Budget Committee Takes Up Reports on United Nations Common System
Budget Committee Takes Up Reports on United Nations Common System
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-seventh General Assembly
16th Meeting (AM)
Budget Committee Takes Up Reports on United Nations Common System
Well aware of the financial constraints faced by the United Nations and its Member States, the Chairman of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) today handed the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) a series of recommendations which, if approved, would impact the salary and working conditions of the Organization’s employees around the globe.
Kingston P. Rhodes stressed the need for the Commission’s independence and respect for its methodologies, which were approved by the General Assembly and developed decades ago to maintain conditions of service and payment that would be viable over the long term. “[L]et us not forget, especially during this period of financial turmoil, that it was at a time not dissimilar to what we are experiencing today, that the General Assembly itself saw the need for and established the Commission as a technically competent body, and empowered it to make recommendations and take significant decisions affecting the common system,” he said.
The Commission’s recommendation to use its established methodology and increase the post adjustment payment for staff members in New York during economically troubled times drew criticism from several Member States. The Commission had delayed its promulgation, normally due in August, to give Member States an opportunity to discuss the issue. If approved by the Committee and Assembly, the increase would be retroactive to 1 August 2012 and take effect in January 2013.
The United States’ delegate said ill-conceived budget decisions risked harming the Organization’s crucial work, as well as its reputation. Sustaining the suspension of the post-adjustment increase could relieve budget pressures, since staff-related expenditures made up nearly 75 per cent of the Secretariat’s budget.
A pay increase during financially difficult times would reinforce some of the worst stereotypes surrounding the Organization and damage its reputation. “This is not just a ‘dollars and cents’ issue — this is about the very credibility of the Organization and paying due regard to its components and purposes,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, Algeria’s delegate threw its weight behind the Commission and backed the Chairman’s call for ensuring the independence of that body’s work. The Group also supported the Commission’s decision on post adjustment remuneration for New York staff members. For his part, the speaker for the Delegation of the European Union called for a full, comprehensive review of all the United Nations Common System’s allowances and benefits in order to establish a more realistic, simplified system that better responded to the Organization’s needs.
Paulina Analena, President of the Coordinating Committee for the International Staff Unions and Associations of the United Nations System (CCISUA), also supported the Commission’s independence and urged Member States to respect its methodologies to ensure consistency in the conditions of employment throughout the Organization. She also supported the Commission’s decision to back the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund’s readiness to raise the retirement age for new Fund participants to 65 years of age. That was a sound recommendation to ensure the Fund’s financial health as it kept pace with shifts in workplace policies around the world. CCISUA advocated for giving existing staff the option to increase their mandatory age of separation.
Maria Eugenia Cesar, Assistant Secretary-General and Controller, introduced the Secretary-General’s statement on the administrative and financial implications of the decisions and recommendations contained in Commission’s annual report, while Collen Kelapile introduced the related report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).
In other business, Ms. Cesar introduced the Secretary-General’s report on revised financial estimates resulting from the resolutions and decisions adopted by the Economic and Social Council during its 2012 substantive sessions. Mr. Kelapile introduced the Advisory Committee’s report on the issue.
The Fifth Committee also heard the final statements from delegates regarding reforms in human resources management, which began on Wednesday, 21 November (See Press Release GA/AB/4050).
Taking the floor today on that topic today were the representatives of China, Morocco, Norway and Mexico.
Also speaking on the Civil Service Commission’s report was the representative of New Zealand (on behalf of Canada and New Zealand).
Mauro Pace, President of the Federation of International Civil Servants Association, also delivered a statement.
The Fifth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 4 December, to discuss the Review of efficiency, civilian capacity.
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met today to conclude its consideration of human resources management and to begin consideration of budgetary revisions for the Economic and Social Council and the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC).
It had before it two reports on the Economic and Social Council. In his report on the revised estimates resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted by the Economic and Social Council at its organizational sessions and the substantive session of 2012 (document A/67/503), the Secretary-General lays out the budgetary requirements associated with the resolutions and decisions adopted by the Council at its organizational and resumed organizational sessions for 2012, and its 2012 substantive session.
These additional requirements for 2012-2013 are estimated at $1.09 million, of which $107,500 can be absorbed within resources approved for the biennium 2012-2013. The remaining requirements of $986,300 for 2012-2013 would be subject to the procedures established by the General Assembly in its resolutions 41/213 and 42/211. The requirements of $405,400 for 2014 will be considered in the context of the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2014-2015.
The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) offered its perspective with revised estimates resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted by the Economic and Social Council at its organizational sessions and the substantive session of 2012 (document A/67/577).
With one observation, the Advisory Committee said the Secretary-General should make every effort to absorb the additional requirements and any additional expenditures should be reflected in the relevant performance report. The Advisory Committee notes the possibility that additional requirements could exhaust the contingency fund before the biennium’s first year has ended. It intended to review the contingency fund’s status in the context of its report on the proposed programme budget outline for the biennium 2014-2015.
Regarding the Commission, the Committee had before it four reports. In the report of the International Civil Service Commission for 2012 (document A/67/30), Commission Chairman Kingston P. Rhodes transmitted the body’s thirty-eighth annual report to the Secretary-General on 14 August 2012 for the Assembly’s review. With six chapters and 10 annexes, the 97-page report lays out the conditions of service for staff around the world. The summary of recommendations that call for decisions by the Assembly and legislative organs of other participating organizations begins on page xi.
Regarding Conditions of Service applicable to both categories of staff, the Commission makes recommendations regarding education grants; standards of conduct; and the mandatory age of separation. The Commission backs the recommendation of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Board to raise the mandatory age of separation to 65 years for new staff to the Fund’s member organizations. This would take effect no later than 1 January 2014.
Regarding remuneration of the professional and higher categories, the Commission makes recommendations on the base/floor salary scale; and the evolution of the United Nations/United States net remuneration margin. The Commission’s recommendation regarding the conditions of service of the General Service and other locally recruited categories lies on page xii. A summary of the financial implications of the recommendations lie on page xiii of the document.
In a corrigendum (document A/67/30/Corr.1), the Commission provides Table B, which is an addition to the existing Table A found in annex VI. These tables detail the remuneration margin between United Nations officials in the professional and higher categories in New York and their counterparts in the United States federal service in Washington.
The Secretary-General’s statement on administrative and financial implications of the decisions and recommendations contained in the report of the International Civil Service Commission for the year 2012* (document A/C.5/67/3) lays out the financial implications of these decisions. The asterisk explains that the statement was prepared using an advance version of the Commission’s 2102 report.
Additional net requirements for the United Nations’ programme budget for the biennium 2012-2013 and the biennium 2014-2015 are estimated at $2.34 million and $4.68 million, respectively. The 2012-2013 biennium figure includes $219,400 for education grants; $7,700 for base/floor salary scale; and $2.11 million for danger pay rate increase for locally recruited staff. For the 2014-2015 biennium, the breakdown is $438,800 for education grants; $15,400 for base/floor salary scale; and $4.23 million for danger pay rate increase for locally recruited staff.
Additional net requirements for the peacekeeping operations budgets are $2.42 million for 2012/13, including $78,000 for education grants; $7,200 for base/floor salary scale; and $2.38 million for danger pay rate increase for locally recruited staff. The $4.85 million needed for 2014/2015 includes $157,000 for education grants; $14,400 for base/floor salary scale; and $4.67 million for danger pay rate increase for locally recruited staff.
If the Assembly approves the Commission’s recommendations, requirements for the biennium 2012-2013 will be addressed in that budget cycle’s performance report, while requirements for the biennium 2014-2015 will be considered in that budget cycle’s proposed programme budget. Requirements for the peacekeeping operations budgets will be reported in the related performance reports for the 2012/2013 financial period and accounted for in the proposed budgets for the 2013/2014 financial period.
The ACABQ weighed in on the issue with its relevant report (document A/67/573). The Advisory Committee had no objections to the Secretary-General’s approach regarding the Conditions of service of staff regarding the Professional and higher categories or the conditions of service in the field regarding danger pay. Regarding the overview of mobility policies within the United Nations common system, the Advisory Committee encouraged the Secretary-General to take the decisions of the International Civil Service Commission into account as he developed the mobility framework.
Statements on Human Resources Management
XIE XIAOWU ( China) said the uneven representation within the Secretariat had always been a problem, with developing countries still seriously under-represented. He called on the Secretariat to implement pragmatic measures that would make human resources management reform an opportunity, rather than an obstacle to improving the representation of developing countries. If applied appropriately, staff mobility could help staff members broaden their experience and increase their tolerance and help the Organization implement cross-culture management. Yet, the Secretariat must carefully analyse the fundamental causes behind the problem so reform measures could be better targeted and could address the core challenges.
He said that China hoped the Secretariat would make a scientific assessment of the administrative and financial impact of involving all duty stations in the reforms. China also hoped the Secretariat would develop the functions of existing policies while exploring new ones, and fully use the recruitment and promotion polices to reinforce the requirement for greater mobility within the Secretariat, he said.
BRAHIM BENMOUSSA ( Morocco) endorsed the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China last week when the Committee began its debate on the matter. He said that Proper human resources were crucial to the functioning of any organization. The United Nations must be able to rely on competent, dynamic and mobile human resources so that its mandate was carried out in the best possible conditions. Optimum human resource management was crucial, particularly in an organization where staff costs absorbed more than 75 per cent of the regular budget and 25 per cent of the peacekeeping budget.
Ongoing and numerous shortcomings, particularly the high vacancy rate in peacekeeping operations and at the start up of special political missions could undermine their respective mandates, he said. The United Nations could not be effective without mobile staff. There must be a better geographic representation of staff, especially women, from developing countries, particularly in decision-making posts. Human resource management was a considerable undertaking that required considerable resources.
JULIE M. JACOBSEN TAKAHASHI ( Norway) welcomed the Secretary-General’s ambitious vision to reform the management of the Organization’s human resources, including through the mobility framework. As it embarked on its extensive consultations, the Fifth Committee had to provide strategic guidance while not micromanaging. “We must allow the leadership we have elected to lead the Organization — with our constructive guidance,” she said, adding that Norway looked forward to the upcoming consultations, including the dialogue with the Secretariat.
She said that Norway believed it was crucial to introduce measures that significantly reduced the recruitment time and allowed equal representation of women and men at all levels of the Secretariat, she said. Regarding the mobility framework, Norway was pleased to see how it balanced voluntary principles with the need for strategic management. That was an important element to obtain the best, most motivated staff member for each position.
NOEL GONZÁLEZ SEGURA ( Mexico) said the Secretariat’s report did not provide enough information for a full picture of the Organization’s mobility system. The Assembly’s oversight function must be exercised clearly. All aspects of the mobility system must be fully understood and must be in line with regulations concerning the balance between internal and external staff. Staff mobility should take account of the legitimate expectations of staff. Mexico took into account staff complaints, as put forward by Paulina Analena, President of the Coordinating Committee for International Staff Unions and Associations of the United Nations System (CCISUA), during the current session.
He said that delegates understood the challenge of mobility from an individual and family point of view. Still, the aim of the mobility scheme was positive. There must be progress in setting up a modern mobility system that fully reflected the United Nations global presence. More information on staff mobility was necessary. At the same time, the Organization must be given clear signals to respond to that goal. Mexico was willing to search for a positive outcome and was confident that such a result could be achieved.
Resolutions and Decisions Adopted by Economic and Social Council
MARIA EUGENIA CESAR, Assistant Secretary-General and Controller, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on revised estimates resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted by Economic and Social Council at its 2012 organizational and substantive sessions (document A/67/503). The additional requirements for 2012-2013 were estimated at $1.09 million, of which $107,500 could be absorbed within resources approved for the biennium 2012-2013. She said that the remaining requirements of $986,300 for 2012-2013 would be subject to the procedures established by the General Assembly in its resolutions 41/213 and 42/211. The requirements of $405,400 for 2014 would be considered in the context of the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2014-2015. The Secretary-General laid out his related recommendations in paragraphs 34, 35 and 36 of the report.
COLLEN KELAPILE, Chair of ACABQ, introduced that body’s related report (document A/67/577). He said the report notes that ACABQ had no objection to the course of action proposed by the Secretary-General to absorb $107,500 within resources approved for the biennium 2012-2013. The Secretary-General should make every effort to absorb the additional requirements of $986,300 and $405,400, failing which any additional expenditure should be reflected in the relevant performance report.
MOURAD BENMEHIDI ( Algeria) spoke on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China and emphasized that mandates approved by all intergovernmental bodies, particularly those related to development activities, had to receive predictable and adequate funding. The Group stressed that the decisions taken by the Council at its 2012 substantive session called for additional requirements of $1.09 million, of which $107,500 was expected to be absorbed in the existing allocation. Further, a net amount of $986,300 was requested as additional requirements for the current biennium to cover activities of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti, the Committee for Development Policy at its fourteenth session, and the Commission on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at its forty-sixth, and forty-seventh sessions.
In that regard, he said the “Group of 77” supported the provision of necessary resources to finance the resolutions and decisions adopted by the Council’s 2012 substantive session. In that particular case, the additional requirements totalled $986,300 to cover the above-mentioned activities mandated by the Council. It was expected that the requirements amounted to $405,400 would be fully reflected during the formulation of the programme budget for 2014-2015, he said.
United Nations Common System
KINGSTON P. RHODES, Chairman of ICSC, introduced the Commission’s thirty-eighth annual report. Noting that the Organization and the Member States were at a critical juncture, Mr. Rhodes said the Commission understood that national civil services were no less impacted by the global financial situation than United Nations organizations.
After completing a review of pensionable remuneration, the Commission had concluded that the current scale should be retained. The Commission supported the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Board’s recommendation to raise the mandatory age of separation to age 65 for new staff, effective no later than 1 January 2014. The Commission decided to defer any recommendations regarding the children’s and secondary dependant’s allowances and would revisit the methodology for calculating the allowance. It would make recommendations on the adjustment in its next annual report. The Commission had carried out its biennial review of the level of the educational grant and recommended adjustments to the grant levels in 12 country/currency zones and to the boarding flat rates in 14 zones for the school year in progress on 1 January 2013.
The Commission would continue its review of the implementation of the ICSC contractual framework and report on the issue in 2014, he said. Turning to conditions of service in the field, he said the Commission had recommended changes to danger pay and the rest and recuperation framework. Effective January 2013, the level of danger pay would increase to 30 per cent of the net midpoint of the applicable 2012 General Service salary class of those duty stations qualifying for danger pay. It would also be delinked from the applicable General Services salary scales. The financial implications were included in the Commission’s report.
He went on to say that the Commission monitored the margin between the net remuneration of the United Nations in the Professional and higher categories in New York and their counterparts in the civil service in Washington, D.C. For calendar year 2012, applying the approved methodology resulted in a margin of 117.7 with the increase in the post adjustment multiplier for New York, due on 1 August 2012, he said. The Commission had delayed the promulgation, normally due in August, to give Member States an opportunity to discuss the issue. For the Commission to adhere to the approved methodology, the revised post adjustment multiplier for New York would need to be implemented with retroactive effect to August 2012. The approach let it comply with the established methodology and take Assembly resolution 66/235A into account. A critical consideration that could not be overlooked was that New York was the base of the post adjustment system and any decision to constrain post adjustment at the base would impact the entire post adjustment system.
He said the Commission had arrived at its recommendations after cautious and thorough consideration. It was very mindful of the many organizations functioning with limited resources and that Member States were also facing similar constraints. “[L]et us not forget, especially during this period of financial turmoil, that it was at a time not dissimilar to what we are experiencing today that the General Assembly itself saw the need for and established the Commission as a technically competent body, and empowered it to make recommendations and take significant decisions affecting the common system,” he said. The technical methodologies developed by the Commission were meant to cover specific conditions of service for which they were designed, including eventualities that may not to always be palatable to all parties. To remain viable, they needed to remain consistent and applied as intended.
Next, Ms. CASAR introduced the Secretary-General’s statement on the administrative and financial implications of the decisions and recommendations contained in the report of ICSC for 2012 (document A/C.5/67/3), which also described the implications for the peacekeeping operations’ budgets for the financial periods 2012-2013 and 2013-2014.
She said those implications would arise from decisions and recommendations, including the review of the level of the education grant for both categories of staff; the increase in the base/floor salary scale for Professional and higher level staff, specifically its impact on the scale of separation payments; and the increase in danger pay of locally recruited staff in the field from 25 per cent to 30 per cent of the applicable 2012 General Service salary scales of those duty stations eligible for danger pay. In its resolution 66/235B, the Assembly asked the Secretary-General to give additional information and explanations on the estimated annual requirements for danger pay and the duty stations and staff eligible to receive it. In response, Section V of the statement gave an update on the historically estimated annual financial implications of the replacement of hazard pay with danger pay.
Mr. KELAPILE then introduced ACABQ’s related report (document A/67/573), which set out its observations on the financial implications of the Commission’s decisions and recommendations. Section V outlined the Secretary-General’s response to ACABQ’s request in its report A/66/7/Add.26 for information on the estimated annual financial implications of replacing hazard pay with danger pay. The financial implications of the Commission’s decisions and recommendations were summarized in paragraph 33 of the Secretary-General’s statement. He said that should the Assembly approve the Commission’s decisions and recommendations, ACABQ had no objection to the court of action proposed by the Secretary-General in paragraph 34 of his statement.
MAURO PACE, President of the Federation of International Civil Servants Association, said the Commission’s 2012 report substantially reflected the views and opinions expressed at the Federation’s Bangkok and New York sessions. He supported the Commission’s view that there was no need to intervene on the existing mechanisms for adjustment of United Nations salaries, which already had sufficient safeguards, checks and balances to ensure their desired margin was adhered to. He expressed disappointment at the Commission’s final decision to move away from the established adjustment procedures for issuing the education grant, as it reduced by half the due adjustment based on the applicable formula. He was also concerned by the expected conclusion of the ongoing methodological review during the current economic crisis.
He supported the continued application of a sound objective procedure for future adjustments in staff assessment rates and the recommendations for revising standards of conduct, notably the sections on harassment, abuse of authority, conflict of interest and the use of organizations’ resources exclusively for authorized purposes. He was alarmed by the absence of a compelling road map for implementing the revised standards, however, which could result in a low compliance rate. He hoped the Committee’s resolution would address that concern. He supported the United Nations Joint Pension Board’s recommendation to increase the mandatory separation age to 65 for new staff effective no later than 1 January 2014, and allowing the same for staff recruited before the cut-off date on a voluntary basis.
He was disappointed by the Commission’s decisions on contractual arrangements, which gave organizations the possibility to implement “any combination: of the three defined contract types, since such a move defeated the original goal of eliminating fragmentation among the types of contracts. Non-staff, which were cheaper than regular staff, comprised 45 per cent of the total United Nations workforce; in some organizations they made up as much as 70 per cent. As the global need for peace, development, food security, health and assistance to the weakest populations increased, the demand for United Nations staff had become more pressing.
“The continuous research of the lowest possible price tag is driving the system beyond a very dangerous break-even point, where the essence of the international civil service will be lost,” he said, stressing the need for a cadre of stable, truly global civil servants. He supported the adjustment of 0.12 per cent on no gain/no loss in the base/floor salary scale and in the post adjustment multiplier of 68.0 due in New York on 1 August 2012. The adjustment methodology was sound and well equipped with checks and balances to ensure it was connected to external financial realities. He was dissatisfied with the negative 9.2 per cent imposed on salaries of Rome-based staff due to amendments to salary survey methodology.
He hoped the Committee’s forthcoming resolution would consider that subsequent cuts in rest and recuperation pay and other reforms in the conditions of field service could reduce field-oriented organizations’ ability in some of the most difficult operational areas. The overall mobility framework was very fragmented. He lamented that the framework for evacuation allowances, the definition of the accommodation portion of the rest and recuperation travel, and the criteria for adjustments in danger pay were still pending.
PAULINA ANALENA, President of CCISUA, said the United Nations Common System was designed to ensure consistency in the conditions of employment throughout the Organization and promote coherence and equality. It could only do so if its methodologies were respected. CCISUA supported the technical role played by the Commission, which could only be achieved if it retained its independence
The Noblemaire principle was a useful tool to attract and retain high-quality staff. “We note with consternation that a technical principle such as that may be set aside to address short-term political considerations,” she said. CCISUA was very concerned that staff members had yet to have their post adjustment multiplier raised and reflected in their compensation. Regarding corrigendum 1 of document A/67/60, which compared the average net remuneration of United Nations officials with United States officials in Washington, D.C., she noted that United Nations staff moved about the world to face difficult and dangerous challenges.
Turning to the Pension Fund Board’s readiness to raise the retirement age for new Fund participants to 65 years of age, she said the association believed that was a sound recommendation to ensure the Fund’s financial health and reflected shifts in workplace policies around the world. The association advocated for extending the increase in the mandatory age of separation as an option for existing staff.
MOURAD BENMEHIDI (Algeria), speaking for the Group of 77 developing countries and China, reaffirmed support for the Civil Service Commission. The Group also reaffirmed the Commission’s independence and its approach for a common system and backed the principle that all staff serving under similar conditions should receive equal treatment.
The Organization had a responsibility to provide all staff with a well-deserved and respectable remuneration package, with enough incentives and allowances to let them work efficiently and effectively during their many challenges, he said. The delegation supported the Commission’s recommendation to introduce interim measures related to setting danger pay at the rate of 25 per cent of the net mid-point of the applicable local General Service salary scale. It also supported the Commission’s decision on post adjustment for New York staff members and emphasized that adequate resources should be appropriated for the full and immediate implementation of all Commission recommendations.
GERTON VAN DEN AKKER, a representative of the Delegation of the European Union, supported the Commission’s important role in enhancing the functioning of organizations of the common system, particularly during the current global financial crisis. Staff costs, which comprise the largest portion of the United Nations budget and were a major factor in budget increases, must be reduced. He called on the Secretary-General to continue striving for new levels of efficiency, economy and transparency in the way the Organization did business and to identify areas of potential improvement. The European Union was committed to giving United Nations staff the appropriate support to work efficiently and safely, particularly those in the most dangerous circumstances. But, that should be done bearing in mind the limitations imposed by many Member States on their own national civil services owing to financial difficulties. “It is unrealistic and unsustainable that United Nations staff members should be artificially insulated from current economic realities,” he said.
He called for a full, comprehensive review of all the United Nations common system’s allowances and benefits in order to establish a more realistic, simplified system that better responded to organizations’ needs. He supported efforts to streamline practices within the common system concerning conditions of service, the education grant and danger pay. However, the European Union Delegation would examine carefully the proposals and their administrative and financial implications in light of the overall economic situation. The European Union was interested in freezing the base salary, as well as the post adjustment. Given the aforementioned circumstances, salaries of United Nations staff members could not be increased. Such measures should remain in place until a more realistic, sustainable system could be identified and implemented. There was a strong need to review the methodology for deciding the education grant.
PAUL BALLANTYNE ( New Zealand), also speaking on behalf of Canada and Australia, welcomed the Commission’s latest report. He backed its belief that the decision to increase the mandatory separation age should not be left to individual organizations. Rather, it should be made across the system as a whole. He noted the Commission’s analysis that such an increase would only minimally impact geographic distribution, gender balance, revitalization of the workforce, career development and succession planning within the Common System. As such, his delegation supported the Commission’s recommendation to increase the mandatory separation age to 65 for new staff of member organizations of the Pension Fund in order to maintain the Fund’s long-term sustainability. He looked forward to the results of the strategic review of the implications of applying that decision to current staff.
He commended the Commission’s decision to defer the scheduled pay increase for New York-based staff and he urged all Member States to support it. He was concerned, however, that unless action was taken, the pay increases would take effect on 1 January 2013, applying retroactively until 1 August 2012. He noted the outcome of the Commission’s review of the feasibility and suitability of reflecting the current pay freeze in the comparator civil service in the administration of the post-adjustment system. Given the current extraordinary economic circumstances, he called on all Member States to explore possible temporary steps to address that issue without compromising the integrity of the current post-adjustment system.
He said that while his delegation would continue to monitor the operation of the new danger pay system, with a view to ensuring its intended aims, it was premature to make an accurate assessment now of the new system, which was implemented on 1 April. He welcomed the Commission’s valuable work to enhance harmonization of conditions of service across the United Nations Common System and took note of the decision to defer consideration of the accommodation portion of rest and recuperation travel in light of the request for further information on cost and utilization rates. He welcomed the revised standards of conduct for the international civil service and hoped that they would be widely disseminated.
STEPHEN LIEBERMAN ( United States) noted the application of interim or temporary steps to extend education grants and danger pay while the Commission’s secretariat conducted a comprehensive review of both subjects. He strongly urged the Commission’s Secretariat to conclude the reviews as soon as possible in order to ensure the methodologies used were sustainable and based on a complete analysis of staff needs. He would explore the lessons learned from mobility schemes in other common system organizations. He backed the ACABQ recommendation that the Secretary-General take them into account while planning the Secretariat’s mobility plan. He strongly supported the Commission’s decision to postpone implementation of the post-adjustment increase to give the Assembly the chance to look into the Secretary-General’s claim that some funds, programmes and agencies were experiencing difficult financial circumstances.
The Committee must now explore the financial health of common system organizations. Many of them, especially those reliant on voluntary contributions, faced financial difficulties. Some had already turned to harsh austerity measures to alleviate budgetary pressures. For example, he said, the World Health Organization (WHO) had cut 800 HIV/AIDS workers, mostly in Africa, and had consolidated the rest at a great distance from the hardest-hit areas. Exacerbating those crises with well-meaning but ill-conceived budget decisions only risked harm to that agency’s crucial work, he said. Continuing to postpone a post-adjustment increase could relieve such budget pressure.
As staff-related expenditures comprised nearly 75 per cent of the Secretariat’s budget, controlling increases in such expenditures was among the best ways to use scarce resources more efficiently. He urged all delegations to consider that issue within the larger context of United Nations budget sustainability. To allow a pay increase at a time of global financial constraint would damage the Organization’s reputation, reinforce some of the worst stereotypes about it and compromise its duty at a time when United Nations system organizations were taking drastic austerity steps that could harm important programmes serving the world’s most vulnerable populations. “This is not just a dollars and cents issue — this is about the very credibility of the Organization and paying due regard to its component and purposes,” he said.
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