Statement on Agenda Item 136: UN Common System, in the Fifth (Administrative and Budgetary) Committee of the General Assembly

Stephen L. Lieberman, Minister-Councelor for UN Management and Reform
New York, NY
October 26, 2010


Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

At the outset, my delegation wishes to express its appreciation to Mr. Kingston Rhodes, Chairman of the International Civil Service Commission, for introducing the report of the ICSC for 2010, as well as Ms. Sharon van Buerle, Director of the Programme Planning and Budget Division, for presenting the statement of the Secretary-General on the financial implications of the decisions and recommendations contained in the report of the ICSC and Mr. Collen Kelapile, Vice-Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, for introducing the related report of the ACABQ. We also welcome the presidents of FICSA, CCISUA, and UNISERV, who have come to present the views of their respective staff federations on this agenda item.

Mr. Chairman,

The United States is grateful for the work performed by all staff of the common system, particularly those who serve in some of the most difficult locations in the world. However, my delegation is concerned that significant disparities exist between the conditions of service for the staff of the Secretariat and the conditions of service for the staff of the agencies, funds, and programs. One disparity is the result of the decision of the General Assembly, in resolution 63/250, to designate established missions as family missions and existing special missions as non-family missions. To address this anomaly, the United States supports the recommendation of the ICSC that the Secretariat harmonize the designation of non-family duty stations on the basis of a security assessment, as currently applied by the rest of the common system.

Another disparity stems from the different approaches taken by common system organizations to address the hardship of maintaining a second household for staff stationed in non-family duty stations. Although the agencies, funds, and programs provide their staff members with an allowance to defray the cost of maintaining a second household, the staff members of the Secretariat do not receive any such allowance even when serving at the same locations and when performing similar functions.

My delegation notes that recruitment and retention are issues of concern not only in the agencies, funds, and programs but also within the UN Secretariat, and believes that a strong common system is necessary to facilitate coordinated United Nations responses to contemporary challenges. Therefore, we believe that harmonization should be the outcome that is set in motion by any decision of the General Assembly on this issue. But we caution that harmonization should be achieved in a manner that is fair and makes sense: we should not ask staff currently serving in dangerous locations to endure a precipitous drop in their conditions of service and accordingly harm the ability of organizations to retain good staff. Equally, the proposals we adopt must be sensitive to the prevailing climate of fiscal austerity.

Mr. Chairman,

The United States takes the concerns that have been raised by the staff federations and the various organizations very seriously and recognizes the many challenges faced by staff serving in non-family duty stations. We look forward to working closely with all delegations on this and other items addressed in the report of the ICSC to ensure that all staff members are treated equitably and that the organizations of the common system maintain their ability to attract international civil servants who meet the highest standards of efficiency, competence, and integrity.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman

PRN: 2010/251