|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-second General Assembly
28th Meeting (AM)
UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RESOURCES STRUCTURES MUST BE ADAPTED TO MEET GROWING
DEMANDS OF PEACEKEEPING, OTHER FIELD OPERATIONS, BUDGET COMMITTEE TOLD
Management Head Presents Key Reform Proposals;
Chef de Cabinet Responds to Questions on Special Adviser’s Appointment
With a growing demand for peacekeeping and other field operations, human resources structures needed to be adapted to facilitate rapid deployment and mobility, to attract and retain high-quality personnel, to provide for predictable career development and to adequately compensate staff for serving in difficult and hardship positions, Alicia Barcena, Under-Secretary-General for Management, told the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning.
Ms. Barcena was presenting the Secretary-General’s detailed proposals on some key elements of the human resources reform package, which was initially presented in his “Investing in People” report, including the recommendations on streamlining contractual arrangements and harmonization of conditions of service in the field.
According to the reports before the Committee, the issues that the Secretary-General is attempting to address with his reform proposals include: problems with staff retention in peace operations owing to the four-year limit on 300-series appointments; differing conditions of service for staff; the inability, under the current arrangements, to move staff from mission to mission, as operational requirements change; the complexity of administering the current contractual framework; and the need to offer staff in peace operations a career development path.
An appeal for change was also made by Jane Holl Lute, Officer-in-Charge of the Department of Field Support, who said that contractual arrangements and administration of peacekeeping must adjust to the changing reality, providing the best expertise the world had to offer. The reforms should signal to the field staff that they were valued. “We ask them to give the best working years of their lives, too often without their families,” she said.
The representative of Antigua and Barbuda, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations to consider all categories of staff, including the locally recruited mission staff, under one set of Staff Rules. And the proposals on the harmonization of the conditions of service vindicated a long-standing position of the Group, which was ready to support a scheme that would put all international staff on an equal footing, thus improving the conditions of service in the field and making working for the Organization more appealing and rewarding.
He also emphasized the importance of engaging the representatives of the staff in the negotiations on the human resources management reform, which should be accomplished through the joint and constructive work of management, staff and Member States.
Slovenia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the proposal to simplify the many different types of contracts at the United Nations responded to the need to make that system more transparent, easier to administer and to enhance staff morale. The Union was ready to continue to engage constructively to ensure that any new system met the needs of the Organization and its staff. It also looked forward to discussing the best way to address the role that harmonizing the conditions of service in the field could play. The Union noted the high costs involved and looked forward to receiving the updated figures on that issue as soon as possible.
The United States representative was among the speakers who, like the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, did not concur with the Secretary-General’s proposal to establish a cadre of 2,500 career civilian peacekeepers. He said the need for such staff could be met through the implementation of the new contractual framework and other steps, such as the elimination of mission-specific appointments.
Along with the representative of New Zealand, who also spoke on behalf of Australia and Canada, the United States also raised some issues in connection with continuing appointments. In particular, he said the United States continued to have serious concerns about the proposal to offer continuing appointments automatically after five years of service, with a satisfactory performance appraisal. New Zealand, on the other hand, wanted to be assured that the plans were workable, effective and fair and believed that those issues could be resolved during the current resumed session, with concerted effort.
The representative of the Russian Federation had serious doubts about the approach of the proposals on contractual terms, which would lead to an across-the-board shift to “the quasi-permanent” continuing contracts and turn fixed-term contracts into a form of long-term probation. Instead, he recommended using one basic contract –- one fixed-term -- apart from temporary contracts, he continued. That would make things understandable to all and place all staff on one level. It would be the best tool for management and would enhance performance and accountability.
Under “other matters” today, there was a discussion on the prerogatives of the General Assembly and the Secretary-General in making appointments at senior level, after Vijay Nambiar, Under-Secretary-General and Chef de Cabinet, provided a response to yesterday’s questions about the appointment of Edward C. Luck as Special Adviser at the Assistant Secretary-General level.
Also participating in today’s debate were representatives of Switzerland, China, Japan, Dominican Republic (on behalf of the Rio Group), Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Iran.
Documents were also introduced by Kingston Rhodes, Chairman of the International Civil Service Commission, and Susan McLurg, Chairperson of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions.
The Committee will take up several reports on the Human Rights Council and the financing of field visits of the Peacebuilding Commission at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 5 March.
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to take up human resources management.
The Committee had before it the Secretary-General’s report on harmonization of conditions of service (document A/61/861), which addresses the implementation and financial implications of three proposed reforms to staffing field missions: introducing the special operations approach for non-family duty stations in security phase III or higher; replacing an occasional recuperation break with rest and recuperation travel; and discontinuing the use of 300-series appointments in non-family duty stations. The report also covers the observations of the International Civil Service Commission in its report of the conditions of service in the field.
By making his recommendations, the Secretary-General intended to bring attention to the expansion of field operations and the need to focus on retention and equity. Thus far, changes to recruitment policies have resulted in the proliferation of ad hoc solutions and inequitable treatment of staff. The report notes that, “the arrangements have become cumbersome and hard to administer”.
Taking up issues of inequity, the International Civil Service Commission, in its review of the entitlements of internationally recruited staff in non-family duty stations, recommended that the designation of peace operations as family or non-family be brought into line with the designations applied throughout the United Nations common system. In response, the Secretary-General recommended changing 11 of the 12 peace operations from special missions to family duty stations.
In addition, the International Civil Service Commission also recommended replacing 300-series and mission-specific 100-series appointments with system-wide harmonization by applying the special operations approach. As a result, eight special, non-family missions would be considered missions for which the special operations approach would apply. It is also recommended to turn the occasional recuperation break scheme applied to United Nations field operations to a rest and recuperation travel scheme, now applied by funds and programmes.
The Secretary-General’s report on the staffing of field missions, including the use of 300- and 100-series appointments (document A/61/732) covers reappointment of mission staff who had reached the four-year limit under 300-series appointments of limited duration by 31 December 2006 and 30 June 2007, respectively. To lower turnover rates and fill vacancies in ever-growing field missions, it was recommended to streamline those contracts under Staff Rules that would mirror the 100-series for three specified lengths of service: short-term (up to one year), fixed-term (up to five years) and continuing (more than five years).
These reappointments are expected to boost morale, increase retention and create competition among staff members. By 31 December 2006, 188 international staff members were considered for reappointment. Of those, 109 were reappointed under fixed-term contracts, 6 were expected to separate and 53 were not reappointed. An additional 83 staff members were expected to reach four years on a 300-series appointment from 1 January to 30 June 2007.
Presenting his report on streamlining United Nations contractual arrangements (document A/62/274), the Secretary-General outlines his detailed proposals to streamline contractual arrangements under one set of rules, arguing that such an approach would promote equitable treatment of staff by ensuring that their conditions of service are governed by the same criteria. Introduction of one set of rules would also simplify the Organization’s contractual framework, making it easier and more cost-efficient to administer and more transparent for staff members. Moreover, it would facilitate the development of the future enterprise resource planning system.
By introducing one United Nations staff contract, three types of appointments -– temporary, fixed-term and continuing -- would govern all employment terms for Secretariat staff. Should the Assembly approve the Secretary-General’s proposals to streamline contractual arrangements, the new framework would be introduced on 1 July 2008, with related amendments to staff regulations coming in effect on the same date. The new Staff Rules would be promulgated provisionally, and once reviewed by the Assembly, would go into effect on 1 January 2009.
Staff members entering the Organization would be offered either a temporary or fixed-term appointment, while those with five years of continuous service would be eligible for a continuing appointment. Continuing appointments would be based on the needs of the Organization, as well as the staff member’s record of performance. Continuing appointments would, therefore, replace permanent appointments, although the change would not affect permanent staff currently serving the Organization. Temporary appointments would be used to appoint staff for seasonal or peak workloads and specific short-term requirements for a maximum period of one year. Fixed-term appointments would last between one and five years, with the first year of employment acting as a probationary period. Continuing and temporary appointments would not be required to serve probationary periods.
To address the issue of retaining peace mission staff, the Secretary-General recommends granting extensions of fixed-term appointments of up to two years to peace mission staff, who have a solid, competent record of service. Additionally, extensions of fixed-term appointments beyond five years could be made in exceptional circumstances. The report notes that the Organization has the obligation to offer end-of-employment termination benefits to locally recruited mission staff to be gainfully employed, or self-employed, when the mission terminates. Furthermore, the International Civil Service Commission recommended expedited consideration for staff recruited through the national competitive examination and the continued monitoring of staff recruited through the exam.
The International Civil Service Commission comments on those proposals in an addendum to its annual report for 2006 (document A/61/30/Add.1).
The Commission points out that, while the contractual framework proposed by the International Civil Service Commission provides for only three types of appointment, the Secretary-General’s proposal on one staff contract, under one set of Staff Rules, would actually require five staff contracts. In addition to the continuing, fixed-term and temporary appointments in the Commission framework, the Secretary-General’s recommendations also envision project- or mission-specific continuing and fixed-term appointments. While in favour of one set of Staff Rules, the Commission was of the opinion that the Secretary-General’s objectives could be achieved within the simple structure of three types of contract as described in its contractual framework. Thus, the Commission concludes that the Secretary-General’s proposal should be revised to conform to the Commission’s contractual framework.
Further, the Commission agrees that harmonization of conditions of service at non-family duty stations is essential for the preservation of the United Nations common system. It recommends that all common system organizations harmonize the designation of duty stations in accordance with the security phase decided by the Department of Safety and Security and the approach applied by the Inter-Agency Committee on Field Duty Stations of the Human Resources Network of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB).
According to the report, currently, there are significant variations in the contracts used for similarly situated staff. For internationally recruited Professionals at the P-4 level, with the same number of dependants, working in the same duty station, there are six different levels of compensation, with the lowest package valued at $127,000 and the highest at $188,000 (a range of $61,000).
The Commission recommends that the appointments of limited duration (300 series) be phased out in non-family duty stations in favour of the fixed-term contracts as defined in the International Civil Service Commission contractual framework. All fixed-term contracts at non-family duty stations should contain the compensation package recommended in the report. The Commission also recommends that mission-specific 100-series contracts be phased out because they do not provide the flexibility needed to move staff among field stations and cannot respond to the need for a global workforce. Staff members on 100-series mission-specific contracts at non-family stations should receive the same compensation and benefits as those given to internationally-recruited Professional staff assigned to family duty stations when the duty station designation is changed from non-family to family.
The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, in its report on human resources management (document A/62/7/Add.14) recommends approval of the recommendation to streamline contractual arrangements under one set of Staff Rules, subject to its observations. This measure, together with the elimination of mission-specific appointments and granting of continuing appointments for staff working in peace operations and on projects, if well administered, will do much to facilitate mobility, promote career development and foster a truly global workforce that can be managed flexibly to meet the Organization’s needs. However, even with the institution of one staff contract, international staff detailed to a peace operation from a headquarters duty station in some cases may continue to have better conditions of service than their counterparts hired in the field.
Discussing three types of contracts, the Advisory Committee recommends approval of the proposal that temporary appointments be used for seasonal or peak workloads and specific short-term requirements for a period of up to one year at a time. Taking into account the International Civil Service Commission concerns, the Secretary-General has proposed that such appointments may be renewed for up to an additional year in the field, where warranted. The Secretary-General indicated that fixed-term appointments could be given for a period of one year or more and could be renewed or extended up to five years. Staff would be subject to a probationary period during the first year of service. Staff members who had completed five years of continuous service would be considered for continuing appointments.
The Secretary-General’s original proposal provided for limiting fixed-term appointments to specific missions or projects, but the Commission said that mission-specific appointments do not represent an effective tool when there is an expectation of mobility and an operational requirement for a global workforce. Therefore, the Advisory Committee recommends approval of the Secretary-General’s subsequent proposal that contracts of international staff in peace operations no longer carry a limitation for service to a specific mission, as such a change would facilitate deployment, where needed. The Advisory Committee also recommends that international staff on fixed-term appointments in peace operations who demonstrate the highest standards of competence and integrity be granted extensions (of up to two years for each extension), not limited to service at any particular mission, as long as their services are needed.
Sharing the concern of the Commission that conversion to continuing contracts should not be automatic, the Advisory Committee recommends developing procedures for rigorous review of staff performance and continuing need for functions. A prudent approach will be required with regard to the number of conversions. In this connection, the Advisory Committee recalls that there had been a ceiling for permanent appointments: in its resolution 51/226, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to achieve the level of 70 per cent permanent appointments in posts subject to geographical distribution. It will be for the Assembly to decide whether this concept should be applicable under the new arrangements, and the Advisory Committee therefore requests the Secretary-General to report on issues associated with the establishment of a ceiling at the Assembly’s sixty-third session.
Further, the Advisory Committee recommends approval of the proposal that staff working on projects could be granted a continuing appointment, without limitation, provided there is a continuing need for the services. While recommending against the establishment of a cadre of 2,500 career peacekeepers, the Advisory Committee also recognizes that international staff working in peace operations should be eligible for consideration for continuing contracts.
The Advisory Committee recommends approval of the proposal to harmonize the designation of duty stations as family or non-family in accordance with the security conditions, as well as the proposal to replace the occasional recuperation break with rest and recuperation travel. Projected financial implications of these changes should be updated for presentation to the Assembly at the time of its consideration of the issue. In addition to the costs foreseen in the Secretary-General’s report on the matter, the change in the designation of 12 peace operations from non-family to family duty stations would, in all likelihood, lead to additional security costs.
On mobility, the report states that the Advisory Committee will address the issue during the Assembly’s sixty-third session. At present, it provides comments of a general nature, reasserting its consistent support for the promotion of mobility of staff as a means to develop a more flexible and multi-skilled workforce. However, the Committee concurs with the Joint Inspection Unit that a strategic plan for mobility is essential. The Organization should have a detailed mobility programme. To that end, an analysis should be made of the Organization’s needs to determine what type of skills are required and where. Similarly, a detailed inventory, by location, should be drawn up of staff skills and competencies.
ALICIA BARCENA, Under-Secretary-General for Management, introduced the reports of the Secretary-General on human resources, which, she said, related to the streamlining of contractual arrangements and harmonization of conditions of service. The Secretary-General had presented a new human resources framework that included proposals on recruitment, mobility, staff development and career development, streamlined contractual arrangements and harmonized conditions of service. Those proposals were aimed at strengthening the current and future human capital, and to better align the human resources framework to the needs of the Organization. They provided for an integrated approach to human resources management in order to meet operational needs and preserve core values, while ensuring consistency in the application of organizational standards, policies and procedures. The desired end result was to create: an international civil service with the highest standards of performance and accountability; and a workforce that was multi-skilled, mobile and displayed a culture of continuous learning, managerial excellence and respect for diversity.
She said that the Secretariat now had over 38,000 civilian staff, of which over half was serving in the field, including in peacekeeping, humanitarian emergencies, human rights, elections, and the battle against drugs and crime. The number continued to grow. With growing demand for peacekeeping and other field operations, human resources structures needed to be adapted to facilitate rapid deployment and mobility, to attract and retain high quality personnel, to provide for predictable career development and to adequately compensate staff for serving in difficult and hardship positions.
She stated that the proposal on streamlining contractual arrangements aimed to introduce one set of Staff Rules with three types of contract duration: temporary, fixed term and continuing. As requested by the General Assembly in resolution A/61/244, the Secretary-General had addressed the issues raised by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions in its report A/61/537 and presented a detailed road map on implementation of the proposal on contractual arrangements. The International Civil Service Commission, at its March 2007 session, offered a general endorsement of the Secretary-General’s proposals to create one United Nations staff contract and create a core cadre of career civilian peacekeepers, but made a number of observations. As those observations by the Commission required more staff consultation, the Staff Management Coordination Committee discussed them in 2007 and made recommendations, which were accepted by the Secretary-General and reflected in his report (A/62/274).
She explained that the proposals on the harmonization of conditions of service include designating missions as family or non-family based on the security phase in effect; introducing the special operations approach for non-family duty stations (replacing the current “special” or “established” mission designation), where appropriate; and revising the scheme for rest breaks. Those proposals were in line with the recommendations of the International Civil Service Commission and aimed to remedy the existing significant differences between the conditions of service of the Secretariat staff in the field and staff of funds and programmes in the same locations.
JANE HOLL LUTE, Officer-in-Charge of the Department of Field Support, said that she wanted to provide some additional context to the proposals before the Committee. Since 2003, the United Nations had started 15 new or significantly expanded missions in the field. In the past 18 months alone, five new missions had been established in the field. That pace demanded a high degree of professionalism, flexibility, agility and mobility. The Organization had been moving at a rapid pace in an increasingly dangerous environment. Peacekeeping could no longer be seen as a temporary phenomenon, but rather as the core activity that it was. Thus, professional staff were required. Peacekeeping was also evolving, with a variety of operations on the ground. Among the new, unprecedented missions, she mentioned the hybrid African Union-United Nations mission in Darfur and another one in Chad, where the United Nations would operate together with the European Union and Chadian police.
Contractual arrangements and administration of peacekeeping must adjust to the changing reality, providing the best expertise the world had to offer, she said. Among the existing problems that needed to be addressed were persistently high vacancy and turnover rates among professional staff and the shortage of experienced staff. Some 44 per cent of field staff had less than 1 year of experience in the field. There was also increased competition for the very best staff and, in many cases, the United Nations had to compete against other agencies. The human resources management reform had been on the Committee’s agenda for a number of years now. The reform of the field service category had been first highlighted in the Brahimi report and, since then, work had been under way to present proposals to meet the needs in the field.
The average peacekeeper was 46 years old, and nearly 55 per cent of peacekeepers had families, she continued. Today, only 288 out of the 25,000 posts in the field had career appointments. Some 70 per cent of peacekeepers were men, and the Organization would be unable to make progress on increasing the number of women if it did not adjust the conditions of service under which they served.
Nearly 90 per cent of the peacekeepers had a contract of one year or less -– “this is how we manage our workforce at the moment”, she said. It was not at all uncommon to find peacekeepers with 10 or 11 years experience, who had achieved that experience on a series of 3- to 6-month contracts. The Secretariat had done its homework to understand what the Organization’s field requirements were and experienced people were needed, particularly in the field of management. Among other things, it was important to get better at job descriptions and incumbency management. Peacekeepers did not enjoy the predictability that the Headquarters enjoyed, but they should operate under the same rules and regulations. It was an important aspect of peacekeeping that reforms be achieved in a way that could signal to the staff they were valued. “We ask them to give the best working years of their lives, too often without their families,” she said.
KINGSTON RHODES, Chairman of the International Civil Service Commission, said that the Commission had devoted significant time and effort, along with representatives of the organizations and staff of the common system, to produce the agreed Contractual Framework. The Commission was pleased to note that its comments, to a very large extent, had been taken into account in the Secretary-General’s reports and noted that the Secretary-General’s revised proposals, in broad terms, conformed to the Contractual Framework. However, some differences remained in three specific areas. The Secretary-General’s report proposed that temporary appointments could be subject to renewal for an additional one year in the field, where warranted by operational needs. The Commission would, however, like to reiterate its view that a fixed-term appointment was the most appropriate contractual tool whenever it was known in advance that needs for services would extend beyond one year. A second year extension of a temporary appointment –- which would be contrary to the spirit and intent of the Framework –- should, therefore, only be used in defined circumstances clearly specified in relevant Staff Rules, which were yet to be drafted to accommodate the new Framework.
He added that it had also been proposed to maintain the provision that fixed-term appointments might be renewed or extended to cover a maximum period of five years. That was contrary to the Commission’s view that fixed-term appointments might be granted or renewed for periods of anything between one year and up to five years at a time, but with no limit to the number of years an individual could be engaged on fixed-term appointments. That issue led the Secretary-General to conclude that a staff member, having completed a fixed-term appointment of five years, should be considered for conversion to a continuing appointment, whereas the Commission believed that it was the General Assembly and other governing bodies that should determine the proportion of continuing appointments relative to fixed-term appointments, as a function of the mandates and financing of an organization’s different programme requirements. No automatic conversion of fixed-term appointments to continuing appointments had been or was now recommended by the Commission.
Additionally, the proposals also state that candidates who had successfully passed the national competitive examinations should be eligible for consideration for a continuing appointment after five years of satisfactory service, in just the same manner as all other United Nations staff, he went on. The Commission was of the view that such candidates should be eligible for consideration for continuing appointment after a period of only two years, as that would be in line with the current practice of two-year probationary appointments for that type of staff.
The International Civil Service Commission reiterated its position that the Contractual Framework, which it developed in partnership with the common system organizations, reflected current best practices and provided the necessary degree of operational and administrative flexibility, as well as being tailored to the needs of a modern, global international civil service.
Introducing the Advisory Committee report, that body’s newly-elected Chairperson, SUSAN MCLURG, said that, owing to a combination of factors, the Committee and the General Assembly found themselves considering major personnel proposals outside the usual general review of human resources management issues that was carried out during non-budget sessions. With that in mind, the Advisory Committee had recommended that decisions on a number of issues be deferred to the sixty-third session, to be considered in the context of the general review of human resources management.
Regarding major inter-related proposals concerning streamlining of contractual arrangements, harmonization of conditions of service in the field and the proposed cadre of 2,500 civilian peacekeepers, she said that the Advisory Committee had sought to take a holistic view, keeping in mind the problems that the Secretary-General was attempting to address with his reform proposals. Those included problems with staff retention in peace operations owing to the four-year limit on 300-series appointments; differing conditions of service for staff; the inability, under the current arrangements, to move staff from mission to mission as operational requirements change; the complexity of administering the current contractual framework; and the need to offer staff in peace operations a career development path.
Regarding the proposal on the establishment of the cadre of 2,500 career civilian peacekeepers, she said that the Advisory Committee did not recommend establishment of such a cadre. With the introduction of a single United Nations contract and the elimination of mission-specific appointments, as well as the possibility of consideration for continuing contracts, the international staff of peace operations would become part of the global workforce, with the same mobility requirements and career development prospects as the rest of the Secretariat.
She added that, in the Advisory Committee’s view, the complex issues of recruitment and staffing, as well as mobility, should be taken up at the sixty-third session. It had, however, flagged a number of issues raised in the reports of the Secretary-General. Among other things, the Advisory Committee had suggested that the Assembly request information on several issues, including measures to address the imbalance in the geographical representation of staff in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The Advisory Committee had also recommended against broadening the jurisdiction of the Ethics Office, at this time. It would first be necessary for the Assembly to consider whether other United Nations entities, such as funds and programmes, should have common ethics policies and standards and, if so, whether they should be centrally or separately administered.
CONROD HUNTE (Antigua and Barbuda), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that the Group had pronounced itself on different occasions in favour of the efforts by the Secretary-General to continue the transformation of human resources management in order to better equip staff to face increasingly more complex challenges. Efficient and effective delivery of United Nations mandates fundamentally hinged on the quality of its staff and the availability of resources. Ensuring the well-being of all international civil servants was of utmost importance to the Group and had informed its support of all reform measures aimed at establishing a satisfied, vibrant and dynamic United Nations workforce. The reform should be accomplished through joint and constructive work of the management, staff and Member States. That was why it was extremely important to engage the representatives of the staff, by conducting full and complete consultations while negotiating the issue.
The Group’s understanding of the proposal on contractual arrangements was that it would offer increased job security and equity in the treatment of staff. Therefore, it supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations to consider all categories of staff, including the locally recruited mission staff, under one set of Staff Rules. With regard to the harmonization of the conditions of service, he wanted to underline that it constituted a long-standing vindication of the Group. The mandate to address the issue came from resolution 59/266 and today, three years later, the Group was ready to fulfil that commitment made by the Assembly. In effect, the Group was ready to support, following the recommendations of the International Civil Service Commission, a scheme that would put all international staff on an equal footing and, in that way, to improve the conditions of service in the field and make working for the Organization more appealing and rewarding.
Every reform was a work in progress that benefited from lessons learned, as much as from a clear and responsible leadership, he continued. In that regard, the Group wanted to receive information on the status of the appointment of the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management and to request that the position be filled as a matter of priority. A proper framework for consultations with staff representatives on all human resources management reform was imperative. The Group also looked forward to hearing the views of all staff representatives on various proposals, especially those contained in the Secretary-General’s reports.
ALESKA SIMKIC ( Slovenia), on behalf of the European Union, said that the Union fully supported the goal of reform of the management of human resources of the United Nations. A well-run workforce with high morale would deliver a more effective United Nations, as well as represent better value for the money. The European Union noted the need for rationalization of the current United Nations system of contractual arrangements. The current system had grown up over the years, without a clear vision of managing the changed realities of a modern, expanded and more field-oriented Secretariat. The proposal to simplify the many different types of contracts at the United Nations responded to the need to make that system more transparent, easier to administer and to enhance staff morale. The Union was ready to continue to engage constructively to ensure that any new system met the needs of the Organization and its staff.
The Union recognized the importance of staff retention as a contributor to the healthy running of the Organization, particularly in the field, she went on. It recognized the disruption that could occur to the good management of field missions when there were high vacancy and turnover rates, and looked forward to discussing the best way to address the role that harmonizing the conditions of service in the field could play. The Union noted the high costs involved and looked forward to receiving the updated figures on that issue as soon as possible.
ROSEMARY BANKS (New Zealand), also speaking on behalf of Australia and Canada (CANZ), said that the delegations she spoke for were longstanding supporters of human resources management reform, which reflected the changing nature of the United Nations. The Committee now had detailed proposals before it, and the Advisory Committee report provided a good basis for starting discussions. She supported the concept of a streamlined contracts regime, with one set of Staff Rules. That proposal was ripe for action, pending the receipt of some more precise details, including on the budgetary implications. She believed it could bring significant benefits to the Organization by establishing a simplified and more transparent and effective contractual system, which would require less administration. That would strengthen the United Nations ability to recruit and retain personnel. The Assembly’s recent agreement on a new system of internal justice was an important prerequisite to that reform.
The International Civil Service Commission and the Advisory Committee had provided valuable guidance on contracts, she continued. Progress on the temporary and fixed-term appointments would be a worthwhile and important step forward. Some aspects of continuing appointments needed to be clarified further, such as the conversion process of a staff member to a continuing appointment, the question of applying a ceiling on the number of continuing appointments, and the ongoing review of functions and the termination process. She wanted to be assured that the plans were workable, effective and fair. Those issues could be resolved during the current resumed session, with concerted effort.
She was also supportive of improving the conditions of service in the field, in order to meet the needs of an increasingly field-based organization. While that was a complex issue, with significant cost implications, that had to be further clarified, she felt the Advisory Committee had provided a good starting point for the Committee’s discussions on the issue. She supported, in principle, a core capacity of staff to meet the needs of peace operations. The streamlining of contracts would address that need, to a large extent. She was interested in the views of the Secretariat on that point.
THOMAS GUERBER ( Switzerland) said that the reform of human resources management was a major step forward in improving the capacity of the United Nations to fulfil its diverse mandates effectively and efficiently. He hoped the Fifth Committee would take a decision on contractual arrangements without further delay. He also stressed the need for an objective discussion on other outstanding issues, especially on harmonizing the conditions of service and the proposed cadre of 2,500 civilian peacekeepers.
The Secretary-General’s proposal for streamlining contractual arrangements represented a fundamental change and provided conditions of service that offered increased job security, as well as equality in the treatment of staff. The proposal to introduce one set of Staff Rules was a reasonable way to simplify the contractual framework, to reduce the administrative burden and to enhance transparency for staff. All that would help to develop a more flexible and multi-skilled workforce. On continuing appointments, he shared the concerns of the Advisory Committee and the International Civil Service Commission that conversions should not be automatic. In that connection, he emphasized the need for competition to limit the number of conversions, thereby providing for more efficient and effective selection and recruitment of staff. Therefore, he suggested defining clear and consistent requirements for conversions. The need for an objective assessment of performance and fair selection procedures was fundamental. At the same time, his delegation insisted on the importance of simplicity, transparency and legal certainty for staff, both at Headquarters and in the field.
In accordance with the recommendations of the Advisory Committee, he strongly supported the introduction of streamlined contractual arrangements, he said. However, supporting budgetary discipline and cost-effectiveness, he also recommended deferring possible introduction of other proposed measures to allow enough time for the improvements expected to result from the streamlined contractual arrangements to take effect. He was convinced that streamlining contractual arrangements, together with other human resources reform initiatives, would considerably strengthen the Organization’s ability to recruit and retain staff with high moral and professional standards and, in that way, meet the existing and changing demand for human resources. He hoped the Fifth Committee would take an important step in that direction within the coming weeks.
MICHAEL SCANLON ( United States) said that his delegation wholeheartedly supported the effort to improve the way the United Nations managed its most important resource, its staff. The proposed reform measures merited the close attention of the Committee.
On the proposed contractual arrangements, he said that, while the new system was feasible, any decision to implement those streamlined arrangements must take into account the effectiveness of such measures in achieving the reform objectives and the costs involved. With regard to temporary appointments, he joined the Advisory Committee in recommending approval of the Secretary-General’s proposal contained in document A/62/274, although it might be appropriate to subject such temporary appointments to a probationary period. With regard to fixed-term appointments, he supported the Secretary-General’s proposal that contracts of international staff serving in peacekeeping operations no longer be limited to a specific mission. On the extension of international staff on fixed-term appointments in peacekeeping operations, he supported the Advisory Committee’s recommendation that those who demonstrated the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity might be granted extensions, when there was a justified need for the continuation of their services.
His delegation did not concur with the Secretary-General’s proposal to establish a cadre of 2,500 career civilian peacekeepers, he continued. The need for such staff could be met through the implementation of the new contractual framework and other steps, such as the elimination of mission-specific appointments.
The proposal for continuing appointments raised a number of issues, he said. For example, for what positions should such appointments be available and should there be a cap on the number of conversions to such appointments? The United States continued to have serious concerns about the proposal to offer continuing appointments automatically after five years of service, with a satisfactory performance appraisal. The Secretary-General had reported on a number of other important issues, including harmonization of conditions of service, and his delegation looked forward to working with others on them. However, as the Advisory Committee had pointed out, many of the elements of harmonization were complex and in need of further elaboration.
SHEN YANJIE ( China) said that his country subscribed to the statement made earlier on behalf of the Group of 77. The report of the Secretary-General had indicated that the number of staff from developing countries in decision-making posts within the Secretariat had been decreasing. That was a cause for serious concern. During the next few years, a number of staff would be separating from service. In that regard, the need for replacement of the retiring staff offered an opportunity to improve the representation from the developing countries.
He added that, over the past year, the number of underrepresented States in the Secretariat had increased from 11 to 19. At same time, successful candidates in the National Competitive Examinations (NCE) continued to face long wait times before being offered posts. That created new problems of underrepresentation. The Secretariat should solve that problem. It was important to foster and maintain a culture focused on ethics and integrity, as part of the reform. In that regard, it was essential that the Ethics Office strengthen the formulation of ethics and integrity programmes, including strengthening its relationship with the Ombudsman’s Office.
On the issue of staff mobility, he said that, in order to implement the proposal, it was essential to abide by the principle of equity and fairness. In that regard, stakeholders should be able to express their concerns and the mobility had to take into account the individual, while ensuring the maintenance of job continuity in original institutions.
China had taken note of the report of the Secretary-General on contractual arrangements, he went on. Overall, simplifying contracts was in the interest of improving efficiency, but the proposals were likely to generate some transitional problems. In that regard, the matter should be treated in a cautious and incremental manner. It was also very important to harmonize the conditions of service of Secretariat staff and to improve conditions of service of field staff. The setting up of 2,500 civilian career peacekeeper posts should take into account the budgetary implications and should be implemented in keeping with the principles of openness, fairness and geographical representation, so as to prevent inequity.
ANDREY KOVALENKO ( Russian Federation) said that the Secretary-General’s proposals required serious and careful analysis by Member States. The Russian Federation had serious doubts about the approach of the proposals on contractual terms, in terms of cost and personnel policies. The proposals would lead to an across the board shift of the Organization to the quasi-permanent contract and lead to the elimination of fixed-term contracts which, as proposed by the Secretary-General, would just turn into a long-term probation. That ran counter to ensuring flexible management of personnel. There were substantial flaws in the proposals. The Russian Federation also had serious doubts about the need to use continuing or semi-permanent contracts. That arrangement would be creating inequality among staff, who could be carrying out similar functions, but with different levels of protection. In addition, the idea proposed for terminating a continuing contract came with such vague wording that it could create room for abuse.
The Committee should seriously consider using one basic contract –- fixed-term contract -- apart from temporary contracts, he continued. That would make things understandable to all and place all staff on one level. It would be the best tool for management and would enhance performance and accountability. With regard to harmonization, the Russian Federation felt that the proposal was very costly and insufficiently justified. His delegation would have serious comments on the package that had been proposed.
YASUO KISHIMOTO ( Japan) said that reform was indispensable in order to respond more effectively to a new and increasingly field-based Organization and to ensure the coherence of United Nations entities. Structural change in the area of human resources would have a direct effect on the staff and how they worked. Contractual arrangements, in particular, spelled out how staff should be re-categorized. That would have significant administrative and budgetary implications for the United Nations system as a whole over a long period. Once a framework was established, it would be easy to revise it, thereafter.
He said that permanent contracts were no longer major tools for United Nations entities that implemented dynamic and changeable mandates. A framework that took into account the needs of all United Nations organizations should be considered, as that might serve as a model for all United Nations entities. There was also a need to define who the core staff of the United Nations should be and to whom continuing appointments should be given. When deciding on granting continuing appointments, rigorous procedures needed to be in place and be centrally managed to review both staff performance and the need for the function.
As the International Civil Service Commission recommended, he continued, the General Assembly should consider the viability to set a cap on such appointments, taking into account its financial and long-term implications. The authority to grant continuing appointments should not be handed over to programme managers who were not entitled to consider the long-term interests of the Organization. In the area of peace operations, the proposal to establish civilian career peacekeepers through a competitive process might be considered as a way to define core staff. In the case of regular budget posts, the National Competitive Examination was the established means of recruiting qualified core staff that should enjoy long-term career positions in the Organization. The proposed contractual arrangements should not undermine the current NCE with its rigorous, objective, fair and competitive screening process.
He added that the Secretariat should make clear what entitlements would accompany the proposed temporary appointments, fixed-term appointments and continuing appointments. It was also necessary to clarify what allowances would be given to staff in family and non-family duty stations, if the General Assembly made designations of duty stations of peace operations based on the security phase.
OLIVIO FERMIN (Dominican Republic), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said that the Group confirmed what had been said yesterday regarding the programme of work and human resources. The Group would carefully follow negotiations. It supported the general direction of the Secretary-General’s proposal to simplify contractual arrangements. The Committee had to see results on the harmonization of conditions of service during the current session.
Responding to the issues raised yesterday, VIJAY NAMBIAR, Under-Secretary-General and Chef de Cabinet, said that the appointment of Edward Luck as Special Adviser had been discussed with several representative ambassadors of the Non-Aligned Movement and other representatives of Member States by senior officials of the Executive Office of the Secretary-General during recent weeks. At all those meetings, officials had explained the background to the Secretary-General’s intention to make that appointment. “It was our understanding, based on what was explained to us during these discussions, including one at which the Chairman of the Movement was also present, that the General Assembly had not specifically rejected any proposal by the Secretary-General to appoint Mr. Luck,” he said. The view was that, as long as the Secretary-General was to appoint Mr. Luck as his “Special Adviser”, there would be no difficulty, since he would be perfectly within his rights to make such an appointment on his own. If it was to be a pro bono, or $1 per annum, appointment, there would not be any need for budgetary approval. It would be a temporary appointment covering an interim arrangement and any expenditure involved during that period would be incurred from voluntary resources.
On the question of mandate, the ambassadors consulted were prepared to agree that such a Special Adviser’s work could include examination of how to further the ideas contained in paragraphs 138 to 139 of the Summit Outcome Document. Such efforts should, once they were crystallized and given some concrete form, be discussed with the general body of Member States and eventually be considered within the framework of the General Assembly. That would be the best way to increase the comfort levels, as well as address the manifold concerns of the Member States with respect to the conceptual range and application, as well as the practical implications, of those ideas.
In advance of publicizing the appointment, the Executive Office of the Secretary-General had taken care to consult with concerned ambassadors of the Non-Aligned Movement, as well as other permanent missions, he continued. The consultations had covered both the manner of a public announcement and the details of the announcement, including its wording. It was only after having obtained “the green light” that the official spokesperson had gone ahead. However, it was true that, in the course of further dissemination of the publicity material relating to the appointment, an error had been made by the Secretariat in the title of its news report. He apologized for that error, which had now been corrected.
Pro bono, or $1 appointments, were made by the Secretary-General in exceptional cases, he said. Mr. Luck’s appointment was one such case. In that connection, he drew attention to General Assembly resolution 51/226, which requested the Secretary-General to announce all vacancies, so as to give equal opportunity to qualified staff and encourage mobility, it being understood that “… the discretionary power of the Secretary-General of appointment and promotion outside the established procedures should be limited to his Executive Office and the Under-Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General levels, as well as special envoys at all levels”. A large number of such appointments had been made by both previous Secretaries-General, as well as by the present Secretary-General. For many of those appointments, General Assembly approval was neither required, nor sought.
PABLO BERTI OLIVA ( Cuba) said that the concept of responsibility to protect had not been adopted by the General Assembly. The Assembly should deal with that matter at the appropriate time, as it was a matter on which it had the prerogative to take a position. With regard to the information that had been provided by the Chef de Cabinet, Cuba would analyse that matter further. Cuba was aware of the agreements that had been reached at the meetings with some ambassadors and it was pleased that the Chef de Cabinet recognized there was a problem in the appointment made by the Secretariat. But, the issue went beyond what was published in the press release.
It should be made clear to the appointee that he was not a special representative or adviser to the Secretary-General on the responsibility to protect, he continued. Before the appointment, he was in Bangkok and was introduced as Special Adviser to the Secretary-General. He had also been introduced in that capacity at a university in New York this March. The appointment had to be clarified with him, so that everything would in line with the information that had been provided by the Secretariat. There was the need to be clear about how appointments were made. Cuba was aware that there were special procedures on how special representatives were appointed and was grateful that the Non-Aligned Movement had been included in the consultations that the Secretariat had held.
DANILO ROSALES DIAZ (Nicaragua) said that he would have preferred it if Mr. Nambiar had been available yesterday, but was glad he was here today and had explained the reason behind the procedure that had been used by the Secretariat for the appointment. It was clear from the statement that the procedures of the General Assembly had not been respected. The Secretariat had consulted with a group of ambassadors and, although that group might have been representative, it did not replace the competence of the Committee and the General Assembly. Consultation with a group of ambassadors could not replace the legitimate role of the Assembly. There had also been a violation of the rules of the Assembly, which allows the Secretariat to make appointments to Under-Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General posts, but did not give it the power to establish such posts. The establishment of such posts was the sole and exclusive responsibility of the Assembly. The explanation that had been provided was not satisfactory. Nicaragua was extremely surprised that someone had been appointed to a post that did not exist, even though the same Secretariat had been unable, over 10 months, to appoint an Under-Secretary-General for Field Support and had not been able to appoint an Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources.
SAMER S. ALOUAN KANAFANI ( Venezuela) stressed that the only legislative body that had the power to assign posts at that level was the General Assembly and not the Secretariat. In his statement, the Chef de Cabinet had explained that some ambassadors had been consulted and that had also been explained by the representative of Nicaragua. However, there were more delegations and missions involved, which had the right to be informed about the establishment of such posts. His delegation would pay special attention to the way that the mandate was being fulfilled. Further, he did not want that kind of procedure for the establishment of posts to become customary.
HESHAM MOEHAMED EMAN AFIFI ( Egypt) said that two issues were involved in this case. The first related to the appointment of the Special Adviser, which he understood, according to the explanations provided. He appreciated the efforts of the Secretary-General to appoint qualified people like Mr. Luck. The second issue related to the responsibility to protect itself, which was not accepted or approved as a principle by the General Assembly. The way he understood it, the role of Mr. Luck was to assist the General Assembly on the issue, rather than furthering the issues that were yet to be approved.
NOR DINE SADOUK ( Morocco) said his delegation was astonished at the procedure used to appoint Mr. Luck. The Secretariat did not have a clear legislative mandate to act that way. Last December, the General Assembly had not approved the creation of that post. Consultations with a certain number of States was not the rule. Such consultations had to be inclusive, transparent and covered by a legislative mandate. The Assembly remained the competent body to determine the road map for the work of the Secretariat. The definition of the responsibility to protect had not been decided by the Assembly and, for that concept to take shape, a political debate had to take place. He stressed the virtues of dialogue and consultations with all Member States, in order to reach consensus on difficult issues.
MOHAMED YOUSIF IBRAHIM ABDELMANNAN ( Sudan) said that the response by the Chef de Cabinet raised many points that required in-depth consideration. The response claimed that the General Assembly did not reject the proposal to appoint Mr. Luck, but that claim was surprising since the Secretary-General did not make any proposal to the Assembly to appoint Mr. Luck. The proposal had been on his intention to create the post. When the matter had been discussed, no agreement was reached on creating the post. If agreement had been reached, it would then have been in the purview of the Secretary-General to appoint whomever he wished to that post. It could, therefore, not be correct to say that the Assembly did not object to the appointment of Mr. Luck.
For the Secretariat to undertake consultations with some delegations after the Assembly failed to reach agreement was not an acceptable way of going forward, he continued. The holding of those consultations showed a recognition that there had been difficulty in reaching unanimity and did not point to an agreement on such an appointment. Yet, the Secretary-General still went ahead with the appointment. Those consultations had no status, as they took place outside the formal setting of the Assembly. The response that had been provided pointed out that the appointment was temporary, but the limit of that temporary appointment had not been defined. Also, he had indicated that an error had been made in the title, but the correction was unclear. If there had been an error, it should be corrected.
MUHAMMAD MUNITH ( Bangladesh) said that the Committee had held lengthy and intense discussions on the matter, but did not reach an agreement to create the post of adviser on the responsibility to protect. Those discussions had clearly demonstrated the importance that the General Assembly attached to giving due respect to the legislative process. Consultations with Member States should not replace the right of the legislative bodies to take decisions.
AHMED FAROOQ ( Pakistan) thanked Mr. Nambiar for explaining the rationale for the appointment. According to the explanations provided, informal consultations had been undertaken, and it was a prerogative of the Secretary-General to make such an appointment. However, one of the basic principles that he held very close was that it was the General Assembly that created posts, and then the Secretary-General had the prerogative of filling them. Therefore, informal consultations could not be a substitute for consideration of the matter by the General Assembly. No agreement had been reached on the establishment of the post, since the Assembly had yet to pronounce itself on the politically sensitive issue of the responsibility to protect. He attached great importance to transparency and efficiency in making appointments to high-level posts.
JAVAD SAFAEI ( Iran) said that he did not have much to add, but wanted to mention a procedural issue of principle to his delegation, which related to the respective prerogatives of the General Assembly and Secretary-General. It was surprising that a discussion with several selected representatives had replaced consultations with the General Assembly. It was a flagrant failure to carry out consultations with the Assembly. The Chief Administrative Officer had decided to have discussions with some representatives and make a decision based upon that, and his Chef de Cabinet had defended such a procedure in written form.
Mr. NAMBIAR, Chef de Cabinet to the Secretary-General, said that the idea of responsibility to protect had been accepted, but it was true that the idea did not have widely shared consensus, yet. It was with that perspective in mind that the Secretary-General had set himself up to seek to have the implementation of the outcome document in a manner that met the hopes of Member States. With regard to the appointment of special advisers and envoys, there had been situations in the past where the Secretary-General had taken it upon himself to make appointments that had not been formally approved in terms of budgetary implications, sometimes using the dollar a year approach, in order to be able to promote discussion and improve the comfort levels of Member States. It was in that context that he had made the present appointment. The Secretariat was grateful for the exhortation that the Secretariat could not make legislative appointments. The present exceptional case notwithstanding, it took the exhortations seriously. It would be following the Cuban suggestion in order to clarify to Mr. Luck the position with regard to his status.
Mr. Nambiar apologized for not being able to appear before the Committee yesterday, because he had received the request late. He said that the Secretariat was working on the delayed appointments that had been referred to, and announcements would be made soon. In those cases, systems were in place and the delayed appointments had not interfered with the functioning of the units concerned.
With regard to the appointment under discussion, the Secretariat had decided to proceed in the present manner because the General Assembly had not specifically rejected the proposal to appoint, he stated. The Secretariat was fully conscious of the need for transparency. It was inevitable that there would be a process of consultations before matters came to the legislative body itself. That was the process that the Secretariat had undertaken with the appointment.
Mr. ABDELMANNAN ( Sudan) said he had asked a clear question regarding the temporary nature of the appointment. How much time would it involve? Also, a frank answer was also needed as to what the mistake was and what was now correct.
He added that the fact that “responsibility to protect” was found in the title of a document did not mean that the matter had been agreed upon -- it meant that it would be discussed. Voluntary appointments might be the prerogative of the Secretary-General, but the Secretary-General did not have a right to appoint a person to a post that had been discussed and rejected by the Assembly. He could have created the post directly, without going to the General Assembly. But, since the Assembly had discussed the matter, he could no longer do that, since the General Assembly had the prerogative over the matter.
Mr. ROSALES DIAZ ( Nicaragua) clarified that what was being questioned was not the concept of the responsibility to protect. That had been approved, but it was approved with a clear specification in the 2005 document. It had also been agreed that there was a need to discuss the matter within the General Assembly. That was not a matter of dispute. The Committee was not dealing with the substantive merits of the responsibility to protect. It was dealing with the establishment of a post in a clear violation of an express wish of the Fifth Committee.
He added that the Committee had now been told that the Secretariat’s interpretation was that there was no rejection of the Secretary-General’s proposal. That was an indication that, in the future, whenever there was a proposal to establish a post and the Committee did not agree, it had to specify that it had decided not to establish the post. Clearly, the working methods in the Committee -- to take note of something -- was not doing the job.
Mr. NAMBIAR, Chef de Cabinet to the Secretary-General, said that the Department of Public Information press release on the appointment should simply have announced the appointment as that of a Special Adviser. Regarding how temporary the appointment was, he said that the Secretary-General expected that the assignment should be completed in a matter of a few months. However, it was for the Secretary-General to decide if that process should continue after a while. The arrangement was intended to be an interim, temporary one.
* *** *For information media • not an official record