Despite Averting Cash Crisis, Key United Nations Mandates Will Suffer Unless Vicious Cycle of Liquidity Shortages Eases, Management Chief Warns Fifth Committee
The delivery of essential United Nations mandates will suffer unless they act to ease the vicious cycle of liquidity shortages in the regular budget, the United Nations top financial official warned delegates in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today as she discussed the Organization’s semi-annual financial situation.
Catherine Pollard, Under-Secretary-General for Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, said liquidity management has recently proved effective and the Organization did not have to use the Special Account or available cash in closed peacekeeping operations in 2021. Yet the liquidity crisis will recur in 2023 and deepen in 2024, due to the return of credits, unless mitigation measures are taken to address the underlying causes.
“While we may have averted a cash crisis and a disruption of operations, budget implementation and mandate delivery have been hampered by the tight expenditure controls,” said Ms. Pollard, adding that the postponement or cancellation of several activities and outputs will be reflected in the performance reports.
She provided an overview of the Organization’s finances by focusing on four main financial indicators: the amounts of assessed contributions; unpaid assessed contributions; available cash; and outstanding payment to Member States. While the cut-off date for inputs for the presentation was 30 April 2022, Ms. Pollard provided updates throughout her presentation.
Monthly regular budget collections keep fluctuating significantly each year, which makes efficient and effective implementation of the budget more difficult, she said. The large collections towards the last quarter require careful liquidity management to ensure operations are not disrupted during the year. At the end of April 2022, collections fell short of estimates by $202 million, partially negating a positive start to the year. In recent years, the deepest deficits were $488 million in October 2018, $520 million in November 2019 and $334 million in December 2020.
Turning to peacekeeping operations, she said that as of 30 April 2022, the cash balance stood at $2.1 billion in the accounts of active missions, closed missions and the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund. Total liabilities for payments to Member States for troops, formed police units and contingent-owned equipment amounted to $37 million for active peacekeeping missions and $86 million for closed ones.
In introducing the Secretariat report on the updated financial position of 29 closed peacekeeping missions as of 30 June 2021, Chandru Ramanathan, United Nations Controller and Assistant Secretary-General for Programme Planning, Finance and Budget in the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, warned that the structural problems afflicting liquidity are still unresolved and likely to impact the liquidity situation again. Regular budget collections in 2021 exceeded estimates, which would help budget implementation for 2022. But the unspent funds for 2021 and the cancellation of commitments for 2020 will impact liquidity for 2023, as these will be reduced from the assessments from Member States for the 2023 budgets. Therefore, the ability to borrow from closed peacekeeping missions remains imperative to secure a lifeline for the regular budget in the coming financial periods, she said.
Pakistan’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, noted that 5 of the 20 closed missions had a cash deficit of $85.6 million dollars, which is mainly a result of outstanding payments of assessed contributions from the Member States. Expressing great concern that the cash deficit situation prevents these missions from fulfilling their obligations, not only to vendors, third-party claims and Member States, but to troop- and police contributing countries, she pointed out that some of these liabilities have been outstanding for many years. The Group looks forward to new strategies from the Secretary-General to resolve this situation, rather than borrowing from closed peacekeeping operation accounts to meet cash shortfalls in the regular budget, she said.
Juliana Gaspar Ruas, Vice-Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced that body’s related reports on the closed peacekeeping missions.
The delegates then turned their attention to the financing of two peacekeeping missions: the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Mr. Ramanathan introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on their budget performance for the period from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021 and the proposed budget for the 2022/23 year. He said the proposed 2022/23 budget for MONUSCO amounts to $1.03 billion, a 0.5 per cent decrease from the 2021/22 approved budget, and for UNMISS it is $1.1 billion, an increase of 0.7 per cent over the 2021/22 year, primarily a result of higher fuel prices and increased requirements for civilian personnel.
Ms. Gaspar Ruas introduced the Advisory Committee’s related report while Fatouma Ndiaye, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, introduced a report from the Office of Internal Oversight’s Inspection and Evaluation Division. The latter report outlined an evaluation of MONUSCO’s effectiveness in providing support to the rule of law and security institutions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Kenya’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said it will seek to understand the rationale behind the significant over-expenditures in the two missions and the measures both missions are proposing in line with the environmental strategy to ensure full compliance with agreed rules and regulations.
The Fifth Committee then turned its attention to accessibility for disabled persons throughout the United Nations system. Martha Helena Lopez, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the Secretariat’s efforts to enhance accessibility for such persons to conferences and meetings through the United Nations system. Ms. Gaspar Ruas introduced the Advisory Committee’s related report.
In the afternoon, the Committee turned its attention to the Board of Auditors report for the United Nations peacekeeping operations for the 12-month period ending 30 June 2021. Valentina Monasterio Gálvez, Director of External Audit of Chile and Chair of the Audit Operations Committee of the United Nations Board of Auditors, introduced the Board’s report. Maria Costa, Director of the Finance Division of the Office of Programme Planning, Finance and Budget, Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of the Board’s recommendations, and Ms. Gaspar Ruas introduced the Advisory Committee’s related reports.
Also speaking today were the representative of the United States and Antigua and Barbuda.
The Fifth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 9 May, to discuss the financing of five peacekeeping missions.
Improving Financial Situation of United Nations
CATHERINE POLLARD, Under-Secretary-General for Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, briefing on the current financial situation of the United Nations, said monthly regular budget collections continue to fluctuate significantly each year, making it more difficult to implement the budget efficiently or effectively. The large collections towards the last quarter necessitate careful liquidity management to ensure that operations are not disrupted during the year. First quarter collections were 50 per cent in 2020, 43 per cent in 2021 and 42 per cent in 2022. By the end of the second quarter, collections were 70 per cent in 2020, 80 per cent in 2021. Collections in the third quarter are usually the weakest, she noted, with an increase from the end of the second quarter by only 1 per cent in 2020 and 3 per cent in 2021. Collections in the last quarter of 2020 were 26 per cent and 31 per cent in 2021.
She said that at the end of April 2022, collections fell short of estimate by $202 million, partially negating a positive start to the year. In recent years, the deepest deficits have been $488 million in October 2018, $520 million in November 2019 and $334 million in December 2020. In 2021, it was not necessary to use the Special Account or the cash available in closed peacekeeping operations. “While we may have averted a cash crisis and a disruption of operations, budget implementation and mandate delivery have been hampered by the tight expenditure controls,” she said. Several activities and outputs were postponed or cancelled, and these will be reflected in the performance reports.
Liquidity management has been effective, she noted, adding, however, that a liquidity crisis is expected to recur in 2023 and deepen in 2024, due to the return of credits, unless mitigation measures are approved by Member States. This vicious cycle of liquidity shortage will create systemic underperformance in mandate delivery, unless the underlying issues are addressed. She said 2021 ended with a regular budget cash surplus of $307 million, compared to a $160 million deficit at the end of 2020. While 2022 started with a regular budget cash surplus, the Organization is not in a better financial position, as collections have lagged. For 2022, $2.93 billion in assessments were issued, $21 million less than in 2021. Payments received by 30 April 2022 totalled $1.79 billion, with $1.58 billion remaining unpaid.
She went on to note that 153 Member States had paid their regular budget assessments in full by the end of 2021 — a record in more than 20 years and nine more than at the end of 2020 — with 53 Member States listed on the “Honour Roll” for having paid their regular budget assessments in full within the 30-day period specified in Financial Regulation 3.5. By 30 April 2022, 96 Member States had paid their assessments to the regular budget in full, two fewer than at the same date in 2021. Since the cut-off date, Tunisia paid its regular budget assessment in full.
Turning to peacekeeping operations, she said 51 Member States had paid all peacekeeping assessments due and payable by 30 April 2022, two fewer than the same date in 2021. Since the cut-off date, Guyana has also paid its assessments in full. As of 30 April 2022, the cash balance stood at $2.1 billion in the accounts of active missions, closed missions and the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund. Total liabilities for payments to Member States for troops, formed police units and contingent-owned equipment amounted to $37 million for active peacekeeping missions and $86 million for closed ones.
On tribunals, she said the total contribution outstanding as of 30 April 2022 was $91 million; 73 Member States had paid their assessed contributions in full for all tribunals, compared with 76 Member States on 30 April 2021. Since the cut-off date, the Philippines paid its tribunal assessments in full.
As of today, 43 Member States have paid all their assessments for all three categories in full, she reported, stressing that the financial health of the United Nations depends on Member States meeting their financial obligations in full and on time. The Secretariat continues to be fully committed to working with Member States towards achieving this objective, she pledged.
Closed Peacekeeping Missions
CHANDRU 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 report on the updated financial position of closed peacekeeping missions as of 30 June 2021 (document A/76/553), which covers 29 such operations. On 30 June 2021, 24 missions had a combined net cash surplus of $159.4 million, and the remaining five had a combined net cash deficit of $85.6 million, with $63 million owed to troop-contributing countries. During the reporting period ending 30 June 2021, cash surpluses of closed peacekeeping missions were used to alleviate operational shortfalls in the regular budget, for the third time in three years. Regular budget operations received $100 million in a short-term loan from closed peacekeeping operations in December 2020. Furthermore, the ability to borrow from closed peacekeeping missions was factored into the 2021 regular budget spending plans, he said, enabling planning for the most effective implementation rates in the regular budget operations in 2021.
He warned that, while regular budget collections in 2021 exceeded estimates, which would help budget implementation for 2022, the structural problems afflicting liquidity remain unresolved and are likely to impact the liquidity situation again. The unspent funds for 2021 and the cancellation of commitments for 2020 will impact liquidity for 2023, as these will be reduced from the assessments from Member States for the 2023 budgets. Therefore, the ability to borrow from closed peacekeeping missions continues to be imperative in securing a lifeline for the regular budget in the coming financial periods. On the peacekeeping operations side, the General Assembly’s decision to allow cross‑borrowing between active peacekeeping operations in its resolution 73/307 obviated the need for any loans from closed to active operations during the reporting period. Consequently, there were no outstanding loans from closed to active peacekeeping missions as of 30 June 2021.
He said the General Assembly, in its resolution 73/307, also requested the Secretary-General to ensure that proper oversight and controls were in place and that mandate implementation by the lending mission was not negatively affected. As such, borrowing from active peacekeeping operations was not extended to the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) in the 2019/20 period or to the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) in the 2020/21 period. The irregular collection of assessments for these two missions posed the risk that they might be unable to repay the loan to the lending mission. On 31 March 2022, loans from active peacekeeping missions amounted to $15 million for the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) and $32.5 million for the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). These missions have required loans during every financial period for the past 10 years and could eventually be unable to repay their loans. In that case, under the currently approved arrangements, peacekeeping missions in such situations may be unable participate in the cross‑borrowing mechanism and would need to resort to borrowing from the surplus cash of closed peacekeeping missions in the absence of a working capital fund.
The Secretary-General, in his report on improving the financial situation of the United Nations (document A/76/429), proposed several measures to address the liquidity challenges faced both by the peacekeeping and regular budget operations. Until the liquidity situation of both peacekeeping and regular budget operations sees continued improvement and enters a period of stabilization, the General Assembly is requested to allow the retention of the net cash balance of $159.4 million available in 24 closed peacekeeping missions, as of 30 June 2021.
JULIANA GASPAR RUAS, Vice-Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced that body’s related reports (documents A/76/738 and A/76/553). The Secretary-General indicates that, as of 30 June 2021, of the 29 closed peacekeeping missions, 24 missions had net cash surpluses and 5 had net cash deficits. After requesting and receiving information on the evolution in net cash available in the closed peacekeeping missions since 30 June 2011, she noted that the missions’ overall cash position has steadily improved during the past decade, and trusted that the Assembly will receive an update on the net cash balances. Outstanding assessments from Member States to the 29 closed peacekeeping missions totalled $367.9 million and ACABQ recalls the Assembly’s repeated calls for all Member States to fulfil their financial obligations, as she said, set out in the Charter, on time, in full and without conditions.
Concerning payments to troop- and police-contributing countries, she noted that the last payment was made during the 2016/17 financial period and $81.4 million has been owed to troop- and police-contributing countries since 30 June 2017. The consolidated net cash balances of the closed peacekeeping missions with net cash surpluses may provide an opportunity to settle all long overdue claims to troop- and police-contributing countries, she added, which is a policy matter for the Assembly’s consideration.
She went on to note that, during the calendar year 2021, there were no new loans from closed peacekeeping operations to either active peacekeeping operations or to the regular budget. Accounting for the Organization’s improving liquidity situation, she said the Secretary-General’s proposal to retain the net cash balance of $159.45 million, as of 31 June 2021 available in 24 closed peacekeeping missions, is not fully justified. ACABQ recommends the Assembly ask the Secretary-General to return to Member States $80.8 million (representing total net cash of the 29 closed peacekeeping missions) of the net cash balance of $162.48 million available in 24 missions with net cash surpluses, as at 31 January 2022. That leaves a balance of $81.64 million for a possible settlement of long-standing claims to troop- and police-contributing countries in the context of closed missions.
RABIA IJAZ (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said 5 of the 20 closed missions had a cash deficit of $85.6 million, which is mainly due to outstanding payments of assessed contributions from the Member States. The Group is very concerned that the cash deficit prevents these missions from fulfilling their obligations, not only to vendors, third-party claims and Member States, but to troop- and police-contributing countries. Some of these liabilities have been outstanding for many years. Troop- and police-contributing countries are already contributing to a great extent and should not, for any reason, be asked to bear additional costs, she stressed, noting that the bloc looks forward to new strategies from the Secretary-General to resolve this situation, rather than borrowing from closed peacekeeping operation accounts to meet cash shortfalls in the regular budget. These cash shortfalls arise because of outstanding payments of Member States’ assessed contributions.
The Secretary General’s report mentions the combined outstanding payment from Member States of assessments in 29 closed peacekeeping missions totalled $367.9 million as of 30 June 2021, she continued, reminding Member States of their obligation to pay their contributions to the peacekeeping budget on time, in full and without condition. She recalled Assembly resolution 65/293 requesting the Secretary‑General to submit proposals and alternatives to address the issue of outstanding dues to Members States from closed peacekeeping missions that are faced with cash deficits. Assembly resolution A/73/307 authorizes, on a three‑year trial basis, cross-borrowing between active peacekeeping missions. The feedback so far has been positive and significantly diminished the pressure of borrowing on closed peacekeeping missions. The ongoing practice of borrowing from closed missions has not been approved by the Assembly and it is not a healthy financial practice. The Group looks forward to continued discussions on options to avoid such practices, she said.
Financing of Peacekeeping Operations
Mr. RAMANATHAN introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on the budget performance for the period from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021 and the proposed budget for the 2022/2023 year, of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) (documents A/76/563) and A/76/718) and of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) (documents A/76/565 and A/76/706).
He said the proposed 2022/23 budget for MONUSCO amounts to $1.03 billion, representing a 0.5 per cent decrease from the 2021/22 approved budget. The budget proposal reflects a decrease in the number of police personnel deployed, due to the closure of the field office in Tanganyika Province and a decrease in requirements for military and police personnel, due to a lower mission subsistence allowance rate and lower costs of transportation of troops and contingent-owned equipment. The proposed budget also factored in an increase in requirements for civilian staff, due mainly to an increase in the average entitlements applied in the 2022/23 period for United Nations Volunteers and an increase in operational requirements, due mostly to higher fuel costs, the replacement of aging equipment and an increase in security services.
Noting that the proposed 2022/2023 budget for UNMISS is $1.1 billion, an increase of 0.7 per cent compared with the approved resources for 2021/22, he said the increased requirements are mainly attributable to higher fuel prices, and increased requirements for civilian personnel, owing primarily to higher rates for international staff salaries. The increased estimates are offset in part by reduced requirements for military and police personnel, owing mainly to the application of a lower rate for mission subsistence.
JULIANA GASPAR RUAS, ACABQ Vice-Chair, introduced that body’s related reports on MONUSCO (document A/76/760/Add.4) on the budget performance for the period from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021, and on the proposed budget for the period from 1 July 2022 to 30 June 2023. She noted that the Secretary-General’s proposal for 2022/23 totals $1.04 billion comprising $510.73 million under military and police personnel; $268.77 million under civilian personnel; and $257.78 million under operational costs — a decrease of 0.5 per cent or $5.46 million compared to 2021/22. ACABQ recommends approving the Secretary-General’s proposed amount for civilian personnel, she said. As national staff are critical for MONUSCO’s operations, building national capacity is vital, especially in view of the transition and drawdown of the Mission. ACABQ trusts that future budget submissions will present more posts and positions proposed for nationalization, as operationally feasible, she said. Regarding operational costs, ACABQ recommends reductions under official travel, facilities and infrastructure, ground transportation, air operations, communications and information technology, and other supplies, services and equipment.
The Assembly should request the Secretary-General to present in the budget proposal for 2023/24 the cost-benefit analysis for the retention and the move of services from Entebbe, and details on the actual efficiency gains, including with respect to lump-sum payments for rest and recuperation, as well as further information and associated costs, for retaining the management of facilities and infrastructure in the Regional Service Centre in Entebbe, she said. In addition, as MONUSCO is a downsizing and transitioning mission, a comprehensive overview of the related operational and financial requirements should be included in the next budget report. ACABQ recommends that the proposed resources for 2022/23 be reduced by $2.01 million to $1.04 billion, she said.
Turning to UNMISS, she noted the Secretary-General’s proposal for 2022/23 totals $1.12 billion representing an increase of 0.7 per cent compared to 2021/22. ACABQ recommends against the establishment of one rule-of-law post (P4) and one senior electoral officer (P5). It recommends the establishment of one political affairs officer (P3) as a general temporary assistance position rather than a post, as well as the establishment of one political affairs officer (UNV) as a national United Nations Volunteer position. With respect to 16 positions proposed for conversion, ACABQ recommends against the conversion of eight security officers at this stage and recommends their continuation as general temporary assistance. It also recommends that proposed resources for 2022/23 be reduced, including adjustments on their operational costs, by $2.23 million, she said.
FATOUMA NDIAYE, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, introduced the outcome evaluation of MONUSCO support provided to the rule of law and security institutions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for the period from 2014 to 2021 (document A/76/707). In conducting the evaluation, the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) engaged with Mission staff, the United Nations country team, Government officials, civil society organizations, vulnerable sections of the population and other international and regional partners.
The evaluation found that MONUSCO support contributed to multiple outcomes, he said, including the establishment of relative peace, security and stability in Kasai, Kasai Central and Tanganyika Provinces. It was aligned with the mandate and relevant to the contextual challenges and needs of the beneficiaries. Noting that the Mission contributed to improved infrastructure and extended the presence of the rule of law and security institutions, she said its support also led to the establishment of accountability mechanisms and partial improvement in the attitude and behaviour of the security actors.
However, the pace of reforms, scale of assistance and continued instability limited transformational changes, she said. Outlining various challenges, she said that due to critical capacity gaps and needs of the rule of law and security institutions, MONUSCO support could only partially strengthen their capacity, capabilities and accountability. Limited budgetary support for the State institutions also affected the sustainability of the support. Stakeholders’ views on mandated tasks were not always united, despite that recent years have seen more convergence. Much-needed reforms in the governance, security sector (military and police), judicial and prison sectors, meanwhile, remain limited.
She also noted that, while shortcomings in capacity and capabilities limited the effectiveness of the police, improved policing was reported where MONUSCO had supported. While the quality of investigations improved, the delivery of justice remained a challenge. Critical assistance was provided to the priority prisons, however, the scale of challenges facing the penitentiary system remained vast. Serious human rights violations increased consistently, while intercommunal tensions persisted and the drivers of conflict remained unresolved.
Nevertheless, she said, MONUSCO achieved noteworthy outcomes in the fight against impunity for crimes under international law and serious human rights violations. The Government’s promulgation of the disarmament, demobilization, community recovery and stabilization programme offers new opportunities. However, the community's perception of security and the trust and confidence in the security actors declined. Perspectives on gender, environmental protection and empowerment of persons with disabilities were mainstreamed in the plans and programmes, although sustainable efforts would be required to make a credible impact. The evaluation made six important recommendations, all of which were accepted and being implemented, she said.
JOSEPH MASILA (Kenya), speaking on behalf of the African Group, noted that for the 2020/21 period, the overall budget implementation rates were 99.4 per cent for UNMISS and 93.2 per cent for MONUSCO, compared to 99.9 per cent and 98.8 per cent, respectively, in the 2019/20 period. While those rates came against the backdrop of COVID-19, a closer analysis of the expenditure categories reveals that the two missions overspend in most areas, with over-expenditures of 263 per cent and 157 per cent for marine operations for UNMISS and MONUSCO, respectively. The Group will seek to understand the rationale behind the significant over-expenditures. On quick-impact projects, the Fifth Committee during the fieldtrip visited a two project sites: the Jebel Police Post in Juba, South Sudan, and the Kalemie Central Prison, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Quick-impact projects are and will continue to be an important tool in the missions‘ outreach to local communities, he said, calling for adequate resources for their implementation.
While acknowledging progress in implementing the multi-year environmental strategy in UNMISS and MONUSCO, he recalled that during the Committee’s visit a lot of dilapidated equipment was lying abandoned in mission sites. The Group will thus seek to understand the measures both missions are proposing in line with the environmental strategy to ensure full compliance with agreed rules and regulations. Underscoring that local procurement and use of local knowledge and locally produced materials are long-standing priorities, he regretted the minimal or sometimes “cosmetic sourcing” even of products on which the continent has a clear comparative advantage. The Group will inquire further during informal consultations about efforts to promote local and regional procurement. Expressing concern about personnel living conditions, he noted that in the visit to Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there were significant maintenance issues related to the prefabricated structures housing the personnel. Also during informal consultations, the Group will examine how missions are working to improve personnel living conditions. Voicing concern about cuts in mission subsistence allowance for individual uniformed personnel in some missions, including UNMISS, he noted that such decisions could negatively impact operational performance.
MARTHA HELENA LOPEZ, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources, introduced the Secretary-General’s report titled “Enhancing accessibility for persons with disabilities to conferences and meetings of the United Nations system” (document A/76/694). The report was prepared in response to General Assembly resolution 74/253 wherein the Assembly urges the Secretary-General to implement the 10 recommendations contained in the report of the Joint Inspection Unit in all United Nations facilities, conferences and meetings. The Assembly also requested the Secretary-General to submit a progress report on the implementation of recommendations contained in the Unit’s report to the main part of its seventy-fifth session, she added.
In an effort to address the recommendations and to report on progress in implementing them, which was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she said the report is a result of collective efforts of several entities across various duty stations of the United Nations Secretariat: Department for General Assembly and Conference Management; Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance; Department of Operational Support; and the Office of Information and Communications Technology. In the report, the Secretary-General presents progress made at United Nations Headquarters in New York and Offices at Geneva, Nairobi and Vienna, as well as in the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA). The Secretary-General has implemented several of the recommendations and will continue to take action on the others, as outlined in his report, she said.
Ms. JUS took the floor again to introduce the Advisory Committee’s related report on accessibility for person with disabilities (documents A/76/738), which notes the lack of common approaches. ACABQ recommends that the Assembly ask the Secretary-General to develop common United Nations standards and norms for Headquarters, regional commissions and other offices. These efforts should be carried out holistically across the Organization, under the coordination, with existing resources, of a global focal point at the highest managerial level. This person would oversee policy development and implementation of all systemwide accessibility activities.
The Advisory Committee also notes the need for comprehensive statistical data on persons with disabilities, including obstacles to their participation in meetings and conferences, the frequency of participation and the use of technological tools, she said. The data would also include information on measures already implemented, those currently being implemented and those yet to be implemented. The Advisory Committee recommends the Assembly ask the Secretary-General to submit, at the main part of its seventy-seventh session, a consolidated report. This report would cite systemwide efforts to enhance accessibility for persons with disabilities, including information on the designation of a global focal point, statistical data, policy development and information and communications technology-related initiatives. It would also cite related personnel matters, including the recruitment of persons with disabilities, conference management, procurement and construction, and their financial implications.
Ms. IJAZ (Pakistan), speaking again for the Group of 77 and China, welcomed the Secretariat’s formulation of the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy in 2019, pledging the Group’s constructive engagement to review the implementation of this system-wide policy. It is unfortunate that the Secretariat is still unable to implement several of the Joint Inspection Unit’s recommendations in its operations, including developing and presenting a draft policy on the accessibility of conferences and meetings for persons with disabilities, as well as guidelines for policy implementation. For the disability inclusion strategy to be properly manifested, all policy instruments, including standard operating procedures by United Nations executive heads, must be implemented as soon as possible. Seeing the importance of the comprehensiveness of the status report of the implementation, the Group suggests that the report shall elaborate on the progress achieved across the United Nations system. The Group attaches great importance to ensuring implementation of those recommendations, including: issuing necessary instructions to the Office of Information and Communications Technology; facilitating management offices to undertake periodic accessibility assessments of organizational facilities and services for conferences and meetings; and ensuring that organizations of persons with disabilities are adequately consulted at all stages of the process.
CHRIS LU (United States) said improving accessibility at the United Nations for persons with disabilities is a top priority for his country, noting that it is proud to co-chair the Steering Committee on Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities, together with Antigua and Barbuda. Noting that full accessibility for persons with disabilities still has not been achieved, more than 15 years after adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, he pointed out the many barriers that persons with disabilities face — and that others often take for granted — when preparing for a meeting or visiting the United Nations. “We have to do better,” he said, calling for practical improvements, including a permanent accessible seating arrangement, accessible exit and entry gate for delegates who are wheelchair users or of reasonable accommodation requirements, and a uniform registration system for all United Nations meetings and conferences that would centralize reasonable accommodation requests. Along with physical access, digital spaces, such as the e-deleGATE platform, must also be designed to be accessible by all, he said. Moreover, those physical and digital accessibility improvements must be made throughout the United Nations system, not just in New York. He commended the Secretariat for the progress made to date, urging delegations to adopt the resolution in support of full accessibility to the United Nations.
WALTON ALFONSO WEBSON (Antigua and Barbuda), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, welcomed the Secretariat’s efforts to create the United Nations disability inclusion strategy. His delegation will engage constructively on developing and implementing a widespread policy in that regard. The issue of access for persons with disabilities should have become a non-issue as it has been 30 years since the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons 1983-1992. Noting that the “Leave no one behind” principle is a central promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals, he said accessibility should be seen as a fundamental human right. Accessibility is crucial to address different forms of inequality and reach the global goals, he said, stressing the need to enhance the lessons learned by the pandemic. Physical access in rooms should be included for all staff, visitors and diplomats with disabilities. Braille access should be available for persons with blindness and poor vision, as should sign language.
Report of Board of Auditors on Peacekeeping Operations
VALENTINA MONASTERIO GÁLVEZ, Director of External Audit of Chile and Chair of the Audit Operations Committee of the United Nations Board of Auditors, introduced the Board’s report for the United Nations peacekeeping operations for the 12-month period ending 30 June 2021 (document A/76/5 Vol. II). The report is the collective output of the Board Members: Germany, Chile and China. As the lead auditor of peacekeeping operations, Germany audited operations at Headquarters, three missions, the UNAMID liquidation, the United Nations Global Service Centre at Brindisi and Valencia and the Regional Service Centre Entebbe. China audited five missions and Chile audited three missions.
The Board has issued an unqualified opinion, which means the financial statements presented fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of the United Nations peacekeeping operations, as of 30 June 2021. This opinion also means the financial performance and cash flows for the year ended in accordance with International Public Sector Accounting Standards.
The Administration had to implement 89 recommendations of previous audit reports, she said. It implemented 53 recommendations while 22 recommendations remained under implementation and nine were not implemented due to any visible implementation progress. The Board assessed five recommendations as overtaken by events. The current report provides 10 new recommendations, and the Administration did not accept three of them.
On 26 May 2021, the Secretary-General issued a statement on internal control for the first time, which assured that the Secretariat operated under an effective system of internal control during 2020. The Board reviewed the risk-control-matrices and self-assessments of the peacekeeping-related entities and noted some areas for improvement. For example, some missions omitted risks or did not prepare remediation plans for all identified gaps.
Regarding performance, the Board made several observations concerning the United Nations Mine Action Service and the liquidation of UNAMID, whose mandate was liquidated by the Security Council as of 31 December 2020, she said. Since the current lead auditor’s mandate for peacekeeping operations will end at the 2021/22 financial year’s end, the Board decided to provide an outlook without any recommendation. The Board considered the expanded integration of results-based performance management into Umoja as crucial. The differences between the peacekeeping operations budget and the new regular budget in many areas, such as budget periods and performance reporting methodologies, continue to create several challenges. The Board also noted that the delegation authority regime applies only to administrative matters, not to programmatic, mandate-related matters, she said, adding that the Secretary-General needs to regulate the delegation of programmatic authority to deliver on its mandate.
MARIA COSTA, Director, Finance Division, Office of Programme Planning, Finance and Budget, Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of the recommendations of the Board of Auditors concerning United Nations peacekeeping operations for the period from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021 (document A/76/723). The report provides additional information, when necessary, in response to the Board’s recommendations.
In Annex II of the report, the Board summarized the implementation status of 89 extant recommendations, issued during five prior financial periods, up to 30 June 2020. Out of the 89 extant recommendations, 53, or 59 per cent, were assessed as “Implemented”; 22, or 25 per cent, were “Under implementation”; and nine, or 10 per cent, were “Not implemented”. Five recommendations, or 6 per cent, were “Overtaken by events”. She noted that as the Administration focused on implementing the recommendations and worked with the Board, the implementation rate of extant recommendations increased to 59 per cent, up from to 36 per cent in the previous period. Turning to the recommendations assessed as “Overtaken by events”, she said 65 per cent of the recommendations were closed by the Board of Auditors.
In the first table of Annex II of the report, the Board also assessed the overall status of the implementation of all 255 recommendations it had issued for five prior financial periods, from 2015/16 to 2019/20. Out of the 255 recommendations, 194, or 76 per cent, were assessed by the Board as “Implemented”, and 30, or 12 per cent, were assessed as “Overtaken by events”. Twenty-two, or 9 per cent, were considered “Under implementation” and the remaining 9, or 3 per cent, as “Not implemented”. Out of the 22 recommendations that were assessed by the Board as being “Under implementation” and the nine that were assessed as “Not implemented”, the Administration asked for the closure of 11 recommendations. The other 20 were under implementation as of February 2022.
Ms. GASPAR RUAS took the floor again to introduce the Advisory Committee’s related report on the Board of Auditors (document A/76/735), which commends the Board for the consistent high quality of its reports, despite the difficulties resulting from the pandemic restrictions. Regarding the issuance of the first statement of internal control, the Advisory Committee learned multiple missions still need to strengthen their internal controls in the areas of logistic processes, low-value acquisitions and staff performance and skills. ACABQ was also informed that various parts of the internal control assessment could be factored into performance measurement, including compliance, remediation of deficiencies and process improvements, and that the Board believes these elements could be included in the compacts of senior staff. The Advisory Committee noted the Board’s appreciation for the statement on internal control and the Secretariat’s progress in strengthening the control environment.
Regarding supply chain management, ACABQ concurs with the Board’s recommendation to create a centralized analysing and enforcing function and remains concerned about the number cases of fraud and presumptive fraud, she said. The Advisory Committee trusts the Administration will closely monitor the areas identified by the Board as important for peacekeeping operations. It is concerned with the lack of progress in implementing some of the Board’s recommendations endorsed by the Assembly.
Ms. IJAZ, speaking again on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the Group has thoroughly examined this year’s Board of Auditors’ report and is concerned with the delay in implementing some previous recommendations, as well as recommendations contained therein. The Group again asks the Secretariat to improve the effective implementation of the endorsed Board recommendations for better transparency, efficiency and smooth functioning of operations. The Group also noted similar or related recommendations from previous audits are recurring, and new goals are emerging, with respect to peacekeeping operations. The present report highlights significant shortcomings in different areas. These include, but are not limited to, supply chain activities, such as deficiencies in inventory management and weak oversight. The Group looks forward to examining how the Secretariat can quickly address these issues and take corrective actions.