Lebanon + 1 more

Fifth Committee takes up peacekeeping budgets for Lebanon, Timor-Leste; Also begins discussion on consolidating peacekeeping accounts

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Posted
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GA/AB/3801

Sixty-first General Assembly
Fifth Committee
52nd Meeting* (PM)

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this afternoon took up the proposed budgets of $153 million for the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) and $713 million for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), stressing the importance of adequate staffing at peacekeeping missions, and with some Members disagreeing with suggestions that police personnel in Timor-Leste be downsized, and that the post of United Nations Deputy Police Commissioner in that country be downgraded.

In its report on the Timor-Leste Mission, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) had suggested that there was room for the downsizing of police personnel and electoral support staff at the conclusion of the upcoming legislative elections. It had also said that the rank of Deputy Police Commissioner within the Mission, currently maintained at the D-1 level, was unwarranted. The Advisory Committee had then recommended a reduction of $27,700 in that Mission's budget.

Voicing caution, the representative of New Zealand, also speaking on behalf of Canada and Australia, said it was premature to consider reductions in police and other personnel prior to an assessment by the Secretary-General, given the wide range of capacity-building and public security responsibilities of United Nations police. He also opposed the Advisory Committee's proposal to downgrade the post of Deputy Police Commissioner within UNMIT, citing the Mission's responsibilities for strengthening the Timorese national police.

Adding to that sentiment, Brazil's delegate said the country's first presidential election as an independent State, which had named Jose Ramos-Horta as President, constituted a remarkable example of democracy, and had proven the United Nations' effectiveness in that country. But, to spur progress towards national reconciliation, as well as to maintain public security, strengthen the justice sector and promote economic development, UNMIT needed an adequate level of funding. For that reason, he endorsed all the resources for quick impact projects requested by the Secretary-General in Timor-Leste, saying they would enable the restoration of national police facilities, as well as to provide clean drinking water and to rehabilitate school buildings and roads.

Also today, the Committee took up the issue of the consolidation of peacekeeping accounts, which the representative of Germany, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said would improve the overall financial health of United Nations peacekeeping. The late or even non-payment of dues by certain Member States had allowed left-over money from closed missions to be withheld for purposes of cross-borrowing to other accounts, when they should have been returned to contributing countries.

She said such cross-borrowing "was not a sustainable solution to the Organization's cash-flow problems" and "had served as a form of subsidy". To ensure sufficient liquidity, the European Union called on all Member States to pay their outstanding contributions to peacekeeping missions in full, on time and without conditions.

Also, on the subject of revised estimates resulting from resolutions adopted by the Human Rights Council, Japan's delegate said it had been his understanding that additional expenses would be accommodated within existing resources in the budget for the 2006-2007 biennium.

Introducing the reports before the Committee were Warren Sach, United Nations Controller, and Rajat Saha, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions.

The Committee will meet at 10 a.m. Friday, 25 May, to discuss the financial situation of the United Nations.

Background

The Fifth Committee met this afternoon to take up reports on the financing of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), as well as a series of documents on the consolidation of peacekeeping accounts, and revised estimates in connection with recent decisions of the Human Rights Council.

On the financing of peacekeeping forces for the 2007-2008 financial year, a budget of $713 million has been proposed for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, and $153 million for the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste, out of a total budget of nearly $5.4 billion (see Press Release GA/AB/3799).

Regarding UNIFIL (documents A/61/829; A/61/870 and Corr.1; and A/61/852/Add.16), the Secretary-General recommends an assessment of $119 million for the period from 1 July to the end of its mandate on 31 August. A monthly rate of $59 million is suggested for each month that follows, should the mission's mandate be extended.

Also relating to UNIFIL is the Secretary-General's comprehensive review of the Strategic Military Cell (document A/61/883), which was tasked with supporting that mission to undertake a series of substantial new tasks authorized by the Security Council last year, in addition to those originally mandated in 1978. The capacity of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations' Military Division, which normally deals with military planning and strategic guidance of peacekeeping missions, was particularly strained by the surge in peacekeeping at the time the Cell was created. The report says the Cell is a means for engaging troop-contributing countries early in the deployment process, and for integrating political, military, civilian, humanitarian and support functions as appropriate. The Secretary-General recommends that the Assembly note the role played by the Cell, saying initiatives like it may be useful for reinforcing the Peacekeeping Department's capacities in periods of surge.

Turning to UNMIT (documents A/61/871 and Corr.1; and A/61/852/Add.17), the Secretary-General recommends that a monthly rate of $12.7 million be assessed for the period from 1 July 2007 to 28 February 2008, and that the same monthly assessment be made for the period from 29 February to 30 June 2008, subject to a mandate extension by the Security Council.

Another report before the Committee (document A/61/865) updates the analysis of the effect of consolidation on reimbursement to troop- and formed police-contributing countries provided in annex VIII to document A/60/846/Add.3. That document contained proposals to ensure a sound financial base for the United Nations; rationalize administrative processes; and improve financial reporting, accountability and transparency. Some of the recommendations contained in the report related to the need to consolidate various peacekeeping accounts, excluding those of the United Nations Emergency Force, the United Nations Operation in the Congo, the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund and the strategic deployment stocks; consolidate various peacekeeping financing resolutions into a single text; and consolidate peacekeeping dues into two annual assessments.

According to the report, consolidation of peacekeeping accounts into a single one could have resulted in an additional 28 per cent reimbursement to troop- and formed police-contributing countries during 2006 for a total of $325.5 million.

The report of the Secretary-General on the updated financial position of 20 closed peacekeeping missions as at 30 June 2006 (document A/61/867) also deals with a number of issues related to the proposal to consolidate peacekeeping accounts into a single account. According to the document, $152.6 million remains in the accounts of closed peacekeeping missions with cash balances as at 30 June 2006, not including cross-borrowing of $23.8 million that had not been repaid by two closed peacekeeping missions and by the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara. The report also indicates that six closed peacekeeping missions had a cash deficit totalling $89.3 million as at the same date. In accordance with the Financial Regulations and Rules of the United Nations, the cash balances would normally be repaid to Member States.

The Secretary-General recommends that, upon approval of his proposal to consolidate separate peacekeeping accounts into a single set of accounts, the Assembly should decide to return to Member States credits available in the accounts of closed missions with cash surpluses. Such credits would first be applied to settle outstanding assessments, on a mission-by-mission basis, and thereafter be applied at the discretion of the Member State. Should a State wish to receive a cash refund, the refund would be effected on the date of the consolidation of peacekeeping operations accounts.

The report also contains proposals to settle outstanding liabilities in the accounts of closed missions with cash deficits, except for the United Nations Operation in the Congo and the United Nations Emergency Force, on the date of consolidation of peacekeeping operations accounts; and return two thirds of the credits available in the account of the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission (UNIKOM) to the Government of Kuwait and the remaining balance to the States that have fulfilled their financial obligations to UNIKOM with their respective share of the balance.

The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), in a related report (document A/61/920) recommends that the Assembly take note of the information contained in document A/61/865 on the consolidation of peacekeeping accounts. On closed missions, the Advisory Committee stresses that proposals contained in the Secretary-General's report are contingent on the Assembly's decision on the underlying issue of the consolidation of peacekeeping accounts.

The Committee also had before it the Secretary-General's reports on the revised estimates resulting from decision S-4/101 adopted by the Human Rights Council at its fourth special session in 2006 (document A/61/530/Add.2) and on the revised estimates resulting from resolutions adopted by the Council at its fourth session in 2007 (document A/61/530/Add.3).

The requirements resulting from Human Rights Council's decision S-4/101 of 13 December 2006 -- by the terms of which the Council decided to dispatch a high-level mission to assess the human rights situation in Darfur and the needs of the Sudan in this regard -- are estimated at $347,200. It is anticipated that that amount will be accommodated from within the existing resources under section 23, Human rights, of the programme budget for the current biennium.

Document A/61/530/Add.3 details budgetary requirements -- estimated at $434,600 -- resulting from resolutions 4/4 on the right to development, and 4/8 on human rights in Darfur, adopted by the Human Rights Council at its fourth session, in 2007. Of the total amount, it is anticipated that the additional requirements of $360,300 can be accommodated to the extent possible within the resources already appropriated under the 2006-2007 budget. Any additional expenditure that should arise in the implementation of the resolutions would be reported in the context of the second performance report for the biennium. Estimated requirements of $74,300 for 2008-2009 have not been included in the proposed budget for that biennium. Thus, the requirements for the biennium 2008-2009 will be considered in accordance with the procedures established by the General Assembly on the use of the contingency fund.

The Advisory Committee, in a related report (document A/61/917), recommends that the General Assembly take note of the first of those reports. On addendum 3, it recommends that the Assembly take note of the fact that the implementation of Human Rights Council resolution 4/8 would give rise to additional requirements in the amount of $360,300 under sections 2, 23 and 28(E) of the 2006-2007 budget, which would be accommodated, to the extent possible, within the existing appropriations. As recommended by the ACABQ, the Assembly would also take note of the fact that the Secretary-General intends to report, in the context of the second performance report of the programme budget for the biennium 2006-2007, on any additional requirements.

The Advisory Committee also recommends that the Assembly take note of the fact that the implementation of Council resolution 4/4 would give rise to additional requirements in the amount of $74,300 under sections 2, 23 and 28(E) of the proposed budget for 2008-2009, and that those requirements would be considered when the Assembly takes up the proposed 2008-2009 programme budget and the related contingency fund.

Introduction of Reports

WARREN SACH, Controller, introduced the reports relating to the financing of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (documents A/61/829, A/61/870, A/61/870/Corr.1); the Strategic Military Cell (document A/61/883); and financing of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (document A/61/871 and Corr.1).

RAJAT SAHA, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced the ACABQ report on UNIFIL (document A/61/852/Add.16), saying the Committee had recommended acceptance of the Secretary-General's proposals. In its analysis, it had taken into account the mission's ongoing expansion in the deployment of military personnel, and the need for changes in the civilian establishment of the Force, as the Secretary-General had proposed. Given its earlier view that the cost of providing backstopping requirements at Headquarters should not be charged, even temporarily, to the budgets of peacekeeping operations, the Committee was of the opinion that, in the future, costs related to the Strategic Military Cell should be charged to the support account. The Committee also expressed the opinion that an analysis of results achieved by quick-impact projects be provided in future budgets.

Mr. Saha then introduced the ACABQ report on UNMIT (document A/61/852/Add.17), saying that the Committee had recommended a reduction of $27,700 in that Mission's budget. It further noted the Security Council's request for a report from the Secretary-General that included recommendations for possible adjustments in UNMIT's mandate and strength, within 60 days after the Presidential and Parliamentary elections in Timor-Leste.

He said the ACABQ recommended that UNMIT conduct an in-depth review of its staffing requirements. The Mission should consider the need to avoid duplicating functions and structures already existing within the country team, given the strong presence of United Nations agencies, funds and programmes in Timor-Leste. With the downsizing of police personnel and electoral support staff at the conclusion of the elections and the fact that a large part of procurement activity relative to the setting up of the Mission would be completed during the 2006 to 2007 financial year, the Committee believed there to be further opportunities for more efficient use of resources in such areas as procurement, human resources, information and communications technology and general services.

He said the Committee had remarked on the serious challenges posed by vacancy rates in the range of 50 per cent for international, and 26 per cent for national staff. It had urged that UNMIT and the Secretariat develop a strategy to ensure adequate staff levels at the Mission.

Statements

PHILLIP TAULA (New Zealand), also speaking on behalf of Australia and Canada, said that he strongly supported UNMIT and its work and welcomed the recent successful conclusion of presidential elections in Timor-Leste. Assisting Timor-Leste with that process and the forthcoming parliamentary elections had been an important priority for UNMIT. Other critical elements of the Mission's mandate included its assistance to Timor-Leste's governing institutions and support for a comprehensive security sector review. He was pleased that UNMIT's budget for 2007-2008 supported continued emphasis, and in some cases strengthened capacity, in those areas of the mandate.

Continuing, he urged caution when planning for the future of UNMIT, as the Security Council, in its resolution 1754 (2007), had requested a report within 60 days after the presidential and parliamentary elections with recommendations for possible adjustments in UNMIT's mandate and strength. Prior to that assessment, it was premature to consider reductions in police and some other personnel. The assessment would also need to take into account UNMIT's entire mandate, including the range of capacity-building and public security responsibilities of United Nations police.

Regarding the Advisory Committee's recommendations, he said that he opposed downgrading any senior UNMIT positions, especially the post of Deputy Police Commissioner, given the importance of the Mission's responsibilities for institutional development and strengthening of the Timorese national police, the security sector review, and the desirability of continuity at this important time in Timor-Leste. He was also concerned about the continued high vacancy rate in UNMIT, and agreed with the ACABQ on the need for a concerted strategy to ensure adequate staffing levels. He would appreciate an update from the Secretariat on the staffing situation. As that situation was not unique for UNMIT, he had noted separately that it underlined the importance of addressing human resources management reform across the United Nations. He was also concerned over the level of outstanding unpaid assessments for UNMIT, which left the Mission in a difficult cash position and delayed payment to those Member States that were providing formed police personnel. He encouraged all Member States to meet their obligations to fund the Mission.

PAULO ROBERTO CAMPOS TARRISSE DA FONTOURA ( Brazil) expressed appreciation for the election of Jose Ramos-Horta as President of Timor-Leste. The successful electoral process, the first in Timor-Leste as an independent State, constituted a remarkable example of democracy. The elections had also proven the effectiveness of the United Nations' work on the ground.

Brazil fully supported all the post and non-post resources requested for the financing of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste, he said. The budget of UNMIT must be adequate to help the people and the Government of Timor-Leste to achieve progress towards national reconciliation, maintain public security and implement the rule of law, maintain the stability in border areas, achieve progress towards respect for human rights, strengthen the justice sector, and promote poverty eradication and economic development. Therefore, he endorsed all the resources for the quick impact projects requested by the Secretary-General. Those resources would enable the Mission to restore the facilities of the national police, renovate basic community infrastructure, provide clean drinking water and rehabilitate school buildings and roads. Those projects would not only benefit the people of Timor-Leste, but also gain their support for the Mission.

Brazil also welcomed the fact that UNMIT had worked together with United Nations agencies, funds and programmes in Timor-Leste, he continued. Such collaboration involved such areas as democratic governance, electoral assistance, serious crimes and administration of justice. He also urged the Secretary-General to continue his efforts to reduce vacancy rates in UNMIT and welcomed the fact that vacancy rates for civilian staff had improved from 63 per cent at the beginning of the year to 29 per cent by March 2007. With regard to posts, he endorsed the establishment of a D-2 Chief of Staff position, a D-1 for the Chief Political Affairs Officers, and a D-1 for the Deputy Police Commissioner responsible for administration and development.

In conclusion, he said that Brazil and Timor-Leste shared common historical and cultural roots, which united the countries in the pursuit of peace, independence, development and poverty eradication. Brazil had collaborated with Timor-Leste in many areas, including education, justice, safety and security, and human resources formation. His Government fully supported a sovereign, stable, democratic and developed Timor-Leste. By adopting the budget, the Committee was helping Timor-Leste become a success story.

Responding to the representative of New Zealand, Mr. SACH said that, as of 23 May, 33 military personnel occupied the 34 available positions -- a 97 per cent occupancy rate. As for the position of civilian personnel, excluding civilian police, there was a vacancy rate of 24 per cent as of 23 May, an improvement over March levels, measured at 29 per cent. Some 1,519 positions out of 1,991 authorized were filled.

Introduction of Reports

The Committee then turned to the administrative and budgetary aspects of the financing of United Nations peacekeeping operations, where Mr. SACH introduced the Secretary-General's report on investing in the United Nations for a stronger Organization worldwide (document A/61/865) and the updated financial position of closed peacekeeping missions (document A/61/867).

He also touched on the financing of UNIKOM, recalling that the General Assembly had decided that two thirds of the available cash balance as at 30 June 2005 would be returned to the Government of Kuwait, while the remaining balance would be returned to the Member States that had fulfilled their financial obligations to UNIKOM. At 30 June 2006, there was a cash balance of $5.5 million in the Observation Mission.

Mr. SAHA then introduced a related report of the ACABQ (document A/61/920), saying that the Committee recommended that the Assembly take note of the Secretary-General's report on the consolidation of peacekeeping accounts. The Committee stressed, however, that proposals contained in the report were contingent on "a General Assembly decision regarding the underlying issue of consolidation of peacekeeping accounts".

JEANNETTE SCHWAMBERGER ( Germany), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, reiterated the Union's long-standing position that the money from closed missions, including accrued interest and other income, should be returned in full and without conditions to Member States. The retention of funds due to consistently late or even non-payment of dues by certain Member States was unacceptable. Decisions made by the General Assembly in previous years, which had allowed those funds to be withheld, had been made only on an exceptional basis. The Union acknowledged the difficulties in balancing the frequent shortfall in cash available. However, cross-borrowing from funds retained in closed peacekeeping missions had not provided a sustainable solution to the Organization's cash-flow problems. In fact, it had rather served as a form of subsidy. To ensure sufficient liquidity of the Organization, the Union thus once again called on all Member States to pay their outstanding contributions to all peacekeeping operations in full, on time and without conditions.

She welcomed that the Committee had reverted to the issue of consolidation of peacekeeping accounts, she said. In principle, the Union was positively disposed to the Secretary-General's proposal, which would improve the overall financial health of the peacekeeping operations. The Union was looking forward to a substantive discussion and outcome on that item at the current session. In that regard, she noted that the report on closed missions linked the issue with his proposal for the consolidation of peacekeeping accounts. However, the Union considered a separate discussion to be more appropriate and stood ready to make progress on each issue independently.

Mr. SACH said that, although the two items had been presented separately, he said the Committee should understand that they were linked. For example, if a positive decision was taken regarding the consolidation of peacekeeping accounts, it would result in the greatly improved liquidity of peacekeeping funds and their management, and would speed the reimbursement of funds to troop- and equipment-contributing countries. It would also enable the release of funds presently being held through the "closed missions" item. The release of those funds would not endanger the financial management and health of the Organization, because of the increase in liquidity potentially derived from the consolidation of peacekeeping item.

Revised Estimates Concerning Human Rights Council Decisions

SHARON VAN BUERLE, Director of the Programme Planning and Budget Division, introduced the Secretary-General's reports A/61/530/Add.2 and Add.3.

The ACABQ report on the matter (document A/61/917) was introduced by the Chairman of that body.

JUN YAMADA (Japan) said that his delegation understood that additional expenses would be accommodated within existing resources within the budget for the 2006-2007 biennium, since the use of the contingency fund as stipulated in resolutions 41/213 and 42/221 was not utilized in that context. Therefore, he understood that any additional requirements would not be reported in the context of the second performance report for 2006-2007. As he reaffirmed that stated position, he also expressed his support for the report of the Advisory Committee.

Organization of Work

Several speakers expressed concern about the large amount of work still remaining for the Committee. The representatives of Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said that the Committee's priority during the second resumed session was to approve the individual peacekeeping budgets, and that linkages drawn between that topic and other items, such as the support account, realignment and cross-cutting issues, had not been helpful. Progress had also been hampered by the late introduction of reports. He stood ready to work through the weekend to see that the peacekeeping budgets were approved.

The representatives of Brazil and Argentina concurred with Pakistan's delegate, both stressing the importance, to their respective countries, of approving the budget for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

MOVSES ABELIAN, Secretary of the Committee, said the reports referred to by Pakistan's delegate would be available Tuesday morning.

The representative of the United States said he saw no links between the issues before the Committee.

Germany's representative recalled that his delegation, on behalf of the European Union, had expressed concern that many reports had been delayed at the outset of the session. However, he was also aware of the huge workload of the ACABQ and had full confidence that the members of the Bureau would find the best way out of the current situation. He still believed that there was a good chance to finalize the work of the Committee in the remaining time, if delegates reduced the number of questions to the absolute minimum required to clarify the issues, and especially if they did not make unnecessary linkages among issues that did not belong together.

Closing the meeting, Chairman of the Committee, YOUCEF YOUSFI ( Algeria) appealed to the Coordinators on various agenda items to work on the basis of informal informals, to make the necessary progress.

* The 51st Meeting was covered in Press Release GA/10597.

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