Fifth Committee Delegates Seek More Clarity on Budget Implications of Building Institutional Civilian Capacity in Post-Conflict Situations

11 March 2014
GA/AB/4099

Fifth Committee Delegates Seek More Clarity on Budget Implications of Building Institutional Civilian Capacity in Post-Conflict Situations

11 March 2014
General Assembly
GA/AB/4099
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

Fifth Committee

29th Meeting (PM)

Fifth Committee Delegates Seek More Clarity on Budget Implications of Building

Institutional Civilian Capacity in Post-Conflict Situations

 

While commending the progress made in the past two years to expand the pool of civilian experts providing immediate aid and support for institution-building in post-conflict countries, delegates in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) sought greater clarity today on the budgetary implications of those efforts and on ways to align the work of United Nations field personnel with the national decision-making cycles of the countries concerned.

Committee members expressed overall support for the focus on strengthening national processes to rebuild areas critical to sustainable peace in post-conflict settings — such as security and justice sectors, rule of law, inclusive political processes and economic revitalization.  They welcomed the creation within the Organization of a global focal point for police, justice and corrections, as well as efforts to identify new sources of civilian capacity expertise, particularly from the global South, as a way to ensure that the appropriate mix of civilian skills was always available on the ground.

But Bolivia’s representative, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said information was lacking on the specific programmatic, administrative and budgetary requirements of the civilian capacity initiative.  The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) had raised important questions in that regard, he noted, emphasizing that any changes to the current budget process must have the prior approval of the Fifth Committee and ACABQ.  Moreover, greater clarity was needed concerning the use of joint delivery mechanisms and the concept of comparative advantage, she added.

Switzerland’s representative, speaking also for Liechtenstein and Norway, said lessons learned from the work of the stand-alone civilian capacity team, to be completed by June, should be properly integrated into the Organization’s existing structures and operating procedures.

The Committee also took stock of the progress made in implementing the accountability system within the United Nations.  Delegates praised the creation of a working group and an action plan on results-based management, describing them as important steps towards making world body more accountable and better managed.  However, the representative of the United States requested additional information on how the working group’s recommendations would be implemented and on plans to implement additional key performance indicators in the area of procurement, which would be vital for improving accountability and internal controls.

In other business, the Committee considered the proposed 2014 resource requirements of the panel of experts established by the Security Council in 2013 to monitor the arms embargo imposed on the Central African Republic.

Uganda’s representative, speaking for the African Group, said that given the deteriorating political and security situation in the Central African Republic, the African Group supported approval of the proposed funds so as to allow the experts properly to carry out their mandate.

Also speaking today were representatives of the European Union, Pakistan and Mexico.

Presenting reports for the Committee’s consideration were Yukio Takasu, Under-Secretary-General for Management; Sarah Cliffe, Special Adviser and Assistant Secretary-General for Civilian Capacities; Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ); and Maria Eugenia Casar Perez, Assistant Secretary-General and Controller.

The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 18 March, to consider the strategic capital review.

Background

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this afternoon to review the efficiency of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations.  Before members were reports of the Secretary-General on accountability (documents A/68/697 and A/68/783) and civilian capacity (documents A/68/696, A/68/696/Corr.1 and A/68/784).  For its consideration of the programme budget for the biennium 2014-2015, the Committee had before it a report of the Secretary-General titled “Estimates in respect of special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council” — concerning thematic cluster II: sanctions monitoring teams, groups and panels — and the twenty-sixth report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) on special political missions: Panel of Experts on the Central African Republic (documents A/68/327/Add.9 and A/68/7/Add.25).

Accountability

YUKIO TAKASU, Under-Secretary-General for Management, introduced the Secretary-General’s third progress report on the accountability system within the Secretariat (document A/68/697), saying it described progress made in the past eight months.  The document included an action plan for further strengthening each accountability tool under discussion, and explained how United Nations business transformation projects — Umoja and the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) — were the foundations for strengthening the Organization.  Accountability-related initiatives were grouped into three categories: a stronger focus on performance and results; improving governance and oversight; and better management and administration.

He said that, in accordance with the General Assembly’s request for phased-in implementation of a results-based management framework, his Office had led an interdepartmental working group in developing an action plan for implementing the framework.  It had considered each stage of the process — planning, budgeting, monitoring, evaluation and reporting — and the Management Performance Board had discussed and endorsed its recommendations.  The Department had concluded that what was most needed from senior managers was commitment to the framework and the training and tools for staff to implement it.  The report also included the results of an extensive review of literature from the United Nations and outside organizations on lessons learned and the challenges of implementing the framework.

Based on inputs from heads of department and other senior staff throughout the Secretariat, significant progress had been achieved on United Nations enterprise risk management in the past six months, he noted.  The preliminary results, including risk definitions, a full analysis of key risk drivers, a description of the controls already created by management as well as an evaluation of their effectiveness, and an outline of potential risk response strategies would be presented to the Management Committee this month.  Once that body agreed on a common understanding of the major risks and how critical they were, the managers responsible for different areas would define comprehensive risk treatment and response plans with risk owners, he said, adding that his Office would monitor progress.  The report also outlined several implemented and planned reform initiatives to further strengthen existing Secretariat accountability tools for performance management and development; ethics and accountability; strengthening accountability in field missions; and procurement.

CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), presented the second report (document A/68/783), saying that the International Public Sector Accounting Standards and Umoja were expected to transform the Organization, and ACABQ intended to assess the effect on enhanced accountability and transparency in future reports.  The report reiterated the Committee’s previous comments on the important role played by senior managers in providing models of exemplary conduct and setting the right tone for staff.  As with the 2011-2012 performance cycle, he noted, only 1 per cent of staff were rated as partially meeting, or not meeting, performance expectations in the 2012‑2013 period, which raised concerns about the Performance Appraisal System.  A viable system of rewards and sanctions linked to performance was needed, he said, emphasizing that ACABQ recommended against the Secretary-General’s request for a move to biennial reporting on the subject, given the current initiatives in progress and expected upcoming developments.

Dayana Angela Rios Requena (Bolivia), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, emphasized the special responsibility of senior managers and heads of departments to set the appropriate tone and to model exemplary conduct for their respective staff members.  Reiterating the Group’s deep concern over the persistently low percentage of staff rated as underperforming or requiring improvement during the 2012-2013 cycle, she stressed the need for a viable system of rewards and sanctions, saying the Secretary-General must address the Performance Appraisal System, which lacked credibility.  Concerning the performance management and development system in peacekeeping operations, she concurred with the recommendation by the Board of Auditors regarding the need to strengthen the link between performance and either rewards or sanctions for all United Nations staff.  The Group of 77 and China also underlined the importance of implementing fully the zero-tolerance policy against sexual exploitation or abuse.

Matthias Dettling (Switzerland), speaking also on behalf of Liechtenstein, said that a systematic application of the accountability system was essential to ensuring that United Nations management was predictable, credible and efficient.  Welcoming the Secretary-General’s efforts to strengthen accountability, as set forth in his latest report, he described the creation of the working group on results-based management and of an action plan to implement it as important steps.  However, little progress had been made since Member States had adopted a resolution to introduce results-based budgeting in 2001, he noted.  “It is high time for the Organization to direct its focus on the delivery of results rather than outputs,” he said, encouraging the Secretariat to intensify its efforts to ensure credible, sustainable implementation of that management change as soon as possible.  He also welcomed the action plan for the creation of an enterprise risk management framework and internal controls, noting that it would be based on the first risk assessment conducted for the entire Secretariat and encouraging the Secretariat to move ahead as soon as possible.  In order to function as intended, the framework must be taken into account during the decision-making processes of the Secretariat and General Assembly.  He encouraged the Secretary-General to advance a plan that would clearly establish the actions, aims and time frame for implementing the accountability system, and to take the steps needed to end the chronic delay in issuing his reports — an important aspect of the Secretariat’s accountability to Member States.

STEPHEN LIEBERMAN ( United States) said the United Nations must have strong control mechanisms and oversight capabilities in place to monitor results and ensure that its mandated activities were carried out responsibly, effectively and efficiently.  “Every dollar wasted through inefficiency, mismanagement or corruption is a dollar that is not spent on achieving the essential work of this Organization,” he emphasized.  The United States delegation would continue to monitor developments in respect of the IPSAS and Umoja initiatives, he said, adding that he would be interested to learn more during informal sessions about how the United Nations would implement the recommendations of the Results-Based Management Working Group.  On enterprise risk management, he urged the Secretary-General to complete the Secretariat-wide risk assessment in an expeditious manner and asked senior management to continue to make that a priority.

The United States delegation would also be interested to hear more about plans to implement additional key performance indicators for procurement so as to further improve accountability and enhance internal controls, he said.  The United Nations, as the standard bearer, should hold staff accountable for achieving results and take firm and prompt corrective action to remedy poor performance or misconduct, he emphasized.  Commending the Secretary-General for having improved the usefulness of senior manager compacts by measuring performance against targets set in their leadership compacts, he said that he nevertheless remained greatly concerned about accountability in field operations, especially regarding sexual exploitation and abuse as well as criminal misconduct, and looked forward to the day when the Department of Field Support would finalize a policy on accountability for conduct and discipline in field missions.  The United States also looked forward to the completion by the Ethics Office of a comprehensive review of the regulatory framework for protecting whistleblowers.

Civilian Capacity

SARAH CLIFFE, Special Adviser and Assistant Secretary-General for Civilian Capacities, presented the Secretary-General’s report on civilian capacity in the aftermath of conflict (documents A/68/696 and Corr. 1), saying it focused on United Nations support for national institution-building after conflict, providing new information on results, lessons learned in respect of supporting national ownership, and outreach, particularly to the global South.  Specifically, it summarized the lessons learned over the past two years and described key results of the initiative, including the development of comprehensive guidance materials to support national institution-building; improved system-wide coordination mechanisms such as the global focal point for police, justice and corrections; the identification of new sources of expertise, particularly in the global South; and the application of strengthened country-level approaches.

After describing results, she continued, most of the report focused on the main lessons learned in three areas: improved support for institution-building; boarding and deepening the pool of experts; and enhancing regional, South-South and triangular cooperation.  It described how the United Nations could define, within existing planning and budget processes, realistic institution-building outcomes without proposing to change the format, structure, sequencing or presentation of budgets.  It also outlined steps for strengthening integrated assessment, planning and implementation, as well as a clear division of labour between missions and country teams without changing the existing mandate of any United Nations entity.

Furthermore, she said, the report highlighted the need to produce a few key results quickly across the political, security, justice, economic and social sectors in order to build confidence in national institutions among conflict-affected populations.  It noted that senior leadership teams must work with host Governments and international financial institutions to identify the costs of sustaining national institutions.  Since most post-conflict countries lacked domestic resources and were dependent on external financing, the report called on Member States to ensure predictable, sustained financing to help them, she said.  The report recommended that the General Assembly encourage the application of lessons learned to support institution-building, and presented lessons learned from CAPMATCH — the United Nations online platform launched in September 2012 and designed to provide assistance to post-conflict countries and those in transition, especially in terms of building and strengthening national institutions, security and justice sectors, and employment — which had attracted a broad pool of experts from the global South.

Mr. RUIZ, Chair of ACABQ, submitted a second report (document A/68/784), saying the United Nations initiative to deliver institution-building results would be incorporated into existing structures and business processes.  ACABQ noted the Secretary-General’s intention of phasing out the existing stand-alone team, in place since the outset of the imitative, by June 2014.  However, it was not clear what the specific administrative and budgetary implications of the conclusions drawn in paragraphs 19-33 of the Secretary-General’s report would be, particularly in respect of the content, timing and sequencing of the Organization’s budgets.  On the CAPMATCH pilot, ACABQ noted the Secretary-General’s intention to discard the automated matching system and instead to use existing systems within the Departments of Field Support and Peacekeeping Operations.  On the Secretary-General’s proposals to make further use of Government-provided personnel for time‑limited, specialized functions not readily available within the Secretariat, ACABQ felt that greater clarity was needed in terms of the functions for which the use of such personnel might be appropriate, he said, adding that it recommended that the General Assembly provide updated guidance to the Secretary-General in that regard.

Ms. RIOS ( Bolivia), speaking for the Group of 77 and China, stressed the importance of improving United Nations support for capacity development and institution-building in countries emerging from conflict, noting that national ownership was essential for sustainable peace.  The Group supported ACABQ’s call for greater clarity on the specific administrative and budgetary implications of the conclusions and proposals contained in the present report, she said, adding that the Committee had raised important questions.  Any changes to the current budget procedures, rules and format must be subject to review and prior approval by the Fifth Committee and ACABQ.

Emphasizing that greater clarity was needed over the use of joint delivery mechanisms and the concept of comparative advantage, she said the Group of 77 and China would seek further clarification concerning the proposals to align mission mandates and implementation with national decision-making cycles.  It would have welcomed concrete proposals for implementing robust financing frameworks for building institutions.  The civilian capacity initiative must benefit from the global South’s experiences in capacity-building and post-conflict transition.  It was high time the Assembly held an in-depth discussion on the Organization’s use of Government-provided personnel, she said, stressing also that, among other issues, it was important to ensure transparency in selecting such personnel and to avoid issues faced in the past arising from the use of free personnel.

CARMEL POWER, European Union Delegation, commended the Secretary-General’s commitment to ensuring that the promotion of effective civilian capacity in the aftermath of conflict and crisis would remain a priority across the United Nations system.  Applying lessons learned and building on the work carried out over the past two years would contribute to the effective mainstreaming of that important area, she said.

Mr. DETTLING (Switzerland), speaking also for Liechtenstein and Norway, said that designating the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as the global focal point for the police, justice and corrections areas in the rule of law in post-conflict and other crisis situations had been an important step towards improving coherence and coordination in United Nations action, both in the field and at Headquarters.  There was a need to strengthen integration and coordination among the Organization’s different entities involved in post-conflict settings and to align their actions with the national decision-making cycles of host countries.

He voiced support for implementation of the steps set forth in the Secretary-General’s report with a view to better defining mission planning and the related budget proposals, and to better respond to evolving requirements on the ground while ensuring that the appropriate mix of civilian skills was available at all times.  The United Nations must capitalize on the breadth of expertise available and strengthen its outreach to such experts, he said.  Lessons learned from the work of the civilian capacity team, to be completed by 2014, should be shared and properly integrated into the Organization’s existing structures and operating procedures.

Mr. LIEBERMAN ( United States) said the report under consideration was the culmination of years of work by the Secretariat, going back to the 2009 report of the Secretary-General on peacebuilding in the aftermath of conflict.  A senior advisory group had issued an extremely ambitious report on tackling the issue of civilian capacity in a holistic manner, looking not only at the administrative hurdles within the United Nations, but also at how to improve coordination more broadly within the Organization and leverage external sources of capacity, including through greater South-South cooperation, while at the same time ensuring that national ownership remained the guiding principle behind post-conflict peacebuilding.  Implementing those far-reaching recommendations had not been the easiest process, but much had been accomplished, he said, noting that the agenda item was highly unusual in terms of the large number of intergovernmental bodies considering the issue, including the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, the General Assembly plenary, the Peacebuilding Commission and the Security Council.  Each body should confine its consideration to the area within its specific remit, he emphasized.

AHMAD NASEEM WARRAICH (Pakistan), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said his delegation noted efforts by the United Nations to support institution-building, deepen the pool of peacebuilding expertise and bolster South-South cooperation.  Identifying civilian capacity from within the region concerned would be beneficial, he said, emphasizing the importance of finding local solutions to local problems.  Calling for early and systematic planning, he said missions and country teams should employ the available strengths of the United Nations system, adding that the process must continue to move forward.

Ms. CLIFFE, responding to comments by delegations, said she had heard the request for more discussion in some areas and looked forward to holding them in the coming days.  That would be an important opportunity to go into depth on some issues and to look at future applications.

P anel of Experts on the Central African Republic

MARIA EUGENIA CASAR PEREZ, Assistant Secretary-General and Controller, introduced the Secretary-General’s report concerning the Panel of Experts on the Central African Republic (document A/68/327/Add.9), pointing out that the Panel’s requirements for 2014 amounted to $1,476,000 net of staff assessments.  It would provide for the fees and travel of the five experts, the cost of one P-3 position for a Political Affairs Officer and a General Service position for an Administrative Assistant, as well as official travel for staff and other operational and logistical support.  She proposed charging those costs against the 2014-2015 budget’s provision for special political missions.

Mr. RUIZ, Chair of ACABQ, presented another report (document A/68/7/Add.25) and recommended the approval of the amount proposed for the experts, saying it was consistent with other similarly constituted panels.

Beatrice Keronga Pacunega Manano( Uganda), speaking on behalf of the African Group, recalled that the Panel’s mandate had been further extended until 28 January 2015 by Security Council resolution 2134 (2014), which contained additional targeted measures.  Five expert members of the Panel covered areas relating to arms, armed groups, humanitarian, regional and natural resources as well as finance, she noted.  Given the deteriorating political and security situation in the Central African Republic, the African Group supported approval of the Secretary-General’s proposed resources for the Panel, so as to enable it to properly implement its mandate.

Gabriela Colín Ortega ( Mexico) thanked the Secretary-General and ACABQ for their respective reports, saying her delegation would be attentive to all aspects of special political missions, particularly administrative and budgetary matters.

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