25 October 2005

Fifth Committee Takes up Revised Budget for UN Côte d'Ivoire Operation

NEW YORK, 24 October (UN Headquarters) -- The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning took up a revised $423.1 million budget for the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) for the financial year ending on 30 June 2006, which represents an increase of $55.6 million over the previously approved amount of $367.5 million.

The budget has been reviewed following the extension of the Operation's mandate through 24 January 2006 by the terms of Security Council resolution 1609 (2005) last June.  Also authorized by that text was an increase in the strength of the military and civilian police components of the Operation of up to 850 additional military personnel and a ceiling of 725 civilian police personnel, including three formed police units, and the necessary additional civilian personnel.

Introducing the revised budget proposal for the mission (document A/60/364), United Nations Controller Warren Sach said that UNOCI's authorized personnel strength would now total 7,090 military personnel, including 200 military observers and 120 headquarters staff officers, 725 civilian police officers,  eight correction officers; and a total of 1,228 civilian staff.

The recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), in a related report (document A/60/420), said the delayed deployment of civilian personnel would entail a reduction of some $4.35 million gross in the Operation's proposed budget.  Introducing the Advisory Committee's report, the acting Chairman of that body, Rajat Saha, recommended appropriating an additional amount of some $51.28 million gross for the mission.

Updated on the situation in Côte d'Ivoire by senior officials of UNOCI and representatives of the Secretary-General, the Advisory Committee noted in its report that major aspects of the Pretoria Agreement of 6 April 2005 and the Pretoria Declaration of 29 June 2005 remained unimplemented, and it was now clear that elections would not take place on 30 October 2005, as planned.  Efforts to reach an agreement on the timing of the elections and the implementation of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) process continued; but in the meantime, the situation remained volatile.

Commenting on the budget proposal, the representative of South Africa, who spoke on behalf of the African Group, recalled that the Secretary-General had recently pointed out that Côte d'Ivoire found itself at a crossroads and reaffirmed the commitment of the United Nations to work with the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to assist the people of Côte d'Ivoire in achieving a peaceful and durable settlement to the crisis.  The appropriate framework for achieving that objective was in place.  The solution could be found through dialogue and consultation and with international community's support, including financial assistance for the DDR and electoral processes.  The effort in Côte d'Ivoire was yet another example of the growing cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union in the area of peacekeeping, she said.

The African Group shared the ACABQ's concerns regarding the prevalence of high vacancy rates at UNOCI, which seemed to be a recurring problem in all peacekeeping operations in Africa.  The Secretariat would have to make a more concerted effort to recruit and retain staff in peacekeeping operations, bearing in mind the competing efforts by operations in the same region.  While the Group recognized that the crisis in November 2004 forced the Operation to halt its recruitment efforts, it trusted that UNOCI now would be able to fill the vacancies with greater ease, especially at the national and regional level.

Updating the Committee on the latest developments, she said that, in recognition of the fact that it would be impossible to hold the presidential election on the scheduled date, the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, which convened at Summit level on 6 October in Addis Ababa, had decided to extend the transitional phase in Côte d'Ivoire for a period not exceeding 12 months.  It had established an international working group and a mediation group to evaluate and monitor the peace process and undertake day-to-day mediation.  The Peace and Security Council had also reaffirmed the African Union's support for UNOCI and requested the Security Council to provide it "with all necessary means to enable it to effectively discharge its mandate and to further consider authorizing a substantial increase of its strength".  Security Council resolution 1633 (2005) of 21 October supported the decisions to postpone elections and establish the international working group and mediation group.

The representative of Côte d'Ivoire asked the international community to accompany his country on the road to peace and said that UNOCI had helped stabilize the situation and renew the domestic dialogue in Côte d'Ivoire.  He would like the Committee to understand and accept the revised budget, so that UNOCI had the means to do its job.

Also this morning, during the organizational part of its meeting, the Committee adopted its programme of work for the session.

The Committee will meet at 3 p.m. Tuesday, 25 October, to take up the proposed regular budget of the Organization.

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