Fifth Committee Welcomes Proposal to Improve Safety, Security of Staff at Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia Complex in Beirut

25 March 2014
GA/AB/4102

Fifth Committee Welcomes Proposal to Improve Safety, Security of Staff at Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia Complex in Beirut

25 March 2014
General Assembly
GA/AB/4102
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

Fifth Committee

32nd Meeting (AM)

Fifth Committee Welcomes Proposal to Improve Safety, Security of Staff

At Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia Complex in Beirut

Meeting also Considers Terms for Appointee to Oversee Pension Fund Investments

Noting the vulnerability of the Beirut headquarters of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) to attack in light of recent targeted explosions throughout Lebanon’s capital, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today welcomed the Secretary-General’s proposed measures to improve staff safety and security at the complex.

Bolivia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, expressed full support for the proposed $7.31 million plan to enhance the building in order to reduce its exposure to higher-intensity blasts and the impact of vehicle-borne devices.

Presenting the Secretary-General’s report on the revised estimates for the project, the Director of the Department of Management’s Programme Planning and Budget Division, said it would take an estimated 18 months to complete.  Since 2005, when the security situation in Lebanon had started to deteriorate, ESCWA had worked with the Department of Safety and Security to install T-walls, crash barriers and a state-of-the-art perimeter access control system at the complex, she said.

Pavel Chernikov, Vice Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced that body’s related report, which called on the Secretary-General to engage more with the host country in order to find a new permanent location for the Commission.  ACABQ recommended lowering the percentage of the project’s funding allocated for contingency and overhead from 30 per cent to 20 per cent, he said, expressing regret that a clear, systematic determination of such important information had been omitted from the Secretary-General’s report.

Also today, the Committee considered the proposed terms of reference for a full-time Representative of the Secretary-General to oversee investment of the assets of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund.

Catherine Pollard, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management, submitted the relevant report of the Secretary-General, noting that the Fund’s assets had more than doubled to $50 billion in the last decade.  A full-time Assistant Secretary-General was needed to manage the Fund’s increasingly complex and demanding operations, particularly in terms of strategic asset allocation and policy analysis, she said, pointing out that those functions were currently performed by a senior United Nations official on a part-time basis.

Mr. Chernikov tabled the related ACABQ report, saying the Representative should have a range of private and public sector skills, and that the Secretary-General should ensure that the pool of eligible candidates for the post included qualified senior figures from relevant fields.

The Fifth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 26 March, to take up the implications for the 2014-2015 programme budget of the human rights treaty bodies, and the feasibility study of the long-term accommodation needs of United Nations Headquarters for the period 2014 to 2034.

Background

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to consider the proposed budget for the biennium 2014-2015.  Members had before them reports of the Secretary-General and of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) titled “Proposed terms of reference for the Representative of the Secretary-General for the investment of the assets of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund” (documents A/68/753and A/68/805).  Also before the Committee were reports of the Secretary-General and ACABQ on revised estimates relating to the construction, alteration, improvement and major maintenance of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (documents A/68/748 and A/68/808).

United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund

CATHERINE POLLARD, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the proposed terms of reference for his Representative for the investment of the Fund’s assets (document A/68/753), stating that the Fund’s assets had more than doubled, from $23 billion to $50 billion, in the last 10 years.  Given its growth in assets and complex investment and financial markets, it was time to establish the Secretary-General’s Representative as a full-time post, she said, pointing out that the Pension Board had proposed setting it at the Assistant Secretary-General level.

She went on to state that the post’s functions were currently performed on a part-time basis by a senior United Nations official.  “The Investment Management Division requires strengthened and coordinated management, as well as stronger leadership,” she said.  “The Representative of the Secretary-General will lead the increasingly complex and demanding operations in terms of strategy and policy analysis, which is important given that almost 97 per cent of the Fund’s performance may be attributed to the strategic asset allocation.”

The Representative would also address the severe operational risks that the Division faced by ensuring that all operations and functions were properly coordinated and aligned, she said, noting that the Secretary-General’s report contained detailed information on the terms of reference for the proposed post, which had been determined in consultation with the Fund’s Board.  Among other things, the Representative would oversee the Division, in addition to liaising with the Board, ACABQ and the General Assembly in relation to the Fund’s investments, and with the its oversight bodies to ensure the implementation of accepted recommendations.  The position would be located in the Fund’s secretariat and report directly to the Secretary-General, she said.

PAVEL CHERNIKOV, Vice-Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), presented that body’s report (document A/68/805).  He said that a range of private and public sector skills could be exercised in the role of Representative, and made ACABQ had made a number of recommendations to the Secretary-General.  Among them was the need to ensure that a pool of eligible candidates included qualified senior figures from relevant fields, and broad dissemination of the vacancy announcement for the post.  The Advisory Committee had also recommended that the General Assembly take note of the proposed terms of reference, he said.

DAYANA RIOS (Bolivia), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said she had taken note of the information provided and would examine it carefully in order to determine whether the Secretary-General’s proposal was in compliance with the relevant existing provisions.  The Group of 77 and China would also be interested to learn the placement of the Representative in the Secretariat’s current structure.  Reaffirming that the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Board was a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly, she emphasized that any changes in the Fifth Committee’s mandate remained the sole prerogative of the Assembly.  The Group of 77 and China was ready to engage in constructive deliberations, including the presentation of specific proposals on the agenda item with the aim of reaching a positive outcome in a timely manner, she said.

Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia

JOHANNES HUISMAN, Director, Programme Planning and Budget Division, Department of Management, introduced the report on the revised estimates relating to the 2014-2015 programme budget under section 22, Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), and section 33, construction, alteration, improvement and major maintenance.

The report described proposed mitigation measures to strengthen the safety and security of United Nations staff at ESCWA, based in Beirut, she said.  Since 2005, when the security situation in Lebanon had started to deteriorate, ESCWA had, in collaboration with the Department of Safety and Security, installed T-walls, crash barriers and a state-of-the-art perimeter access control system, she said.

Recent targeted explosions had exacerbated the security situation, she continued, recalling that in late 2013, the Secretary-General had initiated a comprehensive blast assessment at United Nations House in Beirut.  The assessment, conducted by a specialist firm, identified several interim structural reinforcement steps aimed at mitigating the increased exposure of higher intensity blasts, and substantially reduce the impact of a vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices.

She said that the proposed project was expected to take 18 months and to cost $7.31 million in non-recurrent costs, including increases under section 22, ESCWA ($399,100); section 33, Construction, alteration, improvement and major maintenance ($6.91 million); and, under section 36, Staff assessment ($53,600) to be offset by a corresponding amount under income section 1, Income from staff assessment.  The costs would also pay for the creation of two temporary positions, including one P-4 and one local level.

Mr. CHERNIKOV then introduced ACABQ’s report on mitigation measures to strengthen the safety and security of ESCWA staff, saying that the Advisory Committee recognized the new security measures being proposed and called on the Secretary-General to intensify his engagement with the host country in order to find a lasting solution to the issue of a new permanent location for the Commission.  Regarding the Secretary-General’s proposal for $7.3 million to enhance the structure of the ESCWA building, the Advisory Committee recommended the use of lower percentages to calculate the overhead and contingency provisions factored into resource estimates, and regretted the omission of such important information from the Secretary-General’s report.  ACABQ also recommended that the General Assembly approve the establishment of one P-4 level temporary position for a project manager, to be recruited locally.

Ms. RIOS (Bolivia), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said she welcomed and fully supported the Secretary-General’s proposal to establish of two temporary positions — one P-5 and 1 local level — and the allocation of $7.3 million in additional resources for the biennium 2014–2015 to ensure ESCWA’s effectiveness and efficiency, as well as the safety and security of its staff.  The Group of 77 and China stood ready to engage in constructive deliberations with the aim of finalizing the item as quickly as possible, she reiterated.

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