DR Congo + 8 more

Fifth Committee takes up $5.4 billion 2007-2008 peacekeeping budget; covers 13 active missions, logistics base, support account

Source
Posted
Originally published


GA/AB/3799

Sixty-first General Assembly
Fifth Committee
49th Meeting (AM)

As the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today took up almost $5.4 billion in financing for the Organization’s peacekeeping operations for the period from 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008, speakers expressed strong support for peacekeeping as a core function of the United Nations, and stressed the importance of providing adequate financing to individual missions in order to ensure successful implementation of their mandates.

The budget proposal for 2007-2008 period covers requirements for 13 active peacekeeping missions and the conclusion of the Mission in Burundi in the 2006-2007 period, as well as the budgets of the United Nations Logistics Base at Brindisi (UNLB) and the peacekeeping Support Account. Pending the submission of their respective 2007-2008 budgets to the General Assembly, provisional estimates have been provided for the missions in Haiti, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lebanon, the Sudan, Côte d’Ivoire, Cyprus, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Timor-Leste and Liberia, and for the Support Account.

While insisting on the need to provide all peacekeeping operations with adequate resources, the representative of Germany, who spoke on behalf of the European Union, said he would like them to continue to identify potential economies in the use of their resources.

Speaking on behalf of the African Group, the representative of Benin focused on peacekeeping missions in Africa, including the closing Mission in Burundi, the missions in Côte d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the downsized Mission in Liberia, the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), which was in liquidation, and the Mission in the Sudan. In that connection, he drew attention to the low percentage of African businessmen taking advantage of procurement opportunities in peacekeeping, as well as the underrepresentation of African countries both in terms of number and gender in the personnel of the missions in host countries. The situation was even more dire in the management of the missions, and the African Group wanted that problem to receive prompt attention.

Welcoming the progress made in reducing the vacancy rates in certain missions, the Group also urged action to maintain adequate levels of staff to enable missions to accomplish their mandate. Also, the Board of Auditors had called on the Secretariat to change its modus operandi to ensure rapid dispersal of certain funds to host countries, as well as the need to ensure speedy implementation of quick-impact projects. The implementation of those recommendations would be of great help to the countries concerned.

While strongly supporting the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS), Canada’s representative, also speaking on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, expressed concern regarding the magnitude of overbudgeting for 2005-2006, which amounted to 17.4 per cent of the budget. He urged the Secretary-General to look at lessons learned from the shortcomings of the assessment mission, for future peacekeeping operations. As suggested by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), he looked forward to engaging in discussions with Secretariat officials on the feasibility of presenting revised budgets in cases where it was clear that expenditures differed from budgetary assumptions.

He also expressed concern over the audit findings by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) at UNMIS, which included “serious” control weaknesses, wasteful expenditure, overpayments to vendors and questionable procurement practices. He was encouraged by proactive steps taken by the Mission to address those problems and congratulated UNMIS for its efforts to address recruitment and retention challenges -- a good example of how improved living and working conditions at missions could positively affect recruitment and retention. He believed that there was a need to look at best practices regarding working conditions at peacekeeping missions.

The representative of the United Kingdom, agreeing that the conditions in which United Nations peacekeepers lived had a profound impact not only on their security and safety, but also on morale and mission effectiveness, asked the Secretariat for an explanation about “the unacceptable state of repair of the buildings” in which United Kingdom troops at the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) were currently accommodated in Nicosia.

Also presenting their views on missions’ financing were representatives of the Sudan, Côte d’Ivoire, Syria, Serbia, Uganda and Argentina. Statements on the administrative and budgetary aspects of peacekeeping were made by representatives of the United States, China and Bangladesh.

Reports before the Committee were introduced by United Nations Controller, Warren Sach, and Chairman of ACABQ, Rajat Saha.

The Committee’s next formal meeting will be announced.

Background

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) was expected to continue its consideration of administrative and budgetary aspects of peacekeeping (see Press Release GA/AB/3798 of 9 May) and take up a series of reports on financing of the Organization’s peacekeeping missions this morning.

The financial year for peacekeeping operations runs from 1 July to the following 30 June each year. All Member States share the costs of United Nations peacekeeping operations. The General Assembly apportions these expenses based on a special scale of assessments, which takes into account the relative economic wealth of Member States, with the permanent members of the Security Council required to pay a larger share because of their special responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.

The budget proposal for the 2007-2008 period covers requirements for 13 active peacekeeping missions and the closure/liquidation of the United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB) in the 2006-2007 period, the United Nations Logistics Base at Brindisi (UNLB) and the Support Account. Pending the submission of their respective 2007-2008 budgets to the General Assembly, provisional estimates have been reflected for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS), United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and the Support Account.'

Approved 2006-2007 budgets and proposed 2007-2008 budget levels
(Thousands of United States dollars. Budget year is from 1 July to 30 June.)
Peacekeeping operation
Apportionment
2006-2007
Proposed
2007-2008
Increase from 2006-2007
Amount
Percentage
MINURSO
42 619.4
44 675.1
2 055.7
4.8%
MONUC
1 091 242.8
1 117 492.7
26 249.9
2.4%
UNDOF
39 865.2
39 923.1
57.9
0.1%
UNFICYP
44 831.4
46 848.0
2 016.6
4.5%
UNIFIL
496 615.5
713 586.8
216 971.3
43.7%
UNMEE
137 385.1
123 686.4
(13 698.7)
-10.0%
UNMIK
217 962.0
213 157.2
(4 804.8)
-2.2%
UNMIL
714 613.3
695 461.5
(19 151.8)
-2.7%
UNOMIG
33 377.9
35 528.9
2 151.0
6.4%
UNOCI
472 889.3
474 334.9
1 445.6
0.3%
ONUB
128 536.7
(128 536.7)
-100.0%
MINUSTAH
489 207.1
537 664.3
48 457.2
9.9%
UNMIT
184 819.9
153 187.5
(31 632.4)
-17.1%
UNMIS
1 079 534.4
849 575.2
(229 959.2)
-21.3%
Total for PKO’s
5 173 500.0
5 045 121.6
(128 378.4)
-2.5%
UNLB
35 478.7
40 683.6
5 204.9
14.7%
Support Account
189 017.4
254 500.1
65 482.7
34.6%
Total resources
5 397 996.1
5 340 305.3
(57 690.8)
-1.1%
The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions’ (ACABQ) recommendations on missions’ performance and budget requirements are contained in a series of related reports (documents A/61/852/Add.1-13). A recurrent comment on specific operations relates to the Secretary-General’s proposals regarding financing of after-service health insurance from interest and other income and unencumbered balances of peacekeeping operations. The Advisory Committee is recommending against the Secretary-General’s proposals, pending a decision by the General Assembly on the matter. As stated by the United Nations Controller, Warren Sach, during yesterday’s meeting, taking into account the Assembly’s decision in resolution 61/264, those amounts would now be credited in full to Member States.

On the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) (documents A/61/662, A/61/671 and Corr.1 and A/61/852/Add.1), ACABQ was informed that a regional approach to geographic information systems or mapping was currently not envisaged and recommends that the Secretary-General consider providing for a coordinated capacity for the region.

Regarding the United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET) (documents A/61/670 and A/61/852/Add.2), ACABQ urges the Secretariat to expedite the preparation of the final performance report for consideration by the Fifth Committee during the fourth quarter of 2007.

The Advisory Committee recommends acceptance of the Secretary-General’s proposals for the financing of MINURSO (documents A/61/683, A/61/744 and A/61/852/Add.3), with the exception of the creation of a United Nations Volunteers post, as well as an adjustment in connection with the funding of after-service health insurance. Those adjustments would involve a reduction of the amount budgeted by $353,500.

On UNFICYP (documents A/61/724, A/61/774 and A/61/852/Add.4), the Advisory Committee commends the mission for having undertaken a review and subsequent reduction of posts in its support-component staffing requirements, pursuant to a request in resolution 60/270. ACABQ expresses its concern about the cash position of the mission. As at 26 March 2007, there was a cash deficit of $400,000 after allowing for a three-month operating reserve. That means that the reimbursement to troop-contributing countries is not possible at this time.

The Advisory Committee was informed that the final closure of accounts of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) (documents A/61/682, A/61/819 and A/61/852/Add.5) for 2005-2006 should take place in 2009, and urges the Secretariat to expedite the preparation of the final performance report. On the disposition of assets, ACABQ notes that action, including any further donation to the Government of Sierra Leone, is to be taken upon completion of the mandate of UNIOSIL.

Regarding ONUB (documents A/61/716 and Corr.1 and A/61/852/Add.6), the Advisory Committee was informed that the request of the Government for the withdrawal of the mission led to an earlier than anticipated repatriation of military personnel and civilian staff and that the mission’s budget was therefore not fully utilized. ACABQ notes that, for 2005-2006, the appropriation for ONUB was some $292.27 million, but an amount of over $53 million (18 per cent) was not utilized.

On UNMIL (documents A/61/716 and Corr.1 and A/61/852/Add.6), the Advisory Committee recommends a reduction of some $7.13 million, because of the decommissioning of one helicopter for half of the fiscal year, as well as non-application of a provision of 8 per cent net salaries for after-service health insurance liabilities, pending the Assembly’s decision. Other areas where savings can be achieved include official travel. ACABQ has remarked on cost overruns under this object of expenditure, as well as on a considerable number of unplanned trips in 2005-2006 and 2006-2007. UNMIL has been requested to provide detailed explanations on that in the relevant performance report. ACABQ has also asked UNMIL to analyse the costs and savings resulting from the implementation of the Mission Electronic Fuel Accounting System, which is being piloted in UNAMSIL, MONUC and UNMIL.

Turning to the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) (documents A/61/675, A/61/776 and A/61/852/Add.8), the Advisory Committee notes that the implementation of the after-service health insurance adjustment would lead to a reduction of $2.48 million in the proposed budget for the Mission. In connection with difficulties of retaining staff, the Advisory Committee has recommended that action to redress this problem be expedited. ACABQ has also observed that, as the Mission continues to transfer competencies and undergoes downsizing, its organizational and staffing structure, as well as the grade levels of posts, should be kept under review.

Regarding UNMEE (documents A/61/720, A/61/842 and A/61/852/Add.9), ACABQ was informed that the budget proposal was based on the assumption that flight restrictions would be lifted and the Mission would operate seven helicopters. The Advisory Committee was subsequently provided with revised cost estimates, since the ban was likely to be maintained and only the existing three helicopters would be required. It thus recommends a reduction of the budget in the amount of $10.2 million.

The implementation of the after-service health insurance reduction for the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) (documents A/61/700, A/61/764 and Corr.1 and A/61/852/Add.10) would involve a reduction of $519,100 in the Mission’s proposed budget.

Aside from its recommendations on after-service health insurance in connection with MONUC (documents A/61/672, A/61/767 and Corr.1 and A/61/852/Add.11), the Advisory Committee also recommends against the establishment of four posts, the need for which should be met through using existing vacancies. The implementation of those adjustments would involve a reduction of some $4.75 million in the Mission’s proposed budget for 2007-2008.

Regarding UNOCI (documents A/61/673, A/61/773 and A/61/852/Add.12), ACABQ recommends a reduction of some $1.64 million from the amount budgeted, in respect of the provision of 8 per cent of net salaries proposed to cover after-service health insurance liabilities, pending a decision by the General Assembly.

Also, following the signing of the Ouagadougou Accord on 4 March 2007, the Secretary-General will be consulting with the Ivorian parties to clarify the role expected of the international community in support of the peace process. He will submit his recommendations to the Security Council by 15 May. Based on the Council’s decision, a revised budget proposal for 2007-2008 will be submitted at a later date. The Advisory Committee is recommending that the mission review its staffing structure in light of its changing operational environment, taking into account the high vacancy rates for civilian personnel. Consideration should be given to transferring substantive functions from international staff and United Nations Volunteers to national staff, as well as the possibility of redeploying existing staff to cover any new functions.

ACABQ has remarked on the cost overruns under official travel, and requested UNOCI to provide detailed explanations in that regard. The travel budget should be closely monitored and controlled during the coming period, as it could provide opportunities for further savings.

Finally, on UNMIS (documents A/61/689, A/61/745 and A/61/852/Add.13), the Advisory Committee remarks that the proposed budget does not contain financial requirements for the operations in Darfur, as a decision by the Security Council on mandates was still pending at the time of budget preparation. Following acceptance of the heavy support package to the African Union Mission in the Sudan (AMIS) by all parties, the Secretary-General intends to utilize savings from the Mission’s budget for the current period to finance the immediate requirements of $68.6 million for the implementation of the package up to 30 June. As for the requirements after 1 July, resources to be appropriated for the 2007-2008 period would be used flexibly and a revised budget would be submitted to the Assembly, through ACABQ, in September. With those considerations in mind, ACABQ has recommended approval of UNMIS budget request, with the exception to after-service health insurance. In recognition of the fluidity of the electoral process, the Advisory Committee has recommended general temporary assistance funding for the additional staff requested for the Electoral Assistance Division.

Statements

YU HONG ( China) endorsed the position of the “Group of 77” developing countries and said that, with further expansion of peacekeeping, related expenses had grown dramatically, and the figure was expected to rise. That placed a huge burden on Member States and, under those circumstances, it was important to consider how to better utilize resources and avoid mismanagement and fraud. The proposals directed at enhancing peacekeeping management and oversight were important, in that regard. It was also necessary to ensure a high level of overall implementation, which had recently stood at 91 per cent. She understood that each peacekeeping operation was unique and impossible to implement exactly as planned, in part due to delayed recruitment and high vacancy rates. However, timely presentation of budgets should be emphasized. There had also been a significant rate of overbudgeting. She hoped that, in the future, the Secretariat would proceed on the basis of reality and prepare budgets that fit the real needs.

On financial management, ACABQ, on numerous occasions, had pointed out the need to review the effectiveness and efficiency of the management process before requesting additional resources. Additional mandates did not necessarily mean the need for additional resources and new institutions. She hoped that more attention would be devoted to better utilization of existing structures and resources.

Turning to disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, she supported the Organization’s involvement and the recommendation to create an integrated, inter-agency disarmament, demobilization and reintegration capacity, building on the existing organization to include additional staff from other departments, agencies, funds and programmes and mandated to provide wider support. Her delegation also agreed with ACABQ that it was necessary to define coordination between the Inter-Agency Working Group on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration and the Peacebuilding Commission. It was imperative to effectively coordinate the division of labour among different departments, entities in the field, regional organizations and non-governmental organizations.

The administration and financial management of peacekeeping operations was a complicated task, she said in conclusion. Her delegation was ready to work with others to ensure that peacekeeping activities were carried out smoothly, through proactive management.

DAVID TRAYSTMAN ( United States) said that, while the surge in peacekeeping operations had placed a strain on the Organization, its staff had responded to that unprecedented surge with professionalism and dedication. At a time of rapidly escalating expenses associated with the multiple and varied activities of the Organization, it was imperative to make every effort to maximize effective use of available resources. A record number of almost 100,000 military and civilian peacekeepers were deployed in the field, and the current budget of $5.4 billion could soon reach $6 billion or $7 billion, should new missions be established in Darfur, Chad and the Central African Republic. With that in mind, his delegation expected stronger management, more efficient and effective implementation of mandates and greater accountability for action. Cross-cutting issues should be fully assessed and reflected in what would be the Committee’s third annual cross-cutting resolution.

With regard to sexual exploitation and abuse, he called on all personnel and Member States to work towards creating a culture that not only supported, but also believed in zero tolerance. He recognized the important work carried out by the conduct and discipline teams, the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and other personnel, both at Headquarters and in the field. The working relationship between the quick-impact projects and OIOS required clarification. Those entities should strengthen their collaboration in addressing all allegations and cases of sexual exploitation and abuse, particularly to ensure that the more serious cases were addressed quickly and that disciplinary and, if necessary, criminal action was taken by the United Nations or Member States. Moreover, regular reporting on the handling of allegations should be easily understood, informing the reader about the nature of allegations, the entity responsible for action, the status of all allegations and cases, and action taken to close the case. Those were “core” responsibilities that should be carried out by permanent conduct and discipline teams capacities, both at Headquarters and in the field.

Continuing, he noted several important coordination initiatives, and highlighted the fact that, as requested in resolution 61/249, the 2006-2007 budget proposal of UNMIT had contained detailed information on the funding provisions and activities of some 13 agencies, funds and programmes in Timor-Leste. That model should be applied during the preparation of other mission budgets. Duplication of activities between missions and country team partners should be avoided. The 13 United Nations agency country team members in Timor-Leste planned to spend over $53 million this year on their programmes in that country, and consideration should be given to coordinating the responsibilities of all United Nations entities, as well as other bi- and multilateral partners during the preparation of unified country team work plans in all countries where peacekeeping missions were deployed.

He said that he looked forward to further strengthening of the initiatives to enhance regional cooperation in peacekeeping missions, including those in aviation safety, medical services and logistics. He also commended the efforts to strengthen inter-mission cooperation. For example, UNMIL and UNOCI regularly undertook joint border patrols and had temporarily redeployed military and civilian police between the missions to address challenges that could not be addressed within the authorized personnel ceilings of each mission. Also important was cooperation at all levels in the costly area of air operations. Missions had been directed to work towards reducing their air-operation budgets for 2007-2008 by 10 per cent. Efforts were being made to achieve economies in air operations, including by shifting to surface transportation, where practical, and by regional pooling of air assets. A proposal to obtain dedicated aircraft for passenger operations, including the rotation of troops in UNMIS and MONUC, was likely to result in significant savings, in addition to efficient movement of personnel. He also noted that a comprehensive review of missions’ transportation requirements would be conducted.

He said that some $327 million had been budgeted for petroleum, oil and lubricants in 2006-2007. Management of fuel operations was a highly complex activity, with significant risks that needed to be managed, including the potential for fraud, waste and adverse impact on health and the environment. The Assembly, in last year’s cross-cutting resolution, had requested the Secretary-General to review all aspects of fuel management; but, from the overview report, it appeared that minimal progress had been made on fuel management over the past year. His delegation was looking forward to working with all involved to ensure that the required work was carried out without delay.

Continuing, he said the Committee had agreed on a workable definition of quick-impact projects as small-scale projects designed to be rapidly implemented by missions to aid the local population, generally to be implemented within the first two years of a mission’s existence. The overview report contained information on the policy directive developed by the Secretariat, which would define the budgetary requests for quick-impact projects from 2008 onwards. Decisions on quick-impact projects should be made in the context of an examination of programmes and projects carried out by various agencies, funds and programmes in the particular country, as well as other members of the country team. Following their initial implementation during the first two years of a mission’s existence, such projects, if necessary, should be carried out and funded as part of the regular programme of work of other members of the country team.

All training should be relevant to the mission mandate and greater use should be made of videoconferencing and e-learning, he said in conclusion. Training away from missions was unnecessary during a mission’s drawdown and liquidation. In many cases, it would be more cost-effective and efficient for trainers to travel to missions, rather than the other way around, particularly during the start-up phase. He also underlined the importance of predeployment training, particularly in the areas of safety, security and conduct. In connection with the structuring of multidimensional missions, he shared the reservations expressed by ACABQ regarding the use of templates. In some cases, that methodology generated overly large staffing tables.

Finally, responding to yesterday’s comments on the inability of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations to reach agreement during its recent session, he said that, in the course of negotiations, his delegation had put forward a number of proposals, and those discussions were continuing.

MUHAMMAD A. MUHITH (Bangladesh), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the reports before the Committee formed a good basis for negotiations, provided they could be reflected upon in the short time available. He wondered how many more pages of supplementary information would be required during the Committee’s informal discussions. As one of the largest troop-contributing countries, peacekeeping matters were important to Bangladesh. Therefore, the late submission of reports was a matter of serious concern, since they adversely affected the quality of ACABQ’s work, as well as that of the Fifth Committee itself. Such delays were “unacceptable”, and he would like to know why that lateness had become so routine. He concurred with the ACABQ recommendations regarding the need for a time frame and accountability with respect to reports, and looked forward to discussing that agenda item further during the informal meetings.

RAJAT SAHA, Chairman of ACABQ, responded to a question put forward yesterday by the representative of the Dominican Republic, on behalf of the Rio Group, regarding spare parts.

He said that, in his report on the budget for UNMEE for the period 2007-2008 (document A/60/842), the Secretary-General had requested the General Assembly to take note of procedures for the purchase and use of vehicles and other equipment by the United Nations field missions. The five points highlighted were system contracts for vehicles, spare parts, vehicle establishment ratios, road safety and rotation of vehicles. While analysing the proposed budgets and performance reports of peacekeeping missions, ACABQ had discussed those issues with representatives of the Secretary-General and, where appropriate, had reflected its views in different reports.

On systems contracts and spare parts, he said ACABQ would be discussing the item further when considering the procurement reports of the Secretary-General. So far, ACABQ had received a report of the Procurement Task Force (document A/61/603), but two more reports of the Secretary-General on procurement activities and procurement reform were yet to be received. Regarding the comments on transportation of equipment, the Assembly had already endorsed ACABQ’s recommendation of using surface transport for contingent-owned equipment, except in the case of emergency. If there were any further questions, they would be answered during informal meetings.

Introduction of Missions’ Budgets

The United Nations Controller, WARREN SACH, introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on individual missions’ proposed budgets for 2007-2008, as well as performance reports for 2005-2006.

Regarding UNMIS, he said that, now that the Security Council had endorsed the implementation of the heavy support package, preliminary estimates in that regard amounted to $288 million on a full-cost basis for six months. Based on a phased deployment schedule on the military and police component, as well as civilian personnel, and taking into account the procurement lead-time and availability of surplus United Nations assets in neighbouring areas, the Secretariat had estimated that approximately $68.6 million could be expended by 30 June. The required funding for the period up to that time could be absorbed through redeployment, using UNMIS budget resources, as the Mission had projected savings in the amount of $69.9 million for the current period. After 1 July, it was the Secretariat’s intention to flexibly use UNMIS resources that would be appropriated by the Assembly for 2007-2008, and to submit to the Assembly, through ACABQ, a revised budget for UNMIS that would include detailed justification of requirements for the heavy support package.

Mr. SAHA introduced related reports of ACABQ.

Statements

THOMAS THOMMA ( Germany), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, began by paying tribute to the 24 persons who had lost their lives in the current year while serving in different peacekeeping operations. Those fatalities had been caused by hostile actions, as well as illness and accident, and they underlined the risks that were part of daily life at peacekeeping operations. Gratitude was also expressed to troop-contributing countries.

Turning to the budget proposals, he expressed deep concern that some “very important” ACABQ and Secretariat reports would not appear before the Fifth Committee until the end of the session. He reiterated that the timely availability of reports was essential for the Fifth Committee to perform its function. He then reaffirmed the European Union’s “strong support” for peacekeeping as a core function of the United Nations, and said he would like to see those operations continue to identify potential economies in the use of resources. The Union considered it as essential that all peacekeeping operations were provided with adequate resources, which, according to the Secretariat’s proposal for 2007-2008, would total almost $5.4 billion. The Union was committed to the efficient functioning of peacekeeping operations.

ERIC FRANCK SAIZONOU (Benin), speaking on behalf of the African Group, focused on peacekeeping missions in Africa, including the closing mission in Burundi, the missions in Côte d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the downsized mission in Liberia, UNAMSIL, which was in liquidation, and UNMIS.

He said that, during the debate on cross-cutting issues, the African Group had drawn attention to the low percentage of African businessmen taking advantage of procurement opportunities in peacekeeping, as well as the underrepresentation of African countries in terms of both number and gender in the personnel of the missions in host countries. The situation was even more dire in the management of the missions, and the African Group wanted that problem to receive prompt attention.

Welcoming the progress made in reducing the vacancy rates in certain missions, he said the Group urged that the necessary steps be taken to maintain adequate levels of staff to enable missions to accomplish their mandates. Also, the Board of Auditors had called on the Secretariat to change its modus operandi to ensure rapid dispersal of certain funds to host countries, as well as the need to ensure speedy implementation of quick-impact projects. The implementation of those recommendations would be of great help to countries concerned.

On Liberia, he welcomed the intention of UNMIL to allocate training resources to national staff, as that would help in the transfer of skills and responsibilities. The Group endorsed ACABQ’s comments indicating the need to strengthen cooperation and coordination in the area of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration between multiple actors within and outside the United Nations system. At the political level, he noted progress in the democratization of the country. Although UNMIL was winding down, it was important to make adequate resources available for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration to give impetus to peace and security in the country. He also underscored the importance of quick-impact projects for Liberia. There was a proposal to disband a dedicated quick-impact projects unit and implement related projects from within existing staffing resources of the Mission. He hoped that such a move would not have an adverse effect on the implementation of the mandate. The African Group believed that the amount of money requested to assist inaccessible rural communities that did not benefit from the support of other actors, as proposed in the Secretary-General’s report, should be made available in order to ensure a total consolidation of the peace plan.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Group stressed the importance of considering resource requirements in the context of realities on the ground, he said. He commended the efforts to improve MONUC’s administrative structure, as well as concrete actions to implement relevant Assembly decisions and recommendations of ACABQ, the Board of Auditors and OIOS. Taking note of the resource requirements proposed, he expressed concern about ACABQ recommendations in paragraphs 25 and 27 of its report, which would entail a reduction of the proposed budget and lead to impeding the Mission’s proper functioning. While wise management of resources was important, any decision should adequately address long-term peace and stability requirements in the country and the Great Lakes region on the whole. Adequate resources were needed for the Mission to discharge its mandate. Progress in the Democratic Republic of the Congo included the successful holding of elections and beginning preparations for local elections -- the next step towards democratization. The country would require continued support and partnership of the international community.

The Group welcomed the Secretary-General’s report regarding the expansion of the logistics hub to Entebbe, Uganda, to provide support to peacekeeping in the region, he said. However, the Group was deeply concerned over the status of the report on the functional evaluation of the current support activities to determine which activities and structures needed to be relocated. He urged the Secretary-General to expedite the evaluation and report on the matter during the second part of the sixty-second resumed session.

Turning to the Sudan, he welcomed the agreement reached by the African Union, the United Nations and the Government of the Sudan, upon which the United Nations needed to extend support to AMIS through light and heavy packages of assistance. In that connection, he asked for clarification regarding the arrangements and funding requirements for UNMIS and the implications of the proposals for its activities. The General Assembly had requested the Secretary-General, in order to reduce the cost of employing General Service staff, to continue employing national staff for UNMIS, commensurate with needs. However, the proposed budget of UNMIS did not indicate that, and actually contained a reduction of 125 national posts. It was envisaged that, as the Mission continued, the number of local staff would grow and replacement by locals would be a continuing process. Those provisions should be implemented.

Regarding UNOCI, he expressed the Group’s concern over the high vacancy rates, which impacted negatively on the functioning of the mission. Every effort should be made to ensure that posts requested and approved be filled in a timely manner. He also noted slow progress in the areas of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, and electoral and peace processes. He welcomed recent political progress in the country, saying that, with those developments, there would be a number of positive strides in establishing peace and security. The United Nations, regional organizations and neighbouring countries played a crucial role.

Continuing, he expressed gratitude to the United Nations for its assistance to Burundi and Sierra Leone and commended ONUB for its accomplishments in delivering key outputs. The planned results-based framework set out in the 2005-2006 budget, compared to the actual performance, reflected positive signs, although it was necessary to continue addressing the areas lacking positive development. Along with strict administrative control, the Group asked for additional information on misappropriated funds earmarked for quick-impact projects. In Sierra Leone, assets with an inventory value of $8 million and residual value of $3 million had been donated to the Government. That testified to the fact that the United Nations had built a structure for peace and empowered it to endure. Successful disposal of assets further consolidated that position. He hoped UNAMSIL would remain a flagship mission in Africa. Finally, he paid tribute to all peacekeepers who had lost their lives for the sake of peace and security, and all troop-contributing countries that had helped to achieve those goals.

MOHAMED YOUSIF IBRAHIM ABDELMANNAN ( Sudan), aligning himself with the statement by the African Group, thanked the international community for supporting his country’s efforts to achieve stability through UNMIS. That Mission had initially been created in response to the Sudanese Government’s call for assistance in implementing the peace accord. Hopefully, their efforts would continue to serve the purposes of peace, security and stability.

He said it had been hoped that Sudanese citizens on the street would feel a direct impact of UNMIS activities and projects, towards which a great amount of money had been earmarked. But the hope did not seem to be fulfilled in the numbers in the budget proposed. According to the budget, much of funds would go towards Mission members and its operational expenditure. He asked that more attention be paid in the budget to the country’s humanitarian concerns.

Turning to quick-impact projects, he recalled that the General Assembly had allotted $2 million to that item in the past. Even that “minimal amount” had not been used by UNMIS in full; the performance report showed that only $1.5 million had been spent on such projects. According to the proposed budget for 2007-2008, quick-impact projects would only receive $1 million. The Sudan was concerned about that decrease, and agreed with ACABQ that the level of resources earmarked for that item should be maintained.

As for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts, which were among the Mission’s most important tasks, he said it was “not logical” nor acceptable to decrease the number of personnel involved in those efforts, as indicated in the proposed budget. In addition, most disarmament, demobilization and reintegration work was directed by an office located, not in the country, but in Nairobi, Kenya. It would seem that working from outside would make the Mission’s work more difficult. Such an office should be moved into Sudan itself.

MARC-AUBIN BANNY ( C ôte d’Ivoire) supported the position of the African Group and said that he wanted to clarify the situation in his country. UNOCI and impartial forces were helping his country to return to normality. On 4 March, an important agreement had been reached in Ouagadougou. Subsequently, the post of the Prime Minister had been given to an ex-rebel leader. The country had returned to the situation of peace, the buffer zone had been eliminated and unification of the country was under way under the supervision of UNOCI and impartial forces. The mission was also working on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, voter registration and organizing elections. He thanked the international community for its support and paid tribute to those who had lost their lives in the course of the mission. UNOCI needed the resources that the Committee would approve to ensure peace in the country.

OLIVIER POULIN (Canada), also speaking on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, said he strongly supported UNMIS and the implementation of the peace processes in the Sudan. Despite operating in a complex and difficult environment, UNMIS had proven able to largely implement its mandate and provide support to AMIS. He welcomed the appointment of Rodolphe Adada of the Republic of Congo as Joint African Union-United Nations Special Representative for Darfur and looked forward to the appointment of a Special Representative of the Secretary-General for UNMIS.

He said he supported ACABQ’s recommendations and favoured their endorsement by the Committee. He shared ACABQ’s concerns regarding the magnitude of overbudgeting for 2005-2006, which amounted to 17.4 per cent of the budget. The Group urged the Secretary-General to look at lessons learned from the shortcomings of the assessment mission, for future peacekeeping operations. As suggested by ACABQ, the Group looked forward to engaging in discussions with Secretariat officials on the feasibility of presenting revised budgets in cases where it was clear that expenditures differed from budgetary assumptions.

He expressed concern over the OIOS audit findings at UNMIS, which included “serious” control weaknesses, wasteful expenditure, overpayments to vendors and questionable procurement practices. The Group was encouraged by proactive steps taken by UNMIS to address those problems. The Group also congratulated UNMIS for its efforts to address recruitment and retention challenges, saying that the Mission offered a good example regarding how improved living and working conditions at missions could positively affect recruitment and retention. The Group believed that there was a need to look at best practices regarding working conditions at peacekeeping missions.

He welcomed UNMIS’s strategy to reduce dependency on outside contracted services by taking over ground handling at three airports and increasing the use of surface transportation. Those initiatives would lead to substantial savings. He was surprised, however, at the Secretary-General’s request to continue financing the conduct and discipline team of UNMIS through general temporary assistance, which appeared to contradict the recommendations of the comprehensive policy on sexual exploitation and abuse, as contained in document A/60/862. He favoured the establishment of posts.

Turning to AMIS, he said the Group strongly supported the use of existing UNMIS budget resources to support AMIS through the light support package. The Group also strongly supported the use of UNMIS savings from the current period to finance the immediate requirements involved in implementing the heavy support package, as well as “flexible employment of resources” appropriated for UNMIS for 2007-2008 from 1 July onward. The Group looked forward to considering the upcoming revised budget of UNMIS during the main part of the sixty-second session, where it could properly examine the results-based budgeting framework and the resource requirements of the heavy support package.

He recalled that the next stage of United Nations support to the African Union involved the transition to the hybrid mission, which was expected to happen before the end of 2007-2008. The Group urged the Secretary-General to carefully plan the delineation of responsibility and the accountability structure of the hybrid mission, in collaboration with the African Union. The Secretariat was encouraged to ensure a seamless transition to the hybrid mission, immediately upon Security Council approval.

YASSAR DIAB ( Syria) focused on the financing of UNDOF, saying that the Force had existed for over 30 years and continued due to the ongoing Israeli occupation of the Golan, despite the will of the international community and relevant resolutions of the General Assembly and Security Council. In that connection, Syria reiterated that financing of UNDOF should be undertaken by the occupying Power, Israel.

Syria, since the establishment of the Force, had scrupulously recognized the disengagement agreement and wished for a comprehensive settlement in the region, with Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders. Syria was happy to have the presence of UNDOF and had supported it from the beginning. He expressed gratitude to the personnel of the mission for all their work and paid tribute to the close cooperation between the Force and competent authorities in Syria, as well as his country’s Permanent Mission and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Department of Political Affairs and the United Nations Controller’s office. He also thanked all the troop-contributing countries to UNDOF.

BORIS HOLOVKA (Serbia) aligned himself with the position of the European Union and drew the Committee’s attention to the proposed budget of UNMIK -- a mission in the province of Kosovo and Metohija in Serbia that his country had fully supported, in keeping with Member States’ common interest for the fulfilment of the mandate under Security Council resolution 1244 (1999). His delegation supported the proposed annual budget of UNMIK, given the fact that it had been devised as a regular budget, “without succumbing to the temptation of political shortcuts, which would bypass the grim reality”.

He said that it was a cause for certain satisfaction that, following a trend of a decrease in appropriations, the proposed budget, if adopted, would actually present an increase in comparison with the expenditure for the current period. Any decrease in the appropriation would, at the current time, be counterproductive to the efforts to implement the standards set by the Security Council, particularly in terms of strengthening the rule of law and facilitating the return of internally displaced persons.

Unfortunately, in practice, diminishing the capacity of UNMIK had not been offset by performance of the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government, he continued. Bearing the aforementioned goals in mind, he commended the proposed changes in the staffing of the Mission, particularly a sizeable increase in the number of members of special police units within the Rule of Law component, as well as proposed strengthening of the International Judicial Support Division. His delegation would have liked, however, to see a net increase, rather than a decrease, in the size of the entire Rule of Law component.

STEVEN SSENABULYA NKAYIVU (Uganda), aligning himself with the statement by the African Group, said that United Nations peacekeeping operations were important in helping maintain security, and so deserved to receive adequate resources to carry out their mandate. The proposed budget for MONUC was noted, as were the related recommendations of ACABQ regarding that Mission. He further noted the good work of MONUC towards rebuilding democratic institutions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Hopefully, such advances would give MONUC the impetus to play a bigger role in the forthcoming elections, which were expected to take place some time during the 2007-2008 period. The entire region would benefit from a democratized country.

He expressed interest in the various new roles envisioned for MONUC. For instance, the Mission was expected to play a coordinating role in the region, so as to create conditions for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts and help with the repatriation of foreign armed groups. It was also expected to help bring about the normalization of relations between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its neighbours, with special attention on armed groups using neighbouring countries as staging grounds. Hopefully, the Security Council would renew MONUC’s mandate, so that it could continue addressing the “negative forces” operating in that country.

He reaffirmed his country’s commitment to an expanded logistics hub in Entebbe and looked forward to consolidating his Government’s partnership with the United Nations. While welcoming the Secretary-General’s ongoing evaluation to determine what activities and structures were needed to shift the logistics hub to Entebbe, he noted with concern that no time limit had been imposed on that evaluation. It was urgent that the Secretary-General expedite the evaluation process, and he looked forward to discussing the issue further during the Committee’s informal meetings.

SIMON THOMAS ( United Kingdom) supported the position of the European Union and said that he wanted to make one mission-specific point. The conditions in which United Nations peacekeepers lived had a profound impact not only on their security and safety, but also on morale, which could be an equally important factor in mission effectiveness. Like other troop-contributing countries, the United Kingdom took a close interest in the conditions in which its troops were accommodated, and it expected them to be properly looked after. Therefore, his delegation would be asking the Secretariat for an explanation in informal consultations about the unacceptable state of repair of the buildings in which United Kingdom troops at UNFICYP were currently accommodated in Nicosia. It would be helpful to receive a written update on that issue in informals.

ALEJANDRO TORRES LEPORI ( Argentina), aligning himself with the statements of the Group of 77 and China and the Rio Group, reaffirmed his country’s support for the adequate financing of peacekeeping missions. He would closely examine requests for resources for quick-impact projects, believing that the Organization should continue supporting such projects, so long as those requests were well justified. Similarly, he would closely follow any request for resources for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration operations, which his country was very interested in.

He thanked the representative of Côte d’Ivoire for providing an update on the mission there, and said that Argentina would work to ensure that the necessary resources be made available to that mission.

Turning to UNFICYP, he voiced interest in hearing about any developments regarding the state of repair of the accommodations and quarters for troops and officers, particularly those in the San Martino base. Argentina had first expressed concern regarding that issue last year. He would like to receive some information in writing regarding any new developments, since the topic was not sufficiently covered in the documents before the Committee. He expressed surprise that the increase in UNFICYP’s budget was due to air operations and air transport. He understood that, over the last two rotations, troops had encountered many logistical and operational problems because of changes in the way they were rotated. That sacrifice had been borne because it was believed that it would bring economic benefit. Yet, according to the budget, the savings were “not sufficient”. He would pursue that question further during the Committee’s informal meetings. As pointed out by the Group of 77 and the Rio Group yesterday, the pursuit of savings should not undermine the safety or operational requirements of peacekeeping missions.

For information media • not an official record