Speakers in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today laid out the urgency of adequately funding the Organization’s 39 special political missions — which form a crucial part of its global peace and security pillar while consuming nearly one quarter of a regular budget facing a worsening liquidity crunch.

The representative of Singapore, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), supported the funding and backstopping recommendations proposed by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).  This includes the creation of a separate account for the missions, aligned with the budgetary cycle for peacekeeping operations and charged on the peacekeeping scale.

The speaker for the European Union noted the Fifth Committee’s tradition of consensus as a core of its working methods and its near agreement, during the sixty-eighth session, on a concrete measure to improve the backstopping of the missions.  She hoped the Fifth Committee can agree this session on an adequate and robust 2021 budget for the missions.

The representative of Mali, speaking on behalf of the African Group, noted that the amount allocated to the 39 special political missions for 2021 totals $706.77 million.  Though “human resources are the primary wealth and the most important asset of our Organization”, the proposed budget includes the drastic reduction of 136 posts.  He also expressed concerned about underexpenditures in some clusters, such as for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), in which less than half of the 2020 appropriations had been spent as of September.

The representative of Cuba said the Member States which sit on the Security Council and have the power to create these missions should take responsibility for financing them.  It is illogical that these missions are financed through the regular budget and make up 24 per cent of the 2021 resources, a 2 per cent increase over 2020.

The representative of Chile — also speaking for Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay — said the Organization must ensure missions receive sufficient resources to discharge their mandates, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.  While previous missions in Haiti have made key strides, the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) needs continued funding to assist in achieving stability, security, institutional strengthening and sustainable development, as challenges in the country remain huge.  Likewise, the Mission in Colombia must be funded adequately as the country advances towards stable, lasting peace.

Echoing those concerns, the representative of China said the Fifth Committee should adjust resources and staffing of BINUH to address the worsening situation in Haiti.  On the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), he called on the Mission to avoid involvement in Sudan’s internal affairs.  He also said a detailed review of equitable geographical representation in the special political missions is needed.

Vivian van de Perre, Director of the Field Operations Finance Division in the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance’s Office of Programme Planning, Finance and Budget, introduced the Secretary-General’s reports.  She noted the total proposed resources for 2021 tally $706.8 million (net of staff assessment) for 39 continuing special missions, down $5 million from the approved 2020 budget of $711.8 million.  A $14.3 million reduction in the allocation for the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), because of its closure on 31 December and the mandated completion of its activities on 28 February, is the primary reason for the decline.

Abdallah Bachar Bong, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), who introduced its related reports, said ACABQ’s recommendations would represent $11.22 million in reductions to the Secretary‑General’s proposed 2021 resources, including $1.82 million for cluster I; $1.39 million for cluster II; $5.5 million for cluster III; $1.32 million for UNAMA; and $1.1 million for UNAMI.

Also speaking today were representatives of Japan, Mexico, Libya, Brazil, United Kingdom, Colombia, Syria and Turkey.

Programme Budget for 2021:  Special Political Missions

VIVIAN VAN DE PERRE, Director, Field Operations Finance Division, Office of Programme Planning, Finance and Budget, Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on the proposed programme budget for 2021 regarding the special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council, under thematic clusters I, II, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) (documents A/75/6(Sect.3)/Add.1; A/75/6(Sect.3)Add.2; A/75/6(Sect.3)Add.3; A/75/6(Sect.3)Add.4; A/75/6(Sect.3)Add.5; A/75/6(Sect.3)Add.6; and A/75/6(Sect.3)Add.6/Corr.1.

Noting that overall resource requirements are included under section 3, political affairs, of the proposed programme budget, she said that the total proposed resources for 2021 tally $706.8 million (net of staff assessment) for 39 continuing special missions, representing an overall decrease of $5 million, compared with the approved 2020 budget of $711.8 million.  The decrease reflects principally the net effect of a $14.3 million reduction made in the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) because of that Office’s closure on 31 December and the mandated completion of its activities on 28 February.  Other factors include a reduction of $3.2 million under the United Nations Mission to Support the Hudaydah Agreement (UNMHA) and the United Nations Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB) due to lower requirements for acquisition and construction.

With the liquidity crisis facing the regular budget operations of the United Nations, special political missions have to carefully manage expenditures to align with liquidity forecasts, with measures that include the temporary suspension of hiring and restriction of all non-post expenditures to the most urgent non‑discretionary requirements, she said.  She added that all budgets were prepared with full mandate implementation and the impact of COVID-19 was not foreseen or included.

ABDALLAH BACHAR BONG, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introducing its related reports (documents A/75/7/Add.2; A/75/7/Add.3; A/75/7/Add.4; A/75/7/Add.5; A/75/7/Add.6; and A/75/7/Add.7), noted the Secretary-General’s proposed $5 million, or 0.7 per cent, decrease for the 39 missions in 2021 as compared to 2020.  Recalling the mandate completion of UNIOGBIS, he noted that the Advisory Committee requested resource changes for the 38 continuing missions.  As such, proposed resources for 2021 for the 38 continuing missions reflect an increase of $9.29 million, or 1.3 per cent, compared to 2020.

Noting the $1.51 million which accounts for the missions’ share in the budget of the Regional Service Centre in Entebbe for 2020/21, he said the Advisory Committee recommends that the missions’ share be adjusted in line with General Assembly resolution 74/281 — which constitutes a reduction of $98,600.  Moreover, ACABQ recommendations would represent $11.22 million in reductions to the Secretary-General’s proposed 2021 resources, including $1.82 million for cluster I; $1.39 million for cluster II; $5.5 million for cluster III; $1.32 million for UNAMA; and $1.1 million for UNAMI.  The Advisory Committee notes that, with the change from the biennial to the annual programme budget on a trial basis, the total requirements of the 39 missions are included within the overall 2021 proposed resource level.  Consequently, ACABQ recommendations would require adjustments to the overall 2021 resource level.  Therefore, the proposed 2021 requirements of $34.33 million (net) for the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) will represent additional resource requirements over the proposed programme budget.

Turning to staffing requirements for 2021, he noted that a net decrease of 136 positions, or 3.1 per cent, is proposed for the 39 missions.  Excluding UNIOGBIS, this reflects a decrease of 15 positions, or 0.4 per cent.  Noting that 10 positions were vacant over two years as of 30 September in three missions, he pointed out that not all the vacancies are due to the recent recruitment freeze.  Regarding national staff capacity development, the Advisory Committee trusts that the Secretary-General will provide detailed information on the development of mission-specific planning, including nationalization of positions, for different phases of mission deployment.  Also, ACABQ recommends that the General Assembly request the Secretary-General to provide consolidated resources for communication and information technology for special political missions, along with detailed justifications, in his next main report.

MOHAMED TRAORE (Mali), speaking on behalf of the African Group and emphasizing that special political missions are a crucial element of the United Nations peace and security architecture, underscored the urgency of granting the Secretary-General the necessary tools to allow the missions to implement their mandates.  He noted that the amount allocated to the 39 special political missions for 2021 totals $706.77 million.  Stressing that “human resources are the primary wealth and the most important asset of our Organization”, he pointed to the drastic reduction of 136 posts.  In this context, he said a situation which should have been temporary has been ongoing since 2015 and expressed regret that only four positions were highlighted for conversion from international to national representatives.  On the issue of equitable geographical representation, he expressed concern about the evident imbalance especially at the Professional level and higher, noting that the African Group only accounts for 197 posts or 23 per cent of the total.

He went on to express concern about the requested resource level for 2021 because existing staff capacity could be bolstered.  Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected Governments on many levels, he underlined the value of information and communications technology and virtual meeting tools.  However, in most clusters, as well as UNAMA and UNAMI, less than half of 2020 appropriations have been spent as of September 2020.  As such, the Group is interested in hearing more about this underexpenditure.  He also looked forward to the Regional Service Centre at Entebbe receiving the necessary resources, particularly as it has provided full coverage to all missions based in Africa.  Moreover, he urged enhanced collaborations between special political missions and other political initiatives, including regional and subregional organizations, particularly requesting the consolidation of such efforts to allow for synergy.

TERRENCE TEO (Singapore) speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the current financing arrangements have made it difficult for missions to operate at their optimum capacity.  “It is particularly unacceptable that, for almost 10 years running, this Committee has failed to act on the recommendations of the ACABQ and High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations to reform the funding and backstopping arrangements, despite passing other resolutions on reforms,” he said, adding the recommendations are still relevant.  Special political missions operate in a challenging and evolving environment.  “If we are serious about giving the Secretary-General the tools to respond effectively and flexibly to complex security situations, we must follow through in enabling his work,” he added.

He strongly called on the Fifth Committee to implement the funding and backstopping recommendations proposed by the Advisory Committee, including the creation of a separate account aligned with the budgetary cycle for peacekeeping operations, and charged on the peacekeeping scale.  This is especially pertinent with current circumstance, given the persistent liquidity challenges afflicting the regular budget, from which special political missions draw their funding.  He added that most of the special political missions are created through decisions by the Security Council’s permanent members.  This includes the large field-based missions, which have more in common with peacekeeping operations than traditional special political missions.

LINA HADBOUN, European Union, emphasized that the special political missions are instrumental in breaking silos between the United Nations three main pillars — peacekeeping, development and human rights — and they help strengthen the consistent cross-pillar coordination envisioned by the Secretary‑General as the three reform streams are aligned.  She welcomed the positive results in systemwide coherence and integration, the increasing cooperation across pillars and closer work with the resident coordinator system, as seen by the double- or triple-hatted resident coordinators in six of the missions.

Regarding funding, she stressed the key importance of the consensus tradition in the Fifth Committee, on all issues.  This long-standing practice forms the core of its working methods and an integral part of the negotiation dynamics.  It must continue.  Noting that, in its sixty-eight session, the Fifth Committee nearly agreed on a concrete measure to improve the backstopping of the missions, she expressed hope that in the weeks ahead there will be opportunity for the Fifth Committee to reach agreement.  The current reports are no longer valid and should be re-evaluated with reviews on management reform and the reform of the budget process, she said, adding that the European Union looks forward to working closely with all Member States to agree on an adequate and robust 2021 budget for the missions.

Mr. BUSTAMANTE (Chile), also speaking on behalf of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, said the 2021 budget for the special political missions is crucial to the Organization´s efforts in maintaining international peace and security.  The budget supports various Member States in building and sustaining peace, as well as helping to avoid the recurrence of conflict.  One of the fundamental pillars of the United Nations is to ensure that such missions are given proper and adequate financing to discharge their mandates, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Highlighting the special political missions in Haiti and Colombia, he said they have made key strides in reaching their mandates, expressing appreciation that both have been extended for 12 months.  Despite important advances achieved in Haiti by the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and subsequently the Mission of the United Nations of Support for Justice in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), the country still faces huge challenges.  It needs an adequately financed special political mission to assist in achieving stability, security, institutional strengthening and sustainable development.  He also welcomed the Security Council’s extension of the mandate of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, calling for it to be sufficiently funded as the country advances towards stable, lasting peace.

ANA SILVIA RODRÍGUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba) noted that the Security Council is the only United Nations organ to establish a mandate for special political missions, even though there are other bodies empowered to do so, stressing that those with the power to create these missions should also take most of the responsibility for financing them, as is the case with peacekeeping operations.  It is illogical that special political missions are financed through the regular budget, accounting for 24 per cent of 2021 resources, a 2 per cent increase compared to the 2020 budget.  As the number of peacekeeping operations decreases and special political missions increases, the latter´s share of the budget should be augmented.  Cuba fully supports the functions of the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, but it disagrees with the inclusion of activities and findings relating to the “responsibility to protect” in the budget estimates of special political missions.  The Secretary-General’s report attempts to justify the post, but the 2005 World Summit outcome document does not recommend creating a Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, let alone that his or her work is financed by the regular budget.  Moreover, there is no relevant General Assembly resolution creating this post.

SUZUKI YUKIO (Japan) said special political missions will keep playing a critical role in sustaining peace and supporting Member States as they prevent and resolve conflicts.  Japan has been a strong supporter of the missions.  Their proper management is essential to ensure the Organization’s effective operation, long-term sustainability and credibility.  He called for special attention to ensuring the accountable and transparent management of the transition process from UNAMID to the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, known as UNITA.  The COVID-19 pandemic is a threat and challenge to the missions’ operations, he said, adding that the safety, security and health of mission personnel must be ensured as national authorities are supported.

JESÚS VELÁZQUEZ CASTILLO (Mexico) noted that the significant volume of regular budget resources allocated to the missions has provoked extensive debates in the Fifth Committee about whether their financing should be maintained under the non-peacekeeping budget.  Missions should be considered holistically and as an integral part of the Organization’s efforts to maintain peace.  This will help Member States appreciate their multidimensional nature as they help resolve and prevent conflicts.  Predictable and sustained funding should be guaranteed for the missions.  They should be held accountable and operate transparently as they responsibly use their resources.  Mexico awaits the results of the reform of the peace and security pillar and anticipates a fruitful discussion on the missions’ budget components, he said.

CHENG LIE (China) noted that the share of special political missions in the regular budget has increased in recent years.  Moreover, the size of civilian staff in these missions has also been rising, he observed, calling for reasonable staffing levels in line with task and workload indicators, as well as a detailed review of equitable geographical representation.  On UNAMA, he said it should continue to implement its core mandate including support for peace and reconstruction, regional cooperation and the enhancement of the people’s well‑being.  Regarding BINUH, he said that, while some work has been accomplished since it was established, the Mission has been in a difficult situation and has made limited progress.  The Fifth Committee should make timely adjustments to its resources and staffing and BINUH should take steps to address the worsening situation in Haiti.  On UNITAMS, he called on the Mission to avoid involvement in Sudan’s internal affairs.  He also expressed concern about the handover from UNAMID to UNITAMS and called for close consultations with the host country on the transition.

SHOKRI S. I. BENHAMIDA (Libya), aligning himself with the African Group, applauded the Organization’s efforts to help Libya build a democratic State to which all States can aspire.  Communications needs to be strengthened with the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), he said, expressing hope that the Mission’s work can be aligned with national authorities, in accordance with national ownership.  He expressed hope that, as the security situation has improved, it will lead to better and more direct communication.  He called on the Mission to consider giving national experts an opportunity to appoint technical staff.  He called for continued financing for the missions and assistance to UNSMIL, emphasizing that Libya is committed to coordinating with other delegations to achieve positive results.

THIAGO POGGIO PÁDUA (Brazil) said that the relative importance of the special political missions in the peace and security pillar is growing, noting that only one peacekeeping operation has been established by the Security Council since 2014, MINUJUSTH, which has now been abolished.  By contrast, in a five-year period, the Council has created nine new special political missions, with two mandated to replace former peacekeeping operations.  Moreover, the share of these missions in the Organization’s regular budget has increased from about 4 per cent to approximately 24 per cent in just 20 years.  Overall, resource requirements for the 40 special political missions for 2021, if approved at the proposed level, would represent an increase of almost $30 million, or 4.1 per cent, against the amount for 2020.  Special political missions have been operating under a hybrid system that ought to be addressed and better understood, she said, noting that they are typically mandated by the Security Council, yet funded from the regular budget, as if the entire United Nations membership had taken part in the decision to create each one of them.

RICHARD CROKER (United Kingdom) said his delegation is committed to ensuring that all special political missions are adequately and cost-effectively resourced in support of the full delivery of their important mandates.  Their work demonstrates that progress can be made under the most challenging of circumstances.  In this regard, he cited the success of UNSMIL in facilitating a ceasefire agreement and political talks in that country.  In addition to adequate and cost-effective financing, such successful outcomes also require effective performance management and strategic integration with other United Nations entities.  As such, he welcomed the important role played by United Nations management, as well as peace and security architecture reforms in this regard.

ANDRÉS JOSÉ RUGELES (Colombia) noted that the Security Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia for another year on 25 September.  A key role of this Mission is to integrate the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) into the country’s political and socioeconomic life.  As such, the Mission implements collective measures for ex‑combatants and comprehensive security programmes for communities and organizations.  Recognizing the Mission’s important work, he highlighted its readiness to work in coordination with his Government and civil society.  Significant strides have been made in implementing the 2016 peace agreement, he recalled, adding that major challenges lie ahead requiring the full commitment of all stakeholders so that gains made can be locked in.  In this regard, the international community’s financial and political support is required to maintain the agreement’s forward momentum on peacebuilding in Colombia.  The effective implementation of the Missions’ mandate will depend on resource allocation, he pointed out.

ESSAM ALSHAHIN (Syria) expressed support for Geir Pedersen, the Secretary‑General’s Special Envoy to his country, whose mission consists of facilitating dialogue to eradicate terrorism and preserve Syria’s sovereignty and independence.  Describing his delegation’s cooperation with various United Nations efforts in his country, he said the work of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry should be done through national ownership.  On the Secretary-General’s report on special political missions, he rejected the mention of General Assembly resolution 66/283 as the League of Arab States has nothing to do with the work of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy.  In this context, he asked for that section to be removed.  Moreover, the report stipulates that the Special Envoy’s goal is to supervise the implementation of General Assembly and Security Council resolutions.  As such, he called for United Nations resolutions on terrorism to also be mentioned in the report.

ARMAĞAN AYŞE CAN CRABTREE (Turkey) stressed that all special political missions must be provided with sufficient resources during the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that her country would be contributing to discussions on the topic.  Turning then to various missions, she emphasized the particular need to provide the Special Envoy for Syria with adequate support, as well as the importance of discussions focused on the country over the next year.  On Somalia, she noted that it has made progress after more than two decades of war and conflict, lauding the improved election model and underscoring the need for electoral assistance.  Regarding Libya, Turkey supports international efforts to support the Libyan‑directed and ‑owned peace process.  .  Concluding with Cyprus, she underscored the need to heed events on the island, adding that her country will raise comments in future discussions on the Office of the Special Adviser on Cyprus budget.

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