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Ministry Statements and Speeches 2010

Item 134: Human Resource Management - Item 136: UN Common System

Delivered by by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Australia to the United Nations on behalf of Canada, Australia and New Zealand, 28 October 2010

Mr Chairman,

I have the honour to speak today on behalf of Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

What I want to do this morning is take this opportunity – on behalf of CANZ – to comment on both the UN common system and proposed human resource management reforms in an holistic manner.

I first want to thank the Deputy Secretary-General, the Under-Secretary-General for Management and the Director of the Ethics Committee for their presentations. And also the chair of the ACABQ introducing a clear and constructive report on human resources reforms.

In addition, thank you also to the staff organisations for their statements earlier this week and today. We have listened carefully to their concerns.

Mr Chairman,

CANZ delegations have – historically – been supporters of human resource management reform and the principle of establishing an effective UN common system. 

We have long strongly supported efforts to ensure the system works in the best interests of the Organisation, its mandates and its most valuable resource – its people.

Mr Chairman,

CANZ are concerned about the gaps in the conditions of service of UN Secretariat staff and those in the funds, programs and specialised agencies.  Harmonization of conditions of service is among the most important human resources management issues to be considered at this session. This issue has been before us since the 61st session, when both contractual reform and harmonization were proposed. With contractual reform having been decided two years ago, now is the time to move forward and to consider how to proceed with harmonization of conditions of service in non-family duty stations.

Our approach to harmonization is governed by three objectives: first, enhanced program delivery, by enabling UN peace, humanitarian and development operations to attract and retain the staff they require; second, equity, so that people working in similar conditions are treated alike; and third, a common system approach led by the ICSC and applicable to all participating organizations.  We will be assessing these proposals through the lens of these objectives.

Our work has been facilitated by the work of the ICSC, which has examined the impact of certain allowances on staffing patterns and identified anomalies arising from the differences in conditions applicable to the UN Secretariat compared with those in the agencies, funds and programs. The Commission has provided an excellent basis for our deliberations, supported by the pertinent observations and recommendations of the ACABQ.

Mr Chairman,

CANZ delegations believe that designation of duty stations as family or non-family should be harmonized based on the security situation and related objective factors. It is not sustainable for the UN as a whole to support the current reality where two international UN staff – from the same duty stations – are treated differently, primarily due to the source of funding of their program.

We look forward to further clarification of the proposals for rest and recuperation travel, in relation to current practices in the UN systems. We will also follow closely why it would be necessary to provide more than transportation costs.

Mr Chairman,

The third element of the ICSC proposal – the provision of an additional hardship allowance in recognition of the costs for staff in non-family duty stations of maintaining a second household – is the most far-reaching. For two reasons.

CANZ delegations are aware that, if adopted, it would for the first time help to compensate UN staff, who are primarily working in peace operations, for costs incurred supporting dependants. It would also replace the practice, developed by agencies, funds and programs, of the special operations approach. This significant change would be accomplished during a five year transition period.  CANZ delegations intend to explore this proposal in depth.

We believe that such allowances should be defined by the ICSC, which has a broad mandate for conditions of service, and agree fully with the ACABQ that the transition period for any change that the General Assembly might decide on should be used by the Secretary-General and Executive Heads to address and mitigate any unintended issues that could arise from this implementation.

Mr. Chairman,

With respect to continuing contracts, we note that proposals by the Secretary General are based on granting continuing contracts to virtually all staff, primarily to create a basis for payment of termination indemnities. CANZ delegations are worried that we do not have enough data to allow us to progress on this matter.  We are – frankly – concerned by the absence of further particulars on long term staff planning.  We need this information.

Mr Chairman,

On other human resource management matters, we are looking forward to full implementation of Inspira, which has been under gestation for a long period.  We expect the realisation of this innovative vision will help to improve the overall functioning of the system.

We would also like to emphasize the importance of an agile and flexible work force and appreciate the ACABQ bringing to our attention the requirement for Heads of Department to justify selection of an external candidate in writing for approval by the Office of Human Resources Management. This appears contrary to selection on merit. 

CANZ delegations also look forward to discussing in detail matters related to staff mobility, recruitment, training, performance management and better representation of women in the UN workforce – while also acknowledging, of course, the personal commitment of the Secretary-General to achieve a higher level of women in the Organisation than ever before. 

CANZ delegations will certainly be seeking additional information to help us make the right decisions on all matters under this important reform agenda. 

Mr Chairman,

We will also be asking the UN to work with Member States to take creative approaches to the administrative reform agenda before us, and to work with us to find ways to offset and defray any associated costs. 

It goes without saying that these items are complex, interrelated and have far reaching implications. 

CANZ delegations assure you of our commitment to seek the most effective solutions to these important issues.  We are committed to the pursuit of a true and effective common system across the UN. 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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