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Report of the 20 June 1995 meeting of the Sub-Committee on Administrative and Financial Matters
EC/SC.2/82

Administrative and Financial Matters (SCAF), 12 October 1995

I. INTRODUCTION

1. The 20 June 1995 inter-sessional meeting of the Sub-Committee on Administrative and Financial Matters was opened by its Chairman, His Excellency Ambassador J. Esper Larsen (Denmark). In his opening comments, he extended a warm welcome to the delegations of Bangladesh, India and the Russian Federation, who participated in the Sub-Committee for the first time as Executive Committee members.

II. EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBERSHIP: STATEMENT BY THE DELEGATE OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION

2. The delegate of the Russian Federation expressed his appreciation to those States which had supported the Federation's election to the Executive Committee. He also spoke of the importance for his delegation of the Conference on Refugees, Returnees, Displaced Persons and Related Migratory Movements in the CIS and Relevant Neighbouring States, and the preparatory work in progress.

III. DISCUSSION OF PROVISIONAL AGENDA

3. The Provisional Agenda (EC/1995/SC.2/CRP.17) was adopted without comment.

IV. ADOPTION OF THE REPORT OF THE 4 APRIL 1995 MEETING

4. The Sub-Committee then turned to the draft report (EC/1995/SC.2/CRP.18) of its 4 April 1995 meeting. One delegate requested that paragraph 8 dealing with the Career Management System be amended to reflect the importance his delegation had attached to UNHCR's Senior Management taking a lead role in its implementation. The draft report, amended accordingly, was adopted.

V. STATEMENT OF THE DEPUTY HIGH COMMISSIONER

5. The Deputy High Commissioner gave a brief overview of the most important recent developments of concern to UNHCR. He also announced two key senior management appointments, namely Mr. Jean-Marie Fakhouri to the post of Controller, and Mr. Shamshul Bari to that of Director of the Regional Bureau for South West Asia, North Africa and the Middle East.

VI. UPDATE ON PROGRAMMES AND FUNDING

6. This agenda item and its related documentation (EC/1995/SC.2/CRP.19) was introduced by the Director of the Division of Programmes and Operational Support (DPOS), and by the Head of the Fund Raising Service.

7. In his comments, the Director of DPOS drew attention to some proposals which would be presented to the annual session of the Executive Committee relating to the Education Account.

8. The Head of the Fund Raising Service provided an update on contributions. He reported that as of 20 June 1995, contributions had reached a total of $ 440 million. This level of contributions was slightly lower than that at the same period in both 1993 and 1994. If this trend continued, there would be a serious shortfall affecting both General and Special Programmes.

9. With regard to the Education Account, several delegations requested clarification of the term "tertiary education". Several delegations stated their opposition to the proposal as stated in paragraphs 9 and 10 of document EC/1995/SC.2/CRP.19. The Director of DPOS clarified the proposals in question. He recognized the relative nature of concepts such as secondary and tertiary education, and noted that the conference room paper could have been clearer on this point. The new emphasis which UNHCR wished to give to educational initiatives under General Programmes, other than purely primary and secondary studies, was to highlight their linkage to promoting durable solutions, particularly that of voluntary repatriation. The vocational training envisaged was to acquire middle-level skills such as typing and basic accounting. While such studies normally required the completion of secondary studies (and were, therefore, post-secondary), they could not be considered tertiary in the strict sense of university level studies. Such vocational and para-professional training directly related to helping refugees become self-sufficient, in the context of a durable solution. The Director went on to address the distinct issue of those students currently completing university level studies under the Education Account. Because of lack of funding under this account, a decision had to be made on the future of those students currently completing university studies. It was in regard to these students, and by way of exception, that it was being proposed to include retroactively some of the 1995 Education Account budget into the 1995 General Programmes.

10. Various interventions raised specific questions on a number of budgetary points. These related, inter alia, to the budget levels for the Sudan and the former Yugoslavia. A question was also raised as to whether the anticipated 1996 General Programmes target was realistic, given current funding trends.

11. One delegation requested assurance that the Office had made all efforts to ensure that stabilized situations do not continue to receive assistance beyond reasonable limits. In the future, UNHCR should indicate which measures have been taken to try to reduce or discontinue activities or programmes which are no longer priority items. Reference to situations which have stabilized should be more systematically presented in documentation provided to the Sub-Committee.

12. Two delegations either referred to the level of their contributions for 1995 and/or announced additional contributions. The delegate of the United States said this his Government had recently contributed $ 16 million for the Rwanda/Burundi Regional Appeal and an additional $ 11.25 million for the General Programme, thus bringing his country's contribution to General Programmes for 1995 to date to $ 96.25 million. The contribution to the General Programme was made with the expectation that further progress would be effected to address issues of protection for refugee women and children. He said the United States expects to announce funding for Georgia and Azerbaijan in the near future. Denmark announced a minimum contribution of some $ 1.9 million towards the Consolidated Appeal for former Yugoslavia. In addition, subject to parliamentary approval, Denmark will make a special contribution of some 75 million Danish kroner, equivalent to $ 14 million, earmarked for various UNHCR programmes in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, Mozambique, the Horn of Africa, Sierra Leone, the Caucasus, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

VII. UNHCR'S BUDGET STRUCTURE

13. The Chairman gave the background to the informal consultations on UNHCR's budget structure; conference room paper EC/1995/SC.2/CRP.24 and Addendum 1 reflected the outcome of these consultations. He proposed two changes to the text of the draft conclusions set out in Addendum 1; these related to Conclusions 1 and 8.

14. In his comments on the agenda item, the Director of the Division of Programmes and Operational Support noted that UNHCR had learnt a lot from the consultations and recommendations and was committed to continue the process in consultation with the Executive Committee.

15. Numerous delegations expressed their agreement with the proposals on both budget structure and governance. It was suggested that a review of the changes proposed be carried out after they had been in effect for twelve months.

16. There were, however, several delegations that expressed reservations about the outcome to the consultations. One delegation felt that the proposals did not contain the fundamental changes to the structure which it had hoped for, but expressed appreciation for the many useful elements which had the potential to improve transparency and governance. In particular, the acknowledgement that there were still areas that needed exploring and improving was welcomed. Another delegation felt that the need for increased flexibility, which was the thrust of a number of proposals, had not been sufficiently justified; it would be necessary to provide such justifications when any increases to the levels of Funds/Reserves were proposed. Another delegate pointed to the inability of some countries to transfer contributions from funds which are primarily geared toward responding to emergencies to General Programmes. His Government favoured a more conservative approach to the proposed changes in the Programme Reserve and the General Allocation for Voluntary Repatriation, changes that could, but did not have to, imply an increase in the General Programmes target.

17. As regards the amendment to draft Conclusion 8 whereby the phrase "voluntary repatriation operations" was qualified by the addition of the words "for refugees", one delegation felt that this was an unnecessary limitation as it could preclude the return of internally displaced to their places of origin, within the framework of a broader voluntary repatriation operation. The delegation acquiesced to the amendment on the understanding that the issue could be reviewed, if necessary, when Member States looked at the roles of various agencies in country of origin activities.

18. Other delegations expressed some disappointment that the opportunity had been lost to give effect to the criteria for the inclusion of activities under General Programmes. While this would have meant a larger volume of activities under General Programmes, the generosity of donors in responding to recent humanitarian crises through increased contributions to both General and Special Programmes would suggest that an enlarged General Programmes category based on the clear criteria of mandated activities could have been feasible.

Another delegation said it would have liked to have seen further steps in the direction of increased predictability in the funding of UNHCR core-mandated activities and more scope for transfer of core-mandated activities from Special Programmes to General Programmes. This, however, required sufficient donor response; the Office was urged to continue its efforts to widen its donor base which was seen as the key to increased stability in the funding of General Programmes. One delegation noted that while it generally supported a degree of flexibility to meet the emergency needs of UNHCR's activities, it felt it was important for purposes of accountability that the Secretariat track accurately the use of the Programme Reserve. It was also felt that the definition of "stabilized" refugee situations should be made clear. Another delegation asked whether some of the proposed conclusions were not creating a climate of micro-management.

19. Given the broad consensus expressed, the Chairman declared the proposed conclusions adopted. He said that they would be presented to the 46th session of the Executive Committee for endorsement. Delegations expressed sincere congratulations to the Chairman, his Mission staff, as well as to the UNHCR Secretariat for their work during this process.

VIII. EVALUATION OF WOMEN VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE PROJECT IN KENYA

20. Before introducing this agenda item, the Director of UNHCR's Inspection and Evaluation Service gave a brief description of this recently created service.

21. The Director then made some introductory remarks on document EC/1995/SC.2/CRP.22, UNHCR's Women Victims of Violence Project in Kenya: An Evaluation Summary.

22. Several delegations spoke of the importance of POP (People-Oriented Planning) training. One delegation underlined the sensitivity and complexity of dealing with victims of sexual violence; intensive training was necessary for those responsible for such work. In dealing with sexual violence, and other issues such as genital mutilation, it was suggested that UNHCR strengthen its cooperation with other United Nations organizations which have specific expertise in this area, such as WHO, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and, in the case of Africa, a regional body such as the Inter-African Committee. The related issue of violence against refugee children was raised by one delegation; the Office was encouraged to study this problem further and to propose a specific programme, building on the experience of UNICEF in this area.

23. On a more general note, one delegation suggested that there would be merit in carrying out interim evaluations; this would allow the Office to correct problems sooner and to use resources more effectively.

24. In his summing up, the Chairman said that the evaluation highlighted the urgency of continued efforts to ensure that refugee women receive the effective protection that they required, not only in Kenya but in many other situations of displacement around the world. It was to be hoped that the lessons learnt from this project, together with the new Guidelines on the Prevention of Sexual Violence against Refugees, would enable the Office to make further progress in fully and effectively implementing its policy on refugee women.

IX. LESSONS LEARNT FROM THE RWANDA EVALUATION

25. The Chairman asked Mr. Nils Dabelstein, Head of the Evaluation Unit at DANIDA and Chairman of the Management Committee of the Joint Evaluation of Emergency Assistance to Rwanda, to brief the meeting on the progress of the Joint Evaluation. In his presentation, Mr. Dabelstein said that the results of this evaluation would be presented to the international community in December 1995. In closing, Mr. Dabelstein expressed appreciation for the cooperation, openness and willingness of all the United Nations agencies, Governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that had been contacted to share both information and opinions.

26. The Director of UNHCR's Inspection and Evaluation Service introduced the document Lessons Learnt from the Rwanda Emergency (EC/1995/SC.2/CRP.21). He noted that although the continuing crisis in the Great Lakes sub-region had forestalled the major internal workshop planned for earlier in 1995, an internal review process had been initiated. This had consisted of extensive interviews in Geneva, in particular with those involved in the initial emergency deployment. These interviews had been complemented by a two-day meeting in Nairobi with many of the key staff from the field. It is still hoped that a comprehensive internal workshop on the emergency will be held, once the emergency has stabilized.

27. Numerous delegations expressed appreciation for the evaluation. Their interventions focused on a series of specific points raised in the conference room paper: early warning; preparedness and contingency planning, including the pre-positioning of supplies and arrangements to develop transportation infrastructure; the field management of airlift operations; the particular needs of refugee children and of refugee women; environmental protection; training, including possible cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross; the composition of emergency teams, in particular the inclusion of technical specialists for vital sectors; staffing and contractual arrangements for emergencies; security; food, including issues related to registration, commodity tracking and its distribution, in particular the layout of camps; and coordination, especially the clarification of roles of the various United Nations personnel. The importance of sharing the results of the review with other actors involved in Rwanda, especially other United Nations agencies, was stressed.

28. In the response of UNHCR to the interventions, it was pointed out that the conference room paper was a checklist of major issues that had to be addressed and were being addressed; many of the lessons learnt have already been incorporated into the emergency response systems of UNHCR and were reflected in the training given to emergency response teams.

X. PARINAC PROGRESS REPORT

29. UNHCR's NGO Coordinator introduced the Report on PARinAC (EC/1995/SC.2/CRP.20).

30. Among the issues raised by delegations were the following: the need for professionalism in UNHCR's relationship with NGOs, including greater clarity and consistency in implementation (and thereby, predictability) of UNHCR's policy on administrative support costs of its implementing partners; and the importance of capacity building of local NGOs, in particular, to ensure the sustainability of the impact of humanitarian assistance. UNHCR was encouraged to strengthen its liaison function with NGOs, thereby enabling better use of the potential contributions of NGOs. The Office was also encouraged to consider including NGOs in various round table discussions on specific topics such as refugee resettlement and emergency preparedness. It was felt that the PARinAC (UNHCR-NGO Partnership in Action) process should be kept under review; it was suggested that the Sub-Committee on Adminstrative and Financial Matters Standing Committee revert to this issue within the next year. In order to better prepare the consideration of the item of the agenda of the thirty-fifth meeting of the Sub-Committee on Administrative and Financial Matters on the issue of implementing partners, one delegation asked for a report to be prepared that would include a list of these agencies, the amount of their contracts and an estimate of their own contributions.

XI. NEW HEADQUARTERS ACCOMMODATION

31. Mr. Anthony Salmon of the Controller's Division briefed the Sub-Committee on the relocation of UNHCR to two major premises, namely the Montbrillant building and Vermont-Nations-Genève building.

32. One delegation made the suggestion that additional visitors' parking be made available. The Chairman, on behalf of delegations, congratulated UNHCR on having so successfully executed the move to the new headquarters premises.

XII. REPORT OF THE MEDIATOR

33. The Report of the Mediator (EC/1995/SC.2/CRP.23) was introduced by the Mediator. In her introductory statement, the Mediator described the range of her principal duties. In this context, she pointed out that her role was not to act as "defense counsel" but rather as interceder and adviser. The Mediator referred to Chapter X of the Staff Rules, which defined inter alia misconduct and resulting disciplinary actions, and the role of the Joint Disciplinary Committee which was established to advise the Secretary-General. In closing, she thanked the members of the Sub-Committee on Administrative and Financial Matters for the interest they had shown in her work.

XIII. OTHER BUSINESS

34. There being no further business, the Chairman adjourned the meeting.

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