23 March 2006

Budget Committee Continues Debate on Funding for 29 Special Political Missions

NEW YORK, 22 March (UN Headquarters) -- The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning concluded its general debate on funding requests for the first half of the biennium 2006-2007, for 29 special political missions.

According to the Secretary-General's report on the matter, those requests totalled some $303.35 million.  In its report, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) noted that, for the whole biennium, an amount of about $355.95 million had been included in the budget, and that, if the requirements were funded, would leave a balance of approximately $52.6 million, as of 31 December 2006.  Last December, a charge of $100 million had been approved, in order to allow the missions to function until the end of April.  The ACABQ suggested a management review of the Department of Political Affairs, on its ability to carry out the management and direction of Special Political missions.

The representative of Syria said the budget for special political missions had multiplied several times over the past years, which placed a great burden on the Member States, especially smaller ones.  He also noted that the missions that were mandated by the Security Council, with its limited membership, were funded by the general budget.  Because Council-mandated special political missions were similar to peacekeeping missions, it would be logical to apply a scale of assessments to those missions, similar to that used for peacekeeping operations.

He said that the use of results-based budgeting for some of the special political missions violated the missions' mandates, and the indicators used did not comply with the regulations covering programme planning.  The budget report for the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004), regarding Lebanon, contained grave violations and deviation from the given mandate.  The first two "indicators of achievement" (regarding establishment of diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Syria and border demarcation) did not measure the Secretariat's performance, but the performance of States.  They referred to political decisions taken bilaterally between the two States, had no relation to the given mandate, and were considered as interference in internal matters.

The representative of Lebanon asked for the early approval of the budgets, and highlighted several points concerning the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004), the International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) and the Office of the Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for Lebanon, in view of their contribution to the stability in Lebanon and throughout the region.

He said Lebanon welcomed all international efforts aimed at ensuring strict respect for its sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence, and was thankful for the assistance extended to its authorities by the Independent Commission in its investigation of last year's terrorist bombing targeting former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.  He commended the efforts of the Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for Lebanon to achieve political stability and maintain international peace and security in southern Lebanon.  His country attached great importance to the establishment of diplomatic relations with Syria, based on the principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and independence, as called for by last week's Conference of the Lebanese National Dialogue.  Reflecting the consensus of its people, Lebanon also looked forward to the demarcation of its borders with Syria.

Myanmar's representative drew the Committee's attention to a factual error, in the part devoted to the activities of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Myanmar (document A/60/585/Add.I).  According to paragraph 1.3 on page 4 of the English text of that document, the national reconciliation process in Myanmar had "come to a halt, and there is a need for the continued good offices role for the revitalization of the process". In fact, he said, the national reconciliation process in Myanmar had never come to a halt.  On the contrary, it was continuing, and would continue as long as it took.

During yesterday's debate on the item (see Press Release GA/AB/3724 , which also contains summaries of the reports before the Committee), several speakers noted a significant increase in resource requirements compared to previous years, and asked for the rationale behind that increase.  While welcoming the Secretary-General's efforts to find areas of synergy and complementarity among special political missions and other United Nations activities, some speakers cautioned that careful attention should be given to the peculiarities of each mission.  Thought should also be given to reorganizing the report, in order to present missions or offices in clusters on the basis of thematic or regional considerations.

Addressing delegates' comments and suggestions, Dennis Thatchaichawalit, Chief, Political, Legal and Humanitarian Service of the Programme Planning and Budget Division, said the special political mission's budgets were evolving, and results-based budgeting efforts continued in order to improve the presentation.  The issue of synergies and complementarity had been taken into consideration, and he welcomed the recommendations of the ACABQ and the Fifth Committee on how to improve it.  He assured the Committee that the Secretariat certainly had looked at the mandates and that adjustments had been made in the patterns of expenditure.  At the same time, the Secretariat was striving to strike a balance between budgetary implementation and maintaining the optimal capacity of the mission to fulfil its mandate.

The Fifth Committee will meet again at a date to be announced.

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