|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-eighth General Assembly
39th Meeting (AM)
Taking up Budgets for Middle East Peacekeeping Missions, Fifth Committee
Considers Proposals to Boost Service Delivery Efficiency, Troop Strength
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met today to discuss the 2012/13 budget performance and the 2014/15 proposed budget for the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
Chandramouli Ramanathan, Officer-in-Charge of the Department of Management’s Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts, introducing the Secretary-General’s reports on UNDOF (documents A/68/596 and A/68/725), said the 2014/15 budget for the mission reflected the deployment of 34 additional military contingent personnel in light of the prevailing security situation.
Introducing the Secretary-General’s reports on UNIFIL (documents A/68/618 and A/68/757), he said that during 2014/15, the mission would continue to deploy and implement additional functionalities of the Umoja enterprise resource planning system. The UNIFIL budget would entail a net reduction of 80 posts as a result of the comprehensive civilian staffing review.
Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introducing that body’s related reports (documents A/68/782/Add.6 and A/68/782/Add.12), endorsed the Secretary-General’s proposed 2014/15 budget for UNDOF, including the proposed staffing changes and related resources, provided that resources for staff overtime payments were reduced by $22,200. ACABQ also recommended that the Secretary-General be asked to seek more comprehensive information on reported efficiency gains.
For UNIFIL, ACABQ recommended reducing the proposed budget for 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015 by $1.74 million, owing to its recommendation that the General Assembly apply a vacancy rate of 8 per cent for international staff for that period, versus the proposed rate of 5 per cent, he said. The Advisory Committee did not object to the Secretary-General’s 2014/15 staffing proposals; it expected that the proposed new organizational structure for the Mission Support Division would make service delivery more efficient and effective. He noted that only nine international staff at the P-4 level or above in UNIFIL were Arabic-speaking, and encouraged the mission to continue efforts to recruit more.
Syria’s delegate said his Government had welcomed UNDOF since its creation and had provided support to it. Since the creation and continued existence of the Observer Force was due to Israel’s continued occupation of the Syrian Golan, the mission’s funding should be borne by Israel. Armed terrorist groups had attacked infrastructure facilities throughout Syria, and Israel had supported such groups. In March, Israel had bombed Syrian military sites and in February it had attacked the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the West Bank. Further, it had set up a field hospital near the separation line and its Prime Minister had visited injured terrorists there. Such support to terrorists endangered the lives of United Nations staff.
Israel’s delegate, in response, said the Syrian delegate had hijacked the session to make baseless claims against Israel, trampling on the Committee’s democratic process, the same way it trampled on its own people. He noted that earlier in the session, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Management had pointed to 26 countries that had paid all their assessments. Israel was the only Middle East country in that group.
Syria’s delegate retorted that Israel, the occupying Power, needed to fully fund UNDOF, not just pay its part of the scale of assessments. Israel’s representative had tried to polish his Government’s reputation, distort the facts and distract attention away from the atrocities and mass violation of human rights it committed in Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. He warned Israel not to interfere in Syria’s internal affairs.
Turning to a matter not on the agenda, some delegates expressed regret that a closed meeting with the Under-Secretaries-General for Field Support and for Peacekeeping Operations had taken place outside United Nations premises and certain Member States in the Committee had received an invitation.
Cuba’s delegate demanded that the Committee Chair provide official answers to his questions concerning room availability, criteria for selecting certain States and the content of discussions and agreements, if any. He also asked the Secretariat to provide a written reply explaining the Secretary-General’s bulletins on the operations of those departments.
Sudan’s delegate described the method of convening a private meeting as a “dangerous trend” that undermined the transparency of the Committee, which was represented by all Member States. Such meetings should be allowed only when it was necessary to resolve major differences among interested parties. That had not been the case, he said.
Rwanda’s delegate, pointing out that the meeting behind closed doors created unnecessary suspicions, sought the disclosure of the meeting’s records.
The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on 13 May to discuss cross-cutting issues, financing of four peacekeeping operations and the 2014/15 programme budget for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM).
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