Monday, October 27, 2008

Statement by CCISUA at HLCM

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me begin by thanking HLCM on behalf of CCISUA for the opportunity to again address you and share with you some of the thoughts and concerns of the members of CCISUA with regard to some of the items on your agenda.

Our primary concern, as it has been for some time, is also the first issue on your agenda: Staff security.

Let me begin by a quote that might sound familiar to you:

"A major deficiency identified by the Panel is the lack of accountability for the decisions and positions taken by UN managers with regard to the security of UN staff. The United Nations needs a new culture of accountability in security management. Personal accountability of those entrusted with the safety of personnel as well as all staff in the field for their compliance with security rules should be paramount [...]"

It may surprise you that this quote does not come from the IPSS—or Brahimi—report, but rather from the Report of the Independent Panel on the Safety and Security of UN Personnel in Iraq, following the Canal Hotel bombing in 2003. It is clear from the above, and the similarity it bears with the content of the Brahimi Report, that the recommendations made in 2003 were not given due regard. While we are pleased to see the establishment of a steering group to come up with proposals to turn the IASMN, Brahimi and other recommendations into an action plan (in which CCISUA will participate), what the staff are really waiting for is concrete action and results.

We acknowledge the work already done by IASMN and the HR Network in following up on the Brahimi report. We note, however, the number of instances where the main recommendations consist of adding posts. We have already spoken strongly of our belief that more resources should be targeted to the area of security, and we hope that the gentlemen and ladies of the General Assembly, the Fifth Committee, the ACABQ, and various governing boards will see fit to make the necessary human and financial investment to ensure we can do their work in safety. Nonetheless we also have to prepare for them to act in the normal manner. Our only plan cannot be more posts or resources. Let me reiterate: we fully support the plan. But we have been here before. If we do not get the posts we are looking for, the next time there is an attack we will say, well, we did ask and we did not get, so it is not our fault. But our colleagues will still be injured or dead.

So we would like to urge a return to the basics: accountability; communication; responsibility; risk assessment; public relations; equity; and justice. The Brahimi report said nothing we did not already know as staff, and echoed what our members have been saying ad nauseam in every forum to every responsible party in the UN for years. We addressed the issue of security the last two times we spoke to the HLCM, and we have a detailed joint statement with FICSA attached to the IASMN report. Here are some basic reminders of our concerns:

  • The unequal treatment of national staff and the lack of protection at the time of evacuation.
  • Lack of MOSS compliance in some offices, especially those away from country capitals.
  • The need to determine whether common premises afford better protection or make UN offices easier targets.
  • The pressure placed on staff by high stress environments, and the need for increased stress counseling capacity.
  • The need for the UN to be more insistent that governments protect UN staff and that those who target the UN should be brought to justice.
  • The need for the UN to accept its responsibility as employer, while putting pressure on host governments to recognize their responsibilities under the Charter and other agreements.
  • Improper use of contracts, unfairly placing the security burden on employees rather than the Organization
  • The need to recognize the added risk for female staff in countries where women's rights are not fully respected.
  • Involvement of staff representatives in the security fora

The time for statements has passed.

We look forward to working creatively on the steering group and individually with our various management bodies on credible, realistic actions to create a safe environment and a real culture of security and accountability in the United Nations.

We will touch briefly on some of the other items on the HLCM agenda:

  • Professional salaries in Europeand elsewhere. We support the paper presented by IAEA and express our disappointment that the ICSC was unable to come up with a fix for the erosion of salaries consequent on the falling value of the US dollar. We urge a quick resolution to this grave problem affecting staff worldwide. In the worst case situation of the ICSC not providing a solution, we urge the SG to use his power, in accordance with the Staff Regulations and Rules, to revise post adjustment levels to ensure equitable buying power and prevent further erosion of salaries and benefits among staff. But this would only be a temporary fix. What is needed is for the ICSC first to recognize that there is a problem and then to change its criteria for setting the out-of-area factor. The current rates do not reflect reality and do not serve the purpose of maintaining stability.
  • The ICSC retention survey notwithstanding, we have widespread reports that the administration is experiencing difficulty in recruiting staff in the Euro zone, because salaries are no longer competitive. And this is not just in the Euro zone—IP and even local salaries are uncompetitive throughout much of the world including the 86 countries now listed by the World Bank as middle income countries. When you add the insecurity factor, it is no wonder we are becoming a less and less attractive employer. If staff are going to be working in unsafe conditions, they must at least be adequately compensated for having the courage to sign on in the first place.
  • RIAS & the UN-wide Evaluation System: In the areas of both audit and evaluation, we support the move to professionalize and harmonize these functions across the UN and, in light of many scandals over the years, believe these functions should report to the governing boards rather than to the executive heads of our various organizations.
  • Senior Leadership training: We fully support senior leadership development, hoping that eventually the lacunae in leadership which staff have identified and deplored over the years will be addressed. We welcome the progress made and urge that additional resources be diverted to this worthy initiative. As we noted last year, we believe it should also be open to the heads of staff unions and associations who are in full-time release, because, with over 1000 staff to manage, they fit the profile of senior leaders.
  • HR Network report: We note that the report of the HR Network mentions in detail the difficulty with release of the FICSA head. We assure you that other Federations have the same problem and believe that the release of the staff federation head, through the organization of the head or through cost-sharing, should become the practice in the United Nations.
  • ICSC Survey: We welcome the survey and congratulate the ICSC for its initiative. We look forward to being able to do a “deep dive” into the data, and would therefore suggest that this be made available to all, including the Federations, to allow us to derive the maximum benefit from such a laudable undertaking.
  • Harmonization of Business Practices: We believe the harmonization of business practices across the UN will be a critical step in enhancing mobility of staff among the agencies and organizations that make up the system. We hope that this will be followed by harmonization in other areas: human resource practices; application of the staff rules; job descriptions; and contractual modalities.
  • UN Cares: UN Cares is another worthy initiative which we fully support. The success so far has been outstanding, due to the excellent cooperation and cost-sharing among agencies. We hope this example is followed in other areas—including the release of Federation heads!

This has been a long statement, due to the fact that we, the Federations, are not invited to the rest of this discussion, and we therefore have to cram as much as we can into this “dialogue”. Ladies and gentlemen, it is full time for HLCM to change the way it operates. Contrary to conventional wisdom, staff representatives are not the enemy of management. When staff representation works well—and it can work well; we can give some examples—the staff body becomes an invaluable partner in helping in the smooth running of the Organization and organizations which we represent. Start here. Normally this item on the agenda is called a “dialogue” with the staff federations. But normally members of this Committee have nothing to say to us or to ask of us. Our friends from FICSA travel across the Atlantic to give a statement here, and when HLCM is not in NY the others of make the same trek. This is not a good use of the Organization’s resources. There is no such thing as a one sided dialogue. A monologue is conducive neither to good understanding nor to good relations.

I thank you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Zo incasseerde voormalig PvdA-Kamerlid Thea Fierens als interim-manager van ontwikkelingsorganisatie SNV een maandsalaris van maar liefst 28.000 euro per maand. Fierens zit inmiddels in New York, bij de Verenigde Naties. Inderdaad, dezelfde organisatie waar een andere duurbetaalde ontwikkelingshulpwerker, Evelien Herfkens, zij komen allemaal van de zelfde school PVDA (partij van de asocialen zakken vullen is hun doel)