Commitment authority is approval for the Secretary-General to enter into financial commitments of up to a certain amount in absence of an appropriation from the General Assembly. It is usually used as a temporary measure until a full or revised budget can be prepared and an appropriation provided by the General Assembly.
Commitment authority can be with or without assessment, depending on immediate cash requirements.
Peacekeeping start-up or expansion
The use of commitment authority for peacekeeping missions was established in General Assembly resolution 49/233A of 23 December 1994, section IV, and draws upon the $150 million of the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund established by the General Assembly in its resolution 47/217 of 23 December 1992. The applicable provisions, which have subsequently been amended, are currently contained in Financial Regulations 4.6 through 4.9.
Peacekeeping missions are also able to draw upon up to $50 million from the strategic deployment stocks to support start-up and expansion, with reimbursement after an appropriation has been received..
Peacekeeping mandate change
Since the 2010s, it has become common for the General Assembly to not approve the full budget of a peacekeeping mission that is undergoing a mandate review or where circumstances have changed since a budget was prepared. In these situations, the General Assembly has frequently approved commitment authority (with assessment) for six months until a revised budget is submitted for consideration, generally during the fall, with adoption in December.
Unforeseen and extraordinary expenses
Start-up of special political missions relies on the unforeseen and extraordinary expenses (UEE) mechanism in the regular budget, which is governed by a separate UEE resolution for each budget period. The UEE resolution for the 2018-2019 biennium is General Assembly resolution 72/264 of 24 December 2017.
UEE allows the SG to enter into commitments related to peace and security totaling $8 million per year without any review as well as expedited approval of commitment authority for the start-up or expansion of an SPM with the concurrence of ACABQ without the requirement of going to the General Assembly if the requirements are below $10 million. Requirements above $10 million require General Assembly approval. Commitment authority under UEE does not come with assessment, and supplementary estimates are required to be submitted related to commitments entered under the UEE resolution.
While special political missions have access to the strategic deployment stocks, they have to replenish the costs up-front, thus reducing the available commitment authority for other requirements. This is in contrast with the situation in peacekeeping missions, where SDS replenishment is only required after an appropriation is received.
- Including by General Assembly resolution 64/269, section VI, paragraph 8
- General Assembly resolution 64/269, section VI, paragraph 9
- In colloquial usage, the term UEE is often used to refer only to this specific provision of the UEE resolution.
- A/66/340 Review of arrangements for funding and backstopping special political missions