Overdue Increase in Reimbursement Rate for Troop-contributing Countries Critical to Delivery of Mandates, Say Fifth Committee Delegates

9 May 2014
GA/AB/4108

Overdue Increase in Reimbursement Rate for Troop-contributing Countries Critical to Delivery of Mandates, Say Fifth Committee Delegates

9 May 2014
General Assembly
GA/AB/4108
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

Fifth Committee

38th Meeting (AM)


Overdue Increase in Reimbursement Rate for Troop-contributing Countries Critical


To Delivery of Mandates, Say Fifth Committee Delegates


Financial Resources Are Finite, Other Speakers Point Out


With demand growing significantly for United Nations peacekeeping, time had come to make a decision to increase the reimbursement rate for troop-contributing countries, delegates from those States today told the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).


Bolivia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, reiterated its long-standing concern over the length of time elapsed since the last review in 1992.  The Secretary-General’s report on the results of a new survey provided the necessary elements for a Committee decision on troop costs, demonstrating the deficit between the current reimbursement rate and the financial costs of troop-contributing countries.  “The work of the session will not be completed until the General Assembly establishes a new reimbursement rate,” she said.


The United States’ delegate, however, stressed the need to better understand the data presented in the report.  The survey did not provide “the answer”, but rather contributed to an informed discussion on the matter.  “Our constraints are real, our resources are finite and the current trend of continually growing peacekeeping costs is simply not sustainable,” he said, stressing that everybody would lose if major financial contributing countries were unable to fully support the growing demand of peacekeeping.


The representative of Japan, another major financial contributor, also raised questions about the method of calculating the “weighted average” and ways to administer and fund the two financial incentives, namely the “risk” and “key enablers” premiums.


India, a major troop contributor, would reject any attempts to question the credibility of the survey’s methodology and the way it was conducted, its delegate said.  The Committee’s only task was to consider its findings, which were factual and empirical, and to approve a higher rate.  He welcomed the Secretary-General’s proposal to create a dedicated fund to finance the payment of premiums to troop contributors that enabled capacities and units operating in exceptionally risky circumstances.


The representative of Pakistan, the largest troop contributor, cautioned that any reopening of the agreement would harm the spirit of partnership and impact troop contributors’ participation and the delivery of mandates in the field.


Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and Ameerah Haq, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, presented the Secretary-General’s report on the survey results.


Mr. Ladsous said that when the last survey was conducted in 1996, there had not been an Organization policy on the protection of civilians in United Nations peacekeeping, nor had there been formed police units.  Both were now fundamental to the effectiveness of peacekeeping.  Also, back then, 25,000 uniformed personnel had served in peacekeeping operations, and today, the number exceeded 97,000.


The system for reimbursing uniformed personnel had not fundamentally changed since 1974, he continued.  The change to that system might involve some challenges, but could serve an opportunity to enhance the peacekeeping partnership and the effectiveness of operations.  The award of the “risk” premium was intended to recognize outstanding performance by units in challenging circumstances and the amount would be modest.  Another incentive would be the premium awarded for rapid deployment of enablers and force multipliers, such as helicopters.  On many occasions, optimistic timetables for the start-up of difficult missions in austere operating environments had run up against the stark reality that the necessary enablers were not deployed in time.


Ms. Haq said the survey collected data on actual costs of 10 sample troop-contributing countries during March 2013 in terms of allowances; personal kit and equipment, including weaponry; inland transportation; predeployment medical care; and United Nations-specific predeployment training.  The latter three currently were not part of personnel reimbursement, she said, stressing the need for the reimbursement rate to have an empirical basis.


Also speaking on the rate of reimbursement were representatives of Algeria (on behalf of the African Group), Uruguay, Bangladesh, Brazil, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Russian Federation, Nigeria and the European Union Delegation.


Member States also discussed the financing of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the United Nations Support Office for the African Union Mission in Somalia (UNSOA).  The related reports were introduced by María Eugenia Casar, Assistant Secretary-General and Controller, and Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, with Serbia’s delegate delivering a statement.


The Fifth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 12 May, to take up the financing of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).


Background


The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met today to consider reports on the establishment of the standard rate of reimbursement to troop-contributing countries (documents A/68/813 and A/68/859); the financing of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) (documents A/68/578, A/68/701 and A/68/782/Add.5); and the financing of the United Nations Support Office for AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia) (documents A/68/605, A/68/745 and A/68/782/Add.9).


Standard Rate of Reimbursement


HERVÉ LADSOUS, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, introduced the Secretary-General’s report relating to the establishment of the standard rate of reimbursement (document A/68/813), which presented the results of the troop cost survey conducted from November 2013 to March 2014.


“Uniformed personnel are the backbone of our operations,” he said, underscoring the often volatile and hostile environment in which they operated.  The new survey methodology recommended by the Senior Advisory Group and approved by the General Assembly recognized that troop- and police-contributing countries had had to invest to meet the United Nations standards in many areas of work.  The report included information on specific costs related to deploying female personnel, recognizing the wider efforts to increase the participation of women in all peace and security activities.


He said that on the so-called “risk” premium, it was clear that the award of that premium should not in any way be related to taking risks.  The premium was effectively intended to recognize outstanding performance by units in challenging circumstances.  It would be awarded on an exceptional basis, and the financial award would be very modest.  That premium would not be paid to any unit operating with caveats or restrictions.  Before any award could be given, a rigorous and transparent review would be conducted at four levels both in the field and at Headquarters.  But bravery was not rewarded financially.  So, units awarded the risk premium would also receive a special clasp to be worn on the United Nations medal and a letter of commendation.


Another incentive, he noted, would be the premium awarded for rapid deployment of enablers and force multipliers, such as helicopters.  On many occasions, optimistic timetables for the start-up of difficult missions in austere operating environments had run up against the stark reality that the necessary enablers were not deployed in time.  Offering an added incentive through the reimbursement framework would address some of those systemic challenges.  The application of those premiums and their financial and operational impacts would be carefully assessed.  The General Assembly had not requested the Secretary-General to make a recommendation on the actual rate of reimbursement.  The data presented today should assist the Assembly to make that decision as it gave a credible snapshot of the costs incurred by each of the 10 sample troop-contributing countries.


He said that when the last survey had been conducted in 1996, there had not been an Organization policy on the protection of civilians in United Nations peacekeeping, nor had there been formed police units.  Both were now fundamental to the effectiveness of peacekeeping.  Also back then, 25,000 uniformed personnel had served in peacekeeping operations, and today, the number exceeded 97,000.  The system for reimbursing uniformed personnel had not fundamentally changed since 1974.  The change to that system might involve some challenges, but could serve an opportunity to enhance the peacekeeping partnership and the effectiveness of operations.


AMEERAH HAQ, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the results of the revised survey to establish the standard rate of reimbursement to troop-contributing countries (document A/68/813).  She said the revised methodology for setting rates, approved by the Assembly in resolution 67/261, aimed to create a more predictable system to reflect the changing demands of peacekeeping, as well as changes in the structure of troop and police contributions and in financial realities.  The report on the survey of personnel costs, the first such report presented to the General Assembly since 2000, included costs in 10 sample troop- and police-contributing countries, which collectively represented 57 per cent of all uniformed contributions during 2010-2012.  It did not, however, recommend a rate, as that was a decision for the Assembly.  It collected data on actual costs during March 2013 in terms of allowances; personal kit and equipment, including weaponry; inland transportation; pre-deployment medical care; and United Nations-specific pre-deployment training.  The latter three currently were not part of personnel reimbursement.


The survey, she said, underscored the need for the reimbursement rate to have an empirical basis.  The data was provided and would be maintained confidentially, as called for by the Senior Advisory Group.  The report also gave updated information on premium payments to troop-contributing countries.  To that end, she proposed the creation of a fund dedicated to such payments, within the overall financial ceiling approved by the Assembly.  The Assembly had approved a deduction to personnel reimbursement when major equipment was absent or non-functioning after two quarterly reporting periods.  The move aimed to ensure peacekeeping personnel had the requisite equipment to safely, securely and effectively carry out mandated tasks.  She expressed hope that the recommendation in the 2014 report of the Working Group on Contingent-owned Equipment to rotate certain categories of obsolete equipment would have a positive impact.


CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, said actions to be taken on the review of reimbursement rates and the creation, funding and replenishment of a dedicated fund to finance the payment of premiums were policy matters for the Assembly to decide.


DAYANA RIOS (Bolivia), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, reiterated the Group’s long-standing concern over the length of time elapsed since the last review of troops in 1992 and the financial burden that had placed on troop-contributing countries.  During a time of significant growth in demand for United Nations peacekeeping, the Committee’s decision on the reimbursement rate was fundamental for establishing a solid foundation for peacekeeping missions.  The Assembly must provide fair and equitable compensation for troop and police contributors.  That was vital for sustaining the peacekeeping partnership.  It was important to preserve the integrity of the new methodology and framework established by resolution 67/261, namely, the predictable nature of the new system for reviewing rates and the practice of rewarding peacekeepers that operated at exceptional risk and provided key enabling capabilities to peacekeeping missions.


Implementation of resolution 67/261 and the Secretary-General’s report provided the necessary elements for a Committee decision on troop costs, she said.  The survey results demonstrated the deficit between the current reimbursement rate and the financial costs of troop-contributing countries.  “It is high time the General Assembly adopts a decision on this matter, increasing the standard rate of reimbursement for troop- and police-contributing countries, in line with the results of the survey,” she said.  “The Group of 77 and China will not accept an interim or ad hoc solution to this issue,” she said, and added that “the work of the session will not be completed until the General Assembly establishes a new reimbursement rate”.


ABEDELHAKIM MIHOUBI (Algeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group and associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the 10 sample countries surveyed were a good representation of the top troop- and police-contributing countries drawn from four income categories.  He noted the reimbursement rate had increased to $950 in 1980, and was reviewed again in 1991 and 2002, with a percentage increase pending results of surveys, which had failed to provide adequate, comparable data.  The historical facts underscored the urgency and importance of providing impartial reimbursement to troop-contributing countries, particularly as peacekeepers were increasingly asked to carry out a range of tasks in highly challenging environments, putting their safety, security and well-being at risk.


Troop-contributing countries were spending much more to ensure troops were deployed with the proper training to carry out their mandates, he said.  The survey took into account expense categories previously not considered for reimbursement, yet pertinent to troop deployment.  The cost on inland transportation, pre-deployment medical care, and pre-deployment training were vital to sustain peacekeeping in the long run.  “The Group is confident that a successful outcome is mutually beneficial to address all our concerns; the Group therefore rejects any alternative solution and looks forward to a revised rate of reimbursement,” he said.


CARMEL POWER, of the Delegation of the European Union, said that almost all States in that bloc contributed financially to peacekeeping and supported it on the ground.  The Union was, therefore, well aware of the shared sense of responsibility and of the clear benefits resulting from active participation in peacekeeping.  Mindful of heavy budget implications at stake and given that the peacekeeping budget was already likely to reach a historic peak, the Union would raise serious technical questions on some aspects of the survey, notably on the understanding of the data collected and how it was processed.


SHO ONO ( Japan) raised several questions, including on what kind of adjustments were made in calculating the “weighted average,” and why the data on allowances and United Nations specific predeployment training showed high levels of variance.  It was obvious that even the results of the new survey, which was presented as “the weighted average across five cost categories and reflecting the proportionate size of the troop-contributing countries”, would not cover the troop costs of most troop-contributing countries, including Japan.


The reimbursement system should not be looked at from the viewpoint of to what extent the cost should be covered by each troop-contributing country as a manifestation of its contribution to the peacekeeping operation, he said, calling for a constructive discussion on that matter.  There should be further explanation on how the Secretariat would administer and fund the “risk” and “key enablers” premiums and on a 10 per cent threshold mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report with regard to the deduction to personnel reimbursements for absent or non-functioning major equipment.


STEPHEN LIEBERMAN ( United States) said reaching consensus on a fair, sustainable troop reimbursement rate was essential for strengthening the peacekeeping partnership and peacekeeping’s effectiveness.  It was necessary to better understand the survey’s data and analysis and reach a sustainable agreement in an environment of expanding peacekeeping requirements and finite resources.  The survey demonstrated the challenges inherent in establishing a standard rate to cover militaries — and gendarmeries — from countries with vastly disparate economic situations, bureaucratic processes, and military and police practices.  The allowances category, in particular, suffered from problems of comparability.  The survey did not provide “the answer”.  Rather, it contributed to an informed discussion on the matter.


Other factors must be considered, he said.  The weighted average presented in the Secretary-General’s report was only one method of summarizing the results of the data.  From the inception of the standard rate that reimbursement took into account, it was never intended to fully cover deployment costs, and therefore, took into consideration the average absorption factor, a measure of the percentage of costs reported that were not covered by the reimbursement rate.  Major financial contributors like the United States looked at how the United Nations could meet peacekeeping’s growing demands within the limited funds available.  “Our constraints are real, our resources are finite, and the current trend of continually growing peacekeeping costs is simply not sustainable.  As we all know, nobody will win and everybody will lose if major contributors are unable to fully support the growing demand of peacekeeping,” he said.


SAHEBZADA AHMED KHAN ( Pakistan), the largest troop contributor, said the survey results were credible.  The Technical Expert Reference Panel had reinforced that fact and confirmed that the methodology had been consistently applied and that the data collection and analysis process was sound.  Pakistan did not have any doubts about the process’ credibility and outcome.  There was a sound basis for a decision, and discussions must focus on adoption of the survey results, not investigating the survey itself.  “We cannot afford a relapse in political consideration, package deals, linkages, supplementary and ad hoc payments, artificial absorptions by the Secretariat, and some other intermediary relief.  The [troop-contributing countries] had endured hardship for far too long,” he said.  Any reopening of the agreement would harm the spirit of partnership and impact contributors’ participation and the delivery of mandates in the field.  The survey results had demonstrated the gap between the current reimbursement rate and the common, additional costs troop-contributing countries incurred.  The Assembly must swiftly adopt a decision to eliminate the variance by increasing the standard rate in line with the survey results.


GONZALO KONCKE ( Uruguay), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that his country was among the 10 countries that had participated in the survey.  The United Nations depended on all Member States for necessary skills and experience to meet the demand of complex and challenging peacekeeping operations.  It was clear that the standard rate of reimbursement needed to be adjusted.  The mechanism should be better structured and provide an incentive for troop-contributing countries.  His expectation was that a fair, reasonable agreement be reached to ensure the sustainability and efficiency of the peacekeeping operations of the Organization.


ABULKALAM ABDUL MOMEN ( Bangladesh), associating himself with the Group of 77, noted that his country currently had about 8,000 peacekeepers in the field.  The troop cost had slightly increased from 1991 to 2002, but had since remained flat at $1,028.  It was a sign of discrimination that, while the salaries and benefits of other workers in the Organization were reviewed regularly using some comparators, troop costs and reimbursements, which accounted for only 44 per cent of the total peacekeeping budget, remained unattended for decades.  It was time to translate the results of the survey into action to reduce the deficit between the current reimbursement rate and the financial costs of troop-contributing countries.


BHAGWANT S. BISHNOI ( India) said, as peacekeepers faced increasingly complex, volatile and unpredictable environments and the reimbursement rate remained largely unchanged since the early 1970s, it was only fair and logical to approve a revised, enhanced rate that corresponded to current realities.  As a major troop contributor, member of the Senior Advisory Group and participant of the survey, India commended the objective way in which the survey was conducted.  He rejected any attempts to question the credibility of its methodology and the way it was conducted.  The Committee’s only task was to consider its findings, which were factual and empirical, and to approve a higher rate.  The Secretary-General’s proposal to create a dedicated fund to finance the payment of premiums to troop contributors that enabled capacities and units operating in exceptionally risky circumstances was welcomed.


He expressed deep regret over the way in which the Working Group had concluded its work earlier in the year.  The daily allowances and the rest and recuperation allowances paid directly to troops had stagnated for the past 10 and 22 years, respectively.  The Senior Advisory Group rightly had suggested revising those rates, but the Working Group could only agree to a negligible increase in the overall contingency-owned equipment rates.  Continuing this approach would be a detriment to the wider peacekeeping partnership and the sustainability of peacekeeping.  The effort of all survey participants would be in vain if its scientific, empirical results were discarded in favour of ad-hoc considerations.


SÉRGIO RODRIGUES DOS SANTOS ( Brazil) said partnership was based on the concept of sharing the burden, not just the benefits, of a joint undertaking.  For too long, troop-contributing countries had recovered only a fraction of their incurred costs.  A survey participant, Brazil underscored the new reimbursement framework’s direct benefits — fairness, predictability and transparency — which had also helped enhance the dialogue between troop contributors and the Secretariat.  The survey’s results showed the deficit between the current rate and contributors’ financial costs and would allow the Committee to decide on a new rate vital for maintaining the work of the Organization in promoting peace and security.  Today, it was the responsibility of the Committee to rise to the challenge of agreeing on a solution that was fair for troop contributors and sustained the peacekeeping partnership.


JAESIN KO ( Republic of Korea) said the survey contained invaluable ways to improve the current methodology for assessing rate reimbursement.  Considering inflation and the growing complexities and dangers surrounding peacekeeping operations, the decision to set new standard rates was timely and necessary.  At the same time, serious consideration must be given to growing budget requirements for peacekeeping — expected to top $8 billion from 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015 — while countries were recovering economically.  Under such circumstances, the Committee should seek a reasonable outcome.  He expressed concern over the levels of payment used to calculate the standard rate as actual costs and income levels varied greatly among the countries that participated in the survey.  He called for exploring ways to share the financing of the new allowances with troop-contributing countries themselves, especially given the allowances’ nature and benefit to troop contributors’ military capabilities.  Implementation should be gradual in order to avoid a sudden budgetary surge.


JEANNE BYAJE ( Rwanda) said that, as a major troop contributor since 2004, Rwanda attached great importance to the agenda item.  He commended its 100 per cent response ratio and for maintaining the confidentiality of data.  As a survey participant, Rwanda knew the process had been open, transparent and had involved constant communication with the Secretariat.  Furthermore, the field visits to the surveyed countries gave the Secretariat an opportunity to fully comprehend the nature of troop deployment costs and were critical to producing quality data.  Recognition under the new framework of three more categories of cost for troop-contributing countries was a significant step forward.  He pointed to other costs not in the survey, such as predeployment inland transportation, additional medical check-ups and demobilization after tours of duty.  Still, the report had in fact captured the costs based on the mandated survey.


Mr. KHALIZOV ( Russian Federation) said he understood the concerns of troop-contributing countries, particularly as the standard rate had not changed since 2002 and individual contingency rates had not changed since 1974.  It was fair to consider adjusting them, but Member States could not ignore the overall financial situation of the United Nations.  The Under-Secretary-General for Management told the Committee earlier in the week that the overall cost of peacekeeping could reach a record $8 billion in 2014, with more than half the funds going to reimburse contingents.  It was important that any possible decision to revise such rates was justified and realistic.  If the Assembly adopted a new rate, the Secretariat must make more efforts towards cost saving to increase peacekeeping’s effectiveness as a whole.  He expressed hope the Committee’s discussion on the matter would not be politicized and would be effective.


USMAN SARKI ( Nigeria) welcomed the survey’s outcome and the aspects of additional and essential costs incurred by troop contributors.  The stagnation of the daily allowance for troops and police for 40 years without review was not fair.  Likewise, the recreational leave allowance, last reviewed in 2009, must be upgraded to reflect current realities.  A key troop contributor, Nigeria believed that the troops’ welfare transcended monetary considerations, and that the process of creating mandates, formulating policy and assessing peacekeeping operations must take into account troops’ well-being.  On many occasions troops came under fire, were abducted, stripped of their weapons and killed.  Their welfare did not start and end with the package provided by Member States; it also depended on the safety provided by the receiving States.  It was important to remember Member States’ recurrent complaints over shortages of resources.  Stability could not be achieved without adequate resource mobilization, deployment and utilization.


Financing of Peacekeeping Operations


Ms. CASAR, presenting the Secretary-General’s reports on the financing of UNMIK, said that the 2014-2015 budget reflected the net abolishment of 10 international posts and one United Nations Volunteers position as a result of reconfiguration of the support component in that Mission.  It also reflected the conversion of six international posts to national posts and the net establishment of eight national posts due to an emphasis placed on capacity-building.


On the United Nations Support Office for AMISOM (UNSOA), she said the 2014-2015 budget provided for 88 additional posts and positions to support the African Union Mission’s expansion of force from 17,731 to 22,126 under Security Council resolution 2124 (2013).


Mr. RUIZ MASSIEU, presenting the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions’ related reports, opposed the proposed abolishment of the Conduct and Disciple post at the P-4 level because that action would be coupled with a proposed establishment of a separate P-4 post in the United Nations Logistics Base, a non-Mission location.  The Advisory Committee also felt that the Mission should fill all its vacant posts expeditiously.


For UNSOA, the Advisory Committee’s recommendations would entail a reduction of $2.24 million.  It recommended the application of a phased deployment of civilian staffing, including the new national professional officers and national general service staff.  It opposed the provision of $1.93 million in the UNSOA budget for security services within the Mogadishu International Airport, as those services had been already included in the budget of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia.


JELENA PLAKALOVIC ( Serbia) reiterated her Government’s strong support for UNMIK and the need for the United Nations to continue active engagement in Kosovo and Metohija to ensure security, stability and respect for human rights.  The Mission’s continued presence required adequate staffing and resources.  Its status-neutral approach was the only acceptable framework within which everyone could work together to improve the lives of ordinary people in Kosovo.  She was concerned over the ongoing downsizing of UNMIK and the reduction of international staff, which could jeopardize its ability to carry out its mandate.  Successful implementation of the Mission’s mandate was important for everyone, mainly the Serbian and non-Albanian population in Kosovo and Metohija, whose rights continued to be violated and whose freedom of movement and security were threatened.  She backed the view of the ACABQ that the Mission should make more effort to fill vacant posts and that the Secretary-General should ensure they were filled expeditiously.


* *** *

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