Press Releases

    23 July 2002

    Secretary-General Disappointed at Lack of Progress in Latest Session, Warns That "Credibility of ICSC Is at Stake"

    NEW YORK, 22 July (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the fifty-fifth session of the International Civil Service Commission, New York, 22 July:

    It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the United Nations for the fifty-fifth session of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC).

    You play a key role in supporting the United Nations system. In recent years, as almost every entity in the United Nations family has engaged in a process of fundamental reform, your work has become even more important. I am thinking in particular of your efforts to develop an integrated framework for the management of human resources, and to carry out a long overdue review of a major component of that framework: the pay and benefits system.

    Over the past three years, we in the United Nations system have followed the progress of the pay and benefits review with keen interest. We were gratified to see that this review -- unlike previous ones -- is being undertaken with the recognition that the pay system must fit into the Organization's overall strategic approach. It was also good to see how management, staff and external experts have worked together in discussing the issues with your members. And we were encouraged by the innovative proposals on the table. Expectations were high.

    It was, therefore, with great disappointment that we learned not only that the Commission had not made progress at its April session, but also that the very need for fundamental changes in the pay and benefits system had been questioned.

    As you are well aware, if the organizations of the United Nations system are to be competitive employers, they must offer improved conditions of service so that they can attract, nurture, motivate and retain the highest quality personnel.

    We therefore need a Commission that can develop, and gain acceptance of, sound recommendations on conditions of service.

    We need the Commission to help us encourage and reward high performance, build up staff skills and managerial capacity, and increase staff mobility.

    We need the Commission to assist us in addressing problems of recruitment and retention, especially at senior levels.

    And we need the Commission to do its part in creating a system that is simpler to administer and easier for staff to understand.

    The General Assembly has emphasized the importance it attaches to these goals, agreeing with the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) that a competitive package of conditions of service is a prerequisite if our reform of human resources management is to succeed. As you know, the Assembly requested the ICSC to report to its fifty-seventh session.

    The United Nations system's Executive Heads, for their part, meeting as the Chief Executives Board (CEB) in April, stressed that the risk of inaction far outweighs the challenges associated with taking an initiative in this area, and called on the Commission to exercise leadership in moving forward.

    It is clear that all concerned -- Member States, Executive Heads, staff associations and staff at large -- are looking forward to concrete proposals this autumn. We at the United Nations attach importance to three major items in particular: expanding the Nobelmaire principle in order to achieve greater competitiveness; developing a more flexible classification system to underpin our pay system; and establishing a senior management service. These actions would also support the new round of change that I have set in motion.

    You have the potential to be a real driving force in strengthening the international civil service. Your actions can contribute immensely to improving staff morale and commitment. It is no exaggeration to say that the entire United Nations community is expecting you to rise to this challenge -- and that the very credibility of the Commission is at stake.

    Before concluding, I would like to refer to another question related to the strengthening of the international civil service -- the independent review of the Commission, which I first proposed in my 1997 reform programme and which has since received the endorsement and strong support of the executive heads in the CEB.

    The General Assembly has now requested me, in close consultation with your Chairman, to propose a timetable for this review at its coming session. The Chairman and I met a few days ago and spoke about how best to carry out this task. Our shared view was that the review should be a simple, focused process, firmly set in the context of the ICSC statute, and clearly aimed at further strengthening the Commission and maximizing its ability to support the General Assembly in guiding the common system.

    Together with a strong outcome of your review of the pay and benefits system, the launch of this review will send an important signal that the Commission and the General Assembly take seriously the need to support reform in the system. I am confident that, with the Chairman's advice and cooperation, we will be able to submit to the Assembly a positive, concrete proposal on this issue that will command general support.

    I attach great importance to the United Nations-ICSC partnership. I look forward to continuing to work closely with you so that we can realize the full potential of the United Nations system, and bring real, positive change into the lives of people throughout the world. I wish you all success in your deliberations.

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