Posted: Wednesday, 14 September 2011, New York | Author: iSeek/David Mimran
The Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, held a Town Hall meeting today in New York with staff from duty stations across the world attending by video conference, to share his reflections on his first term and his vision for strengthening the United Nations during his second term. Questions and comments focused particularly on security, budget cuts and mobility.
“I am honoured to be part of this incredible Secretariat of thousands of different people from different countries working for the same cause”, said Ban Ki-moon in his opening remarks. Mr Ban was accompanied on the podium by the Deputy Secretary-General, Ms. Asha-Rose Migiro and Under Secretary-General for Management, Ms. Angela Kane. Mrs. Ban attended in the audience.
At the beginning of the new General Assembly session, the Secretary-General had invited staff to a Global TownHall meeting to come together and talk about the “state of the world and our United Nations -- where we are, where we are going”.
Before sharing his vision for his second term, the Secretary-General recalled the tragic events of the bombing of the UN House in Abuja: “This attack demonstrates that we now face determined, immoral extremists, opposed to the basic principles of the United Nations, in even low-threat countries around the world”, he said. He pledged to call on Member States to do more to ensure adequate security for UN personnel everywhere.
Staff observed a minute of silence in honour of colleagues lost in the line of duty, including in Afghanistan, Bolivia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Nigeria and Sudan.
The Secretary-General then shared what he called “the state of his thinking”, lessons learned from his first term and the vision for the road ahead.
“My plan is to move from talking about “what” we must do, to detailing “how” we will do it, through a plan of action to be unveiled in January. Over the next five years, I want us to focus on several areas”, added the Secretary-General.
• We need adequate and predictable resources. Austerity is a reality. But if we are doing our part to save, Member States must do theirs to fund.
• We need to make further organizational changes. The Change Management Team is looking at a number of key areas, including information technology, procurement, business processes, and work-life balance.
• We need to make the United Nations a hub of innovation.
• We need to strengthen staff security. You have my commitment on this. Here, too, Member States will have to recognize the need for resources.
• We need to ensure accountability and transparency. And we need to ensure that the Umoja project is a cornerstone of this effort.
• It is vital that professional staff and managers experience several duty stations to understand the full breadth of our organization and ensure that we can deliver our mandates effectively in the most difficult duty stations. This should always be an opportunity, never a burden. That is why we have been consulting with staff representatives on proposals for a comprehensive mobility policy to present to the General Assembly in 2012.
The Secretary-General fielded questions from staff in Nairobi, The Hague, New York, Geneva, Bangui, Beirut, Vienna, Juba, and Santiago, on three mains themes: mobility, staff security, and the 3% budget reduction proposed by the Secretary-General.
The President of the Staff Union in New York, Ms. Barbara Tavora-Jainchill, speaking in the name of a very wide number of unions in the UN System and a variety of duty stations, raised the issue of security and the growing threat to staff, asking the Secretary-General to be more often present in person in tragic circumstances. The Staff Union also asked the SG to create a “staff-management working group on security measures to identify and correct the flaws in the system,” including the issue of housing several agencies and programmes in the same building.
The SG reiterated that staff security was a priority and indicated that he would follow up on meetings that already took place with the Deputy Secretary-General. He added that he was looking forward to improving the relationship between management and staff unions. “The fact that relations have not always been as harmonious as expected” had been a regret during his first term, he explained.
3% Cut in Budget
Answering questions from Staff Unions in Geneva and Vienna concerning the cuts in the budget and their adverse impact on staff, in terms of contracts but also security and health services, Mr. Ban pointed out that we are living “in an era of austerity”.
He added that it was possible to cut “through the fat” without “cutting through the muscles or the bones” and that offices had already been able to come up with an average of 3.7% cut in the budget. “The 3% cut is not across the board, and doesn’t apply uniformly to all offices”, he explained, adding that some departments had been able to offer a voluntary cut of 7%.
In response to a question from Bangui and a remark from the Staff Union in New York, the SG indicated that the Secretariat had been tasked by the General Assembly to present a plan on mobility at its 67th session. He added that he would be striving to strike a “balance between continuity and expertise”. “It may be the case that if someone works for 10-15 years in one place, he may become an expert, but we need our staff to be multi-functional”, he said.