Background

This was the first “thematic discussion” held by HLCM – intended to share perspectives, experiences, and best practices related to issues of concern to the UN top management.

Discussion

HLCM was briefed on the HR contractual reform that went live for the UN Secretariat and UN Funds and Programmes on 1 July 2009.  The UN Secretariat/OHRM led the discussion, focusing on the managerial implications of the reform.   The aim of the reform was to maintain and develop a strong workforce of the highest quality through the introduction of greater fairness and equity among staff with regard to the conditions of service.  The framework of contractual arrangements targeted an overall increase in effectiveness, productivity and performance for both the organizations and their staff, together with lower administrative and transactional costs, balancing these improvements against the potential direct costs associated with greater equity in pay and benefits.  More than 70,000 staff members from the UN Secretariat and Funds and Programmes were affected by the reform.

Further work needed to be done in areas such as the review by the General Assembly of the Continuing Appointment and implementation measures; the one-time and final review of staff eligible for consideration for permanent appointment; and the development of implementation tools, such as manuals and guidelines.  Some of the challenges were: consistency in implementation; aligning budgeting and HR approaches; linkages with the new Administration of Justice; supporting and guiding managers; and making more effective use of the performance management system.

The UN Funds and Programmes, who are directly impacted by the reform, worked closely with the UN Secretariat to deliver the changes within the timeframe.  HR Directors highlighted such issues as the need for flexibility due to their organizations’ specific operational needs and funding situations; the importance of communication and dialogue with staff and other stakeholders; and that of career management.

As a specialized agency, WHO implemented contractual reform more than two years ago and shared its experience. Some of the challenges WHO had faced related to funding uncertainties with respect to project assignments; the fine-tuning of recruitment and selection procedures in order to bolster the organization's ability to staff its programmes in a timely and efficient manner; and the need to improve the matching between appropriate contract type and the functions envisaged.

Other organizations mentioned, among the key challenges of this reform, the importance of the commitment and support from the top management; sustained and comprehensive communication with the staff; the challenges of extra-budgetary funding; the adjustments and preparation for the new internal justice system; and, the identification of criteria for conversion to Continuing Appointments.  The wish for the General Assembly to allow for flexibility in view of specific operational needs of the Funds and Programmes was expressed.

Action

The Committee:

Recognized, among the key challenges of the reform of contractual arrangements: the need for flexibility in its implementation, given the different operational realities of organizations; difficulties with determining types of appointments solely based on the nature of functions and not on the source of funding for posts and/or availability of resources; and the critical importance of effective performance management systems.

Re-affirmed the request to the HR Network to ensure a coordinated approach to dealing with the reform on contractual arrangements, as well as timely and detailed information sharing as implementation progresses.

Agreed to hold a thematic discussion at the next meeting on the new system for Administration of Justice, including on the positions of the ILO Administrative Tribunal.