Adequate Funding Essential for Success of New Verification Operation in Colombia, Speakers Say as Fifth Committee Considers Budgets for Special Political Missions

GA/AB/4264
13 December 2017
Seventy-second Session, 23rd Meeting (AM)

Adequate Funding Essential for Success of New Verification Operation in Colombia, Speakers Say as Fifth Committee Considers Budgets for Special Political Missions

The new Mission to monitor Colombia’s historic peace agreement needed adequate funding to ensure it was as effective as the first operation in the country, delegates said as the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) took up the funding of special political missions in 2018.

Established by the Security Council in July 2017, the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia was mandated to verify implementation of two key aspects of the 2016 peace agreement between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — People’s Army (FARC‑EP).  Verification activities began on 26 September 2017, immediately after completion of the mandate of its predecessor.

The new Mission aimed to help reintegrate former combatants, ensure the implementation of security guarantees, and roll out security and protection programmes, said Colombia’s representative, who stressed that ensuring those efforts were successful would, to a significant extent, depend on the support of the United Nations and the allocation of the required resources.

Colombia intended to speedily consolidate the achievements of the first Mission to implement the next steps, she said, noting that the international community’s support had allowed the first operation to conclude its mandate on time, having verified the cessation of hostilities and the ceasefire agreement.

The representative of El Salvador, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the group had provided unarmed observers for the first operation in Colombia, a step which demonstrated the importance of lending support to regional mechanisms that engaged in preventive diplomacy for mediation purposes.  CELAC also continued to support steps in Colombia towards peace, he underscored, noting that efforts and commitments made in that country testified to the people’s determination to further consolidate peace.

Argentina had contributed the largest number of observers to the first Mission, according to that country’s representative, who hailed the 2016 peace agreement and said the new Mission was a model for how the United Nations could effectively work towards peace. 

The speaker for the European Union said that the bloc was supporting peacebuilding in Colombia with an overall package of nearly €600 million through its European Union Trust Fund for Peace in Colombia, established in December 2016, as well as through potential loans from the European Investment Bank — both clear signs of its determination to support lasting peace in one of its closest partners in Latin America.

Bettina Tucci Bartsiotas, Assistant Secretary‑General and Controller of the United Nations, introducing the Secretary‑General’s report on proposed funding for special political missions, said that the 2018 resource requirements for the new Mission in Colombia were $73.6 million, with a total staffing complement reflecting the establishment of 393 civilian positions.  Proposed outlays for other special political missions under cluster III in 2019 totaled $151.4 million, up $3.6 million from the resources approved for 2017.

Babou Sene, Vice‑Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced its related reports.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Mexico, Chile and Brazil.

The Fifth Committee will meet again on Thursday, 14 December at 10:00 a.m. to discuss the financing of the African Union‑United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). 

Special Political Missions: Cluster III and Colombia

BETTINA TUCCI BARTSIOTAS, Assistant Secretary‑General and Controller of the United Nations, introduced addendum 3 the Secretary-General’s report on the proposed 2018 budget with respect to special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives under thematic cluster III (document A/72/371/Add.3) as well as addendum 7 regarding the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia (document A/72/371/Add.7).  Proposed resources for those missions in 2019 totalled $151.4 million, an increase of $3.6 million compared to resources approved for 2017.  The increase was mainly due to a lower vacancy rate and higher steps in grade for civilian personnel, military and policy, primarily under the United Nations Office for West Africa and Sahel (UNOWAS) and United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM).  However, the increases were partly offset by lower operational costs, mainly in terms of medical services and ground transportation.

Turning to the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, she noted that strategic priorities for that Mission were based on Security Council resolution 2366 (2017), by which the Council had decided to establish the Mission’s mandate for an initial 12‑month period.  They were further based on Security Council resolution 2377 (2017), by which the Council had decided to approve recommendations contained in the Secretary‑General’s report (S/2017/745) in terms of the Mission’s size, operational aspects and mandate.  As such, the Mission was mandated to verify the implementation of two key aspects of the 2016 Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Lasting Peace between the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — People’s Army (FARC-EP).  That included verifying the reintegration of Revolutionary Armed Forces members into political, economic and social life.  It also encompassed implementing personal and collective security and protection measures as well as comprehensive security and protection programmes for communities and organizations in the territories.  The proposed 2018 resource requirements for the Mission were $73.6 million, with a total staffing complement for 2018 reflecting the establishment of 393 civilian positions. 

BABOU SENE, Vice‑Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced its related report (document A/72/7/Add. 13), recommending approval of the staffing resources for the seven special political missions.  The Advisory Committee recommended the approval of the position of a Senior Political/Electoral Officer (P‑5) in the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea‑Bissau (UNIOGBIS) for one year, with any further requirement for that position to be fully justified in the 2019 programme budget.   Positions vacant for two years or longer should be reviewed and justifications provided for their retention; otherwise they should be proposed for abolishment.  In that context, the ACABQ recommended the abolishment of three UNSOM positions.  On the proposed establishment of six Human Rights Officers in that mission, the ACABQ believed that their range of functions would benefit several differently‑funded United Nations entities and therefore required addition information on the cost‑sharing arrangements for those services.

The Advisory Committee was concerned that the resource estimates for 2018 may not be realistic due to the current state of under‑expenditure and recommended that information related to actual and projected expenditures through the end of 2017 be provided to the General Assembly, he said.  The ACABQ also recommended reductions in facilities and infrastructure of $84,700 for UNOWAS and $110,000 for UNSOM.  Further, the Advisory Committee recommended that resources at the level of the approved budget for 2017 be maintained in 2018 under air transportation for UNOWAS, and for the Cameroon‑Nigeria Mixed Commission given the need for a review of the use of the shared asset for air operations. 

The Advisory Committee recommended reductions of $25,800 for consultants in the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa given that the Mission should use in‑house capacity to perform core activities or long‑term functions, he said.  Regarding individual contractors performing support activities in that Office, it recommended against the resources of $109,100 while noting that increases in substantive staffing should not automatically result in increased support activities.  The ACABQ stressed the need for greater information regarding mine action activities provided for in the UNSOM budget proposal.

Introducing the ACABQ’s report on the Secretary‑General’s 2018 resource proposals for the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia (document A/72/7/Add. 17), he recommended approval of the staffing resources for the Mission, other than one position of Administrative Assistant (Local Level) in the Office of the Chief of Staff and one backstopping position of Human Resources Offices (P‑4) in the Department of Field Support.  The Advisory Committee noted that the ratio of international to national staff was 1 to 1 in the Mission and welcomed the reliance on national staff.  Regarding operational costs, the Advisory Committee did not receive sufficient justification and information related to the consultancy requirements and therefore recommended a reduction of $295,900.  The ACABQ also gave comments and recommendations on official travel and the Kuwait Joint Support Offices in its main report on special political missions.

RUBÉN ARMANDO ESCALANTE HASBÚN (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), hailed the success of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia.  The bloc had supported that Mission and had participated as unarmed observers in charge of monitoring and verifying the ceasefire and the laying down of arms in line with the mandate set forth by the Security Council.  That demonstrated the importance of lending support to regional mechanisms, which played a role in preventive diplomacy for mediation purposes.  The bloc also continued to support steps undertaken in Colombia towards peace, he said, noting that efforts and commitments made in that country testified to the people’s determination to make headway toward consolidating peace.  It was very important that the United Nations fully support the Mission to ensure the successful reintegration of members of the FARC‑EP socially, politically and economically, as well as to provide security.  He reiterated the bloc’s support for administrative and budgetary aspects that would have a direct impact on the region.  As such, he trusted that the Fifth Committee would lend its support so that the Mission would have the resources it needed to complete its mandate. 

JAN DE PRETER, European Union, noted the progress made so far towards building a lasting and durable peace in Colombia, and expressed great appreciation for the excellent work of the first United Nations Mission in that country.  The European Union and its member States remained committed to contributing to the peace agreement’s implementation, and that included full support for the second Mission.  He said the European Union was supporting peacebuilding in Colombia with an overall package of nearly €600 million through its European Union Trust Fund for Peace in Colombia, established in December 2016, as well as through potential loans from the European Investment Bank — both clear signs of its determination to support lasting peace in one of its closest partners in Latin America.

JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico), associating himself with CELAC, said that peace in Colombia was at a turning point and represented a “good news story” in Latin America’s contemporary history, while demonstrating that it was possible to resolve problems, despite their longevity.  In this new phase in Colombia’s history, the Mission had a crucial role to play, particularly when it came to tackling the reintegration of former combatants into the social, economic and political aspects of the country.  The Mission must be deployed to all areas on the ground and enjoy appropriate levels of staffing and support.  Mexico trusted that the Fifth Committee would allocate the necessary resources to the Mission to make sure it could contribute to the long‑aspired delivery of peace in Colombia.

MARIA DEL CARMEN DOMINGUEZ (Chile) said the Mission in Colombia was vital in efforts to achieve lasting peace in the country.  It was working to reintegrate FARC‑EP ex‑combatants to civilian life through action plans and concrete resources within the framework of a comprehensive strategy.  The Mission was also addressing the security situation in former conflict zones and consolidating the political participation of the FARC‑EP in line with the peace agreement.  Stressing that the United Nations had a fundamental role to play in that process, she said the Fifth Committee was responsible for granting the Mission needed resources in a predictable, flexible and efficient manner.

NATALIA VIRGINIA BABIO (Argentina), associating herself with CELAC, hailed the general agreement putting an end to the conflict in Colombia and the move towards a stable and durable peace between the Government and the FARC‑EP.  Her country had lent its support as the largest contributor of observers to the first Mission in that regard, and would continue to support the new Mission in Colombia.  Moreover, the Mission served as a model for how the Organization was able to function effectively towards peace.  Her delegation would continue to serve as an active participant in that process, and trusted that the Fifth Committee would lend its support to the Mission so it could have the resources necessary to complete its mandate.

LUIZ FELDMAN (Brazil), associating himself with CELAC, joined in celebrating the success of the new Mission in Colombia, congratulating that country for its commitment to implementing the agreement.  He welcomed the unanimous adoption of Security Council resolutions 2366 (2017) and 2377 (2017) establishing and specifying the size and operational aspects of the Mission.  He further welcomed Council resolution 2381 (2017) which extended the Mission’s mandate to include the implementation of the ceasefire between the Government and the National Liberation Army.  Deeply committed to preserving peace and regional stability, Brazil had expressed its unequivocal support for Colombia’s efforts to implement the agreement.  Moreover, the Mission must be provided with all necessary resources to implement its mandate. 

MARÍA EMMA MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia) welcomed that the international community had risen to the challenge of rallying behind Colombia and had lent its full support to finding a solution to the conflict.  Thanks to that support, Colombia had been able to ensure that the first special political Mission concluded its mandate on‑time, having verified the cessation of hostilities and the ceasefire agreement.  If the new Mission enjoyed the same support, it could be equally effective, she said, noting that Colombia intended to expedite the consolidation of all the achievements of the first Mission to implement the next steps, which were equally crucial in the peace process.  To do so, however, Colombia must continue to receive the support of the international community and must not lose the ground already gained.  In that context, it was vital that Colombia enjoyed the Fifth Committee’s support so that it could fully deliver on the peace agreement.  The mandate of the second Mission was intended to usher in the reintegration of the former combatants, ensure the implementation of security guarantees and roll out security and protection programmes.  Ensuring those efforts were successful would, to a significant extent, depend on the support of the United Nations and allocation of the required resources.

For information media. Not an official record.