Human resource management at the UN is a key element of its global strategy. In 2008, the General Assembly therefore embarked on an effective reform of the human resource management policies of the Secretariat and certain entities covered by the United Nations common system, through its resolutions 63/250, 65/247 and 65/248.
The main objective of the reform is to build a global, dynamic and adaptable workforce in order to ensure that the organization is as efficient as possible. Among the specific HR initiatives that have been introduced in response to the General Assembly’s requests, the Secretariat has implemented or proposed initiatives in the following major areas.
In its resolution 63/250, the General Assembly approved new contractual arrangements (temporary appointments, fixed-term contracts and continuing appointments), reducing the number of employment contracts from 11 to 3. The first two types of employment contract became effective on 1 July 2009.
In its resolution 65/247, the General Assembly specified the framework and terms of continuing appointment contracts. There are two ways to obtain this type of contract. Successful candidates from national competitive recruitment examinations are granted continuing contracts after two years of probationary service, subject to satisfactory performance. For all other staff, continuing appointment contracts are available within the margin of the post envelopes and the eligibility criteria established by the General Assembly (see Articles 53 and 54 of resolution 65/247).
The new contractual arrangements also harmonize the conditions of service for staff serving at Headquarters and in the field. An employee recruited to serve in a peacekeeping operation or in a special political mission (for a period of one year or more) will, from now on, be considered as an internal candidate for any other post in the Secretariat in the same way as for an employee at Headquarters. Their selection is approved by a recruitment monitoring body in the field, in the same way as for other positions in the Secretariat. This process eliminates the differences in status and treatment between employees at Headquarters and those in the field, paving the way for a genuine UN mobility policy, which certain member states are calling for.
The General Assembly requested the Secretary-General, in resolutions 63/250 and 65/247, to formulate a comprehensive mobility policy, which would be more cross-cutting and structured than the existing policy, which is not widely used and is essentially based on voluntary movements.
At the 67th session of the General Assembly, the Secretary-General put forward, in response to the member states, a proposal for a partially-managed mobility policy that was submitted to the Fifth Committee in fall 2012. This proposal focuses on the following main areas: grouping together of jobs that are potentially available to the same employee within the job family networks both at headquarters as well as in the field and position occupancy limits for different duty stations (1 to 7 years according to the classification of these duty stations). Each job network will have a board responsible for making recommendations on the selection and assignment of personnel within the network. Details of these proposals can be found in the report A/67/324/ Add.1.
According to the Secretary-General, this new mobility strategy should improve vacancy management and allow managers to spend less time on staffing tasks. It should also make it possible to improve the effectiveness of the HR process. Lastly, staff, who will now have a greater incentive to move to a different duty station, will benefit from improved career development.
The General Assembly is due to rule on this system in the near future. France supports the principle of a mobility policy that will allow for the best possible UN human resource management system in order to ensure the effectiveness of UN action and improve career development for its staff.
The General Assembly is urging the Secretariat to continue its efforts to improve these aspects of human resource management.
Planning for future workforce needs
In its resolution 65/247, the General Assembly reaffirms that it is possible to anticipate workforce needs for the main occupational groups. The Secretariat has therefore been asked to introduce a succession planning strategy for retirements as well as for field personnel. The Secretariat has introduced an online reporting tool called "HR Insight," which allows member states to have access to the information on which the Secretariat’s planning is based. However, there are still significant delays with respect to the replacement of personnel who are retiring and recruitment.
Selection and recruitment of personnel
In its successive resolutions, the General Assembly stresses the vital importance of accelerating the recruitment and selection processes, the aim being to reduce the total length of the recruitment process to 120 days. At this stage, the timeframe is much longer and average recruitment times exceed 170 days.
The introduction of Inspira, a recruitment and career management system (following resolution 61/244) has, at this stage, not led to any significant progress with respect to recruitment times, even though it has improved the overall process to some extent through the streamlining of contracts.
France supports the initiatives aimed at making the selection and recruitment process more efficient, in order to improve the functioning of the organization and to take the situation of internal and external candidates more fully into account. It also attaches particular importance to the need for transparency and to the criteria established for recruitment (notably language criteria).
In the same way, the General Assembly regularly calls for the implementation of a “credible, fair and fully functioning performance appraisal system” throughout the United Nations common system. Several measures have been adopted, notably with respect to oversight of the Performance Management and Development System, and mandatory training in performance management for managerial and supervisory staff. However, there is still a great deal to be done in order to implement an effective performance-based reward and penalty system that establishes a clear relationship between performance and career advancement. The Inspira module devoted to career management and appraisals was recently rolled out to the entire Secretariat and has yet to prove itself as a recruitment and management system within the framework of a global system.
Training and career development
The Secretariat has introduced a training and development program and an advisory committee on training for senior managers aimed at developing management and leadership capacities, improving communication and conflict resolution techniques, managing human and financial resources more effectively as well as upgrading certain technical skills.
The General Assembly is closely monitoring these issues, in addition to those relating to the teaching of language and communication skills at Headquarters as well as in overseas offices. The latter must be continued, with a particular focus on courses aimed at meeting work-related language needs.
In its resolution 65/247, the General Assembly approved the UN program for the recruitment of young professionals. The first competitive examination under the new system was held on 7 December 2011.
The competitive examination was offered in 4 job families: administration, humanitarian affairs, public information and statistics. Out of the 33,791 applications received, 4,426 candidates sat the examinations, 132 were then interviewed and 96 were finally selected.
For more information regarding the competitive examinations and careers at the UN please consult:
the website of the International Civil Service Commission