Press Releases

    GA/AB/3639
    29 October 2004

    Budget Committee Begins Debate on Human Resources Management Reform; Staff Compensation, Recruitment, Geographical Representation, among Issues

    (Issued on 28 October 2004)

    NEW YORK, 27 October (UN Headquarters) -- Conditions of service for United Nations personnel must be at least on par with those of other international organizations, Norway’s representative told the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning, as it began its consideration of the main issue of this session -- human resources management reform.

    That was not only a question of a competitive compensation system, he continued, but also of quality of life. More could be done to facilitate the integration and well-being of United Nations personnel and their families in the various parts of the world where they were stationed.  The human resources management system must contain an up-to-date family policy, taking into consideration such issues as the needs of nursing mothers, parents with young children, spouse employment, and the necessity for more flexible working hours.

    Also stressing that staff was the most valuable asset of the United Nations, the representative of the Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union and associated States) said that the Organization had benefited greatly from the effort to reform human resources management, which was in its sixth year now.

    The countries he represented welcomed the omnibus report before the Committee, which describes major developments in the main areas of human resources planning; streamlining of rules and procedures; recruitment, placement and promotion; mobility; competencies and continuous learning; performance management; career development; conditions of service; contractual arrangements; and administration of justice.  According to the document -- which was introduced by Under-Secretary-General for Management, Catherine Ann Bertini -- the focus in the past two years has been on consolidation, institutionalization, improvement and expansion of those main building blocks. 

    The representative of the Republic of Korea registered concern over the fact that 15 Member States remained unrepresented and 10 underrepresented within the Secretariat and urged the Organization to continue its efforts to expand membership until full geographic representation was attained. He welcomed the measures proposed in that regard, which included a “fast-track” recruitment procedure for candidates from un- and underrepresented Member States to posts at the P-4 level.  According to the report before the Committee, the Secretariat was also planning to request each permanent mission of un- and underrepresented countries to identify a focal point, with whom it could work on various aspects of the issue.  Measures had been initiated to establish a post in the OHRM as a focal point for geographical representation.

    Speakers also addressed the proposal to reduce the time for advertising vacancies to 45 days from the current 60 days in order to expedite the recruitment process and the need to improve the prospects for promotion to Professional category of the General Service staff, in particular through the G to P exam.

    Also introduced today was the report of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC), which contains its latest recommendations on the Organization’s pay and benefits system, contractual arrangements and conditions of service of international staff.  Among the achievements listed in the document is the Commission’s ongoing review of the pay and benefits system aimed at linking job requirements with desired competencies and performance. The ICSC reports that if implemented, such initiatives as broad-banding and performance pay would be the most significant departure from the traditional system of remuneration since the United Nations was established.  To test the validity of the proposed changes, on 1 July 2004, the Commission launched a pilot study.

    Another document before the Committee was the report of the Panel on Strengthening of the ICSC, which produced 19 recommendations aimed at enhancing the effectiveness of human resources management in the United Nations system this year.  Eugeniusz Wyzner, Vice-Chairman of the ICSC, said that the Panel had exceeded its mandate in producing some proposals that had a direct impact on the Statute of the ICSC.

    Responding to that criticism, Ms. Bertini insisted that the unanimous recommendations of the Panel advocated “rigorous application of”, not changes to, the Statute of the ICSC.  The recommendations relating to the management and reform of the ICSC were, in fact, “very simple and modest”, underlying the need to implement what had already been approved by the Assembly.  As a source of technical expertise and technical advice, the Commission needed to be further strengthened.  “Please do not count on the ICSC to reform from within, for it has made clear that even the Panel’s modest proposals are not acceptable to it”, she said, telling Member States, “The next action is up to you.”

    Documents before the Committee were also introduced by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jane Holl Lute; Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), Vladimir Kuznetsov; Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, Dileep Nair; Chairman of the Joint Inspection Unit, Ion Gorita; Director of the New York Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Bacre Waly Ndiaye; and Chief of Common Services Unit, Office of Programme Planning and Budget Division, Vladimir Belov.

    Also speaking today were representative of Australia (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand), Syria, Sierra Leone, Canada and Nigeria.  The Committee will continue its debate on the items introduced today at 10 a.m. Thursday, 28 October.

    Background

    The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning was expected to begin its consideration of the main issue of its current session -- the human resources management reform -- and take up several reports on the United Nations common system.

    Human Resources Management

    In his report on the human resources management reform (document A/59/263), the Secretary-General describes major developments in the main areas of human resources planning; streamlining of rules and procedures; recruitment, placement and promotion; mobility; competencies and continuous learning; performance management; career development; conditions of service; contractual arrangements; and administration of justice.  According to the document, the focus in the past two years has been on consolidation, institutionalization, improvement and expansion of those main building blocks. 

    Among the achievements, the Secretary-General lists development of human resources planning that provides the Organization with workforce profiles and trends.  Key biennial targets have been introduced for vacancy management, geographical representation, gender and performance management.  An electronic Human Resources Handbook -- now available online and updated about 10 times a year -- was launched in 2001.  To further streamline the rules and procedures, all redundant administrative issuances were consolidated or eliminated.

    A new staff selection system, which was established in 2002, placed related decisions in the hands of heads of departments responsible for programme delivery.  Together with its supporting electronic tool, Galaxy e-staffing, the system has speeded up the selection process, improving its efficiency and transparency.  The performance appraisal system has been modified twice since its introduction in 1996, in the light of experience and feedback.  All departments of the Secretariat and most peacekeeping missions now use the electronic e-PAS version.  Following an endorsement of a comprehensive monitoring system in resolution 57/305, on-site monitoring visits began in 2003, and monitoring of offices in New York began earlier this year.  Flexible working hours have been introduced in most departments to help staff better balance their professional and personal lives.

    The Secretary-General states that in the next few years, special emphasis will be placed on the implementation of managed mobility, further strengthening of staff selection and performance management, enhancement of management capacity, increased monitoring, particularly of delegated authority, and improvement of existing electronic tools.  Inviting the Assembly to take note of the achievements and planned activities, the Secretary-General seeks its decisions on two issues:  expediting the staff selection process and increasing opportunities for promotion from the General Service to Professional category.

    The addenda to the report also contain proposals on contractual arrangements and improvement of gender representation.  In document A/59/263/Add.1, the Secretary-General sets out detailed suggestions, together with the transitional measures that would be required for new contractual arrangements.  The Secretary-General maintains his basic proposal to simplify contractual arrangements through the use of only three types of appointments for all Secretariat functions, departments, duty stations and field missions:  a short-term appointment (six months maximum), to meet peak workloads and specific short-term requirements; a fixed-term appointment (five years maximum), during which staff members’ performance would be thoroughly assessed; and a continuing appointment which, subject to the needs of service, would be granted to staff after five years of fixed-term appointment, provided they adhere to the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity required by the Charter.

    In document A/59/263/Add. 2 and the report on improvement of the status of women in the United Nations system (document A/59/357), the Secretary-General identifies a number of factors affecting progress towards the goal of 50/50 gender distribution in the Secretariat and presents proposals towards the attainment of that goal. 

    According to these documents, as at 30 June 2004, women comprised 37.4 per cent of staff in the Professional and higher categories with appointments of one year or more.  This is a 1.7 per cent increase over the previous year, the highest annual change since 1998.  Women also accounted for 42.5 per cent of recruitments into the Professional category between 1 July 2003 and 30 June 2004 and 37.7 per cent of recruitments at the Director level.  During the same period, women accounted for 47.2 per cent of promotions at the P and 47.5 per cent at the D level.  Gender parity has been achieved at the junior P level and in the G category:  as at 30 June 2004, 50.8 per cent of staff at the P-2 level and 62.1 per cent of staff in the G category were women.  Longer-term trends, however, show uneven progress, with an annual growth rate of only 0.4 per cent at the P and higher levels and 1 per cent for geographical distribution posts.

    According to the reports, slow progress can be attributed to the following key factors:  recruitment and selection processes; accountability of programme managers; the working climate and culture in the Organization; and informal barriers.  Among the document’s 36 recommendations, are measures to target an expanded pool of qualified women applicants; carry out an analysis of national competitive recruitment examination applications; further develop the selection system; conduct a global analysis of promotion rates, salary increases and assignments of women and men within the Organization; include gender sensitivity indicators in programme managers’ performance appraisals; and expand career experience of women.

    Also before the Committee was a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the views of the staff representatives of the United Nations (document A/C.5/59/4).  Submitted by the staff unions and associations of the Secretariat, the document states that the reform, rather than transforming the Organization, had become an end in itself.  In the six years since staff representatives last expressed their views, in document A/C.5/53/34, some of the basic reform concepts had been abandoned while others had been “distorted to support a status quo that is no longer acceptable”.

    Empowerment of staff and accountability have disappeared from the initial building blocks of reform, and staff/management consultations have become meaningless, states the document.  There is a complete lack of individual accountability of managers, which, in the most extreme cases, has led to mistakes that cost the lives of colleagues.  Despite repeated requests from the Assembly, there is still no clear, workable system of accountability.  Neither the Performance Appraisal System nor the Accountability Panel, whose membership has disappeared through attrition without replacement, have proved to be effective tools.  Meanwhile, staff members who no longer have the right of recourse in their national legal systems, are frustrated to learn that the internal system of justice at the United Nations is seriously eroded and ineffective.  The document notes further that 4 of the 5 variables leading to corruption, as defined in a United Nations publication, are present within the Organization itself:  monopoly of power, discretionary exercise of authority, lack of accountability, and lack of a deeply rooted ethical environment.  Also highlighted in the report are serious shortcomings in the system providing for the safety and security of United Nations personnel.

    Finally, the staff representatives urge the Member States to bring the staff back to the centre of the reform efforts by providing them a meaningful role in the process.

    In its report on the impact of human resources management reform (transmitted through the Secretary-General’s note in document A/59/253), the Office of Internal Oversight Services notes a decrease in the number of days to fill a vacancy and a sharp focus on creating opportunities for staff mobility and development among the achievements of the reform.  However, the potential impact of new measures is not yet fully realized, and staff and managers are not fully committed to the reform.  As a result, there is inconsistent prioritization of responsibilities and accountability for people management.  The OHRM should immediately address this lack of confidence in reform initiatives; focus on effective performance management and strategic planning, rather than compliance; and improve its ability to measure and monitor human resources indicators.

    While enhancing opportunities to apply and enlarging the pool of candidates, the new staff selection system has yet to improve the quality of candidates or career prospects for junior staff, the report states.  Although central review bodies have assertively exercised their function, their effectiveness is diminished by the lack of information relevant to reviewing evaluations and proposals.  As the new mobility policy had not yet reduced vacancy rates at duty stations with chronic vacancy issues, it is important to promulgate mobility strategies that would satisfy operational requirements and benefit staff careers.

    The recommendations contained in the report include specific suggestions designed to build upon the policies, tools and infrastructure currently in place.  In addition to proposals for shortening the recruitment process, developing proactive recruiting strategies, increasing capacity to assess operational needs and tracking indicators, the OIOS suggests steps to increase staff and manager commitment to the most challenging aspects of reform: mobility and performance management.

    The report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) on human resources management reform (document A/59/446) analyzes what has been accomplished, what has not worked and why, and what must be improved to achieve further success.  The Advisory Committee stresses the importance of strengthening the accountability framework and reiterates that the reform should be aimed at placing qualified personnel, based on merit, where needed, as expeditiously as possible.  It is also important to encourage staff and career development.

    The ACABQ finds the Secretary-General report on the reform “rather general and lacking in analysis”, particularly with regard to progress achieved in implementation, problems encountered and measures to redress them.  Not enough attention has been given to setting criteria to monitor the quality of programme managers’ decisions, rather than merely quantifying mechanical adherence to procedures as measured by raw statistics.  Moreover, in finding a way to deal effectively with irregularities or non-compliance with the new system, there first must be recognition by all concerned that such requirements are realistic and will help to enhance performance. 

    The Advisory Committee insists that reform should be a participatory process involving all users and must be flexible enough to change in the light of experience.  However, it is the impression of the ACABQ that staff/management relations have, to some degree, “broken down over the issue of human resources management reform”, leading to frustration and confrontation.  The

    Secretary-General and the OHRM are encouraged to involve staff meaningfully in the reform, taking into account their concerns.

    On the new staff selection system, the ACABQ comments on the lack of qualitative analysis in a related section of the Secretary-General’s report.  For example, such general statements as “two years of implementation and feedback from users of the system have revealed its strengths and highlighted certain areas that need further adjustments”, do not constitute analysis.  It also notes that the OHRM continues to struggle with the enormous increase in the number of applications since the introduction of Galaxy.  Informed on several occasions that efforts were under way to provide for electronic screening of applicants and introduce “automatic eligibility tagging”, the ACABQ regrets that more progress has not been made in this regard. 

    To further shorten selection time, the ACABQ agrees with the proposal to reduce the number of days required to advertise a vacancy from 60 to 45. At the same time, however, it is necessary to ensure “the widest possible timely circulation of vacancy announcements” to attract qualified personnel from non-represented or underrepresented countries.  The selection process must be transparent, and programme managers should be encouraged, “indeed, required”, to initiate the process for filling vacancies in a timely manner and, thus, reduce the long period that posts remain vacant.

    Should the Assembly approve the proposed contractual changes, interim arrangements should be introduced to maintain staff morale, the ACABQ further states.  Objective criteria should be applied in considering conversions of probationary and fixed-term contracts into permanent appointments for eligible staff. The ACABQ welcomes the intention of the Secretariat to ensure that all options for placing staff will be considered carefully before termination is decided upon.

    Reiterating its support for mobility, the Advisory Committee advocates a gradual approach to related measures.  Nonetheless, 2007 will mark a qualitative, as well as a quantitative, change in the reassignment programme.  In this connection, the Assembly, in its resolution 57/305, requested the Secretary-General to closely monitor mobility and to submit proposals in order to solve any resulting problems.  The ACABQ also emphasizes that mobility should not be used as an instrument of coercion against staff and that it is important to recognize the difference between movement within and across duty stations. It is also necessary to ensure that lateral mobility does not negatively affect the continuity and quality of services. Staff members requested to remain on mission assignment, whatever the period of time, should be guaranteed a job in their occupational network and duty station upon return.

    According to the Secretary-General’s report on measures to prevent discrimination on the basis of nationality, race, gender, religion or language in the United Nations (document A/59/211), the Charter, staff regulations and administrative instructions already clearly prohibit harassment and discrimination.  General disciplinary procedures, up to, and including, summary dismissal, are set out in administrative instructions ST/AI/371 and ST/AI/379.  If the matter cannot be settled otherwise, staff members have the right to submit their cases for review by the United Nations Administrative Tribunal. However, in order to improve the mechanisms that deal with such allegations, the Secretary-General recently approved a plan to elaborate a consolidated policy addressing all forms of harassment and discrimination, with specific complaint procedures and guidelines.  The elements of such a policy will soon be submitted for staff/management consultations.

    The Committee also had before it a report of the Secretary-General on efforts to improve equitable geographical representation in the United Nations Secretariat for the period from June 1994 to June 2004 (document A-59-264).  The recruitment of staff to posts subject to geographic distribution is governed by a system of “desirable ranges”.  Member States are grouped into four categories:  (1) unrepresented (when not a single one of its nationals is serving in a post subject to geographical distribution, having gone through the established selection process); (2) underrepresented (when the number of its nationals appointed to such posts is below the lower limit of desirable range; (3) within range; and (4) overrepresented.

    The Secretary-General reports an improvement in the levels of under- and unrepresented Member States over the past 10 years.  In 1994, about 15 per cent of States were unrepresented (28 out of 184), whereas in 2004, unrepresented members accounted for 8 per cent (15 out of 191) of the total.  The proportion of underrepresented countries also decreased, from 14 to 5 per cent.  Of the 28 countries that were unrepresented in 1994, a few continue to be unrepresented:  Brunei Darussalam, Marshall Islands, Sao Tome and Principe, and Turkmenistan.  Of the 25 underrepresented in 1994, only three -- Japan, Norway, and Saudi Arabia -- remain.

    Measures to improve geographical distribution at the Secretariat include greater recruitment through national competitive exams; institution of a “human resources action plan” establishing specific goals and regularly assessing progress made; a new staff selection system that requires heads of departments to certify that they have considered the objectives and targets on geography and gender; and enhancement of the Galaxy system to highlight candidates from unrepresented and underrepresented Member States. The OHRM holds periodic meetings with unrepresented and underrepresented Member States, has organized recruitment missions, and is proposing that relevant permanent missions establish national focal points to work with the Secretariat on various aspects of improving representation.  A focal point is also being established at the P-5 level in the Office of Human Resources Management to better coordinate these efforts.

    The Secretary-General invites the Assembly to endorse his recommendation on the establishment of national focal points as well as his proposal to introduce a “fast-track” recruitment procedure for candidates from unrepresented and underrepresented Member States to posts at the P-4 level and above.  

    A related report (document A/58/666) -- covering the period from 1 July 2002 to 30 June 2003 -- provides information on the demography of the secretariat staff and on desirable geographical distribution ranges. It also contains a brief analysis of the status of unrepresented and underrepresented Member States, measures to achieve gender balance in the Secretariat, statistics on the composition of project personnel, General Service and related staff, and the implementation of human resources action plans.

    According to the document, as at 30 June 2003, the total number of staff of the United Nations Secretariat and special units holding appointments of one year or more amounted to 37,705.  Of this total, 15,082 staff were assigned to the Secretariat and 22,623 to other entities of the United Nations.  Some 2,491 staff members were recruited under the system of desirable geographical ranges. 

    The Secretary-General’s report on the composition of the Secretariat (document A/59/299) also contains a brief analysis of the status of unrepresented and underrepresented Member States, statistics on the composition of General Service and related staff, project personnel and national officers. 

    The comprehensive report of the Secretary-General on the staffing of field missions (document A/59/291) highlights the development of more complex and larger peacekeeping operations, which require more experienced, knowledgeable, and skilled personnel.  As developing such staff involves investing in people and retaining their service for periods beyond the four years allowable under the “300-series” appointments of limited duration, the Secretary-General seeks the Assembly’s endorsement for a proposal to use the “100 series” for the appointment of staff in field missions for periods of six months or longer, for functions for which there is a continuing requirement. The 300 series would then be limited to its “proper use”:  for specific functions that are clearly time-bound, such as electoral activities, technical assessments, temporary assistance, or other short-term projects.  

    The DPKO has been working with the OHRM to develop a cadre of highly mobile, trained, experienced and multi-skilled civilian peacekeepers in a variety of occupational fields, the report states.  Among the building blocks of its strategy are the establishment of mission templates, introduction of a PAS system in missions, development of a strategic framework for training, and appropriate contractual arrangements and fair conditions to retain and reward staff.

    A follow-up audit on progress made in pursuing these reforms was conducted by the OIOS, whose findings were presented by the Secretary-General as a report on the policies and procedures of the DPKO for recruiting international civilian staff for field missions (document A/59/152).  The Office concludes that while the Department had initiated the global staffing strategy for field missions, considerable work needs to be done in human resources planning, streamlining the recruitment process, screening applicants for inclusion in the rapid deployment roster, expanding sources of recruitment, and delegating authority to field missions.

    Among the recommendations contained in the document are changes to the Galaxy e-staffing system to process recruitment of international civilian staff for field missions; the need to ensure strict policy guidance on converting mission appointments from the Field Service to the Professional category; and the suggestion that the OHRM examine DPKO’s practice of treating successive mission appointments as independent of one another. The Secretary-General concurs with the recommendations of the OIOS, which highlight the need for the OHRM to strengthen its monitoring of recruitment by DPKO’s Personnel Management and Support Service and provide appropriate guidance to ensure that the Department’s recruitment practices are consistent with the Organization’s policies.

    The Committee also had before it an earlier OIOS report on the policies and procedures for recruiting DPKO staff (document A/58/704), which was released in February 2004.  (For background, see press release GA/AB/3616 of 13 May 2004.)

    Comments on the field staff proposals are also contained in the Advisory Committee’s report, which notes significant differences between the conditions of service provided for the staff of the United Nations and funds and programmes.  Not satisfied with the treatment of staff in the field, the ACABQ concludes that current proposals do not address the inequities that would exist with two different sets of staff performing similar functions in the same office.  It also expresses concern that there is no mention of possible long-term liabilities such as after-service health insurance and pension benefits, as a result of the conversion, or of the additional costs for hiring future staff in the 100 series.

    One of the options in this connection is endorsement of the Secretary-General’s proposal on the use of the 100 series for the appointment of field staff for six months or longer, for functions for which there is a continuing requirement.  Such a course of action would recognize that many staff have already been converted, and would have the advantage of speed.  However, such a conversion would require adjustments and refinements, since “wholesale” incorporation into the 100 series will inevitably lead to complications that “have not yet been foreseen”.

    Noting a significant number of staff currently holding appointments of limited duration in peacekeeping -- a total of 6,082 -- the ACABQ recognizes that a “one-size-fits-all” approach is not transparent and may only lead to difficulties in implementation. Time is needed to develop an innovative system incorporating features of both the present 100 and 300 systems.  Such a system should be uniquely suited to the needs of the field staff and the requirements of the Organization in peacekeeping.  Meanwhile, the arrangements contemplated by the Secretary-General could be applied as an interim measure, to solve the immediate problem of staff nearing completion of a four-year ceiling.

    Submitted through document A/C.5/58/L.13 is a limited-distribution list of the staff of the United Nations Secretariat, showing, by office, department and organizational element, staff members’ names, functional titles, nationality and grades. 

    In his report on the use of consultants and individual contractors (document A/59/217), the Secretary-General concludes that the number of consultants increased slightly while the number of individual contractors decreased between 2001 and 2003.  Total expenditure for consultants and individual contractors went up by 0.3 per cent, as compared to 2001.  Female representation increased by 29.7 per cent for consultants, and by 54.8 per cent for individual contractors.  Geographical diversity also improved, with consultants from 167 countries and individual contractors from 114 countries.  The number of institutional contractors engaged during 2002-2003 was significantly less than in 2001.

    Consultants and individual contractors were used mainly for advisory services; programme implementation; special analytical studies and meetings preparation; working as professionals, managers, or technicians; and as economists and in areas related to technical cooperation.  They were employed mainly by the regional economic commissions, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

    The ACABQ, however, notes that the details provided in the report are of “limited value” and suggests that the Office of Human Resources Management take a broader, more analytical approach in the future, including an assessment of how the practice of hiring experts and consultants complies with existing rules.

    The report of the Secretary-General on employment of retired former staff (document A/59/222), covering the biennium 2002-2003, provides information on all aspects of the use of retired personnel, including possible revision of the ceiling on annual earnings, and details concerning retired former staff recruited on a short-term basis, as well as under special service agreements.  Among the topics discussed in the report are the criteria for selection of staff in the P category, the number of staff hired for periods exceeding two years, the number of retirees serving in decision-making posts, instances in which responsibilities of representation before intergovernmental bodies are assigned to retired staff, and on the retention of staff beyond the mandatory age of separation. 

    The ACABQ notes that the number of retirees hired to perform substantive functions in the biennium 2002-2003 increased by 254 per cent in comparison with 2000-2001.  Cautioning that the hiring of retirees to meet immediate organizational requirements does not obviate the need for proper succession planning, the Advisory Committee suggests that progress in streamlining the staff selection process should also have an impact on the need for retirees.  The ACABQ is concerned that the need for the rejuvenation of the staff is not being given enough attention, and further recommends that greater efforts be made to hire qualified and skilled young persons to carry out the functions for which the Secretariat is using retired staff.

    The Committee also had before it a report of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) on the management review of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (document A/59/65), which places emphasis on recruitment policies and staff composition.  In that connection, the Unit stresses an endemic problem of unbalanced geographical distribution of staff.  Moreover, the Advisory Panel on Personnel Issues, established by the Office to improve the situation, is itself considerably unbalanced.  Noting that staff imbalance can only be solved through determined management action, the JIU, among other recommendations, suggests that the High Commissioner prepare an action plan aimed at reducing the current disparities, with specified targets and deadlines.

    The JIU notes that, subsequent to its review, the Office has undertaken a restructuring exercise and a proposal for its reorganization was submitted to United Nations Headquarters. Yet, as highlighted in several previous reviews, the Office still lacks a clear, long-term strategic plan.  The JIU also points out that creation of a new “Chief of Staff” position at the D-2 level is inconsistent with the request of the Assembly for streamlined management, concurring with the views expressed by the ACABQ that functions assigned to this position overlap with those of the Deputy High Commissioner and of the Director of the New York office.  The JIU recommends that the new High Commissioner should reconsider the request to create the Chief of Staff post and review the grading of the chiefs of branch with a view to ensuring optimal leadership and consistency of structures.

    Other recommendations of the JIU address such issues as the need to: establish a system to account for the assets of field representations and produce a field administrative procedures manual; formulate a clear information technology strategy; and not pursue development of the “Core Management System”, which duplicates the functions of IMIS. The Office should also align its recruitment and contractual policies with those of the Secretariat. One of the consequences of the Office’s heavy dependence on voluntary funding is that many core functions posts are occupied by project personnel, with resulting contractual instability and inconsistency and staff dissatisfaction.  The JIU suggests a transition phase, not longer than one year, during which contracts of staff currently under the 200 series of the Staff Rules and performing core functions would be regularized into 100-series contracts “limited to service with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights”.

    As a general matter, the JIU notes that the level of resources allocated to human rights activities through regular budgetary appropriations does not correspond with the strategic importance of human rights for the United Nations.  Resources allocated to human rights activities represent barely 1.75 per cent for the total United Nations revised appropriation for 2002-2003.  The impact on the Office is that 64.1 per cent of its estimated expenditures for 2002-2003 came from extrabudgetary resources, including voluntary contributions.  These funding arrangements place the Office in a difficult position, as any disruption in voluntary contributions received will have a serious impact not only on activities of an extrabudgetary nature, but on some core and mandated activities. 

    Also before the Committee was a note by the Secretary-General on the JIU report (document A/59/65/Add.1), which contains his comments on the recommendations.  Despite having a different view of certain data and factual depictions of office policies, the Office of the High Commissioner, for the most part, welcomes the report and will engage in consultations with the Office of Human Resources Management to determine the best course of action in implementing the suggested reforms. 

    United Nations Common System

    On this agenda item, the Committee had before it a report of the International Civil Service Commission for 2004 (A/59/30, Vol. I and II) which contains its latest recommendations on the Organization’s pay and benefits system, contractual arrangements and conditions of service of international staff.

    As part of its ongoing review of the pay and benefits system, the Commission is considering possible new approaches to the way United Nations staff are currently paid, striving to link job requirements with desired competencies, learning, development and assessment of staff performance.  If implemented, such initiatives as broad-banding and performance pay would be the most significant departure from the traditional system of remuneration since the United Nations was established.  To test the validity of the proposed changes, on 1 July 2004, the Commission launched a pilot study on broad-banding/performance pay, to be implemented in several volunteer organizations for a period of three years.

    In an effort to further modernize and simplify the system of allowances within the common system, the ICSC also agreed on a schedule, which includes a review of education grants, mobility and hardship pay this year; dependency benefits, pensions and separation pay in 2005; and leave entitlements and language benefits in 2006.  Also addressed have been post adjustment issues, including those related to the fact that 10 countries joined the European Union this year.  Continuing its consideration of the Organization’s contractual arrangements, last summer, the Commission considered a model for continuing, fixed-term and temporary appointments, including details on various conditions of employment.  It decided to further refine the model in collaboration with organizations and staff and provide a final report on the matter to the sixtieth session of the Assembly.

    At the conclusion of the main part of its session last year, the Assembly, for the second year in a row, did not support the Commission’s decision to increase the level of hazard pay to locally recruited staff to 30 per cent of the midpoint of the local salary scale.  By terms of the draft, recalling that hazard pay is a payment of symbolic nature, the Assembly asked the Commission to reconsider its intention to uphold its previous decision and to decide on a smaller increase in the level of hazard pay for local staff.  Having returned to that matter this year, the Commission decided that the level of hazard pay granted to locally recruited staff should be increased to 25 per cent of the midpoint of the local salary scale and that the decision would be implemented with effect from 1 June 2004.  The ICSC also made recommendations to the Assembly on the maximum allowable levels of the education grants in various countries. 

    Another decision of the Commission involves granting paternity leaves of up to four weeks to staff members at Headquarters and family duty stations and up to eight weeks for staff at non-family duty stations or in exceptional circumstances, including death of the mother, inadequate medical facilities or complications encountered at time of pregnancy.  The ICSC also recommended to the Assembly that the current base/floor salary scale for the Professional and higher categories be increased by 1.88 per cent through standard consolidation procedures, on a no-loss/no-gain basis, with effect from 1 January 2005.

    Also before the Committee was a Secretary-General’s note transmitting the report of the Panel on the Strengthening of the International Civil Service (document A/59/153), which held three sessions in Vienna, New York and Geneva this year.  Established by resolution 57/285 of 20 December 2002, the Panel produced 19 recommendations aimed at strengthening the international civil service and enhancing the effectiveness of human resources management in the United Nations system. 

    Among the issues addressed by the Panel, is the need to build stronger trust between the administration and staff; broaden the consultative process among all parties; provide the General Assembly and the organizations involved with guidance on the best practices throughout the world; place greater focus on performance in the determination of pay; restore competitiveness in the conditions of employment; and invest in the continuous learning of staff.  The Panel also recommends that the Commission continue work to ensure greater cohesiveness in organizations’ contractual arrangements, which should reflect best practices, provide the necessary degree of flexibility, and be tailored to the needs of a modern, global international civil service.

    Also suggested in the report is full implementation of the mobility system, while taking steps to ensure facilitated access to work permits for spouses of staff members.  The Panel recommends that the Commission undertake a comprehensive reassessment of the compensation policy and incentives for service in difficult and hazardous conditions.  The General Assembly and other legislative organs should earmark an adequate proportion of assessed contributions for safety and security purposes.

    Comments of the Secretary-General and the Chief Executives Board for Coordination on the report of the Panel on strengthening of the ICSC are contained in document A/59/399.

    The Committee also has before it the Secretary-General note on the administrative and financial implementation of the 2004 report of the International Civil Service Commission (A/59/429) and the related report of the ACABQ.

    Introduction of Documents

    CATHERINE BERTINI, Under-Secretary-General for Management, introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on human resources management reform.  Among its other aspects, she mentioned the fact that the time taken for recruitment had decreased from an average of 275 days in 1999 to the current 174 days.  However, it was still far from the 120-day target set by the Assembly.  In the report, the Assembly was invited to consider reducing the time for advertising vacancies to 45 days from the current 60 days in order to expedite further the selection and recruitment process. 

    She said that, in response to the request in resolution 57/300 for the Secretary-General to consider ways to promote General Service staff to Professional posts, the report proposed that the percentage of P-2 posts available for successful candidates of the G-to-P exam be raised from 10 to 25 per cent.  Another proposal referred to a roster of high-scoring, but unplaced G-to-P candidates, allowing them to apply for non-geographic posts for a period not to exceed three years.

    On gender distribution, she said that proposals before the Committee included strengthening accountability on the part of programme managers, expanding a human resources planning exercise, and increasing the pool of qualified women candidates.  To improve equitable geographical representation, the

    Secretary-General was proposing further measures, including a “fast-track” recruitment procedure for candidates from un- and underrepresented Member States to posts at the P-4 level.  The Secretariat was also planning to request each permanent mission of un- and underrepresented countries to identify a focal point, with whom it could work on various aspects of the issue.  Measures had been initiated to establish a post in the OHRM as a focal point for geographical representation.

    On the proposed amendments to Staff Rules (document A/59/213), she said that most of them were of a technical nature.  The most important were the changes relating to the Joint Disciplinary Committee, which would permit full implementation of the rules governing financial responsibility of staff members for financial losses due to their gross negligence.  In conclusion, she said that the Secretariat was counting on the support of the Committee and looked forward to a constructive discussion on human resources management with a common goal of moving forward the Secretary-General’s reform.

    JANE HOLL LUTE, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, introduced the report on staffing field missions, saying that with the number of complex missions increasing all over the world, the number of civilian police in the field was expected to increase by about one third.  Also expected was a significant increase in the number of civilian international staff in the field.  The operations today were not only greater in number, but also in the nature of their requirements, taking account of economic, social and other aspects of the situation on the ground.  In complex conflict and post-conflict environments, the Organization was competing for the most talented people with high expertise.

    Why use the 100 series? she asked.  The 300-series appointments used today had been designed many years ago.  There was a longer-term requirement for staff in the field today, and there was really no justification for inventing a new kind of appointment.  The 100 series was much more suitable to the needs in the field, and its compensation package was designed for longer-term employment.  It was not a permanent appointment, by any means.  She hoped it would reduce the competition for quality staff and help harmonize conditions of service for staff serving in the field, implementing the principle of equal pay for equal work.

    Thus, the Committee had before it a proposal to use the 100 series for the appointment of staff in field missions for periods of six months or longer, for functions for which there were continuing requirements.  The 300 series would then be limited to its “proper use”:  for specific functions that were clearly time-bound, such as electoral activities, technical assessments, temporary assistance, or other short-term projects.  

    VLADIMIR KUZNETSOV, Chairman of the ACABQ, presented that body’s report, saying that human resources management was a key area in the administration of the United Nations.  It was essential for the officials charged with development and implementation of human resources management to take account of the lessons learned, taking into account the input from both management and staff. 

    Regarding G-to-P recruitment, he said that it was a complex issue with many competing interests.  The Advisory Committee trusted that ways could be found to balance the concerns of unrepresented and underrepresented Member States with the need to uphold staff morale and afford people with long experience and obvious talent a means to make a greater contribution to the Organization.  The percentage of posts to be reserved for the G to P examination was a matter of policy to be determined by the Assembly.  However, the ACABQ noted that the limited number of posts under discussion pointed to a larger problem -- the very small number of entry level P posts in the Secretariat.  The issue of redressing the imbalance in the grading pyramid would first need to be addressed, if the goals of rejuvenation of the Secretariat and realizing the legitimate aspirations of the General Service staff were both to be achieved. 

    DILEEP NAIR, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, introduced the OIOS reports before the Committee.  On international recruitment for the G category (document A/59/388, dated 22 October), he said that the report assessed granting international benefits for staff in the General Service category throughout the Organization, at an estimated cost of $9.25 million per biennium.  The OIOS study had focused on the Text Processing Section of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, which employs the overwhelming majority of G staff granted international status. 

    He said that the current determination regarding the absence of skills in the local labour market in New York was based on insufficient or out-of-date knowledge.  The skills to fill posts expected to become vacant in the Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish and Russian Text Processing Units were likely to be found in the local market.  Therefore, the OIOS recommended a variety of proactive recruitment strategies and suggested that testing efforts be redoubled.  To realize savings from local recruitment, the Organization should also make available resources for intensifying recruitment and testing activities.  It was also important to emphasize that local recruitment should not compromise the quality of the product. 

    Another finding of the OIOS was that under the current interpretation of the Staff Rules, international benefits were granted to candidates for positions in the non-English Text Processing Units even when they lived in, and were recruited from, the local area, he added, unless they were nationals or permanent residents of the host country.  The Office recommended that the Organization consider granting international status only to staff in the G category who had been recruited from outside the area of the duty station.  If the Organization were to fill all G posts in New York Text Processing Units vacated by retiring staff with local candidates, the total savings would amount to approximately $8.1 million over the next 10 years. 

    Overall, OIOS had noted that human resources management reform had achieved significant success to date, he said, primarily through a sharp increase in organizational focus on promoting staff mobility and career development.  While greater opportunities and flexibility with regard to staff selection had increased the geographical range of candidates neither the quality of applicants, nor career prospects for junior staff had improved, however. 

    The authority for recruitment now resided at the appropriate level of the Organization, he continued.  The OIOS found that sensible, since programme managers, who were accountable for programme delivery, now made recruitment decisions.  Central review bodies had also proven to be an effective mechanism.  He also noted introduction of mobility as a profound culture change in the Organization and said that an expanded training curriculum represented significant progress toward meeting development needs, fulfilling career aspirations, building competencies and developing a culture of continuous learning.

    In order for the reform to achieve its key objectives, the Organization needed to concentrate on changing the culture and monitoring progress, he added.  The OHRM should immediately and effectively address the lack of confidence in reform initiatives.  Also, in order to gauge the progress of human management reform, the OHRM should utilize strategic plans with indicators, benchmarks and timelines.

    Presenting the report on DPKO’s recruiting, he said that the staffing of the Personnel Management and Support Service, which was responsible for functions including field recruitment, had increased from 71 posts in June 2000 to 115 posts in January 2002.  That increase had been primarily justified by the need to develop the capacity to implement relevant recommendations of the Panel on

    United Nations Peace Operations.  In the OIOS’ opinion, the DPKO needed to formulate a realistic timetable for completing pending tasks and hold its managers accountable for their completion.  Efficiency gains resulting from implementing new information technology systems and delegating recruitment authority to the field should lead to an appropriate resizing of the Personnel Management and Support Service’s staffing level.

    The Joint Inspection Unit report on the management review of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was introduced through video-conferencing from Geneva by Chairman of the Unit, ION GORITA.  He said that, in conducting its review, the inspectors considered numerous recent audits, oversight reviews, and evaluation studies, especially the 2002 review by the Office of Internal Oversight Services.  The JIU review focused on the aspects not covered in depth by other reports, with an emphasis on recruitment policies and staff composition, as requested by the Commission on Human Rights.  Believing that it was not advisable to address issues in transition, the JIU report generally avoided structural and organizational recommendations, except in those cases where a significant contribution to efficiency could be made.

    BACRE WALY NDIAYE, Director of the New York Office, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced the comments of the Secretary-General to the JIU report.  The Office of the High Commissioner welcomed most of the recommendations and was working to determine the best course of action in implementing the suggested reforms.  In particular, the Office continued to work on an action plan to ensure better geographical balance among its staff.

    Statements

    RONALD ELKHUIZEN (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, generally concurred with the recommendations of the ACABQ, and thanked the Advisory Committee for its in-depth review of the reform process and the new proposals, and for its pragmatic, action-oriented recommendations.

    The Organization had benefited greatly from the effort to reform human resources management.  That effort was of great importance to the European Union, which believed that staff was the most valuable asset of the Organization.  Welcoming the omnibus report A/59/263, which described results to date and also addressed future activities, the Union paid tribute to the recruitment goals identified in the report to help develop a more versatile, multi-skilled international civil service and to select staff on the basis of merit.  They supported entirely the comments made by the OIOS and ACABQ about the further development of workforce mobility.  They also agreed with the ACABQ that the Secretariat should address more comprehensively and proactively the issue of staff rejuvenation.

    The Union stood ready to participate in negotiations on a number of actions proposed by the Secretary-General that require intergovernmental decisions.  Among those, the Union would seriously consider the detailed request to expand career opportunities for General Services.  The Union also welcomed proposals to streamline contractual arrangements that currently seemed unwieldy, and difficult to manage.  The proposed framework encompassing three types of contracts --continuing, fixed, and shot-term -- seemed to give the Secretariat the right tools for further successful implementation of human resources management reform.  They would seek further clarification on how that system would be introduced, what would be the short-term effects, and what was its expected time frame.  The Union assumed that any system that the Assembly might put in place this autumn could serve as a blueprint for the ICSC efforts toward developing a system-wide framework for contractual relations.  The Union welcomed in principle the proposal to reduce the deadline to react to vacancy announcements from 60 to 45 days, which could substantially reduce the recruitment period.  The Union stood ready to discuss the Secretariat’s proposals regarding the 100 and 300 series appointments for staff in field missions.

    Taking note of proposals to improve recruitment for unrepresented and underrepresented countries, the Union would seek further information on the proposed fast-track procedure.  They welcomed the proposal to establish focal points on that issue to facilitate collaboration between the Office of Human Resources Management and the countries concerned.  The Union also welcomed the proposed actions presented in A/59/263/Add. 2 on improving gender distribution in the Secretariat, urging the Secretary-General to further continue efforts to improve gender balance and improve policies and programmes.

    ARNE B. HØNNINGSTAD (Norway) concentrated on matters of particular importance to the ongoing reform process of human resources management.  First, his delegation emphasized that conditions of service for United Nations personnel must be at least on par with those of other up-to-date international organizations.  That was not only a question of a competitive compensation system, but also of quality of life.  More could be done to facilitate the integration and well-being of United Nations personnel and their families in the various parts of the world where they were stationed.  The human resources management system must contain an up-to-date family policy with clear goals and indicators that consider, among other things, the needs of nursing mothers, parents with young children, spouse employment, and the necessity for more flexible working hours.  Those elements were also of great importance to recruitment and gender equality.

    While noting efforts by the Secretariat to promote gender mainstreaming, he emphasized that under-representation of women remained a serious concern, especially at the senior level.  He fully endorsed the new initiatives and actions taken to improve the situation.  He also supported the proposals to shorten vacancy announcements from 60 to 45 days and to make more P-2 posts available for the promotion of General Service staff.  Further, he supported the proposal to simplify existing contractual arrangements through the use of only three types of appointments that would be used for all Secretariat functions, departments, duty stations, and field missions.  However, proper transitional measures must be instituted for such a major change.

    He commended the Secretary-General for his report on improving equitable geographical representation in the United Nations Secretariat.  Norway had been among the underrepresented Member States as far back as there were statistics, so for at least the last 10 years.  He welcomed the new focal point at the P-5 level in the Office of Human Resources Management and very much appreciated the proposal to introduce fast-track recruitment for candidates from unrepresented and underrepresented Members States for P-4 posts and above.

    PARK YOON-JUNE (Republic of Korea) commended the Secretariat for its efforts at human resources management reform and hoped those necessary initiatives would continue.  His delegation was particularly keen to see the staff selection system strengthened and the management system enhanced.

    Registering concern over the 15 unrepresented and 10 underrepresented Member States, he would like to see continued efforts to expand membership until full geographic representation was attained.  He welcomed the important measures proposed by the Secretariat in its report on that subject and concurred with the opinions of the ACABQ, which supported the fast-track recruitment procedure and appointment of a focal point at the P-5 level at the Office of Human Resources Management.  He looked forward to hearing more concrete plans on those matters.

    Regarding promotion from the General Services to the Professional category, his delegation stressed that recruitment should be based on highest qualifications.  His Government had serious concerns about increasing the number of P-2 posts available for the promotion of General services Staff, and concurred with the recommendation of the ACABQ that those who passed the competitive exam could alternatively be posted to duty stations with high vacancy rates.

    On the proposed change to contractual arrangements, he wondered about the financial implications and the long-term effects on human resources management.  If any research was done on that subject, including what would be the financial burden on the Member States, he would like to see a report on the findings.  As to the 100- and 300-series appointments in field missions, it did not seem that that issue was fully considered, in view of existing qualified national staff.  His delegation also noted the ACABQ’s concern that the financial implications of that proposal did not include possible long-term consequences, and would like more information on that.

    His delegation attached high importance to equitable geographical representation, and believed that the peacekeeping budgets, while not subject to that requirement should nevertheless give due consideration to the issue.  He also hoped that concrete guidelines on recruitment and promotion of staff from former peacekeeping missions could be developed as a priority, that the Galaxy system might be used more effectively to staff peacekeeping operations, and that staffing authority could be delegated to those missions.

    Introduction of Further Reports

    EUGENIUSZ WYZNER (Poland), Vice-Chairman of the ICSC, introduced the report of that body on behalf of its Chairman.  He said that when the Commission had embarked on its review of the pay and benefits system, it was well aware that, if implemented, the pay for performance and broad-banding would be the most significant change to the remuneration system since the Organization was established.  The study of the new approaches through a pilot study would be rigorous and would clearly need to be successful before the ICSC could proceed with the implementation across the common system.  On 1 July, the pilot had been launched in four volunteer organizations -- International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and World Food Programme (WFP).  For the next three years, the new approaches would be closely monitored and supported by the Commission and its secretariat.

    The Commission had also begun its review of the methodology to determine the level of the education grant and the mobility and hardship allowance, he continued.  The ICSC would continue its consideration of that issue in the spring of 2005 and planned to present its final recommendations to the Assembly in its next report.

    The Commission had also spent some time on the issue of the base/floor salary scale and the mobility and hardship allowance, concluding that one of the scheme’s major objectives was to be able to get the right person in the right place at the right time.  The intention of the Commission in the review was not to seek a reduction of benefits for staff, but to see how best to support the Charter of the organizations through its appropriate application.  After extensive debate, the Commission had decided to separate the mobility element from the hardship element and de-link related allowances from the base/floor salary scale.  However, to respond to the concerns of the organizations and staff, it had agreed to establish a working group comprising Commission members, representatives from the ICSC secretariat, organizations and staff, to develop various options for compensating staff for service at hardship duty stations and encouraging mobility.  The group was also expected to estimate the cost of those options and submit its recommendations to the Commission next spring.

    Regarding the proposal on the Senior Management Service, he said that a progress report on the matter had been received by the Commission this year, in which it was informed that developmental work on a Senior Service had continued.  A set of core competencies and agreed common criteria had been established for the service, and the Chief Executives Board had approved the establishment of the Service in April 2004.  The ICSC was surprised at receiving that news.  While acknowledging the executive heads’ responsibility to take measures to enhance the managerial capacity and performance of senior staff, the Commission affirmed that it was the only body responsible for recommending to the Assembly the establishment of the common system of a separate category of staff or such an entity as a Senior Management Service.

    He also recalled that a year ago, the Commission had reviewed the methodologies for surveys of best conditions of employment at Headquarters and non-Headquarters duty stations.  On the basis of the revised methodology, it had conducted for the first time in April a survey of best prevailing conditions of service for G and other locally recruited categories of staff at Madrid.  It was the first application of the revised survey methodology. As a result, a new salary scale had been recommended to the Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization -- the latest specialized agency of the United Nations family. 

    The comments of the ICSC on the report of the Panel on the Strengthening of International Civil Service could be found in Volume II of the Commission’s annual report.  The ICSC noted with interest and appreciation the report of the Panel.  Nevertheless, the Commission had also expressed certain concerns at some of the Panel’s recommendations, since they would, in fact, serve to weaken the Commission and ultimately the international civil service.  A few recommendations had a direct impact on the Statute of the Commission, which had been established by the Assembly as an independent expert body to provide it with impartial technical advice.  A review of the Statute did not fall within the mandate of the Panel.  The Commission’s independence was crucial for the realization of the objectives for which it had been established. 

    Ms. BERTINI introduced the report of the Panel on the Strengthening of the ICSC, saying that one of the key elements of success was the quality of the membership of the Commission and its range of expertise.  The Panel had concluded that it could be assured through more rigorous application of the Statute of the ICSC.  Unanimous conclusions and recommendations of the Panel were now before the Committee.  The Secretary-General supported those recommendations and urged Member States to adopt them.

    Continuing, she highlighted the recommendations relating to the management and reform of the ICSC (recommendations 1 through 8), which, in fact, were “very simple and modest” proposals, underlying the need to implement what had already been approved by the Assembly.  As a source of technical expertise and technical advice, the Commission needed to be further strengthened.  It was important to enhance trust between the Commission, the administration and staff, as well as collaboration between the Commission and the main stakeholders. “Isn’t that a very basic recommendation?” she asked.  The Panel had also recommended that the Commission’s work be given the importance and attention it deserved within the United Nations. That was also critically important.  Another recommendation dealt with the need to fully formalize the actions agreed to by the Commission in 1998, including practices intended to broaden the consultative process among all parties in the establishment of the agenda, identification of priority issues and elaboration of documentation.  That was a given that should be easily put in place.

    Also recommended was greater use of working groups, where appropriate, she continued.  As for the Statute of the Commission, the Panel had not recommended changing it, but strictly applying its provisions in respect of qualifications of the Commission’s members and consultations for membership in the ICSC.  The Panel recommended introducing specific criteria to assist in focusing all phases of the selection process on the requirements of article 3 of the Statute.  The Panel also said that Member States should remember those requirements when presenting candidates for the Commission, with a wide range of relevant expertise. Currently, “there is no such thing as a consultative process in that respect”, she said. 

    The report also recommended introducing greater gender balance in the Commission -- that was up to the Member States.  As for the recommendation that future appointments should be limited to two terms, “what a good idea”, she said.  It made sense to introduce new blood and new ideas to the Commission. The Chief Executive Board for Coordination (CEB) had welcomed the findings and recommendations of the Panel.  It was vital for the United Nations to employ and retain the best quality staff.  The General Assembly more than ever needed advice and support of a strong ICSC.  In that connection, the Commission’s comments on the Panel’s report were a source of deep disappointment.  “Please do not count on the ICSC to reform from within, for it has made clear that even the Panel’s modest proposals are not acceptable to it.  The next action is up to you”, she said.

    VLADIMIR BELOV, Chief of the Common Services Unit, Office of Programme Planning and Budget Division, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on administrative and financial implications of decisions and recommendations contained in report of the ICSC (document A/59/429).  The costs of implementing the recommendations were estimated at $2.3 million for current biennium, and would be considered when computing the budget performance report to be submitted during the current session.

    Statements

    DAVID DUTTON (Australia), also speaking on behalf of Canada and New Zealand, noted that improving performance management systems and linking pay to performance was a key human resources challenge system-wide.  Pleased to see that a pilot study on broad-banding and pay-for-performance was moving ahead, he hoped the Commission would evaluate the results and make recommendations for the common system as soon as practicable.

    He welcomed the Commission’s review of all grants and allowances, intended to simplify and modernize the systems.  Simpler means should be found to deliver benefits, increase transparency, and reduce the need for administration.  Among the queries for the Commission was how its three-year schedule would allow it to adapt individual allowances as part of an integrated approach to compensation arrangements.  Regarding the review of the education grant, he asked whether the Commission had re-examined the policy in the common system of funding post-secondary education, and whether there were national civil services or international organizations providing such a generous benefit.  He agreed with the Commission’s decision to de-link allowances for hardship and mobility from the base/floor salary scale, and suggested that the Commission might assess the practices of analogous public employers in developing alternative arrangements.

    While appreciating the Commission’s approach to applying the Noblemaire principle, he did not presently see a compelling argument for broadening the scope of comparison, as the circumstances governing private sector compensation were so different.  However, he would like to learn more about how the ICSC takes the practices of international organizations into account.  The concern expressed by agencies and staff groups about the shrinking competitiveness of United Nations compensation needed to be better supported with evidence.  He fully supported the initiative of the Chief Executives Board to develop the Senior Management Service.  As this initiative was presently under development, it did not yet constitute a new category of staff requiring the Commission’s advice.

    The report of the Panel on Strengthening of the International Civil Service rightly observed that the ICSC should play the leading role in reforming human resources management at the United Nations.  The Panel had offered useful recommendations to enhance the contributions of the Commission, most important of which were the ideas relating to the qualifications and selection of members of Commission members.  He fully supported the Panel’s recommendations to apply strictly the provisions of the Statute with respect to qualifications and appointment, which was not currently being conducted properly.  He also supported the proposal for term limits for Commission members.

    He noted that the human resources rules and standards developed through the Commission had gradually become excessively complicated. The Committee should also consider how the common system could be simplified to ensure that the Commission better serves the agencies, Member States, and staff.

    Mr. ELKHUIZEN (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, highlighted the importance of fair remuneration of United Nations staff, who often performed duties in difficult and dangerous circumstances.  He welcomed the pilot studies on broad-banding and pay-for-performance, which were integral aspects of human resources reform.  He looked forward to receiving regular updates on those studies during the three-year period.

    The Union welcomed efforts by the ICSC to contribute to the debate on streamlining contractual arrangements, while taking note of the comments by the Human Resources Network.  Understanding that there was some difference of opinion on the nature and timing of the ICSC proposals, he called on all participating partners to cooperate constructively and seek common ground, recognizing that there was no difference of opinion on the principle of the framework.

    He also welcomed and endorsed the establishment by the Chief Executives Board of the Senior Management Service, which was a critical component of human resources reform and would lead to improving organizational performance.  He understood that the creation of the Service did not in itself mean a new category of staff, nor a change in their terms of service, but would welcome further clarification on that. 

    Finally, he endorsed many of the recommendations contained in the report of the Panel on the Strengthening of the ICSC. Taking note of the comments of the Commissioners on those recommendations, he would seek additional information during the informal consultations and also offer some thoughts and proposals on the way forward.

    NAJIB ELJI (Syria) said that a strong international civil service was the cornerstone of any international organization.  He took note of the reports on the item and expressed appreciation to the ICSC for its efforts.

    Turning to the pilot study on performance pay and broad-banding, he wondered about the value of the proposed system, which had never been applied in international organizations before. The proposed changes could have a negative impact on the performance of staff.  Even the private sector only introduced such measures in a very limited manner.  The pilot study was not being conducted on a large-enough basis to allow a useful evaluation.  Application of the proposed system could also have an impact on the Pension Fund. 

    On contracts, he urged the Commission to seek the best possible arrangements. The crux of the matter must be job security, and it was important to take into account the opinions of the staff.  Permanent contracts provided real job security. The Organization’s Administrative Tribunal in several judgements had confirmed the importance of the permanent status, which was needed to promote a healthy environment and increase productivity. While approving continuing contracts, some organizations had also kept the permanent contractual arrangements.

    As for mobility and hazard pay, he said that the debate of the ICSC had been interesting, and he looked forward to a system adopted by the General Assembly. He expressed great concern that hazard pay had not been granted to the staff of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), who worked under very difficult circumstances. The same applied to all staff who worked in occupied Arab territories.

    In conclusion, he agreed with the ICSC that the Panel had exceeded its mandate when it dealt with the substantive mandate of the Commission.

    Mr. JONAH (Sierra Leone) said that this morning the Committee had heard some “substantive presentations”. Some fundamental issues had been raised, which could have great impact on the work of the United Nations.  In that connection, he expressed concern that the Committee did not have sufficient time to respond and analyse the problems involved. Proposed reforms could either strengthen or weaken the system, and Member States needed more time to address the issue.  The independence of the ICSC was of great importance.  Last year, the Committee had considered similar issues in relation to the JIU.  Such items could not be dealt with in a closed room.

    DON MACKAY (New Zealand), Committee Chairman, said that the Committee would have time tomorrow and Friday morning for formal discussion of the issues involved.

    JERRY KRAMER (Canada), taking note of the comments of the representative from Sierra Leone, pointed out that the Committee had invested a great deal of time in improving the work of the JIU, and that such efforts were perhaps even more important with regard to the ICSC, which drove 80 per cent of the costs of the United Nations system.

    Mr. JONAH (Sierra Leone) said his delegation had wanted to hear from a staff representative before making a statement, and asked when would the Committee hear from the staff.

    The CHAIRMAN said that a staff representative would address the Committee tomorrow.

    NONYE UDO (Nigeria) echoed the request of Canada for a written statement from Ms. Bertini, Under-Secretary-General for Management.  Her delegation was also pleased with the reassurance that the staff representative would speak tomorrow.  She supported keeping the item open until Friday, so there would be ample opportunity for comments.

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