13 May 2003

Peacekeeping Support Account, Role of Oversight Services Among Issues Taken Up in Budget Committee

NEW YORK, 12 May (UN Headquarters) -- As it took up a new series of reports on various administrative and budgetary aspects of peacekeeping financing, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning focused on the functioning of the peacekeeping support account; the role of oversight services; and the participation of women in peacekeeping operations, both at Headquarters and in the field.

Canada's representative, speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, emphasized that with the major capacity-building stage nearly over, it was now important to focus on improving the management of the overall peacekeeping programme and the resources provided to it. The resources requested by the Secretariat last May were meant to establish a support-account capacity robust enough to effectively backstop peacekeeping operations. With a few exceptions, that capacity now existed and a new baseline had been set. He expected the general level of the support account to roughly mirror the operational tempo of United Nations peacekeeping.

The 2003/2004 budget proposal at $115.86 million, for the support account, which was established to allow the Secretariat to plan and deploy peacekeeping operations in a coordinated manner, is a $14.97 million increase, due mainly to changes in standard salary costs and the inclusion of posts for resident auditors.

Yet, said Canada's representative, some key support requirements remained unfilled, including management-level direction in the information technology framework within the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Given the scope of the information technology infrastructure, strong executive leadership was paramount. Another requirement yet to be filled was a United Nations capacity for addressing the different needs of women and men in conflict and post-conflict situations in the context of peacekeeping operations.

Also emphasized in today's discussion was the importance of effective oversight in strengthening the management of the peacekeeping programme. Several speakers agreed that it was a wise investment, and supported creating several additional posts for the Investigations Division of the Office of Internal Oversight Services and moving to the support account the posts for resident auditors, which had previously been funded under individual peacekeeping mission budgets.

Several speakers welcomed the gender strategy contained in the Secretary-General's report on the matter, and supported the establishment of a dedicated capacity in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. The representative of Peru (on behalf of the Rio Group) said that gender mainstreaming would increase women's participation in peacekeeping activities both at Headquarters and in the field, particularly in leadership positions. She, therefore, supported the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) regarding the establishment of a P-4 level gender adviser post within the Department at Headquarters. The representative of Norway, however, expressed regret that neither the proposed post at a P-5 level nor a General Service position had been recommended by the ACABQ.

Also this morning, the Committee took up several reports related to the salary of the Secretary-General and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator, as well as compensation and conditions of service of other than Secretariat officials of the United Nations. The United States' representative questioned why the proposal to adjust the salaries of senior International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) officials and the Chairman of the ACABQ was linked to the salaries of Assistant Secretary-General and Under-Secretary-General. Over the years, he said, it had been understood that conditions of service of those officials were separate and distinct from those of the Secretariat.

Numerous reports before the Committee were introduced by: the United Nations Controller, Jean-Pierre Halbwachs; Chairman of the ACABQ, Conrad S.M. Mselle; Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, Dileep Nair; and Director of the Specialist Services Division, Jan Beagle.

The Committee will continue its consideration of the reports, introduced today, at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 13 May.

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