Speakers Seek Details on Staffing, Operations as Budget Committee Examines Proposed Restructuring of United Nations Office to African Union

Delegates supported the restructuring of the body charged with enhancing the Organization’s partnership with the African Union on peace and security matters, but asked for more details on staffing and operations as the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today examined the Secretary-General’s proposal on the matter.

Bettina Tucci Bartsiotas, Assistant Secretary-General and Controller of the Department of Management’s Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts, said the Secretary-General’s proposed revamping of the United Nations Office to the African Union would provide it with the resources and organizational structure to meet current demands.

She said the proposals, which, among other things, entailed creating three new posts, abolishing five existing posts and redeploying or reassigning 19 others, did not give rise to net additional resource requirements under the 2016/2017 approved budget of the support account for peacekeeping operations, or the Organization’s approved 2016-2017 programme budget.

Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introducing that entity’s related report, endorsed the Secretary-General’s proposal but recommended against creation of the D-1 Chief of Staff post as its functions could be performed by the Deputy Head of Office.

In the ensuing discussion, Thailand’s representative, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the United Nations partnership with the African Union had grown due to the increasing scale and complexity of peace and security issues across Africa. She asked how the proposed staffing structure – which entailed reorganization of the Mission’s support and administrative components, as well as creation of the Institutional and Operational Partnership Service to lead the Operational Planning and Advisory Section and the Mission Support Planning Section – would strengthen the Office’s advisory and operational role in its engagement with the African Union.

Chad’s representative, speaking for the African Group, said the relationship between the United Nations and the African Union was central to achieving peace and security and should develop into a systematic, harmonized and strategic partnership that provided predictable funding to peacekeeping operations authorized by the Security Council and led by the African Union. He asked for details on the functions of the proposed human resources and the new component and how the changes would provide consistent United Nations support for long-term institutional capacity-building and short-term operations.

Also today, delegates examined the Secretary-General’s recommended 2017 resource requirements for two of the United Nations oldest and largest political missions – the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). Ms. Bartsiotas introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the matter; Mr. Ruiz presented ACABQ’s corresponding report.

Iraq’s representative called for a review of the Secretary-General’s proposal to reduce UNAMI resources by $2 million to $117.43 million in 2017 and slash 15 posts, stressing that the cuts were unjustified and would undermine the Mission’s important work. UNAMI must be provided with adequate human and financial resources to carry out its mandated activities to help promote human rights, launch national dialogue and reconciliation, carry out a national census, promote friendly relations with neighbours and ensure judicial reform, he stressed. UNAMI also worked with United Nations humanitarian agencies and country teams to ensure a regional response to Iraqis who had fled Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).

Also today, the Fifth Committee recommended the appointment of Baudelaire Ndong Ella of Gabon to the Committee on Contributions for a three-year term beginning 1 January 2017.

The Fifth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m., on Friday, 9 December to discuss the administrative and budgetary aspects of financing peacekeeping operations as they related to combating sexual exploitation and abuse, the 2016?2017 programme budget implications of two draft resolutions approved by the First Committee (Disarmament) and the 2016-2017 programme budget of eight special political missions.

Programme Budget for Biennium 2016-2017: Special Political Missions

BETTINA TUCCI BARTSIOTAS, Assistant Secretary-General, Controller, Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts, introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on the estimates in respect of special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) (documents A/71/365/Add.4 and Add.5).

UNAMA’s strategic priorities were based on Security Council resolution 2274 (2016), which had extended the mandate until 17 March 2017, she said. The proposed resource requirements of $170 million for 2017 represented a net decrease of $13 million from those approved for 2016, due mainly to the proposed net reduction of 57 civilian positions and lower operational cost requirements. On the 2017 budget proposal for UNAMI, she recalled that by resolution 2299 (2016), the Security Council had extended its mandate for another year and decided that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan would continue to pursue the mandate outlined in resolution 2233 (2016). As such, UNAMI requirements for 2017 totalled $117 million, down $2 million from 2016, while the staffing requirements amounted to 858 civilian staff, a reduction of 15 positions.

CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced that entity’s corresponding reports for UNAMA and UNAMI (documents A/71/595/Add.4 and Add.5). While the Advisory Committee had recommended approval of UNAMA staffing resources requested for 2017, he expressed concern about the high number of loan arrangements in the Mission, and regretted that adjustments to the staffing table had not been made on an annual basis within the context of the budget process, given the long?standing existence of many temporary positions, and that staff movements had not been reported for an extensive period of time.

He also expressed regret that the inter-governmental bodies had not been made aware of the actual deployments, and as a result, had examined staffing tables that did not reflect the actual deployments. More broadly, the Advisory Committee discussed matters relating to the Kuwait Joint Support Office and other structures in its main report on the special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives. The Advisory Committee continued to question the validity of maintaining separate structures in Kuwait which maintained distinct reporting lines and accountabilities. He reiterated ACABQ’s request that information on the resource requirements for security services be included in future budget submissions for the UNAMA and that the Mission use its in?house capacity, rather than rely on external consultants. He recommended a 10 per cent reduction in consultancy resources.

Turning to the report on UNAMI, he said the Advisory Committee recommended approval of the Secretary-General’s proposal for the Mission, but reiterated that he should make efforts to strengthen UNAMI’s national staffing complement by nationalizing positions. The Advisory Committee had been informed that the reductions proposed for 2017 for security staffing would impact the ability to conduct various field activities and it might be advisable to reinstate some security positions in the UNAMI budget. On the other hand, it had also been informed that the vacancies of 18 months or more for five security-related positions had not impacted the Mission’s work. He trusted that that contradiction would be clarified to the Assembly.

IHSAN ALAWI (Iraq), underscoring the important role of the United Nations in Iraq, said that the Government sought to provide the best services to UNAMI and support it fully in carrying out its mandated tasks. Every special political mission had its own specificities, per consultations with Governments, to ensure respect for sovereignty and non-interference in internal state affairs. He appreciated the Mission’s presence in Baghdad, Irbil and Basra, where it, among other efforts, helped to promote human rights, launch a national dialogue and reconciliation, and carry out a national census, as well as promote friendly relations with neighbours and ensure legal and judicial reform.

He said the Mission also worked with United Nations humanitarian agencies to help Iraqis who had fled Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), and with the United Nations country teams to ensure a regional response to such events. The Mission must be provided human and financial resources commensurate with those tasks, he said, noting that any reductions would undermine its efforts. The proposed $117.43 million in resource requirements represented a $2 million decrease from 2016. That proposal should be reviewed. On the proposal for a net decrease of 15 posts, any unjustified abolishment of posts would also undermine the Mission’s work, and he looked forward to discussions on those matters during informal consultations.

Review of United Nations Office to African Union

Ms. BARTSIOTAS, Assistant Secretary-General, Controller, Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the review of the United Nations Office to the African Union (document A/71/551). Since that Office was established in July 2010 by the General Assembly, its evolving role and relations with the African Union had been the subject of several reviews since 2013. Some of those findings included recommendations to redefine strategic priorities to strengthen political cooperation and enhance the institutional and operational partnership with the African Union. The proposed restructuring would provide the Office with the resources and organizational structure to meet the demands placed on the United Nations?African Union partnership. The current proposals, she stressed, did not give rise to net additional resource requirements under the 2016/2017 approved budget of the support account or the approved programme budget for the biennium 2016-2017.

Mr. RUIZ, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced the entity’s related report, noting that the Secretary-General’s proposal to restructure the United Nations Office to the African Union would entail the establishment of two D-1 posts and one National Professional Officer, as well as the abolishment of five posts, the redeployment of four posts and the reassignment of 15 posts. The Advisory Committee was of the view that the functions of the Chief of Staff could be performed by the Deputy Head of Office, and recommended against the proposed D-1 Chief of Staff. It recommended the approval of the other proposed post changes.

SIRITHON WAIRATPANIJ (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, attached great importance to strengthening the partnership between the United Nations and the African Union, noting that the partnership had grown due to the increasing scale and complexity of peace and security issues over time. The Group fully supported the Secretary-General’s proposal to restructure the United Nations Office to the African Union. She noted that the proposed revised structure entailed reorganization of the Mission support and administrative components as well as creation of the Institutional and Operational Partnership Service to lead the Operational Planning and Advisory Section and the Mission Support Planning Section. The Group sought further details on a number of elements, including on how the proposed staffing structure would strengthen the coordination and management of the Office, including its advisory and operational role in relation to engagement with the African Union.

BACHAR BONG ABDALLAH (Chad), speaking on behalf of the African Group and aligning himself with the Group of 77, said that the relationship between the United Nations and the African Union was central to achieving peace and security. He welcomed the significant progress made in the African Union?United Nations partnership, particularly the signing by the United Nations Secretariat and the African Union Commission of an overarching framework on enhancing collaboration in peace and security. The partnership should develop into a systematic, harmonized and strategic one, and should provide predictable funding to the peacekeeping operations authorized by the Security Council and led by the African Union. The United Nations should continue to coordinate closely with the African Union Commission and the African Union Peace and Security Council, including in the areas of mediation, capacity-building, operationalizing the African Peace and Security Architecture and the 10?year implementation plan for the African Union Agenda 2063.

The African Group took note of the Secretary-General’s proposal to strengthen and restructure the United Nations Office to the African Union, he said. It sought more details on the role and functions of the proposed human resources and the work of the new component as it related to mandate delivery, including under the Institutional and Operational Partnership Service as well as the Mission Support Planning Section. The Group would also be interested to learn how the proposal would enhance the partnership in the area of peace and security and provide consistent United Nations support to the African Union for long-term institutional capacity-building and short-term operations. The Group fully supported the restructuring of the Office and stood ready to engage constructively on the matter.

Source: United Nations

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