13 May 2004
Budget Committee Considers Proposals to Enhance Security of UN Staff, Operations, Premises
Financial Situation Also Discussed, with Speakers Calling for Timely,
Full, Unconditional Payment of Budget Assessments
NEW YORK, 12 May (UN Headquarters) -- Describing a radically altered security environment in which the United Nations had become a target of choice, speakers in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) called for a comprehensive review of United Nations security procedures, as the Committee considered the issue of the safety and security of United Nations operations, staff and premises this morning.
Introducing the Secretary-Generals report on the first phase of security reforms at the United Nations, the Under-Secretary-General for Management, Catherine Bertini, said the current situation was not business as usual or routine, but critical for the safety of all who worked under the United Nations flag. The first phase of the security proposals included urgent construction upgrades and an immediate increase in the presence of the Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator (UNSECOORD) at high-risk duty stations.
None of the requirements for 2004 would prejudice the new security management structure proposed in phase two to be presented to the Assembly in the fall, she said. The Secretary-Generals proposal was no ordinary budget request and, in that regard, should not be treated in the traditional manner of seeking out every possible expenditure for reduction. The Secretariat had not presented a budget with fat in it, but one that met basic but hugely increased security needs.
The Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), Vladimir Kusnetzov, introducing that bodys related report, noted that within the last few years there had been a rather piecemeal approach where emergency resources were requested for short-term measures. The result was a series of band aid solutions in which the use of resources was seen as a substitute for a true security plan. A comprehensive strategy of enhancing the safety of United Nations premises, operations and staff was long overdue. Throwing money at an ad hoc piecemeal approach that responded to events rather than anticipated them was actually a disservice, and the expenditure of large sums of money without an effective and coordinated plan of action among all players could result in false security and disastrous consequences.
In the debate that followed, speakers agreed that the attack on the United Nations headquarters in August 2003 in Iraq had shattered the perception of the relative safety of United Nations staff. Many speakers expressed disappointment at the deferral or delay in implementing already scheduled and budgeted security improvements. Among specific concerns raised was the need to ensure adequate staffing levels for UNSECOORD and the responsibility of host countries to provide adequate security. Speakers also noted that in the absence of a comprehensive overview, it was difficult to assess real priorities for enhancing security arrangements.
Norways representative, noting that the perfect should not be the enemy of the good, said financial considerations should never be the predominant factor in decisions regarding security. She was surprised that the ACABQ had recommended cutting the Secretary-Generals budget proposal by more than 25 per cent and disagreed with its recommendations, in particular, regarding the 116 new posts under the Office of the Security Coordinator. She could not see that a deferral of the request for 58 additional new security coordinators was justified. Security should rely on predictable funding arrangements and should be viewed as a shared responsibility for Member States. She welcomed the Secretary-Generals proposal to phase out the present cost-sharing arrangements between United Nations funds, programmes and organizations.
The representative of the United States noted that should the Committee endorse the ACABQs recommendation to convert 58 existing field security officer posts to regular budget financing, it would leave UNSECOORD with no net gain in its total posts and without the necessary flexibility to respond quickly and effectively to crises in the field. UNSECOORDs headquarters capacity was under-resourced to fully carry out its mandate. One of the main factors driving the establishment of a cost-sharing system was the need to foster greater coordination, both in the field and at headquarters between the United Nations and United Nations organizations participating in the security management system. In that regard, it would be premature to change the current mechanism in the absence of further information on the role and responsibilities of each entity.
Qatars representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, stressed the need for a well-defined hierarchical security structure, accompanied by clearly identified lines of responsibility and accountability. He also stressed the need for United Nations system organizations to further harmonize their efforts on safety and security to ensure coordination and unity of purpose. The cost-sharing arrangement set by the Assembly in its resolution 56/255 was a step in the direction of ensuring proper security, and it should be pursued.
As a host country to many of the organizations within the United Nations system, the representative of Switzerland said the Organization should not wait for acts of violence to occur before taking effective actions. In that context, he regretted that the Advisory Committee advocated waiting until the next session to confirm the measures proposed by the Secretariat. Immediate action was needed, in conjunction with reflection and planning on overall strategy in security matters.
Taking up the Organizations financial situation, which had initially been presented to the Committee by the Under-Secretary-General for Management last week, many speakers expressed satisfaction over such positive developments as improved cash flow and the overall reduction in the amount of Member States arrears as of the end of 2003. However, the amount of $1.6 billion in unpaid assessments was still substantial. While recognizing economic difficulties faced by some countries, members of the Committee stressed the importance of timely, full and unconditional payment of dues by Member States, which was needed to ensure the effective functioning of the Organization.
In that connection, Algerias representative suggested that the Secretariat should consider sending reminder letters to Member States in arrears, and the representative of Ireland (on behalf of the European Union) said that the Organization could not continue with the present cycle of arrears. Stressing the need to find alternatives to cross-borrowing from the accounts of closed peacekeeping missions, she pondered the need to consider consolidation of peacekeeping accounts, a system of offsetting peacekeeping arrears against debt to troop contributors, or measures to encourage prompt payment.
A representative of one of the Organizations major contributors -- Japan -- said that with an assessment rate close to 20 per cent, his country shouldered a significant part of the regular budget, the peacekeeping budgets and the budgets of the two Tribunals. He stressed the need to ensure the most efficient use of the United Nations funds and emphasized an ever-growing importance of accountability in order to satisfy the demands of Japans taxpayers.
Many speakers expressed alarm over a serious financial crisis faced by the two international Tribunals, which had ended 2003 with a negative cash position of $473 million. While several speakers supported the steps taken by the Secretariat to freeze recruitment and scale down operations there, the representative of South Africa (on behalf of the African Group) expressed serious concern that any delays in recruitment could have a negative impact on the work of the Rwanda Tribunal.
The representative of the Republic of Korea, however, advocated further action to match the operational costs of the Tribunals with the level of actual payments received. The level of payments, disappointing as it might be, should be taken as an indicator of the level of political support for the Tribunals.
Another source of concern was a high level of the Organizations debt to countries contributing troops and equipment to peacekeeping operations. In 2003, the amounts due to Member States had been reduced to almost $439 million, compared to $703 million at the end of 2002, but several speakers urged that all outstanding amounts, including those from closed missions, should be paid to them as a matter of high priority. It was pointed out that many of the troop contributors were developing countries, whose ability to participate in peacekeeping could be greatly enhanced if the Organization met its obligation to reimburse them in a timely manner.
Speakers also noted that an unprecedented level of peacekeeping operations was going to significantly increase the peacekeeping budget. Of particular concern was critical financial situation of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and THE United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), which had had to resort to cross-borrowing from closed missions due to non-payment of contributions. At the same time, several speakers noted that increased requirements were placing an additional financial burden on Member States.
Also participating in the debate were the representatives of Brazil (on behalf of the Rio Group), Australia (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand), China, Russian Federation, United Republic of Tanzania, Canada (also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand), Pakistan, India, Nigeria, Syria and Morocco. Several reports before the Committee were introduced by Under-Secretary-General for Management, Catherine Ann Bertini, who also responded to questions and comments from the floor.
The Committee will continue its work at 10 a.m. tomorrow, when it is expected to take up several reports of the Office of Internal Oversight Service.
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning was expected to consider the financial situation of the United Nations and take up the budgetary requirements for measures to strengthen safety and security at the United Nations, in response to the radically altered situation, which the Organization faces since direct attacks on its operations and facilities in 2003.
A statement on the financial health of the Organization, which was presented to the Committee on 4 May (see Press Release GA/AB/3614) by Under-Secretary-General for Management Catherine Bertini, has now been published as document A/58/531/Add.1.
The Secretary-Generals report on the safety and security of the United Nations (document A/58/756) contains proposals for a first phase of urgently required new measures and presents supplementary budget proposals in that regard for the biennium 2004-2005 in the amount of $92.43 million. The total comprises some $71.88 million under the United Nations regular budget, including special political missions; $6.47 million to be funded by other organizations at Vienna through cost-sharing; $609,900 under the budget for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; and $13.47 million under peacekeeping operations. After taking into account anticipated cost-sharing arrangements with Vienna-based organizations, a net request for the appropriation of $85.97 million is submitted for consideration by the Assembly.
According to the report, the new challenges facing the Organization require a far more sophisticated, robust and unified security management system both at headquarters locations and in the field. United Nations security arrangements, while continuing to counter the traditional threats of criminal activity and the collateral effects of social disorder, violence and conflict, must now also cope with an intense and changeable threat of deliberate direct attack that could appear anywhere with little warning. This requires systematic monitoring of the security environment; anticipation of security incidents and advance planning to deal with them; and increased readiness and protection through state-of-the-art training, equipment and physical security. An enhanced culture of security awareness and compliance and a strengthened inspection capacity are also required.
Among other steps, the Secretary-General proposes deployment of 116 posts in the countries considered as having high security risk (58 Field Security Officers, including six P-5 and 52 P-4/3, and 58 General Service (Local) staff for the Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator). As indicated in the report, the proposal is made given the pressing need for immediate strengthening of the operations of the Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator, and pending the recommendations from the review of the structure and procedures of security arrangements for the Organization as a whole to be submitted to the General Assembly in September.
A related report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) (document A/58/758) contains comments on the slow pace of implementation of previously approved security-related projects, the significant and, as yet, unexplained cost overruns for ongoing projects, as well as the lack of a comprehensive plan with well-explained priorities. Accordingly, the Advisory Committee recommends deferral of the request of $16.1 million for new projects pending consideration by the General Assembly of the Secretary-Generals forthcoming comprehensive report.
The Advisory Committee also notes that the unencumbered balance as at 31 December 2003 of $28.5 million, and additional requirements of $21.9 million for ongoing projects, total $50.4 million. However, the balance under the account for construction in progress was reduced from $28.5 million to $10.8 million as at 25 March 2004. The bulk of the balance falls under the Geneva Office ($9.6 million) and Headquarters ($1.1 million). Also, a contract for the outstanding New York-based pre-encumbrance of $21.6 million was signed in April.
Optimally, resource requests for safety and security should be preceded by a comprehensive review of security arrangements, including specific information on arrangements for cooperation with host country authorities and organizations of the United Nations system at each location, the Advisory Committee states. The current piecemeal approach, especially after the fairly recent round of comprehensive reviews and security enhancements, has made proper consideration of the estimates very difficult.
As for the deployment of the proposed 116 posts, the Advisory Committee understands that 58 of them already exist, but are now financed from extrabudgetary sources and managed in the field by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The ACABQ has no objection to the conversion of these posts to regular budget financing, provided that cost-sharing arrangements are applied. Action on the remaining 58 posts for the Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator should be deferred, pending a comprehensive report on security to be submitted to the Assemblys next session.
At the same time, the ACABQ has no objection to the proposed establishment of additional peacekeeping posts. It points out, however, that staff costs related to these posts should be accommodated within the budgets of individual peacekeeping operations. This recommendation would entail a reduction of some $1.51 million from the proposed additional appropriation.
Further according to the report, very little information was received to support a request for some $6.21 million for 164 posts under general temporary assistance. Thus, the ACABQ recommends approval, at this time, of an additional $3 million, as a lump sum to be used flexibly by the Secretary-General to meet urgent requirements prior to action by the Assembly on the Secretary-Generals second phase report.
With regard to security improvements in New York, the ACABQ notes that projects with a total estimated cost in excess of $5 million are to be deferred to a later stage. As no information is provided on when the projects could be resumed, the Advisory Committee questions the rationale for including their cost at this time. It is also concerned about a very sharp increase in cost estimates for some ongoing projects in Geneva and expects that detailed explanations of cost overruns will be provided in the future.
Remarking that host countries have responsibility for ensuring the safety and security of United Nations staff outside the Organizations compounds, the Advisory Committee recommends approval of the proposals for Vienna, on the understanding that in his next report, the Secretary-General will provide specific information on the results of the consultations now being carried out between the Vienna-based organizations and the host Government.
On peacekeeping, the ACABQ is of the view that, with the exception of the requirements for the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), where resources are requested to relocate the headquarters to more secure location, and the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), which is facing unforeseen additional expenditures, additional requirements can be accommodated within the budgets of peacekeeping missions. This recommendation would entail a reduction of over $2.78 million in the proposed appropriation of $11.96 million. Similarly, for the Rwanda Tribunal, the Advisory Committee has recommended that, at this stage, expenses estimated at $0.6 million be accommodated within the existing budget.
Taking into account all those observations, the Advisory Committee recommends that the Assembly appropriate some $40 million gross under the budget for 2004/2005 for the implementation of measures proposed by the Secretary-General to strengthen safety and security of United Nations premises and personnel. The Advisory Committee also notes that some $8.9 million of the provision for the Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator would be borne by the participating organizations under existing cost-sharing arrangements.
Compared with the request for $85.97 million (reflecting a reduction of $0.5 million for staff assessment) submitted by the Secretary-General, total resources available as a result of the Advisory Committees recommendations would be as follows:
Additional gross appropriation under the proposed programme budget
Additional amount to be cost-shared by the organizations participating in the Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator
Additional amount for peacekeeping operations of which
Additional amount for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda which would not be appropriated at this stage, but would be accommodated within the existing budget and reflected in the next performance report
Introduction of Reports
The Under-Secretary-General for Management, Catherine Bertini, said the attack on the United Nations premises in Baghdad last August had radically changed the security environment in which the Organization operated. Security operation must be changed to meet the new situation. Up until the 1980s, the United Nations flag had been protection for UN staff. In the 1990s, however, there had been a series of murders of UN staff. As a result, the General Assembly had made decisions to increase the levels of support for United Nations staff security. The Organization was in a new phase of security concern for all those who worked under the United Nations flag. The current situation was not business as usual or routine, but critical for the safety of all who worked under the United Nations flag.
She said the report provided information on measures to strengthen security worldwide. The bulk of the $57 million approved for security enhancements in 2002 was largely to bring forward security projects from the capital master plan. Those projects had been defined prior to 11 September. The events of that day, and the direct attack on the United Nations in Baghdad on 19 August 2003, made it apparent that security measures had to be escalated. Following the Baghdad bombing, the Secretary-General had commissioned an investigation carried out by United Nations Security. The Secretary-General had also established a panel to examine individual personal accountability with respect to the Baghdad attack. The steering group on security led by the Deputy Secretary-General had identified a number of follow-up actions, including the appointment of a change manager who was advising on steps required to strengthen the United Nations security systems and the upgrading and validation of minimum operating security standards, known as MOSS, to counter new threats.
In addition, a number of other initiatives had also been taken, she said. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations had carried out a survey of MOSS in all its field missions. The Management Department had also developed Minimum Operating Security Standards for large headquarters facilities (H-MOSS) and had identified shortcomings at all eight main duty stations. The H-MOSS established uniform standards for physical security, staff training, safety and security equipment, common rules for use of lethal force, and provisions for regular peer review. The H-MOSS had been used as a basis most of the requirements sought for security enhancements. External security experts had validated the new H-MOSS.
Security now had to cope with an intense and interchangeable threat of deliberate direct attack that could appear with little warning, she said. That required systematic monitoring of the security environment, anticipation of security incidents and advance planning to deal with them. Also urgently required was an enhanced culture of security awareness and compliance and strengthened inspection capacity. Action must now be taken to incorporate those functional capabilities into the structure and procedures of United Nations security arrangements. Those major issues were now under examination by the change manager, who was expected to make recommendations in July 2004.
The Secretariat, therefore, was coming to the Assembly in two phases, she said. The first phase included urgent construction upgrades and an immediate increase in the Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator (UNSECOORD) presence at high-risk duty stations. None of the requirements for 2004 would prejudice the new security management structure to be proposed in September. Proposals for new established posts for the large duty stations had been deferred to facilitate the design of long-term organizational structures that would be addressed in phase two. It was imperative to act on phase one proposals to ensure a minimum acceptable level of security worldwide for United Nations personnel and facilities.
The UNSECOORD required a regular, predictable funding source. The magnitude and gravity of the new security threats required a fundamental change in funding arrangements, and adequate security at both Headquarters and in the field was now a prerequisite for effective service delivery. It was, therefore, a shared core responsibility of all Member States, and she appealed that it be funded directly from the regular budget as a matter of priority.
Regarding the number of posts for UNSECOORD, it was clear that implementation of a lesser level than that proposed by the Secretary-General would present him with almost impossible choices as to which high-risk field offices should not be afforded the required level of coverage. A number of new and expanded construction requirements had been proposed. In phase two, specific and detailed proposals could be expected, including on unified security management, long-term staffing needs, training and integrated global access control systems.
The phase one report sought some $92.4 million, she said. Of that amount, some $71.2 million would be one-time costs. One hundred sixteen new posts were sought for UNSECOORD with seven others for various offices. She looked forward to the Committees careful review of the proposals. It was no ordinary budget request and should not be treated in the traditional manner of seeking out every possible expenditure for reduction. The Secretariat had not presented a budget with fat in it, but one that met basic but hugely increased security needs.
Introducing the related report of the Advisory Committee, ACABQ Chairman VLADIMIR KUZNETZOV said safety and security of United Nations staff and operation had long been a great concern to the Advisory Committee. The blue helmets and United Nations staff had become targets for malicious attacks. Within the last few years, there had been a rather piecemeal approach where emergency resources were requested for short-term measures. The result was a series of band aid solutions in which the use of resources was seen as a substitute for a true security plan.
Proper consideration of security requirements was extremely difficult in the absence of a thorough analysis of threats and risks, together with a coherent plan, he said. A comprehensive strategy of enhancing the safety of United Nations premises, operations and staff was thus long overdue and should be treated with utmost seriousness. It was fundamental that resource requirements for the strengthening of safety and security should be based on and preceded by a comprehensive review and the development of a plan of action.
He said the Secretary-Generals report lacked analysis of the critical issues related to safety and security. The ACABQ expected them to be extensively addressed in the coming Phase II" comprehensive report. Issues to be addressed by that report must include, among other things, responsibility and accountability for United Nations security, the role and responsibility of United Nations vis-à-vis host countries in providing security to United Nations system premises and its field operations and agreed plans for an integrated and coordinated approach of all United Nations system organizations.
Under the circumstances, he said the ACABQs general approach was to recommend approval of continued financing of ongoing projects, but to recommend deferral of resource requests related to new projects, pending receipt of an overall plan and strategy. The Committee had also recommended the approval of additional posts in a number of key areas, as well as additional resources for peacekeeping operations where an urgent need had been demonstrated, such as in the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE). The Advisory Committee had recommended additional resources for Vienna where an inter-organization agreement had been reached on a work plan.
Regarding construction requirements, he noted that the unspent balance, out of the total $57.8 million approved by the Assembly two years ago, was some $28.5 million. Additional requirements for ongoing projects were about $21.9 million, making the total $50.4 million. Taking that into account, the ACABQ did not believe that its recommendation to defer the request of $16.1 million for new projects pending the Assemblys consideration of a comprehensive plan should cause any delay. In view of the pace of implementation of projects approved almost two years ago and the related pattern of expenditures, the amount still available for construction projects would be quite sufficient for the coming four or five months.
On post requirements, he recommended approval of all requests except for the Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator where out of 116 posts the Committee recommended approval of the conversion to regular budget financing of 58, which were currently financed through extrabudgetary sources and were managed in the field by the UNDP. The ACABQ strongly believed that cost-sharing arrangements should be maintained. Very little had been provided in support of the requested level of general temporary assistance. The Advisory Committee had recommended approval of some $3 million as a lump sum to be used flexibly by the Secretary-General to meet urgent requirements. Regarding requirements of a number of peacekeeping operations and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, those provisions should be accommodated within their overall budgets and included in the performance reports, except for UNMEE where resources of some $7 million were requested for relocation of the headquarters to a more secure location, and possibly for UNFICYP, depending on how events unfolded.
Compared with the Secretary-Generals request for $85 million gross, a total of $63 million would be made available as the result of the Advisory Committees recommendation and pending the receipt of the Secretary-Generals Phase II report, he said. A strategy and a plan were needed, first and foremost. Throwing money at an ad hoc piecemeal approach that responded to events rather than anticipated them was actually a disservice. The expenditure of large sums of money without an effective and coordinated plan of action among all players could result in false security and disastrous consequences. Withholding a portion of the requested funds at the current stage was not evidence of any lack of appreciation of the problems significance. To the contrary, it was because the matter was so serious that funds must be withheld so as to impose the rigorous discipline needed to produce a sustainable and effective approach in which Member States had confidence.
Speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, MISHAL MOHAMMED AL-ANSARI (Qatar) said that such an important issue as safety and security required a comprehensive approach that should result in lasting solutions. It could not be effectively addressed in a vacuum. A clear framework of safety and security standards was of absolute necessity, if the Organization was to succeed in that regard. Developments around the globe also demonstrated that the United Nations premises were vulnerable. There was no doubt that the physical security and protection of all United Nations premises needed to be further enhanced. That required long-term, rather than piece-meal, approaches.
A properly functioning system of security required sound leadership, he continued. As correctly pointed out by the Advisory Committee, a well-defined hierarchical security structure, accompanied by clearly identified lines of responsibility and accountability was essential.
A number of persistent deficiencies remained to be conclusively addressed, he said. The Group particularly noted with the concern that the implementation of some projects, previously approved on an urgent basis, had been delayed, and some had been even proposed for deferral by the Secretariat. Furthermore, he underscored the importance of host governments to fully discharge their responsibilities in accordance with the host country agreements. Organizations of the United Nations system needed to further harmonize their efforts on safety and security in order to ensure coordination and unity of purpose. The cost-sharing arrangement set by the Assembly in its resolution 56/255 was a step in the direction of ensuring proper security, and it should be pursued.
Finally, the Group expected that the Phase II report of the Secretary-General would be comprehensive to enable further consideration by the Assembly of that important matter.
MARGARET STANLEY (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that the events of 11 September 2001 and, more specifically, the attack of 19 August 2003 on the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad had shuttered the perception of the United Nations neutrality and, with it, the relative safety of its personnel. The Organization and Member states must cooperate closely to create a security architecture for the system that was both effective and sustainable. Comprehensive and effective measures should include effective security coordination between the United Nations and the host countries. The European Union urged the Secretary-General to take adequate steps to ensure that necessary security improvements could be implemented at all duty stations without further delay.
The Ahtisaari and Dixon reports spoke to the importance of addressing security in a consistent and committed manner, she continued. The Union recognized the complexities of a coherent approach to security within the United Nations family. Threat levels and assessments differed from one duty station to the next, and different bodies had different mandates. Thus, any security structure must be flexible enough to enable them to carry out those mandates with proper attention to the safety of staff. It was clear that the present, largely ad hoc, system no longer served the best interests of the United Nations.
The European Union was disappointed that there had been so many delays in addressing the entire issue of safety and security and that pertinent measures, for which financing had already been approved, had not been fully implemented. The Secretary-Generals report contained a number of proposals for immediate measures to enhance security, and she appreciated the Advisory Committees clear and technical analysis of those proposals. The Secretary-General clearly acknowledged that his proposals were but a first phase of efforts to establish a unified system-wide security plan. While recognizing the need for a headquarters managed security operation encompassing all parts of the United Nations family, she also recognized that a comprehensive overview was required to arrive at a well-informed and balanced decision. The current proposals suffered in the absence of such a comprehensive overview. Therefore, the European Union had some difficulty in assessing real priorities for enhancing security arrangements and looked forward to the presentation of a second and final report in autumn.
It was important to ensure adequate staffing levels within UNSECOORD and Headquarters and develop a more effective threat analysis capability in the field, she said. Among other needs, she mentioned compliance with security standards and development of a security culture throughout the system, as well as an effective system of accountability and authority and a greater emphasis on training. The European Union shared many of the ACABQs concerns, but considering the increased threat and workload, it was clear that it was necessary to look positively at the staffing level in UNSECOORD. It was necessary to proceed rapidly on that issue. The Union would also want to explore what arrangements for training of security staff and others would be put into place. Clarifications were also required on the justification for general temporary assistance and the request for additional resources for ongoing and new construction projects and equipment. Further debate would be required on the proposal to change the existing cost-sharing system.
CAIO MARIO RENAULT (Brazil), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said that recent attacks against United Nations facilities, especially the bombing in Baghdad last year, signalled a radical change in the security situation of the Organization. The United Nations had become a target of choice. That new scenario demanded a comprehensive review of the security procedures employed so far. Emphasis should now be placed on the prevention of new threats, in addition to the crisis management and damage mitigation measures already in effect. A new proactive approach should, therefore, replace a traditionally reactive one.
While a detailed study was essential for the complete assessment and analysis of proposals towards a new security system, it was necessary to acknowledge the fact that some measures were urgently required, he said. The Secretary-Generals report provided some suggestions that could be implemented in the near future and that did not appear to be exclusively dependent on the findings of the second-phase report to be presented to the Assembly at its fifty-ninth session. Among those was the establishment of new posts for security officers -- particularly in high-risk areas, as well as security-related improvements of facilities and infrastructure. With regard to longer-term measures, the Rio Group attached great importance to the establishment of a system of responsibility and accountability and to the enhanced interaction between the Office of the Security Coordinator and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. He expected that the second-phase report would address those key aspects of the new security plan.
In conclusion, he added that the vary nature of the new challenge required a prompt and straightforward response by all Member Stats and all organizations of the United Nations system. Let us work together towards a safer environment for our staff and for the promotion of the noble purposes to which this Organization is devoted, he said.
DAVID DUTTON (Australia), also speaking on behalf of Canada and New Zealand, said that the attack on United Nations headquarters in Baghdad last August had been a profound shock to the Organization. The appalling threats made against the Organization last week also underscored the fact that the United Nations could no longer assume it was immune from security threats. There had been some action to improve security over the past two years, but more speed was needed. The United Nations needed to assess fully the threats that affected its ability to carry out its work. It also needed to thoroughly re-examine its arrangements for managing security. Such an examination was, in any case, well overdue.
The report before the Committee rightly recognized that the new security environment required security measures to be radically altered, and he agreed with the ACABQ that a comprehensive policy approach was required, -- the time for piecemeal measures had passed. He anticipated a comprehensive report from the Secretary-General during the next session, designed to equip the United Nations security management system to address current needs. It must include proposals that would ensure coherent and integrated management of security among the United Nations and its agencies; a capacity to determine and apply appropriate standards; and well-defined arrangements for accountability.
Pending a comprehensive report later this year, the Secretary-General had now brought forward urgent needs that should not conflict with the reforms to follow later in the year. The use of enhanced standards for field operations and headquarters facilities provided a clear policy basis for the request. He would be interested to learn more in informal consultations about how those standards were defined, validated and applied.
He expressed disappointment over the fact that progress on some construction projects had been slow. Given those delays, the sum recommended by the ACABQ could be sufficient for now, provided that the Secretary-General was enabled to undertake urgent projects. The Committee would need to return to that issue at the next session, where he would also hope to have greater clarity about the responsibilities of host governments at the perimeter of United Nations facilities. He agreed that additional resources for peacekeeping missions and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda -- with the exceptions of UNMEE and UNFYCIP -- did not require additional appropriations at this stage, on the understanding that additional costs would be obtained through the performance reports, if needed.
With respect to the request for additional field staff for UNSECOORD, members of CANZ (Canada, Australia, New Zealand) were inclined to think that the full number should be approved now. The UNSECOORD was too thin on the ground. Whatever was decided in the context of the next report, it was certain that a greater capability for professional security advice in the field would be essential. On cost-sharing arrangements, a decision should be taken in autumn as part of the broader reform of the security management system. The question of cost-sharing for additional needs approved now could be left open until then.
In conclusion, he emphasized that strengthening United Nations security was the most significant management challenge facing the Organization this year. Substantial additional resources would be needed both now and in the autumn, but that was only part of the solution. The most arduous challenges were managerial.
PATRICK KENNEDY (United States) said the safety and security of United Nations staff at duty stations and in the field was a very high priority for his country. Now that the Organization was a target of choice, security measures must be radically altered. He welcomed the Secretary-Generals report and looked forward this autumn to the second report. The United States had long advocated a robust security system for the United Nations. In recent years, the Assembly had incrementally increased the number of posts dedicated to security functions. The current capacity, however, was still lacking and left little, if any, room for manoeuvrability in field functions and their management at Headquarters. The capacity to meet increasingly complex security needs simply did not exist under the current structure.
He noted that should the Committee endorse the ACABQs recommendation to convert 58 existing field security officer posts to regular budget financing, it would leave UNSECOORD with no net gain in its total posts and without the necessary flexibility to respond quickly and effectively to crises in the field. He requested that the ACABQ provide further clarification on its recommendations, as he believed that the posts were fully justified. UNSECOORDs headquarters capacity was under-resourced to fully carry out its mandate, and he looked forward to receiving additional information on the functions of the posts requested under general temporary assistance for UNSECOORDs headquarters operations.
Another issue of concern was the financing of the United Nations security coordination mechanism, he said. One of the main factors driving the establishment of a cost-sharing system was the need to foster greater coordination, both in the field and at headquarters between the United Nations and United Nations organizations participating in the security management system. In that regard, it would be premature to change the current mechanism in the absence of further information on the role and responsibilities of each entity. He looked forward to a comprehensive discussion of the most appropriate mechanism for financing ongoing security requirements. As the issue had been raised, it was important to understand the implications of not taking such a decision in the current session.
He said the United States was very concerned about the rather sketchy implementation of physical upgrades by the Assembly during its fifty-sixth session. At the time, the United States had supported the Secretary-Generals full request for security improvements at major duties due to the extreme urgency of the situation. It was disappointing to learn that the Secretariat did not treat the implementation of its programme with similar urgency. Two years later, many of the projects were only partially implemented or had been completely deferred.
The revised cost estimates for some Headquarters provisions had turned out to be up nearly six times as much as the initial estimate, he said. The United States confidence had been shaken in the Secretariats ability to manage security activities in an efficient and effective manner. A clear outline of managerial responsibility and a timeline for implementing existing and new projects would be needed. He reiterated his delegations support for the Secretary-Generals security enhancement initiatives. Additional resources must be provided now to permit a number of initiatives to go forward immediately. As the oversight body of the security function, the Committee owed it to the United Nations staff around the world to provide them with the security support they needed.
PIERRE HELG (Switzerland) said his country was directly affected by the security problem, because the most important United Nations headquarters outside New York, as well as a large number of organizations of the United Nations system, were located on Swiss territory. He, therefore, warmly welcomed the efforts of the Secretary-General to strengthen security and to adopt an integrated approach to those questions. Given the nature of present challenges in that area, individual or sectoral approaches to security questions were inadequate. The Organization should not wait for acts of violence to occur before taking effective actions. In that context, he regretted that the Advisory Committee advocated waiting until the next session to confirm the measures proposed by the Secretariat. Immediate action was needed, in conjunction with reflection and planning on an overall strategy in security matters.
Switzerland supported and approved the Secretary-Generals efforts to strengthen security, he stressed. However, as a host country of the United Nations Office in Geneva, he wanted to raise a number of points about certain passages in the reports before the Committee. The Secretary-Generals report, for example, stated that the implementation of certain security projects that had already been approved had been delayed by the requirement to obtain building permits from the host country. In that regard, he pointed out that the permits for the security changes at the Palais des Nations had been granted rapidly in view of the urgent character of those requests.
The report also mentioned that the position of the authorities of the host country had changed and that it no longer agreed to pay for the cost of strengthening infrastructure along the security perimeter of the Palais des Nations, he continued. The ACABQ, for its part, also created an impression that the cost of strengthening the security perimeter was to be borne by the Swiss Government. Like all other host countries, Switzerland was obliged by international law to ensure the security of the United Nations and other international organizations on its territory, and it fully assumed that obligation -- an obligation that obviously applied to the outside of buildings or, in the case of the Palais des Nations, to the outside of its security perimeter. Internal security, such as technical measures applied to buildings, fences and gates, was the responsibility of the organizations themselves. The cost of such measures was to be borne by the budget of those organizations and, hence, by all Member States. No host country assumed such costs, and Switzerland made no exception.
Given the present international security situation, he strongly supported the Secretary-Generals additional requests for the Office in Geneva, he said. In 2002/2003 and 2004/2005 budgetary cycles, the Assembly had already made available to the United Nations Office at Geneva the necessary funds for the measures that needed to be carried out at the Palais des Nations. The problem at the time had been not to find additional means, but to engage the available allocations to specific projects as quickly as possible. Switzerland, therefore, wished to assure the Secretary-General of its active cooperation and full support when it came to strengthening the protection of the United Nations sites on its territory. Close cooperation had developed between Switzerland and the UN Office at Geneva in that respect, and he was convinced that, together, they would find appropriate solutions that would enable the United Nations institutions to carry out their activities in a security environment.
SUN YUDONG (China) said that, after the events of 11 September and the August 2003 Baghdad bombing, the Secretary-General had taken a number of steps to secure the United Nations premises. After careful analysis of the Secretary-Generals report, he believed security and safety was an issue of critical importance, warranting additional support. In its report, the ACABQ had made a reasonable argument for a reduced amount. He would study that bodys recommendations and actively participate in discussion on the item. Once consensus was reached, regardless of the final approved amounts, those amounts should be included in assessed contributions in 2005, and not be considered a separate payment for this year. Additions to the budget should not be used for other projects.
While budget supplements were sometimes unavoidable, justifications in that regard must be strong. Regarding construction projects, he said that some of the reasons given in the report appeared to be contrived, as many construction requirements could be combined with the capital master plan. To have them included as construction requirements showed a certain arbitrariness and lack of reasoning.
He said he wished to hear more convincing reasons for the inclusion of requirements at the current stage. He also stressed that the security and safety of all United Nations premises, including Headquarters, was the responsibility of host countries. The Secretary-General must enhance security with host countries and request them to provide more protection and support. He hoped that the Secretary-General, within existing resources, would leverage limited minimal resources for optimal benefit regarding new challenges facing the United Nations.
VLADIMIR IOSIFOV (Russian Federation) said his delegation attached exceptional importance to ensuring security for staff. In the current conditions, the problem was taking on a real political resonance and significance. He welcomed the Secretary-Generals efforts to strengthen the security system. Projects in that regard should be carried out without delay. At one time, Member States had fully responded to the Secretary-Generals request to allocate additional funds to strengthen security for staff and United Nations premises. However, the Russian Federation was concerned that the rate of using funds already committed by the Assembly, namely, some $57.8 million, and for the implementation of projects remained at an unacceptably low level. As of December 2003, more than $31 million remained unused. He wanted a clear-cut explanation from the Secretariat in that regard.
Regarding the use of funds under construction in progress, in spite of high levels of pre-encumbrances, he said he had doubts regarding the use of such an accounting category. The fact remained that the real use of committed resources was extremely low. In that regard, he agreed with concerns expressed on the low rate of project implementation. Any request from the Secretariat for allocation of additional resources should be fully documented. A clearly defined strategy and plan of action was needed.
On the whole, his delegation agreed with the ACABQs recommendation on the level of appropriations for additional resources for security projects at $63 million as an initial step in that direction. It was necessary to ensure a unified, coordinated system-wide approach to the problem both in providing standards for security and also in distributing accountability among the various participants in the system. Unfortunately, a holistic strategy for strengthening security had not yet been submitted. Security issues should be considered as a matter of high priority.
TOSHIRO OZAWA (Japan) said that in order for the United Nations to fulfil its role, it was vitally important to ensure the safety and security of its operations, staff and premises. His Government attached great importance to matters regarding the safety and security of the United Nations and would continue to do so. The Advisory Committee had provided various recommendations on the matter, which were appropriate and worthy of careful consideration. He expected that those recommendations would form a basis, on which a consensus among the Member States could be formed.
His delegation was aware of the appointment of a senior change manager, who was currently in the process of formulating recommendations on steps to further strengthen the United Nations security system. Following the completion of that study by the senior change manager, the Secretary-General was expected to submit his report to the Assembly this fall. His Government would give that report a very thorough and serious consideration.
MARI SKAARE (Norway) said that, following recent events, it had become clear that the United Nations was no longer a random victim, but was also a target for terrorist attacks by some groups. There was a pressing need to review the existing safety and security arrangements, and she was concerned over the apparent lack of implementation of already scheduled improvements. A large part of the extra funding approved by the Assembly in 2001 remained uncommitted or unspent. Her delegation also noted the observations of the Independent Panel on the Safety and Security of United Nations Personnel in Iraq that the current security management system is dysfunctional and needs to be reformed.
The primary responsibility for the protection of United Nations staff lay with the host country, she continued. However, there were circumstances that would affect the ability of the host country to protect the United Nations. Many duty stations were today defined as potentially hazardous. As a responsible employer, the United Nations must take measures to ensure the security of its staff.
Turning to the Secretary-Generals report, she said that she understood the sensitivities attached to full disclosure of security-related information. However, the Committee could perhaps have been provided with more information on current threats and how the Secretary-General had arrived at the estimated financial requirements. Ideally, the Committee would have had before it a budget proposal reflecting a full review of the security management system and the necessary changes in the organizational structures. The present arrangements seemed fragmented. The Organization needed one unified security system, with a clear chain of command and a clear mandate.
She accepted that more time was needed to conclude the security management study, she said. A number of measures was urgently needed to strengthen security, however. The perfect should not be the enemy of the good. Financial consideration should never be the predominant factor in decisions regarding security, and she was, therefore, surprised that the ACABQ had recommended cutting the Secretary-Generals budget proposal by more than 25 per cent. Norway disagreed with the Advisory Committees recommendations, in particular, regarding the 116 new posts under the Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator. She could not see that a deferral of the request for 58 additional new security coordinators was justified. In view of the lengthy recruitment time within the United Nations system, it was necessary to take action on that now.
She agreed with the Secretary-General that the magnitude and gravity of the security threats required a change in funding approaches, she said. Security arrangements should not depend on voluntary contributions, and security personnel should not spend their time on fund raising. Funds and programmes should not be forced to develop separate security arrangements to provide a minimum of security to their staff. It was unfortunate, indeed, that funds provided for development assistance to an increasing degree were spent on security measures. Security should rely on predictable funding arrangements and should be viewed as a shared responsibility for Member States. Thus, it had to be funded from the regular budget. Norway welcomed the Secretary-Generals proposal to phase out the present cost-sharing arrangements between United Nations funds, programmes and organizations.
CHUN YUNG-WOO (Republic of Korea) said his country attached utmost importance to the question of safety and security and shared serious concerns about the security and safety deficit facing the Organization today. The bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad had brought to the forefront the urgency of addressing the issue. No effort should be spared to ensure that United Nations staff carried out their duties in an atmosphere of security. He shared the view that there was an urgent need to upgrade both the hardware and software of the United Nations safety infrastructure, particularly around high-risk duty stations. He also believed in the need to strengthen the safety and security culture in the Organization.
He looked forward to the submission of the Phase II report, which would contain a thorough analysis of safety and security risks and the resource requirements needed to meet them. He agreed that a piecemeal approach and band-aid solution was not enough. As for infrastructure refurbishment at United Nations Headquarters, he wondered if the capital master plan had taken into account the high level of encumbrances for projects. He also noted with concern the sharp increase in estimates for security projects. On cost-sharing arrangements, the current arrangement should be maintained. Nevertheless, he was open to any other ideas to improve the deficiencies in the current arrangement. He also underlined the responsibility of host countries and the need for a clear division of responsibilities between the Organization and host countries.
JOHN JUMA NGONGOLO (United Republic of Tanzania) said the Organization had now become a target of choice and deliberate direct attack. He agreed with the suggestion that United Nations security measures be radically altered to face the new situation. United Nations security arrangements now had to cope with deliberate direct attacks. The measures for countering changeable threats should emphasize the need to put in place a more robust system.
In pondering why the security paradigm had changed, he believed the root cause might be the misperception of the United Nations independence and neutrality. Those attributes depended on the political will of Member States to abide by the Organizations fundamental principles. While endorsing the budget proposal, he wanted to be assured regarding how additional resources would really enhance the Organizations security situation.
Responding to comments and questions, Ms. BERTINI said that she and her colleagues would answer the Committees specific questions in the upcoming informal consultations on the matter. She then recalled a letter written by a World Food Programme (WFP) staff member murdered in 1999 in Burundi. That letter, which had reached the womens mother after her death, had assured her mother that while the situation in Burundi was dangerous, she would be safe, as the United Nations would protect her. The Organization owed it to such staff to ensure their safety.
United Nations Financial Situation
Mr. AL-ANSARI (Qatar), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that the data given by the Under-Secretary-General for Management demonstrated that the United Nations had moved towards a better financial situation. He noted with satisfaction that cash on hand at the end of 2003 had been almost the same as the previous year. Although unpaid assessments amounting to $1.6 billion were still substantial, they were lower than in the previous six years. Also, the amounts due to Member States had been reduced to almost $439 million, compared to $703 million at the end of 2002. The Group noted the modest reduction in the amounts owed to troop-contributing countries at the end of 2003, but expressed concern at the continuing high levels of amounts payable to troop contributors, particularly for contingent-owned equipment. All outstanding amounts owed to developing countries, including those dating back to many years ago, should be paid to them as a matter of high priority.
As for International Tribunals, the Group regretted that the year 2003 had ended in a negative cash position of $473 million, he said. At the end of 2003, as many as 11 Member States had not paid their contributions to the Tribunals in full, and he urged all Member States to fulfil their financial obligations. The Tribunals required predictable and adequate financial resources, as recent unfortunate trends could have a negative impact on their ability to complete their work within the time frames approved by the Security Council.
The Group was also concerned about the critical financial situation faced by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), she continued, which had had to resort to cross-borrowing from closed peacekeeping mission accounts due to non-payment of contributions. Troop contributors to those missions had not been paid by the United Nations for long periods of time. That unhealthy practice should not be allowed to continue indefinitely, since it had negative effects on financial capacity of the concerned countries and placed undue financial stress on them. Regarding the forecast for reimbursements of the debt owed to Member States, he welcomed the intention of the Secretariat to make significant payments during 2004.
He recognized the need to ensure the financial stability of the Organization and reaffirmed the legal obligation of Member States to bear the expenses of the United Nations in accordance with the Charter. Sympathetic understanding should be extended to those countries, which were temporarily unable to meet their financial obligations as a consequence of genuine economic difficulties, but the Group urged all Member States to pay their assessed contributions in full, on time and without conditions.
The United Nations had twin responsibilities for peace and security and development. So far, progressive importance had been accorded to peace and security, resulting in substantial increase of peacekeeping budgets. Development activities were of equal importance, and the Group would like to see equal, if not greater emphasis, on their funding.
Ms. STANLEY (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that members of the Union paid some 38 per cent of all contributions to the Organizations regular budget and somewhat more with respect to peacekeeping operations. That was a serious responsibility that should not be taken lightly. The Union welcomed the more positive trend outlined by Ms. Bertini with regard to the cash balance and the decrease in the amount of unpaid assessments.
Nevertheless, it remained concerned that United Nations finances continued to face considerable strain due to late payment. She was also concerned over the $1.6 billion of unpaid assessments. She welcomed the steps by the United States to reduce its arrears and hoped that such a trend would continue. Other Member States with high arrears should do their best to reduce them. The United Nations required adequate and predictable funding.
Peacekeeping operations, in particular, were a significant growth area, she continued. As long as there was a need for such operations, the Union expected full support from all Member States for them. Although the overall cash balances for peacekeeping had somewhat improved since last year, some missions were facing bleak financial prospects. Of particular concern were UNMIK and MINURSO, where a high level of outstanding contributions indicated that Member States had still not met their financial obligations. Countries should honour their financial obligations promptly, and all those in arrears should take urgent steps to remedy the situation.
The European Union shared the alarm of the Secretariat over the precarious financial situation of the Tribunals, she said. International justice was a key priority of the United Nations. While the budgets for the Tribunals remained high, they nevertheless had been approved by all Member States. It was, therefore, not acceptable that Member States refused or delayed payment to the extent that the very functioning of the Tribunals was placed at risk.
Ms. Bertini had also drawn attention to the extent of cross-borrowing from the accounts of closed peacekeeping missions, she continued. It was necessary to consider carefully what alternatives were open once that avenue of financing had been closed. Should the consolidation of peacekeeping accounts be considered seriously? Should Member States discuss institutionalization of a system whereby outstanding assessments for peacekeeping operations were offset against debts to troop-contributing countries? Were measures to be considered to encourage prompt payment or discourage late payments?
The European Union was convinced that the Organization could not continue with the present cycle of arrears. While understanding the difficulties that some Member States experienced through different payment cycles, she stressed to those States, especially the major contributors, that the unprecedented demand for peacekeeping offered a timely opportunity to seriously consider adjusting payment dates in a way that would offer greater financial security to the Secretariat.
KAREN LOCK (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said she was encouraged by the assurances that the financial situation of the United Nations had improved, as compared to the mid- and late 1990s. Member States should, therefore, congratulate themselves for that improvement while endeavouring to address the remaining challenges. She noted that 131 Member States had paid their regular budget assessments in full by the end of 2003 -- that was a positive and welcome development that should be sustained. Similarly, she also noted that four countries owed some 86 per cent of the total amount outstanding. The peacekeeping budget, where 70 per cent of the outstanding balance was owed by the major contributors, followed the same pattern.
Concerning the two Tribunals, she said that the situation remained alarming and continued to deteriorate. As many as 111 Member States lagged behind in payment. The unpaid amounts of $88 million were lamentably the highest in the history of the Tribunals, and indications were that the two courts would again end the year in the red, continuing to borrow in 2004 -- a practice that should be an exception and not the rule. The Organization would have little means left for cross-borrowing, since it had returned the credits from closed peacekeeping missions to Member States.
In addition to the comments by the Group of 77 and China, the African Group wished to focus on the financial situation of the two Tribunals, she said. The Group was concerned by the comments that the functioning of the Tribunals was in danger and that the Secretariat intended to freeze recruitment and decrease the operations there. She, therefore, would appreciate clarification of such comments, taking into account that the new posts approved by the Assembly in resolution 58/253 related to the establishment of the Office of the new Prosecutor, an independent Appeals Unit in Arusha and the strengthening of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwandas judicial capacity with five additional ad litem judges. The Group was consequently concerned that any delays in recruitment could have a negative impact on the efforts of the Rwanda Tribunal.
The General Assembly, in its resolution 58/253, had also requested the Tribunal to take further measures to increase recruitment and improve the vacancy situation through greater delegation of authority regarding recruitment and extension of contracts of core staff for longer periods. It had been anticipated that such a measure would ensure the continuity of the Office of the Prosecutor until the time when the Assembly would be able to finalize its consideration of the financial requirements of the Investigative Division for 2005. The Group was, therefore, alarmed by the comments of the Secretariat and wished to seek further elaboration on them. The Group attached great importance to the work of the Rwanda Tribunal and urged all Member States to meet their obligations.
She commended the Secretary-General for marked improvements in the reimbursements to those Member States that had provided troops and equipment to peacekeeping operations. However, the Organization still owed large amounts to States for active and closed missions. Many of those Member States were developing countries, including from Africa, and their continued support for peacekeeping would be greatly enhanced if the Organization met its obligation to reimburse them in a timely manner. She thus welcomed the undertaking by the Secretary-General to increase payments to troop-contributing countries in 2004.
As Ms. Bertini had emphasized in her presentation, the improvement of the financial situation of the United Nations was in the hands of Member States, she said. The African Group echoed the appeal for timely, full and unconditional payment of assessed contributions. It also recognized, however, that special situations could arise where some Member States were unable to meet their obligations due to genuine economic difficulties.
JERRY KRAMER (Canada), speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, said it was encouraging that the regular budget had not had to resort to cross-borrowing in 2003 and that the level of overall unpaid assessments had fallen. However, he continued to be struck by the non-compliance of a large part of the Organizations membership with the obligation to pay assessments in full, on time and without condition. Only 27 Member States had been fully paid as of the end of 2003. That was a simply appalling statistic. While the regular budget had fared better than other accounts in terms of percentage compliance, even then some 60 Member States were delinquent. The situation facing the Tribunals was alarming. The position as of the end of 2003 and the prospects for 2004 were indeed very bleak. Unpaid assessments by 111 countries had led to serious cash deficits and the need for cross-borrowing and were now harming operations. What was the political message about commitments to justice when a meaningful majority of the membership had not paid its share? he asked.
Given the unacceptable situation, the Secretariat had taken steps to freeze recruitment and scale down operations, he said. He wanted to know more about those steps and asked if the Secretary-General envisaged drawing the situation to the attention of the Security Council. His delegation appreciated progress made in reducing peacekeeping liabilities to Member States. He noted the projected diminution of peacekeeping cash balances by the end of 2004 and the concern expressed about depleting the cash in closed mission accounts in order to provide for cross-borrowing. The most certain way to achieve presumably shared commitment was for all Member States to pay their assessments for all missions.
Mr. OZAWA (Japan) said that with an assessment rate close to 20 per cent, his country shouldered a significant part of the regular budget, the peacekeeping budgets and the budgets of the two international criminal Tribunals. Despite experiencing serious economic difficulties for some time, his Government had made utmost efforts to pay its assessed contributions in full, even though, on some occasions, that had resulted in some reductions of its voluntary contributions to international organizations. Japan had completed its payment for the 2003 assessments in full. That had been achieved through the payments earlier in 2004 of some $19 million for the regular budget, $41 million for the two Tribunals and $4.9 million for the capital master plan.
In addition, for the 2004 assessments, Japan had already paid some $17.7 million for the regular budget, as well as $4.5 million for the two Tribunals, he said. His country had also made a payment earlier in 2004 of $243.9 million for the peacekeeping budgets. Japans payments, he believed, contributed to improving the United Nations financial situation. As the figures provided in the Under-Secretary-Generals presentation did not reflect Japans payments earlier in the year, he requested the Secretariat to update its information on a continuing basis.
He stressed the ever-growing importance of accountability in order to satisfy the demands of Japans taxpayers, and requested Ms. Bertini to further enhance her efforts to ensure the most efficient use of the various assessed contributions. Regarding steps to freeze recruitment and scale down the Tribunals operations, he said that such outcomes were not what he had hoped to see. He believed that the rationalization of the budgets of the two Tribunals was essential, regardless of their cash situation. While Japan had completed its payments in full for the Tribunals for 2003 assessments, it was dissatisfied with their management. Last October, his delegation had stated that the Tribunals should be asking why 116 Member States had not paid any of their assessments. The number of Member States this year that had not paid their assessments had not significantly decreased. The continuation of such a situation could possibly endanger Japans own payment of assessed contributions, notwithstanding the seriousness of such a development.
He was pleased to learn that the level of outstanding assessments for the peacekeeping budget was falling. Several new peacekeeping missions were expected to be established, however, and the peacekeeping budget level would rise to above some $4 billion, an unprecedented level. Peacekeeping operations were facing a serious challenge. For some Member States, it was difficult to make immediate payment upon receipt of the assessment letter from the Secretariat for reasons of their national budgetary cycles. Japan was one such State. Payment of assessments for closed peacekeeping missions, however, did not pose such difficulties. The Board of Auditors had pointed out the problem of the ageing of unpaid assessments for closed missions. More serious efforts had to be made to resolve such problems.
He said it was really not possible to gain a clear picture of the payment situation by simply looking at the numbers. The handout distributed last week indicated that Japans outstanding assessment for the regular budget at the end of 2003 was $19 million, amounting to 4 per cent of the total outstanding assessments. However, Japan had in fact by that time already paid 93 per cent of its total 2003 assessment for the regular budget, which was some $263.5 million. While Japan did make many requests on how resources ought to be used, Japans Government had been paying its assessed contributions in all accounts faithfully and without conditions. He recommended that the Secretariat take into account payment track records when it undertook an evaluation of the current payment situation.
Mr. SUN (China) noted that the Organizations financial situation had improved. From January to April, 77 Member States had paid their contributions in full. If that positive trend continued, the Organizations financial situation could be improved. Only when the Organization was on a better financing footing would it be able to play a strong role. Solid financial backing was a reflection and guarantee of a vigorous United Nations. All Member States should fulfil their financial obligations by paying their assessments on time, in full and without conditions.
The United Nations financial situation, although improved, was still unsatisfactory, he said. Parts of the system were not out of the woods financially. The existence of arrears had often put the United Nations in a financial straightjacket, forcing it to rely on the unhealthy practice of cross-borrowing. If not resolved, the United Nations would be unable to play its due role fully. The golden key for solving the issue was in the hands of Member States, namely, the need to pay assessments on time and in full. He called on all Member States to fulfil their obligations so as to enable the Organization to serve mankind on a stable financial footing. China recognized its responsibility as a large country and had paid its assessments to the Tribunals on time and in full each year. China also paid assessments for peacekeeping operations, except for one. China would contribute to the Organizations solid financial footing.
IGOR N. SHCHERBAK (Russian Federation) said that, on the whole, his delegation agreed with Ms. Bertinis evaluation of the situation and her forecast for the financial situation of the Organization. He noted with satisfaction a certain stability in the cash flow situation of the United Nations and overall reduction in contributions arrears. Especially important was a reduction of the amounts due to Member States for troops and contingent-owned equipment. He highly valued the clear picture provided by the Secretariat of possible risks connected with the rates of financing of the Organizations expenses for 2003/2004. That would enable Member States to make relevant corrections in planning their payments to the United Nations budgets.
The Russian Federation would like to point out that it was making significant efforts to ensure timely payments of its assessed contributions, he continued. During the first part of the year, it had fully paid off its obligations to the regular budget for 2004 and was paying on time its current assessments for peacekeeping and the Tribunals. As of today, it had transferred over $36.5 million to the Organizations accounts. In view of the fact that the United Nations was facing new peacekeeping challenges, he underlined the special significance of streamlined financial planning, realistic appraisal of the Organizations requirements and enhanced effectiveness of the work of the United Nations as a whole. His delegation was prepared to work in that direction with all its partners in the Fifth Committee.
Mr. CHUN (Republic of Korea) said the financial situation of the United Nations had both positive and negative aspects. On the one hand, it was encouraging that cash balances had improved over the period between 1997 and 2003 and that the level of unpaid assessments continued to decrease, although only slightly. He also welcomed marked progress in decreasing the amount of debt owed to Member States. On the other hand, however, he noted with serious concern the financial crisis of the International Tribunals and found it disturbing that the cash deficit there could reach $100 million by the end of 2004. As a whole, despite some positive developments, the chronic problems of the Organization were far from over and its precarious financial situation did not allow any room for complacency.
Given the historic levels of peacekeeping assessments impending, the financial situation of the United Nations was not likely to improve in the near future, he said. The anticipated sharp increase in peacekeeping budgets would make it more difficult for many Member States to pay their shares in full and on time. Some of the major contributors, particularly those who were sidelined from the Security Councils decision to create new missions or to expand existing ones, could find it even more difficult to secure domestic support to pay the bills. Therefore, he reiterated the importance of Councils consultations with major financial contributors before it made decisions with significant financial implications.
Turning to the financial crisis faced by the Tribunals, particularly the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, he supported the steps taken by the Secretariat to freeze recruitment and scale down operations there. He looked forward to further action to match the operational costs of the Tribunals with the level of actual payments received. The level of payments, disappointing as it may be, should be taken as an indicator of political support for the Tribunals. While emphasizing the importance of bringing the perpetrators of abominable crimes against humanity to justice, he said it was time to ask ourselves to what extent and for how long the United Nations can commit ... financial resources equivalent to 7 per cent of Rwandas gross domestic product (GDP) to run the Tribunal for Rwanda at the expense of other more pressing peacekeeping priorities.
His country had always paid its share of the regular budget in full, on time and without conditions, he said. As for its share of the peacekeeping budget, however, it was one of the major financial contributors who together owed 25 per cent of assessments outstanding at the end of 2003. That was due to the extraordinary situation resulting from the five-fold increase in its share of the peacekeeping budget from 2001 to 2005. That drastic increase had coincided with an 80 per cent increase of his countrys share of the regular budget. The Republic of Korea took its responsibilities to the United Nations, including its financial commitments, very seriously. Once the current transitional period was over, his Government would be in a better position to pay its share of the peacekeeping budget on time and in full.
SHOZAB ABBAS (Pakistan) noted that the Organizations financial situation had eased somewhat. He was happy to see that during 2003 the Organization had not cross-borrowed. Such signs reflected a healthy financial picture. It was his hope that such trends would continue and the Organization would come out of its perennial financial problems. While the situation had improved, the United Nations had not yet entered a comfort zone. The number of Member States paying in full had increased in 2003, but was behind the all time high of 2000.
The debt owed to Member States had a heavy impact on countries like his, he said, reiterating the call by the Group of 77 that the Secretariat take prompt action to return arrears to troop-contributing countries and not resort to cross-borrowing. Pakistan had always responded to United Nations calls to play its role in the maintenance of international peace and security. Pakistan had also paid its contributions in full and on time. He hoped that each Member States would demonstrate its commitment by meeting its financial obligations in accordance with the Charter.
The financial situation was discussed each year, he added. The discussions however, did not find concrete expression in terms of a resolution. Such important discussions should not be lost. He suggested the Committee explore the possibility of ensuring follow-up to the item.
JAIDEEP MAZUMDAR (India) said it was a matter of satisfaction that there had been an improvement in aggregate terms in 2003. The levels of unpaid assessments were the lowest in 11 years. The figures, however, did not reveal the whole story, and factors that might adversely affect finances in 2004 must be kept in mind. The total assessments in 2004 were likely to be substantially more than in 2003, due to increased assessments for the peacekeeping budget. Outstanding peacekeeping assessments were still over a billion at the end of 2003. He feared that that figure would grow substantially in the end. He noted with concern that the Secretariat expected to end the year in deficit.
He said that the Tribunals cash situation, as well as for UNMIK and MINURSO, was critical, and it appeared that they would continue to have to be sustained through cross-borrowing. With the return of cash balances of closed peacekeeping missions to Member States, the cushion previously available to take care of delays in receipt of assessments would no longer be available.
Outstanding assessed contributions of some major contributors continued to grow, he noted. Last year, nine out of the 15 major contributors had not paid their peacekeeping assessments in full, including several permanent Council members. He was also concerned that amounts owed to Member States by the end of 2004 would go up substantially from the actual position at the end of 2003. Outstanding dues for troop costs would nearly double during the period.
It must not be forgotten that the United Nations owed over $100 million to Member States for troop and equipment costs from the six closed missions that were in net cash deficit, he said. It was time for the collective United Nations membership to address the problem. If the problem was not addressed, he feared that troop and equipment providers in UNMIK and MINURSO would also meet the same fate. While the financial situation appeared to have improved somewhat, the underlying problems could prove critical in the year ahead.
ABDELMALEK BOUHEDDOU (Algeria) endorsed the statements by Qatar, on behalf of the Group of 77, and South Africa, on behalf of the African Group, and proposed that the Secretariat should consider sending reminder letters to Member States in arrears after a reasonable period of time, like six months. The current practice was that States were billed at the beginning of the budget cycle, and no reminders were sent afterwards. Countries, however, often experienced problems related to the management of capital, letting time go by after they had received a bill. If a consumer got a telephone or electricity bill, he was sent a reminder that he needed to pay it. A similar practice could be applied to Member States that usually ended up paying, but were habitually late in their payments because of management problems.
NONYE UDO (Nigeria) also associated her statement with the position of the Group of 77 and the African Group and addressed the situation of the Tribunals, which had been constituted by Security Council mandates and were deemed important by the General Assembly. They had accomplished a lot and were now in critical stages of their work. It would not go well for the Assembly to send a negative message by not funding the Tribunals adequately.
MHD. NAJIB ELJY (Syria) noted that his country had paid in full and on time all of its obligations to the regular budget, as well as to the peacekeeping and Tribunal budgets.
AICHA AFIFI (Morocco) said her country had paid its contributions to MINURSO. When countries were authorized to pay their assessments in their national currencies, would it be possible for the Secretariat to inform them of that? At the beginning of every year, the Secretariat could tell those countries whether they could make their contributions on time in their national currencies.
Responding to delegates comments, Ms. BERTINI said the Tribunals were the most significant problem facing the Secretariat. The issue of Member States not paying their full assessments had been an issue for some time. It had been particularly difficult last year. This year, the trends did not look good. The Secretary-General, in an extraordinary communication, had written last fall to all Member States owing contributions to the Tribunals on the need to pay assessmetns. At the end of the year, assessments from 111 Member States had been outstanding. Today, 93 Member States owed for 2003, and 18 Member States, including Japan, had paid.
However, for 2004, only 37 Member States had paid in full, and some $174 million was outstanding for the Tribunals for 2004, she said. Given that the door for cross-borrowing was closing, pending further action, what choice did the Secretariat have? The Secretariat had not had much optimism about the future of cross-borrowing, so it had frozen recruitment and had asked the Registrars to submit plans to reduce expenditures. Things were clearly not OK. Filling vacancies in the Tribunals was important. Improving the situation was fully in the hands of Member States.
On the question of why 116 Members had not paid assessments, she asked why Member States approved budgets for the Tribunals and then failed to pay. As to whether the Secretary-General would go to the Security Council, he had already written to Member States in arrears. He might have to go to the Council, but the financing and assessment of the Tribunals was not up to the Council.
On the issue of the payments, since last week, three Member States had paid their 2004 assessments in full, namely, Guatemala, Marshall Islands and Senegal, and 141 countries had now paid for 2003. She would hold a press briefing on 20 May at which time she would provide correspondents with a report similar to the one the Committee had received, only updated based on figures as of 17 May. She would also provide them with the countries that had paid in full for 2004 as of 17 May. Regarding the suggestion to send follow-up reminders, she said the Secretariat could send out quarterly reminders.
Ms. LOCK (South Africa) expressed appreciation to Ms. Bertini for the answers provided and asked if all the posts for the Tribunal had been frozen, or if there were sections where no freeze had been effected. Of particular importance were new posts for the Office of the Prosecutor, and a freeze on those posts would impact the completion strategy. She hoped those posts had not been frozen.
Ms. BERTINI agreed that those were important positions, but the Secretariat had not picked and chosen jobs to freeze. All the jobs were critical for the success of the Tribunals, and the freeze was an action taken when there was no other way to address the situation.
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