Speakers at the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today reviewed the performance report for the first year of the Organization’s 2018‑2019 budget cycle, while deliberating on the financial resources for about three dozen special political missions, as well as the new Mission in Iraq tasked with investigating crimes committed by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da'esh).
The representative of Uganda, speaking for the African Group, said the allocation of adequate resources to special political missions is critical in order for these offices to carry out their mandates. She voiced her support for the Secretary-General’s staffing requests, adding that she would be seeking more information about mission requirements.
Egypt’s delegate, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that while he recognized that United Nations liquidity needs to be closely monitored, it was critical that Member States fulfil their collective responsibility and pay contributions in full, on time and without conditions. In that way, the Organization has adequate resources to carry out mandated activities.
Colombia’s delegate expressed gratitude over the Security Council’s decision to extend the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia in September. Noting the Mission’s mandate included the reinsertion and reintegration of the Revolutionary Armed Forced of Colombia (FARC) into the political, economic and social life of the country, he said that the extension demonstrates the international community’s support to Colombians.
Chandramouli Ramanathan, Assistant Secretary-General and Acting Controller, introduced the Secretary-General’s First Performance report on the programme budget for the biennium 2018-2019, which pinpoints adjustments needed because of inflation and exchange rate fluctuations, standard costs and vacancy rates. The report shows an increase of $159.8 million, regarding appropriation levels approved by the Assembly. It also details an earlier proposal to adjust the Working Capital Fund and replenish the Special Account as the regular budget’s cash reserves continue to drop. This would allow for timely execution of financial obligations.
Babou Sene, Vice Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) introduced the Advisory Committee’s eponymous report for the 2018-2019 budget cycle. Among other things, he noted revised requirements under the expenditures sections for the 2018-2019 biennium would be set at the level of $5.56 billion, an increase of 3 per cent over the appropriation level approved by the General Assembly. Revised estimates for the income sections total $554.9 million and reflect an increase of 0.5 per cent over the initial estimates for the biennium.
Mr. Ramanathan also introduced the reports regarding the 2019 budgets for special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the Assembly and/or Security Council and thematic cluster III. He noted a total budget of $665.5 million for 37 special political missions, including for the Regional Service Centre in Entebbe. Also noted was the Council’s termination of the mandate of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea as of 16 December and their establishing the Panel of Experts on Somalia. The remaining 36 special missions would require $663.3 million, with a proposed 3,983 civilian positions, an increase of 158.
Mr. Sene introduced the Advisory committee’s eponymous reports on the special political missions and thematic cluster III. Regarding the biennial provision of $1.11 billion for Special Political Missions for 2018-2019, an additional appropriation of $194 million is being requested.
Earlier in the day, Johannes Huisman, Director, Programme Planning and Budget Division, introduced the Secretary-General’s report regarding the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (UNITAD) (document A/73/352/Add.6, Corr. 1 and Corr. 2). The report included: Estimates in respect of special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council; thematic cluster II: sanctions monitoring teams, groups and panels, and other entities and mechanisms; and UNITAD.
He noted that while UNITAD’s work began in August 2018, there is no appropriation to cover the initial requirements associated with its activities this year. An appropriation is requested in the first performance report for 2018-2019 in the amount of $1.3 million. The proposed resources for 2019 for UNITAD total $21.5 million and provide for the costs of 135 positions as well as operational costs totalling $93 million. Of the 135 positions, 130 would be based in Iraq, three in Kuwait and two backstopping positions in New York.
Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) introduced the Advisory Committee’s eponymous report (document A/73/498/Add.6), noting it was difficult to fully assess whether the proposed resources reflect optimum requirement levels. The Advisory Committee will reassess the organizational structures, staffing levels and operational costs of the Mission. With the challenges of staffing a new mission, compounded by the special nature of UNITAD and its field location, it is unlikely the requested resources can be fully used. The Committee, he noted, recommends vacancy rates at 60 per cent for Professional slots and 40 per cent for the Field Service and local positions.
Haydar Jinana (Iraq) thanked the international community for its support of Iraqis, who have fought ISIL/Da'esh on the international community’s behalf from 2014 to 2017. He recalled that the Security Council created UNITAD at the Iraqi Government’s request to help bring the criminals to justice. For the team to carry out its mandate, it must be able to move in the field where the crimes were committed and where witnesses live. The Government has set up an operations centre to support field work in various parts of Iraq. Emphasizing that the lack of adequate financial and human resources would jeopardize the mandate, he said the amount outlined for the team in the 2019 budget is inadequate. He thanked the United Kingdom and Ireland for its pledge of £1 million, and Qatar for its pledge of $100,000.
Gillian Bird (Australia), Chair of the Fifth Committee announced that Mr. Massieu would be leaving the Advisory Committee to serve as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Colombia and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia. The Fifth Committee would no longer benefit from his expertise, she said, thanking Mr. Massieu for his dedication and hard work over the years.
Turning to the timeline of the Fifth Committee’s remaining work, she said she had requested an extension of the current session until Friday, 21 December, owing to the large number of remaining agenda items to be decided. Business needed to be concluded by Wednesday, 19 December, in order for the delegates to approve the resolutions by Friday, 21 December. She urged the Fifth Committee members to conclude their work through negotiations that were now necessarily being held in the evenings and over the weekend.
The Fifth Committee reconvenes at 3 p.m. Friday, 14 December, to discuss in financing of peacekeeping missions and take up resolutions regarding programme budget implications.
Programme Budget for Biennium 2018-2019
CHANDRAMOULI RAMANATHAN, Assistant Secretary-General and Acting Controller, introduced the Secretary-General’s report, “First Performance report on the programme budget for the biennium 2018-2019” (document A/73/493). The report identifies adjustments required due to variations in rates of inflation and exchange, standard costs and vacancy rates.
He went on to say that it shows an increase of $159.8 million regarding appropriation levels approved by the General Assembly, with $23.4 million for commitment authorities and unforeseen and extraordinary expenses approved by the Advisory Committee and the Secretary-General and $136.4 million for re-costing, including $83 million under vacancy rate adjustments. He noted that revised estimates for combined income sections are $554.9 million, an increase of $2.6 million.
The report also reiterated an earlier proposal to adjust the Working Capital Fund and to replenish the Special Account due to the continuing decrease in regular budget cash reserves for timely execution of financial obligations, he continued. Regarding the 2020 annual programme budget, the report proposes a contingency fund level at 0.75 of half the approved revised appropriation budget for the biennium 2018-2019.
Special Political Missions
Mr. Ramanathan introduced the Secretary-General’s report, “Estimates in respect of special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council” and that report’s addendum, “thematic cluster III: regional offices, offices in support of political processes and other missions (documents A/73/352 and A/73/352/Add.3). He noted a total budget of $665.5 million for 37 special political missions, including for the Regional Service Centre in Entebbe. Further, the Council would terminate the mandate of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea as of 16 December and establish the Panel of Experts on Somalia. The remaining 36 special missions would require $663.3 million, with a proposed 3,983 civilian positions, an increase of 158.
He recommended that the General Assembly approve those budgets, as well as a charge of $476.1 million against the provision for special political missions. He requested an additional $194 million under section 3, “Political affairs”, of the programme budget, taking into account the estimated over-expenditures of $6.8 million for 2018 and $12.7 million under section 36, “Staff assessment”. Turning to thematic cluster III, he noted those special political missions require $302.3 million, an increase of $9.8 million or 3.3 per cent, mainly for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) and the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). Adding over-expenditures of $1.4 million for nine missions in cluster III, the total is $303.7 million.
BABOU SENE, Vice-Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) introduced the Advisory Committee’s eponymous reports. Regarding (document A/73/625) on the first performance report for the programme budget for the biennium 2018-2019, the revised requirements under the expenditures sections for the 2018-2019 biennium would be set at the level of $5.56 billion, an increase of 3 per cent over the appropriation level approved by the General Assembly. Revised estimates for the income sections total $554.9 million and reflect an increase of 0.5 per cent over the initial estimates for the biennium.
Regarding income estimates generated by public services which have been repeatedly revised downward in recent bienniums, he reiterated that a review of the United Nations Postal Administration to generate revenue may be useful; such a review could be broadened to include the sale of publications and the guided tour operation. The Secretary-General report contains three additional proposals. With respect to the proposed increase of the Working Capital Fund and the request to approve the transfer of unencumbered balances to the Special Account, he also noted that the report does not sufficiently demonstrate a pattern of sustained liquidity challenges. Thus, the Advisory Committee recommends against the proposal. Otherwise, he said that the Advisory Committee recommends approval of the adapted recosting process for the International Trade Centre as well as the proposed establishment of the contingency fund level for the 2020 budget period.
Mr. Sene then introduced the Advisory Committee eponymous reports on Special Political Missions (document A/73/498) and (document A/73/498/Add.3) regarding thematic cluster III. Regarding the biennial provision of $1.11 billion for Special Political Missions for 2018-2019, an additional appropriation of $194 million is being requested. The Committee recommends the Assembly ask the Secretary-General to make further efforts to present a more accurate budget estimates for these missions with the introduction of the annual programme budget from 2020.
Turning to proposed resources for 2019 for the political missions, he noted the overall resource level proposed for 2019 totals $663.3 million, representing an increase of $27.9 million (4.4 per cent), compared with the overall resources approved for 2018. Excluding proposed resources of $21.5 million for the recently established United Nations Investigative Team for Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (UNITAD), resource requirements for continuing missions would amount to $641.8 million, an increase of $6.4 million (1 per cent). On staffing, a net increase of 158 positions is proposed for the 36 continuing missions, an increase of 23, and 135 positions for UNITAD.
Concerning budgeting for resident coordinator positions in the six political missions, he noted that the Advisory Committee does not object to the proposed resources in 2019. However, it recommends that the General Assembly request the Secretary-General to undertake a review to ensure that arrangements proposed for the six missions are consistent with General Assembly provisions in resolution 72/279.
Turning to the Advisory Committee’s report under thematic cluster III (document A/73/498/Add.3) he said that, in regards to staffing, the report recommends approval of the Secretary-General’s proposals for the nine political missions in the cluster. It also recommends the approval of 12 positions and the abolishment of five in the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM). In addition, the report recommends the abolishment of two positions in the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).
For UNSOM and the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia (UNVMC) respectively, he noted the recommendations for reduction in consultants of $44,600 and $25,900. It also recommends reductions in facilities and infrastructure of $506,600 and $750,000 in respect to UNSOM and UNSMIL. Regarding the cost for rental of premises, he noted that that greater efforts should be made to improve the accuracy of budget proposals, adding that there may be further scope for cost-sharing of mission services with agencies, funds and programmes that would prefer to be hosted by UNSMIL.
On official travel in cluster III, he underscored that ACABQ is concerned that significant non-compliance with the advance purchase policy has been allowed to continue, adding that he expects the necessary measures will be taken to improve rate of compliance. A reduction of $438,000 of proposed requirements of cluster III missions is also recommended.
MOHAMED FOUAD AHMED (Egypt), speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, stressed that no changes to budget methodology, established budgetary procedures and practices or financial regulations are to be implemented without prior review and approval of the General Assembly. While recognizing that United Nations liquidity needs to be closely monitored, he emphasized the Member States’ collective responsibility to pay contributions in full, on time and without conditions to provide the Organization with adequate resources to implement mandated activities.
He also observed that several important issues stem from the Secretary-General’s report, including proper performance report inflection of rental cost savings from flexible workplace strategies and measures adopted in 2018 to temporarily defer expenditures due to growing cash deficits. All mandates approved by United Nations intergovernmental bodies should be provided with adequate resources from the regular budget for their implementation.
CAROLINE NALWANGA (Uganda), speaking for the African Group, said allocation of adequate resources to special political missions is critical in discharging their mandates. She voiced her support for the Secretary-General’s staffing requests, adding that she will seek more information about mission requirements. Other key elements to be examined by the African Group include vacant positions, consultancies and costs for maintaining infrastructure and travel resources. As well, Umoja-related efficiencies will be considered during informal discussions as well as the impact of new resource requirements on the overall budget request.
Other resource requirements, such as the trend towards higher-than-standard allocations of vehicles, information technology and spare equipment will also be examined with a view to obtaining efficiencies, she went on to say. Adding that the African Group is encouraged by collaboration between political missions and regional and subregional organizations, she underscored the importance of using local knowledge to strengthen national and regional capacities. However, she expressed concern over the increased reliance on consultancies and other outside capacities in political missions and will seek a clear justification for all such activities.
GUILLERMO FERNANDEZ DE SOTO (Colombia) expressed gratitude that the Security Council had extended the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia on 13 September. That extension sent a message of support from the international community and the United Nations system to Colombians. The Mission mandate addresses two components: the reinsertion and reintegration of the Revolutionary Armed Forced of Colombia (FARC) into the political, economic and social life of the country; and security and protection measures for ex-combatants and communities at local and regional levels.
Noting the progress to date, he nonetheless pointed to significant challenges ahead in consolidating the success of the Mission. Calling for continued indispensable international financial support, he stressed that the Fifth Committee must unreservedly support the allocation of necessary human and financial resources. He expressed his trust that the Mission would steadfastly support peacebuilding in Colombia.
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