Committee Work Programme
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to take up the financing of United Nations peacekeeping operations. Also, it was scheduled to discuss administrative and budgetary aspects of United Nations peacekeeping operations as a whole, taking up matters including the United Nations Logistics Base at Brindisi, Italy, as well as death and disability claims. For information on the reports before the Committee, see Press Release GA/AB/3227 of 18 May.
Statements on Financing Peacekeeping Operations
JEAN-PIERRE HALBWACHS, United Nations Controller, introduced the reports of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), United Nations Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM III), United Nations Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA), United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission (UNIKOM), United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNPROFOR), United Nations Operation in Mozambique (ONUMOZ), United Nations Peace-keeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), United Nations Mission of Observers in Tajikistan (UNMOT), United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMBIH), United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES), and the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force (UNPREDEP).
CONRAD MSELLE, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced the related reports of that body. He drew attention to the recurring problem of the late submission of documents which hampered the work of the Advisory Committee. He said that the issues raised in the Advisory Committee's report on administrative and budgetary aspects of peacekeeping financing needed to be addressed immediately.
He said that the report was accompanied by a number of addenda which addressed peace-keeping operations. The Advisory Committee had also considered various reports related to other aspects of peacekeeping. Wherever it had seemed necessary, the ACABQ had adjusted the cost estimates of the Secretary-General. The Advisory Committee would provide its detailed recommendations regarding the Logistics Base at Brindisi in Autumn 1998, he added.
KARL-THEODOR PASCHKE, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, introduced that body's report on audits of the procurement process in UNAVEM III, submitted pursuant to Assembly resolution 52/8. The audits, which were conducted between June 1996 and December 1997, disclosed serious management deficiencies and apparent breaches of financial rules, as well as improprieties and irregularities in the procurement process, which had in some cases resulted in significant losses to the Organization. The Office had included in its report some available information on remedial action taken so far to recover losses. While the Mission and the Department of Peace-keeping Operations (DPKO) had completed action on some issues, a number of other matters still needed to be closely monitored. He then introduced the Oversight Office's report covering the United Nations decision to pay part of the accrued termination benefits paid to locally employed civilians in UNFICYP, submitted pursuant to Assembly resolution 51/235.
HASSAN KASSEM NAJEM (Lebanon), speaking for the Arab Group, said the General Assembly, in paragraph 8 of resolution 51/233 (1997) had determined that Israel should repay all costs resulting from its attack on UNIFIL headquarters in Qana, on 18 April 1996.
[On that date, the headquarters compound of the Fijian battalion of UNIFIL came under fire by Israeli artillery. At the time, more than 800 Lebanese had sought refuge inside the compound, which is located in the village of Qana. More than 100 persons were killed and a larger number wounded. Four United Nations soldiers were wounded. There was also extensive structural damage.]
The Secretary-General's report on the issue had been published, as had that of the ACABQ, he continued. The Arab Group deeply regretted that the occupying Power, Israel, had not satisfied its obligations to pay the amount resulting from damages from its criminal and premeditated aggression against United Nations headquarters in Qana. Such aggression must not pass in silence in the United Nations.
The aggression had resulted in the death of 106 innocent civilians, including women, children and the elderly, who were seeking refuge in the headquarters following the Israeli aggression against Lebanon, he said. The United Nations must force the occupying Power to pay the amount, so that such an issue would not set precedent in the history of the Organization. The Arab Group called on the Assembly, which had passed a resolution last year making Israel responsible for the costs coming from acts of aggression in Qana, to make sure that the country paid. He thanked UNIFIL for its positive role in Lebanon, despite all the difficulties it faced in its work.
TAMMAM SULAIMAN (Syria) said his delegation fully supported the statement that had just been made. His delegation had considered the progress report on UNIFIL for the period from 1 July 1996 to 30 June 1997 very carefully. Despite the Assembly resolution that had found Israel responsible for financial obligations incurred in the Qana incident, Israel had not met those responsibilities -- which represented only a small part of the damage.
The transfer of the Fijian contingent was within the costs and repercussions of the Israeli aggression, and had been included in the amount of $1.7 million that had been placed on Israel alone, he said. There was no need at the current session to reconfirm Israel's responsibility in the incident. However, Israel's responsibility for not implementing the Assembly resolution should be considered. Syria, like many other delegations, expected Israel to be compelled to uphold the principles of international law. Israel's criminal acts in the massacre were not the first and would not be the last. They were but a link in the chain of active aggression which had always targeted Arab citizens, and that had spread to include attacks on the United Nations.
PRAYONO ATIYANTO (Indonesia) said his delegation attached great interest to the financing of United Nations peacekeeping operations in the Middle East, particularly UNIFIL. The statement of the delegate from Lebanon deserved careful consideration by the Committee.
ZVI COHEN (Israel) said the cynical attempt last year in the Committee to impute responsibility to Israel for the Qana incident could not altar the facts, just as using the same recycled rhetoric would not change the facts now. Offensive military operations against terrorists, who had shamelessly used a UNIFIL outpost as their headquarters, were as necessary today as they were then. Today's exercise must be seen in a different light, because on 1 April, Israel decided to accept Council resolution 425 (1978) to contribute to peace with its neighbours.
The repetition of last years' political show would only undermine attempts to achieve peace through negotiation and compromise, he said. The international community must consider the message it wanted to send. Should the United Nations remain buried in the bitter controversies of the past, or should it rise to the occasion and assist in working out a solution to a conflict, as called for in its Charter? he asked. The current debate might indicate whether the international community was willing to proceed, or whether it sought to continue to flog a dead horse.
Mr. NAJEM (Lebanon) said the representative of the Israeli occupation forces was attempting to place blame for the Qana incident on resistance forces in Lebanon. Further, the representative had attacked men of honour by calling them terrorists because they refused to kneel before the occupying forces, and sought to uphold Lebanon's freedom. Did he believe that the world did not see how Israel violated Lebanon's sovereignty and refuted all international resolutions, including the resolutions of the Security Council?
What history was being written for future generations who would know that a Member State flouted resolutions of the Human Rights Commission and the General Assembly, and considered itself above international law? he asked. Was the usurping of land by force and the killing of innocent civilians not terrorism? Was not Israel's bomb raid of United Nations headquarters terrorism? He reminded all delegations that Council resolution 425 had been adopted in 1978, while Israel had accepted it in 1998 -- a full 20 years after its adoption. Its conditional acceptance of that resolution undermined the very process. The debate was not a matter of rhetoric; it was a stating of facts. Israel alone must compensate for the effects of its act of aggression.
AMJAD HUSSAIN SIAL (Pakistan) said that his delegation attached great importance to adequate financing for all peacekeeping operations. Pakistan supported the full implementation of Assembly resolution 51/233, on financing of UNIFIL.
Mr. SULAIMAN (Syria) said that although the statement just made by the representative of Israel deserved no reply, some facts needed to be underlined. Israel had, from time to time, provided amusing statements expressing its intention to withdraw from some place or other. Calling people defending their land and history terrorists was an attempt to mask the rot on which the State of Israel was built. Israel continued to talk of a peace it had never known. What was the one resolution that had been implemented by Israel? he asked. Not one legitimate demand of the international community had been responded to. The resolution corresponded to a very small part of the issue and a very small amount to be paid; even that had not been recognized as its responsibility. If the history book of the State of Israel were opened, many crimes would be found. Israel must be compelled to shoulder its financial responsibility.
NAZARETH A. INCERA (Costa Rica), Committee Vice-Chairman, said she wished to focus solely on the question now under consideration.
MICHAEL R. BOYNTON (United States) suggested sticking to technical issues and leaving politics to other bodies. This had been a very regrettable line of statements. Peace-keeping operations involved many sides, by nature. If all statements from all sides were made, nothing would ever be accomplished.
AHMED DARWISH (Egypt) said that his delegation had studied the Secretary-General's financial performance reports, especially on UNIFIL. Egypt supported the statement made on behalf of the Arab Group. The report of the Secretary-General indicated that the Assembly in resolution 51/233 had authorized him to enter into commitments of some $1.7 million to cover the cost resulting from the Qana incident. In the same resolution, the Assembly had decided that the total amount should be borne by Israel. Egypt believed Israel should comply fully with its obligations.
Egypt supported the Secretary-General's cost estimates for the mission for 1 July 1998 to 30 June 1999, he said. It also subscribed to the ACABQ's related findings. The report of the ACABQ stated that the Secretary-General's report noted that an additional amount was required for the transfer of funds to the reserve account for third party liability insurance. This was considered as the only mission which had such a reserve fund. No payments had been made from that fund. The ACABQ recommended that the reserve fund be eliminated and the funds be returned to Member States. What were the reasons for the establishment of the fund 12 years ago, if the fund had no purpose? he asked.
DULCE BUERGO RODRIGUEZ (Cuba) said that the item being discussed was politically sensitive and merited due time for consideration by the General Assembly. The Committee should ensure full compliance with the resolutions that arose from its debates. It was not appropriate to imply that the Committee's discussions were not political. The work of all Committees was political to some degree; delegates were representing their governments as negotiators and delegates.
YEO BOCK CHENG, Director of the Peacekeeping Finance Division, Department of Management, addressed the question on the UNIFIL third party reserve account. The account, for UNIFIL helicopters, was established in 1986, at which time circumstances resulted in drastic increases in insurance premiums. It was agreed to limit use of such insurance, and to self-insure the third party portion. For that, the reserve fund had been established, and had been collected since. As noted by the ACABQ in its latest report, there was no longer need to revert those kinds of funds; hence its recommendation that the account be closed. Regarding payments for local staff salary, he said he would provide written information on the matter at the Committee's next meeting.
Mr. BOYNTON (United States) said that the United States supported the Advisory Committee's recommendations on the reduction of appropriation and assessment amounts proposed by the Secretary-General for individual items. The United States also strongly supported the Advisory Committee's recommendation in paragraph 23 of document A/52/860 [on financing of peacekeeping operations] that "there should be a further reduction of 5 per cent for all peacekeeping operations, with the exception of UNDOF, UNIFIL and UNFICYP ... over and above the ACABQ's recommendations for each of the individual peacekeeping operations in the addenda to A/52/860". With regard to UNDOF and UNIFIL, the United States had strong reservations about the levels of appropriations proposed by the Secretary-General. There was not adequate justification for increasing the salary of local workers; the Secretary-General must use relevant comparators to determine local labour markets.
The United States believed that all unencumbered balances should be credited to Member States in the normal manner, he said. It did not support any additions to the peacekeeping reserve fund at this time, given the information provided to date. Also, the United States supported ACABQ recommendations that the Secretary-General must expeditiously intensify efforts to streamline recruitment procedures in order to preclude higher than anticipated vacancy rates for peacekeeping operations personnel. Further, he supported that body's recommendations on contingent-owned equipment.
He said the United States was very concerned about the findings and recommendations of the Board of Auditors, and those of the ACABQ, which highlighted management and internal control concerns and failures. His delegation was particularly concerned about coordination problems, poor management and poor budgeting practices. Additionally, the United States wished to express in the strongest possible terms its deep concern about the lack of proper inventory management and controls and any recommendations of the Secretary-General to write off property that was presumed lost or stolen. All managers must be held personally accountable for any lost or stolen property. The Secretary-General must take comprehensive action to select and train accountable managers. All property must be properly controlled on a continuous basis and inventoried annually.
The United States fully supported the United Nations Logistics Base at Brindisi, he said. Nonetheless, it believed that further improvements could be made and that the field assets and control system must be fully and expeditiously implemented. He urged the General Assembly to approve an annual budget. In addition, the United States agreed with the ACABQ that the Secretary-General should conduct a more comprehensive review of general service posts with the view that unless international general service posts at peace-keeping operations and the Logistics Base were justified, they should be replaced by local general service posts.
DJAMEL MOKTEFI (Algeria) said that his delegation shared most of the comments and recommendations contained in the report of the ACABQ (document A/52/860) on financing peacekeeping operations. He would highlight some matters. Paragraph 11, on the budgetary cycle, had emphasized the need to streamline the process of formulating and endorsing peacekeeping operations budgets in conformity with General Assembly resolution 49/233A. On coordination, his delegation shared the ACABQ's view on the importance of improving coordination between various parts of the Secretariat. On performance reports, the Advisory Committee had shown interest in having such documents be more analytical, containing reasons for problems in implementing the budget. For example, the impact of high vacancy rates on the budgets should be discussed, as well as efforts made to settle problems during the implementation of the budget.
Speaking next about unsettled commitments, he said there was need to streamline the process by which such amounts were estimated. His delegation supported the ACABQ's comments regarding high vacancy rates, which were the result of cumbersome recruitment procedures and which affected the operation of peacekeeping operations. He asked for explanations on arrangements concerning materiel belonging to some operations. In paragraph 43 of its report, the ACABQ had indicated the belief that the United Nations might be paying for some items twice.
In addition, his delegation was surprised about explanations contained in paragraph 47 of the report, regarding negotiations on reimbursement procedures for contingent-owned equipment, he said. Several gratis personnel were involved in such negotiations; they were not appropriate for such negotiations. Regarding administration of equipment, the ACABQ had indicated an absence of an adequate system of management, which affected the liquidation of assets at the expiration of a mission. Also, he shared its concerns, indicated in paragraph 53 of its report, in which it had asked the Secretary- General to take the necessary steps to ensure that auctions of peace-keeping operations equipment was organized more effectively. Regarding the Advisory Committee's comments in paragraph 56, he agreed that voluntary contributions should be treated in a more transparent manner.
AHMED FARID (Saudi Arabia), expressing full support for the statement made by the delegation of Lebanon on behalf of the Arab Group, said an aggression had been made on a United Nations headquarters and a resolution had been passed. Payment in full must therefore be made.
Saudi Arabia was concerned that more planning should be introduced for all aspects relating to travel expenses, he said. It was also concerned by the reference made in the ACABQ report to the high number of items that had been stolen. This must be followed up on. Saudi Arabia supported the recommended amount for appropriation to the support account. It also supported the idea of improved electronic data processing capacity linked to headquarters. Improved internal control systems all over the Organization and in all the operations in the field were also supported.
KAZUO WATANABE (Japan) said that since its participation in UNTAC in Cambodia in the early 1990s, Japan had dispatched almost 2,000 personnel to participate in various United Nations operations. Participation of Japanese personnel in UNDOF continued to have Japanese support.
He said the total unpaid amount for peacekeeping operations was over $1.5 billion, and the arrears must be paid immediately. Delays had been noted in payment to troop-contributing countries. An average of 9.8 per cent overestimation had been noted by the Advisory Committee. Japan was very concerned about this, as it was paying nearly 20 per cent of the overestimation. There should be a further reduction of 5 per cent of all peacekeeping operations with the exception of UNDOF, UNIFIL and UNFICYP.
While supporting that phasing out of gratis personnel, Japan felt that it must be implemented so as not to affect the proper functioning of peacekeeping operations. More information was needed so that the Committee could discuss the issue in a more effective manner. Regarding vacancy rates, Japan felt that they were comparatively very high in peacekeeping operations. Why was this? he asked. Regarding the budgeting cycle of peacekeeping operations and the question of the late submission of documents, every delegation knew where the problem lay. Japan wished that the Committee's attention would be drawn to the issue so that a solution could be reached.
Mr. SULAIMAN (Syria) called attention to a technical problem with the French version of the report of the ACABQ.
ZIAD MONAYIR (Kuwait), speaking on UNIKOM, said Kuwait had been surprised to note that the sum for overpayment relating to the accommodations allowance now stood at over $6 million -- a much higher figure than had been announced by the Secretariat at the last session. That overpayment had been discovered by the Auditors in August 1993 and nothing had been done to stop it. The overpayments had continued for months.
The explanation had been given that the relevant rules had been wrongly applied, he said. However, in this regard, many clarifications were needed. This was a very important subject for the Government of Kuwait. The Government had agreed to pay two thirds of the cost of UNIKOM, and since 1993, Kuwait had met its obligations in full. Such mistakes and surprises could not be accepted by Kuwait and the resultant expenses could not be borne by it. The request of the ACABQ for a detailed report regarding accountability for the overpayment was strongly supported. In addition to assuming two thirds of the budget of UNIKOM, many in-kind contributions were made, and rarely did Kuwait see a reference to them in the reports on UNIKOM.
NESTER ODAGA-JALOMAYO (Uganda) asked when the report on the payment of mission subsistence allowance would be ready.
Mr. HALBWACHS, United Nations Controller, said he had intended to draw attention to the contributions by Kuwait, since the beginning of UNIKOM. On the question of overpayment, the Oversight Office was about to conduct an audit, and the Secretariat was awaiting that body's findings.
ABDESALAM MEDINA (Morocco) drew attention to discrepancies in the French text of the report on MINURSO.