|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
28th Meeting (AM)
Budget Committee Opens Four-Week Resumed Session to Consider Peacekeeping
Financing for 16 Missions, Proposal for Global Field Support Strategy
The General Assembly’s Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) opened today the second part of its resumed substantive session, what its Chairperson called the “final lap” in its annual marathon to take action on vital issues, such as funding United Nations peacekeeping operations and improving the Organization’s financial situation.
Opening the session, the Committee Chairperson, Peter Maurer of Switzerland, told delegations that the last leg of any race was always the hardest, and as they tackled an agenda that included apportioning some $8 billion to 16 peacekeeping missions and the consideration of proposals on a global field support strategy, they would need to work a steady pace over the next four weeks, always mindful that their decisions would have important impact on the ground.
During the Committee’s discussion of its programme of work, which was approved by consensus, the representative of Yemen, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, agreed that any decisions taken on peacekeeping operations would have on-the-ground implications, especially in the developing world, where most such missions were located. Spain’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, stressed the need for budgetary discipline and for ensuring that overall budget levels delivered the resources needed, to insure the implementation of the Organization’s peacekeeping mandates.
Speaking on behalf of the African Group, the representative of Côte d’Ivoire recalled that, last year, his delegation had worked tirelessly to reach consensus on the 15 active peacekeeping operations and other operations. Yet, regrettably, an unusual and unacceptable approach had been used to entangle peacekeeping negotiations into a “package deal”. As a result, the Committee had finished its work three weeks late. He made it clear that the African Group would not be party to package deals on peacekeeping operations this time around. “What transpired last year is not an option, as it would severely undermine peacekeeping operations. We thus see no merit in package-deal approaches for missions at all,” he declared.
On the proposed global field support strategy, the representative of the United States said his delegation believed that the existing field support system needed retooling. Indeed, missions needed to be deployed more rapidly and with adequate resources and capabilities, and, thus, his delegation supported, in principle, the adoption of a transitional global field support strategy.
Key reports on the topics before the Committee were introduced today by the Chair of the Audit Operations Committee of the Board of Auditors, who is the Director of External Audit of South Africa; the Director of the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management; the Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ); and the United Nations Controller.
On the financing of specific peace operations, all speakers supported special measures to help the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) get back on its feet and promote recovery in that earthquake devastated country. The representative of Chile, speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said it was also important for the international community to focus on more than security aspects. Indeed, following such a catastrophe, there would be a need to help jump-start development activities, with the goal of achieving lasting peace.
In the short-term, she added, the Secretary-General should make full use of the $11 million appropriated for the programmes of community violence reduction, which had acquired even greater significance. Moreover, the Rio Group urged the Secretary-General to make every effort to use the resources appropriated for quick impact projects. There were many needs to be met, so such projects would be invaluable in helping alleviate the dire situation on the ground. To that end, she said that the Secretariat should simplify accountability requirements, as well as ease the internal directives governing such projects.
Another topic that drew comments from several delegations was the matter regarding closed peacekeeping missions, with the representative of Japan noting that, as of 30 June 2009, 17 of the 22 closed peacekeeping missions had cash surpluses totalling close to $214 million. Five closed missions had cash deficits totalling some $86.6 million. “We believe that the credits available from closed peacekeeping missions with cash surpluses should be returned to Member States,” he said, echoing the concern expressed in the report of ACABQ that the lack of liquidity at times led active peacekeeping missions to borrow from closed operations.
The representative of Switzerland, speaking also on behalf of Liechtenstein, said that the level of cross-borrowing for active missions had doubled, as had the number of missions concerned. As that was the case, troop-contributing countries, as well as others that had fulfilled their financial obligations to the Organization continued to be adversely affected by the fact that roughly $425 million in assessments for closed missions remained unpaid as of 30 June 2009.
“If all Member States would honour their obligations under the Charter to pay their assessed contributions in full, on time and without conditions, we would not have to have this discussion in the first place,” he said, adding that, while it might be understandable why a country would be temporarily unable to fulfil its obligations, making reference to “national legislation” as an excuse for deliberately withholding contributions was unjustifiable.
He said Switzerland and Lichtenstein objected to the continued use of closed missions’ cash balances as “some kind of shadow peacekeeping reserve fund”. If there was a cash-flow problem as a result of the high level of outstanding assessments in the accounts of some active missions, a proper solution must be found that did not run counter to transparent and sound management practices.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Bangladesh (on behalf of the Asian Group), the representative of New Zealand (also on behalf of Australia and Canada), Dominican Republic, Brazil and Argentina.
The Fifth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday to take up matters regarding the financing of United Nations peacekeeping operations, as well as closed peacekeeping missions.
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today began its second resumed session, and had before it audited financial report of the United Nations peacekeeping operations in 2008/09 and related documents; reports on the financing of the United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB), the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH); and a report on the financial position of closed peacekeeping missions.
Report of the Board of Auditors
The Committee first had before it the United Nations peacekeeping operations financial report and audited financial statements for the 12-month period from 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009 and report of the Board of Auditors (document A/64/5 Vol. II). Total income for the period was $7.25 billion and total expenditure $7.12 billion. As a whole, except for the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and UNMEE, which were in the process of downsizing/liquidation, all other missions had improved their ratios of expenditure to appropriation.
Assessed contributions receivable amounted to $1.51 billion, representing 33 per cent of total assets. Although that amount indicates progress in the collection of assessments, unpaid assessments rose for seven missions. Around 39 per cent of assessed contributions receivable were outstanding for more than two years.
The Board issued a modified audit report with two emphasis of matter. The first relates to non-expendable property, costing $1.78 billion. There were significant discrepancies identified at various missions during physical verifications, where items valued at $15.84 million could not be located. Assets valued at $121 million were pending write-off and/or disposal, of which approximately 50 per cent stood pending for more than six months. Those observations indicate that the Administration needs to further strengthen controls over non-expendable property to minimize their inefficient use or losses. The second emphasis of matter relates to expendable property. The Board expresses concern about the absence of the disclosure of expendable property and discrepancies in physical counts.
As explained by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) in its related report (document A/64/708 and Add.1), the audit covers peacekeeping accounts and operations at United Nations Headquarters; 14 out of 16 active field missions; and 25 completed missions. Also audited were four special purpose accounts: the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund; the support account for peacekeeping operations; the United Nations Logistics Base at Brindisi, Italy; and after-service health insurance. The audit included a general review of financial systems and internal controls, but no attempts were made to undertake a performance audit or an evaluation of the implementation and management of operations of peacekeeping missions, or to ascertain the root cause of anomalies.
ACABQ expresses concern over the reoccurrence of problems and the persistent non-compliance in implementing the Board’s recommendations. In view of continued deficiencies in the asset management of various missions, ACABQ recommends that the Secretary-General designate a senior official to oversee resolution of the problems related to expendable and non-expendable property.
The report goes on to list the Board’s findings on implementation of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards, and the treatment of in-kind contributions, assessed contributions, after-service health insurance, the peacekeeping support account, results-based budgeting and management, procurement and contract management, expendable and non-expendable property, strategic deployment stock, vehicle fleet management, rations management, air operations, information and communications technology, human resources management, quick-impact projects and internal audit functions.
Among areas highlighted by ACABQ was the need for missions to:
- identify and disclose the value of services and goods received under the Status of Forces Agreement and/or the Status of Mission Agreement;
- carry out new actuarial valuations to determine the total amount of after-service health insurance liability for the period 2008/09, which had not been updated since 2007;
- deal with widespread irregularities in procurement and contract management across several Missions, and, in particular, serious irregularities in the management of a major contract with a supplier in the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID);
- examine the high value of ex post facto submissions to Headquarters, bypassing local procurement authority;
- engage in better management of non-expendable property in stock that could result in waste, deterioration and obsolescence, as well as possible loss due to theft;
- review vehicle fleet management practices;
- update the Rations Manual at Headquarters to reflect changes in the United Nations Rations Scale and food order methods, and to tackle issues relating to rations management across different missions;
- manage the acquisition and utilization of air assets in the missions in a more efficient and effective manner in the face of persistent underuse of total flight hours vis-à-vis budgeted hours;
- deal with the significant underuse of funds designated for quick-impact projects in 2008/09, as well as major delays in their implementation;
- address observed slippages in issuing internal audit reports.
The Secretary-General’s report on implementation of the recommendations of the Board of Auditors concerning United Nations peacekeeping operations for the financial period ended 30 June 2009 (document A/64/702) summarized the ways in which the Administration responded to specific points addressed by the Board towards individual missions. The report says the Administration has concurred with many of the Board’s recommendations, and most of the comments of the Secretary-General have been duly reflected in the report of the Board. As a result of the effort of the Management Committee, which monitors the status of implementation of all accepted oversight body recommendations, the Board has reported an improvement in the rate of implementation (40 per cent) of recommendations compared with the previous year (32 per cent).
The report provides information on the status of implementation, which office is responsible and the estimated completion date. Those activities ranged from enhancing the disclosure of in-kind contributions, the accurate maintenance of attendance and leave records, reinforcing information-gathering activities for results-based budgeting and the treatment of surplus assets, among other aspects of peacekeeping administration and budgetary management.
Financing of ONUB, UNMEE and MINUSTAH
Liquidation activities were carried out from 1 January to 30 June 2007 for ONUB, whose mandate expired on 31 December 2006, and is described in the final performance report for ONUB (document A/64/610). The Secretary-General proposes that the cash balance of $8.39 million available in the special account for ONUB as at 30 June 2009 be credited to Member States. ACABQ expresses support for that recommendation in its related report (document A/64/650).
In the case of UNMEE, whose mandate ended on 31 July 2008, the Assembly decided to apportion among Member States the amount of $28.65 million for the administrative liquidation of the Mission, according to the performance report on UNMEE for the period from 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009 (documents A/64/586 and Corr.1). An amount of $8.75 million had already been apportioned for the period from 1 to 31 July 2008 under the terms of an earlier resolution. Subsequently, the total amount of $37.40 million was assessed on Member States for the period from 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009.
At the end of April 2009, the net cash available in the Mission’s special account was insufficient to return to Member States, in full, the $17.61 million in unencumbered balance and other income for that period. On the basis of the available cash at the time, the General Assembly, in a resolution of 30 June 2009, decided to credit Member States in the amount of $2.88 million, and that it would defer until its sixty-fourth session a decision on the treatment of the balance of $14.74 million.
In the report, therefore, the Secretary-General recommends that the Assembly return to Member States a further $9.35 million in cash from the special account for UNMEE, while taking note of $5.38 million still due to Member States for un-liquidated obligations and payments received in advance, among other things. It also notes that a further $9.36 million is due to Member States from the 2008/09 financial period in unencumbered balance and other income. The Assembly is asked to defer a decision on the treatment of the $5.38 million and $9.36 million to its sixty-fifth session.
The corresponding ACABQ report (document A/64/660/Add.1) supports the Secretary-General’s proposed course of action, explaining that the cash shortfall was attributable mainly to unpaid assessed contributions.
A report on financing arrangements for MINUSTAH (document A/64/728) explains that the amount appropriated for the Mission for the period 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010 was $638.71 million. It provided for 7,060 military contingent personnel, 951 United Nations police officers and 1,140 formed police personnel. In light of the devastating earthquake on 12 January 2010 in Haiti, however, the Security Council, in its resolution 1908 (2010), endorsed the increase of the overall force levels of MINUSTAH, to consist of a military component of up to 8,940 troops of all ranks and a police component of up to 3,711 police. The additional requirements are currently estimated at $129.34 million, of which $8.70 million can be accommodated through reprioritization of currently approved resources for 2009/10. There are net additional requirements of $120.64 million.
The report recommends that the Assembly authorize the Secretary-General to enter into commitments and to assess $120.64 million for the expansion of the Mission for the period from 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010, in addition to the $611.75 million already appropriated for the same period for its maintenance.
ACABQ, in its related report (document A/64/660/Add.10), notes that MINUSTAH’s revised budget will be submitted to the Assembly at its sixty-fifth session, in view of the current financial period nearly coming to an end. That creates the unusual circumstance of retroactive approval of the budget. ACABQ therefore recommends that the Assembly request the Secretary-General to issue a performance report for that period as speedily as possible at its sixty-fifth session, which should provide full details on both the spending originally approved in resolution 63/294, as well as the current revised estimates. ACABQ also expects that the Secretary-General will submit the Mission’s full budget proposal for the period from 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011 for its review and approval at the main part of the sixty-fifth session.
ACABQ observes that, of the additional requirements sought, a financial assistance package of $14 million will pay for rest and recuperation breaks for civilian personnel outside the Mission area, and will also cover the cost of hiring temporary personnel when regular staff go on break. Funds from that package will pay for memorial services for deceased personnel as well. However, absent any information on the regulatory basis for those arrangements, ACABQ considers them to be ad hoc in nature. Also, since no indication was given regarding rest and recuperation breaks for military and police personnel sent by troop- and police-contributing countries, ACABQ points out that the Assembly may wish to consider the issue of treatment of uniformed personnel in post-disaster situations.
ACABQ further explains that MINUSTAH has established a support office in Santo Domingo, temporarily housed at the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), which is the Mission’s disaster recovery and business continuity site. The office is being used as the operating base for 200 Mission personnel and will also serve as a coordination and transport centre for both material and staff moving in and out of Haiti. Requirements for the establishment of the office amount to over $4 million, which includes $2.5 million for construction and alterations and $1.6 million for communications and information technology systems and services. A site has been selected and secured near the airport, site preparations are expected to be completed in May. Discussions on the development of an appropriate memorandum of understanding are ongoing with the Government of the Dominican Republic.
Bearing in mind its observations, ACABQ recommends that the Assembly authorize the Secretary-General to enter into commitments of $120.64 million to support the immediate recovery, reconstruction and stabilization efforts of the Mission and to approve the assessment of that sum.
Administrative and Budgetary Aspects of Closed Peacekeeping Operations
A report on the updated financial position of closed peacekeeping missions as at 30 June 2009 (document A/64/605) recommends that the Assembly approve the return of $291,900 available in the account of the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission (UNIKOM) to the Government of Kuwait, but that $213.55 million available in 17 other closed peacekeeping missions be retained in light of “the experience as regards cash requirements of the Organization during the 2008/09 and 2009/10 financial periods”. Indeed, pending the adoption by the General Assembly of a new scale of assessments for peacekeeping missions for the period 2010-2012, no assessments have been issued for the period beyond 31 December 2009. Pending the payment of assessed contributions, any cash shortfalls for missions may have to be met from loans from closed peacekeeping missions.
As the report explains, cross-borrowing was required in the 2008/09 financial period for eight active operations: the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO); United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH); United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP); United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK); United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL); United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT); United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI); and the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), for a total of $164 million. Cross-borrowing from the accounts of closed peacekeeping operations has been required during the 2009/10 financial period for two active missions, MINURSO and UNOMIG, for a total of $13.5 million (as at 15 December 2009), comprising $7.5 million in new loans that were made between 1 July and 15 December 2009, and $6 million in loans that had been made during the 2008/09 financial period and have not yet been repaid.
In its related report (document A/64/659), ACABQ expresses regret over the lack of liquidity, which had led active peacekeeping missions to borrow from closed missions. The Financial Regulations and Rules of the United Nations provides that unused appropriations shall be surrendered 12 months following the end of the financial period to which they relate. ACABQ considers that it is for the General Assembly to decide on the disposition of such balances, noting that it has taken a number of decisions in that regard, including in its resolution 57/323.
Statements on Programme of Work
WALEED AL-SHAHARI (Yemen), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said his delegation welcomed the resumed session, as well as the topics that would be considered. The Group of 77 had a long tradition of supporting the Committee and its work and planed to continue such support. He added that the Committee had several items on United Nations peacekeeping missions before it and, as many of the operations under consideration were hosted by developing countries, the members of the Group would participate actively in the respective negotiations.
ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain), speaking on behalf of the European Union, noted that the May session of the Committee was mainly dedicated to United Nations peacekeeping operations, an important priority to the Union. He stressed the need for budgetary discipline and for ensuring that overall budget levels delivered the resources needed to insure the implementation of the Organization’s peacekeeping mandates.
Cross-cutting issues, including the proposed global field support strategy, would also be considered, he said. During those discussions, the Union would continue to work for effective and efficient peacekeeping and for improvements to the way the United Nations delivered its mandates in the area of international peace and security. Additionally, with regard to closed peacekeeping operations, the Union believed it was regrettable that funds in closed peacekeeping missions in surplus had not been returned to Member States, in line with financial rules and regulations. He stressed that the return of such funds was a priority for the Union.
Concluding, he pledged the Union’s continued engagement in discussions and readiness to work with all Member States in a spirit of transparency and constructive cooperation, in order to reach tangible results by the end of the session.
BROUZ RALPH COFFI (C ôte d’Ivoire), speaking on behalf of the African Group, and associating the Group with the statement of the Group of 77 and China, began by emphasising the special responsibility of the permanent members of the Security Council in the establishment of peacekeeping missions and the requisite financial level of contribution. Pointing out that negotiating peacekeeping budgets was the African Group’s foremost priority, he said the Group was always prepared to enter into negotiations in the spirit of good faith, trust and mutual respect.
He recalled that, last year, the Group had worked tirelessly to reach consensus on the 15 active peacekeeping operations and other operations, even though, regrettably, an unusual and unacceptable approach had been used to entangle peacekeeping negotiations into a “package deal”. As a result, the Committee’s business had not been concluded until three weeks later than scheduled. He made it clear that the African Group would not be party to package deals on peacekeeping operations this time around. “What transpired last year is not an option, as it would severely undermine peacekeeping operations. We, thus, see no merit in package deal approaches for missions at all,” he declared.
Continuing, he said that across-the-board cuts, without taking into account the specific challenges and mandates of a mission, would put missions in serious jeopardy. Experience from last year showed that “unconventional negotiation styles” and package-deal arrangements only served to delay the process and the timely conclusion of the Committee’s work, in addition to breaking trust and mutual respect.
MANAHI PAKARATI (Chile), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said her delegation attached great importance to peacekeeping operations and, among those under consideration, would request that the Committee give urgent attention to MINUSTAH, especially in light of the devastating 12 January earthquake that struck its host country. It was clear that MINUSTAH would require support and assistance outside those of peacekeeping operations in other circumstances. She said that the Rio Group also attached great importance to the proposed global field support strategy and believed that such an initiative would have a positive effect on peacekeeping operation and related activities.
SHABBIR AHMAD CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh), speaking on behalf of the Asian Group, said the Committee had a heavy agenda, including some systemic and reform-related items before it. That would require better time management and, to that end, the Asian Group would stress the need to follow the programme as set out, with a view to finishing its work within the four-week time frame. The Asian Group attached great importance to matters regarding peacekeeping and, therefore, believed that it was unacceptable that documents related to peacekeeping issues continued to be submitted late. He urged the Bureau to address that matter and, when necessary, adjust the programme of work so that the Committee could take up the reports that were available.
JOSEPH MELROSE (United States) said his delegation also welcomed the resumed session, and would pay tribute to those that had lost their lives serving as peacekeepers. The resumed session was very important, because it was focusing on the budgets of such missions, totalling over $8 billion. The United States was firmly committed to providing the necessary resources and support services to United Nations peacekeeping missions, so that each operation could carry out its civilian protection mandate, while ensuring they were efficient, effective and properly managed. On the proposed global field support strategy, the United States believed that the existing field support system needed retooling. Indeed, missions needed to be deployed more rapidly and with adequate resources and capabilities, and thus, his delegation supported, in principle, the adoption of a transitional global field support strategy.
AKIRA SUGIYAMA (Japan) requested the Secretariat to make its best effort to apply the six-week document rule. Japan also regretted the absence of the resolution on cross-cutting issues for the past two years. That resolution was necessary to send a clear message to the Secretariat. Japan attached great importance to successful conclusion of the item on the global field support strategy. Finally, Japan urged the Secretariat to provide information requested by Member States expeditiously as a way to expedite Committee’s work.
Board of Auditors
IMRAN VANKER, Director of External Audit of South Africa, speaking on behalf of the Chair of the United Nations Board of Auditors, introduced the Board’s report (document A/64/5 Vol.II), saying that the Board was fully committed to the General Assembly as its primary stakeholder and stressed the value of interactions with the Committee. Such interactions and statements had proven very important in the context of bringing about change through audit results. He recalled that, last year, the Board had issued a modified audit opinion, with two “emphasis of matter” paragraphs relating to the management of non-expendable property and the non-disclosure of expendable property.
While some improvements had been noted in the physical counting of non-expendable property in 2008/09, there were still significant discrepancies identified at various missions during the physical verifications carried out by the Administration. He said the report also continued to address the focus area the Board had identified, based on risk assessment. That was in addition to addressing the special requests of ACABQ.
Next, NEETA TOLANI, Director of the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of the recommendations of the Board of Auditors concerning United Nations peacekeeping operations for the financial period ending 30 June 2009 (document A/64/702), and said that, with regard to prioritization, the Secretary-General had taken note of the 30 main recommendations that the Board had highlighted in its report. While emphasizing that implementation of its recommendations needed to be treated as a priority, the main recommendations had been designated as a high priority and others as medium priority. She said that the overall status of high-priority recommendations, by department, was shown in the report’s table 1, and for all recommendation in table 2.
Finally, SUSAN MCLURG, Chair of ACABQ, introduced the related report of that body (document A/64/708), saying that the Advisory Committee continued to be concerned about consistent non-compliance in the implementation of its recommendations. Given the financial and other risks to which the United Nations was exposed in such situations, ACABQ believed the General Assembly and the Secretary-General should ensure implementation of its recommendations. She said ACABQ was also concerned with the assets management of certain peacekeeping missions. ACABQ also believed that detailed information should be provided on specific actions taken to implement accountability measures, in respect of programme managers responsible for persistent non-compliance with its recommendations.
Mr. AL-SHAHARI (Yemen), on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, encouraged the Secretariat to ensure the recommendations of the Board were implemented fully, efficiently and in a timely manner. In so doing, it must pay particular attention to identifying the root causes of recurring issues and minimizing the ageing of the Board’s previous recommendations. It was important that recommendations not be implemented in a piecemeal manner and that the process of implementation not only plug existing loopholes, but also prevent the recurrence of similar problems in other missions and areas. Further, practical measures should be taken to hold office-holders accountable by setting time frames and priorities for implementation and including them in the managers’ compacts.
He noted that most of the 30 main recommendations made by the Board represented, to a significant extent, reiteration of previous recommendations, which demonstrated a consistent failure to ensure compliance with the financial regulations and rules of the United Nations. Further, the Group of 77 was concerned with the deficiencies in the monitoring of the inventory of strategic deployment stocks at the United Nations Logistics Base, and that that inventory was held much longer than it should have been. Also, with regard to procurement, he noted that, from 2007 to 2008, procurement from developing countries and countries with economies in transition had declined from 60 per cent to 53.65 per cent. He urged the Secretariat to make more efforts to promote procurement from such countries. On quick impact projects, he noted the Board’s and ACABQ’s observations and conclusion on the matter on underutilization of the resources appropriated for those projects. However, he believed those conclusions were incomplete and did not take into account other factors, such as complex and cumbersome financial procedures that were not in line with realities in the field and limited the ability of the mission to implement them.
BEATRIZ GONZÁLEZ BETANCORT (Spain), speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed concern at the lack of proper response to the continuous deficiencies in effective management of expendable and non-expendable property under missions’ control, and said it was regrettable that those issues had not been addressed. In that regard, she said the Union supported strengthened asset management and underlined the necessity of ensuring that adequate safeguards were put in place to prevent waste and financial loss to the Organization.
Continuing, she also pointed out the recurrence of problems previously identified by the Board and the persistent non-compliance in implementing the Board’s recommendations. In that regard, she urged the Secretariat to address that issue expeditiously. With regard to the financing of peacekeeping operations, the European Union was concerned that assessed contributions outstanding for more than two years represented 39 per cent of the total assessed contributions receivable. In order for peacekeeping operations to be able to carry out their mandates fully, she stressed the importance of Member States paying their contributions in full, on time and without conditions.
PAUL BALLANTYNE (New Zealand), speaking also on behalf of Canada and Australia, said his delegation was concerned that, for the fourth year in a row, the Committee was considering a modified audit report with emphasis of matter. Moreover, he also shared concerns of ACABQ that, for the third consecutive year, the Board’s emphasis related to discrepancies between the physical count of assets and the information recorded for expendable and non-expendable property. While the delegation noted that some progress had been made in the reporting period, it was disappointed that, three years on, that matter had still not been adequately addressed. Strengthened asset management was critical for the efficient use of resources and to mitigate against potential loses to the Organization. In the interest of greater transparency, he called on the Secretary-General to redouble his efforts, as well as to hold accountable those whose delegated responsibility it was to remedy that situation without delay.
Also on the Board of Auditors report, Mr. CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh), on behalf of the Asian Group, said his delegation attached high priority to enhancing transparency and accountability throughout the United Nations. To that end, the work of oversight bodies to identify, assess and mitigate the risks faced by peacekeeping operations was of paramount importance. With that in mind, he said that, although there had been some improvement in the rate of implementation of the Board’s previous recommendations over the past five years, the Asian Group remained concerned with recurring issues, such as ongoing non-compliance in implementing the Board’s recommendations and lack of effective remedies, clear responsibilities and accountability of managers, both at Headquarters and in the missions.
The Asian Group was, therefore, convinced that the compact between the Secretary-General and his most senior officials could be a useful tool to ensure that appropriate and timely remedial action was taken by responsible officials to fully implement the Board’s recommendations. He also said his delegation shared concerns about continued deficiencies in asset management of various missions and strongly emphasized the need that appropriate and timely action be taken by the management of such missions to resolve such concerns. With regard to strategic deployment stock, the Asian Group remained concerned with deficiencies in monitoring the inventory of such stock at the United Nations Logistics Base.
He was also concerned with irregularities detected by the Board in procurement and contract management in peacekeeping operations, and was of the view that the recurring nature of those issues reflected inadequate internal controls as well as inadequate compliance with the Organizations financial rules and regulations. He therefore stressed the need to comply with such rules and added that the Secretariat should increase its efforts to promote participation of vendors from developing countries in the peacekeeping procurement business.
Financing of Peacekeeping Missions
When the Committee took up the reports regarding the peacekeeping operations under review during its resumed session, JUN YAMAZAKI, Assistant Secretary-General and United Nations Controller, introduced the relevant documents, and Ms. MCLURG introduced the relevant reports of ACABQ.
Taking the floor first Mr. COFFI (C ôte d’Ivoire), on behalf of the African Group, commended the role played by MINUSTAH in general, as well as its rapid response in the aftermath of Haiti’s devastating earthquake. The African Group supported that Mission’s efforts to help Haiti overcome the consequences of the tragedy. He noted that the Secretary-General had been unable to submit a revised budget for the period 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010 because of the earthquake.
As a result of the calamity, there was a need for a commitment authority with assessments in the amount of $120 million over the appropriation of $611.7 million approved by the General Assembly last year. He said the African Group believed that “MINUSTAH needs to be given all the support it can get” to re-establish its full operational capability and continue to assist in the process of rebuilding Haiti and achieving lasting peace there.
Ms. PAKARATI (Chile), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said her delegation invited the Secretary-General to authorize the continuation of MINUSTAH’s work to promote recovery and reconstruction in Haiti over the long term, in line with the priorities set out by the Haitian Government. Meanwhile, it was important for the international community to focus on more than security aspects. Indeed, following such a catastrophe, there would be a need to help jump-start development activities, with the goal of achieving lasting peace. In the short term, the Secretary-General should make full use of the $11 million appropriated for the programmes of community violence reduction, which had acquired even greater significance.
Moreover, she said, the Rio Group urged the Secretary-General to make every effort to use the resources appropriated for quick impact projects. There were many needs to be met, so such projects would be invaluable in helping alleviate the dire situation on the ground. To that end, she added that the Secretariat should simplify accountability requirements, as well as ease the internal directives governing such projects. The burden of financial procedures and internal controls for small-scale projects impaired MINUSTAH’s ability to implement the initiatives, and as such, on-the-ground opportunities could be lost.
OLIVIO FERMÍN (Dominican Republic) said all the economic and political progress Haiti had been able to make in recent years had been reversed overnight with the devastating earthquake that struck the country in January. Noting that his country’s main priority before that tragedy had focused on its own economic recovery, the earthquake in Haiti had made it redirect its attention to efforts aimed at seeing what assistance it could render to Haiti in the wake of the earthquake. Those efforts had been made through MINUSTAH, and his country had exercised flexibility in facilitating the Mission’s work by providing both logistical and operational support. In order to strengthen the efficiency of those operations, he said there was need for an agreement to be concluded with the Mission, thus improving the responses to natural and other disasters.
Further, he believed it was important to continue with urgency the reconstruction work in Haiti, because the Haitian people needed that assistance. In that regard, he called on the international community to follow through on pledges made in the aftermath of the earthquake.
GUILHERME DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil) observed that Haiti had in recent years experienced encouraging progress in such important areas as political dialogue and elections, extension of State authority, and strengthening of security, rule of law and human rights, and in all of those areas, MINUSTAH had been instrumental in providing assistance. The 12 January earthquake that struck the country had also struck at its political, social, economic and cultural heart. That earthquake had also caused the single greatest loss of personnel in the history of the United Nations, including most of MINUSTAH’s senior leadership.
He said those challenging and unique circumstances placed on the Mission the double responsibility of rebuilding itself, while at the same time expanding its activities in the recovery, reconstruction and stability efforts, as mandated by the Security Council. In the coming months, MINUSTAH had an even more relevant role to play in Haiti’s path to stability and prosperity and needed to remain deeply involved in the reconstruction effort. In that regard, the Mission needed to continue its efforts to maintain security and public order, and also coordinate and provide logistical support to humanitarian operations, in addition to playing an enabling role in the recovery efforts by making full use of its resources, including military engineers.
CLAUDIA CORTI (Argentina) said the General Assembly should provide the necessary funds to help the MINUSTAH complete its work, especially in light of the need to address the humanitarian situation in Haiti following the 12 January earthquake. She also supported the call to launch quick impact projects, as well as to pay particular attention to long-term development and security matters, especial in the aftermath of disasters. Argentina believed that, with the help of the international community, Haiti would overcome the disaster and move towards peace, socio-economic development and security.
On matters regarding closed peacekeeping missions, Mr. AL-SHAHARI (Yemen), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said his delegation supported the return of some $219,000 to the Government of Kuwait, reflecting two thirds the adjusted net credits available in the account of the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission, in line with the decision taken by the General Assembly during its sixty-third session. The Group of 77 firmly believed that matters regarding the return of those funds to the Kuwaiti Government should be resolved swiftly and must be separated from the discussion on closed peacekeeping missions.
JUN YAMADA (Japan) said his delegation believed that the issue of closed peacekeeping missions must be viewed in light of the following principles: first, that payment of assessed contributions was an obligation of Member States under the Charter; and second, that unencumbered appropriations should be returned to Member States in accordance with the Organization’s Financial Rules and Regulations. It was essential to abide by those established principles, he continued, noting that, as of 30 June 2009, 17 of the 22 closed peacekeeping missions had cash surpluses totalling close to $214 million. Five closed missions had cash deficits totalling some $86.6 million.
“We believe that the credits available from closed peacekeeping missions with cash surpluses should be returned to Member States,” he said, echoing the concern expressed in the report of ACABQ that the lack of liquidity at times led active peacekeeping missions to borrow from closed operations. At the same time, he reiterated Japan’s view that the cash deficits of closed missions should be addressed through timely and full payment of assessments by Member States. During consultations, Japan would request the latest figures on such cross-borrowed funds for the 2009/10 period. His delegation also wished to have, as early in the negotiations as possible, information on the historic pattern regarding such cross-borrowing, in line with ACABQ’s request.
THOMAS GÜRBER (Switzerland), speaking also on behalf of Liechtenstein, said the situation had not improved since the Fifth Committee had failed to reach a solution to the various problems regarding closed peacekeeping missions last year. Indeed, unpaid assessments to closed missions had decreased by less than 2 per cent, while the cash available for credit to Member States from missions with surpluses had grown by 15 per cent. The level of cross-borrowing for active missions had doubled, as had the number of missions concerned. As that was the case, troop-contributing countries, as well as others that had fulfilled their financial obligations to the Organization continued to be adversely affected by the fact that roughly $425 million in assessments for closed missions remained unpaid as of 30 June 2009.
“If all Member States would honour their obligations under the Charter to pay their assessed contributions in full, on time and without conditions, we would not have to have this discussion in the first place,” he said, adding that, while it might be understandable why a country would be temporarily unable to fulfil its obligations, making reference to “national legislation” as an excuse for deliberately withholding contributions was unjustifiable. He went on to say that Switzerland and Liechtenstein objected to the continued use of closed missions’ cash balances as “some kind of shadow peacekeeping reserve fund”.
He said that if there was a cash-flow problem as a result of the high level of outstanding assessments in the accounts of some active missions, a proper solution must be found that did not run counter to transparent and sound management practices. Any comprehensive solutions to those issues should be based on the principle that those countries that had fulfilled their Charter obligations regarding closed missions should be treated in accordance with the Organization’s financial rules of procedure.
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