|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-seventh General Assembly
15th Meeting (AM)
As Budget Committee Takes Up Human Resources Management Reports, Delegates Air
Concerns on Financial Impact of Proposed Mobility Initiative
As the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today considered a wide range of human resource management issues, delegates expressed concern over such issues as the financial ramifications of the Secretary-General’s proposed mobility and career development initiative, the unequal geographical representation among the workforce, particularly in senior management posts, and the lengthy time to fill vacancies.
Generally backing the Secretariat’s ongoing efforts to improve personnel management, delegations said that mobility was critical to support measures aimed at improving the way the Organization did business, such as Umoja, the global field support strategy and shared services.
However, the representatives of Japan, United States and the Russian Federation, among others, shared the concern of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) that the Secretary-General’s mobility proposal, which favoured the hiring of internal candidates, could shut out qualified external applicants, thus constraining the ultimate goal of assembling a global, dynamic and adaptable workforce. Further, delegates wanted more details on the proposal’s financial implications.
The Republic of Korea’s representative said he was concerned that the United Nations would spend $89 million on training during the 2012-2013 period; yet, there was no monitoring and oversight system in place to evaluate the results. He also shared the ACABQ’s view that the current mobility proposal did not fully present ways to more evenly distribute the burden of serving in difficult duty stations where vacancy rates were high. Staff in those stations remained in their posts for too long, with limited prospects to move.
Algeria’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, warned against adopting a mobility framework that would face the same problems plaguing other transformational projects at the United Nations, such as the absence of a defined end-state; uncertain and spiralling costs; and a lack of transparency and accountability. He also expressed concerns that personnel from developing countries were still not adequately represented, particularly in Professional and higher level slots, and that the Secretary-General had yet to sufficiently respond to the Assembly’s request for a comprehensive review of the system of desirable ranges.
On that issue, Yukio Takasu, Under-Secretary-General for Management, said such a review could not be made until the Assembly gave clear guidance on the scope of staff to be covered. He also warned against further delaying approval of a new mobility scheme, which the Administration hoped to start implementing in January 2015.
“We have no more time to lose,” he said, urging the Assembly to decide in December to allow the Secretary-General to proceed with detailed preparation to meet that target date. Mr. Takasu also introduced the Secretary-General’s relevant reports: one which gave an overview of human resources management reform; a second which addressed amendments to the Staff Rules; a third which looked at the composition of the Secretariat; and a fourth which investigated disciplinary matters and possible criminal behaviour.
Paulina Analena, President of the Coordinating Committee for the International Staff Unions and Associations of the United Nations System (CCISUA) and President of the United Nations Staff Union in Vienna, praised the mobility proposal as comprehensive and said it would increase the Secretary-General’s accountability to the Assembly. The proposed centralized job network boards would help break the silos headed by 500 D-1s and 1,500 P-5s, who “in our experience, tend to recruit from people they know or those who lobby them the hardest”, she said, adding that “management of human resources will take place at a more strategic level, not within the mini-empires I have alluded to, and the Organization will be the better for it.”
Collen Kelapile, Chairman of ACABQ, who introduced that body’s report on human resources management, said ACABQ could not approve the mobility scheme in its current form as it did not fully address the problems it sought to resolve or yield all the benefits identified by the Secretary-General. In addition, the proposals were not sufficiently detailed. More information was necessary on their full costs, as well as their impact on various appointment categories, external recruitment, and burden sharing at hardship duty stations. The Secretary-General should be asked to submit a comprehensive report by the end of the main part of the Assembly’s sixty-eighth session that addressed those and other concerns.
The Committee also weighed in on other presentations today, including those by Joan Dubinsky, Director of the Ethics Office, who introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the Office’s activities; and Gerard Biraud, Inspector of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), who introduced the Secretary-General’s notes transmitting JIU’s three related reports: one on staff-management relations, a second on sick leave management and a third that reviewed the Organization’s Medical Service.
Representatives of Chile (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Switzerland (also on behalf of Liechtenstein), Australia (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand), Thailand, Kuwait, Cuba, Pakistan, Singapore and Sri Lanka also spoke this morning.
Also speaking was a representative of the delegation of the European Union.
The Fifth Committee will reconvene on Monday, 26 November, to conclude its debate on human resource management reform and begin its consideration of revised budget estimates for the 2012-2013 biennium resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted by the Economic and Social Council at its 2012 organizational and substantive sessions and of the United Nations common system.
As the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met today to discuss human resources management, it had before it more than a dozen reports.
The Secretary-General’s report titled overview of human resources management reform: towards a global, dynamic and adaptable workforce (A/67/324) gives an update of the reform process stemming from decisions made during the sixty-third and sixty-fifth Assembly sessions concerning mobility, the new system of contractual arrangements and talent management, which envelopes workforce planning, staff selection and performance management. An annex to the report contains a summary of follow-up action to implement Assembly resolutions 65/247 and 66/234 and the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions’ (ACABQ) related recommendations.
The Assembly is asked to take note of the report. It also is asked to confirm that recruitments under the Young Professionals Programme continue at the P-1 or P-2 levels, depending on candidates’ qualifications and post availability; endorse amendments to the Programme’s learning and development process; approve the continuation of the G-to-N stream under the Programme; give guidance on issues regarding the review of the system of desirable ranges; and take note of liability issues.
The report’s addendum titled mobility (document (A/67/324/Add.1) contains a proposal in response to the request in Assembly resolution 65/247 for a comprehensive mobility policy. The Assembly is asked to approve the proposed mobility and career development framework, which aims to create a dynamic, flexible workforce that can effectively deliver the Organization’s mandates to the highest standards.
The Secretary-General’s report on amendments to the Staff Rules (document A/67/99 and Corr.1) contains the full text of new rules and amendments to existing rules that the Secretary-General proposes to implement as of 1 January 2013. It gives the rationale for those amendments, most of which are technical in nature. The Secretary-General recommends that the Assembly take note of amendments set forth in the report’s annex.
The Secretary-General’s report on the composition of the Secretariat: staff demographics (document A/67/329) gives a demographic analysis of the composition behind the Secretariat’s 42,887 staff members from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012. This figure includes all categories of staff holding permanent/probationary, fixed-term and temporary contracts recruited internationally and locally. The Assembly is asked to take note of the report.
An addendum to the report (document A/67/329/Add.1) presents a demographic analysis of the engagement of gratis personnel (4,942), retired staff (3,187) and consultants and individual contractors (45,628) during the biennium 2010-2011. The Assembly is asked to take note of it.
The Secretary-General’s report on the practice of the Secretary-General in disciplinary matters and possible criminal behaviour, 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012 (document A/67/171 and Corr.1) gives a summary of cases, listed in section III, for which one or more disciplinary measures were imposed by the Secretary-General and comparative data, listed in section IV, reflecting the number of cases referred for action and disposed of during the reporting period. Section II provides a broad overview of the administrative machinery used in disciplinary matters, so that information provided in sections III and IV can be understood in context. Section V gives information on the Secretariat’s practices on possible criminal behaviour cases.
The Office of Human Resources Management received 95 cases, including 35 for staff based at Headquarters and offices away from Headquarters, and 60 involving field staff. The largest segment of cases involved fraud, misrepresentation and false certification; followed by abuse of authority, harassment and discrimination; theft and misappropriation; and unauthorized outside activities, conflict of interest and procurement irregularities. The Assembly is asked to take note of the report.
The Secretary-General’s report on activities of the Ethics Office (document A/67/306) covers the period from 1 August 2011 to 31 July 2012 and also includes information on the United Nations Ethics Committee’s activities. The fact that the Office received 887 requests for its services during that time, up from 766 during the previous reporting period, attests to the Ethics Office’s continued importance as a secure, confidential consultative staff resource. Sixty-three per cent of the requests come from outside Headquarters. The largest segment of requests, 55 per cent, were for ethics advice.
According to the report, the Secretariat has begun a comprehensive review of the Organization’s current policy on protection against retaliation in order to enhance effectiveness. In 2011-2012, the Ethics Office continued to conduct outreach missions to multiple duty stations, produced essential ethics guides, strengthened ethics training programmes and developed evaluation criteria to effectively assess and measure the perceived seriousness and the likelihood of ethical risks and the impact of instituted remedial action. The Assembly is asked to take note of the report.
The ACABQ weighed in on the above-mentioned and below-mentioned reports with its own report titled human resources management (document A/67/545). The ACABQ recognizes the Secretary-General’s continuing efforts to address issues raised in Assembly resolutions 63/250 and 65/247, but believes much remains to be done. The ACABQ considers that the Secretary-General’s overview report on the matter (document A/67/324) would have benefitted from an analysis of whether reforms implemented to date, particularly streamlined contractual arrangements, are yielding the expected benefits. The Assembly should be given more information on that issue at the time it considers the Secretary-General’s report.
While the ACABQ considers the stated objectives of the new mobility and career development framework proposed by the Secretary-General to be legitimate, it is not in a position to recommend that the Assembly approve the framework in its current form. The ACABQ calls for more information and analysis to justify the move towards a managed system and to explain how the framework dovetails with other ongoing management reform initiative. The report also includes recommendations concerning the composition of the Secretariat, the Secretary-General’s practice in disciplinary matters and possible criminal behaviour, amendments to Staff Rules and activities of the Ethics Office.
The Secretary-General’s note on staff-management relations within the United Nations (document A/67/136) transmits the eponymous report by the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), which intends to identify and promote the conditions that would further such relations at all levels system-wide. The Inspector proposes a major reform of the Staff Management Committee, building upon its Terms of Reference issued in September 2011, which would transform the reform from a five-day event into a five-month process, as outlined in Chapter 8. While possibly a difficult deviation from customary thinking and business-as-usual procedures, the related changes may be necessary to safeguard and improve staff-management relations. The report gives details of the Inspector’s six recommendations, including one to the Assembly, one to the Secretary-General exclusively, and four to the Secretary-General and the Executive Heads of the separately administered organs and programmes.
The Inspector also proposes five guidelines for Staff Representative Bodies to consider and implement, but not subject to the JIU’s follow-up on their acceptance and implementation. He recommends that the Assembly ask the Secretary-General to present for its approval an appropriate staff regulation confirming the recognition of the right of United Nations staff to collective bargaining as outlined in the annex to its resolution 128 (II). The Secretary-General and the Executive Heads of the separately administered organs and programmes should apply to the staff of their respective entities the standards and principles emerging from the relevant International Labour Organization (ILO) instruments, particularly the 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.
An addendum to the report (document A/67/136/Add.1) includes the Secretary-General’s comments and those of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) on the JIU report. They welcome the report and support some of its conclusions.
The Secretary-General’s note on management of sick leave in the United Nations system (document A/67/337) transmits the JIU’s eponymous report, which reviews sick leave policies and practices of United Nations system organizations and proposes ways to improve them, prevent abuse and fulfil their duty with regard to staff health and safety. One study estimated that a 1 per cent increase in absenteeism is equivalent to a 1 per cent increase in salary costs.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Policy and the shift of emphasis to prevention rather than cure adopted by the CEB, occupational health services will be required to focus on the medical aspects of sick leave, including compiling relevant statistics and analyses. But they should not be managing sick leave. The report recommends that managers and supervisors be formally trained on how to respond to the needs of staff with medical issues, including mental health issues, which may impact job performance and lead to significant absences. It asks executive heads to design and implement a return to work policy for staff members on extended sick leave, and to consider incorporating health and productivity modules in the workplace to maintain a healthy work environment.
It asks legislative bodies to require executive heads to give comprehensive annual or biennial reports on sick leave, including statistical and financial data and measures taken to address sick leave absenteeism. Furthermore, the CEB’s High-Level Committee on Management should, through its finance and budget and human resources networks, develop a methodology to calculate the burden of disease and/or illness within the organizations.
An addendum to the report (document A/67/337/Add.1) includes the Secretary-General’s comments and those of the CEB on the JIU report. They find the report to be useful and informative and support some of its conclusions. They recognize that many organizations are looking to increase the use of flexible working arrangements that will allow staff to better balance work and life. They call for further clarification in some areas of the report, such as paragraph 44, where agencies see no need to have yet another medical services official in medium or small-scale organizations to monitor, review or approve sick leave from a purely administrative viewpoint. In the rare event of a suspected abuse of sick leave requiring investigation, independent medical expertise can be sought from the medical services of another United Nations organization or the private sector. They also regret that the report does not offer specific recommendations on absenteeism issues, and point to some factual errors.
The Secretary-General’s note on the review of the medical service in the United Nations system (document A/66/327) transmits the JIU’s eponymous report, which focuses particularly on services in the field, which are deemed inadequate. It asks the Secretary-General to modify the Medical Services Division’s mandate. The Occupational Safety and Health medical services should remain independent from other administrative/organizational units and report either directly to the Chief Executive Officer or to his/her appointed representative. The adoption of occupational safety and health policies would necessitate a paradigm shift in medical services from cure to prevention. CEB calls for setting up a system-wide network for occupational safety and health issues, modelled on the Inter-Agency Security Management Network, which would monitor implementation of occupational safety and health policies, practices and procedures.
Despite considerable investment to employ a large number of health-care personnel, the Organization has yet to create the structures to oversee and manage those resources according to modern health-care standards. Two of the review’s seven recommendations are addressed to legislative bodies. Such bodies are asked to adopt appropriate occupational safety and health standards, taking into account and ensuring compatibility with emerging modifications to the Minimum Operating Safety and Security Standards. The Assembly should mandate the Secretary-General to create the United Nations Network on Occupational Safety and Health, with a defined Terms of Reference, which should be headed by the United Nations Chief Medical Director.
An addendum to the report (document A/66/327/Add.1) includes the Secretary-General’s comments and those of the CEB on the JIU report. They generally support the JIU’s recommendations and note the need to further clarify specific aspects of the report and discuss proposals for system-wide medical response. For example, they are concerned that staff counselling services should not be outsourced to external providers. They also question the report’s claim that medical services in the field are inadequate since no United Nations oversight body has made that pronouncement.
Introduction of Reports
YUKIO TAKASU, Under-Secretary-General for Management, introduced the relevant reports of the Secretary-General on human resources management, including documents A/67/324 and Add.1, A/67/99 and Corr.1, A/67/329 and Add.1, A/67/171 and Corr.1. The Office of Human Resources Management had been working in partnership with other offices to tackle such challenges as varying contracts, conditions of service and high vacancy rates in parts of the Organization. The first report included updates and proposals. It noted the ST/AI on continuing contracts was issued in August and pointed to steps to implement the new performance management and development system, including the “e-Performance” tool and to focus more on management and leadership development, as well as e-learning. Proposed adjustments to the Young Professional Programme were agreed to at the last session.
He said that proposals for a comprehensive review of the system of desirable ranges could not be made until the Assembly gave clear guidance on the scope of staff to be covered. To transform the Secretariat into a truly unified, global Organization, Umoja and a more structured mobility policy must be implemented. Mobility thus far in human resources had been ad hoc and individually driven. Mobility was critical to strengthening the United Nations and supporting current transformational initiatives aimed at improving the way the United Nations did business, such as Umoja, the global field support strategy and shared services.
“We need a framework for a global, dynamic and adaptable workforce to meet the evolving needs of Member States,” he said. Hardship duty stations still had high vacancy rates that hampered the Organization’s ability to deliver its mandate. Staff in them remained far too long, without prospects to move. The burden of serving in difficult duty stations must be distributed more fairly. A new mobility policy was needed to resolve that.
He said that the timelines to fill vacancies — on average 171 days after a vacancy announcement had closed — was far too long. The proposed model would free up time for managers, who were burdened at present by too much time spent on the selection process. The current arrangement of only temporarily filling a post left vacant when a staff member went on mission was disruptive. The proposed mobility framework was based on the principle that globally recruited staff should move at regular intervals, by changing role, function, department of duty station. Staff should be able to make choices that meet their mobility and career aspirations.
Under the new framework, staff selection and recruitment would be done through the job network boards, instead of by hiring managers whose decisions were monitored by the Central Review Bodies, he said. External candidates would be considered if no internal candidate was suitable. He did not expect a sudden surge in geographic moves and costs under the new system. Rather, the phased implementation of the new framework by the job network after 2015 would enable the Organization to manage expenditures to a necessary minimum level. Once approved by the Assembly, a phased implementation would begin in January 2015, after two years of intensive preparation. Postponing such a decision would further delay implementation, which had already been delayed two years ago. “We have no more time to lose,” he said, urging the Assembly to decide in December to allow the Secretary-General to proceed with detailed preparation to meet the target date.
Introducing the Secretary-General’s report on the activities of the Ethics Office, JOAN DUBINSKY, Director, United Nations Ethics Office, said that during the 2011-2012 reporting period, the Office had strengthened the methods through which it provided services under its five core mandates, emphasized the critical importance of ethical leadership, and continued to enhance the organizational culture for ethics and integrity while developing ways to assess it. It had also maintained high levels of success in managing conflict of interest through a financial disclosure programme and the provision of ethics advice.
She said that the Ethics Office provided high quality, confidential services to Secretariat staff around the globe and addressed issues of ethical concern, such a conflict of interest, protection against retaliation, procurement-related advice, policy review, outreach and training. It continued its outreach, communication and education efforts.
During the reporting period, the Office received 47 enquiries about retaliation, of which 30 where requests for advice, one matter was beyond the Office’s jurisdiction and 15 were completed complaints, she said. Of those complaints, the Office had found two matters that reached the prima facie case standard and both were referred to the Office of Internal Oversight Services for investigation. To make the Organization’s policy on protection against retaliation more robust, the Office had begun a structured review of the policy.
Turning to the Financial Disclosure Programme, she said the reporting year had experienced the highest overall compliance rate in its history, at 99.9 per cent. Of the 4,306 filers participating in the 2011 filing cycle, 4,303 had submitted financial disclosures. In 2011, 1.9 per cent had disclosed information that presented a real or potential conflict of interest, reflecting 80 filers who had disclosed 103 discrete conflicts that were remediated.
Recognizing that an organization’s strong ethical culture depended upon the commitment of ethical leaders, the Ethics Office was increasing its direct outreach with senior management. The Director said she had conducted 26 confidential ethics introduction briefings with incoming and newly appointed Assistant Secretaries-General and Under-Secretaries-General. The Office also carried out an ethics and reputational risk assessment of United Nations peacekeeping operations in order to enhance its reputation and support more effective mandate delivery.
COLLEN KELAPILE, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions introduced the Advisory Committee’s report on human resources management (document A/67/545) which weighed in on the seven human resources-related reports submitted by the Secretariat.
Turning first to the proposed mobility and career development framework, he said that the Advisory Committee could not approve that scheme in its current form as it did not fully address the problems it sought to resolve or yield all the benefits identified by the Secretary-General. Further, the proposals were not sufficiently detailed. The Advisory Committee wanted additional information on numerous elements of the framework, including its impact on various appointment categories; the number and type of positions designated as non-rotational; whether it fully addressed the issue of sharing the burden of service in hardship duty stations; the effect on external recruitment; and the full costs, both direct and indirect.
He said that since the Secretary-General intended to kick off the framework’s implementation on 1 January 2015, the ACABQ recommended the Assembly request the Secretary-General for a comprehensive report — to be submitted no later than the main part of its sixty-eight session. That detailed report should address the Advisory Committee’s concerns, as well as provide additional information to justify shifting mobility from a purely voluntary system towards a managed system of mobility, he said.
In the meantime, he continued, the ACABQ believed that measures to alleviate the hardships faced by staff working in hardship duty stations for long periods of time should not be contingent on the Assembly’s approval of the proposed mobility and career development framework. He recommended the Assembly ask the Secretary-General to immediately give priority among internal candidates to staff in that situation and take any other additional measures.
Turning to the Secretariat’s overview of human resources management reform, the ACABQ recognized the continuing efforts to address issues raised in Assembly resolutions 63/250 and 65/247 but noted that much work remained. He noted that the ACABQ report touched on workforce planning, learning and career development and staff-management relations. Regarding staff selection and recruitment, for example, the Committee was concerned that the Secretariat still had not reached the 120-day target for filling posts. It also was concerned about the shortcomings identified in the current system of sanctions for underperformance.
The report also included recommendations concerning the composition of the Secretariat, the Secretary-General’s practice in disciplinary matters and possible criminal behaviour, and amendments to Staff Rules and activities of the Ethics Office. It believed the Staff Rules could be more reader-friendly, he said.
GERARD BIRAUD, Inspector of the Joint Inspection Unit, introduced the Secretary-General’s notes transmitting JIU’s related reports, including documents A/67/327, A/67/136 and A/67/337. The report that reviewed the United Nations Medical Services included a proposal by the United Nations Medical Directors Working Group to adopt an occupational safety and health policy, which was endorsed by the CEB’s High-Level Committee on Management.
He said it was “high time” to consider how that would be implemented and what kind of system-wide mechanism to monitor and manage it would be established. To gather relevant data, the team conducted interviews in person and by teleconference, videoconference and detailed questionnaires; visited United Nations medical facilities, including in Lebanon and Liberia; and met with medical service staff and human resource and finance officials. Staff at Headquarters had access to world-class local medical services, but field staff grappled with inadequate services. The management and accountability framework for supporting United Nations field clinics and dispensaries should be clarified urgently in a defined Terms of Reference. The Department of Field Support needed adequate resources to make its medical services accessible to all field entities.
As the report on staff-management relations discussed such a wide range of issues, a second report was needed, he said. That document was in its final phase and would be discussed next year. The present report only dealt with the United Nations. Article 11 of the JIU Statute did not call for a report of the CEB. From 2009 to 2011, staff-management relations were, in fact, “not great”. But such relations could be excellent. It was a question of responsibility, good faith, mutual respect and transparency. The Staff Management Coordinating Committee had an equal number of representatives from staff and management. The chronic crisis of staff-management relations escalated in June 2011 and almost toppled the system. Since then, several suggestions had been made to capitalize on past effective practices. Members had to be given time to do a better job together.
The report on sick leave management did not suggest creating a new medical service, he said. Rather it called for assigning a medical professional from the medical service to human resources, potentially on a part-time basis, to monitor and approve, where applicable, sick leave requests. That was essential to ensure no conflict of interest and maintain confidentiality of staff medical records. While the report confirmed that on average staff did not take as much sick leave as their public service counterparts in national Governments, the fact that only 10 of the 34 organizations surveyed were able to give some statistics on the matter implied that the full extent of sick leave and its costs were not fully known.
Different methodologies were used, and in some cases data was only recorded for international staff, but not for the remaining 80 per cent of staff comprising temporary workers, consultants and independent contractors. He said that the report concluded that maintaining a healthy work environment was essential for reducing absenteeism. It asked the organizations and entities to consider incorporating health and productivity management modules into the workplace.
PAULINA ANALENA, President of the Coordinating Committee for the International Staff Unions and Associations of the United Nations System (CCISUA) and President of the United Nations Staff Union in Vienna, said the staff, with the exception of colleagues in New York, believed the Secretary-General had developed a comprehensive mobility proposal. The Staff Union regretted the position taken by its New York colleagues. The Secretariat’s mobility report was the result of two years of in-depth analysis of mobility systems in international organizations, Governments and multinational organizations, as well as of extensive and protracted negotiations. The Staff Union advocated for centralized job network boards to break the silos headed by 500 D-1s and 1,500 P-5s, who “in our experience, tend to recruit from people they know or those who lobby them the hardest”, she said. These boards would ensure staff were rightly recognized for their skills, competencies and experience. “Managers would still have a say in the process, but it will not be absolute,” she added.
The Staff Union believed the framework would increase the Secretary-General’s accountability to the Assembly. “Management of human resources will take place at a more strategic level, not within the mini-empires I have alluded to, and the Organization will be the better for it,” she said. The Staff Union believed staff representatives should play a role in the joint network boards, as they did at the World Bank, World Food Programme (WFP) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It wanted to see a functioning mobility system with all positions open to global competition. She said some staff members had been stuck in current positions for years in locations from New York and Geneva to Kabul and Baghdad.
She then turned to staff-management relations, a topic covered on behalf of the Federation of International Civil Servants’ Associations, as well as the Staff Union. She supported the report of the Joint Inspection Unit that identified a key problem: the Secretary-General was being deprived of a mandate to negotiate while staff had been deprived of their rights provided by the International Labour Organization (ILO). She asked the Assembly to pass a resolution that would give staff the basic human right of collective bargaining, as set out in Assembly resolution 128 (1947).
Turning to the administration of justice, she said staff members should have access to legal services funded by the regular budget, as the administration used lawyers funded from the regular budget.
ABDELHAKIM MIHOUBI (Algeria), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, strongly favoured reforms to make the Organization’s workforce highly motivated, diverse and dynamic. Putting good policies in place today was crucial to ensuring the world had the Organization desired and needed 10 or 20 years from now. Human resources must be managed according to the highest standards of accountability and transparency. Ensuring equitable geographic representation in the Secretariat, particularly at senior levels, was crucial to the Organization’s effectiveness.
He regretted that the Secretary-General once again had failed to adequately respond to the Assembly’s request for a comprehensive review of the system of desirable ranges. “Given that the original request was made four years ago, the lack of proposals is particularly disturbing. Bearing in mind the integrated nature of human resource issues, it may be difficult to achieve progress in other areas if this critical dimension is not addressed,” he said. He called on the Secretary-General to intensify efforts to achieve geographical distribution and gender balance of staff, and underscored the need for greater representation of developing countries, particularly in senior management. He expressed grave concern over the reduced percentage of staff from developing countries at the Professional level and higher.
He supported the concept of mobility, which could ensure a responsive, dynamic workforce and help reduce vacancy rates, particularly at the harshest duty stations, where they were highest. The impact of mobility on field service staff must be a priority. The Group wished to discuss in greater detail the mobility system’s effectiveness in achieving the stated goals, contribution to more equitable geographical representation, impact on existing staff recruitment and selection and job stability, the relative advantages and disadvantages of voluntary and mandatory mobility systems and its financial costs.
He said that any new mobility policy must avoid repeating problems that had plagued other transformational projects at the United Nations, such as absence of a defined end-state; uncertain and spiralling costs; and lack of transparency and accountability. There must also be regular reviews of any policy agreed upon. Transparency would be particularly crucial in mobility, particularly concerning staff selection. The discriminatory treatment of external candidates, recently abolished by the Assembly, must not be reintroduced. He called for more attention to long-term workforce planning, responsiveness in staff selection and recruitment, and equitable geographical representation and gender balance.
Speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin-America and Caribbean States (CELAC), MANAHIT PAKARATI ( Chile) noted the goal of equitable geographic representation, especially at the senior level, was far from being realized. She urged the Secretary-General to intensify efforts to achieve equitable geographical distribution and gender balance of the staff, as mandated by the General Assembly. Her delegation was very concerned that the Secretary-General had not given the Assembly the proposals it requested to review the system of desirable ranges.
CELAC supported the concept of mobility, both geographically and within the same duty stations, she said. It understood that more information was needed in several areas, including the impact on equitable geographic representation. It was necessary to proceed carefully. It was particularly worrisome as there was no clear idea of the proposed framework’s potential financial implications, she said, adding that many more clarifications and discussions were needed.
Mr. HAGMAN ( Switzerland), also speaking on behalf of Liechtenstein, said the Organization needed a global, adaptable and dynamic workforce. A more systematic approach would enable it to react flexibly to changes in staffing needs and better carry out its mandate. Such an approach should ensure that staff members had equal opportunities for service in the Secretariat that matched their career aspirations, as well as make it possible to break down the various organizational silos within the United Nations that tended to characterize its working culture. He hoped the Assembly would be able to adopt some of the elements of the proposed mobility and career development framework, and he lauded the fact that the framework was the result of extensive negotiations between management and staff representatives.
However, as noted in the report of the ACABQ, in many respects, the Secretary-General’s proposals were not sufficiently detailed and left many issues unresolved, he said. Many qualitative and quantitative aspects required further clarification and refinement. He had questions concerning the format of the proposed incentive structure to encourage functional and maximum geographic mobility. He wondered if the link between geographic mobility and career development could not be strengthened. It was important to consider the financial implications for introducing that framework, and to be able to measure the cost needed to reap benefits. More clarification was needed on how the framework would be integrated into existing talent management projects. The Assembly should approve some aspects of the framework in order to give the Secretary-General some guidance, and it should approve implementation by 1 January 2015, provided that outstanding issues, as identified by the ACABQ, were resolved satisfactorily.
EMIL STOJANOVSKI ( Australia), speaking also for Canada and New Zealand, addressed the Secretary-General’s report on mobility. Since the Brahimi Report recognized the need for enhanced personnel mobility more than 10 years ago, he said, there had been growing recognition of the benefits of mobility. Mobility allowed personnel to change their jobs every few years, offering them new experiences, fresh insights and empowering them to think boldly. It could also improve staff morale and performance, inject new dynamism into teams and foster greater cross-cultural understanding. From a management perspective, a mobility framework could improve the management of human and financial resources. Likewise, field staff in more difficult duty stations could be rotated more equitably.
He was of the view that it was better to have staff who could understand how the Organization worked by spending time in different duty stations, field operations and departments. It was especially important that in this age, when the most salient and recognizable United Nations’ efforts were field-based, Headquarters staff had as much a “field-facing” culture as possible. The mobility framework proposed by the Secretary-General was, therefore, a good starting point for an effective and forward-leaning mobility policy. Noting that the framework was intentionally broad, he said much more work needed to be done over the next two years to establish all of its elements, and many questions remained about how the policy would operate from a practical perspective. In that regard, he looked forward to an interactive discussion in the Secretariat and with other delegations on those questions.
CARMEL POWER, representative of the Delegation of the European Union, said the bloc had long been staunch supporters of Human Resources Management and continued to be so. The report of the Secretary-General showed that some progress had been made to date, she added, and, in that respect, the European Union welcomed his further proposals on managed mobility. While the delegation welcomed progress on the one-time review for permanent appointments, it remained concerned about the slow implementation of the awarding of continuing contracts, and worried that new approaches to ensuring robust performance management were not being embraced by staff or managers in practice. “We also see a clear need for significant improvement in tackling underperformance,” she stressed in that vein.
Turning to a number of other matters, she said that it was unacceptable that only a little improvement had been made in the time taken to recruit staff, an issue which “must hamper the day-to-day functioning of the Organization”, and that no improvement had been seen in the gender imbalance in the Secretariat. On mobility, the European Union supported the Secretary-General’s proposed framework and career development, bearing in mind that any mobility programme should also account for budgetary constraints and existing mobility patterns, and took note of the suggested timeframe for its implementation. In that regard, she said that the delegation had a number of questions on aspects of the present proposal, which it looked forward to discussing on the basis of detailed analyses of the ACABQ. Finally, she said that workforce planning needed to be significantly enhanced and should involve a real evaluation of staffing needs, correct grading and staff numbers.
NORACHIT SINHASENI ( Thailand) said the Organization’s workforce was its greatest resource and absorbed about 70 per cent of the regular budget. Thailand once again urged the Secretary-General to improve the recruitment and staff selection procedures to ensure transparency and accountability and avoid the high vacancy rates in many duty and field stations. Thailand encouraged the Administration to take greater measures to ensure gender balance, including promoting women to senior positions.
He welcomed the initiative to boost workforce mobility and expressed the hope that all current and proposed measures helped the United Nations fully realize the potential benefits of mobility. There were more than 30 United Nations offices and affiliated agencies in Thailand and they would benefit directly and indirectly. The mobility programme had to be carried out in a way and at a pace that was acceptable to all concerned parties, he said. A thorough cost-benefit analysis had to be conducted and he hoped the programme would not generate a heavy financial burden for the United Nations.
SUL KYUNG-HOON ( Republic of Korea) noted the progress in streamlining contractual arrangements and harmonization of conditions of service. However, human resources management reform still had “a long way to go”, and it was, therefore, necessary to carefully monitor implementation of ongoing reforms and analyse their expected benefits. Long-term systematic workforce planning through improved forecasting of future staffing requirements would directly impact the Organization’s ability to implement mandates and individual staff’s career development. Inspira could be utilized to that end by applying it in training and career development.
The United Nations would spend $89 million on training during the 2012-2013 period, but it lacked a monitoring and oversight system to evaluate the results. The Secretariat would benefit from Inspira’s enterprise learning management module by promoting the direct link between learning and career development. Effective integration of Inspira and Umoja in the near future was a key to effective, responsive and comprehensive management of workforce planning. He shared the ACABQ’s concern that the Secretariat was unable to provide the necessary information to monitor the impact of human resource management and reform measures. As that lack of information could slow decision-making on human resource agenda items, he hoped the Secretariat would find a solution soon.
He welcomed the introduction of Inspira’s e-performance module and asked for more information on the rewards and recognition framework based on the recommendations of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) and the best practices of other United Nations agencies. He was also concerned that only a few sanctions had been imposed for underperformance, which negatively impacted staff morale and productivity. He recognized the plan of the Staff Management Committee Working Group on performance management on that issue, but said the Assembly should also encourage the Secretariat to take more proactive steps to address shortcomings.
A purely voluntary mobility system did not work because it did not generate a sufficient number of moves. He shared the ACABQ’s view that the scope of mobility must be defined and the current mobility proposal did not fully address the issue of hardship burden-sharing. The one-year minimum occupancy limit could be too short for staff to reach their full potential. He backed the ACABQ’s recommendation that the composition of job network boards should be similar to the current central review body system. He shared the ACABQ’s concern over the risk of eliminating qualified external applicants under the proposed framework. The doors should be open to external candidates and equal opportunity ensured.
Aligning with the statement made by the Group 77 and China, Mr. AL-YAQOUT ( Kuwait) said the true wealth of the Organization remained with its employees; the human component was a key pillar of the work of the United Nations. Human resources must be accorded all due attention and care. Reform in the area was critical to enhancing the Organization’s broader reform efforts. Such changes should aim to improve the Organization’s ability to deliver and meet its mandates in a streamlined fashion. A goal of recruitment should be seeking and ensuring the highest level of competency among the staff.
He said the State of Kuwait was underrepresented in the employment levels and had no nationals employed by the Organization. New measures were needed to improve the levels of employment among countries that were underrepresented. Kuwait paid tribute to the staff working in hardship stations and supported the Secretary-General’s efforts to let all staff members have their input. High-level management posts should not be “kept” only by some countries.
OSCAR LEÓN GONZÁLEZ ( Cuba) said that equitable geographic representation and gender balance among staff were far from being realized. Data in the Secretary-General’s report A/67/324 showed that 40 per cent of staff subject to geographic status in higher-level posts in 2012 was concentrated in eight developed countries. He endorsed paragraphs 49 and 54 of report A/67/545 and reiterated Member States’ request to the Secretary-General for specific proposals in resolutions 63/250 and 65/247 for concrete measures to ensure equitable geographic distribution among Secretariat staff. He recognized the importance of human resource management reform to give the Organization the necessary capacity to adapt to new circumstances and challenges without sacrificing efficiency. Reform must reflect fairly the Organization’s needs and its staff’s aspirations, and it must be carried out in line with Member States’ decisions.
He expressed concern over aspects of the proposed mobility framework, and asked, among others, for more detailed information on its financial and budgetary implications, and a more general assessment and evaluation of how it would impact the families of staff. There was a certain dichotomy in the framework as to whether it was voluntary or mandatory. As Assembly resolution 63/250 pointed out, mobility was voluntary. The Secretariat must direct its efforts towards that end. He expressed the same concerns stated in paragraph 103 of report A/67/546 over the mobility initiative not becoming another obstacle to geographic representation and gender balance among staff.
ERIKO YAJIMA (Japan) said her delegation supported the Secretary-General’s emphasis on the importance of mobility for the Organization and agreed with the Advisory Committee’s observation that a better managed mobility programme could help improve the delivery of mandates and respond to staff members’ career aspirations. She shared the Advisory Committee’s concern about the proposal’s potential impact on external recruitment and, by extension, on merit-based selection and geographical representation.
If, she continued, the Organization’s capacity to bring in new talent was constrained by the need to place internal candidates first, there was a high risk that the Organization would be closed to external candidates. It was, she stressed, very important that the United Nations “be able to obtain new ideas, new talent and new people from around the world to assemble a global, dynamic and adaptable workforce, which was the ultimate goal of the proposed framework”.
A thorough analysis of the total costs for the proposed mobility framework was very important for the Committee’s consideration, she pointed out, noting that she had hoped that the Secretary-General would have submitted a detailed accounting of the mobility framework’s full costs. She concurred with the Advisory Committee’s emphasis on the importance of a robust monitoring mechanism to track the actual costs.
Further, she said, there was concern about the shortcomings of sanctions for underperformance in the current performance management system. In that regard, she requested that the Secretary-General take appropriate measures to address those shortcomings and report on the results in his next human resources management report. In addition, as Japan was one of the main underrepresented countries, she asked the Secretariat to develop a comprehensive strategy to improve geographical representation. That strategy would be based on an in-depth analysis of the real causes behind the current imbalance, as recommended by the ACABQ.
MOHAMMAD MASOOD KHAN ( Pakistan) said the United Nations had to go a long way to attain a global character, orientation and composition. “It has to cover some ground urgently to reflect geographic diversity,” he said. Human resources machinery still suffered fundamental deficiencies, including a flawed recruitment and selection system, inadequate strategic and workforce planning, underrepresentation of a large number of developing countries at professional and senior levels, and the absence of a well-defined accountability framework. To rectify the chronic imbalance in representation, the Assembly had repeatedly provided clear guidance in its requests to the Secretary-General. “The Secretary-General has indicated that the issue is marked by complexity. We do recognize that this is a complex issue. But it is by no means intractable,” he said.
The new human resources management scorecards should promote geographic representation as one of its priority indicators, he said, recommending a robust role of the performance management board for the accountability of programme managers. Pakistan was also concerned by the substantially low overall success rate of candidates in the new Young Professional Programme exam, and would appreciate information on the decrease since its inception. The Secretary-General’s proposed mobility and career development framework had legitimacy and rationale, but a number of critical areas needed clarification, including lack of clear understanding of the Organization’s readiness to adopt change. The mechanisms of the proposed mobility and career development policy should not lead to the creation of multiple recruitment processes; screening layers at each move of staff would lead to unnecessary delays filling a position, increased vacancy rates and additional financial implications.
STEPHEN LIEBERMAN ( United States) said the United States fully supported the goals of the mobility policy, and believed the proposed policy could be an effective tool in achieving them. The Advisory Committee had highlighted that certain key elements were not well defined. The Fifth Committee should work together over the coming weeks to reach the definition needed that would allow the Secretary-General to move forward with a planning mobility policy, for Assembly consideration, that would address the problems identified in the report while achieving the benefits.
He went on to say that the financial cost of mobility and its impact on the recruitment of external candidates had to be examined. An effective mobility policy that met the Secretary-General’s goals had to be part of a broader package of management and human resource reforms, including a performance management system that promoted and rewarded high performance and removed the small percentage of staff that did not perform to expected standards.
Regarding staff management relations, he said he was concerned about the perennial challenges to staff-management relations. It was crucial for the Secretary-General to consult with staff on matters related to human resources management policies and welfare, as set out in Regulations 8.1 and 8.2. However, he emphasized that management decisions were ultimately the responsibility of management, subject to the Assembly’s appropriate oversight and authority.
ANG WEE KEONG ( Singapore) said that the workforce of the United Nations was its most valuable resource. As the Organization’s operations became more complex, the Office of Human Resources Management must ensure that it continued to have competent, committed and professional staff able to deliver the duties and mandates entrusted to it. A key issue, in that regard, was strengthened workforce planning and monitoring functions. Development of a holistic workforce planning strategy would give an overview of how human resource requirements evolved across departments. To that end, he supported the ACABQ recommendation for the Organization to develop better planning for major occupational groups.
That would also improve chances of successfully implementing the Secretary-General’s proposed framework for mobility and career development, he continued. On equitable geographical distribution, he urged the Secretary-General to present proposals for a comprehensive review of the system of desirable ranges, as had repeatedly been requested in previous Assembly sessions, and to step up efforts to improve gender balance in the Secretariat, particularly at senior levels. More details were needed on some elements of the proposed mobility policy, such as the list of rotational and non-rotational roles, the exact configuration of the job networks and full estimates of the direct and indirect cost implications.
DMITRY S. CHUMAKOV ( Russian Federation) said human resources reform had to meet the Organization’s need for qualified staff and its effective functioning while remaining in line with its finances. The Secretary-General’s proposal needed review and analysis and had to be aligned with prior Assembly resolutions on the matter. Member States had spent much effort to reform staffing policies. More analysis was needed on the proposed reform’s impact on labour productivity.
Regarding mobility, there needed to be a fair burden of the sharing of duties among staff at Headquarters and in the field. But a model was needed that would not produce chaos. The continued movement of staff should not be an end in itself. He noted that previous proposals were not workable. He was concerned about how mobility would impact external job candidates, as well as its impact on underperformers. Also, how would the Office of Legal Assistance handle the flood of filings from staff members dissatisfied with administrative mobility decisions? The Russian Federation also wanted more information about the proposal’s financial implications. He agreed with efforts to boost gender balance, without losing the benefit of securing the most qualified applicants.
PALITHA KOHONA ( Sri Lanka) said that the core strength of the Organization lay in its human resources and that improving standards and working methods towards greater effectiveness and efficiency would benefit all Member States. Agreeing with the concept of mobility, he said that it should also be used as a management tool for efficiency in the Organization’s future functioning. To that end, the Secretary-General should lay a stronger foundation for such measures to take effect. He further said that adequate geographic and gender equality must be ensured at all levels of the Organization. The Secretariat should provide details of its plans to safeguard geographic and gender representation in the context of mobility.
Noting that mobility would help reduce existing high vacancy rates, particularly in difficult duty stations, he expressed concern about how vacancies would be distributed between internal and external candidates. While it was important to introduce “young blood with fresh, new ideas”, existing staff members should be treated with respect and dignity. Implementation of the proposed mobility framework must be a well-thought-out process, he continued, and said that he looked forward to fruitful interactions with the Secretariat on how it planned to implement that cultural change within the Organization, including cost implications and how staff was being prepared for the change, among other issues.
* *** *For information media • not an official record