Background

On behalf of the Chair of the High-level Committee on Management, the Vice-Chair introduced the report on the twenty-seventh session of the Committee, held on 3 and 4 April 2014 at the office of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Venice, Italy. 

The briefing focused on four main areas of activity: work of the United Nations system in high-risk environments; the review of the United Nations compensation package being undertaken by the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC); innovations in United Nations business models; and organizational resilience. The Vice-Chair also informed the Board that the Committee had launched a discussion on its contribution to the CEB reflection on the fitness for purpose of the United Nations system in supporting Member States in the transition to a post-2015 development agenda, noting that this would be the subject of a briefing at the CEB retreat. 

Discussion

The Vice-Chair reported the decision taken by the Committee to launch a reflection, five years after the endorsement by CEB in 2009 of the “how to stay” principle, on how to achieve an appropriate balance between carrying out the essential work of the United Nations system in high -risk environments and preserving the safety and security of staff delivering in those environments. The discussion of the Committee on this subject was informed by a paper prepared by the Department of Safety and Security entitled “Reconciling the duty of care for United Nations personnel while operating in high -risk environments”. 

The Vice-Chair recalled that, in his presentation, the Acting Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security had described how the security environment had changed over the past five years. Never before had the United Nations remained operational in such a significant and sustained manner in ar eas or countries of armed conflict. The “how to stay” approach had been further bolstered by the adoption of the “Rights up front” initiative. In this environment, it was critical for the United Nations system to continue to improve policies, operational tools and administrative procedures to enable operations to take place in high -risk situations, while meeting its duty of care for staff members.

The discussion in the Committee had covered multiple issues: the sustainability and predictability of funding to provide more consistency in the application of security measures, the profiles of security personnel, staff training and mobility policies and so on. Those issues were also interlinked with standards of medical care (including the quality of medical doctors employed) and medical emergency response structures. The Committee had also acknowledged that the psychological dimensions were very important and needed to be examined, and that issues related to staff welfare in highly dangerous or stressful envi ronments were in need of closer attention. 

The Committee had decided to establish a working group, to be chaired by the Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security, to undertake a comprehensive review of the security, medical and managerial issues that had emerged from the discussion. Such a review should be informed by the suggestion that “how to stay” may no longer be the right question, but rather that consideration should now be given to “how to deliver”. That discussion would go well beyond security to encompass United Nations business models and the compensation for staff serving in very difficult security environments. 

The Vice-Chair then noted that the Committee was actively and directly engaged in the review being undertaken by ICSC of the staff compensation package, which Member States, staff and administrations alike were watching with keen interest, in light of its potentially significant impact on the future of organizations in the United Nations system. 

The Vice-Chair recalled that, at its last meeting, CEB had approved a statement in which the Board had outlined its expectations of the ICSC review. The primary objective was to support the ability of organizations to sustainably deliver a broad spectrum of programmatic activities through different business models in the multitude of geographic locations where the United Nations system operates. To this end, the system needed a competitive compensation package that enabled organizations to attract and retain high-calibre staff. That package should be modern and simplified and have lower transaction costs than the current complex system. 

The Secretariat, the funds and programmes and the specialized agencies were working together to develop a view of the main areas of common gro und and the issues that required further discussion. The success of the ICSC review would depend on the continued ability of organizations in the system to collaborate intensively to generate concrete suggestions and provide data, as well as on the inclusiveness and openness of the process. 

The Vice-Chair indicated that the Committee was placing a high priority on redesigning and innovating United Nations business models and on piloting many successful initiatives in a wide range of business operations — human resources, finance, information technology and procurement — based on the best practices of public sector management. All those initiatives were being implemented within existing rules or with slight modifications, and needed to be brought up to sc ale. The collaboration between the members of the Committee was delivering savings, resulting in higher quality services and developing a culture of collective action and cooperation (which could spill over into programmatic areas). Most importantly, the joint initiatives were introducing new ways of doing business. 

The enterprise resource planning interoperability feasibility study mandated by the quadrennial comprehensive policy review was in the process of being launched under the leadership of the Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), as Chair of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Network. The study would seek to assess the challenges and opportunities of the interoperability of enterprise resource plan ning across existing systems in use by organizations and analyse the barriers to inter -organizational operability, of which enterprise resource planning was a key component. 

Action

The Committee:

  • Noted that the Committee was engaged in the development of a common system-wide organizational resilience policy, based on the organizational resilience management system developed by the Secretariat and recently approved by the General Assembly. That was in line with the request by the General Assembly to the Secretariat to take steps to expand the organizational resilience management system to the specialized agencies, funds and programmes. 
  • Noted that that system represented a transformative change in United Nations emergency risk management, consistent with the global trend of developing a comprehensive risk management approach to address the significant and diverse risks faced by the Organization. 
  • Expected to strengthen the common understanding of resilience across the United Nations system and the ability of the organizations in it to work together and deliver in even the most difficult circumstances. The latter was seen as also representing a contribution to the fit -for-purpose considerations of the Board.