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Updated On: Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Speakers Question Call to Increase Peacekeeping Support Account, as Fifth Committee Examines Budget Performance, Proposals for Six Missions, Regional Service Centre

Speakers questioned a request from the Secretary-General for a $56.1 million increase in the support account for peacekeeping operations for 2019/20 as the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) entered the second week of its consideration of the United Nations peacekeeping budget.

Recalling past General Assembly resolutions on the support account, Brazil’s representative noted that while the Secretariat is proposing to reduce the overall peacekeeping budget by 5 per cent to $6.6 billion in 2019/20, its proposed budget for the support account calls for a 17 per cent increase from 2018/19.  “The United Nations sends the wrong message when it proposes harsh cuts to operations deployed in remote and high-risk areas but increases resources for its staff headquartered in New York, Geneva and elsewhere,” he said.

[The support account encompasses 14 offices and departments throughout the Secretariat that backstop 130,000 military, police and civilian personnel in 13 peacekeeping operations worldwide.]

The observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the requested increase contrasts with an expected decrease in the number of uniformed peacekeepers, given reductions in missions in Darfur, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Haiti as well as the closure of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).  “Simply put, support functions should be scalable to the size and scope of peacekeeping operations,” he said.

Echoing that view, the representative of the United States said her delegation is concerned to see an increase in resources requested for the support account, especially given the decreasing numbers of personnel in missions due to downsizing and reconfigurations.  “Like the ACABQ [Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions], we are not convinced that mission closures and downsizings require more backstopping resources,” she said.

The European Union’s representative stressed that operational and material support should be robust.  Noting that some missions are reducing troop levels while others are in the phase of closing, he said these missions require sophisticated support from Headquarters.  Therefore, he added, the support account is an important tool, which must be flexible, agile and capable of evolving so that peacekeeping missions can deliver their mandates.

Introducing the proposed 2019/20 budget for the support account, Chandramouli Ramanathan, Controller and Assistant Secretary-General for Programme Planning, Finance and Budget, said it contains proposals totalling $380.8 million, including peacekeeping contributions to Secretariat-wide initiatives, reflecting an increase of $56.1 million from 2018/19’s authorized resources.  Emphasizing that the Secretariat is mindful of the level of the support account, he said the proposed increase is principally due to technical adjustments as well as peacekeeping’s share of Secretariat-wide initiatives.

Cihan Terzi, Chairman of the Advisory Committee, presented several recommendations for reducing the scale of the proposed increase, including — among other things — reductions under Umoja maintenance and support costs, staff costs and after-service health insurance.  Under operational costs, he said it recommends reductions under individual departments or offices by object of expenditure, including consultants and consulting services; official travel; facilities and infrastructure; communications and information technology; and other supplies, services and equipment.

In other business, the Controller introduced the proposed 2019/20 budgets for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan and the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), as well as the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), MINUSTAH and UNMIL.

Regarding MINUSCA, the Controller said the Secretary-General is proposing a budget of $925.5 million for 2019/20, down 0.5 per cent from 2018/19.  For UNDOF, he is proposing a budget of $70.1 million, an increase of 16.2 per cent from 2018/19 mainly due to the Force’s full return to the Bravo side of the Golan.  For UNMISS, proposed budget of $1.2 billion for 2019/20 represents an increase of 6.4 per cent, mainly attributable to — among other things — an increase in the deployment of military contingent personnel.

On UNDOF, Syria’s delegate said the Secretary-General’s report exhibits a lack of impartiality as it describes the situation in the Golan Heights in favour of Israel.  The report puts Syria on an equal footing with Israel in terms of violations of the separation of forces agreement, he said, asking the Secretariat to correct the report.  He also sought clarification about a reference to the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria, whose mandate has nothing to do with UNDOF’s mandate.

Also today, the Committee took up the proposed budget for the Regional Service Centre in Entebbe, Uganda, with the Controller saying that that facility anticipates expanding its full-service client base from 14 to 18 missions (eight peacekeeping and 10 special political missions) for the 2019/20 period with a proposed staffing complement of 404 posts.

Djibouti’s representative, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said lessons learned and experience gained from the East African corridor project, in which the Regional Service Centre participated, and which closed on 8 November 2018, will be of great help in defining the future roles and responsibilities of the Strategic Air Operations Centre, the Transportation and Movements Integrated Control Centre, and the Air Traffic Control Section.  It will also help the establishment of the Global Procurement Support Section as proposed by the Secretary-General, he added.

The Fifth Committee will meet again on Thursday, 16 May, to resume its discussion on improving the financial situation of the United Nations.

Support Account for Peacekeeping Operations

CHANDRAMOULI RAMANATHAN, Controller and Assistant Secretary-General for Programme Planning, Finance and Budget, introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on the budget performance of the support account for peacekeeping operations for the period from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018 (documents A/73/661 and A/73/661/Add.1) and the budget for the support account for peacekeeping operations for the period from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020 (document A/73/793).  He recalled that the support account encompasses 14 offices and departments throughout the Secretariat that backstop 130,000 military, police and civilian personnel in 13 peacekeeping operations.  He highlighted some of the key areas in 2017/18, including consultations with Member States and regional organizations on the Action for Peacekeeping initiative, extensive consultations with field missions and Member States on management reform and restricting the United Nations peace and security pillar.  Other keys areas include improving safety and security in the field following the report of Lieutenant General (Retired) Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz (Brazil) on peacekeeping fatalities and injuries due to hostile acts, and strengthened investigations into sexual exploitation and abuse.  In carrying out those support functions, the support account incurred expenditures of $325.8 million, for an implementation rate of 100 per cent, he said.

For the 2019/20 period, he said the budget report contains proposals totalling $380.8 million, including peacekeeping contributions to Secretariat-wide initiatives, reflecting an increase of $56.1 million compared with authorized resources for 2018/19.  Proposed resources for core requirements of the support account are estimated at $314.4 million, up $24.6 million from the previous period, resulting mainly from technical adjustments to budgetary salary parameters and lower average vacancy factors for posts approved by the General Assembly for 2018/19.  Proposed resources for Secretariat-wide initiatives are estimated at $66.3 million, up $31.5 million, a sum that includes the transfer of Umoja maintenance and support costs for peacekeeping budgets previously budgeted in the United Nations Logistics Base in Brindisi, Italy, and the peacekeeping share of the proposed global shared service centres.  Emphasizing that the Secretariat is mindful of the level of the support account, he said that, taking into account the Assembly’s decision to defer consideration of the global shared service centres to its seventy-fourth session, the increase in the level of the support account for 2019/20 is principally a combination of the technical adjustments and the share of peacekeeping operations to Secretariat-wide initiatives, reflecting more accurately the true cost of supporting peacekeeping operations.

GILLIAN BIRD (Australia), Committee Chair, drew attention to the report of the Independent Audit Advisory Committee titled “Proposed budget of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) under the support account for peacekeeping operations for the period from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020” (document A/73/768) and a statement by the Chair of that Committee that will be posted on the Committee’s website.

CIHAN TERZI, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced that body’s corresponding report (document A/73/849).  He said that under corporate initiatives, the Advisory Committee recommends that the amount related to the global shared services centres be reduced, given that the Assembly has deferred its consideration of that project.  It also recommends reductions under Umoja maintenance and support costs, staff costs and after-service health insurance, as it is not convinced that the proposed increases are fully justified.  On post resources, he said the Advisory Committee recommends against one proposed post and 5 proposed conversions from general temporary assistance positions to posts.  It also recommends abolishing three posts.  Under operational costs, he said it recommends reductions under individual departments or offices by object of expenditure, including consultants and consulting services; official travel; facilities and infrastructure; communications and information technology; and other supplies, services and equipment.

SAED KATKHUDA, observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and emphasizing that all peacekeeping missions must be sufficiently backstopped at all phases, said the level of the support account should broadly correspond to their mandates, numbers, sizes and complexity.  “Simply put, support functions should be scalable to the size and scope of peacekeeping operations,” he said.  The Group notes that the requested increase in support account resource requirements for 2019/20 contrasts with an expected decrease in the number of authorized uniformed personnel, given reductions in the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and the United Nations Justice Support Mission in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) as well as the closure of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

He said that during negotiations, the Group will seek a deeper understanding of why the Secretary-General is requesting an increase of $6 million for after-service health insurance. It will also carefully assess the proposed abolishment, restructuring, redeployment, reassignment and reclassification of posts and their impact on the support United Nations staff and contingents in the field.  He emphasized the importance of a broad representation of troop- and police-contributing countries, particularly at senior levels, within the peacekeeping support structure, both at the field and at Headquarters.  “There is a persistent need for significant improvement in this regard,” he said, adding that the Group will seek updates on measures taken by the Secretariat in this regard.

JAN DE PRETER, European Union, said that the bloc’s member States resolutely support United Nations peacekeeping operations and the Secretary-General’s reform initiatives.  Recalling that on 1 January, the Secretary-General’s management reform and the revised peace and security architecture came into effect to achieve more efficient and effective operations capable of responding to the complex situations on the ground, he stressed that operational and material support should be robust.  Noting that some missions are reducing troop levels while others are in the phase of closing, he said these missions require sophisticated support from Headquarters.  Therefore the support account is an important tool, which must be flexible, agile and capable of evolving so that peacekeeping missions can deliver their mandates.

GRACE LEVIN (United States) said it will take some time for the benefits of the Secretary-General’s reform agenda to be fully realized.  However, her delegation is concerned to see an increase in resources requested for the support account, especially given the decreasing numbers of civilian and uniformed personnel in missions due to downsizing and reconfigurations in UNAMID, MONUSCO and MINUJUSTH.  “Like the ACABQ, we are not convinced that mission closures and downsizings require more backstopping resources,” she said, noting that the support account budget ratio compared with overall peacekeeping resources reflects a continuous increase since 2014.

LUIZ FELDMAN (Brazil), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that as the Assembly recalled through its resolutions 69/308 and 70/287, the level of the support account should broadly correspond to the mandates, number, size and complexity of peacekeeping operations.  Brazil notes with concern that, while the overall budget proposal for 2019/20 represents a reduction of 5 per cent when compared to 2018/19, proposed resources represent an increase of 17 per cent.  “The United Nations sends the wrong message when it proposes harsh cuts to operations deployed in remote and high-risk areas but increases resources for its staff headquartered in New York, Geneva and elsewhere,” he said.  During informal consultations, he added, Brazil will seek clarification of the discernible impact thus far of management reform on the use of support account resources.  He went on to emphasize that no approach to the support account can be clear and consistent without a serious discussion of the funding and backstopping of special political missions.  Hopefully the Secretary-General’s report in the second resumed part of the Committee’s seventy-fourth session will not be another missed opportunity to review that matter, he said.

Regional Service Centre in Entebbe, Uganda

Mr. RAMANATHAN introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on the budget performance of the Regional Service Centre in Entebbe, Uganda, for the period from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018 (document A/73/612) and the budget for the Regional Service Centre in Entebbe, Uganda, for the period from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020 (document A/73/764).

Recalling that the General Assembly had decided to give the Regional Service Centre operational and managerial independence in its sixth-ninth session, he said that the Centre proposes to expand its full-service client base from 14 to 18 missions (eight peacekeeping and 10 special political missions) for the 2019/20 period with a proposed staffing complement of 404 posts, which reflects a reduction of two national General Service posts.  The Centre proposes to redeploy posts between service lines, which is driven by its revised scalability model.

Mr. TERZI introduced ACABQ’s corresponding report (document A/73/755/Add.14), noting the revised scalability model developed by the Regional Service Centre in Entebbe.  The Advisory Committee trusts that it will continue to be refined and consistently applied in subsequent budget proposals.  It also trusts that information on efficiency gains, environmental measures and the East Africa corridor project will be included in the next report.  Under operational costs, the Advisory Committee recommends reductions related to consultants and consulting services, official travel, and information and communications technology, he said.

Mr. KATKHUDA, observer for the State of Palestine, speaking again for the Group of 77 and China, recalled that the Centre was established to create synergies and economies of scale to deliver better and timelier support and reduce or eliminate waste, duplication and bottlenecks in logistical, administrative and financial support services.  The Centre “indeed lived up to these objectives”, he said, noting that it created efficiencies and provided timely support through the provision of human resources, finance, travel, transportation and movement control services, personnel and cargo transport, and information and communications technology support services to its client missions.  The Group commends the Secretary-General and the management of the Department of Operational Support for, among other things, a 5 per cent reduction in operational costs, the upgrading of the field remote infrastructure monitoring system as a measure to lower its environmental footprint, and the expected efficiencies from the deployment of the Umoja travel solution.  The Group welcomes the expansion of the Centre’s full-service coverage to all special political missions based in Africa.

YOUSSOUF ADEN MOUSSA (Djibouti), speaking on behalf of the African Group and also associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that the East African corridor’s project, which closed on 8 November 2018, achieved key benefits, including the development of a web-based inbound delivery-tracking tool and an interactive regional surface network map, as well as cost and delivery time savings.  The Group is convinced that the lessons learned and experience gained during the project’s implementation will be of great help in defining the future roles and responsibilities of the Strategic Air Operations Centre, the Transportation and Movements Integrated Control Centre, and the Air Traffic Control Section.  It will also help the establishment of the Global Procurement Support Section as proposed by the Secretary-General.  The Group seeks to understand the continued role of the Transportation and Movements Integrated Control Centre in coordinating regional air operations and how the delegation of authority granted under the management reform has defined the role of the Regional Service Centre in Entebbe.  The Group requests that the design of the scalability model used in the Centre be applied to similar support entities.

Financing of Peacekeeping Missions

Mr. RAMANATHAN then introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on the financing of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) (documents A/73/654 and A/73/772), the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) (document A/73/707), MINUSTAH (document A/73/621), (UNMIL) (document A/73/692), the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) (documents A/73/614 and A/73/734) and United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) (documents A/73/652 and A/73/769).

Regarding MINUSCA in the Central African Republic, he said the Secretary-General is proposing a budget of $925.5 million for 2019/20, down 0.5 per cent compared with the 2018/19 approved budget mainly due to non-recurring costs for contingent-owned equipment for self-sustainment and for freight owing to the completion of the deployment of an additional 900 troops in 2018/19.  He added that the proposal takes into account recommendations contained in an independent strategic review of MINUSCA that the Security Council endorsed in its resolution 2448 (2018).

On UNOCI in Côte d’Ivoire, he said that Operation disposed of assets with a total inventory value of $115.4 million and $38 million residual value.  Group I assets with a total inventory value of $23.5 million were transferred to other missions or to the Logistics Base in Brindisi for storage, while Group II assets worth $29.7 million were sold commercially or at nominal value.  Group III assets includes those written off or lost with a total inventory value of $30.0 million.  In addition, assets with a total inventory value of $32.2 million were gifted to the Government of Côte d’Ivoire, Government agencies and non-profit partners following an assessment by a working group headed by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the country.

Turning to MINUSTAH in Haiti, he said the Mission spent $90.0 million in 2017/18, representing an implementation rate of 100 per cent.  During that period, the Mission gave priority to liquidation activities, including the complete withdrawal of military contingents and a drawdown of police personnel to reach the level of 295 United Nations police and seven formed police units that formed the authorized strength for MINUJUSTH, its successor mission.  MINUSTAH also focused on transitions mandated activities and closing facilities not needed by MINUJUSTH, he added.

Regarding UNMIL in Liberia, he said that Mission incurred expenditures of $109.6 million in 2017/18 for an implementation rate of 99.6 per cent.  Its financial performance reflected the early repatriation of uniformed personnel, a reduced number of flight hours and the earlier-than-planned closure of camps.  Overall reduced requirements were offset by high-then budgeted payments due to staff members at the time of their separation from service or relocation to other duty stations.

Turning to UNDOF, the Observer Force in the Golan, he said the Secretary-General is proposing a 2019/20 budget of $70.1 million, an increase of 16.2 per cent from 2018/19 that is mainly due to the expected conclusion of UNDOF’s full return to the Bravo side pursuant to Security Council resolution 2450 (2018), the reopening of the Qunaytirah crossing point and the continued commitment of the parties to the Disengagement of Forces Agreement.  For 2019/20, he said, the Force plans to deploy a net additional 128 military contingent personnel for “mobile patrolling activities” from Camp Faouar and Camp Ziouani to the area of separation.  UNDOF also plans to reconstruct two additional former United Nations positions, thus returning to the deployment levels and observation capabilities that it had prior to its temporary evacuation from the Bravo side in September 2014.

Finally, on UNMISS in South Sudan, he said the proposed budget of $1.2 billion for 2019/20 represents an increase of 6.4 per cent compared with approved resources for 2018/19.  Those larger requirements are mainly attributable to an increase in the deployment of military contingent personnel, higher costs for contingent-owned major equipment and self-sustainment, the planned implementation of critical engineering projects and higher salary-related costs for civilian personnel.  Going forward, the Mission will continue to implement its main priorities, he said, including providing support to the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement signed by parties to the conflict in September 2018.  In addition, UNMISS will continue to create conditions to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance while also monitoring and investigating human rights.  He noted that the Mission — which currently houses more than 198,000 internally displaced persons in six camps — will continue to implement its protection of civilians’ mandate.

Mr. TERZI introduced ACABQ’s corresponding reports.  Regarding MINUSCA (document A/73/755/Add.12), the Advisory Committee recommends that the budget proposed by the Secretary-General be reduced by $8.3 million.  Of the 42 new posts proposed for the 2019/2020 period, the ACAQB recommends approval of 34, but opposes the other eight, considering the existing and proposed capacities of the Mission.  The Advisory Committee notes a pattern of significant under-expenditures of operational costs and therefore recommends adjustments to the resources proposed under operational costs for 2019/2020.

On UNOCI (document A/73/854), the Advisory Committee is of the view that given the increased risks for loss, theft and fraud during the liquidation process, future mission liquidation plans should contain risk assessment and mitigation measures, he said.  The Advisory Committee recommends that the General Assembly request the Secretary-General to include in future reports disaggregated information for assets disposed of before and after the state-of-liquidation period.

Turning to MINUSTAH (document A/73/856), he said that the Advisory Committee recommends that the unencumbered balance, as well as other revenue and adjustments, be credited to Member States.  More information needs to be provided to the General Assembly to justify some expenditures, including ground transportation and communications, he added.

Regarding UNMIL (document A/73/855), the Advisory Committee recommends that the General Assembly defer a decision on the treatment of the unencumbered balance and other revenue until consideration of the final performance report, he said.  Regarding over-expenditure under some budget items, the Advisory Committee recommends that the General Assembly request the Secretary-General to ensure that relevant departments and support structures are involved with the monitoring and oversight of the liquidation process in missions from an early stage.

On UNDOF (document A/73/755/Add.3), he said that the Advisory Committee recommends a reduction of $182,600 to the proposed resources for 2019/2020 under official travel, facilities and infrastructure, and ground transportation, expressing concern about the low rate of compliance with the advance air ticket purchase policy.  The Advisory Committee looks forward to receiving information on these projects in the next budget report.  It also notes female representation is low overall, particularly among national staff, he said, encouraging the Mission to intensify its efforts to achieve gender balance among its civilian personnel.

Finally, on UNMISS (document A/73/755/Add.13), he said that the Advisory Committee recommends an overall reduction of 20 per cent in the proposed increase for operational costs.  It considers the proposal of converting 42 temporary assistance positions premature because most of the posts have been encumbered for less than three years.  It also opposes the creation of one United Nations Volunteer position for an administrative assistant in the Engineering Section.

AMMAR AWAD (Syria) said that the Secretary-General’s report on UNDOF exhibits a lack of impartiality as it describes the situation in the Golan Heights in favour of Israel.  The report puts Syria on an equal footing with Israel in terms of violations of the separation of forces agreement, he said, asking the Secretariat to correct the report.  Despite an illegitimate move by the United States to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Syrian Golan, the United Nations position on this matter is unchanged.  While welcoming the report’s inclusion of the list of terrorist organizations, he requested that such organizations be referred to as “terrorist groups” rather than “opposition groups”.  He also sought clarification about a reference to the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria, whose mandate has nothing to do with UNDOF’s mandate.  Syria also rejects any mention in the report of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), calling on the Fifth Committee to support the approval of all resources requested for UNDOF.

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