Global Policy Forum

Toward a Common Understanding of Management Reform


Remarks to the General Assembly Thematic Debate "Toward a Common Understanding of Management Reform"

By Ban Ki-moon

April 8, 2008


Mr. President,


Distinguished Delegates,

I'm very grateful for the opportunity to speak with you this morning about management reform. As you know, this is one of my top priorities for the United Nations.

The outside world sees us undertaking peacekeeping operations around the world, from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Timor-Leste. They see us trying to mount the largest peacekeeping effort in history in Darfur. They see us conducting relief operations in Somalia, in Gaza, in countries hit by natural disasters from Bangladesh to Tajikistan to Madagascar.

What they don't see - and what defines us as an Organization - is how well we accomplish our mission. How well we use our resources. How we perform.

This is a question of management.

I've often said that the pendulum of history swings. Today it is swinging our way. Never before has the UN been called on to do so much with proportionately fewer and fewer resources. This is the way of the future. The only way we can embrace that future and do our good works in the world is to make ourselves more modern, more flexible and more efficient. In a word, to be better managed.

Every day I am reminded of what a huge job our Organization does. It is our responsibility to tackle these challenges in the best way possible. That is what Member States expect, and what the peoples of the world deserve.

Management reform is making sure that we effectively organize ourselves and the way we work to make this happen. All the critical activities that the United Nations carries out around the world, all of the ground-breaking studies and initiatives, all of the intensive diplomacy - just about everything we do hinges on sound management of the limited resources entrusted to us.

Management reform is essential to enabling the United Nations to keep pace with the growing demands upon us. We have to be open to scrutiny. We have to hold each and every person accountable to you, the Member States, and to the global taxpayers.

My reform proposals rest on the three pillars of transparency, efficiency and accountability.

We have made progress in a number of areas. You are familiar with them. Splitting peacekeeping into two departments. Overhauling our procurement practices. Appointing a Chief Information Technology Officer. Laying the foundation for more proactive preventive diplomacy.

Now we need to take on more difficult challenges in better managing our United Nations. To make ourselves more modern, to keep up with these challenging times, we have to update our own systems and practices. Too many were designed for a different era. We live in the here and now.

Our human resources system is Exhibit A. In order to have a modern, transparent and performance-driven Organization, we need an integrated, multi-skilled and mobile global workforce.

And to achieve this, we absolutely must simplify and streamline our contractual arrangements and improve conditions of service. We need this in the name of fairness. Our staff deserve to be treated equally. Anything short of equal treatment is unjust, and it will only breed resentment.

But more importantly, we need this in the name of efficiency. Right now, we have 15 different types of contracts, all with their specific rules and conditions. This is a very complicated and cumbersome system which gets in the way of smooth and effective management. The way it stands now, some of my Special Representatives in the field earn less and serve under less favourable financial conditions than those coming from within the system, in particular from a UN Fund or Programme. We see a number of such anomalies throughout our system.

In the process, we are in danger of losing our competitive edge in attracting qualified staff. It's getting harder and harder to hang on to our best people. We just cannot allow this to continue. That's why I have proposals to introduce one UN contract under one set of Staff Rules, and to harmonize the conditions of service. These will make for a stronger and more flexible Secretariat, and they will help us to deliver better where it counts.

Equal conditions of service will also improve staff morale, which will boost performance immeasurably.

I am disappointed that Member States were not able to approve these comprehensive proposals during the Fifth Committee's resumed session in March. I hope that the General Assembly will act on them at its earliest opportunity.

I am continuing to look at other ways to improve our human resources management. The Deputy Secretary-General has led an internal task force on this issue that is looking at areas like workforce planning, vacancy management, career development and training, mobility and managers' responsibilities and performance.

I intend to make more proposals to further strengthen the Organization's human resources strategy and framework, through both policy and process changes, and through a better use of technology. We need to streamline bureaucratic procedures and reduce bottlenecks.

As part of this framework, we must be able to recruit staff more quickly than we do at present. Too much time is wasted in the arduous process of filling vacancies. Unless we hire faster, we will continue to lose qualified people. I will do my best to cut the recruiting period of staff by half. If approved by the General Assembly, I intend to expand the use of roster-based recruitment and placement. With a pre-screened list of qualified candidates for most jobs, we should be able to fill vacancies faster while ensuring a proper geographical and gender balance. Where no suitable candidates can be identified in rosters with pre-screened candidates, vacancies should be advertised for 30 days instead of 60 days.

In the next five years, we expect a sizable number of retirements. This is a natural process of attrition but it presents us with an opportunity to plan for the future. Each department must begin now to map out upcoming vacancies. By early next year, we will have a consolidated Secretariat-wide strategic workforce plan.

We need to do better in selecting our top managers. I plan to introduce an independent assessment of managerial skills for candidates to the highest positions within the Secretariat, beginning with Director. I have instructed senior managers to present multiple candidates, with at least one female, wherever possible to allow me to give full consideration to merit, gender and geographical balance.

Much more needs to be done to encourage mobility across occupational groups, departments, duty stations and organizations within the UN system. We need to develop cooperative arrangements with specialized agencies, Funds and Programmes. I will propose some ideas in this regard to the Chief Executive Board in October. And I will institute a program to publicly recognize and reward service in the field.

I am also going to establish a Learning Advisory Board this year. Its goal will be to ensure that training across the Secretariat is coordinated and targeted to the organization's strategic needs. In consultation with departments, we will introduce occupational networks, with clear career paths, generic job profiles, set qualifications and professional development requirements.

I will undertake some of these proposals on my own authority. Others will require approval by the General Assembly and, after consultation with staff during the upcoming session of the Staff Management Co-ordination Committee, will be presented to you in due course.

To become a truly efficient and modern organization, we must enter the twenty-first century in terms of information and communications technology. Given the growing demands upon us, in all corners of the world, we must have a comprehensive ICT strategy.

We need systems that are up to date and can handle a global organization where tens of thousands of staff are posted around the world. We need systems that can communicate with Kinshasa as easily as with Geneva.

Right now we don't have a system where everyone is connected. If a staff member moves from one duty station to another, the data pertaining to that person - whether that information relates to contract or date of birth - does not translate into the same computer language.

So as it stands, if we want to know how many people we have at the P-3 level working in statistics, we cannot just push a button and retrieve that information; we have to almost manually collect the data from different duty stations and collate them. It's disconnected, not integrated. And it's utterly inefficient.

With the appointment of the new Chief Information Technology Officer, the Secretariat has now developed such a strategy and will present it to the General Assembly in May. I hope with this to get the Secretariat out of the information Stone Age and into a modern one.

As part of this effort, we are proposing to implement an Enterprise Resource Planning system to replace the disparate patchwork of outdated ICT systems now used throughout the Secretariat. Not only will the ERP system provide integrated, up-to-date global information on financial and human resources, it will also allow us to use much simpler and streamlined administrative processes. This will give rise to greater efficiencies throughout the Secretariat.

We are using technology to promote transparency. I have posted my own personal financial disclosure form on the Internet, and I have urged all senior managers within the United Nations system to do the same.

The heart of effective management is accountability. Results matter. Performance must be measurable. I have therefore signed Compacts with each of my senior managers that are available for all staff to see on our UN Intranet. They set clear objectives for every senior manager and department head, for which they are responsible and for which they will be held accountable.

Accountability is not just a management word. It means taking responsibility. That's why in the new system for the administration of justice, to be introduced in January 2009, all contested decisions will first be reviewed as part of a management evaluation, before any case proceeds to litigation. If it is found that an improper decision has been made, the individual manager should be held accountable.

Member States should be accountable, as well?both to the organization and to one another. In part, this means suiting words to action. The political, financial and human resources contributed to the organization must be commensurate with the missions that Member States assign to us under UN mandates. The United Nations cannot be set up for failure.

I would include in this responsibility the necessity of assuring UN security. United Nations personnel serve bravely and often selflessly in hazardous and important posts. Increasingly, the United Nations itself?the very symbol of our core values of peace, solidarity, justice and equality?has been a target for extremist groups. We must ensure that every provision is made for the safety and security of the UN and its staff.

Accountability in this broadest sense obliges Member States to advance their discussions for institutional reform. It should include Mandate Review. It further requires the United Nations to think hard about the future and to identify and respond to the evolving needs of those we serve. We have a special duty to deliver results for people most in need.

Again, a strong commitment to transparency is key to enhancing accountability at all levels of the UN. The image we wish to project is of an organization that has nothing to hide, that actively welcomes the scrutiny of its members, staff and the public.

Mr. President,


When I took my oath of office, I promised to breathe new life into the Secretariat. In my address to the General Assembly last September, I spoke of building a stronger UN for a better world. I am counting on you to work with me to transform these ideas into action.

Thank you.


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.