23 May 2005
Budget Committee Debates Financing for Capital Master Plan, Measures to Address Sexual Abuse by Peacekeepers
NEW YORK, 20 May (UN Headquarters) -- Addressing two of the most pressing and sensitive issues on its agenda in the last days of its current session, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today considered the latest developments regarding the Capital Master Plan and measures to address sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping missions.
Highlighting the ever-increasing need to refurbish the United Nations Headquarters complex, delegates expressed deep disappointment at the United States’ formal offer of a $1.2 billion interest-bearing loan to finance the plan, noting also that the loan offer was inconsistent with the original understanding that the host country would provide an interest-free loan. That understanding had formed the basis of General Assembly resolution 57/292 of December 2002, in which it had approved the Plan.
Describing the offer before the Committee, the United States’ representative emphasized the need for the Committee to ensure that design development continued without interruption, by converting into an appropriation the commitment authority of $26 million. It was also important to authorize the Secretary-General to sign an agreement with the United States Government, preserving a loan of up to $1.2 billion with an interest rate of no more than 5.54 per cent per annum, as the offer could not be extended beyond 30 September this year.
She said that, if the Secretary-General signed the agreement, there would be no commitment on the part of the United Nations in any way to draw down the funds. In fact, the Organization could decide not to use the loan at all, and it would be free to seek other financing options. The loan could also be used as collateral for obtaining funds from other sources at a lower rate of interest.
Noting that the urgency of renovating the United Nations Headquarters was beyond doubt, the representative of Belgium, on behalf of the European Union, said it was troubling that the Organization kept facing problems and uncertainties that delayed the process. The Union had hoped that the host country would find a way to improve the conditions of its initial offer, but, regrettably, that had not materialized. It was now necessary to focus on the most urgent questions, including whether to approve the appropriation for the second part of the design phase in the amount of $26 million.
As to whether to authorize the Secretary-General to sign the host country’s interest-bearing loan offer, given the urgency of the need to renovate the complex in New York, he underlined the importance of reaching agreement on a comprehensive and coherent Capital Master Plan and noted that the Union continued to support the planned starting date of 2007.
The representative of the Russian Federation said that during its 60 years in New York, the United Nations had become not only an integral element of the political landscape, but also a major component of the economy of both the City and the State of New York. Continuing uncertainty on the issue was, therefore, difficult to understand. Accepting the host country’s loan offer would mean a considerable financial burden for Member States, since the amount of interest to be repaid during the 30-year period would exceed the amount of the loan itself.
In that situation, he said, the Russian Federation was ready to bear its share of the Capital Master Plan costs by paying contributions directly assessed on it, as the project proceeded. While any funding options involving payment of interest were unacceptable, he was prepared to discuss compromise options providing for a mixed funding arrangement that would allow Member States to choose between paying assessed contributions or participating in the loan agreement with the host country, which would involve subsequent long-term interest payments.
Addressing the issue of “swing space” to relocate staff during the refurbishment, New Zealand’s representative, on behalf of Australia and Canada, said it was clear that the construction of what had come to be known as “UNDC5” -- a new building on the corner of First Avenue and 42nd Street -- was no longer a viable option for cost, timing and practical reasons. In light of cost increases, the unwillingness of the New York State Legislature to provide the necessary authorization and the lack of the anticipated triple tax-free status for the bonds that would finance the UNDC5, she wondered whether the building remained a unique opportunity. Given the complications inherent in any operations outside the United Nations perimeter, she favoured exploring options within the existing United Nations perimeter, including considering the North Lawn as a location for both temporary conference servicing and permanent construction.
As the Committee took up the other issue on its agenda, several speakers agreed that sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping missions was a grave matter that went to the heart of the credibility and effectiveness of the United Nations.
The problem of sexual exploitation and abuse could only be rooted out with a zero-tolerance management culture towards such acts, India’s representative said. Resource requirements should follow the development of a policy framework and not the other way around. The Secretary-General’s proposal for the creation of new Personal Conduct Units implied the immediate creation of 63 posts and laid the foundation for the creation of at least 74 more posts in the remaining peacekeeping missions.
He did not believe the issues involved could be addressed only by setting up new entities and creating new posts. In its report, the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) called for managers, among other things, to demand accountability from civilian administrators and contingent commanders, enforce discipline, strengthen existing programmes, and report all cases to senior management. If there was any need for dedicated capacity in missions, it was that of prompt investigation, which should be independent of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
The representative of Costa Rica emphasized that it was shameful that, four years after the first formal investigation of sexual exploitation allegations in 2001, the subject was again before the Committee. Had effective action been taken from the start, the matter would not have arisen now. Sexual exploitation, particularly of children, could not be a taboo subject, and it was important to change the culture of silence within the Organization. He deplored the ineffectiveness of the existing mechanisms, saying that Member States must face the problem and deal with it in a comprehensive and effective way.
The issue must be tackled in a logical and coordinated manner, where everyone shouldered their own responsibility, he said. Impunity was intolerable and, in order to avoid complacency, there should be an effective system of accountability, both at missions and Headquarters, including at the highest levels. Clear mechanisms were needed to bring cases before relevant tribunals.
The representative of the Republic of Korea placed particular emphasis on the recommendation for the establishment of a professional, independent investigative capacity within the United Nations. Sexual exploitation and abuse persisted, and the seriousness with which the measures to deter, respond and report on incidents that had been implemented so far must be questioned. Strengthened preventive measures, including training, welfare and recreation, data management and public information, would contribute to reducing the number of future incidents. But, without a clear commitment to, and follow-through on, investigations into incidents that did occur, prevention would have little impact.
While she fully appreciated the need for strengthened capacity to investigate sexual abuse allegations, the programme budget implications of the proposals before the Committee had been presented “in a rather haphazard way”, she added. It was difficult to get a clear picture of the overall requirements “from the disjointed information” contained in the programme budget implications statement. Her delegation was ready to support additional posts, if they were essential, but every effort should be made to avoid duplication of resources and functions.
At the outset of the meeting, the representative of Jamaica, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced a draft resolution on the financing of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
Also speaking today were the representatives of Argentina (on behalf of the Rio Group), Cuba, China, Switzerland, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Belarus, Norway, Egypt, Japan, Mexico, United Republic of Tanzania and Nigeria.
John Clarkson, Office-in-Charge of the Capital Master Plan, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on it.
The Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management, Rosemary McCreery, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse. The Office-in-Charge of the OIOS, Barbara Dixon, introduced the OIOS’ report on the matter. Warren Sach, the United Nations Controller, introduced the statement of programme budget implications of draft resolution A/C.4/59/L.20.
Vladimir Kuznetsov, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced that body’s related reports.
The Committee will meet again at a date and time to be announced.
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning was expected to discuss the Controller’s report on the financial situation of the United Nations, which was presented to it last Thursday (see Press Release GA/AB/3675 of 12 May). Also before the Committee were several reports on the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping missions and the Capital Master Plan for refurbishing outdated buildings at New York Headquarters.
Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in Peacekeeping Missions
The Committee had before it a report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) on its investigation of allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) (document A/59/661), which was conducted in May-September 2004 following media reports that indicated recurrence of such offences by United Nations peacekeepers in Bunia.
The OIOS reports that interviews with Congolese women and girls confirmed that sexual contact with peacekeepers occurred with regularity, usually in exchange for food or small sums of money. Many of these contacts, which were further confirmed by other evidence, involved girls under the age of 18, some as young as 13. Despite the fact that many of the 72 allegations originally reported to MONUC could not be substantiated or even fully investigated because of their non-specific nature, the Office was able to compile 20 case reports, including one case that was substantiated against an international civilian post. The remaining 19 cases involved peacekeepers from three contingents. Of those, six cases were fully substantiated. In another two cases, identification of the perpetrators was not fully corroborated. In the remaining 11 cases, the victims and witnesses were unable to clearly identify the perpetrators.
Numerous interviews conducted by the OIOS team revealed a pattern of sexual exploitation by peacekeepers, contrary to the standards set by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in its Ten Rules: Code of Personal Conduct for Blue Helmets and the Mission’s own code of conduct. Based on its findings, the OIOS has made recommendations for corrective action, which have been accepted by the Department. Given that this problem is not unique to MONUC, and with new missions in areas where similar problems can arise, it is recommended, among other things, that the Department consider a wider application of prevention and detection policies. This may include designation of local officials or non-governmental organizations to receive reports of sexual exploitation and abuse; central reporting of all cases to Mission management on an expedited basis; development of rapid-response teams; educational programmes for the troops on their responsibilities and sanctions for violations; public naming and shaming of those found to have engaged in sexual exploitation and abuse; and permanent exclusion of perpetrators from peacekeeping.
Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (document A/59/782), which also presents data on related allegations in the United Nations system for the period from January to December 2004.
According to the document, the number of 121 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse registered in 2004 was more than double the 53 allegations reported in 2003. It should be noted, however, that this increase may result in part from the newly implemented measures to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse. Focal points have been designated to facilitate receipt of complaints, reporting procedures have become more clearly defined, and managers have clearly and publicly indicated that sexual exploitation and abuse will not be tolerated. In this new environment, it is to be expected that victims, United Nations personnel and others will be more inclined to come forward with their allegations.
Sixteen allegations were reported from all United Nations entities other than the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, where 105 allegations were filed, the report states. The types of allegations ranged from inappropriate verbal conduct to sexual assault and rape. Forty-five per cent of the allegations involve sex with minors and 15 per cent involve rape or sexual assault. Over one third involved prostitution with adult women, and the remaining 6 per cent involved other forms of sexual exploitation and abuse.
Commenting on this document, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) (document A/59/736) encourages the Secretariat in its endeavours to address the vital issue of sexual exploitation and abuse. As acknowledged in paragraph 21 of the Secretary-General’s report, while some progress has been made, numerous shortcomings persist in terms of policies, procedures and guidelines. The Advisory Committee notes, in particular, persisting doubts about the confidentiality of the complaints process, as well as a lack of trust in the investigative and disciplinary systems. Therefore, there is a possibility of underreporting of incidents of sexual exploitation or abuse. The ACABQ trusts that efforts will be made to address this matter urgently and to promote staff confidence.
In connection with allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by MONUC personnel, the Peacekeeping Department had instructed all missions to include personnel conduct functions in their budget proposals. In that regard, the Advisory Committee notes that this instruction was issued without the support of a larger review or policy framework, which is currently being formulated. More systematic attention should be devoted to the full continuum of personnel conduct issues, including policy development, training, community relations, supervision, investigations, accountability and discipline. Proposals to strengthen those functions and improve their effectiveness should take account of the fact that the functions are not inherently new and are closely linked to human resources management and leadership functions of the heads of mission, as well as the military and police.
The Advisory Committee also notes that guidelines have routinely been issued for civilian police, military observers and contingents, all of which operate under their respective chains of command. The Peacekeeping Department and the victims might have been served better if timely conduct oversight measures had been implemented. The Advisory Committee is disappointed that occurrences were allowed to spiral out of control without the early anticipatory introduction of a solid set of administrative controls. It also regrets that the Department’s approach to comprehensively addressing personnel conduct matters within the administrative structures of missions has been reactive, rather than preventive.
The Advisory Committee recommends that the Department consider establishing a management committee in each mission, consisting of section chiefs in the management areas and chaired by the chief administrative officer, to deal with issues of good management, such as best practices, accountability and conduct, strategic planning and implementation of recommendations of oversight bodies. That body couldmeet on a regular basis to consider reports of the staff charged with carrying out the functions just mentioned and report to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, as needed. As capacity in respect of those functions already exists at Headquarters, the Advisory Committee expects that an integrative approach will be taken with effective collaboration between Headquarters and the field to avoid duplication of effort.
In connection with the efforts to elaborate a strategy to eliminate future sexual exploitation and abuse in United Nations peacekeeping operations, the Committee had before it a note on programme budget implications of draft resolution A/C.4/59/L.20 (document A/C.5/59/28). By the draft resolution recommended by the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee), the Assembly would welcome the report submitted by the adviser to the Secretary-General on the matter and endorse the proposals, recommendations and conclusions of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations contained in section II of the report on its 2005 resumed session (document A/59/19/Add.1).
Those recommendations include the enforcement of uniform standards of conduct, as well as training in those standards for both military and civilian personnel. The report emphasizes that managers and commanders must lead by example and ensure that all those under their supervision are aware of the Secretary-General’s policy of zero tolerance of sexual exploitation and abuse. Those found culpable must be punished by their respective supervisors.
Commenting on the programme budget implications statement, the ACABQ, in a related report (document A/59/789), states that resource proposals should be based on clear policy and explained. Those elements appear to be lacking in the statement by the Secretary-General. Moreover, proposals should reflect the situations prevailing in each mission. For instance, the Advisory Committee does not clearly understand the rationale for establishing a capacity at this stage in the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), which is likely to wind up its activities in the near future. Similarly, there is a need for further explanation of the level of capacity planned for the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS), which is in the start-up phase.
The Advisory Committee regrets the marked absence in the programme budget implications statement of the required investigative and related responsibilities of the OIOS, as well as reference to the resources requested under the proposed support account budget for 2005/2006. The Advisory Committee regrets the late engagement with the OIOS in view of its mandated investigative functions. In meetings with the Secretariat on the budgets of various peacekeeping missions, the ACABQ has consistently inquired as to the division of investigative functions between the OIOS and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in matters relating to sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. To date, no satisfactory response has been provided.
The Advisory Committee advocates elaboration of a well defined, comprehensive and coherent policy, not only for peacekeeping, but for all other United Nations activities, as well. Such a policy should fully reflect the conclusions of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, as endorsed by the Assembly, and it should include well defined implementation procedures for enforcement and for ensuring accountability. Based on that policy, there should be a proper analysis and presentation of resource requirements. The Secretariat should justify requests for additional resources, bearing in mind the Special Committee’s call to avoid duplication of resources and functions, and should clearly demonstrate that existing capacity and resources have been fully taken into account.
As the Advisory Committee does not wish to impede the speedy implementation of the measures called for in the draft resolution, it does not call for any reduction in the resource estimates in connection with its adoption. However, pending the development of the policy called for by the ACABQ and the preparation of fully justified proposals, additional human resources requested in the programme budget implications statement should be provided through general temporary assistance, without prejudice to future decisions by the Assembly on specific requests for posts and related resources. The ACABQ notes that, in most cases, the Secretariat has indicated its intention to accommodate the additional financial requirements from within the overall budgets concerned, reporting any additional requirements in relevant performance reports.
Notwithstanding this intention, there are a number of proposals that would involve a need for the Assembly to consider some $3.14 million in addition to those requested in the peacekeeping budgets. Accordingly, the Advisory Committee recommends that the Fifth Committee inform the Assembly that, should it adopt draft resolution A/C.4/59/L.20, there would be no need for any additional appropriation at this stage. However, there would be a need to consider requirements in the context of the proposed budgets of the support account and peacekeeping missions for 2005/2006, as follows:
-- Support Account: an additional amount of up to $206,600;
-- UNAMSIL: an additional amount of up to $379,600;
-- MONUC: an amount of up to $1.35 million; and
-- UNMIS: an amount of up to $1.21 million.
Capital Master Plan
The Secretary-General’s report on the Capital Master Plan (document A/59/441/Add.1) provides an update on the developments relating to the Capital Master Plan since the issuance of his second annual progress report on the Plan’s implementation. He also seeks the Assembly’s decision on the loan offer by the host country, recommending that it decide to accept the offer of the host country on a loan of $1.2 billion at a rate not to exceed 5.54 per cent and a duration not to exceed 30 years. A letter indicating that the loan offer was accepted by the United States Congress also notes that the host country will be required to withdraw the offer if the United Nations and the host country have not signed an agreement on the terms of the loan by 30 September 2005.
The Secretary-General recommends that the Assembly decide to authorize the Secretary-General to conclude an agreement with the host country to preserve the Organization’s option to borrow up to $1.2 billion from the host country, provided that any such agreement with the host country would include several stipulations, namely, that the agreement does not create for the United Nations any legal or financial obligation to borrow any part of the $1.2 billion from the host country or in any way restrict the Organization’s discretion in deciding whether to borrow such funds, and that the agreement does not restrict the authority and discretion of the United Nations to seek funds for the same purposes from any other source if the Organization chooses to do so.
If the Organization decides to draw down on any part of the $1.2 billion under the terms of the loan agreement, the report adds, the Assembly should request the Secretary-General to first seek its authorization. He also recommends that the Assembly decide to convert into an appropriation with assessment for 2004-2005 biennium the full amount of the commitment authority of $26 million approved for that biennium in resolution 57/292, so as to provide for the continuation of design work and related project management and management of pre-construction services for the baseline scope and scope of options for the Plan.
Introduction of Draft
At the opening of the meeting, the Committee was informed by its Acting Chairperson, KAREN LOCK (South Africa), that, regrettably, agreement had not been reached on the draft resolution on the financing of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Therefore, a consensus text could not be presented to the Committee.
NORMA ELAINE TAYLOR ROBERTS (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced a draft resolution on the matter (document A/C.5/59/L.52), by the terms of which the Assembly would provide financing for the mission for the financial period of 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006. She also drew the Committee’s attention to several paragraphs of the text that related to an outstanding issue of non-payment of a Member State to the United Nations.
[In several prior resolutions on UNIFIL -- the latest being resolution 58/307 -- the Assembly had requested Israel to pay for the damage resulting from the incident at the mission’s headquarters at Qana on 18 April 1996. By the text introduced today, the Assembly would express its deep concern that Israel did not comply with those texts and stress once again that it should strictly abide by General Assembly resolutions.]
Action on the text will be taken at a later date.
Capital Master Plan
JOHN CLARKSON, Office-in-Charge of the Capital Master Plan, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the Plan. The United States had formally offered a loan of $1.2 billion for the Plan. The offer was structured on the basis of a 30-year maximum period and an interest rate of 5.54 per cent. Acceptance of the loan offer by itself did not commit the Organization to financial obligations and did not preclude the United Nations from seeking alternative offers of funding from capital markets. The Secretary-General sought the Assembly’s approval to accept the offer and conclude the loan agreement.
Regarding swing space, to date, the United Nations Development Corporation (UNDC) had not received legal approval to proceed with the building commonly known as the UNDC5. If approval was soon given, the best completion date would be early 2011. The Plan would be ready to begin refurbishment in 2007 and the Organization would thus have to consider the use of optional swing space to start the Plan according to schedule. Use of commercial premises would cost more for the rental than originally anticipated for using UNDC5. Construction costs and the original estimated rental could no longer be maintained.
On funding, he said the General Assembly had appropriated $25.5 million for the Plan for the biennium 2002-2003 for design and project management for the baseline scope and scope options. It also authorized the Secretary-General to enter into commitments of up to $26 million to complete the design work. The design process for refurbishment was well under way. The Secretary-General was now seeking approval for conversion of $26 million commitment authority to an appropriation for completion of design work.
VLADIMIR KUZNETSOV, Chairman of the ACABQ, orally introduced that body’s report, noting that the Secretary-General’s report was basically procedural. The third annual progress report on the implementation of the Capital Master Plan would be submitted to the Assembly during the main part of its sixtieth session.
Regarding the host country’s offer of an interest-bearing loan to finance the Plan, he noted that such an arrangement would not likely be the least expensive way of obtaining financing. The cash payment option, based on a one-time assessment or multi-year special assessments, would be the simplest and cheapest approach for meeting the costs of the Capital Master Plan. However, relatively large financial outlays would be required from Member States. That option, as well as other ideas, including a combination of financial mechanisms, which might prove feasible and economical should be elaborated upon in the third progress report. In the meantime, there was no disadvantage to the Assembly’s accepting the offer by the host country.
As outlined in the terms of the offer, there was no requirement for the United Nations to actually make use of the loan, he said. In the ACABQ’s opinion, there should be an understanding that, if and when the United Nations did decide to use all or some portion of the amount available, disbursal and repayment would be in accordance with a previously negotiated agreement to be worked out between the United Nations and the host country. That agreement should be submitted to the General Assembly prior to signature by the Secretary-General. The ACABQ recommends acceptance of the Secretary-General’s proposals. In seeking the Assembly’s authority to draw down on any part of the amount available, the Secretary-General would provide detailed information on the conditions of the draw down.
Regarding the recommendation on the proposed conversion of the full amount of the commitment authority of $26 million approved for 2004-2005, he pointed out that the total of $26 million included a provision of $8.2 million budgeted for 2006. At the current stage, the ACABQ recommended that only $17.8 million of the previously authorized commitment authority for the development phase of the Capital Master Plan be appropriated and assessed. Commitment authority for the balance of $8.2 million should be renewed pending future action on the appropriation of that amount.
Turning to the preliminary update on developments relating to the Plan, he noted that a great deal had changed since the Plan had been initially approved by the Assembly. In the ACABQ’s opinion, recent developments, including legal difficulties related to the acquisition of a site for the construction of a “swing space” building and the escalating cost estimates for the construction of such a building, made the use of the current “swing space” option increasingly problematic. The Advisory Committee, therefore, expected that the third progress report would analyse the impact of recent developments on the viability of the Plan and put forward a number of options addressing the United Nations needs for its Headquarters facilities. Given the current difficulties, all options should be explored, including the construction of temporary conference facilities together with suitable office space adjacent to or close by those facilities, preferably in Manhattan. The option of building within the United Nations compound should also be explored, as should a possible temporary or permanent relocation of United Nations Headquarters outside of New York City.
KARL VAN DEN BOSSCHE (Belgium), speaking of behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that the urgency of renovating the United Nations Headquarters was beyond doubt, and it was, therefore, troubling that the Organization kept facing problems and uncertainties that delayed the process, which undoubtedly needed to be speeded up. The Union had repeatedly expressed its disappointment concerning the host country’s offer, which was not in line with the usual practices in other Headquarters locations. Over the past months, the Union had hoped that the host country would respond by finding a way to improve the conditions of its initial offer. Regrettably, that had not materialized. The Union nevertheless expected further transparency and detailed information on the part of the host country.
However, the Committee’s responsibility towards the safety and security of the United Nations staff, visitors and delegates compelled it to proceed swiftly, he continued. Now, it was necessary to focus on the most urgent questions raised by the Secretary-General in his report. The first of those issues was whether to approve the appropriation for the second part of the design phase in the amount of $26 million. Needless to say, the Union continued to favour the approval of the appropriation. As to whether to authorize the Secretary-General to sign the host country’s interest-bearing loan offer, given the urgency of the need to renovate the complex in New York, the Union underlined again the importance to come to an agreement on a comprehensive and coherent Capital Master Plan and continued to support the planned starting date of 2007. However, many questions remained unanswered at this stage. The total cost of the project was hard to estimate as of now, given that different options for the swing space and the financing modalities for the final project were yet unknown.
Turning to the loan offer from the host country, he said that before taking any decision, the Committee needed to be sure what the Secretary-General would sign on to. Another issue was the legal value of that act. Nevertheless, in the interests of keeping all options open until the Committee could have a detailed discussion on all the implications of the project, the Union was open to considering the proposal that the Secretary-General should be authorized to sign an agreement to preserve the Organization’s option of the interest-bearing loan offered by the host country, but subject to specific conditions, such as those set out in paragraph 39 of the report.
The Union -- whose members disbursed about 38 per cent of the contributions to the United Nations -- wished to pursue further in informal consultations what circumstances should be in place for such au authorization to be approved. Among other things, the Union had in mind a commitment to look for ways to limit the financial burden for the entire membership, including examining in depth at the sixtieth session alternative solutions that might be feasible, with a view to ensuring the most cost-effective financing of the renovation and a practical solution for swing space. Moreover, no additional obligations must be created for the United Nations. Certain aspects of the project needed to be thoroughly re-examined. He, therefore, expected a follow-up report during the sixtieth session that should be the basis for a sound decision by the Assembly on various components of the project. The leading principle of that document should be “the best value for the money”, and its content must reflect such elements as other possible options and cost estimates for the swing space; the total cost estimates of the project, including potential cost overruns; and all possible scenarios concerning the financing modalities.
Ms. TAYLOR ROBERTS (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that the Group continued to support the Capital Master Plan, but many questions still remained. For instance, the Committee had been informed that the original option for the rental of swing space could not be maintained. Under those conditions, it was difficult for the Group to give a blanket approval for signing a letter or loan agreement by the Secretary-General at this stage. The Committee had also been told that there was no disadvantage to taking the host country’s offer, but it was very important to be very clear about all the terms and conditions not only of the letter to be signed, but also the contract itself. She agreed with the ACABQ that the Assembly should have been presented with terms and conditions of the contract itself. Following its request to the Office of the Legal Counsel, the Group expected a written statement in that regard.
Regarding the proposed appropriation of $26 million for the second part of the design phase, she said that the Group supported the ACABQ recommendation to appropriate a reduced amount. A clear breakdown and timetable of the expenditure of that amount was needed before a decision was taken on that matter.
FELICITY BUCHANAN (New Zealand), speaking also on behalf of Australia and Canada (CANZ), noted that three years ago the Committee had established that there was an urgent need to renovate the United Nations Headquarters. Since then, further information had been recited that had only served to underscore the urgency of the project in light of very serious health and safety concerns for United Nations staff and delegates. When it came to the issue of safety, Member States must not wait for a critical failure in infrastructure to act. The possibility for the renovation to take place while staff and delegates continue to use the facilities had been ruled out on both safety and cost grounds. Member States would need in future to determine where the United Nations staff would be accommodated for the duration of the renovation and where the intergovernmental business of the Organization would be conducted for the five-year term of the project.
CANZ was committed to undertaking the renovation as a matter of priority, she said. The decisions facing the membership with respect to the plan during the current session were clear. Failure to respond positively to the Secretary-General’s proposals would put the project as a whole in jeopardy. Renovation work must get under way as soon as possible. In order to preserve the project and time line, the detailed design work and the preparation of the construction documents must be permitted to proceed. She, therefore, urged all delegations to support the Secretary-General’s request for appropriation of $26 million for which commitment authority had already been provided to complete design work and begin the construction phase. With respect to financing the actual renovation, she welcomed the Secretary-General’s efforts to explore ways to reduce costs to the membership.
She said a final decision on financing arrangements for the project would be sought later this year. The Secretary-General at present was requesting authority to enter into an agreement accepting the United States’ loan offer. She supported the Secretary-General’s request as a means of keeping all options open. While it made sense to keep options open, especially as there was no cost to the membership, none of the options involving interest-bearing loans seemed more economical than simply paying by assessment. CANZ was, therefore, surprised by the minimal attention devoted to that option in the present report and urged the Secretary-General to elaborate fully on direct assessment options in the report to the sixtieth session. A final decision on financing the renovation could not be taken without that information.
In terms of future decisions, she said it was clear that UNDC5 was no longer a viable option for cost, timing and practical reasons. Finding the best available temporary accommodation solution for the Organization’s staff and intergovernmental business would be a priority for the Committee’s next discussion on the Plan. Regarding consolidation, she shared the Secretary-General’s view that consolidation was a long-term goal. She wondered whether UNDC5 remained a unique opportunity in light of costs increase, the unwillingness of the State Legislature to provide the necessary authorisation and the lack of the anticipated triple tax-free status for the bonds that would finance UNDC5. Given the complications inherent in any operations outside the United Nations perimeter, CANZ would favour further exploration of options within the existing United Nations perimeter, including the possible examination of the north lawn as a location for both temporary conference servicing and permanent construction.
ALEJANDRO TORRES LEPORI (Argentina), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, reiterated the request made last March regarding the letter which the Secretary-General had been asked to send. He reiterated the Group’s commitment to the well-being of United Nations staff and the provision of a safe and healthy workplace. The Group was following latest developments carefully as the financial, legal and political implications of a decision on the subject were of great importance for the region. He expressed concern about lack of information and the meagre data submitted to the Committee. The Group had many doubts and questions regarding the project, and he hoped to receive clear and direct answers from the Secretariat.
VLADIMIR A. IOSSIFOV (Russian Federation) said that the need for a capital refurbishment of the New York Headquarters had been the focus of Member States’ attention for quite a long time. Unfortunately, not much progress had been made in resolving such fundamental questions as the funding of the project, the time frame for starting its implementation, and construction of the swing space. Meanwhile, the cost of the project has been growing every year. The expectations with regard to an interest-free loan for the implementation of the Plan had failed. Acceptance of the host country’s loan offer would mean a considerable financial burden for Member States, since the amount of interest to be repaid during the 30-year period would exceed the amount of the loan itself. In that situation, his country was ready to bear its share of the Capital Master Plan costs by paying contributions directly assessed on it, as the project proceeded.
He said any funding options involving payment of interest were unacceptable. At the same time, his country would be prepared for the discussion of compromise options providing for a mixed-funding arrangement, which would allow the Member States to choose between paying assessed contributions and participating in the loan agreement with the host country, which would involve subsequent long-term interest payments. He noted with satisfaction that, during last week’s briefing, the representatives of the Secretariat had confirmed the practical nature of such options. As for the proposal to authorize the Secretary-General to conclude an agreement with the host country to preserve the Organization’s option to take a loan, he said it should be considered in conjunction with the final decision on the funding scheme of the Capital Master Plan and in the context of a clear legal arrangement that Member States might choose.
Noting the understanding of the Secretary-General that such an agreement would not impose any financial or legal obligations on the United Nations, he stressed the need to clearly confirm the same understanding of the host country. He also took note of the information provided to the Committee on the efforts to find alternative options for the lease of offices and conference space, adding that greater involvement of the host country should be expected in the resolution of that problem, especially since the timing of the Plan implementation to a considerable extent depended on that. During its 60 years in New York, the United Nations had become not only an integral element of the political landscape, but also a major component of the economy of both the City and the State of New York. Under those circumstances, continuing uncertainty on that issue was, at the minimum, difficult to understand.
In conclusion, he added that his delegation had no objection to the request of the Secretary-General for the appropriation of $26 million under previously approved commitment authority for the continuation of the Plan design and pre-construction work.
PABLO BERTI OLIVA (Cuba) stressed the importance of the issue and said that the cost of the Plan for Member States, particularly developing countries, should be carefully weighed. Having carefully considered the Secretary-General’s report before the Committee, he noted with concern that when the document had been submitted, the Assembly had not yet received an official letter from the host country, on the basis of which the report had been prepared. Therefore, he would appreciate that the information on that official letter be distributed in all official languages.
The offer of an interest-bearing loan was not consistent with the Assembly’s expectations, he continued. Should it be accepted, because of interest, the Organization would have to repay double the amount of the loan. That was unacceptable to his delegation, particularly in view of the fact that there had been an understanding that the host country would provide an interest-free loan to the United Nations. He regretted that, despite great advantages for the host country due to the presence of the United Nations in New York, no interest-free loan had been extended to the Organization.
The document before the Committee indicated that an interest-bearing loan was the only option available for Member States, he said. In that connection, his delegation requested that the studies that had determined possible options for financing should be distributed as a conference room paper. He also wanted to know which financial institutions had been contacted to carry out the advisory study referred to in the document presented today and determine the cost to the Organization. Actually, although the Assembly had asked the Secretary-General to establish an advisory board to study various aspects of the Plan, there was no reference to the establishment of such a body in the documents presented to the Committee. That was a failure to implement the Assembly’s resolution.
There was still no clear picture what would happen with the construction of UNDC5, he continued. The general proposal was to move the United Nations to swing space, while repairs were undertaken. How could the cost of the Plan be estimated without real options in that regard? It was important to determine how much the project would cost, and how long it would take.
Turning to the proposal to authorize the Secretary-General to sign an agreement with host country to leave open the possibility of accepting the interest-bearing loan, he said that, given the implications of signing such a letter, written information should be presented by the Office of Legal Affairs on that subject. General debate on the issue should not be closed until such information was presented.
WANG XINXIA (China) said that when the Assembly had taken a decision on the Capital Master Plan during its fifty-seventh session, there had been great expectations that the host country would provide an interest-free loan to ensure the on-time implementation of the Plan and profound gratitude had been expressed to the City for its promise of providing a piece of land at no cost to build UNDC5 as swing space. As time moved on, those hopes seem to have faded. Member States were now caught in a dilemma between two equally unattractive options: to staying an ageing building badly in need of repair and beefed-up security, or going ahead with the Plan, despite the radically changed terms of the host Government’s offer. His delegation deeply regretted that Member States had been placed in that quandary.
Numerous questions still needed to be clarified, and the swing space was a case in point, he said. According to the information given, there were drawbacks to all options. In addition, the total estimated costs for the swing space might be different from the ones given by the Secretariat under the various options, given the uncertainties involved. It was hard to imagine that the renovation of the Headquarters could actually start before the questions were clarified.
On the question of financing arrangements, while the report offered a number of options, most of them were based on the offer of the interest-bearing loans of the host Government. It also referred to the mobilization of funds through assessed contributions. Member States were given little or very limited choice on the point. Without being given the time to engage in substantive discussion on the advisability of accepting the loan offer of the host country or to fully explore financing arrangements other than interest-bearing loans, Member States were now being asked to leapfrog to the stage of authorizing the Secretary-General to sign an agreement with the host Government. He found such a method of work perplexing. The signing of agreement by the Secretary-General was a legal action, and with all legal actions, there were legal consequences and, as such, it should be approached with caution. He reiterated China’s reservations about the Organization’s taking out interest-bearing loans and its readiness to continue to explore other acceptable financing proposals.
ANJA ZOBRIST RENTENAAR (Switzerland) said, despite delays, her delegation was fully committed to the Capital Master Plan project. Due to the precarious physical condition of the Headquarters complex in terms of safety, fire and building codes, it was now imperative to proceed rapidly with its implementation. The proposed time frame, with a planned construction start in early 2007, should not be delayed any further. Due to time constraints, the discussion would have to be limited to the question of the loan offer and the necessary appropriation for continued design work and related project and pre-construction management services. Given the many uncertainties involved with the swing and consolidation space, the total cost of the project was unclear.
Switzerland had extensive experience with different financing options for constructing and renovating the premises of international organizations, she said. In light of those experiences, Switzerland would have favoured the option of an interest-free loan from the host Government. Her delegation, however, was cognizant of the realities on the ground. Under the circumstances, she favoured the cash payment option through assessed contributions. It seemed prudent, however, to keep all options open. The information provided in the report was sufficiently clear for her delegation to agree to the proposed course of action. Switzerland, furthermore, supported the conversion of the full amount of the commitment authority of $26 million into an appropriation with assessment.
She also expressed concern over the delays and impediments regarding UNDC5. Originally considered the most desirable solution in terms of project cost and duration and disturbances of the Organization’s work, it was clearly no longer viable. Having learned that, due to the economic terms currently offered by the UNDC, the cumulative break-even on a net value basis did not occur until 2043, its retention as a consolidation building was questionable, as well. The option of setting up a temporary building within the United Nations premises merited further consideration. The Secretariat should explore the option of making that a permanent structure. The North Lawn was currently not accessible to the United Nations community nor used for any other sensible purpose.
KHUSHALI SHAH (United States) said that, as a host country, the United States wanted to ensure that there was a safe and secure environment for delegates and staff at United Nations Headquarters. The Committee had two important decisions to make during this session, so that the Capital Master Plan could be moved forward without delay. She looked forward to working with all delegations to achieve a goal that they all shared on that issue. Her delegation supported the provision of financing for phase II to develop construction documents. The Assembly had previously appropriated $25.5 million for the Plan in resolution 57/292. In addition, that resolution had provided a commitment authority of $26 million. As noted in the Secretary-General’s report, the design development for phase I was progressing on target, and now a further appropriation was needed to fund the next phase starting in 2005 and finishing in 2006. Therefore, the Committee would need to fulfil its 2002 commitment and act during the current session to convert the commitment authority into an appropriation, to ensure that design development and construction document work continued without any delay or interruption.
It was also important to act during this session to authorize the Secretary-General to sign a loan agreement with the United States Government, preserving a loan of up to $1.2 billion with an interest rate of no more than 5.54 per cent per annum, because the offer would expire on 30 September this year -– the end of the United States fiscal year. The offer could not be extended beyond that date. If the Secretary-General signed the agreement, there would be no commitment on the part of the United Nations in any way to draw down the funds. In fact, the United Nations could decide not to use the loan at all, and it would be free to seek other financing options. In fact, the loan could be used as collateral for obtaining funds from other sources at a lower rate of interest.
The funds from the loan would not be drawn down, unless and until the Assembly had approved such action, she specified. If the General Assembly ultimately decided to finance the project through alternate means, there would be no financial obligation on the part of the Organization to her Government. If, however, the Assembly decided that the United States loan offer was the best option available, then the funds would be immediately available to the Organization. There was no time limit on the loan until the first funds were obligated and dispersed to the United Nations. The time period for loan repayment would also be decided by the Assembly.
On the subject of alternative financing, it was her delegation’s understanding that the United Nations would be required to have at least 60 per cent or more of construction funds available to it at the time it would enter into contracts for construction. Without the United States loan, that would require an assessment in 2006 to Member States for 60 per cent or more of the full cost of the Capital Master Plan, for the construction to start in 2007. In addition, since the United Nations would still need funding to cover the remaining amount of 30 to 40 per cent of the cost, as a matter of practice contractors would seek a higher charge for their work, thus, raising the overall cost of the project.
Among other important issues that must be considered, she mentioned the financing of construction, swing space and the future of UNDC5 as a consolidating building. Those should be discussed during the main part of the sixtieth session. Her country would work with the Committee to approve the conversion of $26 million in commitment authority into an appropriation during this session to ensure that the work on the Plan would proceed on schedule. It was also her view that the Committee should authorize the Secretary-General to sign a loan agreement with her Government, so that the loan offer remained a viable financing option.
ASDRUBAL PULIDO LEON (Venezuela) supported the position of the Group of 77 and China and the Rio Group and agreed with those delegations that had expressed concern over the proposals contained in the report. The authorization for the Secretary-General to sign the loan offer had legal, financial and political implications. It was important to remember that when the Assembly had adopted a resolution on the Plan, it had acted on the basis of having an interest-free loan from the host country. Therefore, for his delegation, it was unacceptable to take the offer of an interest-bearing loan. He expressed his appreciation for the host country for its offer, which would be considered in depth, once all the relevant information had been received from the Secretariat, but his delegation could not accept such an offer.
Regarding the appropriation of $26 million for the second phase of design work, he said that he had no objection to such action, should it be found that resources were actually needed and justification of the resources was provided. The Secretary-General had been authorized to enter into commitments up to that amount, and he was prepared to authorize the appropriation, but the Secretariat had previously submitted a schedule of payments, which indicated that $15 million would be needed in May-June 2005. Then, there had been an indication that such an amount would not be needed anymore, as the process had been delayed. He was concerned that the Secretariat had provided inaccurate information, which changed from month to month.
Given the seriousness of the situation, particularly since the same concerns persisted -- and now there were doubts regarding the possibility of building UNDC5 and finding other swing-space options -- he wanted to receive a written timetable, providing payments needed through December 2005. If it was found that resources were actually needed, he had no problem endorsing such an appropriation. Also, during the main part of the session, the Secretary-General had indicated he only needed $18 million, and $7 million would be requested for 2006-2007. Thus, the expenses needed to be justified properly.
RAJIV RAMLAL (Trinidad and Tobago) first expressed concern with how the Committee had been proceeding on critical agenda items. The Committee was increasingly being forced to consider items with tremendous financial implications in a way that was not proper. It was important to ensure that items came before the Committee in a manner which had served the Committee well in the past. Regarding the Capital Master Plan, he expressed concern regarding issues of transparency, uncertainty and the lack of detailed data provided. The fact that the fundamental parameters on which the Assembly had approved the design and development of the Plan had changed considerably. He recalled the Advisory Committee’s observation that the Organization had not in the past resorted to commercial borrowing, and that it did not find any compelling reason to change that practice. His delegation would, however, approach the issues in a constructive manner, including regarding the conversion of the required commitment authority into appropriation.
ALEG IVANOU (Belarus) said his delegation had no final instructions on the Plan. If the interest-free loan was not possible, he tended towards assessment of Member States. He was very impressed by the suggestion of the Russian Federation to submit possible proposals for flexible financing options. The most flexible scheme would enable the Committee to reach agreement on the item, which would have to be solved in the near future.
Sexual Exploitation in Peacekeeping Missions
The Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management, ROSEMARY MCCREERY, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse, saying that a recent increase in the number of allegations resulted in part from the newly implemented measures to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse. Among the measures taken, she mentioned the establishment of focal points in individual missions and strict non-fraternization directives issued to personnel.
The senior management took the matter with utmost seriousness, she stressed. In particular, a working group had been instituted to consider changing and updating procedures for the handling of cases involving sexual exploitation and abuse and to ensure information-sharing among the OIOS, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and military and civilian police components.
BARBARA DIXON, Office in Charge, Office of Internal Oversight Services, introduced the report on the matter (document A/59/661), saying that the Office had looked into a total of 72 allegations, many of them very general and derived from a variety of complainants. A team of professional investigators, assisted by interpreters and a military liaison officer, had spent four months in Bunia in June-September 2004. Many of the allegations had to be closed, as being too vague for a thorough investigation. However, the investigation had revealed a pattern of sexual exploitation by peacekeepers contrary to the set standards of conduct.
WARREN SACH, United Nations Controller, introduced the statement of programme budget implications of draft resolution A/C.4/59/L.20. He said that the recommendations contained in the report of the Special Committee called for numerous actions to be taken by the Peacekeeping Department, the troop-contributing countries, Member States and the Departments of the Secretariat. In addition to the requirements of some $1.22 million proposed under the support account for 2005/2006, approval was sought for additional requirements of $206,600 for post and non-post resources, relating to an additional P-3 post in the Policy Support Unit of the Division of Organizational Development/Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM), and an additional six months general temporary assistance at the P-4 level for the Legal Officer in the Administrative Law Unit of OHRM.
As for the peacekeeping missions, in addition to the requirements of some $3.33 million for the establishment of a total of 22 posts in several peacekeeping operations, approval was sought for the establishment of three posts for an amount of $379,600 for UNAMSIL and the establishment of a total of 27 additional posts in the MONUC, the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), the United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB), the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). The cost of those posts would be absorbed within the proposed budgetary level of respective mission budgets for 2005/2006.
The addendum to the programme budget implications statement (document A/C.5/59/28/Add.1) had been submitted following an OIOS review of its immediate requirement for the investigation of sexual exploitation and abuse cases in peacekeeping operations. A preliminary resource estimate had been made in that respect. Approval was sought for an additional requirement of $3.92 million under general temporary assistance for 25 positions in New York, Vienna, Nairobi and in several missions, to be included in the requirements for OIOS in the Support Account for 2005/2006. An additional amount of $364,200 for non-post resources related to the 25 positions would be included in the requirements of the OIOS in the Support Account for 2005/2006.
Mr. KUZNETSOV introduced related ACABQ reports. In his oral statement on document A/C.5/59/28/Add.1, he said that the estimates involved general temporary assistance, rather than posts. That was consistent with the approach recommended by the ACABQ in its report on the matter, since a clear policy on dealing with sexual exploitation and abuse was still to be developed. Moreover, the ACABQ had called for the policy to cover not only peacekeeping, but all other United Nations activities, as well. He expected such a policy to be developed by January 2006, in time for it to be considered at the Advisory Committee’s winter session and the Fifth Committee’s second resumed session.
The submission before the Committee reflected a number of the same deficiencies that had been identified in the ACABQ’s initial statement of programme budget implications in document A/C.5/59/28. Most importantly, the Secretariat should justify requests for additional resources, bearing in mind the need to avoid duplication and demonstrate clearly that existing capacity and resources had been fully taken into consideration. The fact that it was not evident in the document before the Committee was understandable, since such a short time had elapsed between the submission of the original statement and the addendum. However, the ACABQ would expect those concerns to be fully addressed in the future.
The Advisory Committee trusted that speedy and identifiable progress would be made in the efforts to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse, and results would be presented in the report to be presented in January 2006. The Advisory Committee stressed the absolute importance of providing the proper legal framework for close cooperation between the United Nations and troop-contributing countries with regard to the development and implementation of an effective and comprehensive policy aimed at the elimination of future sexual exploitation and abuse. Equally important was the need to clearly define the respective roles of the OIOS and the Peacekeeping Department and have a precise understanding of when an incident or allegation became a matter for investigation by the OIOS.
There was no hard data to support requests for a specific quantum of human resources, he added, and the ACABQ’s understanding was that an appropriate data management and tracking base was still to be developed. He expected that in the coming months, careful attention would be paid to the development of an accurate database and a reliable analysis of the scope and nature of the problem, as well as the means to deal with it. It was also important to distinguish individual needs of particular missions, rather than treat them in a “one fits all” approach.
The Advisory Committee was not recommending a reduction in the amount of general temporary assistance estimated for the requirements of the OIOS to implement draft resolution A/C.4/59/L.20. If those requirements were approved, they should be used to meet the most urgent requirements, including the elimination of any backlog, pending the development of the policy called for by the ACABQ and the preparation of fully justified proposals. General temporary assistance resources should be used with maximum flexibility and only as the need arose. The Secretariat should also revisit plans to allocate five positions to UNMIS. Since that was a new mission, emphasis should be placed on prevention, training and strong discipline. Investigative resources should be phased in as necessary, taking into account the developing situation. As for the Geneva and Nairobi hubs, he pointed out that there was considerable and recently strengthened capacity at both locations. There was, as yet, no firm date for the requirements at the missions to be covered by those hubs.
The Advisory Committee recommended that the Committee inform the Assembly that, should it adopt the Fourth Committee draft, there would be a further requirement under the Support Account for 2005/2006 of up to $4.29 million.
Mr. VAN DEN BOSSCHE (Belgium), on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the Union was convinced of the extreme importance of addressing the issue in a just, effective and timely manner. The Union insisted on the need for the Secretary-General to take necessary steps to eliminate future exploitation in field missions; to ensure that the perpetrators were put to justice; and to institute a genuine culture of accountability for management. The Union noted the resources requested in the various reports before the Committee. Seen together, the Secretary-General’s request for posts in several fields of activity and in variable operating contexts did not give the impression of a comprehensive, strong and unified strategy needed to root out sexual exploitation and abuses.
He understood that discussions were still ongoing between various departments. He trusted that due attention was given to the practical implementation of General Assembly resolution 59/287, that re-emphasized the rule of the OIOS as the internal oversight body entrusted with investigation in the United Nations and that stressed that sexual exploitation and abuse constituted a serious misconduct that fell within the competence of the OIOS. A clear delineation of responsibilities and mandates was essential in that regard.
He said the political message by the Special Committee was focused on a three-level balance, namely: raising awareness and prevention; investigative capacities and zero-tolerance policies; and effective enforcement. The Union supported that message and noted the proposals presented by the Secretariat that would materialize that balance. The Union stood ready to approve the appropriate resources to address the issue. The Committee needed to give the adequate resources now, taking into account the recommendations of the Special Committee and the Advisory Committee. An all-inclusive process was needed. Today’s debate was focused on immediate financial needs. An overall policy framework was needed, however, to deal with the issue in a systemic way. Additional elements for the discussion, such as the proposed role of regional and resident investigators, would form an integral part of the deliberations.
Ms. TAYLOR ROBERTS (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, noted the Secretary-General’s efforts to implement measures to discourage sexual exploitation and abuse and to facilitate the response, reporting and investigation of such incidents when they occurred. The Group was very concerned about the reports of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeeping personnel. It was even more disturbing to note that the total number of allegations registered in 2004 was more than double the number reported in the previous year. There could be no excuses or compromises for such conduct.
She said the Group had also taken note of the OIOS’s report, which dealt primarily with administrative and managerial policies. The report of the Adviser to the Secretary-General on the question, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein of Jordan, had pointed to other dimensions of the problem, noting that a comprehensive strategy to eliminate future sexual exploitation and abuse was needed. The Group would examine the Secretary-General’s proposals during informal consultations.
Mr. TORRES LEPORI (Argentina), on behalf of the Rio Group, said the question of sexual exploitation was complicated and had been dealt with in different contexts within the Organization. The United Nations must today deal in a responsible way with acts that had not been given due attention in the past. He took note of the scope of the proposals presented by the Secretary-General. The problem should be addressed within a coordinated structure that allowed for the correct appropriation of responsibility. He asked for information on the physical structure in peacekeeping operations to deal with the problem. The Special Committee had analysed the problem in detail at its latest session. Taking into account the comments of the ACABQ, the Group would analyse proposals to strengthen the investigative capacities of the OIOS. Regarding personnel conduct units, he had concerns that he hoped would be properly dispelled during informal consultations, including the need to avoid a duplication in functions. The Group also wanted clear information on several questions, including coordination between the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the OIOS. The Group hoped to adopt appropriate measures to end sexual exploitation and abuse, which seriously undermined United Nations efforts to contribute to peace and security.
ANTONIO ALARCON (Costa Rica) supported the position of the Group of 77 and the Rio Group. In 2001, the first formal investigation of sexual allegations had been carried out. It was shameful that, four years later, the subject was again before the Committee. Had effective action been taken from the start, the matter would not have arisen now. Sexual exploitation, particularly of children, could not be a taboo subject. It was important to change the culture of silence that had been practised in the Organization. He deplored the ineffectiveness of the existing mechanisms to address the problem. Member States must face the problem and deal with it in a comprehensive and effective way. The issue must be tackled in a logical and coordinated manner, where everyone shouldered their own responsibility.
Zero tolerance was of utmost importance, he stressed. In order to avoid complacency, there should be an effective system of accountability, both at missions and Headquarters, including at the highest levels. Impunity was intolerable. Clear mechanisms were needed to bring cases before relevant tribunals.
Regarding the investigative capacity, he recalled that, last month, the Assembly had adopted a resolution that established that sexual exploitation and abuse represented serious misconduct, which should be investigated by the OIOS as an independent body that reported to Member States. His delegation could not support the establishment of different units with investigative capacities, which could be susceptible to various political and personal influences. He supported the resources requested by the OIOS and recognized the primary responsibility of that Office in the area of investigations.
To adopt appropriate decisions, it was also necessary to receive clear information on the capacity and functions for each component of the proposed structure, because it was important to avoid duplication. Special representatives of the Secretary-General at each mission must be personally committed to taking responsibility for the situation in the field. The matter must be dealt with at the highest level. He hoped that the issue of the standardization of the rules of conduct would be taken up by the Assembly during its sixtieth session. Clear and precise information was needed on the progress of work and interaction between the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the OIOS, the multidisciplinary task force, departments and agencies.
KANG KYUNG-WHA (Republic of Korea) stressed the importance of zero tolerance of sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping missions and said that her delegation was deeply troubled that the number of cases of alleged sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations personnel had increased in 2004. It was small comfort that the increase could, in part, indicate a greater awareness in the mission that had led those incidents to be reported more often, as measures for protection had been newly implemented. Taken together with the report on the investigations in MONUC -- which had concluded that the problem at the Mission was serious and ongoing and that there was a lack of protection and deterrence programme even when the investigation was in progress -- the reality that emerged from the ground was a shameful one. Sexual exploitation and abuse persisted, and the seriousness with which the measures to deter, respond and report on incidents that had been implemented so far must be questioned.
The answer may differ for different missions, she said, but certainly in MONUC the answer was not a positive one. As the OIOS had concluded, those behaviours could well continue without strong reinforcement of the legal requirements and prompt sanctions. That warning must be heeded not just by those serving in MONUC, but by everybody at Headquarters and at the missions. Thus, her delegation fully supported the Fourth Committee’s endorsement of the proposals of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, based upon the report of the Special Advisory to the Secretary-General on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. She hoped that the issue would remain high on the agenda of the Special Committee. The recommendations that had been adopted should be expeditiously put into action.
She placed particular emphasis on the recommendation for the establishment of a professional, independent investigative capacity within the administrative authority of the United Nations, she continued. Strengthened preventive measures, including training, welfare and recreation, data management and public information, would contribute to reducing the number of future incidents. But, without a clear commitment to, and follow-through on, investigations into incidents that did occur, prevention would have little impact. The Special Committee was non-specific in that regard, and the Secretariat had had little time to follow up since its adoption by the Fourth Committee. The related programme budget implications statement had come out in bits and pieces, in a rather haphazard way. Altogether, 57 new posts had been proposed for strengthened investigation. In addition, to create personnel conduct units, resources had been requested through the Support Account for eight posts at Headquarters, while resources for 45 personnel conduct posts had been requested from various missions’ budgets for 2005/2006, with further such posts to be included in the UNMIS budget.
While fully appreciating the need for strengthened capacity to investigate sexual abuse allegations, she found it difficult to acquire from the disjointed information contained in the programme budget implications statement a clear understanding of the overall picture, she said. Her delegation was ready to support additional posts, if they were essential, but every effort should be made to avoid duplication of resources and functions. To maximize value and avoid waste, budget requests should be based upon a careful analysis of possible synergies between strengthened investigation and the work of personnel conduct offices. She urged the Secretariat to take a long-term and system-wide approach to eliminating misconduct. Sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping missions was a grave matter that went to the heart of the credibility and effectiveness of the United Nations. The troop-contributing countries must do all they could to train their troops and punish perpetrators. Furthermore, commanders and managers should lead by example, and they needed to be held accountable for incidents of misconduct committed by personnel under their authority.
JAIDEEP MAZUMDAR (India) said the revelations of allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by a number of United Nations peacekeepers and civilian personnel in one mission last year had rightly occasioned outrage and condemnation. The Secretary-General deserved to be congratulated for promptly addressing the Special Committee’s request for a comprehensive report on the issue. The report of the Secretary-General’s adviser on the question provided a comprehensive overview of the issue, along with wide-ranging recommendations for action. He noted that the Secretary-General had proposed the creation of new Personal Conduct Units, which implied the immediate creation of 63 posts and laid the foundation for the creation of at least 74 more posts in the remaining peacekeeping missions. India did not believe that the issues involved could be addressed only by setting up new entities and creating new posts.
The problem of sexual exploitation and abuse could only be rooted out with a zero-tolerance management culture towards such acts, he said. Resource requirements should follow the development of a policy framework and not the other way around. Many of the actions required of the Secretariat were not new mandates or functions to be farmed out to new entities, but were core management functions of programme managers at Headquarters and in the field. The Secretary-General’s proposals also did not take account of how existing capacities relating to child protection and gender capacities could, and should, be used. He encouraged the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to work with other entities in the Secretariat and to use existing expertise and capacities within the Department and the United Nations system, and not to replicate them. Even if new capacities were created, the Committee would have to consider whether they should be located in the Department.
The problem could only be addressed by mainstreaming the issues in the management of peacekeeping missions, he said. The Peacekeeping Department’s approach in seeking to create more posts was flawed. The OIOS called for managers, among other things, to demand accountability from civilian administrators and contingent commanders, provide regular briefings to troops on their responsibilities towards the local population, enforce discipline, secure all military compounds to prevent unauthorized entry and egress, strengthen existing programmes to empower vulnerable populations, and report all cases to senior management. If there was any need for dedicated capacity in missions, it was that of prompt investigation, which should be independent of the Peacekeeping Department. In that context, he noted with concern the ACABQ’s observation on the apparent reluctance of the Department to consult with the OIOS on the issues. He commended the OIOS approach to seek general temporary assistance to immediately deal with the cases received so far, while evaluating long-term post and grade-level requirements.
MARI SKARE (Norway) said sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations personnel was intolerable. By endorsing the Special Committee’s report, the General Assembly would take a first, small step to repair damage, seek justice and prevent such behaviour in the future. The follow-up of recommendations regarding uniform and binding standards, training, victim assistance, communication and data management, welfare and enhanced capacity to address misconduct and accountability, as well as the establishment of an investigative capacity, would have cost implications. Implementing an Assembly resolution on a comprehensive review should not be dependent on voluntary contributions. Member States must take a collective responsibility for financing.
She said Norway full supported the resource requests put forward by the Secretary-General. Norway did not in any way wish to impede the speedy implementation of measures and did not call for any reduction in the estimated resources required for adopting the resolution. Norway fully supported the establishment of a new Personnel Conduct Unit, to prevent and identify misconduct, as well as proposed resources to strengthen the independent and professional investigative capacity of the Organization. Noting that the OIOS had concluded that there was a pattern of sexual exploitation by peacekeepers, the follow-up of policies and strategies to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse was clearly a leadership responsibility. Civilian managers and military commanders must be held accountable, and the Secretary-General and MemberStates must ensure that the necessary accountability mechanisms were in place.
YASSER ELNAGGAR (Egypt) stressed the fact that today’s oral ACABQ reports should not create a precedent and said that the matter under consideration was a sensitive issue, which should be addressed in a comprehensive manner. It was important to unequivocally condemn sexual exploitation and abuse. Establishment of new entities in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and enforcement of the investigative function of the Oversight Office were among the issues before the Committee. The Assembly had recently adopted a resolution to strengthen investigative functions of the Office. Therefore, it had decided which part of the Secretariat had to deal with that aspect. However, dealing with questions of political and moral dimensions could not be limited to adopting an approach to provide new human and financial resources, without a comprehensive strategy.
It was important to avoid creating new bureaucratic structures, particularly as many existing structures already dealt with various aspects of the matter, he continued. All the present structures and the framework of their mandates must be reviewed, maybe even eliminating them completely, before creating new mechanisms. It was also necessary to clearly determine the mandate of any new function, taking into consideration the work of all existing departments and the need to coordinate their efforts. He did not understand how new functions could be absorbed within the budget and appropriate decision concerning the financial and human resources could be made without the Assembly clearly determining their mandates. As for the urgent requirements, they needed to be studied carefully to see if they could be absorbed.
HITOSHI KOZAKI (Japan) shared the concern expressed by previous speakers and said that his Government was seriously concerned over the cases of sexual exploitation and abuse and took serious note of the recommendations of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations. Steps needed to be taken to stop instances of sexual abuse. Troop-contributing countries had the primary responsibility for the conduct of their troops, and concrete actions should be taken, taking that into account. He also emphasized the need to fully utilize existing resources, avoid duplication and review existing mechanisms.
DIEGO SIMANCAS (Mexico) asked whether there had been cases of exploitation in the Kosovo Mission.
JOHN NG’ONGOLO (United Republic of Tanzania) said sexual exploitation and abuse was immoral and an insult to the dignity of humankind. It was disturbing to learn that those immoral activities were ongoing and that there was no effective protection and deterrence programme. He also condemned such illegal and shameful acts and called for a comprehensive strategy to eliminate them.
Responding to questions from the floor, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management, Ms. MCCREERY, said the Secretariat had not received allegations of exploitation and abuse from the Mission in Kosovo in 2004. Regarding a question about human trafficking in 2003, the perpetrators had not been sent to other missions, she noted.
NONYE ODO (Nigeria) said her country viewed the matter as a serious concern and looked forward to discussing it in the informal consultations. She asked whether the Committee would be given copies of the statements of the Assistant Secretary-General and the Chairman of the ACABQ.
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