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Statement by Mr. Yasuo Kishimoto
First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations
Agenda item 123: Human Resources Management
Sixty-third Session of the United Nations General Assembly
13 November 2008
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
My delegation would like at the outset to express its gratitude to Ms. Catherine Pollard, the Assistant-Secretary-General for Human Resources Management, and Ms. Susan McLurg, the Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, for introducing their reports.
Reform of the human resources management towards the desirable goal can start by all parties sharing the idea of what current problems are. The functions of the current system need to be carefully evaluated, so that we can reform in a prudent manner by identifying specific issues to address and specific measures to solve them. All key players, both at the headquarters and in the field, have to be involved in this process, and together they need to participate in good faith.
I would like to hereby outline my delegation's views on the following eight points.
First, allow me to draw your attention on the structural problem of the current HRM in the UN. In this Organization, responsibility to manage human resources has been widely delegated to the programme managers. The programme managers, who are focused on their immediate tasks, tend not to be primarily interested in the long-term interests of the Organization, and therefore, the current structure has to be revised. The attempts made to date for measures on mobility, recruitment and geographical representation and their poor results, reveal that it is time we changed the structure of the HRM, as pointed out by both the Ombudsman and OIOS.
As a first step towards redesigning the structure of human resources management, my delegation deems it appropriate that a panel of external and independent experts be set up to make recommendations to the Organizations and the General Assembly. My delegation strongly believes that it is impossible to achieve what the Secretary-General claims to aim unless the authority for human resources management is centralized. Each programme manager needs to become an agent for realizing organizational goals and must be accountable to the Secretary-General and the Member States.
Second, the current delay of recruitment seems to derive from two factors. The first one is that the advertisement of vacancies and the selection of the candidates are governed by programme managers. If programme managers do not want to advertise vacancies, they can afford not to do so. If programme managers do not want to pick up candidates from the current list, they can re-advertise vacancies.
If a pre-screen roster were to be introduced, an important prerequisite is that placement of staff is managed by the central human resources authority. Just simplifying the current procedure would easily result in an arbitrary selection by programme managers often inducing nepotism, as we very often see in the current decentralized system. It can easily be predicted that the proposed pre-screen roster system would leave behind qualified candidates from un-represented and under-represented countries for years.
The second factor behind the current slow recruitment would be lack of specific selection criterion which each programme manager has to follow. How to put in place a fair and transparent selection system is an important and urgent issue in which all key players are interested. On this account, introduction of a personal score system merits consideration. This system is to translate such factors as work experience and outcome of the interview of a candidate, as well as the organizational needs, into a numerical score. This score can be used as a basis for decisions as to which candidate be selected for a specific post. I suggest that this idea may come under the consideration of the panel of external and independent experts I propose earlier.
Strategic workforce planning should be considered in conjunction with career development policies across departments. In the workforce planning, the current excessively specialized job categories should be integrated to create a broader pool, as these would further foster development of a multi-skilled workforce. The current top heavy structure should also be rectified during the forthcoming period when we expect to see a high volume of retirements.
Third, although this Assembly has requested in sectionⅩ, paragraph 12, of its resolution 61/244 to reduce the number of unrepresented and underrepresented by 20 percent compared to the level in 2006, the current report on the Composition of the Secretariat, A/63/310, shows that the total number of those countries increased to 40 as of June 2008 from 29 in June 2006. The proportion of nationals of underrepresented Member States recruited came down from 14.8 per cent in 2002 to 9.6 per cent in 2008, hence still needs significant improvement.
The current data proves that strengthening the central authority of human resources management is necessary to achieve the goal set under agreed criteria. The proposed panel of external and independent experts could provide us guidance on this issue, but I would suggest at this stage as follows:
- Set concrete numerical targets in the Human Resources Action Plan and senior managers' compact according to the department circumstances.
- Strengthen the monitoring mechanism of the current Management Performance Board.
- Mandatory participation in the interview panel of the OHRM official
- Centralization of the authority for recruitment of the Human Resources Officer in the Executive Office of each department
- Empowerment of the Central Review Bodies so that it has a say in which candidates to be chosen from the list for any given position.
Outreach to un-represented and under-represented countries is a continuing and core mandate of OHRM. My delegation is strongly encouraged by the positive action taken by the newly appointed ASG, Ms. Catherine Pollard, to address this extremely important issue.
Fourth, what is needed most to ensure successful career development in the Organization is to ensure that appropriate candidates, people who have real managerial capacity, are selected for the managerial posts. My delegation believes it is time to carry out a 360-degree performance appraisal of all current and potential managers and utilize the results as the most important element in the selection of candidates for D1 and above.
The organization should have clear target group for strategic career development. In this regards, as pointed out by Ombudsman report in paragraph 50 of A/63/283, there are rooms to improve how National Competitive Examination operates not only at the stage of recruitment but also through the tenure of one's career. We need to start by examining the statistics on the number of staff recruited by NCE on P4 and above.
Fifth, as pointed out in the Ombudsman report A/62/311, the lack of sufficient policy integration on mobility has become clear. There is a need to address the inherent conflict of interest between line managers and the Organization by centralizing the function for mobility. The managed reassignment program, which began in May 2007, has revealed that a general mobility policy tend to be cumbersome and unfeasible. A more strategic approach is necessary with a focused target group. We concur with the Secretary-General that the policy needs to be refined in the light of experience. I hasten to add that my delegation supports the basic recognition that mobility needs to be promoted for a healthier civil service.
Sixth, performance evaluation is meant to foster interaction between managers and staff and share the common goals. The results of appraisal are to be used to promote career development. It is time to begin revising the performance management tool based on earnest dialogue between staff and management. This can be guided by the panel of experts
Through the work of the discussion in this Committee in March, we were told by the Secretariat that 99.4% of the staff are rated fully satisfactory or better in the current e-Performance Appraisal System. This could mean that if we approve the new contractual arrangements, all fixed-term appointments will automatically become continuing. This is precisely what the ACABQ and the ICSC have warned to be avoided. Remodeling the current performance system is a prerequisite for any changes in the contractual arrangements.
[Contractual arrangements, career peacekeepers]
Seventh, as my delegation pointed out in the March session in this Committee, we should consider very carefully the long-term implications of streamlining the contractual arrangements. Granting continuing appointments would assure a lifetime employment which forces Member States to fund for their employment regardless of the mandate. We should learn from the experiences of UNHCR which have granted indefinite contract to staff and now is attempting to redress the previous system, and those of Funds and Programmes who have not adopted permanent contracts. Introducing continuing appointments would bring the pressure to the staff management relations, to grant appointments irrespective of the budget.
In the area of peace operations, the proposal to establish civilian career peacekeepers through a competitive process has to be considered. As the contractual arrangements are essentially a recruitment tool, they do not automatically ensure fair recruitment, mobility or integration between headquarters and the field. If we really feel it necessary to have an integrated- human resources for peace operations and create 'career peacekeepers', we have to look into the details of the proposals on the Secretary-General's report A/61/850 which we have not discussed this March.
Meanwhile, although we all recognize the continuing need for peace operations, each mission has a finite mandate. The distinction of the different nature between the continuing need for peace operations and temporary need for each mission is very important when we consider the raison d'etre of the mission-specific contract. They deserve to be preserved in order to avoid the creation of unreasonable expectations about recurring appointments for the staff who opt not to, or are not entitled to be a 'career peacekeeper'.
[Entitlements for staff]
Last but not least, entitlements for staff have to be thoroughly reviewed as part of the overhaul of the entire contractual structure. Whether current entitlements and levels are justified is the principal question to be addressed. It is also important to know what motivates staff and how they act in hardship duty stations.
Entitlements should reflect the nature of the contract and the mandate. The staff for peace operations is different from the staff for Funds and Programmes. International staff members in Funds and Programmes are subject to a rotation policy that governs the long-term organizational strategy, while peace operations staff is employed to carry out mandates of finite duration at specific times and locations.
In closing, my delegation wishes to reiterate that the issue of human resources management should be addressed in a comprehensive manner. A piecemeal approach will not work. My delegation looks forward to a most constructive dialogue towards making progress.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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