Press Releases

    GA/AB/3666
    31 March 2005

    Redeployment of Posts “Experiment”, Development Assistance Discussed in Budget Committee

    NEW YORK, 30 March (UN Headquarters) -- The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning took up a note on an experiment to give the Secretary-General greater flexibility in meeting the Organization’s evolving needs through the redeployment of posts.  It also concluded its debate on the review of the regular programme of technical cooperation and the Development Account.

    The experiment involving the redeployment of posts was authorized by budget resolution 58/270 of 23 December 2003 and authorized redeployment of up to 50 posts in 2004-2005.  According to a note of the Secretary-General, introduced by Acting United Nations Controller Warren Sach, initial experience had shown that very few posts were available for redeployment to other programmes.  Five posts had been identified for redeployment on a permanent basis.  Another 12 posts had been redeployed between sections under temporary administrative arrangements to meet immediate needs.  Temporary redeployments had been authorized pending completion of recruitment and placement for existing vacancies.

    Several delegates raised doubts about the feasibility of the experiment, since only five posts had been identified for redeployment.  Speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, Jamaica’s representative asked for more elaboration of the problems encountered in the implementation of the experiment.

    The representative of the United States said that he had thought that, in approving the experiment, the Assembly was doing a favour for the Secretary-General, who had complained about the lack of flexibility in moving resources around.  He was disappointed that little effort had been made to use that flexibility.  He added that, despite the disappointing results, he still believed that the concept of moving resources from low-priority to high-priority areas should be further pursued.

    Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Belgium’s representative also regretted that the experiment had not had the desired results.  It should be continued, however.  Guidelines should be provided and priorities set.

    High-priority areas should be given more resources than lower-priority areas. 

    Norway’s representative said that, upon adoption of resolution 58/270, his delegation had regretted that wider authorization was not given to the Secretary-General to manage the Organization’s human resources.  Redeployment of staff according to the priorities of the Organization should be a matter-of-fact authority for the Secretary-General.  Today’s discussion should be seen in the context of the Secretary-General’s sweeping proposals on the reform of the Secretariat, which he had made in his report to the summit meeting in September.

    Concluding its debate on the review of the regular programme of technical cooperation and the Development Account, the Committee heard answers to questions raised during its meeting on 17 March (see Press Release GA/AB/3663) from Sharon Van Buerle, Director ad interim, Programme Planning and Budget Division, and Nikolai Zaitsev, Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

    In other matters, Sandra Haji-Ahmed, Director of Operational Services Division, Department of Management, and John Almstrom, Officer-in-Charge, Division of Regional Operations, Department of Safety and Security, addressed questions raised by Egypt’s representative on 24 March on the issue of the advertising of several D-level posts for the Department of Safety and Security.

    The representatives of Japan, Cuba, Canada, Egypt, Nigeria and India also took the floor.  The Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), Vladimir Kuznetsov, also made a statement.

    The Fifth Committee will meet again on Friday, 1 April, at 3 p.m., to conclude its first resumed session.

    Background

    The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning was expected to conclude its debate on the review of the regular programme of technical cooperation and the Development Account (for information on this agenda item, see Press Release GA/AB/3663 of 17 March), and consider a report on human resources management.

    The Committee had before it the Secretary-General’s note (document A/59/753) on the experiment involving redeployment of posts within the United Nations.  The Secretary-General recalls that by the terms of budget resolution 58/270 of 23 December 2003, he was authorized, on an experimental basis, to begin redeployment of up to 50 posts in 2004-2005 “to meet the Organization’s evolving needs in attaining its mandated” goals.  Entrusting the Secretary-General with greater flexibility, the experiment was to be limited in nature and did not imply any change in the human resources management policies of the United Nations.

    [That action was taken on the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) on the need to manage the Secretariat staffing table as a whole, keeping the grade level of posts under constant review.  According to the ACABQ, with departments and offices not “owning” posts at particular grade levels, such an approach would involve exchanges of posts among various units and sections of the budget.]

    According to document, initial experience has shown that very few posts are available for redeployment to another programme.  However, five posts have been identified for redeployment on a permanent basis.  One P-5 post is to be redeployed from the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management to strengthen the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.  In exchange, one P-4 post is to be redeployed from the Office of the High Representative to the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management.  Following integration of information technology and human resource functions into the Division of Management at the Vienna Office, three posts have been redeployed there from the Office on Drugs and Crime.

    Another 12 posts have been redeployed between sections under temporary administrative arrangements to meet immediate needs, either of a short-term nature or pending longer-term arrangements to be proposed for 2006-2007.  Temporary redeployments have been authorized pending completion of recruitment and placement for existing vacancies.  Consistent with the terms of resolution 58/270, all redeployments, whether temporary or permanent, have been carried out only after all possibilities of using resources available within budget sections that will benefit from the transfer have been exhaustively explored.

    At the same time, the Secretary-General notes that, with increased focus on prioritization, realignment and reallocation of resources within programmes, budget proposals continue to reflect significant numbers of post redeployments within sections. The budget proposal for 2004-2005 reflected redeployment of 810 posts within or between sections.  In the forthcoming biennium it is intended to propose a further 242 redeployments.

    While no implications for human resources management policies have been noted thus far, the Secretariat intends to address the progress of and lessons learned from the experiment, on the basis of the experience of 2004 and 2005, in the context of the comprehensive report during the Assembly’s sixtieth session.

    Introduction of Documents

    The Secretary-General’s note on the redeployment of posts was introduced by Acting United Nations Controller, WARREN SACH.

    Statements

    NORMA ELAINE TAYLOR ROBERTS (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing Countries and China, expressed surprise at finding some aspects in the report that were not related to the experiment.  The reference in paragraph 6 to redeployment of 810 posts in the programme budget was not relevant, since the experiment bore no relation to resource requirements sought through the budget instrument.  Also, in paragraph 5, the report referred to temporary redeployment of 12 posts pending completion of a recruitment and placement process.  That was a normal procedure, she said, and bore no relation to the experiment.  She asked whether the ACABQ had received periodic information on actions taken to implement the exercise.

    She said the Group of 77 emphasized that the authority to redeploy posts should in no way prevent the Secretary-General from requesting additional posts.  Also, the experiment should not be implemented as a result of Assembly resolutions calling for the implementation of decisions “within existing resources”.  Further, the experiment should not exacerbate high vacancy rates in any budget section.  Noting that over the last 15 months of the experiment, only five posts had been identified for redeployment, she said serious questions were raised about the feasibility of the exercise.  She would have liked to find an elaboration of the difficulties encountered in its implementation, as well as an elaboration of the implications of the experiment for the human resources management policies.

    Mr. HONNINGSTAD (Norway) said that upon adoption of resolution 58/270, his delegation had regretted that wider authorization was not given to the Secretary-General to manage the Organization’s human resources.  He would have liked to see a more extensive follow-up to the Secretary-General’s proposals on the reform and strengthening of the United Nations.  In particular, he had hoped for better streamlining and more flexibility in the management of the Secretariat and staff.

    With only 17 posts redeployed according to the authorization given in resolution 58/270, he said it was easy to ascertain that something must be amiss.  There should be a more in-depth discussion of the reasons for that.  His delegation believed that the provisions in paragraph 14 of the resolution were too restrictive and should be abolished.  Redeployment of staff according to the priorities of the Organization should be a matter-of-fact authority for the Secretary-General.  Today’s discussion should be seen in the context of the Secretary-General’s sweeping proposals on the reform of the Secretariat, which he had made in his report to the summit meeting in September.  Member States should work with the Secretary-General to undertake a comprehensive reform and modernization of the Organization.  The Fifth Committee was destined to play a crucial role in that reform process.

    HITOSHI KOZAKI (Japan) noted that, so far, five posts had been redeployed across budget sections on a permanent basis.  He said that redeployment of posts needed to be implemented in order to “meet the evolving needs of the Organization”, according to resolution 58/270. Looking forward to progress on the issue, he said he would like to take up the issue in the 60th  session of the Assembly.

    PABLO BERTI (Cuba), associating himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77, said the Secretary-General’s note was inadequate and did not reflect the impact of the measure on general recruitment.  Furthermore, there seemed to be some lack of transparency.  There was a need for more justification.  He asked for clarification of the last sentence in paragraph 3 of the note, which read:  “Consequently, wherever possible, posts have been redeployed during the course of the biennium to meet the evolving needs of the Organization”.  Noting that the post redeployed from the Drugs and Crime Programme had to do with integration of information technology and human resources in the UN Vienna Office, he said such redeployment further reduced regular posts assigned to the programme.  He asked for more details about redeployment indicated in paragraph 5, and what the intentions of the Secretariat were concerning “longer-term arrangements”.

    THOMAS A. REPASCH (United States) said that he had thought that, in approving the experiment in December 2003, the Assembly was doing a favour for the Secretary-General and the Secretariat, who had complained about the lack of flexibility in moving resources around. From the first performance report last December, he had been disappointed that little effort had been made to use that flexibility.  His disappointment had been confirmed by the report before the Committee today.  In that connection, he would like to hear from the ACABQ, which had been an instigator of the proposal to provide such flexibility and manage the Organization’s staffing table on a global basis.

    He added that,despite the disappointing results, he still believed that the concept of moving resources from low-priority to high-priority areas should be further pursued.  It should be further discussed in the context of the budget for 2006-2007 next fall.

    SHANNON-MARIE SONI (Canada) reiterated that her delegation was a strong advocate of enabling the Secretary-General to use the staffing table in a more flexible manner.  As the senior manager, he must be able to take a horizontal view of the Organization in redeploying the resources for the implementation of the mandate.  Resolution 58/270 had initiated an important experiment, and she encouraged the Secretary-General to try harder in the remaining period.  The issue needed to be further addressed during the 60th session.

    KARL VAN DEN BOSSCHE (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the experiment was a crucial item in providing the Secretary-General the necessary flexibility. He regretted that the experiment had not had the desired results, but it should be continued at the appropriate level and the Secretary-General should be encouraged to continue the experiment.  Guidelines should be provided and priorities set. High-priority areas should be given more resources than lower-priority areas.  He supported the idea of experiments as elaborated in the Secretary-General’s recent report “In larger freedom”. 

    YASSER ELNAGGAR (Egypt), associating himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77, said the fact that only five posts had been identified, but not yet redeployed, cast doubts on the feasibility of the experiment and its future expansion. Moving resources from low- to high-priority areas raised the question of who identified the areas -- Members States or the Secretariat?  Who determined “evolving needs”?  Problems stemmed from the fact that the proposal had not been initiated by the Secretariat and that it could give no information during the discussion of the proposal. 

    Responding to questions from the floor, Mr. SACH said that the note before the Committee was the second of the four reports on the experiment to be considered during the biennium.  Information in paragraph 6 of the report was intended to put the experiment in context, looking at overall effectiveness of the budgetary resources.  It was basically about realigning resources with programme needs, and most realignments took place in the context of the budget preparation.  A budget that was ossified and did not have posts moving from one biennium to the next was something to be concerned about.  At the same time, “huge numbers” of redeployments in implementation would reflect badly on a budget that did not fully meet the needs of the Organization for the period concerned.

    He went on to provide information regarding particular posts redeployed, saying that the redeployment of P-5 and P-4 posts from the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management and the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States had been identified, but had yet to be implemented.  The other three had been already implemented, allowing for more efficient delivery of administrative and common services in Vienna.  That was where flexibility had proved to be useful.

    To another question, he said that, given the conditions of the resolution --that the experiment should not have implications on human resources policies -- the Secretariat had been careful to ensure that that was the case.  At this stage, there had been no unexpected results from the implementation of flexibility. The experiment made no difference for external recruitment. All posts were being advertised through the Galaxy.  With four reports scheduled on the matter, there was no shortage on information flowing to the Advisory Committee, but he would be happy to provide any additional information, should it be required.

    He added that if redeployment changes were to be permanent, they needed to be reflected in the budget for 2006-2007.  One general point not reflected in the note was that the scope of redeployment was limited not only by the scope of the resolution, but also by the low number of posts available for redeployment.

    Chairman of the ACABQ, VLADIMIR KUZNETSOV, recalled that the Advisory Committee in its report on the regular budget proposal for 2004-2005 had dealt extensively with the issue of management of staff, stressing the need to view allocation of posts as a dynamic, rather than static phenomenon.  Among other things, the ACABQ had pointed to the need to manage the Secretariat staffing table as a whole, keeping the grade level of posts under constant review.  With departments and offices not “owning” posts at particular grade levels, such an approach would involve exchanges of posts among various units and sections of the budget.  Flexibility afforded by staff turnover would also be useful in staff reclassifications.

    Since the approval of the experiment by the Assembly, the Advisory Committee had not received formal information from the Secretariat, but had discussed the issue with the Secretariat in the context of human resources and first performance reports.  The Secretariat had shared with the ACABQ the difficulties and constraints in the implementation of the project by referring, first of all, to the fact that the potential for further redeployment had been exhausted, as a result of redeployments in the context of the budget for the current biennium.  The short note before the Committee had not been considered by the ACABQ, which was busy with the peacekeeping budget.  In his personal opinion, it represented a very first step in changing the approach to the staffing management.  He hoped to see more positive results in the future.

    Mr. ELNAGGAR (Egypt) emphasized that, according to resolution 58/270, exchanges of view on the matter between the Secretariat and the ACABQ were mandated.  It was not upon requests of the ACABQ that information should be provided.  The Secretariat should inform the Advisory Committee regularly on actions undertaken.  He understood that the experiment was undertaken in order to give the Secretary-General flexibility to address unexpected requirements. 

    Review of Regular Technical Cooperation Programme and ‘Development Account’

    SHARON VAN BUERLE, Director ad interim, Programme Planning and Budget Division, responding to questions raised during the Committee’s meeting on 17 March, said some questions had been raised regarding paragraph 14 of the report and the scope of the review undertaken in response to Assembly resolution 58/270.  The paragraph in the report was not a quotation, but rather an interpretation of the resolution.  The Secretariat had indicated what aspects had been looked at and had requested the consultant to pursue his work in that regard. 

    Regarding the Development Account, she said the Secretariat had been guided by comments from the ACABQ, indicating that the maintenance provision of the Account would not be recosted.  As for the question whether the regular programme of technical cooperation should be reviewed by the Economic and Social Council or the Second Committee, she suggested that future performance reports be submitted to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)and the Second Committee.  She noted that the regular programme was currently considered by various intergovernmental bodies, including the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, on initiative of the Secretariat. 

    Regarding the question as to why the Programme Planning and Budget Division and not the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) had presented the report, she said DESA was programme manager for the Development Account.  The Regular Programme of Technical Cooperation did not have one focal point.  DESA had been actively involved in the preparation of the report.

    NICOLAI ZAITSEV, DESA, answering other questions, said the September summit should not change anything regarding activities in the current regular programme of technical cooperation.  Assuming that the summit would emphasize the implementation part of outcomes of global conferences, he said capacity-building would become more important than ever and would be crucial to the success of the implementation of the UN development agenda.  In that regard, he looked forward to guidance from the Assembly and the ECOSOC. Currently, DESA was guided by established legislation in the area.

    Regarding linkages between the regular programme of technical cooperation and field operations, he said all assistance was currently given at the national level.  Field projects that existed within the programme in the past were currently not used because of a lack of resources.  They were implemented as a concept in the Development Account section of the budget.

    Other Matters

    Responding to questions that Egypt’s representative had asked last week on the issue of advertising of several D-level posts for the Department of Safety and Security, SANDRA HAJI-AHMED, Director of Operational Services Division, Department of Management, said that the three posts in question had been advertised on 31 December 2004.  The closing date was 1 March of this year.  In line with relevant provisions, there was no pre-dating to 31 December, which was the actual date of the posting.  The job descriptions were formulated under the guidance of the head of the Department of Management.  The D-1 Executive Officer post was advertised on 24 January under the category of Administration.  The Secretariat continued to provide copies of vacancy announcements to those Member States that had indicated their willingness to receive them.  Recently, a note verbale had been sent to all missions asking them to indicate if they wished to receive vacancy announcements.  Some 18 countries had indicated that they wished to do so.

    JOHN ALMSTROM, Officer-in-Charge, Division of Regional Operations, Department of Safety and Security, said that the issue under discussion was a highly technical human resources matter.  The new Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security had seen the D-2 job descriptions after he had taken office on 28 February, and he was looking at the new ones as they came up.  However, the work on job descriptions had started immediately after the resolution on the creation of the Department was adopted.

    Mr. ELNAGGAR (Egypt) said that the responses had confirmed that the Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security had not been consulted on the posts.  He had also highlighted that the current posts that were now put forward for recruitment were being discussed with him.  He found it very peculiar that the resolution was adopted on 23 December and that, with all the vacations at that time, three D-2 posts were posted at that time. He had also made some inquiries with other delegations who had requested receiving hard copies of vacancies, and they had not received any hard copies on those posts.  He had also paid close attention to the announcements on the Galaxy, and had only seen the posts towards the end of January.

    Regarding the Executive Officer post, he believed it was very strange that it had been advertised under the Administrative Officers occupational grouping. There was no reference to Safety and Security at all.  The posts in question should be advertised under the Department for Safety and Security.  If not, at least a reference to it should be made. The issue of the posts pertained to some serious concerns of several delegations, including his own, especially concerning representation within the Secretariat at the high management level.

    Ms. HAJI-AHMED, answering a question as to when announcements had been posted, said that one application had been submitted on 31 December 2004. Subsequent submissions had been received in January and February 2005. The regular announcements clearly specified that the organizational unit was the Department of Safety and Security.  As to the question of hard copies of the announcement being distributed to Member States, she said announcements had been distributed to those Member States that had indicated they wished to receive them. 

    Regular procedures had been followed.  If there had been a breakdown in regular procedures, she would follow up.

    NONYE UDO (Nigeria) said that, according to her recollection, the relevant resolution stipulated that announcements should be circulated to Member States, with the exception of those that had indicated otherwise.

    Mr. BERTI (Cuba) said that paragraph 5 of the resolution indeed clearly indicated that there should be distribution to all Member States, unless Member States indicated otherwise. 

    JAIDEEP MAZUMDAR (India) requested information on the status of those vacancy announcements for posts approved in December.

    Mr. ELNAGGAR (Egypt) said that he would wait for the answers to the questions posed by other delegations regarding vacancy announcements on Friday.  However, he wanted to put on record what had been confirmed by the Secretariat regarding how things were done in connection with the advertising of the posts for the Safety and Security Department.

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