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Statement by Mr. Felix Schnyder, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, on UNHCR budget estimates 1963

Speeches and statements

Statement by Mr. Felix Schnyder, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, on UNHCR budget estimates 1963

1 January 1963

A. General Remarks

1. I am happy to have an opportunity of presenting to you our Administrative Budget for 1963, and, at the same time, of telling you how I see the task of our Office and how I view its activity, destined to meet this task.

2. Before doing so, however, I would like to make one particular remark. The actual mandate of our Office expires at the end of 1963 and the General Assembly of the United Nations, in their next session before the end of this year, will have to decide whether or not they will wish to keep our Office working beyond 1963.

It is not up to me in any way to anticipate that decision. However, there is one thing which I certainly have to do in view of the question with which the General Assembly will be confronted.

I shall have to indicate to the General Assembly what the services are, which the HCR's Office, if it should be kept alive, could be expected to render as an instrument of the international community. Only when the General Assembly knows what these services might be, will it be able to take its decision with full knowledge, to understand what it means either to keep or to drop this instrument, or, to say the same thing differently, to understand the practical use of the HCR's Office and to decide whether the particular effort of a concerted international co-operation for refugees, carried out with the instrument of the High Commissioner's Office will still be justified or not. Necessarily, therefore, I have to plan the work of our Office on the "working hypothesis" of its continuation. For this purpose I have to view the future activities of the Office in the spirit in which it was created and has evolved, according to the will expressed by the General Assembly that, alone, is the master of the Office's future.

3. In this context I want to add another thing.

Presenting to the General Assembly a realistic picture of the services my Office could be expected to render in the future, I keep in mind that it is in the very nature of our Office that it should be considered as a temporary institution, that it should solve refugee problems as definitely and as effectively as possible that it should work itself out of its job.

I have not lost sight of this basic approach. In fact, many refugee problems have been solved and many more can now be solved. But, if you look at the terms of the mandate, you will see that there are some problems of "old" refugees which are of a longer term character.

I have especially in mind the question of international legal protection posing itself as long as there are uprooted refugees who have no country of their own to which they can turn. Furthermore, it is a fact of history that, while we try to solve old refugee problems dramatic new ones are presenting themselves which the General Assembly, in recent resolutions, has made the concern of the High Commissioner's Office.

4. Turning now to the purpose and the work of our Office, I should, first of all, stress the fact that both purpose and work are at this time passing through a phase of very significant changes. While, on one hand, as you know, we should in the near future be able to bring our last major aid projects for "old" European refugees to a successful end, we have to realize what tasks, of a more current character, will still remain to be carried out for European refugees, especially to ensure their continuing and effective international legal protection, and, at the same time, to meet the needs of new refugees, especially in Africa and also in Asia.

5. Indeed, it is in this context that I would see the particular significance of the operational programme for 1963 which my Office has prepared in view of the forthcoming session of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme, scheduled to meet here in Geneva beginning May 14, 1962. I have caused to be prepared for you some of the salient document for this coming session. I think you may find them all of interest, particularly A/AC.96/162, which deals with the proposed programme for 1963.

6. Let me, at this stage, also mention the German Indemnification Fund which we have to administer. We had to extend to the end of March the time limit within which claims to the Fund were acceptable, and their total number is now ever 30,000. However, we expect not to exceed by too much the period of three years which this operation was supposed to take. We now expect to cover the total costs of this administrative work within the envisaged sum of $600,000, plus an amount of $30,000 - $40,000 resulting from increases of the level of salaries.

I do not need to underline that this is a difficult and most complex operation. The more than 30,000 claimants are dispersed over the whole world; they have to base their claims upon events which took place many years ago and evidence is difficult to obtain; their most common languages are not official languages in the United Nations; and finally even when we have established that a claim is in order we cannot pay him out, since the amount he gets is not an absolute figure but a share in a fixed fund. The more claimants that are approved, the less there is for each.

7. Looking at the documents you have before you, you will see that, while we have to look forward to significant new tasks we are, at the same time, still deeply engaged in carrying out and finishing projects, adopted in earlier year. You know, for instance, that the camp clearing action, stimulated by World Refugee Year and completely financed thanks to this great undertaking, is still not fully implemented. However, to finish these earlier projects poses no problem of policy. We are just confronted with the necessity of finalizing, in a proper manner, a job, well under way; our particular concern which I believe will be of interest to you is how we conceive our forthcoming work.

8. This is the purpose that our 1963 programme is serving.

Its main feature is indicated by its two main parts:

(a) The one covering the last major aid projects, which it may be possible to adopt and finance in 1963 and to implement from 1963 to 1965;

(b) The other part covering the continuing complementary aid activities for 1963, indicating at the same time, the kind of work which our Office may be called to perform currently in following years.

9. Let me take up the major aid projects first.

These projects are destined to overcome the big social problems with which were confronted so many refugees, victims of the last World War and the troubles following that war. The international community was quite aware of these problems and, in the past years those refugee problems were identified and a concerted effort of the international community was considered necessary and justified for their solution. This effort has not always been made with the same intensity; it did not only depend on the urgency of the problems but also on the funds that could be found. But, as a whole, remarkable - even if much delayed - results have been achieved. Problems that, through many year, seemed to be hopeless have finally become manageable. Thanks to the splendid effort of the World Refugee Year, the last relatively few people living the unworthy existence of camp dwellers will soon be helped. The projects for needy refugees, living outside camps - sometimes in even more miserable conditions - especially for handicapped ones, are making good progress.

10. In Germany, Austria and Turkey, for instance, all the projects which the Executive Committee seems to be ready to envisage are approved and in the stage of implementation. Only marginal new funds will have to be allocated for old refugees in these countries for the purpose of providing them with the "after counselling" necessary to make sure that the solutions reached are properly consolidated. In other countries such as especially Greece, a significant effort will still have to be made. Looking at these last major aid projects as a whole we find that still the need of proper housing is the costliest aim to be met.

11. There is another significant fact that I should point out.

We have reached the stage when, speaking of "old European refugees", we can use the term of "residual problems". In statistical terms these problems may not any more seem to be very impressing. However, it is a fact of life that in the many years of concerted international work for refugees the overwhelming majority of relatively easy cases were solved first. The more the task boils down to residual cases the more the cases left are the ones difficult to solve. I have particularly in mind the cases of handicapped refugees, the solution of which is calling for very intensive and specific efforts. These problems have, of course, not become any easier by the fact that they have remained unsolved for so many years.

12. Having mentioned these handicapped cases I may illustrate the kind of final effort we have to make. There are actually in Italy among the refugees about 300 handicapped ones. All the normal possibilities to solve these cases are exhausted. Generous schemes developed by traditional countries of immigration during world refugee year for handicapped cases do not apply to these last severe cases. On the other hand it is very evident that Italy, being itself a country of emigration, finds it difficult to cope with the problems of all these cases left. They had to be approached on a completely new basis. For that purpose we asked the Australian Government to loan us the services of a highly qualified doctor, a member of the Australian Selection Team in Rome. This man, Dr. Jensen, has examined the whole caseload and established a detailed individual file for each case. We do very much hope that, presenting these individual files to open-minded governments, we will find them ready to examine the cases and to agree to admit to their territory those refugees with whose problems they may be able to cope. The first reactions we have from governments such as Sweden, Denmark, Norway are highly encouraging. But it is still necessary to deal with each one of these cases on an individual basis. We further understand that in some of these cases it will not be possible to find a resettlement opportunity in another country and we are, therefore, planning to support the establishment of a protected community or these people near Naples. All this will mean relatively heavy financial and administrative efforts. But if we are successful I think we will in terms of overcoming misery have done a worthwhile job. Let me also tell you that in a situation like that the effort of the High Commissioner is quite typical in so far as it tries to mobilize the solidarity of the international community for the benefit of suffering human beings. It is one of the results of the mechanism of the international solidarity that, having been relieved of a substantial part of its burden, the Italian Government can be expected to meet the meet the needs of those refugees whom they will have to keep with that much more generosity and readiness to act.

13. We have spoken during the past year of our plan to finish the major aid projects. Last year, when I had the opportunity of speaking to you of the problems of my Office, I told you of my intention to establish a framework in time and in money within which these major aid projects could be achieved. I was encouraged the matter, and you are, of course, familiar with the Resolution which the General Assembly passed last year - Resolution 1673 (XVI). We have tried to develop this plan not in abstract terms but in terms of a practical task. we are putting before our Executive Committee a final programme of major aid projects in the sum of $4.8 million. Although, taken with other programme costs, this is a somewhat larger figure than the regular programmes of the last year, I feel that there are realistic possibilities to raise these necessary funds if the programme is presented to the international community and a generous response is forthcoming.

14. However, when I mention these last major aid projects, built in our 1963 programme, I have to point out that some of the aid activities of UNHCR, covered until now in the framework of its regular programme, but being in fact of a more continuing character, have now also been identified and presented separately, indicating a task of UNHCR which can be expected to be of a longer term nature.

I felt that now was the proper moment to make this distinction between the kind of projects which we can hope to finish with a particular final effort from the tasks which have to be carried on more currently.

I considered that we owed it to one international community to say not only what can be finished by this final major aid programme but also what would still, after this effort, have to be done.

15. So, in our 1963 programme, we have tried not only to envisage the last major aid projects but at the same time also to define our mere current tasks.

The essence of these current tasks are:-

(a) to maintain legal protection for the refugees under the mandate of UNHCR and

(b) to make available to governments the good offices of UNHCR to help them meet the problems of new refugees.

16. These tasks of the High Commissioner would not as a rule cal for big aid programmes but aid activities are in fact necessary to make the work of the High Commissioner for the essential purpose of legal protection and good effective and possible.

The term "complementary" in the title "complementary aid activities" should, therefore, be understood

(a) in the sense that they are complementary to what governments and private organizations are doing to solve the problems of refugees, and

(b) in the sense also that they are a means to serve the essential purpose which is on the one hand to make effective the legal protection of refugees, and on the other the rendering of "good offices" on their behalf. In other words, to keep alive and real the mechanism of international solidarity.

It is, therefore, clear that the financial extent of these aid activities does not reflect the factual importance of a given refugee problem nor the significance of the work carried out by the High Commissioner. In fact I would consider the funds spent by the High Commissioner in complementary aid activities as a sort of an oil which is used to keep the machine efficiently working.

17. In our programme for 1963 we have tried to explain the complementary aid activity which would be carried out for mandate refugees. In order to illustrate this work I may cite a few examples:-

A striking example is the one of legal assistance. Refugees, because they are refugees, have a particular handicap in the country where they live. They do not understand the institutions of the country very well nor do they sometimes speak its language properly our main effort in the framework of legal protection has been aimed at improving their legal status in the country of asylum. In many countries these efforts have produced satisfactory results giving refugees, as laid down in the Refugee Convention, for instance, the same rights as the citizens of the particular country in the framework of its social security system. But in order to make it possible for refugees to benefit from these rights they often need advice or counselling and perhaps a representative with the authorities of the country so that their rights will be, not theoretically, but actually translated into the tangible benefits to which these refugees are entitled.

Other complementary activity for which the High Commissioner should have some modest funds, concerns emergency aid. The High Commissioner's office was set up to provide refugees, who cannot turn to the consular representation of their own country, with an international authority whom they can ask for protection. Needy foreigners can turn to the consulate of their country and get help. If their case is quite desparate they may even be repatriated. This possibility is normally out of the question with refugees. Perhaps there is a voluntary agency in the country where they live who might be ready to take an interest in the well-being of needy refugees. However, we know from our experience that it is important that the High Commissioner's Office can sometimes give agencies a little financial encouragement so that they are ready to look after refugees in distress and, for example, receive them in their old age homes.

Another field in which it is imperative that the High Commissioner should on a current basis be able to dispose of some marginal funds for aid, is that of new refugees. Normally speaking, it is considered to be up to the country of asylum to provide these refugees with the necessary aid and facilities until they can either emigrate to another country or stand on their own feet in the country of first asylum. But in this field too, experience has shown that the refugees might only find necessary understanding if the principle of international solidarity, in respect of their cases, is kept alive. Countries of first asylum may hesitate to keep their doors open to refugees unless somebody is working effectively to facilitate the resettlement of these refugees, somebody able to make modest financial contributions especially towards the solution of handicapped cases. If the High Commissioner would not be available to provide the mechanism for this international solidarity and some modest funds it is evident that the attitude of countries of first asylum would be affected and that, where unsolved refugees would pile up, a very difficult problem would have eventually to be solved with special efforts. It is, therefore, important and of vital interest to the refugees concerned that other problems are dealt with in a continuous and effective way and that these problems are not allowed to accumulate again to the concentration of misery that we witnessed after the last World War.

18. The High Commissioner's Office also will need some funds to be ready to meet new refugee situations outside Europe. These funds too, however, will be marginal in size and complementary in character.

In fact, the essential element which the High Commissioner has been able to make available in dramatic new refugee situation, the element which he still should be able to provide, is the element of comprehension, of stimulating understanding and of co-ordination; of course he is not expected to act in every situation where just the word "refugee" is pronounced, but in case when - and to the extent in which - the special effort of a concerted international co-operation, through the instrument of UNHCR, is justified, requested and usefully possible.

19. In this field of activity the High Commissioner has to cope with a very wide an varying range of problems and he has to adapt his intervention, in close contact with the governments concerned, to the prevailing circumstances. However, I think that with relatively modest means he has been able to achieve or to stimulate rather encouraging results.

The greatest of these new refugee problems with which the High Commissioner has had to deal is the one in North Africa where he has been asked by the General Assembly to continue his joint operation with the League of Red Cross Societies in order to look after the refugees concerned. In this situation the main responsibility of the High Commissioner was to provide the necessary financial contributions which amounted to about 2 million dollars every year. It seems that this operation may now soon come to an end but it is of course necessary that the humanitarian action for the benefit of these refugees is not prematurely stopped. Indeed, as you know, the High Commissioner has been asked to cooperate in the repatriation of the refugees and in the provision of material aid in that period (Res. 1672 (XVI). This operation in the next months will be particularly important when the refugees will have to start a new life, it is then that they will require a great deal of optimism, strength and good health to be able to build up their lives and their villages in Algeria again.

20. Another very acute situation in which the High Commissioner was asked by the General Assembly to take as interest is the problem of the refugees from Angola in the Congo. Then there is a relatively small problem of refugees in Togo. More recently still the High Commissioner has taken an interest in the problem of refugees from Rwanda in the Kivu Province in the Congo and in Tanganyika.

21. If the High Commissioner were to be concerned with a vast new refugee problem of the magnitude of the refugees from Algeria in Morocco and Tunisia he would of course have to appeal for funds to the international community and very fortunately these appeals, together with the efforts made by the League of Red Cross Societies mobilise the necessary support. But it is evident that the High Commissioner cannot use this rather heavy and slow mechanism were he if faced with a multitude of relatively minor financial requirements. In this case he needs funds regularly available to cope with this kind of a problem.

22. In all these new refugee situations, other than the one in North Africa, we have been able to bring about the result which could be expected from our intervention with relatively modest funds. In the of the High Commissioner has only spent 25.000 dollars for the purchase of transportation. The financial expenditure could be kept at such a low level because most of the means of action required in that situation were already available in the country. In this and other cases we had in the past months the possibility to use funds which were available from the Stamp Plan. In fact my Office has, in order to meet the requirements of the most recent refugee situations, allocated over $350,000 out of this resource. Further modest means were provided by the Emergency Fund of the High Commissioner.

However, if we want to deal with these problems in an effective and continuous ways the High Commissioner should have at his disposal an open fund for use in agreement with his governing body, the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Office.

In our programme for 1963 a modest sum of 700,000 dollars is foreseen as a target figure for that purpose.

23. Making the distinction between the major aid projects which we now try to finish and the continuous activity, which needs complementary aid funds, we notice that also our methods of work have to be completely different.

As far as the major aid projects are concerned it is the task of our Office to meet a need which is known since a long time. The framework of the projects prepared was not so much determined by these needs as rather by the limited funds which the High Commissioner could hope to raise in order to meet these needs. His Office tried to find out which would be the particular problems within a hopelessly large field of activity, with which he might be able to cope. A programme was presented to the Executive Committee, agreed to, and them the Office tried to fraise the funds necessary to meet the set aim. Once the money was in hand, the High Commissioner stated carrying out the plans in co-operation with governments and voluntary agencies. Even in cases where funds to meet a specific aim could be found relatively easily, the time which elapsed between the conception of the plan and its complete implementation was often as long as 4 years, as in the camp clearing action.

In the framework of the continuing tasks of the High Commissioner it is essential that he be read to act to meet a given problem as this problem presents itself. He will not be able to plan his work, in relation to a particular situation, a long time ahead. The Executive Committee of his programme will only be able to give situation, but defined in general terms, but I am sure that a technique can be developed which makes it possible for the Executive Committee regularly to review the way in which the High Commissioner acts and to adapt its instructions according to experience.

Furthermore I think it is necessary that the High Commissioner, between sessions of the Committee, should keep in contact with its members especially when he will have to deal with new refugee situations and earmark available funds for a particular purpose.

24. If we have to realize what administrative work the Office of the High Commissioner must perform, we have first of all to understand his basic responsibilities which are legal protection for the refugees under his mandate and making available to interested governments his good offices in situations of new refugees.

In addition to this, the High Commissioner has to carry out the programme which he is submitting to the Executive Committee of his Office.

Furthermore he has a heavy administrative responsibility for completing projects which were set up in earlier years but not yet fully implemented.

25. One way to realize the magnitude of the inherited earlier projects is to look at cash the High Commissioner's Office has in hand and which is committed to the implementation of these projects.

This sum of cash in hand on the 1 January 1962, amounted to $ 9.2 million. The programme adopted for 1962 amounts to about $4.3 million. Total $13.5 million.

Of this project load we can hope to complete in 1962 work for $6.5 million. We would therefore have to count upon an inherited workload of projects on the 1 January 1963 of about $ 7.0 million.

26. To this carry-over project load of we have add the last major aid projects planned for 1963 of $ 7.0 million $ 4.8 million Making a total of major aid projects of $ 11.8 million

27. The workload left over for the implementation of major aid projects done during 1963/1965 would therefore amount to about 12 million dollars. Of this it should be possible to implement about 6 million in 1963, 4 million in 1964 and 2 million in 1965.

This indicates that, for the near future, we still have to reckon with a very heavy workload. I would say a peak level workload in 1963, while the burden would become substantially eased from 1964 on.

These indications make evident the long term effect on the administrative workload of projects adopted and financed in a given year. If we have a high workload in 1962 and 1963, this is still partially due to the strong impetuous the work of our Office has received as a result of the World Refugee Year.

28. Let me also point out that cash in hand, committed for the implementation of projects, while giving a useful idea of the magnitude of the prevailing administrative workload, does not completely over it. Indeed, even if projects are fully implemented and financed we still have substantial administrative responsibilities to respect. We have to obtain the final financial statements for all the projects. We receive a continuing flow of audit observations and I hope that we are dealing with them in a n increasingly appropriate way. We have to administer loans invested in housing, the re-payment of which we have to supervise. When we have financed housing for refugees, the housing units provided remain over a long period available to other refugees, in case the first occupant moves out. We have to supervise these housing units so that, in case they become available again, we make sure that other refugees can occupy them.

29. I should further stress the extremely diverse and intricate character of our administrative work. The activity and responsibilities which my Office has to assume go far beyond anything an international Office like ours would normally be expected to do. The task is further complicated by the fact that we have not only to deal with very diverse projects. The way in which these projects can be carried out in different countries again is very different furthermore, our aid activity, with the changing needs of refugees, has to undergo significant changes if we are constantly to meet these needs in a proper and efficient way.

Furthermore, I should mention again the fact that the more we come to the end of the residual refugee problems left over, the more difficult the problems are becoming and the heavier the work we have to do to finish the job. In this context I would like to refer to the remarks I made concerning the resettlement of handicapped refugees. If you want to have a better idea of what the handling of this particular problem means, I would recommend to your attention the document just produced by my Office concerning the resettlement of refugees (A/AC.96/154).

29. In a field of work where so many constantly changing new tasks have to be met, where the achievement therefore depend largely on the dynamism and the imagination of the man who is responsible for that work it is very evident that the technique of the activity and the organization of the machinery must very largely reflect the personality of the man who is in charge. So you won't be surprised if I mention that I have some rather definite ideas of my own of how the Office of the High Commissioner should as far as ever possible try rather to stimulate solutions than to implement them itself. It should rather encourage governments of asylum or voluntary agencies to carry out projects than to do it itself. I would like to see the main purpose of my Office in making available to this work some appropriate measure of humanitarian understanding and bringing in an element of international solidarity which may give the refugees the guarantee that their burning needs are properly met; in trying to help Government or appropriate organizations to help refugees rather than help refugees ourselves directly. We were strongly guided by this approach in the new refugee situations in which it proved beneficial and effective.

However, I had to convince myself, looking at the work of our Office, that in many cases there was no such alternative and that my Office had to assume very direct responsibilities if it wanted to have the projects for refugees, for which necessary funds were made available, implemented in a proper and efficient way.

Furthermore we have to realize that since we have now came to the final major aid projects we should not bring in jeopardy the continuity of our work. Having the successful end of our major aid projects in sight we should not new change horse in the home stretch.

Nevertheless, even in the framework of the last major aid projects, I am decided to simplify our task and to rely on other instruments of action as far as ever possible.

30. I think that in this respect we have done a few useful things. Let me mention our programme in Germany. In Germany the last major aid projects already adopted amounted to about 13 million marks, of which 5 million are provided by the High Commissioner's Office and 8 million by the German Government. We have just agreed with the German Government that we would not ask them to put the sum of 8 million at our disposal, but instead of doing this, to provide simply, under their own responsibility, all the housing units which non-settled refugees in Germany still need. This German contribution will certainly in fact be more than equivalent to the sum mentioned. However, from the point of view of the administrative task left to my Office, the job will be made much easier. The only thing which my Office, according to our agreement with the German Government, will have to do is to provide that Government with list of non-settled refugees in Germany, needing housing. Even this task will of course call for an intensive administrative work if we want to be sure that all refugees will properly benefit from the opportunities which the agreement with the German authorities offers.

31. I have told you of the various tasks which may Office will have to meet in 1963. Nevertheless I have made it one of the main goals of our administrative planning to stay, until 1963, within the budget level which we had received, expecting that our administrative outlay would thereafter be substantially reduced.

But I know that I need this 1963 budget as it is presented to you in order to be able to plan our administrative work in a reasonable way. Of course I still will make all possible savings which it may be possible to realize as we did in 1961.

32. To meet this aim in view of dramatic new tasks we have to face in the field of new refugee situations we will have to make substantial savings in the framework of or classical work and not miss any opportunity to streamline all our work.

Perhaps I may also mention that, during the finalizing of the major aid projects, we will not only have to cut down the administrative costs, covered by the administrative budget of the United Nations, but also the costs of project staff that are directly borne by voluntary funds in relation to the different projects carried out.

33. In order to be sure that the work is properly done with a minimum of administrative expenditure, I have relied very heavily on the staff of my Office, I realize that they are working with great devotion and under rather heavy strain. I am sure that from that point of view no economy can be realized. It can only come from streamlining the tasks which we serve and the technique of our work.

With every move we are making we have to give proper consideration also to other legitimate interests of our staff, so that no unnecessary feeling of arbitrary treatment and insecurity, affecting the whole excellent spirit of the house, will come up. The handling of this question is not made any easier by consideration of proper geographical distribution, which has reached a new significance for our office with its working interest in areas where we were not used to work.

34. There is a last point which I want to touch now. This is the question of grant-in-aid. For that purpose an amount of $650,000 is foreseen in our 1962 programme financed by voluntary contributions, $580,000 in relationship with the regular programme, while the remaining $70,000 are provided in view of our programme for refugees from Algeria in Tunisia and Morocco. I would expect that grant-in-aid for 1962, as far as this amount of $70,000 is concerned would be proportionally reduced if our action in North Africa could be brought to an end before December 1962. This we can now well expect. However, a final effort to assist in the repatriation of these refugees if requested by General Assembly Resolution 1672 (XVI) and we hope that this matter will be greatly clarified in the immediate future.

Keeping in mind the amount of grant-in-aid provided for in the past years, I am proposing to the Executive Committee of my Office that a grant-in-aid for 1963, financed by voluntary contributions, might be foreseen in the amount of $600,000. Since the implementation of the last major aid projects would still occupy or administrative machinery, to a decreasing extent, it might still be appropriate then in 1964 and 1965 to envisage a decreasing grant-in-aid, for these years, while after the complete implementation of the major aid projects the substantially reduced activity of the High Commissioner, limited to its functioning within the direct tasks entrusted to his Office, may then be financed completely within the regular budget of the United Nations, without further grant in aid.