17 March 2005
Budget Committee Considers Additional Financing Requests for Peacekeeping Missions in Cyprus, Kosovo
NEW YORK, 16 March (UN Headquarters) -- As the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning considered requests for additional financing for peacekeeping missions in Cyprus and Kosovo, a number of questions were raised regarding the timing of the request, with several speakers expressing concern over the precedent of reviewing peacekeeping budgets following their adoption.
[The budgets for both the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) and United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) for the period from 1 July 2004 to 30 June 2005 were approved in June 2004, but additional appropriations were required due, in part, to substantial changes in the cost parameters, including subsistence allowance rates, revised salary scales for staff and currency fluctuations between the euro and United States dollar. See documents A/59/718 and A/59/692.]
Introducing the Secretariats requests for additional appropriations, Acting Controller of the United Nations, Warren Sach, explained to the Committee that, aside from those changes, most of the $1.9 million additional requirements for UNFICYP stemmed from an unexpected relocation of military personnel from their current accommodations. Additional requirements would be needed despite anticipated savings from the downsizing of the Force from 1,230 to 860 military contingent personnel, subsequent to Security Council resolution 1568 (2004).
According to the documents before the Committee, total additional requirements requested by UNFICYP amount to some $4.46 million gross, including $3.75 million from the modified cost parameters and $709,500 for the cost of the emergency construction project during the 2004/05 financial period. This amount is to be accommodated in part through anticipated savings of some $2.56 million resulting from the downsizing of the Force. Some $700,000 of the additional resources requested by UNFICYP would be funded through a voluntary contribution of the Government of Cyprus.
Commenting on the $1.9 million request for UNFICYP, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), Vladimir Kuznetsov, who introduced that bodys report (document A/59/734), recommended that any additional requirement be reported in the performance report of the mission. However, the Advisory Committee only made such a recommendation in view of the relatively minor amount being requested, stating that requests for revised appropriations should be made exclusively in exceptional circumstances. The request set an unwelcome precedent.
While recognizing the obligation of the United Nations to provide safe and sanitary accommodation for troops, and the necessity of transferring them from their current dilapidated premises, the ACABQ pointed out, however, that the military contingent of the Mission would move from accommodations provided by the Government of Cyprus to facilities to be financed by the mission. According to the ACABQ report, intensive contacts and discussions on the question of accommodation for troops had been maintained with the host country. The mission had yet to receive a formal reply from the Government of Cyprus.
In that connection, the representative of Cyprus said that, under the 1964 agreement between the United Nations and his country, his Government was to provide areas for headquarters, camps and other accommodations for the personnel free of cost to the Force. However, the agreement excluded alterations and renovation for the enhancement of premises. His Government had been providing for the routine maintenance of the facilities, which had recently come to approximately $2.7 million annually, and was undertaking all necessary measures to provide safe and secure facilities in conformity with its obligations. It would do its utmost to find a swift and satisfactory resolution to the technical matter.
As the Committee turned to UNMIK, it was told that additional requirements for the Mission were due to the increase in subsistence allowance rates effective 1 May 2004, the revised salary scales for national staff effective 1 March 2004, currency fluctuations and a new air operations contract effective 15 September 2004.
Mr. Sach said that, while the total cost of these increases was estimated at some $37.4 million, some $3.6 million could be met through reprioritization of funds. Thus, the Secretariat was asking for an appropriation of the amount of some $33.77 million for the maintenance of the Mission for the 12-month period starting on 1 July 2004, in addition to the amount of some $264.63 million already appropriated for the same period under the provisions of resolution 58/305 last June. The situation as it stood now was not satisfactory from the financing point of view, for due to the shortfall in Member States contributions some $55 million had been borrowed from closed missions for the maintenance of UNMIK.
The Advisory Committee -- in a report (document A/59/728) introduced by its Vice-Chairman, Rajat Saha -- recommends approval of an additional amount of $30 million for the maintenance of UNMIK, in addition to the amount of some $264.63 million already appropriated for 2004/2005 by the terms of Assembly resolution 58/305. It also states that the administration should make further efforts to reduce air operations costs and/or absorb any additional costs through setting new priorities for available funds. A greater effort should have been made to absorb unbudgeted expenditures through economies in such areas as travel of staff, maintenance of facilities and infrastructure, acquisition of vehicles, and communications and other electronic data-processing equipment.
Commenting on the requests, the representative of Belgium, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, agreed with the Advisory Committee in encouraging UNFICYP to absorb cost overruns. He also said that all efforts should also be made to absorb the increase of $386,000 due to air transportation costs for UNMIK. A leading principle must be that unbudgeted costs relating to travel of staff, maintenance of facilities and infrastructure, as well as acquisition of vehicles, communications and other electronic data-processing equipment, should be absorbed.
Also regarding UNMIK, the representative of the United States said she was alarmed by the increase in appropriations, in particular in allowances for national staff. Further information was warranted to explain how the increase had been arrived at. She also expressed concern about the trend in the Fifth Committee to have peacekeeping missions revisited during the session. With recent substantial increases in peacekeeping budgets, greater efforts must be made to achieve greater efficiencies. On Cyprus, she said it was unclear why the request was coming at this stage and requested detailed information on the agreement between the United Nations and Cyprus.
Japans representative agreed with the ACABQ that requests for revised appropriations should be made only under exceptional circumstances and that a greater effort should be made to absorb unbudgeted expenditures. In the case of UNMIK, further effort was also needed to reduce air operations cost, or absorb additional costs through setting new priorities for available funds.
While it was certainly true that the information on possible over-expenditure or under-budgeting had not been available at the time the budgets were prepared, he wondered why information on cost increases was not conveyed to the Committee last May, when it considered peacekeeping budgets. New subsistence allowance rates for military liaison officers and civilian police, as well as increases in mission subsistence allowance rates became effective on 1 May 2004. Revised salary scales for national staff were in effect since March 2004.
The representative of Argentina also spoke on the matter.
Answers were also provided this morning to questions raised last week by the representative of Syria about the large number of participants during the meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women and subsequent safety problems, as well as the capacity of the United Nations complex to accommodate them. Bruno Henn, Deputy Chief of the Security and Safety Service, said that safety officers had briefed participants on safety and evacuation procedures. Ambulances had been on standby on the premises and the New York Fire Department had been informed. There had also been additional safety patrols. Special event identification cards had been issued to the participants of the event, each of whom had been registered.
The Committees Secretary, Movses Abelian, said the Economic and Social Council had decided that, given the celebratory nature of the event, those non-governmental organizations that were accredited to the Fourth World conference on Women or to the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly had been invited to the meeting on an exceptional basis. To a subsequent question by Syrias representative, he added that the large number of participants and the buildings capacity to absorb them had been taken into account during the planning stage.
The representative of the Republic of Korea provided further details on the planning for the session of the Commission -- a special Beijing+10 assessment. She agreed that the event presented quite an exceptional logistical problem, but added that during consultations with all the services involved, including Protocol and security personnel, such issues as passes, access and capacity of the building had been considered. The organizers of the session went along with professional advice that the building could hold the large number of participants. The two weeks of the session were successfully conducted, and the scale of the even was befitting its commemorative nature.
The Committee will take up the Capital Master Plan, the Development Account and the Organizations regular technical assistance programme at 10 a.m. Thursday, 17 March.
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