What is Common System?

The common system represents common standards, methods and arrangements being applied to salaries, allowances and benefits for the staff of the United Nations, those specialized agencies which have entered into a relationship with the United Nations, the International Atomic Agency and a number of other international organizations. The common system is designed to avoid serious discrepancies in terms and conditions of employment, to avoid competition in recruitment of personnel and to facilitate the interchange of personnel. It applies to over 52,000 staff members serving at over 600 duty stations.

Role of the United Nations Secretariat

Under the Human Resources and Policy Service of the Office of Human Resources Management, The Conditions of Services Section is accountable for administration of the common system through carrying out the following functions.

  • Approving and promulgating salary scales and allowances for General Service and related category staff, and conducting salary surveys at non-Headquarters duty stations;
  • Providing advice on policy with regard to salaries, allowances and other conditions of service;
  • Providing advice to other agencies on United Nations emoluments policy and other conditions of service;
  • Participating in the work of the Human Resources Network and of the International Civil Service Commission on issues related to compensation, classification and conditions of service and cooperating with the other common system organizations regarding the same;
  • Providing substantive support to legislative bodies during consideration of the above issues;
  • Participating in the development of classification policies and standards and providing secretariat services to the classification appeals bodies, and advising on substantive provisions of Secretary-General's bulletins concerning organizational structure.

Role of International Civil Service Commission (ICSC)

ICSC was established by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1974 to regulate and coordinate the conditions of service of the United Nations common system. The Commission is composed of 15 members appointed by the General Assembly in their personal capacity. The Commission's mandate covers all facets of staff employment conditions, but the type of action it is empowered to take in a specific area is regulated under its statue. The Commission itself may take decisions on matters such as establishment of daily subsistence allowance; schedules of post adjustment (cost-of-living element, hardship entitlements). On the other hand, in areas including Professional salary scales, the level of dependency allowances and education grant, it only makes recommendations to the General Assembly which then acts as the legislator for the rest of the common system. ICSC Home Page

Role of the Designated Agency

The United Nations, along with a number of UN organizations, has been given operational responsibility for conducting and coordinating salary surveys at non-Headquarters duty stations, and for recommending revised salary scales and allowances to the responsible agency. 

For further information on the United Nations Organizations, please go to (Official Web Site Locator for the United Nations System of Organizations).


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