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Concerns voiced over UN Haiti mission budget cuts

haitiNEW YORK, USA--As Haiti approaches presidential and municipal elections, adequate international support was needed to avoid a security vacuum and a loss of gains made towards democracy and development, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) heard on Tuesday as it weighed a substantial cut to the 2015/16 budget of the United Nations peacekeeping operation in that country.

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) continues to play an essential role in assisting national authorities in strengthening security and stability and building the capacity of national institutions, that country's delegate said.

As the nation prepared to hold free, transparent and inclusive municipal, legislative and presidential elections, he continued, personnel in the military and police components in the mission should be maintained at appropriate levels to prevent the emergence of a security vacuum and a squandering of gains made so far.

Ecuador's delegate, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the bloc would scrutinize the proposed reduction of $110.52 million, or 22.1 percent, to MINUSTAH's 2015/16 budget.

CELAC disagreed with any arbitrary reductions without technical justification in the resources allocated to the mission, he said, reiterating the need for the provision of resources to ensure adequate technical, logistical and security support during the electoral process, a position supported by several other delegations.

The Committee was to meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 14 May, to discuss the United Nations' financial situation and its support account for peacekeeping operations.

Bettina Tucci Bartsiotas, assistant secretary-general and controller, introduced the secretary-general's reports on 2014/15 budget performance and the 2015/16 budgets for several peacekeeping missions.

For the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), she said the secretary-general was proposing to reduce the budget by 22.1 percent to $389.5 million for 2015/16. The number of military contingents was being reduced from 5,021 to 2,370, a total of 268 posts were being abolished and 38 posts were being converted to national staff. Five liaison offices and the regional office in Jacmel would be closed, the mission's civilian air fleet was being reconfigured and the Santo Domingo support office was being progressively closed.

Xavier Lasso Mendoza (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said MINUSTAH had made important progress in its support to the Haitian people's efforts to consolidate stability and the rule of law and move forward on the path to social and economic development. Yet the situation in the country still presented several challenges.

The proposed budget for the mission for the period from 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016 represented a decrease of $110,524,600, or 22.1 percent, compared to the previous year. CELAC would thoroughly consider the new proposals to reduce the budget with a view to ensuring that the mission would have the necessary resources to deliver its mandate and to help the Haitian government in its reconstruction and development efforts.

CELAC disagreed with any arbitrary reductions without technical justification in the resources allocated to the mission, he said, reiterating the need for the provision of resources to ensure adequate technical, logistical and security support during the electoral process. Community violence reduction programmes and quick-impact projects had proven to be critical tools in working towards sustainable peace and security and they needed appropriate financing, he said.

Conrad Lamont Sheck (Canada), speaking also for Australia and New Zealand, said that the Committee's decisions should not put at risk the results achieved to date in Haiti, in particular, the ability of MINUSTAH to contribute to the stability and security during significant national events such as elections.

On MINUSTAH, he was particularly interested in issues related to the use of air assets in providing enhanced mobility for the Mission uniformed personnel in order to respond to requests for assistance, notably from the Haitian National Police, as well as the rationale for the utilization of mission aircraft in medical evacuation scenarios.

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