Budget Committee Takes Up Proposed $600 Million in Financing for 27 Special Political Missions in 2010
Budget Committee Takes Up Proposed $600 Million in Financing for 27 Special Political Missions in 2010
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
20th Meeting (AM)
Budget Committee Takes Up Proposed $600 Million in Financing
for 27 Special Political Missions in 2010
With the United Nations poised to spend $599 million on 27 special political missions in 2010, including two large missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, speakers in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today called for greater accuracy in budget projections, as well as greater clarity on the rationale used to decide the type, size and scope of each mission.
The Secretary-General’s budget report on special political missions and its five addendums were presented very close to the end of this year’s session, eliciting disappointment from speakers, who said the late submission of an item that accounted for 20 per cent of the budget did not allow for proper oversight. The largest of the special political missions, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), is projected to cost $241.94 million in 2010, and the next largest, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), will cost $158.99 million. At the other end of the spectrum, the cost of the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara is placed at $690,700.
Introduced by United Nations Controller Jun Yamazaki, the reports explain the needs of six special advisers and personal envoys of the Secretary-General, mandated by the General Assembly or Security Council to monitor events in places such as Myanmar and Western Sahara, and nine sanctions monitoring teams, groups and panels tasked with overseeing the situation in countries ranging from the Sudan to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. They also included 10 field-based missions that promote peacebuilding in Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East, as well as larger bodies, such as missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Commenting on the budget proposal for those missions, Japan’s representative expressed concern that the Secretary-General lacked a clear basis for determining the type of United Nations presence that was needed in a given situation. He said peacebuilding offices that were being proposed in the Central African Republic and Guinea-Bissau had a heavy structure that was too similar to peacekeeping missions, and that in Central Asia, regional offices were being built with the appearance of permanent structures.
He raised further concern about the Secretary-General’s submission of a report to the Security Council on the establishment of an special political mission in June, which detailed not only the mission’s mandate and overall structure, but also the posts required in each section of the mission. The structure and posting of special political missions had always been discussed in the General Assembly from a budgetary and administrative standpoint, which Japan’s representative said should be the continued practice.
Susan McLurg, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), added that the description of the missions’ performances was not sufficiently clear or specific in terms of the results achieved. Starting with the new budget cycle, she recommended that more systematic and thorough information be provided, in particular for larger missions, such as the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq. She noted, for instance, that as a result of the planned drawdown of international forces in Iraq, UNAMI would seek to become more operationally self-reliant. Such efforts could include possible financial implications for the United Nations, which should be kept under review.
The representative of Canada, speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, remarked that the fluid nature of the situation in Iraq had caused the Secretariat to reconsider its planning assumptions, particularly in the scope and timeline for the construction of an integrated headquarters compound in Baghdad. He reiterated the importance of submitting a “convincing proposal” on the construction project that included sound financial analysis and assurances that the project would be completed on time and within budget.
The United States representative expressed support for the greater security measures in Afghanistan, where UNAMA was seeking to open six additional provincial offices. He welcomed the Secretary-General’s proposal to use up to $7.9 million in the proposed UNAMA budget “on an immediate basis” to meet security needs in first four months of 2010. He also supported his intention to use the budget of the Department of Safety and Security to meet critical needs in other extremely high-threat locations, as they arose. Those $7.9 million would be replaced, and a formal proposal would be submitted to the Fifth Committee at its resumed session next spring on ways to address the entire year’s needs.
As several speakers pointed out, the $599 million required in 2010 would come out of a total of approximately $829 million set aside for special political missions across the 2010-2011 biennium, leading to some worry that only $200 million would be left for 2011. The ballooning cost of special political missions caused a few to urge that the item be removed from the regular budget and be dealt with in a separate account -- one with its own scale of assessments for contributions, as suggested by Nicaragua’s representative.
The call for greater budgetary accuracy was echoed in the Committee’s later discussion of the Secretary-General’s second performance report for 2008-2009, also introduced by Mr. Yamazaki, in which final projections from that biennium were found to be over $90 million less than first expected. The representative of Japan said he understood that budgeted posts were lying vacant and were sometimes difficult to fill. As a result, his Government believed that more realistic planning assumptions and vacancy rates should be used, to avoid over-budgeting.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Qatar, Republic of Korea, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Uzbekistan, Syria, Sudan (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China) and Sweden (on behalf of the European Union).
Inga Britt-Alhenius, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, introduced the report of the Office on the follow-up audit of the management of special political missions by the Department of Political Affairs.
Ms. McLurg introduced, as well, the ACABQ’s report on the Secretary-General’s second performance report for 2008-2009.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Friday, 18 December, to discuss the financing of United Nations safety and security, the Secretary-General’s use of limited budgetary discretion, and programme budget implications for various resolutions before the General Assembly. It is also expected to take action on three draft texts.
The Fifth Committee met this morning to discuss the budgets of special political missions in 2010, and to discuss the second performance report of the United Nations for 2008-2009.
Special Political Missions
A report on estimates in respect of special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council (document A/64/349) places the 2010 requirements for 27 special political missions at $599.53 million net ($637.32 million gross), as follows:
Thematic cluster I. Special and personal envoys, and special advisers of the Secretary-General (document A/64/349/Add.1) -- $10.65 million.
-- Special Adviser on Myanmar, $1.16 million. The budget increase compared to 2009 reflects plans to hold activities related to Myanmar’s anticipated elections. Funds will also go towards developing a framework for dialogue, and providing assistance in the electoral process and rule of law.
-- Special Adviser on Cyprus, $3.28 million. Negotiations are expected to intensify on a bizonal, bicommunal federation of Greek and Turkish Cypriots, as defined by Security Council resolutions. The budget is smaller compared to 2009, due to difficulties in finding a candidate with experience in property, resulting in a decision to use consultants. One P-5 position will be abolished. Some logistics support will be provided free of charge by the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).
-- Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, $1.78 million. The Office will carry out a genocide prevention training project in 2010. A roster of experts will organize workshops to train field officers. The Special Adviser’s Office, whose work is informed by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, will develop a training guide and provide Governments with expertise on treaty ratification. The Office expects to produce a compilation of legal principles on the prevention of genocide.
-- Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, $690,700. The Envoy will continue efforts to facilitate negotiations between the Government of Morocco and the leadership of the Frente POLISARIO. Among other things, the rise in $62,300 over last year’s budget will go towards increased security and interpretation services related to a higher number of negotiations planned for 2010.
-- Special Envoy for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004) (regarding Lebanese sovereignty over its territory), $695,000. Efforts to disband both Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias in Lebanon, and to support a dialogue between States in the region, will continue. The budget is $157,000 less than in 2009, because some logistical needs will be provided at no cost by other United Nations agencies. There is an unencumbered balance of $344,200 arising from fewer trips taken in 2008-2009 and consultancy services that were not used because the situation in Lebanon had proven too volatile.
-- Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region, $3.04 million. The funds will be used to set up a new Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on the Great Lakes Region, which will begin operations on 1 January 2010. Fourteen staff, along with consultants, will work to normalize relations among countries in the Great Lakes region, including between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, and will help parties address challenges posed by armed groups. Previously, the Special Envoy had been supported by the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC).
Thematic cluster II: Sanctions monitoring teams, groups and panels (document A/64/349/Add.2) -- $26.49 million.
-- Monitoring Group on Somalia, $1.56 million is proposed to cover costs for 11 months in 2010. Increased requirements for 2010, as well as anticipated additional requirements for 2008-2009, are due to the addition of a fifth expert pursuant to Security Council resolution 1853 (2008).
-- Panel of Experts on Liberia, $757,400 for 11 months in 2010. The variance between the 2009 budget and that of 2010 is due to a proposed longer employment period for experts and consultants. An anticipated unencumbered balance for 2008-2009 is mainly due to a shorter period of work for the consultant than budgeted.
-- Group of Experts on Côte d’Ivoire, $1.27 million for 10 months in 2010. The variance between the 2009 budget and 2010 requirements results from the use of actual, rather than standard, salary costs to reflect better the pattern of expenditures. An anticipated unencumbered balance for 2008-2009 is due to the actual entitlement of the incumbent being slightly lower than standard salary costs.
-- Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, $1.45 million for 11 months. Decreased requirements for 2010, as well as an anticipated unencumbered balance for 2008-2009, are due mainly to a reduction in the number of travel days by the experts and consultants.
-- Panel of Experts on the Sudan, $1.74 million for 10 months. Increased requirements for 2010 are mainly due to an increase in the experts’ monthly fees. An anticipated unencumbered balance for 2008-2009 results from the actual entitlements of the incumbents in the staffing positions being lower than standard salary costs and to reduced communication charges.
-- Panel of Experts on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, $3.39 million. Around $1.70 million had already been funded under unforeseen and extraordinary expenses for the biennium 2008-2009.
-- Monitoring Team established pursuant to Security Council resolution 1526 (2004) concerning Al-Qaida and the Taliban and associated individuals and entities, $3.97 million. Decreased requirements for 2010 are mainly due to the reduced cost of information technology services. An anticipated unencumbered balance for 2008-2009 is mainly due to the departure of four experts during the biennium and delays in securing replacements.
-- Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004) on the non-proliferation of all weapons of mass destruction, $3.39 million. Increased requirements for 2010 are mainly due to the addition of a new P-5 position. An anticipated unencumbered balance for 2008-2009 is mainly due to the premature departure of one expert and the delay in securing a replacement.
-- Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, $8.96 million. Increased requirements are mainly due to the addition of two new positions, one P-4 and one P-2. An anticipated unencumbered balance for 2008-2009 is mainly due to the postponement of the sixth special meeting of the Counter-Terrorism Committee.
Thematic cluster III. United Nations offices, peacebuilding offices, integrated offices and commissions (document A/64/349/Add.3) -- $161.45 million.
Cluster III missions are field-based missions of varying size and purpose, viewed as cost-effective ways to promote conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Field-based political missions are used to support the good offices of the Secretary-General in cases where a medium- to longer-term presence on the ground is required. They may also be used to implement a political agreement.
The budgets for individual missions are as follows:
-- United Nations Office for West Africa, $6.97 million;
-- United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic, $17.99 million;
-- United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau, $19.02 million;
-- United Nations Political Office for Somalia, $17.03 million;
-- United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone, $16.93 million;
-- United Nations support to the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission, $8.93 million;
-- United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, $3.18 million;
-- United Nations Integrated Office in Burundi, $46.26 million;
-- United Nations Mission in Nepal, $16.74 million;
-- Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, $8.40 million.
-- United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) (document A/64/349/Add.4) -- $241.94 million. The proposed 2010 budget for UNAMA is 56 per cent higher than in 2009, to enable it to open six additional provincial offices. In view of the deteriorating security situation in the country, there are plans to implement the “Security Gap” project -- where additional training, equipment and support will be given to the Planning Department in the Ministry of Interior for protection of United Nations offices -- and for the deployment of additional international security guards (Gurkhas) to all Mission locations across Afghanistan.
In addition to those requests, a letter to the President of the General Assembly transmitted to the Fifth Committee on 10 December (document A/C.5/64/10) reveals that the Secretary-General has asked for the immediate use of $7.9 million for “highly prioritized security requirements” in Afghanistan, to be charged to UNAMA’s budget.
-- United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) (document A/64/349/Add.5) -- $158.99 million. Personnel costs have gone down compared to that of last year, owing to reduced life-support costs. But operational costs had risen, due to the higher cost of consultancy services and travel, transportation, air operations, communications and medical services. As for the construction of a United Nations integrated compound in Baghdad, for which UNAMI was given a commitment authority of $5 million, the report says the Department of Safety and Security and the Department of Field Support have approved the project design, and that it would take a minimum of four months to complete the procurement process. The earliest that a contract could be signed with an architectural firm was 31 January 2010. The Iraqi Government had decided to allocate $25 million from its 2009 federal budget towards the new UNAMI headquarters, and a trust fund had been established to receive the contribution. No obligation had been made against the commitment authority of $5 million.
The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) comments on these missions individually in its report contained in document A/64/7/Add.13. Its final recommendation is to approve the resources requested by the Secretary-General, subject to its observations and recommendations. It requests that the adjusted amount be provided to the Assembly at the time of its consideration of the Secretary-General’s proposals. The Committee further recommends approval of the commitment authority for UNAMI in an amount of up to $5 million to undertake design work in connection with the construction of the United Nations integrated compound in Baghdad.
Commenting on the management of special political missions by the Department of Political Affairs, the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), in its follow-up audit (document A/64/294), says more needs to be done to ensure effective and efficient backstopping of special political missions. It notes that, from 1999 to 2009, the budgets of special political missions has increased almost tenfold. When excluding the budgets for UNAMA and UNAMI, the increase was approximately threefold. However, there was no corresponding increase in the Department’s overall budget, and the budget does not distinguish between the requirements for managing special political missions from the Department’s other activities. Although a draft of the Department’s mandate now recognizes managing and backstopping of special political missions as a core activity, it does not have a dedicated capacity for such a purpose.
The OIOS further observes that, in response to the Secretary-General’s proposal to strengthen the Department of Political Affairs, the General Assembly approved in March 2009 an additional 49 posts, but none of those positions were intended for the management of special political missions. Instead, they were aimed at strengthening mainly the preventive diplomacy and mediation capacity of the Department. As regards large special political missions such as UNAMI, whenever the Department is assigned the lead role, the OIOS suggests that it propose to the Assembly an appropriate mechanism to use mission posts at Headquarters to ensure the provision of stable and adequate backstopping services, bearing in mind that such a mechanism must not overlap with backstopping that may already exist in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
Second Performance Report of 2008-2009 Biennium
The second performance report on the programme budget for the biennium 2008-2009 (document A/64/545) says the Organization is estimated to have spent $92.8 million less than the estimated expenditure listed in its first performance report. Accordingly, the Assembly is requested to approve the final revised estimate of $4.79 billion for 2008-2009. It is also requested to approve the final revised estimate of income amounting to $550.50 million.
The new revised estimates contained in the report show that there were nearly $6.64 million in unforeseen and extraordinary expenses accrued in the biennium, on top of increased spending due to exchange rate fluctuations. Examples of unforeseen and extraordinary expenses include costs of running the Gaza Board of Inquiry, of supporting the dialogue process in Madagascar, and of holding the Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis, among other things. Those increases were offset by unspent funds of $94.4 million derived from changes to the cost of posts and other objects of expenditure, as well as to a fall in inflation.
The ACABQ, in its related report (document A/64/574), notes that, in addition to commitments of $6.64 million in unforeseen and extraordinary expenses, the Secretary-General had also entered into commitments of $11.32 million under the “limited budgetary discretion” clause. Those commitments were for the enterprise resource planning system ($2.76 million) and for operational preparedness and business continuity in a protracted crisis resulting from a human influenza pandemic ($8.56 million). The ACABQ further notes the Secretary-General’s intention to propose, in a separate report, the continuation of the limited budgetary discretion mechanism. The Advisory Committee indicates that it will address the issue once the report is taken up by the Assembly.
As for post requirements, the ACABQ points out that the vacancy rate has increased from 8.2 per cent in 2008 to 8.9 per cent in 2009 for Professional posts, and from 3.2 per cent in 2008 to 3.7 per cent in 2009 for General Service posts. Yet, the budgeted vacancy rates for the biennium 2008-2009 have remained at 6.5 per cent for Professional posts and 3.5 per cent for General Service posts. Concerned by the financial implications that that practice represents, and believing that there is a need for tighter budgetary control in this connection, the ACABQ requests that planning assumptions used in the decision-making process be more realistic. The ACABQ adds that, in general, future performance reports should provide reasons for variations in expenditure to enhance budgetary control and ensure transparency. Where there is overspending in consecutive bienniums, such as in the case of staff travel, it reiterates the need for tighter planning assumptions.
Introduction of Reports
JUN YAMAZAKI, Assistant Secretary-General and Controller, introduced the reports of the Secretary-General in respect of special political missions. On the status of extension or renewal of mandates, he said nine missions had open-ended mandates, one mission had a mandate ending 25 April 2011, 12 missions had mandates ranging from January to December 2010, and one mission was under consideration by the General Assembly. The remaining four missions had mandates expiring through the end of December 2009. It was anticipated that the Security Council would extend the mandates of those missions on the basis of reports and requests already submitted or to be submitted to it. It was assumed that all missions that had not yet been extended would be extended for periods similar to those approved for 2009 or 2010.
On completed or discontinued missions, he said the United Nations Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BONUCA) had been transformed into the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA), and that the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS) would be liquidated by 31 December and fully transformed into the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) starting 1 January 2010. In areas affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for LRA-affected areas and the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) had been fully liquidated by the end of June.
Requirements between missions varied widely, he said, ranging from $690,700 for the activities of the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara to $241.9 million for UNAMA. Requirements for the two largest missions, UNAMA and UNAMI, accounted for approximately $401 million, or 66.9 per cent, of the total, which amounts to $599.53 million net ($637.32 million gross). A total of 5,268 positions were requested for 2010, reflecting a net increase of 595 positions. They were mainly due to the further expansion of UNAMA (818 positions) and to changes in the United Nations presence in the Central African Republic and in Guinea-Bissau. Increases were partially offset by the liquidation of UNIIIC. The two largest missions, UNAMA and UNAMI, accounted for close to 74 per cent of posts.
He commented specifically on UNAMA and UNAMI, in view of the size of their budget proposals. Beginning with UNAMA, he said a net increase of about 56 per cent over the 2009 budget was due to the proposed establishment of the 818 additional positions, costs associated with opening six additional provincial offices and implementation of the Security Gap project. In addition, there is a proposed increase in the size of the air fleet and the proposed incorporation of quick-impact projects for regions and provinces where UNAMA had, and will have, a presence. In terms of UNAMI, the increase of about 7 per cent over the 2009 budget was mainly attributable to increased travel requirements, increased use of helicopters, and a rise in the use of communications and information technology equipment related to the expanded presence in Iraq. The budget proposal for UNAMI also contained an update on the status of the construction project related to the planned integrated headquarters compound in Baghdad.
He added that the document contained reporting requirements related to special political missions requested by the Assembly on strengthening the Department of Political Affairs, based on an ACABQ request.
SUSAN MCLURG, Chair of the ACABQ, introduced the related report of the Advisory Committee, saying the performance information provided was not sufficiently clear or specific in terms of the results that had been achieved. The ACABQ recommended that, starting with the new budget cycle, more systematic and thorough information be provided, in particular, for larger missions, such as UNAMA and UNAMI. As for the ACABQ’s recommendations on strengthening the Department of Political Affairs, the Advisory Committee expected that the Secretary-General would continue to develop the ideas he had put forward. Some of the issues that merited attention were: the rationale behind the determination of the type of mission to be established; the scope of activities; the size and lead department involved; the need to expedite the development of standard operating procedures related to mission start-up, transition to another type of mission and liquidation; and the establishment of clear benchmarks for progress.
On the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region, she said that since the time of the preparation of the budget, it was found that requirements could be reduced to $1.5 million, leading to an overall reduction under Cluster I of $1.7 million. There would also be a reduction under Cluster II, of $137,600, resulting from a small adjustment to staffing proposals put forward in the budget of the Panel of Experts on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. In suggesting the adjustment, the ACABQ reiterated the need for greater transparency in presenting resource needs for consultants, so that consultants were only resorted to for shorter periods and for specialized expertise that was not available on the Panel.
In terms of Cluster III, she said most of the increase was due to the new integrated peacebuilding offices in the Central African Republic (BINUCA) and Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), as well as for the United Nations Integrated Office in Burundi. In the ACABQ’s view, the proposed structure of the administrative components of both BINUCA and UNIOGBIS were modelled too closely on that of peacekeeping missions, and needed to be streamlined. Accordingly, it had recommended some reductions in the proposed staffing for mission support functions of both missions. It also recommended that the Secretary-General give greater emphasis to cooperation with the country teams and that he provide concrete examples of such cooperation in future reports.
Continuing, she said the budget presentation for the United Nations Political Office in Somalia (UNPOS) was particularly unclear. Recognizing that developments in Somalia would determine the pace at which planned activities could be discharged, the ACABQ recommend that staff be recruited only as required. As regards the United Nations Integrated Office in Burundi, the ACABQ was recommending: an adjustment to vacancy factors applied for international and national staff in light of recent data and experience; a reduction to the resources proposed for facilities and infrastructure in light of the pattern of expenditure; and a reduction in air operations, which were not believed to be proportionate with the requested requirements. Its recommendations would result in a decrease of $5.8 million to Cluster III.
On UNAMA, she noted that substantive restructuring was proposed and additional staffing approved. The Secretary-General’s resources proposed for 2010 for UNAMA reflected a 56 per cent increase, in view of which the ACABQ stressed the need for more systematic, clear and specific information on results to be achieved, as well as conditions necessary for effective use of resources. The 2011 budget should include an analysis of how the Mission’s restructuring and additional staffing approved to date had contributed to the implementation of the mandate, including the additional capacity and resources to be provided in 2010.
She said the ACABQ recognized the difficult security environment in which UNAMA operated, and stressed the need for realistic planning in further development of the Mission’s operations. It drew attention to managerial challenges inherent in the envisaged simultaneous expansion of UNAMA’s presence, and its deepening in locations where it was already present. Further development of regional and provincial offices should be based on lessons learned from experience. In view of the prevailing security conditions, the ACABQ had recommended that, for 2010, provisions be made for two thirds of the staff and non-staff of the six new provincial offices. Should the pace of expansion be faster, additional resources should be reported by the Secretary-General in the first performance report of the 2010-2011 biennium. The Assembly should request a progress report at the second part of the resumed session.
The ACABQ held a hearing on 10 December with representatives of the Secretary-General on the letter he had sent to the President of the General Assembly on the deteriorating security situation within Afghanistan and other high-threat locations. The ACABQ had no objection to the advance use of $7.9 million to address immediate security concerns as a one-time, ad hoc arrangement, and requested that its use be described in UNAMA’s 2010 performance report. Meanwhile, the ACABQ’s recommendations regarding UNAMA’s proposed resources would entail a reduction of $9.9 million.
Regarding UNAMI, she noted that, as a result of the planned drawdown of international forces in Iraq, the Mission would continue to seek to become more operationally self-reliant. It intended to take a number of measures to improve the capabilities of its safety and security services. The impact of the drawdown, including possible financial implications for the United Nations, should, therefore, be kept under review. Regarding the construction project of an integrated headquarters compound in Baghdad, she said the Secretary-General should provide clarification on oversight, the level of responsibility of the high-level advisory group, and the role of the Office of Central Support Services in ensuring an Organization-wide perspective on the needs and priorities relating to construction, among other things.
No obligations had been made in 2009 against the commitment authority of up to $5 million for UNAMI approved by the Assembly, she noted further. The ACABQ recommended acceptance of the Secretary-General’s proposal for a similar commitment authority of up to $5 million to be provided for the biennium 2010-2011.
She said the ACABQ report would entail an overall reduction of $17.6 million to the resources proposed by the Secretary-General for special political missions for 2010.
INGA BRITT-ALHENIUS, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, introduced the report of the Office on the follow-up audit of the management of special political missions by the Department of Political Affairs (document A/64/294). She said the main objective of the audit was to determine how the recommendations of the previous report by the OIOS (document A/61/357) had been implemented and to assess the effectiveness of controls identified by the risk assessment of the Department by the OIOS and similar assessments by the Department and the Board of Auditors.
She said the OIOS found that the Department of Political Affairs had made progress in implementing those recommendations. Of the 15 made, six had been implemented, seven still being implemented, and two had been closed without implementation. The audit found that clear accountability mechanisms were still necessary to ensure more effectiveness and efficient backstopping of special political missions. It also found that further efforts were required in developing guidance and procedures in that area.
She said that, among the main findings, the criteria for assigning the responsibility to lead a field mission to either the Department of Political Affairs or the Department of Peacekeeping Operations was yet to be finalized, leading to risks of duplication and lack of accountability. In updating the policy, capacities should not be built up in the Political Affairs Department that already existed in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations or the Department of Field Support.
Also, a support strategy and service-level agreement between the Departments of Political Affairs and Field Support for the provision of field support to special political missions was not yet in place. The risk of unclear responsibility remained in those areas, she said. Development of policies and guidelines to equip desk officers for backstopping was in process, but a monitoring system was still needed to ensure better effectiveness. The development of accountability mechanisms, such as the Secretary-General’s compact, had not yet been finalized. Thus, reporting lines and accountability between the field and headquarters remained unclear.
She said the audit had also found that, although the budgets of special political missions had increased nearly tenfold in the last 10 years, there was no corresponding increase in the overall budget of the Department of Political Affairs. The Department’s budget also did not distinguish between requirements for managing special political missions from those of its other activities. The OIOS recommended that the Department of Political Affairs clearly define the responsibility of regional offices and staff on backstopping activities. A review was needed to ensure that this core function was performed efficiently and should show statistics in that regard.
Moreover, the Department should propose to the General Assembly a mechanism by which it would use mission posts at headquarters to ensure the Department had stable and adequate capacity for backstopping when it was assigned as a lead department on an exceptional basis. Among other things, that mechanism should aim to ensure the Department of Political Affairs did not build up activities that already existed in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Finally, she noted that all recommendations had been accepted.
Statements on Special Political Missions
PHILIPPE LAFORTUNE (Canada), speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand (CANZ), said that, despite the particular challenges of accurately budgeting for special political missions, the Secretary-General should, to the greatest extent possible, provide the membership with budget forecasts that were as accurate as possible for the full biennium. The current proposed programme budgets for the 2010-2011 biennium provided approximately $829 million for those missions, and the Secretary-General was currently requesting funding of almost $600 million for the first half of the biennium only. That left a $230 million balance for 2011. He believed appropriating a more realistic estimate of requirements for the whole biennium would be good budgetary policy.
While CANZ welcomed the background information provided by the Secretariat on the criteria for establishing special political missions and the concept of the “lead department”, it believed that greater clarity was required on the rationale used to decide the type, size, scope and lead department of each mission. To allow Member States to evaluate the progress in achieving expected accomplishments, he urged the Secretariat to develop clear performance indicators that adhered to the SMART principles (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound).
Turning to specific missions, he noted the proposal to establish two new integrated peacebuilding offices in Guinea-Bissau and the Central African Republic. Since those types of offices were fairly new, the Secretariat’s desire to use lessons learned during their establishment was understandable. But, given the range of activities preformed by special political missions and the requirement for flexibility, he joined the ACABQ in cautioning against the development of administrative structures and templates that were modelled too closely on peacekeeping operations.
He welcomed the extension of the mandate of UNAMA earlier this year. He firmly believed that UNMA played a central role in coordinating international action and assistance in support of the Afghan Government. He, thus, welcomed the Secretary-General’s budgetary proposal to strengthen UNAMA’s capacity to implement its mandate. He was cognizant of the challenges the Mission would face in strengthening its presence outside Kabul, and would appreciate clarification on the potential impact of the ACABQ recommendations to reduce the appropriation for operational costs and the deployment of civilian staff.
He noted that, due to changing circumstances, the Secretariat had to reconsider its planning assumptions and the proposed scope and timelines for the construction of an integrated headquarters compound in Baghdad as part of UNAMI. However, he believed the Secretariat should have provided updated estimated project costs. He reiterated the importance of submitting a convincing proposal that included sound financial analysis and containing assurances that the project could be completed within the planned time frame and resources. Finally, he expressed concern over the timing of the introduction of that item, which made it challenging for the Assembly to adequately perform its oversight role.
JOSEPH MELROSE ( United States) said his country strongly support the Secretary-General’s efforts and those of his special representatives and envoys, along with the Department of Political Affairs, in conflict prevention, peacemaking and post-conflict peacebuilding. In regard to UNAMI, he noted that the Secretariat was ready to move forward on a revised timeline, and to begin the design phase, of the construction project for an integrated headquarters compound in Baghdad. His Government supported the request for $5 million in commitment authority to begin that work, and looked forward to the Secretary-General’s report on the issue in time for the second resumed session.
He expressed full support for the two new integrated peacebuilding offices in the Central African Republic and Guinea-Bissau, underlining the importance of coordination and collaboration with relevant actors at Headquarters and in the field. The United States agreed with the ACABQ that impact of such coordination should be reported in all budget submissions.
He emphasized the importance attached by his Government to expanding UNAMA’s presence throughout Afghanistan, and underlined its commitment to ensuring security for all UNAMA staff and other United Nations staff in Afghanistan. It welcomed the Secretary-General’s letter to the President of the General Assembly and the ACABQ drawing attention to the immediate and urgent need to enhance security for United Nations personnel working in Afghanistan. The Secretary-General had proposed the use of up to $7.9 million in the proposed UNAMA budget “on an immediate basis” for the period of 1 January through 30 April 2010, with the understanding that he would submit a formal proposal in the first resumed session that would address the needs for the entire year. The United States Government also welcomed the Secretary-General’s intention to use the budget of the Department of Safety and Security to meet critical needs in other extremely high-threat locations, as they arose. As the ACABQ Chair had indicated, the Secretary-General intended to replace the funds, in line with a funding proposal expected at the first resumed session.
He said the important mandated activities of the special political missions must have the resources they needed to function effectively at a time of rapidly escalating expenses. It was important to make every effort to maximize the effective use of available resources.
KHALIL ABDUL AZIZ AL-MEER ( Qatar), aligning himself with the statement to be made by the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, paid tribute to the important role of the Secretary-General’s good offices to prevent the outbreak or escalation of international conflicts. His Government recognized the importance of the independence, impartiality and integrity of the Secretary-General, whether in the offices undertaken in his personal capacity in special circumstances or those that he assigned to be his assistants or envoys. As such, it agreed with the importance of strengthening the prospects of the good offices of the Secretariat, which was one of the means for maintaining peace and security pursuant to Chapter VI of the United Nations Charter.
He said the concept of good offices was not limited to securing the mandates of peacekeeping operations; there were political situations that might need urgent intervention by the Secretary-General to help bring about the convergence of views between parties, be they States or parties within a State. That was true, for instance, of the Middle East and in some parts of Africa and Asia. He thanked the Secretary-General for his support to efforts undertaken by Qatar to arrange peace talks in Doha between the Sudanese parties, in coordination with the African Union and the chief mediator for the African Union and the United Nations, Djibril Bassole.
He noted that the budget for special political missions had exceeded the amount agreed in the General Assembly’s preliminary assessment. He drew attention to the link between the need to fund those missions and the “conditions and challenges” facing the international community at the moment.
AKIHIRO OKOCHI ( Japan) noted that 20 per cent of the overall programme budget for the 2010-2011 biennium was devoted to special political missions. Like the ACABQ, Japan recognized the significant increase in the level of resources in recent years. It shared concerns that the Secretary-General lacked a clear basis for determining the type of United Nations presence in the world. Peacebuilding offices with a heavy structure similar to peacekeeping mission were proposed in Cluster III. Regional offices with the appearance of permanent structures were built in West Africa and Central Asia. Backstopping functions were carried out by different departments without rational distinctions. The assessment of backstopping under way should be completed expeditiously, so that proposals for special political missions could be based on more coherent thinking.
He said that, if the proposed budget of the Secretary-General was approved as is, only $200 million of the $800 million provided for special political missions in the budget outline for the 2010-2011 biennium would be left for 2011. While those proposed resource requirements were estimates that were subject to change, based on whether the mandates of the special political missions were extended, Japan was concerned that the Assembly’s decision on the budget would lose much of its meaning if figures were repeatedly revised afterward. It stood ready to discuss the budgetary structure of special political missions at the resumed session, with a view to ensuring more accurate forecasts.
While his delegation appreciated the Secretariat’s provision of background information on the establishment of special political missions, it was concerned that, when the Secretary-General submitted a report to the Security Council on the establishment of an special political mission in June, it detailed not only the mission’s mandate and overall structure, but also the posts required in each section of the mission. But, the structure and posting of special political missions had always been discussed in the General Assembly from a budgetary and administrative standpoint. That practice should continue and the Secretariat should give “due and prudent consideration” to the division of labour between the Assembly and other United Nations organs.
Japan also paid special attention to vacancy rates, unencumbered balances and resources budgeted for consultants, he said. In that regard, he recalled that consultants should be hired only when very specialized expertise not found in the United Nations system was required. Japan supported, in principle, the measures the Secretary-General described in his letter dated 9 December on enhancing the level of security for United Nations personnel in Afghanistan through the UNAMA budget.
SHIN BOO-NAM (Republic of Korea) said he shared the view of other delegations on the importance of special political missions in the maintenance of peace and security. While their role had continued to expand, their number and budget had increased, as well. In 2010, the total budget would amount to $599.5 million compared to only $47.5 million in 1999. As noted by the OIOS, the criteria for assigning the responsibility to lead a field mission to the Department of Political Affairs or the Department of Peacekeeping Operations had yet to be finalized. A strategy for providing administrative support to special political missions, to be developed between the Department of Political Affairs and the Department of Field Support, was still in progress. He said the various departments of the United Nations Secretariat needed to continue to systematize procedures for establishing, maintaining, overseeing and liquidating special political missions. Standard operating procedures would enable the achievement of “greater complementarities and synergies”, and should be introduced.
He drew attention to a series of informal dialogues between the Secretary-General and Member States on the possible improvement of funding arrangements for special political missions. He reiterated his Government’s openness to further discussions along those lines. With regard to the Secretary-General’s letter to the President of the General Assembly, he expressed support for the use of UNAMA’s budget to meet highly prioritized security requirements for the first four months of 2010.
AKSOLTAN T. ATAEVA ( Turkmenistan) recalled that the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, which was located in her country’s capital, Ashgabat, began its official work in June 2008 with support from all five Central Asian States. Its major activities included lending assistance to those Governments to: combat terrorism and the drug trade; mitigate the effects of the global economic and financial crisis; and manage water resources and other environmental concerns. That rather large agenda addressed issues relevant not only to the region, but to the international community. The Centre also worked to implement the relevant conventions to fight organized crime and to prevent threats posed by all kinds of terrorism. In its efforts, the Centre had always cooperated with the countries of the region and had worked to reach joint decisions.
She noted that, in June, the Centre’s work was presented to the Security Council, which paid due tribute to its efforts. Currently, a need had arisen to expand the Centre’s work, which would require the presence of additional field officers. On that basis, a request had been made to add four posts to the Centre’s staff. Turkmenistan believed that request for an expanded number of posts and a corresponding increase in the Centre’s budget should be supported.
VUGAR PANAHOV (Azerbaijan), also addressing the issue of the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy in Ashgabat, welcomed the objectives of the Centre, which played a significant role in organizing international conferences, seminars and consultations in different fields of activity. It played a role, as well, in facilitating cross-border cooperation to address terrorism and extremism, drug trafficking, organized crime and environmental degradation. Azerbaijan believed the Centre to be important in ensuring regional security in Central Asia and that resources should be allocated to it within the United Nations’ financial capabilities. He hoped agreement on that would soon be reached.
NURBEK JEENBAEV ( Kyrgyzstan) joined the delegations of Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan in calling for broader representation of the Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia.
INGRID BERLANGA ( Mexico) said that her delegation was concerned that, once again, less than a week before the conclusion of its work for the current session, the Fifth Committee was addressing a major report on the special political missions, which accounted for 20 per cent of the budget. She noted the increase from $47.5 million to $461.2 million in the budget requirements for special political missions over the last 10 years, and said that, due to this change, Mexico would be thoroughly addressing the budget. Moreover, her delegation believed it was necessary to establish a separate account for all missions established under the mandate of special political missions.
She recalled that paragraph 6 of the ACABQ’s report said that the volatility and scale of the resource requirements for special political missions distorted any sense of trends from biennium to biennium, thus, rendering analysis from budget to budget difficult. She stressed that it was the responsibility of the General Assembly to consider support in the budget of the Organization. Underlining paragraph 10 of the ACABQ’s report, she said the Secretariat’s presentation to the Security Council should not be understood as prejudging in any way the Assembly’s decision on the budgets of those missions. Further, resource requirements should be assessed and clear information provided on past performance to justify any new requests. A thorough assessment of the request for any new resources was also needed.
MURAD ASKAROV ( Uzbekistan) remarked that, a few years ago, there were many criticisms regarding the usefulness of United Nations activities around the world and on the direction it was taking. He underlined the point that United Nations’ effectiveness depended on the availability of resources, the level of its presence in the various regions of the world, and the good functioning of its field institutions. In his view, the United Nations had recovered its credibility, and was perceived as a needed and useful organization in the realm of international relations. He urged that the high standard of the United Nations should be maintained, for which adequate resources must be made available. Along with Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan, his country supported the Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy. He further urged the allocation of the necessary funds to bring additional field officers to the regional capitals of central Asia, and for resources to be made available for their travel.
DANILO ROSALES DIAZ ( Nicaragua) said he regretted the late submission of the reports on special political missions, two days away from the conclusion of the Committee’s work. He did not understand why their budgets should be submitted so late. It was equally difficult to understand how the estimated budget for special political mission stood, on 29 October, at $829 million for 2010-2011, and that, less than two months later, those estimates had been revised upward to almost $1.2 billion. He would be requesting further information on that issue during informal consultations. He noted that the twelvefold increase was due mainly to the high costs of the two main missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, which made up almost 70 per cent of the total budget. The increase was huge, and had led to a considerable distortion that was unacceptable. The time had come for the Assembly to establish a separate account for special political missions; the matter could not be deferred any longer. It was difficult to see how they could continue to be financed through the regular budget.
YASSAR DIAB ( Syria) noted that, once again, irregularities plagued the preparation of budgets of special political missions in accordance with the results-based budgeting methodology. Given the politically sensitive nature of special political missions, the Secretariat should guarantee the compatibility of submitted budgets with the provisions of resolutions 55/231 and 63/261. In the context of those resolutions, Syria had deep concerns over the manner in which the budget for the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004) was prepared and believed that budget violated the provisions of those resolutions.
It was “inadmissible” that Syria’s name had been dragged into the Special Envoy’s report, he said. It had implemented all of the resolution’s provisions, completing a full withdrawal of its military forces and intelligence apparatus from Lebanese territories. The resolution’s remaining provisions were Lebanon’s responsibility and did not concern Syria -- fact that was common knowledge to all but the Special Envoy. Further complicating the situation, the provisions of Security Council resolution 1680 (2006) did not fall under the Special Envoy’s mandate, since they revolved around bilateral issues between the sovereign States of Syria and Lebanon. He stressed that, under international law and the United Nations Charter, the Secretariat had no role to play in that regard. In resolution 1680, the Syrian Government was encouraged to respond positively to Lebanon’s request to establish diplomatic relations and delineate borders.
He further noted that, when the Council encouraged a State to do something, that did not translate into a mandate that the Secretariat must follow up on. Doing so was a violation of the United Nations Charter, particularly Article 2, paragraph 7, which stated that “nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State”. He called for the deletion of expected accomplishment “c”, which says “facilitation in support of a strengthened response by all Member States to the remaining provisions of Security Council resolution 1680 (2006)”.
He stressed that, by focusing solely on bilateral questions that did not fall within the United Nations jurisdiction, the Special Envoy sought to distract attention from the real problem facing the region – namely, the practices of the Israeli authorities and their continued occupation of Arab lands. The report should have underscored the fact that Israel was the only party that failed to comply with resolution 1559 (2004). Israel acted as if it were above international law and above United Nations resolutions. Clearly, implementing the resolution’s remaining provisions required the Council to bring pressure to bear on Israel to compel it to withdraw from the remaining Lebanese territories.
He drew the Committee’s attention to the fact that the Special Envoy visited the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations in June 2008. Without heeding his official capacity, he expressed dismay at the indirect talks held at the time between the Israeli Government and Syria through the Turkish mediator and asked the Israeli Government to halt those negotiations. Further, Syria had received information that confirmed that the Special Envoy had visited Israel and requested the Government not to withdraw from the town of Al-Ghajar, after it had informed the United Nations of its intention to do so. Addressing the Secretary-General and permanent members of the Security Council, as well as the entire international community, he asked how a United Nations special envoy, who was supposedly expected to build peace in the Middle East, could call for the continuation of the occupation and “sabotage talks that seek to realize peace”. He requested, therefore, that the Special Envoy’s mandate be terminated on the grounds that he had used that resolution’s provisions as an obstacle to the realization of Lebanon’s independence and sovereignty.
Second Performance Report: Introduction of Reports
Mr. YAMAZAKI introduced the report on estimates of the anticipated final level of expenditures for 2008-2009. They reflected a net decrease of $85.4 million, based on a decrease of $92.8 million under expenditures and of $7.4 million under income. The exchange rate generated an increase of $22.9 million, partially offset by a decrease of $27.9 million in inflation. The increased requirements in exchange rates reflected the general weakening of the United States dollar, notably relative to the Swiss franc and the euro. With regard to inflation, adjustments were based on the latest information available on consumer price indices for staff in the Professional category and above, and actual cost-of-living adjustment of salary scales for staff in the General Service and related categories compared with the assumptions made in the revised appropriations. As for unforeseen and extraordinary expenses, amounting to $3.8 million, the bulk of that related to peace and security, and $0.4 million to operations of the International Court of Justice.
He recalled the Assembly’s approval of construction in Addis Ababa for additional office facilities at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), with related costs reflected in a report dedicated to that matter (document A/64/486). But, information with respect to the conference on the world financial and economic crisis could be found in the second performance report, and final expenditures against approved resources of $867,700 were estimated at $611,400. Regarding the Secretary-General’s limited budgetary discretion, a separate report has been made (document A/64/562).
He said the remaining component of adjustments to expenditure related to post incumbency and other changes, amounting to $94.4 million. He noted that the Assembly had approved various new posts in 2008-2009, with vacancy rates of 50 per cent and 35 per cent for Professional and General Service posts. Decreased requirements were heavily influence by the impact of vacancies, by special political mission requirements, and postponement of projects due to delays in the implementation of the enterprise resource planning. Increases were related primarily to other staff costs brought on by changes to requirements for special political missions, changes in mission subsistence allowance rates for military observers in the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), and to address security-related overtime and general temporary assistance requirements for coverage of meetings at various duty stations. Increases were also seen under travel of staff, reflecting unanticipated travel to attend meetings, and so on.
He said the decrease in income of $7.4 million reflected the net impact of changes to staff assessment levels and the income section.
He observed that the Assembly had requested the Secretary-General to explore recosting methodologies used by other international organizations with that used by the Secretariat, and to report on it in the context of the second performance report for 2008-2009. That discussion is contained in section V of the report, as reported by the Chief Executive Board for Coordination.
In sum, he said the final estimates for 2008-2009 were $4.8 billion for expenditure and $550.5 million for income.
Introducing the Advisory Committee’s related report on the second performance report for the programme budget for 2008-2009, Ms. MCLURG commended the Secretary-General for presenting his report earlier than in the past, thus, enabling Member States to consider that report before finalizing the proposed programme budget for the 2010-2011 biennium. The Advisory Committee believed the second performance report could be a more useful accountability and monitoring tool for States if it contained more analysis of data and trends over the various bienniums.
She said the Advisory Committee also noted that vacancy rates continued to be higher than budgeted, although new posts were requested in the proposed budget for any given biennium. That indicated that post requirements and budgeted vacancy rates might not be based on realistic assumptions. The Committee was concerned about the financial implication of that practice and believed tighter budgetary control was needed.
She also noted that the performance reports indicated expenditure overruns for staff travel had not improved overall. It recommended an analysis be made of the underlying causes of such overruns in cases where it occurred in consecutive bienniums. It further emphasized that expenditures should be kept within the approved budget through tighter planning assumptions and budgetary control mechanisms. It also recommended that the Assembly take note of the second performance report of the programme budget for the 2008-2009 biennium.
MAGID YOUSIF (Sudan), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, stressed the importance of the established budgetary procedures and methodology based on General Assembly resolutions 41/213 and 42/211, which must be maintained and strictly followed. Recosting was an integral part of the budget procedures and had been applied to the budget since the adoption of 41/213. The Group rejected an attempt to undermine the compromise achieved 20 years ago regarding budget procedures. Delegations could not pick and choose the parts that were convenient to them or try to reinterpret the provisions of those resolutions.
He underlined that recosting was a revision process that attempted to provide an estimate of the level of expenditures for the biennium. Any arbitrary manipulation of the recosting to achieve “savings” would have detrimental effects on mandate implementations on all budget sections. It would also undermine the priorities established by the Assembly, including on development activities. In that regard, the Group of 77 and China noted the information provided by the Secretary-General on recosting methodologies used by other international organizations, but emphasized that the unique nature of the United Nations -– including its diverse international field presence and staff size -– meant that recosting measures must be customized to its needs. The Group, thus, reaffirmed that the current methodology was sound and must remain unchanged.
HENRIC RÅSBRANT (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed concern that reports were being introduced after the Committee’s official end date. He stressed the importance of timely issuance of documents. On the second performance report, he noted that projected revised requirements under expenditures showed a decrease of $92.8 million. He noted that vacancy rates were higher than what was budgeted for, and pointed to recosting methods used by other international organizations as possible models. He would raise that issues again during informal consultations.
JUN YAMADA ( Japan) expressed full support for the ACABQ’s views on vacancy rates. Although his Government recognized the underlying factor -- the time-consuming process of filling vacancies -– it fully agreed with the view that more realistic planning assumptions and vacancy rates should be used, to avoid over-budgeting. The Secretariat should examine carefully if any vacancies could be used for other immediate needs, before requesting Member States for new additional resources. He expressed hope that the Secretary-General would exercise budgetary prudence in that regard.
He noted the net decrease of $85.4 million shown in the second performance report, compared with the revised appropriation and estimate of income approved by the Assembly in resolution 63/264. While Japan looked forward to seeing that amount to be treated in accordance with the Financial Rules and Regulations of the United Nations, he noted that most of that amount consisted of post incumbency. It was hoped that the Secretariat would continue to address the issue of post incumbency to improve efficient and effective use of resources.
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