15 JANUARY 2010


An argument has erupted within the Assembly's Financial and Budgetary Committee among Senior Management about requirements for the staff selection system. It was prompted by an official proposal by the Secretary General to amend a Secretariat management bulletin (ST/A1/2006/3). The proposed amendment introduces, among other things, GEOGRAPHICAL MOVEMENT as a new eligibility criteria for promotion to P-5, D-1 and D-2 levels.

It may be that the Secretary General's proposal drew on a General Assembly Resolution (A/63/250) that "invites" him when appointing such officials "in departments that provide backstopping and/or policy guidance to field missions" to fully consider the relevant field experience of the candidates "as one of the highly desirable appointment criteria." However, an automatic blanket ruling may backfire or at least may not be practical or feasible. The operational implications will have to be carefully reviewed to avoid moving excellent staff away from key posts or impose other situations where they are either unable to go, as in the case of non-family or hardship stations, or unqualified for it.

Comparing the Secretariat with field-oriented programs like the World Food Programme or U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees will be misleading and counter-productive; the needs, skills and backgrounds of these service rendering operations are basically similar and readily transferrable. To apply a general ruling as proposed, without discretion or selectivity, would require basic shifts in professional backgrounds and compel others to avoid seeking a promotion only to avert being sent elsewhere, leading to demoralized or stagnating staff. In fact, the resolution particularly mentioned offices dealing with field missions, which is fair and reasonable. To extend it much wider may not help.

Such points have been raised by several senior officials including some heads of departments who felt they were not adequately consulted before the presentation of the proposed amendment. They feel that as they are, rightly, accountable for their program delivery, they should be carefully consulted about any change with substantial staff implications.

The Secretary General has been approached about these concerns. A note was sent to him by Under-Secretary General for Internal Oversight Services, Inga-Britt Ahleniuson, on 18 December 2009. According to internal sources, it was Mr. Kim of the Secretary General's office who had pushed for the amendment, obviously on some external advice. The General Assembly, in its last days of deliberation before adjournment, postponed consideration for next session. Meanwhile, will the Secretary General reconsider? Or does Mr. Kim have the last word?!