Top Management Official Says United Nations Financial Situation ‘Healthy’, Thanks to Efforts of Many Member States, in Briefing to Budget Committee

10 May 2013
GA/AB/4064

Top Management Official Says United Nations Financial Situation ‘Healthy’, Thanks to Efforts of Many Member States, in Briefing to Budget Committee

10 May 2013
General Assembly
GA/AB/4064
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-seventh General Assembly

Fifth Committee

30th Meeting (AM)

Top Management Official Says United Nations Financial Situation ‘Healthy,’ Thanks

to Efforts of Many Member States, in Briefing to Budget Committee

 

Committee also Takes Up Financing for Missions

In Timor-Leste, Liberia, Haiti; Special Envoy in Sahel

The United Nations financial situation “was healthy” at the end of 2012 thanks to the efforts of many Member States and continued to depend on those States meeting their monetary obligations “in full and on time”, the Organization’s top management official told the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning.

Highlighting four financial indicators — assessments issued, unpaid assessed contributions, available cash resources and outstanding payments to Member States — Yukio Takasu, Under-Secretary-General for Management, said that those gauges “are generally positive,” except for some areas that needed to be monitored closely in 2013.

For 2013, regular budget assessments amounted to $2.6 billion, he said.  Payments received by 30 April had reached $1.5 billion, with $1.4 billion still outstanding, including the prior year’s obligations.  At the end of 2012, 143 Member States had paid their regular-budget assessments in full, matching the previous year’s level.

The large portion of the outstanding amount had been owned by five Member States.  “The final outcome for 2013 will depend largely on actions taken by these Member States,” he said, while acknowledging the differences in the financial years of countries, and the timing of the related national legislative processes, which might prevent prompt payment by some Governments.

The cash position was currently positive for all categories, he said.  But, he expected a much tighter cash flow than previous years, towards year-end, partly because the remaining portion of recosting for 2012 had been deferred to the end of 2013.  

Turning to the peacekeeping budget, he noted that the total amount outstanding at the end of 2012 had come to $1.33 billion, a decrease of $1.3 billion from the year-earlier’s $2.63 billion.  As of 30 April, new assessments of $3.5 billion had been issued, and the total balance outstanding stood at $1.5 billion.

As of 30 April 2013, 32 Member States had paid all peacekeeping assessments, he said.  Although the cash available for peacekeeping at the end of 2012 had been over $2.7 billion, it had been divided among the separate accounts for each peacekeeping operation and there had been restrictions on the use of that cash.

Regarding outstanding payments to Member States, the amount for troops, formed police units and contingent-owned equipment as of 31 December 2012 had stood at $525 million, down from the $529 million owed at the start of the year, he said.  The figure was expected to further decrease at the end of 2013 to $496 million.

Lastly, he paid tribute to the 29 Member States that had paid in full all assessments — for the regular budget, peacekeeping operations, the international tribunals, and the Capital Master Plan. 

After his presentation, the Committee reviewed the Secretary-General’s reports on the budget performance of three peacekeeping missions in Timor-Leste, Haiti and Liberia for the 2011-2012 financial year and their 2013-2014 proposed budgets, as well as recommendations made by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).

Introducing the Secretary-General’s reports, María Eugenia Casar, Assistant Secretary-General and Controller, noted that the 2013/14 budget request for the Haiti mission illustrated a reduction of 1,070 military, 190 formed police, 400 United Nations police and 50 Government-provided personnel, in accordance with Security Council resolution 2070 (2012).  It further reflected the abolishment of 191 posts resulting from a reduction in post-earthquake surge activities and the restructuring of the Mission’s civilian component.

Presenting the ACABQ reports was Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Chair of the Committee.  On the Haiti mission, he recommended against the continuation of the temporary D-2 position for the Director of Mission Support, as all other temporary positions approved in the aftermath of the earthquake had been discontinued and the military and police components had returned to pre-earthquake levels.  With that exception, the Committee recommended approval of the Secretary-General’s proposals for 2013/14.

Regarding the proposal to eliminate the remaining fixed-wing aircraft in the Mission’s 2013/14 budget period, however, he recommended that the existing aircraft be maintained until a contract for reliable air ambulance services could be concluded.

Cuba’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, opposed any arbitrary reductions in resources allocated to the Mission, noting that its budget should be based on the situation on the ground and the Security Council’s approved mandate.

Noting that the proposed budget for 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014 represented a decrease of $76.1 million or 11.7 per cent, compared with appropriations for the previous budget, he expressed serious concern at the proposal to withdraw the remaining fixed-wing aircraft without assuring provision for necessary medical evacuation services.  “No efficiency measure should ever be proposed at the expense of the lives of those who serve the United Nations in the cause of peace,” he said.

The representative of Canada, also speaking for Australia and New Zealand, stressed that the implementation of the consolidation plan for the Mission was “a carefully calibrated response to the evolution of conditions in Haiti based on an appropriate strategy for the redeployment and reduction of personnel and financial resources without impeding the Mission’s ability to deliver on its mandate”.  It reflected the Security Council’s confidence in the Mission’s ability to carry out core tasks with lower levels of uniformed and civilian personnel, as Haitian authorities took on increased responsibility for providing security.

Haiti’s representative expressed regret that the Mission’s budget was reduced each year, and this year by another 11 per cent.  In particular, he drew attention to the budget item for Quick Impact Projects, totalling some $5 million for 120 projects for the 2013/14 period.  While that amount was the same as in the previous budget, it was below the $7 million dollars for that item, covering 177 projects, in the 2011/12 budget.  It was urgent and necessary to get more value out of that budget item, as those projects filled gaps in public services and supported stabilization.  They had a profound impact on the population, he said.

The delegate of Brazil also expressed serious concern at the proposed budget cut for the Mission.

Before closing, Ms. Casar introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Sahel, while Mr. Ruiz Massieu presented its related ACABQ report.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 14 May, to take up cross-cutting issues on financing peacekeeping operations as well as the support account, among other issues.

Background

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met today to hear an update from the Secretariat on the United Nations financial situation.

The Committee was also set to take up the issue of financing United Nations peacekeeping operations, including the missions’ budget performance for the 12-month period ended 30 June 2012, their proposed budgets for the financial year from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014, and recommendations by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).

Under review were the reports on the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (A/67/614, A/67/774, A/67/813 and A/67/780/Add.14), the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (A/67/605, A/67/719 and A/67/780/Add.5) and the United Nations Mission in Liberia (A/67/609, A/67/755 and A/67/780/Add.12).

In its consideration of special political missions, delegates had before them the Secretary-General’s report on the proposed resource requirements for 2013 for the Office of the Special Envoy for the Sahel (A/67/346/Add.8) and a related ACABQ report (A/67/604/Add.3).

Briefing on United Nations Financial Situation

YUKIO TAKASU, Under-Secretary-General for Management, highlighted key aspects of the United Nations financial conditions, including assessments issued, unpaid assessed contributions, available cash resources and outstanding payments to Member States.

Turning to the status of those financial indicators at the end of 2011, 2012, and more recently at the end of April, he said that they were generally positive, although there were some areas that needed to be monitored closely for the rest of this year. 

Unpaid assessments had been lower in all areas, except for tribunals, at the end of 2012, he noted.  Cash balances had been positive across all categories, except for the regular budget.  However, the Working Capital Fund had adequately covered the shortfall in regular budget cash at year-end.  Regarding troop costs and contingent-owned equipment, there had been a slight improvement in the level of outstanding payments to Member States at the end of 2012, compared with the previous year.  He said that the Secretariat continued to “make every effort to expedite outstanding payments to Member States”.

On the regular budget, he said, assessments had been lower by $3 million in 2012 than in 2011.  Unpaid assessed contributions had been considerably lower as of 31 December 2012, at $327 million, representing a decrease of $127 million from the year-earlier $454 million.

For 2013, regular budget assessments issued amounted to $2.6 billion, he noted.  Payments received by 30 April had reached $1.5 billion, but $1.4 billion had still been outstanding, including the prior year’s obligations.  At the end of 2012, 143 Member States had paid their regular-budget assessments in full, matching the previous year’s level.  The large portion of the outstanding amount had been owned by five Member States.  “The final outcome for 2013 will depend largely on actions taken by these Member States,” he said while acknowledging the differences in financial year of countries, and the timing of the related national legislative processes, which might prevent prompt payment by some Governments.

As of 30 April, 76 Member States had paid their assessments to the regular budget in full, down by 16 nations from 7 May 2012, the cut-off date for last year’s presentation.

Cash resources available for the regular budget under the General Fund included the Special Account, as well as the $150 million authorized by the General Assembly for the Working Capital Fund, he said.  There had been a $35 million shortfall in the regular budget cash position as of December 2012, but that had significantly improved by 30 April 2013 due to the receipt of contributions at the beginning of the year, with expenditure to be spread throughout the year.

The cash position typically faced a cyclical fall in the second half of the year.  “We expect much tighter cash flow towards the end of the year than previous years,” he said, noting that recosting for 2012 had been partially factored in and the remaining portion had been deferred to the end of 2013.  Secondly, the General Assembly had authorized the use of the Working Capital Fund as a cash flow bridging mechanism to cover expenditures for repair works related to Storm Sandy, pending the receipt of insurance settlements.  Those factors would stress the cash position in the second half of 2013.  “We will monitor the cash position closely and report to the General Assembly on a regular basis,” he said.  As of 30 April, it had not been necessary to tap the Working Capital Fund.  The final cash position would depend largely on the payments to be made by the Member States in the coming months.

Turning to peacekeeping operations, he noted that they had a different financial period from the regular budget, and assessments were issued separately for each operation.  The total amount outstanding for peacekeeping operations at the end of 2012 had been $1.33 billion, a decrease of $1.3 billion from the year-earlier’s $2.63 billion.  The year-end decrease in unpaid assessments had been, in part, related to a lower level of assessments for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, because letters of assessment had been pending approval of a new scale for 2013.  As of 30 April, new assessments of $3.5 billion had been issued, and the total balance outstanding stood at $1.5 billion.

The total outstanding assessment at the end of 2012 had reflected a considerable decrease from the level at 5 October that year, he noted.  More recently, as of 30 April 2013, a large portion of the $1.52 billion in unpaid assessments was due to five Member States.  He again acknowledged the differences in financial year of States, and the timing of the related national legislative processes.  As of 31 December 2012, 37 Member States had paid all peacekeeping assessments, an increase of eight from the end of 2011.

As of 30 April 2013, the number of Member States that had paid all peacekeeping assessments had reached 32.  Although the cash available for peacekeeping at the end of 2012 had been over $2.7 billion, it had been divided among the separate accounts for each peacekeeping operation and there had been restrictions on the use of that cash among missions, he said, recalling the General Assembly resolutions stipulating that no peacekeeping mission should borrow from other active peacekeeping missions. 

Regarding outstanding payments to Member States, the amount for troops, formed-police units and contingent-owned equipment as of 31 December 2012 had stood at $525 million, down from the $529 million owned at the start of the year, he said.  The figure was expected to further decrease at the end of 2013.

Next, he said, the financial position for international tribunals at the end of 2012 had reflected a slightly higher level of unpaid assessments compared with the year before.  The outstanding amount at the year end had come to $36 million, up from the $27 million of a year earlier.  As of 30 April, outstanding assessments had stood at $178 million.  By that date, 41 Member States had paid their assessed contributions to both the tribunals and the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in full.  Month-to-month position of cash balances had been positive in 2012 and 2013.

Turning to the Capital Master Plan, he said $1.87 billion had been assessed under the special account for the plan.  As of 30 April this year, the bulk of the assessed contributions had been received, with $3 million outstanding.  By that date, 158 Member States had paid their assessments for the plan in full.

Lastly, he paid tribute to the 29 Member States that had paid in full all assessments — for the regular budget, peacekeeping operations, the international tribunals, and the Capital Master Plan.  “The financial situation at the end of 2012 was healthy thanks to positive efforts by many Member States,” he said.

Introduction of Peacekeeping Reports

MARÍA EUGENIA CASAR, Assistant Secretary-General, Controller, introduced the Secretary-General’s reports for the period 2011/12 for the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL); the revised budget for the period 2012/13 and the donation of assets report for UNMIT; and the proposed budgets for the period 2013/14 for MINUSTAH and UNMIL.

On the donations of assets report for UNMIT, she said that the General Assembly was requested to assess an additional $4.9 million for the period 2012/13 and to approve the donation of assets with an inventory value of $4.5 million and a residual value of $1.7 million to the Government of Timor-Leste on a free-of-charge basis.

She then noted that the 2013/14 budget request for MINUSTAH illustrated a reduction of 1,070 military, 190 formed police, 400 United Nations police and 50 Government-provided personnel, in accordance with Security Council resolution 2070 (2012).  It further reflected the abolishment of 191 posts resulting from a reduction in post-earthquake surge activities and the restructuring of the Mission’s civilian component.

Likewise, she said the 2013/14 budget for UNMIL reflected a reduction of 3,042 military contingent personnel and proposed extensive thematic reconfiguration of the Mission’s organizational and administrative structure, in line with the Security Council’s call for appropriate internal adjustments.

CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced related reports on the financing of three peacekeeping missions:  UNMIT, MINUSTAH, and UNMIL.

Noting that UNMIT had ceased operations on 31 December 2012 and would be in a liquidation phase until 30 June 2013, he said that ACABQ recommended approval of the Mission’s revised budget for the period 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013, which amounted to $101.6 million.  Commending that Mission’s role in planning and implementing the 2012 national elections in Timor-Leste, he recommended that the lessons learned from its experience be documented and shared.

The Committee also supported the donation of assets to the Government of Timor-Leste, he said, to enhance its operational capabilities and ensure that the Mission’s achievements would be sustained.

On MINUSTAH he recommended against the continuation of the temporary D-2 position for the Director of Mission Support, as all other temporary positions approved in the aftermath of the earthquake had been discontinued and the military and police components had returned to pre-earthquake levels.  With that exception, the Committee recommended approval of the Secretary-General’s proposals for 2013/14.

However, regarding the proposal to eliminate the remaining fixed-wing aircraft in MINUSTAH’s 2013/14 budget period, he recommended that the existing aircraft be maintained until a contract for reliable air ambulance services could be concluded.

He recommended a reduction of some $670,000 to the budget of UNMIL, resulting from adjusting the vacancy rates to be applied to staff in light of recent incumbency patterns.  Further, he noted the proposals to reconfigure that Mission’s organizational and administrative structure, in keeping with the Security Council’s call for the Mission to make appropriate internal adjustments, and efforts to respond to the General Assembly request that the Mission improve the ratio of substantive to support staff.  He further stressed the need for the Secretary-General to give due consideration to the operational impact of changes to the structure of air transportation contracts.

Expressing disappointment that the Secretary-General had been unable to identify greater levels of efficiency gains for the budget, particularly in view of the fact that UNMIL was drawing down its military component, he recommended that the Mission be requested to identify further areas for efficiency initiatives during the budget period and to report on the results in the performance report for 2013/14.

OSCAR LEÓN GONZÁLEZ (Cuba), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, noted the progress MINUSTAH had made in supporting “the Haitian people’s efforts to consolidate stability and the rule of law, and move forward on the path to social and economic development.”  He further welcomed the increase in procurement activities with local vendors and expressed trust that such activities would be enhanced.  The Community’s commitment to Haiti’s path to stabilization, sustainable peace and development was evidenced by the fact that its Members provided most military and police personnel to MINUSTAH, and provided other forms of support through bilateral and regional channels and the United Nations system.

The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States opposed any arbitrary reductions in resources allocated to the Mission, he said, noting that its budget should be based on the situation on the ground and the Security Council’s approved mandate.  Noting that the proposed budget for 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014 represented a decrease of $76.1 million or 11.7 per cent, compared with appropriations for the previous budget, he expressed serious concern at the proposal to withdraw the remaining fixed-wing aircraft without assuring provision for necessary medical evacuation services.  “No efficiency measure should ever be proposed at the expense of the lives of those who serve the United Nations in the cause of peace,” he said.

He encouraged the Mission, within the framework of its mandate, to continue supporting Haiti’s reconstruction and development efforts, and noted the improved relationship between MINUSTAH and the local population due to its Quick Impact Projects.  For that reason, he recommended an increase in appropriations for that budget item.

CONRAD LAMONT SHECK (Canada), speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand (CANZ), said that focusing MINUSTAH activities on a core set of mandated tasks in the areas of security and stability, democratic governance and state legitimacy, and the rule of law with respect to human rights, were the right priorities at the current stage of the mission.  They reflected the results of continuing consultation with the Government of Haiti and its partners in the international community.  Singling out efforts to focus on the capacity of the Haitian National Police, he urged Haitian authorities working with MINUSTAH and international donors to make all necessary efforts to implement the Government’s new police development plan for 2012-2016.

Further, he said that implementation of the MINUSTAH consolidation plan was “a carefully calibrated response to the evolution of conditions in Haiti based on an appropriate strategy for the redeployment and reduction of personnel and financial resources without impeding the Mission’s ability to deliver on its mandate”.  It reflected the Security Council’s confidence in the Mission’s ability to carry out core tasks with lower levels of uniformed and civilian personnel, as Haitian authorities took on increased responsibility for providing security.  He also noted ACABQ’s reservations with regard to proposed air fleet reductions and said that adequate air capability should be maintained given MINUSTAH’s force reduction and redeployment proposals.

Noting also the Advisory Committee’s query on the proposed increase in the use of consultants, he cautioned against potential duplication of effort with the capabilities and activities of the United Nations Country Team. In addition, he sought more details on proposed expenditures on consultants, as well as costs related to the proposed provision of their training. “CANZ delegations find it somewhat difficult to understand why the Secretary-General appears to be proposing the contracting of consultants who lack adequate expertise to carry out the functions for which they are being hired without additional instruction,” he added.  In conclusion, he underscored his support for MINUSTAH and for the efforts of the Government and people of Haiti to forge a more secure, democratic and prosperous future.

SÉRGIO RODRIGUES DOS SANTOS (Brazil), commenting on the peacekeeping operation in Haiti, said that “if we allow financial needs to dictate the pace of transition, we will deviate from the responsible and controlled exit strategy of MINUSTAH to which the Security Council and Haiti’s international partners are committed”.  The budget presented by the Secretary-General today was cause for concern, as some of his proposals seemed to suggest that financial considerations may be playing a decisive role in the reconfiguration of the Mission.

At a time when the mobility of the forces must be secured, the proposed reductions in the Mission’s air fleet did not reflect the realities on the ground, he noted.  The Secretary-General, in his most recent report to the Security Council, had underscored the need for the mission to continue to be able to airlift a quick reaction force to remote areas as the United Nations withdrew its military presence from those regions.  Moreover, the proposal to reduce the civilian staff of the Mission beyond the number of positions approved in the context of post-earthquake surge capacities seemed to anticipate and prejudge the evolution of the consolidation plan.

He strongly opposed the adoption of efficiency measures at the expense of the safety and security of those in the mission.  The proposed withdrawal of the remaining fixed-wing aircraft without having a viable alternative arrangement in place was a clear demonstration of how financial considerations had been given priority above all other aspects, he said.

FRITZNER GASPARD (Haiti) supporting the statement of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, and noting MINUSTAH’s achievements in the social, economic and political fields, as well as the challenges yet to be confronted, welcomed the budget proposed for the Mission for the period 2013/14, in light of the difficulties in finding a balance between needs and financial realities.  Nevertheless, he regretted that the Mission’s budget was reduced each year, and this year by another 11 per cent.  He further regretted that there was an unencumbered balance in the 2012/13 budget, despite the enormous challenges confronting the Haitian Government.

He went on to say that the 2013/14 budget could be improved during negotiations by re-evaluating certain budget items against others and cited, to that end, the $14 million for air transport and the $22 million for communications.  He further drew attention to the budget item for Quick Impact Projects, totalling some $5 million for 120 projects for the 2013/14 period.  While that amount was the same as in the previous budget, it was below the $7 million dollars for that item, covering 177 projects, in the 2011/12 budget.  It was urgent and necessary to get more value out of that budget item, as those projects filled gaps in public services and supported stabilization.  They had a profound impact on the population.

Introduction of Reports on Special Political Missions

Ms. CASAR, Assistant Secretary-General, Controller, introducing the Secretary-General’s report containing the 2013 budget proposal for the Office of the Special Envoy for the Sahel, said that for the initial period of the Office’s existence, October to December 2012, the requirements of the Special Envoy had been funded from extrabudgetary resources.

Pending the decision of the General Assembly on the current proposal, she said, the interim resource requirements for the Office since January 2013 were being funded under the commitment authority of the Secretary-General for unforeseen and extraordinary expenses, intended as a bridging mechanism.  Thus the estimated requirements in the proposal, amounting to $4.1 million net ($4.3 million gross) and including a total of 19 positions, reflected full provisions for 2013.  Paragraph 30 of the report contained the action requested of the General Assembly.

Mr. RUIZ MASSIEU, Chair of the ACABQ, introducing the Committee’s report regarding the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Sahel, recommended against 7 of the 19 posts proposed and a commensurate reduction of operational requirements.  That would reduce the proposed requirement for 2013 by some $600,000.  The proposed staffing appeared high, in addition to which some of the proposed activities could be provided through increased collaboration with other United Nations entities in the region.

With regard to the location of the Office of the Special Envoy in Rome, he questioned whether a large share of staff needed to be located outside the Sahel region.  Closer proximity to the region would allow the Office to better engage and coordinate with the numerous United Nations entities and international actors present in the region.  Further, co-location with a United Nations office in the region would allow the Office of the Special Envoy to benefit from the expertise, infrastructure and support available in that office, thus reducing operational costs.  The Advisory Committee recommended that the General Assembly invite the Secretary-General to review current arrangements and to consider alternative locations of the Office in the Sahel region.

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