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GA/AB/4279
14 May 2018
Seventy-second Session, 38th Meeting (AM)

Proposal to Cut Funds for Iraq Mission Draws Concern, as Fifth Committee Examines Budget Outlines of Peacekeeping Operations, Special Political Missions

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) took up budget proposals for two Middle East peacekeeping missions and one special political mission this morning, with Iraq’s representative voicing concern over a proposed reduction in 2018 funding for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) so soon after Iraqi forces had repulsed Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).

As it recovered after reclaiming land from terrorists, Iraq required more help from UNAMI in order to maintain peace and respond to the needs of its citizens, he said, adding: “Everyone is in agreement to maintain the security climate that allowed for the holding of elections.”  It was essential to provide UNAMI with appropriate financial resources, he emphasized, noting with concern a proposed 2.8 per cent decrease in its budget.  Such a decrease could undermine UNAMI’s efforts to address the needs of the Iraqi people in the “post-ISIS period”, he warned.

Betinna Tucci Bartsiotas, Assistant Secretary-General and Controller of the United Nations, presenting the Secretary-General’s revised proposed 2018 budget for the Mission, said it featured revised resource requirements of $114.2 million net, or $123.5 million gross, representing a net decrease of $3.3 million from 2017.  The reduction was due primarily to lower requirements for operational costs, including air transportation and facilities and infrastructure.

Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, introduced that body’s corresponding report, saying the proposed 2018 requirements from UNAMI reflected a 2.8 per cent decrease from 2017 approved resources.  Those resources would provide for 245 military and 853 civilian personnel, including 332 international positions and 521 local positions, representing a decrease of 15 positions from 2017.

Also this morning, the Fifth Committee took up the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which contained a proposed budget of $61.8 million for 2018/19, up 7.3 per cent from the 2017/18 budget, due mainly to the higher deployment of troops and armoured personnel carriers as part of UNDOF’s phased return to the Bravo side of the Golan Heights.   It also considered a proposed 2018/19 budget of $482.8 million for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), representing a decrease of $160,400 following a strategic review ordered by the Security Council.

The proposed UNDOF budget prompted a brief exchange between the representatives of Syria and Israel.  The former said that, while Syria had welcomed UNDOF, the Force must not replace implementation of relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions.  The latter said the Committee must not become a place for politicized rhetoric.

In other business, the Fifth Committee began its consideration of the United Nations Logistics Base in Brindisi, Italy, with the Secretary-General proposing a 2018/19 budget of $87.3 million, an increase of 7.8 per cent over 2017/18 due primarily to the impact of a stronger euro on staff costs.  The proposed budget also included a revised concept of operations for strategic deployment stocks, following recommendations from the Advisory Committee and the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), the Controller explained.

Egypt’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the Group believed in improving the Brindisi Base’s functioning.  He reiterated the need for transparency vis-à-vis the proposed restructuring and renaming of the Service for Geospatial Information and Telecommunications Technology as the Field Technology Service.  He added that the Group of 77 was interested in learning more from the Secretariat about obstacles to holding strategic deployment stocks closer to peacekeeping missions.

The Fifth Committee will meet again on Tuesday, 15 May, at 10 a.m. to consider Board of Auditor financial reports and statements, financing of peacekeeping operations, cross-cutting peacekeeping issues and the proposed budget for the peacekeeping support account.

United Nations Logistics Base at Brindisi, Italy

BETTINA TUCCI BARTSIOTAS, Assistant Secretary-General and Controller of the United Nations, introduced two reports of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Logistics Base at Brindisi, Italy, including the budget performance for 2016/17 (document A/72/648) and the budget for 2018/19 (document A/72/783).  The proposed 2018/19 budget for the Brindisi Base amounted to $87.3 million, representing an increase of 7.8 per cent over the 2017/18 budget.  The increase was primarily attributable to the appreciation of the euro against the United States dollar and its impact on the estimated national staff costs, as well as the higher post-adjustment factor for international staff.

In 2018/19, the Logistics Base would continue to provide services to peacekeeping missions in the areas of supply chain and logistics services, as well as information technology services, she continued.  Further, the Logistics Base had proposed restructuring the Service for Geospatial Information and Telecommunications Technologies, which would be renamed the Field Technology Service.  The 2018/19 proposed budget also included a revised concept of operations for strategic deployment stocks pursuant to the recommendations of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) as well as the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).  The findings were included in annex III of the budget report.

CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, introduced the Advisory Committee’s corresponding report (document A/72/789/Add.10), in which it had recommended an overall $1.8 million reduction in the proposed budget of the Brindisi Base.  The Advisory Committee recommended against the reassignment and reclassification of a P-4 Contracts Management Officer to the P-5 level, and also against the conversion to posts of 30 general temporary assistance positions.

Further reductions were recommended by the Advisory Committee under five operational categories, namely: facilities and infrastructure; ground transportation; communications and information technology; other supplies, services and equipment; and fuel consumption, he said.  The Advisory Committee reiterated its recommendation that the Logistics Base adjust its vehicle holdings to ensure compliance with standard vehicle ratios.  Further, it recommended that the General Assembly defer action on the revised concept of operations for strategic deployment stocks.  The Secretary-General should have presented more detailed information on which the Advisory Committee could have provided comments, he said.

KARIM ISMAIL (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the Group believed in improving the functioning of the United Nations Logistics Base.  Taking note of the Board of Auditor’s recommendations, he said the Group would seek to understand the Secretariat’s intentions in following up on them.  He reiterated the need for transparency vis-à-vis the proposed restructuring and renaming of the Service for Geospatial Information and Telecommunications Technology as the Field Technology Service.  Recalling General Assembly resolutions 69/207 and 70/286 requesting the Secretary-General to develop a scalability model for the United Nations Logistics Base, he conveyed the Group’s regret that that model remained limited to Field Technology Service and called on the Secretary-General to give more details on the model’s resource implications.

Recalling the OIOS recommendation that alternative locations be considered for holding strategic deployment stocks, he said the Group was interested in learning from the Secretariat about foreseen obstacles to holding those stocks in a location close to peacekeeping missions and how the current proposal addressed the question of obsolete stocks.  He went on to say that there seemed to be a lack of clarity on the roles of the Strategic Air Operations Centre in Brindisi and the Transport and Movements Integrated Control Centre in Entebbe.  The Group therefore echoed the Advisory Committee’s recommendation that the Secretary-General review coordination between those two centres, as well as the need to transfer some functions to the centre in Entebbe.  The Group would closely follow up on that issue during informal sessions.

Financing of Peacekeeping Operations in Golan Heights and Lebanon

Ms. BARTSIOTAS then introduced the Secretary-General’s reports and a financing note on the budget performance for 2016/17 and the budget for 2018/19 for the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) (documents A/72/633, A/72/633/Corr.1, A/72/719) and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) (documents A/72/630, A/72/776).  Turning first to UNDOF, the Observer Force in the Golan Heights, she said the proposed budget of $61.8 million for 2018/19 reflected an increase of 7.3 per cent from the 2017/18 budget, due mainly to the higher deployment of troops and armoured personnel carriers as part of UNDOF’s phased return to the Bravo side.  Elaborating, she said that in 2018/19, the Force would deploy more personnel to the Bravo side and prepared for the reoccupation of selected observer posts and positions, conditions permitting.   Additional resources would be needed for an Environmental Officer to ensure an environmentally friendly operation, as well as two engineers to assist with maintenance and refurbishment of Bravo-side facilities.

On UNIFIL, she said the proposed 2018/19 budget of $482.8 million represented a decrease of $160,400 over the previous budget year.  It reflected the recommendations of the Force’s strategic review, conducted in 2017 in accordance with Security Council resolution 2305 (2016).  Going forward, UNIFIL would keep focusing on restoring international peace and security in southern Lebanon, while also maintaining liaison and coordination activities, in particular through the tripartite mechanism, to advance the implementation of Council resolution 1701 (2006).  [Through that text, the Council called for a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hizbullah, and mapped out a formula for a phased withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces from southern Lebanon, with United Nations peacekeepers helping Lebanese troops take control of the area.]  Pursuant to Council resolution 2373 (2017), UNIFIL would enhance the visibility of its presence within its existing mandate and capability while enhancing reporting on operational matters, she said.

Mr. RUIZ, presenting the Advisory Committee’s corresponding report on UNDOF (document A/72/789/Add.2), recommended a $52,500 reduction in its proposed budget.  With regard to posts, the Advisory Committee recommended applying a vacancy rate of 6.8 per cent, rather than the proposed 5 per cent, for estimating the requirements for national General Service staff, taking into account the actual average vacancy rate for that category of personnel.  Under operational costs, he said the Advisory Committee recommended that the provision for vehicle rental be brought down from $91,690 to $83,200 to reflect actual expenditures during the performance period.

Turning to the Advisory Committee’s report on UNIFIL (document A72/789/Add.5), he noted with regard to the 2016/17 period that gross expenditures amounted to $480.7 million, compared with an appropriation of $488.7 million, leaving an encumbered balance of almost $8 million.   For the 2018/19 period, the proposed budget of $482.8 million would provide for 15,000 military personnel and 889 civilian staff, he said, adding that the Advisory Committee was recommending against several proposed staffing changes.  Reductions in operational costs under facilities and infrastructure, other supplies and official travel were also recommended.

AMMAR AWAD (Syria) said that, while his country had welcomed UNDOF, the Force must not replace implementation of relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions.  He reaffirmed the need for the Secretary-General’s report to be neutral rather than politicized, adding that it “must reflect the facts on the ground without favouring one side”.  Noting that terrorist groups were indirectly being supported by Israel, he said that sometimes Israel even offered direct support to those groups and had on multiple occasions violated Syria’s sovereignty.  That prevented UNDOF from carrying out its mandate, he said, stressing the need for the Force to remain committed to exactly what it was set out to do.  Any violation of the mandate must be considered a violation of the United Nations Charter.  He also reaffirmed his Government’s commitment to the disengagement agreement and urged the Fifth Committee to approve all resources UNDOF needed.

YARON WAX (Israel) called Syria’s statement “baseless” and an attempt to politicize the work of the Fifth Committee.  It was unfortunate that the Syrian delegation was not sticking to the substantial issues.  Perhaps the Syrian delegation would like to contribute to the work of the Fifth Committee instead of spreading its politicized rhetoric, he said.

Mr. AWAD (Syria) said that his statement was in line with tradition and one that he had given in previous years, as it focused on the Secretary-General’s report.  Israel was audacious in its attempt to avert attention from the crimes it committed.  Israel supporting terrorists was no secret, he added, noting Israel’s support to Al-Nusrah Front and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).

Mr. WAX (Israel) reiterated that the Fifth Committee must not become a place for politicized rhetoric.

Mr. AWAD (Syria) said that his statement was anything but politicized as it directly reflected General Assembly resolutions.  He called on delegates to review those texts to refresh their understanding of Israel’s crimes.

Financing of United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq

Ms. BARTSIOTAS then presented the addendum to the Secretary-General’s report on estimates in respect to special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council containing the revised proposed 2018 budget for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) (document A/72/371/Add.10).  Recalling that the General Assembly, through resolution 72/262, had authorized the Secretary-General to enter into commitments for the Mission not exceeding $50 million for the six months to 30 June 2018, she said the addendum presented revised 2018 resource requirements of $114.2 million net, or $123.5 million gross, representing a net decrease of $3.3 million from 2017 and due primarily to lower requirement for operational costs, including air transportation and facilities and infrastructure.  She explained that an $3.2 million increase in resource requirements from the Secretary-General’s previous 2018 budget proposal for UNAMI, submitted in late 2017, was mainly attributable to revised assumptions for civilian personnel costs.

Mr. RUIZ, presenting the Advisory Committee’s corresponding report (document A/72/7/Add.48), began by stating that for the biennium 2016-2017, expenditures for the Mission totalled $235.4 million, compared with an appropriation of $236 million, resulting in an unencumbered balance of $600,000.  For the current year, the proposed requirements for UNAMI reflected a decrease of $3.3 million, or 2.8 per cent, from the 2017 approved resources.  Those resources would provide for 245 military and 853 civilian personnel, including 332 international positions and 521 local positions, representing a decrease of 15 positions from 2017.  On staffing matters, he said the Advisory Committee recommended against the proposed reclassification of two positions — one Political Affairs Officer and one Gender Adviser — from the P-4 to the P-5 level, as it had not been fully justified.  In addition, the Advisory Committee recommended reductions pertaining to consultants and communications.

MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq) said his country had exerted efforts to enhance security, achieve national and social reconciliation and build relations with nations in the region and beyond.  As it recovered after reclaiming land from terrorists, Iraq required additional assistance from UNAMI in order to maintain peace and respond to the need of its citizens.  The country needed support to build resilience, especially in areas where vulnerable groups lived.  Iraq was committed to facilitating the Mission’s work within the framework of the mandate issued by the Security Council.   The Government of Iraq was also committed to a comprehensive national dialogue.   “Everyone is in agreement to maintain the security climate that allowed for the holding of elections,” he said.  It was essential to provide UNAMI with appropriate financial resources, he stressed, noting with concern the proposed 2.8 per cent decrease in the 2018 budget.  Such a decrease in funds could undermine UNAMI’s efforts to address the needs of the Iraqi people in the “post-ISIS period”.  He also reiterated that the Secretary-General’s report must remain focused on the financial aspects of UNAMI rather than becoming politicized in nature.

For information media. Not an official record.