21 November 2005
Budget Committee Takes up $1.2 Billion Financing Proposal for Democratic Republic of Congo Mission
NEW YORK, 18 November (UN Headquarters) -- As the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) took up the nearly $1.15 billion 2005-2006 budget proposal for the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), several speakers questioned what effect the $12.79 million reduction proposed by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) would have on the Mission's ability to properly prepare for upcoming elections.
Speaking on behalf of the African Group, the representative of Nigeria said that, in light of the 300 additional troops authorized for MONUC by the Council in October, the Group would appreciate an assurance that the already reflected adjustments would not negatively impact the Mission's ability to effectively and adequately discharge its mandate. That raised the question of what effect, if any, the reduction would have on the Mission's ability to properly prepare for upcoming elections, especially against a backdrop of a condensed election time line.
She added that MONUC had had to cope with frequently changing mandates more than any other Mission. It had a vital role in ensuring the peace and stability and could only do so with the tangible support of all Member States.
Created in February 2000, MONUC was last extended through 30 September 2006 by Council resolution 1628 of 28 October. Prior to that, its mandate had been extended by resolutions 1592 of 30 March 2005 and 1621 of 6 September 2005. By the latter, the Council authorized an increase in the strength of MONUC by 841 personnel, including up to five formed police units of 125 officers each. It also authorized the Mission to provide additional support to the Independent Electoral Commission for the transport of electoral materials.
On the most recent mandate, Director of the Peacekeeping Financing Division, Catherine Pollard, who introduced the budget reports to the Committee, said that by its resolution 1628, the Council had also authorized an increase of 300 personnel in the military strength of MONUC to allow for the deployment of an infantry battalion in Katanga. Should additional resources be required in connection with that increase, a request for commitment authority would be submitted to the Advisory Committee. Related expenditures would be reported in the context of the Mission's performance report for the period.
She also alerted the delegates to the fact -- a point later reiterated by United Nations Controller Warren Sach -- that, as of 15 November, cash available to the Mission amounted to some $205.7 million. Given the current level of Member States' debt ($298.2 million as at 31 October), the timing of expected decisions on the financing of the Mission for 2005-2006 and the consequential timing of the receipt of new assessments, some $25 million would have to be borrowed from closed peacekeeping missions in January 2006. Accordingly, it would not be possible to reimburse troop contributors at the end of the year.
The representative of the United Kingdom, who spoke on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that following several revisions to the mandate of the Mission, its exact composition had been in flux for considerable time. Although that made forecasting requirements more difficult than usual, he could not overlook the fact that the outcome of the review of the Mission's staffing structure and organization would only be presented to the Assembly next May -- some two years after it had been initially requested. He fully agreed with the ACABQ that under those conditions, all posts be approved on a temporary basis for now.
In that connection, the United States' representative said that, as the largest United Nations peacekeeping mission with a complex mandate in a challenging environment, MONUC should have the most effective and efficient management of its operations. It was for that reason that she was greatly disappointed that the structure review had not been done in time for inclusion in the proposed budget and was only now being performed by an outside consultant. With more than 25 posts at the D-1 and higher level, it was unclear why their collective expertise could not have been pooled long ago to address the question of the organizational structure.
Also this afternoon, the Committee concluded its consideration of the report on the administrative expenses of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund, and the Chief of the Common Services Unit of the Programme and Planning and Budget Division responded to questions in connection with the Secretary-General's report on the possibility of operating guided tours and gift shops at the United Nations Office at Nairobi. Statements on the latter were made by representatives of Nigeria and Kenya.
Also speaking today were representatives of South Africa, Uganda, Japan, Guatemala, Uruguay and Syria. Responding to questions and introducing ACABQ reports was the Acting Chairman of that body, Rajat Saha.
The Committee will hold its next formal meeting at 10 a.m. Monday, 21 November.
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today was expected to continue its consideration of the reports on the administrative expenses of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund (for background information, see Press Release GA/AB/3707 of 14 November) and take up financing of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC).
The Committee had before it a report of the Secretary-General on the budget for MONUC for the period from 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006 (document A/60/389).
Created by the Security Council in February 2000, MONUC's mandate was last extended in Council resolution 1592 of 30 March 2005 until 1 October 2005, with the intention to renew it for further periods. By subsequent resolution 1621 of 6 September 2005, the Council authorized an increase in the strength of MONUC by 841 personnel, including up to five formed police units of 125 officers each. It also authorized the Mission to provide additional support to the Independent Electoral Commission for the transport of electoral materials.
The Secretary-General recommends that the General Assembly appropriate $1.15 billion for the maintenance of the Mission for the 12-month period from 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006. That would be inclusive of the nearly $383.19 million previously authorized under the terms of Assembly resolution 59/285 B of 22 June 2005 for the period from 1 July to 31 October 2005. The budget provides for the deployment of 760 military observers, 15,814 military contingent personnel, 391 civilian police officers, 625 formed police personnel, 1,179 international staff, 2,225 national staff and 702 United Nations volunteers, inclusive of 73 international staff, 274 national staff and 160 United Nations volunteers for a six-month period in support of elections.
The recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), which are contained in its report on the matter (document A/60/536), would entail a reduction of some $12.79 million in the proposed budget for the Mission for the period from 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006. Accordingly, the Advisory Committee recommends that the Assembly appropriate an amount of some $1.13 billion for the maintenance of MONUC for the period from 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006, inclusive of the previously authorized amount of $383.19 million.
In connection with the financing of MONUC for the period from 1 July 2003 to 30 June 2004, the Advisory Committee recommends that the unencumbered balance of $4.55 million, as well as the income and adjustments in the amount of $28.28 million, be credited to Member States in a manner to be determined by the Assembly.
The Advisory Committee makes a number of recommendations with regard to the administration and management of the Mission and opportunities for further savings. In particular, it suggests that delays in the deployment schedule of military and civilian personnel should be taken into account in the budget estimates. The Advisory Committee also notes that the structure of the western brigade and newly deployed eastern brigades does not contain any integral support elements. Such arrangements represent a shift from the standard practice, under which military contingents provide for their own logistic and support capacities. That raises wide-ranging policy issues, including those related to the need to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of such measures and analyse their impact. It is also necessary to evaluate the capacity of the civilian component to carry out additional tasks.
In connection with a comprehensive review of the Mission's organizational structure that is being undertaken by independent consultants, the Advisory Committee queries why the Office of Internal Oversight Services and the Peacekeeping Best Practices Unit did not take lead roles in it. It also expresses disappointment at the slow pace of the implementation of the review, particularly since it renders a detailed examination of the proposed staffing of the Mission for 2005/06 of limited value. In the light of these considerations, the Advisory Committee will defer detailed recommendations on posts to its consideration of the budget for 2006/07, which should incorporate the findings of the review. In the meantime, the Mission should continue to hire essential personnel on temporary contracts of up to one year, within currently approved resources.
Noting the Mission's concerted effort to implement the Advisory Committee's recommendation that, wherever feasible, national General Service staff and national officers should be hired by the Mission, the ACABQ states that this will contribute to capacity-building and transfer of knowledge to the local population. It will also increase the feeling of local ownership of MONUC's activities. At the same time, the ACABQ was surprised that in 2003-2004, 70 per cent of national staff were at higher levels than the budgeted level of G-2, step 1, resulting in increased requirements of some $1.71 million. Better planning should prevail in the future, and the 2004/05 performance report should bear out the corrective action taken.
Turning to the proposed conversion of 395 interpreter/translator individual contractor positions to national General Service posts, the ACABQ questions why this request is associated with the expansion of the Mission. It seems likely that the need for interpreters and translators will diminish following the elections and, furthermore, that the Mission will need to be reconfigured once elections are over. These considerations should be taken into account when preparing the MONUC estimates for 2006/07. In the meantime, the planned conversions should not go forward.
According to the document, full deployment of 507 additional personnel in support of the elections is planned for 30 November 2005, with the number going down to 210 for the final two months of the financial period. The Advisory Committee insists that this plan does not constitute a "phased" deployment. Surely, election-related activities will build to a peak and then taper off. The Mission would be better served by hiring such personnel in stages as the need arises, rather than all at once, using personnel already on board flexibly to cover any deficiencies in staffing for the election period. Also, all personnel hired for activities directly related to the elections should be on temporary positions.
While recognizing the importance of public information activities to voter sensitization and Mission public relations, the ACABQ also points out that the Office of Public Information has a total of 226 personnel approved for 2004/05. Consideration should be given to meeting public information needs, at least in part, through redeployment of current capacity. The ACABQ's other recommendations relate to the need to carefully monitor travel expenditures and rationalize training-related travel costs. Also recommended in the report is a reduction in resource requirements for air transportation to some $285.26 million, as MONUC has a history of underutilization of budgeted air transportation resources.
Introduction of Documents
CATHERINE POLLARD, Director of the Peacekeeping Financing Division, introduced the Secretary-General's reports on the performance of the MONUC for 2003-2004 (document A/59/657) and the proposed budget of the Mission for the period ending on 30 June 2006 (document A/60/389). Regarding the performance report for 2003-2004, she said that, against the appropriation of $641 million, there had been expenditures of $636.5 million. There was an unencumbered balance of $4.5 million. The budget implementation rate amounted to 99.3 per cent.
On the most recent mandate, she said that, by its resolution 1628 of 28 October, the Council had extended the mandate of the Mission until 30 September 2006 and authorized an increase of 300 personnel in the military strength of MONUC to allow for the deployment of an infantry battalion in Katanga. Should additional resources be required in connection with the increase of 300 military personnel, a request for commitment authority, if necessary, would be submitted to the Advisory Committee and related expenditures would be reported in the context of the Mission's performance report for the period.
She added that, as of 15 November, cash available in the Mission's special account amounted to some $205.7 million. Given the current level of outstanding assessments ($298.2 million as at 31 October), the timing of decisions by the Assembly on the financing of the Mission for 2005-2006 and the consequential timing of receipt of new assessed contributions, it was anticipated that some $25 million would have to be borrowed from closed peacekeeping missions in January 2006. Accordingly, it would be not possible to reimburse troop contributors at the end of the year.
Acting chairman of the ACABQ, RAJAT SAHA, presented that body's related report (document A/60/536). He said that there had been a history of difficulties with the preparation of MONUC's budget. To some extent, that reflected the very difficult nature of the Mission itself. That being said, the Advisory Committee had, in recent years, drawn attention to numerous shortcomings in the budget for the Mission and had made a number of recommendations aimed at more rational organizational structure and more transparent budgeting. Against that background, the ACABQ noted the Secretariat's efforts to make the budget documents clear and more concise.
Among other things, he said that the Advisory Committee had followed up on its previous recommendations concerning contractor delivery of rations by air. The Secretariat had developed a new mode of delivery and the Advisory Committee trusted that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations would look into the possibility of applying that to other missions, where feasible.
Turning to civilian personnel, he said that the ACABQ was disappointed at the slow pace of implementation of the recommendation for a comprehensive review of the Mission's organizational structure. Under the circumstances, the ACABQ would defer detailed recommendations on posts to its consideration of the proposed budget for 2006-2007 in a few months.
Another issue of general concern was the Joint Military Commission concept. The Advisory Committee had been informed that a paper on the matter was being prepared for submission to the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations. He urged the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to compete the paper as a matter of urgency, so it could be taken into account in the preparation of proposed peacekeeping budgets for 2006-2007. The estimate for operational costs had also been affected by the revised deployment schedule, especially as it related to air transportation costs.
SIMON HORNER (United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, paid tribute to the 62 staff who had died in MONUC in the pursuit of peace. In that respect, the Union could not over-emphasize the importance of a credible, transparent election process, with all relevant United Nations and national actors within the Democratic Republic of the Congo working together, supported by the requisite number of staff. He commended the Mission and the Congolese authorities on the achievement of registering over 20 million voters.
Following several revisions to the mandate of the Mission, its exact composition had been in flux for considerable time, he continued. While acknowledging that that would have made forecasting requirements more difficult than usual, he could not overlook the fact that the outcome of the review of the staffing structure and organization would only be presented to the Assembly next May -- some two years after it had been initially requested. He fully agreed with the ACABQ that, at this stage, all posts be approved on a temporary basis.
The Union welcomed the steps to address the serious issue of sexual exploitation and abuse, he said. A crucial factor in preventing misconduct was widespread mainstreaming of gender awareness across peacekeeping missions. He urged all senior mission staff to continue their efforts to strictly enforce the zero-tolerance approach, while holding accountable all those responsible. It was also essential that all troop-contributing countries enforced strictly established standards in respect of their troops. A tough approach was the only one that would work.
Continuing, he expressed concern over the fact that coordination between the Mission and funds, programmes and agencies had proven difficult, because of the different approaches taken. However, efforts were under way to review the existing coordination structure. In that respect, he would welcome an explanation from the Secretariat of what remained to be done to enhance coordination on the ground and ensure that a coherent workplan was drawn up and implemented. A clear link should also be made between offices outside the Mission areas and how they fit with the mandate. Also, in paragraph 21 of its report, the ACABQ referred to support capacities being provided by civilian, rather than military means. The Union would welcome clarification on whether that was standard practice or denoted a change of policy.
The Union welcomed the comments to the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) by the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping on 20 October in respect of the establishment of an integrated training service, he said. That addressed directly the request made in resolution 59/296. He trusted that that would result in a more strategic approach, both in terms of training offered and in resources requested for those activities. He also welcomed the approaches taken in respect of rations delivery and air services, both of which had previously been issues of contention for the Fifth Committee.
Finally, the Union noted with satisfaction that the Secretary-General would seek commitment authority, rather than revert to the General Assembly, should the Mission be unable to absorb the additional expenses arising from the reconfiguration of military personnel approved by the Council on 28 October.
NONYE UDO (Nigeria), who spoke on behalf of the African Group, said MONUC has had to cope with frequently changing mandates more than any other Mission. On 6 September 2005, the Security Council authorized an increase of 841 personnel for MONUC, including up to five formed police units. She added that the same resolution authorized MONUC to "provide additional support to the Independent Electoral Commission, as well as contribute to a number of expected accomplishments by delivering related key outputs". The MONUC had a vital role to play in ensuring peace and stability and could only do so with the tangible support of all Member States. The Council had noted recent developments and, since the preparation of the budget document, on 28 October 2005, it had again extended the mandate of MONUC to 30 September 2006 by its resolution 1635 (2005).
Concerning the budget, the African Group noted that the Secretary-General submitted a request for $1.15 billion, while the Advisory Committee recommended a reduction of $12.79 million, for a total of $1.13 billion. In light of the 300 additional troops authorized by the Council, the Group would appreciate an assurance that the already reflected adjustments would not negatively impact the Mission's ability to effectively and adequately discharge its mandate. That raised the question of what effect, if any, the reduction would have on the Mission's ability to properly prepare for upcoming elections, especially against a backdrop of a condensed election time line.
The African Group would like more information on the Mission's efforts to provide both logistic and support capacities for the troops and was concerned with the Mission's high vacancy rate. She asked what additional efforts the Mission would take to ensure the immediate filling of all vacant posts. The Group was unclear on how the Advisory Committee wanted the Mission to take a phased approach towards deployment of personnel for electoral assistance, barely six months before the scheduled elections and one month from the date of its referendum. She added that elections were nearing and every effort must be made to support the Mission in order to ensure a positive outcome. She welcomed the proposal to strengthen the capacity of Entebbe, one of the largest airports in Africa, which was readily accessible overland from nearby large-capacity seaports. That would contribute to the smoother operation of the peacekeeping operations in the region.
KAREN LOCK (South Africa) associated herself with the statement of the representative of Nigeria on behalf of the African Group and noted that the upcoming elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo would be the country's first national elections since 1965. In recognition of the accompanying challenges, the Security Council in September 2005 increased the strength of the Mission.
South Africa shared the observation that the management of MONUC, more than any other peacekeeping operation, has had to respond to a significant number of changes in its mandate. She said MONUC required some stability in the staffing of its civilian component and she would have been more supportive of a recommendation by the ACABQ to create the posts requested in the budget proposal. The Secretary-General again recently reported that the staff shortages faced by the Mission were constraining its capacity to support the multiple demands of the electoral process and robust military operations in the eastern part of the country.
She said the challenges faced by the transitional government and the United Nations in reaching all eligible voters in a country the size of Europe with limited infrastructure were enormous. Consequently, she was not convinced by the ACABQ's observation that election personnel should be hired in stages. That was especially so in view of the staff shortages faced by the Mission, which had hampered its ability to redeploy existing staff. She was also concerned with the notion that public information needs could be met through the redeployment of current capacity. The public information capacity of MONUC played a crucial role in ensuring that the electoral and political processes were well understood by the population and all political parties. She noted that public information activities, however, were not limited to the elections process and were crucial for the implementation of the other substantive components of MONUC's mandate.
FRANCIS MUMBEY-WAFULA (Uganda) associated himself with the statement of the representative of Nigeria on behalf of the African Group. He said the Democratic Republic of the Congo was emerging from years of war and neglect, and the erosion of State institutions and infrastructure had created an enormous challenge to the State and the region, especially in the area of safety and security.
He said a secure and stable political climate in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was essential to Uganda and that negative forces continued to operate in the eastern region of the country. Therefore, he welcomed full deployment of troops and civilian police in the east, in line with the expanded Security Council mandate and provided for in the budget. That would help restore security. The Uganda delegation supported the Secretary-General's request for a $1.15 billion budget and would objectively look at the ACABQ's proposal of $1.13 billion budget during the informal session.
Turning to the use, development and expansion of the Entebbe Logistical Base as a regional hub, in line with the common use of Mission assets, Uganda would render all necessary support in the interest of enhancing efficiencies in the use of resources. He said projected savings in the area of procurement in the use of Entebbe as a regional procurement centre was welcome progress in the right direction. Finally, Uganda remained concerned about the vacancy rate at MONUC. He wanted to know how the Mission planned to correct the problem and whether the situation had affected the Mission's performance.
MELANIE ATTWOOLL (United States) expressed appreciation for the considerable improvement in its budget presentation format. Overall, there was a clearly identifiable linkage between new resources requested and their relation to the Mission mandate. She also welcomed the additional information provided regarding the Mission's response to the recommendations of the ACABQ. She was pleased to note that in some cases -- such as rations delivery -- that had resulted in greater economy and improved delivery of service.
As the largest United Nations peacekeeping mission with a complex mandate in a challenging environment, her delegation looked to MONUC to have the most effective and efficient management of its operations. It was for that reason that she was greatly disappointed to note that the review of the mission structure, which had repeatedly been requested by the ACABQ since 2003, had not been done in time for inclusion in the proposed budget and was only now being performed by an outside consultant. With more than 25 posts at the D-1 and higher level, it was unclear why their collective expertise could not have been pooled long ago to address the question of the organizational structure.
In the budget before the Committee, there was a commendable effort to link new posts to the revised mandate, she continued. However, there was no evidence whether the existing capacities had been taken into consideration. For instance, in the 2003-2004 budget, the Assembly had approved 126 new posts in the Electoral Assistance Division, many of which were dedicated to logistical support in advance of elections. That was a key element of the recently revised mandate for which 15 permanent and 37 temporary posts had been requested. Yet, there was no information on whether efforts had been made to accommodate some or all of the new requirements from within existing staff capacity. She was left with the impression that new posts were being "layered" on without any reprioritization of existing posts.
In light of the United Nations Development Programme's prominent role in support of elections, for which it had a budget of some $285 million, she would appreciate information on MONUC's relationship with the UNDP in that area of activity. She would also like to get more detail on the provision of logistical support for the elections. From the proposed budget, it followed that considerable effort would be put into electoral support, including through the refurbishment and maintenance of new premises and the provision of information and communication technology networks in remote locations. She would like to have a clearer understanding of how those functions would be met in such a short time frame in advance of elections.
She also noted from the comments of the ACABQ that it was standard for military contingents to provide their own support capacity, but in the case of the western brigade and new eastern brigades, the support would be provided by civilian personnel. She looked forward to further information on the reasons for that situation. What efforts were being made to utilize and build local capacity to support contingents in remote areas? And, finally, she was pleased to see that there was a direct reporting line between the Conduct and Discipline Unit and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General. She would also welcome an update on progress made to address the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse.
HITOSHI KOAKI (Japan) said that his delegation highly appreciated the tireless efforts of the troop-contributing countries and staff of MONUC who were continuing their operations under difficult circumstances. He also acknowledged the improvement made with regard to budget presentation, which had taken into account the observations and recommendations of the ACABQ endorsed by the Assembly. However, he had to point out that the delay in submitting the budget was a sign of a delay in the efforts to improve the management of the Mission, which continued to be a source of concern. He was bewildered that the Secretariat had outsourced a comprehensive review of the Mission structure to an outside consultant as late as mid-October this year.
There must be full justification not only for all additional, but also for all existing resources, he said. His delegation had been disappointed with the quality of the revised budget proposals for 2004/05 in March and again with the approval of the commitment authority with assessment in May this year. As the Mission had not implemented the recommendation of the Advisory Committee to conduct a comprehensive review of its structure, its results could not be reflected in the proposal for 2005/06, thus leaving the ACABQ with little choice but to defer detailed consideration of the proposed posts. As a result, the Committee was once again faced with a situation where a huge budget for MONUC was before it without proper consideration of its posts and structure.
Resource management should be based on the priorities of a mission, he continued. From that standpoint, the Mission should not only ask for additional posts for the upcoming election, but also utilize existing staff, shifting them to higher priority areas. As the Mission had previously increased the number of staff in the Public Information Section in order to prepare for elections, a fundamental review of the size of that Section should be carried out before the proposal for 2006-07 was made, given that the planned elections would be competed by the end of June 2006. Similarly, the demand for interpreters and translators would diminish after the election. He also did not think it was appropriate for the Secretariat to operate under individual contracts for a while and then convert their positions into posts by subsequently claiming the nature of their work was "continuing full-time core". He also wanted to know more about the current mechanism for cooperation between the Mission and other United Nations entities and about future plans in that area.
KARLA GABRIELA SAMAYOA-RECARI (Guatemala) said she supported the statement made on behalf of the African Group. She added that she was concerned that nothing had been said about reimbursements to the contributing countries.
Mr. PRATO (Uruguay) said his country was always fully committed to the important efforts of peacekeeping operations and had an active participation in MONUC. Uruguay was concerned with the security situation on the ground in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, especially in the eastern part of country, and how that would affect the upcoming free elections and a lasting peace.
Uruguay noted recent Security Council resolutions had authorized increases in troops to MONUC and that was reflected in the budget of the Secretary-General. The Advisory Committee said there should be more caution in that area. He said he wanted to support MONUC in such a crucial stage.
RAYMOND KISSMANY (Syria) supported the position of the African Group and commended the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo for their determination to move towards peace. He also welcomed the African Union's important role in the country. Taking note of the reports before the Committee, he said that he would like to explore what effect the reduction proposed by the ACABQ would have on the functioning of the Mission. In conclusion, he reiterated his delegation's commitment to peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That conflict should receive the highest priority.
United Nations Controller, WARREN SACH, emphasized that MONUC was a Mission where contributions were not coming in on a timely basis. As a result, it would not be in a position to reimburse the troop contributors at the end of the year. It was necessary to rectify that situation. He thanked the delegations for their statements of support to the Mission and added that written answers to today's questions would be provided to the Committee on Monday.
Mr. SAHA noted the questions to the ACABQ and said that additional information would be provided to the Committee in informals.
Turning to the administrative expenses of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund, contained in documents A/60/183 and A/60/7/Add.7, the Committee continued the discussion begun on 14 November.
TOM REPASCH (United States), a member of the Pension Committee who represents the Fifth Committee, said Member States needed to make sure the Fund had what it needed to do its work effectively. At the same time, it was important that the pension programme was administered efficiently to maintain the confidence of participating organizations and Member States that provided the investment resources. Regarding the value of the Pension Fund, he said the United States was satisfied with the sizeable increase in the Fund's value to more than $30 billion at the end of October.
Regarding the Pension Fund's proposed budget for 2006-2007, he said he valued the working group's efforts to evaluate the budget proposal and concurred with its conclusion that a clearer distinction needed to be made between recurrent and non-recurrent costs. He also agreed with its conclusion that the items of the General Operating Budget needed to be more thoroughly quantified.
On the issue of budget estimates and the Advisory Committee's analysis, he had several comments. He welcomed the effort to introduce some elements of results-based budgeting and looked forward to more progress in that area with the next budget. He endorsed the Advisory Committee's recommendations on the proposed staffing of the Fund's administration. But, on the investment side, he would like the Advisory Committee to clarify its conclusions regarding the proposed reclassifications and its suggestion to create a Deputy Director for the Investment Management Service.
And regarding the current budget for 2004-2005, he noted that the revised estimate of $89.6 million reflected sizeable additional costs for management fees for the small capitalizations portfolio. He understood the fees were based on the market value of the managed funds, but would like to know if there was a better way to predict or account for those fees. And with regard to governance matters, the United States wanted to know what progress had been made to set up an Audit Committee for the Pension Fund. That was critical to provide expert advice and guidance to the Pension Board, as well as the Fund's Secretariat.
As the Committee turned to the Secretary-General's report (document A/59/793) on the possibility of providing guided tours, bookstores and gift shops at the United Nations Office at Nairobi, VLADIMIR BELOV, Chief of the Common Services Unit of the Programme and Planning and Budget Division, replied to questions raised during the general discussion made on 14 November.
Responding to the Nigerian delegate's question of whether the Secretariat had considered the importance of guided tours to the public, Mr. Belov said the Secretariat had considered that factor and others. He said that, to be attractive and efficient, guided tours in general must meet certain general conditions, such as providing sufficient cultural and historical information and a location in a city with a certain level of tourism.
He said several factors, such as the Nairobi Office's remote location and security considerations would prevent a stable flow of visitors. The underlying conditions were not sufficient for the Secretariat to recommend that the General Assembly invest its funds and create guided tours.
Ms. UDO (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group, thanked the Secretariat for the answers provided. Having reread the report on the feasibility of conducting guided tours at Nairobi, she would like to obtain details of the feasibility study, which had been undertaken there. Who had conducted it, and what were its findings? How was the determination made that Nairobi's "significantly smaller" collection of artefacts would diminish its attractiveness? What provisions had been made to beautify the office? What was being done to encourage donation of artefacts?
She also asked on what information the Secretariat had based its assumption that there would be limited number of visitors. How many people had visited Nairobi in recent times? What were the estimated costs related to visitor services? How did the Secretariat quantify the educational benefits of tours? What value was accorded to that in the study? When did the Secretariat intend to implement the Assembly's demand that all offices of the United Nations be treated equally?
She emphasized that Africa attached great importance to the Nairobi Office. Increasingly, more Africans were becoming aware of the existence of the United Nations. Most of them would never travel to New York, but they could realistically visit Nairobi. In that connection, she had a question -- had the General Assembly redefined the purposes of the United Nations as a strictly for-profit organization?
Mr. AMOLO (Kenya) said that he could not agree more with the representative of Nigeria, who spoke on behalf of the African Group. He found the Secretary-General's report before the Committee too casual and flippant on some issues. On the construction of the gift shop, he asked why it would be located outside the main security parameter. Given the practice of other offices, it should reflect the unique culture of the United Nations. It would be strange for the gift shop in New York to be located at Grand Central Station, for example. The main attraction and selling point would be the United Nations itself. He also wanted to know who the architect was and asked if the gift shop at Nairobi would incorporate local design elements.
Regarding the possibility of operating guided tours, he was struck by the remark in the report, which said that Nairobi "lacked the landmark features". He lived in that part of the world and the gently rolling hills were not "something to be sniffed at". That was the same Nairobi that the Secretary-General had referred to as beautiful premises. What landmark features did Nairobi specifically lack?
Regarding the artefacts, he said that collections took a long time to accumulate. It was necessary to make Nairobi a place that people would like to visit and enjoy. He also asked why security conditions would prevent the Office from conducting guided tours. Some of the benefits that accrued from tours could not be quantified by a dollar figure. The impact on the lives and knowledge of the people was infinitely more important.
Ms. LOCK (South Africa) associated herself with the statement made on behalf of the African Group and the delegate of Kenya. She noted that the duty station in Nairobi was the only duty station of the United Nations in Africa, as well as the developing world. She expected the Secretariat to find a solution to the request of the General Assembly and present the Member States with more reasons on why their decision could not be implemented.
She would like a better understanding of what steps the Secretariat had taken at other duty stations to ensure that gift shops and guided tours were being used by the public and that the public knew about their presence. She also would like to know what steps were taken to promote guided tours and make the presence of the Nairobi Office known in Nairobi and throughout the continent. She added that, when the General Assembly agreed to additional security measures at United Nations offices, it had said that the unique nature of the United Nations offices would be taken into account and security measures would not impair access by the general public. She assumed that would apply to Nairobi.
Ms. UDO (Nigeria) said questions on the issue of guided tours had been posed to the acting chairman of the Advisory Committee. She wanted to know what additional information was presented to the Advisory Committee during its consideration of the Secretary-General's report. She would like to obtain that information during the informal session.
Mr. SAHA, acting chairman of the Advisory Committee, said he had detailed information from the Secretariat that could be circulated to the Member States. He assumed that they had the information.
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