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Agenda item 138: Financing of the United Nations peacekeeping forces in the Middle East (continued)
(a) United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (continued) (A/55/747, A/55/778, A/55/874 and Add.1)
(b) United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (continued) (A/55/757, A/55/874 and A/55/885)
32. Mr. Nakkari (Syrian Arab Republic) said that his delegation had been pleased to note, from the report of the Secretary-General on the budget of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) (A/55/778), that some of the concerns expressed in General Assembly resolution 54/266 had been met. Others, however, such as the improvement of the working conditions of the local staff remained to be addressed.
33. In particular, his delegation wished to place on record its strong reservations with respect to what the Secretariat had regarded as responding to the mandate of resolution 54/266. The provision of a transportation benefit which had been factored in the net salaries, in accordance with the salary survey methodology, and the Force’s provision of transport for its staff from Damascus to Camp Faouar had not been done in response to the mandate incorporated in resolution 54/266 since they had been in effect before the resolution was adopted. Moreover, the Secretariat’s understanding of paragraph 2 of the resolution, as reflected in paragraph 33 (a) of the report (A/55/778), was erroneous. The Assembly had said nothing about the provision of a hardship allowance or of hazard pay. In adopting the same view of the issue, the Advisory Committee had, in paragraph 24 of its report (A/55/874/Add.1), made the same mistake as the Secretariat.
34. The General Assembly had also requested the (in resolution 53/226, para. 8) the Secretary-General in order to reduce the cost of employing General Service staff, to continue efforts to employ local staff for the Force against General Service posts, commensurate with the requirements of the Force. Nothing had yet been done to meet this request, and the Advisory Committee had not addressed the matter. His delegation requested clarification of the statement that “Following a review of the situation of posts, and for operational reasons, no conversion of General Service staff posts into local staff posts is possible at this time” (A/55/778, para. 27). It would also like to know the nature of the current circumstances that were preventing the replacement of General Service posts by local posts.
35. His delegation had noted with satisfaction the commitment of the UNDOF administration to continuing its ongoing dialogue with the local staff with a view to identifying and addressing issues of staff concern (A/55/778, para. 34), and that work had begun on many improvements in the working conditions of the local staff. Finally, he said that the time had come for the General Assembly to consider the question of increasing the number of in-grade steps for local staff from 10 to 14.
40. Mr. Yeo (Director, Peacekeeping Financing Division), ...
44. Responding to the questions raised by the representative of the Syrian Arab Republic, he pointed out that the representatives of the Secretariat who had been present at the drafting of General Assembly resolution 54/266 had fully understood the wording of paragraph 2 to express the hope that in addition to non-financial issues, account would also be taken of the concerns of the Syrian Arab Republic regarding equitable treatment of local staff. He was confident that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations would take note of and act on the Syrian request.
45. Regarding the conversion of General Service staff to Local staff in UNDOF, he drew attention to the first table in section VIII of the report (A/55/778) noting that since only six of the international staff were in the General Service category, there was a limit to the number of posts that could be converted. The Secretariat would, of course, keep the matter under review.
46. Mr. Mselle (Chairman, Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions), ...
47. Regarding the allegation by the representative of the Syrian Arab Republic that the Advisory Committee had made the same error as the Secretariat in regard to the statement by the Secretary-General that the inconvenience to UNDOF local staff had “since been addressed by the factoring in of a transportation benefit in the net salaries, in accordance with the salary survey methodology” (A/55/778, para. 33 (a)), he said that that information had been given to the Advisory Committee by the Secretariat. It was therefore up to the Secretariat to clarify whether the phrase “has since” referred to something that had been done after or before the adoption of General Assembly resolution 54/266 of 15 June 2000.
48. On the matter of the secondment of UNDOF staff to other missions, he said that the Advisory Committee had paid attention to that factor when reviewing peacekeeping missions. He drew attention to table 2 in the report of the Advisory Committee (A/55/874), on mission staff on short-term loan for the start-up of new missions, which showed that six UNDOF staff were on loan to other missions.
49. Mr. Mutiso (Field Administration and Logistics Division) said that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations was currently examining with the Office of Human Resources Management and the International Civil Service Commission ways of making allowance for the difficulties resulting from the relocation of the Force headquarters. The number of in-grade steps for General Service staff was also being discussed. He would give a more detailed response to the points raised by the representative of the Syrian Arab Republic in informal consultations.
50. Mr. Orr (Canada) said that, while there was broad awareness of the trying conditions in which the personnel of all United Nations peacekeeping operations worked, there had been disagreement within the Committee as to whether the local staff of UNDOF were experiencing significant hardship as a result of the relocation of the Force headquarters. The language of paragraph 2 of General Assembly resolution 54/266 was therefore deliberately vague.
51. Mr. Nakkari (Syrian Arab Republic) said that, on the contrary, the wording of the paragraph was quite unambiguous and referred explicitly to the difficulties experienced by the local staff. He did not recall that there had been any support for watering down the language.
The meeting rose at 5.55 p.m.