Statement on agenda item 137: Human Resources Management, before the Fifth (Administrative and Budgetary) Committee during the Main Part of the 64th Session of the UNGeneral Assembly

Bruce Rashkow
U.S. Representative to the Fifth Committee 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
November 17, 2009


Thank you, Mr. Chairman. At the outset, my delegation wishes to express its appreciation to Ms. Catherine Pollard, Assistant Secretary-General of the Office of Human Resources Management, and Mr. Robert Benson, Director of the Ethics Office, for introducing the relevant reports of the Secretary-General on this important agenda item, as well as Ms. Susan McLurg, Chairperson of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, for introducing the related report of the  ACABQ.

Mr. Chairman, the United States joins others in recognizing the critical importance of United Nations staff in accomplishing the vital missions of the Organization.  It is for this reason that the United States attaches such importance to human resources management at the United Nations.

Mr. Chairman, last March, the General Assembly passed a landmark resolution, 63/250, streamlining contracts and harmonizing the conditions of service.  By that resolution, the General Assembly replaced a complex and opaque set of contractual arrangements with a new framework with three types of contracts:  temporary, fixed, and continuing.  With the exception of the continuing contracts, this new system of contracts came into effect on 1 July 2009, and has been implemented under new Staff Rules, which this Committee will also be reviewing during this busy session.  The Committee now has before it the proposal of the Secretary-General for implementing continuing contracts.

While my delegation believes that the report of the Secretary-General provides a starting point for our deliberations on the granting of continuing contracts, we share many of the concerns raised by the ACABQ.  In particular, we share its concern that the existing performance appraisal system is not credible enough to ensure a rigorous conversion review process.  We also share its concern that the proposed method of determining continuing need for individual staff members is disconnected from strategic workforce planning and therefore does not take into consideration the needs of the organization as a whole.

Mr. Chairman, with these concerns in mind, we believe that the proposal of the Secretary-General for implementing continuing contracts does not adequately address its stated purpose of ensuring program continuity in core functions of the Organization or that it allows for the flexibility in staffing needed to ensure an efficient and effective global Secretariat. Furthermore, my delegation believes that complementary approaches should also be considered.  For example, we believe that a limit on the number of conversions should be included as an objective means of ensuring a judicious mix of career and fixed-term appointments, particularly given the large percentage of staff at headquarters on permanent appointments or who are currently employed under fixed term contracts and would be eligible for consideration for conversion to a permanent appointment.  Above all, we strongly believe that fixed-term staff members who meet the minimum criteria for conversion should be considered eligible – rather than entitled – to continuing contracts.

Mr. Chairman, my delegation re-iterates the importance it places upon implementing a rigorous process of reviewing eligible staff and awarding continuing contracts.  We therefore look forward to hearing the positions of all other delegations and working together in a constructive manner to ensure the sound implementation of the last element of this important contractual reform.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


PRN: 2009/274