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GA/AB/4374
22 October 2021
Seventy-sixth Session, 5th Meeting (PM)

Speakers Call for Separate Account Aligned with Peacekeeping Budget Cycle to Finance Special Political Missions, as Fifth Committee Reviews Proposed Funding for 2022

General Assembly President Encourages Delegates to Identify Ways for Improving Process of Formulating United Nations Budget, Communicating Results 

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today took up the Secretary‑General’s request for $730.7 million to fund 38 special political missions in 2022, with several delegations renewing calls for a separate budget to be established to address their requirements.

The missions ‑ approved by the Security Council and/or the General Assembly and including good offices and preventive diplomacy and post‑conflict peacebuilding efforts ‑ together account for about a quarter of the United Nations annual regular budget.

Singapore’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), led calls by several speakers for the creation of a separate budget that would be aligned with the peacekeeping budget cycle which begins mid‑year on 1 July.  Since the 15‑member Council establishes nearly all special political missions, rather than all 193 Member States, its five permanent members should assume a greater responsibility for their funding, she added.

Cameroon’s representative, speaking on behalf of the African Group, reiterated the Group’s standing demand for equitable geographical representation, especially at decision‑making levels, as well as the need to develop national expertise in special political missions.  Highlighting the United Nations ongoing responsibility for the safety of staff, especially during the COVID‑19 pandemic, he said that the Group will address the issue of information and communication technologies in the 2022 programme budget in the context of the pandemic.

Egypt’s representative, whose country chairs the Peacebuilding Commission, said that adequate funding for the peacebuilding components of special political missions is especially important as the COVID‑19 pandemic persists.  The growing number of missions is shifting resources away from development financing, he said, urging the Committee to consider establishing a separate account that would assess Member States based on what they now pay into the peacekeeping budget.

The United States’ representative said that Member States have a collective responsibility to provide the political and financial support required for special political missions to translate the mandates given to them by the Security Council.  He also welcomed the opportunity to discuss new ways of enhancing performance measurement for certain categories of special political missions.

China’s representative said that funding for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which was drafted in May, must be readjusted in the aftermath of the hasty withdrawal of foreign troops.  He added that the allocation of posts should be more rational and that greater adherence to geographical representation is very important.

Iraq’s representative said that his country opposes any reduction in funding for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) (UNITAD).  It also rejects the abolition of national posts within these missions, he added.

Chandramouli Ramanathan, United Nations Controller and Assistant Secretary‑General for Programme Planning, Finance and Budget in the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, introduced the Secretary‑General’s reports on the proposed programme budget for 2022 in respect of special political missions, saying that the total proposed resources for 2022 amount to $730.7 million (net of staff assessment) - an overall increase of $0.3 million (net of staff assessment) compared with the approved budget of $730.4 million for 2021.

Abdallah Bacher Bong, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced its eponymous reports, explaining that a report on UNAMA will be presented separately.  Among other things, he said that if revised estimates are included, the requested resources for 2022 will go up by $19.7 million, including $7.2 million for the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia and $12.5 million for the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS).

Abdulla Shahid, President of the General Assembly, addressed the Committee at the start of the meeting, encouraging its members to focus on in‑person formal and informal meetings to ensure greater efficiency and effectiveness and to complete their work in a timely manner.  “I hope you will all agree that Christmas and New Year holidays will not be the same without the Fifth Committee completing its work,” he said.  He also encouraged the Committee to consider the Secretary‑General’s proposal, outlined in Our Common Agenda, to “identify ways to improve the budget process, especially in how we formulate and communicate the results that we hope to do and accomplish.”

Also speaking today were representatives of Peru (on behalf of a group of Latin American and Caribbean countries), Mexico, Colombia, Bangladesh, Cuba, United Kingdom, Japan, Cyprus and Brazil, as well as the European Union.

The Fifth Committee will reconvene on Thursday, 28 October, for a general discussion on improving the United Nations’ financial situation and to take up the Secretary-General’s report on conditions of service and compensation for full‑time members of the International Civil Service Commission and the Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions.

Address by the President of the General Assembly

ABDULLA SHAHID (Maldives), President of the General Assembly, said he was told “All roads lead to the Fifth.”  Therefore, he was delighted to address the Fifth Committee today.  As the pandemic continues, the Fifth Committee has led the way in achieving consensus and dialogue through constructive engagement.  The Organization’s operations could not effectively and efficiently function without the Fifth Committee’s work.  “It is undoubtedly the ‘engine’ of the General Assembly,” he added.  That engine is needed to run smoothly this year as it will be the first time the Fifth Committee handles the scales of assessment alongside the annual regular budget.  The international community is emerging from a global pandemic that has devastated lives and livelihoods and decimated economies while creating friction around the world.  “The eyes of the world are on the United Nations. This is not the year for us to dither or delay; this is the year that we must act, that we must demonstrate that we can act,” he said.

The Assembly President laid out three main requests for the Fifth Committee this year.  First, he encouraged all Member States to fulfil their annual contributions on time and in full.  Secondly, he encouraged Committee members to focus on in_person formal and informal meetings to ensure greater efficiency and effectiveness for the Committee’s vital work.  He encouraged them to complete their work on the Programme Budget and the Scale of Assessments in a timely manner.  “I hope you will all agree that Christmas and New Year holidays will not be the same without the Fifth Committee completing its work,” he said.  Thirdly, he encouraged the Fifth Committee to consider the Secretary‑General’s proposal as outlined in Our Common Agenda, to “identify ways to improve the budget process, especially in how we formulate and communicate the results that we hope to do and accomplish.”  He urged the Committee to work together to achieve a meaningful session under a presidency of hope.

Special Political Missions    

CHANDRAMOULI RAMANATHAN, United Nations Controller and Assistant Secretary‑General for Programme Planning, Finance and Budget in the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, introduced the Secretary‑General’s reports on the proposed programme budget for 2022 in respect of special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council (documents A/76/6(Sect.3)/Add.1A/76/7/Add.1, A/76/6(Sect.3)/Add.2A/76/7/Add.2, A/76/6(Sect.3)/Add.3A/76/7/Add.3, A/76/6(Sect.3)/Add.4A/76/7/Add.4, A/76/6(Sect.3)/Add.6A/76/7/Add.6).  He said that the total proposed resources for 2022 amount to $730.7 million (net of staff assessment) for special political missions, representing an overall increase of $0.3 million (net of staff assessment) compared with the approved budget of $730.4 million for 2021.

The proposed increase of $0.3 million for 2022 reflects the net result of a reduction of $7.1 million related to the discontinuation of the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Burundi and the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), he said.  It also reflects an increase of $9.5 million in civilian personnel costs, owing to the delayed impact of 297 positions established in 2021 for UNITAMS, United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA), United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) and Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, among other missions, for which a vacancy rate of 50 per cent was applied in the 2021 budget, and updated standard salary costs based on latest rates and 2020 common staff cost expenditure patterns.

In addition, the proposed increase reflects an increase of $0.4 million in military and police personnel costs; an increase of $6.9 million in UNITAMS’ operational costs reflecting the scaling up of operations after the start‑up period in 2021; a reduction of $9.7 million in operational costs in all other missions, mostly in the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia and the United Nations Mission to support the Hudaydah Agreement (UNMHA), among others; and an increase of $0.3 million for the share of the regional service centre in Entebbe, Uganda, reflecting the increased share of special political missions compared to 2021, with the establishment of UNITAMS and drawdown of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).

Due to the timing of Security Council resolutions 2574 (2021) and 2579 (2021) and related developments, the financial resources required for the implementation of additional mandated activities with respect to the Verification Mission in Colombia and UNITAMS are not captured in the initial cluster III proposed budget, but presented separately in a report of revised estimates (addendum 7), which is currently being considered by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).  Those will be introduced at the Fifth Committee in due course, he explained.

ABDALLAH BACHER BONG, Chairman of the Advisory Committee, introduced its eponymous reports regarding the overall resources estimates for special political missions for 2022 and budget proposals for thematic clusters I to III, and United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) (documents A/76/7/Add.1, Add.2, Add.3, Add.4 and Add.6). The report on UNAMA will be presented separately. 

He said the overall resource requirements proposed for 38 special political missions tally $730.6 million net for 2022, an increase of $306,500, or 0.04 per cent, compared with total resources approved for 2021.  This amount of $730.6 million excludes revised estimates of an additional $20 million.  If the revised estimates are included, requested resources for special political missions for 2022 will be increased by $19.7 million, consisting of $7.2 million for the Verification Mission in Colombia and $12.5 million for UNITAMS.

While noting formatting improvements, the Advisory Committee trusts that efforts will continue to keep improving the formatting and presentation of the budget reports regarding special political missions, such as inclusion of an organizational chart in an annex to a budget report (rather than in the supplementary information) and with clear denotation of proposed staffing changes, as well as better responses.

The Advisory Committee notes the disparity among regional groups in the international staff composition of the missions, he said, recalling that in Assembly resolution 75/253 A, the Assembly asked the Secretary‑General to make stronger efforts to improve gender balance and geographical representation in the missions.  The Assembly asked the Secretariat to take measures, including the recruitment of new staff and by strengthening the accountability framework of the managers, to improve geographical representation and gender balance in all Special political missions.

The Advisory Committee is concerned about the elevated number of long‑vacant positions certain missions ‑ including the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), United Nations Support Office in Somalia and UNMHA - particularly at the national levels, he said, and trusts that the recruitment for all vacant positions will be completed expeditiously and that a staffing assessment will be conducted to justify the proposed staffing resources.  On an option for full cost‑recovery for transfer of assets between field operations, the Advisory Committee recommends that the Assembly ask the Secretary‑General to present such an option, with a detailed analysis of assets transferred between all the missions during the last 10 years and include a cost‑benefit analysis of that for the Assembly to consider at the second  resumed  part of its seventy-sixth session in the context of peacekeeping overview report.

FELICIA CHUA (Singapore), speaking on behalf of ASEAN, said it is crucial to give the missions the resources they need to deliver their mandates effectively.  Their expansion in number, scope and size reflects their importance in maintaining international peace and security.  Yet for the past decade the Fifth Committee has failed to move on recommendations, made by the Advisory Committee and the High‑Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations, to reform the funding and backstopping arrangements for these missions.  “This is unacceptable,” she said. “Current arrangements have made it difficult for special political missions to function optimally, which they must in order to respond effectively and flexibly to complex security situations.”

She strongly called on the Fifth Committee to implement the funding and backstopping recommendations proposed by the Advisory Committee in its 13 December 2011 report, which remains relevant.  This includes the creation of a separate account, aligned with the peacekeeping operations’ budgetary cycle.  This is especially pertinent with the persistent liquidity challenges that impact the Organization’s regular budget, from which the missions now draw their funding.  Special political missions must have adequate and predictable financing in order to support the stability and continuity of peacebuilding activities.  Most missions are created through decisions made by the Permanent Members of the Security Council.  Those members with a larger influence over peace and security operations, including these missions, should shoulder a larger responsibility for their funding, she said.

FELIX-FILS EBOA EBONGUE (Cameroon) speaking on behalf of the African Group, welcomed the rapid availability of the texts of the draft budgets of the special political missions.  He stressed the importance of providing the necessary funds and human resources to these missions, as this will enable them to implement their respective mandates. Regarding human resources, he noted the decrease in the number of staff as a result of the closure of two missions.  The Group is particularly interested in the situation concerning vacancy rates and efforts to fill long‑term vacancies, he said.  International vacancies should be filled through endogenous mechanisms and through the development of national expertise.

He reiterated the Group's permanent demand for equitable geographical representation of United Nations personnel, especially at the decision-making levels.  Highlighting the United Nations ongoing responsibility for the safety of staff, especially during the COVID‑19 pandemic, he said that the Group will address the issue of information and communication technologies in the 2022 programme budget in the context of the pandemic.  He concluded by expressing concern about the proposed budget for the Regional Service Centre in Entebbe, Uganda.

LINA HADBOUN, a representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, pointing out that special political missions are uniquely positioned to foster a comprehensive and integrated approach to deliver each of the three  pillars  of  the  United  Nations and  breakdown silos, welcomed the positive results in system_wide coherence and integration, the increasing cooperation across pillars and closer work with the Resident Coordinator system as illustrated by the double‑or triple-hatted Resident Coordinators in several missions.  The European Union remains strongly committed to ensuring the missions have adequate capacities and sufficient resources to fully implement their mandates, she said.  In that regard, she welcomed the annual budget format, which allows the Secretary‑General to present in a timely fashion the necessary adjustments to the resources of missions operating in very volatile environments.

Turning to funding and backstopping for the missions, she recalled that eight years ago, the Fifth Committee came close to an agreement on measures to improve backstopping.  The context has changed significantly with the annual budget, the new management paradigm, the system of delegation of authority, and the rationalization of policy and support functions between the newly created Department of Management, Strategy, Policy and Compliance and the Department of Operational Support.  As a result, many of the recommendations outlined in the Secretary‑General’s report (document A/66/340) and the corresponding ACABQ report (document A/66/7/Add.21) are now outdated.  These reports must be re‑evaluated considering the reviews on management reform and the reform of the budget process, she stressed.

DAVID PEDROZA (Peru), also speaking on behalf of 13 other Latin American and Caribbean countries, noted that special political missions are funded through the regular budget even though they are established by the Security Council and not by all Member States.  A report from the Secretary‑General on this situation, introduced 10 years ago, has yet to be considered.  He proposed that the financing of special political missions should be carried out through a separate account, using the same scale of assessments applied for peacekeeping operations.  He welcomed the recent extension of the mandate of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), saying that it can help the Government and civil society to tackle the country’s multidimensional crises and return to the path to sustainable peace.  Turning to the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, he looked forward to the renewal of its mandate past 31 October with financing in line with the Secretary‑General’s request.

PATRICK KENNEDY (United States) said that his country remains fully committed to ensuring that special political missions have adequate capacities and resources to deliver on their mandates.  “It is our collective responsibility to provide the political and financial support that will enable these missions to translate the mandates set forth by the Security Council,” he said.  The United States looks forward to working with all delegations to ensure effective management of mission resources and welcomes the opportunity to discuss new ways of enhancing performance measurement for certain categories of special political missions.  He reiterated his country’s commitment to the women, peace and security agenda and looked forward to working with other delegations to support women’s equal participation and full involvement in the maintenance and promotion of peace, security, and conflict prevention and resolution.

JESÚS VELÁZQUEZ CASTILLO (Mexico) said the Organization must develop a holistic fashion in which to improve the way in which the special political missions are funded.  Mexico fully appreciates the work of these missions, which is very important in helping to prevent and resolve conflicts.  Yet they account for important resources in the regular budget.  In 2020 alone, funding for 38 peacekeeping missions took up 22 per cent of the Organization’s budget.  Their financing should be done from a second account with prorated assessments.  To respond to their substantive mandates, they must have the requisite resources in an adequate, timely manner, he said, calling for predictable, transparent funding and  accountability.  Mexico will participate in negotiations on these missions and will pay particular attention to BINUH and the Verification Mission in Colombia, he said.

Mr. ALMERRI (Iraq) supported the funding and extensions of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) (UNITAD). He welcomed the adoption of resolution 2576 (2021), by which the Security Council extended the mandate of UNAMI until 27 May 2022 and the adoption of resolution 2597 (2021) to extend the mandate of UNITAD until 17 September 2022.  He particularly appreciated the valuable assistance provided by the Head of UNAMI, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, to the people and Government of Iraq in promoting human rights, inclusive political dialogue, national reconciliation, and assistance to the electoral process.  He opposed any reduction in the resources of UNAMI and UNITAD and any abolition of national posts within these missions.

ÁLVARO DAVID RODRIGUEZ DE LA HOZ (Colombia) thanked Member States and the United Nations for their commitment to build peace in Colombia, as reflected by the Security Council’s unanimous extension to 31 October of the mandate of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia.  He underscored his country’s commitment to the 2016 peace agreement between the Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP), with the Verification Mission playing a fundamental role in its implementation.  International support for the peace process is more relevant than ever, he said, emphasizing that the Mission’s effectiveness will depend on the allocation of resources requested by the Secretary‑General.

MOHAMMED NORE ALAM (Bangladesh), noting that his country is hosting 1.1 million Rohingya fleeing persecution in Myanmar, called on Member States to extend the mandate of the Secretary‑General’s Special Envoy for Myanmar until a permanent solution to the crisis is achieved.  The Office of the Special Envoy must be transparent and accountable about its activities.  He urged the Secretary‑General to do more to improve gender balance and geographical representation in all special political missions and suggested that virtual tools be used more frequently to reduce travel costs.  He also called for greater efforts to be made to address a persistent low rate of compliance with the advance booking requirement for official air travel.

PEDRO LUIS PEDROSO CUESTA (Cuba) said financing for the special political missions is taking increasingly more money from the Organization’s regular budget.  While recognizing their contribution to conflict resolution, Cuba notes that these missions account for about one‑quarter of the regular budget.  Yet their existence is authorized exclusively by the Security Council.  Their growth has impacted the financing activities of the Organization’s development pillar, which is critical for the developing world.  The budget for the missions is increasing as the financing for peacekeeping missions is decreasing, he noted, emphasizing that the missions need a separate financing account to reflect the special role that the Council has created for them.

CLELIA LUCY UHART (United Kingdom) underscored the Fifth Committee’s responsibility to provide adequate and cost‑effective resourcing for special political missions, including those with mandates that focus on human rights, gender, protection of civilians, safety and security, and environmental protection.  This week’s Security Council debate on women, peace, and security and the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, are timely reminders that women’s participation and climate action should be mainstreamed in all special political missions.  She encouraged special political missions to continue to work closely with other United Nations entities in their respective countries and regions, adding that the United Kingdom is pleased to see special political missions reaping the benefits of the Secretary‑General’s reform efforts.

ABDULLAH IBRAHIM ABDELHAMID ALSAYED ATTELB (Egypt), aligning himself with the African Group, said the Peacebuilding Commission, for which he serves as Chair, is uniquely positioned to give the Council clear, realistic and targeted peacebuilding perspectives, and its advisory role is particularly important during the Council’s consideration of the mandates of special political missions.  He stressed the need to adequately resource the peacebuilding components of relevant special political missions, including during mission transitions and drawdown, to support the stability and continuity of peacebuilding activities.  This is even more true as the COVID‑19 pandemic persists.  The overall resource requirements proposed for the 38 special political missions for 2022, more than $730 million, make up 23 per cent of the proposed regular budget for 2022.  As the number and importance of these missions grows, their share of the regular budget has been increasing, shifting resources away from financing for development in countries that don’t host these missions.  Yet these missions are typically mandated by the Council as if the entire membership had taken part in the decision that created them.  “This situation must be addressed,” he said, urging the Committee to consider creating a separate account, aligned with the budgetary cycle for peacekeeping operations, and charged on the peacekeeping scale.

ABO AI (Japan) stated that her country greatly values special political missions and will continue to support them as they play a critical role in sustaining peace and stability by preventing, managing and resolving conflicts. Financial support for these missions is essential to their success, she said, underscoring that Member States have a responsibility to ensure the necessary resources so the missions can function not only in the short term, but also in the longer term, in accordance with their respective mandates.  That is why funding must be effective and efficient.  In this regard, she noted with concern the high number of vacant posts and positions in several missions.  Her delegation will carefully examine the background and circumstances of each vacancy to ensure that the Organization’s limited resources are allocated appropriately and efficiently, she said.

WEN DONG (China) said two missions were closed this year yet the special political missions’ share of the Organization’s regular budget keeps increasing.  The Organization needs to develop a budget that is rational and scientific for these missions and enhance the use of resources allocated for them.  The allocation of posts should be more rational and greater adherence to geographical representation is very important, he said.  The Advisory Committee notes that the missions’ budgets should reflect the costs of the pandemic.  He noted the hasty withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and said the budget of the UNAMA, which was drafted last May, needs to be adjusted.  The Fifth Committee should readjust the budget to meet the new needs.

ANDREAS HADJICHRYSANTHOU (Cyprus) aligning himself with the European Union, said that he expects the reports produced by the Secretariat to be fully in line with the language used in the relevant resolutions of the Security Council.  In the case of the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary‑General on Cyprus, the mandate derives from the provisions of relevant Security Council resolutions, which stipulate that the basis for a settlement is none other than the bicommunal, bizonal federation, he said.  The established parameters for the reunification of Cyprus have been time and again affirmed by the Security Council, including in its latest resolution of July 2021.  Explicit references to the basis for the solution to the Cyprus issue, as described in the Council resolutions, cannot be considered discretionary.  Future reports must rectify this oversight, especially considering the difficulties Cyprus is facing because of the positions of the occupying country on the Cyprus issue, which unambiguously lay outside United Nations-established parameters, he concluded.

THIAGO POGGIO PÁDUA (Brazil), aligning himself with Peru, on behalf of a group of Latin American countries, said special political missions are increasingly useful in peace and security for several reasons, occasioned by the move away from the deployment of large, multidimensional peacekeeping operations.  He observed that in the past 20 years, their share of the regular budget has risen from 4 per cent to 24 per cent in 2022, which represents a sixfold increase.  The inconsistent way such missions operate needs to be urgently addressed, he said, noting concerns that they are mandated by the Security Council but funded from the regular budget was raised in a report by the Secretary-General 10 years ago.  Brazil will highlight this issue as an elected non‑permanent member of the Council in 2022‑2023, he said, adding that the Fifth Committee should be “alert to repel any encroachment on its specific mandate and authority”.

Responding to the concerns of delegates, Mr. BONG said the Advisory Committee had made an effort to submit its reports on time despite the pandemic and worked with the Secretariat to do so.  Three reports will be submitted soon, including reports for UNAMA, the report on the Verification Mission in Colombia and United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS).  It will take more time to rationalize local posts, he said, noting that there are several missions, such as in Somalia and Libya, with vacant posts yet no recruiting is taking place.

For information media. Not an official record.