Speakers in Fifth Committee Consider Subvention for Safety and Security Department, Support Proposed Funding for Courts of Cambodia Extraordinary Chambers
Speakers requested more details as the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today considered the Secretariat’s request for a $2.56 million infusion of capital to establish 19 new posts in the Department of Safety and Security in 2024, while also supporting proposed funding to keep the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia running smoothly next year.
While recognizing the Security Department’s essential role in laying down the Organization’s security policies and practices, Cuba’s delegate, speaking for the Group of 77 and China, said it desires more information to develop a defined position on the issue. “We acknowledge the [Department’s] significant efforts in order to develop a robust know-how to manage physical risks to personnel and keep them safe, to the extent possible,” he said, adding the Group looked forward to productive exchanges so it can deliver an informed decision.
In introducing the Secretary-General’s report, Chandramouli Ramanathan, United Nations Controller and Assistant Secretary-General for Programme Planning, Finance and Budget in the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, said the additional resources would help the Department of Safety and Security strengthen its strategic resilience functions, inclusive of emergency response. This would enable the UN to deliver on its programmes, mandates and activities, including humanitarian activities. The frequency, tempo and severity of crises affecting the security of UN personnel, along with rapidly changing political and security circumstances in previously stable areas, has required the Department to reframe some elements of its strategic approach, he said.
Abdallah Bachar Bong, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), presented its related report and said a more in-depth evaluation is required. Operational resilience and emergency response are core capacity functions and should be funded through the regular budget mechanism, he said, stating ACABQ’s recommendation that the Department continue to use existing capacity and its request that an updated proposal be included in the 2025 proposed programme budget.
As the Committee turned its attention to a request for a $2.3 million intervention for Cambodia’s Extraordinary Chambers in 2024, Cuba’s delegate, again speaking for the Group of 77 and China, backed the proposal. “A financial failure of the Chambers would constitute a renewed tragedy in the quest for justice of the people of Cambodia, who have waited for decades for these efforts to reach belated fruition and would constitute a serious setback to the international community's fight against impunity.” He expressed concern over the Chambers’ persistent financial challenges despite various fundraising efforts, pointing out that voluntary contributions have steadily decreased from 65 per cent of the approved 2015 budget to 31 per cent in 2023.
Also backing the proposed $2.3 million subvention, the representative of Cambodia said her Government remains committed to supporting the Chambers’ national component as it winds down its activities. While calling for more voluntary contributions, she said secured funding remains “very essential” to let the Extraordinary Chambers complete the residual phase that began on 1 January 2023 and maintain its legacy for public education to prevent crimes against humanity, beyond Cambodia.
Mr. Ramanathan took the floor again to present the Secretary-General’s report, noting that all judicial proceedings, have been completed and the Extraordinary Chambers started its residual functions on 1 January. Mr. Bong introduced ACABQ’s related report, in which it recommended a 10 per cent reduction from the $2.3 million subvention request.
Safety and Security
CHANDRAMOULI RAMANATHAN, United Nations Controller and Assistant Secretary-General for Programme Planning, Finance and Budget in the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, introduced the Secretary-General’s report “Revised estimates relating to the proposed programme budget for 2024 under section 34, Safety and security” (document A/78/530). He said the frequency, tempo and severity of crises affecting the security of UN personnel, along with rapidly changing political and security circumstances in previously stable areas, has required the Department of Safety and Security to reframe some elements of its strategic approach. A particular crisis in mid-April revealed the stakes of the consequences when UN security is not adequately equipped to anticipate changes in the security environment and understand, at a strategic level, where risks would dictate the deployment of effective capacity and capability. “Recent months have witnessed significant shifts in security dynamics across multiple regions, putting the Department’s resilience and emergency response capabilities to the test,” he said.
The Secretariat is requesting the General Assembly’s approval to establish 19 new posts and appropriate an additional $2.56 million (net of staff assessment) under Section 34, safety and security, of the 2024 proposed programme budget, he said. The additional resources would help the Department strengthen its strategic resilience functions, inclusive of emergency response, to enable the United Nations to deliver on its programmes, mandates and activities, including humanitarian activities.
ABDALLAH BACHAR BONG, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), presenting its related report, noted the Secretary-General’s proposal requirements and acknowledged the security-related challenges faced by the Department. He noted the nascent nature of the Department’s proposed operational resilience and crisis engagement approaches and the activities required to implement both initiatives comprehensively and holistically, particularly concerning the Department’s role in the UN security management system, the existing capacity in the system and the interconnected nature of the overall strategy. He also noted the lack of clarity in various areas, among them the integration of the concept of resilience as a strategic core function within the Department's overall operations, and the role of other UN system entities in establishing a coherent communication network for strategic foresight and planning, thereby channeling the utilization of existing structures, experience and knowledge capacity on operational resilience crisis engagement.
Noting the Department’s review of staffing capacity prior to formulating the revised estimates and the functions and experience required for these core capacity functions, he said a more in-depth evaluation is required together with any overlaps in existing capacity and availability of strategic support both within the Department and from the wider membership of the UN security management system. The requirements associated with the strategic resilience and emergency response functions could have been presented in the proposed programme budget for 2024.
Operational resilience and emergency response are core capacity functions, and they should be funded through the regular budget mechanism, he said. Further, detailed information on the wider consequences of the proposed changes and approaches, in particular the impact on the Department of the review by the Finance and Budget Network and the departmental spending review, as well as a more in-depth assessment of requirements, workforce planning needs and coordination with field entities, is needed to allow for a thorough consideration of the Assembly’s proposals. Therefore, he said, the Advisory Committee recommends that the Department continue to utilize existing capacity for the operational resilience and crisis engagement strategies and present an updated proposal in the proposed programme budget for 2025.
ROBERTO HERNANDEZ DE ALBA FUENTES (Cuba), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the Group recognizes the important role that the Department of Safety and Security plays in coordinating and guiding security policies and practices through the UN Security Management System. “We acknowledge the significant efforts in order to develop a robust know-how to manage physical risks to personnel and keep them safe, to the extent possible,” he said, noting the Department’s mandate deriving from priorities laid down in Assembly resolutions and decisions, including resolution 59/276. He also noted that the Department is developing doctrines, planning approaches, tools and resources to focus on making the United Nations as effective as possible in high-risk settings, on the basis of strategic and operational resilience and rapid emergency responses.
The Group looks forward to productive exchanges with relevant parties to help Member States make informed decisions on the proposal, he said. It will seek more information from the Secretariat during discussions in order to develop a more defined position and consult constructively to have a clear understanding and better assess the way forward.
Extraordinary Chambers in Courts of Cambodia
Mr. RAMANATHAN, United Nations Controller and Assistant Secretary-General, Office of Programme Planning, Finance and Budget, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on the use of the commitment authority and request for a subvention to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (document A/78/515). He said the report outlines the Extraordinary Chambers’ substantive progress and results achieved under each judicial case and provides an update on the commencement of its residual functions while underlining the continuing financial challenges faced by the Chamber in 2023 and the 2024 requirements for its international component. Since last year’s report, the Chambers successfully completed its judicial mandate, having issued the appeals judgment in the last pending case, he said, adding that the Chambers affirmed the 2018 life sentence imposed on Khieu Samphan and upheld convictions of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity against the former Head of State.
He observed that despite noteworthy substantive progress and ongoing fundraising efforts, the declining trend of voluntary contributions continues in 2023. As in prior years, the Extraordinary Chambers continues to implement cost-saving measures without adversely impacting its core work. These measures — outsourcing administrative service provision to the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and engagement of consultants and independent contractors remunerated according to actual programme delivery — combined with the subvention from the 2023 regular budget of $3.8 million have ensured the operations of Chambers’ international component through the end of the year. All judicial proceedings having been completed, the Extraordinary Chambers commenced residual functions on 1 January 2023 in accordance with the Addendum to the Agreement between the UN and the Government of Cambodia.
“Approval of the subvention request will ensure that the Chambers can discharge its residual functions in an orderly, timely and meaningful manner,” he pointed out, allowing it to continue to promote accountability for the grave crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge, while also ensuring that the Extraordinary Chambers undertakes the necessary steps towards its permanent legacy for the people of Cambodia. Against this backdrop, the Secretary-General seeks the General Assembly approval of a $2.3 million subvention for the Chambers’ international component for 2024, considering the projected voluntary contributions of about $0.3 million. “Such support would enable the United Nations to meet its obligations in accordance with the Agreement between the United Nations and the Government of Cambodia,” he said, adding that the Secretary-General will continue intensive outreach and fundraising efforts.
Mr. BONG, Chair of the ACABQ, introducing the Advisory Committee’s related report on the Extraordinary Chambers (document A/78/7/Add.21), noted the Chambers has completed its judicial caseload and entered the residual phase, envisioned to initially last three years. The Advisory Committee considers the Chamber’s archives an important component of international humanitarian law and calls on all Member States to support their historic preservation and conservation as a shared global responsibility to advance the cause of international justice. He recalled that the Extraordinary Chambers were established on the basis of voluntary funding, with subventions as exceptional measures. Yet the subvention has become the main modality for financial support to the Chamber’s international component. The subvention should remain a commitment authority so as not to disincentivize voluntary contributions. Regarding commitment authorities for past periods, any unused balance should be returned to Member States.
Turning to the 2024 resource requirements, he noted the completion of the judicial caseload and beginning of the residual phase, in which greater national ownership is foreseen. The ACABQ remains unconvinced of the 2024 requested resource level for the Extraordinary Chambers’ international component and considers that the grant modality of the subvention reduces the transparency surrounding resource requests, he said. Staffing changes in the international component should be supported with adequate justifications for changes and the cost implication. Considering the projected funding shortfall for 2024, the Advisory Committee recommends that the Assembly authorize the Secretary-General to commit not more than $2.1 million to supplement the voluntary financial resources of the Extraordinary Chamber’s international component for the 1 January to 31 December 2024 period. This is a 10 per cent reduction from the requested subvention of $2.3 million, he said.
MR. HERNANDEZ (Cuba) speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, welcomed the completion of the judicial proceedings in all cases before the Extraordinary Chambers. Reiterating the Group’s commitment to the Chambers’ efficient and effective operation, he said “we continue to stress that ensuring adequate and sustainable financing for them remains a priority for the Group”. He commended the Government of Cambodia for its commitment to provide in-kind contributions and most of the funding of the national component over the past eight years, particularly full funding of the 2023 national budget. He similarly appreciated Member States who have provided extra-budgetary resources for the Chambers’ work. The Group is, however, concerned over the persistent financial challenges facing the Chambers despite various fundraising efforts, particularly noting that voluntary contributions have steadily decreased over the years from 65 per cent of the approved 2015 budget to 31 per cent in 2023.
He encouraged the Secretary-General to continue his efforts in mobilizing voluntary contributions from Member States, to fill the persistent funding gaps for the Chambers. Noting that the Extraordinary Chambers has entered into the residual phase envisaged to last an initial three years, he said it is critical for the international community to fund the Chambers to ensure full accountability for the crimes perpetrated during the former Khmer Rouge regime and completion of their residual functions, including dissemination of information and management of their archives in line with international standards. “A financial failure of the Chambers would constitute a renewed tragedy in the quest for justice of the people of Cambodia, who have waited for decades for these efforts to reach belated fruition and would constitute a serious setback to the international community's fight against impunity”, he emphasized. Therefore, the Group supports the Secretary-General's proposal to supplement the extra-budgetary resources for the year 2024.
SOPHEA EAT (Cambodia) expressed deep gratitude for Member States’ support for the Extraordinary Chambers’ operations that addressed impunity for crimes against humanity carried out by the Khmer Rouge. These crimes led to the loss of a third of Cambodia’s population. “It is an exemplary process that emphasizes not only on finding justice for the victims, but also for consolidating reconciliation, a sense of closure, social cohesion and peace for the survivors and their future generations,” she said. It is very concerning that the Chambers faces financial constraints during its final stage, as voluntary contributions fall short of the budget programme. As underscored in the Secretary-General’s report, secured funding is “very essential” to let the Extraordinary Chambers complete the residual phase and maintain its legacy for public education to prevent crimes against humanity, beyond Cambodia, she said.
The Cambodian Government remains committed to supporting the Chambers’ national component as it winds down and supports the Secretariat’s request for a $2.3 million subvention for its international component for the 2024 budget. While calling for more voluntary contributions, her delegation strongly hopes that all Member States support the Assembly’s approval of the proposed subvention. This will enable the Extraordinary Chambers “to complete its last mile, with very meaningful outcomes and relevant lessons to share to the world for years to come”, she said.