UNITED STATES WILL NOT PAY MORE THAN 25 PER CENT OF PEACE-KEEPING COSTS, FIFTH COMMITTEE TOLD
UNITED STATES WILL NOT PAY MORE THAN 25 PER CENT OF PEACE-KEEPING COSTS, FIFTH COMMITTEE TOLD19951018 Consideration of Scale of Assessments and Related Expenses Continues
The United States will not pay for more than 25 per cent of the costs of the United Nations Mission in Haiti (UNMIH) or any other peace-keeping operation due to its national legislation, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) was told this morning as it began considering that Mission's financing.
The representative of the United States said his country had paid $51 million for UNMIH and would join a consensus on its financing. However, it should be understood that it could not bear more than one quarter of its financial burden.
[Under the scale of assessments for peace-keeping operations, the United States is assessed about one-third of their costs. It is assessed at 25 per cent for the regular budget.]
The Secretary-General has asked the General Assembly to appropriate $152 million gross ($149.7 million net) for UNMIH for 1 August 1995 to 29 February 1996. Also this morning, the Committee continued considering the scale of assessments and travel and related expenses.
Speaking on the scale of assessments, Malaysia said that based solely on capacity to pay, the largest contributor should pay more than the 25 per cent ceiling rate to the regular budget. However, it was not in the Organization's best interest to rely on one Member State for a quarter of its regular budget.
Ecuador, speaking for the Rio Group (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela), said since the current scale was adopted by consensus, it should not be blamed for the United Nations financial crisis. The recommendations of the Committee on Contributions and the high-level working group on the financial situation should not be cited as reasons for withholding contributions.
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A longer statistical base period should be maintained to achieve greater stability and predictability in the scale, said the representative of the Republic of Korea. Also, the scheme of limits should be phased-out gradually in order to mitigate a potentially strong impact on its assessment rates.
[The statistical base period is the particular time in the past used as a yardstick in measuring economic data such as a country's income. It is 7.5 years in the current scale. The scheme of limits prevents excessive changes in a Member State's assessments.]
Uganda said the debt burden factor should be strengthened to take account of the special problems of high indebtedness of many developing countries. Jordan said socio-economic factors should be considered to reflect capacity to pay in addition to the debt burden.
Speaking on travel and related spending, the United States said all travel paid for by the United Nations should conform to one standard that should be set by the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC). Meanwhile, the Secretary-General should end business-class travel for Under- Secretaries-General, Assistant Secretaries-General and experts, stop upgrades to business class for trips of more than nine hours and enforce stricter cost accounting for travel, especially for lodging. "United Nations travellers should no longer be able to pocket unexpended per diem upon the conclusion of a trip."
The United Nations Controller, Yukio Takasu, introduced the Secretary- General's report on UNMIH. The Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), C.S.M Mselle, introduced his Committee's reports on UNMIH and on travel and related expenses. The reports on travel were considered under the United Nations 1994-1995 programme budget.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m., tomorrow, 19 October, to continue discussing the pattern of conferences and the scale of assessments.
Committee Work Programme
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to continue discussing the scale of contributions to the United Nations regular budget and take up the financing of the United Nations Mission in Haiti (UNMIH) and review the 1994-1995 budget, under which it would consider travel and related spending. (For background on scale of assessments see Press Release GA/AB/3019 of 10 October.)
Financing of UNMIH
In a report on the financing of UNMIH (document A/50/363 and Corr.1), the Secretary General proposes that the General Assembly appropriate $152 million gross ($149.7 million net) for the period 1 August 1995 to 29 February 1996. That includes the $63.6 million gross ($62.5 million net) previously authorized. He asks it to assess an additional $130.8 million gross ($128.8 million net) for that period.
For periods beyond 29 February 1996, he requests that the Assembly authorize and assess $21.2 million gross ($20.1 million net) monthly, should the Council extend the mandate of UNMIH beyond then. He also proposes that the Assembly assess an additional $3.7 million gross ($3.7 million net) for UNMIH for the period 1 August 1994 to 31 January 1995.
The cost estimates for the seven months from 1 August 1995 to 29 February 1996 would pay for 6,000 contingent personnel, 900 civilian police and 619 civilian staff. Total resources appropriated or authorized for UNMIH from 23 September 1993 to 31 October 1995 were $222.6 million gross ($219.4 million net). There is an unencumbered balance of some $2 million gross ($1.9 million net).
In its related report, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) (document A/50/488) approves the Secretary- General's request that the Assembly appropriate $152 million gross ($149.7 million net) for 1 August 1995 to 29 February 1996, pending its review of UNMIH's performance report for the period 1 February to 31 July 1995.
If the Assembly wishes to do so at this time, it could offset the assessments sought by the Secretary-General with the available unencumbered balances of some $2 million gross ($1.9 million net) for the period 1 August 1994 to 31 January 1995 and about $10 million for the period 1 February to 31 July 1995.
Travel and Related Expenses
The Secretary-General's report on standards of accommodation for air travel (document A/C.5/47/17) for the period 1 July 1991 to 30 June 1992 provides data on United Nations spending for first-class air travel and on
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meetings attended by eminent persons for whom exceptions have been made for first-class air travel. According to the Assembly's air travel standards, all individuals are required to travel at the "class immediately below first class", with the exception of the Secretary-General and the heads of delegations of the least developed countries to sessions of the Assembly, whose travel is financed by United Nations organizations and programmes and who have been previously entitled to first-class accommodation. The Assembly also authorizes the Secretary-General to make exceptions and allow first-, and in some cases, business-class travel on a case-by-case basis. Those would be decided on medical, age and urgency grounds, or if the traveller is eminent, for instance, a former head of State.
The Secretary-General authorized 112 first- and 55 business-class trips at an extra cost of $199,675, compared with an adjusted $106,600 for the previous reporting period, according to the report.
The Secretary-General's report on travel standards for 1 July 1992 to 30 June 1993 (document A/C.5/48/3) states that he authorized 66 first- and 69 business-class travel, costing the United Nations an extra $149,553, down from an adjusted $201,373 for the previous period.
In its report on the review of travel and related expenses (document A/49/952), the ACABQ notes that half of all exceptions were for eminent persons. It calls for clear criteria for determining the "eminency" of a traveller, and that they should be applied to individuals selectively. Efforts should be made to reduce exceptions for medical condition. Advanced age cannot be considered as a sufficient reason for authorizing exceptions.
The Secretary-General's report on travel standards for 1 July 1993 to 30 June 1994 (document A/C.5/49/72) states that he authorized 40 first- and 56 business-class travel, costing the United Nations an extra $97,017, down from an adjusted $152,187 for the previous reporting period.
His report on travel and related expenses (document A/C.5/47/61 and Corr.1), submitted to the forty-seventh Assembly, deals with such entitlements for members of organs. He states that there are efforts to have the issue of staff members' travel standards considered on an inter-agency basis by placing it before the Consultative Committee on Administrative Questions and have recommendations on the matter considered at the forty-eighth Assembly.
The Secretary-General recommends the removal of some anomalies on the payment of subsistence allowances to members of some organs and subsidiary bodies. The Assembly should examine its past decisions on the travel entitlements of representatives of the functional commissions of the Economic and Social Council nominated directly by their governments. It might also clarify the travel entitlements of members of the Commission on Crime
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Prevention and Criminal Justice and address the issue of exceptional travel aid to representatives from the least developed and other developing countries.
His report on the review of the travel and related entitlements for members of organs and subsidiary organs and staff members of the United Nations (document A/C.5/48/14) states that two subsidiary bodies -- the High-level Advisory Board on Sustainable Development and the Commission on Sustainable Development -- had been set up with provision for the payment of travel expenses after the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). The payment of such costs would be limited to the representatives from the least developed countries.
In its related report on review of travel entitlements (document A/49/952), the ACABQ restates that any Assembly decision to extend the principle of limiting reimbursement of travel costs to envoys from such nations attending sessions of the Assembly to the subsidiary organs of the Assembly and the Economic and Social Council should apply only to bodies whose members participated as representatives of their governments.
A report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) on the granting of travel assistance to least developed and other developing countries members of UNCITRAL (document A/47/454) responds to an Assembly resolution requesting the Commission to rationalize its work. It states that, after a meeting in 1992 in New York, it would continue to rationalize its work and seek ways to help affected countries take part in its work. The assistance would be considered in the context of the overall budget and recommendations could be considered by the Fifth Committee.
In another report on standards of accommodation for air travel (document A/47/7/Add.5), the ACABQ says that eminent persons whose travel is funded by the Organization should be informed of any Assembly decision on accommodation standards and that exceptions should be granted carefully and selectively.
The Secretary-General's report on the review of travel and related entitlements for staff members of the United Nations (A/C.5/48/83) states that the air travel standards for United Nations staff tended to be lower than those for similarly-ranked officials in many other United Nations organizations. That is more so for staff at D-2 level and below, who are authorized to travel at lower standards than similar staff in 11 of the 15 organizations surveyed. The other four organizations applied standards equivalent to those of the United Nations. Member States tended to accord their officials higher standards, also.
The report states that there is no strong case presently to justify improving air travel standards within the United Nations even though the data appeared to do so. Moreover, the Consultative Committee on Administrative Questions (Personnel and General Administrative Questions) is considering a
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system-wide common standard. The Secretary-General would not recommend a revision of the current travel standards of United Nations staff. The Assembly might refer the question to the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC), he suggests.
In its report referred to above, the ACABQ agrees that the ICSC would make suggestions for the consideration of legislative organs. United Nations travel would be reported on in 1995 by the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU). The ACABQ calls for more objective criteria for setting travel standards and an improvement in travel management by the Secretariat.
Statements on Scale of Assessments
FABIAN PALIZ (Ecuador) also speaking for the Rio Group -- Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela -- said the present scale had been developed after lengthy negotiations. However, the method of calculating it could be corrected as requested by the General Assembly. The Group supported the work of the Committee on Contributions in its efforts to make improvements. The Group would have preferred the final report of that Committee to be available now, but since that was not the case, it would wait for further study on the methodology being undertaken by that Committee and looked forward to a report before the end of the current session of the Assembly.
He said that since the present scale had been adopted by consensus in the Assembly, it should not be blamed for the Organization's current financial crisis. The recommendations of the Committee on Contributions and the high- level working group on the financial situation of the United Nations should not be cited as reasons for withholding contributions.
RUHANIE AHMAD (Malaysia), referring to the Organization's financial crisis, said non-payment of mandatory financial obligations had been attributed by some to the unfairness of the scale of assessments. However, it was important to point out that the current scale (1995-1997) was adopted by consensus by the Assembly. The scale was still valid and fairly reflected the principle of capacity to pay and the consensus agreed upon by all Member States. Those who were not satisfied with it should not resort to non-payment of their assessments but use the avenues available for redress.
He expressed the hope that the findings of all the bodies reviewing the scale would complement each other and be deliberated on by all Member States. His Government had always believed that socio-economic factors should be taken into consideration in the calculation of the scale of assessments. Only by that method could Member States' ability to pay based on the principle of capacity to pay be truly reflected. He said he was skeptical about the various proposals calling for a simplified and transparent methodology when in effect it did not truly reflect the actual capacity to pay of a Member State.
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On the base period, he said a three-year base period could be too abrupt or disruptive for certain Member States which experienced big fluctuations in their economies. A base period of five to six years would hopefully provide a basis for consensus. The scheme of limits should be phased out gradually so as to avoid excessive changes in Member States' future assessment rates.
The largest contributor should be paying more than the ceiling rate of 25 per cent, he said. However, such reliance on one Member State was not in the best interest of the Organization. On rectifying the floor rate of the scale, he said Member States should be cautious not to reduce the floor to too low a rate or to propose that it be abolished completely. Debt relief remained a valid factor in the scale methodology. Rounding the scale to two decimal places would mean greater accuracy of the scale. The use of gross national product would require further discussion. His Government could not accept a unilateral decision to reduce the peace-keeping assessments. The scale should reflect the special responsibility of the permanent members of the Security Council and the economically more developed countries' ability to make larger contributions. The less developed countries had lesser capacity to contribute to peace-keeping operations.
SOONG CHULL SHIN (Republic of Korea) said his country had paid and would continue to pay its dues to the regular and peace-keeping budgets. Assessments should be levied on Member States on the basis of their capacity to pay. The issue of how that was determined should be based on consensus, after considering all relevant aspects.
He said a longer statistical base period should be maintained to achieve greater stability and predictability. Curtailing the base period during the phasing-out of the scheme of limits could cause instability and excessive charges on some Member States. Regarding the remaining 50 per cent phase-out of the effects of the scheme of limits, a multiple-step approach should be adopted. That approach would mitigate the potentially strong impact of the assessments on some countries, including his.
NESTER ODAGA-JALOMAYO (Uganda) said the Committee on Contributions should be given more political guidelines to enable it to address various aspects of the calculation of the scale. It was necessary to agree on a level of rates for the least developed countries and other low income countries which genuinely reflected their capacity. The floor rate of 0.01 per cent should be lowered further.
The base period should consider current capacity to pay and a need to maintain stability in the scale, he said. The Assembly should adopt additional ways to strengthen the debt burden adjustment factor in the scale method. An appropriate balance should be found to preserve the principle of
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capacity to pay while ensuring that the Organization did not depend heavily on one Member State's contributions to its regular budget. Alternative conversion rates should be agreed upon for Member States that experienced serious distortions or fluctuations in their income.
HASAN M. JAWARNEH (Jordan) welcomed the reports of the Committee on Contributions and of the ad hoc working group on the implementation of the principle of capacity to pay. The principle of capacity to pay was a basic one. Those with a capacity to pay the floor rate and above should do so in a positive spirit. The three-year base period would not reflect the real variables which were adversely affecting developing countries. Presenting the range of views stated in the Committee on Contributions report on debt burden, he said it was a factor that should be taken into consideration in keeping with the principle of capacity to pay in addition to social and economic issues .
Statements on Financing of UNMIH
C.S.M MSELLE, Chairman of the ACABQ, introducing his Committee's report on UNMIH, said the Committee was recommending that the Assembly appropriate the amount requested by the Secretary-General for the maintenance and continuation of the Mission. He asked the Fifth Committee to take note of the political assumptions underlying the estimates in the report. He referred specifically to the fact that should the Mission's mandate not be extended, the process of withdrawal from Haiti would begin in March 1996 and be completed in about 45 days.
YUKIO TAKASU, United Nations Controller, introducing the Secretary- General's report on UNMIH, said the Mission was successfully assisting the democratically elected Government of Haiti in maintaining a secure environment for elections. The UNMIH was a model mission to the extent that Member States had contributed political and financial support. There had been an assessment for September. Urgent action was needed by the end of this month in order to continue the Mission. An amount of $35 million in assessed contributions was still outstanding, representing about 30 per cent of contributions since the beginning of the Mission to the end of August.
WILLIAM GRANT (United States) said his country would not be able to pay more than 25 per cent of any peace-keeping budget because of its national legislation. Although his delegation would join a consensus to finance UNMIH as in the past, the United States would not be able to pay more than 25 per cent of that budget or of any other peace-keeping operation. To date, the United States had paid $51 million for UNMIH. Even at 25 per cent, its payments were far higher than those of any other Member State. The Assembly should reform the way assessments were levied.
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Statements on Travel and Related Expenses
Mr. MSELLE, Chairman of the ACABQ, introduced his Committee's report and reviewed some of its highlights.
Mr. BIRENBAUM (United States) said that despite efforts to curtail travel costs, they had continued to increase. Due to the current financial crisis, the United Nations must control them. The disparity in travel standards existing throughout the United Nations system should be ended by introducing a single one. The current Assembly should refer the matter to the ICSC and ask it to establish a system-wide standard of travel derived from the practice of the comparator. Meanwhile, the Secretary-General should take some actions to save funds by more narrowly defining the criteria for allowing exceptional upgrades to first-class. He should clarify the concept of "eminency" and discard the notion that "advanced age" should justify upgrades. Upgrades to business class for periods of travel exceeding nine hours should be stopped. They should be allowed only in exchange for rest stops.
The Secretary-General should end business-class travel for United Nations officials at the Under-Secretary-General, Assistant Secretary-General and expert levels and stop the premium payments to senior Secretariat officials, ranging from 15 to 40 per cent of the per diem rates. There should be stricter accounting of costs incurred by travellers, especially those for lodging. "United Nations travellers should no longer be able to pocket unexpended per diem upon the conclusion of a trip."
He added that it was time to comprehensively review the criteria the Assembly used to authorize payment of travel and related entitlement, including honorariums, to its own members. Member States should resist legislating exceptions. All travel paid for by the United Nations should conform to one standard determined by the ICSC.