3 November 2000


Press Release
GA/AB/3403



ACCOUNTABILITY MECHANISMS CENTRAL FOR PROPOSED HUMAN RESOURCES REFORMS, SPEAKERS TELL FIFTH COMMITTEE

20001103

As the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) continued its general debate on human resources management, several speakers stressed that accountability mechanisms were of central importance to the successful implementation of the Secretary-Generalís reform proposals.

As the proposals outlined in the field of recruitment, placement and promotion included entrusting programme managers with the final decision on selection of candidates, speakers said that it was essential to put in place a well designed mechanism of accountability, including internal monitoring and control procedures.

The representative of Nepal expressed concern that more discretion for programme managers in recruiting staff was fraught with problems. It contravened the objective of enhancing lateral and vertical mobility, and it was likely to be misused without constant monitoring and oversight. It would be better to ask programme managers to write job descriptions and ascertain qualifications of candidates, based on which a multinational panel of senior managers could make the recommendations to the Secretary-General for final selection. That would help to prevent cronyism, and also address the need for equitable representation, mobility and better performance.

Welcoming the reduction of recruitment time by 40 per cent, he added that speed was important, but it became unacceptable if it promoted injustice. Better sequencing of assessment of likely vacancies, their timely announcement and the speedy completion of selection would be a better course of action

The representative of Ghana said that managers and staff should be held fully accountable for the discharge of their responsibilities, including action and inaction, and should be rewarded or sanctioned, as appropriate. It was necessary to clearly spell out the managersí authority and responsibility and to enhance mechanisms for senior managers to monitor accountability. A performance management plan was a vital tool that would enable senior managers to indicate to the Secretary-General their goals for programmes and their management objectives.

Endorsing the Secretary-Generalís decision to more appropriately share human resources responsibilities between supervisors and the Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM), the representative of the United States said that such a policy would allow that Office to devote greater attention to human resources policy


Fifth Committee - 1a - Press Release GA/AB/3403 21st Meeting (PM) 3 November 2000

development and the monitoring of departmental action plans. That would also allow those in the field to take on more day-to-day personnel administration, while, at the same time, ensuring that managers could be held to a higher degree of accountability. While some felt a degree of unease about delegation of authority, there was value in changing the status quo for a system that was more dynamic, efficient and productive.

The representative of Libya said it was important to avoid causing harm to the Organization by fixing something that was not broken. The existing shortcomings in the administration of justice and cases of discriminatory treatment of employees should be addressed where they occurred. Those shortcomings were mainly due to the abuses of rules and procedures by managers, and to the weakness of the recourse mechanisms of the United Nations. They did not warrant a complete overhaul of the system. It was necessary to carefully evaluate proposed changes before implementing them, he continued.

Several speakers addressed the need to ensure equitable geographical representation in staff recruitment. The representative of Guinea-Bissau said that the only way for the United Nations to be a moral centre founded on universal values was to give qualified citizens of all Member States a chance to contribute to the Organization. Applicants from her country had been selected, but never recruited to the United Nations. Several reasons were given, including priority of internal candidates, languages, or gender. Over the years, many qualified candidates from Guinea-Bissau had been relegated to fourth or fifth on priority lists. Such an unfair pattern of selection demonstrated that the Secretariat was given too much latitude in interpretation of General Assembly guidelines on personnel matters.

At the end of the meeting, several speakers supported the representative of Pakistan, who said that travel-related problems within the Organization should be addressed along with management irregularities leading to financial losses. Speaking about the monopoly of one travel agency at the Secretariat, he said that it was also causing inconvenience to those who had no choice but buy tickets from that agency, even if cheaper tickets were available elsewhere. The schedules and carriers offered by the agency in question were often inconvenient, and travel by national carriers was not allowed.

Also speaking this afternoon were the representatives of Mongolia, Ukraine, Cuba, Croatia, Ethiopia, Philippines, Mexico, Kuwait, Mali, Syria, Algeria, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Chile and Bangladesh.

The Committee will continue its work at 10 a.m. Monday, 6 November, when it is scheduled to begin its consideration of the financial reports of the Board of Auditors and continue its discussion of programme planning and human resources management issues.



Fifth Committee - 3 - Press Release GA/AB/3403 21st Meeting (PM) 3 November 2000

Committee Work Programme

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this afternoon to resume its discussion of human resources management reform and programme planning. [For background information on human resources management, see Press Release GA/AB/3398 of 31 October.]

Statements

O. ENKHTSETSEG (Mongolia) said that Mongolia attached great importance to the issue of United Nations reform, in general, and to the reform of human resources management, in particular. She welcomed that mechanisms for accountability, monitoring and control, coupled with the principles of simplicity, transparency and timeliness, were proposed as an integral part of the package of initiatives. In the area of recruitment, placement and promotion, Mongolia wished to see stronger emphasis on key principles such as equitable geographical representation and gender balance, transparency and competence. The proposal to delegate authority to programme managers should be approached with great caution. It was extremely important that well designed mechanisms of accountability, including internal monitoring and control procedures, be put in practice before change occurred.

She was disturbed that despite the efforts of the Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM) to enhance recruitment through the National Competitive Examination and the availability of candidates, some managers were still reluctant to recruit such candidates, leaving many posts vacant. She wanted to know the specific reasons behind that reluctance. According to the proposals, the central review body -Ė the major accountability mechanism -Ė would only be mandated to examine procedural compliance. It would, therefore, lack well designed measurable targets and operational guidelines to monitor impartiality and objectivity of managers.

Another concern was the persistence of tailor-made job descriptions, she said. She welcomed the proposal to eliminate such practices by forwarding evaluation forms to the central review body to obtain independent confirmation of the appropriateness of criteria. She emphasized the need to reevaluate current standard requirements and develop realistic vacancy announcements that met the objective of rejuvenating staff. Mongolia strongly supported the National Competitive Examination as an indispensable tool for recruiting qualified personnel and ensuring equitable geographical representation. In filling entry- level posts at the P-2 and P-3 levels, preference should be given to successful candidates from national competitive examinations. Closer consideration should be given as to whether movement from General Service to Professional category should be regarded as promotion or recruitment. Mongolia supported the objectives of enhancing the lateral and horizontal mobility of the staff.

DONALD HAYS (United States) said that there was clear recognition by Member States of the exhaustive efforts by the OHRM to use the Secretary-Generalís prerogative to implement improvements. Those who had asked for additional information were doing so in the spirit of responsible engagement, and he believed that they would eventually endorse the reforms once they were clear about the outcomes proposed and the safeguards imposed. The United States endorsed the Secretary-Generalís decision to more appropriately share responsibilities between line supervisors and the OHRM. That would allow that Office to devote greater attention to human resources policy development and to the monitoring of departmental human resources action plans. While some might feel a degree of unease about delegation of authority, he recognized the value of changing the status quo for a system that was more dynamic, efficient and productive.

The only specific proposal of the Secretary-General that required Committee action was the request to amend the Staff Rules to enable a more accountable and decentralized recruitment process, he continued. The United States supported the amendment of the Staff Rules to allow the establishment of a central review body and set out its membership and functions. With the implementation of appropriate controls and continuing strong internal oversight, the delegation of authority to programme managers would facilitate improved outcomes not only in the human resources management area, but in overall programme delivery. Without increased mobility, the United Nations would continue to be hobbled by prolonged vacancies and an underdeveloped workforce. He would appreciate elaboration as to specific incentives that would promote service in difficult postings, he said. He strongly supported an approach that strengthened the Secretary-Generalís authority to deploy staff to meet pressing organizational requirements, and offered his support for changes in the corporate culture.

The United States remained concern about the persistent high vacancy rates in critical posts and demographic trends that would impact on future recruitment, he said. While he valued the contents of the Secretary-Generalís report and supported its recommendations, he wondered if it was enough. Recruitment and retention of highly qualified personnel must be the highest priority. The incentive for service must be competitive. The Organization must shape its human resource policies to address the needs of the growing expectations of many of its staff. The incentives for service must be responsive to the expectations of the human resource pool from which the United Nations recruited. The United States urged a bottom-up review of its staffing needs, job content and skills required for the next decade and beyond.

He said that the report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services on education grants was the sort of proactive and management-oriented approach that would help the OHRM strengthen accountability. Its report on recruitment would help manage system transition. On the issue of staff security, he said that violence to United Nations personnel must be stopped. The Organization was entering a new era with a new agenda. Member States must bring their best efforts to bear on providing the international community with a workforce that was efficient and effective, and that was managed equitably and responsibly.

VALERIY P. KUCHYNSKI (Ukraine) said that he shared the Secretary-Generalís vision of the priority areas for human resources management reform, including streamlining and improving the mechanisms of accountability, planning, contractual arrangements and recruitment, and ensuring equitable geographical representation and gender balance. Effective mechanisms of accountability and coordination were essential for the success of any reform. Any system of accountability should be a two-way mechanism based on clear determination of responsibilities of staff and management at all levels. It was necessary to intensify efforts to simplify and streamline internal administrative instructions guiding the functions and performance of staff and managers. He had learned with concern from the report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) that programme managers were often not held accountable for failure to apply established human resources policies, he continued. For that reason, it was important to strengthen the central monitoring and control functions of the OHRM and the Department of Management. The proposed Accountability Panel could be an effective coordinating tool. Accountability should be underpinned by appropriate planning at the departmental level. He also welcomed the initiative for developing human resources management information systems. However, delays in the preparation of the skills inventory of staff were disappointing.

Mobility was an essential element of personnel policy, he said. His delegation supported the proposed shift towards managed mobility of staff and was looking forward to the elaboration of appropriate mechanisms. However, mobility should be properly balanced with recruitment.

Turning to contractual arrangements, he expressed regret at the lack of information on the concept of a ďcontinuing contractĒ and its difference from the current permanent appointment. Further clarification was needed on possible changes in procedure for separation of staff for poor performance and granting termination indemnity. It was also important to improve the system of internal administration of justice. One of the most impressive proposals was to shorten the recruitment process, and he welcomed the proposed changes in that regard. As for the expected large number of retirements, it presented both a serious challenge and a sound opportunity to rejuvenate the Organization.

Stressing the importance of equitable geographical distribution of staff, he reaffirmed the relevant provisions of General Assembly resolution 53/221 regarding the realignment of the G to P examination with the national competitive exam. On the subject of gender equality, his countryís long-standing position was that in striving to achieve the gender parity, the Secretariat must avoid artificial attempts to recruit or promote female candidates by giving them preferential treatment. In conclusion, he drew attention to the importance of closer involvement of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) in the personnel reform process, where it could play a major role.

PEDRO LUIS PEDROSO (Cuba) supported the position of the ďGroup of 77Ē developing countries and China, and said that human resources management remained a key element in international civil service management. A coherent and transparent strategy was needed. Any policy for human resources should be a result of systemic and open-ended consultations between the management and the staff. It was crucial to have staff represented in decision-making on human resources management. Legislative bodies should also take part in decisions on human resources.

The process should bring better conditions for staff and, at the same time, preserve the institutional memory and international character of the United Nations, he said. Under the guise of the reform, some proposals were designed to carry out arbitrary reductions in staff, and that could jeopardize the well-being of the Organization. Welcoming most reports before the Committee, he expressed regret that the report of the ACABQ did not have substantive proposals on the report of the Secretary-General, thus, hampering the work of the Committee.

Transferring responsibility to managers for the recruitment, promotion and placement of staff presupposed a better level of delegation of authority in terms of accountability, he continued. The proposed system must be accompanied by a coherent system of accountability. A definition of parameters and clear norms was needed and must be established with the participation of Member States and staff. A broad-based and just mechanism for the administration of justice would supplement the delegation of authority. He agreed with the observation of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) on the need of total independence for the justice system. Staff should have access to a real appeals process. The General Assemblyís Sixth Committee (Legal) should also consider that proposal and express its opinion on the matter.

The Secretary-General had made a fundamental proposal on three types of contracts, he said. He considered the permanent contract as part and parcel of the international civil service, and that its discontinuation would have serious implications. He was worried that its absence could become a disincentive for people Ė- especially young people -Ė planning to join the United Nations, at this critical stage when many retirements were expected. Elimination of permanent contracts would generate a feeling of insecurity, and he believed the justification for the proposed changes was insufficient.

The proposal to impose the condition of mobility as a prerequisite for promotion had also attracted his attention, he said. There should be no imbalances between staff at various duty stations and departments, but the proposed system was rigid and could turn into a system of punishment, if not regulated properly. The system of mobility should involve posts at the D level and should also provide incentives for mobility. Those matters were interrelated with others, and the question should be taken up as a whole.

LESLIE K. CHRISTIAN (Ghana) said that accountability mechanisms were of central importance to the implementation of human resources management reform. Managers and staff should be held fully accountable for the discharge of their responsibilities, including action and inaction, and should be rewarded or sanctioned, as appropriate. The Secretary-General had recognized the existence of a multiple level system of authority and decision-making that could blur individual responsibility. Ghana encouraged him, rather, to introduce measures that would clearly spell out the authority and responsibility given to managers, and to enhance mechanisms for senior managers to monitor staff accountability. The performance management plan was a vital tool that would enable senior managers to indicate to the Secretary-General their achievable goals for programmes and their management objectives.

The proposals outlined for the reform of recruitment, placement and promotion procedures included entrusting programme managers with the final decision on selection of candidates, he said. It was essential to put in place a well designed mechanism of accountability, including internal monitoring and control procedures. Mobility was necessary for an organization with complex and interrelated mandates that required a versatile, multi-skilled and experienced international civil service. Adequate consideration must be given to the legitimate concerns of staff who might have genuine reasons for not accepting their movement. He urged the Secretary-General to ensure proper mobility of staff between regional commissions and duty stations to correct the persistently high vacancy rates that impeded delivery of programmes and projects. He stressed the need to improve the administration of justice and welcomed the provision of comprehensive proposals to the General Assembly for consideration.

JASMINKA DINIC (Croatia) said that she fully supported the Secretary- Generalís effort to realize his vision of an overall programme of reform. The ability to retain and acquire highly qualified United Nations staff was of the utmost importance. Equitable geographical and gender distribution and the quality of candidates were two crucial elements in the recruitment, placement and promotion of staff. Croatia supported the idea of the national competitive examinations as the best method for recruiting young qualified people at entrance level. The unreasonable length of time for recruitment procedures was very discouraging. She appreciated the positive steps taken to address this, but believe that more could and needed to be done. The United Nations needed young, talented men and women, and it should work harder to create means to attract them, rather than discourage them.

She supported the Secretary-Generalís proposals on the delegation of authority to programme managers in the recruitment procedure. They could simplify the whole process, but would need to be followed by an assurance that equitable geographical distribution would be fully respected. Priority should be given to hiring highly qualified candidates from under-represented and unrepresented countries. Staff must feel comfortable with new recruitment procedures and must be protected in cases of lack of accountability on the part of managers. The creation of an ombudsman mechanism could be an acceptable solution. Although gender balance had improved during the last several years, more needed to be done. Statistics showed that the numbers were low for women from Eastern Europe, in particular at the professional level. More women were needed in the Secretariat, especially at higher levels, not because they were women but because they were qualified. Croatia supported the proposals regarding improved mobility.

MEKONNEN GOSSAYE (Ethiopia) said that motivated high-calibre staff were critical for the effective delivery of the mandated programmes of the United Nations. Efficient management of that invaluable asset should be at the centre of the overall reform of the Organization. Noting the efforts to set measurable objectives and goals for human resources planning, he said that now was an opportune moment to rejuvenate the Organization, given the large number of retirements expected in the forthcoming years.

Regarding recruitment, placement and promotion, he stressed the importance of the issue of vacancy reduction. High vacancy rates were closely related to all the other areas of human resources reform and, in particular, to the need to have a short and simplified recruitment process. He encouraged the Secretary-General to achieve as soon as possible the goal of filling vacancies in a maximum of 120 days, particularly in field missions and duty stations in Africa. Advance planning was important to ensure there was ample time to screen and judge the suitability of all qualified candidates.

He generally supported improving the mobility of staff; however, mobility should be approached through careful analysis, he said. Its consequences for promotion and for the availability of expert and institutional memory should be taken into account. Concerning career development, he said that a system was needed to encourage continuous professional growth of staff at all levels. A simplified and appropriate performance appraisal system with a transparent promotion policy was paramount for achieving healthy career development.

Ethiopia was particularly concerned about the decision of the General Assembly on human resources management, that called for equitable geographic distribution to be a factor in G to P examination appointments. That had created complications and ran counter to career development. The Secretary-General, as the chief administrative officer of the United Nations, had clearly indicated, in his report A/C.5/54/2, the negative implications of that element of the decision and requested its reconsideration. Modern human resources management principles provided the necessary guidelines to arrive at an objective policy decision. He hoped that the General Assembly, at its current session, would examine the issue objectively and rectify the inconsistency.

On improving the status of women in the Secretariat, he said that he attached paramount importance to that issue. He particularly agreed with the need for States to accelerate the rate at which they put forward women candidates for United Nations posts. The goal of 50/50 gender distribution at all levels would advance enormously if Member States created opportunities for the OHRM to identify women candidates for vacancies.

MURARI RAJ SHARMA (Nepal) said that he found plenty of rationality in the building blocks approach to human resources management. The efforts of the Secretary-General to determine individual responsibilities and ascertain accountability were really laudable. Coherent measures had been presented on the many aspects of human resources management. Overall, the Secretary-Generalís proposals were likely to bring about the much-awaited changes in human resources management. When necessary, one must not hesitate to engage in constructive overhaul by removing anomalies, reorganizing the structure and sprucing up the procedures. More fine-tuning was needed to make human resources management at the United Nations capable and relevant.

Nepal welcomed the 40 per cent reduction of recruitment time, he said. However, while speed was important, it was unacceptable if it promoted injustice. Better sequencing of assessment of likely vacancies, their timely announcement, and the speedy completion of selection without putting anyone at a disadvantage would be better courses of action. His delegation was also concerned about the lack of equitable geographical representation in the composition of staff. That left much to be desired, especially at policy levels. Urgent measures were needed to rectify the imbalance. There was absolutely no justification for why less than one third of positions were subject to equitable geographical representation requirements, leaving the rest outside their ambit. On gender balance, he saw meeting recruitment targets of women as a welcome, but transitional, step. Qualifications and competency of candidates were the cardinal elements for efficient and effective management.

Mobility should be encouraged, without discrimination and in a manner that did not undermine performance and professionalism, he said. It was essential for those already within the system to have an opportunity for career development, which entailed expanding and enriching jobs and upward mobility. He was concerned that more discretion for programme managers in recruiting staff was fraught with problems. It contravened the objective of enhancing lateral and vertical mobility, and was likely to be misused unless constantly monitored. A better way would be to ask programme managers to write job descriptions and ascertain qualifications of candidates, based on which a multinational panel of senior managers could make recommendations to the Secretary-General for final selection. That would help to prevent cronyism and address the need for representativeness, mobility and better performance. There was also a need to ensure the safety of United Nations and associated personnel. Nepal had already deposited the instrument of ratification of the Convention on the safety of such personnel during the Millennium Summit.

MARY JO ARAGON (Philippines) said that the most important asset of the Organization was its staff. Central to human management resources reform was the need to establish a well designed mechanism of accountability and responsibility before delegation of authority was implemented, as well as an effective and fair system of justice. The Secretary-Generalís proposed system of recruitment, placement and promotion deserved careful consideration. There was a need to ensure that vacancy announcements were received in a timely manner to enable Member States to present qualified candidates and avoid the impression that certain candidates had been preselected. The principle of merit should be the paramount consideration in the promotion of staff in all categories, irrespective of nationality.

She said that mobility would enrich the career development of staff. It was important, however, to ensure that staff returning from mission assignment were placed immediately in an established post within their occupational network. On the issue of proposed new contractual arrangements, she awaited information on the differences between continuing and permanent contracts and the implications of those proposals on the career development of staff. She was concerned about the slow progress in improving the representation of women from developing countries at senior-level posts. Greater efforts must be exerted in that regard. The majority of General Service staff were women. Their concerns and aspirations for upward mobility deserved attention. They had invested their own time and money to obtain necessary academic qualifications, and their skill and experience should be tapped into and developed. The only opportunity for qualified General Service staff to be promoted to the Professional category was through the internal competitive examination (the G to P exam). Regrettably, those examinations was on hold pending the review of General Assembly resolution 53/221. Staff members of all nationalities and in all categories should be afforded equal opportunity to be promoted on the basis of merit. She stressed the need to address the question at the earliest possible time.

KHALIFA O. ALATRASH (Libya) supported the position of the Group of 77 and China and said that the issue before the Committee required a balanced and just consideration, as it related to the development of the human component of the Organization. It was necessary to reassert the importance of human beings. The specific identity of an international organization should be reflected in its human resources policy. The Secretariat was an important component of the United Nations. The Secretariat was an international body, working under the Secretary- General in full independence from national governments. In that regard, it was important to ensure job security to staff. The highest standard of efficiency should be ensured, as well as the widest possible geographical representation.

Important steps to be followed include setting objectives and determining the means to achieve them, he continued. That should lead to a distribution of posts with clearly defined job descriptions. Then, posts should be organized into units according to a clear-cut administrative system. Such a system should be followed at each stage of the reform process.

He went on to say that it was important to avoid causing harm to the Organization by fixing something that was not broken. Indeed, there were shortcomings in the administration of justice, and some discriminatory issues in the treatment of employees by managers. Those shortcomings should be addressed where they occurred. However, it was necessary to evaluate proposed changes before implementing them. Some proposals seemed to be implementing results-based budgeting, a concept which had not been approved yet. The shortcomings in the current system were mainly due to irregularities and abuses of the rules and procedures by managers, and to the weakness of the internal justice system of the United Nations. Additional human and financial resources needed to implement the Secretary-Generalís proposal should be carefully considered. It was important to note that much time and effort would have to be taken by department managers over human resources management, at the expense of core programmes.

He expressed concern at the lack of equity in geographical distribution of positions. Libya had not obtained a single post in New York, although it had paid all its contributions in time. Countries should be informed of vacancies in advance to have time to present their candidates. In view of many foreseen vacancies, he also hoped that more attention would be given to geographical distribution.

ERNESTO HERRERA(Mexico) said that the United Nationsí most important capital was its human resources. In a globalized world, investment in human resources should be a priority. A policy on human resources should be accompanied by initiatives that enhanced the excellence of staff. There should be conditions for professional development. He supported the principles of equitable geographical distribution and the goal of achieving gender equality. The United Nations should pursue salary policies that attracted the best candidates to fill vacancies. Any human resources reform should consider improvement in career expectations and provide for transparent mechanisms for performance evaluation and a consistent policy of mobility and training. He was concerned that the United Nations was an ageing organization.

The challenge was not to fill vacancies, but to attract young professionals to join the Organization and not to leave it, he said. He supported the Secretary-Generalís initiatives to make the Organization a paradigm in the area of staff management. He also supported the establishment of mechanisms to supervise human resources management. Regarding contractual arrangements, he wondered how it would be possible to plan training when one did not know what human resources would be available on a permanent footing.

MESHAL AL-MANSOUR (Kuwait) said that the Secretary-Generalís reform programme was aimed at improving the calibre of staff and increasing the efficiency with which human resources was being managed. He was pleased to see that some progress had been made in the reform process, particularly in planning for human resources and streamlining recruitment and promotion procedures. Human resources were of first priority importance. Reform could not take place without highly skilled managers, and staff were the basic ingredient of any reform process. Recruitment and promotion procedures needed to be more transparent and streamlined. He noted also the reduction in the number of unrepresented and under-represented countries.

The Office of Human Resources Management must make more strenuous efforts to give unrepresented countries greater opportunities, he continued. The principle of equitable geographical representation must be the guiding principle in recruitment.

MOCTAR OUANE (Mali) supported the statement by Nigeria on behalf of the Group of 77 and China. He said that none of the objectives of the Millennium Summit would become a reality, unless the Organization possessed a highly qualified and motivated staff, dedicated to the ideals of the Organization. Reform should be encouraged, for the survival of the Organization depended on its capacity to adapt and its ability to attract the best staff possible. It was important to take into account the principle of equitable geographical representation and create good career conditions.

The proposed system of contracts required some clarifications, he continued. The differences between the current system of permanent contracts and the proposed continuing contracts had not been adequately explained. Expressing preference for retaining permanent contracts, he said that it was also important to attract young people to the United Nations. Expected retirement of a large number of people presented a great opportunity in that respect. It was necessary to ensure gender balance and reform the internal justice system. Simplification of procedures and the protection of staff rights were crucial for the establishment of an effective system of recourse.

HAYDAR ALI AHMAD (Syria) said that Syria supported the position of the Group of 77 and China. The staff of the Organization were a priceless asset and an integral part of the United Nations. The opinions of the staff must be a major contribution to any reform of human resources management. The concept of accountability at all levels was a guideline for reform, and that had been stressed by the Secretary-General during the fifty-third session of the Assembly. He had also emphasized the importance of geographical and gender balance. The United Nations must be able to carry out its mission, and Syria endorsed the proposals by the Secretary-General, including those of justice and parity. However, reform should not lead to a decrease in the budget or cuts in the number of staff.

Assembly resolution 53/221 had affirmed those ideas, he continued. It also asked for the establishment of solid mechanisms of accountability before delegating authority. According to the proposals, responsibility had been passed to heads of departments and offices, without ensuring sufficient accountability. That ran contrary to the Assembly requirement. He had considered with satisfaction the report of the JIU on the system of justice within the United Nations. That report was a sound basis for further work. He also noted the JIUís remarks regarding the need to implement criteria adopted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) to create a just system within the United Nations.

Regarding the link between human resources management with results-based budgeting, he said that use of results-based budgeting had not yet been approved for use in the United Nations, and some clarifications were needed in that respect. Turning to the proposed types of appointments, he also asked for further information to justify the abandonment of the permanent contracts. It was important to have contractual arrangements in accordance with relevant General Assembly resolutions, which requested only permanent and non-permanent types of appointment. However he acknowledged that, at this stage, the Secretary-General was seeking opinions from Member States on the matter, which should be further considered.

Syria attached great importance to equitable geographical distribution, he said, which should be improved regarding under-represented and unrepresented countries through national competitive exams. Mobility should have a clear institutional basis, taking into consideration the special requirements of staff. He also stressed the importance of the timely distribution of documentation.

ABDELMALEK BOUHEDDOU (Algeria) said that staff were the United Nationsí basic asset, enabling the Organization to function effectively. It was time to establish a policy for human resources management that was rational and modern, and that would guarantee maintaining high calibre staff. In view of the large number of retirees and the high number of vacant posts, timing of the discussion was appropriate. He welcomed the reduction of the average length of time to recruit staff. While it was true that delegation of authority to programme managers could improve the current recruitment process, it did not automatically guarantee transparency and objectivity. Hence, there was a need to accompany delegation of authority by appropriate accountability measures and correct administration of justice.

Contractual arrangements should be the subject of discussion, he said. More clarification was needed, especially regarding the nebulous area between the fixed term, permanent and continuing contracts. He supported mobility because of the scope of United Nations field activities and the need for rapid deployment of staff to the field. However, mobility could give rise to abuse of authority by programme managers. Safety nets were needed to reduce that risk. He was concerned that education grants could be used for fraudulent purposes. He also regretted that the Secretary-General had not proposed specific measures to cope with the ageing of staff.

Regarding the administration of justice, he said that the Secretary- Generalís comments on some of the Joint Inspection Unitís remarks were not entirely convincing. The quality of administration of justice depended on many factors, both institutional and human. It also depended on the rules of the game, the applicable law. Therefore, the improvement in the administration of justice could not be separated form the question of applicable law. In his report, the Secretary-General thought that the statutes of the Organization respected all the norms contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He asked about several staffing issues in the Administrative Tribunal. If an assistant clerk were appointed, it would help the Tribunal dispatch its functions.

MURAT A. SMAGULOV (Kazakhstan) said that reform of human resources management was an important component of United Nations reform. As the efficiency of the Organization depended on appropriate staffing, he welcomed the application of equitable geographical representation criteria when filling vacancies, and supported decreasing the average recruitment time. Geographical representation was an issue of particular concern to Kazakhstan. Citizens of his country had tried to find positions within the Organization, and his Government had been promised for years that its candidates would be evaluated. He hoped that the Secretariat would take note of his concern. He welcomed the Secretary-Generalís efforts on reform in the area of mobility. He cautioned that reform of human resources management should not cause a reduction in staff.

Ms. DíALVA (Guinea-Bissau) said that, on the question of equitable geographical distribution, she believed that the only way for the United Nations to be a moral centre founded on universal values of liberty was by giving qualified citizens from all Member States a chance to contribute to the Organization. Guinea-Bissau had made significant contributions to support the principles and objectives of the Charter. Some applicants from her country had been selected, but never recruited by the Secretariat. Several reasons were given, including giving priority to internal candidates, languages, or gender. The Permanent Mission had been asked to assist the Secretariat in identifying qualified citizens, but none of the candidates identified were recruited. Over the years, many highly qualified professionals from her country had expressed interest in joining the Secretariat, but they had been relegated to fourth or fifth on the priority lists. One candidate in particular had expressed his interest in several posts commensurate with his experience. She had come to the conclusion that managers sometimes did not comply with mandates of the General Assembly regarding recruitment from under-represented countries.

She supported the Secretary-Generalís overall efforts at reform, and was aware of the great effort made by the OHRM to bring balance to the Secretariat. Unfortunately, reality showed it did not have power to change the situation. A national competitive exam had been conducted in her country, and some candidates had been selected, but they too were never recruited. Guinea-Bissau had zero staff members serving in the Secretariat.

She was afraid that, given the length of time that this unrepresentation existed, Guinea-Bissau was facing an unfair pattern of selection. The Secretariat must not be given too much latitude in interpreting General Assembly guidelines on recruitment from unrepresented States. Interviews had not been conducted in good faith. Managers were often already aware of their selected candidates. She continued to witness systematic violation of measures to promote equitable geographical representation. Guinea-Bissau should be given the opportunity to serve the Secretariat with selection of candidates for posts for which they were highly qualified.

AIZAZ AHMAD CHAUDHRY (Pakistan) said that he had made a statement before, but he wanted to add that the Committee had before it a report on management irregularities leading to financial losses to the Organization. That document recommended the improvement of budgetary controls, based on the recommendations of the oversight bodies. An important matter causing financial losses to the Organization had been overlooked before. It derived from the monopoly of one travel agency at the Secretariat. That was causing not only financial losses, but also inconvenience to those who had no choice but buy tickets from that agency, even if cheaper tickets were available elsewhere. The schedules and carriers offered by the agency in question were often inconvenient, and travel by national carriers was not allowed. He wanted to know why such a monopoly existed and if restrictions applied to everybody within the Secretariat. What internal controls were used to address the problem? he asked.

BALI MONIAGA (Indonesia) said that it was important for Member States to receive clarification on the point just raised by the representative of Pakistan.

ALVARO JARA (Chile) said that Chile endorsed the position on human resources management that had been presented by Nigeria on behalf of the Group of 77 and China. The reform of human resources was a logical step, and he supported it. He added that he was also worried about the status of the competitive G to P exam. Ambiguous interpretation of resolution 53/221 led to irregularities and prevented people seeking employment from getting jobs within the Secretariat.

RIAZ HAMIDULLAH (Bangladesh) said that the representative of Pakistan had raised an important question, which had been considered in informal consultations previously. He hoped that this time it would be addressed in a conclusive manner. When delegates travelled on official United Nations business and when travel was undertaken at the field level, they encountered the same problems. He inquired about the policies guiding travel at the United Nations and the criteria of selection of travel carriers. Sometimes tickets issued to delegates were restrictive and non-refundable. Tickets were also available at much better prices outside the Organization. That could save a lot of money to the Organization.

EVA SILOT BRAVO (Cuba) supported the previous statements on the subject of travel restrictions. She was familiar with the situation, having suffered from similar practices. She awaited further information on the issue. The practice involved ran counter to the international character of the Organization. It was also necessary to make savings for the United Nations.

Mr. ALI AHMAD (Syria) said that due to the sensitivity and importance of the question raised by the representative of Pakistan, detailed explanations were needed.

Mr. BOUHEDDOU (Algeria) said that he shared the concerns expressed. His delegation had already spoken on the matter last year. He expected explanations from the Secretariat.

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