Despite Improved Financial Picture, Fifth Committee Delegates Express Concern over Delays in Reimbursing Troop-Contributing Countries

15 May 2014
GA/AB/4111

Despite Improved Financial Picture, Fifth Committee Delegates Express Concern over Delays in Reimbursing Troop-Contributing Countries

15 May 2014
General Assembly
GA/AB/4111
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

Fifth Committee

41st Meeting (AM)

Despite Improved Financial Picture, Fifth Committee Delegates Express Concern

 

over Delays in Reimbursing Troop-Contributing Countries

 

While welcoming the improved financial situation of the United Nations at year-end 2013 and further progress since then, delegates in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today expressed concern over the lag in payments to countries providing troops and police to peacekeeping operations.

As of 15 May 2014, a total of 29 Member States had fully paid their assessments to the Organization’s regular budget, international tribunals, peacekeeping operations and the Capital Master Plan, according to Yukio Takasu, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Management.  Eighty-three Member States were current on their assessed payments for the regular budget.

Mr. Takasu made his comments nine days after presenting the Committee with a semi-annual snapshot of the Organization’s financial picture.  Today, he provided an update of Member States that had made payments after the report’s cut-off date.

Like most delegates, Bolivia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, welcomed the overall improved financial picture of the United Nations.  She noted that payments received by 30 April 2014 were $1.68 billion, up from $1.53 billion a year earlier, and that there had been a significant reduction in outstanding assessments during the last quarter of 2013.

She recognized the Secretariat’s efforts to reduce the amount owed to Member States contributing troops, formed police units and contingent-owned equipment, but noted more should be done to ensure those countries were promptly reimbursed, particularly developing countries as they were not in a position to sustain troop and equipment commitments on their own for extended periods.

The representative of the European Union Delegation noted that to date 23 Member States had paid all peacekeeping assessments, down from 32 a year earlier.  Australia’s representative, speaking also for Canada and New Zealand, said the delay in reimbursements could discourage Member States from contributing to future peacekeeping missions and hinder the Organization’s cash flow.

China’s representative said, although acceptable in general, the Organization’s financial picture was still unsatisfactory, with unpaid assessments reaching $3 billion by 30 April 2014.  To ensure the Organization’s smooth functioning, all Member States should fulfil their financial obligations in full, on time and without conditions.

When the Committee turned its attention to financing the support account for peacekeeping operations, Bolivia’s representative, speaking for the Group of 77, expressed concern that the Secretary-General’s proposed $327.3 million budget for that account for 2014/15 might not be enough to backstop the expected surge in the number of peacekeeping personnel.

The representative of the European Union Delegation, stressing the support functions be scalable to the size and scope of peacekeeping missions, inquired about the Secretariat’s rationale for converting general temporary assistance positions to posts at a time when the numbers of military and police personnel and civilian staff were decreasing.

Also today, the Committee discussed the 2014/15 programme budget for the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Yemen, Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to the Sahel and the Panel of Experts on Yemen.

Chandramouli Ramanathan, Officer-in-Charge of the Department of Management’s Office of Programme, Planning, Budget and Accounts, introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on the topics discussed during the meeting.  Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), presented that body’s corresponding reports.

Janne Taalas(Finland), Committee Chair, drew the Committee’s attention to the report of the Independent Audit Advisory Committee on the proposed budget for the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) under the support account for peacekeeping operations.

The representatives of Cuba, Japan, Sudan, Uganda (on behalf of the African Group) and Yemen also spoke today.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on 23 May to discuss the 2014/15 budget for the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and financing of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).

Background

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met today to discuss improving the United Nations financial situation (document A/68/524/Add.1); financing of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) (documents A/68/823 and A/68/782/Add.13), United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) (documents A/68/616, A/68/828 and A/68/782/Add.17) and African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) (documents A/68/619, A/68/754 and A/68/782/Add.15); the support account for peacekeeping operations (documents A/68/648, Add.1, A/68/742, A/68/773 and A/68/861); and the 2014-2015 programme budget of the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Yemen, Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Sahel and Panel of Experts on Yemen (documents A/68/327/Add.11 and A/68/7/Add.27).

Improving the Financial Situation of the United Nations

YUKIO TAKASU, Under-Secretary-General for Management, updated the Committee on payments received from Member States since his presentation last week on the Organization’s financial situation.  For the regular budget, China, Dominica, India and Jordan had paid in full, bringing the total number of Member States current on their regular budget payments to 83.  For peacekeeping operations, Georgia and Kenya had paid up, pushing the total number of those current on their payments to 31.  For the International Tribunals, China, Georgia and Republic of Korea had paid in full, bringing the total number in that category to 57.  Twenty-nine Member States had paid in full in all categories.

He said China’s $67 million payment to the regular budget had altered the information on Member States’ unpaid assessments listed on slide 6 of his 6 May presentation.  China’s $34 million and the United States’ $115 million peacekeeping payments had altered the information on Member States’ unpaid peacekeeping assessments listed on slide 12 of the presentation.  In addition, China’s $11 million, Republic of Korea’s $3.8 million and the United States’ $1.7 million payments to the International Tribunals had altered the overall level of unpaid assessments.  He thanked Member States for that “positive action” in the last few days.

DAYANA ANGELA RIOS REQUENA (Bolivia), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, noted that payments received by 30 April 2014 were $1.68 billion, up from $1.53 billion a year earlier, and that there was a significant reduction in outstanding assessments during the last quarter of 2013.  The Group recognized the Secretariat’s efforts to reduce the amount owed to Member States contributing troops, formed-police units and contingent-owned equipment from $745 million on 30 April 2013 to $513 million on 31 December 2013.  She said more should be done to ensure Member States were promptly reimbursed in full.  As most troop contributors were developing countries, they were not in a position to sustain troop commitments and equipment on their own for extended periods.  The Group would follow the matter closely as it was a major concern.  She called on all countries behind on their peacekeeping payments to pay in full and on time.

She welcomed the fact that 174 Member States had paid their Capital Master Plan assessments in full as of 30 April 2014 and called on the rest to follow suit.  Member States were obligated by the Charter to make full, timely, non-conditional payment of their assessed contributions.  Member States must honour their financial commitments in order to enhance the United Nations effectiveness and efficiency.  She strongly rejected all unilateral coercive measures that obstructed payments from Group members.

FRANCESCO PRESUTTI, of the Delegation of the European Union, said that the United Nations Member States and the Secretariat should take their partnership seriously, as funding must be provided and used responsibly.  As of 30 April, the number of States that had paid their assessments to the regular budget in full had increased from last year.  However, the significant level of outstanding amount remained a concern.  As of that date, 23 States had paid all peacekeeping assessments, while 32 had fulfilled that obligation a year earlier.  The cash position of the United Nations remained healthy, but it was imperative that steps were taken to spend more wisely and deliver in new ways.  The Union as a whole contributed nearly 35 per cent of the United Nations regular budget and 37 per cent of the peacekeeping budget and it was important that there be a more balanced way to share the budgetary responsibilities.

SCOTT-MARSHALL HARPER (Australia), speaking also for Canada and New Zealand, said that unpaid assessed contributions had created inequity between Member States that had paid them in full and those that had not, and left troop-, police- and equipment-contributing countries waiting for reimbursements.  That delay could demotivate Member States to contribute their precious assets to future peacekeeping operations.  At the end of 2013, $513 million had been owed to troop-contributing countries.  The amount was projected to decrease to $500 million by year-end.  Unpaid assessments also had a significant adverse impact on the cash flow of the Organization.  The Working Capital Fund had been established to provide advances as a bridging mechanism, but the Secretariat should be vigilant over its use.

Mr. AZCUY (Cuba) said the greatest overall debt to the United Nations continued to be incurred by one Member State.  Strict, unconditional payment was a requirement of the Charter, and withholding funds was irresponsible.  Permanent Security Council members had a responsibility for maintaining international peace and security.  The accumulation of payments in arrears hindered the ability of the Organization to fulfil its mandate.  There must be a permanent solution to the problem of financing peacekeeping operations.  The balances of the accounts of closed peacekeeping operations must be returned to Member States.  He expressed concern over late payments to Member States and hope that the Secretariat would take steps to ensure they were received.  Despite having suffered from economic, commercial and financial embargo by the United States for more than 50 years, Cuba had made its United Nations payments in full.  The embargo against Cuba must end, as it was the main obstacle to the country’s sustainable development.  He stressed Cuba’s willingness to honour its financial obligations to the Organization.

JUN YAMAZAKI (Japan) noted that his Government had paid in full all assessments for the regular budget, peacekeeping operations, the International Tribunals and the Capital Master Plan, despite the enormous financial difficulties it was facing.  Hopefully, Member States would conclude by consensus various items during the current session.  Noting the possible impact of resolution 68/247B on the overall cash position of the General Fund, his delegation expected the Secretariat to closely monitor the cash position and inform the Assembly.  The resources contributed by Member States should be used in the most efficient way.

SUN XUDONG (China) said all Member States should fulfil their financial obligations to the United Nations in full, on time and without conditions.  While generally acceptable, the United Nations financial situation remained unsatisfactory, with unpaid assessments reaching $3 billion by 30 April 2014.  Without guaranteed funding, it was difficult for the United Nations to function smoothly.  China’s share of peacekeeping assessments had increased dramatically in recent years to as much as $600 million and more annually.  China was a developing country with low capacity to pay.  However, it was responsible as it raised funds every year to pay its dues.  In March 2014, China paid half of its 2014 contributions, and in May it paid its 2014 assessments for the two International Tribunals, as well as most of its peacekeeping assessments.  He asked the Secretariat to promptly update that information.

Financing of Peacekeeping Operations

CHANDRAMOULI RAMANATHAN, Officer-in-Charge of the Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts, introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on the financing of MINUSMA (document A/68/823), UNMISS (document A/68/616 and A/68/828) and UNAMID (documents A/68/619 and A/68/754).  He said the proposed 2014/15 budget for MINUSMA illustrated the completion of its full operational capacity.  In order to develop a comprehensive budget fully incorporating any decisions by the Security Council, the 2014/15 budget for UNMISS would be submitted to the Assembly during the main part of its sixty-ninth session.  In the interim, the Secretary-General was seeking authority to enter into commitments with assessment to ensure the continuity of UNMISS operations for the initial part of the 2014/15 period.  The 2014/15 budget of UNAMID reflected a lower planned deployment of uniformed personnel and a net decrease of 251 posts and positions, as well as the conversion of 117 international posts and United Nations Volunteer positions to national posts, pursuant to the civilian staffing review.

Introducing the Secretary-General’s report on the support account for peacekeeping operations (documents A/68/648, Add.1 and A/68/742), he said the requirements approved for the 2012/13 period totalled $331.1 million.  The budget implementation rate was 99.6 per cent.  That amount did not include requirements for backstopping MINUSCA.  The percentage requirement of the support account was expected to remain at 5 per cent of the total proposed 2014/15 peacekeeping budget.  Excluding the extra resources for MINUSCA, staffing requirements were expected to remain the same for all Departments in the 2014/15 period.  Areas such as safety and security, and human rights, however, would require more staff.  The proposed requirements for 2014/15 reflected the Department’s efforts to curtail mobile communication costs, the impact of implementing new standards of accommodation of air travel, and the absence of one-time provisions budgeted for 2013/14, which was not required for the 2014/15 period.  Those reductions were offset in part by the increase in after-service health insurance costs for peacekeeping retirees.

CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced that body’s related report on the subject.  For the Mission in Mali, ACABQ recommended a reduction of $267,400 to the proposed budget for 2014/15.  It objected the reclassification of three posts, including the post of Principal Security Sector Reform Officer (D-1) to the Director of the Rule of Law and Security Institutions Division (D-2).  It also recommended a cut of 5 per cent, or $27,320, in the resources for consultants, as well as a cut of 5 per cent, or $183,400, in the resources for official travel.

As for the Mission in South Sudan, the Advisory Committee felt that the costs related to the transfer of personnel and assets from other missions should be charged to the receiving mission from the date of transfer.  The Secretary-General should present in his future reports clear and transparent information of the services, assets and personnel provided to the Mission in 2013/14 and related cost-recovery charges.  It also recommended a reduction of $3.2 million to the interim resource requirements of $599.3 million for the six months ending 31 December.  It was recommending that the proposed level of resources under the military and police components be reduced to reflect requirements for the deployment of the highest authorised level of military and police personnel.  It was also recommending a reduction of $10.9 million under facilities and infrastructure, reflecting a 10 per cent decrease in the resources proposed for construction projects.  On inter-mission cooperation, the Advisory Committee stressed the need to ensure that there were no double-budgeting and double assessments of Member States for the same personnel and assets.

For the African Union-United Nations mission in Darfur, he said, the Secretary-General’s 2014/15 budget proposal had been developed in anticipation of a decision to be taken by the Council.  The Advisory Committee stressed that planning assumptions of peacekeeping missions should take into account only those changes in the mandate, or the authorized strength of uniformed personnel, approved by the Council.  It was therefore premature to make any recommendations.  For the time being, the Assembly should authorize $667.62 million, or equivalent to half of the mission’s 2013/14 budget, for the six months through 31 December.

Introducing the report of ACABQ on the support account for peacekeeping operations (document A/68/861), he said the body recommended a $6.32 million reduction to the Secretary-General’s proposal for 2014/15.  The Committee advised revising budgeted vacancy rates and applying new rates to the estimates for posts and positions for 2014/15 in paragraph 29 of the report.  ACABQ did not object to the Secretary-General’s proposal to set the estimated rate for common staff costs for the support account for 2014/15 at 49.3 per cent of net salaries.  For official travel, ACABQ had identified $283,300 in reductions in five departments and offices and asked the Secretary-General to provide detailed information on the financial impact of new measures concerning standards of accommodation for air travel.  ACABQ noted the increase in posts and positions for backstopping peacekeeping operations.  Lastly, the Committee asked the Assembly to assess the Secretary-General’s proposal for an additional $11.69 million for the 2012/13 period.

Ms. RIOS, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, underscored the need to provide peacekeeping operations with adequate backstopping during all phases of operation to ensure optimal performance.  The Secretary-General’s proposed $327.3 million budget for the support account for 2014/15 might not be sufficient to adequately backstop the expected surge in the number of peacekeeping personnel.  The Group would seek clarification on that matter.  It also looked forward to a written explanation from the Secretariat on the view of ACABQ that the information on vacant posts in the Secretary-General’s report was not transparent.  The Group supported the Secretary-General’s proposal to create two professional posts within the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to include human rights mandates in peacekeeping missions.  Further, it supported the Secretary-General’s proposal to present the resources for the United Nations Office to the African Union separately under the support account, since it operated with a high level of independence.

The Group supported the Secretary-General’s proposal to redeploy all posts within the support account and to convert to posts general temporary assistance positions of a continuing nature, she said.  The Group also encouraged the Secretary-General to continue to rationalize the use of consultants and to build and use in-house capacity.  The Group was concerned by the decrease in 2013 in the number of staff from troop-contributing countries working in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and Department of Field Support (DFS).  The representation of troop-contributing countries in all relevant departments, including on the support side at Headquarters, was essential to bringing greater coherence between those who managed, directed and commanded operations, and those who provided invaluable human resources on the ground.

CARMEL POWER, of the Delegation of the European Union, said that despite the decrease in the proposed 2014/15 appropriation for the support account, the number of posts requested had increased, largely due to the proposed conversion of general temporary assistance positions to posts.  That increase came at a time when the numbers of military and police personnel and civilian staff were decreasing.  The Union, therefore, would closely scrutinize the post and non-post resources requested.  It would like to know how the Secretariat, when preparing the 2014/15 budget proposal, took into account that support functions and backstopping them should be scalable to the size and scope of peacekeeping operations.  The rationale for converting general temporary assistance positions to posts would also be of interest.  It was important to keep in mind the original purpose of the support account, which should be properly structured, transparent and relevant in relation to evolving peacekeeping mandates.

IDREES MOHAMMED ALI MOHAMMED SAEED (Sudan) said that his delegation looked forward to further consultations on financing of UNAMID, including conversions of international posts to national posts, quick-impact projects, environmental impact, and procurement, among other aspects.  He asked for more careful interpretation services.

SUN XUDONG (China) supported the Secretary-General’s proposal to redeploy nine posts in that budget, including four for DPKO, three for DFS and two for the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).  He was dissatisfied that ACABQ had submitted its report at the last minute, gravely impacting the Committee’s consideration of the matter.  The technical authority of the Advisory Committee was being seriously challenged, and the efficiency of its work must be quickly enhanced.  Its annual nine-month meeting schedule was too long and must be reduced.  China firmly opposed the recommendation made by ACABQ in paragraph 38 of document A/68/861.  The proposal in paragraph 60 of the report, to abolish the post of Senior Political Affairs Office, missed the forest for the trees, leading to grave consequences.  He asked the Chair of ACABQ to relay his comments to that body.

Financing of Special Political Missions

Mr. RAMANATHAN introduced the Secretary-General’s report on financing of special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives (A/68/327/add.11).

The report contained a proposal for additional resources for the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Yemen, mainly for the enhancement of security arrangements, including the establishment of 15 new positions.  Further, it included an update on the level of leadership for the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Sahel.  The total resource requirement of $3.9 million — $1.5 million for the Office of Special Advisor on Yemen and $2.4 million for the Panel of Experts on Yemen — should be charged against the provision for special political missions appropriated in the programme budget for the biennium 2014-2015.

Mr. RUIZ MASSIEU introduced the related report of ACABQ.  For the Office of Special Adviser on Yemen, the Advisory Committee approved the Secretary-General’s staffing proposals based on a security risk assessment conducted in March 2014.  It also recommended a vacancy rate of 50 per cent be applied for all positions.  For the Office of Special Envoy for the Sahel, it recommended maintaining the position of the Special Envoy at the Assistant Secretary-General level.  On the Panel of Experts on Yemen, it approved the Secretary-General’s staffing proposals and recommended that a vacancy rate of 50 per cent be applied to those positions.  Given those recommendations, the Advisory Committee recommended approval of $3.37 million in additional resources for the Office of Special Adviser on Yemen and the Panel of Experts.  Those should be charged against the provision for special political missions for the biennium 2014-2015.

BEATRICE KERONGA PACUNEGA MANANO (Uganda), speaking on behalf of the African Group, attached great importance to issues related to the Sahel and would consider them closely during the informal sessions on the matter.

JAMAL ABDULLAH AL-SALLAL (Yemen) noted the major role the United Nations played in his country, and thanked the Gulf Cooperation Council, European Union and friendly States that had supported Yemen.  His country had come a long way, adopting a federal system that had divided it into six regions.  A drafting committee for the constitution would be set up this year.  Yemen’s success was dependent on the international community’s support.  The country suffered from financial woes, which hindered stability, as did terrorist attacks, 70 per cent of which were carried out by foreigners.  Yemen needed international help to deal with the root causes of those problems and to support its counterterrorism strategy.   Al Qaeda was involved in drug and human trafficking, threatening peace and security.  He reaffirmed Yemen’s participation in the negotiations on the draft budget, appreciated the recommendation to support the country’s security capacity, and stressed the need to provide the requisite resources to fund such efforts.

Mr. RUIZ MASSIEU, ACABQ Chair, said all comments made by delegates in the Fifth Committee would be transmitted to the General Assembly, promising his availability in informal consultations to further discuss a matter of interest to a particular Member State.

The representative of China said that the Advisory Committee’s recommendation against the redeployment of one post from the Asia Integrated Operational Team to the Office of the Assistant Secretary-General was “ridiculous” and employed a “double-standard”.  His delegation was prepared to discuss the matter further in informal consultations.

The representative of Cuba requested that the Secretariat provide an answer to his earlier question regarding the Secretary-General’s bulletins on the organization of DPKO and DFS.  He would repeat that request until he received a written reply.

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