Views of the staff of the United Nations Secretariat:
Staff Union (New York) and the Field Staff Union
State of the current human resources framework
12. The staff have extensively reviewed the state of the current human resources framework in a previous report (A/C.5/63/3/Add.2, paras. 14-77). Their conclusion there is that the “litany of human resources problems points to a need to overhaul the entire human resources management framework in order to attune the aspirations of staff members with the Organization’s goals and the demands placed upon it.” The principal recommendation is that the General Assembly should do for human resources management what it did for the internal justice system: it should ask the Secretary-General to establish an independent redesign panel on human resources management and development.
13. The Redesign Panel on the new system of human resources management would review and make recommendations on the dimensions of human resources management from advertisement and recruitment to separation from the organization; balancing the needs of the goals of the organization with the aspirations of the staff; measures to harmonize work, family and personal life; and effective policy and practical approaches for the future.
14. In the meantime critical elements in the current human resources framework require immediate attention. These include the selection of candidates for recruitment and promotion; performance management; training and career planning.
15. The current staff selection and placement system gives authority to the individual programme manager to select staff. It allows the programme manager considerable latitude in determining the selection criteria, techniques and instruments; whether and how to constitute the assessment or expert panel; what roles are assigned to the panel; and whether or not to have a human resources officer on the panel. Even the evaluation criteria, which must be pre-approved by the central review bodies, is proposed by the department/office or mission concerned. The role of central review bodies is merely to monitor the procedural aspects of the recruitment and promotion processes, to ensure that applicants were evaluated on the basis of the corresponding evaluation criteria.
16. The weak role of central review bodies and the lack of standardized procedures invite convenient variations and a disproportionate measure of subjectivity that can corrupt the staff selection and placement system, and overall human resources management. It is difficult, without an independent selection body, to enforce measures designed to avoid the discrimination of candidates. Attention can be perfunctory to such issues as gender balance and the consideration of an external versus and internal candidate. Indeed, the recruitment patterns for higher level positions in the professional category, in some departmental divisions, tend to favour external candidates; in large part because programme managers have more discretion in recruitment decisions at higher than lower positions.
17. Central review bodies should be given the authority to appoint or recruit candidates into the United Nations Secretariat, to reduce subjective influences on the staffing process. Central review bodies should exercise similar authority as Public Service Commissions in many Member States. The functions of central reviews bodies should be akin to the role of the appointments and promotions bodies that existed before 2002. Central review bodies should have the authority to appoint a candidate from a list recommended by the head of department. The Senior Review Groups should have the authority to recommend for appointment, to the Secretary- General, a candidate from a list of recommendations provided by the head of department/office/mission for review by the Senior Review Group. In making the decision to appoint or to recommend for appointment, the central review bodies and the Senior Review Group would take into consideration the procedures and processes established to minimise discrimination by, for example, ensuring that every other candidate appointed is a woman and/or external candidate.
18. We are concerned about the proposed selection of members of the central reviews in the new staff rules. The Secretary-General is proposing in provisional staff rule 4.15 (c) (iii) that the members of central review bodies – selected initially by the Secretary-General and the staff – shall have the authority to select additional members to those bodies. This rule is intended to circumvent the authority of staff representative bodies to select members whenever the need arises. As indicated in paragraphs 28 and 29 of the note by the Secretary-General transmitting the views of the staff of the United Nations Secretariat (A/C.5/59/4), a resolution adopted at an extraordinary general meeting in April 2003 expressed no confidence among the staff at large in the central review bodies and requested an immediate withdrawal of the Union’s support for those bodies.
19. Provisional staff rule 4.15 (c) (iii) is particularly suspect considering that since June 2004, the Staff Union has declined to submit new nominations for members representing the staff on the central review bodies. The central review bodies in New York now consist only of management representatives, as acknowledged in information circular ST/IC/2006/32. Provisional staff rule 4.15 (c) (iii) should be deleted.
20. Provisional staff rule 4.15 should be amended to reflect our proposals on the functions of the Senior Review Group and central review bodies. Strengthening the role of these bodies will inject a check-and-balance mechanism in the staff selection and placement system that will enhance objectivity, fairness and confidence in the system. Such a system will assure that the most qualified and committed individuals are recruited into the United Nations Secretariat to achieve the objectives for which it was established.