WOMEN STILL UNDER-REPRESENTED IN UPPER ECHELONS OF UNITED NATIONS, SAYS OFFICE OF INTERNAL OVERSIGHT SERVICES REPORT

28 October 2002
GA/AB/3530

WOMEN STILL UNDER-REPRESENTED IN UPPER ECHELONS OF UNITED NATIONS, SAYS OFFICE OF INTERNAL OVERSIGHT SERVICES REPORT

28/10/2002
Press ReleaseGA/AB/3530

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Fifth Committee

17th Meeting (AM)

WOMEN STILL UNDER-REPRESENTED IN UPPER ECHELONS OF UNITED NATIONS,

SAYS OFFICE OF INTERNAL OVERSIGHT SERVICES REPORT

China Proposes That Host Country Finance Substantial Share of Capital Master Plan

As the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) took up the main issue of its current session -– human resources management -– speakers emphasized the high priority they accorded the ongoing reform, which should establish fair, transparent and measurable human management systems and attract and retain high- quality staff.

Speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, the representative of Venezuela said that the reform should include a comprehensive and fair system of recruitment, placement and promotion; better consideration of equitable geographical distribution; gender balance; a well designed and transparent system of delegation of authority accompanied by a proper system of accountability; and an effective system of the administration of justice.

New Zealand’s representative, also speaking on behalf of Australia and Canada (CANZ), stressed the importance of monitoring the implementation of policies by the Office of Human Resources and Management and individual line managers, saying that management departments and individual managers must be held accountable for the application of policies, rules and procedures.  Technology now offered an opportunity to increase the transparency, fairness, and timeliness of human resources management systems.  Furthermore, United Nations staff should be consulted throughout the process of developing these new systems.  Another aspect that needed attention was the United Nations record on gender, which needed to be improved.  For example, the Office of Internal Oversight Services had commented that men were more likely than women to be recruited and promoted at the P-4 to  D-2 levels.

Introducing the Secretary-General’s reports before the Committee, Assistant-Secretary-General for Human Resources Management Rafiah Salim said she was proud of the considerable progress achieved in human resources management, and more was expected in the coming years.  Many of the recently introduced initiatives actually broke new ground.  The most recent example was the staff selection system, which had come into force on 1 May this year.  It not only embodied Charter principles, but also addressed many issues important to Member States and managers alike, including those of merit, transparency, responsibility, accountability and timeliness.

The time had come to further consolidate and institutionalize the changes introduced to date and ensure their implementation within the United Nations system, she added.

Also this morning, as the Committee continued its consideration of the proposed plan for updating and refurbishing the United Nations buildings, the representatives of Australia (on behalf of CANZ), China, Poland and Zambia emphasized the need to proceed with the capital master plan and move expeditiously to remedy the deficiencies of the United Nations complex.  Echoing earlier speakers on the subject, China proposed that the major costs of implementing the plan be shouldered by the host country.

Also speaking this morning were representatives of India, Denmark (on behalf of the European Union and associated States) and Syria.  Other documents before the Committee were presented by the Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, Dileep Nair; Inspector Dominique Ouedraogo of the Joint Inspection Unit; and the Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), Conrad S.M. Mselle.

The Committee will continue its consideration of human resources management and the capital master plan at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 29 October.

Background

This morning, the Fifth Committee was expected to continue its consideration of the capital master plan and a number of reports on human resources management  –- the main issue of the current session.

Human Resources Management

In his latest report on human resources management reform (document A/57/293), the Secretary-General states that, over the past four years, an integrated human resources programme has pursued the goal of building the Organization’s ability to attract, develop and retain staff of the highest quality.  The proposed changes take into account the development of the United Nations from a Headquarters-based organization to one with a strong field presence.  In addition, the normal turnover of staff due to retirement and available vacancies presents an opportunity for revitalizing the Organization.

The document goes on to describe major achievements in the main areas of human resources planning; streamlining of rules and procedures; recruitment, placement and promotion; mobility; competencies and continuous learning; performance management; career development; conditions of service; contractual arrangements; and administration of justice.

In particular, the Secretary-General reports that the number of countries invited to participate in the national competitive recruitment examinations has increased from 28 in 1998 to 62 for the 2003 examination.  Recruitments through the examination are on the rise:  the number of Professional staff recruited increased from 24 in 1996/1997 to 87 in 2000/2001.  Among other steps to improve geographical representation in the Secretariat, the document lists establishment of measurable targets on recruitment from unrepresented and under-represented Member States.

An Organization-wide review of the pay and benefits system is under way in order to make recommendations to the General Assembly on improved conditions of service.  Proposals submitted to the General Assembly also envisage simplifying the Organization’s current contractual arrangements to provide for three types of appointments:  short term (up to six months); fixed term (up to a maximum of five years); and continuing (open-ended, with separation benefits).  The new staffing selection system, effective 1 May 2002, includes the following features:  time-limited post occupancy (five years for posts up to P-5 and six years for others); all job opportunities available first for lateral moves by serving staff; time-in-grade eligibility requirements abolished; promotion linked to mobility -- two lateral moves required before promotion to P-5; incentives for mission service; and staff development programmes to support mobility.

A managed reassignment programme for junior Professional staff has been introduced as a means of guiding mobility, providing on-the-job learning experience and supporting the career development of staff.  Under the programme, staff appointed through the competitive examination after 1 January 2002 will obtain experience in two different functions during their first five years of service so as to create a stronger foundation for a satisfying career in the Organization.  The Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM) is continuously increasing the number and range of training and development opportunities throughout the Secretariat.  The performance appraisal system (PAS) was revised, and an electronic system (e-PAS), accessible to all staff throughout the Secretariat via the Internet, was introduced in April 2002.

The next few years will see the consolidation of the changes introduced to date and further improvements in the area of human resources management.  Emphasis will be placed on using the human resources function as a strategic tool to drive change and to create the organizational culture envisaged by the Secretary-General.  Policies and programmes are, and will continue to be, based on the fundamental principles of responsibility and accountability, transparency, equity and fairness, and efficiency and effectiveness.

The Secretary-General’s report on the monitoring capacity of the Office of Human Resources Management (document A/57/276) has been prepared in response to the Assembly’s request for an analytical report on the establishment of monitoring capacity for “all relevant activities of the Secretariat regardless of the source of funding”.  According to the document, as the Organization moves towards a results-based culture, monitoring is becoming an integral part of all activities as an essential function of modern management.

Among particular measures in this respect, the report lists annual performance compacts between the Secretary-General and his programme managers, which set measurable goals in specific areas.  Each department and office agrees with the OHRM on human resources action plans, which record measurable targets in such areas as vacancy levels, geographic distribution, gender balance, mobility and staff development.  The use of the Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) provides programme managers with online information in that respect.  Another tool in ensuring monitoring is the PAS system, which requires managers to specify staff performance expectations and monitor them on a regular basis.  Staff development programmes allow staff to enhance existing skills and develop new ones.

Also according to the report, the OHRM conducts salary surveys for General Service in New York and in the field and reviews comprehensive salary survey conducted by specialists from various agencies.  It also ensures appropriate conditions of service by setting, monitoring and updating mission subsistence allowance rates and providing guidelines and advice to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO).  In November 2000, an Accountability Panel was established within the Secretariat in order to reinforce other accountability mechanisms and ensure that the findings of oversight review bodies are adequately addressed.  The OHRM is also designing monitoring guidelines and templates to assist departments and offices with self-monitoring.

In a related report, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) (document A/57/496) states that the number of contracts issued for administrative services is excessive as compared with those issued for substantive programme area.  The Committee also notes that more than 50 per cent of the persons engaged in 2001 were from developed countries.  The Committee requests that more consultants and individual contractors are engaged from developing countries and from countries with economies in transition.

The Advisory Committee requests that, in future, the breakdown by nationality and gender also show the language staff component separately.  The Committee believes that a greater effort should be made to recruit retired former language staff from a wider geographical area and, wherever feasible, to use them in a remote role, rather than run the additional expense of bringing them to a United Nations centre.

The Advisory Committee also notes that the information on achievements reported to date on the major initiatives of the human resources management reform and other specific issues which are cross-cutting in nature cover the experience of the Secretariat for a rather short period.  The Secretary-General should report in a comprehensive manner on the achievements of the human resources management reform when sufficient information is available on the experiences of the Secretariat.

The ACABQ trusts that any streamlining of reports will take into account the Committee’s previously stressed concern for the need to report in an analytical manner, providing sufficient statistical data in support of the analyses and conclusions in the reports.

Also before the Committee was an annual report of the Secretary-General on the Composition of the Secretariat (document A/57/512), which provides information on certain demographic characteristics of the Secretariat and on the system of desirable ranges of the geographical distribution of staff.

A further Secretary-General’s report also discussed the Composition of the Secretariat (document A/57/414).  Among its statistics, the report states that more than 72 per cent of all staff come from 25 Member States.  The global gender distribution of Secretariat staff showed an almost evenly balanced female/male staff distribution.  However, the two most senior grades of the Secretariat continue to have a low female staff representation and, in general, the ratio of female to male staff in the Professional and higher categories in nearly all departments and offices continues to fall short of the mandated goal of the General Assembly.

A further report before the Committee was a report of the Secretary-General on the amendments to Staff Rules (document A/56/227), which provides the full text of amendments to the Staff Rules, some of which have been provisionally promulgated.  The Secretary-General plans to implement the amendments that have not been so promulgated as from 1 January 2002.  The report provides the rationale for every amendment included.  The Secretary-General recommends that the General Assembly take note of the amendments to the Staff Rules contained in an annex to the report.

Another report of the Secretary-General discussed Amendments to the Staff Rules (document A/57/126).  As requested by staff regulation 12.3, the present report contains the full text of new rules or amendments to existing rules that the Secretary-General proposes to implement as from January 1 2003.  The report also provides the rationale for these amendments, which are of a technical nature. The Secretary-General recommends that the General Assembly take note of the new or amended staff rules set out in the annex to the present report.

Also before the Committee was a note by the Secretariat on the streamlining of rules (document A/C/5/56/3), which provides details of obsolete or redundant documentation, which has been eliminated so far in the context of the streamlining of the rules.

The note explains that for many years, policies, rules and procedures were issued by various officials in a number of instruments, including Secretary-General’s bulletins, administrative instructions, information circulars, personnel directives or internal guidelines.  There was no systematic review of those instruments, which proliferated and remained in place regardless of whether they were still needed or had become inconsistent with subsequent documents.  As a result, it was often difficult for staff, administrators and managers to know what the rules were and for the Organization to hold anyone accountable for the proper application of these rules.

In 1997, the Secretary-General, at the suggestion of the Legal Counsel, issued a bulletin which rationalized the system of administrative issuances and established procedures for the promulgation of these issuances, the note says.  Under the new system, "rules" or "imperatives" can be promulgated only through a Secretary-General’s bulletin or an administrative instruction.  Personnel directives can no longer be issued, and all existing ones lapsed on 31 December 1999.  Information circulars can only contain general information or an explanation of established rules, but can no longer establish new rules.

There was also a Secretary-General's report on Mandatory age of separation (document A/56/701).  The report studies the implications of fixing the mandatory age of separation for staff members appointed prior to 1 January 1990 to the current age of 62 years.  It discusses the potential number of staff members affected, and possible implications with respect to the age profile of the Organization, geographical distribution, gender balance, career development, opportunities, the Pension Fund and other related matters.  [The report was initially introduced during the fifty-sixth session of the Assembly.

To facilitate the discussion on the age of separation, the Secretariat has also prepared two conference room papers (documents A/C.5/56/CRP.1 and A/C.5/56/CRP.1/Add.1), which provide information on the possible impact of the proposed changes on the staff members and on the implementation of the human resources reform.

There was a report of the Secretary-General on the placement of staff members serving in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General (document A/56/816).  In 1997, an Assembly resolution stipulated that the discretionary power of the Secretary-General of appointment and promotion outside the established procedures should be limited to his Executive Office, to the under-secretary-general and assistant secretary-general levels and to special envoys at all levels.  The present legislation covers appointment to the Executive Office, but does not give him authority for assignment from that Office when the services of staff are no longer needed.

To ensure that the career opportunities of staff who have been separated from their assigned posts to come to the Executive Office are not jeopardized, the Secretary-General should be given discretionary power for outposting staff.  The Secretary-General proposes the implementation of a system that would allow him to place staff members who serve in his Executive Office in suitable vacant posts in the Secretariat either before or after they have been advertised.  The Secretary-General seeks the Assembly’s approval of his proposal.

Also before the Committee were two documents (A/C.5/56/L.3 and A/C.5/56/L.7), by which the Secretary-General submits for the information of the General Assembly lists of staff of the United Nations Secretariat showing, by office, department and organizational element, the names, titles, nationality and grades of all staff members.

Also before the Committee was a report of the Secretary-General on the employment of retirees (document A/55/451).  The report provides information concerning retirees recruited on a short-term basis in all categories and at all levels, as well as under special service agreements, during the biennium 1998-1999.  Statistical data in the comprehensive annex to the report shows that

551 separate engagements and reappointments of 342 retirees took place during the biennium.

Nationals of 57 countries were engaged as retirees, but seven countries accounted for 63 per cent of all engagements, according to the report.  Thirty-five per cent of the retirees were female.

The total cost of fees and salaries for retirees in the biennium was

$10.3 million, of which language services accounted for nearly two thirds.  Compared to the previous biennium, the number of engagements in the biennium  1998-1999 increased by 1.3 per cent, and the number of retirees by 4.3 per cent.  Retirees were engaged for longer periods, as indicated by the increase of 24 per cent in number of days worked during the period, and total fees or salaries rose by 20 per cent.  In the previous biennium, the average cost for each engagement was $17,620; in 1998-1999, this increased to $18,642.

A note by the Secretary-General (document A/56/956) transmits the Report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) on possible discrimination due  to nationality, race, sex, religion and language in recruitment, promotion and placement.  The results of recent analysis did not reveal a systematic and consistent pattern of preference or exclusion that impaired equal opportunity in recruitment, placement or promotion for any given reason over the past six years. In some cases, however, regional differences existed, and the results of analysis by gender indicated that disparities continued to exist at higher grades.  For example, men were more likely than women to be recruited, promoted and reappointed at the P-4 to D-2 levels.  More attention needed to be given to recruiting and promoting women at the higher levels and to counteracting the rising separation rate of women from the Organization.

The OIOS believes that the new staff selection system, spearheaded by the OHRM, could represent significant improvement over the current system which is labour intensive and perceived to be lacking in fairness and objectivity.  To what degree this is achieved depends greatly on the accountability of managers for the decisions they make regarding recruitment, placement, mobility and promotion. “Galaxy”, the Web-based tool for the new staff selection system, will enhance transparency and monitoring.  In order for it to succeed, strict OHRM monitoring is critical.

The three complaint mechanisms for handling cases of discrimination, the Panel on Discrimination and other Grievances, the Joint Appeals Board and the United Nations Administrative Tribunal, need to be strengthened.  The Ombudsman function recently approved by the General Assembly should be integrated with the existing mechanisms to form a strong framework for addressing complaints of discrimination.  From its review of complaint procedures in selected national governments and other international organizations, the OIOS learned that efforts put on early dispute resolution reap benefits in terms of staff morale and economy of resources.

Document A/56/956/Add.1 transmits the comments of the Joint Inspection Unit on the OIOS report.  The Unit suggests that the Secretariat may gain more insight on the question of possible racial discrimination in recruitment, promotion and placement by taking fuller advantage of the experience of the World Bank and by assessing, in particular, why current mechanisms appear not to be trusted by respondents to the Staff Council survey and why there is a reluctance to file grievances for fear of retaliation.  Exit interviews conducted by the OHRM for staff resigning from the Organization may also serve as a channel to check whether any form of discrimination was among the reasons to quit.

Equal opportunity should entail that information on vacancies is posted simultaneously in the working languages.  Furthermore, whatever the initial rationale behind the requirement of a mother tongue as proof of assumed fluency, it is very questionable today and serious consideration should be given to replacing it wherever applicable by the expression “main language of education”.

A meaningful assessment of possible discrimination due to language would be feasible or greatly facilitated if the Assembly were to provide additional guidance to the Secretariat as to whether any of its current practices establishes a distinction, restriction, exclusion or preference based on language that could be qualified as discrimination.

Statements

DAVID DUTTON (Australia), also speaking on behalf of Canada and New Zealand, said that the need to refurbish, update and improve the Building was plain.  He agreed with the Secretary-General that it was necessary to move expeditiously to remedy the deficiencies of the United Nations complex, especially where safety and security were concerned.  It was also time to better fit the facilities to the needs of the Organization and employ new technologies, which could help the work of the United Nations.  The baseline scope appeared to be a sound basis for renovating and updating the complex.  However, in a project of such complexity there were many needs and options to consider.

His delegation would seek assurances that the renovation would deliver an internal environment which was fit and healthy for all staff and delegates.  He was also interested in the requirements for meeting rooms and information technology infrastructure.  On the phasing of the project, he said that the construction of a new building would seem to provide a more convenient, one-stage renovation and a better United Nations campus.  However, he was unsure of the proposed timing and end date for the project and would appreciate clarification in that regard.

It was appropriate and necessary at this juncture for the Assembly to indicate that it wished to proceed with the capital master plan, he said.  It was also necessary to choose which of the options would best suit the Organization and approve the $22.5 million needed in 2003 for the preparation of detailed designs.  At the fifty-eighth session, the Assembly should consider the progress made.  Due attention must be paid to quality and cost-effectiveness, and he agreed with the comments of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) on the need for oversight from beginning to end.  During the next session, it would also be necessary to decide how to finance the project.  His delegation looked forward to proposals from the host Government in time for consideration of that issue next year.  An interest-free loan as described by the Secretary-General would be the most appropriate method of financing the project.

ZHANG YISHAN (China) said that temporary, emergency and piecemeal repairs could no longer maintain the ageing United Nations complex.  But as the Chinese saying had it, even a clever housewife could not cook without rice.  Only when resources were found and strong financial backing was in place could the plan be carried out.  His delegation believed that interest-free loans, which had been used 50 years before to build the original complex, could also be used for financing today’s ambitious capital master plan. 

He went on to say that, for 50 years, the city of New York had been closely bound up with the United Nations.  The Headquarters Building had now become a city landmark and an indispensable part of the city’s landscape.  The city had provided great services to the United Nations; the United Nations had also provided the city with tremendous business opportunities in its political, economic and social development.  His delegation hoped and expected the host country would continue to provide all possible material and moral support for the capital master plan.  In that regard, he echoed the view expressed by the European Union that the host country should carry a substantial proportion of the full cost of the project.  A clear pledge by the host Government on financing of the plan would greatly facilitate the final decision by Member States to pursue it. 

DARIUSZ MANCZYK (Poland) supported the Secretary-General’s proposals to refurbish the United Nations complex and shared his opinion that the present complex did not conform to security or safety standards.  Its total refurbishment was an important element of United Nations reform and would contribute to the strengthening of the Organization as a whole.  The current practice of “reactive” maintenance was not a viable long-term option, and, therefore, his delegation supported the capital master plan.

His delegation hoped that the swing space initiative would soon turn into a firm commitment, and shared the ACABQ recommendation that the so-called “first approach” was the most efficient and desirable way of implementing the process.  He supported the view that some degree of flexibility should be given to the project management team, but its choices should be made within United Nations financial regulations and procedures.  Furthermore, the work of Auditors and the Office of Internal Oversight Services should be involved in the whole oversight process.

MWELWA C. MUSAMBACHIME (Zambia) said that refurbishing the United Nations complex was a must.  With regard to the option of vacating the Headquarters complex, it was important to take into account both the financial implications, as well as the inconvenience to United Nations meetings.  As much as his delegation supported the first option of vacating the complex in order to reduce cost and shorten the refurbishing period, attention should be paid to the smooth running of United Nations meetings.  His delegation would like to see a balance between reducing cost and making sure there was minimal disruption of meetings.

The United Nations Headquarters complex, he continued, had been financed by the goodwill of the host city of New York, the host Government and the Member States of the United Nations.  It was the hope of his delegation that history would repeat itself and that a similar gesture could be extended to the refurbishing of the same complex.  However, he would like to see the extension of the same list of donors to include private companies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), foundations and private citizens of the world.  Commercial borrowing should be the last resort, and should be undertaken only to finance gaps that might occur after donations had fallen short.

Introduction of Reports

Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management RAFIAH SALIM presented the reports of the Secretary-General to the Committee.  She said she was proud of the considerable progress achieved in the human resources management report (document A/57/293), and more was expected in the coming years.  The time had come to further consolidate and institutionalize the changes introduced to date and ensure their implementation within the United Nations system.

In a general outline of the documents before the Committee, she said the report on human resources management reform drew attention to many cross-cutting issues, including geographical representation, rejuvenation, mobility and accountability monitoring and control mechanisms.  She also told the delegates of an important development which took place subsequent to the preparation of the human resources management reform report in connection with the proposal on contractual arrangements.  Further consultations had been conducted in September within the Staff Management Coordination Committee, and consensus recommendations had been presented to the Secretary-General.  In that connection, she recalled that the General Assembly, in its resolution 55/258, had requested definitive proposals on contractual arrangements, spelling out the differences between existing and proposed measures.

Turning to document A/57/276 on monitoring capacity in the OHRM, she said monitoring was of critical importance for the implementation of human resources management reform.  As for the report on the composition of the Secretariat, she said it presented an analysis of the ramifications of changing the relative weights of factors used in the calculation of desirable ranges.  In all five options considered, the midpoints of the majority of Member States were influenced only marginally by the factor changes.  Eight Member States with a population greater than 200 million stood to benefit from an increase of the population factor by 1 or 2 per cent.  Eight Member States that were large contributors to the budget of the United Nations stood to lose from such an increase, especially if it was carried by the contribution factor.

Regarding the employment of retired former staff members, she said that the number of such engagements had increased by 3.4 per cent in 2000-2001, compared with the previous biennium.  An issue requiring actions by the Assembly concerned an adjustment of permissible earnings for retired freelance language staff, from the current $40,000 annual ceiling to $48,938.  That would allow for 125 work days per annum.  The OHRM looked forward to the decision of the Assembly on the matter.

Under-Secretary-General Internal Oversight Services DILEEP NAIR introduced an OIOS report regarding possible discrimination due to nationality, race, sex, religion and language.  He said the OIOS had concluded that it was not apparent from the data that there was any systematic or consistent pattern of preference or exclusion within the Organization.  While some gains had been made towards achieving gender parity, the process had been very slow, particularly at the higher grades.  Action was still needed to recruit and promote women at the higher levels and counteract the rising separation rate of women from the Organization.

Due to limitations in the data available, no constructive analysis could be conducted for possible discrimination due to language differences, he said.  Recruitment, placement and promotion were the targets of a major reform, and the OIOS believed that the new staff selection system addressed many of the problems identified in the past.  The current complaint mechanisms for handling cases of discrimination needed to be strengthened.  The OIOS noted the appointment of an Ombudsman to facilitate conflict resolution.

Inspector DOMINIQUE OUEDRAOGO of the Joint Inspection Unit introduced the Unit’s comments on the OIOS report regarding possible discrimination due to nationality, race, sex, religion and language.  He pointed out several mistakes in the French translation of the report and went on to say that the Unit had limited its opinions to discrimination on the basis of race and language.

Regarding race discrimination, he said that there was a clear concern of the Assembly regarding the possibility of the existence of such discrimination.  As the race of staff was not mentioned or kept on record, it was difficult to make conclusions regarding race discrimination within the Organization.  The Unit encouraged the Secretariat to take advantage of the experience of the World Bank in that respect.  Exit interviews conducted by the OHRM for staff resigning from the Organization might also serve as a channel to check whether any form of discrimination was among reasons to quit.

As for discrimination on the basis of language, he said that there were certain difficulties in addressing that question, in particular, due to the insufficiency of information available.  Of 14,905 staff members’ filed in the IMIS, only 1,200 contained information on their mother tongue.  He also regretted to say that the OHRM had not responded to the questionnaires on the matter.  Replies received from other organizations did not delve in length into the particular issue of grievances based on language.  It was also necessary to clarify what was meant by discrimination due to language.  The issue of vacancy announcements was among the areas where there could be a potential for discrimination.  A meaningful assessment of possible discrimination due to language would be greatly facilitated if the Assembly were to provide additional guidance to the Secretariat as to whether any of its current practices established a distinction, restriction, exclusion or preference based on language that could be qualified as discrimination.

The Chairman of the ACABQ), CONRAD S.M. MSELLE, introduced that body’s report contained in document A/57/469.  He said that reports on consultants and employment of retired personnel were an important tool which allowed Member States to monitor the practice within the Secretariat, and it was essential to improve their presentation and submit them in a timely manner.  There had been an improvement in the preparation of the report on consultants.  Now that IMIS had been installed at duty stations away from Headquarters, it would be easier to process the information required. 

The ACABQ had questioned why the bulk of consultancies were in administrative services, he continued.  More consultants should be procured from developing countries and economies in transition.  The Advisory Committee believed that the maximum limit on employment of retired language services personnel should be set in terms of days, rather than the remuneration amount.  That would allow the Assembly to avoid frequent revisions in terms of the amounts earned by such personnel.

ASDRUBAL PULIDO LEON (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the Group believed that the reform of human resources management was a continuing process and should be aimed at providing a comprehensive and fair system of recruitment, placement and promotion; better consideration of equitable geographical distribution throughout the United Nations system; gender balance; a well designed and transparent system of delegation of authority accompanied by a proper system of accountability; better communication between the staff and the administration; and an effective system of administration of justice.

The Group reiterated its request for clarifications on the Secretary-General’s proposals concerning contractual arrangements, particularly on the difference between permanent and continuing contracts, as well as the implications of those proposals on the career perspective of United Nations staff and the international character of United Nations personnel.  Unfortunately, he said, the Group would be unable to pronounce itself on those issues without further clarification.  The Group also continued to be concerned about the delays in appointment procedures, and would like to deliberate on that matter.

THURE CRISTIANSEN (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that successful implementation of human resources management reform was a high European Union priority.  The Union agreed with the Secretary-General that emphasis should be placed on using the human resources function as a strategic tool to drive organizational change and to create the organizational culture envisaged by the Member States and the Secretary-General.

The European Union urged the Secretary-General to continue implementation  of reform policies and programmes, based on the fundamental principles of responsibility and accountability, transparency, equity and fairness, and efficiency and effectiveness.  As proposed by the ACABQ, the European Union was also of the view that the Secretary-General should be requested to report to the fifty-ninth session of the General Assembly in a comprehensive manner on the implementation of human resources management reform.

FELICITY BUCHANAN (New Zealand), also speaking on behalf of Canada and Australia, said that the goal of the United Nations human resources policies was clear:  to establish fair, equitable, transparent and measurable systems and to attract, develop and retain high-quality staff.  Systems must be implemented, she said, that would enable the Organization to respond to the changing internal and external environment, of which staff mobility was a critical component.  The implementation of policies by the OHRM and individual line managers must be monitored, and management departments and individual managers must be held accountable for their application of policies, rules and procedures.

It was important, she continued, to use information on past experiences to inform future decisions.  Technology now offered the Organization a new and important management tool and an opportunity to increase the transparency, fairness, and timeliness of human resource management systems.  Furthermore, United Nations staff should be consulted throughout the process of developing those new systems.

The United Nations record on gender needed to be improved, she continued. For example, the OIOS had commented that men were more likely than women to be recruited and promoted at the P-4 to D-2 levels.  Canada, Australia and New Zealand hoped that new systems, including programme management plans, would help to mitigate the trend revealed in the latest data.  The ACABQ recommendation that limits on employment offered to retired former language staff be based on working days rather than dollars had been noted, she said.  However, it was unclear whether that change would have any budgetary implications, and clarification by the Secretariat would be appreciated.

JAGMEET SINGH BRAR (India) associated himself with the position of the Group of 77 and China, emphasizing the importance of a responsible, innovative human resources base within the United Nations that was driven by an organizational culture and rewards system that promoted excellence.  In that regard, he welcomed the emphasis placed on core organizational values and competencies in the vacancy circulars issued by the Secretariat over the last two years.  While welcoming the progress, which had been achieved within the framework of human resources management reform, he added that it was necessary to continuously monitor progress and see that reform actually led to the kind of results that had been envisaged.

He stressed that fewer than a third of the posts subject to geographic distribution were funded from the regular budget of the Organization.  In the area of recruitment and placement, he noted with satisfaction the introduction of the Galaxy system, which appeared to have significantly increased access, transparency and managerial efficiency in the recruitment and placement process.  While thankful to the OHRM for the briefing provided to the Fifth Committee earlier this month, he wondered why that important aspect had not been touched upon in the Secretary-General’s report on human resources management reform.  Of the various elements of the Galaxy system, he particularly welcomed the identification of occupational groups and generic job descriptions.  The system had the potential to

dramatically reduce the possibility of writing job descriptions to suit individual candidates.  It should also enable the Organization to significantly reduce recruitment time.

His delegation also recognized the importance of instituting conditions of service that would attract personnel with a high degree of competence, efficiency and commitment.  Also, rejuvenation of United Nations staff continued to be an important issue, as the average age of staff continued to be undesirably high.  He looked forward to discussing the International Civil Service Commission proposals relating to broad-banding, performance management and the PAS system.

HUSSEIN SABBAGH (Syria) endorsed the statement made by Venezuela on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, and said that he wanted to comment on the report which had been presented this morning on the OIOS opinion regarding possible discrimination due to nationality, race, sex, religion and language in recruitment, promotion and placement.  In connection with that document, he noted that the resolution on human resources, which had been adopted during the fifty-third session of the General Assembly, had not been respected.   In particular, according to that text, no classification should be based on belonging to the Middle East region.  That required justification and was to be denounced.

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For information media. Not an official record.