Stressing Need to Rejuvenate United Nations, Fifth Committee Speakers Call for Human Resources Overhaul, Improved Recruitment, Geographical Equity
As the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) resumed its seventy-seventh session, speakers today called on colleagues to help the Secretariat rejuvenate the Organization by creating a more efficient, agile and dynamic system for managing thousands of employees around the globe, while chiding each other for failing to agree in the past five years on ways to overhaul the human resources system.
Uganda’s delegate, speaking for the African Group, said the human resources situation has continued to disintegrate in areas such as mobility, recruitment and equitable geographical representation. Regarding the latter, he expressed his concern that the Secretary-General’s rhetoric has not produced concrete actions and results. “The very slow change in the general situation of the UN and under-represented countries, the over-representation of one group to the detriment of others, has never been so glaring,” he said. It is regrettable that, unlike the gender parity strategy, geographical representation has received very little attention and commitment from managers.
The representative of the United States underscored that the United Nations must be able to meet twenty-first century challenges so that declarations made at upcoming summits are not just words on paper. “We can’t afford another year of inaction,” he stressed, calling for a focused plan to rejuvenate the Organization, while noting the very limited number of entry-level opportunities. He also stressed the need to encourage accountability in the Organization’s culture, improve performance management, strengthen the independence of the Ethics Office and create a workplace where everyone is respected.
Underlining the need for a capable, agile and mobile workforce, Australia’s delegate, speaking also for Canada and New Zealand, stressed: “We need a workforce that reaches gender parity, reflects the geographical diversity of its Member States and can rejuvenate for the future.”
The representative of Mexico said it is essential that the Assembly adopt a detailed decision that provides a coherent structure to achieve mobility, agility and accountability. Generational change in the Organization’s staff is urgent, he said, calling for a system of incentives to attract young and diverse people.
The representative of China, associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries, stressed that sound and rational budgeting and human resources management are the foundation for the Organization’s efficient operation and performance. Voicing his concern over the lack of geographical representation, he called on the Secretariat to undertake effective, tailored and results-based measures to address this issue.
Martha Helena Lopez, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources, introduced five Secretary-General reports on human resources management, including “Ways Forward in the Implementation of the Reform Mandates for the period 2023–2026”, which summarizes progress made in implementing various Assembly resolutions organized along three outcomes — diversity, agility and accountability.
Elia Yi Armstrong, Director, United Nations Ethics Office, then presented the Secretary-General’s 2021 report “Activities of the Ethics Office”, which includes information on the Ethics Panel of the United Nations.
Amjad Al-Kumaim, Vice-Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introducing that body’s eponymous reports, said the Advisory Committee reiterated its recommendation that the Assembly request the Secretary-General to develop a comprehensive strategy to improve geographical representation across the board.
Gönke Roscher, Inspector of the Joint Inspection Unit, introduced its report “Review of the ethics function in the United Nations system”, while Federica Pietracci, Senior Programme Management Officer of the United Nations Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), introduced the Secretary-General’s note conveying his comments and those of CEB members on that report.
Mona Fattah, Chairperson of the United Nations Staff Union, acknowledged management’s efforts to make conditions of service more responsible and said paternal leave is a great advancement. The new mobility policy is another constructive output of the collaboration between management and staff. Reiterating the need to remove career advancement barriers for General Services staff, she said the Organization should no longer deprive some of its talented staff of the right to advance.
During the discussion of the Committee’s Organization of Work, the representative of Cuba, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing nations and China, said the Group was committed to thoroughly consider all agenda items of the resumed session, including human resources management, the accountability system, supply chain activities, capital investments planning, information and communications technology strategy, standards of accommodations for air travel, UMOJA, and the Joint Inspection Unit report.
The Committee approved its programme of work by consensus on the understanding that it will be reviewed and adjusted by its Bureau as necessary during the course of the session.
The Committee also discussed the work of the Joint Inspection Unit. Eileen A. Cronin, Inspector and Chairperson of Unit, introduced that body’s 2022 report and its 2023 programme of work. Ms. Pietracci, of the CEB, introduced the Secretary-General’s related note on the report.
Also speaking today were representatives of Singapore (for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)), Oman (for the Gulf Cooperation Council), Republic of Korea, United Kingdom, Japan, South Africa, Russian Federation, Uruguay, Philippines (for ASEAN), Switzerland (also for Liechtenstein), Morocco and Saudi Arabia, as well as the European Union, in its capacity as observer.
The Fifth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, March 9, to discuss strengthening the accountability system in the United Nations Secretariat and standards of accommodation for air travel for the 2023 programme budget.
Committee Chairman Philippe Kridelka (Belgium) commended the work of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) and its Chair, Abdallah Bachar Bong, as they provided the reports which will allow the Fifth Committee to accomplish its work under the best circumstances. He reported that the French version of the Fifth Committee manual has been published and physical copies are available, along with an online version. Noting that the Committee has not always been successful in providing guidance to the Secretariat on certain items, he urged delegates to move forward on all issues. “This is an opportunity for all of us,” he added.
Organization of Work
RICHARD TUR DE LA CONCEPCIÓN (Cuba), speaking for the “Group of 77” developing nations and China, acknowledged the steps taken towards the timely updating of reports but said there is room for further improvement. Timely submission of reports is crucial to enable the Committee to effectively discuss critical subjects. He underlined the Group’s commitment to thoroughly consider all agenda items, including human resources management, the accountability system, supply chain activities, capital investments planning, information and communications technology strategy, standards of accommodations for air travel, UMOJA, and the report of the Joint Inspection Unit. Noting that human resources management is a long-standing issue on which the Committee has not reached consensus for several years, he said the Group will engage in “a true spirit of compromise” and remember the collective benefits that would be gained through a resolution.
He also noted that the Group will consider all the essential issues under this agenda item, including equitable geographical representation, gender parity, filling vacant posts, addressing deficiencies in the staff selection process and refining performance management. Even though divergences have remained over the previous sessions, he said he hoped the areas of convergence will serve as a starting point for discussions. Accountability is another key issue up for discussion, and he reiterated the need to strengthen internal controls in the accountability system through the constant monitoring of expenditures. Reforms must be looked at in terms of how they contribute to enhance the accountability mechanism, he added.
MARK SEAH (Singapore), speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, reiterated that the Organization’s human resources policies should evolve in tandem with the Secretary-General’s ongoing reforms. Discussions on the composition of staff should accurately reflect the Organization’s multinational character, he emphasized, underscoring the need to address the unrepresentation and underrepresentation of developing countries as well as equitable geographical representation. Training staff at headquarters, regional offices and missions will be crucial to ensure that its workforce is future-ready to meet increasing workloads and address new and more complex global challenges. However, for it to recruit, maintain good staff levels and train, the United Nations must have a robust financial and liquidity situation, with Member States paying the assessed contributions in full, on time and without conditions.
Turning to peacebuilding, he noted that much of the current demand on the Peacebuilding Fund stems from the withdrawal of United Nations peacekeeping operations and special political missions for which mandates come from the Security Council. Given the strong links between peacebuilding and peace operations, any assessed contributions for the Fund should be primarily assessed through the peacekeeping operations scale. Assessing contributions entirely through the regular budget scale is not tenable, he added. He then voiced his regret that the Fifth Committee was unable to reach satisfactory conclusions on key human resources policy issues during its past sessions and pledged ASEAN’s constructive engagement.
THIBAULT CAMELLI, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said it was very important to support the Secretary-General’s ongoing efforts to modernize and reform the United Nations, adding that he looked forward to concluding discussions on peacebuilding and resuming review of supply chain activities. The progress made so far on these issues will lead to a better and more responsive Organization. Conversely, he is concerned with continuous attempts to undercut the independence of supervisory bodies and hamper their investigations. A robust accountability framework is key to foster a culture of ethics and transparency and prevent and address any type of misconduct.
Turning to structural budgetary matters, he noted that the Committee will begin its biennial review of standards of accommodation for air travel and how they align with the Organization’s culture. It will also look at Information and Communications Technology issues, including data protection, in order to improve mandate delivery. On human resource management, he called for more modern, equal and effective human resource policies. It is necessary to strengthen a work environment that leaves no place for any form of misconduct, most notably discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual exploitation and abuse. The staff should be guaranteed an updated and improved labour framework. He also voiced regret that the new reports do not contain more information on mobility or training, which are instrumental for the agile workforce the Organization needs.
ALEXANDRA JONES (Australia), also speaking for Canada and New Zealand, expressed regret that the Fifth Committee could not conclude its deliberations by 23 December 2022, adding: “For a Committee focused on budget effectiveness and efficiency, some reflection on our own contribution to inefficiency and waste is warranted.” Despite a promising start to the session, language submission extensions led to empty programme-of-work slots; minimal constructive engagement meant the session nearly was extended to the New Year. These unnecessary delays severely disrupted the regular budget activities, weakened budget controls as resources were stretched thin, and postponed assessment letters and collections. It also imposed demands on the United Nations Secretariat staff that supported the Fifth Committee’s work.
The first resumed session is an opportunity for the Committee to strengthen human resources management and narrow the funding gap for the Peacebuilding Fund, she continued. The Organization’s most valuable asset is its staff. Underlining the need for a capable, agile and mobile workforce to deliver on its complex and challenging mandates, she stressed: “We need a workforce that reaches gender parity, reflects the geographical diversity of its Member States and can rejuvenate for the future.” As well, the workforce must operate with the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity. Also noting her regret that the Fifth Committee has been unable to reach consensus on human resources management since the seventy-second session, she said she viewed the new set of reports as an opportunity for a fresh start. An outcome on each report with guidance to the Secretary-General is necessary.
ISMAIL MARHOUN MOHAMMED AL ABRI (Oman), speaking for the Gulf Cooperation Council and associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that human resources management deserves special attention since it is important to achieve equitable geographical representation. As such, vacant posts must be filled; deficiencies in the staff selection system must be addressed; and gender equality and improved performance management must be ensured. While the Fifth Committee was able to reach consensus on financing geographical equity, there must be additional efforts, especially since there are still States which are not represented in the Organization.
He then emphasized the importance of providing predictable financing to the Peacebuilding Fund so that it can respond to crises. He also pledged the group’s constructive engagement on providing sound financing for the Fund and on improving the Organization’s overall financial situation.
JESÚS VELÁZQUEZ CASTILLO (Mexico) urged delegates to avoid a delay in a resolution that would help shift the direction of the Secretariat’s human resources policy. Timely mandates that will let the Organization face global challenges over the medium and long term are necessary. He said he hoped the Committee would discuss the Secretary-General’s proposals and provide guidance to help the Secretariat better manage its human resources. Regarding efforts to improve disciplinary mechanisms, he noted the lack of sufficient discipline practices addressing harmful behaviour, particularly in the field. The Secretariat must redouble its efforts to issue guidelines and promote prevention, he said, stressing the importance of clear guidelines and the need to carry out background checks. Accountability is another important issue, and frameworks are needed to deal with corruption and fraud. Accountability is also needed to transform the Organization into a nimble institution, he said, adding that he hoped this session would create a sustainable approach to peacebuilding.
DAI BING (China), associating himself with the Group of 77, stressed that sound and rational budgeting and human resources management are the foundation for the efficient operation and performance of the United Nations. Voicing his concern over the lack of geographical representation, he called on the Secretariat to undertake effective, tailored and results-based measures to address this issue, including the vast number of underrepresented developing countries. On peacebuilding, he emphasized that the regulations and traditions in United Nations management should be fully respected, especially the supervisory rights of Member States when using assessed contributions. The historical responsibility of developed countries as major donors to peacebuilding financing cannot be changed, he underscored, pointing out that it is not constructive for traditional donors to evade their responsibility in the name of changing financing methods. Regarding supply chain management, he called for increased transparency and accountability in the procurement sector and for developing countries to be further favoured. He then voiced his support to the Joint Inspection Unit and encouraged it to enhance synergies with other bodies.
BAE JUN HYUNG (Republic of Korea), reiterating support to the Secretary-General’s 2.0 initiative and recognizing that the Fifth Committee has been unable to provide appropriate guidance to the Secretariat on human resources management since the seventy-third session of the General Assembly, expressed hope for tangible results on this item. Spotlighting the Secretariat’s various initiatives, including “Staff Selection 2.0”, he underlined the importance of rejuvenating the workforce by broadening entry-level opportunities. On supply chain activities and air travel, he expressed hope for a meaningful solution, pointing out that it would lead to reinforcing the accountability and efficiency of the Organization. Turning to the Secretary-General’s twelfth progress report on accountability, he said he looks forward to reaching an outcome in the current session and putting an end to the undesirable lack of guidance by the General Assembly on this issue for the previous two consecutive years.
CHRISTOPHER P. LU (United States) underscored that the United Nations must be capable of meeting the challenges of the twenty-first century for the declarations of its upcoming summits to be more than just words on paper. While organizations across the globe are transforming their workforces to adapt to the changing nature of work, the Fifth Committee has unfortunately been unable to make meaningful progress on reforming the Organization’s human resources system. “We can’t afford another year of inaction,” he stressed, calling for a focused plan to rejuvenate the Organization while noting the very limited number of entry-level opportunities. It must constantly improve the skills of all staff by expanding access to world-class learning opportunities and accelerate mobility by incentivizing staff. Investing in staff also means eliminating professional barriers to growth, especially since the workforce is still a class system in which top performers in the Field Service and General Service categories are blocked from advancing professionally. He also stressed the need to encourage accountability in the Organization’s culture, improve performance management, strengthen the independence of the Ethics Office and create a workplace where everyone is respected.
JAMES STAPLES (United Kingdom) said the world’s complex challenges require that the United Nations have an able and diverse workforce that can meet these challenges and carry out the Organization’ mandates. Further needed is a workforce that can be hired, based on their talents, using a dynamic hiring process. In addition, they must be given the tools they need to do their jobs well. As the staff is the Organization’s greatest asset and greatest expense, he urged the Committee to achieve a resolution this year on human resources reform. He also said he hoped for progress on peacebuilding and information technology. The Organization depends on transparency and accountability at all levels to work effectively, he stressed, adding that he regretted the growing polarization among delegates in the past and looked forward to delegates working together.
YAMANAKA OSAMU (Japan) said that his Government will carefully consider the agenda items before the Fifth Committee to ensure that the United Nations can better deliver on its mandates by making the Organization stronger, more integrated and more accountable. Human resources management is a key element of an effective and efficient operation, he continued, voicing his regret that Member States in previous years have failed to give consensual guidance to the Secretary-General and promote his efforts to improve the Organization through robust reform. As such, Member States should redouble their efforts and strive to provide proper guidance by constructively and faithfully negotiating in the Committee. He then reiterated the critical importance of preserving the Committee’s role and the long-established practice of achieving agreement by consensus.
MASOTSHA MONGEZI MNGUNI (South Africa), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, pointed out that consensus on human resources management is essential for the Secretariat to receive guidance from the Assembly on critical human resources matters, improve outreach to recruit talent in accordance with equitable geographical representation, and strengthen accountability, among others. If left unaddressed, these matters ultimately affect the Organization’s performance. To this end, he said he looks forward to the Secretariat’s efforts to improve the situation through outreach programmes and cooperation with United Nations information centres in affected regions. As well, it is important to improve youth representation, gender parity and disability inclusion in the Organization. For South Africa, implementing the Secretary-General’s strategic action plan on addressing racism and promoting dignity for all is exigent. Also of priority is investing in prevention and peacebuilding, supply chain activities, the information and communication technology strategy and the Joint Inspection Unit, he said.
DMITRY S. CHUMAKOV (Russian Federation) spotlighted the key items up for discussion during this session, including supply chain activities, human resources management, investing in peacekeeping and accountability. He pointed out that it has been more than six years since the Committee approved a resolution on human resources. Peacebuilding has been discussed for more than a year, and sufficient work has not progressed on accountability issues. Taking into account the interests of all delegations is the basis for agreement. Reaffirming the need for the issuance of all documents in all languages in a timely manner, he urged the delegations to work together in a transparent manner.
FELIPE MACHADO MOURIÑO (Uruguay), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, voiced his concern that the Committee has been unable to reach an agreement on human resources management. While many guidelines have been implemented, there are still no agreements on the reform components which require guidance from the General Assembly. Against this backdrop, the Secretariat should incorporate States’ concerns which have arisen during negotiations and redouble its efforts with Member States prior to the negotiation of such issues. For their part, all parties must approach dialogue with an open spirit, including to the possibility of the Secretariat presenting alternative ideas. Turning to the financing of the Peacebuilding Fund, he underscored the need to consider the current budgetary constraints faced by Member States, especially developing countries, due to a sharp slowdown in global growth, high inflation, rising interest rates and reduced investment.
The Fifth Committee then approved the programme of work by consensus on the understanding that it will be reviewed and adjusted by its Bureau as necessary during the course of the session.
Joint Inspection Unit
EILEEN A. CRONIN, Inspector and Chairperson of the Joint Inspection Unit, introduced its 2022 report and its 2023 programme of work (document A/77/34), noting that in 2022 it reinstated its working methods that were disrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Unit was able to deliver on its programme of work in the two previous years, the cumulative impact of various factors had delayed several reviews in 2022 as organizations took longer to respond to the Unit’s request for more data and information during the pandemic, thus affecting analysis and drafting times. The Unit released two reviews in 2022 and anticipates releasing all reviews that have been carried over in 2023. Noting the reduction in the Unit’s funding, she pointed out that inspectors have restricted the 2023 programme of work to three new reviews: an organizational review of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), an organizational review of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and a system-wide review of medical services.
She also noted that the Unit will undertake a review of governance and oversight mechanisms at the request of the Executive Boards of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN-Women and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)/United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)/United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS). She further noted that annex II of the report presents the status of acceptance and implementation of the Unit’s recommendations by participating organizations for 2014 to 2021. In 2022, the Unit also completed a self-assessment to propose improvements to its work from both a strategic and operational perspective, with results expected to support the 2023 midterm assessment of its strategic framework. She then voiced her regret that the Unit’s well-defined statute, which sets out its administrative, budgetary and financial arrangements, has been disregarded in a way that threatens its independence.
FEDERICA PIETRACCI, Senior Programme Management Officer of the United Nations Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), introduced the Secretary-General’s related note (document A/77/649) on the Joint Inspection Unit’s report. Throughout 2022, the secretariats of the CEB and the Unit have worked collaboratively and engaged in regular dialogue regarding current and future cooperation, including the timely preparation of notes by the Secretary-General containing responses to reports addressing United Nations system-wide concerns. The secretariats also continued to engage in dialogue to ensure the smooth preparation of reports on such issues. In accordance with the procedures set out in the Unit’s statue, the Secretary-General also reviewed the qualifications of one inspector proposed for appointment in 2022. She emphasized that the Secretary-General remains committed to maintaining a close working relationship with the Unit and continuously encourages all organizations to respond to its requests in a timely manner and in a spirit of cooperation.
Mr. TUR DE LA CONCEPCIÓN (Cuba), speaking for the Group of 77 and China, while noting with concern the delay of several reviews, also acknowledged that the Joint Inspection Unit has restored many of its working methods and activities. Pointing out that only two reviews were completed in 2022, he affirmed the commitment of the Unit to release five out of eight pending reviews by the summer. Noting that three new reviews were scheduled for 2023, while others have been carried over from 2021, he suggested discussing how the carrying over of projects from previous years is occasioned. Recognizing that the review of the acceptance and implementation of the Joint Inspection Unit’s recommendations, scheduled for 2022, has not started, he expressed hope it begins in 2023.
Stressing the importance of a web-based system for tracking up-to-date information on the status of implementation, he spotlighted the updating of the platform. In this regard, he reiterated the need for enhanced coordination to align workplans and avoid duplication of work. Acknowledging the diversity of the projects for 2023 and the completion of the ones pending, he encouraged the Unit to consider adding more topics to its programme of work. He also called on the inspectors and their teams to finalize all reviews within the calendar year while upholding the quality of work.
Human Resources Management
MARTHA HELENA LOPEZ, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources, introduced the Secretary-General’s five reports on human resources management: “Composition of the Secretariat: staff demographics” (document A/77/580); ”Composition of the Secretariat: gratis personnel, retired staff, consultants and individual contractors and United Nations volunteers” (document A/77/578); ”Practice of the Secretary-General in disciplinary matters and cases of possible criminal behaviour, 1 January to 31 December 2021” (document A/77/606); Overview of human resources management reform mandate implementation during the period 2021-2022” (document A/77/590/Add.1); and “Ways Forward in the Implementation of the Reform Mandates for the period 2023–2026” (document A/77/590).
She said the report on the Secretariat’s composition gives delegates a comprehensive view of the staff from 1 January to 31 December 2021, including overall demographics and structural elements of the workforce, staff movements, a forecast of retirements and an analysis of staff subject to the system of desirable ranges.
Turning to the overview of human resources report, she said it summarizes progress made in implementing various Assembly resolutions organized along three outcomes: diversity, agility and accountability. The ways forward report provides a plan to implement human resources reform mandates until 2026 and includes specific, tangible deliverables. A core intention is to overhaul the current 12-year-old staff selection system, which, according to recent recruitment analyses, has systemic barriers to achieving diversity-related mandates. Overcoming these obstacles will require a dedicated “Staff Selection 2.0” change initiative. This initiative aims to ensure that the Secretariat delivers a new recruitment process that fulfils the letter and spirit of Article 101 of the Charter of the United Nations in recruiting staff on as wide a geographical basis as possible.
The agility outcome aims to solidify proactive and efficient planning, hiring, and deployment in order to build a multi-skilled, mobile and adaptable workforce, she said. Another prominent piece of the reform efforts through 2026 is to consolidate the new approach to staff mobility. A priority of the accountability outcome is to uphold conduct and integrity, supported by a number of tools launched or expanded. This includes the Misconduct Risk Management Tools and Case Management Tracking System and the SEA Victim Assistance Tracking System. ClearCheck, a screening database for vetting personnel for integrity during recruitment, has also been rolled out with expanded features.
ELIA YI ARMSTRONG, Director, United Nations Ethics Office, presented the Secretary-General’s 2021 report titled “Activities of the Ethics Office” (document A/77/75), which includes information on the Ethics Panel of the United Nations. During 2021, the Office continued assisting the Secretary-General on fostering the Organization’s culture of ethics, transparency and accountability. During that same year, the Joint Inspection Unit published its second review of the ethics function in the United Nations system, recognizing the importance of independence for its function. The Unit’s Inspector also urged the General Assembly to approve the Secretary-General’s three proposals: (i) presenting the Office’s annual report directly to the Assembly, which will provide Member States with the assurance of its independence; (ii) enhancing the role of the Independent Audit Advisory Committee to oversee the Office’s work, including its availability for consultation should a conflict of interest arise for the Office’s director; and (iii) raising the rank of the Office’s head to the level of Assistant Secretary-General, starting with the next head if approved. The Secretary-General has the authority to introduce term limits, security of tenure and re-employment restrictions for its head to enhance the Office’s independence, she noted.
She then reported that the Office responded to 1,848 requests — including 836 requests for ethics advice mainly on conflict-of-interest matters — and reviewed and advised upon 5,043 disclosure statements, with nearly 85 per cent of eligible senior officials participating in the Secretary-General’s voluntary public disclosure initiative, which was a 5 per cent increase from 2020. Around 33,000 United Nations personnel participated in the 2021 Leadership Dialogue on the theme “Accountability system in the United Nations Secretariat: how do we understand and make it work?”. The Office also received 128 enquiries about the policy on protection against retaliation for reporting misconduct or cooperating with duly authorized audits or investigations, completed 34 preliminary reviews and referred 3 prima facie retaliation determinations for investigation. She further noted that she chaired 11 sessions of the Ethics Panel and took part in planning the thirteenth meeting of the Ethics Network of Multilateral Organizations.
AMJAD AL-KUMAIM, Vice-Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introducing its eponymous report on the ways forward for 2023-2026 (document A/77/728), said that the implementation of the human resources management framework requires clearly defined and quantifiable tools and timelines, well-designed monitoring and reporting tools, and financial implications. The Advisory Committee reiterated its recommendation that the Assembly request the Secretary-General to develop a comprehensive strategy to improve geographical representation across the board. While there are merits in the Secretary-General’s vision to accelerate progress on the Secretariat’s staff selection system, there should be a more comprehensive analysis of the data — including at the selection stage — to address the challenges of implementing such representation. On the Young Professionals Programme, he recommended a comprehensive update on its implementation and placement rate, options for the further extension of the programme’s roster and a mechanism to ensure more successful candidate placement. In that regard, increasing the number of geographical entry positions at the P2 level would be beneficial. On staff mobility, he noted that the Secretary-General’s report does not contain information on the new consolidated approach. Such a large-scale mobility framework should have been presented to the Assembly with details on its implementation and cost implications as it is a policy matter for that organ’s consideration, he insisted.
Turning to the Advisory Committee’s report on the overview of human resources management reform for 2021-2022 (document A/77/728/Add.1), he said that updated information and clarification on those policies and initiatives — including their estimated financial implications — should be provided to the Assembly. He then reiterated the Advisory Committee’s view that there is merit in enhancing workforce planning management at the headquarters level to better identify opportunities for streamlining functions, especially in situations of relative stability and the absence of substantial changes in operational activities. The systematic collection and reporting on the core functions performed by non-staff personnel — particularly consultants and individual contracts — should be established, he added, calling for this data and its analysis to be included in the next report.
On the Advisory Committee’s report on staff demographics (document A/77/729), he stressed that efforts should provide greater in-depth analysis, more comparative and disaggregated data and their correlation with human resources management objectives in future reports. He voiced the Advisory Committee’s concern over the increase in unrepresented Member States from 19 to 21 between 2017 to 2021, the increase in overrepresented Member States from 27 to 30 during that same period, the significant number of vacant posts subject to geographical distribution, and the increase in the number of geographical posts temporarily encumbered by staff without geographical status and with limited appointments. All necessary measures must be undertaken to address this situation, with information on the impact of these efforts — including disaggregated data on non-geographical posts — to be provided by the Secretary-General. He also emphasized the need to reverse the trend of an increased average age of Secretariat staff and underscored the need for more clarity on internal and external appointments.
Presenting its related report on gratis personnel, retired staff, consultants, individual contractors and United Nations Volunteers (document A/77/727), he stressed that the Advisory Committee expects the Secretariat to abide by all applicable Assembly resolutions, regulations and rules. Against this backdrop, comprehensive and effective workforce planning should reduce the need to rely on such personnel with exceptions applied on a truly exceptional basis, especially for retired staff and consultants. He then noted the Advisory Committee’s recommendation to consider the remote internship policy as a complement to the Organization’s in-person internship programme. In addition to consolidating lessons learned, the Secretary-General should provide in his next report possible funding options for the programme as well as potential solutions for the improvement of participation from developing countries and unrepresented and underrepresented Member States. Regarding United Nations Volunteers, the Advisory Committee recommended the Secretary-General to undertake further efforts to increase the use of national volunteers as appropriate and ensure equitable geographical representation among international volunteers.
On the eponymous report concerning disciplinary measures and possible criminal behaviour (document A/77/730), he said it stressed the importance of transparency, proportionality, due process and consistency and encouraged future reports to more clearly lay out the criteria and internal regulations applied in the determination of misconduct and sanctions. Ensuring increased transparency of managers’ conduct with enhanced accountability is vital, he emphasized, calling for any investigations of possible conduct to be handled by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) so as to ensure independence and integrity.
Finally, he turned to the Advisory Committee’s report on the activities of the Ethics Office for 2021 (document A/77/545), which, among other things, encouraged the establishment of a cost-sharing or cost-recovery arrangement with all entities that receive services from the Office. The current D2 level for that Office’s head is the appropriate level to direct and coordinate the Office’s work in the implementation of a responsive and coherent policy for fostering a culture of ethics, transparency and accountability, he stressed, pointing out that the Office’s credibility resides in its mandate and functions. As seniority should not serve as an indicator of credibility, the level of any particular post should not be used as a justification to exclude the incumbent from carrying out such functions.
GÖNKE ROSCHER, Inspector of the Joint Inspection Unit, introduced its report titled “Review of the ethics function in the United Nations system” (document JIU/REP/2021/5). Despite the considerable progress made, there are several shortcomings in the ethics arrangements of the system’s organizations, including the United Nations Ethics Office. All have established a dedicated ethics function, except three where ethics is operated either through a dual function or outsourced to the private sector. Sharing with or outsourcing the function to another United Nations system organization is recommended to ensure independence and coherence, she noted, adding that the terms of reference of the ethics function need to be updated to include new responsibilities. The independence of 13 organizations, including the Ethics Office, needs to be strengthened to comply with the Unit’s recommendations and standards as well as with established good practices. For that matter, the mandates of audit and oversight committees, including the Secretariat’s Independent Audit Advisory Committee, should be expanded to include ethics oversight.
She then pointed out that the attendance rates of mandatory ethics courses are still too low, highlighted the necessity of monitoring and follow-up, and encouraged the introduction of periodic refresher courses. She further noted that the review of the effectiveness and efficiency of financial disclosure and declaration of interest policy and programmes is still pending and that an adequate degree of system-wide coherence has not been achieved. As new demands and challenges from ethical dilemmas need to be addressed, ethical risks should be integrated into the enterprise risk management frameworks.
She reported that the review included one recommendation to legislative organs and governing bodies which requested organizations to update the terms of reference of their respective audit and oversight committees by the end of 2023 to include provisions for ethics and ethics as a desirable area of expertise for new committee members where necessary. There were also three recommendations addressed to executive heads, she added, stressing that implementation can be greatly facilitated if governing bodies request these heads to take prompt action.Ms. PIETRACCI, Senior Programme Management Officer of the CEB, introduced the Secretary-General’s note (document A/77/258/Add.1) conveying his comments and those of CEB members on the Joint Inspection Unit’s report reviewing the ethics function in the United Nations. She said that organizations welcomed the Unit’s report, its comprehensive analysis and user-friendly and systematized access to the main features of the ethics function across the system. Since the publication of this report, many organizations reported a strengthening of their ethics functions, which included increasing convergence on their responsibilities and roles. Entities also emphasized the diversity of their functions’ institutional set-ups, including contractual arrangements for the heads of ethics offices, staffing levels and relations with entities’ governing structures, she said.
MONA FATTAH, Chairperson of the United Nations Staff Union, acknowledging efforts by management to make the conditions of service more responsible, said the paternal leave is a great advancement. The new mobility policy is another fruit of constructive collaboration between management and staff, she added, while urging States to advise on a fair implementation mechanism. Noting that good‑faith consultations and negotiations with staff unions remains a key catalyst for any improvement in work environment and conditions of service, she pointed out that in some ways staff are being consulted in a nominal manner.
Against this backdrop, she called for support to empower consultation mechanisms. Outlining that performance management arrangements are crucial to staff’s career development and progress within the Organization, she encouraged States to consider the new policy once consented to by the staff. Reiterating the need to remove career advancement barriers for General Services, she said it was no longer accepted that the Organization deprives some of its talented staff of the right to advance in their careers. On disciplinary matters, she called for support to gear towards an “agile, fair, and transparent” oversight system that instigates the truth but safeguards whistle-blowers.
Mr. TUR DE LA CONCEPCIÓN (Cuba), speaking for the Group of 77 and China, said that the Group is open to exploring the best ways to study and address the proposed “staff selection 2.0” programme in a consistent and thorough manner. He commended the progress made thus far in reforming human resources management — especially with regards to the simplification and streamlining of rules and policies as well as the changes in conditions of services — and welcomed the steps to strengthen internal anti-corruption measures and ensure a safe environment for staff to report misconduct. As equitable geographical representation and gender parity are cornerstone principles for the Group, he voiced his concern that such efforts have not been complementary, adding that it is disheartening to see that the percentage of women from developing countries in senior positions is disproportionately low. In that regard, the Secretary-General must step up his efforts and give due attention to the representation of troop- and police- contributing countries. Addressing the system of desirable ranges, which has remained unchanged for decades and has resulted in nearly 500 posts with geographical status being currently vacant, will be a priority for the Group, he noted.
He went on to express his concern that the average age of staff members continues to reflect an upward trend while the number of entry-level positions continue to fall, limiting the achievement of important human resources targets such as rejuvenation and talent acquisition from unrepresented and underrepresented developing Member States. On the implementation of flexible working arrangements, he said that the Group is worried that a presence out of the office might be considered as a right or even a rule. This concern is essentially based on the empirical assessment of seeing most of the floors of the Secretariat building at half capacity or even less on any given day of the week, he explained.
Mr. CAMELLI, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said that after five years of debate, it is high time to improve the Organization’s human resources framework and policies in order to meet current and future needs. Its workforce must continue to embody the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity while reflecting the people it serves, including in terms of geography, gender, age and capabilities. Against this backdrop, he encouraged further system-wide efforts towards achieving gender parity at all levels, including in the field; emphasized that due regard must be placed on attracting and retaining talent on as wide a geographical basis as possible; insisted on the need to ensure access of persons with disabilities; and repeated the call to rejuvenate the Organization. He also reiterated the importance of multilingualism and the need for linguistic diversity to be adequately reflected in human resources management.
For an agile workforce and staff to feel motivated, there must be an effective system of performance management at all levels to incentivize and reward excellence while also addressing underperformance, he continued. To that end, the Organization must ensure a comprehensive and strategic workforce planning system, with recruitment processes attracting and hiring the most suitable candidate within the 120-day target for staff selection. It should also foster career development through enhanced training and ensure a well-functioning mobility framework which offers staff the opportunity to broaden their base of experience, enables them to develop their careers to the fullest and allows for the leveraging of diverse and rich mandates and duty stations within the Secretariat. Turning to the roll-out of a strong and robust accountability framework, he welcomed the efforts of the Ethics Office and underlined the necessity to strengthen its independence.
ARIEL RODELAS PEÑARANDA (Philippines), speaking for ASEAN and aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the Secretariat faces many challenges despite its sustained efforts to achieve a diverse workforce, including work completed during the seventy-fifth and seventy-sixth sessions to overhaul a staff selection system. There needs to be an agile recruitment policy that addresses issues such as gender, youth and racism. Recruitment must be backed up by active outreach activities. The global recruitment of staff and the retention of talent is critical to improve gender parity, rejuvenate the Organization and enhance accountability.
A Young Professional Programme that works to increase the diversity of staff is needed, he continued, also calling for an inclusive workplace that is free from discrimination and harassment and supports a work-life balance. Supporting staff with training and development is the cornerstone of any efficient Organization, he stressed, adding that he is also looking for an update on the Organization’s mobility framework.
GINA ANDREA SCHMIED (Switzerland), speaking also for Liechtenstein, stressed that agility is essential for meeting the challenges of the twenty-first century. Therefore, the Secretary-General must redouble his efforts to improve workforce planning and restrict the use of non-staff personnel to justified and limited circumstances. Mobility notably offers attractive learning opportunities and career development for personnel and plays a key role in building a skilled, dynamic and versatile workforce capable of interacting with different actors in varying contexts, she pointed out. She also welcomed the Organization’s new approach in that regard and noted that the establishment of a fair remuneration package is essential for attracting the best talent and for ensuring equitable geographical representation.
She further welcomed the Secretary-General’s initiative to develop an integrated framework on diversity and the “Staff Selection 2.0” programme, which aims to make the recruitment process more effective, fair, efficient and flexible. However, further efforts are still needed to achieve the goal of gender parity in all entities and to rejuvenate the workforce. On accountability towards its beneficiaries and workforce, she underscored that the Organization needed to combat sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment and undertake a victim-centred approach. The “quintet of change” set out in Our Common Agenda will provide valuable leverage for more agile, diverse and accountable human resources management, including through innovation, better data usage and continued staff involvement, she said.
MEDARD AINOMUHISHA (Uganda), speaking for the African Group, said this Committee has failed to deliver on a human resources management resolution for more than five years. During this time, the situation has continued to disintegrate in various areas, such as mobility, recruitment and equitable geographical representation. Noting the Secretary-General’s new proposal for 2023-2026, he said the Group will provide inputs during informal discussions to improve the general human resources situation. Turning to recruitment, he noted the Secretary-General’s intention to use a new system, dubbed “Staff Selection 2.0”, to cover recruitment, outreach and the Young Professionals Programme, making the process more effective, fair, efficient and agile. The Group encourages the Secretary-General to eliminate risks of bias for or against some candidates. Recent data clearly indicates the heavy weight of bias in the selection processes, with negative consequences on the composition of the overall workforce. There is also a need to address the problem of oversaturated rosters.
Regarding equitable geographical representation, the African Group is concerned that the Secretary-General’s rhetoric has failed to materialize into concrete actions and results. “The very slow change in the general situation of the UN and underrepresented countries, the over-representation of one group to the detriment of others, has never been so glaring,” he said. It is regrettable that, unlike the gender parity strategy, geographical representation has received very little attention and commitment from managers. He called for a real strategy for equitable geographical representation; the same incentives and special measures adopted for implementing gender parity should apply accordingly. Through resolutions on addressing racism and racial discrimination and establishing the Youth office, the Assembly has given the Organization two structures to improve working conditions and young people’s participation in the life of the Secretariat. He said he hoped the current trend — where the average age of Secretariat staff members continues to increase and entry-level positions, particularly at P2 and P3 levels, continue to decrease — will be reversed. This current trend hampers the achievement of human resources targets, including the rejuvenation of the Organization.
Mr. AL-SALMI (Oman), speaking for the Gulf Cooperation Council and associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, urged the United Nations to respond to all of the Member States’ demands. Detailing the current situation of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries in the Organization, he said their representation was adequate at the current time. Citing the desirable range of country-specific posts indicated in the Secretary-General’s report, he pointed out that only two citizens of Saudi Arabia, three citizens of Bahrain, and one citizen of Kuwait and Oman respectively were currently working for the Secretariat. No citizens of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar are currently employed by the Secretariat, he added. Against this backdrop, he emphasized that it is not just the under-representation of the States in the Secretariat of the level of posts but a structural problem in awareness and selection that requires quick solutions for an equitable representation. Reiterating his firm support for the Organization, he outlined the expectation of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries to ensure their citizens could contribute in continuing posts to make the progress required.
Mr. VELÁZQUEZ CASTILLO (Mexico) said that it is essential that the General Assembly adopt a decision that provides guidelines on the reform process for human resources. While recognizing the Secretary-General’s efforts on resources management, he pointed out that it is the Assembly which must determine criteria and provide a coherent structure to achieve the goals of mobility, agility and accountability. It is urgent to facilitate generational change in the Organization’s staff, he said, calling for attracting young and diverse people through a system of incentives and for retaining talent through opportunities for growth and mobility. Across the board, these should include gender perspectives so as to contribute towards better gender equality. Further, he emphasized that actions related to the reform of staff administration must be part of a logical, flexible and transparent sequence.
HIND JERBOUI (Morocco) said the human element is the Organization’s greatest asset and the recruitment and retention of highly skilled talent is necessary for the United Nations to achieve its principles and deliver on its challenging mandates. She recalled Article 101 of the Charter of the United Nations, which states the staff shall be appointed by the Secretary-General under regulations established by the General Assembly, and which indicates the importance of diverse geographical distribution. Commending the Secretary-General’s 2017 initiative to reform human resources, she added that the system must be strengthened and made more accountable. She also acknowledged the improvement in gender parity in the Organization’s high-level offices. Noting the Secretary-General’s new proposal for a new way forward for 2023 to 2026, she said her delegation was ready to negotiate.
Mr. CHUMAKOV (Russian Federation), pointing out that the strategy contains elements that were virtually approved by all Member States, spotlighted certain gaps, including consensus on additional support for interns that has not yet been reflected in any resolution. He also pointed out that progress in ensuring Member States’ compliance with instructions varies considerably and that the equitable geographical representation “leaves much to be desired”. Calling for clearer criteria to be set out, he also spotlighted the need for internal rules used in the definition of offences and the types of offences that resulted in dismissal from service. On the disciplinary procedure, he underscored the need to adhere to appropriate legal procedures. Reiterating the problem of “inadmissibly low” staff appointments from unrepresented or under-represented countries to positions that require geographical diversity, he pointed out that appropriate accountability measures for heads of department that do not comply with these requirements have not been proposed. “We need clarity about what specifically is expected from the General Assembly,” he stressed.
KAWASAKI YUTA (Japan), underscoring the importance of human resources management for an effective, efficient and inclusive United Nations, urged Member States to provide the Secretary-General with proper guidance and to take full advantage of negotiations by clusters and the more focused discussions on each item. They must also address the long-standing challenge of under- and un-representation, he added, encouraging the Secretary-General to redouble his efforts in that regard and strengthen gender mainstreaming in the field. Since the imbalance between the number of entry-level and senior-level professional posts within the Secretariat has made the Organization increasingly top-heavy, the Secretary-General must undertake further efforts to rejuvenate the Organization, bring in fresh ideas and promote workforce succession planning and agility to further advance management reform. He then noted the implementation of a new staff mobility framework in 2023 and said that his delegation would examine some unclear elements, including its timeline.
HAYFAA ABDULLATIF A. ALSHAIKH (Saudi Arabia), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China and the Gulf Cooperation Council, echoed the importance of human resources and reiterated the need for the Organization to reflect the realities of the world. Spotlighting her Government’s recent efforts and developments in human resources, she voiced her disappointment over the figures shared earlier concerning the Gulf region. While her country welcomes the Secretary-General’s recent efforts to implement a programme on geographical diversity, there are still essential problems which must be addressed. She then pledged her Government’s willingness to work with the Secretary-General on providing the adequate tools to preserve the morale of the Organization’s staff, attract candidates and implement important resolutions in this regard.