Department of Field Support Tells Budget Committee It Managed to ‘Do Better with Less’, Owing to Global Strategy, Steadfast Commitment of Blue Helmets
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
32nd Meeting (AM)
Some Speakers Call for Strict Budgetary Discipline; Others Warn Arbitrary Cuts, Resource Reduction Targets ‘Grave Error’
Since launching a five-year peacekeeping management road map in 2010, the United Nations had improved the cost-effectiveness and affordability of its blue-helmet operations without reducing their operational performance or ability to carry out their mandates, a top United Nations peacekeeping official told the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today as it took up cross-cutting issues related to peacekeeping financing.
“Although much remains to be done to meet the expectations of the Committee in several areas, through the implementation of the Global Field Support Strategy we have been able to do better with less across the board, and have taken concrete steps to make further improvements over the coming period,” Anthony Banbury, Acting Head of the Department of Field Support said, as he introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on progress in implementing the Strategy.
The Strategy aims to launch peacekeeping missions in a more timely way, improve support for their operations and achieve greater efficiency and economies of scale. According to Mr. Banbury, it had enabled the Organization to reduce the peacekeeping budget by $433 million to a proposed $7.4 billion in 2012/13, an almost 6 per cent cut from the 2011/12 period.
“With UN troops trying to prevent the outbreak of fighting in South Sudan, UN police taking on enhanced security responsibilities in Haiti, and Human Rights officers helping to pursue accountability in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, it cannot be business as usual for the UN,” he said. “Our peacekeeping missions need better services, the people they are serving deserve it, our Member States expect it, and we are committed to providing it.”
The cost reductions — for such things as fuel and spare parts, and made possible by redistributing existing assets across the peacekeeping community and reducing resources for scaled-down missions — had been arrived at after thorough analysis and consideration of the individual operational and political circumstances of each mission, he said.
While agreeing that the Department of Field Support should focus further on developing performance measurement and structural improvements — as called for by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) — he said it was difficult for the Department to take on such ambitious initiatives and at the same time provide operational support to 29 field missions — including urgent priorities like the new deployment to Syria.
“We are asking them to do this when the DFS share of the support account has gone from 26 per cent in 2007/2008 to a proposed 20 per cent — one fifth of support account resources — in 2012/2013,” he said, adding that DFS was consuming a progressively smaller share of the Organization’s resources.
During the meeting, several delegates supported the Strategy and agreed with ACABQ’s criticism that the Secretariat’s piecemeal reporting on it had made it difficult to assess progress. Better evaluation was needed. The European Union’s delegate said the Strategy must illustrate that it was a “value for money” project. He called for full implementation of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) and Umoja to enable the Strategy to reach its full potential.
Weighing in on peacekeeping financing, he lauded the various steps taken to reduce the 2012/13 budget, but said there were significant opportunities to further cut unit costs. In view of the financial constraints facing Member States, strict budgetary discipline was crucial to ensure that resources were truly needed and used efficiently. Like other delegates, he said future budget performance reports must make clear when savings were due to cost reductions and when they were the result of efficiency measures.
But Algeria’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, expressed concern over the delays in adequately resourcing some missions, especially in Africa. He criticized the “so-called ‘resource reduction targets’” in formulating peacekeeping budgets as a “grave error”, since the potential operational impact of those cuts, which could adversely impact peacekeepers and hamper mandate implementation, had not been adequately explored. He also stressed the need to expedite reimbursements to troop-contributing countries and warned that the long-pending review of reimbursement rates continued to seriously threaten the sustainability of peacekeeping operations.
The representatives of Pakistan and Bangladesh, both long-time troop-contributing countries, agreed with that assessment. They said they must be consulted when missions were drawn up, changed and implemented. Furthermore, the General Assembly’s resolutions that called on the Secretariat to ensure proper representation of troop-contributing countries in the Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support must be implemented.
Speakers also lauded the decline in the reported number of sexual exploitation and abuse cases. Several called for greater efforts to implement the Organization’s zero tolerance policy. Norway’s delegate noted the need to strengthen the sanctions framework and said reporting on punitive actions taken by troop- and police-contributing countries should be made mandatory.
Several members of the Secretariat introduced reports relevant to the Committee’s discussion. Maria Eugenia Casar, Assistant Secretary-General and Controller, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the overview of the financing of the United Nations peacekeeping operations: budget performance for 2010/11 and budget for 2012/13, as well as the Secretary-General’s note on the proposed budgetary levels for peacekeeping operations for 2012/13.
Ruth de Miranda, Chief of Human Resources Policy Services of the Office of Human Resource Management (OHRM), introduced the Secretary-General’s report on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. Collen Kelapile, Chair of ACABQ, introduced that body’s report on cross-cutting issues related to peacekeeping operations, which included its observations and recommendations. Carman Lapointe, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, introduced the report on that body’s activities well as its report on the audit of the implementation of the Strategy.
At the outset of the meeting, the Committee appointed Sergei V. Garmonin (Russian Federation) to replace Vladimirovich Afanasiev (Russian Federation), who resigned from the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) effective 1 June 2012. Mr. Garmonin would fill the remaining period of Mr. Afanasiev’s term, set to expire on 31 December 2012.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Canada (also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand), Russian Federation, Costa Rica and Republic of Korea.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 10 May to consider the financing of eight peacekeeping missions.