Personnel Office Rehashes old practice with new terminology

WithThe UN office that needs the most serious investigation, "Office of Human Resources Management", gets to be the least scrutinized, mainly for two reasons: first, it now comes under the protective wings of the Under-Secretary-General for Administration and Management, a brilliant office in-fighter who knows what is right but would not want any encroachment on his turf; and secondly, several delegates are inclined to barter on posts for nationals and, naturally, OHRM is amenable to a deal. This may require a whole survey in due course. Meanwhile, looking at the new "quiet reform" proposals gives the impression that, despite so many retreats in Glen Cove and brainstorming sessions elsewhere, the same old practices are proposed under what may be intended as updated political lingo.

The only serious and negative proposal is to kill permanent appointments, thus eroding the anchor of security for international civil servants. Without it, they would be subject to pressure by powerful Member States or influential senior officials representing them. That may be the purpose of the current approach. Otherwise, "indefinite" appointment will be called "continuing contract". Those holding it would serve, however, "as long as their services are needed" (by whom?). If they were no longer required, "every effort will be made" to identify an alternative post in the Organization (an arrangement with IFAD in North Korea?) or receive benefits similar to those payable under current permanent contracts (depending on the period of service allowed).

In political terms, there will be two other types of appointments: short-term up to six months and fixed-term renewable to a maximum of five years; a one-time review would be conducted for those with such extended service (a positive saving of effort and elimination of farcical "evaluations"). If deemed satisfactory, contracts will be converted to "continuing" ones (same as now with some exceptions, as usual). The proposal indicates with an air of firm decision-making: all staff (except for short-term) would join the Organization initially on a fixed-term appointment with a specified term of up to five years, which would serve as a probationary period (so, what's new?). Again, with renewed vigour, it is announced that three central review bodies will advise the Secretary-General on appointments and promotions: a Board, a Committee and a Panel. Well, that has been the case at least since the current Secretary-General headed the Office of Personnel 20 years ago. Ah, yes. There is one major difference. Placements will now be called "lateral" mobility, and promotion "horizontal". That would fuel enough entertainment for "members" of the deliberating "bodies".

Briefly, what it all means is that those currently in positions of influence would like to get rid of some people so that they could bring in their own.