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Fifth Committee Concludes Discussion on Aspects of Peacekeeping Finance, Including Revision of Scale of Assessments, Gratis Personnel

Press Release GA/AB/3373
May 18, 2000

Some Speakers Ask for Consideration of Revision During Current Session, Others Question Timing, Procedures

The time had come to commence the revision of the peacekeeping scale of assessments, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) was told this morning, as it ended its three-day discussion of various aspects of the financing of peacekeeping missions.

Lithuania's representative told the Committee that, while admiring those States that had announced they would voluntarily give up discounts on their obligations, unilateral steps did not address the main issue -- the methodology used to establish Member States' responsibilities for funding peacekeeping. The scale needed comprehensive revision to reflect current economic realities. A new scale, based on clear and objective economic criteria, and noting the special responsibility of permanent Security Council members, should be found.

Libya's representative said that discussion of the scale for apportioning peacekeeping expenses should be deferred until after discussions on the scale for the United Nations regular budget. The peacekeeping scale was based on the regular scale for apportionment of other United Nations expenses, and so peacekeeping scale discussions would be neither meaningful nor useful in the absence of consensus on the regular scale. Further, the length of time over which the peacekeeping scale had operated was irrelevant. The United Nations Charter was more than 50 years old, but that did not mean it was obsolete. Libya was happy to discuss the peacekeeping scale, but only when it was properly included in the Committee's agenda and established procedures were followed.

Uruguay's representative said he was always open to arguments and ideas, including on revision of the peacekeeping scale, but he was not certain it was the appropriate time and place. A technical opinion on that should be urgently requested, and he called on the Committee Chairman to do so. In addition, he said he could not support any change in the scale that would mean the rich paid less and the poor paid more.

The representatives of Morocco, China, Slovenia, Tunisia, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Georgia, Zambia, South Africa and Egypt also spoke on these matters. The United Nations Controller, Jean-Pierre Halbwachs, answered Member States' questions.

When the Committee turned its attention to the Secretary-General's report on gratis personnel -– staff provided free of charge to the United Nations by Member States -- the United States' representative said that the Assembly decision to discontinue use of certain types of gratis staff had adversely affected the Organization's capacity to plan and execute peacekeeping missions. The current problems in Sierra Leone might have been avoided had their expertise been available. Gratis expertise should be available to the Secretary-General when circumstances demanded, he added.

Cuba's representative said planning should make it possible for the United Nations not to have to rely unduly on gratis personnel. The Assembly had said they could be used in exceptional circumstances, but requests for their use, with precise information on the circumstances, must be submitted to the Assembly.

C.S.M. Mselle, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced that body's comments on the Secretary- General's report and on a request for gratis forensic personnel from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. The Director of the Operational Services Division of the Office of Human Resources Management, Denis Beissel, introduced the Secretary-General's report.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Friday, 19 May, when it will consider the financing of the International Civilian Support Mission in Haiti, and a letter from the Chairman of the Committee on Conferences on the proposed use of international guidelines for internal control standards.

Committee Work Programme

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to continue consideration of aspects of the administration and budgetary aspects of peacekeeping, including the support account used to fund Headquarters support activities for peacekeeping operations, reimbursement of Member States for troops and equipment used in United Nations missions, and the United Nations Logistics Base in Brindisi, where goods for missions are stored, repaired and supplied. It also planned to continue its discussion of a proposed change to the category to which South Africa belongs for the purposes of determining responsibility for peacekeeping funding, and to commence consideration of the Secretary-General's quarterly report on gratis personnel (staff provided free of charge to the United Nations by Member States).

[For background on the reports under consideration, please see Press Release GA/AB/3371 of 16 May 2000.]

Gratis Personnel

Before the Committee was the Secretary-General's quarterly report on the situation of gratis personnel for 1 January to 31 March 2000 (document A/C.5/54/54).

According to the report, the number of relevant gratis personnel with the United Nations was reduced by 17 -- from 18 to one -- in the first three months of 2000. The remaining person is working for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations/Field Administration and Logistics Division in the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).

Data is also provided on gratis personnel not covered by the Assembly decision -- interns, associate experts and technical cooperation experts obtained by non-reimbursable loan, and gratis personnel serving with the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) in the report.


Sun Minqin (China) said that peacekeeping had played a positive role in resolving local conflicts and relaxing tensions –- a role that had been widely recognized by the international community. Since peacekeeping was a priority activity, Headquarters' backstopping support, provided through the support account, was indispensable. She recognized the need to ensure adequate human and financial resources under that account.

She sought clarification as to whether the Fifth Committee could decide on the Secretary-General's request for resources for the Rapid Deployment Management Unit prior to consideration, of the concept attached to that unit, by the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations. China supported the transfer of South Africa to a lower bracket for assessment purposes. A decision should be taken this session. South Africa was to be commended for the manner of its application.

The inclusion of discussion of the peacekeeping scale in the Fifth Committee's agenda should follow the normal procedures, established by the General Assembly, she said. There was clearly no direct link between the current financial crisis and the existing peacekeeping scale. The present system for financing peacekeeping had been decided following discussion among Member States, and the principle, of capacity to pay, that it relied on was in keeping with the Charter and had been proven itself over time. China called on all Member States, in particular the largest contributor, to pay their dues in full, on time and without conditions.

The peacekeeping scale should reflect the principles of capacity to pay, and of the collective, but differentiated, responsibility for funding missions, she said. As a permanent Security Council member, China understood its responsibility for world peace and security, and had conscientiously fulfilled its financial obligations for peacekeeping. However, it was resolutely opposed to the setting of any floor or ceiling rates for permanent members of the Security Council. Such a measure was unacceptable in that it violated the principle of capacity to pay.

She said the growing expenses of peacekeeping had imposed a heavy burden on the United Nations membership -- a burden that weighed particularly hard on developing countries. China, therefore, believed that the interests of developing counties ought to be safeguarded, and any attempt to shift more of the burden to them would be opposed.

Ernest Petric (Slovenia) said that the United Nations as a global organization had, throughout its history, functioned on the basis of the consensus of its Member States regarding its purposes and principles, as outlined in the Charter. All agreed that the United Nations needed to adapt to the changes in the international community, as well as those brought on by globalization and the technological evolution.

He said Slovenia supported the proposals that Member States begin discussing the future of United Nations peacekeeping activities, including a new scale of assessments, proceeding from the need to preserve the consensus among the Member States, continue the reform of the Organization and bearing in mind the upcoming Millennium Summit. The goal of such a dialogue should be to put United Nations peacekeeping operations on a sound basis that would provide adequate financing, in line with the notion of collective responsibility and the shared burden of all Member States. The success of the new momentum in peacekeeping depended as much on the solution to the crisis in Sierra Leone as on the ability of the Member States to provide for the financing of those operations.

The basis of financing for peacekeeping was fixed 27 years ago, he continued. Nothing could be so perfect to last unchanged for 27 years. The world then was much different. Few countries were richer, many more were poorer. Some did not even exist in their present form. Some had ceased to exist completely. Those changes should have an impact on the scale of assessments, which could and should be achieved by consensus. There was no basis for assessment of a Member State that had ceased to exist, such as the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, or of a State that had not yet applied for membership, such as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro). It was obvious that numerous anomalies had destroyed the relevance of the current peacekeeping scale. Dialogue and exchange of views among the Member States were necessary prerequisites to agree upon a solution. Informal consultations could be helpful and useful. Blocking dialogue would lead nowhere. Slovenia was well aware that a new scale would increase its assessment in accordance with the current level of economic development of the country. Slovenia would contribute actively to the establishment of a revised scale of assessments.

Janis Priedkalns (Latvia) said that peacekeeping was an important and visible activity of the United Nations. The recent increase in the number of peacekeeping missions made it imperative that sufficient resources be provided to the United Nations to allow it to cope with the challenge. The current peacekeeping scale had become outdated. Latvia supported the urgent request of the European Union, the United States and many other countries for finding a solution to the funding of peacekeeping operations. The elements of the scale should be the subject of a thorough discussion in the Committee, initially in informal sessions so that open dialogue, rather than formal statements, prevailed.

Latvia supported the European Union's position on making payments in full and on time and the principle of the capacity to pay, he said. There were also sound arguments for adopting a ceiling for country contributions, a ceiling that should not be so high that a climate of over-dependence was created on the large contributors. For a community of 188 nations, each having an equal vote, it was inappropriate for only a few members to carry a disproportionately large share of the expenses and, by implication, of political influence, as was currently the case. Excessive dependence was not sound policy and not beneficial for the health and vigour of a family, a nation or the United Nations.

He said that Latvia had decided to review its peacekeeping assessment and to consider a graduated process of renunciation of the discount which it currently enjoyed as part of its group (c) status. Increased shares for a number of countries would help the peacekeeping budget. The implementation of Latvia's decision would take place at the appropriate time, in light of the discussions and decisions in the Committee and in view of a necessary period of adjustment to the new scale.

Elhassane Zahid (Morocco) said the fate of the priority area of peacekeeping would depend on any decision the Fifth Committee took on its financing. He paid tribute to those who had placed their lives in danger in the cause of peace, and also praised the efforts of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Along with other Member States, Morocco supported the need to provide a sound, viable financial basis for general United Nations activities, and for peacekeeping. Morocco had asked for a discussion of the scale because it was necessary. The scale must be reviewed, with a view to updating it to take new realities into account.

The Fifth Committee should begin an exhaustive, transparent consideration, taking all positions into account, he said. The principles and guidelines governing the current scale must be borne in mind. Any discussion of the item should account for the special responsibility of Security Council members, the capacity of economically developed countries, and the limited responsibilities of less developed countries, especially African countries and the least developed.

The result of those deliberations should be to better able the United Nations to play a role in protecting peace, wherever threats arose, he said. Morocco was currently active in peacekeeping missions. Its participation dated back 40 years, and its experience would be available to all Member States in consultations. He hoped, whatever Member States' differences, the need for discussion without conditions would be remembered. Informal consultations would allow for frank discussions.

Radhia Achouri (Tunisia) said she supported discussion of the peacekeeping scale. Tunisia had participated in many missions and, as an African nation, considered that peacekeeping financing should be considered as soon as possible, to establish a consistent system. Some had spoken about the crisis that had struck Sierra Leone, which had made clear that current funding processes left a lot to be desired, but had also exposed the more general problems of peacekeeping.

The entire approach to peacekeeping should be reformulated, she said, and to that end she welcomed the Secretary-General's establishment of the high-level working group. That group must also deal with the financial aspects of peacekeeping. The existing peacekeeping scale was established on an ad hoc basis in a specific context, and, as a result, it could not last forever. It must be re-examined. Calls for revision of the peacekeeping scale dated back almost a decade, so the time had come. No outcomes should be prejudged, and the debate must be constructive. Peacekeeping had become the United Nations major activity and its major priority. Everybody was aware of the difficulties the Secretariat faced, particularly as a result of financing problems, in implementing Security Council mandates in their entirety. The stumbling block represented by peacekeeping financing should be eliminated.

The debate should be as in-depth as possible, she said, if only to ensure the best beginning to considerations. At the current stage, agreement on guidelines for the debate should be established. The basic principles of the current scale should remain the same and be institutionalized. No Member State or group of States had challenged the need for recognition of the special responsibility of permanent Security Council members, that capacity to pay should remain the basis of the scale, or that account must be taken of the limitations on the capacities of least developed countries. All States must shoulder their responsibility for financing peacekeeping. That was a responsibility to those countries, regions and populations that had been rent asunder by conflict.

Elmira Ibraimova (Kyrgyzstan) expressed condolences to the delegation of Japan for the loss of former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi. Continuing, she said peacekeeping operations were among the most important functions of the United Nations. Though peacekeeping was not mentioned in the Charter, it had implicitly become a vital necessity. Many countries where peacekeeping missions were established were grateful to the United Nations for promoting peace, security and stability in their homelands. Kyrgyzstan was a small country, yet it had contributed to peacekeeping forces in Sierra Leone and Kosovo. The recent tragic events in Sierra Leone had shown the need for new mandates and additional resources for the United Nations peacekeeping troops.

There was a need for elaboration of the new financial mechanisms to fulfil the peacekeeping mandate of the Untied Nations, she said. The current ad hoc system was devised 27 years ago. It was high time to carefully review the financial aspects of peacekeeping operations in all their complexity. Kyrgyzstan supported the idea proposed by many delegations to continue discussions on the principles of the peacekeeping scale.

Jorge Perez-otermin (Uruguay) expressed condolences on the recent passing for former Prime Minister Obuchi. Continuing, he said the issue of peacekeeping operations had always had the highest support and attention of his country. Uruguay had contributed 10,000 men to peacekeeping operations and had not escaped without human suffering. While the maintenance of peace and security was one of the fundamental purposes of the United Nations, he did not share the view that it was the sole or even principal goal of the Organization. The Charter had included other goals. It was true that $1 devoted to development accomplished a great deal more than $1 that went to a peacekeeping operation. Peace was not only achieved by halting war; it was achieved by preventing war.

On the scale of assessments and in keeping with his national position, he said that Uruguay was always open to listening to arguments and ideas. He would like to be certain, however, that it was the appropriate time and place to discuss the scale. When in doubt, it was urgent to request a technical opinion. He asked the Chairman to do so on an urgent basis. He did not want to see the Committee establish precedents that it would latter regret. The respect and submission of all Member States to general rules would contribute to coexistence and cooperation.

As a member of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, Uruguay supported everything the Group had said in its statement, he said. The guiding principles for structuring the scale should be the capacity to pay and responsibility in decision taking. Uruguay would not support any change in the scale that would mean that rich States would pay less and poor would pay more. He agreed with those who believed that the poor should pay less and the rich more. The responsibility of the permanent five could not be equated with other members, even the non-permanent members of the Council. Further, he supported the request of South Africa to change its category with respect to the peacekeeping budget.

Khalid Abdalla (Libya) said a special code of conduct was not needed for the work of the Fifth Committee. Rather, what was required was that established procedures must be followed, and a positive attitude among Committee members must be maintained. He congratulated Nigeria, which had made sacrifices for peace over many years. He also supported the statement made by the representative of Singapore, which had expressed the concerns of many developing countries.

He had hoped that discussion of the scale for peacekeeping would have been deferred until after discussion of the scale that applied to the United Nations regular budget, he said. That order would have allowed greater clarity and a more comprehensive discussion. The inclusion of consideration of the peacekeeping scale was not in accordance with established procedure. Had procedures been followed, the Secretariat could have provided reports and material to assist Member States' consideration. He hoped no precedent would be set by the inclusion of the item.

The Group of 77 and China had agreed to listen, and, therefore, Libya would listen, he said. However, that should not be interpreted as implicit acceptance of the scheduling of informal or formal consultations on the peacekeeping scale during the session. There were many other items actually on the Fifth Committee's agenda that must be discussed and finished in the current session. The scale for peacekeeping operations was based on the regular budget scale, and discussions on that scale were not finished. There were no agreements for changing its structure. Peacekeeping scale discussions, therefore, would be neither meaningful nor useful, in absence of consensus on the regular scale.

The length of time over which the peacekeeping scale had operated was irrelevant, he said. The United Nations Charter was more than 50 years old, but that did not mean it was obsolete. While he would provide his arguments on the peacekeeping scale when the item was formally inscribed on the Fifth Committee's agenda, at present he must state that the principle of capacity to pay should not be affected by the inclusion of ceilings or floors on some States' liabilities. Some might say that Libya did not want the peacekeeping scale discussed, but that was not so. Libya would welcome discussion, when it was properly included in the Committee's agenda and established procedures were followed.

Gediminas Serksyns (Lithuania) said that peacekeeping was an essential function of the Organization and effective arrangements for its implementation must be in place. The time had come to commence the discussion on the revision of the scale, which had been established in 1973 on an ad hoc basis. He supported a comprehensive revision of the existing peacekeeping scale in order to reflect today's economic realities. The revision of the scale should aim at establishing an equitable share of peacekeeping expenses among all Member States according to their capacity to pay. The new revised scale should be based on clear and objective economic criteria without prejudice to the principle of the special responsibility of permanent members of the Security Council.

Having been over-assessed for a number of years, Lithuania was strongly committed to the principle of the capacity to pay, he said. His delegation felt, therefore, that the principle of the capacity to pay should be a core element of methodology for calculating assessments. Lithuania admired the decision of some countries to voluntarily give up their discounts and move to group (b). Such unilateral steps, however, did not address the main issue, which was the need to address the methodology of Member States' contributions to peacekeeping. Consensus should be reached on objective criteria and methods that would allow for the allocation of countries in the various groups according to their economic development and their national per capita income.

Gueorgui Z. Volski (Georgia) said financing peacekeeping operations was a serious matter that had not, in the past, been adequately dealt with. There had been many changes in economic conditions since Georgia had ceased to be part of the Soviet Union. Careful consideration of the scale was needed and, if necessary, it should be carefully reviewed. The views of the United States concerning the need to deal with the matter at the current Assembly session were valid. The United Nations' responsibility for the lives of people, including Georgians, and for peace and stability should be borne in mind.

Mathias Daka (Zambia) said he supported anything that would improve financing peacekeeping operations. He said there was clearly a problem with financing peacekeeping. That could not be denied. Further, there could be no real development without peace. Zambia thanked those who had volunteered to increase their financial responsibility for peacekeeping operations. In addition, it supported South Africa's request to move from group (b) to group (c) for the purposes of peacekeeping assessment.

Theodore Albrecht (South Africa) asked for information on when his country's reclassification request would be discussed in informal consultations. He was certain the request could be answered during the resumed session of the Fifth Committee, and he appreciated cooperation on the issue from all Member States and groups of States.

The United Nations Controller, Jean-pierre Halbwachs, then answered Member States questions. He noted that much of the discussion had not been on the reports the Secretary-General had presented, but that the Secretariat had been asked whether the resources it requested for the support account for 2000-2001 were adequate. As was indicated in the budget proposal, the level of resources sought took account of the two new peacekeeping operations established in June and October 1999, in Kosovo and East Timor, in addition to the expansion of the Sierra Leone mission, the Central African Republic mission, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo mission.

The Secretariat budgeted on the basis of what it knew and what it saw, he explained. In his introductory statement, he had underscored the volatility and unpredictability of peacekeeping operations, and explained that it had led, last autumn, to a request for additional resources for the support account, which the Assembly approved. The peacekeeping situation was kept under constant review, and if developments required changes to the level of resources needed, the Secretary- General would come back to the Fifth Committee.

In response to the question on the rapidly deployable mission headquarters, that headquarters had never been operational, he explained. The General Assembly, in resolution 53/12 B, had endorsed the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) request for a comprehensive review, and in resolution 53/58, it had endorsed the recommendation of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations that the Secretary-General be asked to further develop the concept. That review had been undertaken, bearing in mind the recent evolution of peacekeeping, the changes in its nature and scope, and the need to ensure rapid deployment of a wide variety of expertise in response to the complex mandates from the Security Council. The support account budget proposal elaborated on the proposed conceptual revision, particularly the use of a Rapid Deployment Management Unit. A standby capacity was essential, he said, and he hoped the Fifth Committee would endorse the resource proposals of the Secretary-General for that capacity.

In response to the question of whether the Fifth Committee could decide on posts for the proposed Unit before the concept had been considered by the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, Mr. Halbwachs explained that the Fifth Committee was master of its own house. However, in his view it could, and that was why the resources had been requested. It was important the Secretariat had the flexibility to undertake its peacekeeping responsibilities, he concluded.

Ahmed Darwish (Egypt) said that during the discussion on the scale, several delegations had requested that debate on that issue be taken up at the resumed session. In his statement of 16 May, he was of the view that formal discussion should commence and that a final decision should be taken later, only after thorough review. He asked to know the status of that request.

The Chairman, Penny Wensley (Australia), said that she did not wish to enter into a long procedural debate. She was aware several delegates wanted follow up on the issue, others did not. She would need to reflect on the large number of statements that had been made. It had been a long debate and there was clearly a wide range of opinion on whether there would be time during the current session to take up the item and the procedure for doing so. Although it was important to be responsive to Member States, the Committee must take proper account of the agenda before them. It had been proposed that the Bureau could discuss the situation. Given the diversity of views, the Bureau could determine the best way to manage the issue.

On the question of South Africa, the Chairman said that the Bureau would meet at 12:45 p.m. at which time it would look at when to schedule the sub-item formally on the agenda. She would be able to answer the question on the South Africa issue after the Bureau meeting. They would discuss follow-up tomorrow, and would advise on the proposed schedule of work before close of business.

Mr. Khalid (Libya) said that he wanted to remind the Committee that many States had already objected to discussion of the item. He would also oppose any discussion on it. C.S.M. MSELLE, Chairman of the ACABQ, introduced that body's comment on the Secretary-General's report on gratis personnel.

Regarding a request for the use of gratis personnel with specialized forensic skills for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Mr. Mselle said that no provision for gratis personnel had been included in the Tribunal's budget. The new Prosecutor, however, had said that investigative work should be conducted and that additional help was needed. The ACABQ said that that issue should be clarified with the Committee. The appropriation approved by the Assembly did not provide for the investigative work associated with 360 crime sights. The Secretary-General had stated that the proper investigation of events in Kosovo dictated that remaining sights be investigated. He also pointed out that the work could not be accomplished during the year 2000 without additional help. The Secretary-General intended to approve the Prosecutor's request to hire gratis personnel to carry out forensic work for a limited period of six months.

Denis Beissel, Director of the Operational Services Division of the Office of Human Resources Management, then introduced the Secretary-General's report. By way of update, he said that there were currently 50 gratis personnel in Kosovo.

Donald Hays (United States) said that in 1997 the General Assembly took the decision to eliminate type II gratis personnel. The United States had accepted that, although it had some misgivings. As a result of the loss of gratis personnel, the United Nations had lost much-needed expertise in planning and execution of peacekeeping missions. The problems in Sierra Leone might be due to the loss in gratis personnel.

While certain exceptions were permitted for highly technical personnel, he said, it was important for the Committee to realize that there would continue to be circumstances when gratis personnel were needed. When such cases arouse and were justified, exceptions should be made to make gratis personnel available. The mechanism to address those needs must not be further restricted. The Secretary- General had appealed to Member States for the means to effectively respond to new challenges. The Committee should not be seeking ways to limit the ability of the Secretary-General to meet his obligations, but should make sure that he has the means available to perform his job.

Dulce Maria Buergo Rodriguez (Cuba) said that her delegation reaffirmed the position repeatedly stated from beginning of the importance of complying with General Assembly resolutions. The United Nations should have better staff planning, which would make it possible for the Organization not to have to unduly utilize gratis personnel. She was also of the opinion that, in cases where the Assembly had pointed to the possibility of the Secretary-General to using gratis personnel in exceptional cases, the precise information on those cases would have to be duly submitted to the Assembly, so that it could be properly informed and react to those requests.

On the staff requested for the International Tribunal, the item had been included and was being discussed, she said. It would also be considered once again in informal consultations. It had already been pointed out that information must be submitted on the use of gratis personnel and on the role that the Office of Human Resources Management would play in that process. Cuba felt that specific needs for resources would have to continue to be submitted in the appropriate framework so that, to the extent possible, they would not have to improvise and use gratis personnel.

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