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Call For UN Change to Recruit, Retain Staff

Annan Calls for ‘Fundamental Change’ in UN Culture to Recruit And Retain Good Staff

New York, Oct 30 2006 2:00PM

Highlighting the staff of the United Nations as its “principal asset,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called for more resources from Member States to improve recruiting practices and streamline contracts so as to attract good candidates and keep them with the organization.

Mr. Annan said his latest call for action to improve staffing conditions builds on recommendations contained in his overall reform package, Investing in the United Nations, released earlier this year. While the world body was “on the right track, we still face important obstacles,” and recruitment practices remain “reactive and slow,” he added.

“Change needs to begin with the way we recruit people to serve the Organization, the conditions of service we offer them, and how we develop their skills… We aim to speed up recruitment, with targeted steps to find the people we need rather than waiting for them to find us.”

“We need to have one kind of contract rather than the complex arrangements that prevail at present. Even this seemingly modest change will do much to restore equity and to improve transparency, mobility and flexibility,” he said, adding the proposals in the Investing in People package built not only on experience but also on discussions with more than 5,000 staff worldwide, who had showed “great support” for the ideas.

“It is time to make a deeper, more fundamental change in our very culture. Such a change will not be possible without the buy-in of staff and managers alike. That is why my colleagues and I have consulted extensively with them, including with elected staff representatives from all duty stations except New York at the Staff-Management Coordination Committee.”

Mr. Annan said he regretted that the New York staff union has remained outside “this consensus,” and chose not to participate in the formal processes, and held out the hope that it would reconsider this and re-engage in dialogue with senior management.

He also reiterated the changes undergone by the UN since its founding, namely the fact that from a “mostly static Secretariat” servicing conferences, with most staff working at Headquarters now more than half the world body’s 30,000 personnel serve in the field, although this reality is “not sufficiently reflected” in staffing rules and regulations.

“The result is an unacceptably high level of managerial risk. Our missions are handicapped by high vacancy rates – typically from 22 to 26 per cent – and from destabilizing levels of staff turnover. Moreover, more than 50 per cent of field staff have been with the Organization for two years or less. And across the Organization, it is difficult to apply policies and standards consistently.”

“This may be the last time I address you in the Fifth Committee. So let me stress one final time that the staff are this Organization's greatest asset. We must treat them as such. I appeal to you to give strong support to these proposals. I am convinced they are necessary,” he concluded.


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