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Report of the 19 May 1993 Meeting of the Sub-Committee on Administrative and Financial Matters

Executive Committee Meetings

Report of the 19 May 1993 Meeting of the Sub-Committee on Administrative and Financial Matters

1 October 1993


1. The meeting of the Sub-Committee on Administrative and Financial Matters on 19 May 1993 was opened by its Chairman, His Excellency Ambassador J. F. Boddens Hosang (Netherlands). In his opening remarks, the Chairman briefly introduced the items on the provisional agenda (EC/1993/SC.2/CRP.8). The proposed agenda was adopted.

2. Next the report of the Sub-Committee meeting of 31 March 1993 (EC/1993/SC.2/CRP.7) was considered. It was adopted with no changes.


3. At the invitation of the Chairman, the Deputy High Commissioner made an introductory statement, setting out key refugee-related developments around the world since the last meeting of the Sub-Committee on 31 March 1993. In particular, the Deputy High Commissioner drew attention to the precarious funding situation for programmes in the former Yugoslavia. He also spoke of his recent mission to Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, and called on the generosity and support of the donor community for UNHCR's activities in the three countries.


A. Agenda item 3: Update on programmes and funding situation

4. The Chairman then invited the Director of the Division of Programmes and Operational Support and the Head of the Fund Raising Service to introduce agenda item 3, the Update on Programmes and Funding Situation.

5. The Director of the Division of Programmes and Operational Support drew attention to document EC/1993/SC.2/CRP.12, entitled "UNHCR Programme and Funding Projection for 1993". He stated that total projected needs for 1993 stood at some $ 1.37 billion. The Head of the Fund Raising Service, while putting on record the High Commissioner's gratitude for the efforts that donors had made to date, noted that this overall requirement was presently less than halfway funded.

6. Several delegations expressed their appreciation for the clear documentation provided. One delegation drew attention to the often negative correlation between refugee settlements and the surrounding environment. Another delegation enquired as to the basis on which UNHCR had made its funding projections and the seriousness of the projected shortfall. Two delegations wished to see the funding situation for the Sudan reviewed, especially as the anticipated voluntary repatriation movements from that country had not yet materialized. One delegation encouraged the Office of the High Commissioner to expand further programmes aimed at increasing the income-generating capabilities of refugees. Specific observations/questions were raised in regard to a number of issues, in particular: the level of outside support for Nepal; developmental funding for South Khorasan; and shortfalls in Special Programmes, especially for Mozambique, Benin and Ghana, as well as Armenia and Azerbaijan.

7. Among his comments on the interventions, the Director of Programmes and Operational Support noted the High Commissioner's commitment to addressing refugee-related environmental issues; this was evidenced in the recent appointment of a Senior Coordinator for Environmental Affairs. He pointed to Nepal as an example of the critical impact of refugees on the environment. With regard to Mozambique, any shortfalls in funding would seriously affect the reintegration process; in addition, it will be a good case-study of inter-agency cooperation aimed at assuring the continuum from relief through to development. Speaking of Armenia/Azerbaijan, the Director said that, whereas UNHCR was prompt in mobilizing human resources for this emergency, the shortfall in funding could affect the credibility of UNHCR's operations in both countries.

8. The Head of the Fund Raising Service added a general word on projections, indicating that they were arrived at through a mixture of intuition, past experience, hints, comments and announcements. He also informed the Sub-Committee that repatriation movements, particularly, were at serious risk because of the shortfall in funds.

B. Agenda item 4: Proposal for an Office of the Inspector

9. The Deputy High Commissioner introduced Conference Room Paper EC/1993/SC.2/CRP.9 entitled, "A Proposal to Create an Office of the Inspector". The Deputy High Commissioner stated that the Inspector would serve as a further management tool for the High Commissioner, enabling her to conduct comprehensive assessments of UNHCR's performance in terms of overall quality of representation, broad achievement of objectives, and general administrative and financial accountability. This would permit the High Commissioner to support the full range of UNHCR's protection and assistance activities in the field and to ensure the fulfilment of UNHCR's objectives. The Deputy High Commissioner noted that the High Commissioner was proposing a lean structure comprising a D.2, a P.5 and a G post. Use was to be made of specialized resources in other divisions. He suggested that, as many delegates might have had experience with such a post, they might wish to share their countries' experiences with the Sub-Committee.

10. In their interventions, the delegations expressed a general, if sometimes qualified, support for the proposal. One delegation hoped that the findings of the Inspector would be taken seriously; all recommendations (or at least the vast majority) of the Inspector should be implemented and reasons should be given if certain recommendations were not implemented. The same delegation stressed the need to clarify the relationship of the Inspector to the audit mechanisms. In fact, it would be desirable, where possible, to coordinate the visits of the Inspector with those of the audit teams. It was also important to ensure the independence of the Inspector; he/she should have direct access to the High Commissioner. One delegation saw the initiative as an important step towards further enhancing effective evaluation and oversight mechanisms with respect to UNHCR programmes. The same delegation saw regular programme inspections as an important dimension of the Inspector's work; these inspections would look at programme effectiveness, in addition to audit inspections. As such, there should be close collaboration between the Inspector's Office and the Central Evaluation Section of UNHCR; there might also be the need to regroup a number of existing units within the proposed Office of the Inspector. Some delegations stressed the importance of finding a person of the right calibre for the position; the need for high quality support staff was also stressed. The cost implications of the proposed post was also raised; a hope was expressed that the savings that would result from the new post would more than offset its costs. Another delegation proposed the idea of surprise visits as a useful device. Several delegations expressed concern over the limited number of staff proposed for the Office of the Inspector; the question was also raised whether one Inspector would be sufficient to assure adequate coverage of UNHCR's activities. Commenting on this last observation, the Chairman said that it might be better to start off with one Inspector so as to get experience of how the Office would operate. One delegation asked for a number of clarifications, including the level of the post. It was pointed out that a comparable function existed in UNHCR in the past (established in late 1983) in the form of the Director for Field Affairs. The relationship of the Inspector to the Executive Committee was also raised. Several delegations thought that the reports of the Inspector should be made available to the Members of the Executive Committee; at least the broad findings of the Inspector should be shared. One delegation, however, questioned this, given the potential sensitivity of the Inspector's findings.

11. In inviting the Deputy High Commissioner to comment on these interventions, the Chairman noted that, with the exception of one delegation which had expressed some reservations on the proposal, other interventions were generally positive. The Deputy High Commissioner reminded the Sub-Committee of the High Commissioner's commitment to make UNHCR a transparent, responsive, effective and finely managed agency. The Deputy High Commissioner argued for the confidentiality of the Inspector's reports to ensure their total frankness. He remarked that, although the relationship between the External and Internal Auditors, the Evaluation Unit and the Inspector needed to be further clarified, the establishment of the Office of the Inspector did not imply any dilution of the powers of the auditors. The Inspector would report directly to the High Commissioner. His or her duties would be wide-ranging. The Deputy High Commissioner saw merit in the idea of surprise visits, but one would need to be sensitive to the workload/pressures on Branch Offices facing emergencies. The staffing arrangements for the Inspector's office would be small at the outset, but would be increased as required. The cost of establishing the Office was estimated to be around $ 500,000.

12. The Controller in his comments informed the Sub-Committee that the total estimated costs of current inspection-type services (UNHCR's contribution to the Internal Audit Division, Senior Management Advisers, etc.) was some two million dollars; this accounted for less than 0.2 per cent of UNHCR's budget.

13. The Chairman concluded the consideration of this agenda item by outlining the timetable for the presentation of a revised document (which would take into account the Sub-Committee's deliberations and further comments from delegations) on the Office of the Inspector which would go to the ACABQ in September 1993, before consideration by the Executive Committee in October 1993.

C. Agenda item 5: General and Special Programmes

14. The Controller introduced document EC/1993/SC.2/CRP.11 entitled "General and Special Programmes: Their Relationship". He began by recapitulating the differences between the two types of programmes, noting that General Programmes are approved annually by the Executive Committee and are made up of the Annual Programme and the Emergency Fund, whilst Special Programmes are those that fall outside the scope of General Programmes. He recalled that the distinction between the two types of programmes was pragmatic, an important consideration being the level of budgetary target for General Programmes that can reasonably be expected to be funded. The Controller noted that it was important to keep the matter under continuous review; he saw no need, however, to change the current criteria used for grouping programmes.

15. In their interventions many delegates voiced general satisfaction with the demarcation between General and Special Programmes and believed that the distinction should be maintained. Some stressed that the concerned parties should look at the issue pragmatically, rather than engage in a philosophical discussion. With the current mechanisms to ensure governance, donors were in a position to show a healthy interest in Special Programmes. One delegation believed there were no compelling reasons for change. Several delegations believed that the two categories of programmes allowed for flexibility. Moreover, recent initiatives in relation to the Emergency Fund, the Programme Reserve and the establishment of a General Allocation for Voluntary Repatriation had also increased UNHCR's flexibility of response. Some delegations believed the basis offered for the two categories, namely the distinction in the Financial Rules between the General Funds and Trust Funds was insufficient. Moreover, one delegation pointed to what it considered as a serious imbalance between the two types of programmes. Several delegations asked for comments on the observation in the Report of the Secretary-General entitled: In-depth evaluation of the programme on international protection and assistance to refugees: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (E/AC.51/1993/2, para. 5) that, "The categorization of activities between the General and Special categories has not kept pace with the changing nature of UNHCR's programmatic requirements, and now impedes both strategic planning and fund-raising."

In regard to fund raising, one delegation asked the question whether activities currently covered by special appeals would be as effectively provided for if they were buried in General Programmes. As to strategic planning, the question was asked whether, for a number of programmes, more recourse should be had to multi-year planning. One delegation pointed out that the fundamental issue was to explore ways as to how budgets as a whole could be looked at in a practical and more structured manner.

16. In his responses to the interventions, the Controller expressed satisfaction with the discussion of the agenda item. While reiterating his conviction that the distinction between the two categories was justified, he recognized it would be necessary to keep the scope of the two categories under constant review. As to multi-year planning, in view of the number of emergency situations UNHCR has had to respond to of late, its ability to project had not increased. While there was no bias against multi-year planning, it had to be recognized that UNHCR would, for the foreseeable future, have to concentrate on emergencies and voluntary repatriation movements. He pointed out that since the time of the Temporary Working Group, the Sub-Committee on Administrative and Financial Matters had taken on a renewed life. It allowed for greater governance, dialogue and transparency; in fact, the documentation available at the regular meetings of the Sub-Committee was often more detailed and up-to-date than the documentation available at the time of the Executive Committee.

17. The Head of the Fund Raising Service commented on the role of publicity in funding raising. Publicity does help in fund raising. He noted, however, that while some high-profile situations did get a lot of press coverage and the related Special Programmes were well funded, other Special Programmes, such as for the Commonwealth of Independent States, remained poorly funded in spite of media coverage of developments in those countries. General Programmes, on the other hand, cover situations that tend to get less press coverage; consequently, their funding tends to be more vulnerable.

D. Item 6: Categorization of posts

18. The Controller introduced document EC/1993/SC.2/CRP.13 entitled "Progress Report on the Categorization of Posts". He explained the background to the decision to move to only two categories of activities/posts, namely Programme Posts, and Programme Support and Administrative Posts. In the light of the Sub-Committee's response to the Conference Room Paper before it, the Secretariat proposed to take the issue back to the ACABQ. A more detailed report would be prepared for presentation to the October 1993 meeting of the Sub-Committee.

19. Several delegates expressed the opinion that the categorization was moving in the right direction.

E. Item 7: Update on UNHCR's public information strategy

20. The Chairman invited the High Commissioner's spokeswoman and Chief of the Public Information Section to present document EC/1993/SC.2/CRP.10 entitled "Report on UNHCR's Public Information Strategy". The Head of Public Information drew attention to UNHCR's recent extensive media coverage which, in part, could be attributed to the High Commissioner's policy of transparency. On the other hand, the Head of Public Information recognized that much of the exposure was fortuitous, depending on exceptional media coverage of situations in which UNHCR was working; such coverage would undoubtedly diminish with the passing of an emergency. It was important, then, to build foundations that would outlive crises. In this regard, the Public Information Section was reaching out, in phases, to various categories in the three to eighteen year old group. It was also trying to create a climate of acceptance for refugees by introducing refugee characters into popular soap operas. The Head of Public Information emphasized the High Commissioner's dictum that information is protection.

21. In their interventions the delegates generally praised the work of the Public Information Section. Several delegations wanted the Public Awareness Campaign also to be aimed at a third world audience. In addition, a delegate called not only for closer linkages between UNHCR's activities in Central and Eastern Europe to promote refugee law, and the public information campaigns being undertaken with other organizations in these countries, but also to extend the same to the third world. One delegation asked that in an updated Public Information Strategy Note, possibly for the next Executive Committee, the question of third world needs/concerns be more expressly addressed, as well as the linkages between promotional activities of the Division of International Protection and the work of the Public Information Section. The same delegation requested that public information efforts also give more attention to providing information on Quick Impact Projects (QIPs). One delegation wished to know if the Public Information Section had any contact with the North-South Centre (Council of Europe); the same delegation also highlighted the value of the radio for the diffusion of accurate information. A number of delegations saw the need for awareness campaigns aimed at the refugees themselves, informing them of their legal rights. One delegation requested that more emphasis be laid on information campaigns in countries of origin to inform local authorities and populations of returnee needs.

22. In her comments on the observations, the Head of Public Information drew attention to the fact that much of her Section's activities were geared to the third world. She noted that UNHCR videos are distributed in 112 nations in the third world and that the budgets of Public Information officers in these countries were on average three times higher than for officers in the developed world. She also highlighted the fact that publicity campaigns in the developed world helped raise funds for projects in the third world. She believed that there was scope for a campaign, in coordination with the Division of International Protection, to provide refugees with greater awareness of their legal rights. The Chairman, referring to the interventions of several delegations, also stressed the need for promoting a greater awareness among refugees in the third world of their legal rights.

F. Agenda item 8: Any other business

23. Under this item the Deputy Director of the Division of Human Resources Management gave an oral presentation on a question from the previous day's Joint Meeting of the Sub-Committee on Administrative and Financial Matters and the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection, namely UNHCR's efforts to place women officers in field positions. Since the last meeting of the Executive Committee up until April 1993, there had not, in fact, been any increase in the overall percentage of recruitment or placement of female officers in field posts that involved contact with refugee women. He said that in this period, namely from October 1992 to April 1993, recruitment of women to posts related to field activities stood at 35 per cent; the figure for actual placement of women to field posts in same period was 27 per cent. For the earlier period January to September 1992, the placement figure stood at 33 per cent. He noted that the Division would be launching a recruitment drive for female candidates by autumn 1993; the goal for UNHCR was to have 50 per cent female employees by 1995.

24. One delegation felt that the issues of refugees and the environment, and of international procurement, merited a place on the agenda of the next session of the Sub-Committee on Administrative and Financial Matters.

25. Responding to this, the Deputy High Commissioner drew attention to the recent addition to UNHCR's staff of a Senior Coordinator for Environmental Affairs. On the issue of procurement, the Deputy High Commissioner noted that UNHCR tried to explore the option of buying locally, but that it was not always possible to obtain goods in this manner. He assured the delegation that these matters would be discussed at the next session of the Sub-Committee on Administrative and Financial Matters.

26. As the delegates did not have any further business for discussion, the Chairman thanked the participants and then brought the twenty-fifth meeting of the Sub-Committee on Administrative and Financial Matters to a close.