|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
32nd Meeting (AM)
Department of Field Support Tells Budget Committee It Managed to ‘Do Better
with Less’, Owing to Global Strategy, Steadfast Commitment of Blue Helmets
Some Speakers Call for Strict Budgetary Discipline;
Others Warn Arbitrary Cuts, Resource Reduction Targets ‘Grave Error’
Since launching a five-year peacekeeping management road map in 2010, the United Nations had improved the cost-effectiveness and affordability of its blue-helmet operations without reducing their operational performance or ability to carry out their mandates, a top United Nations peacekeeping official told the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today as it took up cross-cutting issues related to peacekeeping financing.
“Although much remains to be done to meet the expectations of the Committee in several areas, through the implementation of the Global Field Support Strategy we have been able to do better with less across the board, and have taken concrete steps to make further improvements over the coming period,” Anthony Banbury, Acting Head of the Department of Field Support said, as he introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on progress in implementing the Strategy.
The Strategy aims to launch peacekeeping missions in a more timely way, improve support for their operations and achieve greater efficiency and economies of scale. According to Mr. Banbury, it had enabled the Organization to reduce the peacekeeping budget by $433 million to a proposed $7.4 billion in 2012/13, an almost 6 per cent cut from the 2011/12 period.
“With UN troops trying to prevent the outbreak of fighting in South Sudan, UN police taking on enhanced security responsibilities in Haiti, and Human Rights officers helping to pursue accountability in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, it cannot be business as usual for the UN,” he said. “Our peacekeeping missions need better services, the people they are serving deserve it, our Member States expect it, and we are committed to providing it.”
The cost reductions — for such things as fuel and spare parts, and made possible by redistributing existing assets across the peacekeeping community and reducing resources for scaled-down missions — had been arrived at after thorough analysis and consideration of the individual operational and political circumstances of each mission, he said.
While agreeing that the Department of Field Support should focus further on developing performance measurement and structural improvements — as called for by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) — he said it was difficult for the Department to take on such ambitious initiatives and at the same time provide operational support to 29 field missions — including urgent priorities like the new deployment to Syria.
“We are asking them to do this when the DFS share of the support account has gone from 26 per cent in 2007/2008 to a proposed 20 per cent — one fifth of support account resources — in 2012/2013,” he said, adding that DFS was consuming a progressively smaller share of the Organization’s resources.
During the meeting, several delegates supported the Strategy and agreed with ACABQ’s criticism that the Secretariat’s piecemeal reporting on it had made it difficult to assess progress. Better evaluation was needed. The European Union’s delegate said the Strategy must illustrate that it was a “value for money” project. He called for full implementation of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) and Umoja to enable the Strategy to reach its full potential.
Weighing in on peacekeeping financing, he lauded the various steps taken to reduce the 2012/13 budget, but said there were significant opportunities to further cut unit costs. In view of the financial constraints facing Member States, strict budgetary discipline was crucial to ensure that resources were truly needed and used efficiently. Like other delegates, he said future budget performance reports must make clear when savings were due to cost reductions and when they were the result of efficiency measures.
But Algeria’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, expressed concern over the delays in adequately resourcing some missions, especially in Africa. He criticized the “so-called ‘resource reduction targets’” in formulating peacekeeping budgets as a “grave error”, since the potential operational impact of those cuts, which could adversely impact peacekeepers and hamper mandate implementation, had not been adequately explored. He also stressed the need to expedite reimbursements to troop-contributing countries and warned that the long-pending review of reimbursement rates continued to seriously threaten the sustainability of peacekeeping operations.
The representatives of Pakistan and Bangladesh, both long-time troop-contributing countries, agreed with that assessment. They said they must be consulted when missions were drawn up, changed and implemented. Furthermore, the General Assembly’s resolutions that called on the Secretariat to ensure proper representation of troop-contributing countries in the Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support must be implemented.
Speakers also lauded the decline in the reported number of sexual exploitation and abuse cases. Several called for greater efforts to implement the Organization’s zero tolerance policy. Norway’s delegate noted the need to strengthen the sanctions framework and said reporting on punitive actions taken by troop- and police-contributing countries should be made mandatory.
Several members of the Secretariat introduced reports relevant to the Committee’s discussion. Maria Eugenia Casar, Assistant Secretary-General and Controller, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the overview of the financing of the United Nations peacekeeping operations: budget performance for 2010/11 and budget for 2012/13, as well as the Secretary-General’s note on the proposed budgetary levels for peacekeeping operations for 2012/13.
Ruth de Miranda, Chief of Human Resources Policy Services of the Office of Human Resource Management (OHRM), introduced the Secretary-General’s report on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. Collen Kelapile, Chair of ACABQ, introduced that body’s report on cross-cutting issues related to peacekeeping operations, which included its observations and recommendations. Carman Lapointe, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, introduced the report on that body’s activities well as its report on the audit of the implementation of the Strategy.
At the outset of the meeting, the Committee appointed Sergei V. Garmonin (Russian Federation) to replace Vladimirovich Afanasiev (Russian Federation), who resigned from the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) effective 1 June 2012. Mr. Garmonin would fill the remaining period of Mr. Afanasiev’s term, set to expire on 31 December 2012.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Canada (also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand), Russian Federation, Costa Rica and Republic of Korea.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 10 May to consider the financing of eight peacekeeping missions.
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to fill a vacancy in the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) and to discuss cross-cutting issues related to the administrative and budgetary aspects of the financing of the United Nations peacekeeping operations.
On the first topic, it had before it the Secretary-General’s note on the appointment of members of the International Civil Service Commission (document A/66/694/Add.1), whose annex contains the curriculum vitae of Sergei V. Garmonin (Russian Federation), the candidate to replace Vladimirovich Afanasiev (Russian Federation), who resigned from the Commission effective 1 June. Mr. Garmonin is to fill the remaining period of Mr. Afanasiev’s term, which expires on 31 December.
On the second topic, the Committee had before it the Secretary-General’s report on an overview of the financing of the United Nations peacekeeping operations: budget performance for the period from 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011 and budget for the period from 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013 (document A/66/679). The General Assembly is asked to take note of the report, which documents management initiatives proposed by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support for 2012/13 and gives updates on implementing the requests in Assembly resolution 65/289. It also gives consolidated information on the performance of budgets for the period from 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011 and on the budget proposals for the period from 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013. Moreover, it includes sections on the status of the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund, management of contingency-owned equipment, liabilities to troop-contributing and formed-police-contributing countries, and death and disability compensation.
It states that for the period from 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011, total peacekeeping expenditure, including for peacekeeping missions, the United Nations Logistics Base at Brindisi and the support account for peacekeeping operations, was $7.58 billion, against a total approved budget of $7.94 billion. Those amounts excluded budgeted voluntary contributions in kind. Total expenditure for the period from 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013 is estimated at $7.4 billion.
The Secretary-General’s note on the proposed budgetary levels for peacekeeping operations for the period from 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013 (document A/C.5/66/15) contains a chart summarizing the budgetary requirements of each peacekeeping operation during that period and gives a breakdown of each mission’s needs by category, including military and police personnel costs, civilian personnel costs and operational requirements.
Concerning special subjects related to peacekeeping, the Committee had before it the Secretary-General’s report on progress in the implementation of the global field support strategy (document A/66/591 and Add.1), outlines the results during the first year of the five-year strategy, which aims to enable timelier start-up of missions, improve support to mission operations and pursue economies of scale through an integrated service delivery model that promotes greater accountability and transparency. It notes considerable progress towards that end. For example, the first service package for a 200-person camp has been finalized in close collaboration with Member States; Member States have identified new functions to be transferred to the Global Service Centre; the standardized funding model approved by the Assembly will be implemented in the context of the first full-year budget for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS); and the human resources framework is advancing in close coordination with the Office of Human Resources Management.
The Assembly is asked to take note of the report and to endorse the concept of regional service centres for missions in West Africa and the Middle East, in line with the Assembly’s directive in resolution 64/269. Further, the Assembly is requested to ask the Secretary-General to seek proposals from Member States through established mechanisms in order to ensure full transparency and optimal results in the site selection process, and to present those proposals for the Assembly’s approval during its sixty-seventh session.
The addendum to that report contains information on the Regional Service Centre at Entebbe, Uganda, summarizing the consolidated financial and human resources required for its ongoing establishment and operations in 2012/13. It recalls that in its resolution 64/269, the Assembly had approved the establishment of the service centre at Entebbe, effective 1 July 2010 and had determined that the staffing of such centres would be through redeployments from field missions. The Entebbe centre continues to be an evolving concept and operation under the framework of the global field support strategy.
The report notes that the vision of expediting and improving support to peacekeeping missions involves a move from a mission-centric to a shared services structure, both globally and regionally. It includes the establishment of regional service centres to facilitate the consolidation of administrative and support functions within field operations, such as human resources, finance, information technology, logistics and training, for geographically grouped field missions in a stand-alone regional centre. The strategy offers opportunities for achieving improved efficiency and effectiveness, maximizing economies of scale, enhancing resource management and mobilization and reducing costs and risks. The Regional Centre at Entebbe is the first such centre to be established.
The Secretary-General’s report on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (document A/66/669) contains data on the allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in the United Nations from 1 January to 31 December 2011 and it describes progress in enforcing the Organization’s standards of conduct related to such abuse. It states that the number of allegations received fell from 116 in 2010 to 102 in 2011, the lowest level since data was first collected and compiled. Fully, 73 per cent of the allegations relate to personnel deployed in peacekeeping missions.
The task force set up under the direction of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee and co-chaired by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Rescue Committee has taken several initiatives to support activities in the field to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse. Efforts to enhance existing prevention mechanisms and to enforce the zero tolerance policy have continued.
In the report, the Secretary-General states his full commitment to zero tolerance of sexual exploitation and abuse. He concludes that, while much has been accomplished, must remains to be done. The present framework of sanctions against such abuse should be supplemented with more steps that will create a range of progressively more severe penalties applicable both to individual perpetrators and to groups that aid or abet such abuse.
In its 116-page report on observations and recommendations on cross-cutting issues related to peacekeeping (document A/66/718), the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) weighs in on the Secretary-General’s report in general and on every individual aspect of the global field support strategy (document A/66/591). While continuing to support the strategy’s broad goals and recognizing that its implementation is an evolutionary process, the Advisory Committee states that it experienced difficulties in assessing progress thus far due mainly to the timing and lack of detail in the Secretary-General’s progress report. Given the scale and scope of the changesenvisaged as a result of the global field support strategy, the AdvisoryCommittee considers that accurate, complete and transparent reporting iscrucial so as to facilitate further decision-making by the Assembly on the implementation of the strategy. It notes that the Board of Auditors had raised similar concerns.
The Advisory Committee makes a series of recommendations in its report. Among them, that the Secretary-General be asked to prepare and finalize a comprehensive plan for the five-year implementation of the four pillars of the global field support strategy and to incorporate the key elements of the plan in his next progress report. Also, that he be requested to provide cost-benefit analyses as part of his proposals under the strategy, and report on the costs incurred during implementation of the initiatives. It also recommends, among others, that he be asked to develop a performance management framework based on well-defined concepts and effective mechanisms and tools for monitoring, evaluating and measuring the results and impact of the activities implemented. Subject to the observations and recommendations in the Advisory Committee’s report, the Assembly is asked to take note of the Secretary-General’s report.
The related report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) on peacekeeping operations (document A/66/286 (Part II) covers the OIOS oversight activities related to peacekeeping operations from 1 January to 31 December 2011. During that time, OIOS issued 194 oversight reports. The audit results were classified into seven risk categories: strategy; governance; compliance; finance; operations; human resources; and information. The report gives a breakdown of results by department and mission.
The Secretary-General’s report on the audit of the implementation of the global field support strategy (document A/66/714) states that the OIOS considers that the governance, management and control processes of the Department of Field Support that were examined were “partially satisfactory” in providing reasonable assurance regarding the strategy’s implementation. In order to remain relevant, Department of Field Support’s mechanisms for overseeing implementation must be reviewed and revised. Also necessary is implementation of a comprehensive framework to monitor and manage risks, development of additional criteria for determining the qualitative benefits of implementing the strategy and establishment of a comprehensive performance management framework to link performance indicators and targets to its overall strategic goals. The report lists OIOS’ six recommendations to the Department of Field Support for further strengthening internal controls; all were accepted by the Department.
Introduction of Reports
MARIA EUGENIA CASAR, Assistant Secretary-General, Controller, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the overview of the financing of the United Nations peacekeeping operations: budget performance for 2010/11 and budget for 2012/13, as well as the Secretary-General’s note on the proposed budgetary levels for peacekeeping operations for 2012/13.
She said that the gross budget for peacekeeping operations for 2012/13 was currently estimated at $7.4 billion — a reduction of $433.4 million or 5.5 per cent from the approved budget levels for 2011/12. The reduction was due, in part, to a reduced level of activity expected in some missions, such as United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) and United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), and to management initiatives aimed at realizing efficiency gains and reductions in resources requirements. The principal reasons for the reduced requirements for each mission were presented in table 14 of the report.
On the increased requirements proposed for the newly established missions, she said the increase in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) was mainly due to the fact that the 2012/13 proposed budget was based on detailed costs and actual experience, whereas the 2011/12 budget was based on the use of the standardized funding model, and the increase in United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) was mainly due to the application of a reduced delayed deployment factor for the full authorized military strength and to requirements for the additional mandated tasks of the joint border monitoring mechanism.
She said that the financial resources to support the peacekeeping missions — comprising the resources for the support account for peacekeeping operations and the United Nations Logistics Base, including the support account share of the requirements for enterprise resource planning — were estimated at $390.9 million for 2012/13 compared to $413.3 million for 2011/12, representing a reduction of $22.4 million or 5.4 per cent. A reduction in the overall civilian staffing level of 855 posts and positions was also considered, whereas the number of uniformed personnel, based on the current peacekeeping mandates approved by the Security Council, was projected to be about 127,500 personnel, including African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops.
For 2011/12, she said, the actual expenditures amounted to $7.58 billion, resulting in an overall unspent balance of about $360 million, representing a budget implementation rate of 95.5 per cent. Of that balance, nearly $225 million related to the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). That was mainly due to the fact that contingent-owned major equipment was not deployed as planned, as well as a decrease in the ceiling-man-rate for fresh rations, lower expenditures for international staff costs, and lower level of aviation activities.
The Secretariat strove to refine its cost estimates, and careful attention was paid to determination of vacancy and delayed deployment factors applied to the cost estimates of military, police and civilian personnel and to air transportation requirements, she explained. The determination of international staff costs was further refined. A pilot streamlined report on UNMISS’ budget for 2012/13 would be presented to the Committee for its consideration during this session. Drawing attention to a changed format that allowed for a better information flow, she said “we envisage further improvements for the next overview report, in particular, in presenting more focused explanations for significant variances”.
RUTH DE MIRANDA, Chief, Human Resources Policy Services, Office of Human Resource Management, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (document A/66/699). The number of allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse had decreased from 116 in 2010 to 102 in 2011, which was a 12 per cent reduction. As in previous years, the large majority of allegations involved peacekeeping mission personnel. In that category, 74 allegations had been reported to OIOS in 2011, down from 85 in 2010, the lowest number since 2006, when 357 allegations had been reported.
She said that the general decline in numbers might be attributed to measures undertaken to combat sexual exploitation and abuse, especially by military personnel. It could be reasonably concluded that the combination of enhanced training and awareness-raising measures and the implementation of various preventive measures such as, for instance, the institution of off-limit areas and curfews, had resulted in the reduction in numbers of reported allegations.
The Inter-Agency Standing Committee Task Force on the matter had undertaken several initiatives. The Department of Field Support Conduct and Discipline Unit and Teams also had continued to develop and implement several measures, such as the delivery of training on prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse of new personnel; the establishment of reporting mechanisms; enhancement of an advisory document providing step-by-step guidance for conduct and discipline practitioners in the field; and the production of awareness-raising and public information materials.
ANTHONY BANBURY, Acting Head of the Department of Field Support, introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on progress in implementing the Global Field Support Strategy (documents A/66/591 and Add.1). He noted that the Secretary-General had appointed Ameerah Haq, his Special Representative for Timor-Leste, to head the Department, beginning 11 June. The proposed funding for 2012/13 of $7.4 billion across all peacekeeping operations was a reduction of $433 million, or almost 6 per cent, from 2011/12. Those budget estimates reflected genuine efforts by the Secretariat to improve cost-effectiveness and affordability of peacekeeping, while avoiding any negative impact on operational performance or mandate delivery of individual missions.
He said that the resulting cost reductions reflected a cultural change under way in the Department of Field Support and well-informed decisions made after thorough analysis and consideration in that and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, as well as in the missions. The individual operational and political circumstances of each mission were taken into account in finalizing the budgetary requirements. He pointed to reduced costs in 2012/13 in three areas. They included sustainable efficiencies in consumption and other operating costs such as fuel, aircraft, spare parts, travel and rotation of military contingents; reduced and deferred acquisitions and construction of major equipment and facilities, where possible, and greater reliance on redistribution of existing assets across the peacekeeping community; and right-sizing of resource requirements for reduced missions or those likely to enter a transition phase soon. At the same time, new and extra resources were added in operating contexts that required them.
He highlighted positive developments during the first two years of implementing the Global Field Support Strategy. Current political and operational trends indicated that the work of field mission support would continue to face volatile challenges, ranging from complex and often volatile operational environments to increased demand for specialized capabilities and the simultaneous need for greater organizational flexibility. The Strategy was guiding the Secretariat in partnership with Member States to meet those challenges in a dynamic way, with common sense, sound judgement and managerial responsibility. To meet the expectations of peacekeeping, a dedicated, focused effort and a new way of thinking and working were needed.
“With UN troops trying to prevent the outbreak of fighting in South Sudan, UN police taking on enhanced security responsibilities in Haiti, and Human Rights officers helping to pursue accountability in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, it cannot be business as usual for the UN,” he said, stressing the commitment of the Departments of Field Support and Peacekeeping Operations to the Global Field Support Strategy. “Our peacekeeping missions need better services, the people they are serving deserve it, our Member States expect it, and we are committed to providing it.” As evidence of the difficult and dangerous operating environment, 113 peacekeepers died in 2011 due to targeted attacks, violence, banditry, natural disasters, plane crashes, safety accidents and illness. That had obliged the Organization to introduce stronger security systems and safety measures. As the two Departments continued to reform, they strove to address and anticipate global peace and security challenges with flexibility and professionalism.
He agreed with most of the opinions of the Advisory Committee and the Department of Field Support on the Global Field Support Strategy, particularly their admonition to do more and their implied criticisms. He backed the Advisory Committee’s recommendations in terms of performance measurement, structural improvements, key performance indicators and benchmarking, and said the Department should indeed focus on those. But as long as it was simultaneously responsible for operational support to 29 field missions — including urgent priorities like the new deployment to Syria — it was difficult to focus the managerial and human resources required to design and implement required changes. “We are asking them to do this when the DFS share of the support account has gone from 26 per cent in 2007/2008 to a proposed 20 per cent — one fifth of support account resources — in 2012/2013,” he said. Moreover, the Department of Field Support was pursuing that ambitious initiative while consuming a progressively smaller share of the Organization’s resources.
As an indication of contributions to implement the Global Field Support Strategy, the overall costs for peacekeeping proposed for 2012/13 was equivalent to $74,700 per capita of uniformed personnel expected to be deployed during the year, he said. When adjusted for inflation, costs incurred in 2008/09 of $85,300 per capita of uniformed personnel, before the introduction of the Strategy, were 14 per cent higher than the estimate for 2012/13. Thus, despite the absence of quantifiable performance indicators, the evidence existed to demonstrate that in implementation and impact, the Strategy was enabling the United Nations to do better with less.
In the past two years, the Department of Field Support had prioritized to deliver tangible results to its missions, he said. He acknowledged it had not always followed standard project management methodology, due in part to the lack of reporting tools and systems to capture required data. That should be significantly improved by the planned roll-out of International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) and Umoja. However, the Department was developing a comprehensive plan to implement the Strategy with clear goals, timelines, key activities, milestones and project deliverables that would set out the envisaged end-state under each pillar; detailed cost-benefit analyses; a performance measurement framework with targets and benchmarks, a risk management framework and a review of the governance arrangements.
He noted the Advisory Committee’s observations that the current arrangements had resulted in piecemeal reporting, which made it difficult to assess progress in implementing the Strategy. The Department would pursue alternative arrangements for reporting on future progress, and it hoped that the responses given to the Advisory Committee’s almost 1,000 questions would serve as a useful basis on which the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) could build. The Department would make every effort to produce the required information in a timely and accurate way. “Although much remains to be done to meet the expectations of the Committee in several areas, through the implementation of the Global Field Support Strategy we have been able to do better with less across the board, and have taken concrete steps to make further improvements over the coming period,” he said.
COLLEN KELAPILE, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, introduced the ACABQ report on cross-cutting issues related to peacekeeping operations (document A/66/718), which included observations and recommendations on separate reports submitted by the Secretary-General on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (document A/66/699) and implementation of the Global Field Support Strategy (A/66/591 and add.1). Concerning the proposals for the 2012/13 financial period, the Advisory Committee welcomed the efforts made to identify cross-cutting targets for resource reductions and to critically examine capital expenditures, as well as the assurance given that the particular circumstances of each mission were taken into account during budget preparation. The Advisory Committee was of the view that the proposed budgets reflected some positive results from those efforts, but felt more information should have been provided on how the measures would be applied in each mission, including any mitigating measures to ensure that there was no adverse impact on mandate implementation.
He said that, despite a reduction of vacancy rates in field missions, the Advisory Committee noted long-vacant posts in some missions, recommending that the continued requirement for posts that had been vacant for two years or longer be re-justified. Turning to operational costs, those were significantly higher than the allocation that would result from the application of the standard ratios established by the Department of Field Support.
On the financial framework, he said, the Advisory Committee recommended against the Secretary-General’s proposal to develop funding models for the drawdown and liquidation phases of missions. In its view, the constraints and conditions pertaining to peacekeeping operations at start-up were not applicable to those phases. The development of additional standardized funding models should take into account the outcome of the evaluation of the first application of the model to the initial budget for UNMISS. Pending completion of any study, ACABQ also recommended against application of the standardized funding model to start-up of new missions.
On the Global Service Centre, the Advisory Committee sought information from the Secretary-General on the criteria for determining the optimal location from which functions and services could be provided, with details on expected improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery through the relocation of functions, he said. The ACABQ was of the view that it was premature for the Secretary-General to present proposals for deployment of resources to the Global Service Centre based on a concept of two locations, possibly in Brindisi, Italy, and Valencia, Spain.
CARMAN L. LAPOINTE, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, introduced the report on the activities of OIOS (document A/66/286 Part II), as well as its report on the audit of the implementation of the global field support strategy (document A/66/714).
On the first report, she said OIOS vacancy rates had improved steadily during the reporting period. In September 2010, the vacancy rate for OIOS peacekeeping operations was 28 per cent; the rate decreased to 24 per cent as of April 2012. The Office remained challenged, however, at attracting and retaining professional staff in non-family peacekeeping locations, given the fierce competition for those skills and the absence of rotation policies.
“Regretfully, sexual exploitation and abuse matters remained an area of concern, predominantly involving uniformed personnel,” she said. In 2011, 34 per cent of completed investigations were related to that problem, and more than 60 per cent pertained to United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). The Organization had a moral obligation to bring an end to such distressing matters, and OIOS was committed to follow up and investigate allegations. Member States should do their part to pursue appropriate follow-up actions in accordance with the related memorandum of understanding for troop-contributing countries. OIOS had begun to review the operation of that memorandum to determine levels of compliance and its effectiveness in ensuring accountability. OIOS was also reviewing ways to improve its own operations and had convened expert panels for that purpose.
Turning to the second report, Ms. LAPOINTE said overall results relating to the effective implementation of the Global Field Support Strategy were partially satisfactory. Noting that a governance framework comprising various committees and working groups to oversee the Strategy’s implementation was being updated, she said there was a need to strengthen some committee structures and reporting lines, as well as to implement a comprehensive framework to monitor and manage the associated risks. The Department of Field Support had developed a methodology to identify and propose ownership of processes among Headquarters, missions, and the global and regional service centres, but criteria should be developed to assess and determine the qualitative benefits of implementing the Strategy.
She expressed concern that the Department of Field Support had not established a performance management framework to link performance indicators and targets to overall strategic goals. The Department had engaged with intergovernmental bodies on the Strategy’s overall development and strategic direction, but mechanisms for communication and engagement with Secretariat staff and internal stakeholders needed improvement. That matter should be resolved once the Human Resources Response Task Force was fully functional.
ABEDELHAKIM MIHOUBI ( Algeria), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, stressed that all peacekeeping missions should be adequately resourced so they could effectively and efficiently carry out their mandates. He expressed concern at the delays in giving adequate resources to some missions, particularly in Africa. The planning assumptions and resource requests for each operation must be based on the relevant mandates and on the situation on the ground, and not on arbitrary across-the-board cuts. The use of so-called “resource reduction targets” in formulating peacekeeping budgets was a “grave error”. The potential operational impact of those cuts on missions had not been adequately explored. As proposed, such cuts could adversely impact the work and well-being of United Nations peacekeepers and hamper mandate implementation. In light of that, the Group would follow the issue very closely during the Committee’s discussions on the topic.
He stressed the need to closely consult with troop-contributing countries on matters related to peacekeeping operations. He also stressed the need to expedite reimbursements to troop-contributing countries that bore additional burdens, owing to Member States’ overdue assessments. The long-pending review of reimbursement rates continued to pose a serious threat to the sustainability of peacekeeping operations. He stated his willingness and readiness to constructively engage with partners until a long-term solution was found. He noted with satisfaction the decline in the reported number of sex abuse cases and encouraged the Secretariat to continue its good work to ensure effective implementation of the zero-tolerance policy. He emphasized the need to prevent unsubstantiated allegations of misconduct from damaging the credibility of peacekeeping missions and personnel.
He noted the increase in the level of death and disability compensation for all categories of uniformed personnel, as contained in paragraph 3 of Section II of General Assembly resolution 64/269. However, he stressed the need to create a periodic review mechanism to address the level of compensation, taking into account the cost of living and inflationary factors. He trusted that the Secretary-General was fully abiding by the terms of resolution 64/269 and called for greater attention to that issue. He expressed deep concern over the Advisory Committee’s information on implementation of resolution 65/248, particularly concerning the abolition of posts. The Secretary-General must fully respect the terms of that resolution, which determined that implementation of the harmonization of the conditions of service must not impact the operational costs nor undermine the implementation of mandate programmes and activities.
NICOLAS CHAPDELAINE ( Canada), speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, said that, as peacekeeping operations grew in size and complexity, so too did the impact of outstanding assessed contributions. He reiterated his call on all Member States to pay them in full and on time. While acknowledging the efforts to achieve economies in scale in peacekeeping, Canada, Australia and New Zealand would scrutinize the Secretary-General’s different proposals to achieve cost effectiveness and improve the overall efficiency of peacekeeping missions. He looked forward to discussing constructively the need to ensure tighter coordination of peacekeeping training activities, as well as the need to implement management systems for such issues as information technology, procurement, contracts, assets and rations. That would allow the United Nations to strengthen the planning and oversight of those processes, as well as to identify sustainable efficiency measures throughout peacekeeping operations.
He noted with satisfaction that the Secretariat had reported improvements in the utilization rates of ground transportation equipment, but there was a clear need to increase effectiveness in air transport management. He concurred fully with the Advisory Committee’s call to identify innovative ways to address the current global shortfall of military helicopters in peacekeeping operations. He encouraged the Secretariat to give financial information in its budget performance reports to Member States that distinguished between savings accruing from cost reductions and those related to implementation of efficiency measures. While noting the overall downward trend in the number of reported sexual exploitation and abuse cases, he said the United Nations could not be perceived as tolerating abuses, particularly the most egregious forms, such as those involving minors and rape. The zero tolerance policy must involve stricter enforcement standards. He backed the Advisory Committee’s request for intensified focus on prevention measures.
Turning to the Global Field Support Strategy, he concurred with the ACABQ that the Secretariat must implement a more systematic approach and methodical planning. Clear and demonstrable evidence on the cost benefits of the Entebbe Regional Service Centre must first be presented so that Member States could be in a position to review the Secretary-General’s proposal to set up two more.
CARMEL POWER, a representative of the European Union delegation, noted from the Secretary-General’s report that the overall budget for 2012/13 was projected to be around $7.4 billion, a 1.6 per cent decrease from last year, adjusted for the exceptional one-time payment to troop-contributing countries. That increase also reflected a one-off spending on elections that would not recur this year, as well as a decrease in approved troop levels; the consolidation, drawdown and transition of missions; and the results of cost-efficient implementation of mandates. He welcomed such moves towards more effective peacekeeping, but still saw significant opportunities to reduce the unit cost of peacekeeping. In view of all financial constraints facing Member States, strict budgetary discipline would remain essential to ensure that resources were truly needed and used effectively and efficiently. Distinctions had been made between under-expenditure resulting from other factors and efficiency gains. The European Union would closely examine the budgets of all peacekeeping missions, as well as their support functions, to identify sustainable efficiency measures.
He said that the Global Field Support Strategy should be fully implemented, but it had to prove that it was a “value for money” project. Full implementation of IPSAS and Umoja were crucial for the Strategy to reach its full potential. He noted with appreciation the impact of recent human resource reforms adopted by the Assembly, as reflected in the steadily declining turnover rates and the increasing number of staff in peacekeeping missions that had been regularized through selection processes, subjected to central review. Given the high cost of the civilian component of United Nations peacekeeping, European Union countries believed closer scrutiny was required, including of requests for new posts. It was crucial that the Secretariat look continuously for productivity gains in its civilian staffing structure. In that regard, he noted that the Board of Auditors had identified 61 international staff posts vacant for two or more years. On other matters, he remained concern about the number of reported allegations of sexual abuse, the slow completion of investigations and the lack of progress reported by the Secretary-General to aid and support victims.
ALEXANDER A. PANKIN (Russia Federation) drew attention to some key aspects, including the rate of budget spent against the allocated amount. The increase in the budget implementation rate to 95.5 per cent in the 2010/11 period was a positive, welcoming trend. Such accuracy of budgeting should become the rule. There was a difference between savings from efficiency and under-expenditures, with the latter actually leading to an increase in expenditures.
He said that more transparency was required when the Secretariat outsourced services from Headquarters to the field. All risks should be assessed in that regard. The decline in vacancy rates for field posts represented an improvement of services provided to staff. The inconsistency between external and internal oversight reviews remained a concern for his delegation. The OIOS report lacked information on the United Nations Support Office for AMISOM (UNSOA). Additionally, he sought information from the Secretary-General on governance of air operations.
SAHEBZADA A. KHAN ( Pakistan) said his country took pride in its “modest” contribution to the United Nations success in promoting global peace and stability; 130 Pakistani peacekeepers had made the ultimate sacrifice serving under the world body’s banner and more than 100 personnel had been wounded. The comprehensive information provided in the overview report on a yearly basis was critical for the General Assembly to make well-informed decisions. In that, the Secretary-General might consider biennializing his overview reports on implementation of his ongoing initiatives in the field and multi-year projects.
He said that troop cost was a matter of great concern for Pakistan and other contributing countries. To provide an interim relief, the General Assembly had last year approved a small increase to offset the difficulties those countries faced. However, until a long-term comprehensive measure was taken, necessary compensation should be provided to the United Nations peacekeepers. In order to bring greater coherence between those managing the operations and those contributing troops to them, the troop- and police-contributing countries must be adequately represented at the top of management, both in the field and at Headquarters. Unfortunately, that had not improved sufficiently.
To measure the progress in monitoring the Global Field Support Strategy, the provision of comprehensive information was essential, he said. His delegation noted with concern the findings of the Board of Auditors in that context and its identification of risks to the successful delivery of the Strategy. There was a merit in the Board’s Strategy-related recommendations, and Pakistan looked forward to hearing from the Secretariat on the plan for implementing them. Developing a comprehensive matrix on implementation progress would facilitate consideration of the issue. It was time to conduct a thorough analysis and review of the Strategy, aimed at ensuring achievement of its goals and benefits.
SAUL WEISLEDER ( Costa Rica) noted the reduction in 2011 of allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation. He welcomed the Secretary-General’s efforts to improve mechanisms to prevent sexual abuse and his efforts to investigate allegations and follow up on them appropriately. He hoped that the upward trend would continue. But for that to happen, the Secretary-General must consider other measures. He supported the Secretary-General’s commitment to root out abuse through a zero tolerance policy and welcomed his decision to supplement the present sanctions framework. He agreed with his assessment that enforcement measures must be applied to ensure accountability and sentences for those who broke the law. Taking into account that national legislation had codified sexual abuse as a crime and a serious human rights violation, Mr. Weisleder believed that the United Nations had an obligation to respect human rights and a duty to thoroughly investigate violations. It was necessary to continue to investigate allegations so that those responsible did not go unpunished. He hoped the United Nations would increase its capacity to prevent abuses, pursue investigations and supplement them with additional measures, as well as provide support to victims. Costa Rica would constructively participate in discussions on that issue.
SUL KYUNG-HOON (Republic of Korea) said the $7.4 billion peacekeeping budget for 2012/13, down $433 million from the current year’s budget, stemmed from the completion of some tasks, such as restoration of earthquake damages in Haiti (MINUSTAH), assistance to referendums in Congo (MONUSCO) and Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), as well as the liquidation of the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS). The proposed budget incorporated an efficiency gain of as much as $113 million, which was a big jump from the previous $24 million. That was mainly through the application of changing resourcing requirements and pursuing area-specific savings targets, such as procurement, rations and fuel management. A certain portion of the reduction had been made possible due to the diligent effort by the Secretariat to promote effectiveness and efficiency in budget management. His delegation welcomed the strong commitment of the Secretary-General to deliver better results within the extremely constrained financial context.
He concurred with the Advisory Committee that a distinction should be made between savings and under-expenditures, although it was difficult to discern the two in the current format of the budget report. While the efficiency gain came from cost reductions through efficiency measures, under-expenditures resulted from delays in programme activities or over-budgeting. Efficiency gains should be presented in more detail in future reports.
Turning to the 2010/2011 budget performance, he said that as over-budgeting usually resulted in opportunity cost that could have been utilized on other missions, the basic assumptions on which the budget was formulated should be fully reviewed, citing a need to look into whether the delayed deployment factor and vacancy rate were properly applied in consideration with historical data and foreseeable factors. He welcomed the progress made in the Global Field Support Strategy, but said a comprehensive implementation plan was not yet established. On transferring some of the Headquarters’ tasks to the Global Service Centre, he said deploying such a Centre in two locations could have financial implications and, thus, the proposal needed closer review. He sought additional information on potential alternative solutions and on the result of cost-benefit analysis.
MD. MUSTAFIZUR RAHMAN ( Bangladesh) said demand for United Nations peacekeeping had increased, as had the resources required for effective delivery of its mandates. There was a recent trend in attempting to exercise arbitrary budget cuts in peacekeeping operations. Careful attention should be paid to the difference between under-implementation of the General Assembly mandates and the so-called overestimation of the budget.
He said that partnership in peacekeeping must be cemented through inclusive and reflective consultation with troop-contributing countries. With any change in mandates having direct bearing on their effective implementation, troop-contributing countries must be consulted at the time of drafting mandates, during their implementation, and when planning any change; any proposal to change the terms and conditions of a memorandum of understanding should be “floated” with prior consent and concurrence of the troop contributors directly involved. The General Assembly, through its resolutions, had been requesting the Secretariat to ensure proper representation of troop-contributing countries in the Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support, and he urged the Secretariat to implement those provisions.
Bangladesh strongly supported the full implementation of the zero tolerance policy in cases of sexual exploitation and abuse, he said. On troop costs, the General Assembly had addressed that long-pending issue only in a sporadic manner since 1992. The last interim arrangement had been made in 2011. “We are now heading back to square one,” he said, referring to a move towards reviewing troop cost reimbursement rates, which he said were continuing to pose a serious threat to the sustainability of peacekeeping operations.
JULIE M. JACOBSEN TAKAHASHI ( Norway) said “we need to look for efficiencies where they can be found”, noting that implementation of the New Horizon Initiative should be accelerated. The Committee needed a budgeting process and reporting formats, which more actively facilitated its results-based review. That, in turn, would enable better-informed and more strategic decisions. Norway welcomed the reduction of vacancy rates in field missions and ongoing efforts to strengthen the United Nations ability to recruit and retain civilian personnel. The civilian personnel roster was a valuable asset, which should be fully utilized. She also welcomed the establishment of an action group to improve the staff gender balance in United Nations peacekeeping.
She agreed with the need to better coordinate and prioritize all peacekeeping training, and to obtain better statistical information. She welcomed efforts to assess current practices and formulate a renewed proactive strategy for addressing sexual abuse by mission personnel, supporting the call for the Secretary-General to intensify efforts to ensure full implementation of the zero tolerance policy. Noting the need to strengthen the sanctions framework, she said reporting on punitive actions taken by troop- and police-contributing countries should be made mandatory. Supporting the Global Field Support Strategy, she also agreed with the need for better evaluation and results-based reporting. In sum, she hoped to avoid a situation similar to last year, when negotiations had stalled on the issue of troop cost reimbursement. She urged striving towards consensus.
Responding to the statement by the representative of the Russian Federation on the lack of information in the OIOS’ annual report on procurement matters related to UNSOA, Ms. LA POINTE said OIOS recently had issued its report on those procurement operations, but due to the period covered in the report, those matters were not outlined in the text. The report was available upon request. She encouraged the Russian Federation to obtain it.
Ms. CASAR stated her willingness to discuss cross-cutting issues and across-the-board cuts during the informal meetings.
Mr. BANBURY said combating sexual exploitation and abuse was the Department of Field Support’s highest priority and it would continue to find ways to prevent it. He supported the view that, in cases where allegations were unsubstantiated, the reputation and dignity of the accused personnel must be respected. On across-the-board budget cuts, he said the proposed reduction in peacekeeping operations were the result of thorough analysis. There was nothing arbitrary about the Department’s decisions. Regarding the concerns raised by Algeria’s representative, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, on death and disability claims, he said that, at times, it was difficult for professional medical experts to determine whether death was service-related or not. The United Nations was encouraged to provide a generous interpretation, but doctors often presented an opposing view, and when they did not believe a death was service-related, the United Nations rejected the claim. He welcomed any additional clarity that would allow the Organization to respond in a quicker, fairer manner.
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