Statement by Mr. Takashi Kanamori
First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations
Agenda item 134: Human resources management
Sixty-fifth Session of the United Nations General Assembly
29 October 2010
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
My delegation would like at the outset to express its gratitude to Ms. Asha-Rose Migiro, the Deputy Secretary-General, for her statement, and to Ms. Angela Kane, the Under Secretary-General for Management, Ms. Joan Elise Dubinsky, the Director of the Ethics Office, and Ms. Susan McLurg, the chairperson of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), for introducing their reports. And we also welcome Ms. Paulina Analena, the Vice-President of the Staff-Management Coordination Committee (SMCC), and Mr. Stephen Kisambira, President of the Staff Union of the United Nations Secretariat, for coming to this meeting to offer their views regarding this agenda item.
My delegation first has to express its concern about the Secretary-General’s proposal on criteria for eligibility for a continuing appointment and his deliberations thereon. In our view, this year’s proposal is weaker than last year’s, in that the Secretariat failed to think all the way through the inevitable question of what continuing needs are for the Organization and what its core function is, even though these questions, we believe, have been major concerns for many Member States since at least last year. We deeply regret that the Secretariat did not address these concerns. As the ACABQ pointed out, the Secretariat appears to justify its own deliberations by challenging the applicability to the United Nations of the ICSC definition of core functions and continuing needs. In this connection, my delegation would like to ask the ICSC whether the Secretariat’s interpretation of these concepts is in line with the Commission’s. As it leaves the issue of core functions and continuing needs unresolved, my delegation does not believe that the Secretariat has demonstrated the degree of accountability necessary to persuade Member States to approve the proposal. In addition to this, no matter how hard the Secretariat argues that a continuing appointment is not a career contract but just an open-ended contract, we remain uneasy over the longer-term claims a majority of staff members could have to the Organization if the current proposal is implemented.
The Secretary-General has been adamantly opposed to imposing a ceiling on the number of conversions to continuing appointments, arguing that it is not sound management and perpetuates perceptions of inequity among various groups of staff. In my delegation’s view, on the contrary, the Secretariat’s proposal on the criteria for continuing contracts is not adequate for the management point of view, because according to this criteria, by 2015, 27,630 staff members would become eligible for conversion to a continuing appointment, in addition to the 9,000 staff who either already have or will in the near future have permanent appointment, out of a total Secretariat staff that numbered 44,134 as at 30 June 2010. My delegation considers that even if there were a ceiling, if management and staff worked together, for example, in the setting of SMCC, establishing the standard operating procedures that determine in what order of priority eligible staff members are converted to continuing appointments, staff members’ concerns about the arbitrary manner in which the system works and the inequalities it produces could be somewhat alleviated.
In addition, my delegation notes that the performance management system was amended in April and the Talent Management tool, Inspira, is also still beginning to be implemented. My delegation thinks that neither system has yet proven effective enough to enable the Secretary-General to grant a continuing appointment to a modest number of eligible staff members based upon well-developed workforce planning. In this connection, we recall that in its 2008 report the ACABQ expressed concern about the tendency of the Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM) to embark upon new reform initiatives without first having evaluated the effects of those which had been implemented previously (paragraph 8 of A/63/526). My delegation would like to recommend that the OHRM adopt a phased approach in implementing continuing appointments, so that it will be possible first to establish the reliability and effectiveness of the talent management framework, which comprises performance management, workforce planning and other elements. In addition, my delegation would like to reiterate its view that mobility requirements such as several years of service in offices other than Headquarters and geographical diversity in staff composition should be taken into consideration as an additional criteria for awarding a continuing appointment.
Concerning the Secretary-General’s proposal on the young professional programme, my delegation completely shares the concern expressed by the ACABQ, that lowering the age limit to 26 could disadvantage candidates whose mother tongue is neither English nor French, since such candidates almost always need additional language education and job experience in an English- or French-speaking environment.
In its resolution 63/250, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to submit a proposal as to how and where P-1 positions might be used more effectively. In order to carry out that request, my delegation considers, what the Secretariat should do first is review the current post structure Organization-wide and formulate a proposal to create P-1 posts through reclassification of existing higher-grade posts. The proposal the Secretariat has in fact submitted, however, is for successful candidates to be deliberately placed at the P-1 level against P-2 posts, and for otherwise deserving and promising candidates over 26 to be excluded from the programme, on the grounds that they are “overqualified” for P-1 level even though the targeted posts are still P-2.
The Secretariat might also argue that the average age of new recruits from the national competitive recruitment examination (NCRE) has remained too high. My delegation has to point out, however, that this is largely due to inefficient management of the NCRE roster on the part of the Secretariat. On average, successful candidates have to wait for two years to be placed in a position, and in some instances, they have to wait four years and more. We believe it is not appropriate that deserving candidates pay the price for the Secretariat’s mismanagement. In addition, as a matter of principle, the United Nations Charter stipulates that the paramount consideration in the employment of the staff shall be the necessity of securing the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity, not the age of the candidates. My delegation, therefore, cannot accept the idea of lowering the age limit, and would rather like to consider abolishing the age limit for the programme.
In case the young professional programme is approved, the objective should remain the same as that of the NCRE, namely, to reduce the non-representation and underrepresentation of Member States in the Secretariat through recruitment of young professionals from targeted States.
We would also like to call the committee’s attention to the proposal to require Heads of Department to justify selection of an external candidate in writing for approval by the OHRM. My delegation shares the views expressed by the ACABQ, and firmly believes that this special procedures for the selection of external candidates should be deleted from the staff selection system.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, my delegation would like to put forward again that a redesign panel be established in order to properly review the human resources management, in accordance with resolution 63/250. We believe that delegations must be given the chance to engage in a thorough discussion of this subject, and any decision that is to be made should be reached on a consensus basis.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman.