Fifth Committee Delegates Voice Concern over 2012-2013 Budget Cost Overruns

16 December 2013
GA/AB/4094

Fifth Committee Delegates Voice Concern over 2012-2013 Budget Cost Overruns

16 December 2013
General Assembly
GA/AB/4094
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

Fifth Committee

24th Meeting (AM)


Fifth Committee Delegates Voice Concern over 2012-2013 Budget Cost Overruns

 


Speakers Urge 2014-2015 Financial

Demands of Special Political Missions Be Reviewed


Delegations of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today voiced their concerns with the cost overruns of the Organization’s two-year, multibillion-dollar budget that ends on 31 December 2013, as well as with the significant financial demands of nearly two dozen special political missions for the upcoming two-year budget cycle that begins in January.


The Organization’s unique use of recosting, which typically revises the preliminary budget figures unveiled by the Secretary-General upward to reflect inflation, fluctuations in currency exchange rates and added costs, drew criticism from several delegates.


Noting that the United States remained the main budget contributor, that country’s representative said a strong fiscal foundation was necessary if the United Nations was to meet its mandates and its core mission of global peace and stability.  The United States could not back the additional $160 million sought for so-called recosting as budgetary difficulties had caused her Government to shut down, freeze employees’ salaries and cut its own programmes.


Japan’s delegate noted that the final budget figure included in the second performance report had totalled $5.603 billion.  If approved by the Assembly, the budget would not only be $187 million more than the previous budget cycle, but the largest budget in the Organization’s history.  The recosting issue had been deferred last year with the expectation that the Secretariat would find new ways to use the Organization’s resources.  “I would like to underscore the fact that most of the national Governments, unlike the United Nations, are not allowed to spend beyond the initially approved resources,” he said, noting with regret that the Secretariat had proposed adding $451 million to the initially approved budget.


Cuba’s representative pointed out that the analysis of the second performance report for the 2012-2013 budget had to be fully aligned with all Assembly resolutions.  Possible changes in the recosting methodology could have a devastating impact on the Secretariat.  Member States maintained the right to make decisions to ensure the Organization fulfilled its mandates.


Maria Eugenia Casar, Assistant Secretary-General and Controller, introduced the Secretary-General’s second performance report on the programme budget for the biennium 2012-2013, which gave an estimate of the period’s expected expenditures, a $173.2 million net increase.  Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), then introduced the ACABQ report on the 2012-2013 budget.  Overall, the Advisory Committee had recommended the General Assembly approve the revised estimates.


Turning to the proposed 2014-2015 resource requirements for the 34 special political missions, many delegates were upset with the Secretariat’s late release of documents on such a complex issue that had significant financial ramifications for the Organization.  Speaking for the African Group, Côte d’Ivoire’s delegate said it was unacceptable that the delegation had been given only five days to consider the report.  While noting the unique characteristic of those missions, he was concerned with the increases in their financial requirements.


Singapore’s representative, speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the missions’ costs had escalated along with their number, size and complexity.  The preliminary proposed budget for 2014-2015 was $1.1 billion, an increase of more than 1,000 per cent from the 2000-2001 budget cycle.  While their role in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding was important, Singapore called for a serious review of the missions’ funding and backstopping arrangements.  A separate account aligned with the peacekeeping operations budget cycle would benefit the missions.


The representative of Mexico pointed out that a significant portion, or 20 per cent, of the Organization’s budget had been earmarked for special political missions, which had, in turn, affected the rest of the Organization’s substantive work, especially development activities.  The untidy growth of those missions had produced a lack of transparency and their inclusion in the ordinary budgetary cycle had impeded the agile deployment of human and financial resources.  The creation of a separate account, similar to peacekeeping operations, would be the most adequate solution.


Ms. Casar introduced the Secretariat reports outlining the budget requirements for the 34 special political missions, which totalled $540.8 million (net of staff assessment).  The Secretariat proposed that those requirements be charged against the $1.08 billion provision for special political missions, included under section 3, Political affairs, of the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2014-2015.  Mr. Ruiz Massieu introduced the Advisory Committee’s accompanying report.


Ms. Casar also introduced the Secretary-General’s statement on the “Situation of human rights in Myanmar:  Programme budget implications of draft resolution A/C.3/68/L.55/Rev.1”, and the Secretariat report detailing the budget for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) for the period from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014.  Mr. Ruiz Massieu, as well, introduced the Advisory Committee’s reports on those issues.


In addition, the Committee appointed Maria Gracia Pulido Tan to fill a vacancy on the Independent Audit Advisory Committee for a three-year term of office beginning 1 January 2014.  Her candidacy had been endorsed by the Chair of the Group of Asia-Pacific States.


Also speaking were representatives of Fiji (for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Cameroon, Canada (for Australia and New Zealand), Iraq, Brazil, Syria, Nigeria and Mali.


Representatives of the European Union Delegation also spoke.


The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 18 December, to discuss special political missions, programme budget implications, contingency funds, and the financing of the tribunals.


Background


The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) would considered reports addressing an appointment to the Independent Audit Advisory Committee; the special performance report for the 2012-2013 budget; the resource requirements of the special political missions; a programme budget implication issue for the 2014-2015 biennium; and upcoming financing for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).


Before the Committee was a Note by the Secretary-General, “Appointment of members of the Independent Audit Advisory Committee” (document A/68/106/Add.1).  The Committee would also review the Secretary-General’s “Second performance report” on the programme budget for the biennium 2012-2013” (document A/68/628), and the accompanying report of the same name by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) (document A/68/656).


The Committee would also consider the Secretariat report, “Estimates in respect of special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council” (document A/68/327), as well as sixaddendums.  The main report lays out the proposed resource requirements of $540.76 million (net) for the 12-month period beginning 1 January 2014 for 34 political missions authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council.


Additional reports on the matter included Thematic Cluster I on special and personal envoys, and special advisers of the Secretary-General (document A/68/327/Add.1), detailing proposed spending of $24.9 million (net of staff assessment) for 10 special political missions in the category, with the exception of the Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for Syria, which are included in another report.


Thematic Cluster II included sanctions monitoring teams, groups and panels (document A/68/327/Add.2), detailing the proposed spending of $32.42 million (net of staff assessment) for 11 special political missions in the category created by decisions of the Security Council.


Thematic Cluster III would address United Nations offices, peacebuilding support offices, integrated offices and commissions (document A/68/327/Add.3), detailing the resource requirements of $140.9 million (net of staff assessment) for 10 special political missions in the category, with the exception of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM).


The report on United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) (document A/68/327/Add.4), included a detailed proposed resource requirements, totalling $191.35 million (net), from 1 January to 31 December 2014.


Also before the Committee was the proposed budget for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) (document A/68/327/Add.5), detailing the proposed spending of $138.81 million (net of staff assessment) for the Mission from 1 January to 31 December 2014.


The Committee would also address “Thematic Cluster I:  Special and Personal Envoys, and Special Advisers of the Secretary-General Office of the Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for Syria” (document A/68/327/Add.6), detailing the proposed spending of $12.36 million (net of staff assessment) for the Office of the Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and League of Arab States for Syria for 2014.


The Committee would then review the “Eleventh report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions on the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2014-2015 — Estimates in respect of special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council” (document A/68/7/Add.10).


Regarding programme budget implications, it would consider a Secretary-General statement submitted in accordance with rule 153 of the rules of procedure of the General Assembly.  The statement, “Situation of human rights in Myanmar:  Programme budget implications of draft resolution A/C.3/68/L.55/Rev.1” (document A/C.5/68/16) would describe the costs resulting from the approval by the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) of that draft resolution on 19 November.  It would also review the “Seventeenth report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions on the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2014-2015” (document A/68/7/Add.16).


Turning to the financing of the Organization’s peacekeeping missions, the Committee would consider the Secretariat report, “Budget for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali for the period from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014” (document A/68/538) and the Advisory Committee report of the same name (document A/68/653).


Programme Budget for Biennium 2012-2013:  Second Performance Report


MARIA EUGENIA CASAR, Assistant Secretary-General and Controller, introduced the Secretary-General’s second performance report on the programme budget for the biennium 2012-2013 (document A/68/628), which provided an estimate of the anticipated final level of expenditures for that period.  She said the estimate was based on actual expenditures for the first 21 months of the biennium and projected requirements for the last three months, and took into account changes in budget assumptions made for inflation, exchange rates and cost-of-living adjustments.


She said that estimates reflected a $173.2 million net increase, due to additional requirements under the expenditure section for post-related deferred re-costing and unforeseen and extraordinary expenses incurred in line with General Assembly resolution 66/249.  Those figures also reflected the authorization of commitment authorities for the subvention for the Special Court of Sierra Leone and remediation work in the aftermath of the storm, Hurricane Sandy.  The increased requirements were partially offset by decreased requirements for non-post resources under the expenditures section and by increased income.


In section X, paragraph 8, of its resolution 67/246, the Assembly had authorized the Secretary-General, starting 1 January 2013, to utilize forward purchasing to protect the United Nations against exchange rate fluctuations, she said.  Accordingly, information on the experience with forward purchasing and related practices were contained in part B of section II of the present report.


CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced the Advisory Committee’s accompanying report on the second performance report (document A.68/656).  He said that, overall, the ACABQ recommended the General Assembly approve the revised estimates under the expenditure sections for the biennium 2012-2013, along with the related income estimates for the same period.  However, the report also emphasized the need for clear and detailed information on the spending impact of travel-related measures mandated by successive Assembly resolutions, as well as the ad hoc and unplanned nature of additional costs associated with the Capital Master Plan.


Concerning the recent experiences on forward purchasing operations, authorized by the Assembly in its resolution 67/246, he said that the Advisory Committee agreed that the initial experience had appeared to provide greater budgetary certainty.  It could also serve as a tool for the Secretariat to better manage the budgetary implications of currency movements.  The ACABQ also recommended the Assembly ask the Secretariat to provide a more comprehensive assessment on forward purchasing in its first performance report on the programme budget for the 2014-2015 biennium.


Statements


PETER THOMSON ( Fiji), speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the second performance report was a critical priority for the Group.  He noted the anticipated final level of expenditures under the programme budget 2012-2013 and the net reported increase of $173 million.  The Assembly was responsible for approving the corresponding final appropriation and determining the necessary assessment to cover legitimate expenditures already incurred by the Organization.  “The Group expects that all Member States will adopt a responsible approach and not undermine the Organization by withholding approval for amounts already committed in the implementation of approved mandates,” he said.


In regard to the decision, in the current biennium, to defer post-related recosting as a means to seek further cuts, he said that the misinterpretation of that decision had been used, in conjunction with the practice of “vacancy management”, as justification for the Secretariat to leave vacant posts approved by the Assembly in order to meet the illusory target of “absorbing” costs.  There was concern that such a practice had led to an increase in the average vacancy rate during the biennium, in contrast with the recent trend of reduced actual vacancy rates.  No post should be kept vacant in order to achieve budgetary savings.  Such an approach not only undermined implementation of mandated activities, but also jeopardized the prerogatives of the Assembly in allocating resources and defining the Organization’s staffing table.


The Organization’s initial limited experience with forward purchasing had been positive, he noted, and he looked forward to hearing more from the Secretariat on how such measures could be enhanced to seek positive efficiencies that did not negatively impact mandate delivery.  Recosting was an integral part of the budget procedures as established by Assembly resolutions 42/213 and 42/211.  It had been applied to the United Nations budget consistently since the adoption of resolution 41/213.  He stressed that the Group would continue to reject any attempt to undermine the compromise achieved more than 20 years ago regarding all aspects of budget procedures, including decision-making.


THOMAS MAYR-HARTING, Head of the European Union Delegation, noted that new activity mandated by Member States had added to the challenge of adhering as closely as possible to the $5.4 billion budget agreed by the Assembly in December 2012.  It was incumbent upon the United Nations, however, to do more with less, work better and smarter, and achieve its goal while operating within the agreed budget level.  Therefore, it was a “severe disappointment” to be presented with an anticipated final level of expenditure for 2012-2013 of $5.6 billion, a $204.3 million, or 3.8 per cent, increase over the revised budget agreed in December 2012.


One year ago, he continued, the Assembly had been clear that it expected the Secretary-General to deliver significant savings so that a year later, the final 2012-2013 budget would be in line with the budget approved in December 2012, which in itself, was a significant increase over the one agreed in December 2011.  “The General Assembly decision in December 2012 to further defer consideration of recosting did not imply a mere delay and there can be no assumption that further funding will be agreed,” he said, adding that today’s situation was “hard to explain to our capitals”.


The Union would scrutinize the Secretary-General’s report, which was based on projections, not actual expenditures, he said.  Before making any decisions, it would seek details on the unforeseen and extraordinary expenses, particularly concerning Hurricane Sandy, and on travel, trusting that the Secretariat’s efforts to reduce costs had led to benefits, particularly given the changes to the travel rules agreed by the Assembly earlier this year, as well as on actual expenditure for staff, and expenditure for furniture and equipment.  However, it was disappointing that, once again, despite last year’s decisions to defer consideration of the so-called recosting exercise, recosting, and within it staff-related costs, had been the main driver of budget growth.


He went on to say that he had expected a greater effort by the Secretary-General towards efficiency, economy and transparency.  While welcoming that forward purchasing of foreign currency had partially aided predictability and rendered $3.5 million in savings on exchange rate costs, he said he regretted the lost opportunity that the total recosting bill presented today had represented.  “This looks very much like business as usual, and not the result of efforts to manage inflationary pressures we all face in our own administrations,” he said.


The Secretary-General’s report had also illustrated the continuing inadequacies of the common system, including the continuing practice of awarding increases to staff, insulating them from real-world circumstances, he said.  The increases had been allowed to continue, despite pushing the “margin” to the brink of breaching the maximum allowed, and driving the five-year average above the desired midpoint.  The current budget was firm proof that recosting must stop in the interest of greater discipline, transparency and flexibility.  A sounder basis for budgeting such costs was now an imperative and urgent.  In that regard, in the context of considering the proposed programme budget for 2014-2015, proposals had been set forth that had opened the door to further work to identify a truly sustainable way to manage costs.  He called on all partners to seize that opportunity to improve the Organization’s functioning.


JUN YAMAZAKI ( Japan) expressed his deep regret over the late issuance of documents.  The Committee was originally supposed to have closed its business by Friday of last week, yet the late issuance of documents had unduly extended the period of the main session.  That inherently had budgetary implications.  Two years ago, the Committee achieved a historical reduction of expenditures by adopting the 2012-2013 biennium budget of $5.152 billion, approximately 5 per cent less than the previous budget of $5.416 billion.  For that reason, he was very surprised last year to find there would be a huge amount of additional resource requirements.  The Committee had finally reached consensus to approve a revised budget of $5.396 billion.


Today, he continued, to his regret, the final figure presented for the second performance report totalled $5.603 billion.  If approved by the Assembly, the budget would be $187 million more than the previous budget and the largest budget in the Organization’s history, despite the financial constraints faced by many Member States.  Even though the recosting issue had been deferred with the expectation that the Secretariat would find new ways to use the Organization’s resources, it was regrettable that $451 million was now being proposed to be added to the initially approved budget.


Though part of the budget increase emanated from the creation of new mandates, he said he believed most of the increase stemmed from the recosting methodology, which was unique to the Organization.  Member States must explore a better way forward on two issues.  One was on how the Organization could prioritize its activities and commensurate staffing, so urgent issues could be addressed while obsolete activities could be discontinued.  The second would aim to correct the habits of managers who had become used to expecting more resources at the end of a budget cycle, rather than operating with the initially approved resources.  “I would like to underscore the fact that most of the national Governments, unlike the United Nations, are not allowed to spend beyond the initially approved resources,” he said.


MICHEL TOMMO MONTHE ( Cameroon), endorsing the Group of 77 and China’s statement, noted that the Secretary-General had said there would be a $173 million net increase in the final 2012-2013 budget.  Yet, the Committee would still need to await the assessments of the programmes and then wait for the performance reports for the current budget year before giving its final view.  More than $100 million of that $173 million had been due to exchange rate fluctuations and inflation.  He asked who was responsible for those factors which tended to increase the budget every year.  It was necessary to answer that question when discussing the budget.  Further, the Secretary-General had not provided information, as required by the Assembly, on the necessary resources for staff travel.  He asked why that information had not been provided.  He noted that the increase budgetary resources from unforeseen and extraordinary expenses, as well as from new decisions that had given rise to new mandates, was proportionally low.


SAMANTHA POWER (United States), noting that her country remained the main contributor of the Organization’s budget, said that the United States very much wanted the United Nations to succeed in all its mandates and was committed to its core mission of achieving global peace and stability.  For that reason, she wanted the Organization to operate as efficiently and effectively as possible.  It was urgent to put the United Nations on a fiscally sound and sustainable path.  The additional $160 million sought for so-called recosting would burden taxpayers.  The United States could not support such unconstrained spending.  Budgetary difficulties had caused the United States Government to shut down, freeze salaries of employees and make significant cuts to programmes.  However, at the United Nations, programmes continued to grow, salaries continued to rise, and missions continued to swell to untenable sizes.  That must end.  The United Nations had both a financial and moral obligation towards that goal.


The United Nations should demonstrate to the average families that funded it that it was showing comparable restraint, she said.  Over the past two years, the Organization had operated within the approved budget for special political missions.  Since 2009, its PaperSmart policy had saved a large amount of paper.  Those were signs that it was willing to abandon old habits.  The 2014-2015 budget, with its reduction of posts, was a positive change.  Nonetheless, more must be done.  Pointing to “disappointing aspects” of the second performance report, she said that the pledge to balance new spending with cuts elsewhere had not been kept.  While she understood that exchange rate fluctuations, inflation and new costs could add to the budget, it was expected that they be kept to a minimum.  Yet, already the Assembly had agreed to two new recostings during the current biennium and was now being asked to allocate $160 million beyond the original budget.  The Organization was essentially working backward.


“The solution is not to keep coming back to this Committee for more money,” she said.  Rather, it was to balance new mandates with cost-cutting, effective measures, she said, stressing that “each of these increases is the product of choice”.   She proposed finding a way to accommodate the $160 million without adding to the bottom line of the 2012-2012 budget.  “We must find the will to accomplish this.” she said.  “We want to be able to report to taxpayers that the UN has entered a new era and has set the stage for a lean and rigorous budget for 2014-2015 so that ceiling will not be repeatedly raised,” she said.


DAYLENIS MORENO GUERRA (Cuba), associating her delegation with the Group of 77 and with Japan’s remarks on its dissatisfaction with the lateness of documents, said the analysis of the second performance report of the 2012-2013 budget had to be fully aligned with the many resolutions passed by the Assembly over the years.  It was not appropriate to postponed decisions on the application of the recosting methodology.  That could contaminate the budget process.  Possible changes in the recosting methodology could have a devastating impact on the Secretariat.  Such proposals were being given in a difficult economic situation for many States, including Cuba, a small developing country.  Its capacity to pay was its guiding principle.  It had heard many times that the Organization had to do more with less.  But that did not mean that the Organization’s services or mandates should be cut or the Secretariat should be given carte blanche.


The Member States had to make the decisions to ensure the Organization fulfilled its mandate, she said.  The proposals related to the methodology needed detailed analysis by the Member States.  The Secretariat could not decide those priorities.  It, instead, needed to be fully aligned with the decisions of Member States when implementing the budget.  The Secretariat should continue to operate within the established framework to carry out recosting in regard to the performance report for the programme budget.


Programme Budget for Biennium 2012-2013:  Special Political Missions


Ms. CASAR then introduced the report “Estimates in respect of special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council” (document A/68/327) and six addenda.  The budget proposals for two other missions — the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia and the Joint Mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations in Syria — would be presented separately.


Two of the thirty-four missions — the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Sahel and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region — were new missions that had been created during the latter part of 2012 and in 2013, she continued.  As a result, they were not part of the proposed envelope detailing provisions for the missions for the biennium 2014-2015.  That also applied to the Office of the Joint Special Representative for Syria.  Two other missions were being discontinued:  the United Nations Political Office in Somalia (UNPOS) in 2013 and the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) in 2014.


The total requirements of the 34 missions for 2014 totalled $540.8 million (net of staff assessment), she said.  That included $520.3 million for the 31 continuing missions, reflected in the proposed mission envelope, and $20.5 million for the three missions that had not been included in the proposed envelope.  The Secretariat had proposed that those requirements be charged against the $1.08 billion provision for the special political missions, included under section 3, Political affairs, of the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2014-2015.


Ms. Casar then introduced a Secretary-General statement, “Situation of human rights in Myanmar:  Programme budget implications of draft resolution A/C.3/68/L.55/Rev.1” (document A/C.5/68/16).  According to the terms of draft resolution A/C.3/68/L.55/Rev.1, the Assembly would ask the Secretary-General to continue providing his good offices and pursue his discussions on the situation of human rights, the transition to democracy and the national reconciliation process with the Government and people of Myanmar.  Resources of about $1.4 million (net of staff assessment) would be required for 2014 if the Assembly adopted the draft resolution.  Those requirements had been included in the Secretariat’s addendum report on the mission’s budget needs (A/68/327/Add.1).


Mr. RUIZ MASSIEU, taking the floor a second time, introduced the Advisory Committee’s related report on the special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the Assembly and Council (document A/68/7/Add.10).  In it, ACABQ had recommended a $4.27 million reduction in 2014 to the Secretary-General’s proposals for 34 of the Organization’s 36 special political missions.  He also introduced ACABQ’s report (document A/68/7/Add.16) on the programme budget implications of the Assembly’s draft resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, saying ACABQ’s comments and recommendations were contained in paragraphs 62 and 64 of its report A/68/7/Add.10.  The Advisory Committee’s comments and recommendations on the extra resources requested for UNSOM and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations Joint Mission in Syria were contained in documents A/68/7/Add.17 and A/68/7/Add.18, respectively.


In its report on the special political missions, he said, ACABQ had noted the Secretary-General’s efforts to improve the presentation and content of his budget proposals, and had encouraged him to make further improvements.  The report also noted that, in response to its request, the Secretary-General had included information on the cooperation among the Department of Political Affairs, Department of Peacekeeping Operations and Department of Field Support to support the missions at Headquarters.  The Assembly should ask the Secretary-General to further improve that cooperation and coordination.


He also said that in regard to progress implementing the Global Field Support Strategy, the Secretary-General should provide more comprehensive information in the next annual progress report on the Strategy’s benefits, he said.  Further, the Secretary-General should provide full justification in his next peacekeeping report of the creation of the Kuwait Joint Support Service.  Noting the planned deployment of a guard force to the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA) by year’s end 2013 and to UNSOM during 2014, he said the Secretary-General should be asked to give a comprehensive analysis on deployment of such forces to the missions in the context of the 2015 budget proposals.


He recalled that a biennial provision of $1.08 million for the missions had been included in section 3, Political affairs, of the 2014-2015 proposed programme budget, reflecting a $32 million reduction in the Secretary-General’s proposed budget outline.  Any additional requirements above $1.08 million would continue to be treated in line with the provisions of annex I, paragraph II of Assembly resolution 41/213.  On official travel, he noted the Secretary-General’s proposal for an overall reduction of $2.5 million, or 14 per cent, in 2014, reflecting the net effect of reduced requirements for 25 special political missions.  The Advisory Committee had not received a breakdown of reduced travel costs due to the decrease in the number of trips and the reductions and/or savings related to Assembly resolutions 65/268, 67/254 and 67/248.


He regretted that the Secretary-General had been unable to provide that information requested by ACABQ for a proper analysis of 2014 travel resource requirements.  Implementation of Assembly resolutions on travel would likely result in savings for some missions.   If approved by the Assembly, ACABQ’s recommendation on the standard of travel for experts under cluster II may have an impact on the proposed resources for them in 2014.  The Secretary-General should report variances on all travel-related expenditures in the performance reports for the biennium 2014-2015.


ACABQ noted that while a net reduction of 235 positions had been proposed for the 34 missions, an $8.5 million increase under civilian personnel was projected, he said.  Justifications by the Secretary-General had been provided in paragraph 98 of his report, including increases in common staff costs.  ACABQ had requested, but not received, information on those costs for all missions, he said, calling for the information to be included in the 2015 budget proposals for the missions.  He then outlined ACABQ’s specific recommendations on resource requirements for the three thematic clusters, UNAMA and UNAMI, which had been provided in section IV of ACABQ’s report.


Statements


BROUZ RALPH COFFI ( Côte d’Ivoire), speaking for the African Group, said that it was unacceptable that his delegation had been given only five days to consider and take such important decisions on resource allocation for special political missions.  He called upon the Secretary-General to accelerate the delivery of reports on special political missions and to establish a mechanism to hold accountable those responsible for the late issuance of official documents.


He said that, given the breadth and complexity of what those mission were being asked to deliver, strong financial support from Member States remained a critical component of their effectiveness.  The quality and timeliness of delivery of all mandated programmes and activities must always be the overriding factor in determining the Secretariat’s resource requirements and overall staffing structure for special political missions.  Further, all peace missions should be adequately funded to avoid any risk to efforts made by the United Nations to preserve peace, security and stability in different parts of the world.  However, there was concern regarding the exponential increase in the financial requirements and complexity of those missions over the past decade.  Still, he acknowledged their unique characteristics in terms of establishment and financing, as well as backstopping, particularly since they do not follow the regular budget cycle of the United Nations.


KAREN TAN (Singapore), speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that in recent years special political missions had grown significantly in number, size and complexity, while costs had also escalated.  Their preliminary proposed budget for 2014-2015 was $1.1 billion, an increase of more than 1,000 per cent from the 2000-2001 budget.  While recognizing and supporting those missions’ role in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding and their effective functioning should be a matter of high priority for all Member States.  A serious review of funding and backstopping arrangements should be undertaken.  Proposals to address the problem had been presented in the past, but had yet to be acted on.  The delay was partly due to the chronically late introduction of their budgets.


However, she said, the main cause of delay had been the lack of meaningful engagement by some delegations on the Advisory Committee’s recommendations.  A separate account aligned with the peacekeeping operations budget cycle would benefit special political missions.  Unequal influence among Member States over the creation and mandate setting of those missions should be reflected in how they were funded.  Currently, 34 out of 38 special political missions had been created by the Security Council.  If those who hold the most influence over those missions could not bear their costs, serious consideration should be given to the expansion of the Council’s permanent membership so that responsibility and power be distributed in a way that was more equitable for everyone.


Ms. GOICODEA (Cuba), speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), stressed the importance of discussions on special political missions and their funding mechanism.  The proposed appropriation for those missions in section 3 of the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2014-2015 amounted to about $1.08 million, representing 20 per cent of the regular budget of the Organization.  Existing mechanisms for supporting and financing missions were inadequate and had an adverse effect on both programming activities essential to the Organization, and governance, accountability and oversight of the missions by Member States.  In the current contractual arrangements for funding and backstopping, the special responsibility of the Security Council’s permanent members in maintaining international peace and security must be considered.


JONATHAN PAUL QUINN (Canada), speaking also for Australia and New Zealand, recognized the important role of special political missions in supporting elections, building national institutions, constitution making and advancing human rights and the rule of law.  He cited UNIPSIL in that regard, noting that its careful approach to transition planning held lessons for other such missions.  Welcoming the $32 million reduction in 2014-15 from the appropriation proposed by the Secretary-General in his budget outline last year, he stressed the importance of achieving that reduction in a way that would not impede effective mandate delivery.


Great care, he said, must be taken to ensure that the structure, staffing and resources allocated to special political missions were closely tailored to ground requirements.  In that context, he looked forward to the Secretariat’s efforts to find innovative ways to deliver mandates in an affordable manner.  He registered concern that the child protection and gender functions at UNAMA had been merged into its human rights unit, and sought assurances that the Mission’s required capacity to carry out such tasks would be maintained.  Stressing the need to solve practical administrative challenges faced by special political missions, he urged that they be ensured the needed support structures.


FRANCESCO PRESUTTI, representative of the European Union Delegation, said he recognized the importance of special political missions in preventing, controlling and resolving conflicts and in post-conflict peacebuilding.  Therefore, he regretted the late introduction in the Committee’s session of such an important agenda item.  Despite the limited time left in the session, he would continue to closely scrutinize the budgets for those missions, underscoring the importance of realistic forecasting and budgeting, which represented a significant part of the regular budget.  He commended the efforts of the Secretary-General and United Nations staff to manage the missions’ budgets in an increasingly effective, efficient way.  That was reflected in the $130 million decrease for such missions in the proposed 2014-2015 budget versus the budget for the current biennium.


Turning to funding and backstopping for the missions, he said the Union recognized the importance of effective, efficient support arrangements.  A positive response to the Secretary-General’s long-standing concerns about funding the start-up and expansion of missions and of their backstopping was long overdue.  He said that the Union was committed to playing a constructive role during the current session, and he encouraged Member States to focus their efforts exclusively on finding concrete solutions to improve the missions’ operational efficiency.


GABRIELA COLÍN ORTEGA (Mexico) pointed out that the high proportion of funding dedicated to special political missions in the regular budget — at 20 per cent — had affected the rest of the Organization’s substantive work, especially development activities.  The untidy growth of those missions had led to a lack of transparency.  The administrative and budgetary arrangements for the missions were inappropriate and must be amended as they contradicted the principles of austerity, discipline and efficiency in the use of resources.  Their financial arrangements under the ordinary budgetary cycle had impeded an efficient, agile deployment of human and financial resources.  The establishment of a separate account, on a scale similar to that of the peacekeeping operations, would be the most adequate solution.  By aligning those missions with the peacekeeping budgetary cycle, the Secretary-General could keep a more accurate account of the special political missions’ staffing, backstopping, mandate accomplishment and cross-cutting issues.


ALI MOHAMEED FAEQ ABDALAZIZ AL-DABAG ( Iraq) said it was necessary for the Committee to receive its reports in a timely manner.  He then thanked the Member States that were contributing to UNAMI.  His delegation was supportive of the Organization’s role in Iraq and his Government would provide the best services to the Mission so that it could carry out its role and responsibility in Iraq within the Security Council’s mandate.


Ms. MORENO GUERRA (Cuba), associating her delegation with CELAC, noted that the level of resources for the missions made up 20 per cent of the regular budget, even with a proposed 2 per cent reduction in the amount appropriated for the current biennium.  There was a deep-seated conflict in the significant spending for these missions as economic conditions made it difficult for developing countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.  There was also concern about the absence of specific Assembly mandates to establish some of those missions.  An exchange of letters between the Secretary-General and Security Council was not sufficient.  Further, the Assembly had not been given the possibility to supervise the missions, as with peacekeeping operations.  As well, it was regrettable that the issue was being considered so late in the year, especially considering the amount of financial resources.  She requested more information from ACABQ on why the documents were issued so late, as it had impacted the quality of negotiations and the decision-making process.


SHO ONO (Japan), reiterating his country’s strong support for each of the special political missions’ respective mandates, noted that the Secretary-General had proposed a budget allocation of $540.76 million for 2014 for the missions without taking into account UNSOM and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations Joint Mission in Syria.  With those two missions, the total allocation would amount to $603.09 million, representing an increase of around $2 million compared to the approved budget for 2013.  He reiterated that the total amount for 2014 and 2015 should be contained within the amount provided under section 3 by the proposed biennium 2014-2015 budget.  For the majority of Member States who were not in the Security Council, he added, the process for the establishment of special political missions was not sufficiently clear.  Enhancing the transparency of the missions would contribute to a better understanding of the Secretary-General’s budget proposals as he sought increased resources for such activities.


GUILHERME DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA ( Brazil), associating himself with CELAC, noted that in recent years special political missions had faced increasingly severe challenges due to their backstopping and financial arrangements.  The current arrangements, which tied the missions’ budgets to the regular budget cycle, were not efficient or transparent and hindered implementation of their mandates.  The distortions created in the regular budget by the financing of those missions had also hindered the Organization’s ability to adequately carry out mandates in other areas, disrupting its effective functioning and unduly exacerbating tensions among Committee members over the final budget.  Such difficulties — the single most important distortion in the Organization’s budgetary process — must be addressed urgently.  Allowing the missions to be adequately and transparently funded independent from the regular budget was an “unavoidable necessity”.  Better institutional and operational arrangements for backstopping the missions needed improvement.  The missions now consumed 20 per cent of the regular budget; current informal procedures for them could not be allowed to expand indefinitely.  Member States must give the Organization the requisite means to maintain international peace and security while addressing a structural flaw in the United Nations budgetary process.


ISMAIL BASSEL AYZOUKI ( Syria) said his delegation had lauded the appointment of Lakhdar Brahimi as the joint United Nations-Arab League Special Envoy to Syria.  His country would take part in the upcoming Geneva conference aimed at finding a solution to the Syrian crisis.  That conference should lead to a Syrian-led solution under Syrian leadership and without outside interference.  International support was needed to fight terrorism by armed groups in Syria.  States must end their financing and training of such groups.  They must end sectarian violence, withdraw all extremists and foreign mercenaries from the country, and end destructive practices aimed at preventing the holding of the Geneva conference.  Groups that financed terrorism must pay damages.  He reiterated his Government’s commitment to the Special Envoy’s plan, stating that it would continue cooperating with the Special Envoy to bring about an end to the crisis.  He also said that he hoped the Committee’s deliberations on its agenda item on special and personal envoys and special advisers of the Secretary-General, including on the Office of the Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for Syria, would be positive.


Mr. TOMMO MONTHE ( Cameroon) commended the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission, established to implement the October 2002 International Court of Justice’s decision on the boundary dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria, as one of those “rare commissions” that had been successful in doing its job.  He also commended the Member States that were guarantors of the Commission — the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany — and the European Union for providing extra resources for the Commission’s implementation.  Senior officials in Cameroon and Nigeria had always demonstrated firm political will to make the Commission a success.  He noted the $5.87 million requested for the Commission in 2014.  The Commission deserved support so it could achieve specific results in the future.


YAKUBU AUDU DADU ( Nigeria) associating himself with the African Group and with Cameroon’s delegate, noted that financial constraints existed within and without the United Nations.  Peace and security, and the welfare of people in Member States were the same side of the coin.  Governments which were facing financial constraints had trimmed down their spending programmes.  The resource challenges facing the United Nations system were a reality.  If there was a need to reduce the budget, then Member States should use that reality to make adjustments.


United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali


Ms. CASAR then introduced the Secretary-General’s budget report for the 2013-2014 period for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali.  She said that the proposed financial resources for the maintenance of the mission, which amounted to $609.5 million, reflected the deployment patterns and resource utilization of historical start-up missions in their first year of operations.  Provisions were included to support the phased deployment of up to 9,250 military personnel, 1,168 police personnel and 987 civilian personnel.  In addition, the report also reflected provisions of $6.1 million for 22 temporary positions to provide backstopping capacities at Headquarters, as well as six temporary positions for the Resident Audit Office to be established in Mali.  For the period from 25 April to 30 June 2013, expenditure of $82.0 million had been incurred against the authorized commitment authority of $83.7 million.


Mr. RUIZ MASSIEU, taking the floor again, introduced ACABQ’s related report on the budget for MINUSMA from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014 (document A/68/653).  In the report, the Advisory Committee recommended appropriating $608.55 million to maintain MINUSMA over that period, including the $366.77 million previously authorized by the Assembly in resolution 67/286.  Under civilian staffing, it recommended reducing one P-5, seven P-4, four P-3 and three National Professional Officer posts.  Except for operational costs related to the recommended post reductions, the Advisory Committee also recommended approval of the requested resources for such costs, considering that MINUSMA was in the start-up phase.  In addition, it recommended the approval of the requested resources under the support account for peacekeeping operations for 2013-2014, taking into consideration Assembly resolution 67/286.  However, also recommended was that future requests be made under the annual support account proposal.


Turning to the revised standardized funding model, he said the Secretary-General should analyse actual expenditures and gather lessons learned to ensure a more accurate, timely budget proposal that was more in line with actual performance.  The Advisory Committee intended to review the issue in the context of the global field support strategy and MINUSMA’s performance report.


Statements


Mr. COFFI (Cote D’Ivoire), speaking for the African Group, pointed out that just this weekend, two Senegalese peacekeepers had been killed in a car bomb blast in the north-east Malian town of Kidal.  Even more concerning was that the bomb attack had occurred on the eve of the second round of the legislative election in Mali.  Citing several General Assembly resolutions concerning the Mission there, he called for additional detail on the implementation of the Mali budget proposal and to what extent the revised model would meet standing requirements and address challenges.


He also said that he would be interested to receive detailed comments and observation of the Advisory Committee on that matter.  The Group attached greatest importance in providing adequate resources to the peacekeeping Mission to enable them to effectively deliver their respective mandates.  In that regard, the Group would carefully scrutinize the proposed budget reductions in order to avoid any adverse impact on MINUSMA’s operations.


DIANGUINA DIT YAYA DOUCOURÉ ( Mali) thanked the Controller and the Chair of the Advisory Committee for introducing their reports.  He noted that the Mission in Mali was one of the Organization’s largest multidimensional missions, with about a half dozen priorities established by the Security Council.  The Mission’s work had helped gradually stabilize the country.  Yet, the alarming security situation on the ground, which included terrorist attacks, remained.  The United Nations needed to provide Mali with appropriate support, he said, acknowledging the Advisory Committee’s recommendation to support the Secretariat’s proposed budget.  He then paid tribute to the United Nations troops risking their lives and issued an appeal for the budget proposal to be adopted.


* *** *

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