Delegates in Fifth Committee Consider Cost Savings, Efficiency, as Supply Chain Chief Unveils Plan to Revamp Operational Logistics Support for Peackeeping Missions
Delegates in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budget) today asked for details on cost savings and efficiency as the Organization’s top official for supply chain management unveiled the Secretariat’s plan to restructure the way the Department of Operational Support manages and delivers equipment and services to peacekeeping missions around the world.
Christian Saunders, Assistant Secretary-General for Supply Chain Management, gave Member States a comprehensive briefing on the new Strategic Deployment Solutions concept, which revamps the existing Strategic Deployment Stocks concept to more effectively and efficiently deliver supplies and services to these missions. At the same time, it would not increase the portion of the United Nations Logistics Base budget related to these activities.
With the new supply chain plan, the United Nations Logistics Base in Brindisi, Italy, could even expand its services to meet the equipment and services needs of special political missions and humanitarian operations, Mr. Saunders said. The logistics base is also known as the United Nations Global Service Centre. “It will make the UN more efficient across the board,” he said. “And it will give Member States much better return on their investment.”
For example, one problem the new concept would tackle is the depreciation, and even obsolescence, of peacekeeping operations equipment, such as bulldozers and other earth-moving equipment, used at missions. Rather than remaining unused with a mission after it accomplished its job, the equipment would be brought back to a central location, refurbished, and then sent out to another mission as needed, he said. That would provide for more effective and cost-efficient use of equipment.
The Department would also gain better pricing by placing orders for vehicles, vaccines, and even blood well in advance through a central buying mechanism rather than waiting for each mission to place and pay for an order.
When the floor was opened for questions, the representative of Italy asked for more details about the factors affecting the project’s estimated implementation time of three to five years. Mr. Saunders said many factors could impact the timeline and explained that the Department would begin the application of the new supply chain system with one or two of the 40 categories of supplies, perhaps engineering and medical supplies.
Responding to the delegate of Mexico’s question on the financial implications, he said the only implications would be those as described. During his presentation, Mr. Saunders had mentioned the reclassification of a P4 Logistics Officer post to a P5 Senior Logistics Officer post, and the creation of one P4 post of Movement Control Officer. This person would manage additional Strategic Deployment Solutions elements and the increased workload of inbound-outbound shipments. Costs would not increase for the clients or the missions.
To the speaker for the United States’ query about how savings will be tracked and reported to Member States, and how a baseline cost — on which to base such savings — will be presented, Mr. Saunders said the costs and accompanying savings can be tracked but the process has become more complicated as inflation has increased prices. The data will be tracked and the Global Service Centre will initially track a few solutions and present the results to the Fifth Committee. He noted that the peacekeeping missions, not the United Nations Logistics Base, will accrue the savings. The missions will also save time through more efficient deliveries.
The representative of Japan, noting the interconnectivity and similarity of stocks in Brindisi, Entebbe and various missions, asked how strategic deployment, regional deployment and mission stocks will be balanced. Mr. Saunders said these missions and Brindisi and Entebbe will work hand-in-hand to improve equipment delivery. For example, the placement of stocks in regional warehouses, like Entebbe, can then be used to more quickly supply missions in remote locales. These remote missions can then reduce their stocks, resulting in less waste and obsolescence.
Responding to the United Kingdom’s delegate on how expansion of a client base will impact efficiency, Mr. Saunders said the United Nations aims to reduce duplication. To do so, the Organization must be considered as one family. An example of how Strategic Deployment Solutions have already supported the entire United Nations family is in Ukraine, he said, where it has provided armoured vehicles to many United Nations agencies, enabling them to implement their programmes quickly. Vehicles in Brindisi were driven by volunteer drivers to the Polish border. Some were brought back; others remained. He said the presentation of a progress report on the Strategic Deployment Solutions concept to the Fifth Committee after 48 months will be important and create value.
The representative of Cameroon, speaking for the African Group, highlighted the importance of stock management, as this issue is connected to those of supply, personnel and sustainable development. Also spotlighting the importance of circularity, which allows for economies of scale and the efficient use of resources, he pointed out that a recent field visit revealed that the cost of shipping certain vehicles to Central Africa from Brindisi exceeds the cost of those vehicles. He said cost-benefit discussions will be followed going forward.
On that point, Mr. Saunders said the use of regional warehouses will allow greater purchases from local and regional vendors, a more efficient use of resources. This will also reduce the transfer of goods over long distances, which will curb the pollution created by ships and aircraft.
The speaker of Iraq thanked the Assistant Secretary-General for his proposal and expressed hope that the same will guide the Fifth Committee to allocate proper resources for the United Nations Logistics Base and other United Nations entities.
Giovanna Ceglie, Director of the United Nations Global Service Centre, pointed out that the resources requested to implement the Strategic Deployment Stocks concept — namely, the creation of a new P4 position and the reclassification of an existing P4 position to a P5 position — will also serve other purposes. The new P4 position is required to implement a digital transformation of supply-chain operations. Much of this is currently done manually, and such transformation is necessary for critical operations such as budget expenditure, contract governance, compliance procedures and automatic shipment planning, she explained. The P5 position reflects the increase in skill required to adopt innovative strategic deployment solutions and to redesign comprehensive sourcing solutions. She added that this reclassification is also needed to improve the structure of the section, which has been lopsided for a number of years.
The Fifth Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Thursday, 12 May, to fill a vacancy in the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), discuss the financial situation of the United Nations, and consider other peacekeeping financing issues.