United Nations Financial Situation ‘Generally Sound and Positive’, Top Management Official Tells Fifth Committee

GA/AB/4231
3 May 2017
Seventy-first Session, 30th Meeting (AM)

United Nations Financial Situation ‘Generally Sound and Positive’, Top Management Official Tells Fifth Committee

Speakers Also Examine 2017/18 Budget Proposals for Three Peacekeeping Operations

The financial situation of the United Nations was “generally sound and positive”, the Organization’s senior management official told the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today, stressing the importance of Member States making timely payments in order to meet their obligations.

The Committee also discussed the budget requirements for the 2017/18 fiscal period for the Regional Service Centre in Entebbe, Uganda, as well as for three peacekeeping operations.

In his semi-annual overview of the Organization’s finances, Yukio Takasu, Under-Secretary-General for Management, provided a detailed report on the regular budget, the international tribunals and peacekeeping operations.  It focused on assessments issued, unpaid assessed contributions, available cash resources, and outstanding payments to Member States at 31 December 2015 and 2016, and at 30 April 2016 and 2017.  (The Secretariat will incorporate this information into a report from the Secretary-General on improving the financial situation of the Organization that would be released for the Committee’s discussion at its 11 May meeting.)

Summing up the findings, Mr. Takasu said unpaid assessments were lower at the end of 2016 than the previous year for the regular budget, but higher for peacekeeping operations, and cash balances were positive for peacekeeping and the tribunals, with cash reserves covering a $123 million shortfall in the regular budget.  The final cash position for 2017 would depend largely on payments made by Member States in the coming months, he added.

For the 2017 regular budget, Member States were obliged to contribute $2.578 billion, up $29 million from 2016.  Payments received by 30 April 2017 amounted to $1.6 billion.  Unpaid assessments stood at $1.4 billion at the end of April 2017, a decrease of $8 million from the previous year.

Although the overall United Nations cash situation was currently positive for all categories at 30 April 2017, the regular cash budget was expected again to “tighten” towards the end of the year, he said.

The financial position of international tribunals remained sound, he said.  Unpaid assessments decreased to $40 million at the end of 2016, compared to $65 million a year earlier.

Turning to the peacekeeping operations, he said the total amount outstanding at the end of 2016 was $1.8 billion, an increase of $826 million over the previous year.  As of 30 April 2017, new assessments of $1.2 billion had been issued and the level of unpaid assessments was reduced to under $1.7 billion.  That amount included assessments of $396 million, issued following the extension of the mandates for the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).  By 30 April this year, 48 Member States had paid all peacekeeping assessments in full, he said.

Following Mr. Takasu’s briefing, the Committee examined the Secretary-General’s proposed 2017/18 budget for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), and African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), as well as for the Regional Service Centre in Entebbe.  Bettina Tucci Bartsiotas, Assistant Secretary-General and Controller, presented the Secretary-General’s reports on the subject.  Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced its corresponding documents.

Recalling the Security Council’s decision to wind down MINUSTAH and replace it with another mission from 16 October to be known as the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), Ms. Bartsiotas said $153.2 million would be required for the interim six-month period to 31 December 2017, and a comprehensive assessment would be carried out in order to present a budget for the period from 16 October 2017 to 30 June 2018.

Several representatives from Latin America and the Caribbean took the floor to stress the need for MINUJUSTH to be properly funded in order to fulfil its rule-of-law and institution-building mandate set out in Security Council resolution 2350 (2017).

The representative of the Dominican Republic hoped that the mission would be able to support Haiti’s efforts on the rule of law and policing, while the representative of Chile said the Organization’s continued support would be vital to Haiti, and that past achievements should be built upon.

There was a lack of clarity on the drawing down of MINUSTAH, noted the Ugandan delegate, who said she expected greater details would be provided during informal consultations on that matter, and that budget rules would be adhered to so that the transition did not affect the implementation of that Mission’s mandate.

On UNMIK, Serbia’s representative called for strengthening its capacities in areas related to the human rights of non-Albanians in Kosovo.

On the Regional Service Centre, Ms. Bartsiotas said the 2017/18 budget proposal totalled $37.3 million and that the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) would be joining the Centre’s client base from 1 July 2017.

The representative of Ecuador, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, emphasized the facility’s managerial independence and supported its proposed restructuring across service lines in order to ensure the proper function of Umoja, the Organization’s enterprise resource planning system.  Her counterpart from Uganda sought information on the new structure and urged delegates to take into account her country’s low cost of living and family-friendly environment.

Also speaking today were representatives of Cuba, El Salvador (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Brazil and Venezuela.

The Fifth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m., on Monday, 8 May, to fill vacancies in subsidiary organs and to discuss cross-cutting peacekeeping issues, as well as financing of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and the United Nations Support Office for the African Union Mission in Somalia (UNSOS).

Improving Financial Situation of United Nations

YUKIO TAKASU, Under-Secretary-General for Management, updated the Committee on the current financial situation of the United Nations.  He focused on four main financial indicators:  assessments issued; unpaid assessed contributions; available cash resources; and outstanding payments to Member States.  He said those indicators were “generally sound and positive”.  At the end of 2016, unpaid assessments were lower for the regular budget and the international tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, but higher for peacekeeping operations than at the end of the previous year.  The increase in unpaid peacekeeping assessments in 2016 was directly related to the increase in peacekeeping assessments.  At the end of April 2017, unpaid assessments were lower in all categories compared to one year ago.  Cash balances were currently positive for all areas.  With regard to troop costs and contingent-owned equipment, the level of outstanding payments by Member States was lower at the end of 2016 compared to the previous year.

On the regular budget, assessments were issued in 2017 at a level of $2.578 billion, $29 million higher than in 2016, he said.  Payments received by 30 April 2017 amounted to $1.6 billion.  Unpaid assessed contributions by that date amounted to $1.4 billion, $8 million lower than a year ago.  By the end of 2016, 145 Member States had paid their regular budget assessments in full.

The total amount outstanding for peacekeeping operations at the end of 2016 was $1.8 billion, which reflected an increase of $826 million, compared to the $976 million outstanding at the end of the previous year, he said.  As of 30 April 2017, new assessments of $1.2 billion had been issued and the level of unpaid assessments was reduced to under $1.7 billion.  That amount included assessments of $396 million, which were issued last week following the extension of the mandates for the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).  By 30 April 2017, 48 Member States had paid all peacekeeping assessments in full.  On outstanding payments to Member States, the total amount owed at the end of 2016 was $808 million, which reflected a decrease from the $824 million owed at the start of the year.

The financial position of international tribunals remained sound, he said.  Outstanding assessments for tribunals decreased to $40 million at the end of 2016, compared to $65 million a year earlier.  By 31 December 2016, 116 Member States had paid their assessed contributions in full.  But by 30 April 2017, a total of $91 million remained outstanding.  The final outcome of 2017 depended on Member States honouring their financial obligations.

He noted that the experience of the last few years reflected that the last quarter continued to be a very difficult period for regular budget cash, and that it was necessary to draw on regular budget cash reserves (the Working Capital Fund and Special Account) during the final months of 2016.  Last year, those reserves had proved insufficient, and it had been necessary to cross-borrow from other accounts.  The overall United Nations cash situation was currently positive for all categories as of 30 April 2017, but the regular budget cash was expected to tighten towards the end of the year.  An increased number of Member States were making timely payments, and the Secretariat was making every effort to expedite outstanding payments for troops and police units.  The financial health of the Organization depended upon Member States meeting their financial obligations in full and on time.

JAVIER E. SÁNCHEZ AZCUY (Cuba) requested that the Committee, on its website, post information about the contingency fund in a manner that would permit a comparative analysis over the last six years at least.  Doing so would help delegations to address the fact that there was money “stuck in a drawer in the Secretariat, doing nothing”.

Mr. TAKASU said there would be an opportunity to take up the matter next week.  He went on to review the functions of the contingency fund, regular budget reserve, working capital fund and special account.

Administrative and Budgetary Aspects of Financing Peacekeeping Operations

BETTINA TUCCI BARTSIOTAS, Assistant Secretary-General, Controller, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the budget for the Regional Service Centre in Entebbe, Uganda, for the period from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018 (document A/71/835).  Enabled by Umoja, the Centre provided human resources, finance, transportation and movement control services to more than two thirds of all individual personnel deployed to United Nations peacekeeping and political missions, she said.

During the 2017/18 period, it was expected to support the closure of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), she said.  The proposed 2017/18 budget amounted to $37.3 million, down 3 per cent from approved resources for 2016/17.  With the addition from the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) to the Centre’s client base from 1 July 2017, as well as the temporary provision of payroll services, the Secretary-General was proposing the establishment of 18 posts and positions.

CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced the entity’s related report (document A/71/836/Add.9), saying its recommendations would entail a reduction of $3.77 million to the Secretary-General’s proposed budget.  Emphasizing that any changes to the current and future service delivery model must be approved by the General Assembly, he said the Assembly should ask the Secretary-General to refine governance arrangements and provide an update in his next report.  The Advisory Committee also recommended against the establishment of eight proposed national General Service posts.

LOURDES PEREIRA SOTOMAYOR (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, recalled that the General Assembly, in establishing the Regional Service Centre through its resolution 64/269, had decided to give it operational and managerial independence.  Welcoming the Regional Service Centre’s work in supporting seven peacekeeping missions, six special political missions and the United Nations Office to the African Union, she said the Group of 77 welcomed its proposed restructuring across cross-functional service lines to take full advantage of Umoja functionalities.

Noting that over 60 per cent of peacekeeping missions were in Africa, she said it was important that they be supported from a hub in the same time zone.  She also encouraged the Secretariat to take full advantage of the low-cost implications of having a support centre in Africa at a time when the Organization was being asked to do more with less.  She said the Group of 77, taking note of the Regional Service Centre’s governance structure, would be interested in understanding the roles of the Board of Auditors and Steering Committee, especially as that facility had been granted managerial independence.

CAROLINE NALWANGA MAGAMBO (Uganda), associating herself with the Group of 77, said her delegation would seek information about the role of proposed governance structures at the Regional Service Centre.  Inviting the General Assembly to consider Uganda’s low cost of living and family-friendly environment, she quoted Sir Winston Churchill who, in his journal in 1908, wrote that nowhere else in Africa did a little money go so far — with brilliant, substantial and rapidly realized results — as in Uganda.

Financing of United Nations Peacekeeping Operations

Mr. BARTSIOTAS introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on the budget performance for the period from 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016, and the budget for the period from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018 for three peacekeeping missions:  MINUSTAH (documents A/71/679 and A/71/787), the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) (documents A/71/615, A/71/759*, A/71/759/Corr.1 and A/71/759/Corr.2) and the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) (documents A/71/642 and A/71/775).

On MINUSTAH, the Secretary-General had proposed a budget for the full 2017/18 period of $336.6 million, she said.  Since the publication of the report, the Security Council decided to close that mission by 15 October 2017 and to create the follow-on peacekeeping Mission, the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH).  The Secretariat decided it was prudent to advise the ACABQ of indicative resources of $153.2 million for the interim six-month period to 31 December 2017.  That estimate was based on information available, and a comprehensive assessment would be undertaken in order to present a budget for the period from 16 October 2017 to 30 June 2018.

On UNMIK, a budget of $38 million was proposed for 2017/18, reflecting an increase of 4.2 per cent compared to the 2016/17 approved budget, she said.  On UNAMID, the proposed 2017/18 budget of $1.03 million represented a 0.7 per cent decrease compared to the approved resources for 2016/17.

Mr. RUIZ, ACABQ Chair, introduced that Committee’s related reports on MINUSTAH (document A/71/836/Add.12), UNMIK (document A/71/836/Add.4) and UNAMID A/71/836/Add.7).  Concerning the financing of MINUSTAH for the period from 1 July to 15 October 2017, the Advisory Committee recommended that the General Assembly authorize the Secretary-General to enter into commitments in an amount not exceeding $105 million, with assessment, for the maintenance of MINUSTAH.

On UNMIK, the Advisory Committee reiterated its concern that the cash position of the Mission did not cover the three-month operating cash reserve.  He recommended a number of reductions with respect to consultancy requirements and staff travel, and noted the status of vacant posts and positions.  On UNAMID, he recommended an overall reduction in the proposed budget of the Operation of approximately $15 million.  Those reductions pertained to the abolishment of seven posts proposed for reassignment, as well as to higher vacancy rates than proposed.  Further reductions were recommended across a number of other categories, including facilities and infrastructure and information technology.

Ms. MAGAMBO (Uganda), speaking on behalf of the African Group, took note of the $82.7 million — or 1 per cent — net increase in the financial resources required for peacekeeping for the 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018 period, over the prior 2016/2017 periods.  The Group awaited the evaluation on accountability for the integration of gender into mission mandate delivery, and strengthened strategic and technical support to all substantive components, to be finalized this year.  She requested that a distinction be made between quick-impact projects and programmatic activities, and that the Secretariat revisit the budget ceiling placed on such projects.

Moreover, she looked forward to discussing the 2017 triennial meeting of the Working Group on Contingent-Owned Equipment during the informal session, adding that the concerns of troop- and police-contributing countries over delays in reimbursement for contingent-owned equipment must be addressed.  Citing a lack of clarity on the drawing down of MINUSTAH by 15 October 2017, she expected that clarity would be provided during informal consultations on the matter and that all relevant budget rules and procedures would be followed so that the related transition did not negatively impact mandate implementation.  She also looked forward to the report on planning, mandating and financing of African Union peace support operations, expressing her hope that any recommendations to reduce the force and civilian components of MONUSCO would be assessed against mandate implementation and conducted in dialogue with the host Government.

CARLOS ALEJANDRO FUNES HENRIQUEZ (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said he was committed to helping Haiti on its path of stabilization, sustainable peace and development.  With that aim, CELAC countries had contributed most of MINUSTAH’s military and police personnel.  Support was also being provided via bilateral channels, regional organizations and the United Nations system.  He noted the decision of the Security Council to extend the mandate of that mission for a final period of six months, up to 15 October 2017.  As the Mission was gradually reconfigured and its functions transferred to MINUJUSTH, the gains of that mission should be preserved, particularly in the area of security.

With regard to the financing of MINUSTAH from 1 July to 15 October 2017, he concurred with the Advisory Committee’s view to allow the Secretary-General to enter into commitments of up to $105 million, with assessment, for the Mission’s maintenance.  He disagreed with arbitrary reductions of resources for MINUSTAH without technical justification.  Its budget should be based on the situation on the ground and the mandate of the Security Council, not on artificial budgetary ceilings.

PATRICIA BARBOSA LIMA CORTES (Brazil), associating herself with the statement of CELAC, said that MINUSTAH had been a uniquely successful mission, having deployed more than 110,000 soldiers who helped ensure a secure and stable environment for the Haitian people and helped reconstruct the country after natural disasters.  She recalled that for 13 years, Brazil had been a troop contributor to MINUSTAH.  Countries in the region were very proud of the Mission’s work, including its military component, which had displayed exemplary behaviour and operational performance.  Attempts to deconstruct the legacy of MINUSTAH were misconceiving, misleading and irresponsible.  The United Nations must bear in mind that its work in Haiti was not over.  In that regard, Brazil welcomed the Secretary-General’s recommendation that a new United Nations peacekeeping mission be established in Haiti in order to assist the Government in consolidating its progress by reinforcing public institutions and strengthening national capacity for rule of law, police development and human rights.

CESAR AUGUSTO CHAVARRI CABELLO (Venezuela), associating himself with CELAC, said his country recognized MINUSTAH’s efforts in assisting the Haitian authorities in the country’s stabilization and development process.  During the transition between MINUSTAH and MINUJUSTH, sufficient logistical and budgetary resources must be earmarked, in line with Security Council resolution 2350 (2017), he stated.

MARINA NIKODIJEVIC (Serbia) underscored the important role of UNMIK, particularly in bridging dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.  The Mission’s increased visibility in the field reflected positively on the trust and readiness of the Serbs and other non-Albanians to participate in the processes initiated by the Brussels dialogue.  In the same vein, the complex political and security situation on the ground continued to require an increase in resources, primarily with respect to confidence-building projects to improve rule of law, human rights, and reconciliation among communities.  There was especially a need to strengthen UNMIK personnel and programmatic capacities to address the human rights of the non-Albanian communities.  Since 1999, there had been more than 8,000 ethnically motivated attacks in Kosovo and Metohija.  She expressed support for the proposal of the Secretary-General to keep the existing posts within the Mission and to establish new ones.  It was projected that the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL)-related workload would increase, she said, underscoring the need for more than one post of United Nations police officer for functions relating to INTERPOL.

FRANCISCO CORTORREAL (Dominican Republic), associating himself with CELAC, said his country hoped that MINUJUSTH would be able to support Haiti’s efforts in the areas of the rule of law, policing and human rights.  The Dominican Republic supported the points of view of both the Advisory Committee and the Secretary-General, and it shared the vision of a stable and prosperous Haiti.

LEYLA VASQUEZ (Chile) said Haiti was at a crossroads at which United Nations support would be vital.  A responsible transition of the Organization’s presence, building on past achievements, should be ensured, he said, reiterating the importance of proper funding and avoiding a security vacuum.

Ms. MAGAMBO (Uganda), taking the floor a second time on behalf of the African Group, referred to the Secretary-General’s report on UNAMID.  Describing that operation as an innovative partnership between the United Nations and the African Union, she said the African Group would examine its budget to ensure that it was adequately resourced.  It would also carefully look at UNAMID’s performance report, particularly with regard to the Operation’s environmental impact, and seek clarification on the gradual transfer of tasks to the United Nations Country Team.  In addition, she said, the African Group was interested in details about stabilization projects in local communities, their impact and whether they required more funding.

For information media. Not an official record.