Budget Committee Takes Up Annual Report of International Civil Service Commission; Wide Range of Recommendations Aim at Unifying Conditions of Service for Staff
Budget Committee Takes Up Annual Report of International Civil Service Commission; Wide Range of Recommendations Aim at Unifying Conditions of Service for Staff
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
10th Meeting (AM)
Budget Committee Takes Up Annual Report of International Civil Service Commission;
Wide Range of Recommendations Aim at Unifying Conditions of Service for Staff
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today heard Secretariat officials unveil a set of recommendations that would move the United Nations a step closer to unifying the conditions of service for thousands of staff members around the world and carry an initial price tag of tens of millions of dollars.
Introducing the thirty-sixth annual report of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC), Chairperson Kingston P. Rhodes said the Commission’s wide range of recommendations aimed to create a unified system that would curb unnecessary competition among the numerous funds, programmes and specialized agencies, as well as Secretariat staff at home and abroad. The world’s complex political environment and dangerous conditions in many locales had led to a diverse array of compensation arrangements among the Organization’s entities that had threatened the concept of a unified international civil service.
He said the most pressing reform issue was the need to harmonize compensation practices for staff in so-called non-family duty stations bearing the additional cost of supporting dual households. Other recommendations aimed too harmonize the field arrangements for staff. The Commission was aware that its recommendations carried costs for the Organization, but felt the revisions were reasonable and delivered the greatest value for the money spent. He added that the Commission had been trying to resolve the inherent barriers to interagency mobility across the common system.
Sharon Van Buerle, Director of the Programme Planning and Budget Division, introduced the Secretary-General’s statement on the financial implications of the Commission’s decisions and recommendations. According to the statement, the financial implications for the programme budget for the bienniums 2010-2011, 2012‑2013 and 2014‑2015 stood at $10.1 million, $28.9 million and $31.9 million, respectively. Those amounts were spread across four categories — educational grants, base/floor salary scale, children’s and secondary dependant’s allowances, and the harmonization of the conditions of service for staff serving at non-family duty stations. That last category was responsible for the majority of the extra costs, for example nearly $9.8 million during the current 2010-2011 biennium.
The revisions also carried implications for the Organization’s peacekeeping budgets. Those were estimated at $203,600, $116.3 million and $125.3 million for the peacekeeping budget periods of 2010/11, 2011/12 and 2012/13, respectively.
The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) backed the approach proposed by the Secretary-General, said Advisory Committee Vice-Chairperson Collen V. Kelapile, introducing the ACABQ report on the issue.
Staff representatives also addressed the Commission’s recommendations. The President of the Coordinating Committee for International Staff Unions (CCISUA) said its members supported the Commission’s conclusion that there should not be gaps in compensation among staff serving in different entities. But the Coordinating Committee, which represented more than 40,000 staff in 17 organizations, feared the changes would have negatively impact the development and humanitarian programmes being carried out by the Funds and programmes. A representative of the United Nations International Civil Servants’ Federation (UNISERV) said one problem with interagency mobility was that managers at a decision-making level, after having been transferred to another organization, actively attracted and recruited friends or former associates for positions in his or her new organization. “This sort of cronyism casts a cloud on the recruitment process,” he stressed. Another issue impacting mobility, he said, was the fact that promotions obtained in one organization were not respected by another.
While some delegates noted the financial constraints faced by many countries, delegates generally backed the need for reform to treat all staff equitably and to ensure a smoothly functioning and productive Organization. The representative of Yemen, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the Commission’s proposals addressed the common system’s inconsistencies in a balanced way. The Group of 77 urged the General Assembly to appropriate adequate resources for the proposals regarding the harmonization of conditions of service. He said all proposals should be implemented across the board to strengthen the common system’s effectiveness.
The United States’ representative said a strong common system was necessary to forge a coordinated United Nations response to the world’s contemporary challenges. He added that the recruitment and retention of staff were crucial issues within the Secretariat and across the system. The United States believed that harmonization should be the outcome set in motion by any Assembly decision on the issue and it should be reached in a way that was fair and made sense. He acknowledged the concerns raised by staff federations and various organizations.
Also speaking today were delegates from Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), Australia (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand), Russian Federation, Japan, Mexico and China.
A representative from the Federation of International Civil Servants’ Association also addressed the delegates.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Thursday, 28 October, to discuss human resources management.
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) had before it the report of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) for 2010 (document A/65/30) issued 30 August 2010. This thirty-sixth annual report provides a summary of the Commission’s recommendations that call for decisions by the General Assembly and the legislative organs of the other participating organizations. It also includes a summary of the financial implications of those decisions and recommendations. The report was transmitted to the Secretary-General by Commission Chairperson Kingston P. Rhodes on 27 August 2010.
The recommendations included in the report’s summary are separated into three categories. The first category includes recommendations that apply to conditions of service for both categories of staff. These recommendations focus on educational grants, including the review of the methodology for determining the grant and the review of the level, and separation payments.
A second category includes recommendations regarding the remuneration for the Professional and higher categories. These recommendations regard base/floor salary scale; the evolution of the United Nations/United States net remuneration margin; the establishment of grade equivalencies between the United States federal civil service and the United Nations system; and the review of level of children’s and secondary dependant’s allowances.
The third category of recommendations focus on conditions of service in the field. The Commission recommends to the Assembly that the designation of non-family duty stations be harmonized across the United Nations common system and that the conditions of service for staff serving in these non-family duty stations be harmonized across the United Nations common system by amending the existing hardship scheme to include a consideration for service in non-family duty stations. Finally, the Commission recommends that the provisions regarding rest and recuperation be harmonized across the common system by adopting a common rest and recuperation framework.
The financial implications associated with the Commission’s recommendations are estimated as follows: $2.8 million per annum, system-wide, regarding the review of the level for educational grants; $0.7 million per annum, system-wide, for an increase of the base/floor salary scale as shown in annex VI; $3.9 million per annum, system-wide, for the children’s and secondary dependant’s revised allowances.
Regarding the revamping of the conditions of service in the field, the harmonization of the designation of non-family duty stations is estimated at $20.3 million in the first year and $12 million per annum after that for the United Nations Secretariat. There are no additional costs associated for other funds, programmes or specialized agencies. Costs are estimated at $46.8 million per annum for the United Nations Secretariat for the harmonization of the conditions of service for staff serving in non-family duty stations. All other funds, programmes and specialized agencies of the United Nations would have cost savings, bringing the overall cost to the common system to $21.9 million per annum. The financial implications associated with the Commission recommendations on the harmonization of rest and recuperation of travel were estimated at $45.2 million per annum for the United Nations Secretariat. The financial impact on other common system organizations is more or less cost neutral.
On the same issue, the Committee also had before it a statement submitted by the Secretary-General in accordance with rule 153 of the rules of procedure of the General Assembly, administrative and financial implications of the decisions and recommendations contained in the report of the International Civil Service Commission for 2010 (document A/65/493).
An advance copy of the report of the International Civil Service Commission for 2010 (document A/65/30) was used to prepared the statement, which was issued on 6 October 2010.
The statement describes how the Commission’s decisions and recommendations will impact the United Nations common system, particularly the programme budget of the United Nations, starting with the biennium 2010-2011. It also describes the impact on the budgets of peacekeeping operations and the support account for peacekeeping operations, starting with the 2010/11 peacekeeping financial period.
If the General Assembly approves the Commission’s recommendations, the resource requirements stemming from the recommendations under the regular budget for 2011 will be taken into consideration in the context of the performance reports for the biennium 2010-2011. Requirements for the biennium 2012-2013 will be considered in the context of the proposed programme budget for the period.
The resource requirements under the budgets of peacekeeping operations and the support account for peacekeeping operations for the peacekeeping financial periods 2011/12 and 2012/13 will be taken into consideration, partly in the performance report for the period from 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011, and partly in the context of the proposed budgets for the period from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012. Resource requirements for subsequent periods will be included in the proposed programme budgets and the budgets of peacekeeping operations and the support account for peacekeeping operations.
The report estimates the financial implications stemming from the Commission’s decisions and recommendations for the programme budget for the bienniums 2010-2011, 2012-2013 and 2014-2015 at $10.11 million, $28.95 million and $31.86 million, respectively. The amounts are delineated into four categories: education grant, base/floor salary scale, children’s and secondary dependant’s allowances, and harmonization of the conditions of service for staff serving at non-family duty stations. The costs are summarized in table 4 on page 17 of the report.
The harmonization of the conditions of service for staff serving at non-family duty stations would have the most significant financial impact at $9.7 million for the current 2010-2011 biennium, $28.2 million for the 2012-2013 biennium, and nearly $31.9 million for the biennium 2014-2015 and onwards.
The financial implications stemming from the Commission’s decisions and recommendations for the budgets of peacekeeping operations for the periods 2010/11, 2011/12 and 2012/13 onwards are estimated at $203,600, $116.29 million and $125.27 million, respectively. The financial implications for the support account for peacekeeping operations for the periods 2010/11 and 2011/12 onwards are estimated at $32,500 and $65,000, respectively. These costs are summarized in table 5 on page 18 of the report.
If the Assembly approves the recommendations, requirements for peacekeeping budgets and the support account will be reflected in the performance reports relating to the budgets for the 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011 period, and in the context of the proposed budgets, for the 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012 period.
The Committee also had before it a related report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ABACQ) (document A/65/532). The report states that, as in the past, the Advisory Committee has confined its consideration of the financial implications of the Commission recommendations to those submitted to the Assembly by the Secretary-General in his statement. ACABQ met with representatives of the Secretary-General and the Commission before issuing its report on 21 October 2010.
The Advisory Committee’s views on the Commission’s recommendations in respect of harmonization of the conditions of service for staff serving in non-family duty stations are contained in section III of its report on human resources management (document A/65/537).
The Advisory Committee stresses the importance of the common system approach to the development and application of conditions of service and supports the principle that staff serving under similar conditions should receive similar treatment across the system. As such, ACABQ commends the Commission for putting forward recommendations on the harmonization of conditions of service for staff serving in non-family duty stations and that should be applicable to the United Nations and the agencies, funds and programmes that participate in the common system.
ACABQ has no objection to the approach towards the financial implications that the Secretary-General outlines in paragraphs 53 and 55 of his statement (document A/65/493).
Introduction of Reports
KINGSTON P. RHODES, Chairperson of the International Civil Service Commission, introduced the Commission’s report, which provided a summary of the Commission’s recommendations that call for decisions by the General Assembly and the legislative organs of the other participating organizations. It also included a summary of the financial implications of those decisions if enacted by the General Assembly.
He said the United Nations today faced an increasingly complex political environment, in which staff had to work in increasingly unsafe and dangerous conditions. Some organizations had responded pragmatically, as their staff members worked in locations that threatened their daily security and safety, which had led to a diverse array of arrangements that threatened the very concept of a unified international civil service. He recalled that the Commission had been created to assure a unified Untied Nations common system that precluded unnecessary competition among organizations. The report covered a wide range of issues and he focused on the areas where the Commission’s decisions and recommendation had far-reaching implications for the cohesiveness of the common system.
The most pressing issue was the need to harmonize compensation practices for the additional cost of supporting the dual households of staff serving in so-called non-family duty stations, he said. Before the 2009 contractual reform, mission appointees falling under the rubric of peacekeeping operations were remunerated in a manner that was significantly different for other common system staff. Even after they had been converted to regular staff status in July 2009, those people remained the only group of staff assigned to duty stations designated “non-family” who did not receive any additional compensation for their service in a non-family duty station.
A lack of consistency in organizations’ designation of “family” and “non-family” duty stations further exacerbated the inequality in pay between staff of the Secretariat and staff from funds, programmes and specialized agencies, he added. In line with the request that the Commission keep conditions of service for common system staff in the field under review, the Commission was once again recommending that the Untied Nations and common system organizations harmonized their field arrangements and the Untied Nations designations of non-family duty stations be based solely on security assessments.
He said the Commission was aware that the recommendations would cost more money and it believed that its recommendations were reasonable, and measured and delivered the greatest value for the money spent. Addressing the organizations that would replace their current arrangements with that proposed hardship element, he stressed that staff already serving and remaining at their current “non-family” duty station would not face any monetary loss or gain for a transitional period of five years. They would be impacted only when they were reassigned to another “non-family” duty station, as they would fall under transitional arrangements proposed by the Commission.
“The Commission firmly believes that the adoption and implementation of its recommendations will unify the common system by eliminating the present inequality of treatment among staff and at the same time help to encourage and sustain productivity in the most difficult duty stations,” he said.
The Commission secretariat was in the process of fine tuning the performance management framework and called on the Committee’s support in encouraging top management to work with the staff, he said.
Regarding contractual arrangements, he said he was once again recommending the abolition of “appointment of limited duration” contracts, effective 31 December 2010. With respect to continuing contracts, the Commission had seen the continuing contract as a vehicle to help management achieve overall organizational objectives. It had to be made clear that individual performance, however satisfactory, should not determine contractual type. The type of contracts were to be determined strictly by organizational needs. The Commission would continue to keep that item under review.
Gender balance in the United Nations common system was another subject on the Commission’s agenda, and he noted the creation of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). He also touched on other areas of the Commission’s work, including educational grants, children’s and secondary dependant’s allowance, pensionable remuneration, base and floor salary scale, and a review of the salary survey methodologies for the General Service and other locally recruited categories in late 2008.
He noted that the report included many other items and he looked forward to working with all Committee Members.
SHARON VAN BUERLE, Director of the Programme Planning and Budget Division, introduced the statement by the Secretary-General on the administrative and financial implications of the decisions and recommendations contained in the report of the International Civil Service Commission — particularly on the programme budgets of the United Nations for the biennium 2010-2011, and peacekeeping operations, including its support account, for the 2010/11 financial period.
She noted that financial implications would arise from the decisions and recommendations of the Commission pertaining to the level of education grant, base/floor salary scale, children’s and secondary dependant’s allowances, conditions of service in the field and harmonization of the conditions of service for staff serving in non-family duty stations in the common system. The latter recommendation, she said, comprised the harmonization of the designation of non-family duty stations, an additional hardship allowance for staff serving in non-family duty stations, and the harmonization of rest and recuperation travel for staff members and United Nations Volunteers serving in peacekeeping missions and special political missions.
The total financial implications were estimated at $10.1 million to the programme budget for the biennium 2010-2011; and $203,600 for the budgets of peacekeeping operations and $32,500 for the support account for the period 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011.
COLLEN V. KELAPILE, Vice-Chairperson of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, introduced the Advisory Committee’s report on the statement of the Secretary-General on the administrative and financial implications of the decisions and recommendations contained in the report of the International Civil Service Commission. Those recommendations, he said, related to the following elements: level of education grants, base/floor salary scale, secondary dependant’s allowances, and the harmonization of the conditions of service for staff serving in non-family duty stations in the common system. Regarding the latter element, he noted that the substantive views of ACABQ were contained in its report on human resources management.
In respect to the recommendation of the Commission to institute an additional hardship allowance for service in non-family duty stations, he noted that its implementation was estimated to save United Nations agencies, funds and programmes $24.9 million annually in staff costs over a period of five years.
He further noted that the requirements under the programme budget for the biennium 2010-2011, subject to the General Assembly’s approval of the recommendations, would be considered in the context of the performance report for the biennium. Similarly, he said, the requirements for peacekeeping missions and the support account for the current period would be considered in the context of the performance reports for the period 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011. Lastly, he stated that ACABQ had no objection to the approach proposed by the Secretary-General.
MAURO PACE, President of the Federation of International Civil Servants’ Associations (FICSA), noted that the Federation represented more than 30,000 United Nations staff and included several regional development banks and scientific organizations, as well as the staff associations of the Bretton Woods institutions. “We are convinced that a constant, substantive and open communication among staff, management and the Member States is of crucial importance,” he stated. To that end, FICSA offered training workshops on staff-management relations, but many of its members, he said, now questioned the usefulness of participating in those workshops as their views and concerns had been “utterly dismissed by some and barely taken into consideration by others”. That failure to value staff participation represented “a great loss” for management and organizations as a whole. “What better source of direct information could there be than the staff and the representatives they elect to communicate their concerns?” he asked. “We hope that our message is clear and trust that this Committee will recommend measures to strengthen staff-management relations,” he added.
Turning to the “contentious issue” of harmonization of the conditions of service of staff serving in non-family duty stations, he stated that the need to maintain a home base outside of the non-family duty station had been “clearly recognized” by United Nations organizations and ICSC alike, citing the latter’s approval of the use of the “special operations approach” in its 2005 annual report. Despite that fact, he noted that, in 2007, the General Assembly — acting on the recommendation of the Fifth Committee — had decided that the special operations approach should not be applied to the staff of the Secretariat. The elimination of the special operations approach would come at a “high cost”, he stressed, as it still served as the most effective tool to recruit and retain staff in posts typically difficult to fill. “There will most certainly be legal challenges to any decision to diminish or do away with this benefit,” he asserted. Staff considered the level of the benefit as an acquired right, he explained, adding that a breach of an acquired right was generally found when the right at issue was of decisive importance to a staff member upon the acceptance of an appointment. “FISCA would plead with this Committee not to endorse the ICSC recommendation,” he stressed, requesting instead that the Commission gather missing data and develop a new proposal acceptable to all stakeholders.
Another issue of concern related to the total compensation comparison under the Noblemaire principle to determine the highest paid civil service — “an exercise essential to secure the competitiveness of conditions of employment for staff in the Professional and higher categories”. ICSC studies showed that Germany was the highest paid national civil service, he noted, but “there was no political will to move away from the current comparator”. Further, current methodology compared United Nations staff with national civil services working at home, instead of to foreign services. Noting that both the United Nations and foreign services were expatriate civil services, he stated that it would make more sense if the best remunerated foreign services were factored into the comparison. In that context, an updated interpretation of the Noblemaire principle was needed, if the desire was to keep the United Nations competitive with the best paid international civil service. “This is a political choice,” he said. The alternative was the perpetuation of a frustrating exercise that excluded essential comparators. A similar situation existed with a major review of ICSC methodologies related to the remuneration of General Service and other locally recruited categories. The review offered an opportunity to achieve the required level of transparency and fairness. He hoped he could report a year from now that the opportunity was not lost.
RITA ANN WALLACE, President of the Coordinating Committee for International Staff Unions (CCISUA), said her organization represented more than 40,000 staff in 17 organizations of the common system, from United Nations Secretariat bodies to the International Criminal Court. Regarding the harmonization of the conditions of service, she said that, after intense discussions about the second household allowance for staff serving in non-family duty stations, there was unanimity among the three staff federations and they supported a second household allowance for United Nations peacekeeping staff. They also supported the conclusion by ICSC that there should not be gaps in compensation between staff serving in different entities. The groups feared that, unless great care was taken, the impact on the development and humanitarian programmes being carried out by the funds and programmes would be negative.
She noted that the Secretary-General had taken the extraordinary step of writing to the Commission before the discussion on harmonization had begun and spoken against a particular option because of its negative impact. The United Nations funds and programmes had used the special operations approach to facilitate the deployment of their staff to countries in emergency and other hardship duty stations. The proposal from the Commission was at odds with the highly effective model of staff deployment and at odds with the Commission’s previous decision. For organizations using the special operations approach, the Commission’s new recommendation changed that deployment model and made it a compensation model linked to a second household somewhere in the world, and less to conditions of service for one individual in a non-family duty station. “This is a radical change and its effects have not been considered,” she said. Until a thorough review had taken place, she said, the organizations using the special operations approach should continue to have the flexibility to do so, pending an assessment of the impact on their programmes.
Turning to contractual arrangements and mobility, she said most organizations had adopted the contractual framework endorsed by the Assembly and were now eliminating the limited duration appointment (ALD). Yet, many organizations had been unable to implement the framework fully since the criteria for awarding continuing contracts had not been approved by the Assembly.
Staff continued to be on precarious contracts, a situation which impacted the United Nations ability to attract and keep the best staff. “In fact, the evils faced by ALD contract holders have to some extent been transferred to staff on short fixed-term assignments,” she said. The Organization continued to imperil its ability to recruit and retain the best staff, she said. She urged approval of the granting of continuing contracts to the organizations governed by United Nations staff regulations and rules.
She said the Coordinating Committee supported the proposal on the changes in the level of the educational grants and looked forward to the review of its methodology. The Coordinating Committee had particular concerns about the use of national officers, as it had noted there was little coherence across the system. It supported the development of a policy framework and an in-depth review of the category itself.
DIMITRI SAMARAI, speaking on behalf of the United Nations International Civil Servants’ Federation (UNISERV), said he wanted to address a few issues of immediate concern. First, one of the problems of interagency mobility was that managers at a decision-making level, after having been transferred to an organization, actively attracted and recruited friends or former associates for positions in his or her new organization. “This sort of cronyism casts a cloud on the recruitment process,” he stressed. Another issue impacting mobility, he said, was the fact that promotions obtained in one organization were not respected by another. “It is now time to have a coherent policy that applies to all staff, in all fields of activities,” he stated.
Turning to performance management, he said 16 years after it had first been promulgated, it remained ineffective due to the fact that “no levels of accountability” had been established. Further, many “so-called managers” were being paid to manage, but there were no consequences for not performing that function. As for gender balance, he noted that women represented more than 50 per cent of staff at the lower grades P-1 to P-3, but there had been too little movement at the higher levels. Without a coordinated and harmonized approach, gender balance would remain a distraction from the real task at hand: the consideration of work-life balance matters to devise long-term measures to attract and retain competent women and men.
Regarding remuneration, he noted that the United Nations/United States net remuneration margin fell short of the desirable mid-point of 115, necessitating that the margin be harmonized at a single level of at least 114.8 for all grades, with a view to attain 115. In respect to the review of the national professional officers terms and conditions of service, “the rationale and criteria have been superseded by the need to cut costs and employ cheap labour”, he asserted. “UNISERV would very much like to see a re-evaluation of this program by the Fifth Committee,” he said.
UNISERV welcomed the harmonization of the designation of non-family duty stations, but underlined that those stations were where United Nations staff worked, but did not live, he said. “Staff is putting their lives on the line and being treated as second-class employees,” he emphasized. In that context, he appealed for the adoption of the same scheme for single staff as proposed for staff with dependants, but without the 50 per cent penalty. He pointed out that, of 7,000 members of his federation working in the field, 6,400 did not receive any compensation for living in non-family duty stations. He added that, since it had been decided two years ago that United Nations staff would not be eligible for the special operation allowance, staff working in non-family duty stations had to bear the cost of having a double home — one for duty and one to keep their family safe. That came down to a question of survival, not only for field staff, but for the whole department of United Nations peacekeepers.
WALEED AL-SHAHARI (Yemen), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, reaffirmed its support of ICSC. The Group of 77 also supported a common system approach, under the Commission’s auspices, in the development and application of conditions of service, and the principle that all staff serving under similar conditions should receive equal treatment across the United Nations common system. The Group of 77 believed that the Commission’s proposals were well considered and addressed the inconsistencies of the common system in a balanced way.
He stressed that the Commission’s proposals should be implemented across the board as a matter of priority to further strengthen the common system’s effectiveness. The Group of 77 emphasized that adequate resources should be appropriated during the Assembly’s sixty-fifth session for the full and immediate implementation of the Commission’s proposals regarding the harmonization of conditions of service.
THOMAS LAMBERT (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union, stated that important progress had been made on human resources management reform with the adoption of General Assembly resolution 63/250. The Union wanted a United Nations capable of securing the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity — that was the thrust of resolution 63/250 and that was what should guide discussions on the proposals of ICSC.
“The European Union is a staunch defender of the common system,” he said, adding that harmonized human resources systems could contribute to the idea of “Delivering as One”. A United Nations system where bridges were created to enable staff to move more easily between different parts of the system would bolster productivity and creativity, he asserted. That, in turn, would create a more efficient and capable United Nations system.
But harmonization, he said, had to come from both sides and human resource reform could not be achieved overnight. Noting that the effects of past reforms had not yet been thoroughly assessed, he stated that the merits of each new reform proposal would need to be measured in terms of what was possible from a budgetary perspective. That would require the careful balancing of the immediate needs of the Organization with the imperatives of the current fiscal climate, he said.
SHANNON WHITE (Australia), speaking also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand, noted that the delegations she spoke for had always attached great importance to the effective functioning of the United Nations system, and would make a more detailed statement on human resources issues later in the week.
STEPHEN L. LIEBERMAN (United States) said his country was grateful for the work of all staff in the common system, particularly those who had served in some of the most difficult locations in the world. But the United States delegation was concerned that significant disparities existed between the conditions of service for Secretariat staff and staff for agencies, funds and programmes. One resulted from the Assembly’s decision, in resolution 63/250, to designate established missions as family missions and existing special missions as non-family missions. To address that anomaly, the United States supported the Commission’s recommendation that the Secretariat harmonize the designation of non-family duty stations on the basis of a security assessment, as currently done by the rest of the common system.
Another disparity stemmed from the different approaches taken by common system organizations to address the hardship of maintaining a second household for staff stationed in a non-family duty station. While the agencies, funds and programmes provided their staff members with an allowance to defray the cost of maintaining a second household, Secretariat staff members did not receive any such allowance, even when serving in the same locations and performing similar functions.
Noting that recruitment and retention were issues of concern across the system and within the Secretariat, he said the United States believed that a strong common system was necessary to forge a coordinated United Nations response to contemporary challenges. The United States believed that harmonization should be the outcome set in motion by any Assembly decision on the issue. But he cautioned that harmonization should be achieved in a manner that was fair and made sense. “[…] we should not ask staff currently serving in dangerous locations to endure a precipitous drop in their conditions of service and accordingly harm the ability of organizations to retain good staff,” he said. Also, any adopted proposals had to be sensitive to the prevailing climate of fiscal austerity.
He said the United States took the concerns raised by the staff federations and various organizations very seriously, and recognized the challenges faced by staff serving in non-family duty stations. He looked forward to working closely with all delegations to ensure that all staff members were treated equitably and the organizations of the common system maintained their ability to attract quality international civil servants.
DMITRY S. CHUMAKOV (Russian Federation) noted the enhanced role of ICSC and its focus on transforming the United Nations system into a vital instrument. Its work took into account the many changes in the Organization. His Government felt that justice, equality and remuneration of staff were very important, as was the cost-effective functioning of the system and preventing competition among the organizations.
In that context, he drew attention to the issue of the harmonizing of conditions of service in the field. He was aware of discrepancies and wanted to solve the problems while being fully aware of the financial impact. He felt that there had not been a complete review of the compensation package for peacekeeping staff and wanted full information on the topic. He also wanted the latest information about whether the high compensation package in the funds and programmes had helped them resolve their problems in recruiting staff to hardship locations.
He said that the Commission had provided a good basis for the Committee’s discussion. He felt its work was very important and he looked forward to discussions during the informal sessions.
TAKASHI KANAMORI (Japan) expressed support for the common system’s goal of ensuring the efficiency and effectiveness of the conditions of service for all participating organizations. Regarding the Commission’s proposals on harmonizing conditions of service for staff in non-family duty stations, Japan would first like to explore in depth the similarities and differences in the situation on the ground between staff members in non-family duty stations serving in peacekeeping and special political missions, and those staff serving in funds, programmes and specialized agencies. In addition to differences in the nature of their mandates, Japan suspected that there was a difference in the mobility policies staff members of the Secretariat were obliged to follow, as opposed to the policies followed by staff members of funds and programmes.
He would also like to determine whether the Secretariat, funds, programmes and specialized agencies actually competed for personnel with similar profiles. He wanted to know how many personnel had moved from peacekeeping or special political missions to the common system since the discontinuation of the mission subsistence allowance in 2009. He had doubts about whether monetary incentives would persuade staff members to accept assignments in non-family duty stations.
In addition, he wanted to scrutinize the rationale behind the proposal for an additional hardship allowance. Regarding the Commission’s proposal on rest and recuperation, he noted that the cycle for the awarding of rest and recuperation differed by duty station. He wanted to look at the factors behind those different cycles and whether there was an adequate rationale for the current system.
CARLOS G. RUIZ MASSIEU (Mexico) commended the work achieved by ICSC, noting the financial and administrative implications of its recommendations — particularly as concerned the harmonization of conditions of service in non-family duty stations. The designation of those duty stations, he said, should depend on the security phase of the locations concerned, as determined by the Department of Safety and Security. Mexico believed that the Commission’s proposals were a good basis for beginning discussions, he stated, as a more equitable treatment of staff would contribute to better programme execution. That said, he noted that the implementation of those proposals would require a great effort by Member States in view of their current financial difficulties, necessitating ways to save funds in other areas.
It was of the utmost importance to strengthen the role of ICSC as a universal mechanism to review conditions of United Nations staff, he stated, particularly in view of the inequalities in some offices of the common system. In that context, Mexico hoped that the Secretary-General would adopt measures to ensure that all organizations within the common system would follow ICSC recommendations. As for the recommendation concerning rest and recuperation, for the sake of priority, Mexico could not approve that proposal at the current time.
The general appeal, he noted, was that consideration should be given to possible areas of savings in order to implement proposals related to conditions of service of staff. He highlighted the criteria for education grant, specifically stating it should be in balance with the capacities of States to provide. As regarding salary scale, it should take into account administrative salaries of public and non-private offices.
HE YI (China) endorsed the statement delivered by Yemen on behalf of the Group of 77, stating that performance management was an important element in human resource management. China was pleased with the ICSC efforts in that regard and hoped that the Commission would continue to strengthen cooperation with Member States and the departments of the Secretariat to facilitate human resource management in the common system.
Turning to the issue of conditions of service for non-family duty stations, she noted those conditions impacted the Organization’s capacity to attract talent and involve the interest of field personnel, but required the proper balancing of administrative control and budgetary costs. Although there had been clear goals for gender equality, its implementation was “not ideal”, she said. In that context, China reiterated the need for effective performance evaluation and monitoring to more proactively realize that goal.
She acknowledged the Commission’s work to enhance communication with the United Nations system and carry out serious studies, stating that China supported the Commission as an independent expert working under the General Assembly to stipulate and coordinate services in the United Nations system, as well as human resource management.
* *** *