Press Releases

    GA/AB/3616
                                                                                        14 May 2004

    Fifth Committee Discusses Peacekeeping Recruitment Practices, Pace of Restructuring, Management of Trust Funds

    NEW YORK, 13 May (UN Headquarters) -- As the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) took up a series of audit reports by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) this morning, it focused on the pace of restructuring of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), the peacekeeping recruitment practices, and the management of 31 trust funds related to peacekeeping operations, which had been established in the early 1990s in respect of missions that are now closed.

    The Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, Dileep Nair, introduced the reports before the Committee, according to which the ongoing reform of peacekeeping had enhanced DPKO’s capacity to strategize, analyse and tackle complex, multidimensional problems.  The rapid deployment capacity and multifaceted backstopping of field operations had improved; cooperation with stakeholders had become more focused and consistent; and the Department was in the process of creating a reliable mechanism of identifying best practices.

    The representative of Ireland (on behalf of the European Union) concurred with the conclusion of the OIOS that while more time was needed to achieve full impact of the DPKO reform, the process was on the right track.  Given the massive challenges facing the DPKO over the coming months, she trusted that the Secretariat would urgently act upon the OIOS’ 30 recommendations.

    Among other proposals that the Union agreed with, she mentioned the need for continued consultation between the Department of Political Affairs and the Peacekeeping Department, especially regarding missions in West Africa, and the need to strengthen the linkage between budgetary benchmarks and the Security Council reporting process.  Also, the Director of Change Management, a key post in implementing the Brahimi reforms, must play a more proactive role in reviewing DPKO’s organizational structure and in ensuring that best practices were institutionalized.

    Several speakers expressed concern, however, that there was yet no coherent information technology strategy or strategic plan for the DPKO. In that connection, the European Union representative said the Union had expected that the resources poured into information technology would have a beneficial impact on staff working methods.  She fully supported, therefore, the recommendation related to the establishment of a departmental information technology committee to implement a strategic information technology plan.

    New Zealand’s representative, speaking also on behalf of Australia and Canada (CANZ), agreed that DPKO reform was a work in progress and said the report had been issued at a time when many were concerned about the Organization’s ability to respond to the volume and complexity of contemporary peacekeeping and peace-building tasks. The implementation of the OIOS recommendations would further enhance DPKO’s performance in such critical areas as integrated mission planning and incorporation of lessons learned into processes and guidelines.  Some significant problems remained, however, including the limitations identified in DPKO’s ability to analyse the effectiveness of peacekeeping activities.

    The reports before the Committee also touched upon the complex issue of recruitment and highlighted problems with the introduction of the Galaxy recruitment tool and the rapid deployment roster, further delegation of recruitment authority and the need for generic job profiles.  Speakers agreed that all those issues must be addressed urgently if the DPKO was to be in a position soon to handle the peacekeeping surge.

    In that connection, Mr. Nair explained that the difference between the actual average time of recruitment (347 days) against the goal of 120 days had been mainly due to the difficulties in processing the unprecedented number of applications received (13,800) and the problems encountered with the Galaxy system, which was still being developed at the time of the audit.  The criteria for determining staff members’ eligibility for vacancies had significantly changed with the introduction of the new staff selection system.  The OIOS was also concerned that while the new system allowed staff to be appointed to posts two or more levels higher, that principle had been neither articulated in the Secretary-General’s report on human resources management reform nor explicitly set out in administrative instructions.

    Also on recruitment, the United States representative expressed hope that as the Galaxy was fine-tuned, similar situations in the future would be avoided.  He also noted increasing steps towards improving gender representation in the DPKO and emphasized that geographical representation for support account-funded positions was not subject to the same stringent benchmarks as the regular budget.  He believed the DPKO was acting responsibly in its efforts to ensure broad representation of the membership and troop-contributing countries.

    The Committee will continue its work at a date to be announced.

    Background

    The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to continue its consideration of administrative and budgetary aspects of the financing of United Nations peacekeeping operations, including reports of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) on audit policies and procedures for recruiting staff for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), the impact of DPKO’s recent restructuring and peacekeeping trust funds.

    The OIOS report on the audit of the policies and procedures for recruiting DPKO staff notes that an audit conducted by the OIOS from May to July 2003 on appointments in the Professional and above category found that the average time frame for recruiting staff was 347 days.  That was significantly higher than the goal of 120 days envisaged in the report of the Secretary-General on human resources management reform and was attributable mainly to the substantial effort required to process the large number of applications.  Of the 105 vacancies in the Professional category and above filled during 2002, 103 were advertised before the introduction of the new staff selection system, which came into force on 1 May 2002.  Recruitment actions for most of the posts were processed through the web-based Galaxy system at a time when the system was still being developed.

    The report notes that the problems encountered by the Department and the Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM) during the period, combined with the volume of applications, contributed to slowing down the recruitment process instead of accelerating it.  In OIOS’ opinion, the DPKO should be able to significantly reduce the recruitment time frame in future years, particularly because the surge in vacancies experienced in 2001 and 2002 appears unlikely to recur in the near future.

    The criteria for determining staff members’ eligibility to apply for vacancies have undergone significant changes with the issuance of administrative instruction ST/AI/2002/4 promulgating the new staff selection system from 1 May 2002.

    Section 5.6 of the administrative instruction was intended to allow staff members to apply and compete for posts two or more levels higher than their current level.  If Section 5.6 was intended to allow staff members to apply and compete for posts two or more levels higher than their current level, the lack of clarity in eligibility requirements may have deprived many staff members of that opportunity.

    The audit also identified instances in which eligible staff members were short listed and evaluated for an advertised post, the report continues.  In several cases, errors were made in determining the eligibility of candidates at the 15-day and 30-day marks.  These were attributable primarily to the lack of clear eligibility requirements, which are open to different interpretations.  The OIOS recommended that the OHRM examine the implications of complex eligibility requirements and clarify them to ensure transparency and equity in recruitment and promotion. The OHRM stated that in March 2003, guidelines on the application of eligibility requirements had been published in the Human Resources Handbook on the United Nations Intranet Web site.  Also, a review of existing eligibility requirements would be conducted as part of the upcoming assessment of the experience acquired from the new staff selection system.

    The biggest challenge facing managers in the DPKO and the OHRM was receiving some 13,800 applications made in response to the 76 vacancy announcements issued during 2002.  In the absence of a filtering mechanism in the Galaxy system to assist them in excluding candidates who did not meet the broad requirements of the advertised post, programme managers had to review every application to determine whether the applicant met the broad criteria.  To improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the recruitment process, the OIOS recommended that the OHRM work closely with managers to develop appropriate filtering techniques for screening applications. The OHRM commented that advanced search features had been incorporated into Galaxy during 2003 and that they were continuously being reviewed with a view to improving them.

    The Oversight Office had also found, the report states, that most DPKO managers did not use numeric scoring methods for evaluating candidates, evidently because the OHRM had informed the DPKO that the use of such scoring methods was optional.  The few managers who used the numeric scoring method built into the Galaxy system clearly demonstrated the value of using such a system in increasing objectivity and transparency in recruitment.  The OIOS recommended that, in accordance with the Secretary-General’s proposals for human resources management reform, the OHRM ensure that managers in the Secretariat use numeric ratings based on predetermined evaluation criteria.  The Office commented that the experience gained from the use of numeric scoring methods would be taken into account in considering other methods, which may be less time-consuming, that have emerged with changes in technology since the publication of the Secretary-General’s report three years ago.

    Regarding geographical distribution, the report says that nationalities of staff recruited by the Peacekeeping Department during 2002 appeared to be well dispersed.  The OIOS noted that of the 105 candidates appointed against vacancies in the Professional category and above in the Department during 2002, 37 (or 35 per cent) were women.  This was an improvement over the previous year, when the figure was 31 per cent.  The Department explained the special measures it had taken to achieve a better gender ratio and to improve overall geographical distribution of staff.  Continuing those efforts should lead to further improvements in gender and geographical distribution in the Department.

    Also before the Committee was the OIOS report on evaluation of the impact of the recent restructuring of DPKO (document A/58/746). The evaluation found that the Department’s strengthening is in midstream and will need more time for its impact to be fully realized.  The Oversight Office believes, however, that the reform is on the right track.  The reform has enhanced the Department’s capacity to strategize, analyse and tackle complex, multidimensional problems.  The rapid deployment capacity and backstopping of field operations have improved.

    The report notes that the Department, in OIOS’ view, faces four main challenges in enhancing the restructuring.  They include developing a comprehensive, clearly structured and evolving doctrine comprising the totality of its policies and guidelines; operationalizing the process of learning lessons and translating them into policies and practices; establishing a sound and transparent procedure for adjusting its staffing for peak to routine levels and managing the resultant staff mobility; and exploiting fully information management to strengthen its capacity.

    The report also notes that additional staffing has allowed the Department to enhance its strategic, analytical and operational capacity and to improve its multifaceted support of field operations.  Cooperation with stakeholders has become more consistent and comprehensive.

    According to the report, the Department has to review its restructuring experience, formalize its organizational structure and make its internal planning more realistic and commensurate with available resources.  The reform objectives of promoting the delegation of authority to the field along with strengthening accountability should be fully attained.  There is considerable room for improvement in personnel management.

    As the reform efforts come to fruition, the Department needs to address all aspects of the issue of transition, from the surge staffing level to the steady state in its various functions.  It is in the process of creating a reliable mechanism of identifying best practices and institutionalizing them as established policies.  The Department needs also to fully implement all envisaged objectives in information management and technology.

    The report lists some 30 recommendations addressing different aspects of the Department’s functioning, from developing a law and order segment of a departmental “generic” exit strategy to regularly updating the roster and actively searching for new candidates.

    The OIOS report on the review of peacekeeping trust funds (document A/58/613) contains the results of an audit, which covered 31 trust funds related to peacekeeping operations.  The review was carried out in October-November 2002 and related to the fiscal year ended 30 June 2002.  The audit indicated that the Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations needed to improve the monitoring of trust fund operations to better ensure that funds entrusted to the Organization for specific purposes are effectively utilized. Also, the Peacekeeping Department should provide more guidance to peacekeeping missions on the management of trust funds.

    The OIOS made a number of recommendations for improving the management of trust funds.  Among the measures proposed by the auditors are urgent steps to utilize dormant fund balances in respect of eight trust funds with a cumulative balance of over $53.17 million. These eight trust funds showed no expenditures, transfers or adjustments during the year ended 30 June 2002. The trust funds were established, in most cases, in the early 1990s in respect of peacekeeping activities or missions that are now closed.  Six of these trust funds, with a combined balance of $12.4 million, could be used, with the concurrence of the donors, for related political, humanitarian or development activities in the locations where they were originally established.

    The review also demonstrated the need to redefine the plans of action for three trust funds (with a combined balance of some $1.75 million), whose original purpose is no longer valid, to enable these funds to be utilized for current operations at Headquarters.  It is also necessary to prepare written guidance on the operation of trust funds in peacekeeping missions to ensure consistency in their overall administration.  Also recommended is the establishment of a web site to highlight the activities of peacekeeping trust funds.

    Introduction of Report

    DILEEP NAIR, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, introduced the OIOS reports before the Committee.

    Regarding recruitment in the DPKO, he said that the difference between the actual average time of recruitment (347 days) against the goal of 120 days was mainly due to the substantial effort required to process the 13,800 applications received and the problems encountered with the Galaxy system, which was still being developed at the time of the audit.  The Oversight Office had also found that the criteria for determining staff members’ eligibility to be considered for vacancies had significantly changed since May 2002 with the introduction of the new staff selection system.  The new system appeared to allow staff to be appointed to posts that were two or even more levels higher than their current level.  The OIOS was concerned that that principle had been neither articulated in the Secretary-General’s report on human resources management reform nor explicitly set out in the administrative instruction.

    As for geographical distribution, he said that, in broad terms, the nationalities of staff recruited in 2002 were well dispersed.  There had also been an improvement in the Department’s gender ratio during the year.  The Oversight Office had made five recommendations as a result of the audit, all of which had been accepted by the management.

    On the restructuring of the Peacekeeping Department, he said that the main conclusion of the OIOS was that while a lot remained to be done, the reform was on the right track.  The Office had made 30 recommendations to enhance the restructuring.  In particular, it was important to learn lessons from practical experience and formulate clear and effective policies and procedures that needed to be consistently applied.  Sound and effective procedures were needed to improve the recruitment of staff.  The DPKO had concurred with the recommendations and had already initiated implementation of some of them.

    Turning to the evaluation of the peacekeeping Trust Funds, he said that the purpose of seven funds administered by the DPKO with a combined balance of almost $2 million needed to be redefined as they had changed over time.  Of those, funds with small balances should be closed, while those with larger balances should be utilized, once the DPKO had redefined their purpose.  The issuance of a guidance manual would serve to ensure greater consistency and improve the overall administration of the funds.  Standardized financial reporting and the financing of trust fund-related activities from programme support costs should be considered by the DPKO.

    MARGARET STANLEY (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the Union considered the report on the impact of the restructuring of the Peacekeeping Department to be one of the most important of the session.  Some of the OIOS’ recommendations required not just administrative changes but policy decisions aimed at enhancing DPKO’s entire operational capacity and its interaction with peacekeeping operations.  It was essential that the report be brought to the attention of the Security Council.

    The Union was strongly committed to effective United Nations peacekeeping, a core function of the Organization, she said. It was in that spirit that the Union had strongly supported the recommendation of the Panel on United Nations Peacekeeping Operations to reinforce DPKO’s capacity to plan, deploy and manage peacekeeping operations.  The OIOS report offered timely insight -- especially given the huge surge the United Nations faced in its multifaceted peacekeeping operations -- into DPKO’s capacity to ensure effective backstopping of all peacekeeping operations.

    The Union entirely concurred with the overall thrust of the Oversight Office report, she said.  The reforms were on track.  While there were certain areas that needed attention, some reform measures required longer gestation periods to produce the desired impact than others. The OIOS recommendations encapsulated succinctly the areas that needed to be addressed by the Secretary-General.  Given the massive challenges facing the DPKO over the coming months, she trusted that Secretariat would urgently act upon the OIOS recommendations.

    She said that, while the integrated mission task force concept was welcome, she noted with concern that that the principles had not been fully implemented.  It must now be further developed on an interdepartmental basis, both in mission planning and working practice, to ensure that a fully integrated mission concept of operations was produced, rehearsed, understood and owned by all stakeholders. While the Department’s Military Division offered good operational support, what was lacking was an assessment of the military capacity, preparedness and effectiveness of forces in the field. It would be sensible for such an assessment to take place no later than one year after deployment.

    It was unacceptable, she added, that there was yet no information technology strategy or strategic plan for the DPKO. The Union expected that the resources it pored into information technology throughout the United Nations would have a beneficial impact on staff working methods, especially General Service staff. It was regrettable that the Peacekeeping Department was continuing in an unstructured fashion. She fully supported, therefore, the recommendation for the Director of Change Management to establish a departmental information technology committee to implement a strategic information technology plan.

    Among the other recommendations that the Union agreed with was that the ongoing consultation between the Department of Political Affairs and the Peacekeeping Department was essential to ensuring coherent approaches, especially regarding missions in West Africa.  The strengthening of the linkage between budgetary benchmarks and the Security Council reporting process was needed.  Also, the Director of Change Management, a key post in implementing the Brahimi reforms, must play a more pro-active role in reviewing DPKO’s organizational structure and in ensuring best practices were institutionalized, including through the maintenance of authoritative policy documents.

    The report touched upon the complex issue of recruitment and highlighted teething problems with Galaxy and the rapid deployment roster, the use of Field Service staff, further delegation of recruitment authority, and the need for generic job profiles. All those issues must be addressed urgently if the DPKO was to be in a position soon to handle the peacekeeping surge. Although the system of desirable ranges did not apply to most posts in the DPKO, geographical representation and gender balance remained important issues for many Member States and further improvements could be made.

    She welcomed the comprehensive review of peacekeeping trust funds.  The Union fully agreed with the recommendations and was pleased that the Secretariat had unconditionally accepted them.  She commended the Secretariat for establishing the trust fund working group to review the administration and management of trust funds, and would welcome clarification of the role it would play in overseeing the administration of trust funds.  There should be a certain amount of automaticity with respect to the review of trust funds.  When a trust fund had been financially inactive for one year, its continuation should be reconsidered and appropriate action taken.  She requested the working group to consider that.

    She said the European Union also welcomed the issuance of standard operating procedures for peacekeeping missions administering trust funds. Given the variances between missions in administering trust funds, it was essential that the guidelines were promulgated.  While the application of standard administration costs could depend on the size and nature of each trust fund, she would welcome an update of the discussions that had taken place within the working group on OIOS’ recommendation.

    FELICITY BUCHANAN (New Zealand), speaking also on behalf of Australia and Canada (CANZ), said the OIOS report had been issued at a time when many were concerned at the Organization’s ability to respond to the volume and complexity of contemporary peacekeeping and peace-building tasks. The Oversight Office had produced a very substantive piece of work with 30 specific recommendations.  The Peacekeeping Department’s capacity had improved, and the overall process of reform was on track. The implementation of OIOS’ recommendations would further enhance DPKO’s performance in such critical areas as integrated mission planning and incorporation of lessons learned into processes and guidelines

    She said some significant problems remained, however.  The lack of progress on the elaboration of a coherent information technology plan was troubling, as were the limitations identified in DPKO’s ability to analyse the effectiveness of peacekeeping activities. She agreed, however, that DPKO reform was a work in progress.  CANZ was fully committed to ensuring that the DPKO had the right tools and resources to adequately support peacekeeping.

    The report on recruitment provided useful insights into the Organization’s experiences during a difficult transitional phase in its recruitment polices in 2002, she said.  When the issue was considered at the fifty-ninth session, she expected to receive a fuller picture of the application of current recruitment policies and progress in enhancing the recruitment process and the Galaxy recruitment tool.  Regarding the review of peacekeeping trust funds, CANZ was troubled to learn that there were currently no standard guidelines for the administration of the funds, and that many funds with large balances were dormant or related to closed missions.  She welcomed the establishment of a working group to improve the management of trust funds and looked forward to receiving its report during the fifty-ninth session.

    CHRISTOPHER WITTMANN (United States) said the report on the restructuring of the DPKO contained many key insights into what was working and what needed more work.  Noting, in particular, the findings of the OIOS that personnel issues required greater attention, he cautioned, however, that overly broad solutions, without sufficient forethought, could cover up problems in the short term, but not solve them.  Regarding the proposal to convert certain contracts from one series to another, his delegation still believed that it would be more appropriate to review the status of the contract series and make necessary changes, rather than a wholesale conversion.

    He shared the concerns of the Oversight Office on the civilian police operations, he continued.  The rule of law and law enforcement issues increasingly determined whether conditions were right for downsizing missions, and it would be helpful for the Civilian Police Division to have sufficient institutional memory to accomplish its mission. He was pleased at the evidence of increased cooperation and coordination among separate departments in the Organization, which had led to vast improvements in the management of peacekeeping operations. The OIOS had identified the issue of integrated mission task forces in detail, and he supported the recommendation in that regard.

    The enhancement of the Force Generation Service had made it easier to plan and implement the military component of peacekeeping missions, he said.  It was key to the accomplishment of a peacekeeping mandate that the best available troops be utilized, and he supported the observation of the OIOS that the preparedness and effectiveness of forces in the field be maintained at the high levels necessary.  A key component of that goal was standardized practices.

    He also shared the concern of the OIOS on authoritative documentation of policies, he said.  Nothing could be worse than time wasted trying to decipher conflicting messages when peacekeepers needed to decide on a course of action, or when the mission needed support to accomplish its mandate.  Communication and training provided vital support for disseminating policies, and he urged rapid adoption of the OIOS’ concrete recommendations in that regard.  As for the implementation of results-based budgeting, he saluted the DPKO on it and expressed satisfaction at the quality of its application.  There were still improvements to be made, but the communication between the Committee and the Secretariat, and the Secretariat’s history of improving its products in response to the Committee’s concerns should be noted and was appreciated.

    Turning to the report on the recruitment of DPKO staff, he said that his delegation’s feelings on the delays in hiring staff were well known.  He accepted that the unprecedented number of applications for a limited number of jobs had caused difficulty, and he trusted that as the Galaxy was fine-tuned, similar situations in the future would be avoided.  Special note should be taken of the OIOS recommendations on the eligibility requirements. He also noted increasing steps towards improving gender representation in the DPKO and emphasized that geographical representation for support account-funded positions was not subject to the same stringent benchmarks as the regular budget.  He believed the Department was acting responsibly in its efforts to ensure broad representation of the membership and troop-contributing countries.

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