Remarks on the Organization of Work for the Second Part of the Resumed Sixty-Seventh Session, Before the Fifth Committee of the UN General Assembly

Ambassador Joseph M Torsella
U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform 
New York, NY
May 6, 2013




AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The United States remains, as ever, a staunch supporter of United Nations peacekeeping, and we express our gratitude to all of the personnel deployed in peacekeeping missions as well as those at Headquarters supporting the work of peacekeepers in the field. We also pay profound tribute to all of the personnel who have made the ultimate sacrifice while working in the pursuit of peace.

Regarding the draft program of work for the second part of the resumed session as prepared by the bureau, my delegation is concerned by the limited time scheduled for consideration of each of the agenda items, including the budgets proposed for each of the peacekeeping missions. The financial requirements for these missions are extraordinarily significant, the associated reports are substantial, and we wish to ensure that there is sufficient time to engage representatives of the Secretariat and to conduct the analysis and due diligence expected of us by both our governments and our taxpayers.

We are mindful, of course, of the constraints imposed by the four weeks allocated for our consideration of these issues, and therefore we urge the efficient use of the conference services that are available before the scheduled conclusion of the session on 31 May, and state my delegation’s readiness to take all of the steps appropriate to facilitate a timely conclusion to the work of the Committee.

Mr. Chairman,

For the past few years, United Nations peacekeeping has sometimes been described as being in a period of consolidation after a historical high during the 2009/2010 financial period, when the combined requirements for peacekeeping operations and support to the African Union Mission in Somalia totaled nearly $7.9 billion. For the upcoming 2013/2014 financial period and with the establishment on 25 April of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) we are, however, on track for what could potentially be the highest level of peacekeeping requirements in the 67-year history of the Organization.

In the past few years, the efforts of both the Secretariat and this Committee have yielded improvements in service delivery and decreases in operational costs through initiatives such as the Global Field Support Strategy, the establishment of efficiency targets, and prudent asset management decisions. These welcome initiatives must not only be continued, but accelerated.

At the same time though as this new focus on logistics and supply chain management backing up forces in the field, insufficient attention has been given to the numbers, costs and organization of the associated civilian personnel in field missions. The General Assembly began to address this cost and performance driver in resolution 66/264, when it directed the Secretary-General to “comprehensively review the civilian staffing requirements for each peacekeeping mission…to ensure that the civilian staffing structure is appropriate for the mission mandate and reflects staffing best practices”.

The Secretary-General has informed us that he has indeed initiated a review of the Field Service category. We stress, however, that the review mandated by the General Assembly was not limited to the Field Service category, but covered all categories of staff and was indeed intended to be “comprehensive”. Therefore, we fully expect to be presented with justifications not just for the establishment, abolition, redeployment, or reclassification of individual posts, but also a detailed explanation of how the current Security Council mandate, the situation on the ground, and the current status of mission deployment necessitate the proposed level of staffing for each discrete component of the mission, we also expect that this type of analysis will be able to eventually generate benchmarks for the staffing requirements associated with individual tasks. While we don’t expect this level of detail for every peacekeeping mission every year, we expect this type of analysis to be presented for all missions periodically, for example every two or three years, for every mission, and especially after significant changes in mandate.

For example, when looking at the staffing tables for UNMIL and UNOCI, two similarly-sized missions located in the same region, one sees considerable differences between the two missions in staffing requests for different sections. Some of this can certainly be attributed to some variation in their mandated tasks, but even on the mission support side, there are considerable differences in the staffing levels for the different sections despite the broad similarities in mission size and operating environment. For example, UNMIL has just 23% more staff than UNOCI, but its human resources section is more than double the size of that of UNOCI, while the UNOCI medical section is 61% larger than that of UNMIL. The ratio of substantive to mission support staff also varies tremendously across missions. My delegation recognizes that mission structures differ for a wide variety of reasons and that these illustrative variations between UNMIL and UNOCI may well be appropriate. What we are seeking is not a one-size-fits-all staffing table, but rather a baseline from which we can objectively consider necessary staffing variations for each mission.

Such a review is important on several levels. From a performance perspective, a regular review is required to ensure that staff resources are being most appropriately deployed and that the distribution of staff in the mission reflect the actual current needs of the mission rather than reflecting previous requirements that may now be superseded. From a budgetary perspective, a review is necessary as, despite an overall reduction by 2% of civilian staff and UNVs in the Secretary-General’s request, the associated requirements are actually 3% higher than the level approved for the 2012/2013 period. And from a security perspective, a review is also necessary to help minimize risk to civilian personnel serving in the field as the United Nations deploys in increasingly difficult and dangerous situations.

With considerations such as these in mind, my delegation therefore intends to very closely scrutinize the staffing requirements for peacekeeping operations in the context of this Committee’s consideration of the individual budget requests, as well as to address the broader policy questions related to civilian staffing through the negotiations on cross-cutting issues.

Mr. Chairman,

During his first term, as you know, President Obama committed my government to meeting all of its peacekeeping financial obligations, which are considerable, in full and on time. The network of obligations and commitments that binds us all does not run only in one direction but is mutual: as Member States have commitments to the Organization, the Organization has commitments to Member States, and Member States have commitments to each other. And a core commitment upon which we have relied for many years now is that peacekeeping budgetary decisions will be made—and will only be made—by consensus. As such, I reaffirm my delegation’s firm commitment to the principle of consensus-based decision-making that governs the work of the Fifth Committee, and our refusal to acquiesce to any erosion of that principle. Under your very able leadership, Mr. Chairman, we look forward to constructive engagement with all colleagues on all of the important issues on our agenda and positive outcomes reached by consensus that strengthen the global partnership and sustain the important work of United Nations peacekeeping over the coming year.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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PRN: 2013/067