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Informal consultations on budgetary questions: draft conclusions on budgetary structure, presentation, governance and other matters

Executive Committee Meetings

Informal consultations on budgetary questions: draft conclusions on budgetary structure, presentation, governance and other matters

15 June 1995


The following re-numbered draft conclusions reflect amendments made in the light of the informal consultations held on 15 June 1995. Significant changes have been introduced into conclusions 1 (iii), 6, 9 and 11.

A. Budget Structure

Conclusion 1: Any UNHCR budget structure should have as its objectives the following:

(i) the necessary flexibility to address emergency situations and unexpected changes to programmes;

(ii) assured funding of statutory activities;

(iii) transparency, accountability and managerial control.

Conclusion 2: Further streamlining of UNHCR's budget structure should be undertaken, bearing in mind the objectives set out in Conclusion 1, so that in a single, coherent budget structure there is a clear indication of overall needs, as well as of needs at the country level, and for Other Programmes and Headquarters.

B. General and Special Programmes

Conclusion 3: The criteria for the inclusion of activities under General Programmes is that they qualify as statutory; in addition, they should be activities related to situations which have stabilized.

Conclusion 4: The group of stabilized, statutory activities which constitute the General Programmes shall be a funding priority. A commitment to their full funding would be facilitated by a process of dialogue in which the High Commissioner explains the rationale used for the inclusion of the various activities within the Annual Programme component of the General Programmes.

Conclusion 5: If, for a given year, all stabilized, statutory activities were not able, in the High Commissioner's judgement, to be included under General Programmes, the first priority for inclusion should be refugee situations which have stabilized; in giving effect to this decision, the High Commissioner shall, inter alia, bear in mind the relative chances of funding for different activities, depending on the programme category in which they would be placed. The High Commissioner would report to the Executive Committee the considerations which determined a particular course of action.

C. Funds and Reserves, Their Levels and Criteria

Conclusion 6: The Executive Committee should keep under review the criteria governing the Emergency Fund, the Programme Reserve, and the Voluntary Repatriation Fund to ensure that these contribute to the flexibility of the Office's operations; moreover, their levels should also be regularly reviewed.

Conclusion 7: In recognition of the statutory nature of activities on behalf of refugees, and, therefore, their potential for inclusion under General Programmes, the Programme Reserve may be used for refugee situations being funded, for various reasons, under Special Programmes. Such a use of the Programme Reserve, would, nevertheless, be limited; it may be used to complement Special Programme funding for refugee situations, provided that the total of all such allocations does not exceed one third of the Programme Reserve in a given year.

Conclusion 8: In recognition of the importance of voluntary repatriation, and to support repatriation activities which were not able to be included, for various reasons, under General Programmes, the use of the Voluntary Repatriation Fund should be enhanced by its extension to voluntary repatriation operations included under Special Programmes; it is proposed that in a given year, an allocation of up to $ 10.0 million could be made for any such voluntary repatriation operation.

Conclusion 9: The proposed expanded use of the Programme Reserve and the Voluntary Repatriation Fund could require that their levels be raised. It is proposed that, as of 1997:

(i) the Programme Reserve be constituted between 10 and 15 per cent of programmed activities under the Annual Programme for a given year;

(ii) the level of the Voluntary Repatriation Fund for a given year be set between $ 20 million and 10 per cent of the budgetary estimates for voluntary repatriation for the previous year;

(iii) within the limits set out above, the High Commissioner would propose the actual levels of the Programme Reserve and the Voluntary Repatriation Fund for approval by the Executive Committee, bearing in mind that the overall level of the proposed General Programmes target should be such as to justify a reasonable expectation of its full funding.

Conclusion 10: With a view to maximizing the use of the Programme Reserve and the Voluntary Repatriation Fund in any given year, any allocations made from them could be cancelled if sufficient contributions were later received for the relevant activities.

Conclusion 11: It is proposed to extend the use of the Working Capital and Guarantee Fund to guarantee budgetary increases in the Headquarters component of General Programmes, not exceeding 2 per cent of the approved General Programmes total target, that may result from increased Headquarters costs directly due to exchange rate fluctuations. The Executive Committee would thus allow the General Programmes approved budgetary target to rise by up to 2 per cent, if this was necessary to accommodate such increased costs. The adjustment of the General Programmes budget target in accord with the above provisions, and related accounting adjustments, would take place at the end of a calendar year. If such a use had to be made of the Working Capital and Guarantee Fund, it would be replenished in the subsequent year in accordance with the provisions of the Financial Rules.

D. Governance

Conclusion 12: In addition to the broad review of General and Special Programmes at the time of the Executive Committee, inter-sessional meetings shall consider updates on programme needs and funding; at inter-sessional meetings, there shall also be a review of all country programmes (General and Special) in a particular region or regions (e.g. Asia/SWANAME; Europe/Americas; Africa), and of any Special Programmes covering a number of countries in the region(s).

Conclusion 13: The regular, systematic review of UNHCR programmes at the country level by the Executive Committee at inter-sessional meetings shall be based on agreed documentation (see below), and will include presentations by the senior staff of the Bureau concerned.

Conclusion 14: The uses made of the Emergency Fund, the Programme Reserve and the Voluntary Repatriation Fund shall be reviewed by the Executive Committee at its annual and inter-sessional meetings at the time of each of the programme reviews mentioned in Conclusion 13 above, to ensure that their use is in accord with the governing criteria.

Conclusion 15: The wording of the decision related to General and Special Programmes needs and resources adopted at the annual (or any other) session of the Executive Committee shall better reflect the enhanced governance exercised by the Executive Committee over these Programmes (see Annex 5 for a proposed text).

E. Oversight Reports

Conclusion 16: Within the broad framework of oversight of the work of UNHCR, the Executive Committee, in the course of its annual session and at inter-sessional meetings, shall consider, according to an agreed timetable, the various reports on audits, programmes, evaluations, and on the work of the UNHCR Inspection and Evaluation Service, as well as UNHCR's response to these reports.

F. Documentation

Conclusion 17: Programme documentation should be so presented that the focus is principally on countries/areas with a clear picture of programmes at the country level.

Conclusion 18: Programme documentation (covering both General and Special Programmes) for given countries/areas should be concise (not exceeding six pages) and be primarily focused on and offering justification for programmes in a planning year; the current and prior years activities shall be addressed only to explain any significant variations from estimates and planned activities. Special Programmes covering more than one country will also be presented separately, with corresponding consolidated tables showing estimates and expenditure.

Conclusion 19: The presentation of the annual accounts should be improved; in particular, the number of Special Programmes accounted for individually in the Annex to Statement 2 (which sets out income and expenditure for Special Programmes) shall be expanded to include the most important of those which are currently reported under "Other Trust Funds"; to the extent possible, "Other Trust Funds" should be identified by region.

G. Future Work

Conclusion 20: Among the steps to be taken to further enhance UNHCR's budgetary structure and related matters, study and informal consultations will be undertaken in relation to the following:

(i) the further adaptation and improvement of the budget structure as provided for in Conclusion 2 above;

(ii) the categories/sectors for reporting on UNHCR's activities, including the possibility of quantifying aspects of UNHCR's protection activities;

(iii) the presentation of budgets and reporting on programme activities, bearing in mind the need for conciseness and clarity, and the observations of the ACABQ in this regard;

(iv) review of UNHCR's current computer systems and databases and action to ensure that they are adapted to UNHCR's budgeting and reporting needs;

(v) ways to ensure better linkages between the presentation of UNHCR's budgets in the United Nations Biennium Budget in support of the Medium Term Plan and the current UNHCR annual budgets presented to the Executive Committee;

(vi) ways to ensure a better funding base for UNHCR activities;

(vii) review UNHCR's Financial Rules, including the provisions governing General and Special Programmes.