|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
11th Meeting (AM)
United Nations ‘Greatest Resource Is Its Workforce’, Says Deputy Secretary-General
as Budget Committee Takes Up Human Resources Management Reform Issues
Among Wide Range of Issues to Be Considered: Harmonizing Conditions of Staff;
Continuing Contracts; Workforce Planning; Inspira; Young Professional Recruitment
With opening remarks by Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budget) today began debating the latest management reform proposals aimed at boosting the Organization’s efficiency by overhauling how tens of thousands of staff around the world are hired, trained and paid.
Ms. Migiro said “one cannot stress enough that the Organization’s greatest resource is its workforce” and human resources management reform was a central part of the Secretary-General’s vision, as the Organization’s operations became increasingly complex and oriented to often dangerous work in the field. Management had to be efficient and responsive to develop a flexible Organization that supported staff performance and growth.
The reforms were meant to deal with high vacancy and turnover rates in the field and eliminate inequities in the conditions of service between the Secretariat and the funds, programmes and specialized agencies. The Organization also wanted to boost its ability to attract and retain staff in the toughest missions, she added. Though not containing all the Secretary-General’s desires, the proposals presented by the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) were a fair and justifiable basis for change.
Under-Secretary-General Angela Kane, Department of Management, said she agreed with the remarks of the Deputy Secretary-General and introduced the various reports of the Secretary-General that focused on a wide range of human resources reform and ethics. She also introduced two reports on the composition of the Secretariat and said she looked forward to working with the Fifth Committee.
Susan McLurg, the chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), said the Advisory Committee disagreed with some of the Secretariat’s proposals. She targeted the Secretary-General’s efforts on continuing contracts. Disappointed that the proposal on continuing contracts no longer included the criterion of continuing need for a post, the ACABQ believed it would be difficult for the Secretary-General to determine the optimum number of continuing appointments, while maintaining enough flexibility to adapt to a changing world. Without the criterion of continuing need, the Advisory Committee felt the Secretary-General’s approach was equivalent to awarding continuing appointments to virtually all staff over time. “The resulting increase in the population who could have a long-term lien on the Organization would increase the potential financial liability of the Organization,” she said.
Speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, the representative of Yemen agreed with the ACABQ that, though staffing requirements depended on unpredictable mandates, the situation should not prevent the Secretary-General from extrapolating future staffing needs based on experience and trends. The Group did not support cutting the period for advertising individual vacancies from 60 to 45 days. It believed many other aspects of the entire recruitment process could be streamlined to curb the number of days it now took to recruit candidates. The Group also was very concerned about the use of discriminatory procedures for the selection of external candidates from the staff selection system.
Several delegates believed the freeze on the granting of continuing contracts was unacceptable because the specifics regarding the changeover from the old system could not be ironed out. The representative of Côte d’Ivoire, speaking on behalf of the African Group, urged Member States to reach an agreement in this session. If not, it might be best to convert to the old contractual agreements. He added that reducing the time period for advertising individual vacancies would hurt candidates from developing countries, since they had limited access to United Nations websites.
Singapore’s delegate said human resource management was needed to equip the United Nations with people who could efficiently discharge mandates and responsibilities. Staff selection and recruitment was long overdue for modernization since there was “fierce global competition” for well-qualified candidates among global institutions. Yet, the Organization was taking longer than ever to fill a post, an “unacceptable” 197 days. “In the end, the Organization loses out in terms of the level of talent recruited,” she said.
She also backed a more realistic and stringent performance appraisal approach. “Ineffective, apathetic and incompetent staff should be objectively identified to allow for proper remedial action, while good performers should be given due recognition and reward,” she said.
The representative of Australia, speaking also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand, said he was concerned about the gaps in the conditions of service between Secretariat staff and people working in the funds, programmes and agencies. The issue first surfaced during the Assembly’s sixty-first session and it was time to move forward. He also looked forward to clarification of the proposal for rest and recuperation during travel by staff in the field.
The President of the United Nations Staff Union said he had to inform the Committee, with regret, that this year the Secretary-General had refused to submit the views of the Secretariat staff to the Assembly, as required by Assembly resolution 35/213. This action had effectively censored the views of the staff, which was not in the Organization’s interests. The Secretary-General had deprived Member States from the views of their most important assets — the staff.
Other issues raised during today’s debate were the geographical distribution of the Secretariat staff; Inspira, the new talent management tool that replaces Galaxy, Nucleus and e-PAS; and the development of a Young Professionals Programme.
Joan Dusinsky, Director of the Ethics Office, introduced the report on her Office.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), Chile (on behalf of the Rio Group), Switzerland (on behalf of Liechtenstein), Cuba, Guatemala, Republic of Korea, Ghana, India, Mexico and Senegal.
The Vice-President of the Staff Management Coordination Committee, Paulina Analena, also spoke.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Friday, 29 October, to resume its discussion on human resources management and begin its discussion of the conditions of service for the International Court of Justice, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
In its review of human resources management and ethics, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) had before it nearly a dozen Secretary-General reports on a wide range of human resources and ethics issues; two reports on the composition of the Secretariat; and a report of the Joint Inspection Unit Ethics in the United Nations system. The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) weighed in on the issueswith its human resources management report.
Five reports from the Secretary-General focus on various aspects of the Organization’s human resources. The principal report, overview of human resources management reform (document A/65/305), was prepared in response to General Assembly resolution 63/250, which asked the Secretary-General to report to the Assembly at its sixty-fifth session on the progress of the human resources reform efforts.
Released 2 September, this report presents an overview of human resources management in the Organization and addresses the reforms that have been implemented, or are in the process of being implemented, since that time. These reforms focus on the priorities of contractual arrangements and the harmonization of conditions of service in non-family duty stations; talent management; and rejuvenating the entry of young professionals into the Organization.
To create more direct links among the proposals, the Secretary-General is submitting this overview report together with four addenda, rather than separately as in previous years. The four addenda focus on contractual arrangements and the harmonization of conditions of service (document A/65/305/Add.1); the system of desirable ranges (document A/65/305/Add.2); the talent management tool, Inspira (document A/65/305/Add.3); and the young professionals programme (document A/65/305/Add.4).
The report notes that the Organization’s greatest resource is its workforce, which represents 70 per cent of the regular budget and about a quarter of the combined support account and peacekeeping operations budget. More than half of the staff are located in field operations. The budget for peacekeeping operations grew from $4.2 billion per year in 2004/05, to $7.3 billion in 2010/11.
The foundation for the changes in how the Organization is managing its human resources rests with the contractual reforms that began in July 2009 (this includes the streamlining of contracts and the harmonizing of conditions of service within the Secretariat), as well as the creation of the new system for the administration of justice, the report states.
The talent management reforms now under way build on this foundation by creating a solid framework for the four pillars of the talent management framework: workforce planning; staff selection and recruitment; performance management; and learning and career development.
The progress made in contractual reform includes the streamlining of numerous contracts into three: temporary; fixed term; and continuing. It also established one set of staff rules and harmonized conditions of service to integrate Headquarters and field staff into one global secretariat. Out of 5,220 eligible people, 1,396 staff were converted to permanent appointments.
The report asks the Assembly to take note of the report and approve a reduction in the period for the circulation of specific job openings from 60 days to 45 days. The remaining actions to be taken by the Assembly are reflected in the relevant sections of each addenda.
In the first addenda, human resources management reform: contractual arrangements and harmonization of conditions of service (document a/65/305/Add.1), the Secretary-General provides additional information on the implementation of continuing appointments, as requested by the Assembly in section II, paragraphs 3 and 4, of resolution 63/250. The report also contains information on the conditions of service in non-family duty stations.
In order to ease the Assembly’s review of continuing appointments and with a view to implementing their use by 1 January 2011, the Secretary-General’s report has included information on the procedures for granting and terminating continuing appointments, including eligibility criteria and the role of the performance appraisal system; the financial and managerial implications of granting continuing appointments, including the possible establishment of a ceiling; and the implications of the use of continuing appointments for the system of geographical ranges, for Junior Professional Officers and successful candidates of competitive examinations.
The Secretary-General states that a continuing appointment should not be seen as a career appointment, but as an open-ended appointment that, for administrative ease, was granted to staff who had devoted many years to the Organization and proved the value of their work. The report also provides updated information on the number of staff who were converted to a permanent appointment as a consequence of the one-time review.
Regarding the conditions of service in non-family duty stations, the Secretary-General supports the recommendations of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) that the designation of mission duty stations as family or non-family be harmonized on the basis of a security assessment and the practice of the United Nations agencies, funds and programmes. The most obvious anomaly is that for Secretariat staff, missions are currently designated as family or non-family solely on the basis of whether they were previously “established” or “special” (see General Assembly resolution A/63/250), rather than the security phase in effect in the mission area. For the staff of United Nations offices, agencies, funds and programmes, the designation of a duty station as family or non-family is solely dependent upon the security phase.
Addis Ababa and Nairobi, for example, are family duty stations for staff of the Economic Commission for Africa and the United Nations Office at Nairobi, but are considered non-family locations for mission staff. The disparities are a disincentive for staff to take up mission assignments in those locations and, with more than 90 per cent of staff in peacekeeping operations and special political missions assigned to non-family missions, there was very little opportunity to serve in a family location.
Other ICSC recommendations that the Secretary-General supports are a change in the existing hardship allowance so staff serving in non-family duty stations would receive an additional amount; the introduction of a framework for rest and recuperation travel, considered critical for staff, that would consist of the payment of travel expenses from the duty stations to a designated location, as well as a lump sum amount of $750 as a contribution towards accommodation costs and terminal expenses. When United Nations transportation is available, it will be provided free of charge; and organizations should be encouraged to absorb the additional costs imposed by the rest and recuperation framework within their existing resources.
The report notes that if the Assembly approved the ICSC recommendations contained in its 2010 annual report (document A/65/30), the total financial implications are estimated at $130.5 million. This would include $116 million under the peacekeeping budget and $14.5 million under the regular budget. This includes:
- $28.4 million per annum for the designation of mission locations as family duty stations ($18.6 million for peacekeeping operations and $9.7 million for special political missions), which would be offset by savings from the discontinuation of the personal transitional allowance. That would bring the total net estimated cost for the first year to $20.4 million ($16.9 million for peacekeeping operations and $3.5 million for special political missions).
- $45.1 million per annum for the rest and recuperation travel of staff members ($40.3 million for peacekeeping operations and $4.8 million for special political missions).
- $19.6 million per annum for rest and recuperation travel for United Nations Volunteers ($18.9 million for peacekeeping operations and $742,000 for special political missions).
- $63 million per annum ($57.2 million for peacekeeping operations and $5.8 million for special political missions) for the introduction of an additional allowance under the existing mobility and hardship scheme for staff at non-family duty stations. This would be offset by savings from the reduction of the personal transitional allowance, bringing the total net estimated cost to $45.3 million for the first year ($39.8 million for peacekeeping operations and $5.5 million for special political missions).
Finally, in this report the Secretary-General asks the Assembly to take three actions: endorse the Commission’s recommendations regarding the harmonization of conditions of service in non-family duty stations; ask the Commission to keep the issue of conditions of service in the field for the United Nations common system under review; and approve the implementation of continuing appointments as of 1 January 2011, under the conditions specified in the present report.
In the report human resources management reform: comprehensive assessment of the system of geographical distribution and assessment of the issues relating to possible changes in the number of posts subject to the system of geographical distribution (document A/65/305/Add.2), the Secretary-General submitted proposals for a comprehensive review of the system of desirable ranges. Requested by Assembly resolution 63/250, the aim of the report is to establish a more effective tool to ensure geographical distribution of staff at the global Secretariat. The report provides information on how Member State representation could potentially change as a result of various changes to various weightings of factors — membership, population and contribution — and/or base figures.
The report reviews the origin and purpose of the system of desirable ranges and the changes that have taken place since 1945. Since 1988, the system’s basic criteria for the definition of desirable ranges have remained unchanged. The weight of factors taken into account for the distribution of geographical posts remains at 55 per cent for contributions, 40 per cent for membership, and 5 per cent for population.
The Secretary-General recommends that the General Assembly consider the following three scenario groups and provide further guidance as appropriate. The scenarios are Scenario Group I: varying the weights of existing factors within the current base figure; Scenario Group II: changes to the number of posts in the base figure through the inclusion of new funding categories; and Scenario Group III: weighted ranges.
In the Secretary-General’s third addenda, human resources management reform: the Talent Management tool, Inspira, (document A/65/305/Add.3), the Secretary-General provides an update on the implementation of the new human resources management system, Inspira, pursuant to section XIII, paragraph 3, of Assembly resolution 63/250. Released on 2 September, the report describes the background, governance and timeline of the project. It asks the Assembly to take note of the report.
Inspira provides the technological infrastructure required to support talent management, which includes staffing, performance management and learning management. It replaces the current systems that now support staffing and performance management (Galaxy, Nucleus and e-PAS) and supports 44,000 staff in 31 departments and 32 field missions. With Inspira’s use in the field, locally recruited staff will participate in the Organization’s human resources systems for the first time. The system’s cost through the 2010/2011 biennium has been estimated at $13.3 billion. That includes $2.9 billion from the regular budget and $10.4 billion from the support account.
The system was launched in April 2010 and Inspira users are supported by a new support centre at the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. The support centre provides desk support, maintenance and development.
Noting that the development and implementation of any large, complex system would produce challenges, the report said the system’s implementation schedule fell behind because of a change in the company selected to implement the software, refinement of the business requirements and underestimating resource requirements and efforts. Inspira also brings new technological support to learning management, which was not previously available and encompasses foundational elements for cross-business processes, such as position management, a careers portal and reporting.
The Secretary-General’s fourth addenda on reform, human resources management reform: young professionals programme (A/65/305/Add.4), was submitted pursuant to section IV, paragraph 2, of General Assembly resolution 63/250. The Assembly asked the Secretary-General to submit a feasibility study to determine if expanding the scope of the national competitive recruitment examination would strengthen the Organization’s capacity for programme delivery.
The Assembly also asked the Secretary-General to ensure the speedy placement of successful exam candidates and report on the implementation of recommendations of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU). These recommendations were meant to reduce the length of the exam process, improve roster management, and set time frames for the completion of the process. The present report addresses these requests and makes the case for an enhanced programme for entry-level in the Professional category.
The report asks the Assembly to approve the change of the age limit for the national competitive recruitment examination from 32 years old to 26 years old and authorize the Secretary-General to make adjustments for Member States with mandatory military service; approve the use of 15 per cent of vacant extrabudgetary and peacekeeping support account posts for the young professionals programme; and approve the internal circulation of P-3-level positions for 15 days to give priority consideration to the young professionals programme candidates and external circulation thereafter, if no suitable candidate is identified.
The Committee had before it two reports by the Secretary-General regarding the make-up of the Secretariat staff. Composition of the secretariat: staff demographics (document A/65/350) presents a demographic analysis of the staff’s composition from 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010. The total population of the Secretariat staff as of 30 June 2010 was 44,134, comprised of all categories of staff holding permanent/probationary, fixed-term and temporary contracts recruited internationally and locally.
The report is centred upon four Tables. Table 1 provides an overview of the report showing chapters, populations and demographic variables. Table 2 provides an overview of trends by demographic variables from 2006 to 2010. In Table 3, a summary of major changes is presented comparing the present report with the previous report issued in 2009. Table 4 shows the number of staff in the Secretariat, as well as the related entities in the United Nations system.
Composition of the Secretariat: gratis personnel, retirees and consultants (document A/65/350 Add.1) presents demographic analysis on the engagements of gratis personnel (4,979), retirees (3,784) and consultants and individual contractors (35,231) engaged during the biennium from 1 January 2008 to 31 December 2009. Table 1 provides an overview of the report showing sections, population, and a summary analysis by demographic variables. The Secretary-General invites the General Assembly to take note of the present report.
Regarding the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman, the Committee had before it measures taken to address systemic human resources issues raised by the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services Report of the Secretary-General (document A/65/332). The Office of Human Resources Management submitted the report to address the issues identified in the report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the Ombudsman Office, which were contained in document A/64/314.
The issues addressed in the report are divided into two categories: career progression and development; and leadership and managerial effectiveness. Career progression and development includes performance management, recruitment and selection, official status files and contract management. Leadership and managerial effectiveness includes abuse of power, investigatory processes for alleged misconduct, academic qualifications, maternity leave, staff referral for medical evaluation, coverage for trauma and post-crisis care.
The Committee also had before it two Secretary-General reports regarding staff regulations. Provisional Staff Rules (document A/65/202) provides information concerning the new Staff Rules that the Secretary-General is provisionally promulgating in document ST/SGB/2010/6. The report notes that, consistent with staff regulation 12.4, the Staff Rules will become effective 1 January 2011, taking into account any modifications of the provisional Staff Rules made by the Assembly at its sixty-fifth session.
The Assembly may wish to request the Secretary-General to amend staff rule 4.14, on the basis of its consideration of the Secretary-General’s report on continuing appointments at its sixty-fifth session. It may also want to reconsider the requirement that internationally recruited staff members renounce permanent resident status and if it agrees to remove this requirement, to decide to delete staff rule 1.5 (c).
In amendments to the staff regulations (document A/65/213), the Secretary-General proposes a possible amendment to the definition of conflict of interest under staff regulation 1.2 (m) in the Staff Regulations and Rules of the United Nations. The report notes that the proposed amendment reflects an all-encompassing definition of conflict of interest that is not limited to financial interests.
The General Assembly is requested to approve the amendment to staff regulation 1.2 (m) that reads as follows: A conflict of interest occurs when, by act or omission, a staff member’s personal interests interfere or may be perceived to interfere with the performance of his or her official duties and responsibilities or with the integrity, independence and impartiality required by the staff member’s status as an international civil servant. Staff members shall arrange their personal interests in a manner that will limit actual or perceived conflicts of interest. When an actual or perceived conflict of interest does arise, the conflict shall be disclosed by staff members to their head of office, mitigated by the Organization and resolved in favour of the interests of the Organization.
Regarding disciplinary matters, the Committee had before it the Secretary-General’s report practice of the Secretary-General in disciplinary matters and possible criminal behaviour, 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010 (document A/65/180). It responds to the Assembly’s request to inform Member States annually of all actions taken in cases of established misconduct and/or criminal behaviour. The report covers the period from 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010, following the creation of a new system of justice.
The report notes that the cases received by the Office of Human Resources Management during the reporting period totalled 167, with 66 cases received by staff based at United Nations Headquarters and offices away from Headquarters, and 101 by field staff. Most cases, or 40, were categorized as “misuse of computer-related resources”. The report notes that as far as the Secretary-General is aware, action has been taken on one out of five cases of proven criminal behaviour referred by Member States during the reporting period.
The ACABQ weighed in on the issuewith its report human resources management (document A/65/537), issued on 22 October. This Advisory Committee report was based on reviews of 10 Secretary-General reports on a wide range of human resources and ethics issues; two reports on the composition of the Secretariat (documents A/65/350 and (A/65/350/Add.1); and the report of the Joint Inspection Unit Ethics in the United Nations system (document A/65/345).
The 10 Secretary-General reports are: Overview of human resources management reform (document A/65/305); Contractual arrangements and harmonization of conditions of service (document A/65/305/Add.1); Comprehensive assessment of the system of geographical distribution and assessment of the issues relating to possible changes in the number of posts subject to the system of geographical distribution (document A/65/305/Add.2); Talent Management tool, Inspira (document A/65/305/Add.3); Young professionals programme (document A/65/305/Add.4); Practice of the Secretary-General in disciplinary matters and possible criminal behaviour, 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010 (document A/65/180); Provisional staff rules (document A/65/202); Amendments to the staff regulations (document A/65/213); Ethics in the United Nations system (document A/65/345/Add.1); and Measures taken to address systemic human resources issues raised by the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services (document A/65/332).
The present report should be read in conjunction with an earlier report of the Advisory Committee (document A/64/518). In decision 64/546, the Assembly deferred consideration of that report until this sixty-fifth session.
Regarding the Secretary-General’s report A/65/305 providing an overview of human resources management reform, the Advisory Committee’s recommendations include approval of a reduction in the period of circulation of specific job openings from 60 to 45 days; streamlining the recruitment process and possibly improving upon the 120-day benchmark; and recommending that the Assembly ask the Secretary-General to delete the special procedures for the selection of external candidates from the staff selection system. This proposed requirement would require heads of department to justify the selection of an external candidate in writing for approval by the Office of Human Resources Management.
In addition, the ACABQ regrets the Secretary-General’s report on mobility will not be submitted until the sixty-seventh session.
Regarding the harmonization of conditions of service, ACABQ recommends the approval of the harmonization proposals discussed in the Secretary-General’s report A/65/305/Add.1, subject to the recommendations on pages 11 and 12 of its report.
Regarding the implementation of continuing contracts as of 1 January 2011, the Advisory Committee notes that a Secretary-General report on the implementation of continuing appointments was given to the Assembly at its sixth-fourth session (document A/64/267). It was withdrawn after the report of the Advisory Committee (document A/64/518) and concerns of Member States. The understanding was that a revised proposal would be submitted to the Assembly at its sixty-fifth session and address those concerns. Those concerns primarily related to the definition of the continuing need for the services and functions of staff members; the numbers of staff with a long-term claim on the Organization, including those who would be eligible for continuing appointment; the review process; and the financial liability of the Organization.
The revised proposal contained in the Secretary-General’s report (document A/65/305/Add.1) is intended to address those concerns. The ACABQ is disappointed to note that, not only has the Secretary-General not responded satisfactorily to those issues, the new elements of his proposal, in particular the non-inclusion of the criterion of continuing need for a post, have made the proposal weaker. The Committee comments further on these issues in the paragraphs below and stresses, once again, that the present report should be read in conjunction with paragraphs 2 to 34 of its earlier report on human resources management (document A/64/518).
The Advisory Committee further notes that the Assembly, in having approved the instrument of continuing contracts on the basis of a comprehensive review of contractual arrangements, appears to have recognized the need for Secretariat staffing to be anchored with long-serving personnel. The conundrum confronting the Assembly right now is that the Secretary-General has not been able to set out prudent arrangements and the proposals seem focused on creating a basis for termination payments and strengthening the feeling of job security among staff, rather than setting out a vision of an agile and professional Secretariat that requires a base of long-serving personnel. In repeatedly proposing that eligibility be so comprehensive after only five years of service, the Secretary-General has not acknowledged or responded to the concerns expressed by the Advisory Committee (see document A/64/518).
Regarding Inspira, the ACABQ looks forward to the application of Inspira to staff selection in peacekeeping. Regarding the Young Professionals Programme, ACABQ recommends that the age limit of 32 be left unchanged for the time being. The issue should be re-examined at the Assembly’s sixty-ninth session in the context of a complete assessment of the functioning of the improved arrangements, which the Secretary-General should be requested to submit.
Regarding the composition of the Secretariat and the information on the use of gratis personnel, retirees and consultants contained in document A/65/350/Add.1, the ACABQ notes the near doubling of the number of retirees’ working days, from 97,406 in the 2004-2005 period, to 189,624 in the 2008-2009 period. The Assembly commented on this trend with respect to the last biennium in section XI, paragraph 3, of its resolution 63/250. It then reiterated its concern that the continuous trend of hiring staff retirees for extended periods of time increased in the biennium 2006-2007.
While the Advisory Committee recognizes that the use of retirees in some departments, such as language staff in the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, has advantages, it notes the increasing trend of hiring retirees in other departments continues unabated. The Committee reiterates its view that this situation can be avoided through rigorous succession planning and urges the Secretary-General to give priority attention to this issue, especially with respect to language personnel.
On the issue of ethics, the Committee had three reports before it. In activities of the ethics office (document A/65/343), the Secretary-General provides his fifth report since the creation of the Ethics Office in January 2006. The report covers the period from 1 August 2009 to 31 July 2010 and provides information about the Ethics Office and the implementation of ethics policies.
It also includes information on the activities of the United Nations Ethics Committee, including a review of any complex ethics issues dealt with by the Committee. The United Nations Ethics Committee was established by Secretary-General’s bulletin ST/SGB/2007/11, which came into force on 1 December 2007. The Committee’s main responsibilities are to establish a unified set of ethical standards and policies of the United Nations Secretariat and the separately administered organs and programmes. The Committee also consults on certain important and particularly complex cases and issues having United Nations system-wide implications raised by any Ethics Office or the Chair of the Ethics Committee.
The United Nations Ethics Committee consists of the heads of the ethics offices of the separately administered organs and programmes of the United Nations and the Ethics Office of the United Nations Secretariat.
Among its conclusions and recommendations, the report states that the Ethics Office must be an active player in United Nations management reform and promote ethical values, while fostering a culture of ethics, integrity and accountability in the Organization. In order to make an impact, the Ethics Office should continue to reach out to staff and management and engage in a dialogue with all players. Outreach, education and training will remain high on the Office’s agenda as an effective way to strengthen its preventive role and manage ethical risks facing the United Nations.
The report also stressed the need to maintain the principle of confidentiality to maintain the Office’s credibility. To do so, it would be necessary to amend the terms of reference of the Ethics Office to ensure it maintains the complete confidentiality of all information relating to the performance of its operational mandates.
The Secretary-General’s note review of ethics in the United Nations (document A/65/345) transmits the report of the Joint Inspection Unit, ethics in the United Nations system (document JIU/REP/2010/3). The JIU report includes 17 recommendations and follows an earlier JIU report.
The objective of the JIU review was to provide recommendations that would lead to a fully operational ethics function in each of the organizations of the United Nations System. This ethics function would aim to nurture a culture of ethics, integrity and accountability to ensure that all staff understand the minimum acceptable standards of behaviour. The review covered the United Nations, its funds and programmes, the United Nations specialized agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The report notes that unethical behaviour and corrupt practices on the part of a few continue to mar the work and reputation of United Nations system organizations. The establishment of the ethics function can help limit problems and foster a culture and atmosphere of integrity and accountability. But it notes that the creation of an ethics function is not enough. There also must be the development and dissemination of policies and procedures that help apply minimum acceptable standards of behaviour.
In contrast with the earlier report, the JIU Inspectors have not indicated whether the JIU-suggested standards have been met by those organizations that have established the ethics function. The research showed several instances where everything was in place, and as such, would have indicated that the organization had fully or partially met the suggested standards. But, based on interviews and additional research, the Inspectors concluded that in some organizations the ethics function amounted to no more than a paper exercise, which let the organization simply “tick the box”. Issuing an administrative instrument is not sufficient for the implementation of the ethics function. Without a real commitment from executive heads and senior management, together with Member States, little can be achieved, the report states.
The Inspectors believe it is a dual responsibility of Member States and executive heads to address the issues raised in this report. Member States should ensure adequate resources for the ethics function. At the same time, executive heads should be held accountable for setting the “tone at the top” and ensuring that the ethics function operates efficiently and effectively.
Another note by the Secretary-General, ethics in the United Nations system (document A/65/345/Add.1), transmits his comments and those of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) on this same JIU report, ethics in the United Nations system (document JIU/REP/2010/3).
This note contains the views of United Nations system organizations on the 17 recommendations provided in the above-mentioned JIU report. The views of the system have been consolidated on the basis of inputs provided by member organizations of the CEB, who welcomed the comprehensive review of the ethics functions contained in the JIU report and mainly concentrated their comments on the individual recommendations. Their general comments focused on the standards proposed, the details of the ethics functions across the system and the role of the ethics offices. While generally accepting the recommendations, agencies expressed concern regarding several of them, including the concept of a shared ethics function among smaller agencies.
Deputy Secretary-General ASHA-ROSE MIGIRO said management reform was a central part of the Secretary-General’s vision for the Organization as it sought to keep pace with the challenges of its increasingly complex and field-based operations. It was even more important that the management of the Organization be efficient, responsive and effective. “One cannot stress that the Organization’s greatest resource is its workforce,” she said, adding that staff accounted for 70 per cent of its regular budget and about 25 per cent of the peacekeeping budget.
Human resources management had to work continuously to develop an Organization that was flexible and supported a culture of empowerment and performance and gave staff a chance to learn and grow, she said. The United Nations had shifted to an organization that moved in a swiftly changing field-based environment and that had brought a host of challenges. There were higher vacancy rates, for example 24.1 per cent in international staff in the field as of 30 June 2010, and a high turnover rate in the field, particularly in certain difficult non-family duty stations. It was those duty stations that were most disadvantaged by the package offered by the Secretariat. In 2008, with respect to non-field locations, it took an average of 182 days from the time a vacancy was posted to the time the selection was made by the department head. This same process took 197 days in 2009. She added that integration meant that ensuring the policies applied across the Organization.
She said the Fifth Committee had a number of reports before it. Turning to the reforming of the contractual system and improving conditions of service in non-family duty stations, she said aligning the many different contracts was the first step in the process of operating more effectively in the field. But, more needed to be done. The General Assembly had committed to a system that included continuing contracts, but the modalities had yet to be agreed. There continued to be inequities in conditions of services, particularly around non-family duty stations. That had a negative impact on the United Nations ability to attract and retain staff in the toughest missions. She said the ICSC had presented proposals and, while not containing what the Secretary-General had initially wanted, they represented a fair and justifiable basis for the package for staff in the Secretariat.
The Secretary-General had already conveyed his views on the Commission’s important work and expressed his strong support for the harmonization of the work of the entire United Nations family. At the same time, she and the Secretary-General were cognizant that, as with any reform process, there was a degree of uncertainty and concern regarding the implementation of the new policy, in particular the impact the changes would have on the delivery of the activities undertaken by agencies, programmes and funds. She trusted that the Committee’s consideration of the matter and any recommendations would give the United Nations the opportunity to examine and address any potentially detrimental or negative impacts. She noted that another important reform proposal was the establishment of a United Nations Young Professionals Programme.
Introduction of Reports
Under-Secretary-General ANGELA KANE, Department of Management, said she echoed the statements made by the Deputy Secretary-General. She introduced the numerous reports of the Secretary-General that focused on various aspects of human resources reform and ethics. She also introduced two reports on the composition of the Secretariat. She said she looked forward to constructive achievement toward the goals and looked forward to working with the Committee.
Director of the Ethics Office, JOAN DUBINSKY, presented the Report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the Ethics Office, recalling that the Office provided five mandated core services to promote ethical awareness through training, manage the financial disclosure programme, implement the policy on protection against retaliation, provide confidential ethics advice, and promote system-wide coherence and support for ethics activities.
She called attention to five considerations for the purpose of obtaining support. First was the upcoming handbook on navigating the different resources available to staff for obtaining advice or lodging a complaint. “Our 2009 informal staff survey taught us that we are one of the best resources available to staff — and also the least well known,” she explained. Second, was the substantially enhanced system-wide collaboration of the United Nations Ethics Network, convened in June 2010 and supported by United Nations entities system-wide.
Third were the initial plans on ways to address structural improvements to the United Nations financial disclosure programme, based on an external feasibility study and input from the High-level Advisory Group, she continued. Those plans had to take into account the question of how to resource the programme, which could not be answered in isolation from three other questions: Did the programme adequately address the risk profile of the United Nations for personal conflicts of interest? Was the governance and regulatory framework sufficient to guide the programme? And did the process and technical design of the programme operate with maximum effectiveness and efficiency? “At this juncture, there seems to be no strong case for a change in resource allocation”, she stated.
Fourth was the fact that the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) had the discretionary authority to decline to investigate a prima facie case of retaliation, she said. In that regard, she stated “the Organization cannot afford to permit a staff member to languish without access to a proper fact-finding mechanism”. Last was the need to maintain “the absolute confidentiality of all information” relating to the performance of the operational mandates of the Ethics Office.
SUSAN MCLURG, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, introduced the Advisory Committee’s report on human resources management and recognized the efforts made by the Secretary-General to address the issues raised in Assembly resolution 63/250. While the Advisory Committee’s report addressed a broad range of issues, she limited her remarks to the Secretary-General’s proposals on contractual arrangements, especially the proposals regarding continuing appointments and the harmonization of conditions of service for staff serving in non-family duty stations and the Young Professionals Programme.
With regard to continuing appointments, the ACABQ was disappointed that the proposal no longer included the criterion of continuing need for a post. It was concerned that the Secretary-General would have difficulty in determining the optimum number of continuing appointments, while maintaining sufficient flexibility to adapt to changing requirements. In the absence of the criterion of continuing need, the Advisory Committee felt the approach outlined by the Secretary-General was equivalent to awarding continuing appointments to virtually all staff over time. “The resulting increase in the population who could have a long-term lien on the Organization would increase the potential financial liability of the Organization,” she said. The Advisory Committee also noted that under this approach continuing appointments would be granted to locally recruited staff in peacekeeping operations, which were temporary in nature by definition. This went against the principles underlying the introduction of continuing appointments.
Regarding the harmonization of conditions of service for staff serving in non-family duty stations in the common system, the Advisory Committee recommended the approval of the recommendations put forward by the Commission and endorsed by the Secretary-General. They would increase fairness for staff across the common system and facilitate greater inter-agency mobility. The ACABQ believed that the special operations approach developed by a number of specialized agencies, programmes and funds had responded to specific circumstances and never been connected to overall compensation arrangements or approved by the Assembly.
Turning to the Secretary-General’s proposal to modify the national competitive examination and rename it the Young Professionals Programme, the Advisory Committee welcomed the proposals for more effective recruitment, placement and career development of young professionals from unrepresented and underrepresented Member States. It did not favour lowering the age limit for applications from 32 to 26 years at this time and it favoured a roster that remained valid for two years, she said.
The ACABQ also concurred with the Secretary-Generals’ proposal to reduce the period for circulation of specific jobs openings from 60 to 45 days, to speed up the recruitment and staffing process, she added.
The Committee Vice-Chairman then drew the Fifth Committee’s attention to the note by the Secretary-General that transmitted the report of the Joint Inspection Unit, Ethics in the United Nations system, and to another note by the Secretary-General that transmitted the Secretary-General’s comments and those of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination on this same JIU report. He also drew attention to an introductory statement by the Senior Adviser on Information Management Policy Coordination, Secretariat of the CEB, Kenneth Herman.
The Vice-President of the Staff Management Coordination Committee, PAULINA ANALENA, noted that the Coordination Committee was the highest joint-staff-management body in the United Nations and that she was speaking on behalf of more than 43,000 United Nations staff members. She would concentrate, she said, on what staff saw as the single most important issue: continuing appointments. She compared the United Nation’s human resources reforms to the rebuilding of a house, stating that, although the house looked good, it lacked one crucial element — the foundation. That, she said, would come through a sound contractual framework that would uphold the Organization’s traditions of human rights — including labour rights and the principles of equal pay and conditions for equal work.
Highlighting a paper commissioned from the Labour Research Department, an independent research organization, she underlined that, in all of the Member States surveyed, open-ended appointments were the norm for national civil servants and were generally offered at an earlier stage that what was envisaged for continuing appointments. “This is one reason we expect the United Nations to grant UN staff that which civil servants get worldwide: an open-ended appointment,” she stated. That said, staff realized that Member States had concerns regarding flexibility, workforce, planning, performance management, conversion criteria and processes, mobility and termination indemnities and she would address each of those concerns.
As concerned flexibility, she noted that continuing appointments could be terminated without the consent of the staff member or in the interest of the good administration of the Organization, but they filled the need of staff to have greater certainty than “a lifetime of fixed-term contracts”. As regarded workforce planning, she said it was almost impossible to create a workforce plan and thus define continuing need — “any attempt to do so would undermine all attempts to create a workforce that is adaptable, flexible and able to answer the Organization’s ever-changing needs”. In terms of performance management, the vast majority of UN staff, she said, was high performing, committed and effective. “The General Assembly should not hold these dedicated staff hostage either because of a very few underperformers or because of unsubstantiated speculation,” she asserted.
In respect to conversion, it was agreed that there should be no ceiling and that eligibility criteria could be used to improve the service, but mobility, she said, should apply once staff are granted an appointment, not before, in order for staff to have stability regarding contract renewal. Lastly, notwithstanding the inclusion of termination indemnities, she highlighted Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that states: “Everyone has the right to protection against unemployment.” “Our staff have neither that protection, nor do they have access to any social security system,” she emphasized. It was only fair to receive continuing appointments.
The President of the United Nations Staff Union, STEPHEN KISAMBIRA, stated that this year, the Secretary-General had refused to submit the views of the staff of the Secretariat to the General Assembly as required by resolution 35/213, effectively censoring their views and depriving Member States from benefiting from their most important asset — the staff. Thus, “despite the censorship, or perhaps because of it”, the Union would orally present select views on human resource matters.
It was important, he said, that the General Assembly establish an independent panel of external and independent experts to review and consider redesigning the management of human resources at the United Nations Secretariat as per Assembly resolution 63/250. On the jurisprudence of the Dispute Tribunal and the Appeals Tribunal, he suggested the General Assembly give attention to the lack of an independent oversight body and equality of arms for the staff; the quasi-independence of the Office of Administration of Justice; the lack of independent investigative capacity and enforcement authority to subpoena witnesses, compel the production of documents, and discourage perjury and contempt for the rule of law; and the proscription to suspend the implementation of the contested administrative decision in cases of appointment, promotion or termination.
Regarding continuing appointments, he noted that Assembly resolution A/63/298 indicated that should the General Assembly approve the proposals, permanent appointments would be discontinued from 1 July 2009. He stated that the staff opposed the proposal to abolish the permanent appointment was of the view that the consideration for conversion to a permanent appointment should continue until a determination was made on a new contractual arrangement. In respect to performance management, he underlined the need to separate the person hiring from the person supervising and from the person assessing performance, with an autonomous performance management panel for each department.
WALEED AL-SHAHARI ( Yemen), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the Group believed that long-term workforce planning was an important tool for the Secretariat. It agreed with the ACABQ that, despite the fact that the staffing requirements depended upon mandates, which were difficult to predict, the situation should not prevent the Secretary-General from extrapolating future staffing needs based on experience and trends.
In keeping with its long-standing position, the Group did not support the proposal to reduce the period for advertising individual vacancies and believed many other aspects of the whole recruitment process could be streamlined to reduce the number of days needed to fill vacancies. The recruitment process had to follow the principles enshrined in the Charter, the priorities set by the Assembly and the provisions of relevant Assembly resolutions and the Staff Rules and Regulations. The Group was very concerned about the use of discriminatory procedures for the selection of external candidates from the staff selection system.
With regard to Inspira, the Group was deeply concerned over the system’s reliability and it sought clarification on the scope, implications and rationale of the specific proposal of the Secretary-General regarding the Young Professionals Programme.
Further, it was imperative that Member States agree on the modalities of implementation of the continuing contracts and it was not acceptable to freeze granting those continuing contracts due to the absence of an agreement. The option of returning to the old contractual arrangements should be explored, if no agreement was reached, he said. The Group fully supported the Commission’s recommendations regarding the harmonization of conditions of services in non-family duty stations, as referred to in the Secretary-General’s report. The Commission’s three proposals were interlinked and their full implementation across the board would ensure the preservation of the common system. It was a matter of principle that staff serving in the field, facing the same challenges on the ground, be given the same treatment as their counterparts in agencies, funds and programmes. It was imperative that the Assembly end that discriminatory treatment, he said.
JAN GRAULS ( Belgium) speaking on behalf of the European Union, reiterated that the Union considered Assembly resolution 63/250 a “landmark resolution”, which should enable the United Nations to reach the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity to face the challenges of the twenty-first century. But, human resource reform could not be achieved overnight and the effects of past reforms had not yet been thoroughly assessed, particularly as regarded the staff concerned and the results reached. In that context, he stated that the Union regretted the lack of elements in the Secretariat’s reports to allow for Member States to assess the effects of previous reforms. Every reform process had to be results-based with the effects measured from a budgetary perspective, he emphasized. The Union would thus carefully balance the immediate needs of the organization with the imperatives of the current financial situation, endeavouring to prioritize and target the most critical issues.
Highlighting Assembly resolution A/65/305, he noted that progress had been made to modernize the human resource policy of the United Nations, but many elements of that reform had not been implemented, “essentially because more guidance from the General Assembly was needed”. On the harmonization of conditions of service, he underscored the need to measure each and every proposal from a budgetary perspective. On the question of continuing contracts, he stated that the Union would carefully study the proposals of the Secretary-General, as well as the conclusions and recommendations of the ACABQ, in order to take a well-informed decision. With respect to the Inspira system, the Union saw the benefits of a fully operational system and, therefore, looked forward to its full application. As regarded the United Nations Young Professionals Programme, he acknowledged efforts to modernize exams and thought a new and comprehensive system could be developed soon.
BROUZ COFFI ( Côte d’Ivoire), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the Group had consistently supported human resources management reform as a means to ensure the equitable geographical distribution and gender parity in the United Nations. Every effort should be made to ensure adequate representation of developing countries, particularly those from Africa, in the ranks of staff, especially those in senior policymaking positions. The African Group supported long-term workforce planning and believed that long- and short-term workforce plans were essential for an organization like the United Nations.
The Group encouraged the Secretary-General to continue building a close working relationship and regular consultations with major troop-contributing countries in order to fill vacancies in the field missions. The Group regretted that the Secretary-General did not adequately respond to the Assembly’s request to present a comprehensive review of the system of desirable ranges in order to create a more effective tool to ensure equitable geographical distribution. The review was a top priority for the African Group. Regarding the reduction in the period of advertising individual vacancies, the Group believed it would place candidates from developing countries at a disadvantage, due to limited access to United Nations websites. There was room to streamline the process without limiting the duration of advertisements, he said.
Regarding continuing contracts, he said the freeze on granting continuing contracts due to the lack of an agreement on the modalities was unacceptable. It was imperative that Member States reached an agreement in this session; otherwise it might be better to revert to the old contractual arrangements. The three proposals on harmonization of conditions of service in the Secretary-General’s report — harmonizing the designation of mission duty stations as family or non-family, based on security assessments; the introduction of additional hardship allowance; and a rest and recuperation allowance — had merit, he said. Those agenda items were a priority for the Group and it would engage in a constructive debate.
GARY QUINLAN (Australia), speaking on behalf of Canada and New Zealand, said the delegations he represented had historically been supporters of human resources management reform and the principle of establishing an effective common system and ensuring the system worked for its most valuable resource — its people. He was concerned about the gaps in the conditions of service of Secretariat staff and those in funds, programmes and agencies. The issue had been before the Assembly since the sixty-first session, when contractual reform and harmonization were proposed, and it was time to move forward. He believed that the designation of duty stations as family or non-family had to be harmonized, based on the security situations and related objective factors. It was not sustainable to support a situation “…where two international UN Staff — from the same duty stations- are treated differently, primarily due to the sources of funding of their programme”, he said.
He looked forward to more clarification for the proposals for rest and recuperation travel and why it would be necessary to provide more than transportation costs. He intended to explore in-depth the Commission’s far-reaching proposal to provide an additional hardship allowance for the costs that staff at non-family duty stations incurred in maintaining a second household. That would replace the special operations approach practice developed by the agencies, funds and programmes and be accomplished during a five-year transition period. He agreed with the ACABQ that the transition period for any change decided by the Assembly should be used by top managers to address any unforeseen issues.
Regarding continuing contracts, he was worried that there was not enough data to progress on the issue and was concerned by the lack of particulars on long-term staff planning. Turning to Inspira, he looked forward to its full implementation. He emphasized the importance of an agile and flexible work force and appreciated that the ACABQ had aired concerns about the requirement for managers to justify the selection of an external candidate in writing for approval by the Office of Human Resources Management. That appeared contrary to selection on merit. He looked forward to detailed discussions on staff mobility, recruitment, training, performance management and better representation of women. Referring to the administrative reform agenda, he said the items were “complex, interrelated and have far-reaching implications”.
MANAHI PAKARATI (Chile) speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, requested clarification regarding the discrepancies in the positions of the Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General on the harmonization of conditions of service contained in document A/65/305/Add.1, noting that it requested the Fifth Committee to endorse the ICSC proposal on that topic and that the Deputy Secretary-General had expressed concern about the possible impact that proposal would have on the work of funds and programmes in the field.
THOMAS GÜRBER ( Switzerland), speaking also on behalf of Liechtenstein, said one issue of particular importance to his delegation was the harmonization of conditions of service. The delegations concurred with the ACABQ that the Secretariat should base its designation of duty stations on the security situation and other relevant factors. Action was required on the compensation for second households and rest and recuperation to deal with the high vacancy and turnover rates in the field. The proposals had far-reaching implications in terms of finances and system-wide scope. It was important to have a clear understanding of the specific measures and their consequences.
Regarding continuing contracts, the delegation believed that continuing contracts were useful in principle, but it shared the Advisory Committee’s concerns with regard to the Secretary-General’s proposals. In order to find a sound solution for the Organization and its staff, the delegates would like to further discuss the criteria and processes of granting continuing contracts, as well as the modalities used in connection with their termination. He also agreed with the ACABQ that, in many other areas of human resources management reform, the proposal of the Secretary-General did not adequately address the requests and concerns of the Assembly. The proposals before the Committee required more reflection about long-term strategic objectives before final decisions could be made.
JORGE CUMBERBATCH ( Cuba) supported the statement made by Yemen on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, and said that his country advocated a reasonable solution for the simplification of contractual arrangements, particularly the appointment of continuing contracts. But that solution, he said, had to go hand in hand with specific efforts to address equitable geographic distribution of staff, especially at the Secretariat level, which played a major role in that regard. Highlighting the example of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, he said that office was one of the most imbalanced in terms of the composition of staff in the entire Secretariat. Actions to date had proven insufficient by the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council itself. Thus, Cuba would be requesting supplemental information on that issue. The manner in which Executive Officers of higher rank were selected was also of concern and would be addressed in informal consultations.
Human resource management reform had significant implications given its scope. In that context, he noted with concern the serious differences between the Administration and the staff union representatives of the Secretariat on the topic. That was also the case, he said, between the Administration and some of the funds and programmes concerning the recommendations of the ICSC on the harmonization of conditions of service. That was due to a serious problem of internal governance, and not taking the necessary measures to address the problem. Cuba agreed with the evaluation heard from the African Group and would be following that issue closely.
The whole first part of this year, he said, all sorts of reassurances were given that internal consultations on the harmonization of management practices, including conditions of service, were going well and that the Secretariat, as well as the specialized agencies, programmes and funds would all abide by intergovernmental mandates on that matter as per Assembly resolution 64 /289, operative paragraph 45. Thus it was inexplicable that some funds and programmes were disregarding extensive consultations within the common system. That would have definite consequences, he asserted, leading to a potential collapse of that reform. He demanded a minimum of respect for the work that was done, he stated.
OMAR CASTAÑEDA SOLARES ( Guatemala) said that the holistic and integrated process of human resources management reform, as well as its accompanying application of information technologies, had been one of the most profound reforms in the United Nations. Any reform, however, gave rise to resistance, apprehension and tensions. One source of tension was that the administration must report to Member States that it was acting sensibly and prudently, while the staff pushed for better working conditions and benefits. Another source of tension was characterized by differences within the system. The Committee had not received one single position from all of the staff association, but rather several points of view, suggesting differences among the staff.
Another source of tension was a division among the main contributors to the budget and the smaller contributors, he said. All Member States were interested in improving the Organization, but the cost of any reform proposal was of special concern to the biggest contributors. Budgetary implications of any reform could, therefore, potentially be the main obstacle to its implementation. Also, Member States had expanded the delegation of authority to the Secretary-General, but at the same time had demanded a more rigorous accountability. That had resulted in three levels of accountability as far as human resources were concerned: personnel accountable to the Administration; the Administration accountable to Member States; and Governments accountable to their internal constituencies. Those systems of accountability had also been a source of tension. He said that in order to mitigate the sources of tension — or even sources of resistance — to the reform, agreements and compromises were required in order to give renewed impetus to the reform enterprise launched by resolution 63/250.
SHIN BOO-NAM (Republic of Korea) commended the Secretariat for undertaking various initiatives to address issues raised in General Assembly resolution 63/250, such as launching Inspira, a new talent management tool. However, many crucial steps were still under way or to be decided by the sixty-fifth session of the General Assembly. As a way of strengthening the competitiveness of the United Nations, he reiterated the importance of the performance appraisal system, and said that the thorough review of the current system would be prerequisite and a starting point of all the other reform measures, enhancing the credibility of the system. He suggested that one of the measures to address this issue would be an introduction of the compulsory distribution of performance ratings. In addition, the successful implementation of the new contractual arrangements depended on the enhancement and intensification of the effectiveness of the current performance appraisal system.
He welcomed the Secretary-General’s proposal (document A/65/305/Add.4) to introduce a new Young Professionals Programme for the more effective recruitment, placement and career development of young professionals, and his initiatives already implemented to improve the business process of the current National Competitive Recruitment Examination (NCRE). He supported the overall direction of the proposed programme, in particular, a central placement of successful candidates in consideration of functional and geographical mobility, reduction of the length of the exam process, and development of an online and computer-based test. Despite its overall support for a new programme, his delegation did not go along with lowering the age limit for the exam from 32 to 26 years. As pointed out by the ACABQ, that measure could be a disadvantage for candidates whose mother tongue was neither English nor French.
ALEXANDER GRANT NTRAKWA (Ghana), aligning with the statement by the representatives of Yemen and Côte d’Ivoire on behalf of the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, respectively, believed that human resources management was central to the framework and fundamental elements that would ensure the United Nations worked in an integrated and interoperable fashion. Ghana recognized the need for human resources management to continuously work to make the Organization more responsible and flexible, and thus, welcomed the efforts of the Secretary-General to transform human resources management to ensure the effective delivery of the mandates of the United Nations, and he briefly highlighted a number of issues. Regarding workforce planning, his delegation was concerned that the exercise undertaken in 2009 to compare the supply of available staff in the Organization with projected demands to determine future gaps seemed to be of limited added value for the Secretariat. He believed that training was the best option for addressing gaps in skill sets linked to career path planning and management, but said that he was concerned that monitoring of training was inadequate.
His view on staff selection was at variance with the proposal for approval for a reduction of the period for circulation of specific job openings from 60 to 45 days. The reduction would not adequately address the challenges faced in filling vacancies in the United Nations. The report of the International Civil Service Commission was extensively discussed; in view of the relevance, Ghana reiterated support for the application of conditions of service and the principle of equal treatment for all staff serving in similar conditions. He also noted the Secretary-General’s intention to work with troop-contributing countries to fill vacancies in field missions, and expressed a commitment to engaging in constructive discussion on this important agenda item. As a major troop contributor, it was his expectation that the initiative would ensure proper representation of troop contributions in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and Department of Field Support.
GOVINDRAO ADIK ( India) said that the 44,000 staff members of the United Nations constituted its backbone and were critical to the efficient and effective implementation of the mandates set for the Organization by its Member States. India supported reform initiatives that would provide the United Nations with a well-trained, motivated, committed and versatile workforce with real experience. For that, it was important not only to recruit staff with high merit and experience, but also to ensure that they were beneficiaries of skills enhancement programmes and undertook self-improvement. The management systems and staffing policies of the Organization were anachronistic, and needed to be addressed.
The process of reforming human resource systems and practices within the United Nations to address its contemporary needs could only be achieved through the collective efforts of the management and the staff, and with the support and involvement of Member States. Regarding recruitment, he said his delegation was concerned with the high vacancy rates, particularly in field missions, and with the lengthy recruitment process. His delegation could not fathom the reasons for the persistence of the huge vacancy figures, as it was surely not the case of a lack of meritorious applicants. The United Nations should consider seeking nominations from Member States, beginning with those departments and field missions that were plagued by excessively high vacancy rates.
With regard to workforce planning and talent management, he said, while noting the issues that had marked the launching of the Inspira tool, he hoped these were only “teething problems”. He encouraged the Secretariat to intensify efforts to correct the imbalance in terms of equitable geographic and gender representation. Aware that there was “no easy choice to make”, he said that when it came to reform, resistance was natural and dialogue was essential. However, it was in the common interest of Member States to secure stronger and more efficient Secretariat machinery.
YANERIT MORGAN ( Mexico) said that one of the main issues related to human resource management was the harmonization of the conditions of service of the staff in the United Nations system, the fulfilment of which relied mainly on finding savings and other measures that enabled allocation of resources required for such purposes. For that reason, it was necessary to strengthen the International Civil Service Commission, as the unique mechanism reviewing the conditions of the entire United Nations system, particularly vis-à-vis those entities not accountable to the Fifth Committee.
Regarding the criteria for granting continuing contracts, she said there should be additional elements to those proposed by the Secretary-General, such as efficiency, prevailing need for the post, and the main needs of the Organization. Therefore, it was necessary to define the core functions and continuing needs of the United Nations before progressing with the discussion on the continuing contracts. It was also important to take into account the financial impact the proposal would imply for Member States. Regarding the proposal to reduce the period of publishing vacancies in the Secretariat from 60 to 45 days, she said her delegation was willing to consider such measures to improve the high vacancy rate in the Organization. The Secretariat should redouble its efforts to achieve the benchmark of 120 days for filling a post, and the Inspira system should contribute to that end. Regarding the staff selection system, Mexico fully agreed with the ACABQ that internal candidates should not be given privileges over external candidates, and that all candidates must be assessed on the basis of the post’s requirements.
On the geographical distribution system and changes in the amount of posts subject to geographic distribution, she said it was necessary to take into account the importance of recruiting staff from as wide a geographical basis as possible, and to improve the geographic distribution of the staff, bearing in mind each Member State’s contribution to the Organization’s regular budget. It was further necessary to have an efficient management, distribution and monitoring of the resources allocated for training and learning, and she regretted the lack of a concrete strategy. With regard to the Young Professionals Programme, Mexico believed that reducing the age limit for taking the National Competitive Exam would help rejuvenate the staff of the Secretariat.
JASMINE TAN ( Singapore) said, “It is a truism that people are our most valuable resource.” Human resource management was needed to equip the United Nations with people who could efficiently discharge mandates and responsibilities. Given the dynamic nature of it, flaws would arise and should be promptly addressed. Thus, she welcomed the proposals for reform and agreed with the thrust of harmonizing conditions of service and streamlining contracts. At the same time, reform must be underpinned by a culture of accountability. Thus, she wanted to raise three points.
The Organization needed to strengthen workforce planning and monitoring functions on a strategic level in order to better define its long-term needs, she said. It was time that the Secretariat enacted personnel policies that forecast human resources needs down the line, from career modelling to training, roster management and mobility policies. She was concerned that all-encompassing workforce planning for the Secretariat had proved to be of limited value. She said: “The task of instilling a modern and progressive mindset in the Secretariat needs to be addressed comprehensively and as a matter of priority.”
Staff selection and recruitment was long overdue for modernization, she said, as there was a “fierce global competition” at hand for well-qualified candidates among global institutions. Yet, the Organization was taking longer than before to fill a post. It now took an average of an “unacceptable” 197 days. “In the end, the Organization loses out in terms of the level of talent recruited,” she said, adding that it also failed to respond quickly to organizational needs. The Secretariat should not substitute stopgap measures for a much-needed overhaul of its practices. “At the end of the day, all the best intentioned projects, proposals, and plans to introduce new enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to enhance the UN’s administrative practices will come to naught if the Organization stays trapped in an outmoded mindset and a self-inflicted morass of bureaucracy.”
She said that a more realistic and stringent performance appraisal approach was needed, one that did not routinely rate an inordinate number of staff as “meeting or exceeding performance expectations”. “Ineffective, apathetic and incompetent staff should be objectively identified to allow for proper remedial action, while good performers should be given due recognition and reward,” she said, adding that such a review and reform of the performance appraisal system would benefit the Organization in the long term. She closed by saying human resources management was not an abstract concept, but a “dynamic constant with material and financial implication”. The intention had been to highlight serious concerns that merited deeper consideration.
BABOU SENE (Senegal) associated with statements delivered by Yemen and Côte d’Ivoire on behalf of the Group of 77 and China and the Group of African States, respectively, stressing that the success of good human resource management reform depended on training for professional development. Senegal invited the Secretary-General to approve the necessary provisions for the application of paragraph 4, Section VIII of Assembly resolution 63/250 to ensure that the training strategy was inclusive with participation of the staff unions, including in the training advisory committee, with predictable and sufficient financing.
In recalling that Member States had asked the Secretary-General to propose effective ways to increase the representation of developing countries in the Secretariat, he stated that the responses contained in paragraph 8, Section IX of Assembly resolution 62/250 “can and must be improved”. Member States, contrary to the Secretary-General, had to take appropriate measures to ensure an increased presence of developing countries in all departments of the Secretariat, in accordance with paragraph 3 of Article 101 of the Charter. Indeed, it was difficult to understand why, in 2010, the presence of developing countries at the directorate level was so weak, he stated.
He expressed his country’s support for the recommendations of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) to harmonize the designation of non-family duty stations according to a security evaluation, but said he did not understand how two major capitals, Addis Ababa and Nairobi, were considered to be non-family duty stations.
* *** *For information media • not an official record