to P-5 and the post of Spokesperson in the Communications and Public Information Office from P-4 to P-5.  It would also recommend approval of the conversion of 21 posts from international to national posts, which would entail a reduction of $1.47 million.  Also, the budget should be calculated based on average fuel costs for January to March, which would entail another reduction of $7.04 million.

On MINUSTAH, she said ACABQ recommended changes to the 2009/10 budget that would entail a reduction of $3.30 million.  It had no objections to the Secretary-General’s staffing proposals, which involved the establishment of 44 posts and the abolition of 5 posts and 6 temporary positions.  ACABQ welcomed the fact that the majority of posts were in the national staff category.  Furthermore, absent a justification for an increase of 69.8 per cent for official travel, ACABQ recommended a 20 per cent reduction in resources requested for that item.  Again, it recommended that fuel requirements be calculated based on average fuel costs for January to March.

On UNMIT, she said ACABQ recommended changes that would entail a reduction of $8.14 million in its budget.  The proposed budget reflected a phased drawdown of police personnel, from the authorized strength of 1,605 to 1,229, with the final scale and scope to be determined by operational conditions.  ACABQ recommended that the Mission keep its support structure under review in order to align it with the phased drawdown.  ACABQ recommended against approval of the increase of 31 posts under the support component, believing that the functions envisaged for the proposed posts should be accommodated from within existing capacity.

Continuing on UNMIT, she again said that fuel requirements should be calculated based on average fuels costs for January to March, which would entail a reduction of $1.9 million in fuel requirements and a reduction in the estimate for air travel from $25.01 million to $24.27 million.  Also, ACABQ suggested it was possible to reduce air travel costs by another $4.85 million, because the contract for UNMIT’s four helicopters would expire in November and renewing the contracts for their usage was likely to be a long process.

Further on UNMIT, she said ACABQ had received an addendum to the proposed budget, in which the Secretary-General had indicated that -- in response to Security Council resolution 1867 (2009) -- UNMIT would provide logistical, security and human resources necessary to respond to the Government’s request for assistance for the 2009 local elections.  Preparations would begin in May, with elections expected to be complete in April 2010.  Resources for those activities were estimated at $3.07 million gross, and would provide for 74 temporary positions.  The Secretary-General had indicated that those costs would be absorbed from within the proposed 2009/10 budget, which was also ACABQ’s expectation.  ACABQ recommended that the Assembly take note of those requirements.

INGA-BRITT AHLENIUS, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, introduced the OIOS report on its programme evaluation of UNOCI’s performance and achievement of results (document A/63/713).  It was the first evaluation of its kind, and OIOS hoped to conduct a minimum of two per year, if given additional resources proposed in the budget.  The goal was to ensure that all peacekeeping missions were evaluated at least once in their operational life.

She explained that UNOCI had been selected for an evaluation based on an OIOS risk assessment.  The review was focused on progress in achieving the mission’s mandates and operational objectives, the relevance of the mandate, activities and operational outputs in the context of the current political situation, and the efficiency with which outputs were delivered.  In addition, it looked at the validity of strategies and partnerships agreements, and tried to identify best practices.  OIOS had made 16 recommendations based on the evaluation.

She said OIOS’s evaluations had found that UNOCI’s presence “remains critical to the peace process”, since “it promotes a safer and more secure environment and provides much needed support to the peace process”.  But, OIOS had also found that the Ouagadougou Peace Agreement limited the mission’s role to a supporting role, which affected UNOCI’s overall achievement of results.  The mission had made substantial progress on elements over which it had direct operational control, such as monitoring the cessation of hostilities, the movement of armed groups, protection of United Nations personnel, institutions and civilians, as well as in monitoring the arms embargo.  Limited progress had been achieved in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration activities, and in the disarmament and dismantling of militias.

She said OIOS had found that strategic planning needed strengthening, and that future planning needed to focus on an exit strategy that addressed the eventual consolidation, drawdown and withdrawal of the peacekeeping force.  There were logistical and technical challenges involved in organizing elections in Côte d’Ivoire, which presented an opportunity for the mission to leverage its experience, capacity and neutrality.  One example was to help national authorities to determine a clear and credible electoral calendar and address the remaining challenges to the electoral process.

On the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process and the disarmament and dismantling of militia, she said OIOS had found that limited progress in those areas posed risks to the peace process.  It indicated that the security of United Nations personnel and premises needed reviewing and tightening.

In carrying out the study, OIOS had conducted a survey of the local population to gauge the perception of ordinary civilians and former combatants, she explained.  The local population held a positive view about the United Nations and its peacekeeping operations.  The population appreciated the presence of UNOCI in the country and rated the mission’s impartiality and treatment of civilians as “high”.  The population understood the role of United Nations peacekeeping forces in helping to end conflict and in providing a safe and stable environment.

Statements

ELSA PATAKA (Angola), speaking on behalf of the African Group, stressed the importance of peace and security in Côte d’Ivoire for the peace, stability and development of the West African subregion.  She welcomed the Ivorian Government’s announcement of the date for presidential elections in November 2009.

Continuing, she noted with appreciation ACABQ’s observation that, for the fourth consecutive year, UNOCI had had fewer recommendations by the Board of Auditors as a result of the establishment of an audit focal point, which ensured the monitoring and timely implementation of the Board’s recommendations.  The Group was also satisfied with the quality of UNOCI’s budget documents and supported the comments by ACABQ in paragraph 18 of its report.  The 6.4 per cent increase in the budget of the mission was mainly due to the human resources management reform for international staff, troop camp construction expenses, requirements for contractors in air transportation, replacement of information technology equipment and official travel.

The Group remained committed to its position with regard of adequate funding for all peacekeeping missions to ensure proper execution of their mandates.  Therefore, she was concerned at the budget reduction proposed by the Advisory Committee in the total amount of $9.49 million.  The African Group would seek further clarification, in that regard, during informals.  She also noted with concern the high vacancy rate in the mission’s 2008/09 budget, particularly for the United Nations police.

Security Council resolution 1865 (2009) had renewed the mandate of UNOCI, in particular with regard to the organization of the elections, she said.  The Group supported the 16 recommendations of OIOS.  Adequate implementation of those recommendations could make a great contribution to the goals contained in the Ouagadougou Agreement.  The Group noted further that continued implementation of all 124 quick impact projects proposed by the Secretary-General was crucial to confidence-building, reconciliation and social cohesion in Côte d’Ivoire.

INGRID BERLANGA VASILE (Mexico), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, addressed the question of MINUSTAH, voicing the Group’s renewed commitment to rebuilding Haiti’s socio-economic foundations and improving the security situation.  That would be done by helping re-establish Haiti’s democratic institutions, promoting social development and fighting poverty.  The Group trusted that the country would continue to make progress in achieving political and social stability, and laying down the foundations for economic progress.

She said progress on security must go hand in hand with advances in economic and social development.  MINUSTAH and the country team must strengthen their coordination in support of Haiti’s efforts.  The Rio Group would like to ensure that MINUSTAH had the resources to implement its mandate.  It had questions on the proposals of the Secretary-General and ACABQ’s recommendations regarding MINUSTAH, which it would ask later.

In addition, the Rio Group was concerned about the lack of balance in the make-up of civilian personnel versus military personnel, she said.  Around 60 per cent of the military personnel came from Latin American countries, which was not matched by the small presence of professionals in the civilian teams.  She acknowledged the coordination task force of Latin American troop-contributing countries, through a mechanism called “2x9”, designed to help the countries avoid duplication and optimize resources.

PHILLIP TAULA (New Zealand), speaking also on behalf of Australia and Canada, expressed strong support for UNMIT and welcomed the significant progress made by the Mission and the Government of Timor-Leste over the past year, assisted by the presence of the International Stabilization Force (ISF) involving Australia and New Zealand.  In spite of the progress achieved, however, a great deal of work still lay ahead.  UNMIT continued to have a complex and demanding mandate, and the phased transfer of policing responsibilities from UNMIT to the national police was an immediate challenge that needed to be undertaken with close monitoring and support from UNMIT.  In that regard, he continued to urge caution when planning for the future, including any possible drawdown of UNMIT police, or other substantial changes in the Mission.  The underlying situation remained fragile, and security gains should be consolidated.

UNMIT continued to assist the Government and national institutions in their efforts to consolidate democracy and further national reconciliation, he continued.  Local elections later this year would be another important step in that process.  UNMIT had a key role in the reform of the security sector and in strengthening the rule of law and respect for human rights.  It also played an integral role in helping to improve Timor-Leste’s development and humanitarian conditions.  Timor-Leste needed sustained support from the international community, led by UNMIT, to ensure stability and security and to overcome the challenges of poverty, unemployment and fragile institutions.

Commenting on the reports before the Committee, he said that cost increases and other external factors represented a significant proportion of the increase in the proposed budget for 2009/10.  A number of new national and international positions had also been proposed.  He was interested in receiving further information on the importance of those functions and about other elements of the proposal.  He also wanted to know about the impact of the policing handover on the budget proposal.  He remained concerned about continuing high vacancy and turnover rates in UNMIT, which ACABQ was also commenting on.  He would appreciate an update from the Secretariat during informal meetings on the staffing situation.

OLIVIER POULIN (Canada), speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, said much needed to be done to restore stability and security in Haiti after the devastating storms of last year.  It demonstrated the need for a multifaceted United Nations presence in that country, and he supported the idea of an integrated United Nations effort.  Given the interrelated nature of security, humanitarian and development challenges, close cooperation between MINUSTAH and the country team was important.  Canada trusted that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General would continue to strengthen the integrated character of the Mission, and use his good offices in support of all United Nations actors, including the funds and programmes.

He voiced concern over the $273 million in outstanding assessments, saying that MINUSTAH needed a healthy cash flow to respond to unforeseen challenges brought on by the storms and the protests of last year.  He urged all States to honour their obligations, and pay their assessments on time, in full and without condition.  He noted that extraordinary requirements due to the storms were estimated at over $21 million.  He looked forward to discussions with ACABQ and Secretariat officials on that issue.

CLAUDIA CORTI (Argentina), also speaking on behalf of Uruguay, associated herself with the position of the Rio Group and said that adequate resources should be provided for MINUSTAH to implement its mandate.  The stabilization process in Haiti had suffered setbacks in 2008 as a result of the political crisis and a series of storms.  Natural disasters had, in a few days, destroyed the achievements of three years, and the international community needed to provide assistance to meet the needs of the population.  The political events in Haiti in 2008 had stressed the fragility of recent achievements and demonstrated the need to strengthen the authority of the State throughout the country.  She noted with concern that the economic development of Haiti had been significantly compromised by last year’s events.  The situation in the country continued to be fragile, with Haitian institutions having limited ability to provide services to the population.

Continuing, she said that Argentina and Uruguay supported all the proposals of the Secretary-General for MINUSTAH, including the post requests.  With regard to quick impact projects, she said those had proven to be effective.  She supported new requests for that item.  The proposed figure for quick impact projects was identical to the amount for the current period, but the projects were integral to the mandate of the Mission, and for creating the continued trust of the population for the Mission and the stabilization process.

Commenting on the report of the Advisory Committee, she expressed support for the reduction made by the Mission and supported the Secretary-General’s request to establish a special unit for the penitentiary system.  Regarding the proposal to cut the expenses for official travel by 20 per cent, she said that greater information should be provided during informal consultations to assess the relevance of suggested expenditures.  She also acknowledged the coordination efforts for donors and troop contributors, as well as the value of a “2x9” mechanism as the means of uniting the ministries of defence and foreign relations of the Latin American troop contributors, as well as an innovative mechanism for supporting the Mission in the field, the Government of Haiti and the peace process in the country.

BROUZ RALPH COFFI ( C ôte d’Ivoire), aligning himself with the African Group, thanked the international community and the United Nations for the assistance given to his country for advancing the goals of the Ouagadogou Agreement.  He conveyed the firm commitment of the signatories of the Agreement -- President Laurent Gbagbo, Prime Minister Guillaume Soro and the Facilitator, Blaise Compaoré -- in pursuing the accord’s main goal, which was to hold elections in 2009.  So far, a decree had been passed to convene a board of elections and to decide on the time period for the first round of elections for President, with 29 November 2009 chosen as the starting date of the first round.  In addition, the Independent Electoral Commission had proposed a timetable, by which it set a deadline for reproducing lost or destroyed official records, and dates for the start of the transfer of authority to the new armed forces and civil authorities.  Electoral registration would take place at the end of June, to allow the electoral slates to be published in September.

He said members of the Cadre permanent de concertation, which was responsible for the implementation of the peace agreement, took note of the “encouraging results” of efforts to deploy 800 police units and gendarmerie to help with reunification.  The Cadre permanent de concertation had begun dealing with the financing needs for the crisis recovery process, on which Côte d’Ivoire was receiving many forms of support.  The World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative, had agreed to help finance the process of crisis recovery and restart the national economy.  The Club of Paris and another informal group of creditors had cancelled $845 million in debt and had signed a debt restructuring agreement.  The European Investment Bank had resumed its full cooperation with Côte d’Ivoire after having stopped its activities 10 years ago, had decided to suspend the country’s current debt reimbursements until 2010 and “allowing it” the use of €4.6 million.  Creditors from the London Club and other institutions had decided on similar moves to settle private debt.  Yesterday, Ivorian officials had met the Director-General of IMF to discuss the country’s macroeconomic indicators, public finance and structural economic programmes.

He said Cote d’Ivoire’s return to the international financial scene would culminate in a meeting of the forty-fifth annual Assembly of the African Development Bank in Abidjan on 27 and 28 May.  He expressed thanks on behalf of the President to Côte d’Ivoire’s partners, particularly France, for the support they had given so far.  He encouraged everyone to continue their helpful efforts until the completion of the HIPC Debt Initiative, which involved a “redeployment” of financial institutions; disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes; dismantling of militias; reinstitution of the civil service; revision of electoral lists; restructuring of security forces; and embarking on post-crisis reconstruction programmes.  Côte d’Ivoire would work towards obtaining commitments from various countries to help reduce its poverty rate, which was close to 49 per cent.

He said it was important to allocate UNOCI with the resources it needed, so that it could continue its efforts to help Côte d’Ivoire emerge from the crisis.  He reiterated the concerns over ACABQ’s recommendation to reduce the budget by $9.5 million in 2009/10, out of which $7 million had to do with fuel.  He asked that the Committee take account of Côte d’Ivoire’s “reality” when negotiating the 2009/10 budget.  He repeated his country’s desire to see funding for quick impact projects, as proposed by Secretary-General, which played a key role in national reconciliation.  Hopefully, international peacekeeping posts would be turned into national posts whenever possible, which would contribute to strengthening local capabilities.

In sum, he asked that all resources asked by UNOCI be granted and said that Côte d’Ivoire was ready for constructive and fruitful negotiations on that topic.

Mr. TORRES ( Chile) supported the position of the Rio Group and stressed the need to provide adequate resources for MINUSTAH in order to allow the Mission to implement its mandate.  He supported the Secretary-General’s proposed budget for MINUSTAH, while noting the impact of the global economic crisis and last year’s natural disasters on Haiti.

Continuing, he said he was convinced of the positive effect of quick impact projects, which benefited the population, improved security and generated confidence between the people of Haiti and the Mission.  He urged having an identification of priorities and continuing quick impact projects, with participation of local authorities.  MINUSTAH needed more effective coordination with protagonists on the ground, particularly the Government of Haiti, which had already established a national strategy for growth and eradication of poverty.  The ability to provide support for police reform was key to achieving proper stabilization and consolidation of the rule of law in Haiti.  He stressed the need to ensure better training of the police, in that regard.

In conclusion, he expressed concern over the small representation -- 6 per cent -- of Latin American and Caribbean countries among the civil international staff of MINUSTAH.  Considering that the countries of the region provided about 60 per cent of the troops for the Mission, he believed that the geographic imbalance should be corrected.

GUILHERME DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA ( Brazil), while noting encouraging progress in Haiti, said there had been a marked deterioration in the living conditions there, in particular due to natural disasters last year and the negative impact of the global financial and food crises.  The improvements in security were fragile and could be undermined by the dreadful social and economic conditions.  It was essential for the international community to increase its support to Haiti, to enable the country to overcome its current challenges and embark on a path of stability, reconstruction and development.  MINUSTAH was in a unique position to assist Haiti and must receive resources commensurate with its complex mandate.  In that regard, he highlighted the interconnected nature of the challenges in Haiti.  Sustainable progress on security issues, national reconciliation and development must go hand in hand.

MINUSTAH had supported the Haitian Government in its efforts to improve security, he continued.  However, the fragility of recent gains demonstrated that more work was needed to make them fully sustainable.  In that connection, he stressed the key role of the reform and strengthening of the Haitian national police, as well as the judiciary and correction system, which were all actively supported by MINUSTAH.  Among other things, Brazil also highlighted the Mission’s continuing efforts towards a comprehensive community-violence-reduction programme adapted to local conditions, as well as its efforts to promote an all-inclusive political dialogue and provide assistance for the upcoming elections.  The Government of Haiti had recently extended the polling stations to over 600 new locations, and it was important to ensure that MINUSTAH received the additional resources required to deal with that logistical challenge.

In light of MINUSTAH’s complex mandate and increased activities, he was concerned that the cuts proposed by ACABQ would negatively affect its operations, he said.  The proposed reduction of $2.8 million in fuel requirements, for instance, did not seem prudent, given the recent increase in oil prices and current volatility of the market.  He was also concerned with the proposed cut in resources for official travel by 20 per cent.  For the current financial period, the budget of the Mission showed an estimated shortfall of $21 million.  That was a strong indication that any reduction to the level of the proposed budget might hamper the ability of the Mission to implement its mandate.

One should not forget that Haiti’s needs were pressing and very significant, he said.  In a time of crisis, the poorest of the nations were the ones most adversely affected.  “We must not withdraw our helping hand precisely when they need it most,” he said.  While emphasizing the importance of dedicating sufficient resources for the implementation of quick impact projects, he said that 2009/10 cost estimates for those projects had been maintained at the level of $2 million, similar to what had been approved for the current financial period.  In that connection, he recalled that, according to the policy directive of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, budgetary requests for quick impact projects should constitute up to 1 per cent of requested resources.  That would have amounted to $6 million.  He intended to seek further clarification on the Secretary-General’s request during informal consultations.

Turning to the Mission in Timor-Leste, he said he was encouraged by the progress there since the events of February last year, but was concerned that substantial challenges still remained.  He agreed with the Secretary-General that long-term success depended on further socio-economic and security-related progress.  Deep poverty was not only disturbing from a human point of view, but could also have far-reaching impact.  The persistence of deprivation called for renewed international efforts to support the Timorese Government and people.  He also hoped that the remaining camps of internally displaced persons would be closed soon.

Regarding the key issue of the security sector reform, it was encouraging that continued efforts had led to further progress in the registration, screening and certification for the national police, and that the Government and UNMIT had reached a broad agreement on the resumption of policing responsibilities by the national police.  He supported the willingness of the Timorese Government to assume such responsibilities.  However, that was a gradual process that would take time to materialize.  It was also necessary to be careful not to engage in an early downsizing process that might later on prove to be unsustainable.  It was important to provide UNMIT with sufficient resources to plan and implement a comprehensive training programme for police and other uniformed groups, such as customs, immigration, prisons and coast guard, with a view to transfer capacities to the local law enforcement authorities.  It was equally important for UNMIT to continue to support the drafting of local laws and training of judiciary personnel.

In 2009/10, the Mission would need additional resources to support village and municipal elections planned for 2009, as requested in Council resolution 1867 (2009), he said.  In connection with the elections, the Mission was also supporting the Government in a major reform of administrative and territorial management.  His delegation would scrutinize very carefully some of the budget cuts proposed by ACABQ.  He noted that the Advisory Committee had not recommended the approval of any additional support staff, and had also suggested reductions in fuel costs and air transportation.  Considering the increased operational needs, because of the local elections, such reductions might impair the ability of the Mission to implement its mandate.

He added that, in an addendum to the budget proposal, the Secretary-General had indicated that his original budget did not contain provisions for the support of the local elections.  That would amount to $3 million, for the deployment of additional staff and United Nations Volunteers, which the Secretary-General intended to absorb in his proposed budget.  The cuts suggested by ACABQ, however, might make that impossible.

STEPHAN DÉJOIE (Haiti), aligning himself with the Rio Group, welcomed efforts by MINUSTAH, highlighting progress made in helping reform the national police force.  He hoped it was possible for MINUSTAH to implement all the recommendations of the Board of Auditors, and encouraged the Mission to coordinate its efforts with those of the Government and other stakeholders, so as to avoid duplication of efforts.  That included efforts and commitments not yet entered into, but that were described by the Board of Auditors.

He welcomed improvements in the reduction of vacancies for national staff, and voiced support for ACABQ’s recommendation on training needs for local staff.  He reiterated his Government’s appreciation for MINUSTAH’s work in building peace in his country, and in creating lasting stability and restoring the rule of law.  He expressed hope that further information would be provided on posts approved since 2006/07, which had not yet been filled.

He welcomed the recent appointment of Bill Clinton as Special Envoy of Secretary-General for Haiti, saying he held the hope that his efforts, along with those of the Government, MINUSTAH, United Nations funds and programmes, civil society, regional and international organizations and bilateral cooperation, would help further the mandate given by the Security Council to achieve the well-being of Haitians.

Closed Missions

Mr. YAMAZAKI introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the financial situation of closed peacekeeping missions (document A/63/581), saying it was anticipated that, in 2009/10, the need for cross-borrowing might increase, owing to the decisions taken by the Security Council regarding continued deployment of the increased strength of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) and the transfer of authority between the European Union and United Nations military component of the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT).  Moreover, a request to the General Assembly was currently being finalized to ensure availability of financial resources for the continuing support to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) during the 2009/10 period.  Pending receipt of assessed contributions, any shortfall related to those operations might have to be met from loans from closed peacekeeping missions.

The related report of ACABQ was introduced by its Chair.

THOMAS GUERBER ( Switzerland) said that, regrettably, with regard to the closed missions, the Organization was facing the same situation as a year ago, when the Committee had failed to agree on a comprehensive solution to, among others, the problem of debt in cash-deficient closed missions.  The situation had changed only insofar as the amount of unpaid assessments and retained cash surpluses, as the level of cross-borrowing between missions had kept rising.  Troop and police contributors, as well as countries that had fulfilled their financial obligations, continued to be adversely affected by the fact that roughly $430 million in assessments for closed missions remained unpaid as at 30 June 2008.

Actually, there would be a simple solution to that problem, he continued.  All Member States should honour their obligations under the Charter and pay their assessed contributions in full, on time and without conditions, including unpaid dues to closed missions.  While there might be legitimate reasons why a country was temporarily unable to fulfil its obligations, the reference to national legislation as an excuse for withholding contributions was unjustifiable.  In that context, Switzerland recalled the recommendation of the Board of Auditors to keep under review the possibility of creating a provision for delays in the collection of outstanding assessments, and thus provide accurate measurement and disclosure of long outstanding assessments receivable.  From an accounting perspective, the lack of clarity regarding unpaid contributions, which had been due several years ago, seriously hampered proper financing reporting.  That issue was likely to become even more pressing with the introduction of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS).

At the moment, Member States that had fulfilled all their financial obligations with regard to closed missions were providing liquidity for active missions, because others were withholding their payments to some closed missions, he added.  That situation was neither fair, nor sustainable.  The cash balance of about $186.3 million available in the closed missions’ accounts should be returned to Member States according to financial regulation 5.3.  Doing so would also create an opportunity to satisfy, at least partly, justified claims of troop- and police-contributing countries.

MUHAMMAD A. MUHITH ( Bangladesh) recalled that unpaid assessments for peacekeeping stood at $1.5 billion.  But, he also recalled that the financial regulations of the United Nations state that it was appropriate to return cash surpluses in closed peacekeeping operations, if any, to Member States that had paid their assessments in full.  Bangladesh looked forward to participating in informal consultations to discuss that issue.

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