Missions Must Be Efficient, Well-Resourced to Carry Out Mandates, Speakers Say, as Fifth Committee Resumes Session Focusing on 2017/18 Peacekeeping Budget

GA/AB/4230
1 May 2017
Seventy-first Session, 29th Meeting (AM)

Missions Must Be Efficient, Well-Resourced to Carry Out Mandates, Speakers Say, as Fifth Committee Resumes Session Focusing on 2017/18 Peacekeeping Budget

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today opened the second part of its resumed seventy-first session, when it was expected to focus on $7.97 billion in budget requirements requested for United Nations peacekeeping operations for the 2017/18 fiscal period.

In the coming weeks, the Committee’s key priorities would include formulating and approving peacekeeping budgets on the basis of their respective mandates, said Ecuador’s representative, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, as delegates emphasized the need for missions to be effective, efficient and well-resourced in order to carry out their mandates.

The representative of the United States emphasized: “We have a responsibility to ensure that peacekeeping budgets reflect actual requirements, are driven by realistic planning assumptions and reflect efficiencies from ongoing management initiatives.”  Missions must also show concrete results, she added.

Representatives of troop-contributing countries stated that they would not support arbitrary efficiency gains and forced budget reductions.  South Africa’s delegate said his country needed to ensure its troops had the capacity to operate in a secure environment.  His counterpart from Pakistan added that a growing overstretch of resources jeopardized the safety and security of peacekeepers.

El Salvador’s representative, speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said peacekeeping budgets should be considered individually on a mandate-by-mandate basis.  In that vein, the delegate of Uganda, on behalf of the African Group, said consideration of peacekeeping budgets should not be a simple cost-reduction exercise.

Opening the meeting, Inga Rhonda King (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), Committee Chair, emphasized that the Committee’s decisions would have an impact on international peace and security.  In the face of setbacks and disappointments, it should forge ahead, she said, underscoring the need for sensible compromise and getting the job done together.

Several representatives expressed regret over the late distribution of documents for the resumed session, stressing that such delays made it harder to prepare for negotiations.  The European Union’s representative, recalling the Committee’s inability in the past to finish on time, urged everyone to be as pragmatic as possible in abiding by the deadlines imposed.

Bettina Tucci Bartsiotas, Assistant-Secretary-General and Controller, introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on the financial position of 29 closed peacekeeping missions, saying that, as of 30 June 2016, five missions had net cash deficits of $86.1 million while 24 missions had net cash surpluses of $67.7 million.  Pending the receipt of outstanding assessed contributions, $62.9 million was owed to troop-contributing countries.

Presenting the corresponding report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Advisory Committee Chair, reminded the Committee of the General Assembly’s repeated calls for Member States to pay their assessed contributions on time.  Noting that the highest level of borrowing over the past three calendar years had been $43 million, he recommended that the net cash balance proposed for retention to cover the temporary borrowing needs of active missions be reduced to $43 million, with any cash surplus over that amount to be returned to Member States.

Introducing the report of the Board of Auditors on United Nations peacekeeping for the 2015/16 period, Anand M. Bajaj, Chair of the Audit Operations Committee, said there was room for improvement in such areas as accounting, air operations, medical services and environmental and waste management.  Nonetheless, “the peacekeeping operations’ financial position is stable, with sufficient cash resources to sustain core operations”, he stated.

Ms. Tucci Bartsiotas also introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on the financing of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).  With regard to MINURSO, Mr. Ruiz Massieu, presenting the Advisory Committee’s corresponding report, said the extended absence of 17 staff members on special leave with full pay since March 2016 must be urgently addressed.

Also speaking today were representatives of Mexico, China, Japan, Paraguay, Angola, Russian Federation, Syria and Israel.

The Fifth Committee will meet again at a date and time to be announced.

Organization of Work

INGA RHONDA KING (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), Chair of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), recalled that the “four freedoms” set out by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt underpinned the founding principles of the United Nations.  In the face of structural impediments and the late issuances of documents, she urged the Committee to invoke President Roosevelt’s ever-lasting optimism.  The Committee may be a small part of a much bigger puzzle, but it was an important one, and its failure to act efficiently would have consequences for international peace and security.  Furthermore, the Committee must also find ways to address the world as it found it.  In the face of setbacks and disappointments, it should forge ahead with awareness that it must be part of the solution, she said, emphasizing the importance of sensible compromise and getting the job done together.

HORACIO SEVILLA BORJA (Ecuador), speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said it was regrettable that a substantial number of reports for consideration had been submitted late, affecting the ability of Member States to fully prepare for the session.  Moreover, the reports disseminated were not available in all six official languages of the United Nations.

He also expressed concern that budgets for peacekeeping operations were submitted in breach of the six-week rule set by the General Assembly.  Key priorities of the session should be ensuring the formulation and approval of peacekeeping budgets on the basis of their mandates; exploring options to achieve fair solutions for unpaid assessments of closed missions; considering the systematic exploration of the issue of sexual abuse in those missions; and reducing unfilled vacancies to a minimum.

CARLOS ALEJANDRO FUNES HENRÍQUEZ (El Salvador), speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), underscored the importance of discussions on the administrative and budgetary aspects of peacekeeping missions.  Referring to financing the closing of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), as well as of the newly mandated United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), he said he was proud of the former Mission’s work.  The new Mission would receive the same support from CELAC that MINUSTAH had received.

Each peacekeeping operation had a stand-alone budget, and peacekeeping budgets should be considered individually to ensure the effective and efficient discharge of their respective mandates, he continued.  It was regrettable that the Fifth Committee had not been able to decide on the necessary reforms to the funding and backstopping for special political missions.  The current arrangements were inadequate and had an adverse effect on the regular budget, governance and transparency of the Organization.  He recalled that General Assembly resolution 65/293 requested that the Secretary-General submit concrete proposals which addressed the issue of outstanding amounts due to Member States from closed peacekeeping missions that were in net-cash deficit.

CAROINE NALWANGA MAGAMBO (Uganda), speaking for the African Group, and associating himself with the Group of 77, emphasized the need for timely issuance of documents in order for delegations to fully prepare for Committee sessions.  In that regard, the Secretariat should address the six-week rule for the distribution of documents.  The integrity of the United Nations depended, among other things, on the ability to deliver on its mandates successfully.  With resources increasingly scarce, ways were needed to improve efficiencies while incorporating effectiveness and accountability.  Stressing the importance  of allocating adequate resources for each peacekeeping mission, in particular those in Africa, she added that all mandates authorized by the Security Council must be fully resourced.

Consideration of peacekeeping budgets should not be taken as a simple cost-reduction exercise, she continued.  Rather, it should be driven by responsible mandate resource allocation and policy guidance.  Furthermore, she said she would focus closely on cross-cutting issues directly linked to individual mandates, including those related to mission support, Umoja implementation “and its alleged benefits”, oversight, supply-chain management and environmental and waste management.  Noting the Committee’s heavy workload, she called for a spirit of open and transparent negotiations that would discourage closed-door and small-room configurations during the negotiation period.

JAN DE PRETER, European Union, recognized the demanding conditions in which peacekeepers carried out their work.  The peacekeeping partnership and effective collaboration between all Member States, as contributors to peacekeeping, and the Secretariat was of great importance.

He went on to say that his objective during the session would be to examine all peacekeeping missions’ budgets with a view to providing them with adequate financing and guidance to carry out their mandates.  However, it was concerning that the Committee had been unable to conclude its previous sessions on time, he noted, urging all groups and delegations to be as pragmatic as possible in abiding by the deadlines imposed.

JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico) said MINUSTAH must have the resources it needed to face the reality on the ground.  Its transition into the new MINUJUSTH must be carried out in a responsible, progressive and prudent way that supported the country’s efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.  He emphasized that the peacekeeping assessments were based on Member States’ respective capacity to pay, as well as on the special responsibilities of Security Council permanent members.  The goal must be a reformed peace and security pillar that would focus increasingly on the concept of sustaining peace.

FU DAOPENG (China), associating himself with the Group of 77, noted that his country was the second-largest contributor to the peacekeeping budget and the largest troop contributor among Security Council permanent members.  While noting that neither an arbitrary reduction in the peacekeeping budget nor an impractical increase was favoured, he said that troop- and police-contributing countries must be reimbursed for their expenses.  As well, peacekeeping capacity-building should be improved in order to cut waste, improve resource-utilization efficiency and optimize logistical support mechanisms.  Member States should pay their peacekeeping assessments on time, in full and without conditions, he said, also voicing regret over the delay in document availability.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) noted that her country was one of the largest and most consistent contributors to United Nations peacekeeping, having served in 41 missions in 23 countries since 1960, with over 7,000 personnel deployed in eight peacekeeping operations.  There were several challenges that needed to be confronted, including the bolstering of triangular cooperation between the troop-contributing countries, the Security Council and the Secretariat.  The protection of civilians, where it was mandated, remained critical, and clearly defined mandates would make that task easier.  Pointing to the growing overstretch of resources, which jeopardized the safety and security of peacekeepers, she urged that adequate resources for operational deployment and utilization of forces should be allocated in order to address that matter.

JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said he would not support arbitrary efficiency gains and forced budget reductions that would compromise the effectiveness and efficiency of peacekeeping operations.  As a troop-contributing country, South Africa needed to ensure its troops had the capacity to operate in a secure environment.  He voiced support for the use of all relevant and available resources, including technology, to enhance the effectiveness of peace operations.  Sexual exploitation in conflict was one of the most serious problems facing vulnerable civilian populations, he stressed, underscoring his commitment to a zero-tolerance policy on that matter.

HIROSHI MINAMI (Japan) said budgets funded by assessed contributions should cover activities or outputs that were logically concluded as legitimate to be borne by all Member States.  Resource requirements proposed by the Secretariat should reflect the intention of intergovernmental bodies in a correct and precise manner.  He added that the Committee’s resumed session should first and foremost be devoted to the peacekeeping budgets.  Consideration of any other items should take place afterwards and should not hamper swift and timely deliberation of peacekeeping budgets.

CHERITH NORMAN CHALET (United States) voiced support for the Secretary-General’s efforts to make peacekeeping more flexible and agile.  Peacekeeping missions must show concrete results and demonstrate the value of significant investments made by Member States, she said, stressing she would carefully examine the Secretary-General’s request for $7.97 billion for peacekeeping in 2017/18, which represented a 1 per cent increase over the current budget.  “We have a responsibility to ensure that peacekeeping budgets reflect actual requirements, are driven by realistic planning assumptions and reflect efficiencies from ongoing management initiatives,” she said.  The budget request reflected the expansion of challenging and insecure missions, but also long-standing missions that were ripe for change.

JULIO CÉSAR ARRIOLA RAMÍREZ (Paraguay), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, and with CELAC, underscored the need to ensure peacekeeping operations had the necessary resources to carry out their mandates.  The formulation and the approval of the budgets should be carried out by taking into account what was happening on the ground.  Noting that Paraguay was a troop-contributing country, he voiced concern about the effective implementation of the mandates of the various missions.  He also paid tribute to the men and women who risked their lives, and sometimes lost their lives, in the cause of peace.

MARCIO SANDRO ALEIXO PEREIRA BURITY (Angola) said he placed particular emphasis on the mandate of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), as well as the financing of the United Nations support for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and the mandate of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).  With regard to the proposals for peacekeeping budgets before the Committee, he said those should be duly considered, taking into account the specificity of the mandate and the unique situation on the ground of each mission.  He also noted with concern the late issuance of documentation for the current session.

SERGEY V. KHALIZOV (Russian Federation) said that necessary documents for the session should be submitted in a timely fashion.  Noting that the total of all peacekeeping operation budgets amounted to $7.97 billion, he said the Committee should study carefully limited growth in allocations.  However, the search for savings should be based on the size of the missions and their ability to absorb any shortfalls of resources.  Small operations could not be subjected to additional decreases of financial and human resources, as that would undermine their mandates.

Reports of the Board of Auditors

ANAND M. BAJAJ (India), Chair of the Audit Operations Committee and Director of External Audit, introduced the report of the Board of Auditors on United Nations Peacekeeping Operations for the period from 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016 (document A/71/5 (Vol. II)).  The financial position of peacekeeping operations for 2015/16 had been presented fairly in the relevant financial statements.  Moreover, those statements were in accord with the International Public Sector Accounting Standards.

Overall, he said, the Administration had continued efforts to address the Board’s concerns and to enhance financial control and management.  There was also more transparency, fairness and responsiveness in procurement processes, as well as improvement in physical verification of expendable and non-expendable property.  However, there was room for improvement in such areas as accounting, air operations, medical services and environmental and waste management.  Nonetheless, “the peacekeeping operations’ financial position is stable, with sufficient cash resources to sustain core operations”, he stated.

BETTINA TUCCI BARTSIOTAS, Assistant Secretary-General and Controller, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the recommendation of the Board of Auditors concerning United Nations peacekeeping operations for the financial period ended 30 June 2016 (document A/71/801).  For that period, high-priority recommendations included the actuarial valuation of employee benefits liabilities; work plans of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations; the preparation of annual financial reports of welfare and recreation committees; and asset and property management.

For the periods ending in June 2014 and June 2015, high priority recommendations addressed such areas as budget formulation and management, as well as delays in procurement, she said.  All recommendations had been accepted by the Administration, and each one had been subject to a thorough review.  As of February 2017, more than 80 per cent of the recommendations issued by the Board for the previous three financial periods had been implemented.

CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), presenting the report of the Advisory Committee (document A/71/845), commended the Board of Auditors for the quality of its report.  However, the overall rate of implementation of the Board’s recommendations had not improved over time.  The Advisory Committee looked forward to examining the Board’s views on the Secretariat’s recently issued Anti-Fraud and Anti-Corruption Framework, he said, adding that, starting with the General Assembly’s seventy-second session, the Advisory Committee would consolidate its comments on the Board of Auditor’s findings into its report on cross-cutting issues related to United Nations peacekeeping operations.

AMÉRICA LOURDES PEREIRA SOTOMAYOR (Ecuador), speaking for the Group of 77, said that the report was comprehensive and sufficiently informative with regard to the management of peacekeeping operation budgets.  Having “keenly” examined the Board’s recommendations on budget formulation and human resource management, as well as on the management of assets in peacekeeping operations, she noted that 55 recommendations had been issued during the 2015/16 period, compared to 31 for the 2014/15 period.  That implementation continued to be inadequate.  Furthermore, some recommendations had been delayed until they were “overtaken by events”.  The Administration should increase its efforts to institute deliberate mechanisms to effectively implement the Board’s recommendations in a timely manner.  She also underscored that she looked forward to explanations and clarifications regarding matters of asset valuation, fraud and presumptive fraud, and insufficient environmental and waste management, among others.

Financial Position of Closed Peacekeeping Missions

Ms. TUCCI BARTSIOTAS introduced the report of the Secretary-General on the updated financial position of closed peacekeeping missions as of 30 June 2016 (document A/71/652).  The report covered 29 closed peacekeeping missions, including the details of three missions closed since 2015: the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT); United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT); and the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS).

As of 30 June 2016, five missions had net cash deficits of $86.1 million, and 24 missions had net cash surpluses of $67.7 million, she continued.  Pending the receipt of outstanding assessed contributions, $62.9 million was owed to troop-contributing countries.  Cash surpluses had been used in the past to alleviate occasional shortfalls in active peacekeeping operations.  The Secretary-General had made proposals to address the cash requirements of active peacekeeping operations in his previous reports.  The General Assembly was requested to consider those previous proposals and, if no new mechanism was approved, to allow the retention of the net cash balance of $67.7 million available in 24 closed peacekeeping missions as of 30 June.

Mr. RUIZ MASSIEU, introducing the related ACABQ report (document A/71/856) said the Advisory Committee noted the General Assembly’s decision 70/533 C to defer consideration of the five previous reports of the Secretary-General and the related reports of the Advisory Committee until the current session.  On the matter of unpaid assessments, he acknowledged the repeated calls by the General Assembly for all Member States to pay their assessed contributions on time.

Noting that the highest level of borrowing over the past three calendar years had been $43 million, he recommended that the net-cash balance proposed for retention to cover the temporary borrowing needs of active missions be reduced to $43 million, and that any available cash surplus over that amount be returned to Member States.

Ms. PEREIRA SOTOMAYOR (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, said that all Member States should fulfil their financial obligations and make every possible effort to ensure payment of their assessed contributions in full.  She expressed concern at the cash-deficit situation in several closed peacekeeping missions, owing to the continued non-payment of arrears by some Member States.  Also of concern was the cross-borrowing from closed missions.  In the session ahead, a solution to that issue should be found.

Financing of United Nations Peacekeeping Operations

Ms. TUCCI BARTSIOTAS introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on the financing of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) (documents A/71/580 and A/71/763), United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) (documents A/71/631 and A/71/781),  United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (documents A/71/640, A/71/765 and A/71/765/Corr.1) and United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (documents A/71/639, A/71/760 and A/71/760/Corr.1).

She said the proposed UNFICYP budget for 2017/18 of $56 million represented an increase of 2.2 per cent over the previous budget.  For UNDOF, the proposed budget of $62.3 million for 2017/18 reflected an increase of 30.5 per cent, she said, explaining that more funds were required due to the ongoing return of the force to positions on the Bravo side, starting with Camp Faouar.

The 2017/18 estimated resource requirements of $494.8 million for UNIFIL represented an increase of 1.2 per cent, she said.  In regards to MINURSO, the proposed budget of $55.2 million (exclusive of budgeted voluntary contributions-in-kind) for 2017/18 represented a 5 per cent increase compared to 2016/17.  Noting that the Mission had faced challenges in the last months, she said the return of international staff members would allow it to resume some core functionality.

Mr. RUIZ MASSIEU introduced the Advisory Committee’s reports on those missions, contained in documents A/71/836/Add.7, A/71/836/Add.2, A/71/836/Add.5 and A/71/836/Add.1, respectively.

With respect to UNFICYP, he said the Advisory Committee’s recommendations would entail a reduction of $459,800 for 2017/18 to the Secretary-General’s proposal.  It recommended that the General Assembly request the Secretary-General to complete a staffing review of the Mission prior to submitting its proposed 2018/19 budget.  It also recommended reductions in the number of proposed new posts as well as reductions under air travel and ground transportation.

Turning to UNDOF, he noted that Mission’s main priority would be the renovation and return to Camp Faouar.  With regard to UNIFIL, the Advisory Committee was recommending, among other things, the abolishment of 8 out of 19 posts proposed for reassignment, as well as an adjustment to the vacancy rate for international staff for 2017/18.

Lastly, on MINURSO, he said the Advisory Committee was recommending a reduction of $1,685,600 to the Secretary-General’s proposal for the 2017/18 period.  He added that the extended absence of 17 staff members on special leave with full pay since March 2016 must be urgently addressed, and noted a lack of concerted effort to temporarily assign them to other operations.

AMMAR AWAD (Syria) said UNDOF had been created in response to the Israeli occupation of the Golan, and that it must be financed by the Israeli occupation force.  He added that the Secretariat’s reports must reflect the reality on the ground and that UNDOF’s deployment was in transition, pending implementation of Security Council resolutions that called for Israel’s withdrawal from the Golan.

YARON WAX (Israel), emphasizing the vital role of peacekeeping and the importance of ensuring the implementation of much-needed reforms, said it was perhaps unsurprising that Syria’s representative was using the Committee to make statements that sought to take the focus away from horrific attacks carried out by that country.

Mr. AWADI (Syria) said that Israel’s delegate would not make the Committee forget who the real aggressor was in the occupied Golan, which would be restored to Syria sooner or later.

For information media. Not an official record.