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Seventy-second Session,
36th Meeting (AM)
GA/AB/4277

Host Countries of Peacekeeping Operations Urge Adequate Financial, Logistical Support, as Budget Committee Considers Mission Funding Requirements

Host countries of United Nations peacekeeping operations stressed today that continued support for the Blue Helmets was indispensable for sustaining peace and security, as the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) examined the funding needs of five missions in strife‑torn and post‑conflict countries.

Following the presentation of the Secretary‑General’s reports on those missions’ proposed 2018/19 budgets and reviews of their 2016/17 budgets, several delegates underscored the need to keep operations adequately funded, staffed and committed.

Serbia’s representative warned against unjustified reductions in the 2018/19 budget of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), pointing to recent incidents involving arrest and murder of Kosovo Serbians that confirmed the volatility of the overall security situation in Kosovo and Metohija.  More than 200,000 internally displaced persons who fled the area due to threats and persecution were still living in the central part of Serbia today, nearly 19 years since the international community’s arrival.

Expressing disappointment that mission vacancies continued to exist, she said that failure to fill those vacancies was an outright violation of the General Assembly resolution on UNMIK financing.  Serbia also did not agree with the Advisory Committee’s recommendation to apply a higher vacancy rate to the cost estimates for international staff than proposed by the Secretary‑General, she said.  If applied, the recommendation would reduce the amount proposed by the Secretary‑General by $727,700.

Mali’s representative said that as host country to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), his country knew all too well the sacrifice paid by men and women working to achieve peace and stability.  Their work must be funded and resourced, he underscored, adding that MINUSMA had been instrumental in enhancing Malian national defence capacities.  Noting the activities of the Mine Action Service to mitigate the risk of explosives, he expressed support for their mandate and specifically to replacing their vehicles with mine protective automobiles.  MINUSMA’s environmental footprint must be reduced, he added, underscoring the role of the local people in such processes.

With the conclusion of the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), extensive support to the new United Nations country team would be essential as Liberia continued its journey to sustainable peace, said that country’s delegate.  “As we have seen in Liberia, we need our gallant Blue Helmet soldiers to be ready” for the changing dimensions of prevailing conflicts, he added.  Noting that UNMIL had been valued at $7.5 billion over its 14‑year span in the country, he said that today’s Liberia was strong enough to give back to others.

Bettina Tucci Bartsiotas, Assistant Secretary‑General and Controller of the United Nations, introduced the Secretary‑General’s reports on his 2018/19 budget proposals for five peacekeeping missions:  United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK); United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA); United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO); and the United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS).  She also introduced the Secretary‑General’s reports on the budget performance for 2016/17 for the abovementioned missions as well as the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).

Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Chair, Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, introduced its corresponding reports.

Ms. Bartsiotas also introduced the Secretary‑General’s report on the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), with Mr. Ruiz then presenting the related report.

The Fifth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Friday, 11 May, to hear a statement by the Secretariat on improving the financial situation of the United Nations.

Financing of Peacekeeping Operations

BETTINA TUCCI BARTSIOTAS, Assistant Secretary‑General and Controller of the United Nations, introduced the Secretary‑General’s reports and a financing note on the budget performance for 2016/17 and the budget for 2018/19 for five peacekeeping missions namely:  the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) (documents A/72/638, A/72/638/Corr.1, A/72/784, A/72/784/Add.1 and A/72/778), United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) (documents A/72/622 and A/72/718); United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA)(documents A/72/663 and A/72/746); United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) (documents A/72/623 and A/72/731); and the United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS) (documents A/72/650 and A/72/763).  She also introduced the budget performance for 2016/17 for the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) (documents A/72/640 and A/72/640/Corr.1).

Regarding MONUSCO in Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Secretary‑General proposed extra requirements of $47.9 million for 2017/18 as substantial changes had significantly impacted the Mission’s capacity to implement its mandate, she said.  The changes related to the Mission’s support for updating the electoral registry, technical and financial support for presidential and legislative elections scheduled for 23 December 2018, reinforcing security of the United Nations premises and protecting civilians following several serious attacks, among other things.  The Secretary‑General had proposed a maintenance budget of $1.15 billion for 2018/19 structured on the key recommendations of the 2017 strategic review, including to support the political process to pave the way for credible, inclusive and peaceful elections and to continue protecting civilians.  That reprioritization had resulted in a significant streamlining of civilian tasks and a shift towards an increasingly mobile “protection through projection” approach which would enable a smaller force to cover a larger geographical area during the electoral period.  In addition to the budget maintenance, a request to enter into commitments up to $84.5 million was presented for 2018/19 for the Mission support to the 2018 presidential and legislative elections.

Turning to UNMIK in Kosovo, she said the Secretary‑General had proposed $37.9 million for 2018/19, reflecting an increase of 0.1 per cent compared to the 2017/18 approved budget.  UNMIK would continue to strengthen peace and security in Kosovo and the region, including by promoting and protecting human rights.  In 2018/19, the Mission would continue to leverage projects and activities towards mandate implementation, particularly in promoting intercommunity trust‑building and rule of law initiatives.  In line with its efforts to reduce its overall environmental footprint, UNMIK would focus on solar power generation systems and monitoring of groundwater by wastewater analysis, planting trees at UNMIK sites and carrying out environmental impact awareness campaigns.

Regarding UNMIL in Liberia, she said that pursuant to Security Council resolution 2333 (2016), the Mission would be liquidated by 30 June 2018.  In 2016/17, UNMIL incurred $182.8 million in expenditures against approved resources of $187.1 million, an implementation rate of 97.7 per cent.  The reduction was primarily due to the drawdown of uniformed personnel and lower operations costs for air and ground transportation, early decommissioning of a naval vessel, closure of sites and utilization of existing inventories.  Those reductions were partially offset by higher than planned payments to staff members at the time of separation or relocation to another duty station, and the promulgation of new salary scales for national staff.

Turning to MINUSMA in Mali, she noted that the proposed budget of $1.1 billion for 2018/19 reflected an increase of 4.9 per cent compared to the 2017/18 approved budget.  The pace of implementation of the peace agreement remained slow and unpredictable after more than two and half years since its signing.  That was due in part to slow engagement among the signatory parties, the increased role of spoiler groups, and continued insecurity in the north and centre of the country.  Civil unrest had increased and armed clashes between signatory parties had taken place repeatedly.  In the face of those challenges, MINUSMA’s main priorities for 2018/19 would continue to be supporting implementation of the peace agreement, protecting civilians and extending State authority.  It was assumed that as the capacities of the Malian defence and security forces increased they would progressively deploy throughout the country.  Their capacities and those of key Government institutions would remain too weak to independently reassert State authority in the north and to strengthen it in the centre, or to prevent a further deterioration of the security, humanitarian, human rights and development situation.

With respect to MINURSO in Western Sahara, she said that the proposed budget of $53.9 million for 2018/19 reflected an increase of 3.6 per cent compared to the 2017/18 approved budget.  Given that safety continued to be a growing concern for both the Mission and the parties to the conflict, the Mission had undertaken several initiatives specifically to reinforce security of team sites east of the berm.  The implementation of the mitigation and preventive measures were envisaged to reduce risk, allowing the Mission to support its mandate implementation.  The Mission would also continue efforts to reduce the overall footprint of its operations, focusing on the implementation of phase 3 of the drilling of the borehole and addressing the logistical challenges and security vulnerabilities of transporting water.

Turning to UNSOS in Somalia, the proposed budget of $568.7 million for 2018/19 represented a decrease of 2.3 per cent over the 2017/18 approved budget, she said, adding that the office there would continue to provide logistical support to the operations of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).  Through the Mine Action Service, UNSOS would continue to support AMISOM with options to reduce threats posed by improvised explosive devices.  That would be implemented through sector mobility operations, explosive detection dogs and explosive hazard clearance capacity.  In relation to mission support, UNSOS would also focus on critical security upgrades, including relocating current premises in the Mogadishu International Airport to ensure a standoff of 150 metres from the runway as requested by the Government of Somalia.  It would also focus on camp infrastructure improvements and environmental enhancements.  UNSOS also proposed to harmonize its mission support structure with other field missions more closely.

CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, introduced the Advisory Committee’s corresponding reports for the six peacekeeping missions.  Regarding MONUSCO, Mr. Ruiz introduced two reports (documents A/72/844 and A/72/789/Add.11), and said the Advisory Committee backed the full amount of additional reserves requested for the 2017/18 financial period to meet the Mission’s needs for the upcoming elections in December.  Turning to the budget proposal for 2018/19, the Advisory Committee recommended the abolishment of 21 long‑vacant posts and against the establishment of two P‑3 posts.  Regarding the Secretary‑General’s request for the 2018/19 period for an authority to enter into commitments to provide technical assistance and logistical support for the electoral process, the Advisory Committee believed MONUSCO already had undertaken election‑related activities, and related resources and staffing expertise were available at the Mission.  It recommended the General Assembly authorize the Secretary‑General to enter into a commitment, without assessment, of no more than $80 million, for the 2018/19 period, he added.

Turning to UNMIK, Mr. Ruiz introduced the corresponding report (document A/72/789/Add.4) and said the Advisory Committee reiterated its concern that the Mission’s cash position did not cover the three‑month operating cash reserve.  It recommended that a vacancy rate of 10 per cent be applied to the cost estimates for international staff and recommended vacant positions be filled quickly.

Regarding UNMIL’s budget performance report for 2016/17, Mr. Ruiz introduced the Advisory Committee report (document A/72/839) and noted the 97.7 per cent budget implementation rate yet and observed that actual expenditures diverged significantly from the planned budget.  It recommended that the Secretariat provide a more realistic budgeting methodology for future Missions undergoing drawdown and liquidation and building upon lessons learned.  The Advisory Committee expected UNMIL would continue to use environmentally friendly practices to treat contaminated soil and when disposing of unused sea containers.  The Advisory Committee recommended the unencumbered balance of $4.29 million for the 2016/2017 period and other revenue and adjustments would be credited to Member States in full and without delay.  As an exceptional measure, the Advisory Committee supported the Secretary‑General’s proposal that the Assembly let him use the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund for cash flow purposes for expenditures identified after the Mission’s closure, if necessary, and with the Advisory Committee’s prior concurrence.  This process had to be reported in the final performance report.

Mr. Ruiz then turned to MINUSMA and presented the Advisory Committee report (document A/72/789/Add.14), noting the Committee’s recommendation would entail a reduction of $6.77 million to the Secretary‑General’s proposed budget for 2018/19, including reductions under official travel, facilities and infrastructure, air operations, communications, information technology and training.  With respect to the current period, the Advisory Committee agreed with the Controller’s request for authorizations to enter into commitments not exceeding $43.17 million gross.  The request was made pursuant to Security Council resolution 2295 (2016), in order to meet requirements for additional military and police personnel and associated expenditures.

On the proposed 2018/19 budget for MINURSO, he introduced the Advisory Committee report (document A/72/789/Add.1), which recommended a reduction of $527,400, he said.  Reviewing the pattern of expenditures, the Committee recommended a 5 per cent cut under facilities and infrastructure and communications and information technology.

Finally, turning to the proposed 2018/19 budget of UNSOS, Mr. Ruiz presented the Advisory Committee report (document A/72/789/Add.6), which suggested a cut of $2.6 million to the Secretary‑General’s recommendation.  A Board of Auditors procurement audit at UNSOS, made at the Committee’s request, identified several issues needing attention.  For example, regarding the transportation of rations, the Office included a total over‑expenditure of $64.5 million for 2015/16 and 2016/17, as well as expenditures of $19.2 million for three financial periods without budgetary provisions.  Recognizing the challenging operating environment of UNSOS, the Advisory Committee shared the Board’s view that the Mission needed to strengthen internal controls and enforce accountability over procurement and contract management.  The Advisory Committee expected that lessons would be learned and applied in the future management of all contracts by UNSOS and other peacekeeping missions.  Noting the Mission’s series of reorganizations in recent years, the Advisory Committee believed UNSOS needed to stabilize and focus on its operations without continuous reorganization of its structure, he said.

MOHAMED TRAORE (Mali), associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China and the African Group, said as host country to MINUSMA, Mali wished to pay tribute to the sacrifices made by men and women working to achieve peace and stability.  The Mission in Mali required appropriate resources and Mission personnel must be protected as they enhanced national defence capacities.  Noting the activities of the Mine Action Service to mitigate the risk of explosives, he expressed support to their mandate and specifically to replacing their vehicles with mine protective vehicles.  The crisis in Mali required strengthened cooperation among various actors.  The environmental footprint of MINUSMA must be reduced and local populations should be included in such processes.  Mali remained committed to contributing to negotiations in that regard in a positive and constructive way.

ISRAEL CHOKO DAVIES (Liberia) said his country personally bore witness to the value of peacekeeping, expressing gratitude to UNMIL.  The Mission was comprised of at least 126,582 military officers, 16,178 police officers, 23,234 civilian staff, and had carried out 17 different mandates.  It was one of the largest deployments in the history of the United Nations.  He said that the Mission in Liberia had been valued at $7.5 billion over its 14‑year span in the country.  Today, Liberia was strong enough to give back to others, having held three successful elections.  “As we have seen in Liberia, we need our gallant Blue Helmet soldiers to be ready” for the changing dimensions of prevailing conflicts, he said.  The new United Nations country team which would continue to accompany Liberia on its journey to sustainable peace required continued support, he added.

MARINA NIKODIJEVIĆ (Serbia) said her country gave great importance to the activities of UNMIK in Kosovo and Metohija.  It was the Mission that Serbian and other non‑Albanian communities trusted the most.  Serbia considered the Mission’s continued role and presence, undiminished in scope and unchanged in mandate, of utmost importance, as demonstrated also by recent events in the province.  Serbia expected that calls for savings would not create any unjustified reductions in the Mission’s 2018/19 budget.  Those reductions would adversely impact the Mission’s key and long‑term role in building and preserving stability in Kosovo and Metohija and, by the same token, in the Western Balkans.

She referred to the 26 March 2018 incident in Kosovska Mitrovica, in which special units of the “Kosovo police” arrested, in a brutal action, Marko Durić, Director of the Serbian Office for Kosovo and Metohija, during a peaceful gathering.  A letter of Serbian Minister for Foreign Affairs Ivica Dačić, released in relation to this event, was issued as Security Council document S/2018/274, she said.  In his latest report to the Security Council on the work of UNMIK, the Secretary‑General noted “a thorough inquiry is needed into the 26 March events, with correct action in case of failures to uphold human rights”.

In addition, the recent tragic murder of Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanović was extremely concerning and confirmed the volatility of the overall security situation in Kosovo and Metohija and the need for a permanent and committed presence of UNMIK in the province.  More than 200,000 internally displaced persons who fled Kosovo and Metohija due to threats and persecution were still living in the central part of Serbia today, nearly 19 years since the international community’s arrival.

The Serbian Mission was disappointed that vacancies continued to exist in UNMIK, she said.  They should be filled expeditiously, in accordance with the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions report.  “The failure to fill these vacancies is an outright violation of the General Assembly resolution on the financing of UNMIK A/71/303, which provides for the composition and number of personnel for this Mission,” she said.  Serbia did not agree with the Advisory Committee’s recommendation to apply a higher vacancy rate to the cost estimates for international staff than proposed by the Secretary‑General.  If applied, the recommendation would reduce the amount proposed by the Secretary‑General by $727,700, she said.

Programme Budget for 2018-2019:  Special Political Missions

Ms. BARTSIOTAS also introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) (document A/72/371/Add.9).  In paragraphs 35 and 36 of part XXII of resolution 72/262, the General Assembly took note of the Advisory Committee’s related report and decided not to approve the budget proposed for UNAMA, but to authorize the Secretary‑General to enter into commitments of $82.9 million for 1 January to 30 June 2018.  The Assembly requested an updated budget proposal be presented at the second part of its seventy‑second session.  Addendum nine presented the revised resources required for 2018 in the amount of $151.4 million (net) ($162.65 million gross), a net decrease of $12.7 million as compared to the approved resources for 2017.  She noted that the Security Council had recently decided to extend UNAMA’s mandate until 17 March 2019.  The previous Mission budget proposal for 2018 submitted for consideration of the General Assembly last fall contained resources in the amount of $140.4 million.  She said the variance of $11 million was mainly due to revised assumptions regarding civilian incumbency and changes to standard salary costs for international staff.

Mr. RUIZ introduced the Advisory Committee’s corresponding report on the budget of UNAMA (document A/72/7/Add.47).  For the biennium 2016/17, expenditures totalled $343.2 million, compared with an appropriation of $347.4 million, leading to an unencumbered balance of $41.2 million.  He noted that the Secretary‑General initially submitted a budget proposal of $140.4 million for 2018.  But in resolution 72/262, the General Assembly did not approve the proposal.  Instead it approved a commitment authority of $82.9 million for the first six months of 2018.  The Secretary‑General then proposed a revised 2018 budget of $151.1 million, including the $82.9 million commitment.  That revised amount was $12.7 million less than the 2017 appropriation and $10.9 million more than the original 2018 proposal.

Regarding civilian personnel, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions felt the projected vacancy rate for 2018/19 should be based on actuals and recommended against the proposed establishment of three posts in the Donor Coordination Section, given existing resources which were proposed to be deployed to that new section.  Concerning the support offices in Kuwait, the Advisory Committee continued to question the validity of maintaining two separate structures and recalled that in accordance with Assembly resolution 70/248, any change to existing and future service delivery models needed Assembly approval.

For information media. Not an official record.