ANNAN PROJECTS REFORM PROPOSALS: Doing What Matters; Improve Decision-Making; Working Together Better


Secretary-General Kofi Annan projected his new reform proposals in a letter to staff. Among the main points: The new package of reforms contains a wide range of pragmatic improvements affecting both substance and process. Individually, they may seem more technical than dramatic. But taken together, they add up to a very different way of doing business. Some of the highlights are as follows:

First, I am proposing a comprehensive review of our programme of work, to make sure we are doing what matters and not wasting time or money on out-of-date or irrelevant tasks. Two areas in particular -- public information and human rights -- are examined in great detail, in response to specific requests from the General Assembly. The Department of Public Information will be restructured, an effort that will see the network of UN Information Centres reorganized around regional hubs, starting with Western Europe. And the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will develop a plan to strengthen management, taking into account a review conducted by the Office of Internal Oversight Services.

Second, to support better decision-making by the General Assembly and its subsidiary organs, I am calling for a significant reduction in the number of meetings and reports, and taking steps to ensure an increase in the quality of analysis found in those reports that the Secretariat does produce.

Third, to improve the way we work together, I am asking the agencies, funds, programmes and various entities working in each country to explore ways to undertake joint programming, build common databases and pool their resources. A definitive document spelling out "who does what" in the area of technical cooperation, aimed at avoiding overlap and duplication, will be completed by September 2003.

Fourth, to find better ways of organizing the crucially important interaction between the United Nations and civil society, I am appointing an independent panel to take stock and make recommendations.

Fifth, I am recommending important changes in the planning and budgeting process, which is unnecessarily complex and labour intensive.

Last but far from least, I am proposing a range of investments to help you, the staff, enjoy more rewarding careers and see your talents put to better use. The last round of reform focused on improving the way the Organization recruits and manages its human resources. This time, we need to strengthen our ability to act as a good employer.

A career at the United Nations is a privilege, but it also imposes a number of burdens, but it also imposes a number of burdens, such as the need to be mobile and the increasing likelihood that, at some point, you will work in difficult, dangerous conditions. The package outlined in this report aims to encourage staff to move between locations, functions and organizations, and to ensure that those who do are properly rewarded. Since the ability of spouses to find work is an important factor in attracting candidates for jobs around the globe, I will be exploring possibilities for the renegotiation of the host-country agreements governing such arrangements.

The United Nations needs to treat staff not just as "workers," but as individuals with lives and responsibilities outside their work. The report calls for the introduction of flexible working arrangements in all departments, and for greater support to be given to the growing number of staff being affected by the impact of HIV/AIDS.

The Report also asks the International Civil Service Commission to finalize its proposals for a more competitive pay and benefits system. And it seeks to respond to the concerns and aspirations of General Service staff. I deplore the General Assembly's decision to limit the possibilities for promotion to the professional level, and I urge it to lift these restrictions. In recognition of the fact that the contribution of all UN staff is important regardless of whether they are "general service" or "professional," from 1 January 2003 all UN Secretariat employees will be officially known as "international civil servants."

The impact of these and other changes will vary from department to department, and from person to person. Many jobs will change; some functions will disappear. I wish to assure you that the Organization will look after its people -- by training staff for new positions if necessary or, in some rare cases, by providing appropriate separation payments and support. Some actions will take effect immediately, while others will be implemented over time. One key step will be to produce a programme budget proposal for 2004-2005 that incorporates the changes contained in this report and reflects some reallocation of resources to higher-priority activities.

This new round of change is not driven by Member States pressing for a budget-cutting exercise, but rather from within -- by our own desire to devote our energies to what matters to the world's people, and to ensure that what we do, we do well. It is being launched at a time when Member States are expressing increasing confidence in the Organization's ability to do the job demanded of it. But the whole package will only work if it is enthusiastically supported -- by the staff, by Governments, and by the general public.