Press Conference by Under-Secretary-General for Management on 2010-2011 Budget

7 January 2010

Press Conference by Under-Secretary-General for Management on 2010-2011 Budget

7 January 2010
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by Under-Secretary-General for Management on 2010-2011 Budget

Offering highlights from the United Nations budget at Headquarters today, Angela Kane, Under-Secretary-General for Management, described a changing United Nations landscape marked by the steady growth of special political missions and more than half the Organization’s staff involved in peacekeeping.

Addressing journalists at a press conference, Ms. Kane provided explanations of cuts and additions made by Member States to the Secretary-General’s original budget proposal, resulting in an approved initial appropriation of $5.2 billion on 24 December.

She said special political missions, expected to cost approximately $1 billion over the next two years, formed a significant chunk of the 2010-2011 biennium budget, reflecting a steady growth of such missions over time and a 22 per cent increase over previous levels.  The amount approved by the Assembly for 2010 alone totalled $569 million, $30 million less than suggested by the Secretary-General.

But aside from special political missions, the budget generally stayed flat, she said.  In crafting the draft budget, the Secretary-General had been mindful of an economic climate that was “not conducive to a very lavish budget”. 

Items whose budgets were reduced most drastically were external printing, whose allotted funds went down by $1 million, and consultants and experts, which went down by 7 per cent, she said. 

The budget for business continuity management ‑‑ set up to ensure that the United Nations could continue working in the face of an influenza pandemic, among other risks ‑‑ was also reduced extensively, she said, with the Assembly agreeing to re-examine that item in the next budget cycle.  The United Nations unified disaster recovery programme was cut down to $1.5 million, including funding for the Brindisi enterprise data centre.

Not all the changes amounted to cuts, Ms. Kane said, as shown by the Assembly’s decision to approve $24 million to test the new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system in a limited context, and to its decision to establish a United Nations Information Centre in Luanda, Angola.

And, having already weathered significant cuts in the previous budget cycle, the Assembly allowed the Office of Central Support Services ‑‑ responsible for building and infrastructure maintenance -- to go unscathed, she said, allowing the same for the Development Account.

Several journalists raised questions relating to contractual arrangements for United Nations staff, many of which were deferred by Member States to the 2010 fall session.  The deferrals were in keeping with the Assembly’s custom of addressing human resources issues in the second year of the two-year budget cycle. 

Among the human resource questions put on hold was that of “geographic mobility” ‑‑ geographic moves as a prerequisite for promotion.  Ms. Kane explained that the Secretary-General was requested not to take measures on geographic mobility, and that the Assembly would examine that matter in the larger context of staff mobility.

She said the Assembly had also agreed to postpone consideration of the type of contract called “continuing appointments”.  More time was needed to fully understand the implications of the new contractual arrangements, with more than half of United Nations staff now serving in peacekeeping operations, which added to the issue’s complexity.

Questions had also arisen on how to absorb the large number of people who had passed the national competitive recruitment exams, she said, for whom there were too few posts.  Even if the rules were changed to allow their direct placement in peacekeeping operations, there were still too few entry-level posts at field missions to accommodate them all.

Some candidates must wait years to be placed into jobs, Ms. Kane noted.  With the cut-off age for national exams set at thirty-two years, many first-time staffers would begin work after their thirty-fifth birthday ‑‑ an age that she said was “high for entry-level” positions.  The Secretariat had raised the option of suspending national exams, she said, but the idea had met the resistance of some States.

Further regarding staff, Ms. Kane pointed out changes made by the Assembly to the United Nations staffing levels, explaining that the head of the New York Liaison Office for the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights had been upgraded to Assistant Secretary-General, as was the Deputy post for the Office of Safety and Security.  The post of Director-General of the United Nations Office in Nairobi was raised to the level of Under-Secretary-General.

In response to questions from two journalists, Ms. Kane confirmed that the post of Special Envoy for Myanmar, held by Ibrahim Gambari before he became Joint Special Representative of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) on 1 January, was fully funded at the level of Under-Secretary-General.

Also, the Assembly had agreed to review the mandate of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), she said.  Items that had previously been before the Procurement Task Force ‑‑ a former subsidiary of the OIOS that was phased out on 1 January ‑‑ would now be seen by the Investigation Division.

The OIOS examines cases of staff violations, she said, with the support of the Administrative Law Unit of the Office of Human Resources Management.  For example, in the case of a security breach last year by an actor posing as the Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Colonel Sanders, Ms. Kane said a programme officer from the human resources law unit would issue a recommendation that would eventually be handed to Under-Secretary-General of Safety and Security Gregory Starr for action.

Briefly addressing questions relating to the Capital Master Plan, Ms. Kane agreed to look into the question of journalists’ telephones.  She also added that the Headquarters building was expected to be fully vacated near the end of April.

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