Standards of conduct

(1) At the 37th session (March 1973: CO-ORDINATION/R.984, para. 91) CCAQ discussed policy with respect to patents on inventions developed by staff members as part of their official duties. Few organizations had had much experience of the problem but their policy in general was that any work developed should be made freely available to Member States.

(2) At its 57th session (July 1982: ACC/1982/23, para. 95 and Annex V) CCAQ agreed on the text of a new preface to the ICSAB report on Standards of Conduct in the International Civil Service (CO-ORDINATION/CIVIL SERVICE/5 - 1954). It was agreed that henceforth, when issuing the report, organizations would use this text.

(3) The French and Spanish versions of that text were made available to organizations by the CCAQ secretariat (ACC/1982/PER/CM/21, 15 October 1982).

(4) At its 78th session (March 1993: ACC/1993/6, paras. 109-113) CCAQ, in response to a request of the General Assembly (resolution 47/216) to give attention to "the creation of an organizational climate conducive to the equal participation of men and women in the work of the organizations", decided to invite its secretariat to develop a draft statement of policy and procedures on sexual harassment and related matters for eventual endorsement by ACC. The Sub-Committee on Staff Training was requested to ensure an exchange of information on training activities on the issue.

(5) At its 79th session (July 1993: ACC/1993/22, paras. 83-84) CCAQ endorsed a draft policy statement (ibid., annex III) on the prevention of sexual harassment, for submission to ACC for approval. ACC endorsed it without amendment (ACC/1993/28, para. 30).

(6) At its 86th session (April 1997: ACC/ 1997/6, paras. 137-142) CCAQ was informed that the United Nations was introducing, at the request of Member States, a new code of conduct that would be applicable to staff of UN and its Funds and Programmes. It would incorporate the ICSAB Standards of Conduct and constitute part of the UN Staff Regulations and Rules. WTO and ICAO had also taken action on their standards of conduct. CCAQ expressed the hope that all organizations would be given an opportunity to comment on the new code before it was submitted to the General Assembly, in view of the common system implications.

(7) At its 87th session (July 1997: ACC/1997/13, paras. 85-88) CCAQ was provided with an update on the development of a code of conduct for UN staff and regretted that the code had not been shared with other organizations, which might wish to inform the General Assembly of the potential system-wide implications of adopting the code without inter-agency consideration. The Assembly, in its decision 52/488, invited ICSC to examine, as a matter of priority, the code of conduct prepared by the United Nations.

(8) At its 88th session (April 1998: ACC/1998/5, paras. 20-21) CCAQ, concerned at the need to strengthen the principles on which the international civil service was founded, requested its secretariat to develop a document detailing each of the elements through which the staff, organizations and Member States might reaffirm their commitment to the international civil service as defined in the Charter. The document would outline the responsibilities and accountabilities of each of these parties in respect of each element. CCAQ decided that, when the document was finalized, it would request ACC to enter into discussions with the representatives of Member States with a view to strengthening these principles.

(9) Also at its 88th session (ibid., paras. 40-41) CCAQ decided to review the 1954 ICSAB Standards of Conduct and offered to participate in a working group which was set up by ICSC on the updating of the ICSAB Standards. ICSC, in response the General Assembly's request in its decision 52/521, offered views on the draft chapter I of the Staff Regulations and draft chapter I of the Staff Rules and decided to recommend to the Assembly that the United Nations proceed with the amendment of its Staff Regulations and Rules, bearing in mind the views of ICSC, on the understanding that the revised text only referred to the United Nations. ICSC also recommended that the term "Code of Conduct" should be replaced by a more appropriate designation (A/52/30/Add.1, paras. 21-49).

(10) At its 89th session (July 1998: ACC/1998/9, paras. 33-35) CCAQ concluded that its secretariat should continue to develop a document on the basis of which staff, organizations and Member States might reaffirm their commitment to the international civil service and outlined five elements that should be considered in the process. CCAQ took note of twelve principles for Managing ethics in the Public Service agreed to by the Public Management Committee of OECD and a Potential Conflict of Interest Policy adopted by the Sub-Committee on Nutrition of ACC's Consultative Committee on Programme and Operational Questions (CCPOQ). CCAQ expressed appreciation for the collaboration of CCPOQ and had no objection to the policy, which should be reviewed within the framework of the revision of the 1954 ICSAB Report.

(11) At its 90th session (April 1999: ACC/1999/5, paras. 3-10) CCAQ, recalling the framework within which it was studying the matter, considered the work undertaken by the ICSC secretariat to update the 1954 Standards of Conduct in ICSC/49/R.9 as a first input to the process of updating the Standards. It noted however that the ICSC secretariat document dealt only with the standards of conduct of staff members and made no mention of the commensurate responsibilities of Member States and of organizations, which had been incorporated into the 1954 Standards. These Standards were by nature guidelines; they were descriptive rather than prescriptive legislative principles; they were written in plain language. The Committee considered that the Standards should continue to remain guiding principles and not binding rules. It should be left to individual organizations to incorporate the principles into their staff regulations and rules, as appropriate, in accordance with their own needs. The Committee also preferred that a more descriptive style be retained in the updated Standards. The 1954 Standards had withstood the test of practice and had been used as a reference point in cases of litigation before internal disciplinary boards and the administrative tribunals. The preservation of this case law was important in the context of the updating of the Standards.

(12) CCAQ also identified a number of elements that were either missing from the 1954 Standards, required updating or were not yet adequately addressed in the ICSC document, namely the role of the elected staff representatives, harassment, sexual harassment, equity of treatment and opportunity, gender equality, probity, privacy/use of information, expanded operational activities and potential conflicts of interest arising from activities requiring close association with other organizations, NGOs and the private sector. It concluded that the existing Standards should be taken as the basic document for the work to be done. The ICSC secretariat's note should be used as an input to the process together with an analysis of the standards of conduct developed by other international organizations and civil services within overall ethics frameworks. In this connection, CCAQ took note of the Standards of Conduct in the World Trade Organization (WT/L/282, pages 16-22 of 21 October 1998). It also noted that the OECD had produced a study on Ethics in the Public Service which described different approaches to ethics frameworks being pursued in Member States; these approaches ranged from those referred to by OECD as compliance-based to others described as integrity-based. CCAQ considered a number of working groups would be needed with an appropriate blend between the organizations' human resources managers and legal counsels together with the staff representatives. This demanded an innovative approach rather than the traditional tripartite working group arrangement. ICSC decided to report to the General Assembly in 2000 to ensure the fullest participation and support of the organizations and staff in the process and further to form a two-tier working group to undertake consensus-building. The first group, composed of members of the ICSC and CCAQ secretariats and representatives organizations, including legal advisers, and staff would meet in September/October 1999. It would then organize an open-ended Working Group on the matter at its session in Spring 2000 to consider a revised draft (ICSC/49/R.12, paras. 155-156). The standards were reviewed, revised and adopted at ICSC's 51st session pending final comments from the organizations' legal advisers. At the 52nd session ICSC took account of a request by CCAQ on behalf of the organisations to provide them with the opportunity of a final review to present specific comments and therefore decided to postpone the matter until 2001 (A/55/30, para. 31)

(13) At its 91st session (August-September 2000: ACC/2000/6, para. 2) CCAQ was advised of preparations undertaken by the ICSC secretariat to organize an open-ended working group of organizations' human resources and legal specialists in October in New York on the draft Standards of Conduct of the International Civil Service and requested the ICSC secretariat to give full attention to organizing this event in Europe where the majority of organizations were located or alternatively to organizing two sessions of the working group, one in the Americas and one in Europe. ICSC was also requested to consider advancing the date of the working group to avoid any conflict with organizations' governing body sessions and to explore the possibility of providing for a moderator from outside the system for the group.

(14) At its 92nd session (March 2000: ACC/2000/5, para. 4) CCAQ took note of the report of the Working Group on updating the ICSAB Report on Standards of Conduct in the International Civil Service (ICSC/51/R.11), welcomed the "working group" framework under which the subject would continue to be discussed in ICSC. It observed to the ICSC that the Standards of Conduct were a cornerstone of the International Civil Service and it was therefore of paramount importance that the final product reflected the best of current thinking and the relevant language of the time so that - like the 1954 model – it would stand the test of time. The Commission decided to inform the General Assembly that it had updated the 1954 ICSAB Report in consultation with the organizations and staff. It adopted the text of the standards pending any comments from the organizations legal advisers (ICSC/51/R.13, para. 96).

(15) At its 52nd session (ICSC/52/R.16, para. 77) ICSC took account of a request by CCAQ on behalf of the organizations to provide them with the opportunity of a final review and therefore decided to postpone the matter to its 53rd session and to finalize the standards and go forward to the Assembly in 2001 (A/55/30, para. 31).

(16) At its first meeting in June 2001 (ACC/2001/HLCM/7, para. 8) the Human Resources (HR) Network expressed appreciation to ICSC for allowing time to achieve a text that would find the broadest possible support. It also suggested that the terms ‘staff member' and ‘international civil servant' should be used rather than ‘official' and made a drafting suggestion to make clear the impropriety of receiving supplementary payments or other subsidies after an assignment if the payment was related to the assignment. After taking into account the views of ACC, the organizations and the staff, the Commission decided to adopt the revised standards of conduct set out in annex II to its report to the Assembly (A/56/30, para. 13 & annex II). The text of these standards are included in annex XIV to this Handbook. The General Assembly welcomed the standards (resolution 56/244 I A).

(17) At its July 2004 meeting (CEB/2004/HLCM/25, para. 30) the HR Network expressed its appreciation to UNDG and participating organizations for their work in producing a harassment training and certification program which would serve to reinforce the zero tolerance policy and aid the prevention of harassment, sexual harassment and abuse of authority in the workplace. The aim of the training was to support the change management process within organizations and to educate UN system staff on individual organizations' policies, including an understanding of conducts that constitute harassment, sexual harassment or abuse of authority and the various options available for addressing harassment. The Network asked that organizations that wished to join the initiative inform UNDP accordingly by the end of July 2004, at which time the finalized cost shared budget would be prepared based on the staff numbers of participating organizations and the curriculum for the training would be agreed. It requested the CEB secretariat to prepare a list of organizations' best practices in the area of harassment and information of harassment projects underway in organizations and to this end all organizations were requested to send to the CEB secretariat copies of their policies, procedures, guidelines, training initiatives, etc. as soon as possible and agreed to revert to the issue at a future Network meeting to assess progress made on the UNDG initiative and to determine whether developments necessitated a revision of the CEB policy on sexual harassment agreed in 1995.

(18) At its eighteenth session (CEB/2009/HLCM/HR/46/Rev.1, paras.8-9), the HR Network noted that there was a need to clarify the concepts and relationships between a Code of Ethics, the Standards of Conduct and their applicability and proposed that the issue of the relationship between the two should be addressed and clarified; Supported the eventual review of the Standards of Conduct. However, given the number of initiatives across the organizations with Ethics programmes including the establishment of Ethics Offices, it was suggested that the review be undertaken in 2011. The Commission decided to request its secretariat to work with organizations and representatives of staff federations to undertake an initial review of the Standards of Conduct to ensure that they continue to meet the needs of the organizations and to define areas that might need updating.

(19) During its eighteenth session (CEB/2009/6, paras.81-82), HLCM took note of the critical importance of the work of the UN Task Force on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, as presented by the Task Force Co-Chair, USG Susana Malcorra, and acknowledged the need to raise the profile of this issue with a view to mainstreaming it in the activity of UN organizations, especially at the field level.The Committee invited the Task Force to develop proposals for a more structured approach to this matter and to present them at the spring 2010 session of HLCM.

(20) At its twenty second session (CEB/2011/HLCM/HR/19, paras. 37-38), the HR Network thanked the ICSC Secretariat for the report and expressed its agreement with the revised text and also urged the Commission to consider the comments from the legal departments as part of their final consideration. The Commission decided to postpone the discussion until the comments from the legal departments were reviewed.

  • Human Resources Network (HRN)