UN: Proposed USD 80.9 million logistical support package for African Union Mission on Somalia taken up by budget committee

Speakers in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning expressed general support for the Secretary-General’s request for an .9 million commitment authority, with assessment, for the provision of logistical support to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), while also stressing the need to coordinate the efforts of various entities on the ground, avoid duplication and ensure adequate oversight and transparency of the project.

The Security Council, in its resolution 1863 of 16 January 2009, expressed its intent to establish a United Nations peacekeeping operation in Somalia as a follow-on force to the African Union Mission, subject to its further decision by 1 June 2009. The Secretary-General, in order for African Union forces to be incorporated into a United Nations operation, was requested to provide a United Nations logistical support package to AMISOM, including equipment and services, but not including the transfer of funds. Estimated at .9 million for the period from 1 May 2007 to 30 June 2009, the amount requested included million previously authorized by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).

Outlining the proposal, the Director of the Peacekeeping Financing Division, Catherine Vendat, and the Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Field Support, Susana Malcorra, explained that the package would provide for the deployment of 243 United Nations personnel, comprising 184 international and 59 national staff, in support of AMISOM, as well as equipment and services.

According to the Secretary-General, the support package would break new ground for the United Nations. In order to coordinate its delivery, he was proposing the establishment of a new support office for AMISOM, headquartered in Nairobi, with a smaller presence in Entebbe and Addis Ababa.

Presenting the ACABQ report on the matter, its Chair, Susan McLurg, said the Advisory Committee had been informed that the support office would be a stand-alone entity, separate from the United Nations Political Office in Somalia (UNPOS), and that it would report directly to the Under-Secretary-General for Field Support. The headquarters of the proposed office would be located within the Gigiri compound at the United Nations Office at Nairobi, in space leased from the Nairobi Office under a cost-sharing arrangement. ACABQ encouraged the Secretary-General to take full advantage of relevant facilities and services available there. It also stressed the importance of close cooperation between the support office and AMISOM.

The representative of the Czech Republic, speaking on behalf of the European Union, which provides a significant amount of AMISOM’s budget, saw the proposal as a pragmatic way forward, where the Security Council had identified a strong strategic interest in supporting the success of a mission of one of its important partners. In that context, the European Union was ready to provide assessed funding for the support package envisaged in resolution 1863 (2009). The Union would, of course, seek more information and clarifications, including on issues relating to accountability, the size and scope of the package, interrelations and the institutional framework. As with other United Nations missions, the Union wanted to closely examine the staffing proposals and deployment assumptions, also looking at the budget level.

The funding proposal was a ground-breaking step in terms of cooperation with a regional organization engaged in peacekeeping on behalf of the United Nations, said the representative of Djibouti, who spoke for the African Group. Logistical challenges had led to delays in the full deployment of AMISOM, and the Group agreed with the need to provide a United Nations logistical support package to the African Union Mission. The package would set the scene for AMISOM’s envisaged troop strength of 8,000 and 270 civilian police, as well as possible establishment of a United Nations-led operation in Somalia. It would also have a positive impact on the security and political climate in Somalia. The Group strongly believed that the Secretary-General’s proposal would play a key role in facilitating the strengthening of AMISOM’s capabilities for the peace process in Somalia.

Ethiopia’s representative fully supported the Secretary-General’s proposal and the ACABQ recommendation for the financing of AMISOM. His country’s defence forces had moved into Somalia two years ago to foil the clear and present danger created by extremist forces, with a clear intent to help the brotherly people of Somalia. Since day one, his Government had been calling on the international community to discharge its responsibilities by supporting AMISOM and transforming it later on into a United Nations peacekeeping operation. The proposed support package, although late, was appropriate and must be delivered in an effective and efficient manner.

He valued the emphasis given to coordination among support offices, logistic hubs and liaisons, he said. Exploring further opportunities in the already identified countries of the subregion would help to strengthen AMISOM and speed up the process of establishing a United Nations peacekeeping mission. He trusted that the discussion following the formal meeting would carefully take into account issues pertaining to rules and regulations of procurement and staffing structure. Any delay in the financing of AMISOM and setting up a United Nations peacekeeping mission would have serious consequences, not only in Somalia, but also in the region as a whole.

The representatives of Burundi and Uganda, AMISOM’s two troop contributors, expressed concern over the fact that full deployment of the African Union Mission was yet to be realized and called on all the countries that had promised troops to honour their commitments. Of the authorized 8,000 troops, only 3,450 were currently deployed, composed of two battalions each from Burundi and Uganda, they said.

Burundi’s representative said the military equipment provided to AMISOM was rudimentary and unable to withstand attacks from armed groups, and troops were not sufficient in number. His country was prepared to deploy a third battalion, but that would only be effective if the conditions on the ground improved. If conditions remained precarious, the situation could degenerate in the whole Horn of Africa. That would be a shared failure of the international community and success for armed groups, who could interpret that as their victory. He awaited with interest the report of the Secretary-General on the situation on the ground and the decision of the Security Council on a possible United Nations mission. In the meantime, assistance must be provided to AMISOM.

Uganda’s representative said that, while arrangements were under way to deploy a third battalion from Uganda, with consultations for a third one from Burundi ongoing, “we should not wait until the security situation gets to what we want it to be, before deploying the requisite troop strength. The time for full deployment of AMISOM is now, otherwise we may wait indefinitely.”

Commending the adoption of resolution 1863 (2009) as a landmark step forward, he noted that the Council envisaged support to AMISOM equivalent to that provided to a United Nations peacekeeping force of comparable size and nature, and the Advisory Committee had not proposed reductions to the Secretary-General’s proposal. Cooperation and support of all delegations for the proposed support package would be critical. The fact that UNPOS was still located outside Mogadishu and the proposed logistics support office would operate from Nairobi, was a clear reminder of the work ahead: to make Somalia secure, for Somalis and international staff.

The representative of Japan commented on the need to follow relevant rules and procedures in connection with the commitment authority and the foreseeable budget for 2009/10, ensure adequate oversight and transparency, and avoid duplication of functions and planning assumptions for the support office and staffing. Concurring with ACABQ, he stressed the importance of an early conclusion of a memorandum of understanding between the United Nations and the African Union and the need to establish a robust mechanism to ensure effective management, accountability and internal control. He also shared the ACABQ concern that the proposed structure of the support office was top-heavy and agreed that the 204 proposed posts should be established on a temporary basis until a fully justified budget was presented.

Concerned about possible duplication, he urged the Secretary-General to integrate some of the functions of two existing planning teams in Addis Ababa and New York into the structure of the support office in the next budget submission. He was looking forward to a realistic assessment from the Secretary-General on the situation on the ground and expected that necessary refinements would be made in the planning for the support office in the context of the 2009/10 budget. Moreover, that assessment should provide the basis for a budget submission for UNPOS for 2009. He concurred with ACABQ that future submissions should provide an integrated presentation of all the resources required for planning activities with regard to Somalia.

While supporting a logistical support package to AMISOM and creating the conditions for its future incorporation in a United Nations mission, China’s representative warned that new challenges on the ground would require corresponding support staff. He was pleased that the Secretary-General had put forward some planning assumptions and initiatives, including the establishment of a support office, and had already set up a trust fund. Among the measures that would be conducive to full utilization of resources and strengthening of coordination, he mentioned the Secretary-General’s assurances that, in providing support to AMISOM, transparency and effectiveness would be ensured in the disposal of United Nations resources; that a memorandum of understanding would be signed with the African Union; and that the support office would explore options for common arrangements with other entities in the area.

He also asked for further details as to the challenges in the provision of logistical support and procurement according to United Nations standards, rules and regulations. He hoped all Member States would set their sight on the long-term goal of promoting the Somali peace process, take an active part in the consideration of the item, fully display the spirit of cooperation and reach consensus on the issues concerned as soon as possible.

The United States representative said that his country was the largest humanitarian donor to Somalia, providing over 7 million in assistance since 2007. His country had also borne the costs of providing logistical and other support to AMISOM over the past two years in the amount of over 0 million.

Noting a number of positive developments in Somalia in recent weeks, he said there was now an unprecedented coalescence of Somali political forces. In response, negative forces were seeking to undermine the peace process and the security situation remained tenuous. The United States supported the important role of AMISOM and the decision to strengthen support for that Mission. With that in mind, he looked forward to the Fifth Committee authorizing the funding requested to ensure that progress made would not be reversed and the path leading to peace and stability in Somalia would be strengthened. The United States would not be contributing to the trust fund, which had been set up to provide financial support to AMISOM and assist in the establishment of all-inclusive Somali security forces, but it would continue to provide direct support to the African Union Mission and Somalia’s security sector reform. He encouraged other countries to either provide in-kind direct support or contribute to the trust fund.

The Committee will meet at 10 a.m. Thursday, 26 March, to consider a series of reports on safety and security.

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