UN: EU Statement on Human Resources Management

UN: EU Statement on Human Resources Management

UN 61st Session; V Committee, Agenda Item 123: Human Resources Management

New York, 30 October 2006

Statement by H.E. Ms. Kirsti Lintonen, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations, on behalf of the European Union

Mr. Chairman,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.

The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, the Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia1, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and the EFTA countries Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova align themselves with this declaration.

At the outset let me thank the Secretary-General Mr. Kofi Annan for introducing the report entitled “Investing in people” (A/61/255) and the other reports on human resources management, which provide details on the proposed new human resources framework. We wish to extend our thanks also to the Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, Mr. Rajat Saha, for his comments as well as to Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management , Jan Beagle, Director of Ethics Office Nancy Hurtz-Soyka and Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations, Oleg Kiiamov.

Since this is the last time the Secretary-General Kofi Annan will address the Fifth Committee, I wish to convey the warmest appreciation on behalf of the European Union for all the efforts to reform the United Nations since 1997. We are grateful for the proposed ideas and changes in the past 10 years to bring the United Nations up to best international practices. Like Secretary-General, the European Union believes that "reform is a process, not an event". Thus we will continue to work hard and constructively on proposals for a stronger and more effective United Nations. 

Mr. Chairman,

The European Union notes with appreciation the significant effort made by the Secretary-General to reform the management of human resources at the United Nations. The current human resources management framework has been designed for a stable, largely Headquarters-based environment. Now some 30,000 staff members are serving in the United Nations Secretariat, of whom over half are serving in field locations. This changed context needs to be addressed to accommodate more dynamic field-based operations.

The Secretary-General’s vision of the Organisation in the future is to be integrated, field-oriented and operational. The European Union agrees with the Secretary-General that to maximise our investment in people, which represents approximately 80 per cent of the regular budget, the United Nations requires modern, effective human resources systems and an organisational culture that enables staff at all levels throughout the Organisation to contribute to their greatest potential.

Mr. Chairman,

Despite the progress made on human resources reforms to date, a lot remains to be done. Recruitment is slow and reactive. There is inadequate progress in achieving gender balance and geographical distribution. Multiple contractual arrangements are inequitable and difficult to administer. The conditions of service in the field seem to be less favorable than those offered by for instance the Funds and Programmes. All of these issues have been under discussion for quite some time, but remain unresolved. 

Turning to the Secretary-General's proposals, the European Union believes that the current recruitment time, on average 174 days, should be improved. We would support the development of a more proactive, targeted and speedy recruitment system, aiming to reduce average recruitment times by one half. We look forward to discussing the establishment of a recruitment and staffing centre as well as other proposals related to recruitment in more detail, taking into account the ACABQ comments.

In this regard we wish to stress, like the ACABQ, the relevance and importance of Article 101.3 of the Charter of the United Nations, which remains more than ever the guiding principle in the employment of staff. Recruitment should, in the first instance, continue to be on basis of efficiency, competence and integrity as enshrined in the Charter. As we have stated before, the European Union attaches great importance to gender and geographical balance. Increased efforts have to be put in to attaining the goal of reaching gender parity in the Secretariat, in particular at senior levels. We reiterate the importance of General Assembly's request to the Secretary-General to increase his efforts in this regard.

Mr. Chairman,

We welcome the reported successes of the managed mobility programme for new P-2 staff. We therefore look forward to the SG continuing to take forward work on mobility in order to create a more versatile and multiskilled international workforce. Like the ACABQ, the EU believes this is an important programme which will shape the experiences and careers of newly recruited staff and adjust them into the flexible, multi-skilled environment. This truly represents an investment in people on the part of the Organisation in its future.

The EU looks favourably on a greater investment in staff development and career support. This requires on the one hand managers to support staff development and career progress, and on the other hand staff members to be committed to their continuous professional development. Let me also stress that a key objective of the career development system is to attract, develop and retain young Professional staff from all parts of the world who are at the highest standards of competence that the Charter requires.

Training is a crucial aspect of staff development. Attention must also be paid to developing managers who play a key role in managing the staff and are responsible for the Organisation’s resources. More systematic training in key areas of resource management will help promote common understanding of organisational rules, regulations, procedures and ethical standards and contribute significantly to managing risk.

In the same spirit, the EU would also like to emphasis the importance of assuring the highest standards of security at headquarters and in the field. Our view is to guarantee the safety of the entire staff around United Nations’ locations.

Successful leadership and strong management, in a multicultural global workplace with often difficult and demanding environments, are vital if the Organisation is to achieve its goals and utilise its human and financial resources to their maximum potential. Recruitment of staff in leadership and management positions must be further enhanced. True management culture change will require investment in both the selection and the development of leaders. Furthermore, robust monitoring of the implementation of the measures to strengthen the performance assessement of senior managers is crucial.

The EU also recognises the need to improve human resources technology tools and processes, in particular for the new e-staffing tool. However, we would like to see a clear analysis of tasks, scope and coverage of the system proposed. We look forward to the study on the capabilities of the new technologies to be introduced during the resumed sixty-first session. In this regard, we all should be aware that the information technology is just a tool which can only assist modern staff managerial skills, leadership underlining team spirit, showing trust in the capabilities of the young professionals and a clear career development programme that gives every employee a vision for her and his own future within the organisation.

Mr. Chairman,

United Nations staff members serve under a wide range of contractual arrangements and are subject to different conditions of service. Simplifying and streamlining contractual arrangements would ensure fairness and consistency in the treatment of Staff, the most important asset of the Organisation. Thus the EU is open to discuss the Secretary-General’s proposal and would appreciate more information on both the details of the contract envisaged, and on the financial implications in this regard.

The conditions of service of the UN staff have been under discussion for a long time. We look forward to the outcome of the review of the ICSC working group next spring regarding the compensation packages for internationally recruited staff serving at non-family duty stations and proposals for a harmonised approach within the United Nations system. The EU also looks forward to discussing the proposals of the Secretary-General for reforming the Field Service category, as contained in document A/61/255/Add.1. While we see merit in the approach of a framework of 2,500 career civilian positions in United Nations peace operations, we look forward to hearing further details on this matter, especially on the process of recruitment and on the cost implications.

A significant number of staff will reach retirement age over the next years. In particular, this will have an impact on the number of senior managers and director levels. These upcoming retirements will provide the Organisation with an opportunity to realign the workforce in line with future needs. The EU trusts the Secretary-General will use this opportunity to rejuvenate the United Nations Secretariat as well as reach the gender and geographical targets. We are open to discuss the proposal of a limited voluntary staff buyout and look forward to hearing about its possible advantages and lessons learnt from past experiences in the UN system.

Mr. Chairman,

Before concluding, let me also touch upon an issue the Staff have expressed concern, namely that the system does not have the required degree of transparency. In order to make the UN a modern organisation with the highest standards, greater transparency is needed at all levels. For instance the insufficient mechanisms to hold managers accountable needs to be addressed in a proper way. The organisation can only work if and when the managers are held not only responsible, but also accountable for their actions. Thus the EU concurs with the ACABQ's comment on the need for clear lines of authority and the requisite accountability. It is also of utmost importance to hold a constructive dialogue with the staff of the human resource issues related to them.

Let me assure you, Mr. Chairman, that the European Union is ready to work in a constructive spirit towards a successful outcome on these important issues. We believe that the Secretariat must be an entity which is modern, forward-looking and staffed by competent, efficient and multi-skilled individuals responsive to existing and future challenges.

Thank you.

 1) Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

2)  A/61/255/Add.1, A/61/255/Add.1/Corr.1, A/61/228, A/61/257, A/61/257/Add.1, A/61/257/Add.2,A/61/257/Add.3, A/61/319,A/61/274, A/61/201 and A/61/537.