|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
35th Meeting (PM)
Fifth Committee Takes Up Proposed $10.6 Million Budget
for United Nations Office to African Union
Approaching the end of its four-week second resumed session, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today took up the proposed budget for the United Nations Office to the African Union, estimated to require $10.6 million, with speakers expressing regret at its late submission by the Secretary-General, leaving barely a day to consider possible gaps, as described by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions.
Assistant Secretary-General Jun Yamazaki, United Nations Controller, who introduced the Secretary-General’s report containing the budget proposal, explained that the new office would integrate the current operations of the United Nations Liaison Office (UNLO), the African Union Peace and Support Team (AUPST), and the United Nations Planning Team for the African Union Mission in Somalia (UNPT), along with the administrative function of the Joint Support and Coordination Mechanism (JSCM) of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).
He said that, under the proposal, $1.7 million would be funded from the programme budget for the 2010-2011 biennium, of which $1.1 million would come from the already-approved programme budget for the biennium. Some $1.2 million would come from the proposed budget for the 2010/11 support account.
He added that the new arrangement was $2.5 million lower than the total funds requested for the four separate offices of UNLO, AUPST, UNPT and JSCM for the 2010/11 financial period and 2010-2011 biennium. The new integrated Office would provide a single support structure for all United Nations personnel working on peace and security issues in Addis Ababa, consisting of 65 posts. There would be an additional 11 posts for the JSCM. In contrast, there were currently 104 posts across the four offices.
He assured the Committee that all mandates established by the General Assembly and the Security Council currently performed by the UNLO, UNPT and AUPST would be preserved and implemented by the proposed Office.
Taye-Brook Zerihoun, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, also present at the meeting, said the proposed office only included Secretariat entities currently operating in Addis Ababa in the areas of peace and security. The Economic Commission for Africa and other United Nations Secretariat entities working in the area of development would be asked to coordinate their work at the strategic and operational levels.
He said the proposal was an attempt to realign United Nations interaction with the African Union on peace and security issues with a number of developments that had occurred since the Assembly established the United Nations Liaison Office to the then Organization of African Unity in 1997.
The proposed Office had been designed to respond to evolving African Union priorities and common challenges in achieving stability and prosperity in Africa, he said. “It reflects what the African Union and the African Group here in New York have been asking for,” he added, pointing out that the idea appeared in resolution 63/310 of September 2009.
He said there was already cooperation between the United Nations and African Union on African Union efforts to build its human and institutional capacity, and to carry out preventive diplomacy and peacemaking in the context of crises in Guinea, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Guinea-Bissau, Niger, Madagascar and the Comoros. The two were also working together to build the African peace and security architecture, and to operationalize the African Standby Force. The United Nations was providing technical and expert advice to the African Union in planning and management of the African Union Mission in Somalia, as well.
He also explained that, for the past three years, the United Nations and African Union had been jointly implementing a ten-year capacity-building programme for the African Union, in line with a declaration signed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Chair of the African Union Commission in 2006.
Noting that seven months had elapsed since the adoption of resolution 63/310, Susan McLurg, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), expressed regret that the ACABQ and General Assembly had been placed in the “unfortunate position” of having to consider the issue under extreme time pressure.
The proposal had “obvious gaps,” she said, noting that it did not provide enough insight on what had already been achieved in the context of the ten-year capacity-building programme signed in 2006. A consultant had been engaged to review that programme, whose work was only about to begin.
She noted, as well, that work on a long-term capacity-building road map had been on hold within the African Union, pending consultations. “In the Committee’s view, articulation by the African Union on capacity-building requirements and the development of a plan to support the process are fundamental,” she stressed.
The ACABQ viewed the request for 32 support posts out of a total of 65 posts proposed for the new Office as disproportionate, she said, and it had therefore recommended that the Secretary-General review the support requirements and report to the Assembly at its sixty-fifth session on how to make maximum use of services provided by the Economic Commission for Africa.
She also outlined various ACABQ recommendations regarding staff whose functions it believed were not needed: it had recommended against the Field Service post proposed for a Personal Assistant for the Assistant Secretary-General; and it had recommended the abolishment of a P-3 post which was proposed to be upgraded to a P-4 Political Affairs Officer for coordination and liaison work, although even that post was not believed to be truly needed, in view of the proposal to create a P-5 post for Senior Political Affairs Officer/Head of Unit.
Côte d’Ivoire’s representative, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said during the last African Union Summit, the African heads of States had given specific instructions concerning the reinforcement of the United Nations Office in Addis Ababa. It was their intention to offer some result to their Heads of State during the second resumed session.
The representative of Spain, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said, in view of the great importance attached to the European Union’s relationship with the Africa Union, those countries had shown flexibility in discussing the issue despite the late submission of the report by the Secretary-General, and the ACABQ having just submitted its report now. It had also agreed, on exceptional basis, to consider the report before all six language versions had been prepared.
He said the European Union stood by the commitment of all States to conclude the second resumed session in four weeks. With less than a day left, the Fifth Committee should make peacekeeping operations its first priority. If, having done that, there was sufficient time left over, the European Union was willing to take up the budget of the United Nations Office to the African Union.
Also stressing the fact that the Committee had been put in a difficult situation, the representative of the Russian Federation praised the initiative being taken to streamline the Organization, an idea which it supported. However, his Government was concerned by the fact that the Committee was being asked to consider a draft budget that would affect multiyear programmes, which he said was “a serious violation of procedure” and would set an “unpleasant precedent”.
Like others, he underscored the importance of timely submission of reports, saying that with many important items still left pending, it was difficult to tell if the Committee had the time to discuss the proposed Office. He also stressed the importance of scrupulously observing the commitment to multilingualism.
However, South Africa’s representative responded that such delays were nothing new to the Committee. He expressed “resolute support” for the report’s introduction at this stage, saying that almost all the peacekeeping budgets before it had been approved. Its late introduction should not be a cause “to cloud the picture”.
The Committee is expected to conclude its session at 3 p.m. Friday, 28 May.
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