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UN budget decisions and disagreements on peacekeeping and peacebuilding

10 July 2023

By Katja Hemmerich


UN Meeting Room

On Friday, 30 June 2023, the General Assembly (GA) approved budgets related to peacekeeping, one month later than scheduled, and only one day before the new budget period started for peacekeeping (peacekeeping budgets go from 1 July until 30 June of the following year).


This week we examine the UN's budget decisions and disagreements on peacekeeping and peacebuilding and the related dynamics in the GA's Fifth Committee that led to those (dis)agreements.


Upon the recommendation of the Fifth Committee, the GA plenary approved $6.1 billion dollars for UN peacekeeping missions. This includes funds for the UN Logistics Base in Brindisi, the Regional Service Center in Entebbe and nine active peacekeeping missions. MINUSMA, the peacekeeping mission in Mali, which the Government recently requested the UN to withdraw, received a separate commitment authority allowing the Secretary-General to spend no more than $590 million in order to downsize and withdraw the mission by the end of 2023.

Funding for the MINUSMA withdrawal was a key point of contention at this second resumed session of the Fifth Committee, and the $590 million commitment authority was a compromise solution to avert a budgetary shutdown for peacekeeping. Several member states, as well as the Secretariat, raised serious concerns that the lack of warning and preparations for the MINUSMA withdrawal would considerably raise the risks for the UN, and the costs of withdrawal.

On the surface, the $590 million dollars for MINUSMA to simply withdraw in six months seems comparable to the annual budgets approved for other large operational peacekeeping missions, such as MONUSCO in the Democratic Republic of Congo ($1.17 billion) or UNMISS in South Sudan ($1.26 billion). However, $303 million (or 51%) of the MINUSMA commitment authority needs to be used just to reimburse the troop contributing countries for their contributions to the mission. There is little extra room for operational needs that still exist despite the cessation of operations. The tight budget and timelines mean it will be difficult, for instance, to ensure robust protection for the mission as its forces withdraw. More importantly, MINUSMA has a disproportionately high number of troops for a mission that is supposed to have withdrawn in the next six months.

Despite the cessation of operations, MINUSMA still has 12,420 uniformed personnel and 4,313 civilian personnel. This is because the Security Council, at the request of the Malian Government, agreed to withdraw the mission without any preparation. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) had 6,200 uniformed personnel and 1.453 civilian personnel when it commenced its drawdown. Many of the civilian personnel are national staff, who will receive little, if any support, for transitioning to the local job market through skills development programmes and job fairs, as is common during drawdown processes.

The consequences of the compromise agreement on the $590 million commitment authority for MINUSMA remain to be seen. For the most part, the agreement on the remaining mission budgets was relatively close to what each mission requested.

The other area of agreement was on updated rates and standards for reimbursement to Member States for contingent-owned equipment (COE). The COE standards included several improvements intended to create a more enabling environment for female uniformed peacekeepers, as we highlighted in our 14 May newsletter).

This is particularly important this year, given the absence of agreement on a cross-cutting resolution for peacekeeping. The cross-cutting resolution generally provides the substantive direction and guidance of member states, including on gender and geographic balance, as well as financial management, operational requirements, misconnection and protection from sexual exploitation and abuse. Lack of a resolution with updated guidance can lead to problems of interpretation across stakeholders, so the update guidance as set out in the COE standards will help support the continuing improvement in gender equality in peacekeeping.

Member states also failed to find agreement on the request for $100 million of assessed funding for peacebuilding (see our 12 March newsletter). Several delegations, including the United States and Mexico, indicated publicly that some positive progressive had been made in negotiations. It seems that there may be potential to agree on a new assessment mechanism for assessed contributions specifically for peacebuilding, which resulted in the issue being deferred to the 78th session next year, rather than being dropped completely. China has indicated publicly that it does not feel its concerns have been addressed yet, and reiterated the need to respect member states governance authority and oversight over assessed funding. Thus there is still some way to go before member states are likely to come to an agreement.

The second resumed session focused on financing of peacekeeping has demonstrated that member states still have a vested interest in peacekeeping and are willing and able to find some level of mutual agreement to keep the lights on in the missions. The most difficult issue - MINUSMA - was created through external factors, and the Fifth Committee’s ability to find solutions, however imperfect, should be recognized.

Nevertheless, as pointed by the Controller, the fact that this is the third consecutive year that the session has been extended because member states had not found agreement in the allotted time is worrying. The last minute decisions create an operational concern for peacekeeping missions that are unable to appropriately plan their work in July when they do not know how much money they will have for the year. It also causes subsequent cash flow difficulties as the Controller struggles to determine and collect the assessed funding in a timely manner to fund peacekeeping for the rest of the budget year. Several member states have also publicly indicated that a more sustainable and timely process is needed going forward, but this will likely require a lot of leadership from, Egypt, the new Chair of the Fifth Committee.


 
  • The WFP Independent Oversight Advisory Committee holds its 163rd session from 12-14 July, and meets with the Executive Board on 14 July 2023.


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