Press Releases

    DSG/SM/230
                                                                                                                            ORG/1420
                                                                                                                            13 July 2004

    UN Organizations No Longer Competitive on International Labour Market, Says Deputy Secretary-General in Remarks to Civil Service Commission

    NEW YORK, 12 July (UN Headquarters) -- Following are Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette’s remarks to the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) in New York, 12 July:

    I am pleased to welcome you to the United Nations for your 59th session.

    When I spoke to you last year, I emphasized the importance of the partnership between this Commission and the organizations of the system in implementing the reforms and changes that are under way throughout the United Nations system.  More than ever before, as the United Nations system responds to the mandates of Member States in complex and often dangerous environments, we need your support in ensuring the highest calibre performance and motivation of our staff.

    Since we last met, the United Nations system has been deliberately targeted in Baghdad, in an attack that killed and wounded colleagues from more than a dozen United Nations organizations.  United Nations staff have also been killed recently in Afghanistan, Burundi, Gaza, Kenya, Kosovo and Uzbekistan.  In many duty stations, staff live in hardship conditions, frequently without their families.  As we ask staff to serve in potentially hazardous environments, and expect them to be increasingly mobile and multi-skilled, it is essential -- and only fair -- that we also offer competitive conditions of employment.

    Executive heads are closely following your review of pay and benefits.  They are pleased that the pilot project on broadbanding and pay for performance, which has been long in the planning, is about to be implemented.

    Executive heads are also pleased that the long-awaited discussion on updating and expanding the Noblemaire principle -- the basis of our compensation system -- is on your agenda.  They have stressed, and the General Assembly has recognized, that a competitive package of conditions of service is a prerequisite for successful human resources reform.  Sadly, United Nations organizations are no longer competitive in the international labour market.  That is why a thorough policy review of the Noblemaire principle is so crucial.  The issue is not whether we can recruit someone, but whether we can recruit the best.

    Moreover, it makes little sense to look at parts of the system in isolation.  Executive heads are looking forward to a truly comprehensive review aimed at ensuring competitiveness as well as operational and administrative flexibility.  Executive heads also need your assistance in creating a supportive work environment in which staff has opportunities to develop satisfying careers and to balance their work and family responsibilities.  Paternity leave entitlements, which the Commission recently approved, are an important example of this.  So are mobility and hardship allowances, which help compensate staff for the personal sacrifices made during service in difficult duty stations, far from conventional networks of family and community support.

    At your last session, I informed you that given the great importance executive heads attach to strengthening capacity for leadership and management, they decided to continue the development of a Senior Management Service under the auspices of the Chief Executives Board (CEB).

    In April, the CEB endorsed the establishment of such a service as a means of professionalizing the managerial function, building a common managerial culture, enhancing inter-agency cohesion and coordination, and promoting increased mobility and learning across the system.  Executive heads look forward to the further development of the service.  Toward that end, the UNITED NATIONS System Staff College has begun to develop a system-wide programme to build management and leadership capacity and to strengthen partnerships in the system.  The Human Resources Network will give you more details.

    You also have before you the report of the panel on the strengthening of the international civil service and the functioning of the Commission, pursuant to General Assembly resolution 57/285.  You will recall that in 1998, as part of his reform initiative, the Secretary-General called for just such a review.

    The Secretary-General welcomes the panel’s report, and believes it offers the Commission a timely opportunity to strengthen its role and functioning.

    He thanks the members of the panel for the time and energy they devoted to this process, and expresses appreciation for the extremely valuable contribution made by the Chairman of the Commission, Bel Hadj Amor.

    The Secretary-General shares the view of the panel that the Commission must command universal confidence.  Toward that end, he notes the panel’s call for a more rigorous application of Articles 3 and 4 of the Statute, including established criteria for appointments to the Commission itself -- a responsibility he shares equally with Member States and executive heads.

    The Secretary-General also agrees with the panel that the Commission must promote innovation not only in terms of compensation and conditions of employment, but also in relation to the introduction of “cutting edge” human resources policies and practices.

    The Secretary-General shares the panel’s concern that staff should continue to personify the Charter principles of independence and the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity.

    He agrees that there should no further erosion in some key elements of conditions of employment, since this could negatively affect staff morale, organizational performance and recruitment.

    And he agrees with the thrust of the panel’s recommendations for strengthening the international civil service, including measures to attract and retain staff, strengthen managerial capacity, link remuneration more immediately with performance, introduce modern workplace practices, harmonize different practices across the system, encourage mobility, and above all ensure the security and safety of staff.

    The executive heads, for their part, are also studying the findings of the panel and will provide their views to the General Assembly through the Secretary-General.

    In closing, I would like to pay tribute to your late colleague, João Augusto de Médicis, whose sudden death shocked and saddened us all.  His long experience in both bilateral and multilateral diplomacy, and his service in at least ten different duty stations in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, gave him a very special understanding of the demands of our work.  He will be sadly missed.

    * *** *