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Report of the 24 March 1994 Meeting of the Sub-Committee on Administrative and Financial Matters

Executive Committee Meetings

Report of the 24 March 1994 Meeting of the Sub-Committee on Administrative and Financial Matters

23 May 1994


1. The inter-sessional meeting of the Sub-Committee on Administrative and Financial Matters (SCAF) on 24 March 1994 was opened by its Chairman, His Excellency Ambassador A. Kamal (Pakistan).


2. The Sub-Committee considered the Provisional Agenda (EC/1994/SC.2/CRP.1). As the various items on the draft agenda had been decided upon at the 13 January 1994 consultations, the agenda was adopted without comment.


3. The Deputy High Commissioner gave a brief overview of some of the major developments since the last informal meeting of the Executive Committee on 28 January 1994.

4. He reported on the High Commissioner's recent mission to four countries in southern Africa, including Mozambique, a visit which focused largely on the progress achieved in the repatriation of Mozambican refugees, which would be one of the most complex operations that UNHCR had ever undertaken; it remained, however, critically under-funded.

5. The Deputy High Commissioner spoke of the Office's preoccupation with the emergencies in central Africa. With respect to Somalia, progress toward repatriation in the Horn of Africa had been slow, but the Office was placing considerable emphasis on this subject in discussions with the Governments concerned so as to generate momentum in the coming months. He also spoke of his upcoming mission to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Côte d'Ivoire (April) to review with Governments, donors, NGOs and other United Nations agencies the state of preparedness for organized repatriation to Liberia.

6. The continued fighting in Afghanistan had again led to the displacement of close to 500,000 persons since the beginning of 1994. A meeting of the Tripartite Repatriation Commission was planned to review the repatriation programme.

7. Following a meeting of the Steering Committee of the International Conference on Indo-Chinese Refugees, the end of 1995 was set as a target date for the completion for activities under the Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA).

8. The Deputy High Commissioner also spoke of a four-day visit (14-17 March 1994) of the High Commissioner to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

9. The Deputy High Commissioner reported that the UNHCR/NGO Partnership in Action (PARINAC) process continued to develop momentum. Since the last Sub-Committee meeting, further meetings with NGOs had been held in Tunis, Bangkok and Addis Ababa. He renewed the appreciation of the High Commissioner to the Government of Norway and those other Governments that had contributed to funding this consultative process.

10. With respect to inter-agency cooperation, the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP) and the High Commissioner had signed a new Memorandum of Understanding on 9 March 1994 on the Joint Working Arrangements for Refugee, Returnee and Internally Displaced Persons Feeding Operations.

11. In commenting briefly on the agenda item Update on Programmes and Funding, the Deputy High Commissioner said that, although 1994 had commenced reasonably well in financial terms, some $ 700 million, or 60 per cent of total requirements, remained to be covered for the year. He also commented on the unexpectedly large carry-over figure from the previous year.


12. The Secretary drew attention to a typographical error in document EC/1994/SC.2/CRP.2, page 8, paragraph 25, line 7, which should have read: "The delegate of Japan said that in 1993 it had contributed $ 120 million to UNHCR". The correction was duly noted and the report was adopted.


13. This agenda item was introduced by the Director of the Division of Programmes and Operational Support and by the Head of Fund Raising Service.

14. The Director of the Division of Programmes and Operational support drew attention to document EC/1994/SC.2/CRP.5, which gave a comprehensive picture of programme needs for 1994. For General Programmes, the programme target still stood at $ 418.5 million; this figure did not, however, include requirements associated with the Burundi Emergency. Special Programme needs stood at some $ 777.7 million, around $ 55 million more than the estimate at the end of 1993. This figure only covered projected needs in the former Yugoslavia for the first six months of 1994. Overall programme needs, therefore, as projected at the beginning of March 1994, amounted to some $ 1.2 billion. He noted, however, that administrative requirements for both Headquarters and the Field were currently being reviewed.

15. As agreed at the planning meeting of 13 January 1994, the Conference Room Paper also included a progress report on the follow up to the report of the Working Group on Programme Management and Operational Capacity, as well as an update on PARINAC. To date, UNHCR has received $ 775,000 towards PARINAC out of a budget of $ 1.1 million.

16. The Head of Fund Raising Service thanked the various Governments, on behalf of the High Commissioner, for their contributions to UNHCR last year, which amounted to more than $ 1.1 billion. As to 1994, he said that as of the morning of 24 March 1994, a total of $ 255 million had been pledged or received for General and Special Programmes. He reiterated that UNHCR would require a total of $ 1.19 billion to meet total projected needs in 1994.

17. He told the meeting that the Office appreciated the importance of clear documentation to allow donors to make the necessary funding decisions and would make renewed efforts in this regard. He also elaborated on the strategy that the Office had formulated to tap new funding sources.

18. A number of delegations commented on the unexpectedly large carry-over under General Programmes. It was suggested that more attention be paid to timely cancellation of obligations in the future, as too large a carry-over undermined the credibility of UNHCR's appeals for early funding of the General Programmes. More accurate indications of the likely carry-over should have been provided at the December 1993 SCAF meeting.

19. There was widespread concern about the need for a more solid funding base, and the structural under-funding of General Programmes. Referring to funding projections, one delegation asked whether it was reasonable for UNHCR to expect to receive $ 42 million more in 1994 under General Programmes, given recent trends in funding.

20. In view of the high priority accorded by his Government to the implementation of Guidelines on Refugee Women and Children and nutritional health standards, the delegate of the United States requested that more concrete examples be provided at the next SCAF meeting to show how the new programme arrangements were working and, in particular, how the implementation of these Guidelines would be affected, as there appeared to be a somewhat uneven performance in the Field in the implementation of the Guidelines. His Government had contributed some $ 2.7 million in 1993 specifically for these activities and related gender-sensitive training. The same delegate also underlined the importance of cooperation between UNHCR and WFP; he mentioned that his Government had recently contributed $ 1.3 million to WFP for its emergency response and capacity-building activities.

21. One delegation expressed concern over the shortfalls for some of the programmes for Africa; he also queried how the General Allocation for Voluntary Repatriation would be replenished, given that Special Appeals for certain voluntary repatriation programmes were currently underfunded.

22. Another delegation also voiced concerns about aspects of the devolution of decision-making regarding programmes as recommended in the report of the Working Group on Programme Management and Operational Capacity.

23. A number of delegations raised questions about PARINAC and how UNHCR was planning to deal with recommendations resulting from the meeting in Oslo, the involvement of Member States in the process, and the review of the recommendations by the Executive Committee.

24. A number of delegations either referred to the level of their contributions for 1994 and/or announced additional contributions. The delegate of the United States of America said his country's initial contribution of $ 75 million represented its highest initial contribution to the General Programmes ever; he hoped that other Governments would be encouraged to follow suit. The delegate of Italy said that in spite of the Italian Parliament's measures to limit public expenditure, Italy be making a voluntary contribution of Lit. 13 billion in 1994. Denmark increased its unearmarked contribution to General Programmes for 1994 to Dkr 100 million ($ 15 million); the delegate also said that there would be considerable earmarked contributions during the course of 1994, of which a substantial amount would go towards General Programmes. Sweden transferred Skr 38 million to match half of the additional contributions made by Governments at the end of last year. Bangladesh announced a contribution of $ 100,000 in cash and $ 500,000 in kind in rice and tea for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Norway had already transferred to UNHCR half of its contribution to General Programmes, i.e. an unearmarked Nkr 75 million.

25. The Chairman also commented on the unexpected carry-over under General Programmes. He said that the issue appeared to be two-fold: an inability to implement programmes to the extent of the resources allocated for such programmes; and an inability to predict accurately the level of a carry-over.

26. In responding to the interventions, the Director of the Division of Programmes and Operational Support said measures were underway to decrease the unpredictability of carry-overs through better tracking and regular reviews of outstanding obligations. The implementing capacity of UNHCR did not pose a problem but, given the unpredictability of programmes, due to changing circumstances, UNHCR needed better tools to revise budgets to address these volatile situations. He assured delegations that more concrete examples on various measures taken to implement the recommendations of the Working Group on Programme Management and Operational Capacity would be provided at the next meeting of SCAF. Progress was also being made in addressing the uneven performance in implementation of programmes for women and children.

27. The Head of Fund Raising Service thanked those delegations which had announced new pledges. He voiced his concern about the decreasing level of funding over the last three years under General Programmes, and said the goal for 1994 was to do better; hence the strategy of which he had spoken earlier. He noted the suggestion of one delegation to explore non-traditional funding and said that UNHCR was currently working on private-sector fund raising and focusing on potential donors in the Gulf.

28. The Deputy High Commissioner commented on the PARINAC question and said that UNHCR focused on advancing operationality and responsiveness with NGOs. This, however, was not to the exclusion of better relationships between UNHCR and Governments which provide asylum and contribute to meeting refugee needs. He described these relationships as triangular: UNHCR, Governments and NGOs. UNHCR was evaluating progress in preparation for the meeting in Oslo so as to be in a position to brief Governments on progress made in this regard.


29. The Chairman, noting that this subject has been discussed on several occasions in recent years, invited the Director of the Division of Programmes and Operational Support to introduce Agenda Item 4 on Executive Committee documentation (EC/1994/SC.2/CRP.4). He said that the proposals aimed to safeguard the expressed interests of the Executive Committee, especially as regards what are commonly called "the country/area chapters". In 1993 this document was entitled "UNHCR Activities Financed by Voluntary Funds: Report for 1992-1993 and Proposed Programme and Budget for 1994" (A/AC.96/808). At the same time, the Office was responding to comments of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) to have a more budgetary "Overview" document which would highlight programme support and administrative costs in particular. In trying to create a more budgetary "Overview" document, the Office felt that it was important to place budgetary information within the broader context of the world refugee situation, and policy/decisions related to assistance matters emanating from the General Assembly, ECOSOC and the Executive Committee. The Office was attempting to make UNHCR's report to ECOSOC and the documentation presented to the Executive Committee complementary.

30. Several delegations voiced their broad support for the proposals. In response to an observation by one delegate, the Director of the Division of Programmes and Operational Support said that no additional proposals in relation to documentation were foreseen at this stage; the new proposed documentation would, of course, be reviewed with the Sub-Committee.


31. The Chairman recalled that the forty-fourth session of the Executive Committee had asked that the recommendations of the In-depth Evaluation of UNHCR's Programme of International Protection of and Assistance to Refugees carried out by the Central Evaluation Unit of the United Nations, as well as the related comments of the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC), be reviewed before the forty-fifth session of the Executive Committee. He reminded the delegates that Conference Room Paper EC/1994/SC.2/CRP.3, entitled "Follow-up to the Report of the Secretary-General on the In-depth Evaluation of UNHCR's Programme on International Protection and Assistance to Refugees" covered all the recommendations primarily related to administrative and financial matters. Recommendations concerning international protection would be discussed at the meeting of the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection in May 1994.

32. The Senior Special Advisor to the Programme Policy Unit was requested by the Chairman to present this agenda item. He said that the approach taken in the preparation of the Conference Room Paper was simply to report on UNHCR's steps to implement the recommendations. The reason for this approach was that the CPC, when it reviewed the Report of the Secretary-General on the In-depth Evaluation, had endorsed the Report and its recommendations.

33. In comments on the Conference Room Paper, one delegate recalled the related institutional assessment of UNHCR already carried out by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). He informed delegates that his Government had received a comprehensive reply on steps being taken by UNHCR to address the recommendations of that evaluation. The same delegate went on to elaborate on ways of improving UNHCR's performance. The key elements to be addressed were the following:

(a) a clear definition of "accountability";

(b) strategic planning; and

(c) management based on results and assessment of performance.

34. In interventions on this agenda item, in particular the recommendations dealing with NGOs, delegates underlined the importance of the work of NGOs; for this reason, it was essential that means be found to organize the relationship between UNHCR and NGOs along rational lines and that a transparent, equitable selection system for executing agencies be created. One delegate suggested that, in order to promote effective programming, it was essential that a database be created which would provide objective criteria for evaluating the ability of NGOs to perform in refugee situations, even if it were not publicly accessible. Another delegate asked why experienced implementing partners have not been more widely used to help train local NGOs. The PARINAC process was praised by some as an excellent initiative, but improved management techniques should be put into place now and not wait until the process had been completed.

35. On the subject of programming and administrative controls, one delegation said the present evaluation system did not pay enough attention to assessment of performance. A general strategy of accountability and management-type performance results and objectives should be adopted.

36. One delegation praised the efforts that have been made in the Public Information sector. Another delegate queried whether the funding for such activities was self-generating or if the revenues were fed back into UNHCR assistance activities.

37. Referring to the section of Multi-year Planning and Strategic Planning, several delegations requested further information on the group of eminent persons to be set up to advise the Office. It was stated that the usefulness and cost of such an operation should be thoroughly studied before embarking upon it.

38. Both the importance of cooperation amongst specialized agencies and in particular the importance of coordination between humanitarian organizations, both at the Headquarters and Field levels, was referred to in several interventions. One delegate asked whether consideration had been given to cooperation with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

39. In regard to General and Special Programmes, one delegate felt that it was inappropriate that the Executive Committee played only a minor role as regards the budget for Special Programmes. He reminded the meeting that at the forty-fourth session of the Executive Committee in October 1993, the Committee noted not only the General Programmes target, but also the overall budget of UNHCR, including projected needs under Special Programmes; and his delegation felt that it was important to continue in this direction. Another delegation said that the distinction between General and Special Programmes was becoming increasingly irrelevant.

40. On the subject of regional approaches and activities, one delegation felt that more attention should be paid to preventive action and the search for permanent solutions. Another delegation endorsed this point of view, especially with regard to Africa. He said that regional approaches and plans should be comprehensive and even include compensatory measures to refugee-affected areas and countries of asylum. One delegate asked whether the proposed Regional Service Centres would add another layer to UNHCR bureaucracy. Another delegate said the proposal for the creation of Regional Service Centres responded to a recommendation made during a meeting of PARINAC and these Centres should be provided with equipment and resources to enable them to intervene in a timely manner.

41. Referring to training, one delegation hoped that issues relating to women and children refugees would form part of the basic staff training at UNHCR. Another delegation felt that this issue should also be included in NGO training.

42. The Chairman thanked the delegates for their interventions and then invited the Senior Special Advisor to respond. He said he would undertake to inform the various sections of the Office of comments of delegates.

43. More specifically on the question of the proposed Regional Service Centres, the Controller, under whose responsibility these would fall, pointed out that these Centres would be an essential component of the strategy to delegate greater authority to the field. This devolution of authority should improve programming and monitoring of programmes.

44. On the issue of inter-agency cooperation, the Senior Special Advisor noted that this was an agenda item for a future SCAF meeting. However, the current review being carried out within the Office did address the Bretton Woods Institutions and there had recently been a number of in-house meetings on how to improve cooperation with the World Bank.

45. The Director of the Division of Programmes and Operational Support in response to the many queries raised concerning NGOs, said a meeting would be held in Geneva immediately after the Addis Ababa Conference to discuss programmatic issues. The NGOs had indicated their interest in discussing a range of issues relation to UNHCR's operationality.

46. The Director of the Division of Programmes and Operational Support went on to say that strategic integration was the key element in the concept of a country operations plan for each country. By definition, a country operations plan, with clear objectives, should be a strategic integration which, where necessary, could assure a regional approach. The High Commissioner had emphasized the importance of taking a regional approach to cope with the complex nature of refugee movements; a good example of this was the crisis in Burundi.

47. He said that the issue of refugee women and refugee children had been well integrated both into emergency management and programme management training. Significant breakthroughs had been achieved over the last year in this respect.

48. The Controller intervened on this agenda item later in the meeting. Regarding audits, she said UNHCR was planning a pilot project to begin in mid-1994 to move the accounts examination function, which is currently carried out in Geneva, directly to the field; this would be done using private sector auditors, the aim being to utilize the Internal Audit Division more efficiently, i.e., for sectoral and procurement function audits. On the subject of NGOs, she said her Division was studying building the audit process into the sub-agreement with NGOs so as to ensure that the implementing partner is achieving programme objectives in a cost-effective manner.

49. The Deputy High Commissioner thanked the delegations for the broad and substantive comments to the Conference Room Paper on the follow-up to the In-depth Evaluation and assured them that they would be fully taken into account by the Office. He said that there was no easy response to the question as to whether the implementation of the recommendations would pose an extra burden and have resource implications. The Office, at this time, was not seeking endorsement for any additional resources in relation to any of the recommendations.

50. There being no further questions, the agenda item was closed. The Chairman said a number of the complex issues discussed would be reverted to, at the appropriate time, as topics in their own right on the agendas of the two Sub-Committees.


51. The Chairman called upon the Director of the Division of Programmes and Operational Support to introduce the Information Note on Statistics on Populations of Concern to UNHCR (EC/1994/SC.2//CRP/7). The Director said this paper was intended to give a succinct update on populations assisted by or of concern to UNHCR. Updates for December 1993 were not yet available for all countries at the time the document was being prepared. He suggested that, in the future, the Information Note presenting the year-end refugee statistics be presented at the May SCAF meeting. More comprehensive and detailed statistics were planned to be issued by May 1994.

52. Several delegations spoke of the importance they attached to statistics. It was noted that, while over the past few years substantial progress had been made in the presentation of statistics, further improvements could only be the result of an on-going process. It was stressed that age and gender breakdowns are essential to the planning of assistance programmes, and delegations hoped to see progress on this point. Given the large number of persons granted temporary asylum on a group basis, one delegate suggested that these figures be included in future statistics. Another delegate said that his Government was particularly interested in some explanations for population fluctuations from one reporting period to another. One delegate suggested that the percentage of refugees in relation to the total population of a given country be indicated as he felt this matter was of extreme importance to poor countries.

53. Before turning the floor over to the Director of the Division of Programmes and Operational Support, the Chairman reiterated the importance of statistics and stated that since statistical compilation was an on-going process, a document should be available to delegations at any time of the year. He requested that an age and gender breakdown, as well as more precise information on refugees and internally displaced, be available at the May meeting of SCAF.

54. The Director of the Division of Programmes and Operational Support said that there was no policy to exclude persons benefiting from temporary protection from the statistics, and that this issue would be studied. Since UNHCR is solely dependent on figures provided by Governments, it remained to be determined whether figures can be broken down by age and gender. A management-tool package was being finalized to facilitate registration exercises which will produce full information, particularly on gender and age breakdowns. He explained the difficulties involved in ascertaining what accounts for changes in population.

55. The Controller was then requested by the Chairman to present the "Note on Developments concerning UNHCR's New Headquarters Premises" (EC/1994/SC.2/CRP.8) and the "Information Note on Income and Expenditure for the Year 1993" (EC/1994/SC.2/CRP.6).

56. With respect to the first document, the Controller apologized for the delay in producing the document but said continual developments meant that could not be prepared earlier. Although 20 per cent of staff will have to be housed in a location other than the new building, various options are being investigated, with the need for proximity and cost effectiveness, among the principal considerations. The Conseil d'Etat of the Canton de Genève is doing everything possible to ensure that UNHCR will be in the new headquarters and operational by 1 September 1994. The controller assured SCAF members that UNHCR management was committed to ensuring a productive and friendly working environment.

57. The Controller drew attention to the second document. Income in 1993 totalled $ 1.6 billion, of which $ 448 million was for the General Programmes and $ 1.1 billion for Special Programmes. Total expenditure was $ 1.3 billion, compared to $ 1.1 billion in 1992, confirming that the growth curve in terms of expenditures continued. She noted that the major components of those expenditures were the General Programmes, which made up $ 392 million, and the Special Programmes which accounted for $ 915 million. Of this latter figure, $ 551 million went to the former Yugoslavia.

58. The Chairman thanked the Controller and opened the floor for comments. One delegate voiced concern on a number of issues: the fact that the new headquarters is no longer large enough for UNHCR's needs; the open landscaping concept; the repeatedly revised move-in date, and the fact that annual maintenance costs have gone up 20-25 per cent.

59. The Controller responded by saying that UNHCR management has been very insistent that everything necessary be done to ensure a productive, friendly working environment. This include, inter alia, a proper acoustic ceiling, proper panelling in the offices, modern furniture, and a flexible floor plan which allowed for wiring flexibility. Additional space had become necessary because of increases in the number of support staff required to cope with new refugee situations.

60. In regard to the "Information Note on Income and Expenditure for the Year 1993", one delegation raised the question of the the large carry-over under "Other Trust Funds". In reply, the Deputy High Commissioner said that the full accounts, although finalized, were now in the process of being audited. At the request of the auditors, a special schedule had been introduced in the annual accounts which discloses any trust fund balance that exceeds $500,000. The audited accounts, with the schedule in question, would be made available in time for the next Executive Committee.


61. In view of the proposal to be presented to the July 1994 meeting of ECOSOC to establish a joint and co-sponsored United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS, one delegate requested that UNHCR's position on this question be discussed at the June 1994 meeting of the Sub-Committee; this could be considered under the agenda item dealing with inter-agency cooperation.

62. In conclusion, the Deputy High Commissioner expressed his appreciation to SCAF members for the very substantive exchange of information and views. In particular, he expressed deep appreciation for the continuing financial support of Member States. He also thanked the Chairman for the efficient way in which the meeting had been handled.

63. The Chairman announced that, during consultations carried out in the course of the meeting, a consensus had been reached on a new date for the June meeting of SCAF. This would now take place on 24 rather than 16 June as had originally been planned.

64. As no other delegation wished to take the floor, the Chairman adjourned the meeting.