15 MAY 2017


The drastic gradual erosion of International Civil Service over the last two decades is directly related to a weakening -- sometimes embarrassing -- performance of the United Nations and its sidelined role; from the mainstream of international relations to a politically convenient gathering post. A solid image of outstanding staff from varied backgrounds and all regional continents who dedicated their careers -- often risking their lives -- to promote the principles of the Charter under the sole leadership of their internationally-credible Secretary-General faded as a number of politically-appointed officials more interested in networking rather than working openly boasted about their close links with specific governments in open violation of the Oath of Office.

Expedient appointments of former Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers and similar individuals in presumed "High-Level," mostly symbolic assignments turned almost farcical. In certain cases, certain envoys made a point of circulating their reports to members of the Security Council even before the Secretary General had an opportunity to consider or approve them. Originally a limited number of Representatives and Envoys were appointed for a specific period to accomplish a particularly designated task. Over the last two decades, however, hundreds were given politically expedient tasks which they hardly accomplished and they never seemed inclined to leave. A famous quip by Sir Winston Churchill, one of the U.N.'s original founders, was turned around to comment: "Never have so many done so little."

Aspiring young women and men looking forward to supporting, if not working for, the Organisation were increasingly disappointed. Dedicated hard-working staff doing their best to keep the faith and maintain their morale found little encouragement. A clearly disillusioned International Civil Servant like Mona Khalil who had a distinguished record in the Legal Counsel, submitted her resignation in July 2016, pointing out sadly that she was not alone (Copy attached).

Obviously, times change. The United Nations has to adapt to new structures and deal with pressing current requirements. That is why it is even more crucial to revive the spirit of International Civil Service and encourage efforts aiming to offer ways and means to do so. A number of groupings have started to move in that direction. Dag Hammarskjold Foundation, for example, under its new president Henrik Hammargren, is spearheading fellowships and studies to enhance the role of that service. A new book on the former Secretary-General and inspiring symbol was a welcome occasion to launch it in New York. A "Young U.N." informal gathering of young women and men met informally over brown bag lunches to explore their potential tasks. A number of existing and former staff are actively exchanging ideas.

The appointment of new Secretary-General Antonio Guterres could present an opportunity to advance the revival of International Civil Service and invigorate the U.N. Secretariat. That, indeed, will be in his own interest. When he extends his legacy in that horizon, he will inspire a whole new world behind his leadership.