On June 29, 2021, the UN General Assembly’s budget and administrative committee (the Fifth Committee) approved the annual budgets for peacekeeping operations. Despite the fact that a number of missions operating in complex settings proposed smaller or zero-growth budgets this year, Member States made additional cuts. This outcome calls into question whether the current budget process can provide missions with the resources they need to implement core mandated activities, including the protection of civilians. One positive development could signal Member States are willing to amend their approach next year. During the negotiations, the Fifth Committee adopted new policy language that asserts: “all peacekeeping missions be provided with adequate resources for the effective and efficient discharge of their mandates, including the protection of civilians where mandated.” The leadership of peacekeeping missions and the UN Secretariat should take note of this development and take steps to ensure these resources are requested and approved next year.
A Broken Budget System?
For the July 1, 2021-June 30, 2022 financial year, Member States approved a total budget of $6.378 billion for 12 missions and their support elements. The approved figure is ~$91 million or ~1.37% less than the amount requested by the Secretary-General. As CIVIC highlighted last month, this year’s budget reductions were largely driven by the recommendations of the Advisory Committee for Administrative and Budgetary Questions (the “ACABQ”), which recommended a reduction of ~$68 million to the budgets proposed by the UN Secretary-General. Member States further reduced the budget by ~$23 million.
The ACABQ’s influence on Fifth Committee outcomes is concerning. The four largest peacekeeping missions operate in the extremely challenging contexts of the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Mali, and South Sudan, and have mandates that prioritize the protection of civilians (POC). CIVIC’s research has found that certain peacekeeping posts and integrated mechanisms in these missions are critical to the effective implementation of POC mandates. (See text box below for a list of capabilities). Past reports by the independent Board of Auditors have highlighted the need to properly staff and resource some of these critical mechanisms, such as strategic planning units (SPUs) and the Comprehensive Planning and Performance Assessment System (CPAS).1See paragraph 188 in A/74/5 (Vol. II) Despite these findings, these capabilities are often under-resourced. Yet, in years past, the ACABQ has recommended against the approval of these posts without providing much detail in support of their arguments.
This year, the peacekeeping operations based in CAR, DRC, Mali, and South Sudan didn’t request new posts — ones CIVIC has identified as critical for effective POC — even though those posts were requested and denied in previous years. Not one of the four missions requested additional posts to help implement the CPAS, to augment SPUs, or to support regional assessment, coordination, and planning mechanisms.
This begs the question of why missions did not propose posts that are linchpins to effective POC mandate implementation. Have missions grown discouraged by the ACABQ’s and Fifth Committee’s failure to approve these posts in previous years? Are mission personnel involved in planning and budget development aware of the UN reviews and audits that have identified the importance of augmenting these capabilities?
Missions may be deterred from requesting some of the linchpin capabilities for POC, but submitting conservative budget requests is not a winning strategy. For example, MONUSCO and UNMISS proposed budgets smaller than last year and MINUSMA proposed a zero-growth budget despite the fact that the security situations in these contexts have either not improved or have deteriorated. Missions may submit these zero-growth or smaller budgets to get ahead of and exert more control over any potential cuts imposed by the ACABQ and the Fifth Committee, but the outcomes this year do not support this approach. The Fifth Committee cut the budgets of UNMISS (~$12.5 million), MONUSCO (~$11.8 million), MINUSMA (~ $12.3 million), and even MINUSCA (~$12.1 million), despite the fact that MINUSCA only requested additional funding to support an increase in uniformed personnel authorized by the Security Council earlier this year. Some Member States are raising similar concerns. Speaking on behalf of the African Group during the closing of the negotiations, the representative of Mali deplored the “trend of the Committee to cut resources despite the best efforts of the Secretariat to present the most sincere and disciplined budget possible.”
New Policy Language Could Signal a Shift
Last year, the Fifth Committee included some policy language in individual mission budget resolutions to provide guidance to missions.2Member States likely included policy language in the resolutions in part because they were unable to agree on a more comprehensive resolution on cross-cutting issues. The cross-cutting resolution is the vehicle that Member States have used in the past to indicate policy priorities and guidance. In the past, the resolution has covered a range of policy issues such as sexual exploitation and abuse, peacekeeper safety and security, and unmanned aerial vehicles. The last time the Fifth Committee adopted a cross-cutting resolution was in 2016, which reflects the difficulty of negotiating a wide range of potentially contentious policy issues on top of peacekeeping budgets. They did so again this year, including helpful language on the Comprehensive Planning and Performance Assessment System (CPAS)3See, for example, paragraphs 31 and 32 in A/C.5/75/L.41 on MONUSCO. The same language can be found in other resolutions. and on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS).4See, for example, paragraph 38 in A/C.5/75/L.41 on MONUSCO. The same language can be found in other resolutions. Perhaps most importantly, Member States across key negotiating blocs forged consensus on language on the prioritization and provision of adequate resources for the safety and security of UN personnel as well as protection of civilians activities. The resolution language reads:
In addition, the budget resolutions for the four biggest missions include additional language that highlights the importance of POC mandates and reiterates calls for adequate resources. This language emphasizing the importance of providing adequate resources for effective and efficient discharge of POC mandates is an important precedent. The budget committee’s support for prioritizing and resourcing POC sends a signal to all stakeholders about the importance of matching protection mandates with adequate resources.
In August, missions will begin developing their budgets for the 2022-2023 financial year. They should take note of the Fifth Committee’s expression of support for CPAS, WPS, and POC, and request the resources they need to implement these responsibilities. Moreover, the Secretariat should support missions in crafting robust arguments to support these requests and remind the ACABQ and the Member States of the Fifth Committee’s consensus decision to support the prioritization of POC and to provide adequate resources to POC.
Mission requests for new posts would not automatically lead to ballooning budget levels. Additions of even a few POC-related posts and key planning, analysis, and coordination roles in a mission could lead to more effective and efficient mandate implementation, including the protection of civilians, and better match mandates with resources.