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Draft report of the 16 January 1995 meeting of the Sub-Committee on Administrative and Financial Matters

Executive Committee Meetings

Draft report of the 16 January 1995 meeting of the Sub-Committee on Administrative and Financial Matters

16 March 1995


1. The 16 January 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).


2. The Provisional Agenda (EC/1995/SC.2/CRP.1) was adopted without comment.


3. The Deputy High Commissioner commenced by paying tribute to all those who had given their lives during the past year on behalf of refugees.

4. Delegations were then informed of a number of senior appointments which the High Commissioner had made at Headquarters: Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello as Director of Policy Planning and Operations; Mr. Juan Amunategui as Director of the Inspection and Evaluation Service; Mr. Dennis McNamara as Director of International Protection; Mr. Kofi Asomani as Director of External Relations, and Mr. Nicholas Morris as Director of Programmes and Operational Support. He also referred to the appointment of Mr. Carrol Faubert as the High Commissioner's Special Envoy for Rwanda and Burundi.

5. The Deputy High Commissioner then gave the customary overview of refugee developments.

6. Among policy and programmatic issues, the Deputy High Commissioner singled out the importance that the Office attached to continued strengthening of emergency preparedness and response mechanisms. The importance of the timely implementation of the UNHCR Career Management System was also stressed.

7. In closing, the Deputy High Commissioner extended the sincere gratitude of the Office to donors for the outstanding support received during 1994.


8. The Chairman drew the Sub-Committee's attention to the document entitled Overall Programme and Funding Projections for 1994 and 1995 and Revised 1995 General Programmes Target (EC/1995/SC.2/CRP.6) as well as the corrigendum to Annex VI (EC/1995/SC.2/CRP.6/Corr.1).

9. By way of introduction, the Director of the Division of Programmes and Operational Support noted that, with regard to 1994, the information given in the tables was as of 15 December 1994; final figures would only become available on the closure of accounts. He said that since the last meeting of the Executive Committee, a comprehensive review of all 1995 General Programmes had been carried out, which revealed the need for a net increase that could not be accommodated within the approved General Programmes target of $ 415.4 million without totally exhausting the programme reserve. A revised General Programme target of $ 428.7 million was thus being proposed. Current needs under 1995 Special Programmes had been set out in Annex VIII of document EC/1995/SC.2/CRP.6.

10. The Head of UNHCR's Fund Raising Service in his introduction to this agenda item thanked the various Governments, on behalf of the High Commissioner, for their contributions to UNHCR last year, which amounted to $ 1.06 billion, including $ 1 billion in cash. For General Programmes, 1994 contributions amounted to $ 331 million, some $ 20 million more than in the previous year. As for 1995, he said that as of the morning of 16 January 1995, a total of $ 170 million in contributions had been registered. In 1995, UNHCR would again require a least $ 1.1 billion in income.

11. In their comments, a number of delegations, while concurring with the proposed increase in the General Programmes budget, expressed concern about the budget review process. Concern was expressed that so early in 1995, and so soon after the Executive Committee meeting, the General Programmes target was being increased. Several observations were made on how to ensure a more systematic General Programmes budget review; a review was requested at the SCAF meeting in June 1995.

12. Among the clarifications requested on the expenditures contained in document EC/1995/SC.2/CRP.6, confirmation was sought that the initial programme initiatives for refugee women and children approved by the Executive Committee in October 1994 were part of the revised General Programmes budget.

13. In his responses to the various interventions, the Director of the Division of Programmes and Operational Support said that many of the changes that necessitated an increase in the General Programmes budget were the result of events in the last quarter of 1994 which had been difficult to predict at the time of the Executive Committee. With regard to the point about actions endorsed by the last Executive Committee on behalf of refugee women and children, the Director confirmed that, with one exception, these were included in the General Programmes target; the exception related to the four posts for women coordinators in the field, as the countries where these posts were to be situated had not yet been identified. He noted, however, that the modalities of implementing some of the recommendations, especially as regards training, were still being reviewed. The need was not just to ensure greater awareness and consciousness of gender issues, but to have this awareness reflected in programming; women and children issues need to be more closely integrated into core training on programming.

14. In response to a query from one delegation concerning the reference in Annex VI of the document under consideration to "WFP's decision to discontinue food assistance to some 120,000 refugees" in Guinea (EC/1995/SC.2/CRP.6), the Director of Programmes and Operational Support apologized to the Committee and in particular to the World Food Programme for the wording used. The decision to discontinue food assistance on a phased and selective basis to this group of refugees was a joint WFP/UNHCR decision taken after a food assessment mission in 1994. The modalities of implementation were still under review and would be further discussed between WFP and UNHCR in the coming days. The Sub-Committee was assured that UNHCR had not budgeted to replace the basic food items for this caseload and, if there is a joint decision to continue food assistance to this group, it will remain the responsibility of WFP in accordance with the joint Memorandum of Understanding.

15. The Sub-Committee recommended that the Executive Committee adopt the draft decision contained in Annex IX of document EC.1995/SC.2/CRP.6, which proposed a revised General Programmes target of $ 428.7 million.


16. The Chairman, in introducing this agenda item, said that the discussion of the issue marked the beginning of a process of reflection and consultation; the Sub-Committee aimed to engage in a more definitive discussion of the subject at its June 1995 meeting. The Senior Special Adviser (Division of Programmes and Operational Support) commented on the relevant Conference Room Paper, Issues concerning UNHCR's Budget Structure (EC/1995/SC.2/CRP.5).

17. Delegates' interventions (of which a more detailed summary has been made available separately to facilitate informal consultations) focused on issues relating to budget presentation, resource mobilization, transparency and governance. A recurring theme in the interventions was that, whatever the outcome of the consultative process, UNHCR's flexibility and ability to respond quickly and efficiently to emergencies had to be safeguarded and even enhanced.

18. As to budget presentation, a view was expressed that whatever logic may have originally underpinned the distinction between General and Special Programmes, this rationale had now been lost sight of. Nonetheless, some thought that the distinction (or something comparable) between General and Special Programmes should be maintained. One delegation felt that while the previous approach of incorporating particular Special Programmes (those that meet General Programmes criteria, and in stabilized refugee situations) into General Programmes was the right one, it had to be done in a consistent manner. It was also suggested that within Special Programmes a further distinction might be made between those programmes that fell within UNHCR's mandate, strictly understood, and others. Another delegation called for a unified budgetary structure.

19. It was also felt that the lack of clarity between General and Special Programmes was camouflaging a certain reluctance among donors to fund the core functions of the Office. The possibility of a limited system of assessed or negotiated contributions, possibly in combination with firmer multi-year pledges, was raised by one delegation; this would be in parallel with the existing system of ad hoc contributions. Several delegations expressed reservations on this proposal.

20. On the overall transparency of UNHCR activities, several delegates said it was difficult to get a consolidated picture of total expenditure for activities that are financed through both General and Special Programmes.

21. Funding considerations were felt to be playing an increasing role in determining how programme activities were categorized; there has been an increasing tendency to seek Special Programme funding for activities that clearly fall within UNHCR's core mandate and which could have been predicted or projected in advance. Several delegations felt that there would always need to be something equivalent to Special Appeals (which currently result in Special Programmes). The point was also made that contributions to these quite specific appeals to address high-profile emergency situations attract more attention in capitals while the generic nature of General Programmes could limit their funding prospects. Furthermore, one delegation pointed out that the current system of splitting a specific programme between General and Special Programmes inhibited donor funding; a clear, country-based budget would avoid this.

22. On the question of governance, one delegate said that this could be considered from two points of view: firstly, the establishment of policy guidelines (e.g. on refugee women) and the monitoring of their implementation, and secondly, to ensure that the rules for the management of resources (and reporting thereon) were being applied consistently across both types of programmes.

23. To study further the above issues, the Sub-Committee concurred with a proposal to undertake informal consultations under the chairmanship of Ambassador Larsen.


24. The Senior Coordinator (Development) introduced this agenda item by elaborating on the contents of the document entitled Assistance Policies and Strategies for the Promotion of Durable Solutions: Achieving Sustainable Reintegration (EC/1995/SC.2/CRP.4).

25. The Director of the European Office of UNDP, Mr. Alan Doss, then addressed the Sub-Committee. He spoke of the joint Working Group which had been set up between UNDP and UNHCR to review the lessons learnt in recent years. Among the issues being considered were early joint planning, area-based approaches, local capacity building and resource mobilization.

26. Mr. Martin Griffiths, Director of DHA in Geneva and Deputy to the Under-Secretary-General, also addressed the Sub-Committee. He said that the traditional linear view of the concept of the continuum from relief to rehabilitation to development was clearly no longer universally applicable. It was, therefore, essential to recast the notion of the continuum and highlight the complementarity and co-incidence of relief and development work. Turning to the different approaches (programme cycle, resource mobilization) by agencies to address aspects of the continuum, he said that any resulting operational problems in the field should be resolved on the basis of clarity of principles and the comparative advantages of the various agencies.

27. In their interventions, delegations concurred with the observations of the Conference Room Paper on a range of approaches that are necessary to assure a smooth interface between relief and development: the modalities of emergency assistance; utilizing the comparative advantages of agencies; ensuring an appropriate division of labour between agencies; and avoiding gaps or imbalances in agency responses. Moreover, the role of DHA in facilitating and coordinating these activities was underlined in a number of interventions. Another delegation stressed that there had to be coordination and synergy with other inputs also, be they governmental (especially bilateral inputs) or non-governmental. These endeavours needed, however, to take into account the development priorities, resources and activities of the country of origin.

28. Given the need to involve a range of actors in addressing the continuum from relief to development, a number of delegates felt that the issue of reintegration assistance, in particular the different approaches to programming and resource mobilization, should also be discussed in other fora, such as ECOSOC and the governing boards of UNDP and UNICEF. Such broader discussions would also ensure a clear definition of UNHCR's role in reintegration activities, thereby avoiding any over-commitment of resources, either financial or human. It was also felt that an agreement between UNHCR and UNDP regarding reintegration activities would be a positive step.


29. The Secretary of the Executive Committee introduced a Conference Room Paper entitled Note on Executive Committee Working Methods (EC/1995/SC.2/CRP.2).

30. Widespread appreciation of the document was expressed; it was felt that it constituted an excellent base for discussion. Many delegations stressed the preliminary nature of their comments (of which a more detailed analysis has been made available separately). Several delegations also stressed that the humanitarian nature of UNHCR's work should be borne in mind in approaching the issue of Executive Committee reform; the specific role of the Executive Committee did not lend itself to a facile replication of reforms taking place in other fora of the United Nations. Cost implications of the various reform options would also need to be kept in mind.

31. Regarding the overall structure of the Executive Committee's cycle of meetings, a range of opinions was expressed on the various options. Several delegations voiced general support for the abolition of both Sub-Committees and informal meetings of the Executive Committee and for the establishment of a cycle of Executive Committee meetings consisting of an annual session and a number of regular sessions (Option A); the majority of speakers expressed their overall preference for maintaining inter-sessional meetings, but of one body (rather than three: Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection, SCAF and Informal Meetings) (Option B). Several delegations saw merits in both of the preceding proposals. One delegation expressed a preference for the current arrangements, while urging measures to improve their efficiency.

32. On the subject of the agenda of the annual meeting of the Executive Committee, several delegations expressed the view that the General Debate did not, at present, serve as a forum for substantive and focused policy discussions and effective decision-making. Most of the interventions supported the deletion or shortening of the General Debate. Other interventions touched on the adoption of a yearly theme by the Executive Committee and the role of the Plenary vis-à-vis other meetings.

33. As to the length of the annual session of the Executive Committee, a number of delegations preferred using the time now allotted to pre-plenary meetings for the annual session. Some delegations were not opposed to extending the length of the annual session. A comparable number of delegations, however, preferred that the time allotted for the Executive Committee remain the same and that the time be used more effectively.

34. On the question of adoption of decisions and conclusions, a majority of interventions favoured the abolition of the "Friends of the Rapporteur" drafting committee. Other proposals were presented on decisions and conclusions.

35. The proposals on documentation were warmly received. One delegation suggested that the proposals concerning documentation could be implemented immediately.

36. Of the delegations that spoke on the level of participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in meetings, most favoured increased participation.

37. To consider further other aspects of Executive Committee Working Methods, a Working Group to be chaired by the Chairman of SCAF, in close consultation with the Executive Committee Chairman, was established. It was also agreed to endorse suggestions on streamlining the documentation currently being presented to the Sub-Committees; this decision could be reviewed at a later date. Likewise, it was agreed that Sub-Committees should do the groundwork in preparing decisions for subsequent Executive Committee approval.


38. The Senior Special Adviser (DPOS), introduced this agenda item by commenting on the document entitled Rwanda Emergency: Evaluation and Lessons Learnt (EC/1995/SC.2/CRP.3). He said that the objective behind the proposals in the document was to assure coordination between the initiative of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development/Development Assistance Committee (OECD/DAC) to conduct a joint evaluation of the Rwanda emergency, and similar actions called for by the Executive Committee.

39. One delegate (Denmark), speaking in his capacity as representative of the country responsible for chairing the Management Committee of the Joint Evaluation of Emergency Assistance to Rwanda, commented on a number of questions and concerns related to joint evaluation. He said that UNHCR's proposals would ensure that duplication of efforts was avoided and, at the same time, that the integrity and distinctiveness of the various evaluation exercises would be respected.

40. A number of delegations welcomed the fact that UNHCR will undertake its own lessons learnt review. The need for an evaluation undertaken by implementing partners themselves of coordination during the emergency was stressed by one delegation. Another delegate raised a number of specific issues on the related subject of service packages.

41. The proposals contained in document EC/1995/SC.2/CRP.3, para.6 (i)-(iv), were adopted.


42. The Controller gave a brief update on progress in relation to new Headquarters accommodation. The Controller said that the move to the new accommodation (the Montbrillant and the Vermont-Nations Genève buildings) would take place over a six-month period, in three stages, starting immediately. She expressed some concern, however, as to whether the Montbrillant building would be ready for hand-over on 1 February 1995.


43. There being no other business, the Chairman adjourned the meeting.