2 November 2004
UN Staff Representatives Tell Budget Committee Concerns Ignored in Management Reform Effort
Emphasize Respect for Secretary-Generals Vision, Goals, but Cannot Support Erosion of Staff Rights, Dissolution of Oversight
(Issued on 1 November 2004.)
NEW YORK, 29 October (UN Headquarters) -- Representatives of the United Nations staff today told the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) that their concerns were being ignored in the ongoing effort to reform human resources management at the Organization.
Rose-Marie Waters, President of the United Nations Staff Union, emphasized that, while the Union had the greatest respect for the Secretary-Generals vision for the Organization and had supported the goals of his reform programme, it could not support the erosion of staff rights and dissolution of oversight mechanisms. The measures introduced in the past six years have had a profound and sometimes deleterious effect on the staff of the Organization, she said.
She noted that the staff-management consultative process, at the highest level, had been suspended since April 2003, when all staff unions and associations withdrew from the Staff-Management Coordination Committee (SMCC) and New York staff representatives withdrew from the central review bodies. Staff representatives throughout the Secretariat felt that good faith was lacking in the consultative process. Meanwhile, the Organization had yet to establish concrete measures for individual accountability. A recent integrity survey by an independent consultant, commissioned by the Office of Internal Oversight Services, had revealed that staff believed not enough action was taken to investigate and address instances of unethical behaviour, and they feared reprisals for exposing breaches of ethics, as they perceived that the disciplinary process was applied unevenly.
Ms. Waters also delivered a statement on behalf of Robert Weissel, President of the Federation of International Civil Servants Associations (FICSA), expressing a number of specific concerns about the review of the pay and benefits system, the review of the mobility and hardship scheme, and the ongoing problem of insecure contractual conditions, which caused anxiety among all staff.
The representative of Sierra Leone, who had worked as a staff member at the United Nations for some 30 years, including as head of personnel from 1979 through 1982, said that never had the staff perception of integrity been so low. In some respects, the reforms had weakened the Secretariat considerably.
The representative of South Africa, supporting comments made earlier by the African Group and the Group of 77 developing countries, underscored the need for a healthy relationship between staff and management. Human resources management reform could not be successful if the staff did not buy in to the proposals that the Secretariat was trying to implement.
Assistant Secretary-General for Management Rosemary McCreery thanked colleagues for the wide range of views expressed. Referring to a statement made yesterday by the representative of Turkey, Ms. McCreery hoped that the Organization would pursue its reform efforts vigorously and not be overtaken by reform fatigue.
The Committee also continued its consideration of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund and the United Nations Common System, with speakers discussing how to create the best possible international civil service in an increasingly competitive world.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Mexico, Nigeria, Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Russian Federation, Kenya, United States, China, Japan, Argentina, Venezuela, Cuba, and Syria. Responses to questions and comments from the floor were also provided by Mohsen Bel Hadj Amor, Chairman of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC).
The Committee will hear an introductory statement by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on security management at the United Nations at 2:30 p.m. Monday, 1 November.
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning was expected to continue discussions on the main issue of its current session -- human resources management reform -- and resume consideration of the United Nations pension system and the United Nations common system.
Statements on Human Resources Management
DIEGO SIMANCAS (Mexico) aligned his delegation with the statement made by the representative of Qatar on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, and shared their views in particular with regard to the conversion of the 100 and 300 series of appointments. He also endorsed the views expressed by the representative of New Zealand, on behalf of Canada and Australia, especially concerning the promotion of women and the young within the Secretariat. His delegation would carefully study Japans proposal regarding P-2 posts.
He would like to underscore the need to ensure that recruitment takes place transparently, efficiently, and rapidly, and expected that geographical representation would improve as a result. Regarding the Secretary-Generals proposal to reduce the period of the vacancy announcement from 60 to 45 days, his delegation believed that did not target the real problem. The problem was the time taken to select candidates. He supported the proposal to increase the percentage of P-2 posts available for successful candidates completing the G to P exam, but priority should be given to those candidates from under-represented countries.
ROSEMARIE WATERS, President of the United Nations Staff Union, said that the measures introduced in the past six years had had a profound and sometimes deleterious effect on the staff of the Organization. This week, the Under-Secretary-General for Management had pointed out to the Committee that the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) could not reform itself. However, in the last six years, management had been reforming itself and increasing managerial authority, while reducing accountability. The Staff Union had the greatest respect for the Secretary-Generals vision for the Organization and had supported the goals of his reform programme. It could not support, however, the erosion of staff rights and dissolution of oversight mechanisms as a means of implementation, and it could not continue legitimizing actions in which staff, through their elected representatives, had no meaningful role to play.
A recent integrity survey by an independent consultant, commissioned by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), had revealed that staff believed not enough action was taken to investigate and address instances of unethical behaviour, she continued. They feared reprisals for exposing breaches of ethics, and they perceived that the disciplinary process was applied unevenly. Their view of integrity among senior managers was less than positive. Staff representatives had not been consulted on the matter, or asked to be involved in extensive follow-up actions established by the Secretary-General.
The Secretary-General wished to ensure the international community that the United Nations led by example and met the Global Compact standards, which he advocated for the world. Sadly, the Organization could not be called a leading example of responsible corporate citizenship, because it failed to adhere to at least one of the fundamental principles of the Compact: freedom of association and effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining. The United Nations should not continue to advocate ideals that it did not practice, since that would ultimately cause confusion to staff and embarrassment to the Organization.
The staff-management consultative process, at the highest level, had been suspended since April 2003, when all staff unions and associations had withdrawn from the Staff-Management Coordination Committee (SMCC). Shortly after that action, in an unprecedented move, the management had formally rescinded the release granted to officers of the Staff Committee in New York. That action constituted direct interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign staff representative body as provided for under chapter VIII of the Staff Rules and Regulations. Unfortunately, that was not an isolated incident. The absence of an independent judicial system placed staff in a situation where their right to fair and impartial adjudication was compromised. The Staff Union would appreciate the opportunity to provide detailed comments under that item when it was discussed.
Staff representatives, throughout the global Secretariat, shared the view that good faith was lacking in the consultative process, she said. In one clear example, in resolution 57/307 on the administration of justice in the Secretariat, the Assembly had requested the Secretary-General to submit detailed proposals, in consultation with the Ombudsman and staff representatives, on the role and work of the Panel on Discrimination and Other Grievances for consideration at the fifty-eighth session. The management had made no attempt to consult with the staff on that issue, even after staff representatives submitted a proposal on their own initiative. Agreements reached at the SMCC were frequently not implemented, partially implemented, or delayed for years.
Staff representatives in New York had withdrawn participation from the central review bodies in April 2003, she continued, at the request of the staff at large, because there was no meaningful role for those bodies. The central review bodies conducted reviews on procedural matters only and basically endorsed the decisions of programme managers -- serving only to legitimize the process. Staff representatives believed that the Assembly had envisaged in resolution 55/528 that a substantive review of candidates qualifications would take place. The current selection system lacked transparency and violated the due process rights of staff, since there was no appeal process, and lacked the requisite checks and balances to ensure safeguards and fairness. The staff representatives respectfully requested the Fifth Committee to give consideration to providing a clear interpretation of its resolution on the central review bodies and clarify whether a substantive review on the merits of the applicants was anticipated.
The Organization had yet to establish concrete measures for individual accountability, she continued. It was essential that areas with expanded delegation of authority for personnel decisions, for example, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the OIOS, should be carefully examined and, if abuses were found, such delegation should be revoked. The staff representatives fully supported the position of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) on accountability. The Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM) had informed staff representatives of its inability to enforce accountability because they lacked central authority. The Fifth Committee may wish to recommend that concrete individual accountability be developed, in consultation with staff representatives, on a priority basis.
Staff representatives supported the introduction of continuing contracts, since they recognized that they were an improvement for staff currently on fixed-term appointments. However, they supported their addition to the Staff Rules and Regulations, not as a replacement for permanent appointments. They also had concerns that, unless the grounds for termination of continuing contracts were clearly defined, staff would be vulnerable to abuse, since their contracts could be terminated at any time in the interests of the Organization. Such wide authority for termination would create an atmosphere where staff were loyal to an individual programme manager, rather than the Organization.
Continuing, she emphasized that references in management documents to staff and focus groups did not mean consultation with staff representatives as mandated under chapter VIII of the Staff Regulations and Rules. Town hall meetings were also a means of circumventing those rules.
With regard to the OIOS report on international recruitment for the General Service category, she said that the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management had convened several staff-management working groups to review the issue of international benefits for General Service staff. Each group had concluded that there were insufficient local candidates. Should the proposal be adopted, it would merely force candidates from other countries to travel to the United States, seek visas privately and remain here for the time of recruitment, all at their own expense. They would still remain international workers, since they would not have permanent residency in this country, but would be forced to present themselves as locals to be hired. Would this be the Organizations idea of a fair employment policy? she asked. It was important for the Committee to note that there were no staff-management consultations on that issue.
Regarding the OIOS report on the impact of the human resources management reform, staff representatives had been consulted at two meetings for a total of two hours. During the second meeting, most of the time had been spent challenging every statement made by staff representatives. The Staff Union sent a formal letter to the Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight requesting that the OIOS not portray those meetings as consultation.
In closing, she added that the Staff Union had been undergoing its own reform for the past two years. It was professionalizing its work, utilizing external experts and making an honest effort to ensure that its legal framework was appropriate and its policies were sound. Modern human resources management strived to build a strategic partnership between staff unions and management, working together to find solutions that were in the best interests of all stakeholders. The Staff Union had no desire to co-manage the Organization. It was aware of its limitations and fully accepted and respected the authority of the Secretary-General. However, in matters that had an impact on the conditions of service, the staff were major stakeholders. To take into consideration their views based on actual work experience before taking decisions was not co-management. It was good management.
JAMES O.C. JONAH (Sierra Leone) expressed hope that the Committee would give serious consideration to the issues raised by the Staff Union. Having worked at the United Nations for some 30 years and served as head of personnel from 1979 through 1982, he recalled that at the end of the 1970s, when the Committee initiated a set of reforms in the Secretariat, a staff-management consultation process was established, and it was decided that staff representatives should be allowed to appear before the Committee. Now, it was sad to see the erosion of the international civil service in the United Nations. That had serious implications. The Committee should also have a serious look at the results of the integrity study. Never had the staff perception of integrity been so low. Some of the reforms could have two results -- they could either strengthen or weaken the system. In some respects, the reforms had weakened the Secretariat considerably.
When he served as head of personnel, his biggest fight had been with programme managers, who were most resistant to reform, he continued. He could not believe that such measures as giving authority to programme managers would strengthen the international civil service. What had been said about the lack of authority of the OHRM was true. Without a strong personnel office, however, there would be no uniformity of rules and fairness in the system. Governments should not take what was happening lightly.
On continuing contracts, he said that the backbone of the international civil service was the permanent contract. As for the complaints about dead wood among staff, that could be found in every institution and government in the world. His experience showed that the reform had not increased, but decreased standards. One should be very careful about the abandonment of permanent contracts, which provided for independence of staff. That was very important. The statement by staff representatives should be given serious consideration, and he hoped his colleagues would rise to the occasion.
MARTHINUS VAN SCHALKWYK (South Africa) agreed with the statements made by the African Group and the Group of 77 expressing concern about the need for a healthy relationship between staff and management. Human resources management reform could not be successful if there was not adequate acceptance of the proposals that the Secretariat was trying to implement. The Organization could only be successful if it had a well-trained, motivated staff.
NONYE UDO (Nigeria) noted that it was extremely difficult to speak after the moving statement from the representative from Sierra Leone, but asked for clarification on a procedural matter. She asked whether the Fifth Committee would be in session even when its resolutions were under consideration in the plenary. She insisted that that Fifth Committee delegates should be able to attend the plenary when its resolutions were under consideration.
The CHAIRMAN said he would be guided by the Committee on how to proceed and suggested that colleagues consult informally on that matter. The Secretary also spoke to explain how the scheduling conflict this morning occurred.
Mr. JONAH (Sierra Leone) said that in his experience, when a Fifth Committee resolution was before the General Assembly, the Fifth Committee did not meet.
Assistant Secretary-General for Management ROSEMARY MCCREERY then commented on the wide range of views expressed by the Committee on the issue of human resources management reform, and particularly noted the intervention of the representative of Sierra Leone. She also mentioned a statement made by the representative of Turkey yesterday, in which he warned of the risk of reform fatigue. She hoped that the Organization would pursue its reform efforts vigorously and not be overtaken by that fatigue.
United Nations Pension System
Speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, MARK ZELLENRATH (Netherlands) said that it was not merely the scope of the Funds assets that deserved particular scrutiny -- it was the fact that its money contributed to a secure retirement for all United Nations employees. They needed the assurance that their savings were well managed and properly invested.
The Union had noted with satisfaction the observations on the Funds performance contained in the reports before the Committee, he said. He was pleased that the actuarial valuation of the Fund had revealed a positive result for the fourth time in succession, and that the investment policy of the Fund had slightly outperformed the benchmark over the last 20 years. Also, a 55 per cent increase of the Funds investments in developing countries should be appreciated. Of course, due to the unpredictable nature of the currency and stock markets, he urged the Fund to remain prudent with its investment policy and to allocate the current surplus wisely.
The Union did have concerns on several issues raised by the Board of Auditors, he continued, most notably on the low implementation rate of the recommendations of the auditors. Out of all the United Nations entities audited by the Board, the Pension Fund had faired the worst: 11 of 27 recommendations had been only partially implemented, while nine had not been implemented at all. One of the recommendations of particular importance would be the establishment of an audit committee. He noted the decision of the Pension Board to defer a decision on that matter to the Standing Committee in 2005. Such matters needed to be looked at carefully, but he expected to see that particular recommendations resolved within two years. While on the subject of internal audits, he was pleased to note, however, the improved cooperation between the Fund and the OIOS.
In conclusion, he added that while agreeing in principle with the decisions before the Committee, he would ask some questions on them during informal consultations. In that regard, he shared the particular concern of the ACABQ on the upward trend in administrative expenditures of the Fund.
ANDREY V. KOVALENKO (Russian Federation) noted that despite an increase that occurred in the reporting period in the value of the assets of the Fund, which were now in excess of $27 billion, the latest actuarial valuation had shown a considerable reduction of actuarial surplus from 2.9 to 1.14 per cent of pensionable remuneration. He agreed with the Board, which had recommended not to repeal the savings measures introduced in the 1980s and limit action to partial implementation of measures agreed during the fifty-seventh session, which included a certain liberalization of pension adjustments, taking into account the index of consumer prices, as well as measures to take into account steep devaluation of local currencies in some countries. Any recommendations to change the parameters of the pension system should be adopted based on those components, taking into account further actuarial valuations.
On investments, he noted that an increase in the market value of the Fund was a reflection of market movements and tested action of the investment service. As repeatedly noted, broad diversification of investments ensured that there was sufficient safety. That policy should be continued with due attention to the market opportunities and clear monitoring. As for the issue of the size and composition of the Board, it was necessary to ensure that the Board operated effectively. He did not exclude any non-standard and creative approaches in that regard, including changing the proportion of the three groups represented on the Board, possibly at the expense of increasing the participation of the governing bodies of organizations.
PHILIP RICHARD OWADE (Kenya) noted that the United Nations Pension Fund was one of the largest and best managed pension schemes in the world, and his delegation was greatly satisfied that the size of the Fund had grown over the years to a market value of more than $27 billion. Speaking personally as a member of the Board, representing the General Assembly, and having been personally associated with the Fund for one decade, he looked forward to the next Board session, which would take place at the United Nations Office in Nairobi in 2006.
His delegation urged the Fund, and especially the Investment Committee, to ensure that the Funds investments were further diversified in terms of geographical coverage. Developing countries now offered tremendous opportunities and good returns on investments. He warned against any temptation to consider enhancing benefits or taking any measures that would eliminate the surplus in the actuarial value of the Fund, and supported the Boards caution against making changes to the system in light of the volatile economic climate. However, he noted that the Board did not share the view of the Committee of Actuaries, which recommended retention of most of the surplus on the grounds of prudence.
On the size and composition of the Board, he believed that the tripartite nature of the Board must not be upset, nor should its effective functioning be sacrificed. He also emphasized that any proposals that affected the membership of the General Assembly must not compromise the principle of geographical distribution.
United Nations Common System
VLADIMIR IOSIFOV (Russian Federation) said his delegation had been closely following the pilot study on broad-banding and pay-for-performance, but was concerned that it appeared that only one of the three models was being tested. That seemed to reduce the value of that pilot study. Ultimately, the Commission would have to recommend whether or not to introduce the new system of pay, and any proposal would require compelling evidence, supported by pilot study data that the new system of remuneration would be more effective and not entail additional spending by Member States.
He supported the decision of the Commission to de-link mobility and hazard pay from the base salary scale. On the establishment of the Senior Management Service, he believed that there was no authority for establishing the service this April. The Senior Management Service was not a network or professional association, as suggested. He had previously pointed to the negative consequences of such a top-management designation system within the United Nations system, and he reiterated the concern that the system could affect recruitment of people outside the club.
The Noblemaire principle should continue to be applied in determining the level of remuneration for professional and higher categories, and there was no serious justification for the so-called clarification of that principle. In conclusion, he noted the need to maintain the central role of the ICSC and the General Assembly in reforming the pay system. Member States needed to closely monitor that area, since they bore primary responsibility in terms of the financial implementation of decisions. Finally, he was concerned that several of the recommendations made by the ICSC had the implication of turning the Commission into a tripartite body. That could have an impact on how effectively the Commission operated.
BENJAMIN GARCIA (United States) said that, as a strong and proactive support of an effective international civil service, his delegation commended the ICSC for its diligence in seeking ways to better address the conditions of service of the United Nations staff. He had concerns over the proposed broad-banding and pay-for-performance systems and sought assurances that performance appraisal systems used by the organizations included in the pilot study were credible, reliable and acceptable to all parties. Using an unproven performance appraisal system could undermine work on the study from the very start. In the context of the pilot project, thought must be given to how grade equivalencies would be compared and how the system would track career progression under broad-banding. Despite his reservations, he would carefully study the results of the pilot study.
His delegation believed that, in the absence of evidence of recruiting and retention problems within the United Nations, changes to the Noblemaire principle at this time were not needed. He supported the ICSCs 2004-2006 allowances and benefits review schedule, which would determine the highest paid civil service, including a comparison between the United Nations and the United States federal civil service for 2005-2006. Regarding the contractual arrangements, he noted that the issue was currently on the agenda of the ICSC. Member States would benefit from the views of the ICSC on the proposed changes for staff. Those arrangements must address the changing priorities and needs in the workforces of the organizations. Therefore, he urged the ICSC to expeditiously complete its review so that Member States would be in a better position to consider the Secretary-Generals proposal during the sixtieth session of the Assembly.
General Assembly resolution 55/223 had requested the Commission to review the linkage between the base/floor salary scale and the mobility and hardship allowance. He welcomed the ICSCs decision to de-link mobility from hardship and de-link those allowances from the base/floor salary scale. Recognizing that the mobility and hardship allowance had not fulfilled its intended purpose, he trusted that the ICSC working group would focus on other options to address those matters. He also welcomed the Commissions efforts to reconcile work and family life responsibilities, including the introduction of paternity leave benefits. He believed the recommendation for four weeks of paid paternity leave for Headquarters and family duty stations, and eight weeks for non-family duty stations or in exceptional circumstances, greatly exceeded the comparator standard and was an excessive extended absence for a staff member from his organization. A mother was already entitled to four months maternity, and he suggested that leave should be shared with the father. The Organizations current leave policy was sufficiently generous.
He also noted that the next grade equivalency review between the common system and the comparator would be completed in 2005 and reported in 2006. Since grade equivalency was a fundamental component to correct measurement and comparison of net salaries between the two systems, he looked forward to that review. As for the report of the Panel on Strengthening the International Civil Service, he believed it demonstrated a commitment by its authors to elaborate concrete measures to strengthen the management of human resources and enhance competitiveness, mobility and security. Although his delegation did not fully agree with some recommendations, those proposals provided much food for thought.
HAO BIN (China) expressed great pleasure over the fact that the pilot project on broad-banding had finally made new progress. China looked forward to satisfactory outcomes in the tests conducted in volunteer organizations. In that connection, he particularly emphasized the need to further refine the criteria for success as the pilot study progressed in order to make the study more relevant and practical. China encouraged the ICSC to provide participating organizations with the necessary policy and professional support so that they would be able to effectively implement the project and strive to complete it within the set time frame.
Turning to the conditions of service, he said that practice of nearly 60 years had proven that the international civil service had a strong appeal for job seekers all over the world. The common system salaries remained highly competitive even today, and the Noblemaire principle was the best acceptable formula under the current circumstances. However, his country was not opposed to a discussion on ways of further improvement. When conditions so permitted, China supported a study on ways of adapting the Noblemaire principle to the new concepts and development in various countries. The reform in the pay and benefits system, as an integral part of human resources reform, should incorporate performance management. Any review of the Noblemaire principle should take into consideration the elements of performance. Given the international nature of the organizations of the common system, it was appropriate to determine the conditions of service of their staff by reference to those of the civil service of the comparator country. The proposal to use the private sector or international financial institutions as comparators was not a responsible one.
The ICSC was an independent expert body of the General Assembly, he said, which played a central role in the regulation and coordination of the conditions of service of the common system. In 2002, the Assembly had adopted a resolution on strengthening the role of the Commission on the basis of the Secretary-General report and, hence, a related panel was established. Having read the report of the Panel, China was of the view that, despite some interesting ideas contained therein, it could hardly be described as a comprehensive and systematic document. Neither could it fully reflect the professionalism that was expected of the Panel. Thus, his delegation was disappointed. Modernizing the human resources management in the Organization required joint efforts of the ICSC, the executive heads of organizations and the staff under the leadership of the Assembly. He called for enhanced communication and coordination with a view to establishing a harmonious synergy in that respect.
AKIRA YAMAMOTO (Japan) noted that the consistency and coherence of the Common System must be maintained, and the role and function of the ICSC as an independent, technical, and professional body serving the System fully recognized. He supported the ongoing effort to implement the pilot study on broad-banding and pay-for-performance, and supported those efforts to align the pay and benefit system with the performance of staff. He also believed that the Noblemaire principle continued to be effective and there was no need for its review, as there was no evidence of retention or recruitment difficulties.
Regarding other aspects of determining remuneration, his delegation supported the decision of the ICSC to separate the mobility element from the hardship element, and de-link the allowance from the base/floor salary scale. Japan also felt there was a need to compare remuneration of United Nations staff and United States federal civil servants, especially with regard to grade equivalence and level of margin. His delegation requested that the ICSC include the review of grade equivalence in the study to determine the highest paid civil service in its work programme for 2005-2006.
As part of the review of the pay and benefits system, strengthening management was also clearly essential. While the Senior Management Service might be one way to achieve that goal, it could not be the only one. Finally, he noted that in order for the ICSC to perform its role, it was necessary to ensure that its members accumulated sufficient knowledge and experience to function independently. As the role of the Commission was highly technical, his delegation believed that the terms of office of ICSC members should not be limited.
Mr. TORRES LEPORI (Argentina) also noted that the proper functioning of the ICSC rested on its being independent and objective. His delegation believed that the Organization must maintain a common system with regard to remuneration and pension. The Noblemaire principle should remain the guiding principle for determining the salary scale in order to attract people of the highest calibre.
ASDRUBAL PULIDO LEON (Venezuela) endorsed the statement by Argentina.
Ms. UDO (Nigeria) said that she intended to follow up on the matter and raise some additional questions in informals. She still had serious concerns on broad-banding, for instance, as well as the appraisal system. On the latter, she wanted assurances that it was working properly.
Ms. WATERS, Staff Union President, then presented a statement of the Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations (CCISUA) on the common system. She emphasized the importance of staff security, saying that in the past two years, the Committees efforts had been focused on that issue more than ever. Staff representatives actively participated in the Inter-Agency Security Management Network and had always felt that their views, even if not always accepted, were respected. They were, therefore, surprised, that the comprehensive review and proposed restructuring of the security management system had been undertaken without any consultation with staff representatives. It was inconceivable that there would be no involvement of staff on an issue purported to be the number one priority of the Organization.
The CCISUA did not believe that the proliferation of high-level posts in a Directorate of Security would solve the problems that plagued the system. Such a structure would only diffuse accountability for decision-making and make it easier to rest responsibility for errors on middle-level managers, rather than on senior and executive levels. That would lead to the institutionalization of collective accountability -- a concept staff representatives rejected. The Organization needed qualified staff with the requisite technical skills and actual experience in hardship areas tasked with the day-to-day working level operations. The collective wisdom of experts from all over the work was needed to give guidance, rather than reliance on a select group of experts from a limited number of States. The CCISUA had presented a resolution and proposal on security at the seventh session of the high-level management committee held in London last March. There was no reaction to the proposal.
She said that, aside from the practical and moral aspects of the situation, the management had shown flagrant disregard for the Staff Regulations and Rules by not honouring chapter VIII, which mandated that the Secretary-General should ensure effective participation of staff in identifying, examining and resolving issues relating to staff welfare, including conditions of work, life and other personnel policies. She could not think of a condition of work with a more dramatic effect. It was staff who were left injured or killed. Therefore, it was not acceptable that the staff representatives were not consulted.
Contractual arrangements were vital to the organizations effort to recruit and retain staff, she said. It was essential to ensure job security as the cornerstone on which the independence of the international civil service was built. The delegates should not confuse the basis of the international civil service with the failure of management to inspire staff to exercise initiative, to reward personal excellence with appropriate career development and avoid taking concrete action in cases of proven and documented under-performance. The CCISUA contended that management had failed to develop and implement appropriate personnel management system, but those failures should not jeopardize the rights of staff to work in an environment where they felt they could take action in the best interests of the Organization without fear of losing their livelihood.
As for the establishment of a Senior Management Service, Member States should look very closely at the cost of that Service and the manner in which it was planned to filter the acquired competencies of high-level management downwards throughout the system. Experience had shown that management retreats and training sessions, surveys and studies of external consultants had not entirely responded to the hopes and desires of staff to establish a modern management environment. The CCISUA was disappointed at the decision of the Commission to separate the mobility element from the hardship element and de-link both the mobility and hardship allowances from the base/floor salary scale. At a time when the Organization was demanding more of staff, that action sent the wrong message to those who were carrying out mandates around the world. The CCISUA was looking forward to participating, in a meaningful way, in the working group to develop various options for compensating staff for service at hardship duty stations and for encouraging mobility.
On the efforts to strengthen the international civil service, she said that on 6 July, in a letter to the Secretary-General, the members of the Panel had concluded that competitive conditions of employment, together with effective human resources management based on modern management practices, are crucial elements for strengthening the international civil service. They expressed concern at recent trends towards the erosion of some conditions of employment and recommended that they be reversed. Staff representative fully supported that position.
Ms. WATERS then presented the comments of the Federation of International Civil Servants Associations (FICSA), on behalf of FICSA President Robert Weissel, who had a scheduling conflict.
She began by reiterating FICSAs great concern over the issue of staff security, which should be viewed in the shadow of the attack on the United Nations office in Baghdad on 19 August. That attack demonstrated that the United Nations had become a direct target, and that new reality required that staff security be seen from a new perspective -- one that called for a balance between need and feasibility. The FICSA and CCISUA communicated to the Secretary-General its concerns about the deployment of United Nations civilian staff to Iraq, and remained concerned and vigilant about the situation. The FICSA also continued to be concerned about the safety and security of the staff of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), especially following recent events that had made UNRWA the target of allegations and had the unfortunate result of further endangering staff. The FICSA welcomed and fully supported Secretary-Generals report A/59/365 calling for an enhanced and integrated security management structure, though it would have appreciated a greater consultative process in that regard.
The FICSA was seriously concerned about the present review of the pay and benefits system, and reiterated its firm opposition to broad-banding and pay-for-performance and their proposed application to the common system. The FICSA was deeply concerned that the pilot studies on broad-banding and pay-for-performance were undertaken without the Commission having fully researched the impact of such systems on public service outside the United Nations system. FICSAs own research showed there was little evidence that such pay systems improved work performance or motivated staff.
Another issue of serious concern to FICSA was the current review of the existing mobility and hardship scheme, which was functioning very well by rewarding staff fairly for being mobile and working in hardship duty stations. The Commission in its review had decided to de-link both hardship and mobility from the base/floor salary scale, acting on its interpretation that the scheme had become distorted and its cost escalated at an unacceptable rate. The FICSA strongly disagreed. Also, FICSA did not support lowering the level of the base/floor salary scale. The FICSA again raised the issue that hazard pay for UNRWA staff in Gaza and the West Bank remained unfunded, and implored the General Assembly to find a solution to address that discrimination, perhaps through a special annual allocation.
With respect to contractual arrangements, FICSA presented written comments to the ICSC reiterating staff support for three types of contracts: short term, fixed term, and permanent. Insecure contractual conditions caused anxiety among all staff. While the ICSC had taken the right step in attempting to simplify contractual arrangements, the General Assembly should ensure that the opportunity to make a career at the United Nations was upheld by rejecting the introduction of contracts that did not safeguard the value of career service in the common system.
The FICSA had advocated actively for a review of the ICSC, but noted that numerous attempts to initiate the review were either thwarted or delayed over the past seven years. The Panels report on strengthening the Commission contained some useful recommendations, namely, its recommendations 1 through 8, but other recommendations did not appear to adhere to the terms of reference intended in A/57/612. The FICSA urged Member States, in considering the Panels report, to focus on recommendations 1 through 8, and to leave the formulation of recommendations relating to conditions of service in the common system to the ICSC.
NORMA GOICOCHEA (Cuba) emphasized the importance of allowing staff representatives to intervene, as delegates must be fully briefed on all angles. Her delegation had serious concerns about the proposals on broad-banding and pay-for-performance, and supported comments made by the representative of Nigeria. The current system of professional evaluation was seriously flawed, and there was a lack of a true system for the administration of justice. Subjective assessments that spawned arbitrariness and injustice should not be allowed. Cuba had serious concerns about the Senior Management Service, which required consideration in the informals.
NAJIB ELJI (Syria) said that unless there was genuine cooperation between the management and the staff, it would be difficult to achieve success. It was important to ensure participation of civil servants in decision-making.
Ms. UDO (Nigeria) thanked the staff representatives for taking the pains to appear before the Committee. She intended to study their statements in great detail. Many concerns had been raised, most of which her delegation had also expressed at one time or another.
Mr. JONAH (Sierra Leone) expressed appreciation for the efforts of the Commission in the maintenance of the international civil service. Listening to Ms. Waters had given him a sense of pride, for she had made very succinct statements. Although there was a tendency to pooh-pooh the old-timers, they were extremely professional and their work product was excellent.
MOHSEN BEL HADJ AMOR, Chairman of the International Civil Service Commission (ISCC), thanked delegates for their support for the Commission and its work, and responded to a number of questions and comments raised during the discussions.
He was pleased to note support for the Commissions review of the pay and benefits system, and emphasized that the Commission was moving forward in a very cautious and deliberate manner. Its approach would be tested and evaluated in the pilot study launched on 1 July 2004. It was generally recognized by compensation experts that salary represented some 80 to 90 per cent of a compensation package. At the United Nations, that figure was closer to 80 per cent, due to the factor of expatriate benefits. In its review, the Commission addressed the larger components of the remaining 20 per cent, which meant de-linking the mobility and hardship scheme. It should not be a problem to integrate all the elements into a workable whole.
As to the education grant, the Commission had maintained that funding for post-secondary education should be maintained. It should be noted, however, that the comparator subsidized 100 per cent of education costs, while the Common System subsidized 75 per cent of those costs. In many regards, the comparator granted higher benefits than the Common System. He also noted that many European Member States subsidized higher education.
Review of the Noblemaire principle would commence next summer, and the Commission would keep the General Assembly fully informed, he said. In the meantime, the Commission has informed the General Assembly of its intent to include two organizations in the review, and the Assembly concurred with that decision. The international organizations -- namely, the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) -- were included not for the purpose of calculating some average compensation among the comparators, but simply to have more information as to where the Common System stood. The results showed that those two international organizations were, respectively, some 30 to 50 per cent ahead of Common System salary levels. Recruitment and retention problems were often cited as a reason for non-competitiveness of the Common System. The Commission had little hard data on that, but significant amounts of anecdotal commentary.
The Commission was working with the staff and the Organization to establish an appropriate set of guidelines to simplify contractual arrangements, he said. That work should be concluded next year, and the Commission would report back to the General Assembly.
On the report of the Panel on strengthening the international civil service, he reiterated the Commissions position that, while several of the recommendations were useful and many were already in progress, some of the recommendations provoked doubt. He emphasized that the Commission was committed to acting technically, impartially, and independently -- carefully balancing the interests of all parties concerned. In order to do that, members of the Commission should have the requisite technical skills and experience. No selection process of Commission members should be a substitute for the normal election process, or infringe on the Assemblys prerogatives. He added that the recommendation for term limits for Commission members was not a minor adjustment, but an attempt to revise the Statute of the Commission. Such a move would certainly weaken the Commission, as its members must be knowledgeable, and that knowledge was not gained instantly. It took time for Commission members to learn how to deal with the range of complex issues before it. Also, regarding the length of sessions, further reduction in the length of sessions required shortening the agenda, which meant that not all issues would be addressed. More working groups would not help reduce that problem.
Finally, on an issue that sparked great interest, he spoke about the infamous Senior Management Service. He said there should be no ambiguity on the point that the ICSC had made a recommendation that had to do with the Common System, but that the decision rested with the Member States.
ROBERT WEISSEL, President of FICSA, expressed regret that he had been unable to present his statement earlier and thanked Ms. Waters for reading it for him. He assured the delegates that he was available to provide answers to questions.
Ms. GOICOCHEA (Cuba) said that she was keenly aware of the fact that establishment of management bodies, including the Senior Management Service, must remain in the hands of Member States. The ICSC had recommended that it was up to Member States to take that decision. The General Assembly had not taken a position on the issue, but the administration had simply moved ahead with the project. The problem had nothing to do with the ICSC recommendations, but with the fact that the project had been launched without a legislative decision.
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