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United Nations: Budget Committee Discusses Financing For Women’s Institute, Proposed Bonus To Retain Staff At International Tribunals


WEBWIRE

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning debated the proposals to provide an additional commitment of $647,900 for the financing of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) and introduce a retention bonus to prevent departure of staff of the International Tribunals prior to the completion of their appointments, as the two courts approach the end of their mandates. It also took up a series of reports on the financing of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and the Logistics Base in Brindisi, Italy.

The representatives of Pakistan, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and the Dominican Republic, on behalf of the Rio Group, supported INSTRAW as the only body of the United Nations system with a mandate for advance training and research for women and one of very few institutions located in a developing country. Given the need for urgent action to ensure the continuation of INSTRAW activities through 2007 and beyond, they stressed the need for continued international support to allow it to continue its important work and expressed hope that the Committee would be able to establish a mechanism to ensure adequate funding for the Institute.

Supporting the provision of $647,900 to the Institute, on an exceptional basis and subject to full reimbursement pending receipt of voluntary contributions, the Group of 77 recalled the Assembly’s decision, in resolution 60/229, to provide its full support to the current efforts to revitalize the Institute and to provide it with the requisite funds to enable it to carry out its core functions for 2006-2007.

That position, however, was strongly opposed by Japan and the United States, whose representatives stressed that repeated requests for subventions for the Institute were unacceptable and could not form the basis for its future operations. As clearly stipulated in the Institute’s statute, they said, its activities should be funded by voluntary contributions. In that connection, the United States agreed with the comment of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) that “the fundamental issues confronting INSTRAW remain unresolved: the requirement to operate on the basis of voluntary funding … and the insufficiency of such funding”.

The United States representative stressed that the United Nations was not intended to serve as a bank or lending institution to rescue financially troubled programmes. The Institute should re-examine its budget and work plan and reduce its overhead to accurately reflect current levels of donor commitments, rather than seek an additional subvention. The Assembly had repeatedly gone to great lengths to compensate for INSTRAW’s funding shortfalls, and it was not the responsibility of Member States, through assessed contributions, to again grant INSTRAW commitment authority. Japan also urged the Institute to meet its obligation to return $190,000 that had been provided to it in March, on an exceptional, reimbursable basis.

Most speakers also agreed with the need to keep the core personnel at the International Tribunals for Rwanda and former Yugoslavia, with the representative of Pakistan, on behalf of the Group of 77, pointing out that the costs of losing professional, specialized and trained staff at the final stages of the Tribunals’ work would seriously harm their current and future complex cases, as well as other substantive functions. The Group agreed with the Secretary-General that a retention incentive would lead to substantial savings in terms of lost productivity and costs of rotating staff, and affect the morale and personal interests of staff members.

However, several delegates sought further information on the issue. Japan’s representative said that, without the necessary basic information, he could not support the staff retention incentives. Cost estimates should be determined precisely, on the basis of drawdown plans for the Tribunals that clearly defined the expertise, functions and posts that would be required during the foreseeable phases of the completion strategy. The Secretary-General should provide a complete picture of anticipated post reductions for 2008-2009, in line with the completion strategy. The current proposal, in which the retention bonus was applied to every job category, had to be re-examined. The scope should be more narrowly focused on those staff whose expertise made their retention essential to the Tribunals’ fulfilling their mandates on schedule. Careful consideration should also be given to the implications of the proposal for the common system.

“We have to find the right approach to tackle this potential problem,” said Germany’s representative, who spoke on behalf of the European Union. He looked forward to further clarifications on that issue, including assumptions contained in the comprehensive proposal before the Committee, the planned downsizing of the Tribunals throughout the completion phase and possible precedents set by the proposal.

Members of the Committee also expressed strong support for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), whose budget requirements for 2007-2008 were estimated at $537.66 million. Several speakers emphasized, among other things, the importance of quick impact projects that helped to build trust for the Mission and improve the environment for effective implementation of its mandate. Also stressed were the Mission’s disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, training and community anti-violence projects, and the importance of regional cooperation to promote peace in Haiti.

Also participating in today’s debate were representatives of Canada (speaking on behalf of Australia and New Zealand), Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Haiti and Uganda (on behalf of the African Group).

Reports before the Committee were introduced by the United Nations Controller, Warren Sach; the Chairman of the ACABQ, Rajat Saha; Linda Wong, Chief of Service II of the Programme Planning Budget Division; and Dennis Thatchaichawalit, Chief of Service I of the same division.

The Committee will take up several issues related to the Organization’s budget for 2006-2007 at 10 a.m. Thursday, 31 May.

Background

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to take up financing of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and the United Nations Logistics Base in Brindisi, Italy, as well as the financial situation of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) and incentives to retain staff of the Organization’s International Tribunals.

On MINUSTAH, the Committee had before it the Secretary-General’s performance report for the Mission (document A/61/741), according to which, some $479.64 million had been spent out of the appropriated amount of about $516.49 million gross during the period from 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006.

The Secretary-General invites the Assembly to decide that Member States shall waive their respective shares in other income for the period ended 30 June 2006 amounting to some $14.51 million and their respective shares in the amount of about $3.38 million from the unencumbered balance of $36.85 million for the period ended 30 June 2006, to be applied to meeting the current and future after-service health insurance liabilities of the United Nations. The Secretary-General also suggests that the Assembly should decide on the treatment of the remaining unencumbered balance of $33.47 million.

Another report (document A/61/869) contains the Mission’s budget for the period from 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008, which amounts to $537.66 million.

The Secretary-General estimates that $40.6 million would be required from 2007 to 2008 for the United Nations Logistics Base at Brindisi (document A/61/752), which serves as a trans-shipment point for equipment deployed to various missions and performs various other functions to improve the readiness of strategic deployment stocks. The amount would provide for the deployment of 55 international staff, 181 national staff and 6 temporary positions, in line with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations’ comprehensive organizational review at the Base in 2006. The Secretary-General further recommends that an unencumbered balance of $3.7 million from the 2005-2006 financial year be applied to the Base account for 2007-2008.

Meanwhile, during 2006 to 2007, $24.14 million in strategic deployment stocks were issued to missions, according to the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of strategic deployment stocks (document A/61/795). According to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations’ annual review, those stocks are valued at $158 million, including equipment held at the Base and vendor premises, and equipment being replenished from mission budgets.

The report says that, in the 2006-2007 period, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations used its “material resourcing plan” to determine the equipment requirements of new or expanding missions, while taking into account reserve stocks held at the Logistics Base. The plan was successfully used in the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and for United Nations support for the African Union Mission in the Sudan (AMIS) in Darfur. The Department also implemented accounting guidelines on the issuance, shipment and replenishment of equipment, and worked on standardizing data for use in the new “Galileo Inventory Management System”.

According to the Secretary-General’s performance report on the United Nations Logistics Base for the 2005-2006 financial year (document A/61/679), the total value of strategic deployment stock activities amounted to $70 million, which was made up of $39.1 million rolled over from the prior-period fund balance, $30.6 million corresponding to strategic deployment stocks issued to missions, and $300,000 in miscellaneous income. Member States were recommended to waive their respective shares in other income and the unencumbered balance to be applied to meeting the current and future after-service health insurance liabilities of the United Nations.

The Secretary-General, in his report on the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) (document A/61/824), recalls that the Assembly, in its decision 61/555, decided on an exceptional basis to authorize him to enter into commitments in an amount of up to $190,000, from the programme budget for 2006-2007, subject to full reimbursement pending receipt of voluntary contributions for the financing of the Institute.

In its resolution 60/229, on the future operation of INSTRAW, the Assembly had decided to provide its full support to the current efforts to revitalize the Institute and to provide it with requisite funds to enable it to carry out its core functions for the biennium 2006-2007. The Fifth Committee, in its decision on the statement submitted by the Secretary-General on programme budget implications (document A/C.5/60/16), took note of the indication in paragraph 18 of the Secretary-General’s statement that “the provision of additional funds to finance operations of the Institute in 2007 would imply an annual subvention to the Institute, which is subject to the express decision of the General Assembly in this regard and to the amendment of article VIII of the statute of the Institute”.

By its resolution 60/247, the Assembly appropriated an amount of some $1.04 million for 2006-2007, to be used for INSTRAW, should there be a shortage of voluntary contributions for its functioning in 2006. In 2006, that appropriation was transferred to the Trust Fund for INSTRAW in order to provide the Institute with sufficient resources.

A recent review of the status of the INSTRAW Trust Fund has revealed that the $385,000 in voluntary contributions received during the biennium 2006-2007 up to 30 April 2007 is insufficient to provide for the functioning of the Institute to the end of 2007. If the $190,000 commitment authority is applied, then the shortfall in resources required for 2007 will amount to $647,900.

Given the need for urgent action to ensure the continuation of INSTRAW activities through 2007 and beyond, the Institute, in its report to the fourth session of its Executive Board, has proposed several options for the Board’s consideration so that recommendations can be made to the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly on the financing of the Institute for the rest of 2007 and beyond. Pending the Assembly’s decision on various options that might be suggested by the Executive Board, the report suggests that the Assembly may wish to consider authorizing an additional commitment of up to $647,900, on an exceptional basis, subject to full reimbursement pending receipt of voluntary contributions, for the financing of INSTRAW for the remainder of 2007.

And finally, the Committee had before it a report of the Secretary-General on appropriate incentives to retain staff of the Tribunals (document A/61/824), which recalls that the Assembly, by its resolutions 61/241 and 61/242, endorsed the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions concerning the introduction of a staff retention bonus at those courts.

An initial proposal to introduce such a bonus was made by the Secretary-General during the main part of the session (document A/61/522), to address the fact that, over the past two years, staff involved in investigations, appeals, prosecution, and Chambers have left the Tribunals well in advance of the completion of their appointments, which is disrupting the pace of trial activity and dates of completion. The closer the Tribunals get to the end of their mandates, there is a risk of an acceleration of departures, which will further slow down the speed of the trials.

In that connection, the Advisory Committee requested the Secretary-General to prepare a comprehensive proposal with the procedure to be applied, the decisions required of the Assembly and a clearer projection of the number of staff required to be retained to achieve the stated objective, taking into account the latest updated time frame of the completion strategy.

The report before the Committee outlines a comprehensive proposal on appropriate incentives to retain staff of the Tribunals, while taking into consideration, to the extent possible and with adaptations, as necessary, the application of existing Staff Regulations and Rules. The establishment of the retention incentive would not entail any financial implications for the current biennium, given that related disbursements would be effected towards the end of the completion strategies in 2009 and 2010. Related requirements -- amounting to $11.2 million for the Rwanda Tribunal and $12.1 million for the former Yugoslavia Tribunal -- would be reflected in the context of the proposed budgets for the years from 2008 to 2010 and would be considered in accordance with established budgetary procedures.

Based on that, the Assembly is requested to authorize the Secretary-General to apply the termination indemnities set out under the heading “Permanent appointments” in annex III to the Staff Regulations and Rules for the specific and sole purpose of approving payments related to the retention incentive for staff of the tribunals under the terms and conditions described in the report.

Peacekeeping Financing

The United Nations Controller, WARREN SACH, introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on MINUSTAH.

The Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), RAJAT SAHA, introduced that body’s report (document A/61/852/Add.15), in which the Advisory Committee recommended that the unencumbered balanced of $36.85 million, as well as other income and adjustments in the amount of some $14.51 million for the 2005-2006 period, be credited to Member States in a manner to be determined by the Assembly.

Regarding the 2007-2008 financial period, the ACABQ recommended that estimated budget requirements be reduced from $537.66 million to $535.37 million. While suggesting some economy measures, the Advisory Committee recommends acceptance of the proposal for 50 additional national General Service posts. The ACABQ noted that the United Nations Security Officers and commercial armed guards would be working together at sites where there were United Nations assets and facilities and trusted that the difference in pay would not lead to unforeseen problems. It expected a commensurate reduction of any provision made under operational costs for general temporary assistance, trusting that requests for large-scale conversion of individual contractors to assignments of limited duration would be avoided.

In general, according to the report, the ACABQ was of the opinion that the resources and capacities already available in the Mission should be evaluated carefully and that consideration should be given to the possibility of redeploying existing staff to cover any new functions. The development of the capacity of national staff would be a key factor in the successful transition to the peacebuilding phase. The ACABQ recommended a review of the staffing structure of all sections, its results to be reflected in the next budget presentation. The review should also focus on aligning the functions and levels of the posts of the Mission with actual responsibilities to be assumed and activities to be accomplished.

LUIS LITHGOW ( Dominican Republic), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said that the Group maintained great interest in establishing a long-lasting and sustainable peace in Haiti. In particular, that commitment had been reaffirmed in the Luxemburg declaration in 2005. In that regard, he welcomed the work of MINUSTAH and stressed the importance of a recent visit of the Economic and Social Council’s Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on Haiti, which had seen first-hand the recent achievements in the country. Although much remained to be done, he recognized that the role of MINUSTAH was fundamental. The countries of the Group also valued bilateral and regional initiatives to strengthen the security situation and improve the well-being of the people, including creation of a humanitarian fund to offer humanitarian aid and create programmes in high-priority social areas in Haiti. Another initiative had been put forward by the Organization of American States to establish Haiti as a top priority on the continent.

Security Council resolution 1743 (2007) had provided a clear mandate for MINUSTAH, which needed to be adequately financed, placing special emphasis on the rule of law, creation of institutional capacity, reinforcement of public information and continuity of quick impact projects and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes. Regarding quick impact projects, as stipulated in paragraph 9 of resolution 1743, he emphasized that maximum efforts should be made to adequately finance those projects, since they promoted acceptance of the Mission by the population and helped develop confidence in the peace process. Quick impact projects must be ensured with the support and participation of the Mission. Also important were appropriate disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, which could promote peace. Funding for those programmes continued to be essential. The Group also supported the transfer of functions to national staff in several areas of the Mission and was pleased that the Mission was planning several projects to promote community skills in violence prevention, reintegration of members of armed groups, and creating awareness among the population with regard to the justice system. He also supported the projects for establishing vocational schools, where tools for learning an occupation would be given to people, and the efforts to improve governance and expansion of the State authority at the local level.

He added that the Haitian Government had approved a reform programme. A central part of MINUSTAH’s mandate, at this stage, was to provide assistance for the implementation of the reform plan. MINUSTAH police needed the necessary resources to create a structure to promote programme and planning development, capacity-building, technical service, administrative services and training. He supported the creation of the post for coordination of the working group on the rule of law at the highest level. The Group also noted with great concern the high vacancy rate at the Mission, which currently stood at 30 per cent for international and 40 per cent for national staff. The Group wanted to know the impact on the budget cuts proposed by the ACABQ. He also noted the role of the disaster recovery operations centre located in INSTRAW, which had provided support for the Mission and provided it with certain stability, should the security situation in Haiti deteriorate.

Statement

OLIVER POULIN ( Canada), speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, said that his delegation strongly supported MINUSTAH and the restoration of peace and security in Haiti. Despite operating in a challenging environment, the Mission had been able to make progress in key areas, including free and fair elections, restoration of security, especially in Port-au-Prince, and the implementation of security sector reform. He said that he also noted the unencumbered balance for the period of 2005-2006, representing 7.1 per cent of the appropriation, as well as the projected unencumbered balance representing 6.2 per cent for the current period. He commended the Secretary-General for that improvement and, while recognizing that peacekeeping budgetary planning was not an exact science, encouraged him to make further progress in refining budgetary assumptions.

He also supported the Secretary-General’s budgetary proposals and most of the ACABQ’s conclusions and recommendations and looked forward to engaging in a discussion with the ACABQ and Secretariat officials, in that regard. He was particularly keen about receiving more information on the rationale for recommending downgrading the post for a coordinator for the working group on the rule of law and its practical impact on the implementation of the mandate. Given the importance of the rule of law reforms, notably in the justice, police and prison sectors, and the crucial timing of those initiatives to ensure stability in Haiti, it was essential to stay the course and ensure that MINUSTAH was equipped with personnel with appropriate skills and experience. He supported the establishment of two P-5 posts in the Mission, as recommended by the ACABQ, to provide advice to the Office of the President of Haiti.

He went on to express concern at the very high vacancy rate of 75 per cent for national officers. That jeopardized the Mission’s role to develop the capacity of national staff, which was a key factor in the transition to a peacebuilding phase. He looked forward to receiving details on the causes for the high vacancy rate and the steps taken by the Secretary-General to improve the situation. He also looked forward to hearing the Secretariat’s views on the feasibility of implementing the recommending of utilizing the existing vacancies, instead of increasing the numbers in the staffing table.

PAULO ROBERTO CAMPOS TARRISSE DA FONTOURA ( Brazil) said his delegation believed that there was no purely military solution to the crisis that had affected Haiti for years. The United Nations and its Member States could not afford to invest so much human and financial resources in a peacekeeping mission and risk the country relapsing into violence and insecurity. Therefore, MINUSTAH should have all the necessary resources to be able to help the Haitian authorities reach an all-inclusive political dialogue and national reconciliation, strengthen national democratic institutions and consolidate States authority, reform the National Police and rehabilitate the judiciary and correction systems, and achieve progress towards the protection and promotion of human rights.

He said that Brazil strongly supported the quick impact projects, which would lead to building trust in the Mission and improving the environment for the effective implementation of its mandate. He said that 125 quick impact projects would be implemented in the areas of training and capacity-building, infrastructure rehabilitation and public services and social mobilization, and added that Brazil supported all the resources earmarked for the projects -- some $2 million -- since “economic difficulties can breed social unrest.”

He went on to stress the importance of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes and asked for assurances from the Secretariat that downgrading one P-3 post to a P-2 level in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration Section would not in any way hamper implementation of the Mission’s mandate in that area. He supported the creation of a post for the coordinator of the working group on the rule of law at the D-2 level, in the Office of the Principle Deputy Special Representative. That level was fully justifiable for the technical and substantive complexity involved in the implementation of the rule of law reform process, as well as of the fact that he or she would serve as interlocutor for the international community.

FRANCISCO JAVIER ARIAS CÁRDENAS ( Venezuela) associated himself with the position of the Rio Group and said that his country had a historic debt to pay to the sister republic to Haiti -- a pioneer for the struggle for independence. Haitian leaders had provided a springboard for the struggle to prohibit slavery on the continent. Peace in Haiti should be the focus of international attention. The Haitian people had sought to restore constitutional order in their country and elected the Government of President Preval in a democratic vote. However, partial foreign interests had been undermining those efforts.

He appreciated the contribution of the United Nations Mission to restoring democratic institutions and promoting compliance with the principles of the United Nations Charter, he said. The Mission’s main objective should be to support the Government of Haiti. He supported the implementation of quick impact projects in social areas, which should not be limited in time or resources. It was important to create a climate of security in the country without the use of coercive actions. Activities of United Nations staff must meet the requirements set by the Haitian authorities. Any international efforts must not negatively infringe on the right of the Haitian people to decide their own destiny. It was the duty of the international community to ensure the transparency of the electoral process.

His country had concluded a number of agreements to provide assistance for the development of the sister republic of Haiti, he continued. In particular, Venezuela had made an initial contribution of $20 million to the humanitarian fund, had donated some $57 million for the projects to rebuild the country’s airports and made a donation of $1 million for hospitals and food. It had also sent 2 million litres of gas and oil to provide for Haiti’s energy needs and sent food and medicine through the special Caribbean fund. Venezuela was involved in the environmental cleanup projects in Haiti and provided electric power under preferential conditions. The most recent agreement guaranteed the right of peoples to have access to energy resources through an exchange system that was favourable, equitable and just. A constructive solidarity and cooperation system with the Haitian people had been established in the Caribbean.

MÓNICA SÁNCHEZ IZQUIERDO ( Ecuador) associated herself with the position of the Rio Group and emphasized the importance of the design and planning stage of peacekeeping operations, which should be carried out in a coordinated and consistent fashion. It was important to ensure that post-conflict countries had the dividends of peace. Ecuador had been contributing to MINUSTAH and believed that the implementation of quick impact projects made a substantive difference. MINUSTAH had been the only source of authority and protection in remote areas. The presence of the UN system in Haiti had led to the creation of jobs, fostered confidence, and improved the security situation in the country.

Ecuador attached particular importance to the issue of training, she continued. The country had been able to increase its provision of troops and provide a national framework for training. Her country was committed to peace and security worldwide, had contributed troops to missions and was paying a greater percentage to peacekeeping than to the regular budget of the United Nations. In that connection, she reiterated her concern over delays in reimbursement to troop-contributing countries and appealed for a solution to that situation.

LÉO MÉRORÈS ( Haiti) expressed his Government’s deepest gratitude for the many statements that had been made in support of Haiti. He also thanked the international community for its efforts to ensure peace and stability in his country. He particularly thanked MINUSTAH for its efforts, which had led to a level of security not seen in Haiti for some time. He urged the international community to recognize that the progress must continue apace to ensure wider peace and stability.

Turning to the reports before the Committee, he said that his delegations supported the quick impact projects and would look forward to their implementation as soon as possible. He also supported the creation, under the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, of the seven community anti-violence commissions in the most violent areas. At the same time, he was very concerned about the downgrade of several posts in the mission.

Next, Mr. SACH, United Nations Controller, introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on the United Nations Logistics base at Brindisi (documents A/61/979 and A/61/752), on the implementation of the strategic deployment stocks, including the functioning of the existing mechanisms for rapid deployment (document A/61/795).

Mr. SAHA, Chairman of ACABQ, introduced his Committee’s related report (document A/61/852/Add.14). He said that the ACABQ’s recommendations would entail a reduction of $378,100, which reflected its recommendations on the pilot projects for the Personnel Management Support Service, the restructuring of the Logistics Base Services and the Tenant Units, as well as the non-application of a provision of 8 per cent of net salaries for after-service health insurance liabilities, pending a decision by the General Assembly on the funding of after-service health insurance.

On the proposals to establish three new Tenant Units at Brindisi, the Committee was recommending acceptance of the Secretary-General’s proposals to establish a Strategic Air Operations Centre with a staffing component of five posts. As for the establishment of the Geographic Information System Centre and the Engineering Design Unit, the Committee recommended that, at this stage, the posts requested be funded from general temporary assistance.

Concerning the restructuring of the Logistics Base, the ACABQ recommended acceptance of the proposal to establish four national posts. It was of the opinion that the reorganization of the Base’s services, based on refiguring existing functions and separating the activities related to the support of the Base and those in support of field missions, should be cost neutral and not inflate grade structure. The ACABQ, therefore, recommended against the proposal for reclassifying posts at a higher level, or the establishment of new posts at a grade level higher than those that were to be abolished.

LINDA WONG, Chief of Service II of the Programme Planning Budget Division, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the financial situation of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) (document A/61/897).

Introducing the ACABQ report on the matter (document A/61/924), Mr. SAHA said that the Advisory Committee considered that the fundamental issues confronting INSTRAW remained unresolved: the requirement to operate in the basis of voluntary funding, on the one hand; and the insufficiency of such funding to date, on the other. ACABQ had been informed that the Executive Board of INSTRAW would be meeting tomorrow. Subject to approval of the Institute’s budget by the Executive Board and the payment of further voluntary contributions, the proposal of the Secretary-General would entail authorizing the Secretary-General, on an exceptional basis, to enter into commitments in the amount of $647,900.

IMTIAZ HUSSAIN (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, reaffirmed General Assembly resolution 60/229, which had decided, among other things, to provide its full support to the current efforts to revitalize the Institute and to provide it with the requisite funds to enable it to carry out its core functions for 2006-2007. The lack of implementation of that resolution was the principal factor behind the financial uncertainty faced by the Institute. The Assembly, taking note of the serious financial situation of INSTRAW, had authorized the Secretary-General to enter into commitments for the financing of INSTRAW in an amount of $190,000. Regrettably, the Group’s position on providing sufficient funds to the Institute until the end of 2007 had not been accepted, which had forced the Assembly to face this issue once again, less than two months after its earlier decision.

The Group considered INSTRAW to be the only institution of the United Nations system with a mandate for advance training and research for women, and one of the few established in a developing country. He recognized and appreciated the full support that the host country was providing for the Institute. He also expressed appreciation to those Member States that had provided it with voluntary contributions and acknowledged the participation of INSTRAW in the activities of other United Nations entities and mandates, such as peacekeeping. The Group requested the donors who had pledged financial assistance to expedite their delivery in order to enable the Institute to gain financial stability and pursue its programmatic activities. The Group would seek further information from INSTRAW’s Executive Board on its budget and status of voluntary contributions. It fully supported authorizing the Secretary-General to enter into commitments in the amount of $647,900. That was imperative and appropriate to help the Institute continue with its useful role in the advancement of women, which was one of the key objectives of the United Nations.

Mr. LITHGOW (Dominican Republic) speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said his delegation fully and unconditionally supported INSTRAW, which was one of the very few institutions in the United Nations system located in a developing country and the only one dedicated to the training of women. His delegation believed that it was more than capable of carrying out its mandate, particularly in areas of development and the advancement of women. At the same time, INSTRAW would continue to need the support of the international community, so it could continue to carry out its core functions and other important work.

Despite INSTRAW’s precarious financial situation, the Director had been able to carry out important strategic work, he continued. It was also important to recognize the support the Institute was giving to the nearby United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti. He thanked Member States that had continued to make voluntary contributions to INSTRAW and would urge others to do likewise. The Group agreed with the ACABQ’s recommendation that INSTRAW should “pursue efforts to diversify its funding bases”. He hoped that the Committee would welcome -- without entering into polemical debate -- a mechanism to ensure adequate funding for INSTRAW to carry out its work in 2007.

ANDREW S. HILLMAN ( United States) said he was concerned over the financial difficulties that continued to beset INSTRAW. He noted the Institute’s recent efforts to improve performance and its management reorganization plans, which had resulted in greater efficiencies. But, those improvements did not mask the fact that INSTRAW, as a voluntarily funded organization, continued to lack sufficient support from donor States to sustain its present level of activity.

In resolution 60/247, the Assembly had appropriated $1.04 million for 2006-2007 to be used by INSTRAW, should there be a shortage of voluntary contributions. That amount had subsequently been transferred to the Trust Fund for the Institute. In resolution 60/248, the Assembly had agreed to provide INSTRAW with $242,000 to “cover the amount of rental, maintenance and other administrative costs associated with conducting the core training programme for the biennium 2006-2007”. Those actions were taken consistent with the Assembly’s earlier decision, in paragraph 10 of resolution 60/229 “to provide INSTRAW with the requisite funds to enable it to carry out its core functions for the biennium 2006-2007”. Subsequently, in resolution 61/255 in March this year, the Assembly had granted INSTRAW $190,000 in commitment authority, on an exceptional, reimbursable basis.

The record, therefore, was clear that, despite the unambiguous language of article VI of INSTRAW’s statute, which stated that “the activities of the Institute shall be funded by voluntary contributions”, the Assembly nonetheless had repeatedly gone to great lengths to compensate for INSTRAW’s funding shortfalls. In that regard, the ACABQ correctly noted that “the fundamental issues confronting INSTRAW remain unresolved: the requirement to operate on the basis of voluntary funding … and the insufficiency of such funding”. The United States believed that it was not now the responsibility of all Member States, through assessed contribution, to again grant INSTRAW commitment authority, this time more than three times the amount requested two months ago, to provide for the functioning of the Institute through the end of 2007. Contrary to suggestions made in March that voluntary contributions would be forthcoming to reimburse the $190,000 authorized, as well as to fund the balance of the budget, those events had not occurred, and INSTRAW was once again seeking a subvention to continue its operations. INSTRAW’s repeated requests to the Assembly for subventions were an inappropriate and unsuitable basis for its future operation.

The programme should re-examine its budget and work plan and reduce its overhead to accurately reflect current levels of donor commitments, rather than seek an additional subvention, he said. The ACABQ recommended that INSTRAW’s budget should be formulated in a way to be more closely aligned with the volume of voluntary resources available to it. He fully concurred with that assessment. It was the responsibility of Member States that supported the work of INSTRAW to provide sufficient resources to enable its successful functioning. The United Nations had never been intended to serve as a bank or lending institution to rescue financially troubled programmes. It certainly should not be tasked to perform such functions now. At a time when Member States were being called upon to sustain record-level United Nations budgets, the Organization could not afford to subsidize a programme that had been established on the basis that it would be funded through voluntary contributions.

Mr. YAMADA ( Japan) reiterated his country’s basic position that -- as clearly stipulated in the Institute’s statute -- its activities should be funded by voluntary contributions. Therefore, subventions were unacceptable. They undermined sound management and financial discipline and should no longer be used. During the first resumed session, the Assembly had decided, on an exceptional basis, to provide commitment authority of $190,000 to the Institute under the programme budget, subject to full reimbursement pending receipt of voluntary contributions. However, the reports before the Committee showed that INSTRAW had not succeeded in making that reimbursement and, now, a projection had been presented to the Committee that some $647,900 would be required to finance the Institute’s activities through the end of 2007. That raised serious questions on the planning capacity of INSTRAW, which had been unsuccessful in raising voluntary contributions. He urged INSTRAW to meet its obligation to return $190,000 and reiterated that subventions would not be made to finance the activities of the Institute.

Financing of Tribunals

DENNIS THATCHAICHAWALIT, Chief of Service I of the Programme Planning and Budget Division, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on a comprehensive proposal on appropriate incentives to retain staff of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (document A/61/824).

Presenting a related ACABQ report (document A/61/923), Mr. SAHA recalled that the Secretary-General had indicated that the retention incentive would apply only to staff who were required to remain with the Tribunals until their services were no longer needed and their posts were abolished. The Tribunals had undertaken a rigorous review of the anticipated workload in 2008-2009, on the basis of the actual number of remaining cases to be tried and the staff complement needed for each case, in order to determine the requirements to support the trials and appeals. Following the completion of fist instance trials, as the Tribunals moved to the appeals phase, a consequential reduction in the number of posts was envisaged.

The Advisory Committee recognized the special features of the Tribunals, including the fact that a large proportion of their staff performed specialized functions not readily available within the United Nations system. Under the circumstances, it considered the use of a retention incentive, on the basis of the terms of annex III of the Staff Rules, to be a valid option for enabling the Tribunals to retain required staff until their posts were abolished. The ACABQ recommended that consideration be given to increasing the number of years of service required before key staff became eligible for the retention incentive, from 2 to 5 years of continuous service, until the post was abolished. In the present circumstances, the retention incentive would become effective from the 2008-2009 biennium. Therefore, the Advisory Committee recommended that the administrative arrangements for retention incentives be based on an ad hoc decision of the General Assembly, rather than an amendment of Staff Rules.

Mr. HUSSAIN (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said his delegation attached great importance to the mandates of the Rwanda and Yugoslavia Tribunals and, with the completion of their work in sight, clearly understood the uncertainty and anxiety of their respective staffs. The Group fully appreciated the highly specialized functions of the Tribunals’ staffs, whose continuity was imperative for finishing all the cases before the respective judicial bodies. He stressed that the issue had been before the Assembly for some years now and said that he believed the Secretary-General’s current report met the requirements of the relevant Assembly resolutions, which had requested a comprehensive proposal on appropriate incentives to retain staff and attendant financial implications. The strategy outlined in the report provided a good basis for a decision in the current session, he added.

The costs of losing professional, specialized and trained staff at the final stages of the Tribunals’ work would seriously harm the current and future multi-accused and complex cases, as well as other substantive functions of the Tribunals. The Group agreed with the Secretary-General that a retention incentive would lead to substantial savings in terms of lost productivity and costs of rotating staff, and affect the morale and personal interests of staff members. Retention of personnel in both Tribunals was a key element to ensure the completion of their work in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the Assembly and the Security Council. He added that, during informal consultations on the matter, the Group would request further information on the specific categories of staff that were vitally essential for the bodies to conclude their work without major interruptions, as well as the financial implications resulting from the introduction of a retention incentive.

PETER WOESTE (Germany), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that his delegation strongly supported the Tribunals and paid special tribute to all the personnel for their valuable and honourable work. The Union recognized the challenges that the Tribunals might be facing, and believed that the main objective shared by all delegations was to keep the core personnel. The commitment of those personnel to stay with the Tribunals would be crucial during the completion period to avoid any unnecessary delays. “We have to find the right approach to tackle this potential problem,” he said, adding that the Union looked forward to further clarifications during informal consultations, including on assumptions contained in the comprehensive proposal, the planned downsizing of the tribunals throughout the completion phase and the possible precedents that could be established by the measure.

YASUO KISHIMOTO ( Japan) said that the report of the Secretary-General did not address the conclusions and recommendations contained in the previous ACABQ report, document A/61/591, which had been endorsed by the General Assembly during the main part of its sixty-first session. Assurance must be given that the Secretary-General’s proposal to introduce the retention bonus ensured the strict compliance of the completion strategy of the Tribunals. The agenda had huge implications in terms of human resources management. Even if the intention of the proposed retention bonus was to ensure an ad hoc body to carry out its mandate on time, it would clearly be deemed as a precedent for other current and future United Nations operations. If the Assembly were to make any move on the issue, careful consideration should be given to the implications of the proposal for the common system.

The Secretary-General did not give Member States a presumed case for the settlement of the Tribunals by 2010, he continued. Precise cost-benefit analysis had not been provided, based on the projection. The financial implications in the report were not persuasive. For example, why was the annual turnover rate of 20 per cent presumed to be reduced by 10 per cent if a retention incentive were introduced? Cost estimates should be determined precisely, on the basis of the drawdown plan for the Tribunals, which clearly defined the expertise, functions and posts that would be required during the foreseeable phases of the completion strategy. The Secretary-General should provide a complete picture of anticipated post reductions for 2008-2009, in line with the completion strategy. The current proposal, in which the retention bonus was applied to every job category, had to be re-examined. The scope should be more narrowly focused on those staff whose expertise made their retention essential to the Tribunals’ fulfilling their mandates on schedule. Without the necessary basic information, his delegation did not support the reports of the Secretary-General or the ACABQ.

STEVEN SSENABULYA NKAYIVU (Uganda), speaking on behalf of the African Group, supported the position of the Group of 77 and noted with appreciation that the Secretary-General had promptly responded to the Assembly’s request for a comprehensive proposal on the procedure to be applied, the decisions required of the Assembly and a clearer projection of the staff required to achieve the objective of retaining key personnel needed by the Tribunals, taking into account the latest time frames. The Group rendered full support to the Tribunals and believed that all efforts should be made to ensure that they received adequate facilitation, to enable them to fulfil their mandates on time.

The Assembly should take measures to ensure that the Tribunals were able to implement their respective completion strategies, he continued. He took note of the high turnover rates within the Tribunals, and the advice of the ACABQ, in its previous report (document A/61/591), for the need to provide incentives to keep staff as a means of addressing that problem. He also recalled report A/61/522, where it was indicated that the financial implications arising from the introduction of a retention incentive would far offset the additional costs related to higher rates of staff turnover. It was abundantly clear that the Assembly needed to resolve the matter once and for all. He hoped the information provided in the report before the Committee would positively guide it in its deliberations.

BENJAMIN ANDRES GARCÍA ( United States) said that his delegation supported the important work of the tribunals. The United States believed that the reports before the Committee provided a useful means to again consider the issue of appropriate incentives to retain key staff through the life of these tribunals, a topic that has been discussed since the ACABQ November 2004 report. Nevertheless, two years later, two essential pieces of the retention incentive puzzle, a comprehensive drawdown plan identifying key posts and the correlation between a successful retention bonus incentive and an acceptable turnover rate, remained unsolved.

Regarding the comprehensive drawdown plan, as the ACABQ report noted, the Secretary-General had not responded to the ACABQ and Member States’ requests that a comprehensive proposal to retain staff be submitted to ensure the smooth functioning of the Tribunals that would contain “…more precise determination of the expertise, functions and posts, that would be required during the foreseeable phases of the completion strategy…” Instead, the Tribunals developed an overall staffing complement needed to support future trials and appeals. While that might be helpful to the Tribunals, it did not address the ACABQ and Member States’ requests.

The United States would reiterate its request for the above information, which it believed would be extremely useful for Member States to review prior to implementing any retention bonus. Absent more information, the United States did not automatically support the proposition that, as the completion of the Tribunals’ work approached, all or even the majority of current staff were key and needed to be provided incentives to retain their services. Authorization for retention pay must address and be limited to evolving specific needs of the Tribunals as they reach the conclusion of their mandates.

Regarding the proposed retention bonus proposal, he asked for more information regarding the correlation between how that particular bonus scheme would affect projected staff turnover. The Secretary-General’s projected turnover calculations seemed to be based on past Tribunal staff turnover rates, and not on current human resources data focused on keeping key positions filled through the Tribunals’ mandate. His delegation would also like clarification on whether permanent staff would be eligible for retention bonuses in addition to the increase of 50 per cent in their termination indemnities that was allowed under applicable Staff Regulations.

The United States was willing to consider seriously retention incentives that were directed to secure the retention of mission-critical staff members who have the expertise, institutional knowledge and skills necessary to ensure the effective and efficient functioning of the Tribunals through the close of their respective mandates, and looked forward to the Committee’s discussions on that important issue.



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